Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Got me them old college football realignment blues

Howdy … y’all might have heard ‘bout this little spat down here in Texas between them Aggies of Texas A&M and … darn near everyone else they face on the gridiron. Actually, their beef is with the Big 12 Conference (which only has 10 members which is as close to the true as Richard Nixon ever got) … and, in particular (pronounced par-TICK-ah-lah), the Texas Longhorns (pronounced in Aggieland as little t, little u).
A&M is fixin’ to get its butt out of the Big 12 Conference because it’s not a happy camper ... or campus. Them Aggies are madder than a bunch of liberals in Rick Perry’s prayer group; they are tired of being the lil’ brother to the ‘Horns and being told what to do, who they cannot recruit (after Texas is finished getting advance football commitments for the next seven years) and why A&M gets no respect (you’d think the football stadium would be named after Rodney Dangerfield).
A&M is tired of fussin’ and feudin’ with Texas and wants out; it has been wanting to join the Southeastern Conference even since the Big 12 was formed out of the old Big 8 and Southwest Conference (they existed in the years termed B.C. – Before Cable). However, the SEC is playing coy like a girl playing hard to get from some beau.
All sorts of news outlets are reporting the obvious and all parties involved are denying the obvious … yet it’s the biggest non-secret in these parts since someone discovered it tends to be hot around here. Texas A&M will be playing its final season as a Big 12 member and will hop, skip and jump its way into new territory, controlled by a new set of schools and rules (oops, there’s yet another UT with orange as its base color).
There’s no doubt that the University of Texas IS the big dog in this big state. And nothing barks louder than the debut of the new Longhorn Network (in contract with ESPN), which will help fill their pockets like Clyde Barrow used to do decades ago. It was a shrewd move by the UT brain trust and one of the few schools in this area to have the will and overall strength of athletic program to pull it off.
Texas even controls high school athletics in this state, since all extra-curricular activities (as well as academic contests) fall under the umbrella of the University Interscholastic League (UIL). Wanna guess which “university” it means? The UIL is housed in Austin, most championships (except for football) are staged in, and around, Austin … often on UT facilities (and never in College Station). As it is said, “You do the math.”
People in the Midwest have tasted this recipe already with the advent of the Big Ten Network; it’s the model for what Austin is doing and what all other conferences wish they could do. The BTN has developed 24/7 programming, spotlighting each school, ALL sports (from gymnastics to wrestling to hockey to basketball AND football on Saturdays). And it has meant LOTS of money going into the coffers of each member institution.
The song sings “Money changes everything,” and it has in college athletics, notably football, the bell cow of the herd. When one school, or conference, hits on a profitable idea, others scramble to copy it; it’s worse than Hollywood making endless sequels within a film franchise instead of actually creating anything new and original.
It’s ALL about the money – from conference alignments to network presentations to the scandals engulfing various schools. Collegiate sports (meaning just football and men’s basketball) are drowning over who gets paid (institution and/or athlete) and who is doing the paying (regardless of the sleaze factor).
But A&M’s tantrum, and subsequent decision, has also produced a national problem. Another school will have to join the SEC to balance its competition schedule and someone will have to move into that empty Big 12 slot (and SMU or Houston are NOT big time programs on ANY level). That will have to come from other conferences who, in turn, will have to make adjustments of their own. It’s going to be a gigantic mess … again!
What is gonna have to happen, eventually, is a college football landscape divided evenly by region – West, South, Midwest and East. If it were up to us Texans, we’d call them the Hippie Dippie Conference, the Stars and Bars Gonna Rise Again Conference, the Flyover the Rust Belt Conference and the Media Elite Conference.
Grouping would be simple; every school west of the Texas-Nebraska-Oklahoma-Kansas line would be placed in the West (all of the old Pac 12/14, Utah schools, New Mexico). Schools south of the Mason-Dixon line, that resembled the old Confederacy (or continue to act like it) would be naturally paired together; it would include the SEC, most of the ACC, parts of Conference-USA and the South division of the Big 12/10/9. A school like TCU would stop foolin’ itself into thinking it has anything in common with its new Big East neighbors.
The Midwest schools, including Notre Dame, would join one another (mostly the Big 10, MAC and some from Conference-USA). The dividing line would be central Pennsylvania so Penn State would be considered Midwest by birth.
The East would see everyone not associated in the other three divisions, but no one will care if Temple, Rutgers or Maryland plays anyway. The Ivy League can do what it wishes since it thinks it’s above the sport to even offer scholarships or be involved in those dirty little post-season bowl games.
From this alignment, y’all can easily produce a playoff system to avoid the rest of us from having to find alternative programming in December to bowl games played in Shreveport, Detroit, Mobile or Clovis, N.M. And schools, like A&M, can stop whinin’ and cryin’ about who’s got all the money and who’s not playing nice in the sandbox with the other children.
In the meantime, the times they will be a-changin’ between these two bitter rivals. The traditional Thanksgiving weekend battle is totally in doubt after this November; it won’t be the same if the schools meet in early September. And for a state that often revels in its past, possessing such an uncertain future has to be disturbing.
Because everything known about rivalries, especially here in Texas, will change permanently. The time-honored College Station tradition of having the 12th Man crowd at Kyle Field, singing the vaunted “Aggie War Hymn,” won’t be the same against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt or Auburn.
I cannot imagine how these lyrics will be relevant anymore:
Good bye to texas university
So long to the orange and the white
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys who show the real old fight
"the eyes of Texas are upon you"
That is the song they sing so well
So good bye to texas university
We're gonna beat you all to…
Chigaroogarem, Chigaroogarem
Rough, Tough, Real stuff, Texas A&M
Saw varsity's horns off
Saw varsity's horns off
Saw varsity's horns off
Short! A!
Varsity's horns are sawed off
Varsity's horns are sawed off
Varsity's horns are sawed off
It’ll be hard to obsess like that over … Gators. But it will be goodbye.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The heat is on … and will be on next year

As I type this little memo, it’s over 100 degrees in the Metroplex region (Dallas-Fort Worth) of Texas, where I live … and where, in one year’s time, the Michigan football team will venture forth to Cowboys Stadium (in Arlington) to play Alabama. And as I type, the thermometer reading in Detroit is 75 degrees.
That’s a BIG difference and when the Wolverines fly south for the (typically unbearable) summer, it might well affect their performance on that night.
Just so you’ll know: we are having the second hottest summer EVER and racing like the dickens to break the all-time record of 100-degree days (it stands at 60; we are closing the gap at 54 presently). It’s nasty, it’s depressing and it’s discouraging to live in such misery in places NOT named Phoenix. Dallas is NOT a desert community but, judging by the looks of my lawns and the many watering restrictions in place, it’s acting like one.
Unless you wish to fly in, see the ballgame and leave Sunday morning, you will have to spend SOME time in our confines – so be ready to sweat A LOT! It won’t be AS humid as southern Alabama, down by the Gulf Coast city of Mobile (which affects the entire state), but you could be involved in another “hot” streak. You know it’s too damn hot when it tolls midnight and it’s closer to 100 than it is to 90 degrees.
While there IS a roof on the “Death Star” (the nickname many have placed on Jerry Jones’ monstrosity), it will STILL be extremely warm and muggy and uncomfortable for anyone in attendance. No one is allowed to tailgate in the traditional Midwestern fashion (no open flames allowed because of ongoing drought and fire hazard), no coolers/picnic bags allowed inside the joint (you want food? Buy it at ridiculously jacked-up prices) and if you have seats above the first two levels, either bring high-powered binoculars or a two-way radio to someone sitting in those lower sections to tell you what’s happening on the field.
Remember, this is the same venue that kicked out legitimate ticket holders for the last Super Bowl because the stadium and idiot contractors couldn’t get it together to complete “temporary” seating in places where no seats were meant to be. And get ready to pay for parking through the nose (in excess of $25) because you’ve got TO drive to the game; there is NO mass transit of ANY kind from either Dallas or Fort Worth (no bus, no light rail, no nothing). In fact, there’s only 1-2 actual roadways to Cowboys Stadium and it could, literally, take hours to go from Point A to Point B.
When the contract was signed, I’m not sure U-M AD Dave Brandon completely thought this affair through. After all, that was one coach ago, one major recruit ago (who switched to Alabama and then promptly tore the ACL in his knee) … and two seasons ago (after the completion of Brady Hoke’s first go-round). There are going to be many chances happening in the Michigan athletic department and most of them will centered around … MONEY!
But I cannot help but wonder about all those fans expected to flock from Michigan to Jerry’s World and what kind of game-time experience they will have. The color of money is certainly alluring but at what price??? See you next September!

Friday, August 26, 2011

More tribal members

Add the following names:
Lauren Cohan ("Chuck"), Laura Prepon ("That 70s Show ... both girls were "tribal"), Jaime Lynn Sigler ("Sopranos", Tony's little girl ... who knew?), Marla Sokoloff ("The Practice"), Michelle Trachtenberg ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Evan Rachel Wood (Marilyn Manson's ex), Elizabeth Berkley ("Saved by the Bell," "Showgirls"), Brooke Burke (model/TV host "Dancing with the Stars"), Jennifer Connally ("A Beautiful Mind"), Sarah Michelle Gellar ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" ... Buffy AND her sister are Jewish ... do vampires die when hit with a Star of David???), Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Secretary", "Crazy Heart"), Kate Hudson "Almost Famous"), Samantha Harris (early TV host "Dancing with the Stars"), Chelsea Handler (comedienne), Ginnifer Goodwin ("Big Love"), "Amanda Peet (actress and major hottie), Winona Ryder (born Horowitz and Lindsay Lohan mentor), Gwyneth Paltrow ("Shakespeare in Love"), Leah Remini (TV wife for Kevin James), Alicia Silverstone ("Clueless"), Nikki Ziering (Playboy model), another convert.
And as contributed from friends ... Liz Taylor (convert), Marilyn Monroe (convert), Lauren Bacall, directly related to Shimon Peres (was Bogie the ultimate shegitz?) and Cyd Charisse (out of that well-known haven of Jews, Amarillo, Texas)...
Dyan Cannon was BORN Jewish but she's a real devout goyim Catholic... she uncoverted.
Who knew????

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jewish girls NEVER looked like this …

Surfing the Internet proves a zillion opportunities to learn something….seriously.
The other day, I discovered that one of the most gorgeous women in Hollywood – actress Mila Kunis – she of “That 70s Show” and “The Story of Eli” and “Friends With Benefits” fame – is …. (wait for it) … Jewish!
I said to myself, “Self, this shiksa is Jewish?!?!”
Indeed, this Russian-born hottie is, as they say, a member of the tribe. And as I surfed further and farther, I learned she was not alone as a team player. Scarlett Johansson (“Lost in Translation”) is Jewish; as is Rachel Bilson (“The O.C.”), Amanda Bynes, Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”), Rachel Weisz (Oscar-winner and in the two “The Mummy” remakes), Emmauelle Chriqui (“Entourage”) and … of course, Jerusalem-born Natalie Portman, the Oscar winner for “Black Swan.” Add to the list a convert, very blonde but now very Jewish Elizabeth Banks (“Zack and Mimi Make a Porno” and “Invincible”).
I said to myself, “Self, where were these women when I was young and full of life and single and hornier than a TCU mascot?”
Either in public school, my neighborhood in Detroit on at my temple did I ever, EVER see anyone who even approached any of these extremely attractive and (I must say) non-semetic looking Jewish women. They either possessed a nose emblematic of Barbra Streisand (who IS stunning, actually, even at her current age) or looked too much like Joan Rivers (who would frighten blind people).
Aside from the ever-present Jewish-American princes syndrome that forever gripped young women of the day (an inherited disease passed along through the mother), there was a missing quality about most of them – sexiness. I seldom looked at a Jewish girl, even in high school, and thought, “WOW!” I know I was not anyone’s Cary Grant (not Jewish) or John Garfield (real name: Julius Garfinkel, VERY Jewish), but I knew what I liked back then and no one tipped the scales like they do today.
One biography intrigued me; Rashida Jones is Jewish because her mother is Jewish. But how can that be? She’s the daughter of musician Quincy Jones and former 60s “Mod Squad” beauty Peggy Lipton – the quintessential California shiksa blonde (long hair, willowy features, mysterious eyes). Peggy Lipton?!?! JEWISH?!?!!? How could I not know? Why didn’t someone tell me for goodness sake?
My research simply proves that no one can judge a book, or a Torah (reader), by its cover. I just wish the covers looked as good back then as they do today.
Oy vay! I knew I liked the “Mod Squad” for SOME reason…

Monday, August 15, 2011

Another childhood sign goes up in smoke

Yet ANOTHER sad sign of my childhood, or anyone having grown up in Detroit, Mich., has been destroyed.
This from today's (August 15)
Detroit’s iconic giant stove, on the old Michigan State Fairgrounds, was destroyed by fire during Saturday’s thunderstorms.
“It’s one of the major icons, I think, kind of like the big tire out on I-94,” said Michigan photographer and historical photo collector Jan Kaulins, who has studied the background of the metal-and-wood stove. “Just a bit of our history, something that’ll never be replaced. No one’s going to build another 'World’s Biggest Stove.' ”
Detroit firefighters said they had seen a lot of lightning strikes in the vicinity of the giant stove at the old Michigan State Fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward just before the fire was called in at 9:05 p.m. Saturday, Acting Captain Pat McNulty said.
When crews arrived, the stove was fully engulfed in flames, he said.
The stove was destroyed.
The stove, a 25-foot-tall replica of a Garland model built by the Michigan Stove Co., was created for the 1893 Exposition in Chicago, according to Kaulins.
Around that time, Detroit was known as the center of the stove-building industry. After the expo, the stove was moved to the entrance of Belle Isle, then to the fairgrounds in 1965, Kaulins said.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tribute to a true Michigan MAN

It’s the middle of August and the Michigan football season is upon us, but I need to stop and say a word about a wonderful Michigan man who passed away in June, but only today did I discover the news.
On June 29, Newt Loken passed away in Eugene, Ore. at the age of 92. And, believe me, those were 92 of the best yeas ANYONE ever spent on earth.
Even though he spent his collegiate competitive years at Minnesota, Newt embodied EVERYTHING you’d want out of a Michigan Man – spirit, drive, desire and accomplishment.
From AD Dave Brandon’s blog, he wrote this: “In Michigan athletic lore, certain names are immediately identifiable with the sport. Red Berenson is hockey, Cazzie Russell is basketball, Matt Mann is swimming, Cliff Keen is wrestling, Carol Hutchins is softball and in football, there are Bo, Fritz, Fielding, etc. In men’s gymnastics, it is Newt Loken.”
He earned Big 10 and NCAA titles at Minnesota in a sport long since forgotten – trampoline. But, starting in 1948, Loken became synonymous with Michigan gymnastics, winning 12 Big 10 championships and four NCAA titles (two for gymnastics, two for trampoline). His dual meet record as a coach was 240-71-1 (a .771 winning percentage) and coached 20 individual national champions.
He was the school’s longest tenured coach until his “retirement” in 1983. The word is used loosely because the man was a ball of energy 24/7. When I worked with him (during my time in Sports Information), he seemed to be the guy who was over-caffeinated … but didn’t touch a drop of it. He was simply always … “ON!”
And he loved his sport and forced you, through his sheer will, to love it as well. He literally bounced when he walked into our offices and no matter what he requested, you simply could NOT say no to him. All that I know about gymnastics (which, I admit, is limited but enough to watch the sports semi-informed), I earned from Newt.
Perhaps his most visible moments to Michigan football fans came annually at Homecoming. Newt had been the cheerleading coach for years, back in the day when it was an all-male squad. The tradition of doing backflips off the short brick wall in the north end zone after a Michigan score began with Newt and he would join in the celebration, well into his AARP years, at those Homecoming affairs, with his former squadmates.
Most people probably don’t know that he earned his master’s and doctorate at Michigan and taught kinesiology, again until retiring in 1983. He was a terrific public speaker and author. But it was his energy (and perpetual smile) that most people remember.
According to Brandon, until his family moved him to Eugene a year ago, Loken NEVER missed a home gymnastics meet…for 61 years! And he visited the Wolverines’ gym every Monday after his retirement, visiting with coaches and young protégées.
“He absolutely lived Michigan; his kindness, energy, pep and spirit were amazing,” Brandon added in his blog. “Newt Loken made you feel good. Today, his memory made me smile once more.”
I hope they honor Newt before one of the home football games and have a permanent remembrance connected with one of the U-M facilities. Because men like Newt Loken don’t pass through Ann Arbor all that often.

Friday, August 12, 2011

From 'Bad News Bears' to just "Bad News'

David Pollock, who was in the classic movie, "The Bad News Bears," (the 1976 original with Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal and Jackie Earle Haley...), has decided to join another team of misfits - Congress. The 50-year-old California with an MBA from UCLA anad a degree from Pepperdine, played inept pitcher Rudi Stein, with Coke-bottle glasses and the inability to hit anything, in the movie.
But now he's a Democrat and wants to be a member of Congress.
Good luck to all that!

Monday, August 08, 2011

First Hoke decision wisest of all options

The very first major player personnel decision by new Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke instantly demonstrates the difference between the new regime in Ann Arbor and the former head coach for the previous three years.
Following his second guilty plea for DWI in the past three-plus years at U-M, senior wide receiver Darryl Stonum will be in reserve for the next campaign … as in redshirt … no playing … no suiting up … no involvement.
Hoke has laid down the law and is removing a potential problem from the lockerroom during his initial season – something I guarantee you would NOT have happened had Rich Rodriguez still been Michigan’s coach.
“While it would be great to have Darryl on the field this season, we feel it is in his best interest and the best interest of our program for him to redshirt,” Hoke stated in a press release from the U-M athletic department. “Darryl will continue to be an important part of our team and family. He has done everything we have asked him to do, but our number one priority is to help Darryl grow as a person.”
How refreshing to hear from a major collegiate program. It’s not like Stonum was some sort of spare part to the Wolverine offense; he was second on the team in receiver last year and is a devastating kick returner. He’ll be missed but Hoke’s decision is for the young man’s own good and shouts out that certain behavior will NOT be tolerated within the program (anyone in Columbus or East Lansing listening?).
And Stonum isn’t the only player to be served notice. Sophomore punter Will Hagerup is out for the first four games of this season and wide receiver Terrence Robinson is gone for the season opener against Western Michigan – again for violation of team rules.
Hagerup got his butt suspended for the Ohio State game by Rodriguez last year, (leaving his team without anyone who could punt and it showed). But Hagerup suited up for the ill-fated Gator Bowl. Hoke did not say if this suspension was for a new infraction or based on the previous happening.
Still … one has to wonder what is going on inside this young man’s head…
The Hagerup situation opens the door for true freshman kick Matt Wile, out of Hoke’s old stomping grounds of San Diego, providing an extraordinary opportunity to seize both jobs in the season’s early stages.
“In order to build a championship-caliber culture, you have to be accountable to each other on and off the field,” Hoke further stated. “There are expectations at the University of Michigan you must live up to.”
It’s so nice to hear or read those words … finally. I cannot state that RichRod would have been so severe in HIS punishment because it always seemed as if things were done with RR’s future in mind, first and foremost; U-M tradition came second. As we’ve ALL seen this off-season, when you suspend ethics and you throw class out the window, you’ll do anything … and allow anyone to play … if it results in a victory.
I want for Michigan to win every time ANYONE representing that school steps onto the field, pool, court or diamond. But if it means sacrificing honor or morals to achieve it, it doesn’t mean the same.
Brady Hoke just announced, in the clearest terms, such properties mean EVERYTHING!
Go Blue!