Month: February 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Reader’s Notebook, February 2010

28 days, three books.

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman – Jon Krakauer. Most of you should know Tillman’s story: an NFL player looking at a lucrative, long-term contract turned his back on professional football and joined the Army Rangers in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. After he died in combat in Afghanistan, he became the face of the sacrifice to win the war on terror, despite his insistence while alive that he not fill such a role. Later, when word leaked that he had died in a friendly fire incident, he became the symbol of how the Bush administration manipulated the American public to maintain support for the war.

Krakauer approaches the story from several angles. It’s a straight biography, detailing Tillman’s life from childhood through his final days in Afghanistan. It’s an examination of friendly fire incidents in general, and how governments struggle to deal with them. And, mostly, it’s a study of how governments manage information in order to control what the public knows about military operations.

This is a fine book. I dig just about everything Krakauer has written, so that’s not a surprise. And while the anti-Bush element appeals to the liberal in me, the message is more about how all administrations, regardless of party or ideology, manipulate the news from the front and attempt to create heros to distract the public from the body bags.

Tillman is the star, naturally. If you’ve followed his story, you know that he was not the man that many in power wanted us to believe. He was far from an uber-patriotic alpha male looking to kick some terrorist ass. He was a deep thinker who questioned many of the things he was asked to do. He read voraciously, challenging himself to look deeply at his beliefs. He would talk to anyone who he found to be intelligent, even if he disagreed with them. Most importantly, he was a man of deep character. He was ferociously loyal to those he was close to. He believed in keeping his promises. Forget about his politics and his profession, he was a man that all of us should aspire to be like. And it’s a shame the government had to lie about his life to make him a hero, rather than just let his story stand for itself.

The Wild Things – Dave Eggers This is the companion piece to Eggers’ screenplay for Where the Wild Things are. I’ve not seen the movie yet, but Eggers says that while the two are similar, they are not mirror images of each other.

I love Eggers, I love Where the Wild Things Are, so I had high hopes. And while it is a quality piece of work, arguably something written more for young adults than adults, I have to say I came away a little disappointed. I guess I wanted it to answer all the mysteries that Maurice Sendak’s original children’s book raised. Things I’ve wondered about for nearly 40 years. But perhaps that’s the genius of Eggers’ work. He explores the territory that Sendak created, but he does not answer all the mysteries of the world that Max sailed away to. Sometimes it’s better not to know all the answers.

Chief of Station, Congo – Larry Devlin One of my classic “looking for something else at the library and found this” books. This is Devlin’s account of, well, being the CIA’s chief of station in Leopoldville, Congo in the years immediately after the country gained its independence from Belgium in the early 60s. Devlin shares tales of running around the country trying to prevent coups, counter the Soviets, and manage the maddening elements of Congolese politics. It’s pretty straight-forward and no-nonsense, but a lot of fun.

Devlin has been accused, in many quarters, for being responsible for the deaths of some Congolese politicians and the coup that put Mobutu Sese Seko into office. Mobutu became one of the most notorious African dictators during his 30-year reign. Devlin counters those accusations, but makes no apologies for the friends he kept. It was the Cold War, and getting into bed with a few undesirables was preferable to the Soviets gaining a toehold in Africa. The Cold War was awesome. Other than the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, of course.

Vexing

”Just got back from Kansas-Okla. This KU team fascinates me. I cannot tell yet if they’re good, great or legendary.”

That Tweet from Joe Posnanski on Monday night perfectly sums up how I feel about this year’s Jayhawks.

The only team in the nation in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency, yet most observers believe they’re capable of playing better than they have. Is that fair? Isn’t it enough just to win, and often?

I think part of this view is a hangover from the 2008 team. That team was also fantastic on both sides of the ball. But they were more explosive offensively. They ran their half court offense to perfection, throwing lobs from all over the court, using the NBA-style slipped pick-and-rolls, and often having three deadly three point threats on the court at once. Each night someone else picked up the scoring slack, so shooting slumps by individuals were never worries.

This year the offense is not as fluid. The parts fit together differently. The lobs and pick-and-rolls have been replaced by isolation plays for Sherron and Marcus Morris’ turnaround jumpers. The shooters, aside from Sherron, are role players. Each of the first four options on offense – Sherron, Cole, Xavier, and Marcus – have experienced prolonged bouts with inconsistency.

The ’08 team was great on defense, with nearly every starter having lock-down defender skills. Chalmers and Robinson kept other teams from ever getting into their offense.

This year’s defense is built around Cole Aldrich blocking or altering any shot in the paint. The guards aren’t nearly as good. Xavier Henry is turning into a heck of a defender, but he’s not at Brandon Rush’s level yet.

So we’re dealing with a difficult, if not unrealistic, measuring stick. The ’08 team returned all but one player from an Elite Eight team. They were primed from day one for redeeming themselves for their performance against UCLA.

This year’s team has had to work new players into starting roles, integrate developing players into the system, and deal with one knucklehead.* While they were the preseason favorite, you can argue they have had a lot more in-season work to do to develop an identity than the ’08 team did.

(Who finally seems to be coming around.)

But, again, the bottom line is they’re winning. I don’t think we’re going to see the well-oiled machine that we saw in ’08. But you can argue that this team is mentally tougher than that team. They don’t sweat it when a game gets ugly. They just muddle through and win. I think they’re more susceptible to an early upset than the ’08 team was, but they’re just as capable of winning 4-6 games in the tournament and making it another truly special year.

They may never reach their ceiling, but they’re pretty damn good. I’ll take 27-1 teams that can still improve every year.

 

Fun With Spam

One of the hazards of blogging is comment spam. If you’re not careful, your blog can be overrun with crap comments aimed at getting your readers to click on links for things that are, at best, poor marketing schemes or, at worst, nefarious in nature.

Fortunately WordPress has some pretty stout anti-spam tools. About once a week I go in and clean out the spam filter. Occasionally a legitimate comment will get sucked in, sometimes from a new reader or from a regular who is using a new e-mail address, but for the most part I just delete everything.

Recently the spam folder was especially full. Many of the comments are kind of fun to read, especially when you strip out the links that are embedded within. So, for your entertainment, here are some of the more interesting ones.

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Miracles

I made it out of L’s room just in time to see the last 11 minutes or so of the US – Canada hockey game Sunday night. That was something else. I think I’m glad I didn’t see the whole thing, because I might have been awake all night after a game that exciting.*

(If you missed it, the Americans knocked off the tournament favorites 5-3 in a fantastic game.)

The US advances to the quarterfinals, and while Canada and Russia are still the teams to beat, at least they’re in the running.

But it’s not exactly 1980. The US team, like all the others, is filled with NHL players. The hosts and the Russians just happen to have better and more experienced NHL players right now.

Still, this was the United States’ biggest Olympic hockey win since that fabulous weekend 30 years ago when they beat the Soviets on Friday night and the Finns on Sunday morning to win the Gold Medal. So we’re going to hear all kinds of connections to the Miracle on Ice for the next 36 hours or so, especially since Monday is the anniversary of the 4-3 win over the USSR.

<a href=”http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2010/02/21/10-things-about-the-miracle-on-ice/”>Joe Posnanski</a> posted ten things about the Miracle on Ice game he found interesting after reviewing the game for an SI profile he wrote on Al Michaels and Bob Costas. Thus it seems I’m obligated to share my own memories of that night, right?

The Miracle on Ice was not my first huge sports memory. I remember watching the 1977 Super Bowl, between Dallas and Denver. I remember crying after the Steelers beat the Cowboys in the 1979 Super Bowl. I remember George Brett’s three home run game in the 1978 ALCS, the Thurman Munson game, and most of the 1979 World Series. But none of those events compares to the 1980 Olympics.

I do remember rushing home from school each afternoon to watch whatever was on ABC.* Maybe my memory is way off, but I remember them showing a lot of the daytime events live. That meant watching Eric Heiden skate on that great outdoor speed skating track. Next to the hockey team, my enduring image of the games is Heiden pulling off the hood of his uniform and skating through the falling snow after each of his gold medals.

(This was a bit problematic. We could pick up four TV stations at our house. A CBS station from the next city over, an NBC station from across the river in Illinois, a PBS station that was fairly close, and an ABC station that was about 60 miles away. The ABC station didn’t always come in the clearest. I’m pretty sure between the weak signal and our small TV, I didn’t see the puck very clearly during any of these games.)

I had not paid much attention to hockey in the early days of the games. I was just an eight year old kid living in southeast Missouri; what the hell did I know about hockey? But an uncle came to visit a few nights into the games and made sure that we watched the USA-Czechoslovakia game. I thought the “Check the Czechs” sign one fan had was kind of funny. I timed it right, as that was the game that showed the team had the makings of something special.

For the next week and a half, I faithfully tuned into every US hockey game.

With the exception of the 1979 Super Bowl, I don’t remember having been as excited about a sporting event as I was for the US-USSR hockey game. I fidgeted at school all day in anticipation. During recess and lunch my buddies and I sat around and discussed the US’ chances.

Joe makes a fine point in his post about how what happened that night could not happen today. The game was played in the late afternoon, but tape delayed for prime time in the US. I don’t know if I avoided the nightly news or any other news sources that afternoon, but I did not know the score when the game started. A few years ago ESPN showed the game and I was amused by Jim McKay’s lead-in. He smiles and says he’s not going to give away the result. Meanwhile, behind him a live shot of Lake Placid showed people literally losing their minds. I think I missed that, too, because I like to think I would have figured out what was up had I seen it.

As for the game, I’d love to tell you that I have detailed memories of every key moment in the game. I don’t. I remember watching intently, with my chair just inches from the TV. My parents and uncle had gone to dinner, so I had our apartment to myself. Between periods, I played my Mattel electronic football game that my uncle had given me for Christmas. I think I also came up with plans to have my own Winter Olympics with my neighborhood friends if we got one more snow.

What was I doing during those last minutes, when the clock was winding down and the impossible was becoming reality? No idea. Given how I react to tense moments in big games now, I probably had sweaty palms, an upset stomach, a dry mouth, and had trouble speaking clearly. Fortunately, there was no one around to see me wigging out.

The clock counted down, Al Michaels made the most famous call ever, and I believe I lost my mind for a few minutes in a small Jackson, MO apartment. I could not wait for my parents and uncle to get home so I could tell them! When they did arrive, they of course had heard, and we all greeted each other excitedly. The moment has become mythologized over the decades – famously many people forget the US had to play another game to win the gold medal – but I think our reaction was typical. A lot of people who didn’t have a clue about hockey, some of whom weren’t even big sports fans, were swept up in the moment.

I’m fortunate that I have some very special sports memories. I’ve followed some teams that have won some championships in dramatic fashion. But nothing will ever compare to how I felt that weekend in February, 30 years ago.

 

A Few Reporter’s Notebook Extras

It’s been a busy week. I covered games last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and then another on Tuesday night. I already wrote about. Thursday was an uninspiring boys game. Friday, another girls sectional game, this time featuring much maligned EHS, the school that almost never wins.*

(At least when I’m around.)

Before Friday, three of the six girls teams from the county had already lost. The other three were all playing Friday night. My game was a late game, and the early game went to overtime. So, in the break between the third and fourth quarters, we learned that the other two county teams had lost that night. If EHS could somehow pull out a win, they’d be queens of the county, at least as far as sectionals were concerned.

I don’t know if the girls heard the scores in the huddle, but they acted like it. They already had a seven point lead. Their best player scored four quick points. All of a sudden my girls were up 11. I don’t know who was more excited, them or me. Perhaps them, because they proceeded to go scoreless the rest of the game. Their opponents quickly scored nine points in two minutes. Things were not looking good. My palms were sweaty and my stomach hurt. How on earth was I going to ask their coach and players about blowing a lead like this to end their season?

Fortunately, EHS dug in, played some defense, burned off nearly two minutes on their two offensive possessions, and were the beneficiaries of four missed free throws. They won by two. There were no points scored in the last three minutes of the game. This was not time capsule stuff. But they got the win, and everyone was happy.

Alas, they lost the next night.

Their sectional was way out in the boonies, the most remote school I’ve traveled to so far. I drove 45 minutes southeast of Indy to a small town, and then another 20 minutes into the sticks. I was driving on county roads that had barely been touched by plows during the week’s snow. On the way home, I saw no cars in the 20 minutes it took me to get back to town. I was <em>out</em> there.

I share that because Tuesday night I traveled to a school on the south side of Indianapolis. It’s in the old suburbs, an area that was probably nice 30 years ago. So not urban but not rural. Posted at each entrance to the school’s athletic parking lot were large signs that read “No ponies, horses, minibikes or motor scooters allowed on school property.” Ponies?!?! Horses!?!? I would have expected to see a sign like that were I went on Friday, but not in the city. WTF, as the kids say.

As for the game, the team I was covering had won five games so far this season. The hosts had won one game. Naturally the hosts won easily. Curses.

 

Dumb And Dumber

If there’s one thing fans of college sports can agree on it’s that the NCAA sucks. While well-intentioned at its core, it has turned into an unwieldy, hypocritical bureaucracy more interested in self-preservation and revenue generation than the best interests of the “student athletes”*

(Favorite NCAA hypocrisy is the insistence on the term “student athletes” during NCAA sanctioned events. Because nothing says “student athlete” more than the Derrick Roses and John Walls of the world.)

In recent weeks, they’ve added two new items to their list of stupid: potentially expanding the men’s NCAA tournament to 96 teams and exploring taking away touchdowns for football players who taunt opponents.

1) Expanding the tournament. Dumb. The argument “why mess with something that is already perfect” is often short-sighted, but in this case it carries the day. You can make a case that there are teams deserving of tourney bids each year yet are not selected. But 32 of them? Really? That seems a little extreme.

One eight seed and two six seeds have won the NCAA title. Only two double digit seeds have ever made the Final Four. Adding 32 teams to the tournament is not correcting some great injustice. It’s watering down a tournament that is about as competitive as you could ask. Another weekend of games isn’t going to make the tournament better. Rather, it will be a weekend of mismatches and blowouts.

Besides, we already have the expanded tournament. The conference tournaments the week before the NCAAs in many ways serve as an expanded tournament. What’s more exciting: watching a Patriot League conference title game, played on a home court with screaming fans, or watching those same two teams fly halfway across the country to play random opponents in front of half empty arenas?

There is no logical explanation for expanding to 96 teams beyond taking money away from the conferences and sending it straight to the NCAA’s account. I can’t imagine conferences will dispense with their post-season tournaments. But I also would not expect them to draw as well if most of the teams are guaranteed to be playing a week later. For an organization that is insistent on not instituting a playoff of any kind at the BCS level, it’s an interesting suggestion to stretch out the basketball season even further. Making the “student athletes” travel for up to five straight weeks doesn’t seem to be in their best interests.

2) Taunting. Dumber. This comes across as a bunch of old, white academics taking a stand against the urbanization of the game.

At first glance, the proposal has some merit. I think most people are tired of the incessant woofing that goes on during games. At the same time, smack is part of the game. You blow someone up, you get to woof a bit. You throw a wicked head fake and jet by a corner while he’s picking up his jock, you can say a few words.

I have two problems with the rule, though. First, taking points off the board for something that gains the offensive player no advantage is draconian. In effect, referees will be saying “I disagree with the moral implications of your actions while scoring, therefore I’m taking away the points.”

Second, it’s purely a judgement call. Watch a full slate of games on a Saturday and you’ll see a wide disparity in how calls are made from game-to-game and conference-to-conference. I’m sure the NCAA will lay down strict guidelines for what constitutes taunting, but we’ve all seen the current rules interpreted differently at different times. A referee out of position may think a player is pointing at the guy he blew past when in fact he’s pointing at the guy who is making the play-making block.

Oh, and it’s not just the offense that taunts.* Will there be as heavy a penalty for defensive players who taunt as offensive ones? There’s no equal punishment for a defensive end that taunts after a sack to that of a running back who taunts on a scoring play.

(Apparently I have three problems.)

It’s fine to attempt to keep sportsmanship paramount and reduce the amount of unsportsmanlike conduct. But there’s a better way to do it than taking fairly scored points off of the board.


I think this is going to be a very interesting decade for college sports, at least at the BCS/Division 1 level. No one seems to be happy with anything that the NCAA does. They enact silly rules governing game-play and are constantly in a reactionary mode when it comes to regulating recruiting. They are woefully understaffed on the rules enforcement side, and it takes a monumental scandal to get a BCS school to get seriously punished for rules violations.

The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, in which the former UCLA basketball player argues that the NCAA owes him, and other players, compensation for using his likeness could cripple the organization and its members if O’Bannon wins. Throw in a new wave of conference expansion/consolidation and, at least at the top levels, college football and basketball will look very different in ten years.

I don’t think the BCS conferences would think twice about breaking away from the NCAA if they thought they could still collect the revenues they’re making under the NCAA umbrella. The NCAA could well be an organization that governs the lower levels of college athletics, while the BCS schools operate at a higher plane, somewhere between the NCAA and professional sports. I’m sure whatever system is in place, there will still be a bureaucracy in place for us to hate.

 

Hot Playoff Action

Wednesday was my first ever Indiana high school sectional game as a reporter. While the environment may not be like the sectionals of old, which pitted schools that were all neighbors against each other, the game sure lived up to all that a sectional is supposed to be.

First, a note about sectionals in Indiana. Sectionals are the first phase of the state basketball tournament. Five to eight schools are grouped into sectionals and two weeks before the season ends, a blind draw is held to determine who plays who. This is part of the beauty and annoyance of the sectional system. There is no seeding based on record: the two best teams in a sectional can draw each other and play an opening round game, while a team with the worst record in the sectional can get a bye.

Which is what happened in my game.

The hosts were IC high school, a team I’ve covered several times. They feature the best player in the county,* have a nice balance of size and quickness, are well-coached, and had lost only two games all season, one at the buzzer. They were ranked #7 in 2A going into sectionals.

(I’ve mentioned her before. I described her as a white, female, rural Allen Iverson. Imagine my glee, then, when I read a feature we published about her earlier this week in which she said her favorite NBA player was Iverson. If she wasn’t already going to a D2 school on a scholarship, I would have offered to pay for a semester of her tuition after hearing that. I literally can’t tell you how awesome this news was to me.)

Their opponent, HC high school, is a private school that isn’t too far from my house. They’ve struggled a bit this year, entering the game at 11-9, but their record is deceptive. They’ve won four straight state championships and schedule up, playing many 3A and 4A schools, mostly the best large class teams in the Indy area. Despite sending players to UConn and Notre Dame in recent years, they’re still quite good. They have height, can shoot, and run a fantastic offense.*

(If I’ve learned nothing else from watching so much high school ball in recent years, it’s that to coach you pretty much just yell “MOVE!” “CUT!” and “CUT HARD!” at your players for 32 minutes. It’s rare that a team runs an offense full of fluid movement and quick passing.)

So that’s the set-up. HC jumped out to a six point lead early, then IC crept back into it. HC went up seven in the second quarter, then IC cut it to one at the half. IC’s best player was struggling, but a freshman forward scored 13 points in the half.

In the third quarter, HC again moved ahead by six. IC then went on a 10-0 run. They took the lead when Little AI grabbed a rebound, raced coast-to-coast, head faked, spun, and dropped the ball off the backboard while getting fouled. She hit the free throw and they were up two.

The next 12 minutes were fantastic. One team would take a lead, the other would fight back. In the last 90 seconds, the there were six lead changes or ties. Girls were hitting clutch free throws and tough shots on every possession.

Finally, the freshman who had played so well for IC hit a tough shot in the lane with seven seconds left to tie the game at 57. On the inbounds pass, HC nearly threw it away, and in the scramble IC was called for a foul. The HC player hit the first free throw. 58-57. She missed the second badly and the IC freshman grabbed the rebound.

She raced upcourt. When she got to the lane, four of the defenders left her to find Little AI, who was floating to the three point line. The freshman kept driving towards the hoop, jumped, and unleashed a five footer.

The one defender back was HC’s 6’2” center. She got a finger on the ball and knocked it away as the buzzer sounded.

Bummer for IC. But a hell of a game. Best game I’ve seen this year, by far. It was well played on both sides. HC seemed to have control after halftime but Little AI picked her team up and they played their collective asses off. The freshman scored 18. Little AI had 17, 10 below her average. Their junior center, who tends to play passive, grabbed 14 rebounds and scored nine big second half points.

For selfish reasons, I wanted IC to win. That meant maybe doing another of their games on Saturday. It would have been a great story, writing about them taking down the four-time defending champs. And it’s always more fun to write about the winning team than the one whose season just ended.

But I had to admire how the entire team played. It was one of the few times I wish I could write an old school account of the game, in which the story was as much about my enjoyment of the game and admiration for the players than the game itself.

Fortunately, I have a blog and can do that here.

 

Las Chicas

Sometimes I forget that I’ve posted things about the kids to Facebook and not shared here as well. Thus, your obligatory, periodic update on the girls.

M. is secretly Canadian.* Or at least she talks like a Canuck. We have no idea why, but she says the words house, mouse, out, mouth, etc. as if she’s from Ontario. We don’t know any Canadians. As far as we know there are no native Canadians in her class. One of her teachers does speak with a heavy accent, but she’s from Indonesia which, as far as I know, does not share any linguistic traits with our neighbors to the north. Regardless of the source, it makes us laugh every time she does it. Sometimes she’s confused as to why we’re laughing and repeating her words. Others she just goes along with it. When she was 2-3 she had a faux southern accent, so I suppose it’s just another phase.

(I doubt many of you understand the reference there. There’s a record company in Bloomington called Secretly Canadian.)

She’s lost another tooth, one of the top, front teeth, and its neighbor is quite loose as well. You really notice when those top teeth come out. She looks like an alien sometimes.

Her other exciting news is how she’s picked up reading. Each Thursday she brings a book home from school that they’ve practiced that week, and her homework is to read it to us over the weekend. That’s impressive, but they are simple books and she’s been working on them for four straight days at school. What was more amazing, and frankly a little weird, was when she picked up one of her learning to read books we have at home and calmly worked her way through it. It was one of those parenting moments that made me proud as hell but also freaked me out quite a bit. My little girl is reading!

C. is C.. She’s the most delightful kid in the world one minute and she’s a total disaster the next. Is it a middle child thing? She’ll come up to you, tell you that she loves you, give you hugs and kisses and cuddle up with you. Then, when you tell her that we’re all out of a snack she wants, she’ll throw a 30-minute fit. It’s extremely tiring to still be going through this multiple times each day, especially with L. developing an attitude.

Like most three year olds, C. does not deal with disappointment well. Recently the girls’ school had a carnival, full of games, face painting, treats, etc. One game was the Cupcake Walk. The kids walked around a circle as music played, and when it stopped, they landed on a number. Three numbers were picked from a hat and the kids standing on those numbers got cupcakes. M. won right away. C. went around the circle twice and was not one of the six numbers picked.* When I explained that the game was over and she could try later when they did it again, she burst into tears. She assumed you walk around the circle, you get a cupcake. Fortunately, she was the last of the winners the next time she played. I was going to have to take some other kid’s cupcake away if she didn’t win.

(The first time, she and M. landed on the same number. I told her to move to an open number, thinking it wasn’t cool to have more than one kid on a number. Naturally, there were more kids than numbers, so doubling-up was not a problem. M. wins, C. does not. More points in my Father of the Year standings!)

C.’s developing her imagination. She’s reached the imaginary story play stage, and will sit with her toys, books, or crayons talking out huge, involved scenarios as she plays or reads or colors. It’s always funny to hear three year olds take all the things they know about and put them into a story together, even if they have nothing to do with each other.

L. is still a lot of fun, but as I mentioned, she’s getting an attitude. When she doesn’t like something or can’t communicate what she wants, she lets you know. Throw in a new round of teething and she has some beastly moments.

Fortunately she is still mostly perfect and we’re enjoying these final days of that phase. She loves giving hugs and kisses. Anytime you pick her up, she wraps her arms around you and pats you. She used to wait to get a kiss to give one back, now she leans over and kisses us unprompted.

She loves to dance. The big sisters have kind of moved beyond “Party in the USA,” but she still loves it. Anytime she hears it, she throws her hands up and begins dancing around in a circle. Sometimes she just wants to hear it, so she throws her hands up and give us a pleading look until we sing to her. She then smiles and shakes her shoulders.

She also has a hungry dance. If she sees you with food, or is just hungry and you happen to be in the kitchen, she’ll walk towards you making all kinds of horrible “I’m hungry but can’t communicate my hunger to you in words” noises. When you ask if she’s hungry or if she wants an apple/cookie/cracker, she’ll nod her head and start doing a half dance, half stomp with just her right foot. It’s not an angry stomp, there’s a rhythm to it, and she shakes her hips a little, so I kind of like it. If we could just stop the noises.

One of the amusing/aggravating thing about having kids are the rathole conversations you end up in. An innocent comment will kick off 20 minutes of questions that you never saw coming. Friday night, as we were driving back from my in-laws’, M. mentioned that her class had written letters to people in Haiti. We asked what she wrote, who they were sending them to, etc. Next thing you know she and C. are asking 1000 questions about Haiti and earthquakes.

“Why do they have so many earthquakes in Haiti?”
“Why did so many people get hurt?”
“Why do earthquakes happen?”
“Why didn’t our house get hurt when we had an earthquake?”*

Other parents know that when you answer any of these questions honestly, you’re just inviting more questions. S. made the mistake of giving an honest, scientific explanation for earthquakes. That really got the girls going. After about ten minutes of that discussion, C. brought it all together.

“I think it was a giant worm that made the earth move. Or maybe a raccoon.”

We couldn’t help but laugh that her take on plate tectonics is that it’s a large animal that is causing the ruckus.

(We had a minor quake a couple years back that woke everyone at about 5:00 am.)

Not So Super Monday

Well, that was disappointing.

Teased by the first quarter, the Colts got out-Colted for the rest of the game. Throw in the gutsy on-side kick to begin the third quarter that seemed to completely unnerve the Colts, and it was about a perfect performance by the Saints. They weathered the early storm, settled down and methodically picked apart the Colts’ D when they had the ball. On defense, they rarely brought all-out pressure on Manning, but rather sat back and clogged up the passing lanes. That gave up a few big runs by Joseph Addai, but they knew that Addai alone was not going to beat them. Contain, contain, contain and hope they get the ball last. Instead, they got the game-clinching pick-six, but I doubt they’ll complain about how it all worked out.

I imagine it was a pretty exciting game for neutral fans. Porter’s interception and touchdown is one of the all-time great Super Bowl plays. Rather than be awed by the moment, as I was a year ago during that fantastic finish, I was busy dropping f-bombs in front of a bunch of sub-six year olds, not all of which are my kids. In my defense, I think everyone else was thinking the same thing, and I didn’t scream or anything. I saw Porter, the ball, and a lot of open field and muttered, “Oh fuck.” These things happen.

Also, having a rooting interest kept me from paying as much attention to the commercials as I did last year. I did notice a lot of partial nudity, mostly by men. I don’t mean to sound sexist, but that’s not what I want to see between plays. When Megan Fox sitting rather demurely in a bathtub is the best T&amp;A we get, I call it a bad year for ads.

L. got into the spirit of things right off the bat. During the national anthem, she stood with her hand over her heart. When it was over, she waved her hands in the air and laughed. It appears as though she thought she was singing.

The Who sucked. The Old Rocker Complaint meme has been beaten to death. But at least the other old rockers that have been carted out in recent years rocked. We’re talking about one of the most important, influential, best, and loudest bands of all time and they came off as a bunch of old men awake past their bed times. Coincidence that each time Daltrey tried to hit a high note the camera cut away? People in the stadium commented that there were a couple guys playing guitar on the sides of the stage, out of the light. So Moon and Entwistle are dead and Daltrey and Townsend many not have even been singing/playing live? Awful.

So, I suppose my grade for the night would be a big Suck Minus. However, we did have some good good, some friends and family over, and a decent game to watch. I also downloaded the iPhone version of the classic Mattel electronic football game and was able to play a few games. That took me back exactly 30 years. In January and February of 1980, I spent about a million hours playing that game, trying to see how many points I could score. I kept records in a little notebook. I remember that’s how I blew off steam between periods of a certain hockey game on Feb. 22, 1980. The defense seems a little more stout in the iPhone version.

Pitchers and catchers report next week. March Madness is a month away; spring not far behind. I guess we’ll get through these 11 degree mornings and another 6″ of snow tonight.

 

Big Game Predictions

Finally, it is time for the game.

I’ll admit, my confidence in the Colts has been shaken a bit. I always get nervous when everyone seems to be picking the same team when the opponents are fairly evenly matched. Most people seem to love the Colts this week. Dwight Freeney’s status is troubling. It’s one thing to beat the Jets without Jerraud Powers. If he’s not on the field and healthy against the Saints, that will be another huge blow to the Colts.

But I’m not so worried that I’m changing my pick. Rather than a relatively easy win, I think we’ll see a shootout. Given what the Colts have done this year, winning a bundle of close games with late scores, and that they have Peyton behind center, I think they’ll be able to overcome whatever challenges their health on defense will present.

Colts 31
Saints 27

 

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