Posts Tagged ‘America’

Lost Kid Freedom in America

January 14, 2011

"Run, everybody, fast as you can! And don't forget your nickel; it's the ice cream man!"

You don’t hear a lot of ice cream trucks cruising the neighborhoods these days at 5 MPH while that little child-alluring melody plays on like a mobile music box. Kids aren’t as free in street bunches these days – and ice cream isn’t free at five cents a pop either. The whole business plan of the ice cream man just does not make the sense in 2011 that it once did back in 1948 – when you could buy something tasty for a nickel – and we kids of that earlier era were free to explore our world – away from adult supervision – and without fear for our lives from countless predators.

I wrote the other day about how most of us walked away from home each Saturday to our neighborhood theater kid movies. We would be away from home for three to four hours at the mercy of a kinder world without fear for our safety – and some of us even started this pattern at age five.

It was the same freedom that left us open to sandlot baseball and other sports; working out our own quarrels with words and fist, if necessary, and all the while developing a confidence for moving forth into the larger world on our own.

Aug. 1946: Pecan Park Cowboy

Remember those guys with the Shetland ponies that came through the neighborhood selling “cowboy/cowgirl in the saddle” photos back in the day? Almost everyone from our ancient era has one like mine (to the left).

That industry went away too with practically all other non-scam businesses that once sold items door-to-door. Again, the killers of business on this level were primarily fear and distrust of dealing with a stranger who is trying to sell us something on our own vulnerable doorsteps.

Kids today either live within the protective bubble of 24/7 adult supervision – or else, they roam independently on the bubble of scary and dangerous exposures to the threats of our current world.

It’s a crying shame that kids today have largely lost the chance to safely explore the world on their own, but that is what has happened – and the causes are far too complex for a singular explanation.

From my half century of work with kids and families, I will offer one observation about one factor that I think kicks strongly into the mix. It may not be the whole thing, but it plays its part.

Compared to our post World War II generation, young people today often seem to think far less about the long-term consequences of their actions. If I’m right, is that change being reenforced by our adult protectiveness of them? Are kids failing to get the handle on their own responsibility for the decisions they make and the actions they take?

Let’s take it to this extreme: Do some kids who rape or shoot others operate as though there is a re-set button on life? (Just push the button and start over. In electronic death and damage, there really is no long-term consequence.)

Make of these thoughts what you will. The subject is too big for a single column. It just starts with a loss of childhood freedom. Then it begs the question: Is what we are doing now simply making matters worse?

What do you think?

Top Ten Sidekicks in Baseball

January 13, 2011

Roy Rogers & Gabby Hayes (R) were saddle-up hero & sidekick buddies.

“Sidekicks” have always been the glue that made movie western, mystery, and comedy heros stick in the minds of film-watchers. Roy Rogers had his Gabby Hayes; Sherlock Holmes had his Dr. Watson; and Abbott and Costello, well, they both had each other. The net effect for all is that every fictional serial movie story always contains an attractive central hero-sidekick relationship in some form.

Yesterday the MSN Internet Search Site published their Top Ten List of the Greatest Sidekicks of All Time. Their choices ll derived from movies, television, radio, and (ever-s0-slightly) literature, but they were a fun exercise, even if you disagreed, as did I, with all their choices and their relative placement in order to each other:

MSN List of Top Ten  Sidekicks-Principals:

10. Chewbacca – Han Solo (from the movie “Star Wars”)

9. Kato – The Green Hornet (from radio, tv, & the movies)

8. Garth Algar – Wayne Campbell (from the “Wayne’s World” skit on Saturday Night Live, TV)

7. Tattoo – Mr. Roarke (from “Fantasy Island”, TV)

6. Dr. John Watson – Sherlock Holmes (from movies and literature)

5. Ethel Mertz – Lucy Ricardo (from TV’s “I Love Lucy”)

4. Robin – Batman (from comic books, radio, tv, and movies)

3. Ed Norton – Ralph Kramden (from TV’s “The Honeymooners”)

2. Deputy Barney Fife – Sheriff Andy Taylor (from TV’s “The Andy Griffith Show”)

1. Tonto – The Lone Ranger (from radio, tv, and the movies)

Billy Martin & Mickey Mantle: Who's sidekicking who?

I thought it would be kind of fun to open up this whole idea of sidekicks to pairings that go beyond simple human relationships and to come up with a list of My Top Ten Favorite Sidekick Pairings in Baseball. My list includes some flat out human matches, but it also takes in a few chemicals, substances, and conditions that are sometimes the sine qua non on total experience in one thing or another.

What I’m talking about should clear up as we go through the list:

10. Lou Gehrig – Babe Ruth. Great as he was, Lou Gehrig signed with the wrong club at the wrong time to be its leading man or major hero. As a junior teammate of The Bambino, Lou Gehrig was destined to do all of his great things from the sidekick seat in this Hall 0f Fame bound cycle.

9. Red Schoendienst – Stan Musial. Even his late career trade to Milwaukee failed to get the old redhead completely out of The Man’s shadow.

8. Billy Martin – Mickey Mantle. Who’s sidekicking who – or whom? Maybe I should have thrown in Whitey Ford and made it a three-way question.

7. Jack Daniels – Paul Waner. Paul Waner drank a lot, but he also hit safely a lot. He rounded first, heading for second, many a time with old Jack breath filling the air along his warpath. Paul Waner was not the only big league star that ever side-kicked his way into live action with assistance from Jack Daniels. He’s just the first guy that comes to my mind when I think of great players who succeeded in spite of themselves.

6. Peanuts – Cracker Jack. One sidekicks the other and they are both ballpark reasons why we fans don’t care if we ever get back.

5. Slippery Elm – Burleigh Grimes. As one of the spitball pitchers who got grandfathered into a lifetime pass on the new prohibitions against the use of saliva and other foreign substances on a baseball, I’ve always pictured Grimes walking to the mound with a pocketful of Slippery Elm bark and ready to snap at any young umpire who checked him out: “I’m Burleigh Grimes and I can do what I damn well please. Now just move along. I’ve got a ballgame to pitch.”

4. Mustard – Hot Dogs. (See #6 above. Mustard and hot dogs travel on the same level, They just aren’t mentioned in the game’s anthem.)

3. Change of Pace – Fastball. “Because, Mr. Fastball, you are absolutely nothing to fear without me!” – Change of Pace.

2. Absorbine Jr. – Athlete’s Foot. This one stands as an historic tribute to the kinds of clubhouse showers we had back in the day.

1. Bud Abbott & Lou Costello – Baseball. Who’s on First? These two funny guys became baseball’s ultimate sidekicks with their famous routine. They are priceless and ageless through their landmark contribution and they most likely will be the first voices you hear on your first visit inside the Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, NY.

Have a great Thursday, everybody!

Good Old APBA Baseball

January 12, 2011

 

The APBA Baseball View of Minute Maid Park.

 

APBA Baseball has been around as a board game since 1951. I bought my first game set from the company in June 1953. I know that to be true because APBA  still has a record of my purchase by mail from our home in Pecan Park. I was 15 years old and still quite involved in anything that pulled me closer to baseball on a 24/7 basis.

Hey! I’m still that way! I never got over it, I suppose, except for the enjoyable, but testosterone-driven dating experience of my middle to later adolescent and young adult years – and all the time and energy I spent working my way through three college degrees and getting started in private practice. Whenever I settled down to life domestically and professionally, I always came back to baseball – and in whatever forms it may have been available to me as a player, fan, reader, researcher, and writer.

APBA Baseball was always a part of the flow. As one of the game’s earliest, most consistently realistic baseball results games, I was able to play the old dice and board deciphering codes to replay whole major league seasons and arrive at outcomes in the standings and individual hitting, pitching, and fielding accomplishments that were statistically in line with whatever happened to the same teams and players in reality.

APBA developed football, hockey, and golf versions of their game over the years, but these held no interest for me – nor did the simpler game of Strat-o-Matic Baseball. In APBA, I trusted. It was all I needed. No more. And no less.

Sometime in the late 1980s, APBA made the quantum leap into computerizing their game. I never played the board and dice version again.

Today I have ballpark settings for every park in the big leagues that APBA manufactures, a number of season disks for some of the greatest seasons in baseball history, and one player disk that contains the data for every major league player from 1876 through 1996. (APBA stopped making this disk once they woke up to the fact that it was hurting sales of the season disks. WIth APBA’s draft and wizard features, it’s pretty easy to put together whole seasons, make up your own players, and even pit your homeboy Pecan Park Eagles club into a desperate World Series contest against the 1927 New York Yankees.

I prefer to play the straight real-team match-ups. In a recent replay I did of the 2005 World Series, I started with a rested Roy Oswalt pitching for the Astros in the cool night opener in Chicago. The Astros ended up winning the Series in seven games in a match that was far more alive, interesting, and satisfying to us Houston fans than the reality contest was back then.

In APBA, players are effected by injury and fatigue, as well as their handling by different style managers. Ballparks are home run friendly and alien, depending on where you play – and games without roofs can be effected by wind and rain out threats.

After each play, a great written narrative tells you what happened on the play. If you are playing the game as an active manager, you may have to make decisions about what batters do, or how fielders play, but games are never turned over to your personal dexterity as the determining factor in play outcomes. Players ar noted on the field and on the bases by a name-line, but there is no visual animation. The action part of the game has to take place in your own brain as you witness an outcome that is credible to what’s probable in reality.

Here’s a link to information on the APBA computer baseball game. There are many other sources available with a few Googles:

http://apba.stores.yahoo.net/miasprapbafo.html

APBA Baseball beats the heck out of Rogers Hornsby’s prescription for winter: “Stare out the window and wait for spring training.” Of course, old Rajah would never have played APBA on the computer. He’d be worried about it hurting his batting eye.

The Stupor Bowl – And Other Bad Ideas

January 11, 2011

If you "Win Ten" - where do wear #11?

After going into the Seattle Seahawks yesterday as sort of a built-in bad idea in pro sports (a losing-record team advancing to the playoffs as a first week home team), my mind immediately wandered into new and old, and mostly borrowed ideas we might introduce into our national bag of athletic cornucopia.

(1) Shorter, Better NBA Basketball Games. My cousin Jim Hunt spoke for a lot of fans a few years ago when he expressed his boredom with the NBA. “I can’t take it anymore,” Jim said. “Just watching each club shoot the lights out on their separate ways to 100 points and a game that would come down to whatever happened on the last play takes too much watching to hold my attention that long. My suggestion to the NBA is this simple: Shorten all games to two minutes of time and give each team 100 points from the start. Then play the only part of the game that most of us care to watch in the first place anyway as the whole enchilada and then move the crowd on by playing a number of double, triple, and quadruple headers on the same night under the new rules. That works for me – unless I get bored again.”

Maybe Cousin Jim has a bad idea. Maybe not.

(2) Winter MLB Season Mimics NFL Here’s another one that I like. Kill the baseball off-season by playing a 16-game, once-a-week contests schedule that mimics the NFL self-important emphasis on each game. Restrict the rosters to 14 players (8 starters, 1 extra catcher, 1 extra infielder, and 1 extra outfielder), plus 1 starting pitcher and 2 “back-up” pitchers.) Now the pitcher and each game take on all the same importance as an NFL QB and each regular contest in the NFL year.

By special arrangement between the NFL and MLB, allow each NFL team to sponsor and sign their own 14-player rosters and play the same weekly schedule as the Houston Baseball Texans, the Dallas Baseball Cowboys, etc, – following the same path and formula of NFL Football to a one-game MLB-NFL Baseball Super Bowl to be played on the Saturday preceding the Super Bowl.

Lame as it may be, I’ll take the blame for this one. It simply spilled over in my mind from years of watching the NFL and wishing that each game was baseball, instead. Then, one day, it dawned on me. With a little playful insanity put into motion, maybe we could make that happen, but would two organizational groups management groups and two different sport player unions support it? Maybe. There ought to be enough television, gate, and marketing money in the pot to make it appealing to somebody.

(3) The Stupor Bowl. By comparison to the two established sports culture rippers presented in our first two ideas, this one is simply a mild attempt to enlarge upon the NFL’s “on any given Sunday” tout that any club in the league is capable of beating any other – at least, once in a blue moon.

How about a game designed to check the truth of that expression? Every year, on the Sunday following the Super Bowl, let’s say we put the Super Bowl winner up against the one team in the league with the absolute worst record by some gradient formula in case of W-L record ties. Could the NFL’s established “best club” put their more celebrated victory, injury, and weariness behind them long enough to take on and defeat the rested “worst club” in the league? I don’t know, but it certainly beats the Pro Bowl as a game with appeal.

Call it the “Stupor Bowl” and let’s find out.

Seattle Sink-Hawks Suggest Need for Change

January 10, 2011

Seahawks Won NFC West with 7-9 losing Record.

Given the horrific events that unfolded in Tucson over the weekend, I almost feel guilty giving time and space here to an issue that absolutely trivializes any list of priorities that are most important to our American culture at this moment in time. I only go on with it in the belief that our need for relief from life’s uglier faces through sports is more important to our ongoing purge of personal and cultural demons than it is powerful as the creator of new mind-monsters through sports.

We could spend a month of Sundays on the previous thought, but let’s escape the opportunity and go straight to the trivial.

The NFL has beaten MLB and the NBA to the punch with this one, although I will not be surprised to learn that it has happened previously in professional basketball, given their all-encompassing playoff structure. I just have no knowledge of it happening elsewhere, until now.

The NFL finally has produced a “reward for losers” plan through the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks playoff ascendance as champions of the NFC Central Division and a first round home-based playoff game against a 10-6 Wild Card and reigning Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.

The Seahawks jumped on the opportunity like scavengers of dead fish on a rocky North American coastline, picking the Saints apart and moving on to a chance for a .500 season record with a second round playoff victory this coming weekend over the Bears in Chicago.

The question lingers: Do the Seahawks even deserve to be involved in the 2011 NFL Playoffs?

According to the current rules, they certainly do. They won their division – and there’s nothing in the rules that states that a club has to have a winning record. They simply have to be better than the other teams in their group. The Seahawks did all that was asked of them. Then they got to play a first round game against a wild card club with a superior record and they beat them fair and square.

What should the NFL do, if anything?

(1) Nothing. Let it be. The worst that could happen from here is that a losing team goes on against all odds on the road and wins their way to the Super Bowl and then pulls a supreme “Rocky” string and wins the big one too. America loves “Rocky” – and champions who end up winning even though they can no longer see how out of either eye.

(2) Change the Rules a Little Bit. Deny division winners with losing records to play any home games, unless the wild card team they are facing has a worse record. In this instance, that one rule change would have haf transferred the Seahawks-Saints game to New Orleans and the possibility of a different outcome with the Cajun “Who Dat?” crowd on hand.

(3) Change the Rules a Whole Lot. Remove the playoff spot from division winners who fail to finish the regular season with at least a .500 record. Transfer that sp0t to the next open non-divison winner with the best winning record that has yet to have won one of the other two wild card spots. In these unusual years, go with three wild cards, including the one that replaced the “loser division” representative.

That’s almost it on this one for me.

In the end, it’s still much adieu about nothing. And its far easier to contemplate than the latest crushing blow to civility in America that has now been inflicted upon all of us over the weekend in Arizona. I’m really getting fed up with all the small-minded people whose “perception is reality” grasps upon our current stream of socioeconomic fate includes shooting innocent people in service to some psychotic cause that only they each embrace in their twisted individual, but Internet political spam-fed minds.

Go Seattle. Go Rocky.

Steroid Sanctimony Bleeding on Bagwell

January 8, 2011

Jeff Bagwell May Have Muscled Way Out of Cooperstown.

I was disappointed that Jeff Bagwell got only 41.7% of the BBWA first ballot vote for the Hall of Fame. After all,  Jeff arrived for eligible voter consideration as the only first baseman in history with over 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases on his career resume. Maybe that’s not good enough for a first try admissions ticket, but he also did a few other things that should have drawn him objectively closer to the 75% that all candidates need for induction into baseball’s temple of highest honor. He also had an adjusted OPS rating of 130 or higher over 12 consecutive seasons. Bagwell and Lou Gehrig are the only first basemen in history to pull that off. Bagwell also stood alone as the only first baseman ever to produce a 30 homer, 30 stolen base season too – and he did that one twice. Thrown in the fact that he also put up six consecutive seasons of at least 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored and, for his career, that he drove in more than 1,500 runs and scored more than 1,500 runs.

Based on his honest, measurable numbers of meaningful baseball accomplishment, Jeff Bagwell deserved more votes than he got on his first HOF ballot. I have tried in the days that have passed to put this result aside as OK and not too ominous an omen for the future. Then I read an online article by Bernie Miklasz, a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I suggest you read it too:

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklaus/article_166ca6ea-6369-56ce-8b4d-dca2ba7d2eff.html

Miklasz makes some great points about the hypocrisy  of our baseball writer culture. Now, without admission, conviction, or clear evidence, the muscular achievers of the so-called steroid era are being shut out of the HOF for moral reasons (the HOF’s integrity clause) by the same group of people who cheered a few of them (notably McGwire) as the resurrection of baseball back in the late 1990s. Miklasz also duly notes that the HOF apparently was able in past years to overlook offenses of racism, vis-a-vis segregation, and past other drug abuse issues, (amphetamines, for example), to clear the way for induction of players who in other ways “may have” violated the so-called integrity clause.

Now comes Jeff Bagwell, unaccused by the Mitchell Commission or the peer likes of any Jose Canseco types – and what does he get? Here’s what 58.3% of the eligible voters of the Baseball Writers of America gave him: (1) Suspicion. (2) Conviction on Suspicion: The man’s never staged his own trial to clear himself. Plus, he had muscles at a time when having muscles was bad. (3) Inaction to Take: What do we do? How about nothing! Until Bagwell, or somebody, clears his name, let’s just sit back and treat Bagwell and a few others as though they never did anything of note in their baseball careers. Let Jeff Bagwell serve as the poster boy for all the great players to come that shall also be stained by  factors of physical, associative, or cultural inference in the shadows of the steroid era. Treat them as though they never existed.

If that happens, I say, “let there be a pox upon the houses of all voters who handle Jeff Bagwell and others in this manner.”

Mike Tyson’s Surprising First Love

January 7, 2011

Mike Tyson Set to Do Animal Planet Show on Pigeon-Raising.

Hobbies and first loves don’t always match the public personalities we assign to celebrities. Word’s out now that former crunching heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson is now getting ready to do a series of shows for the Animal Planet TV network on his first love interest, the art of pigeon-raising.

Tyson strongly disclaims that his childhood investment in pigeons was ever a hobby. ‘This ain’t no hobby,” Tyson protested yesterday  at the Television Critics Association’s winter meeting. ”It’s a cultural thing.”

Growing up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, Mike Tyson first became interested in the ubiquitous city-bird cave dwellers through his daily contact with the birds that swarmed around his apartment building. As an ancient pigeon-watcher myself, I was impressed to learn of Mike’s early ability to appreciate the individual differences that separate one pigeon from another. His comparisons of pigeons to people were “right on” in the Internet article I read a few moments ago. And they were hardly befitting the image of a man we all once saw as a general human bone crusher who viewed all other boxers as simply vertical human beings awaiting their deliverance by force to a horizontal plane.

Here’s the article link: http://msn.foxsports.com/boxing/story/Mike-Tyson-shares-love-of-pigeons-in-new-Animal-Planet-show-010611

Tyson says he’s looking for  couple of “dominant personalities” among his new pool of pigeons. He wants to breed his new personal group from their strength, I suppose. I’d like to know more about Tyson means here. Are the two dominant ones simply another way of saying that he will tae the last male and female standing – and build from there?

a red-eyed handsome man

I personally never got into raising any birds beyond parakeets as a kid, but I became very aware of the individual birds that lived in the various parts of Houston that I visited on a fairly regular basis. It took no special skill. You simply had to see and recall what was all around you.

From what I saw, Mike Tyson is right. Pigeons are much like people in their differences from each other. They differ in size, color, and personality. Only certain archetypical behaviors and traits unite them as one discernible specifies. In that regard, that back and forth, herky-jerky head movement is simply a biological pattern that pigeons share with all gait-walking avian creatures. Hopping birds neither have the head bop nor do they need it.

Houston pigeons (and I’m presuming here that our local varieties are not too different from those that live in New Orleans, for example) tend to be homebodies. They hang around certain limited areas of town, leaving other, more distant spaces to other families, broods, and or gangs.

Back in the 1950-ish times of multiple Prince’s Drive In locations around town, we had a few distinct birds working for the crumbs that fell (or were thrown from) car trays at each separate locations. Over time, I became convinced that the birds working Prince’s on SOuth Main at OST came to recognize my ’51 Olds as one of those cars that spilled or discarded food with great abundance. I seemed to draw a crowd as quickly as I got there.

And when I got there, there they would be: “Mr. Chocolate Wing” and “Miss Vanilla Head” (among others) would bop out there to greet me and start that familiar cooing sound – their endless cry for food. Now where do they go, now that we’ve boarded up those old easy food stops?

Easy answers: The birds go wherever we go. Pigeons now patrol our new fast food joints and grocery stores, living in those convenient crawl spaces that we have built into our freeway system for their convenience.

But are the birds a potential health hazard? Yes, but probably no more so now than ever, and certainly not as dangerous as horses once were when dried horse manure from dirt streets floated into all our lungs.

One thing you don’t want to do is live too close to a pigeon roost. When I worked for Tulane University a few thousand years ago, a flock of pigeons moved into my apartment building and set up a nest right outside my bedroom window. Before I even knew what had hit me, I was struck with an infestation of pigeon mites that were hell to feel as they crawled all over my body and even harder to exterminate. Getting the birds to go away and stay away was job one for the relief of all residents in the building.

Almost needless to say, any lingering childhood desires of my own to raise pigeons died completely in New Orleans.

Those Old Time Kid Movie Saturdays

January 4, 2011

At age 5 in 1943, I discovered Batman at the Studewood Theatre in the Heights.

It wasn’t the greatest job of acting, costume design, plot line, or driving literary narrative ever put up there on the big silver screen, but for me, at age 5 in 1943, the movie serial “Batman” was just about all I could think about for the twelve weeks it ran every weekend as a cliffhanging, ongoing story at the old Studewood Theatre in the Heights. In an oh so different day and time, millions of American kids my age and older were allowed to leave home alone every Saturday and make it over to our neighborhood theaters for a double feature, cartoon, and serial. We would be gone three to four hours on our own each Saturday – and nobody had to worry about us getting abducted or killed in the process. If we could negotiate crossing a few busy streets without getting hit by a car, we were going to be OK.

I had about a six block walk from our little house on Fugate Street to the Studewood Theatre on Studewood Avenue in Houston. It was no big deal. And I would not have missed “Batman” for anything, as long as my folks would spring for the nine cent movie ticket and extra dime for pop corn and coke. And I was so smitten by the benevolent power of Batman that I could hardly stand the thought of all those things the bad guys tried to do to kill him.

"HOLY BAMBOOZLEMENT, BATMAN! DO YOU REALLY THINK THE KIDS WILL BELIEVE US IF WE KEEP MAKING MOVIES IN THESE CRAPPY COSTUMES?"

We believed in Batman – no matter how corny he looks today by comparison to what Hollywood has done to generate a stronger, more virile attire for this great fighter for truth and justice over the years that have since followed 1943. Back then, all I had to do was spot that Batman logo on the outside movie poster slot to start melting under the power of the cape crusader who awaited us all inside the movie house.

For me, Batman was just the highly emotional start of a long string of Saturday movie heroes and villains that would parade before my eyes each week through the 1940s and into the early 1950s. After Batman, the rest came my way via the Avalon Theatre on 75th near Lawndale in the Houston East End. Our family move to Pecan Park in 1945 simply did a relocation job on the same kind of experience that had started for me personally at “The Stude.”

Over the years, my favorite serials included: The Purple Monster Strikes, The Crimson Ghost, King of the Rocket Men, King of the Forest Rangers, The Daughter of Don Q, The Phantom Rider, and a second Batman serial that wasn’t nearly as powerful to me as the first one of years earlier.

On these Saturday movie excursions, we also got a western each week, featuring stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, but also including lesser known heroes like Eddie Dean, Lash LaRue, Sunset Carson, Rod Cameron, Allan “Rocky” Lane, Wild Bill Elliott, Bob Steele, Jimmy Wakely, Tim Holt, The Cisco Kid, Zorro, Tito Guizar, Joel McCrea, and Randolph Scott.

Along with the westerns, we would also get a comedy or detective movie starring people like Boston Blackie, Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, Abbott and Costello, The Bowery Boys, and a host of others whose names no longer ring any bells – not even with me. Throw in Bugs Bunny and we were looking at one quarter spent for the best entertainment package a kid ever bought at the movies for admission, pop corn, and a coke.

As I’m often given to say in declarative form: Those were the days, my friends!

College Football Playoffs: A Very Simple Model

January 2, 2011

Dem Frogs Made All the Cockroaches Proud!

First of all congratulations to the TCU Horned Frogs of 2010 for once more fulfilling the ancient warnings of former UT Coach Darrell Royal; “Like cockroaches, it’s not what the Horned Frogs come in and haul away that hurts, it’s what they fall into and mess up that causes all the pain.”

Yesterday the Frogs of TCU fell into the “Granddaddy of ‘Em All,” the Rose Bowl and messed it up for Mighty Wisconsin, the Big Ten, and all other supporters of the big time power school football system that stands in the way of all little guy schools from ever having anything more than the once-in-a-purple-moon chance at winning big that fell to little TCU on the first day of 2011. The system still succeeded in keeping TCU away from the main banquet hall and the so-called national championship game. Those exclusive seats were reserved for two of the undefeated good old boys of Auburn and Oregon at a site and date down the road.

It’s time for taking the bowl setup and converting it away from the total snoozer they’ve ll become and reinvesting a few games with the fervor of a playoff. Here’s a simple model for doing a 16-club playoff, using the best paying bowls as the way to get there. For models, I am using the 16 top rated BCS clubs from 2010 and this past month’s calendar to set the thing up. The leftover bowls can simply fill their dance cards with all the “bowl eligible” 6-6 clubs they can dig up. They will be no worse off under this new plan than they were under the dull and deadly system in place now.

Round One: Friday & Saturday, December 17-18, 2010:

Friday, Dec. 17

(1) Insight Bowl, Tempe, AZ ($3.25m) #1 Auburn vs. #16 Alabama (Bama gets a second chance)

(3) Holiday Bowl, San Diego, CA ($2.075m) #3 TCU vs. #14 Oklahoma State

(5) Pinstripe Bowl, New York, NY ($2.00m) #5 WIsconsin vs. #12 Missouri

(7) Chick-fil-A Bowl, Atlanta, GA (3.35m)  #7 Oklahoma vs. #10 Boise State

Saturday, Dec, 18

(2) Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, TX ($3.125m) #2 Oregon vs. #15 Nevada

(4) Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, FL ($2.225m) #4 Stanford vs. #13 Virginia Tech

(6) Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX ($2.05m) # 6 Ohio State vs. #11 LSU

(8) Outback Bowl, Tampa, FL ($3.4m) #8 Arkansas vs. #9 Michigan State

Round Two, Friday & Saturday, December 24, 25:

The surviving eight clubs play each other down to the four who will meet in two major bowls on New Years Day, 2011.

Round Three, Saturday, January 1, 2011:

These two bowls will determine our two finalists.

Round Four, Saturday, January 8, 2011:

The National NCAA Football Championship Game.

Notes: Don’t get hung up on the payoffs listed above or the actual dates of play. The schedule could be adjusted to accommodate equitable payoffs and rotating participation by bowls that ante up from year to year – and the schedule of games could be worked away from Christmas the NFL as much as possible. The point of this exercise is simply to show that a playoff system is workable. Teams that win have to play more games, but, of course, they get a bigger payday for winning than they do now. Pro rata pay to other NCAA schools could also be included as another incentive for general support.

Bottom Line: We could have a system that generates interest – and not just a regeneration of power and money for the few who now control college football with the BCS and traditional bowl game set up.

What’s your preference? Change? Or the status quo?

The College Football Bowl System Sucks Big Time

January 1, 2011

The Cotton, Orange, Rose, and Sugar once meant everything on January 1st!

Years ago, before we knew any better, New Years Day meant the coming of college football’s “Big Four” bowl games, the contests that would pretty much help those lucky elitists with a vote pick the next national champions of college football, based on the results of whatever happened on New Years Day. Well through the 1950s and early 1960s, we were all a lot younger and far more naive about these things – and the television network-corporate sponsor money had yet to take over the major bowls and to proliferate, mutate, and water down the significance of bowls to the point of making sure we had at least one game on the tube every evening for nearly two-thirds of all the days in December leading up to New Years Day.

We had to have a bowl game for every brand of corn chip, car company, and insurance giant in the nation. It didn’t matter a rat’s ankle that few beyond the parents of the players involved cared about the outcome of these games, all a college needed to get into one of these bowls was a group of fans who “traveled well” and a “bowl eligible” regular season record that contained, at least, an even number of wins and losses on the game outcome tally sheet.

Who could ask for anything more?

From about 1970 through 2010, the new system brokers have been readjusting the significance of these bowl games with the infusion of new power and big money as the corporate payoffs to the most desirable colleges (those with the biggest free-spending travel alums and largest dent-makers in the home television shares market following.)

Bigger money bumped the Cotton down a few notches, replacing it with the Fiesta as the new “Big Four” companion to the Rose, Sugar, and Orange. A new system also came into play for making the computer a participant in picking the two most likely candidates for participation in a post-season national championship game. This Bowl Championship Series (BCS) set-up even found a way to throw a rope around the wealth so that the annual big game rotated annually from of the “Big Four” bowls to another – while also making sure that all the power schools had the best chances of getting selected every time.

Once in a while, a TCU or Boise State comes along and is welcomed by the BCS crowd with all the enthusiasm of a River Oaks host for a couple of cockroaches at a dinner party. In this case, it isn’t politically correct for the BCS hosts to call Orkin. All they can do is try to place the intruder at a dinner table where he is most likely to get smashed by the other invited guest. Today, January 1, 2011, the TCU cockroach is seated at the Rose Bowl, right across the table from Wisconsin. – Darrell Royal of UT tried to warn the world about TCU years ago. Now, here they are again – about to fall into the BCS-Rose bowl and maybe mess things up for one of those fine old monster-size Big Ten schools.

TCU-Wisconsin will likely be the only bowl game i watch. All others, including the Cam Newton-Auburn Anointment Bowl that’s set for about a week from now against Oregon have no interest for me. All these meaningless games just suck for wont of any real competitive goal connected to winning.

Hey, Deafened Ears in the Halls of Corporate Television Power, do you have to lose your entire audience before you see the rich valley of genuine opportunity that you’re missing? Before it’s too late, overhaul the bowl game system into either a 16 or 8 team playoff system that culminates in a truer national championship game. – Skip the elitist exclusion of schools like TCU and UH. Make it so that winning gets you a chance to be voted high enough in the poll to be included in the playoff mix.

Whatever you come up with will never be perfect, but it will be a damn sight better than this boring mess that now passes for the dud-filled icing on the college football cake.