Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scattershot thoughts.

-Andy and I had lunch at Boston's Wednesday. At a near table sat the coaching firm of Davis, Davis, & Davis. Keno, Chris, and Rodell are all headed to Providence soon, though Keno did tell us he'll be here next weekend for the Coaches vs. Cancer event at Prairie Meadows (a first class follow-through). The conversation we had was cordial, though slightly awkward---kind of like when you run into an old girlfriend or boyfriend at the mall. Not sure if Keno thought Andy was too hard on him on SoundOff, but I suspect Keno knows Andy was speaking from the heart (and the hurt).

-How much better off would Roger Clemens be if he'd just retired one of the first few times he said he would? The man's baseball reputation is ruined, and now his "family man" rep doesn't look too good either. I feel for his wife and kids.

-The Iowa Barnstormers know who they're entertaining, and how to entertain them. We had a blast at the most recent game, and I think the crowds will stay at or near the 10,000 mark. I won't be checking the standings, or playing af2 fantasy football, but for a night out, it's fun and affordable (if you don't drink too much). Can you guess the #1 complaint the Barnstormers had after their first home game? Drunk fans shouting profanity. That was not a problem in our section for game two.

-I've had the opportunity to talk with some of the folks now running the artists formerly known as the Iowa Stars, and I'm impressed. They have a mess to clean-up from the often clueless decisions of their predecessors, but the new affiliate, name, and logo give these nice folks a chance to learn from those mistakes, and do it right (see Barnstormers, I-Cubs, Bucs... in other words, know your customers). I wish them well. The Stormers had Wells Fargo rocking last weekend, so now we know it's possible. The Stars problem has always been atmosphere, not hockey.

-One of the good guys in Iowa sports history, Jeff Clement, is back in the show with Seattle. I hope he's up for good this time.

-Casey Blake shaved that Forrest Gump beard. Good move.

-Does anyone think the Rev. Wright controversy is going away now that Barack Obama has attacked some of the nonsense spewed by his former pastor? Me either.

-Josh Howard plays in the NBA and admits to smoking pot in the off-season? I'm shocked. Shocked!

-Larry Eustachy now admits he didn't really believe he was an alcoholic when he used that defense to save his job/settle for a lot of money. Many of us suspected that, but to Larry's surprise, he came to realize he actually was what he was pretending to be. Congratulations to Eustachy on five years of sobriety. I can't imagine we'll ever see Iowa State win back-to-back, outright Big 12 basketball titles again, so Cyclone fans should forever appreciate Eustachy's accomplishments, along with his embarrassments.

-I have one day off this week, and three Little League games on that day, but we're still heading straight from the ball fields to Ironman. The kids (and dad) can't wait.

-If you want to feel great about sports for a few minutes, check this out:

-Cubs are back in first place. Sorry Andy. Get used to it.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

All thoughts in one sentence.

-Iowa State and Iowa need to make the spring football "games" more fun for fans, or don't bother.

-Austen Arnaud will start at quarterback for Iowa State.

-Rotating quarterbacks is almost always a bad sign.

-Not sure Cyclone fans are ready for "I-State".

-Between injuries and departures, I have no idea what to expect from the Hawkeye football team.

-The Drake Relays is one of the best events you can attend, unless it's raining.

-The Duke of the Drake Relays is John Walters.

-Andy Fales still isn't over Keno leaving.

-How can you not love Lolo Jones?

-Add pole vaulting to the list of success stories at the Jordan Creek Town Center.

-No driver will cause a bigger stir at the Iowa Speedway this season than Danica Patrick.

-I'm surprised the Bucs hired a 66 year old head coach, but he's a former NHL All-Star with great scouting credentials.

-The Iowa Cubs will miss Jeff Lantz when he leaves for The Show.

-I hope David Cook wins American Idol.

-Leatherheads is better than it looks in the trailers.

-Nim's Island is great for kids, and okay for parents.

-16 Blocks is the most underrated thriller of the past year.

-"Hip to be Fit" is a good book/DVD for office workers with no time who are looking to stay in shape.

-Has anybody read Stephen King's Duma Key?

-Lenny Kravitz just put out one of his best with Love Revolution.

-Erin Kiernan just returned from vacation and she's tanner than John Bachman!

-I've been to 11 Little League games in the past week.

-I've eaten 11 hot dogs in the past week.

-Nice touch by Raccoon Valley Little League to have the AAA players wear Negro League uniforms.

-Shawn Terrell went to the Bon Jovi concert having never heard of Daughtry.

-Chris Hassel warns there's a junk shot in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

-I really could stand to write a paragraph about now, and I'm sure you'd like to read one.

-I'm excited to see my first Barnstormers game in seven years Saturday night.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Interesting night of SoundOff Sunday. We knew the new head coach at Drake, and all anyone wanted to write or talk about was Keno leaving. Andy certainly added to the discussion with his heartfelt essay on why he feels disappointed in the national coach of the year. (If you missed it, it's on the video player at

My take on Keno's departure after just one season as head coach is this: I don't blame him, I understand it, and I'm still somewhat surprised (I suppose disappointed is a better word). I thought he would take a big raise and more security and stay at least one more season. I don't think he had to, I just thought he might. Keno knows Drake gave him an opportunity of a lifetime---first head coaching job---and he paid the University back with a championship season to remember. Some would say he already paid his debt in full.

Unlike some people, I have no animosity toward Keno. Any rational person understands all the reasons he took the job, including the reported seven million dollars. I can't imagine having that offer, let alone turning it down, but I'd like to think it's possible.

Davis also deserves praise for coming back to Des Moines and answering every tough question, and honoring nearly every media request. Sure, he may have been doing some minor damage control to his legacy, but more likely is Keno was being the good guy I've known him to be.

I wish him the best, and I'm confident he'll succeed at Providence.

The new guy is Michael--check that---Mark Phelps. He's Sandy Hatfield Clubb's #1 choice. This is her hire, and it will define her legacy. Clubb brought in two people, Phelps and Gary Close. It was Phelps all the way.

Clubb was smart to involve the players in the process. This is like when I talk to my kids all week about how great the Indiana Jones movies are, and then ask them Saturday night what they want to watch, and they say "Indiana Jones!". As the Guinness guys would say, "Brilliant!".

Great news Josh Young isn't going anywhere. He appears excited about Phelps. I don't know enough Phelps to predict the future, but I did talk to a few people who know him, and they couldn't say enough. Charismatic, great recruiter, energetic, good guy, tireless...etc. We'll see. He was impressive enough in his first interviews, and smart enough to say he loves the 3.

The one head-scratching thing in all this, to me, is that Drake never put a new contract with more money and more years in front of Keno long before Providence called. I know Davis says he was assured they'd get all that done, but why wait? It's harder to leave after the ink is still drying on a new deal. Who knows, may not have mattered one bit.

Let the Phelps Era begin. Welcome to Des Moines, Mark.

More to come on all things not related to Drake. (Tired yet?)


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Keno is gone. What do you think?

What a whirlwind 24 hours. Keno Davis missed the celebration of Drake basketball at the State Capitol for a job interview at Providence. The next day, the Friars introduce him as their 14th head coach.

Yes, it's a lot more money, and yes, the Big East is a big step up from the Missouri Valley, but do you think Keno owed Drake more than one season? It was an amazing year, one no one saw coming, and he is the National Coach of the Year, but Drake gave him an opportunity despite no previous head coaching experience at any level.

It's a tough one. We have a poll on the sports page and we'd like your feedback here on this blog too. A third way to sound off is to send an e-mail to We'll post some of your feedback on our newscasts.

(There's a somewhat new, somewhat outdated Murphy's Law from last night. It follows this one.)


Monday, April 14, 2008

-"Don't go, Keno"... Ed Wilson started that chant tonight after a source at Drake told us Keno Davis was in Providence Monday night. The Friars need a coach, and says it's Keno's job if he wants it. Going to the Big East for a lot more money sounds like a slam dunk, but I think Keno feels a lot of loyalty toward Drake. This one could happen fast, one way or the other.

-The Masters lacked drama, star power, and a compelling story line (for those of us not in the Immelman family). Zzzzzzz.

-Tiger is so good, he seemed to miss every short putt, and he still finished second. I can't imagine him putting worse.

-Jim Nantz is a great broadcaster, but enough with the "sacred sod" and "hallowed ground" of Augusta. It's a beautiful course---especially in HD---but it's still just an exclusive country club, and one with a shameful past (no black golfer played the Masters until 1975; all caddies were black until 1982; no black member until 1990.)

-Tip of the cap to Zach Johnson for representing Iowa with such class all year. Zach's not a walking Mardi Gras, but he is a role model.

-I'm glad the Barnstormers are back. Again. It gives me a case of deja vu. How 'bout you.

-I'm glad the Barnstormers are back. Again. It gives me a case of deja vu. How 'bout you.

-Big crowd at the Stormers home debut. I think it's going to work. Local ownership makes a big difference. These guys know what fans want and expect. It's good entertainment at a reasonable price (as long as you stay away from the Wells Fargo Arena concession stand.)

-I'm not sure Jason Berryman deserves the rousing ovation he received, but give the guy credit for doing his time, and not taking the easy way out. He also patiently answers every question about his mistakes. He played well Monday night.

-Is Brett Favre still retired?

-Paging Al Gore. What the heck is going on with this weather? It's just been miserable for so long. I was at Raccoon Valley Little League Sunday and the wind chill felt about... one (to quote Del Griffith). I've prided myself on not being the climate-controlled parent watching from the car. I watched from the car.

-Chris Hassel claims to have lost the feeling in his toes at the Iowa City West vs. Valley soccer game last weekend. If I don't see a black foot like Mr. Deeds, I'm not buying it.

-The Iowa Stars could become the Iowa Thunder next season. I like the name, Andy hates it. It wouldn't be my first choice but it's so much better than "Stars", I'll take it. This topic drew more hockey calls than we've ever had on SoundOFF, so that's a start.

-I love Shawn Johnson's confidence at the Olympic Summit in Chicago. She thinks the USA will field the greatest gymnastics team ever, and expects the red, white, and blue to win the gold. Nothing wrong with raising expectations instead of lowering them (coaches, please take note).

-Smart move from the University of Iowa. Parade the national championship wrestling team in front of fans before the spring football scrimmage. Hawkeye fans need a reminder of excellence about now.

-Gene Chizik shoots straight, but man, he said a whole lot of nothing at Monday's news conference. Not his fault, he just didn't have much to report. Team's improving, positions still up for grabs...etc.

-I'll miss John Adams when its run ends on HBO this Sunday night. The President, as played by Paul Giamatti, is a fascinating combination of runaway ego and crippling insecurity---like an 18th century Richard Nixon. As Adams' wife, Laura Linney should practice her Emmy speech now. She's stunning.

-Watched Bridge to Terabithia today with my son. Liked it, but somehow didn't know about the shocking twist. Wow. What a downer.

Lucky You is a watchable mess. Somewhere a good movie was left on the cutting room floor.

-B.Ross is trying to get me to the Young Jeezy concert Friday night at the 7-Flags Events Center. I have a rule. I don't go if I've never heard of the artist.

-Welcome back, R.E.M. The new album rocks.

-I'm re-reading Everybody's All-American, by Frank DeFord, for the first time in decades. I forgot how uncomfortable some of the racist language makes me. I have no doubt it's an accurate reflection of the times (the South in the 1950s, see Augusta National above), but it's still hard to read. I always liked the move too, with Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange. It's not perfect, but it's entertaining (and sad). I'm surprised more stories haven't been done about athletes struggling to cope when the cheering stops.

-Think about it, Keno. You've got it great here. Then again, can it get better? I think it can. It won't ever be as unexpected, but Davis could coach Drake to more conference titles, and there's still that NCAA tournament game win.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Milwaukee IV

Just returned from Milwaukee IV, my annual baseball and buddies trip with Mark Baden, Ryan Lund, and the ghost of Todd Bailey. If you're a guy (or gal) and you do something similar, you know how much fun a weekend like this is, and how necessary. Few things recharge the batteries like good times with old friends. These days, it takes me a little longer to recover, but it's still worth it.

Some random thoughts from the trip:

-The folks at the Des Moines Airport are nice and make an unpleasant experience about as tolerable as possible. Going through security, the nice guy behind me from Iowa Falls forgot he'd have to take his shoes off, so he was walking around barefoot on that carpet of foot fungus. Yuck.

-Nothing beats a direct flight these days, and with gas prices, it's not much more expensive to fly if you drive a guzzler like I do. I don't recommend the seat directly across from the blue urinal. I was stuck with it on Midwest and let's just say someone had a long flight. Well, two people if you count me.

-When in Milwaukee, I highly recommend touring the Sprecher Brewery, although it's a good idea to have a designated driver. $3 buys you a tour from a condescending guide who's trying out ill fated material for Night at the Improv, but it's all good when you hit the finish line with tickets for four micro brews. Full disclosure, we didn't finish the tour (but we did finish the beer).

-When in Wisconsin, don't order gumbo. (Maybe that's what happened to the passenger on Midwest.)

-The NBA doesn't compare to the college game. Oh sure, the players are more skilled, even when watching the Bucks, but they don't care as much, and neither do the fans. The cheerleaders do bring energy, if not clothes, but there's only so much $9 cocktails and $7 beers can overcome when watching multi-millionaires go through the motions.

-Go see U2Zoo if you get the chance. Cover bands scare me too, but this one was worth the $30 cab ride from the Indian-American driver who had a crush on Mark's WISN colleague, Shelby Croft. I digress. U2Zoo sounded great. Then again, we were at an Irish pub drinking Guinness. U2Zoo may have sounded like drunk leprechauns playing spoons and kazoos.

-If you're a guy, and you miss "guys weekend", expect a lot of obnoxious late night phone calls, even if you have an excused absence. (Todd, congratulations on the baby girl. Next year, try to think ahead.)

-Tailgating is not just for football. Those Wisconsin people know how to eat and drink. That's probably why they make us look thin. Anyway, Miller Park is a great place to park early, break out the grill, and chill. Unlike last year, it wasn't 15 degrees, which was nice.

-I hate baseball indoors, but I'm warming up to it in places like Milwaukee in early April. Good luck to the Twins not having a roof. That should be fun in April and October (if they're able to play in October again. I hope they are.)

-I could go on and on about the mindless things fans do at Major League games, but Andy and I cover much of this in "Pick a Side": Baseball Etiquette. If you missed it, it's in the sports video player.

-If you're at Miller Park, do not run onto the field. We saw two guys get clotheslined by security and then beaten on the ground. Those guys walked off the field like a Cyclone quarterback in the mid-nineties (i.e. dazed and confused).

-How can the Milwaukee Brewers superstar be a vegetarian? We're talking land of sausage! Prince Fielder read his wife's copy of Skinny Bitch and decided he was done with meat. As I write this, he's still looking for his first home run (after hitting 50 last year). Coincidence?

-The Brewers have a good young team that's fun to watch. They're in dire need of another pennant. The outfield wall looks pretty bare, save for ads, and the one shining moment in 1982. I do love that old school logo. My friend, Ryan, says it's cheesy. Ryan's wrong again.

-The one thing that beats pregame tailgating? Post-game tailgating.

-You don't feel any older until you're winded by throwing a Frisbee. You also have to put up with the looks from people who wonder why in the world you're throwing a Frisbee.

-iPod improves a tailgate more than anything this side of the Dick Butkus Quick Cook Grill. (Actually, I can't vouch for the Butkus grill, but I once watched all 30 minutes of the infomercial when it ran on WOI. I think the remote was broken.)

-There's nothing worse at a crowded bar or restaurant than the stealth gas bomber. Sure you can get away with it, but man up and go outside, dude.

-There is no better investment when you've been drinking than a taxi.

-Pizza always tastes better when ordered after 11 p.m. I had one friend who looked like Hasselhoff eating a burger. Not pretty. (Okay, that was Ryan too.)

-What is it about $12 movies in a hotel room that makes you order them when you think $4 is a lot for a rental? (No, I'm not talking about porn. If there's one thing less appealing to me than watching porn alone in a hotel room, it's watching porn in a hotel room with two dudes.) Nevertheless, Superbad is really crude, and really funny.

Evan: McLovin? What kind of a stupid name is that, Fogell? What, are you trying to be an Irish R&B singer? Fogell: Naw, they let you pick any name you want when you get down there. Seth: And you landed on McLovin?... Fogell: Yeah. It was between that or Muhammed.

-I returned from the trip to find a "McLovin" T-shirt courtesy of Shawn Terrell (He mistakenly thinks my birthday is in April). Complete coincidence, but more appreciated than ever.

-I'm fortunate to have such good friends.

Back with sports soon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Thank you for all the passion regarding SoundOff. The e-mails and blog feedback seemed to turn toward the show itself this week, no doubt thanks in large part to the "What's Bugging Andy?" on TV ratings. I don't think we've had so many people love a segment this much since Andy tore into the Doppler radar wars several years ago. We'll air some of the e-mails on SoundOff this week. The letters have been non-stop since Sunday night, and 99% positive.

I always appreciate and respect the way many of you have an idea of what the show should or should not be. Of course, we can't be all things to all people, and anything successful attracts haters, but we are pleased that more people are watching than ever, and positive feedback is at an all-time high. I think Andy's return is the main reason. Sometimes you don't fully appreciate someone until he or she's gone. I'd like to think the show evolving is another factor. As for the haters, one thing I've learned, to my amazement, is that they're the most devoted viewers of all. I never understand that, but we'll take it.

It seems like a good time to give background on some of the frequent questions about SoundOff.

We dropped "Sports" from the title many years ago. Sports topics still drive the program, but as longtime viewers know, we like to talk about many things outside the sports world too. I think this is a big reason our most frequent compliment comes from women (and occasionally men) who say some variation of, "I don't like sports, but I love SoundOff".

Inevitably, the flip side of that is the hardcore sports fan who wants us breaking down Drake's match-up zone defense, but that criticism is infrequent, and there are plenty of places to go these days for over-analysis of sports. When we started 11+ years ago, there really wasn't. How much insightful Final Four talk can we give this Sunday night that was somehow missed by six hours on CBS and another two hours on ESPN? Now if we had a local team in San Antonio, that's another story. We'd wear it out. First and foremost, local.

The seasons also dictate passion from you. During college football and college basketball, we talk more sports, and go after laughs and pop culture less. When local teams are done in those two seasons, emotional investment dwindles for many of you. You may love the Cubs, but it's a 162 game season. How worked up can you get over a Sunday loss to the Reds in April?

The most frequent complaint we hear is, hands down, some variation of, "I can't believe how stupid some of the callers are". Now this is a touchy one, because those callers are also our viewers and therefore our customers, but I also try to remember that the vast majority of people watching would never, ever call-in, and then do the show for them. We've also taken fewer calls lately, added other segments including frequent on-set interviews, and tried to do a better job of screening. Now that we're on 7-second delay, it's improved, but it's also meant too many people are watching on TV (7 seconds ago) and not listening on the phone, so they're not ready when we go to them. "Mike in Newton, you're on SoundOff. Mike? Hello, Mike." And yes, we ask them to be ready. We'll keep working at it because many of the calls are great, and occasionally even a bad call is highly entertaining for all the wrong reasons. We don't want to lose that interaction. It's also a nice way to show more game video.

We want you to have fun, learn a little here and there, and occasionally get you to think about something in a new or different way. Humor is subjective, so what's funny to my father is not always funny to my mother (another example: I love Will Ferrell movies. Andy thinks they're stupid). Learning depends on how much you know coming in, or how much you think you know, and "thinking" leads to your most passionate e-mails. If you agree, you're nice enough to let Andy or I know. If you don't agree, then you really let us have it. Perfect. The show, after all, is called SoundOff. (More background: The name came about back when I used to co-host the WHO radio Sound-Off with Mike Newell. We were under the same ownership and roof at the time---we're not any longer---and the TV & radio managers liked the synergy of the host and brand. In other words, WHO radio had a great name, and graciously agreed to let us steal it. Thank you. When you're #1 like WHO, you take it as a compliment, not a threat.)

If you have any other thoughts or questions, I welcome them, and I'll try to answer. Andy and I, as well as Heather, Shawn, Chris, B-Ross and the rest of the crew, love doing SoundOff, and appreciate how fortunate we are to work at a station that turns us loose every week. I'm proud that after all these years, and so many new sports shows on TV & radio that weren't here when we started, that our audience keeps growing. I don't know how long that will last, but we'll keep trying to entertain and inform you, and if we don't, you won't have to run us off. We'll pull the plug on ourselves.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for indulging me.