Monday, January 26, 2009

Scattershot thoughts from January 26th.

  • Craig Brackins 42 points could be the worst thing to happen to Greg McDermott. When you hang 42 on the national champs, on national TV, in front of NBA scouts, and the points come from all angles and distances, it makes a Junior season at Iowa State shakier than it was a week ago. If Brackins leaves, it means McDermott would lose his best player for the third straight year (Taylor, Johnson, Brackins). That wouldn't make it any easier.
  • I can't figure Drake out. The Bulldogs looked dazed and confused against UNI. They didn't bother showing up at Missouri State. I wondered if they were done. It certainly appeared that way. Then Drake went to Creighton and thumped everyone's pick to win the Valley. I don't think some of the players have completely let go of Keno's philosophy and fully embraced Phelps' system. Until they do, it will remain hit or miss.
  • UNI is for real.
  • Anytime a coach wants to show a team playing not to lose, he can just pop in a tape of Iowa at Penn State.
  • Why has the President, David Palmer, been buried on Iowa's bench for more than a year?
  • Until Learfield and the University of Iowa hire another football commentator, I won't give up on the idea of Ed Podolak somehow returning.
  • Kirk Ferentz's friend Scott Pioli fired Herm Edwards which means... Ferentz will be back at Iowa next season.
  • The John Stoddard Rally Against Cancer was sold out and raised a record amount of money for the fight of fights. Erin Kiernan helped with that in two ways: 1) Erin did a terrific job hosting the auction. 2) Her husband, Mike, won the bidding for a sweet spa package. I doubt it's for him, though Erin did mention Mike could use a Steve Carell type waxing. "Yoooooooow, Kelly Clarkson!"
  • Marv Levy is a nice man. His speech at the rally mixed football anecdotes with his winning battle against prostate cancer. It was perfect. When a reporter asked Levy before the Bills Super Bowl if it was a must win, Levy famously said, "No. World War II was a must win."
  • Talk about your brother's keeper. Jay McGwire claims he's looking out for Mark's best interest by selling a book that details all Mark's steroid and HGH use. Jay wants to set the record straight. Uh, Jay... I don't think there are many people wandering around wondering if your brother used 'roids. It's pretty clear. No wonder these guys don't speak.
  • It was good to see Garth Brooks back on stage at the Inauguration. I had forgotten how ol' Garth can work a crowd---when he's not Chris Gaines.
  • How many players will pick out the number 44 to honor our 44th President? Aim high.
  • Andy Fales sparked an avalanche of emails by getting something off his chest: Andy thinks Slipknot's music absolutely sucks. The bands fans, known as Maggots, are not amused. (What's Bugging Andy? in video player)
  • The Arizona Cardinals have next to no fans. Heck, a pool supply company had to buy the final 10,000 seats at Arizona's first playoff game just to get the game televised locally. The Steelers have fans everywhere, including thousands here in Central Iowa. Still, our SoundOff survey shows far more people say they'll root for the Cardinals Sunday. That's the power of Kurt Warner.
  • We had a sleepover this past weekend for my son Cade's 8th birthday. Cade invited 7 friends. Learn from our mistake. 8 is way more than enough when it comes to rambunctious boys at a party. Of the seven guests, six had good manners, five were well-behaved, and one was absolutely WILD. I realize the parents of said kids could be reading this, but each will assume that their kid is not the out of control one, so I think I'm in the clear. In the end, Cade had a great time, and it was all worth it. I'm pretty sure.
  • We took the wild bunch to "Hotel for Dogs". Cute movie. Jenny liked it more than Marley & Me because the dogs are still alive when the credits roll.
  • I can't say enough about what a good guest Shawn Johnson was on SoundOFF. She was game for anything, and she had a lot of fun. My favorite was Shawn watching video of Andy as Bela Karolyi. Both Shawn and her mom, Teri, thought it was spot-on, and we were all still talking about it after the show. Shawn likes Slipknot, so Andy won her back with the Bela impression. People forget Shawn's only a Junior in high school. I think she handles all the attention really well. It is constant.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Scattershot thoughts: Hayden Fry, Andy Fales is a god, and Meeting Alex Gordon.

  • Nice to see what a forward-thinking pioneer Hayden Fry was. HBO's excellent documentary, "Breaking the Huddle", shows interviews with Fry on his highly controversial decision to recruit an African-American football player at SMU. Jerry LeVias proved Fry's faith right in every way, but LeVias remains bitter and angry about the racism he faced on the football field.
  • Fascinating to learn in that documentary that Bear Bryant wanted to integrate Alabama's football team long before most would accept it. Bryant eventually scheduled USC, with several black stars, to play in Tuscaloosa. The Bear knew what he was doing. USC routed the Crimson Tide in their own backyard, and black players soon arrived at Alabama.
  • Any baseball writers who didn't vote Rickey Henderson into the Hall of Fame should lose their privilege. There are always a few voters who think they're bigger than the game. Imagine the knuckleheads who didn't vote for Hank Aaron or Stan Musial---to name two.
  • Good to see the "Andy Fales is a god" Facebook group has tripled its membership since a mention on SoundOff. Andy is embarrassed by the attention, and I suppose being called a god would make anyone this side of Rickey Henderson a little apprehensive. Meantime, the Facebook group, "Keith Murphy brushes his teeth daily" remains at only one member. (Thank you, Mom.)
  • Anyone else suspect that at least a few companies are laying people off because they know they can get rid of people they want to right now without taking a PR hit?
  • Carl Weathers just turned 61! How can Apollo Creed be in his 60's? "That was cool".
  • Jenny and I went shopping for Cade's 8th birthday at the Jordan Creek Mall (sorry, "Town Center") during a blizzard Monday. Except for the life-endangering drive, I highly recommend it. It was empty. We walked into Scheel's and 27 different employees offered us help.
  • Now that I have a reliable DVR, and HD, I'm attempting to watch "24" on a weekly basis. Not sure I can do it. I've watched all the previous seasons the way they were intended: late at night when the kids are in bed during one sleepless week. It's better that way.
  • "Friday Night Lights" returns! Can't wait. Ratings show at least 1,000 other Americans feel the same way.
  • I'm back watching "American Idol". My wife isn't interested until they get through the painful audition phase. It does get repetitive, but it's fascinating to see so many people who think they can sing, who absolutely cannot. We all know people like that. Some of our friends even take the mike on Karaoke night and go Celine Dion or George Michael on us. They just don't hear what we hear.
  • Isn't it amazing the way music can jolt you to a time and place faster than anything. I was getting out of the shower this morning listening to 95KGGO and the Cars "Just What I Needed" came on. Suddenly I was back in 8th grade wondering if any girl would ever kiss me while I had braces. If you're out there Kristi Brandt, thank you!
  • I'm on a roll for seeing good movies. I took Andy to see "Frost/Nixon" for Andy's 38th birthday. It's a great movie. Michael Sheen is perfect as David Frost, and Frank Langella transforms into Richard Nixon. Props to Ron Howard for making a riveting movie about a television interview. A
  • We took the kids to see "Marley & Me", though I learned it's really not a movie for young children. It's rated PG but most of the story is about the adults' relationship. It's the kind of movie where the actors never age and their hairstyles stay the same over a 15 year period. I liked it more than I expected, but Jenny (Murphy, not Aniston) is still upset. She loves dogs and cried her face off. To quote Jenny upon exiting, "I thought we were seeing Air Bud, not Old Yeller". The kids instantly forgot the movie. They weren't engaged. B
  • One more: "Gran Torino". If you love Clint Eastwood, as I do, it's a must see. I found it highly entertaining, though Eastwood's decision to use non-actors in some key roles threatens to make the movie feel like a high school play at times. It's Eastwood's show, and he's at his cranky, intimidating best. Erin Kiernan also saw Gran Torino and Erin said, "I feel like I already saw the movie when I watched the preview." Excellent observation. You know what you're getting going in (except the ending). My dad will love this, though unfortunately he'll struggle to hear Clint's grunting dialogue. B+
  • When you're a little boy (or girl) who loves sports, sometimes you pick out a favorite baseball player for reasons you can't explain. For me, it was Johnny Bench. I was in awe of the Reds' catcher. I only answered to "Johnny Bench" for an entire summer, and my parents still kept me around. My son Cade met his favorite player at the Jordan Creek Hy-Vee Thursday. The Royals Caravan came through town, and Cade's mom took him to meet Alex Gordon. Now when I met Bench at spring training, I couldn't speak, smile, or blink. It appears Cade has more composure than his old man.
  • This is a Podolak free post. If you're interested, my thoughts on Ed can be found below.

As always, thank you for your time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ed Podolak: Life of the Hawkeye Party.

The University of Iowa has a PR nightmare on its hands. Hawkeye fans love Ed Podolak, and they feel Ed was forced into retirement. Truth is he wasn't forced, he chose walking away over Iowa's conditions. One of those conditions, I'm told, was alcohol counseling. Ed felt insulted and never really considered treatment or classes. Fact is Eddie loves being Eddie, and he's not willing to change. Many fans don't want him to.

Let's be real here. The recent pictures of Podolak partying in Tampa may have been the final straw, but the University has been concerned about Ed's drinking for a long time---at least as far back as his arrest for public intox. Any Hawkeye fan who attends Iowa football social events has seen Podolak tipsy on many occasions---and many loved him that way. Ed was the life of the Hawkeye party, surrounded by enablers. He loved partying with people, and people loved partying with Ed. Bad combination for relative sobriety.

It's a new era. The Internet era. The PC era. The hypocrisy era. The University of Iowa has been through two years of embarrassing arrests, most alcohol related, in its football program. Podolak doesn't work for Iowa, but he does represent the University. The U wants to clean up its binge-drinking image. Podolak doesn't fit those plans.

Like many people, I see those pictures, and I see a guy celebrating an Iowa bowl trip in a bar. He looks like he's had too many drinks, but most of us have been that person. Podolak told the Des Moines Register he was embarrassed by the photos. A 61 year old man looking down the blouse of a young woman who doesn't seem to mind isn't flattering, but I've been around enough partying people in environments like that to guess that Ed was being asked to pose, and as always, he was accommodating. It's bad judgement, but as far as we can tell from the pictures, nothing illegal happened and no one was hurt.

I digress. Ed Podolak didn't retire solely due to that night. It was his body of out of the booth work over the years. I think many people feel bad because Ed was just being the guy they wanted him to be. Iowa football is, for many, an excuse to party. Tailgating, Hawkeye Huddles, bowl trips---it's one big party. Think of all Iowa football activities with no alcohol. Really think. What do you think happens to attendance? Donations? Passion? That's the rub, alcohol fuels the engine, and in many ways, pays for it (beer sponsors Iowa football). Ed Podolak is the poster boy for all that partying. 'He overdid it. And it won't be the same without him.

I know Ed enough to know he loves his life. One of his close friends tell me he's not ready to change his hard-drinking ways. Perhaps he needs to, I'm not really qualified to say. On one hand, I've seen him stumbling around drunk in public many times, on the other, I've never seen him hurt anyone. I do know this: If Ed needs to drink less, he should retire, because everywhere he went in Iowa, people handed him drinks from the moment he walked in the door. Surrounded by enablers, including the U of I.

It's better reading when the writer firmly takes a side, but I get both points of view on this one. I see why Iowa felt it was time for Podolak to stop drinking. I also see why Ed said see ya.

The Hawkeyes just lost a great radio analyst, and a hall of fame partyier. Fans will miss both.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ferentz entrenched, The Manzier, and why Slumdog is worth a million.

  • Kirk Ferentz isn't going anywhere. Hard to believe it was less than three months ago when many Hawkeye fans wanted Kirk gone. It's helped that Iowa football players have stayed out of trouble, but who are we kidding, it's all about winning. Team wins, fans love the coach. Hard to imagine Iowa could find a better fit than Ferentz. Ten years at one school is going the way of the affordable season ticket.
  • Passionate Big Ten fans, like my friend Hunkahawk, can try all they want to spin this bowl season, but the scoreboard doesn't lie: 1 win, 6 losses. The conference should send a thank you note to Iowa's football team (and one to South Carolina's). I think the Big 12 is a tad overrated too. Plenty of O, not much D.
  • I watched the Outback Bowl again. Iowa would have beaten a lot of good teams on New Year's day, but the Hawks didn't have to. On second viewing, South Carolina is worse than I realized. Steve Spurrier looks completely frustrated by losing, and his players look like they don't want to play for him---or themselves. That team was a dysfunctional mess. I worked in Gainesville when Spurrier arrived to coach Florida. My guess is he doesn't want to work as hard as he needs to. The man lives on the golf course. SC doesn't pull the recruits Florida does. I don't see it getting much better in Columbia.
  • I applaud Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo for taking a hard line stance against the wandering eye of head football coach Jeff Jagodzinski. DeFilippo hired Jagodzinski with the understanding he'd be there for the long haul (sound familiar?). When DeFilippo learned Jagodzinski wanted to interview for the Jets job, just two years into his five year deal, and without asking permission first, DeFilippo hold him, "Do it, and you're fired." Jagodzinski called his bluff (what he thought was his bluff), and DeFilippo fired him. Good. I'm sick of these coaches signing long term deals and then leaving whenever they feel like it---without penalty. The student-athletes can't do that, even if the coach leaves a trail of broken promises in his wake. However, if the school fires a coach, they still owe him millions. It's been a one way street for too long. Time to bring it back to some common sense. As soon as I heard Gene Chizik interviewed at Auburn, I said, and believed, Jamie Pollard should tell Chizik, "Hope for your sake Auburn hires you because you have no job to come back to here." It's ridiculous. Bravo Mr. DeFilippo.
  • Paul Rhoads is an unproven head coach, which makes him a somewhat risky hire. Rhoads is also a defensive coordinator by trade, so hiring an offensive coordinator was his first big test. He aced it. Tom Herman wore out the scoreboard at Rice, and proved he could do more with less---absolutely essential for success in Ames. Rhoads is quietly putting together an impressive staff.
  • Jon Miller knows his stuff. I kept track this season. When it comes to the Hawks, the guy knows what's going to happen 90% of the time.
  • Not sure which moment from SoundOff is more burned in my brain: Cy handing his cell phone to Andy and asking him to take a picture of Cy and Jon Miller, or the guy from the RV walking into the studio wearing that Manzier... Who am I kidding---it's Manzier.
  • Utah just blew up the fraud of a national championship known as the BCS title game. The Utes are 13-0 and beat six bowl teams including Alabama (easily). How is Utah not the champ?
  • Most exciting basketball game this week was UNI winning at Creighton. Didn't see that coming. Panthers looked great. Dana Altman looked as uncomfortable as he did doing that Arkansas Pig Soooieee chant.
  • Cowboys cut Pacman Jones. See the Scorpion and the Frog.
  • Jenny and I were planning to see "Marley and Me" Saturday night. Erin and Mike Kiernan invited us to "Slumdog Millionaire". Score one for Team Kiernan. Slumdog Millionaire is the best movie I saw this year. I had to drag Jenny---she didn't think it sounded like anything she'd like---and she loved it. It's stunningly original and will make you feel all the emotions. It's an A . Go see it. You'll be glad you did. And let me know what you think (like I have to add that).
  • Gran Torino's next on my must see list. "GET OFF MY LAWN."

Time to clean out my cluttered 2008 closet of entertainment highs and lows. Off the top of my head:

  • My favorite movies this year: Slumdog Millionaire, Role Models, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Iron Man, Dark Knight, Quantum of Solace, and Step Brothers.
  • Great movies I wouldn't watch again anytime soon (too depressing): Changeling, In the Valley of Elah.
  • Movies I found disappointing: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (title should have been a hint), Cloverfield (nearly puked, and it sucked), Speed Racer, Walk Hard, and Hancock (second half).
  • Best acting I saw all year: Heath Ledger/Batman, Cate Blanchett/Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Gene Chizik/Firmly Entrenched in Ames.
  • Three songs I couldn't get out of my head, even though I wanted to: I Kissed a Girl, Womanizer, and 5 Dollar Footlong.
  • Favorite TV shows: The Mentalist, Life, Entourage, 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live (thank you Tina), House, The Office, Real Sports, Costas Now, Colbert Report, Daily Show, American Idol (sue me. At least I'm honest :-), and reruns of M*A*S*H and Seinfeld.
  • Shows I wanted to love, but couldn't: Lost, Heroes, Mad Men (maybe I needed more than one episode).
  • Show that went off the crazy cliff: Grey's Anatomy.
  • Show that almost made me get DirecTV, but I'm glad I waited for NBC return: Friday Night Lights.
  • TV show I haven't seen that 10 people have told me I must see: The Wire
  • Best mini-series I saw this year: John Adams (if you don't count my fourth viewing of Band of Brothers).
  • My favorite TV moment of the year: Andy Fales' return on SoundOff.
  • Most heartbreaking TV moment: Lolo Jones kneeling on the Beijing track in disbelief, tears in her eyes. (Western Kentucky's lucky 3 finishes second.)
  • Inappropriate song my kids love that sounds like songs I loved when I was a kid: All Summer Long by Kid Rock.
  • Most confusing song to my 4 year old, Colin: I Kissed a Girl (sung by a girl!)
  • Favorite three albums of the year: Viva La Vida by Coldplay, Accelerate by REM, Magic by Bruce Springsteen.
  • Favorite book of 2008: Why We Suck by Denis Leary.
  • Favorite year of all time: 2008. Go figure.

All the best in 2009,


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hawkeyes party like it's 2009.

It's too bad the football season has to end for Iowa. The Hawkeyes peaked at the perfect time. This is a team in need of a playoff. They're not ready for Florida, Oklahoma or USC, but I believe Iowa, on any given Saturday, can beat anyone outside the top ten right now.

Which is more true of the Outback Bowl: Iowa looked great or South Carolina looked awful?Seriously, that's the worst bowl team this side of Minnesota. The Gamecocks were a mess from start to finish. Steve Spurrier earned his "genius" label at Florida, but it's always easier when you have blue chip recruits. Just ask Gene Chizik.

Shonn Greene had nothing to prove and nothing to gain by staying at Iowa. It's a shame we only got to see him for one full season, but he'll be 24 in August, that's 34 in running back years. Iowa fans should thank Shonn for the memories and wish him well. Anyone who lugged furniture so he could lug the football deserves a break.

Kirk Ferentz told us he hasn't talked to the Browns, and he's thrilled to be at Iowa. I believe that statement is true. There would be no reason the Browns would contact Kirk yet. However, Cleveland is trying to give full control to Ferentz's close friend, Scott Pioli. The Boston Herald reports Pioli would then do all he can to hire Ferentz as head coach. If Pioli accepts the job, and all that's true, we still don't know what Kirk would do. He loves having a stable family life in Iowa City. He appreciates the job security he won't find in the NFL. However, if ever there were a time, this might be it. There's euphoria in Hawkeye Nation today, but it was a rough 2008 for Ferentz. More players arrested, an internal review Ferentz didn't appreciate (and which cleared him of any wrongdoing), and unprecedented criticism from fans.

I still expect him back on the Iowa sideline. Until he's not.

It's no wonder Iowa hops over other Big Ten schools for better bowls. Did you see that crowd in Florida? Hawkeye fans caused traffic jams at the beach, fire code violations in bars, and a near home field advantage at the stadium.

It was hard not to be jealous. Perfect weather, and the fans looked like they were having a blast. Andy and I covered the past couple bowls in Florida. Shawn Terrell and Chris Hassel earned this trip, and I'm proud of the job they did. It's more work than people imagine, but no one complains when it's 75 and sunny.

Shawn and Chris traveled on the Hawkeye Nation charter with Jon Miller and company. It's a great way to go. We appreciate Jon saving a couple of seats for us on the sold out plane.

Cyclone fans keep asking why we're not making a bigger deal out of Cy winning the Cap One Bowl's "most dominant Mascot on Earth". I think they're serious.

Okay, here goes: congratulations Cyclone fans for spending more time online voting for your mascot than any other fans in America.

Something more inspiring: great job out of Iowa State's Greg Geoffroy, Jamie Pollard, Greg McDermott, Bill Fennelly and Paul Rhoads for giving up a week's pay to help with the budget crisis. Leadership starts at the top, especially when the top makes the most money. (update: Heather in Clive, who I know to be a die hard Cyclone fan disagrees, and emailed the following:
It's symbolic, not substantive. I suppose that's o.k., but issuing a news release negates the gesture, IMHO. Interesting point. What do you think?)

Happy New Year!