Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A ray of "Sunshine", The Roland Rocket, and Little League Parents.

Had a great time on vacation, but it's good to be back. I'm fortunate to have a job I love.

Courtney Greene told me today to get my butt blogging or she'd give me a procrastination beatdown. I think she's serious, so here are some quick hitters:

Little Miss Sunshine: Best movie I've seen this year. It's a dark comedy, and a road trip as metaphor for how families must stick together no matter how annoying each member finds another. It's ultimately uplifting and provided the biggest laugh out loud moment I've had in a long time (probably since Andy made fun of the Doppler radar wars). Little Miss Sunshine is rated R, so if grandpa doing drugs or a gay professor (Steve Carrell) surviving a suicide attempt isn't your idea of a path to comedy, stay away; otherwise, go see immediately at the Fleur. You can even have dessert, wine or beer at that place. I'm still a pop and popcorn guy. I can be stuffed from an all you can eat buffet, walk into a theater, smell that popcorn, and suddenly I'm Pavlov's dog. I digress, Little Miss Sunshine earns an A.

Invincible: Mark Wahlberg starring in a 70's movie scares me a little. How can we not think of him and his "prop" in Boogie Nights, but I'll see this one right away. I know it looks like Remember the Titans, The Rookie, Miracle or any other improbable but true sports story. I'm there anyway. Wahlberg is Vince Papale, a teacher and bartender who never played college football, tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles, and somehow survived three seasons. Cue the Who.

Snakes On a Plane: Enough already.

Windfall: I doubt you even know that this is. I think I could be the only person in Iowa still watching this, although I hope not. It's an NBC show on a group of friends who win the lottery and see their lives unravel. I keep it on my TiVo list because it's fun just to see how much more ridiculous they make the plot each week. My favorite moment is when they show an exterior shot of some factory that looks like it came out of the Pennsylvania steel town in All The Right Moves, and then they cut inside to Luke Perry sitting at a board room that looks like it was built next to our news set.

I apologize. I realize I wrote that last paragraph for myself.

Gary Thompson: If I could live anybody's life but my own, it might be Gary's. This guy is the real deal. He's an old school All-American and a man of impeccable integrity.

Gary put the small town of Roland on the map when he became the famous "Roland Rocket". He lived the Hoosiers life, only without Barbara Hershey. Gary married his sweetheart, went to ISU and became a national star in two sports (baseball and basketball), passed up the NBA to join the Phillips Oilers, bought into the business, became a national TV analyst for college basketball, supported ISU for decades with money and advice, raised great kids, never drank or cursed, though he does say "son of a biscuit", and continues being a great example to his grandkids, not to mention one of Iowa's best senior golfers. Gary has done it all the right way, and unlike me, always seemed to have intuition about the right choice. They should write a book about him. Wait, they are. Chuck Offenburger is working on one right now. It won't need any embellishment.

Tiger Woods: The greatest sports star of my lifetime. Better than Ali, better than Gretzky, better than Jordan. Tiger's dad was right, watching his son play golf is like watching Rembrandt paint.

Shawn Johnson: Give it up for the 4 foot 6 inch dynamo from West Des Moines! She didn't just win the gymnastics junior nationals, she dominated. Johnson won four golds, and the 14 year old from Chows Gymnastics, should be America's top hope for Olympic gold in Beijing. Plus Shawn's headed for Valley High School, and I know a lot of you are concerned about that school not getting enough pub; she could help.

Mediacom Connections: For me, worth the cost of cable just to see all these local games played both live and on tape delay. As I write this, the Iowa-Iowa State football game from last year is on. Still can't believe how much the Cyclones dominated Iowa that day.

Alford's recruits: This is why I don't follow recruiting closely. Until players show up and put on the uniform, you just don't know who you can count on. Two would-be-Hawkeyes don't make the grade, and now Alford's great class suddenly looks ordinary.

Marion Jones: Please go away. No one believes you. How could they?

Little League World Series Parents and Coaches: Stop taking the fun out of the game for these kids. THEY'RE KIDS! I'm sorry some of you are disappointed in your life, but don't try to make your 12 year old make up for it. IT'S A GAME.

For those coaches here in Central Iowa who realize only .00001% of kids will play professionally: THANK YOU. It's supposed to be fun, not pressure.

Thank you for reading. If you see Courtney, tell her I'm up to date :-)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Keith's brain no longer on drugs... Continued from previous post.

I'm off the Darvocet. I don't miss it. It was making me feel like Axl Rose at a Michael Buble concert. So to continue from my last entry...

The hamstring is much better thanks to Faye and the fine folks at Mercy Clinics Physical Therapy in Urbandale. I say this sincerely, but also in hopes that it will somehow make its way back to Faye and she'll take it easy on me for one session. It's always the small ones who inflict the most pain. I'm convinced one of the main benefits of physical therapy is they make you do things most of us couldn't do to ourselves. Hurts too much.

If you're a parent, you know there's nothing worse than one of your kids being in pain. Today on my way to work, I got a call from my mother that my five year old son, Cade, had just rammed his face into a table and was bleeding everywhere. Fortunately, it looked worse than it was. The little guy busted his lip and pushed one of his front teeth back a bit. My dentist, Dr. Clayton Linquist, saw him within 15 minutes of the accident. Only in Iowa. In Florida I'd still be waiting. Dr. Linquist says Cade could lose that front tooth a little sooner than intended, but that Jack O' Lantern look is always cute anyway. On a kid, not an adult. (This would be a jumping off point for Andy to start a rant on the State Fair.)

Other topics, in random order so you can skip the ones you couldn't care less about:

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I laughed really hard. Funniest movie I've seen in a long time, although that's not saying much. I think it's harder to make a good comedy than a good drama. Most "comedies" aren't that funny. This one is as stupid as you'd expect, but it delivers laughs and a surprising touch of sentiment. I don't want to oversell it---our intern told me he was disappointed after my strong recommendation---but if you liked Anchorman and loved Wedding Crashers, don't miss Talladega Nights. The funniest lines may be the ridiculous endorsements that run during credits. Loved it. A- (note: Some of best bits from the commercials and trailers are not in the movie.)

World Trade Center: Other end of the movie spectrum. Oliver Stone can direct a great movie (Platoon), a good movie (JFK), or a bad movie (Alexander). I think this one looks like Stone at his best, and least political. The commercials give me goose bumps, especially with the bridge from the great Coldplay song, Fix You.

As mentioned before, I thought United 93 was one of the most brilliant works of art I've ever seen, but it was completely draining (as it should be). Once that plane door seals, you know those passengers are flying in a tomb. I cried several times. World Trade Center is a true story that ends with an against-all-odds rescue. Can't wait to see it. (update 8/12: saw World Trade Center today at my favorite theater, the Varsity. The movie astonishingly recreates parts of 9/11 but tells the story from the point of view of two survivors and their families. I got emotional in this one too, but it's ultimately uplifting and inspiring. Americans doing what they had to do simply "because it was the right thing". A- No politics and strongly recommended.)

Among the many memories I have of 9/11 is the debate we had whether to do SoundOFF the following Sunday. It was left up to me, and I decided we would do it, but not like usual. We muted all colors and sounds, had no co-host (it was Round Guy in those days), and took no calls about sports. We asked for our viewers to sound off about that terrible day. It was so moving. I've never been involved with anything on TV before or since that was more important. Viewer after viewer spoke with raw emotion. I struggled to keep my composure several times, but Andy Fales---who was behind the scenes that night---kept helping me by saying just the right thing during breaks. A lot of people don't know Andy has that side to him.

Another thing I remember about 9/11 is my shock that Iowa and Iowa State still wanted to play the football game that next Saturday. I spoke out strongly against it, and even debated the issue on air with my friend, Steve Deace. Supporters of playing gave the usual reasons that to not play means the terrorists win, and people need normalcy. I couldn't have disagreed more. Worrying about the terrorists winning or losing never comes before respect for the fallen, who were still being pulled out of the rubble. Iowa and ISU---and everybody else---eventually did the right thing. I think the way people still felt that Saturday caught many by surprise. To Deace's credit, he went on the air and said he was completely wrong, that there was no way he could have felt like a football game mattered. He also knew all the post game questions would not have been about football.

The irony is that although that dark time seemed to show us how little sport matters in the big picture, we all came to learn how much it does matter. Once enough time had passed, ballparks turned into makeshift churches and town meetings. It gave everyone a chance to show up in the same place, feel normal again, and heal.

I'm going on too long about this, which I guess shows how it's still an open wound for me and many others.

Maurice Clarett: A sad cautionary tale right out of the Pierre Pierce book of entitlement. Why don't adults realize all kids needs boundaries and rules, even when they're incredibly gifted at sports. Like Pierce, Clarett just thinks he's entitled to whatever he wants. Now he's finding out once he can't win games, there's no one to help keep him out of trouble.

East Wins State: Way to go girls! That was a perfect answer to all our discussion about Valley dominance. As one of the readers of this blog points out, it's been a great year for the Metro, and not just the Tigers: Roosevelt in girls basketball, Hoover in boys. I'd love to see a Des Moines school win state again in football, it would be great for city school pride, but it won't be easy. B-Ross tells me to keep an eye on Lincoln this year. I will, and he'll make sure I do, but no matter what happens with the Rails, we've seen Des Moines can bring home championships.

State Fair Parade: Lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng, but packed with so many nice people. I always feel like a complete tool when I'm riding in a car waving at people. I love my job but I'm less important that a whole bunch of people who aren't asked to sit on top of a convertible. I am very appreciative of all the kinds words and waves. Thank you.

Floyd Landis. Told you.

Kenny Iwebema: An Iowa source told me what Iwebema did to keep himself off the practice field. Don't worry Hawkeye fans, he'll be back soon. Count on it.

Drew Tate: Comes across like a different person this year. Props to Drew and Kirk Ferentz for getting him help with feeling more comfortable with the media. We can be a pain, and it often looked like it on Drew's face. This year he seems more relaxed, comfortable and happy. Look for that to make him a better leader.

Andy's vacation: Is he ever coming back? I'm on day 12. By the way, we hired a new sports guy, Shawn Terrell from KCRG in Cedar Rapids. I'm confident you're going to really like him. Plus, he's been working under John Campbell's leadership, so you can bet he knows what he's doing. Shawn joins us at the end of the month.

SoundOFF during the Sunday Night Football season on NBC: No, you won't have to stay up later to see SoundOFF. We will run an abbreviated newscast and weather forecast, and then go right into SoundOFF. We'll even have the days sports highlights for you as part of the show. My boss made this call, and it's a smart one. People watching that football game are our SoundOFF viewers, and they'll be more ready than ever to talk local sports and hear strong opinions. Look for us to start around 10:35 and go for an hour.

Footloose: Didn't get to go see the latest at the Des Moines Playhouse. I love that place, but got called into work. My mom & dad went. I'll let them handle the reviews. Mom: "Loved it! It was fun and happy. I'd go see it again." Dad: "I enjoyed it, but there was too much singing and dancing. No one breaks into a song in the middle of a conversation." Yes, I reminded him it was a MUSICAL! Hello.

I have to go home. I'll try to add more before vacation. (Now it's my turn) Thanks for reading. I welcome your feedback and appreciate your time. Sorry I got so windy.

p.s. Thank you to Kendra at Daly Happenings. The kids loved it!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

This is Keith's brain on drugs. Doctor prescribed, of course.

Wow. Time flies. Sorry about that. I see I haven't written anything in two weeks. You probably needed the break.

I tore my hamstring in a softball game at Zearing Days. I thought it was a result of giving everything I had for the team; my dad says I need to realize I'm no longer in my twenties (or thirties). He could be right, usually is, but I'm going to act as young as possible until they throw dirt on me. However, I might stretch next time.

The Darvocet makes me feel a little groggy, so rather than try to stay on point for an entire column, I better go with scatter-shot thoughts on various topics.

Floyd Landis: Making up eight minutes in one day is possible if Landis were chasing Ed, John, Erin and me---well, maybe not Erin. She's really in shape---but it's hard to believe he made up that kind of time on the top cyclists in the world, and now we suspect why. It doesn't look good, and no matter what the B sample turns up, his win will be forever tainted and questioned. Cheating takes away one of the pure pleasures of being a fan: that you can't believe what you just saw. Now, too often, we can't.

America's Got Talent: I know it's the Gong Show in 2006, but I can't stop watching. Plus, don't underestimate the Regis factor. That guy's got talent. He makes hosting look easy. It's not. Now, come on Celtic Spring!

Talladega Nights. The ballad of Ricky Bobby: Can't wait to see this. Man, it looks funny. Shane in Marshalltown raises a great question though: Why is it when Andy Fales makes fun of NASCAR's more absurd traditions (non-stop sponsor plugs, etc.), he receives hate mail. When Will Ferrell does it, NASCAR fans can't wait to pay $8 for the privilege of being made fun of. As Andy points out, Will Ferrell's Will Ferrell, and Andy's not. More cowbell!

Valley wins everything: I didn't realize what a hot button issue this is in the Metro, until we asked on SoundOFF if Valley winning 9 team titles in one year was good for local sports. Lot of passion. Lot of resentment. Lot of jealousy. I heard everything from, "They should win everything. They've got enough students for two 4A schools", to "The rich jerks in West Des Moines buy titles by getting private lessons for their kids from the cradle" to "The fix is in. The refs want Valley to win, so no other schools have a chance. He's all paid for." (Yes, these are all actual voice mail calls from adults.) On the flip side, Valley's dominance brings a lot of positive attention to the CIML, forces other schools to step up their games, and keeps the championships out of eastern Iowa. On the whole, I think it's been positive, but it's reaching the point where I just expect Valley is going to win; I'm shocked when it doesn't. Much more of that and we could lose interest. Then again, everyone loves to go after the Big Dog (think Yankees, Notre Dame, Bulls in the 90's). Golf's ratings were never higher than when Tiger Woods couldn't lose.

More to come...