Monday, October 27, 2008

Cyclone frustration, January Hawkeyes, and crappy candy corn.

  • It's too soon to panic in Ames, but I completely understand football fans being disappointed and frustrated. Iowa State finished last season like a team going somewhere, and a couple wins against over-matched opponents to start this year looked promising. It was a mirage. Iowa State is the worst team in the Big 12, and it's increasingly clear there's no cheating a five year plan.
  • I believed early on that Gene Chizik didn't really understand what he was getting into. He thought he did, but when you come from Texas and Auburn, you just aren't prepared for the talent drop-off in Ames. You think you are, but you aren't. Yes, Chizik and staff need to make smarter adjustments to do more with less, but at the end of the day, it's almost always about talent. Iowa State needs better players. Chizik needs more time. It's going to take a lot of both.
  • I sat in the upper deck of Jack Trice Stadium Saturday night, dressed like an Alaskan, and pretty much unrecognized, which was nice. It gave me an opportunity to overhear what fans are thinking. In a word: frustration. No major college football program has more patient fans than Iowa State, but they're getting worried. Don't. Not yet. It's too soon. See Pinkel and Mangino.
  • Is it just me, or can you subtract 15 degrees from the forecast when you're going to Jack Trice Stadium in October or November? No wonder Jim Walden tried the ill-advised triple option. It is a wind tunnel.
  • If Iowa State's going to win another game, it will be at Colorado.
  • This just in: There's an Aggie receiver wide open across the middle.
  • The new AP poll shows 0 votes for the Iowa Hawkeyes, yet Iowa remains very much alive for a New Year's Day bowl. The fans are the 12th man. Iowa has to win at Illinois Saturday to keep that January vibe alive. Chris Hassel will begin reporting from the U of Illinois campus Friday, if he's not attacked by an offended Illini fan.
  • I thought I had reached the age where I'm too old to pretend I could still be a Major Leaguer, but I haven't. Thank you Jamie Moyer.
  • Sooner or later Andy Samberg has to make another funny digital short. He struck gold with the Chronicles of Narnia rap, "Lazy Sunday", and the immortal love song, "D--- in a Box", but lately Samberg's videos are more stupid-stupid than stupid-funny.
  • Shawn Terrell texted me from Metallica and said "these guys can really play". Shawn hopes to have his hearing back by the time he returns to work Tuesday.
  • Andy doesn't think he looks anything like Dwight Schrute on the Office. I think he does. If the online vote holds, we'll find out Sunday on our Halloween show. I don't care what wins for me as long as it's not a Wheaties box.
  • Why does anyone hand out candy corn? Do you like it? Do you know anybody who likes the taste of candy corn? There's a reason this crap is only served up once a year.
  • The Iowa Chops fight more than the Brands brothers. I like that.
  • I just filled up my Explorer for $41. That, after once spending $79. We deserved some kind of break this year.
  • Who the heck is Spencer Pratt? Chris wants to punch him in the forehead, but I don't even know who Pratt is.
  • Only one more week of political ads that assume we're all stupid!


Monday, October 20, 2008

The Greene Machine, Cyclones in reverse, the rap on Palin.

A month ago, I said it appeared the state of Iowa had two FBS programs headed in opposite directions. I got the statement right, the teams wrong.

Since then, Iowa has looked great, crushing a bad Indiana team on the road, and thumping below average Wisconsin at home. Exactly what a good team does. We still don't know where Iowa's headed, but the smart money says it's to a bowl game.

Meantime, Iowa State has played uninspired, bad fundamental football in back-to-back games. Iowa State made Baylor look like a good team, which it isn't, and made Nebraska look like it's 1998, which it isn't. Nebraska fans walked away like they're great again, but in reality it was just their third Big 12 win in two seasons, and two of those three wins came against Iowa State (that's an ugly sentence).

I'm not shocked Iowa State is still struggling, it's one of the toughest places to win in college football. Don't take my word for it, just look up the past 100 years. The thing that does surprise me is how sloppy the Cyclones play. If I didn't know Gene Chizik's background, and hadn't heard ringing endorsements from so many respected people, I would say Iowa State plays like a team that's not well coached. If it continues, I will say that. For now, Chizik gets the benefit of the doubt.

It's still too early. Chizik deserves more time and needs much more talent. If there's no progress after three seasons, it's likely not going to turn.

I said when Chizik was hired that I didn't think he truly understood the magnitude of the difference between Texas and Iowa State, but I think he's on his way. Iowa State will always be at a talent disadvantage with most of the Big 12. That makes it absolutely crucial that the Cyclones have better execution, fewer penalties and turnovers, more imaginative play-calling and daring defense, and more desire than the team on the other side of the ball. None of those things is happening right now.

Iowa State needs a win over Texas A&M to keep the fans engaged during November. A flop Saturday, and it's going to get ugly. Especially in this economy.

Back to Iowa. How 'bout Shonn Greene. That guy is a pleasure to watch. He's not going to win the Heisman (paging Colt McCoy), but Greene deserves consideration. Talk about an MVP, where is Iowa without Greene? I'm not sure any player means more to his team. Greene needed a signature game and a signature highlight. He had both against Wisconsin.

Think Bret Bielema's feeling heat yet? They're used to winning in Wisconsin, and now they're wondering if Bielema won inside the Alvarez buffer zone. More than one person has compared Bielema to Steve Alford, and in this case, that's not a compliment. Like Alford, I think success came a little too easily for Bielema, and the cockiness wore a few people out. Bielema may be a former Hawkeye, but not all in those Iowa football offices speak fondly of him behind closed doors.

When Bielema played for Iowa, he told Iowa State head coach Jim Walden at midfield, "Coach, you've been a real (expletive) the last five years. I've enjoyed beating you." Walden replied, "I'm glad you enjoyed it." Under the circumstances, not a bad comeback.

The Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series? The Rays? The Cubs can't buy their way in, but the Rays play their way in? It's just getting worse. At least I don't work at the Fox network. Rays and Phillies. Look for ratings right around the level of the Des Moines City Council weekly meeting on channel 7.

I'm hearing good reviews from fans who have taken in an early Iowa Chops game. I haven't made it to one yet, but it appears the new group listened to the fans and made the atmosphere much better and more fun. Cheaper tickets help too.

We had head coach Gord Dineen on SoundOff this week. Nice guy and funny. Andy was trying to get used to sitting next to the guy he used to "play" on video games. Andy liked being Gord because he'd, "drop the gloves and make somebody's head bleed." Nice. I think I saw that on Swingers.

DirecTV is using that dead child star from Poltergeist in its latest ad. That locks up the "bad taste" award for advertising in 2008.

ABC5 has a tough choice between Iowa at Illinois and Iowa State at Oklahoma State next weekend. Actually, it's not that tough. They've got to go with Iowa at Illinois. I'm sure ABC/ESPN will find a way to get both games on anyway.

If you were one of the hundreds of people who signed up for all those prizes at Lolo Jones Homecoming at Jordan Creek Town Center, you can find the winners on our sports page. Click on the cleverly named "Lolo's Homecoming Winners". Some nice prizes from Lolo's sponsors.

Crusoe is a surprisingly good adventure the entire family can watch. It probably has no chance.

While you were watching the NFL, I was watching Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It wasn't half bad either, as talking dog movies go. It's the kind where you know going in, you'll hear Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy, and you do.

Through a family friend, I got a sneak peak, sneak eat really, at Skybox. It's formerly Coaches Corner or Fratellos. Skybox looks really cool inside, and it's marketed toward sports fans who want to watch games in HD while eating and drinking in a little more upscale place than your average sports bar. I give it a good initial review. The food was delicious, and the beer ice cold and tasty. Skybox should open later this week.

Saturday Night Live just had its highest rating in 14 years, and I don't think it was because Mark Wahlberg talked to a donkey. The opening Sarah Palin sketch was the weakest yet, even with her in it, but the Amy Poehler rap, with Palin on set, saved the show. You can watch it at

I'll be glad when the election's over. The divisive hate-talk is everywhere, It's exhausting and depressing.

On my way to buy Black Ice.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Hawkeye Hammer, Cyclone Enigma, plus ET and divorce.

-Nothing, and I mean nothing, heals what ails like winning.

The Iowa Hawkeyes did just what they needed, they beat the snot out of a bad Indiana team. Suddenly, most in Hawkeye Nation feel a lot better. After three winnable losses, Iowa fans needed to just see their Hawks throttle someone, and once Kellen Lewis exited for Indiana, it was on. With or without Lewis, Iowa wins easily, but without him, Indiana is the Big Ten's worst team by far. Maybe even with Lewis.

We'll know a lot more after Saturday. If Iowa is going to make this a season to remember, of any kind, the Hawks must beat Wisconsin at home. Wisconsin is 0-3 in the Big Ten. The Badgers blew it against the worst Michigan team in decades, lost a close game to Ohio State in Madison, and stayed at home for an ugly beat-down by title contender Penn State. Iowa wins, a good bowl game is still possible. Lose, and no bowl is still possible.

-I can't figure Iowa State. I'm one of those guys that buys into what Gene Chizik is doing, but I'm completely puzzled by the contradiction on the field.

Chizik oozes discipline and structure, yet the Cyclones keep making stupid mistakes and self-destructing. Yes, they're very young, but it's too late for that excuse mid-season.

Chizik also appears like an inspiring motivator, yet time and time again, Iowa State comes out flat. I just don't get it.

There is no excusing that embarrassing effort at Baylor. I know Phillip Bates quit (yes, quit). I know the coaches didn't see it coming. I know Bates was well-liked and the news hit some of his teammates hard. It's still Baylor! Bates didn't play a down, and he wouldn't have if he and his dad didn't take their ball and go home.

One thing is for sure. It's always been hard to win in Ames, and it always will be. Chizik deserves more patience and time, but somewhere Dan McCarney is smiling. He knows how hard it was just to get to a minor bowl game, and now suddenly that's doesn't look so bad.

-Most amazing stat I've heard in a while: Since November 2001, only two of the 65 BCS football teams have failed to beat a team inside the AP Top 20 (ranked 19th or higher): Duke and Nebraska. Nebraska! The Huskers are 0-19 against top 19 teams. That is amazing when you consider the resources and tradition in Lincoln. (Thanks to Ryan Lund for this nugget.)

-Lolo Jones is one of my all-time favorite athletes. Heck, she's one of my all-time favorite people. Lolo's energy is contagious. I had the privilege of hanging around Lolo at her surprise visit to Roosevelt High School's pep rally, as well as her homecoming at Jordan Creek Town Center. In both places, she made everyone she possibly could feel special, and she inspired all who listened to get back up when life knocks them down.

People came from all over Iowa to tell Lolo how proud they were of the way she handled heartbreak in Beijing. I don't think a gold medal would have won her as many fans as showing class did.

-Lolo on Friday, Special Olympics Iowa Gold Medal Gala on Saturday. That's a good weekend of putting sports in their proper perspective. The athletes at the Gala were so positive and inspiring, you couldn't help but want to be a better person. My wife was signing up to volunteer for Special Olympics the next day.

-I'm hearing raves by those who went to the Iowa Chops home opener. Better atmosphere, better music, better hockey. That's a great start. Plus, many people tell me the uniqueness of the Chops nickname is growing on them, and they no longer want to check me into the boards. At least not for that.

-Manny Ramirez is the best post-season hitter I've ever seen.

-I'm still not over the Cubs losing without putting up any fight at all. I'm better off than my friends Heather Burnside and Shawn Terrell. I think Heather's in denial, and Shawn was so down for days, his friends worried about him. We should all know better.

-In entertainment ramblings, the recent episode of Entourage with the guys at the Joshua Tree was the low point in the series. It was awful at times.

-I was disappointed in Chris Rock's new HBO special, Kill The Messenger. As you'd expect, some big laughs, but also relentless profanity and borderline misogynistic sexual crudity. I'm not someone offended by swearing or sex, and Rock has made me laugh many times with jokes involving a lot of both, but for me, this was one of his weaker efforts. Then again, how can anyone follow the classic, Bring the Pain.

-Watched ET with my son, Cade, last week. Like all classic movies, it can speak to you differently depending on what point in life you see it. I hadn't watched ET in many years, and I had never realized how much it's about the loneliness of divorce, for both kids and parents. (Spielberg is child of divorce.) Great movie, even now. Hard to believe it was made in 1982. I'll never forget my grandmother going to see it and hating it. Gram's been gone for years now, but we still joke about knowing the one person who hated ET.

-Jethro's is a sweet place to watch a college football game. Andy's wife had to drag him out of there Saturday because we were caught up in the Texas vs. Oklahoma game, and they were late for a fundraiser.

-By the way, Andy now knows who Montgomery Gentry is. We gave away concert tickets on SoundOff, and he said, "Who?". Hundreds of emails later, Andy may not know the songs, but he knows the fans.

-No craving hits me harder than Tasty Taco. When I have to have one, I can't be stopped.

I have to have one.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ferentz vs. Fans, ISU vs. Mediocrity, Biden vs. Palin

-When Kirk Ferentz had the Hawkeyes in the top ten three straight years, Iowa was 6-0 in games decided by three points or fewer. Since the Tate to Holloway magic, Iowa has lost 8 straight close games.

Did Ferentz and staff suddenly forget how to coach? Did they catch lightning in a bottle during those 10 win seasons? Is this just a run of bad luck? Discuss.

-Ricky Stanzi looks to me like he can be an effective Big Ten quarterback (once he starts hanging onto the ball). I don't see "All-Big Ten" in his future, but he's serviceable.

-Iowa needs to run Shonn Greene until he wears out his cleats, then get him a new pair, and run him some more. He's great.

-I've heard far too many Cyclone fans discussing the positives and upside of Iowa State's close loss to #16 Kansas. Iowa State should have won that game, and until everybody in Cyclone Nation, from players to fans, is mad and won't in any way accept a meltdown like that, the mediocrity and close calls will continue in Ames.

-Good to see Austen Arnaud finally take all snaps. He's still young and erratic (see Ricky Stanzi), but when Arnaud's on, he's good.

-I have nothing to add about the Cubs. It was predictable and painful.

-The Express is an inspiring movie. The Ernie Davis story is long overdue, and it's fascinating. It's still hard to imagine and believe this level of racism and hatred existed in society in general, and college football in particular, but it's a good reminder of how far we've come. My kids liked the movie a lot and asked many questions. Rob Brown is good as Ernie Davis, and Dennis Quaid even better as Davis' coach. A little too long, and a little too much like Remember the Titans (and not as good), but worth seeing. B

-When did movie tickets reach $9 in Des Moines? I usually hit matinees, so I was in shock. Once you pay more than $50 just to get the family in the door, the last thing you want to see is people repeatedly opening their glowing cell phones, but that's what we put up with. I wish I had more of that nerve that some people do where you go down and ask someone to keep his phone closed, but I don't.

-As much as I hated seeing the Cubs swept, I'm happy for Joe Torre. He deserves the last laugh after the Yankees offered him a pay cut to stay and then left him out of the closing ceremonies for Yankee Stadium. He led the Yankees to the playoffs every season and won four World Series'. No wonder they wanted to make a change. How's that working out?

-Saturday Night Live started with 10 minutes of genius, "Biden vs. Palin", and then slipped back to sub par again, but when it's that good from the jump, it's worth watching. I knew Tina Fey would be hilarious as Sarah Palin, but didn't imagine a lot of laughs at Joe Biden's expense. They pulled it off. You can watch at

-We're excited to help throw a homecoming party for Lolo Jones. She'll be at Jordan Creek Town Center from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday night. Lolo will have prizes and surprises, but most of all she'll be herself, and that's always entertaining. She'll sign autographs and pose for pictures. Please come out if you get the chance.

-Kyle Orton looked great against the Lions. Granted, Southeast Polk could give the Lions a game about now, but Orton's confidence is on the rise.

-I'm honored to host the Special Olympics Gold Medal Gala Saturday night in West Des Moines. Shawn Johnson was scheduled to join me, but there's an unavoidable conflict with her post-Olympics tour. Find more info on Gala tickets here:

Have a good week.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cubs misery, Eck's mustache, and Walking with Dinosaurs.

-Maybe the Cubs are trying to help their fans and just get the disappointment out of the way early. That's what they did last year. Fans of many teams would rather get to the NLCS or the World Series before taking a kick in the stones, but not Cubs fans... they've been kicked so much, in so many ways, it's better to see it coming.

-My friends Heather Burnside and Shawn Terrell were at Wrigley for game one. For four innings, I received all kinds of texts with cool pictures and lots of exclamation points. Since the 5th inning, nothing. I understand. Then again, how can you not have fun in Wrigleyville.

-Hey Dennis Eckersly, 1982 called. It wants its mustache back. Seriously, that guy looks my high school Senior picture, and that is a source of endless embarrassment to me. That TBS crew is a sight. Eck looks ready for a plaid sports coat and Cal Ripken is suddenly Steve Wilkos.

-Good to see Casey Blake driving in runs for the Dodgers. Casey's a good guy. He's wearing the beard from my Freshman year of college. Another bad idea for me that ruined a semester's worth of picture memories.

-Twins fans should feel ripped off. They won the regular season series against the White Sox and, at the very least, that should have been worth hosting the one game playoff. However, it will be fun to hear Ozzie for at least another week.

-I know Chase Utley likes endorsement dollars as much as the next guy, but does he really expect us to attribute his baseball success to skin care? "I could be a Major Leaguer too, if I just moisturize more often!"

-Congrats to I-Cubs GM Sam Bernabe on being the PCL executive of the year. Sam's a winner.

-The American League home run leader had 37. 37! Who was it that said steroids don't help you hit a baseball farther?

-NFL bust Tony Mandarich now admits he was on 'roids? I'm shocked. What's next, NBA players smoke a lot of weed.

-The late Wally Hilgenberg was born in Marshalltown, but he grew up in Wilton. Thank you to the viewers who gently corrected me.

-Good to hear the Chinese gymnasts were cleared, even though several, as Andy famously said, needed car seats. No way the IOC was going to embarrass China after the Beijing Olympics were such a runaway success.

-95KGGO Arena is now Buccaneer Arena. I think that means if you want to sponsor the arena, you can have your name on it. "Shane From Marshalltown Arena" anyone...

-I hear Rusty Wallace wants to drive Sprint Cup next year for DEI, but ABC/ESPN won't allow it. He's under contract as a broadcaster, and the contract says no racing.

-Walking with Dinosaurs at Wells Fargo Arena is a rare combination of entertaining and educational. Kids love it, but there are more than a few saucer-eyed adults. I had to drag Andy Fales out of there.

-The Mentalist is the best new show I've seen on TV, but there was a big dropoff in quality from show 1 to show 2.

-Can't wait to see The Express. It looks predictable, but the story is so good, they don't need to embellish. My wife doesn't know about the big Ernie Davis plot twist, so she won't see it coming like those of us who follow college football closely.

-The new Roosevelt mascot is fantastic. It's a 13 foot tall Teddy Roosevelt carrying a big stick. You can see video at My buddy Todd Bailey shot the footage.

-The Blue Moon piano bar brought Andy a case of water today. Andy called the place out for charging $2 for a glass of water, even when you're just trying to hydrate or sober up.

-I think it's going to be another tough weekend of D1 college football around here. The Hawkeye meltdown should continue after a visit to East Lansing, and Kansas should win in Ames, and we're not talking about basketball. If KU can reach the next level, why not ISU? The Cyclones have never been there.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.