9/11/2001 Ten Years Later…”There Are No Words”

 

I seem to recall it was a rather lovely late summer/early autumn day. Sun shining. Temperate. Clear skies. What the meteorologist on the local news would call a “Wow Day”.

 

At the time I worked four tens…Noon-11pm…as a supervisor at a telemarketing company. On that particular Tuesday I had to go in at 9am for our monthly Employee of the Month ceremony, a big dog & pony show where the suits from our corporate office in Akron came down to make boring & repetitive speeches and give out meaningless awards.

 

For some reason I never turned on my TV that morning. I just got up and got ready for the big meeting. I only lived a mile from the office so I left my apartment between 8:30 & 8:45. During my short commute I heard on the radio that an airplane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. At first there was some confusion and reports seemed to indicate that it may have been a small plane that an inexperienced recreational pilot had somehow steered way off course. I have never been to New York City and I thought maybe that kind of thing wasn’t a completely unheard of scenario. It was an interesting story but I had other things on my mind and just shook it off.

 

That didn’t last long. As I got to the parking lot at the office a couple of my co-workers were outside. They asked me if I’d heard the news. From there the sequence of events is a bit of a blur. There was a television on in our conference room where we watched it all unfold. We soon found out that it was a commercial airliner that had crashed into the tower. Then television cameras actually caught the second plane crashing into the other tower. I’m no expert, but it immediately became clear to me that this was no accident…it was very much intentional. Soon we heard that the bosses from Akron had not even left Ohio yet on their company jet. Then we heard that all air travel in the United States had been suspended…all flights grounded. That really grabbed my attention. A clearly concerned President Bush tersely addressed the nation. News emerged that a plane had also crashed into the Pentagon, and that another had been hijacked and was presumably headed for Washington DC to dive-bomb into the U.S. Capitol before mysteriously crashing into a field in Pennsylvania less than 3 hours from my home here in West Virginia. Terrorism, which all my life had been associated with faraway places like Libya and Iran, had come to America. Oh there had been a few small incidents previously (the World Trade Center itself had been bombed by a truck in its garage in 1993, killing 6 people), but nothing on this scale. What was unfolding before my eyes was unimaginable.

 

Eventually the EOM ceremony was cancelled, and at some point, to my utter shock & amazement, all operations shut down for the day. Still we stayed. We sat in the conference room watching the TV as the first tower fell, then the second tower. In the blink of an eye the well-known landscape of NY City was irrevocably changed. I came home and continued to watch the coverage on television. The world had stopped.

 

I was not directly affected by the events of September 11, 2001. I had no friends or family members killed, injured, or even present. I didn’t even tangentially know of anyone involved. I never had any fear that my town may come under attack. Little ol’ West Virginia isn’t that important. But the images of that day will stay with me forever. The second plane crashing into the tower. The buildings falling to the ground. The smoke billowing like some sort of sci-fi monster, covering lower Manhattan with soot and debris. The stunned look on people as they wandered through the greatest city in the nation. As one news anchor put it that day “Good Lord…there are no words.”

 

The ensuing years have seen the tragic events of 9/11 become a political football, marginalizing the loss of life and trivializing the decisions made in its aftermath. That is not my intention here. However, I must say that one thing that will always stick with me was the strong leadership exhibited by President George W. Bush and Mayor Rudy Giuliani. No matter what party one may be registered to or what views one may have about economics, social issues, and foreign policy I defy anyone to deny with a straight face that those two men showed incredible resolve, decisiveness, and composure in a time of madness, anger, confusion, and anguish.

 

For a brief period after 9/11 our nation stood united and embraced our heritage of faith, charity, and love. Even when those feelings gave way to anger as we began to grasp what exactly had occurred and understood who exactly had perpetrated this heinous act of cowardice we were united in that rage. And while that unity and prayerful attitude was all too short-lived it was uplifting & encouraging at a time when the masses needed uplifted and encouraged. If only it didn’t take a disaster to produce that outlook. If only it would last for more than a couple of weeks. If only.

 

One thing that has lasted in the decade since 9/11 is a newfound respect for law enforcement, firefighters, and the military. I think society had gotten complacent and began to take those folks for granted. But as we sat in our comfortable homes watching the ultimate, saddest, most heart wrenching reality show in history a healthy reverence emerged for those who put their lives on the line to protect & serve others every single day. They run into burning buildings when everyone else is running away, and nothing ever illustrated that fact more than the events of September 11, 2001.

 

For some odd reason I have been touched more than anything by the stories of those that miraculously survived that day. The people who missed their flights on the four planes that crashed. Those that called in sick or were running 10 minutes late to work and therefore weren’t in the towers when they were hit. Those stories, while haunting, illustrate, atleast to me, the presence of God and His grace. I don’t know why this person died but that person survived. I’m not that smart. But I believe that those kind of small miracles happen every single day whether we know it or not.

 

I wish I could come up with something poetic and profound to say about 9/11 on its 10th Anniversary. Every generation seems to have its historic watershed moment of heartbreak. Pearl Harbor. The assassination of JFK. The explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Hurricane Katrina. There are no logical explanations for why these things happen or why good people die under such horrific circumstances. We know that hatred exists. Hatred for freedom. Hatred for God. Hatred for humanity. It would be nice if we could obliterate the hate, but that is unrealistic. However, we also know that the vast majority of the population has a tremendous capacity for love, compassion, kindness, patience, and empathy. That does not mean that we are willing to be weak. It has been well demonstrated in the past decade that America will open up a can of whoopass on those that threaten our way of life.

 

Countless lessons were learned on that terrible day ten years ago, both on a grand scale and in the course of everyday small town life. I hope we never forget the event or what we learned from it. We owe it to the 3000 innocent people whose lives were taken to honor their memory, to appreciate every day of life given to us by God, and to defend the principles of freedom & liberty that are the bedrock of our nation. We owe it to the first responders who sacrificed their lives in an effort to save others and military personnel who have perished in the war on terror that was birthed on 9/11 to always appreciate the fantastic job that those individuals do and the danger they voluntarily put themselves in each & every day. However, we also know that life moves on. We cannot wallow in heartbreak or live in fear. I can’t even imagine the sadness and pain the families & friends of those murdered that day have endured…the spouses suddenly left alone and the countless children who lost a parent. But even those folks have had to get on with their lives. I am sure many have remarried. The children have grown up. Some of the rules may have changed, but we continue…we love, we laugh, we work, we live. We move forward. Hopefully we take time to call a friend or visit a neighbor, and never ever pass up an opportunity to tell someone “Thanks” or “I love you”. We should have always done those things, but sometimes we get too lazy, too busy, or too caught up in our own perceived self-importance. Regardless of politics we should understand that we live in the greatest nation on earth and enjoy advantages that are the envy of the world. Evildoers knocked us down on September 11, 2001, but we got back up. We will always get back up.

 

God Bless America, and may God continue to guide & direct the loved ones of the thousands lost on that terrible day a decade ago.

 

Fast Food, Dogs, and American Idol: The Embracing of Pop Culture Mediocrity

A few years ago before I acquired my beautiful puppy Rocco I did a fair amount of  research. I read about different breeds, what to expect from his particular breed, different training techniques and theories, etc. One of the things I learned was that, for various reasons, it is unwise to feed a dog “people food”. And more interestingly, I discovered that dogs are perfectly happy with their own food. Whereas we humans…theoretically…prefer variety (it is the spice of life), dogs couldn’t possibly care less…they just want fed. This has proven quite accurate over the years, as Rocco still gets as excited over the same food that I’ve been feeding him since early on. I did switch brands once, and we made the leap from puppy formula to adult dog food at some point, but essentially he’s been eating the same meal for three years and loving it.

 

Conversely, I recall a trip I was on with a group from my church. I don’t remember what city we were in, but we were going to grab some dinner before the conference we were attending. Conveniently there was a Ryan’s right beside our hotel. The majority rules and I am not one to make waves, so I went along with the plan to eat there, but to be honest I was disappointed. There is a Ryan’s 10 minutes from my apartment at which I can eat anytime I want. When I go out of town I like to try something different, whether it be a local establishment or a chain that isn’t available in my hometown. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself adventurous, but I do like to mix it up a little bit and venture out ever so gently onto a limb.

 

I realize that not everyone shares my quest for something unique. After all, one of the reasons chain restaurants and stores exist is because of their comfort and predictability. A Big Mac is the same whether you’re eating at a McDonald’s in West Virginia, Montana, New York, or Florida. If someone chloroformed a person and placed them inside a WalMart when that person woke up they wouldn’t immediately know whether they were in Washington DC or the state of Washington. This is convenient & reassuring, but it is also mundane & predictable. And I guess maybe that is what society prefers nowadays. Forget exceptional, eschew excellence, and shun singularity…just give us a tired retread of something familiar and comfortable.

 

This fact became crystal clear the past several weeks as I have been watching one of my guilty pleasures, American Idol. One by one the viewers have voted a person off until we finally got down to our final pair, and then the fans chose their champion. And in so doing the masses confirmed my suspicions.

 

Now let me be clear…I am well aware that everyone has different tastes in music, but that is not what this is about. I may prefer jazz, classic rock, and easy listening, while you may lean toward country, hip-hop, and gospel. That is fine by me. But that doesn’t mean we must settle for subpar quality within whatever genre we like. I love the fact that when I am listening to some of my favorite singers or bands I immediately know their sound. Whether it is Sinatra, Dean Martin, REO Speedwagon, The Eagles, Boston, Van Halen, James Taylor, or Garth Brooks even the most fair weather fans will instantly recognize those voices. Is there any singer in the world as distinctive as Bob Dylan?? Did Fleetwood Mac with Stevie Nicks sound like any other band out there in the 70’s & 80’s?? When you hear a Barry Manilow tune do you have trouble putting your finger on who exactly the artist is?? Do you wonder for even a second who is singing that song when the local radio station plays something by Tom Petty?? No, no, no, and no.

 

One of the things I have had to endure while keeping tabs on Idol these past few months is the vitriolic animosity toward third place finisher Haley Reinhart. I chose Haley as my darkhorse awhile back, predicting that she could possibly make it to the final three. I was absolutely correct. She has a soulful, bluesy vibe and I would buy a record of hers in a heartbeat. But the drumbeat of the soccer moms has been that she screeches and growls, and the hatred for the lovely Miss Reinhart has been stunning to me. It is amazing how some folks wouldn’t know true talent if it fixed them breakfast in bed and drove them to work every day. Meanwhile hacks like Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry rake in millions of the public’s hard earned dollars by selling scrapple but convincing people it is filet mignon. It just doesn’t make any sense to this humble Potentate of Profundity.

 

I do not have anything against newly crowned Idol winner Scotty McCreery. He seems like a nice guy. He can sing. But when I close my eyes and listen to him I hear other voices…Clint Black, Randy Travis, George Strait, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, and a plethora of other male country singers that are virtually indistinguishable from one another. It’s not that I completely hate country music…I don’t. I enjoy performers like Hank Williams Jr., Sugarland, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood, Travis Tritt, and Faith Hill. I like voices that stand out from the crowd. Scotty McCreery does not stand out from the crowd despite looking like the love child of Alfred E. Newman and Howdy Doody. I certainly do not wish any ill will, but I think I have food in my kitchen cupboards that may last longer than Scotty’s career. Meanwhile, contestants from this just concluded season like Lauren Alaina, James Durbin, Pia Toscano, Casey Abrams, and of course Haley Reinhart all have not only the tools for success but the extra…je ne sais quoi…to atleast carve out a worthwhile niche in the market. I may be wrong, I may be right, I may be crazy. Or I just might be the lunatic you’re not looking for.

 

At any rate, regardless of the long term prospects of American Idol contestants or even the questionable validity of the show itself, what I find thoroughly intriguing is how it seems to be symptomatic of an all-encompassing move toward mediocrity. Instead of quality we gravitate toward the lowest common denominator. Bookstores are filled with cookie cutter romance novels and uninspired mysteries. Our televisions broadcast dozens of copycat “reality” shows, cops n’ robbers stories, and blatant CSI ripoffs. Strip malls are filled with the aforementioned chain stores and restaurants. Movie theaters show an endless supply of sequels…even if the original wasn’t that good to begin with…because it is easier than coming up with an original idea. And rarely does a uniquely talented musician succeed unless they are willing to either conform or market themselves using some sort of gimmick, like Lady Gaga (who herself is just a Madonna wannabe).  I am honestly not trying to be critical. Live & let live and to each their own. But personally I will continue to look for new, interesting, and genuinely good things. If others are happy consuming the same old uninspired, uncreative, mass produced, bland “comfort food” every day that’s their prerogative. It seems to work for my dog.

 

 

Osama, Obama, & The Dalai Lama

I can sometimes be a bit reactionary, which is why I have learned over the years to contemplate my thoughts for a bit…cool the engines, so to speak. There are still occassions when I express instantaneous, raw, unfiltered emotion, sometimes regretfully so. I’m working on it. But in the meantime, I always try to maintain some level of considerate decorum here at The Manofesto, which is why I decided not to immediately go off half-cocked and fire out a missive about the capture and…elimination…of Osama Bin Laden. I wanted to ponder for a day or two. In the midst of that ponderation a couple of interesting things have risen to the surface.

 

First of all, let me say God Bless America and our military. It’s hard to find any kind of silver lining in the events of September 11, 2001, but if I was forced to come up with something I would point out that over the past decade the level of respect & admiration for men in all manner of uniform…police, firefighters, soldiers…has risen sharply. As a whole I think maybe we sort of took those folks for granted pre-9/11, which is unfortunate. I hope the veneration now given to the people who literally put their lives on the line every day to protect & defend our freedom and safety remains constant. Those individuals should always be held in the highest regard.

 

I want to focus on two things that have occurred in all the celebratory commotion surrounding the long awaited capture and demise of Bin Laden, one of which makes me angry, the other which makes me think and evaluate my own thought process.

 

I was at work on the evening that the news broke. A co-worker received a text saying that Osama Bin Laden was dead. I had been crazy busy the entire evening but at that point was able to hop online and get the scoop. I was as pleased and proud as anyone. A couple of hours later I was able to watch the ongoing news coverage in the relative comfort of The Bachelor Palace. It was then that I finally saw President Barack Hussein Obama’s original press conference.

 

My disdain for the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is well known to my friends and family, many of whom disagree with my opinions. The President’s announcement was unsurprisingly peppered with “I”, “Me”, and “My”. He subtly inferred that the hunt for Bin Laden only began once he took office. As if Mr. Obama’s own self-importance wasn’t enough, the public then chimed in. The “mainstream” drive-by media…predictably…fell to their knees to fellatiate their President, as if he had singlehandedly captured Bin Laden and brought him to justice. The “ladies” of The View said there was no use to even have an election in 2012, that no Republican would be able to defeat Obama after this heroic feat. The general public was even worse. I spend a lot of time online and some of the posts I saw on Facebook and other places were horrifying. Obama was suddenly a cross between Chuck Norris and Abraham Lincoln, with enough tiger blood and Adonis DNA to make Charlie Sheen shake like Michael J. Fox at a Justin Bieber concert. Obama’s arrogance combined with the senseless adoration of the masses is a lethal cocktail of aggravation. Throw in abject hatred for former President George W. Bush & conservatives in general and pepper in a skosh of imaginary racism (because if one disagrees with Barack Hussein Obama that person MUST be a racist according to the liberal playbook), and what you have is a nation divided. On one side are those who swoon at the mere mention of the man’s name, like “journalist” Chris Matthews, who once said that Obama sent a thrill up his leg, and the infamous Peggy Joseph, who attended a campaign rally in 2008 and said she was excited because Obama was going to pay her gas bill & mortgage. On the other side are thinking Americans who have some legitimate concerns about the man’s beliefs, policies, and leadership capabilities. People are disturbed by a floundering economy, out of control spending, the growth of the federal government and its role in everyday life, high unemployment, gas prices that seem to rise almost daily, and other various issues. I am willing to have an intelligent discussion with anyone about authentic differences of opinion, but I will not give heed to mindless hero worship, especially when it is far from deserved.

 

The manhunt for Osama Bin Laden began soon after 9/11, and it was President George W. Bush who laid the groundwork. The same people who are putting Obama on a pedestal today are the ones who have been eviscerating Bush for over a decade for The War on Terror. You can’t have it both ways ladies & gentlemen. Did Obama give the final order greenlighting the raid on Bin Laden’s compound?? Yes, and kudos to him for that. But let us not forget that it was a moment that would never have been possible without many courageous decisions made by Bush years before. As more information emerges we are learning that information from “detainees” at Guantanamo Bay, gotten using “enhanced interrogation techniques”, ultimately lead to Osama Bin Laden sleeping with the fishes. This is the same Guantanamo Bay that liberals have wanted to shut down almost since Day 1 and that Obama originally stated he would close as one of the first acts of his presidency, and the same interrogation, i.e. “torture”, which the Left has been whining about for years. So while Obama worshipers around the globe are sticking out their puffed up chests and beaming with pride about what The Chosen One has accomplished, we all need to realize that what he has really done is hop in the car on the white flag lap and claim he won the race. I applaud The Obama Administration for understanding the importance and fundamental necessity of the foundation laid by their predecessors and for not kowtowing to the extremists in their base constituency, but I wholeheartedly reject the idea that we should have such rock star awe for any politician, especially when he has spent the past 3 years showing utter disdain for the very framework that eventually lead to the event for which he is now receiving enormous praise.

 

The more fascinating thing to arise from the death of Osama Bin Laden is the apparent moral ambiguity felt by some. As thousands of Americans took to the streets in Washington DC, Times Square in New York, and various other locales, others were feeling just a wee bit uncomfortable about celebrating a man’s death, even a man as undeniably evil as Bin Laden. Some have said it was too reminiscent of how the streets of towns in The Middle East  were filled with revelers thrilled about 9/11. I’ve seen quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., The Bible, and various other sentiments that basically say it is wrong to rejoice in a person’s death, regardless of who that person was and what they’d done. There are debates about whether it was murder or justice.

 

At first I was quite dismissive of this thought process, but I have since paused for reflection. My initial gut reaction was “HELL Yes!! We got that bastard!! USA!! USA!!”. To be quite honest I still lean in that direction. This is a man that masterminded a plot responsible for the senseless slaughter of over 3000 Americans. I tend to try to see the good in most people, but I liken Osama Bin Laden to Michael Myers from the Halloween movies…pure evil. I therefore don‘t really have any sympathy for the man nor am I inclined to feel one iota of remorse about his death. However, I am also a Christian (just not a very good one) and have an appreciation for philosophy, so I understand on an intellectual level why some feel the way they do, and I will even concede that they are probably better, nicer people than me. I have a lot of respect for their opinion, even if I disagree. There is a fine line between justice and revenge, and under most circumstances seeing large crowds lustily partying because of a man’s death would be a cause for concern. This is America…we ARE better than that. But the particulars of the situation are so unique that I cannot take issue with the joy expressed at the end of this long journey. I would like to think that the families of those killed in the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, PA now have some sense of closure. Nothing will ever bring their loved ones back, and the death of Osama Bin Laden may seem like a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, but it is right and it is just. To those who take exception to the jubilance, I can only say that I get it, I admire your morality, and I hope someday folks like you become a bigger influence not only in my life but in the world as a whole.

2010-11 College Football Bowl Prognostications

College football bowl season has arrived and it is a fascinating dichotomy. On one hand there are far too many bowl games, the season drags on way too long, and rewarding average teams for their mediocrity is just silly. On the other hand, it provides us with about three weeks of nearly non-stop football, and that cannot be considered a bad thing. I must warn my dear readers not to bet any money based on these picks, not only because The Manofesto doesn’t condone gambling but because my choices last year were so bad that I have blocked the atrocity of the final numbers from my brain. Nevertheless, the time has come to get back on the horse and give it another whirl. Enjoy.



New Mexico Bowl

BYU vs. UTEP

12/18…2pm…ESPN

Two 6-6 teams meet in a bowl named after a place…a double whammy of awful. I’ll take BYU in a laugher.


Humanitarian Bowl

Northern Illinois vs. Fresno St.

12/18…5:30 pm…ESPN

Northern Illinois won 10 games this season, but when you’re in the MAC that doesn’t mean much more than ending up in a lower tier bowl in Boise, Idaho. On top of that the Huskies are in the midst of a coaching change after their head man bolted for Minnesota. Fresno St. is always fun to watch and I give them the slight edge in what should be a high scoring affair decided by less than a touchdown.


New Orleans Bowl

Ohio vs. Troy

12/18…9pm…ESPN

The question I have is will anyone be watching this game?? I’ll take the Bobcats in a snoozefest.


St. Petersburg Bowl

Southern Miss. vs. Louisville

12/21…8pm…ESPN

Louisville uses the current inane rules to squeak into the postseason at 6-6, which theoretically would make them an underdog to the 8-4 Golden Eagles, but I’m not buying it. I like Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong, who I believe will get his team back to its winning ways sooner rather than later. This contest may serve as a springboard. Louisville wins easily.


Las Vegas Bowl

Utah vs. Boise St.

12/22…8pm…ESPN

The most disappointed team in America has to be Boise St., who fell just a 3 point OT loss to Nevada short of being undefeated. It is unlikely that the Broncos would have been playing for the national title anyway, but they almost certainly would have had a date with one of the big boys in a BCS bowl had they achieved perfection. Utah ain’t no slouch either. The Utes won 10 games and will be moving to The Pac 10 next season. I’m looking forward to this game and believe it will be really entertaining. Most pundits will undoubtedly favor Boise St., thinking that they will be angry about falling short of their goal and take that frustration out on their opponents. That may very well be the case. But it is also quite possible that disappointment will outweigh anger and open up the door for an upset. I have a vibe that the latter will be the case, so I’m picking Utah.


Poinsettia Bowl

Navy vs. San Diego St.

12/23…8pm…ESPN

A bowl named after the quintessential Christmas flower and played on Christmas Eve Eve. I can dig that. It is pretty much a home game for the Aztecs, but I’m picking the Midshipmen.


Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii vs. Tulsa

12/24 …8pm…ESPN

This is another game where one of the participants is playing a home game, which sort of defeats the purpose of a bowl game in my opinion. This time I will take the home team, as I feel like Hawaii is a better team who is more battle tested.


Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl

Florida International vs. Toledo

12/26…8:30pm…ESPN

Formerly known as the Motor City Bowl, this is the game that rewards two teams’ success with a trip to Detroit in December. Florida International is another 6-6 team that probably shouldn’t be playing a postseason game. Why should they be playing while 8-4 Temple stays home for the holidays?? Anyway, most fans will probably be watching the Philly/Minnesota NFL game on the night after Christmas and skip this yawner, which I think will be won by Toledo.


Independence Bowl

Air Force vs. Georgia Tech

12/27…5pm…ESPN2

Again I ask…6-6 Georgia Tech goes bowling while Temple’s Owls watch on TV?? It’s just not right. I’ll take Air Force in a competitive game.


Champs Sports Bowl

West Virginia vs. NC State

12/28…6:30pm…ESPN

WVU is one of my favorite teams, so I won’t pick against them. However, from as objective a point of view as I can muster the Mountaineers should win with good defense.


Insight Bowl

Missouri vs. Iowa

12/28…10pm…ESPN

Iowa looked to be in the BCS hunt early on but took quite a tumble at the end of the season, losing their final three games. Missouri is always better than people think they are. I love a west coast late night bowl game, although I’ll miss the later half of this one since it’s a work night. That’s unfortunate, because I think it’ll be quite a good game that the Hawkeyes win late in the 4th quarter.


Military Bowl

East Carolina vs. Maryland

12/29…2:30pm…ESPN

Formerly known as the EagleBank Bowl and played in Washington DC, so this is almost a home game for the Terrapins. I have a certain level of affection for East Carolina and hope they end up in The Big East someday, but this year they’re just another undeserving 6-6 team. Still, I think this will be a more than decent contest. I suppose I’ll take Maryland in a coin flip.


Texas Bowl

Illinois vs. Baylor

12/29…6pm…ESPN

I don’t have an issue with Texas. My best friend lives there and likes it just fine. But bowls should not be named after places. It’s just so damn pretentious, pedestrian, and uncreative. Despite Illinois being yet another annoying 6-6 bowl participant and this game being close enough to a home game for Baylor I will pick the Illini for the win.


Alamo Bowl

Oklahoma St. vs. Arizona

12/29…9:15pm…ESPN

Oklahoma St. hung 65 points on an opponent twice this season, and scored in the 40-55 point range in most of their other games. Mountaineer fans are excited that the Cowboys offensive coordinator is heading east to run West Virginia’s underachieving offense next year and take over as head coach in 2012. Meanwhile, Arizona limped to a 7-5 finish by losing their final four games. This late night contest is also on a work night for me, so I am bummed to be missing the 2nd half of what will probably be a high scoring shootout. I am going to place the over/under at about 75 and take the over, with Oklahoma St. prevailing.


Armed Forces Bowl

Army vs. SMU

12/30…Noon…ESPN

It’s nice to see the once dead Mustangs program back and successful. Unfortunately I think their second straight postseason appearance will end like the first…with a loss.


Pinstripe Bowl

Kansas St. vs. Syracuse

12/30…3:20pm…ESPN

Big East fans know the ‘Cuse is back. Maybe not all the way back, but definitely on the cusp. Yankee Stadium may not be the sun bathed paradise most players and fans desire for a bowl game, but it’s atleast cooler than Detroit or Idaho. I’ll take a the Orangemen in a low scoring affair.


Music City Bowl

North Carolina vs. Tennessee

12/30…6:40pm…ESPN

UNC had much higher expectations coming into 2010, and the Volunteers have seemingly been spinning their wheels for several years. This game could be used as a launch pad for future success, and since I suspect that these teams cover a lot of the same recruiting territory I am sure it is being taken seriously. Tennessee is riding a four game winning streak and seems to have the momentum, so that’s the pick.


Holiday Bowl

Nebraska vs. Washington

12/30…10pm…ESPN

This, thankfully, is a late night game I will be able to watch since I am off that night. It is also a rare bowl rematch of two teams that met in the regular season, a game which the Cornhuskers dominated. Washington QB Jake Locker will be a top 10 NFL draft choice this spring, yet his Huskies could only muster a 6-6 record. Meanwhile, Nebraska, one of college football’s historically elite programs, is a ten game winner and only a narrow loss to Oklahoma in The Big 12 (or however many teams they have) championship game kept them out of the BCS mix. They’ll head to The Big 10 (or however many teams they have) next season and I think they’ll do so on the heels of an impressive victory.


Meineke Bowl

South Florida vs. Clemson

12/31…Noon…ESPN

Beating the ACC whenever the opportunity arises is a big deal for The Big East. The latter is constantly maligned for being a weak conference undeserving of a seat at the big table, while the ACC is given a pass even though it isn’t any more impressive, just bigger. Both teams have been inconsistent and unpredictable this season, so that makes this game difficult to get a handle on. I’ll take the Bulls in a squeaker.


Sun Bowl

Notre Dame vs. Miami

12/31…2pm…CBS

This would be an awesome matchup…if it were 1988. Unfortunately for these teams Lou Holtz and Jimmy Johnson aren’t walking through the door. Neither is Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon, or I guess I should say former head coach. Shannon was fired a few weeks ago despite the program seeming to be on the doorstep of reclaiming its former glory. I guess the powers-that-be don’t really care that his players were graduating and the team’s thugnacious reputation has improved. Maybe the folks in charge at “The U” prefer their players to be members of Future Inmates of America. The Irish, meanwhile, improved from 6-6 in 2009 under former coach Charlie Weis to 7-5 under new coach Brian Kelly. Big leap, huh?? Anyway, I detest both these teams and wish they’d both lose, but someone’s got to win. Because of the upheaval a coaching change brings I cannot in good conscience pick Miami, so I will reluctantly take Notre Dame. I have to go throw up now.


Liberty Bowl

Georgia vs. Central Florida

12/31…3:30pm…ESPN

This season was a huge disappointment for the 6-6 Georgia Bulldogs. Conversely it was a great 10 win, Conference USA winning season for the UCF Knights. UCF is 0-3 in bowl games since moving up to Division 1-A in 1996. I say that losing streak ends here as the Knights surprise the Bulldogs.


Chick-fil-A Bowl

South Carolina vs. Florida St.

12/31…7:30pm…ESPN

This is the poster child for how far into the abyss college football has fallen. Formerly known…for four decades…as the Peach Bowl, it became corporately sponsored and then eventually the sponsor just decided to screw tradition and name the game after the company. I detest such idiocy. However, it is still a good football game and the 2010 contest should be a dandy. Because Steve Spurrier is a better, more experienced coach at this point than Jimbo Fisher I have to give the nod to the Gamecocks.


TicketCity Bowl

Northwestern vs. Texas Tech

New Year’s Day…Noon…ESPNU

Nothing speaks of the relative importance of a game than the fact that it can be viewed on ESPNU. I guess Versus couldn’t come up with the cash. I mean really…this is a New Year’s Day game. CBS, ABC, and Fox all have only one bowl game this season, and NBC has none. It’s just so different from the way things were not all that long ago, and I am not sure ESPN’s dominance is such a positive thing. Also, this game is being played in the old Cotton Bowl stadium but is NOT the Cotton Bowl or a replacement for it. It’s just another new bowl game, as if there weren’t enough already. At any rate, a matchup of two 7-5 teams doesn’t look all that appetizing on paper, but I think this may turn out to be a more than decent game, with Northwestern winning in front of a hostile crowd.


Outback Bowl

Florida vs. Penn State

New Year’s Day…1pm…ABC

Yes ladies & gentlemen, Joe Paterno is still coaching at Penn St. Now whether or not he is still alive is debatable. I think it is quite possible that the folks in Happy Valley have been pulling off some sort of Weekend at Bernie’s thing with the corpse of JoePa since the mid-90’s. One thing is for sure though…the Nittany Lions just keep on winning. They haven’t been in the national title mix for a few years, but they had won atleast 9 games for five straight seasons until this year’s 7-5 finish. This will be the swan song…for now…for outgoing Gators coach Urban Meyer, a middle aged, metrosexual, angst-ridden Dick Vermeil wannabe. If there is any justice Paterno’s boys will unload heretofore unseen offensive firepower on their opponents and show that sticking around is almost always better than slinking away like a pansy-ass milquetoast.


Capital One Bowl

Alabama vs. Michigan State

New Year’s Day…1pm…ESPN

This may be the best game on the postseason schedule other than the championship. Both teams were in the thick of the title hunt, with the Spartans falling just short of being undefeated by way of a loss to Iowa. I bet they are really kicking themselves for that loss now since the Hawkeyes proved to be vastly overrated. I’m not really sure what happened to the Crimson Tide, as they came into this season as defending national champions with 8 returning starters on offense, including the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, RB Mark Ingram. Losses to Auburn, LSU, and South Carolina derailed the opportunity for a repeat. I have high expectations that this one will be a heavyweight fight and highly entertaining, and in a flip of the coin I’ll take Michigan State for the victory.


Gator Bowl

Mississippi St. vs. Michigan

New Year’s Day…1:30pm…ESPN2

What has happened to the Gator Bowl?? It used to be a 2nd tier New Year’s Day game, but even though it is still being played on January 1st I’m not sure it deserves the respect of being considered 2nd tier. How does a 7-5 Michigan team…with “impressive” victories over UMass, Bowling Green, and Indiana…get an opportunity to play in January and get the big pay day?? It is mind boggling. I am unabashedly rooting for the Bulldogs and I hope they hang 60 points on that dirtbag Fraudriguez.


Rose Bowl

Wisconsin vs. TCU

New Year’s Day…5pm…ESPN

They call it The Grandaddy, and this year the Rose Bowl lives up to the hype. TCU gets the opportunity to prove they belong on the big stage against a legitimate opponent, but unfortunately I think they will have to do that by means of a moral victory. Wisconsin wins, but if it is a fun, competitive, close game then TCU still gets the respect of fans and talking heads alike. If the game is a blowout then the Horned Frogs will have to wait until they join The Big East to get back their mojo.


Fiesta Bowl

Connecticut vs. Oklahoma `

New Year’s Day…8:30pm…ESPN

Oklahoma vs. a Big East team in the Fiesta Bowl. That brings back memories. Can the Huskies shock the Sooners ala the Mountaineers in 2008 (not to mention Boise St. upsetting Oklahoma as well in the 2007 game)?? I would very much like to think it is possible, but on an intellectual level I just can’t pull the trigger on such a pick. The Sooners win, but it will be more of a battle than most expect.


Orange Bowl

Stanford vs. Virginia Tech

1/3…8:30pm…ESPN

Stanford proves that a successful athletic program and high academic standards can go hand-in-hand. This will probably be the last collegiate game for Cardinal QB Andrew Luck, who is likely to enter the NFL Draft and become a first round pick, and I think he’ll go out a winner.


Sugar Bowl

Ohio State vs. Arkansas

1/4…8:30pm…ESPN

The Buckeyes were #1 until a mid-season misstep against Wisconsin. The Razorbacks are another team with a highly regarded quarterback, Ryan Mallett, who will be playing on Sundays next fall. Look for a great game decided by turnovers and special teams, with Arkansas prevailing.


GoDaddy.com Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Miami, OH

1/6…8pm…ESPN

This is where things go awry and begin to get silly. First of all, I hate the name GoDaddy.com. I think it’s a website building/domain name company, but I’m not sure. What I do know is that they use sex to sell their product. Don’t misunderstand…I am a red blooded American male and certainly no prude. I just think their advertising is cheap, unimaginative, and unnecessary. Secondly, this game is being played on January 6. Not only has the college football season begun to drag on far too long past what used to be a New Year’s Day finish, but now we are getting crappy games featuring lower level teams playing way too deep into the new year. It is unappealing and unacceptable. But it is still football so fans, including me, will watch. Miami’s coach just got hired for the same gig at Pitt, so that might be the deciding factor in Middle Tennessee’s second consecutive bowl win.


Cotton Bowl

LSU vs. Texas A&M

1/7…8pm…FOX

Isn’t Dallas, TX special?? We already looked at the game being played in the old Cotton Bowl stadium, but this is the traditional Cotton Bowl game. It used to be an important New Year’s Day game for over a half century, but for some reason it has seemingly lost a degree of importance. This go round the game has been moved to the Dallas Cowboys’ shiny new billion dollar mega-stadium, and the matchup itself is interesting. LSU’s games are rarely boring, and somehow they usually find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, except for losses to #1 Auburn and Arkansas. I’ll pick the Tigers to pull out one more heart stopping win.


Compass Bowl

Pitt vs. Kentucky `

1/8…Noon…ESPN

If the NCAA had any sense of humor this game would feature two directional schools. Kentucky, at 6-6, has no business doing anything in January except returning Christmas gifts. Pitt is nominally better at 7-5, but they are another team who just fired their coach so they’ll have an interim guy leading the charge until the new coach takes over. I’m going to take the upset here with the Wildcats winning a low scoring, prosaic affair.


Fight Hunger Bowl

Nevada vs. Boston College

1/9…9pm…ESPN

This is the old Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, a game Boston College has played in often enough that California charges the team property taxes. Nevada got everyone’s attention by taking down Boise State, and I think they’ll keep it by winning big.


National Championship Game

Oregon vs. Auburn

January 10, 2011 – ESPN

Finally, the big one. I am not a fan of the BCS and have always advocated a playoff, but I will admit that more often than not the system works the way it is meant to when it comes to the championship game. This game is a great example, as most fans will agree Auburn and Oregon are undoubtedly the best two teams in the country. I am not convinced that Auburn QB and Heisman winner Cam Newton didn’t know anything about his father’s nefarious activities involving trying to get money for his kid to play ball, but the NCAA cleared the young man and Auburn has never been implicated at all anyway, so I will just let that mess go. On the field this has the potential to be an instant classic, and I am looking forward to an exciting, fast paced, high scoring game. Newton receiving most of the attention…both good and bad…might be a huge positive for the Ducks, and wouldn’t it be ironic if a game in which everyone is trumpeting full throttle offense is decided by a few key defensive plays?? After much thought and consideration I am picking Oregon to win the title in a 34-27 type of contest.


Persons of the Month – May 2010

I honestly do not know what sort of mental block I have when it comes to writing the Person of the Month entry every 30-ish days. My goal is always to complete the task in the last couple days of the month or no later than the first day of the new month. Somehow though I always run a few days late. I suppose it’s a good thing I’m not getting paid to do this…yet. When that day comes I will have to be more mindful of deadlines.

It seems like we are constantly breaking new ground here, which is fine by me. For May 2010 we will once again be selecting two POMs, but this time it is entirely by choice and not because I played a practical joke last month. Also, the two people we will be honoring are both politicians, which is sort of like giving the key to the city to an IRS agent or letting a stripper babysit your kids. However, I have retained just enough of my idealism to believe that there are still decent people whose goals are mostly selfless and untainted. As Padme  Skywalker said to Obi-Wan Kenobi about her husband Anakin…right about the time he was morphing into Darth Vader…”there is still good in him”. Admittedly my overriding cynicism will only allow that belief to be very limited, but atleast it’s something, right??

Our first honoree is a guy I am really growing to like and respect. In the past month I have seen countless video clips of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and in every one of them he absolutely owns the room he is in and the people who have the audacity to challenge him. He has taken on thin skinned media weasels, teachers unions, tax & spend liberals, and all manner of other critics. He is direct and does not mince words. Governor Christie is a statesman, not a typical 21st century politician. I do not live in New Jersey so what happens there does not affect me in the least, but when I see Christie speak it leaves me wishing my home state of West Virginia and our national government in Washington DC had such strong and effective leadership. This is a man who appears to have a deeply ingrained set of conservative core principles and the wherewithal to not back down from a fight. Governor Christie is fairly new to the spotlight but is already being touted by some as a possible 2012 Presidential candidate. He has stated that he has no interest in a run for the White House, and that’s fine by me. I would have no problem with seeing his career progress for another few years, whether that means another term as Governor (a tough proposition in liberal New Jersey), or maybe some other prominent position. One thing is for sure…Chris Christie is not some soft spoken moderate like John McCain or someone that people will refuse to take seriously like Sarah Palin. Folks do and will pay attention to him no matter what his job title may be, and that can be nothing but positive for conservatism in America.

Our second POM is another Governor, this time from the other side of the country. Jan Brewer was Arizona’s Secretary of State until then Governor Janet Napolitano was chosen by Barack Hussein Obama to become Secretary of Homeland Security. The line of succession made Brewer the new Governor and she is up for election to a full term in 2010.

Despite having been in office only a little over a year, Brewer has already been thrust into the glare of nationwide scrutiny.  In April she signed a state law that will…gasp…actually enforce immigration laws already on the books. This law has spawned widespread whining and temper tantrums from liberal politicians, pansy ass celebrities, the idiotic drive by media, and various sectors of an increasingly wussified American public. Protests, boycotts, and threats abound. Accusations of racial profiling have bleeding hearts wringing their hands and complaining, which is what they’re good at instead of actually solving problems. The law specifically states that police can “question people about their immigration status if there is reason, other than race, ethnicity or national origin, to suspect they are illegal immigrants after they have been stopped, detained or arrested for another crime or suspicion of another crime.” So, first of all, if you are in the country legally you have nothing to worry about. Secondly, even if you are already committing the crime of being an illegal immigrant you still having nothing to fear as long as you keep your nose clean and don’t commit another crime. That sounds pretty fair to me. I do not want to go off on a tangent about illegal immigration right at the moment, but I do not understand what all the consternation is about the issue. Yes, our Statue of Liberty is inscribed with the statement “”give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me”, but that does not mean chaos should reign. There is a process. You want to come to The Melting Pot?? Fine…but dammit you better be willing to melt. In my mind that means going through the proper procedure of legally entering the country and following the steps that have been laid out. My paternal great grandparents both came from Italy in the early part of the 20th century, and both went through Ellis Island and did what was right and what was expected of all new citizens. They did it, so why should people entering from Mexico or wherever else in 2010 be any different?? Why is doing the right thing such a difficult concept to grasp these days??

Thus far Governor Brewer has stood strong and faced the vocal opposition to the law she signed. She even met with President Obama and apparently did not give in. Tom Petty once sang “I won’t back down…you could stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down…gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around…I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down…there ain’t no easy way out in a world that keeps on pushin’ me around but I’ll stand my ground”.  As long as the Governor sticks to her guns she will be another shining example of conservatism done right.

 

100 Favorite Movies…..61-65

It dawned on me after I posted the previous installment of this series that I failed to write a pithy introduction. My apologies. It is difficult when one takes into consideration that by the time I’m finished with this project I will have written about 20 such intros. What makes it even harder is that my taste in movies tends to be so eclectic, something that is really being driven home to me as I write these little ditties, that usually there’s nothing to tie any 5 of these movies together. Today’s entry is a perfect example. There are virtually no similarities between any of these five films. I suppose the good thing is that with such a wide variety of things that I like I am bound to touch on atleast one thing or another that’ll be of interest to everyone.

 

 

 

65 Airplane!

If anyone were ever to build a Mount Rushmore of parody films, the first and foremost honoree would have to be Airplane!. Made in 1980, the film is meant to spoof a plethora of 70’s airline disaster flicks. It’s cast is a brilliant collection of heretofore tough guy types known for their dramatic roles, most notably Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Loyd Bridges, and Peter Graves, who areairplane very much cast against type. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar makes a super fun cameo as himself apparently trying to live a double life as an airline pilot under an assumed name. The plot involves many of the passengers and nearly the entire crew, including the pilot and co-pilot, becoming ill because of food poisoning and a passenger who just happens to be a pilot with post traumatic stress disorder being called into action to fly and land the plane. But this is another rare case where the story takes a back seat. This time though the centerpiece of hilarity are sight gags and side-splitting word play. One has to watch Airplane! a few times to take in all the visual and verbal gags. There’s Barbara Billingsley, the mother on Leave It to Beaver, speaking ebonics. The emergency autopilot is a blowup doll. A guy who thinks he’s Ethel Merman (played, in her final appearance on film, by Ethel Merman). Co-pilots named Roger and Captain Oveur (think about it). And the great thing is, it never gets old. After over a quarter century those of us who love this movie still laugh when we watch.

 

64 Raging Bull

Robert Deniro is such a brilliant actor that he could take the worst story imaginable and make it halfway compelling. Fortunately as real life boxer Jake Lamotta, in a film directed by the legendary Martin Scorcese, Deniro has a good story with which to work. He also has capable support from Joe Pesci in what was his first major film. I’m not a big boxing fan, but the acting and Scorcese’s style make this a modern classic. Maybe if I’d have been born a few years earlier or if I loved boxing as much as I do other sports Raging Bull would rank higher, as it does on most lists of this ilk. However, I must remain true to my own tastes and preferences, and this is where it falls on my spectrum.

 

63 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Readers of this series know by now of my affection for Jimmy Stewart. I’m also a bit of a political aficionado and an unabashed patriot, so Mr. Smith falls right into my wheelhouse. The story revolves around a small town yokel (a role Stewart showed many times he could play perfectly) who is handpicked to fill an open seat in the U.S. Senate. He is chosen by a corrupt political machine who believes he can be easily manipulated so they can achieve their selfish goals. The villain in this complex web of deceit is the elder senator from Stewart’s state, played by Claud Rains, who is probably better known for playing the corrupt police official in Casablanca. Rains played the role of conflicted slimeball several times and was apparently quite good at it. I’m not sure how a Frenchman snagged the role of a United States Senator, and the fact that he doesn’t really make much of an effort to hide the accent is somewhat distracting. Adding support as a caustic adminstrative aide is Jean Arthur. She is assigned the task of babysitting the doe-eyed new Senator and gradually falls for him. The plotline specifics, in which Stewart’s character wants to build a “national boys’ camp” on land that, unbeknownst to him, Rains’ character has more nefarious and profitable plans in store, are not necessarily all that crucial. The film is about political corruption, and in its time it was groundbreaking. We’ve become a much more cynical nation now. But 70 years ago a movie that took such a dark view of the inner workings of our government was quite controversial. Stewart’s performance show’s his range. Over the course of his career, from lighthearted comedies like Harvey and The Philadelphia Story through Hitchcockian fare such as Vertigo and Rear Window to hardscrabble westerns including Shenandoah and The Rare Breed Stewart did a bit of everything and proved himself to be a fine actor. With Mr. Smith he gives a small sampling of that range within one movie, goofy and fun in some scenes and dark and solemn in others. Because of the access the masses now have through things like CSPAN, the internet, and talk radio there’s not a whole lot that goes on in Washington DC that’s unknown or all that shocking. To some degree that hurts the legacy of Mr. Smith because we don’t see what the big deal is outside of Stewart’s winning charm. However, taken within the context of its time it’s quite a cinematic achievement.

 

62 Meet the Parents

DeNiro makes a second appearance in today’s group, so I guess I was wrong…there is a common thread after all. This time however, he’s doing comedy…and doing it surprisingly well. Meet the Parents stars Ben Stiller as a male nurse who goes home for the weekend with his girlfriend (who he is planning to make his fiancee) to…you guessed it…meet her parents. Unfortunately for Stiller, things get off on the wrong foot and get worse from there. Hilarity ensues. This is one of those movies that has more than its fair share of memorable scenes and lines, which is its main charm. Stiller has never been funnier in my opinion, and Owen Wilson has an hysterical cameo as the girlfriend’s former boyfriend. After watching this film water volleyball, Puff the Magic Dragon, airports, and cats can never be thought of like they were before…trust me. A sequel was made a few years later called Meet the Fockers. It was okay, but as with most sequels it failed to rise to the high level of the original.

 

61 Silence of the Lambs

Is it a horror film?? I suppose. I’m not necessarily sure how the experts categorize it. If it is officially a horror film it is most certainly on the high end…..sort of like how Dom Perrignon and Andre Extra Dry are both technically champagne but one is $150/bottle and the other is available at 7/11. Silence of the Lambs is based on a really great book about a young FBI agent who enlists the aid of a jailed, psychotic cannibal to track down a fellow serial killer. The psychotic cannibal is Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lechter and he is one of the creepiest yet most sublime creations in cinematic history as portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Unlike most maniacal killers in stereotypical gorefests (think Jason from Friday the 13th, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street), Hannibal doesn’t need knives or chainsaws, doesn’t wear a mask, and doesn’t have any kind of otherworldly nonsensical powers. He’s actually pretty realistic…almost like a normal person you or I may know, may work with, or who might live down the street…except for the fact that he likes to eat humans. Jodie Foster is fantastic as Clarice Starling, the agent who looks to be in way over her head. The whodunit part of the movie is secondary to the interactions involving Hannibal and Clarice, but it’s also what separates Silence of the Lambs from the rest of the cliched mass of blood-n-guts. Sure there is some violence, but there is also a compelling story and extraordinary performances. I won’t go so far as to say the movie is better than the book, but let’s call it a tie.