Greetings From Custer State Park, South Dakota

Greetings from State Game Lodge in Custer State Park in South Dakota. The road trip continues having already stopped at the National Minuteman Missile Historic Site, the Carhenge site in Alliance, NE, the Museum of the Fur Trade, the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs NE, the National Woodcarving Museum, and Mount Rushmore. Never let it be said that we just go someplace and laze around day and night…

We arrived at the State Game Lodge last night and finally ended our streak of plentiful; but mediocre food for dinner. This place has a chef on duty – not merely a cook. We will be here three nights so I can look forward to dinners for a couple more days. After that, I fear we will be back on hardtack rations until Yellowstone.

The NCAA finally got around to notifying UNC formally about allegations of “academic irregularities” and the school now has 90 days to respond to said allegations. Well, that took long enough. The head of the department that ran the courses that allegedly were “ghost courses” resigned about a year ago so the idea that some kind of “irregularities” where going on has been in the air for quite a while now. Some mean-spirited folks might call those “irregularities” something more like “fraud” while kinder and gentler critics might label them merely “shenanigans”. Whatever…

It will be very interesting to see how the university responds to the allegations. UNC has said that it will be as transparent as it can – consistent maintaining individuals’ privacies as required by law – with the allegations and with its response(s). Some have characterized this matter as the worst case of academic impropriety ever; I will wait to see more info before going that far.

The Women’s Sports Foundation has started a petition to block Isiah Thomas from becoming a part owner of the NY Liberty. To steal a phrase from soccer play-by-play guy, Ian Darke, this one is on the knife edge.

    When Thomas was the GM for the Knicks, a woman charged sexual harassment and improper discharge.

    She won a civil judgment of $11.5M for being improperly let go.

    However, the judgment specifically said that Thomas was not liable in the matter.

I agree completely that James Dolan – owner of the Knicks and Liberty and major domo for MSG was tone-deaf in getting Thomas involved in this matter in the first place. However, his tone-deafness may or may not be a reason to deny Thomas this “business venture”. I do not know for whom to root in this contretemps.

More postcards from the road as time permits.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Greetings From Badlands National Park

Greetings from Cedar Pass Lodge in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We got here by flying to Rapid City, SD and renting a car there. A quick drive to Wall SD and a visit to the famous/infamous Wall Drug Store – where you can buy everything from toothpaste to horse saddles to Native American artwork – preceded our arrival here in the National Park. The Badlands got their name because they were indeed “bad lands” if you were a settler or trapper trying to cross these lands before the days of paved roads. There is interesting geology here and plenty of beautiful scenery in an amazingly isolated part of the country.

Yesterday we took a drive and passed through the town of Interior, SD with a population of 94; a bit more than 30 miles from there we hit the town of Scenic SD with a population of 58. Between those towns there were scattered ranches, cows, prairie dogs and not much else.

We are only a bit more than 48 hours into this journey but it is becoming clear to us already that this will not be a culinary trip that rates more than 1.5 stars on a 4-star scale. Peg was introduced to biscuits with white gravy for breakfast yesterday and the look on her face made it abundantly clear that she was not going to finish that biscuit. Whatever…

Speaking of food, the Akron RubberDucks of the Eastern League are offering something called “The Screamer” which is billed as a 5-pound ice cream sundae. It comes of course in a RubberDucks batting helmet and consists of a 1-pound brownie and 21 scoops of ice cream. One need not be lactose-intolerant to realize that no one needs to consume such a concoction.

You could make it worse if you wanted to. You could eat “The Screamer” as dessert after consuming a “Heart Attack Burger” offered up by the Kane County Cougars – the Single A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here are the contents of the “Heart Attack Burger”…

    One half-pound beef patty with grilled onions, one fried egg, slices of melted cheddar cheese, chipotle bacon mayo, 2 pieces of bacon and it has a pair of grilled cheese sandwiches on either side serving as the burger bun.

Good luck digesting that bad boy.

More postcards from the road as time permits.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports.

Administrative Note

My writing schedule will be sporadic for the next couple of weeks. My long-suffering wife and I are about to go on another “road trip” around the US.

As I did last year, I will post rants from the road as time and material permit. Please check in once in a while for those “road rants” until I get home and get back to the usual schedule.

Stay well, all…

A Brief Hiatus…

I will be off the air for about a week as my long-suffering wife and I visit our grandson – and his parents too – in Dublin, Ireland.

I hope to be back late next week – either the 16th or 17th of April. Please check back then.

Stay well, all…

A Dean Smith Conundrum

Before I get to notes from last night’s NCAA tournament games, I want to pose a question. Dean Smith left each of his lettermen from his coaching tenure $200 to go out and have a nice dinner on him. Imagine for a moment that you were one of the recipients of that $200 check and also imagine that you are not homeless and hungry. Question:

    Do you cash the check and take the money and go out and have a nice dinner on Coach Smith as he “instructed” or do you frame the check and the letter that came with it and hang it up as a memorial to Coach Smith?

I am not sure what I would do in that circumstance…

Here are notes from last night’s games:

    Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook blocked a shot early in the first half and I swear you could not have slipped a credit card under his shoes on the play.

    In my pre-tournament “Names Rant”. How did I miss Myles Davis from Xavier?

    Arizona won by 8 but it was closer than that with less than 5 minutes to go.

    Notre Dame guard, Demetrius Jackson, was out of control in the first half but settled down and played excellently in the second half.

    You gotta love Pat Connaughton and the way he plays.

    Wichita State’s Ron Baker was a no-show last night – and that is being polite.

    Did Wichita State leave its game on the floor against Kansas? Looks as if they are playing with a hangover.

    One of the announcers said that UNC is a great offensive rebounding team. That is correct; however, he said that just after UNC got an offensive rebound that had bounced on the floor. Great offensive rebounding teams usually get the ball before it bounces…

    An official in the UNC/Wisconsin game missed two violations because he forgot a basic tenet of officiating mechanics. As the trail official, never get ahead of the ball coming up the court. He did it twice and missed two calls on the baseline because he was out of position.

    Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes won the game for Wisconsin. Frank Kaminsky sure did not play like a candidate for Player of the Year.

    When West Virginia came out and missed three early open shots, it was a death sentence. If their pressure defense was going to work, they needed to set it up on made baskets. They never got it to work.

      Has there ever been a Sweet 16 game where the winner doubled the score of the loser?

      Comment from my notes with 13:14 on the clock in the first half:

        “Game OVER!

    As I said before, I REALLY like Trey Lyles from Kentucky. I think he has a lucrative NBA future ahead of him.

There is an NFL “issue” out there that has nothing to do with “the game” or the CBA or any of those normal issues and it is not getting much attention. There is a legal tussle going on within the family of Saints’ owner Tom Benson for control of the team. This may be a major proxy fight or a mere kerfuffle; it is definitely a family feud so maybe they should get Richard Dawson to mediate the situation. Oh, that won’t work; Richard Dawson got a Celestial Discharge a couple of years ago…

In any event, Benson is 87 years old and owns the Saints and the NBA’s Pelicans and some car dealerships and he evidently decided to change his estate plans in favor of his third wife to the detriment of his daughter and her two children. One report said that he had removed “hundreds of millions of dollars of assets” from the trust funds for his daughter and grand kids. Those aggrieved folks claim that Benson is senile and that he is being manipulated by his current wife. The daughter and grandkids have asked a court to order a mental exam to determine Benson’s mental competence and to appoint a conservator to manage the financial empire.

What Benson removed from the trust funds was a majority interest in both the Saints and the Pelicans; that is indeed no small matter. However, his lawyer claims that he has put in the trust funds a “promissory note” in the amount of $449M. I do not know what a “promissory note” might mean in this context nor would I have any way to know how it might be enforced when Tom Benson joins Richard Dawson in an alternate universe. However, I do have to note that $449M is a lot of cheese…

This situation does not have the sensational value that the Donald Sterling mess had. Nevertheless, this might become very “down-and-dirty” as the kids fight with the wife #3 over an estate that is probably worth something north of $2B.

Finally, to maintain perspective on the popularity of some sports that are not very important here in the US, consider this item from a recent column by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Numbers game: Last weekend’s World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan was watched by about a billion people – eight times the audience for the Super Bowl. In other words, globally speaking, Katy Perry and her dancing sharks were a lounge act.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Quo Vadis Keith Olbermann

I try to keep politics out of these rants – – other than my obvious total disregard for the Congress of the United States as a body that looks out for the people it represents. However, since my discussion today will focus on a man who went from sports coverage to political commentary on television, politics will creep in despite my intentions. Therefore, let me reveal in general terms where I am politically.

    I am an independent centrist. I am convinced that neither the liberals nor the conservatives have a monopoly on wisdom, insight and solutions to society’s ills. I think that both the extreme liberals and the extreme conservatives actually do damage to our society.

That positioning places me in a spot where I can have bricks lobbed at me from both the right and the left. C’est la vie…

The folks who run Current TV – – a cable “news” network founded by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt – – recently fired Keith Olbermann. After Olbermann had been dismissed by MSNBC a little more than a year ago, Current TV hired him – – reportedly for $50M over 5 years plus an equity stake in the network itself! – – to reprise his Countdown program on Current TV. Countdown had been the most watched of the commentary programs on MSNBC; Current TV was having difficulty getting more than a handful of folks to watch anything they had on the air; Olbermann’s political leanings were in line with Al Gore’s; so, the hiring seemed to make a ton of sense. That marriage lasted from February 2011 until March 2012.

The statements issued by Current TV and by Olbermann in the days following the firing have been less than congenial to say the least. However, a similar lack of amiability accompanied Olbermann into unemployment in the past.

Keith Olbermann became a recognizable TV figure on ESPN in the 1990s. He and Dan Patrick co-hosted SportsCenter at 11:00 PM ET. That remains the pinnacle of ESPN’s SportsCenter as news/entertainment even though Olbermann left ESPN in 1997. To give you an idea of the stature of SportsCenter at the time of Olbermann’s firing at ESPN, consider this remark taken from Michael Freeman’s book ESPN: The Uncensored History:

“The overall intelligence of ‘SportsCenter’ was lowered an octave. So was its mirth and edginess. Olbermann helped take ‘SportsCenter’ to a place no other sports information show had been and probably never would go again.”

Now juxtapose that praise with comments from co-workers at ESPN when news of Olbermann’s departure became known. (Also taken from ESPN: The Uncensored History)

“Our long national nightmare is over!” [Attributed to Bob Ley]

“Keith is one of those tortured geniuses. That is one of the things that makes him good. But as an employee, he has a pretty short shelf life. He became bitter about ESPN after he left , which is insane because ESPN was as good to him as he was to it.” [Attributed to Charlie Steiner]

“If he’s on your team, he’s a great person to have by your side. If he isn’t, you had better bring help. Bring the infantry.” [Attributed to Dan Patrick]

“… [Olbermann is] a baby who would quit, literally quit, at least twice a week, whenever he didn’t get his way.” [Attributed to Suzy Kolber]

All of this means to say that news of Keith Olbermann getting fired is really not news – – any more than Billy Martin getting fired was news or any more than Bob Knight losing his temper was news. The problem now is that he has been fired from ESPN and FOX Sports and he has been fired from two networks that live on political commentary both of which fit with his political preferences. Agree with him or not – – and I tend not to agree with the majority of his political essays – – Keith Olbermann does indeed have the seeds of genius in him. Some folks compare him to Howard Cosell. I can see similarities but my preferred comparison would be to Ernie Kovacs as a guy who had a ton of talent with an equal measure of self-destruction.

Keith Olbermann is a natural as a TV host and or as an anchor. He makes you think and he makes you laugh. Sometimes he also makes you angry. As a host or an anchor, that is precisely what every one of them ought to be able to do. Nevertheless, few of them come anywhere near that mark. If he does not find another gig on radio or TV, those media will be the worse for that – – and I am not referring here in any way to whatever positions he may espouse should he get another TV or radio gig.

Because I believe that Keith Olbermann belongs on TV, I have a suggestion as to how he might begin to reconstruct himself and his career.

    Keith Olbermann belongs on MLB Network.

I am not a seamhead; Keith Olbermann is a “seamhead-squared”. He has the ability to keep me interested in discussions of baseball history and statistics for long periods of time – – even though I really do not care nor do I often agree with the conclusions he seems to draw. If he can do that, then giving him a time slot on MLB Network to replace the seemingly endless and assuredly tedious studio shows on that network is a no-brainer.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Keith Olbermann would not find a way to get cross-wise with management at MLB Network. After all, he has done that just about everywhere he has been over the last 20 years. However, at least MLB Network is a place that would allow him to immerse himself in a field he has always found fascinating. [Aside: I have heard him say that he is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. No one belongs to that organization who does not love baseball stats…]

When people leave jobs under duress, many of them burn bridges behind them. If you consider how Michael Freeman described Keith Olbermann’s behaviors at ESPN and in the days following his departure there in the book, ESPN: The Uncensored History, you might think “burning bridges” is a middling kind of action.

“He [Olbermann] was a human SCUD missile.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………