Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scattershot thoughts

>With A-Rod, it's always about the money, but how many tropical islands does one man need?

>Heather Burnside was a hilarious Britney Spears for Halloween. If Britney hadn't already checked into rehab, watching SoundOFF might do it.

>I promise no more tank tops. First John Basedow, now K-Fed. How do I end up looking this ridiculous each year? (Don't answer)

>John Bachman's promo as me as John Bachman was funny. He's a good sport. If that makes sense, you saw it. If it doesn't, you didn't.

>I'm never comfortable at costume parties or class reunions. Both make me want to stay home, though I usually have a good time if I'll just overcome my insecurities.

>I'll admit, I beat this dead horse too much, but I can't believe how ugly Iowa State's road football uniforms are. Thank goodness they're changing next year.

>The Cyclones were competitive in back-to-back weeks against top 15 teams. When's the last time that's happened? It's the most hopeful sign of the Chizik Era. Don't sell your coins yet.

>Anyone hear any rumors about Andy Fales?

>Pella Christian's Jerry Staton is not only a heck of a football coach, he's a really thoughtful person. He recently wrote a nice letter letting us off the hook for forgetting his name (on-air) and thanking us for covering his Eagles. That's class.

>Kirk Ferentz and staff outcoached Michigan State something fierce. That game looked over at halftime. The Hawks adjusted, the Spartans didn't. Ferentz critics should think about what this man has done in nine seasons. It's harder in Iowa City than you realize.

>How foolish is Dominique Douglas? Time to give this guy the boot. I'm willing to forgive a guy who steals a few DVDs, but not when he's already suspended for allegedly using a stolen credit card.

>The NCAA ruling that takes away a year of eligibility from Lucca Staiger is stupid, unfair, and hypocritical. Punish Staiger because others did something wrong? Idiotic.

>Are you as tired of Kobe Bryant's whining as I am?

>KXNO's coverage of high school football is terrific.

>Smart move by the Iowa Energy signing Jeff Horner. In fact, the Energy has made one shrewd move after another. I'm still not sure NBDL will work here, but having local owners who "get it" sure makes a difference.

>Shawn Terrell is one of the best local sports reporters in the country. We're lucky to have him.

>Chris Hassel always does or says something to make me laugh everytime I see him. He's also a bigtime talent. And nuts.

>I still haven't finished that John Grisham book, Playing for Pizza. I think I read The Firm in one night.

>Love him, hate him, Kid Rock's new album is a blast.

>Can we just call Sunday's game between the Patriots and Colts the Super Bowl? I know the Colts love being overlooked, but I'll still take the Pats on the road.

>If you know anyone from Boston, and I know many people, you know how superior to us they already feel. It's getting worse: Red Sox, Patriots, BC, Celtics hype. Please make it stop.

>Dan Winters' story on local residents "redshirting" their small children was solid journalism and slightly disturbing.

>Great decision by KXNO's Jon Miller to put sports aside and report continuously on the chemical plant fire. Keeping people safe and informed ranks somewhere ahead of Ken O'Keefe's play-calling skills.

>Shows on my TiVo: House, Life, Chuck, Grey's Anatomy, The Office, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Saturday Night Live, Scrubs, Heroes, The Channel 13 News at 6 & 10, SoundOFF (just being honest), and E60 (the new ESPN Real Sports knockoff). Looking at that list, there is no doubt I'm showing NBC a lot of loyalty, but it's hard to be objective.

>Tuesdays with Morrie at the Des Moines Playhouse is solid, but nothing beats reading the book. It's the kind of story---if you buy this sort of thing, and I do---that requires reflection at your own pace.

>Ankeny at Southeast Polk again? Are you kidding me? This is our Colts-Patriots. I think this Monday is the night Ankeny finally breaks through Polk's kryptonite.

>I haven't watched an NBA regular season game from start to finish since Jordan retired. If I had to pick one team to end that drought, it would be the Suns.

>I'm not sure I'm even making sense. My son Colin has had a high temperature and the stomach flu for the past four days. I've slept less than Thomas Edison.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Does anybody believe Gene Chizik and the Cyclones didn't walk away from the Oklahoma game with a "moral victory"? Of course they did. When you were thumped by 53 the week before, there's nothing too wrong with a positive loss. I was surprised and impressed..

Can you believe Michigan State will likely start two players who were just arrested and charged with felony robbery? Mark Dantonio should be ashamed of himself. Of course, he plays the "let the legal process run its course" card, but this all about winning. Playing college football isn't a right, it's a privilege. Say what you will about all Iowa's arrests, and I've said plenty, but at least Kirk Ferentz suspends or boots the players...

Monday, October 15, 2007

I've got whiplash from keeping up with Hawkeye fans. Last week, Iowa might not win another game, and Kirk Ferentz needed firing; this week, the Hawks could win out, go to a good bowl, and tee up a championship season next year.

Just goes to show what we already know: winning cures everything.

What can I say about Iowa State? Seriously, what can I say? I felt like I time-traveled to 1994. A good, but not great, Texas team exposed the Cyclones as slow, nonathletic, and uninspired. I know there's a talent gap---there always is and always will be---but that still doesn't completely explain what happened Saturday. Mack Brown did everything he could to keep the score down, short of telling his third string players to run plays in the wrong direction.

Many coaches have started successful careers with miserable first seasons so it's far too early to give up on Gene Chizik, but I sure thought Iowa State would look better than this. The Cyclones seem to be regressing instead of progressing.

We left after the third quarter and got in a traffic jam! That's when you know it's bad. Some of those fans paid $60 for tickets. They deserve refunds.

The UNI Panthers are the #1 ranked team in the country. It's FCS (div. IAA), but that's still really cool...

What happened to the Bulldogs at San Diego? I didn't think Drake would take a beating like that with Steve Loney on the sideline, not against another non-scholarship team.

Good news... The Reds hired Dusty Baker. That means Dusty's leaving the broadcast booth! Managers who know they're going back to work, like Baker, never say anything interesting. Sample insight, "The team with the better pitching has a good chance of winning this series." Duh, really?

Numbers for The Final Season are out, and they're not good. They're worse than the reviews, which weren't good either. In fact, so few people paid to see the movie nationwide, there's a chance it's already in a DVD bargain bin by the time you read this. Still, I loved it. Yes, it's corny, cliched, and predictable, but I can't imagine Iowans won't enjoy this movie. It's an incredible story, and for the most part, the filmmakers didn't embellish too much. There's a couple of plots that didn't happen (see Tom Arnold storyline), including the obligatory romance (see Sean Astin's flirting), but enough is real to inspire your sense of state pride, not to mention your love of baseball (if you love baseball, and how can you not?).

I was also surprised The Final Season is a scathing indictment of school consolidation. It hammers home its point that folding smaller schools into bigger ones takes opportunities away from kids and economic stability away from small towns.

I give the movie a B. I think the biggest reason for all the negative publicity is that sports movies like this all follow the same formula, which is why there's a spoof out Friday called Comebacks.

Talk about formula... I also saw Disney's Game Plan starring The Rock. Not a lot of surprises in this movie, but it's still entertaining, especially if you have a young daughter, which I do not. I went with a young son, and he loved it because there's lots of football and a bulldog in a tutu. Whatever "it" is, The Rock's got it. He's a star. B for Game Plan.

One more B. This one to The Kingdom. It's a history lesson of America's involvement in Saudi Arabia (i.e. oil is worth a lot of money). It turns into an action movie with a lot of gun fights and solid acting by Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx (not his real name), the underrated Chris Cooper and a breakout performance by Jason Bateman. I liked it, but less than expected.

Are you watching Friday Night Lights yet? I hope so. Yes, there's been one shocking turn this season that doesn't seem true to the show's emphasis on reality, but it's still great, and no family on TV seems more "real" than the Taylors. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton amaze.

My favorite new show is Life. It's a little odd, like me, and I'm hooked. Damian Lewis is the man. (If you haven't seen the entire Band of Brothers series, make it a priority to start renting the DVDs immediately. You'll thank me.)

Just read Jason Stark's The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History. This book is sure to fire people up, which is the intent. Most overrated right-handed pitcher of all time? Nolan Ryan. Most underrated? Bob Feller. Discuss.

Also read Tim Kurkjian's Is This a Great Game, or What? Kurkjian's love of baseball comes through on every page, and he has some good stories. I'm sure he doesn't reveal all, since he's still working the ESPN beat every day, but baseball fans will find something to love here.

Still reading John Grisham's Playing for Pizza. Obviously it's not a page-turner.

Latest health book across my desk: Impress the World with Your Body in Seven Days by Dr. David Madow. Madow comes across as a nice guy who wants to help people have a better life. The book doesn't break ground, but it's a user-friendly guide to taking one step a day toward a better, healthier life (e.g. stretch, walk, eat right, strength train, drink water, etc.). If you're overwhelmed and looking for a place to start, Madow's advice is solid, and he obviously practices what he preaches, including walking an hour a day. (?!) (I'm happy when I squeeze in 30 minutes). (10/16 update: somehow Madow read this. He invites you to visit and he'll answer questions personally.)

In my CD player right now: Bruce Springsteen's Magic (love), Kanye West's Graduation (like album, love "Stronger"), Maroon 5's It Won't Be Soon Before Long (dumb title, but the kids and I all like it), Best of Van Halen (never liked this when it was popular, but I'm warming up to it), My Generation: The Very Best of the Who, and U2 18 The singles. Classic.

The Red Sox and Indians series is terrific, but the pace is so slow. You can watch Dances with Wolves in the time it takes them to play 9 innings. I went to a lot of Red Sox games as a kid, but I'm pulling for Indianola's Casey Blake too.

Be sure to vote for our Halloween costumes on SoundOFF. I don't have to be John Basedow this year, so I'm looking forward to whoever wins (as long as it's not Bachman. I don't want to make him mad). I think Heather hopes she doesn't have to be Britney Spears, which is why I voted for... "Britney Spears".

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

No matter how many e-mails I open, I still can't believe it when I see Hawkeye fans calling for Kirk Ferentz fired.

This is the same Ferentz many of those same fans panicked about losing just three years ago. It's gone from the former Iowa AD (Bowlsbly) opening up the bank vault to keep Kirk, to the current one (Barta) giving Ferentz a vote of confidence.

I understand both sides. Ferentz defenders---and I'm one---realize just how hard it is to win at Iowa. You are in a low population state fighting another D1 school for Iowa recruits and trying to steal an occasional guy from the surrounding states, all of which have their own Big Ten or Big 12 schools. Furthermore, Iowa needs the overlooked "diamonds in the rough" (e.g. Bob Sanders) and overlooked walk-ons with chips on their shoulders (e.g. Dallas Clark). Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle where everything comes together, including good fortune, and sometimes it all goes the other way. Welcome to 2007.

Having said that, or more accurately, written it, I do understand fans complaining. It has gotten very expensive to follow the Iowa Hawkeyes. In fact, some families are priced out as donation levels and tickets costs continue to escalate out of control. Those fans see a man making more money in one week then they'll make in a year. They expect results, not bad football. You're supposed to get what you pay for. (Although Ferentz makes millions because of what he's already done, including paving a gold road for Kinnick renovation.)

My unsolicited advice: more patience. Ferentz led Iowa to four January bowl games, three top ten finishes, and two co-Big Ten titles. That's harder than most realize at Iowa, and Hawkeye fans are definitely guilty of often expecting too much. That's not the case this season---Iowa shouldn't be this bad---but Kirk deserves time to figure it out and make changes. A few less injuries and suspensions might help too.

The Hawkeye meltdown has been great for Iowa State's Gene Chizik. It's overshadowed the fact, to date, the Cyclones are having a dud of a season in Chizik's first year. Educated football fans didn't expect a bowl game, but they did expect a better organized and executed effort than Iowa State has shown in all but a few quarters. I'll say it again, Chizik needs more time and talent, but he also may need to adjust his game plan for the kind of players he's going to have at Iowa State. You still go after the 4 and 5 star guys, but the reality is, Iowa State isn't Texas or Auburn, and 99 times out of 100, those blue chippers are going elsewhere---probably to a team Iowa State or Iowa plays on Saturdays.

Chizik's smarter than me, but I still believe you must run an offense and defense that's imaginative and daring---one that's hard to prepare for and gives ISU a puncher's chance. You'll probably still lose to Texas and Oklahoma 8 out of 10 times, but that's better than 10 out of 10, and once in awhile, the whole season could break just right. A realist doesn't expect the Cyclones to be a perennial power, but a conference championship, or at least a division title, once a decade isn't asking too much.

Look at all the talent Iowa had when the Hawks went 8-0 in 2002. A lot of those guys are playing on Sundays now. For whatever reason, Iowa has dropped way off that level, and now is in a situation similar to Iowa State's: not talented enough to beat bigger, better, faster teams with old fashioned football.

Thank God for UNI.

Take care.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Warning: No sports ahead. I'm taking one blog off, or trying to, after days of nothing but negative energy coming through the inbox. You can guess why..

Are you watching any of NBC's new shows? I always root for them; we need a few more hits.

Here's my take so far:

Journeyman: Compelling lead actor, well made, but I just have trouble watching anyone not named Marty McFly go back and forth in time (though if you know a woman who loves sentimental, romantic stories, you can't go wrong with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour in Somewhere in Time). I'll give Journeyman another go, but I'm not sure I'll last...

Life: After the incomparable Band of Brothers, I'd watch Damian Lewis in a Ramen noodles commercial. This is a quirky show, and needs a better title, but I'm all in for Life...

Bionic Woman: good reviews, big hit, so I wanted to like it, but just couldn't get into it. As a kid, I watched the Bionics in wide-eyed amazement, but now I just roll my eyes. I miss Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors...

Chuck: If you can suspend all disbelief, this is a very entertaining show. Anytime you have a guy managing the "Nerd Herd" at "Buy More", and he suddenly downloads all the government's top secrets into his brain, you're in for a wild ride. It's better than it sounds...

That's it. Only four new shows. I like that strategy better than throwing a bunch of crap at the wall to see what sticks, which is what NBC used to do. Oh yeah, Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock start this week. If you're one of the "dozens and dozens" of people already watching, thank you. If not, get on board. These shows make me believe in the power of television to both inspire and make us laugh...

I'm currently reading John Grisham's Playing for Pizza. It's no Firm, but so far I like it. It's the story of an NFL football player so humiliated by his post-season choke-job, he moves to Parma and plays for an Italian team with a bunch of guys who live up to the title of the book. Anytime someone relearns love of the game, I'm a sucker. It's one reason Jerry Maguire is so high on my movie list...

Interesting health book came my way recently titled "Eat Stop Eat". The author is a respected nutritionist who says losing weight is easy, and you don't have to give up any of your favorite foods. His answer: fasting one day a week. He makes a compelling argument with many documented health benefits, but it's not for me. I believe it would work, but I need my daily feedings every day. If you're interested, there's an online version at

Just picked up Bruce Springsteen's Magic. I walked into the store during an Ed Wilson verified downpour, but nothing was stopping me on release day. Reviews are beyond good. USA Today gives Magic 4 stars on a 4 star scale, Rolling Stone 5 out of 5, Entertainment Weekly grades it an A and uses the M-word: Masterpiece. I've only played it once, but it took me back to high school. It's classic Springsteen along with a fully engaged E Street Band...

Just watched The Insider again. What a phenomenal, yet somehow mostly overlooked movie. Russell Crowe and Al Pacino couldn't be better. This belongs along side All The President's Men...

I bought We Are Marshall on DVD. I liked it even more on second viewing. My father finds Matthew McConaughey really annoying, but even dad liked him in this. I'll bet Bobby Bowden loves this movie, and after seeing it, you'll love Bowden---or at least respect him...

My father and I went to see In the Valley of Elah at the theater. Riveting. You bible readers know the title comes from where David battled Goliath. This is not an action movie, it's more like a murder mystery and commentary on the mental and moral price some soldiers pay for going to war in Iraq. Tommy Lee Jones is the best he's ever been, and that's saying something (see: Fugitive or Lonesome Dove). Charlize Theron is unrecognizable, but proves again the Oscar was no fluke. The gal can act. A-

Did you make it to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus this year? You know how they claimed it was all new and improved? They were right. Big upgrade. Kids loved it, especially those nutbars in the motorcycle sphere...

Another hit with the kids: Charlotte's Web at the Des Moines Playhouse. If you have a kid 10 & under, you can't go wrong. Plus, if your kids are like mine, they could use a few minutes away from the computer and video games, to see something that's actually live!...

If there's a nicer guy working in the Major Leagues than Tim McClelland, I haven't met him... (oops, that was kind of sports. I better stop now. I can't contain myself.)

Thanks for reading.