Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What happens in Vegas, goes in my blog.

Just got back from Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas, stays in my blog.

I arrived late to the Des Moines Airport after spending 20 minutes driving 20 feet on Fleur. Will it ever end? I walked up late to check-in only to have my friend Round Guy yell, "HEY, HERE HE IS! MURPH, COME ON UP HERE." Now an entire line of people already nervous about being late looks at me like, "Don't even think about it, A-hole." That's when Round Guy---who loves making me feel uncomfortable---says, "Hey, you guys don't mind do you. He's a celebrity." I want to melt into the floor when the Allegiant Air rep waves me up. I protest, but he mercifully, hands me a ticket in no time. I apologize, and everyone makes the plane with no problem.

We arrive in Vegas early. Every time I fly Allegiant Air we land ahead of schedule. It makes up for the $4 Diet Pepsi, and a quick flight is needed when you're on a 36 hour weekend. As we exit the plane, I feel like we landed on the Sun. 113 degrees, but "it's a dry heat". No it's not. It's just HOT. It's like an oven, or as Matthew Broderick says in Biloxi Blues, "Africa Hot".

We go to the MGM Grand, site of the Vargas-Mosley fight the next night. The MGM has more than 5,000 rooms and glows like a Timex watch with Indiglo. We immediately spot Rasheed Wallace, so the celebrity sightings begin.

Later as I'm waiting for an elevator, I see a crush of people moving toward me and holding cell phones to take pictures. Obviously, it's not me they're after. Who, I wonder? Then I spot him. Mike Tyson. He's so nice and accommodating to everyone, I momentarily forget some of the things he's said and done. I tell Round Guy about my elevator ride with Iron Mike. RG wants to know if I got his autograph. I tell him I'm not in the habit of asking a convicted rapist to sign something. Ultimately, we're all responsible for our own mistakes, but Tyson had plenty of help. There have been so many people over the years that just used and abused that guy while riding the money train... and Don King was only one of them. It's a sad cautionary tale.

On a less serious thought, I couldn't believe how short Tyson is. He's my height (5' 10") and no longer BIG. I'm always surprised how much shorter famous people are than we imagine them. They're only larger than life when you don't run into them in your life. Did you see Kiefer Sutherland next to Serena Williams at the ESPY's. Kiefer must be about 5'7", almost as short as Tom Cruise.

I digress. Back to Vegas where I met up with one of my best friends in the world, Jeff Ehling. Jeff's a consumer reporter at the ABC station in Houston. For years we've talked about getting our families together, but it became apparent that won't happen before all the kids graduate, so Jeff's wife, Megg, suggested we meet up in Vegas. Gotta love Megg.

Jeff talked me into trying sushi for the first time. I always pictured it being like Danny Devito biting into fish in Batman Returns, but it was quite civilized and quite tasty. I'll have more, as long as it's not as expensive as it was in Las Vegas.

When did Vegas get so pricey?! I remember it being an inexpensive place to visit because they plan to clean out your bank account in the casinos. Not anymore. It's ALL expensive. The food, the hotels, the shows. If they're not careful, we'll be broke before we make it to the slot machines.

Back to the night out with the boys... Have you ever been so full that you switch what you're drinking just to trick your stomach? This is very stupid. I think this is how they came up with the expression, beer before liquor, never sicker. I should have waited until the beer had more room. I'll leave it at that.

Saturday morning did get off to a slow start, and laying poolside sounds like a nice way to relax and recover, probably would be if it weren't hotter than hell. I'm not swearing. It was that hot.

Watching the fight would be a nice way to spend a Saturday night. We went to Carrot Top instead. Fight=$400. Carrot Top=$30. No contest. Plus, it allows all of us to make more of a donation to the casinos. If we were smart, we would have just mailed a check.

Carrot Top is really funny. I just knew him from 5 minutes on Leno with all the props, but he's great stretched out to an hour. One of the more pleasant entertainment surprises of recent years. (Warning: Don't go see Carrot Top if you're a NASCAR fan with no sense of humor, especially if Jeff Gordon's your favorite driver.) Catch him at the Luxor.

Back at the hotel, Round Guy continued toying with my shyness. The moment we step onto a full elevator, Round Guy says, "I wish I had remembered my lice shampoo. My head really itches." That one's his favorite, followed by "The towels here are so big and fluffy, I could barely get my suitcase closed." Karma caught up to Round Guy. He lost a lot of money at the roulette wheel, but he'll be happy to tell you this story about how he almost bet a $100 on black, and then it hit 11 times straight. If only... Yeah, Vegas was built on "if only...".

If only I didn't have to leave the hotel at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, I would have done a better job on SoundOFF that night. As I was leaving for the day, Tyson was coming in for the night. Only in Vegas...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Chilling Pierce; "Cyclone State"; You, me & Wie.

Have you read what Pierre Pierce admits to, and apologizes for, at his parole hearing? It's chilling. It also makes it clear he belongs behind bars, and never should have been allowed back in an Iowa uniform three years ago. I sincerely hope Pierce learned a lesson in his fall from grace, and that he is truly as sorry as he says he is. I doubt the victims will ever get over their ordeals. I also hope all of Pierce's apologists will reevaluate why they were so quick to come to his defense despite evidence to the contrary. Being a great athlete doesn't mean someone is telling the truth. I know I received my share of hate mail for helping break the original story, and not one of those people ever wrote or e-mailed back to apologize. The whole sad Pierce saga is a runaway case of entitlement. Read what he said, if you haven't already, at HawkCentral.com:
There are lessons for a lot of people in this mess, myself included. I wish we had pushed the U of I harder about allowing him back on the team, knowing what I knew then. Let's pray for the victims and move on. What a shame.

Speaking of someone given another chance when he shouldn't have had one, the NFL took a pass on former Cyclone Jason Berryman. No one loves and supports his players more than Dan McCarney, but that can lead to a blind spot for believing in those who haven't earned it---just as it did with Steve Alford. Berryman blew his third chance and maybe his career. No NFL team took a chance on Berryman in the supplemental draft. His talent deserves one, but his character remains in question. Many successful NFL players benefited from a second chance, but few multiple offenders worked out (see Lawrence Phillips, Maurice Clarett, Ricky Williams, etc.). Character counts.

The "Cyclone State" billboard is now up in Cedar Rapids. I respect Jamie Pollard for having the onions to do this. He doesn't want ISU taking a back seat to Iowa anywhere. However, if Iowa needed any extra motivation---and how could it?---this will do the trick. I expect Kirk Ferentz to have his team practicing under the billboard next month.

Decided not to wait in line for an hour to see Captain Jack Sparrow this past weekend, Saw Cars instead. Loved it. So did my five year old, Cade. Superb voice work by Owen Wilson, Paul Newman and Bonnie Hunt, but to my surprise, Larry the Cable Guy steals the show as Mater. He plays a tow truck. Tow Mater. Get it? Good message, good movie. Little long, but A-.

Should Michelle Wie be allowed to play with the men? Yes. Should she play with the men? No. Not yet. She needs to learn how to win first. That's a hard, but all important step for any athlete or team (think of the local examples). Wie is an astounding talent. She's only 16, but already good enough to win on the LPGA tour, which she still hasn't done, in part, because she's chasing history on the PGA Tour. Every time Wie's in contention near the end, my friend John Bachman tells me Wie will fade down the stretch, and she always does. She can't handle the pressure yet. Learn to win first, then when she's even better at say 21 or 22, take on the men. She'll never win, but she would make some cuts. For now, let her be 16.

I don't care what Marco Materazzi said to Zinedine Zidane, Zidane has to keep his composure. Then after France wins the World Cup, show the trophy to Materazzi. If Zidane had to get some violence out of system, wait until the game is over. Then he would've only been hurting himself. Easier said than done, I realize, but what a bonehead head-butt.

I was talking to my friend Courtney Greene the other day in the sports office and she mentioned how whenever an African-American athlete sounds intelligent, he's often referred to as "well spoken" or "articulate". The next day I was listening to KXNO and heard a player described as "very articulate" (it was a guest talking, not the host). I didn't know the athlete so I looked him up online, sure enough, he was black. I think Courtney's more right than many of us would like to admit.

Speaking of Courtney, she says she's now reading "Love Me, Hate Me". By the time Courtney's finished, and it won't take long because Jeff Pearlman's book is a page-turner, Bonds could be indicted for perjury. Bonds' former best man and best friend told Feds Bonds was a heavy steroid user who ruined their friendship by going into 'roid rages. Are any of you Bonds backers ready to come out of denial yet?

Why haven't we seen Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' baby, Suri? It's been three months and not even close friends have seen that baby. Here's a better question: Why do I care?

The Des Moines Playhouse begins showing Footloose this weekend. I remember getting Ren's haircut back when I had enough hair to do it. 1984 I think. I loved cheezy Footloose and look forward to the play. Gotta cut loose...

Can't believe how good Ben Roethlisberger looks. He is one lucky guy. A mini-bike or motorcycle is the one item I wanted with all my heart as a kid that my parents said no to. Didn't matter how much I asked. Now that I have boys, I completely understand, and agree. I respect your right to ride a motorcycle, and to not wear a helmet if you choose, but visit with an ER nurse first, it will give you pause.

I'm going to Vegas with Round Guy. If I don't make it back, you'll know why.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

July 4th in the 'hood, Fecal Beach, and Superman Returns.

July 4th reminded me why I love living in Iowa. The celebration in my Beaverdale neighborhood was just the way my parents and grandparents describe America when they're waxing nostalgic about the good old days, only this is 2006.

The guys who run into burning buildings while others run out brought their fire truck by to lead a parade of kids on their bikes. Not an official parade, just a cool one. There must have been 30 kids on bikes, scooters, and skateboards. Later, everyone put tables in the middle of our boulevard (Maquoketa) and brought out food. Every kind of food. Foods I couldn't even identify. I made the mistake of trying most of them, which left me with a stomach ache and limited capacity for the adult beverages I planned to consume. Somehow I managed. My girlfriend, Jenny, loves the beer called B to the E. It's Budweiser with, I'm not making this up, caffeine and ginseng. It's an easy way to combine a couple of my vices at once. If they find a way to add peanut M&Ms, I'll be set. I can only handle so much B to the E. Partly because the men make fun of me, and partly because I get more wired than Robin Williams on Red Bull. I switch to the mother's milk, Guinness. Good stuff and hard to over-indulge. It's not easy chugging something thicker than motor oil.

I digress. I'm making it sound like what made the 4th special was ALCOHOL, and though that didn't suck, and no one was driving, it's the people, the neighbors. People are so nice, you just can't believe it. I wish I had grown up in my current neighborhood when I was a kid. In addition to the parade, they had a safe place for water balloon fights, slip and slides, squirt gun wars, front yard volleyball, and last but not least, an awesome display of illegal fireworks. At least we're tight with the fire department.

Jenny's parents have a wonderful house on Clear Lake, and we spent the weekend up there. Apparently we're not the only ones from Central Iowa with the idea of going North. We went to see Delbert McClinton at the Surf---great as usual---and I couldn't believe how many people we met from here. I love the Surf. If you haven't been, you owe it to yourself to see where the concert was the day before the music died.

Jenny's parents are really cool, and they gave us a tour of the Lake. Apparently her Dad caught SoundOFF the night Andy mentioned a problem Clear Lake has had because our guide pointed to the shore and said, "this is what Andy would call Fecal Beach". Thanks, Andy.

Ran into KCCI's Andy Garman the other day at Ted's Coney Island. What a good guy (I mean Andy. I'm not sure if there's really a "Ted"). He's made this market better, on and off the air.

People ask me all the time what happened to Mark Meisenheimer. Well, he's out of TV. He decided to take a PR job down in Kansas City. Something about weekends off and more money. We miss Mark.

I'm not surprised what a good job Jon Miller's doing on KXNO. I wrote here previously that Cyclone fans worried Jon would use his show to relentlessly promote the Hawkeyes, and only the Hawkeyes, were way off base. Jon's fair, smart and talented, as he's proving daily from 2 to 4 p.m.

After Jon comes "Marty and Miller". I know some say they've had their fill of these guys, but I've got to tell you, I think it's a very good show and adds a big something to the local sports scene. Miller comes at many subjects with skepticism, but gives the other side a chance to win him over. He'll criticize but not hide. And Marty... he's a hoot. You just never know what he'll say next, which makes it hard to turn off (I also happen to know he has a big heart). Marty & Miller are good together, and they seem tighter and more focused this time out. You can catch their act daily on KXNO from 4 to 7 p.m.

Watched Supernova on CBS the past two nights. I'll probably stick with it, but it's already repetitive.

I did make it to Superman Returns. The good news is the local guy is terrific. Brandon Routh channels the late Christopher Reeve, while somehow making Clark Kent more insecure and introspective. Kevin Spacey steals the show as Lex Luthor, and Kate Bosworth is miscast and unconvincing as the mother of a 5 year old. She looks 18 and needs to eat something. The guy playing her boyfriend---Cyclops from X-Men---is perfect. The movie is almost too respectful to the 1978 Superman; it doesn't feel like we're seeing anything new, just better. A little long, but overall a solid B. I'll be there to see what happens next.

I'll check out Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean this weekend. Still can't believe Disney made a good movie out of a theme park ride. Can't wait to see Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.