Did you see Boise State win the Fiesta Bowl? Most exciting finish to a football game I've ever had the pleasure to witness. The offensive gameplane used by Chris Petersen and the Broncos is exactly what Iowa State needs. I know I've probably made this same point too many times, but at ISU, I believe you have to have a way to neutralize teams with better talent. Boise State did just that. Oklahoma had better players up and down the line, but the Broncos left Bob Stoops looking more confused than Courtney Love at a PTA meeting. Statue of Liberty to win? Brilliant! Cyclone fans should hope Gene Chizik and staff bring some of Boise State's daring and imagination. I don't care how great a recruiter and coach Chizik is---and his credentials look promising---ISU will never have the talent of Texas, not even close. Doesn't mean you can't pull an upset every now and then.
I have Erin Kiernan hooked on 24. She's learning to watch it the only way you should: on DVD hour-after-hour. Day-after-day. If she looks tired this week, blame Jack Bauer. And Erin's only on season one, so she won't get eight hours of sleep for at least a month. She has four more seasons after this one.
My buddy Ryan finally watched Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He failed to see why I love it so much---on first viewing. Now that he's on 37, he gets it. "Well look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I'm sayin grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grown up Jesus, or teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus, or whatever you want."
Erin, John and I all went to Ed's for a Christmas party, and we brought our loves with us. John's wife, Barb, taught us how to play pool---on the ceiling. Erin's husband, Michael, made Vince Vaughn seem like a mute. Ed's wife, Angela, taught Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart everything they know. Jenny and I just laughed and ate and drank. It was perfect. So we went back to Ed's on Christmas, and this time we brought my parents. True story. The Wilsons are amazing people.
Speaking of dinner at the Wilsons, my Dad just had emergency heart surgery at Mercy. He's doing great now and never lost his sense of humor. As soon as they told him he had an artery 95% blocked, he blamed all the rich food and tantalizing desserts at Ed's. My father also wanted me to put in a plug for the doctors and nurses at Mercy. He's truly thankful he got sick here instead of in his home state of Florida. He can't imagine there being a better place for first class care. A big "thank you" from me too.
I saw a few movies over the holidays. Oddly, I get more feedback through e-mail on movies than anything I write about sports. Hmm. Better not reflect on that too much. Snapshot reviews:
Blood Diamond: Very hard to watch. Absolutely brutal in parts. It's important this story of the diamond trade was told, but it's not light. Heartbreaking at times, inspiring at others.
Leonardo Dicaprio again proves he's the finest actor of his generation. He's so convincing in this role that you forget he's speaking with an accent. He can't compete against himself at the Academy Awards, so I don't know if he should push this or the Departed. He's great in both. Djimon Hounsou is also amazing in Blood Diamond. The actors get an A, the movie a B.
Pursuit of Happyness: Or as Jenny called it, The Pursuit of Depression. Incredible story of one man's perseverance against all odds, but this guy goes through so many downers, you half expect someone to come up and kick him in the stones just to drive the point home. Ultimately uplifting, and my mother loved it, but it could have used a few more minutes of happiness at the end. Will Smith is very good, his son Jade even better. B
Rocky Balboa: Returns the series to glory, or comes close enough. The original Rocky was a character study, and though Rocky III was a blast, that Rocky didn't resemble the man from the first one. "Rocky Balboa" is a perfect bookend to the original. You really don't need to see the middle four to have it make perfect sense. It's not endless action like Rocky IV ("I will break you"). It's the story of a lonely guy facing his own mortality. I got chills, and almost tears, when the famous theme music finally played. Talk about nostalgia. And though I couldn't see a way 60 year old Stallone could plausibly climb into the ring, he pulled it off. Bonus: the women I've talked to liked it as much as the men. I bumped this from a B+ to an A- because we no longer have to think of the crapfest known as Rocky V ending this great series. At least I hope this is the end.
We Are Marshall: A story so inspiring, it's surprising it took this long to tell it. I'm sure you know about the plane crash that killed the Marshall football team, coaching staff and several supporters... I won't rehash that. You'll find a lot of sports movie cliches in the two hours, but I don't care. I was moved, and enjoyed every minute. I was also thankful that Matthew McConaughey left his shirt on for a change. If you love college football, don't miss this one. If you're not a Bobby Bowden fan, you will be when We Are Marshall ends. You'll see what I mean. A-
Dreamgirls: The not so thinly veiled story of Diana Ross and the Supremes, though from what I've read about Ms. Ross she should be pleased with how Beyonce makes her look in this movie. In real life, Ross apparently couldn't elbow her way to the fame fast enough.
Eddie Murphy acts on a level we've never seen, and booted American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson steals the show. I watched this at the Wynnsong in Johnston, and when Hudson sings her show-stopping number, "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going", people broke into spontaneous applause and cheers. When's the last time you've seen that happen? It is a spellbinding five minutes. She's incredible. Get Oscar ready and go see this if you don't mind people breaking into song in the middle of a conversation. Jenny can't take that; I don't mind much. B- even if you don't like musicals. B if you're neutral like me. A- if you have "Chicago" on DVD.
Holiday: What can I say... I have a weakness for chick flicks... and anything with Jack Black in it. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslett aren't bad either. 15 minutes too long, but goes over like hot chocolate and a comforter on a cold night. See it with someone you love. Or want to. B+
Few other quick hitters. Did you see the first Friday Night Lights of 2007? The show keeps getting better. It's not for small kids though.
Loved seeing Polar Express Imax at the Science Center of Iowa. My son, Colin, loves trains so we already had the DVD, but this was a whole different thing. I'm not sure how big that screen is, but I did learn you don't want to sit in any of the first dozen or so rows.
Can you remember going into the Big Ten season with less buzz about Hawkeye basketball? And then they go out and beat Michigan State. Nice start.
The Drake bandwagon unloaded in a hurry. Don't give up. Lot of season left.
Bill Fennelly should have a lifetime contract.
Enough about Drew Tate.
I hope 2007 is your best year ever.