Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Gas pains

I went out and bought gas yesterday for my two cars and my lawn mower and paid $2.73, which is a ridiculously high number to begin with. Today, when I went out to run an errand, I saw gas prices in the $3.16-$3.19 range, although one station was still at $2.85.

We're now reconsidering whether to drive down to my mother-in-law's house for Labor Day weekend, which is basically a one-tank trip.

Off the subject, I heard from my subscriber who is from the Biloxi area. He's OK. He had evacuated to Meridian, MS before the storm arrived. Katrina was still a hurricane when it went through there and they don't have power yet, but they do have water. Power is expected in a day or so there.


Like many of you, I know a couple of people in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina.

I have a friend who is a sportswriter in New Orleans and lives in Slidell, which the eye wall went through. Lake Ponchartrain, the Gulf and the hurricane flooded the city. My friend had evacuated to Tennessee before the storm hit and doesn't really know much about the condition of his home, but he thinks it was affected more by structural damage (roof, debris) than flooding. He doesn't know when he'll be able to go back to survey the damage.

On top of that, he's a reporter for the N.O. paper, which is relocating to Baton Rouge. He doesn't know yet if he'll go there to try to pitch in. Since he covers sports, he doesn't know if he'll be needed.

There are definite sports angles to this story. Tulane's football team got out before the storm, but cannot return. This week's game at Southern Miss has been postponed and they've gone on to Dallas, where they will be hosted by SMU and will continue to practice there. The school itself isn't open and isn't likely to be anytime soon unless it can relocate somewhere.

The New Orleans Saints also got out and went to California to prepare for an exhibition game with Oakland. They open the regular season at Carolina, but they have their home opener September 18th. It's highly unlikely the city, let alone the Superdome, will be ready for them by then. My friend thinks they may play their entire home season in San Antonio, but nothing has been announced yet in terms of a contingency plan for the Saints.

The Superdome is also the home field of Tulane, as well as the host of the Sugar Bowl. There is no word yet on whether the Sugar Bowl folks think their game, scheduled for January 2nd, will have to be moved. Since that is four months off, it may be too early to consider that.

On the other hand, the Governor of Louisiana is suggesting it could be 3-4 months before the city is inhabitable. If that's the case, Sugar Bowl officials have that to think about too (besides their own personal situations).

The New Orleans Bowl is played there as well. It's scheduled for Dec 20 in the Superdome.

Officials are working to evacuate the rest of New Orleans. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC said last night that it would be the first total evacuation of a major American city since the Civil War (Atlanta and Richmond). Those hunkered down in the Superdome will be bussed to Houston and housed in the Astrodome in the next 48 hours.

My friend wonders if the city will ever be inhabitable.

I also have a subscriber to my sites who lives in the Biloxi area. I have tried to contact him through e-mail, but haven't gotten a response. Obviously, if he's still in the area, he has no power, so I'm assuming he didn't evacuate, or didn't evacuate far enough away to avoid power loss.

Monday, August 29, 2005

College fantasy team

As promised, I am posting the list of college players I drafted so you can know who to avoid in the event you are in a college football fantasy league. This was in a 12-team league.

My pro team won't be drafted for another week, but I'll post that one too.

QB: Reggie McNeal, TAMU; Sam Keller, Arizona St
RB: PJ Pope, Bowling Green; Garrett Wolfe, NIU; Jerry Seymour, CMU; Maurice Drew, UCLA
WR: Kyle Ingraham, Purdue; Santonio Holmes, Ohio St; Sean Coffey, Mizzou; Lance Leggett, Miami-FL
TE: Dominique Byrd, USC; Derek Schouman, Boise St
Def: Both Miamis (Florida and Ohio)
K: Brandon Pace, Va Tech

Orton moves up and Benson signs up

The obvious was finally announced yesterday when the Bears named Kyle Orton the starter at quarterback for the season opener at Washington. Orton will be the tenth player to start a game at QB for the Bears in the 21st century, provided he doesn't get hurt between now and then. A few hours after the Orton announcement, Cedric Benson finally deigned to join the team and signed his deal.

Orton may be the most talented QB to ever take a snap from a Bears center. This says a lot more about the history of the position with the Bears than it does Orton. For example, the Bears have only 45 300-yard passing games in the entire team history. Warren Moon had 49 in his career by himself. Hopefully, Orton will end up being the most successful as well, but I'd settle for getting through the year in one piece and never seeing Jeff Blake on the field. That alone, regardless of the stats, would be the best performance by a Bear QB in five years.

As for Cedric Benson, here's hoping he reminds us more of Neal Anderson than Curtis Enis, but I'm not at all optimistic about that.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Orton the clear choice

After four preseason games, the Bears' quarterbacking situation has become crystal clear to even the most casual observers. Rookie Kyle Orton has to be the starter.

We'll see if the coaches come to the same conclusion. Chad Hutchinson failed as a fill-in starter last year and, though we thought it impossible, looks even worse after going through a training camp.

I'm not a big fan of throwing rookie QBs to the wolves, even - and maybe especially - a guy I like in Orton. But the other option is Jeff Blake, who has had one good year out of 14 in the NFL, and that was a long time ago.

It comes down to this. If they throw Orton out there and he struggles at times, you can chalk that up to a rookie getting experience. If you throw Blake or Hutchinson out there, and they stink, then they just stink. There's no upside.

If Orton always struggles and doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes, that's a different thing, but we haven't seen any sign of that in camp.

Hutchinson should not be demoted though. He should be cut. On Tuesday. He's had his chance. There should never be a situation where he could find his way onto the field in a Bear uniform again.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Get your hostile and abusive souvenirs here!

The Baltimore Sun reported that the NCAA's online souvenir shop,, is selling hostile and abusive souvenirs. Among the items you can find there, but not bring or wear to a championship event are:

  • Chief Illini (sic) Pendant
  • North Dakota Hockey Jersey
  • Utah Utes Hat
  • Central Michigan Chippewas Clock
  • Arkansas St Indians Beanbag Chair

    However, if you're looking for SE Oklahoma St Savages gear, you're out of luck.

    The NCAA says it will stop selling such items on its site by the same February 1, 2006 date that the "hostile and abusive" mascot policy goes into effect.
  • Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Fantasy Football

    Fantasy Football (and other sports) is a pretty geeky thing to do. It's strictly numbers-based, and in most sports, the team with the best numbers doesn't always win. Still, I'm a geek, so I play. I've played fantasy baseball before too, but I find my job gets in the way of that, so I don't anymore.

    As good as I am in fantasy baseball (six seasons, six championships), I stink in fantasy football. I'm the man with the Midas touch in baseball, and the man with the minus touch in football. I get good players and they either get hurt or have off years. At least until last year, when I won a regular season title (only to get annihilated in the first round of the playoffs).

    So, as a public service, when my team gets drafted, I'll post here who is on my team so you know who to stay away from.

    Also this year, I'm going to play in a fantasy college football league. It's an "experts" league, where I will presumably compete with other "experts." I think my inclusion is stretching that definition a bit.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Florida St wins appeal

    The NCAA announced today that Florida St has been removed from the list of schools in violation of the NCAA ban on Indian mascots. The press release cited the relationship the school has with the Seminole tribe of Florida.

    Still no answer on my questions.

    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” was released on July 16, and I was shocked to find it at the Anderson Public Library that day. I thought I was going to have to wait until I got home to read it. It took me about seven hours (actual reading time) to finish it. By now, I’ve read it twice through and the last few chapters several times. I’m a big fan of the series, and this is the best one yet.

    I am pre-dating a blog entry with all the spoiler info, so if you haven’t read the book and don’t want to know what happens, don’t go there. Otherwise, here’s a link to my full commentary on the book.

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    No good deed goes unpunsihed

    Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports tells the story of the NCAA getting in the way of an effort by Georgia fans to do something nice for a serviceman in Iraq, who is also the father of a Boise St football player.

    Which of this things doesn't belong here?

    For a fun little game of "Which of these things doesn't belong here," turn to page 19 of the K-Mart circular in the Sunday paper this week.

    NCAA sets appeal process

    The NCAA has created a process through which schools targeted under the new policy on "hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin nicknames, mascots and imagery" can get off the NCAA's list of schools targeted by that policy. They didn't say when appeals would start.

    One key factor mentioned would be how "namesake" tribes view the use of the mascots and imagery at the targeted schools.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    KC hits skid row

    Kansas City is on the verge of breaking the modern-day Major League record for most consecutive losses. The Royals have dropped 18 in a row. The American League record is 21, set by Baltimore at the start of the 1988 season. The 1961 Phillies lost 23 in a row to set the Major League mark.

    This is the kind of ineptitude normally associated with the government, but the government has tools that most Major League organizations don't employ, like committees and task forces.

    Next up for KC: Three at wild-card leader Oakland, followed by three at home against East leader Boston.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    My questions to the NCAA

    I didn't get my phone call returned by the NCAA last week. When I checked in today, they basically told me they felt they were done talking about it, but if I wanted to submit questions via e-mail for further disapproval, I could. So I did. Here's the text of the e-mail I sent. So far as I know, I'm the only person talking about the issues I raise in questions 2 and 3. I've seen other commentaries mention the issues in questions 1 and 4, but I haven't seen any NCAA comment on them.


    Here are the questions I would like to ask someone to comment on regarding the new policy against “hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames and imagery.”

    1. Why did the executive committee limit the ban to mascots, nicknames and imagery and not include the names of schools? For example, is it the assertion of the committee that it is more hostile and abusive for Central Michigan to wear uniforms with the word “Chippewas” on them than it is for fellow Mid-American Conference member Miami University to wear uniforms with the word “Miami” on them?

    2. Since this is only in effect for NCAA championship events, can we assume that the NCAA will no longer enter into sponsorship agreements for those events with companies that use hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin names and/or logos? The specific example that comes to mind is Pontiac, which is a major sponsor of the Final Four. Pontiac is the name of an Indian chief who led raids on Ohio Valley settlers and the company logo is an arrowhead. If it were a member institution and not a company, it would certainly be in violation of this policy.

    3. Why is Central Michigan, which has no Indian mascot or imagery – only the nickname Chippewas, forced to cover up its nickname as hostile and abusive, but the University of Mississippi Rebels, which disposed of its Confederate imagery in the 80s (if I recall correctly), gets to continue to display its nickname? I would hazard a guess that “Rebels” is considered at least as hostile and abusive to some African Americans as “Chippewas” is to Indians.

    4. This is a broadly written policy, but for now anyway, narrowly enforced. Can we assume that other racial/ethnic/national origin mascots will be included eventually as well, such as Highlanders, Spartans, Trojans, Vikings, and Fighting Irish (to name a few)?

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Team Casey

    Part of my job involves going on sports radio shows around the country to try to explain what's going on in the world of college football and basketball. Radio spots are a lot of fun. It's a lot like sitting around with a friend, in this case, the host, and talking sports for a few minutes. On rare occasion, the host takes callers, which can be pretty interesting too. And I get to promote my sites.

    One of the hosts that has me on a few times a year is Lance McAllister of 1360 Homer in Cincinnati. Lance has a 5-year-old son named Casey. A few years ago, Casey was diagnosed with Leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant. He gets regular checkups to make sure the Leukemia hasn't returned, and he's almost made it to three years, which would mean he's clear.

    Just before his operation, the Make-a-Wish foundation sent his family to Disney World. The Make-a-Wish foundation grants wishes to kids with life-threatening illnesses so that they can have a profoundly positive experience at a time in their young lives when they are dealing with a lot of negativity.

    It was such a great thing for Casey, that one thing led to another, and Lance has started "Team Casey" to raise money for Make-a-Wish. If you want to help Lance and Make-a-Wish, you can go to the Team Casey website. You can read a little about Casey's story and buy shirts to help support the cause. They've just started, so I expect this will grow as time goes on.

    Sunday, August 14, 2005

    ESPN out of ideas

    It's official - ESPN has finally run out of ideas.

    First, they gave us the x-games, which is at least somewhat athletic, but skateboarding tricks are best left to the kids. Then we got the spelling bee and poker, neither of which remotely resemble sports. Someone should let the Chicago Tribune know that poker isn't a sport also, but I digress.

    Now, they give us a nightly show devoted to athlete gossip called ESPN Hollywood. If an entire network can jump the shark, then this one has.

    Considering I'm no longer part of ESPN's desired demographic, I'll probably be completely wrong and this show will be bigger than SportsCenter, but I'm hoping for a quick and merciless death. And, of course, I haven't even seen it yet.

    Corey Patterson first

    Corey Patterson homered off of Matt Morris with a man on in the second inning tonight. It was his 12th homer of the year, but just the first with a man on base. That must be one of the things he learned on his recent trip to Iowa.

    Saturday, August 13, 2005

    Stop me if you've heard this one before

    Bears QB Rex Grossman is going to miss 3-4 months with a broken ankle. The Bears might put him on injured reserve, which would mean missing the entire season.

    Good thing they drafted Kyle Orton, but the most experienced QB on the roster is Chad Hutchinson (15 games), who won't make anybody forget Steve Fuller.

    I'll be surprised if Orton doesn't start at least one game this year. Barring an injury to him, of course.

    North Dakota fighting mad

    The president of the University of North Dakota is fighting mad over the new NCAA policy essentially banning Indian mascots.

    Here's his open letter to the NCAA.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    PETA chimes in

    It took longer than I thought it would, but PETA has finally asked the NCAA to include "Gamecocks" among the banned nicknames. Their feeling is that cockfighting is illegal and that schools should not be able to use that nickname any more than they would "drunk drivers" or "road ragers."

    They did say they had no problems with "Lions," Tigers" or "Bears" (oh, my) or any other animal nicknames currently in use.

    NCAA to reconsider Florida St

    Florida St is appealing the NCAA's ruling against its nickname and mascot. Apparently, the NCAA based its decision to include FSU on its list of schools violating its new policy on one person in the Oklahoma Seminole tribe. The NCAA thought that person was speaking for the entire tribe, but it turns out he was not.

    Utah may have a case as well.

    Here's a link to a news story on this.

    Meanwhile, the NCAA hasn't returned my call yet.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    More Indian questions

    Besides Notre Dame, I have other questions that - so far as I know - haven't been asked yet regarding the new "hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin" policy the NCAA is using to try to force schools to change Indian-related nicknames and mascots.

    Will Wichita St and the Universities of Miami (Florida and Ohio) have to change or cover up their names?

    How about any school with the name of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri or Utah in it?

    Will the NCAA move from Indianapolis, Indiana to a more politically correctly named place?

    (Thanks to Kevin on my BCS user group for those last two. Kevin also tells me that the Nittany Lion could be in trouble. See the Penn St website for the origin of that)

    Will the Missouri Valley conference have to change or cover up its name?

    Will the NCAA drop Pontiac as a corporate champion partner of the Final Four?
    Note: Pontiac uses more Indian imagery than Central Michigan University does.

    If CMU is no longer allowed to be the Chippewas even after dropping all its Indian imagery, why is Ole Miss still allowed to be the Rebels?

    Besides the Fighting Irish, what of Highlanders, Spartans, Trojans and Vikings?

    When PETA starts pitching a fuss, will animal nicknames/mascots/images be banned too?

    OK, that last question is a little facetious, but only a little. I'm completely serious about the others. And I haven't even delved into lower division names (like Shawnee St, which jumps to mind).

    Saturday, August 06, 2005

    Two schools respond

    Two schools have responded to the NCAA's new Indian policy. Florida St was particularly harsh in its response. Click below to read each school's response.

    Arkansas St.
    Florida St.

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    NCAA comes down on Indian mascots

    The NCAA announced on Friday that schools may no longer display “hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames and imagery” at NCAA championships beginning February 1, 2006. Furthermore, such schools will not be allowed to NCAA championship events in the future. Previously awarded championships will not be affected, though hosts will be asked to covered up any imagery that violates the policy.

    This is similar to the policy where the NCAA will not award championships to institutions in states that display the Confederate flag in its own flag.

    This is directed specifically at schools that use Indian, er, sorry, Native American mascots, and eighteen such schools were listed in the press release as affected by the new policy. In Division I, those schools are Alcorn St, Arkansas St, Bradley, Central Michigan, Florida St, Illinois, UL-Monroe and Utah. William and Mary has been given an unspecified extension for further study.

    Florida State’s use of Seminole name and imagery was endorsed by Seminole tribe of Florida a couple of months ago. NCAA says other Seminole tribes in other areas don’t agree. Missing from the list of schools violating this policy is Notre Dame, though I can’t explain why.

    The NCAA is not requiring these schools to change their nicknames because that is outside of their scope, but they are putting as much pressure to bear on them as they can.

    Obviously, schools don’t have much time to change their mascots if that’s what they choose to do. After all, look how long it took for Marquette to not change its name.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    Joe Morgan mad again

    Hall-of-Fame second baseman Joe Morgan doesn't think Rafael Palmeiro or any of his contemporaries should be in the Hall of Fame because their numbers are of dubious origin. He probably would have liked Ryne Sandberg's speech at his induction ceremony last weekend, in which Sandberg emphasized playing the game with respect. However, Morgan doesn't respect Sandberg either, so he blew off the ceremony by conveniently scheduling something else that day. A hair appointment, I think.

    Palmeiro ceremony cancelled

    A ceremony honoring baseball's most prominent cheater, Rafael Palmeiro, has been cancelled at Palmeiro's request. The ceremony to honor his 3,000th hit was scheduled for August 14th, or just a couple of days after he returns to action after his suspension for steroids.

    Also, Congress is looking into whether he perjured himself in front of them last March when he testified that he never used steroids.

    And finally, the Orioles fired their manager today, so it's been a good week all around in Baltimore.

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Busy, busy.

    It's been a busy week, which is partly why it's been a little quiet here. We've been taking the kids out and doing a few fun things, like the Porter County Fair. Then, I spent the last two days at the Big Ten football media days, which I'll write about some on the site.

    I've also been writing about the Harry Potter book, which I hope to post later this week.