Sunday, December 23, 2007

Peace on earth, goodwill to men ...



Or something close. We established detente and didn't even have to call in Kissinger!


Cara and I are having a lovely time trying to get the kids to all get along. Nano (the chihuahua) loves visiting and Freddy and Willow have accepted him about as well as we could expect.



Rani (the Persian), on the other hand, has had a tougher time. She's a cat, so that complicates matters. Also, Cara thinks she's about two years old, and she's very friendly and rambunctious. Sometimes too much for Willow and Freddy to handle.

This was Freddy's initial reaction to Rani's first visit ... and her second, at least for the first day:



The situation has improved dramatically, however. They're all giving each other room.
So from Nano and the rest of us, Merry Christmas to all! Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Henderson fixes the BCS (again)

Well, they didn't listen to me four years ago (yikes, has that much time passed?). But since the powers that determine these things didn't act when they had the chance back then, I'll take another stab at it.

Version 2.0 of the plan is an eight-team playoff incorporating the existing BCS bowls -- Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta -- and three other games played in Atlanta, Jacksonville, and San Diego. (If you must, continue to call the games the Peach, Gator and Holiday. Whatever.) This way you have seven sites that are either indoors or in locations that aren't likely to be ruined by bad weather.

The pecking order of the games would rotate annually, so each city would host the national championship game once every seven years. The first round would be played on consecutive nights on or about Christmas weekend, with no games on Christmas Day. Most years, two games would be played on Saturday. In 2007, as an example, the first round would be played on Friday the 21st, Saturday the 22nd and Sunday the 23rd.

The winners would advance to the second round, played on New Year's Day or New Year's Eve if NYD is on a Sunday. (No conflicts with the NFL.) The championship game would be played at least five days after the semifinals on a Saturday or Sunday night.

The genius of this plan, Wile E., is that the six existing BCS conferences would continue to send their champions to the tournament. So the regular season would retain its importance. And I'd allow a Utah-rule concession to the non-BCS conferences. Like the current system, any non-BCS team that finishes the regular season in the top 12 automatically gets in. The trade-off is that the two at-large bids could come from the same conference, so one conference could place three teams in the playoffs. Depending on what happens this weekend, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma could all reach this year's playoffs.

The teams would be seeded, so #8 would play #1, etc. And the traditional conference/bowl pairings would be honored whenever possible. Seedings would trump traditional bowl pairings, however. So if USC wins the Pac 10 it might not play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl if, say, OSU were ranked #1; OSU would play the #8 team, whoever that was.

Here's how it would work this season (assuming no upsets this week -- yes, that's a major assumption): #1 Missouri would host Hawaii (currently ranked #12) in the Fiesta Bowl. #2 West Virginia would host USC (Pac 10 champs) in the Orange Bowl. #3 Ohio State would host Virginia Tech (ACC champs and #6) in the Rose Bowl. And LSU (SEC champs but #5 in the rankings) would host Georgia (#4) in the Sugar Bowl. Conference champions still get home field advantage, for what it's worth.

Next week, the winners would play in the semifinals -- for the sake of argument, in Atlanta and Jacksonville. Those winners would play for the non-mythical National Championship in San Diego on Sunday, Jan. 6.

So what's not to like? Teams would still play on New Year's Day, even if no playoff games are that day -- the Cotton Bowl and the Capital One Bowl would keep their dates.

OK, under this plan, #7 Kansas gets screwed by the Utah rule. And the pairings could change dramatically if we have an upset or two this weekend.

As they say, that's why they play the games.

Complicated enough for ya? Just think what would happen if West Virginia and Missouri lose on Saturday. Ohio State and Georgia -- a team that didn't win its conference title -- for the National Championship? Oh, the humanity.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Paso Robles Harvest Tour 2007

This was my first time traveling with the wonderful new lady in my life, Cara, so I focused on enjoying the company and the scenery. Unlike earlier years, I didn't try to cram as many tasting rooms as possible in each day. So we had a lovely time with friends Arthur and Judy on Saturday and Mike and Lisa (and their kids) on Sunday.

Readers of Mike's excellent Wine Commonsewer blog may recall that last year I ragged on Paso wineries for drinking the high-alcohol Kool-Aid (if that metaphor makes any sense) and for jacking up their prices. This year we found fewer alcohol bombs and the prices seem to have stabilized. Very enjoyable wines but few screaming bargains. With few exceptions, expect to pay $18 - $28 for good Paso wines.


New places we liked: Whalebone Vineyard. The BOB wines are excellent blends. And Bob makes a tasty steak slider.

Silver Horse, vines shown below. It's new to us -- they've been around for awhile, but it's the first time I've visited. Excellent Malbec. The Big Easy (mostly Temperanillo and Granache) is lovely.

Another place we'll keep an eye on is Sculpterra, which opened the day before we arrived and had only three of its nine wines available for tasting. I hope the wines live up to the surroundings, because the owners have placed an impressive and striking sculpture garden on the grounds. It's in the middle of nowhere, but it promises to be a destination site over time.


Here's Saturday's motley crew:


And Arthur and Judy. I think Arthur has a little Captain in him.
Of course we visited Dover Canyon, where the 2006 Cujo Zinfandel is outstanding. (No surprise there; I like everything Dan and Mary produce, and the Cujo, when they make it, is always a treat.)

Robert Hall again did fine work. Their Rhone de Robles Rhone blend was a hit, both at the tasting room and at dinner Sunday night. Less than $15 a bottle retail. Quite a buy.

Didn't visit Caparone, but I'm still a big fan and a wine club member. We had a 2003 Aglianico last night with baked catfish in a lemon garlic marinade. I decanted the wine (because the Caparones say you could cellar it for up to 25 years) and it was terrific. Plus, it's about $12 a bottle. Great stuff. They produce the best values in the area. Just be sure to let the wines open up before drinking.

And of course we checked out the elephant seals at San Simeon. After traveling to the Cambria/Paso Robles area at least once a year for nearly a decade, I didn't discover the seals until 2005. Now I can't get enough of them. Wonderful shot by Cara.



The weather was perfect, the company outstanding, and the wine delightful. What more could you want? Oh yeah, a few more days to enjoy the place.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

GM, part two

Actually, this is more about the Braves' new GM, Frank Wren, who made waves within hours of the end of the World Series by trading SS Edgar Renteria to the Tigers for two prospects with a lot of upside, RHP Jair Jurrjens and OF Gorkys Hernandez.

As a Braves fan (since the late 60s) it's a fascinating move. The deal that brought Renteria to Atlanta was a classic John Schuerholz move -- swap a minor league stud prospect (Andy Marte) for a major league veteran who didn't work out for his current team (and even better, get the other team to pay part of the vet's salary!). Renteria played All Star caliber shortstop for two seasons and was by all accounts a terrific teammate. Andy Marte wound up in Cleveland where he's going from prospect to suspect. (This is also emblematic of Schuerholz's tenure -- he ate other GMs' lunch.)

Edgar is now in Detroit, where he will rejoin Jim Leyland, his manager from the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins, and may well play against his Atlanta mates in another World Series. Detroit gives up a 21-y.o. pitcher who could be in the rotation next year and a dazzling young OF. It's a nice story for everyone. Before the trade, the Braves had three middle infielders, not two, and a big hole in the rotation and a need to cut salary. Problem solved?

The deal also marks a big departure from the SOP under Schuerholz's tenure. I can't remember JS ever trading a veteran exclusively for minor league prospects. He treated minor leaguers as either a) potential Braves or b) trade material to be packaged to other clubs for their veteran players. The last big trade Atlanta made for another team's top prospect was in 1987, Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz (also with the Tigers) and Bobby Cox was the GM.

I have no idea if this is an indication of Wren's preferences but even if it isn't, he certainly promises to be an unpredictable successor to "homeboy."

I like it, simply because it was such a surprising move. And considering the reaction of the Detroit faithful ("No! Not Jurrjens!") to the trade, in the long run the Braves may have scored again, big time.
GM for a day

I hopped on the Rockies bandwagon fairly late, but couldn't resist -- it's great to have a young and successful team in your hometown. And unlike many clubs that reach the World Series, the Rox roster is not filled with mid-career or aging veterans who will demand a lot more money for next year or leave. Even better, the team has depth at a number of positions (making trades possible to fill gaps) and prospects who may be major league ready next year.

So here's my advice to Dan O'Dowd: Choose the young players you keep wisely. Your future includes Holliday, Tulowitzski, Corpas, Morales, Jimenez. Lock up Holliday with a deal like the Mets paid to Jose Reyes and David Wright and buy out his first few years of free agency (OK, not quite that lucrative, but certainly generous).

Garrett Atkins, Willy Taveras and Brian Fuentes? Probably not. Those three will get higher salaries in arbitration but they can be replaced with guys you now have. In fact, they need to go now while their trade value is highest, coming off a World Series season. Atkins has pop in his bat and good hands but little range. Fuentes needs a change of scenery and always looked hittable to me (though he's a two-time All-Star). Taveras? He can bunt and steal and cover lots of ground in center field. But he walked 21 times this year. That's pathetic for a leadoff man.

Here's a nice summary of the season and potential personnel moves from today's Rocky. It also suggests what the potential free agents might expect from O'Dowd et al.

I say re-sign Kaz and Affeldt -- leave Kaz in the leadoff spot and make Affeldt your 8th inning guy. Give Ian Stewart the third base job. Ryan Spilborghs and Cory Sullivan performed well as a CF platoon when Taveras was hurt -- in fact, they were in the lineup during the amazing 21 for 22 stretch, not Willy -- and they would make a fine, low-priced, full-time alternative to the speedy but otherwise offensively worthless Taveras.

Oh yeah, and Aaron Cook's performance in Game 4 of the series means that the Rockies just found their #2 starter for next season. And he's available for $4.5 million, which is peanuts in today's market.

I look for the Dodgers and Padres to shake things up a lot this winter, and the DBacks will slip, but not much. Still, the Rockies are in great shape for '08, if the front office is smart.

UPDATE: I forgot Torrealba. Yes, re-sign him. He worked well with the young pitchers, played fine offensively, and will demand much less than any FA on the market.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wine blogging

The co-proprietor of my favorite winery, Dover Canyon, earn a nice write-up in Business Week. Mary's blog has been on my roll for awhile, and it's always worth a look. Glad it's getting more notice.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Michael Vick should never play football again

Not in this country, anyway. At least not for money. (OK, I realize I haven't posted in more than a month. Time flies, etc., etc.)

If Roger "Mr. Clean" Goodell wants his get-tough rhetoric to be taken seriously, Vick needs to be banished for life.

Why? If Vick is innocent, or is guilty of no more than letting a bunch of unsavory dudes run a criminal enterprise on his property without his knowledge or consent, then he has to go to trial and fight the allegations with every weapon at his deep-pocketed disposal.

If instead he pleads, then he admits he participated in some way. And he's unworthy of ever playing a professional sport again. (Yes, I know he can join the WWE, but that's another story.)

Nobody, not even No. 7, has a right to be a professional athlete. Once he has sullied the game, he can be kicked out of the league. AFAIK there are morals and "best interests of the sport" provisions in the standard contract. So any admission of guilt in this case amounts to an admission that he violated the morals clause.

So he's out. Or he should be. And if he isn't, the NFL and whatever depraved owner signs him deserves all the derision it will get.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's free, I tells ya ...

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is no Howard Roark, but he sure makes Michael Moore look like Ellsworth Toohey in this exchange on ... Larry King Live!

Hello!

A snippet:

GUPTA: No. Let me -- you would have to agree that people would walk away from your film with the perception that health care is free in Canada.

MOORE: Yes.

GUPTA: I mean you're a filmmaker.

MOORE: It is free.

GUPTA: You know how to do this sort of thing.

MOORE: It is free.

GUPTA: You pay for it through taxes --

MOORE: It is free.

Moore's not that dense. Nor is he delusional. He's just plain dishonest. In case you didn't know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oh, the humanity

Jennifer Rosen, the Rocky's always-entertaining wine columnist, highlights the most recent sign of the apocalypse: the pending shortage of sommeliers.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I ate a hot dog/It tasted real good/And then I watched a movie from Hollywood ...

Cheepnis is back! Not the Frank Zappa song (or Zappa, for that matter), but the folks who brought you Mystery Science Theater 3000!

Mike Nelson (Mike), Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo #2, Professor Bobo) and Bill Corbett (Crow #2, Brain Guy) are reincarnated as The Film Crew. Looks like they'll be doing what they did on MST3K, just without the costumes and robots and silhouettes. "Beverage-through-the-nose funny," Kevin puts it.

OK. I'll bite. You can see samples of their new work at the Web site. ("Hollywood after dark? Looks more like Barstow after breakfast!") Then buy the DVDs from the site. If they're as sharp as they used to be, I'll let you know.

BTW, if you got all MST about the old show, you can get some of the episodes from Rhino Home Video and the rest from Michael Slusher at Cheepnis.com. Michael sells fine-quality DVDs of the old shows he duped from tape plus lots of other oddities for very reasonable prices. I taped many of the episodes, but the tapes have deteriorated over the years. So I bought a bunch of discs from Michael to replace some faves that wouldn't copy to DVD on my recorder. I give his operation two thumbs WAY up.

More than happy to recommend particular episodes for anyone who's interested ...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Radio is good in Denver

It's the birthplace of the Jack-FM franchise. But the best news for oddball music fans like me is KCUV-FM 102.3. It's a 6,000-watt station in Greenwood Village that speaks to me. Where else will you hear the sorta standard AAA-classic rock tunes alongside Ry Cooder and Dave Brubeck and NRBQ? And Buddy Miller and Waylon and Lucinda and Richard Thompson and it keeps going. Today they played a song by Robert Gordon ... the Human Elvis Decanter! I've heard Blasters songs I'd forgotten about. And Gatemouth Brown's original "Okie Dokie Stomp." The 1950 recording.

There are a few dogs here and there, but I'm entranced. Check out the playlist.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Merlefest 20



That's Doc Watson, still going strong at 86.

I've been to a bunch of music festivals in my life, and I have to say that my first visit to Merlefest, held in my hometown of Wilkesboro, N.C., was my favorite. The festival's a tribute to Merle Watson, and a whole bunch of very talented people go there to honor Merle and of course Doc.

It was great to see family and friends over the weekend, and the music was exceptional.

Somehow those Wilkes Countians accommodate more than 80,000 attendees over the course of the weekend, and do a fine job of it. There were 13 stages this year; I saw people perform at 10 of them. Here are a few more photos of some of the acts I saw.





Elvis Costello (that's right) with Byron House and Larry Campbell






From Winnipeg, the delightful Duhks with (second from right) John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin(!) on mandolin





Allison Krauss with the amazing Tony Rice (first saw him in Chapel Hill with David Grisman about 30 years ago ...)





Bela Fleck and Sam Bush (who've been at all 20 Merlefests) with Byron House, Jerry Douglas and Tony Rice; Sam's band played "Whole Lotta Love" with Byron doing a doggone good Robert Plant impression





My new favorite Americana artist Jim Lauderdale autographs my niece Melony's t-shirt



Everything was well-organized; the sound was excellent, and the grounds easy to move about.

I'll be back next year, I hope.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mr. Wright, meet Professor Buchanan







Or, public choice theory meets the NBA draft

Tar Heel fans nervously await the decision by freshman forward Brandan Wright. Will he leave this year for the NBA? This Raleigh writer thinks he might want to stay and improve his position in the draft.

After all, why would NBA general managers salivate over a 205-lb power forward who misses about half his free throws, is a middling post defender and has a shooting range of about 8 feet?

Blame the NBA, which tried to change human nature by 1) setting a salary structure for rookies for at least their first three if not five years in the pros and then 2) requiring them to stay out of the draft for at least one year out of high school.

The rookie cap is the bigger problem. Once upon a time, college and high school players could let teams bid for their services on the open market. Underclassmen who were on the edge of the lottery could make a lot more money early in their careers if they returned to school and improved their skills, and became more valuable to NBA teams. (As Len Elmore, who has been a player and agent has said, you don't get any better fundamentally once you leave college.)

Wright is a pretty sure bet to be a solid NBA player. So why not go pro now, when he'd not make much more money (or might indeed earn less over his career) if he stayed in school?

NBA teams would still try to lure guys like Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard right out of high school. Brandan Wright? Maybe not.

Now, there's actually a penalty for staying in college. Since a player's salary is based on where he goes in the draft, rookies have their salaries pretty much set for their first five years in the league. Every year in school is one less year he can't cash in at the pro level. So if you might be picked fourth (like Wright) but actually go 10th, you're forgoing maybe $5 million at first. By his 24th birthday, however, he would be an unrestricted free agent. By staying in school, he's losing one year of earning power as a pro. And face it, making $11.6 million now as even the 10th pick in the draft ain't exactly monopoly money.

The perverse consequence of setting a rookie salary cap is that the NBA makes it more likely that kids will turn pro at their earliest convenience. The marginal cost of staying in school is millions of forgone dollars.

The only way to fix this is to dump the rookie payscale, and return to the days when it really was a gamble to go pro early.

Meantime, I hope Brandan returns. But I'd be shocked if he does.

UPDATE: He's gone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's good to be the king

Or maybe not.

Hat tip: H.L. Monkey.
You Are 45% Left Brained, 55% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.


I dunno. I have no artistic talents, I prefer cats, I'm not much of a risk-taker ... but I do like sports. And day-dreaming. Where was I?

Hat tip: Virginia.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Close feline call

Slight panic when I heard that a new cat food was added to the recall list -- Dick Van Patten's (yes, that Dick Van Patten's) Natural Balance Green Pea and Venison dry food. The Amazing Willow is allergic to most normal proteins -- poultry, fish, lamb. So I've had to find "exotics" for her or her face and ears break out in a rash. The DVP worked well for awhile, but she grew allergic to that, too ... months before the stuff was tainted, thank goodness. Now she's eating the most expensive food imaginable. Hill's Prescription Diet z/d, which is reportedly made from kangaroo meat. At least she's pretty healthy otherwise.



Update: And as you can see, very relaxed!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

The merger

So XM and Sirius intend to hook up. I dunno.

Plenty of analysts have been saying this should have happened long ago. Since I used to listed to Sirius when I was a Dish Network customer and have subscribed to XM since the end of 2002, I appreciated having both around.

The corporate press release does suggest that if regulators don't balk at the deal, the new satellite provider will offer "a la carte" programming. That's good.

Of course, there is the problem of providing feeds through proprietary hardware, and how long-term subscribers will be handled. Like me. I signed up for three years in 2006 so my monthly fee would not exceed $10. The worry now, of course, is that with no competition, the battle to provide a variety of receivers at ever-shrinking prices will end. And that programming alternatives might dwindle over time.

Guess we'll see. At least I have a couple more years paid up to decide whether to stick with it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Yes, this is a wonderful time to be a college hoops fan, but ...

.. the four best words in the English language remain pitchers and catchers report.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Say it! Say it!

The Wall Street Journal's John Fund gives a glowing review of the new book Radicals for Capitalism, by my former colleague Brian Doherty, without mentioning once -- once! -- that Brian has spent the past decade as an editor at Reason magazine (where several of Fund's articles have appeared, by the way). Could that be because the Journal has always ridiculed the magazine's stance on the drug war? Or that Reason and most of its editors have consistently oppopsed the war in Iraq, while the Journal has been one of its most ardent supporters? Whatever.

The silence is stunning, given the mag's prominence and the longstanding ties it and the Reason Foundation have with the Journal's commentary section. "If we don't mention it, it doesn't exist"?

I'm not on the same page as it were with the magazine on every issue, but still I look forward to reading it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The tragic tale of Josh McSoberts



Sorry, can't help myself ...

Though the last I heard, there's NO CRYING IN BASKETBALL!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If the Giants had any cojones ...

They'd tell Barry Bonds to take a hike. But they don't, and they won't, and a once-legendary franchise will sink further into depravity.
Don't mess with Mii-ammy

Dave Barry takes a gratuitous shot at my new hometown and reminds me why I miss his weekly column so much.

UPDATE: At least their basketball team sucks.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Welcome to Heimlich County



The best animated show on TV -- maybe the best comedy, period -- opens its final season on Fox tonight. Check your local listings. You won't be disappointed, I tell you what.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Charlie Lane




Remember him? (If not, you're too young to be reading this site. Go to bed.)

He's 102(!) today. Best wishes to him, and others:


Actor Charles Lane is 102. Actress Anne Jeffreys is 84. Actor Paul Newman is 82. Actress Joan Leslie is 82. Cartoonist Jules Feiffer is 78. Sportscaster-actor Bob Uecker is 72. Actor Scott Glenn is 68. Singer Jean Knight is 64. Activist Angela Davis is 63. Rock musician Corky Laing (Mountain) is 59. Actor David Strathairn is 58. Singer Lucinda Williams is 54. Rock singer-musician Eddie Van Halen is 52. Reggae musician Norman Hassan (UB40) is 49. Actress-comedian Ellen DeGeneres is 49. Hockey star Wayne Gretzky is 46. Musician Andrew Ridgeley is 44. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jazzie B. (Soul II Soul) is 44. Actor Paul Johansson is 43. Gospel singer Kirk Franklin is 37. Actress Jennifer Crystal is 34. Rock musician Chris Hesse (Hoobastank) is 33. Actress Sarah Rue is 29. Country musician Michael Martin (Marshall Dyllon) is 24.


Paul Newman. Bob Uecker. Corky Laing! Lucinda Williams (cool). Eddie Van Halen. The Great One. And me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Shameless self-promotion

I made my debut as a food critic in the Rocky today, sampling a neat little place near LoDo. If you're stumbling around there late night and need a protein/carb infusion, the buffet's open midnight-3 Friday and Saturdays.

This will not become a regular gig, but it's fun.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A drinking game for SOTU

Every time Bush says something that violates free-market principles, take a shot. Bet you'll be out cold by the 10th paragraph.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My favorite winery hits the big 1-0

Mary Baker reports that she and Dan Panico are celebrating the 10th anniversary as owners of Dover Canyon Winery in Paso Robles. Congratulations!

We discovered Dover Canyon in 1998 at Paso's first October Harvest Tour and immediately singled it out as a favorite. Over the years, Mary and Dan have purchased a vineyard and moved to a more remote location on Vineyard Drive (with almond trees, which friend Arthur King loves to forage around when we're there). They make wonderful wines and are terrific hosts and great people.

I wrote a bit about Paso wines in general and praised Dover Canyon in particular here.

If you decide to not click through, however (how dare you?), here's the big news: Mary says

Our limited production will require us to start a waiting list this year. We still pack our own wine clubs, without the use of a wine club service. As many members can attest, if you tell me your last name, I will remember your first name. All of our wine club membership applications, changes, requests, and order fulfillment are handled by the owners.


So what are you waiting for? If you enjoy luscious zins and rich Rhone varietals at reasonable prices, order some soon!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sometime in February, I'll be convinced that "This is our country," too

I suppose folks got tired of Bob Seger at some point as well.

Here's a great trivia item for you: Which L.A.-based band competed with Seger for the Chevy endorsement in the '80s (and eventually lost)? Here's the answer, and the song was the title of a live CD put out in this decade. They remain one of the best live acts ever. BTW, I can find nothing online referring to the Chevy commercial, but I damn sure heard it at the time.

Meantime, check out John Mellencamp's latest composition.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why the BCS is here to stay (and why it's not the end of the world if it does)

The Fiesta Bowl may wind up being the most exciting college football game I'll ever watch on TV. (I've actually seen a couple of heart-stoppers in person, including Joe Montana's first comeback victory, when he came off the bench to throw three TD passes and lead Notre Dame to a 21-14 win vs. Carolina.)

But the Boise State-Oklahoma game was a sheer delight, especially the final minutes of regulation plus the overtime. All of which has reinforced the hyperventilation among sportwriters, talk-radio hosts and rabid fans to shriek at the injustice of the BCS.

Sorry, folks. The BCS is going nowhere. And perhaps it shouldn't. It's all a matter of incentives.

Everybody has a way to fix the BCS. Even I drew up my own scheme three years ago.

But the evil genius who dreamt up the current arrangement has made it nearly impossible to move to a playoff, even if that's what the fans want.

First, there's no way to get a groundswell of support to scrap the BCS. The latest version of the Notre Dame rule gives ND and non-BCS schools a huge incentive to back the current system. Just about any season the Irish win at least 8 games, they have a shot to play in January. And every couple of years, some "mid-major" team -- Utah, Boise, TCU, Air Force, BYU -- could run the table and play for big bucks on prime-time network TV.

There are only four or five programs that would clearly benefit from a playoff: Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, USC and maybe Cal. Why? They're consistent powerhouses that play in conferences that don't host championship games. (The Big East doesn't either, but no school there is a lock to win 11 or 12 games a year against a killer schedule. West Virginia might qualify eventually, but not right away.)

The three other BCS conferences decide their champions on the field, which again builds a constituency to shun a playoff. The only way Wake Forest made the Orange Bowl was to win the ACC title. They would have never made an 8-team playoff, and might not have made a field of 16. Since the ACC has an automatic BCS bid, fans of schools that aren't football factories have an incentive to root for the current system to stay in place.

What's more, with the new fifth BCS bowl, there are two more at-large bids, opening the opportunity for other schools -- say, LSU -- to play in a megamoney bowl without winning their conference title.

Second, the host cities don't want the bowls to disappear. The Anderson School at UCLA figured that the 2005 Rose Bowl/Tournament of Roses generated more than $200 million in direct spending and more than $370 million in regional economic activity to SoCal. The 2005 Sugar Bowl generated more than $200 million to New Orleans. Lord knows, they could use it.

If a playoff were devised, even using the current bowls as host sites, the games are unlikely to deliver as much cash as the cities collect now. For instance, all of the boosters of the 8 or 16 teams that made the playoffs would have to prepare for the possibility of traveling to three or four games within a month. So they would have to depress their spending during the early rounds for hotels, meals, souvenirs, hookers, whatever. Rather than blowing the bowl budget in one place, as now occurs, they'd have to conserve some of the loot in case their team kept playing. Three out of four years, the fine folks in Pasadena, New Orleans, Miami and Phoenix would lose money.

Finally, there's no guarantee that a playoff would crown an undisputed champion. In December, would Boise State have made an 8-team field? The locks were Ohio State, Florida, USC, Michigan, Louisville, Wisconsin. You could make a case for Oklahoma, LSU, Texas, Arkansas, Rutgers, West Virginia, maybe Auburn before giving the nod to the Broncos. In December.

Even if the BCS decides to add a "plus one" game after the bowls to crown a champ, that would be mythical, too. Boise State finished fifth in one poll and sixth in the other after beating Oklahoma and winding up undefeated. Would the vote have been different if pollsters were selecting a team to play Florida? Who knows?

This may have been the most exciting and unpredictable college football season in a long time. Since perfection is not an option, I'm willing to accept the system now in place (with one exception -- only conference champs can play in the BCS title game) and hope that we'll soon see another year that's as fun as this one was.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Stupid ice

Had another fall this week. Yes, on ice. Yes, on the wrist I fractured last year.
Fortunately, this tumble may be no big deal. I experienced some serious pain the first couple hours, and it swelled a bit (on the side of my wrist that was not fractured, thank goodness). Thanks to nurse Linda at the Rocky, a splint and an Ace bandage, and a steady diet of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), it has responded well. I can actually move my hand back and forth a little without discomfort. Twisting is another matter. My orthopedist's nurse said give it a few days and if it doesn't improve, it's X-Ray time. Every day I'm getting more confident that will not be necessary.
Typing on the laptop keyboard is not comfortable, so my scintillating views on the BCS will have to wait. Stupid ice.