Sunday, December 28, 2008

Scattershot thoughts over the Christmas break.

  • The NFL rules for a reason. Week 17 rocked, with an early playoff feel.
  • I like Tony Romo, but it's hard not to question if he can win a big game.
  • I like Wade Phillips too, but something has to change in Dallas. How can a team with that much talent miss the playoffs? Maybe the Yankees have the answer.
  • Nice choke job by the Bears.
  • Congrats to long-suffering Vikings fans. The Super Bowl title drought won't end this year either, but the Bears, Packers, and Lions wish they had a division title.
  • Time for Brett Favre to retire. For real this time.
  • The Dolphins just proved even the Chiefs have hope next year. (Though it's hard to imagine right now.)
  • Cutler vs. Rivers should go steel cage.
  • My NFL MVP is Peyton Manning. Andy likes Matt Ryan.
  • Can't wait to see Springsteen at the Super Bowl.
  • The feedback for this blog is often more entertaining than the blog itself.
  • Mediacom just added the History Channel to the HD tier. I didn't care much until I noticed all 10 episodes of "Band of Brothers" back to back this weekend. Television at its absolute best: educational and entertaining, kind of like SoundOff (insert joke bubble over your own head here).
  • "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is unlike anything I've ever seen. If I had to compare it to something it would be "Forrest Gump", though Gump's a better movie. "Button" is nearly three hours long, but never boring. It also makes you think about what's important in life, never a bad thing.
  • "Bedtime Stories" is exactly what you'd expect from a PG Adam Sandler movie. And I'm okay with that. Kids loved, I liked.
  • Cyclone fans need to be as patient as possible with Greg McDermott. He has everything you'd want in a coach, including the desire to stay in Ames. I don't understand why Iowa State looks so bad at times, but Cyclone fans would be wise to give Mac more time to figure it out. More talent wouldn't hurt either, and it's on the way.
  • It's a chicken or the egg question, but Hawkeye fans are making Steve Alford look right about one thing: Iowa's a football school. The Hawks show promise, and the stands remain half empty. Alford hangover or Lickliter system?
  • Iowa should win the Outback Bowl, but fans seem way too overconfident to me. Iowa looked good in the Big Ten, but Wisconsin did the conference no favors in bowl game 1. South Carolina looked bad at times in the SEC, but it's the SEC. It's also Spurrier.
  • How tragic is it that five former Cyclone football players died within the past five years, all of them way before their times? A sad coincidence that's shaking up the Cyclone Nation.
  • It appears Drake's basketball team won't have the magic carpet ride it had last season, but how could it?
  • Our family spent a day at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom right before Christmas. Even after all these years, the place still casts a spell on kids like no other. We had a blast. I worked there in high school, and as I dropped fries in the fryer, I'd think how just a few yards away people were having the times of their lives.
  • I remember as a kid receiving the video game "Pong". I wouldn't have dreamed of a world with XBox 360 in it. Kids now probably can't believe we were thrilled to have a paddle hit a ball against a wall for hours.
  • As I surveyed the aftermath of Christmas morning in our house, one thought hit me: what recession? It's hard not to spoil your kids.
  • A big group of us went out to celebrate the holidays. Mike Kiernan can't sit still long, so under his direction, we went to Cafe Di Scala, Carl's, Bistro Piano Bar, and the Underground. I think as a City Councilman at large, he feels he needs to show off as much of Des Moines as possible. I'm glad he did.

(Editor's update: Michael Kiernan's attorney informs us that it was Shawn Terrell who demanded all of the location changes as part of Mr. Terrell's never ending quest to meet Mrs. Terrell. Murphy's Law regrets the error.)

(Editor's update #2: Shawn Terrell's publicist would like to point out that Mr. Terrell only requested one venue change Saturday evening, because shawn knew the Grand Piano Bistro would provide "peppier" live music than was being played at the Underground.

Mr. Terrell's publicist would also like to point out that it was Shawn's friends who were looking to find Mrs. Terrell, not Shawn. Mr. Terrell was perfectly happy chewing, drinking, and screaming for more Pearl Jam at a piano bar.

Murphy's Law regrets this latest error.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dateline Daytona Beach: Murph sounds off on Rhoads hire.

I normally sleep with one of those Sharper Image clock radios---the kind where you can press one of several sound options: tropical rain forest, thunder storm, ocean waves, first day of kindergarten, midnight carjacking, light rain, or New Age music. I go with light rain, but right now our family is staying right on the beach, so Friday night I left the sliding glass door open, and went with actual ocean.

I'm not sure if that's the reason I didn't hear the phone ring around 7:30 a.m. Or 8. But I did hear it at 8:30. Iowa State hired Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. (Auburn?! )

It's not the home run hire many fans hoped (Gary Patterson), but it's not the bad idea many feared (Mike Stoops? Wrong Stoops. If you can't win big at Arizona, good luck at Iowa State).

Rhoads is not a "sexy" hire, but he's a solid, safe one. The one big negative, and it's a real concern, is the lack of head coaching experience. There's just no way to know except witness the trial by fire and hope for the best. Not all good coordinators and assistants make good head coaches.

Most everything else fits nicely.

Rhoads is an Ankeny native. He wants to be at Iowa State. Unlike Gene Chizik, Rhoads won't use ISU to get what he really wants (well, being a head coach is what he really wants, so the previous sentence is a bit of an oxymoron, but you get my point. He won't use ISU to get what he wants somewhere else). He's invested enough to care what happens to the Cyclone football program after he leaves it. Rhoads' reputation and character suggest he'll keep promises. (Winning back the trust of the burned is never easy, but it can be done. Even Jennifer Aniston seems happy these days.)

Rhoads was an assistant on McCarney's first staff at Iowa State. This is more important than you might think at first blush. It will heal the division in the Cyclone football program. There are hundreds of former Dan McCarney players living in Central Iowa. Since Mac was forced out, most have supported Iowa State football, but not Jamie Pollard. Those players will be firmly behind this hire, and therefore Pollard. For the first time since Mac left, there will be no backroom sniping.

Rhoads is only 41. He's a proven defensive coordinator, and unlike Chizik, he's done it at a place without 5-star athletes at every position (Pitt). Rhoads also specializes in pass defense, which you may have noticed, comes in handy these days in the Big 12. The man Rhoads hires as offensive coordinator is his most important decision.

I don't know if Rhoads will lead Iowa State to championships. Odds are he won't, it's one of the harder jobs in college football, but I do believe he'll immediately return Cyclone football to tolerable viewing, and eventually you'll see Iowa State back in minor bowls. Who knows, if he hires the right staff (not his under-qualified buddies), the Cyclones just may get to that previously unattainable "next level". There's no way of knowing. No head coaching track record to even take an educated guess.

Rhoads first task will be to re-recruit the current players. He'll get it done. Rhoads is a charismatic recruiter to begin with, but those Cyclones don't want to leave, especially when the reality of sitting out a year sinks in. One or two may stray, but the rest will come to realize it's more important to embrace the school and its people than the head coach. The school will always be there, the head coach could start yelling "War Eagle!" at any time.

Those of us who choose to live in Iowa love this place. We even find ways to love the things we hate---like the weather, state fair, and SoundOff. We don't like being used. Rhoads won't have one eye on the door. Iowa is home.

Jamie Pollard tried "sexy". It was a disaster. Time to get back to someone who will roll the sleeves up and go to work. Paul Rhoads will do that. He won't sell tickets on sizzle, so he'll need to look a lot better in his first two years than Chizik did in his. That won't be hard.

If I know Cyclone fans, and I think I do, they're already talking up the positives and downplaying the negatives. Good for them.

Paul Rhoads deserves a chance.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gene Chizik leaves skid marks on Iowa.

We've seen coaches come and go, but rarely has an exit caused an uproar like Gene Chizik's. There are several reasons, but none more compelling than a story as old as time. To paraphrase Dennis Green, he's not who we thought he was.

Chizik played high and mighty during his two years in Ames. He constantly talked values, commitment, and integrity. He had bibles on his desk. He insisted on a team Chaplain. Chizik looked a lot of young men right in the eyes and promised them that together they'd build something special at Iowa State. He asked their mothers and fathers to trust him. He urged fans to believe in the journey, and open their wallets along the way. Then he left broken hearts all over Iowa State University, and skid marks on Ames. Raise your hand if you don't think Chizik actually told people he regretted taking the job?

Chizik did nothing to me. He was the kind of guy you could interview 50 times and feel like you didn't know him at all. Not the real him. In that way, he reminded me of Steve Alford. Alford could forget he met you, 10 minutes after meeting you. Unfortunately, Chizik's players learned first hand just how cold blooded he is. He reportedly spent about two minutes explaining his decision to not see anything through. He talked for more than 30 minutes at his Auburn news conference and never once thanked Iowa State or Jamie Pollard for the opportunity. No apologies either. What would Jesus do? Not that.

Anyone should understand a man taking a better job for more money. Keno Davis did it. And he did it after just one year. But there are many differences. Keno actually accomplished something before leaving. Something like championships. He never held a news conference to delcare his love of Iowa. Or to say he was "firmly entrenched". He just said he was happy and had no plans to leave. Near as I can tell, both were true. Keno also wasn't the face and future of the program.

Jamie Pollard put it all on Chizik. And Chizik knew that. Heck, he took advantage of it. Overpaying assistant coaches, insisting the uniforms, school colors, and logo be changed, taking the names off the back of the uniforms... If Chizik wanted it, he got it. The payoff was promised as championships.

Iowa State was never near a championship. It was only two years, but I saw next to nothing promising greatness. Not all coordinators make good head coaches. Much has been made of Chizik's undefeated teams at Texas and Auburn, but with the athletes those schools attract, winning sure didn't leave when Gene did.

Now that Chizik's gone, it's easy to pile on with criticism we didn't hear before. Some of that makes sense. We learned more about Chizik the man. However, many of us were unimpressed with Chizik the coach. The Cyclones were undisciplined, the sideline chaotic, and Iowa State found ways to lose games it should have won. It would have gotten better, but Chizik realized he was in over his head long before Auburn threw him a lifeline. Someone in the Iowa State athletic department told me two years ago he knew Chizik had no idea what he was getting into there when he talked about winning a national championship at Texas with only two elite players, the rest were role players. Yeah, right. 5-star role players.

Chizik was hired to take Iowa State to the next level, but like Alford at Iowa, that level was down, not up. Chizik recruited a lot of promising talent to Ames, and most of those players will end up staying. They won't want to sit out a year. When you're 19, a year seems like forever.

The irony here is Pollard gets a "do-over". Why he offered Chizik a two year contract extension is beyond my comprehension, but Jamie thought Gene was on his way to big things. I didn't see it.

Cyclone fans should pop corks. Pollard too. Chizik was a phony and never a good fit. He didn't want to be in Iowa, couldn't wait to leave, and now finds himself surrounded by a posse of angry Auburn fans.

Some of the above explains part of our fascination with this story. The rest comes down to one much simpler thought:

Can you believe Auburn hired a guy riding a 10 game losing streak?

They can have him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chizik quits Iowa State

I still can't believe it. Auburn University, one of the premier football programs in America, just hired a football coach riding a 10-game losing streak.

Anyone can understand why Gene Chizik took a better job for more money, but that doesn't make it right. Chizik broke a lot of promises when he left Ames after just two years to pursue his "dream job" .

I've given my opinion---see "I Think" in the video player---now I want to hear yours. What do you think? Time to sound off with feedback.

Thank you.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Back from paradise, Hawks Headed to Tampa, Facebook holdout.

  • Just back from a great vacation with great friends---and Andy. My wife and I are fortunate that we can take a trip each year without the kids. We take the children to Jellystone and Disney and Clear Lake, which we enjoy, but friends and family members tell me to always find time for just us. It's good advice, and we know we're blessed to have both the support and means to pull it off.

  • This year we went to an all-inclusive in Playa Del Carmen, which I learned is in Mexico. It was breathtakingly beautiful, sunny all the time (well, in the day), and hot, which is nice. All-inclusive means all your food and drinks are part of the deal. For the most part, this is good. You're not working, or driving, or doing crossword puzzles, so it's a good time for letting yourself go a little. However, it's easy for a little to become a lot.

  • You know that feeling you have when you paid $9.95 for the buffet---you better eat your money's worth---it's like that, only worse. "I'm on vacation and the desert's free! I better try all five kinds of cheesecake, and dip 17 different things in the chocolate fountain." The drinking can be even worse. Once you discover you can order any drink, and it feels free, it's time to play hangover chemist. I ate like Charlie Weiss and drank like Charlie Sheen. I put on 7 pounds in five days. That's not easy.

  • The trip back is never easy. First of all, all the security checks and bodily probes make it feel like the terrorists won at least one thing: making travel a nightmare. Then there's the sheer shock of going from 85 degrees to 11 degrees. Somehow in a period of less than a week, you forget just how COLD it gets here. It hits you like Bob Sanders.

  • It's good to be back. That's the best part of vacation, realizing as you return, you're glad to be home. Can't wait to do it again.

  • Tim Tebow seems too good to be true. He also loves to talk about his faith. It's no surprise Tebow attracts the haters, but I think he's real. Plus, Bigfoot took pictures of Tim Tebow. And Tebow can win a game of Connect Four in three moves.

  • Stephon Marbury just made it easier for the haters. While people are being laid off left and right, Marbury won't play basketball despite making $21 million this season.

  • Speaking of layoffs... I'm stunned the Des Moines Register dumped Duffy. I thought he was untouchable, but clearly these days, no one is.

  • It's good to see Lucca Staiger having so much fun playing basketball. The guy showed a lot of patience and loyalty.

  • Where are the Panther football fans? Fewer than 10,000 for a national quarterfinal?Maybe it's another sign of the recession. You won't see that out of Hawkeye fans though. They'll sell a car and cash in a 401k before missing the Outback Bowl.

  • Props to our man, Jon Miller, for calling the Outback a month ago. Jon's chartering a trip too. We'll be on that trip. It's the way to go. Hundreds already signed up but they're still adding more at

  • Nearly 16,000 fans for the Iowa - Iowa State wrestling showdown. Now if we could just get someone to notice outside Iowa. ESPN had that match somewhere below Boston Middle School Dodge Ball championship.

  • Good to see OJ looking so miserable. No joke. It was good to see.

  • The Cavaliers pay Lebron James hundreds of thousands of dollars every game. Is it too much to ask that James not act like he's already in New York?

  • Looking forward to Jim Carrey's new movie, "Yes". I loved it the first time when it was called "Liar Liar".

  • You were right. "Hancock" is fun and promising for 45 minutes and then takes a turn so wrong you'd think Hassel was driving.

  • Am I the only Facebook holdout? Seriously, it's taking over the lives of my friends, family, and co-workers. Even people who vowed to never give in, I won't mention names (Shawn Terrell), have now given in. I continue to fight the good fight.