Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pssst...hey buddy, can you spare $254 million?

At about 9:00 Central time this morning, there was a terrible disturbance in the force.  It was like a million St. Louis Cardinals fans cried out in agony all at once.  Then the news came across the wire:  Albert "El Hombre" Pujols signed a ten-year contract to play baseball for the Los Angeles (Anaheim?) Angels for $254 million.  Let that sink in for a moment.  That's a lot of cheese.  A quarter of a billion dollars.  Given the time value of money and inflation, it may only be worth about $230 million in the long run....but who's counting? 

Now before the Cardinal's fans look for a tall building to jump off, next year isn't looking terrible.  You get Wainwright back and have a pretty nasty rotation already.  And a potential line-up that looks like this:

1.  Rafael Furcal--SS
2.  John Jay--CF
3.  Matt Holliday--LF
4.  Lance Berkman--1B
5.  NL and World Series MVP David Freese--3B
6.  Allen Craig--RF
7.  Yadier Molina--C
8.  Greene/Schumacher/Descaslo--2B

Not too shabby. 

Sighs of relief could be heard from all across the National League, especially in the NL Central.  I think I heard five of my friends that are Chicago Cubs fans myself.  You know who you I tagged you for this article...Now the question for the Cardinals is...what do you do now that the $220 million you had offered El Hombre is suddenly freed up?  Prince Fielder?  Big Time pitcher?  Or do you continue to groom the home grown talent.  Shelby Miller tore up the minors last year and don't forget about former Arkansas Razorback Zack Cox.  He's can flat out hit.  2012 might not be a repeat of a World Series Crown...but a return to the playoffs wouldn't surprise me one bit. 

So the question comes from my non-sports friends/relatives/fans.  Isn't that too much money to give to someone to hit a baseball.  The gasp you heard from my sports fan friends fills the air....easy guys.  It will be ok.  Actually, its not too much money, IF its used the right way.  El Hombre, by all accounts, has done it the right way.  His Foundation donates countless hours and piles of money to multiple causes in the Saint Louis area and beyond.  He has been a tireless champion for Down's Syndrome, he has a child with it.  He sponsors youth baseball leagues and fields.  His foundation organizes mission trips to his home country of the Dominican Republic.  And on and on...some people make buckets of money by using their gifts and talents and its a blessing to people everywhere.  Does anyone think Bill Gates shouldn't have made as much money as he did?  Congratulations Albert.  I hope you have ten more amazing years in your career and break every record you possibly can.  Until we meet in the World Series, where I hope you go O'fer! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Common Sense Solution for the BCS and the Mythical National Championship!

We've all heard the criticisms of the BCS system for weeks and weeks.  Who is going to get left out?  Who deserves to play in the title game.  More recently the talk has been about fairness.  Is a rematch fair? Should the SEC automatically win by having two teams in?  Did Oklahoma State deserve a shot?  This year, we will never know as the system that is in place has put the two best teams in the country in the championship game.  Let that sink in for a moment.  The two best teams are playing for the title.  Isn't that how it's supposed to work?  Isn't this why the BCS was put together in the first place?  By all accounts, everyone should answer that question "yes."  But as people's favorite teams or conferences are left out or passed over, the complaints of bias and unfairness come out.  A key phrase in an article I read this morning jumped out at me.  The system will always have complaints and detractors as long as it has NO FLEXIBILITY.

That's the key.  A better system has to be flexible to allow for unusual circumstances to arise.  Who would have thought that as of the next to last week of the season, the top three teams in the country would be from the same DIVISION of the same CONFERENCE?  Is it fair the the Razorbacks have to stay home because a single conference can't have more than two teams in the BCS?  Maybe not, but its the rules as they stand.  And all we can do is play by the rules as they stand. 

A flexible +1 system would cause a lot of the complaints to go away.  The reason is simple, you would allow the best teams to compete for a chance to win it all.  The regular season would count as would scheduling quality games.  The following scenarios would have specific play off type match-ups:

1.  1 undefeated team.  The 2012 scenario.  LSU deserves to be in the national title game without a doubt.  Put them in the game and pat them on the back for having the best season of anyone else in the country.  That leaves five one loss teams to choose from for them to play.  Immediately cross off Boise St and Houston.  Sorry guys, this game is for the big boys.  If you aren't a big boy and don't play a schedule like the big boys play, then you have to go undefeated.  Go undefeated and you have a shot.  I promise.  Keep reading.  That leaves Stanford, Alabama and OK State.  Of the three, Alabama and OK State have a much higher BCS ranking than Stanford.  Sorry Stanford, but in the computer rankings, you are behind #6 Arkansas and #8 Kansas State.  Play a tougher schedule or don't lose.  That's how this is going to work.  Alabama plays Oklahoma State as the next to last game with the winner playing LSU in the +1.

2.  2 undefeated teams.  This seems to be the simplest of the scenarios.  One versus two in the + 1 game.  If you wanted to have a 3 vs 4 game, please be my guest. 

3.  3 undefeated teams.  Dicey.  See Auburn getting the shaft back in 2004.  Ok, there were two other undefeated teams that year, but most people agree that OU, USC and Auburn were the big three that year.  USC blew OU off the field, leaving plenty of room for Auburn fans to scream "What about us?"  Ironically USC ended up vacating that championship due to the Reggie Bush issue.  But I digress.  The BCS standings come into play here.  # 1 is #1 and gets the bye to the final.  Reward the team for the best schedule, the hardest road to get there.  Let the other two play after the bowls with the +1 to come a week later.  Both will have earned the right to play for the title. 

4.  4 undefeated teams or more.  Unlikely, but it has happened.  Back to the BCS standings and a four team play off.  #1 vs #4 and #2 vs #3.  Winners meet for the crystal trophy.

5.  0 undefeated teams.  Interesting scenario and probably the most needing a +1 solution.  No clear cut winner.  Take the top four rated teams in the BCS standings and play them out as in scenario 4.

All four of these have one thing in common.  The best team in the country will have earned their championship on the field.  The teams from outside the major conferences can earn their way in by winning.  The teams that play better schedules will still have their chance as well.  You have to win though.  The bowls stay in place and the fat cats get to preen and hob knob with the beautiful people.  Coffers get filled and universities get to keep their alumni on donation alerts.  Then when the smoke clears, one champion will remain.  Simple?  Common sense?  Absolutely.  Will it happen in the foreseeable future?  Probably not.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can't we all get along?

Maybe Rodney King was right.  Can't we all just get along?  You've heard it a thousand times.  People not watching the news or reading a newspaper because of all the bad news.  War, famine, drought, Justin Bieber...wait, that's another blog altogether.  Or maybe he is one of the Seven Signs....hmmmm. I'll ponder on that.

Our country has been in a down economy for a while.  I don't care what the economists call it, recession, recovery, it a doughnut for all I care.  People are struggling.  I work in the staffing business and I see it every day.  It's harder to make ends meet out here in the real world.  The world has changed and I don't think its going back from whence it came.  Gone are the days of working twenty or thirty years at one company and retiring with a gold watch and a fully funded pension.  Gone are the days of companies providing cars and stock and company-paid insurance benefits that covered virtually everything.  My generation as a whole is the first that is having to foot the bill for everything.  Retirement?  Better start saving...yesterday!  Unemployment is high, prices keep going up, and real wages are stagnant at best.  And everyone with a mouth to yell will tell you that they know how to fix it.  And they point the finger at the other guys saying, "They messed it up.  If we had the chance, we could fix it."  Well, as a member of neither the "1 percent" or the "99 percent," let's see it.  Republicans point at Obama.  Democrats point at Congress.  The far left is protesting...well, whatever.  The far left is always protesting something.  The Tea Party/far right is mad too.  Everyone seems mad about something.  And so they get louder.  And they yell some more.  They yell at the other guys and try to shout them down in some kind of verbal game of chicken.  They yell with their own guys and make themselves feel better about being "right."  But no one is talking...I mean really talking. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am more of a conservative than a liberal.  I have conservative economic views mixed with moderate to sometimes liberal social philosophies.  I would like to think I educate myself on the candidates and/or the issues before I vote.  In the past, I have done a decent job of this and have been able to support my vote with a logical argument at the very least.  Right now, I wouldn't give a plug nickel for any of the candidates that is out there talking.  For the Dems, Obama just doesn't have it.  He's a great speaker and he was probably a great deal maker back in Chicago and in Congress.  But he doesn't have the ability to lead against/along with the opposition.  Say what you want to about either Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, but they LED.  And if you read your history, they LED with the majority Congress not of their party.  On the Republican side....really?  That's all I have to say....really?  You want to roll out Cain, Gingrich, Bachman, and Romney and you want me to actually support one of them.  Cain and Bachmann have new voices...but nothing good to say.  Gingrich and long have they been around?  Note to either party....put someone out there that is real and has something to say and can get something accomplished and I will back them.  Cut through the BS and let's get to work. 

If both sides of the political spectrum are saying that government is broken and needs fixing, you would have to think they can find common ground somewhere.  The issues are plenty and they are complicated.  I would like to raise my family in safety and with the opportunity to pursue whatever dreams they choose.  We should all be allowed to work hard to earn what it is that we want to and not have it taken away by a government we don't trust or believe in.  I shouldn't be working funding government program after government program in order that more and more people don't have to do the same thing.  There is a huge difference between the noble ideas of entitlement programs and the reality in how they are operated/misused.  One thing I agree with the misguided Occupiers on...ours is a government of, by, and for the people.  I think government in general has lost sight of that and operates much like business does, in its own self-interest.  Where do you think the term baseline budgeting comes from? 

Two moderate Democrats from Arkansas lost elections last year.  They didn't necessarily follow the Democratic Party line and tended to lean more moderate/conservative on some issues.  Because of that, they didn't get the backing from their party that other lefter leaning candidates got.  Republicans saw them as vulnerable and they were.  They lost.  It seems the only way to get support from your own party is to pander to the far side away from the middle. 

I have a thought here.  Shocking, I know!  Until both the Democrats and the Republicans stop moving farther away from the center, our political system will always be influenced unduly by special interest groups.  Each with their own agenda...and most with an agenda that conflicts with the interests of John or Jane Q. Citizen.  Do I have the answer for fixing this?  Sadly, no.  It's going to take a whole lot more people than one or a hundred or a hundred thousand to stand up and say, "Enough!"  It will take people, not a bunch of career lawyer/politicians, to fix what is broken and return the focus of our government to where it should be:  on people.   Can we all stop yelling first?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This one won't be long today dear readers, but I think its important and I hope you will read it!

Like many die-hard Razorback fans, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the program that Coach Bobby Petrino has built in his four years at Arkansas.  Seemingly, he has done it the right way, building an identity, having a plan, building depth from the ground up and then developing the talent available and taking it to a higher level.  Because of that plan, hard work by the coaches and players, and the support of the fans, Arkansas enjoys one of its highest rankings ever and is now pointed to a game on Friday with SEC West Rival and Top Ranked LSU.  The winner has a good chance of playing for a national championship.  It feels good to just be able to say that out loud.  PLAY for a national CHAMPIONSHIP.  I can remember the minutes just after Arkansas beat Duke in 1994 for the Basketball National Championship.  Elation and joy are two terms that come to mind.

Sunday, I was driving home from Memphis and listened to several different sports talk shows discussing the BCS Bowl picture and the messes that could possibly be created.  Callers and hosts were arguing their points vehemently, talking about how "criminal" the system was and how its architects should be shot or hanged or worse!  Really?  It's football guys.  Fans get so worked up over their teams and the perceived slights they have received.  How this team deserves this and depriving the players of this opportunity was more unfair to them than anything imaginable.

I remembered that caller vividly when I got the news regarding Garrett Uekman and his untimely death.  His being 19 and not living any longer is much more unfair than not playing in a BCS bowl game.  I have attended a few more funerals this year than I have in the past.  As we get older, friends and family age and become ill and pass.  Its a fact of life.  Without exception, the funerals I have attended have all shared a theme of the loved one going on to a better place, leaving their pain behind, or being in a much better state.  The tragedy regarding Garett Uekman was that he wasn't suffering anything that we know of.  His health was good, he was doing what he loved where he wanted to do it and was surrounded by a strong cast of friends.  By every account I have read he was a good person, someone you would want your kids to be friends with.  The tragedy to me would be living a life not being touched by people like Garrett Uekman.  We come across people in our lives that have profound and positive and lasting effects on us.  They take the shape of friends, teachers, pastors, bosses, love interests and family members.  I would challenge each of us to take a few minutes every day, and especially Thursday on Thanksgiving, to recognize these people and let them know the difference they have made in our own lives.  Tell them how important they are to you and that you are a better person for having them in your life.  If we don't learn anything from Garrett Uekman except for the fact that none of us is promised anything past the next breath we take, then learn and live that.

As a follow up, I have read rumors and stories of Garrett's funeral being protested by a group that I refuse to recognize by naming them.  This group has protested at other funerals, some less successfully than others.  I can't for the life of me imagine the thought processes that would go through the head of a grown person that would approve of such behavior.  I fully support and will fight for anyone's right of free speech.  However, I was taught growing up that my rights stop where another person's start.  And I will fight for their rights as well.  The Uekman family has suffered a tragic loss and will have the support of friends, family, the Razorback nation as well as other college football fans.  They should NOT have to suffer the foolishness of fools.  And folks, these are FOOLS.  I don't know when the funeral is, but it is my hope that the Arkansas Alumni Association puts a call out to every football player that has ever donned the uniform and invites them to stand as color guard at Garrett's funeral.  I have seen the players walk through thousands of fans outside of stadiums and the looks of joy on their faces.  I can only imagine trying to walk through a gauntlet of thousands of Razorbacks fans and players trying to prevent the disruption of such a solemn ceremony.  I wouldn't want to do it!  I hope the reports aren't true and that the protesters stay away from the funeral.  He lived a life of example in his 19 years on the planet.  Maybe they should follow his.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A pregame for soccer parents and friends

I wrote this a few weeks ago after a soccer tournament and am republishing it here now.  As most of you know, I referee soccer on weekends and enjoy it immensely.  At times it can be a bit challenging dealing with all the different personalities on the pitch, this might give a bit of insight before you attend your next (or first!) match.

Before every soccer match, the refereeing crew gets together to go over expectations, style, etc., for how the game will be worked. I would like to do a pregame with the parents watching my next match. I think it would go something like this.

First, thank you all for your enthusiasm and for being involved in your children's athletic endeavors. Having said that, there are a few things you should know about today's game.

1. Soccer is a contact sport. To borrow from a friend of mine, if you don't want contact, go get yourself a set of golf clubs. Your child may get pushed, pulled or knocked over. This doesn't necessarily mean they have been fouled. It also doesn't give little Johnny or Susie free reign to whack whoever they choose.

2. Just because the ball hits a player in the hand, that does not necessarily constitute a foul. Concepts like undue advantage and natural position come into play.

3. Nowhere in the rule book is there a foul entitled "high kick." Nowhere. There is a dangerous play caused by lifting your foot into a dangerous position relative to an opponents head. That requires an opponent to be involved in the play.

4. There might be five players in an offsides position. That doesn't mean they are offsides. The number of variables involved is vast and almost unimaginable.

5. We will be playing the advantage today. That means some fouls that are fouls won't be called.

6. In an average football game there are 80-100 plays. After each play, the whistle blows, everyone stops, catches their breath and gets ready for the next play. In soccer, play doesn't stop. There is an actionable play about every three to five seconds. Over a 90 minute games, that's conservatively 1080 plus actionable plays. Soccer crews have three or four refs, football has eight. An average center referee runs between 5-8 miles per game, assistant referees 2-4 miles. If this is a tournament weekend, I'm probably doing anywhere from 6-10 games.

7. I will miss a call today. Maybe more than one. If I make 99% of the calls correctly, that means i will miss 11. Most good referees agonize over missing one. I do. I will replay my blown calls over and over until I recognize them from every angle so I don't miss it again. If you don't think that's true, ask me about the missed handball in the Lakewood Fallfest under 14 boys final from 2010. I still remember it.

8. Yell if you must, get emotional and passionate, but be respectful of everyone, the coaches, your opponents, the referees, but most importantly, support the kids. It's the reason we are here, right?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy....a job?

I know, I start a blog and then you don't write.  Aren't you a writer?  The answer is good remains to be seen.  I've been busy.  Doing what you ask?  "Thank you," says the writer, "and smiles at the self-serving segue."  I've been WORKING. Oh, excuse me for a moment. that bill and that one...push these other two out a couple of weeks until after the tuition payment is due.  Check the schedule, yes, I can work the soccer tournaments in Memphis and Dallas.  Dallas will be big, Thanksgiving weekend.  I'll miss some family time...but you do what you have to.

Okay...where were we?  Oh yes...WORKING!  I work.  Most of us do.  We work because we have responsibilities or obligations.  A mortgage, car note(s), groceries, utilities...on and on.  So we work to pay for those things.  Some of us have more obligations than others.  College loans, child support, alimony, second mortgages, yacht payments.  Ok, I threw the last one in. I don't have a yacht payment and don't know anyone that does.  The point is the added obligations might be a choice or they might not be.  The reason doesn't really matter...its the obligation that's the point.

And now to the point of the article.  I was scanning my homepage this morning and came across an article about an Occupy America group getting arrested and moved out of a park in New York City.  Apparently, this campground has been in operation for two months now.  What?  These guys are still around?  I thought they just took a break from playing their Xbox for a weekend, yelled through a megaphone for a while and then went home.  They are still protesting?  What exactly are they protesting?  Find one of the people involved in these "protests" and ask them.  They don't know.  So I googled Occupy America and read seven different articles about protests in different cities.  I still don't know what they are protesting.  One protester said they are protesting banks.  What about them?  It seems banks charge fees to their customers in order to make a profit.  (Gasp in shocked horror) NO!  The scoundrels.  Shame...Shame....Shame.  Another protester says they are protesting universities and the reduction in scholarships.  The quote that made me smile the biggest was, "If college is only for people with money, it will be a very unrewarding experience for everyone."  Didn't do so well on the ACT did you?  The most articulate protester I read was angry that he had graduated from college with Bachelor's and Master's Degrees and couldn't find a job in his field that would allow him to pay off his debts and maintain a decent lifestyle.  My heart goes out to you bro.  Articulate, yes...unrealistic and acting entitled?  Absolutely. 

Look at the pictures from these "protests."  A lot of 20 and 30 somethings angry because they are finding the world isn't being handed to them in the manner they want.  HELLO!  Earth to Generation Y.  Please pay attention to the following Public Service Announcement....the world doesn't owe you anything.  If you want something, be prepared to go out and work for it.  And in the real world, you might bust your ass for months and years to reach some lofty goal.  And you might fail.  Miserably.  And you might not get the big house, Lexus, mountain chalet and ocean front villa.  You might even have to work (no, no, please....not THAT) a second job to make ends meet.  (Gasp, louder this time)

I went to a Human Resources managers meeting recently where a speaker talked about the different generations in the workforce today.  For the first time in the history of our economy, four distinct generations are represented.  Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.  The Millenials aren't too far away, so get ready for them too. Note to the reader, yours truly fell into Generation X...mainly because my parents are Boomers.  I don't necessarily share Generation X philosophies. But more on that another time. Interestingly, if you look at the Occupy protesters, the majority of them fall into the Generation Y category.  What do we know about the Gen Y'ers?  Technologically savvy.  The "I want it now" approach.  Raised by the first batch of "Helicopter" parents that brought forth the fantastic philosophy of "Everyone gets a trophy."  That's right, all you have to do is show up...and you get a trophy.

Can it be that simple?  Can the underlying philosophical and psychological underpinnings of Occupy America really lie in the fact that these protesters are angry about...not getting what they want by just showing up?  Look at the articulate protester...I have my Masters and a bunch of student loans that I can't pay off with the jobs I am being offered, so I am waiting to get the job that will allow me to pay them off and maintain a decent lifestyle.  Really?  Then I read further...twenty somethings are moving back home, living with their parent's longer, delaying kids and marriage because they are unable to find the jobs they want.  Really really?  The government needs a program....I shouldn't have to pay back these loans...its not fair that I can't get what I want.....WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!   REALLY?

Ok...deep breath.  You can do this...without being self-congratulatory or a know-it-all.  No one likes a know-it-all.  Attention Occupy America.

1.  GET A JOB.  I love that college students walk out of college with a diploma and say, "Here I am world, hire me!"  I thought that for a bit after college.  The real world woke me up quickly.  Bills.  A house, used car (Don't buy new cars Gen Y, its not a good investment, buy good used ones.  That advice is a freebie).  I also get that Gen Y'ers are looking for a higher level of job satisfaction.  I would love for everyone to love the job they have.  But you have to start somewhere.  Many many many successful people of all ages started at the bottom.  Its a great place to start to get to the top.  Supreme Court Justices started as law clerks.  CEO's started in the mailroom.  Do they have mailroom's still?  I read an article about the Managing Partner of an Engineering firm whose first job out of college was with a construction company.  As a GENERAL LABORER making minimum wage.  There isn't a job that is beneath you.  Really.  Your identity shouldn't be taken from the job you have.  Your identity should be taken from who you are as a person. 

2.  Be a grown-up.  Being a grown-up starts with getting out of your parents house.  Get an apartment.  Can't afford one?  Get a roommate.  Split the can work.  Really.  The longer you stay under mom and/or dad's roof, the longer you put off being responsiblr.  Paying rent/mortgage, utilities, all the things that grown-ups do.  Start saving if you can.  Really.  Saving your money is something I wish I had done a long time ago.  Because I didn't do that well back in the day, I am having to work that much harder now.  Make a plan and stick to it.  This applies to saving as well as your job/career/life plan. 

3.  Be a grown-up Part II.  I will repeat something I said earlier.  The world doesn't owe you anything.  Take this to heart and learn to live it.  If you want something, get ready to work for it.  You don't love your job, find one that you do love.  You don't want college more and get merit based scholarships.  You don't want to pay back your college loans?  BE A TEACHER or any of several other programs that will allow you to defer your payments or even have them forgiven.  Put the video game controller down, stop drinking a $5 cup of coffee every day and put your big boy/girl pants on.  It can be a scary thing being on your own.  But the rewards of doing it and doing it well are beyond what you can imagine.

I count myself among the very fortunate.  I have a great job that gives me a very good living.  My annual pay falls in the upper-middle class range and I am blessed to have it.  I work hard at it though.  I earn it.  With all that, I still have obligations that exceed my income.  Those that know me know that for that reason I have a second job that I enjoy tremendously that I use to meet my obligations.  If my boss is reading this, please note the second job in no way, shape or form interferes with my primary job.  The end of the story for me is that being a grown up means that you do what you have to do in order to take care of what needs taking care of.  I work hard.  I am among the millions of people that work hard.  I don't ask for special recognition.  I don't ask for a trophy because I showed up.  I get my rewards obligations are met.  College tuition is being paid.  As is the mortgage on a house I really like.  A car that gets me where I need to go.  And my kids are getting what they need and want.  Like the end of the Visa commercials....PRICELESS!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Remakes versus the original--A True Grit retrospective

I went and saw True Grit last weekend at the theater.  I had seen much review and ado about how this movie was going to be SO much better than the original.  The Coen brothers stuck to the original work by Arkansas native Charles Portis more closely.  Jeff Bridges was going to be a better Rooster Cogburn than John Wayne was.  The scenes would be more realistic.  The characters better.  By the time I got through the reviews, it was hard to remember that The Duke won his only Oscar in this movie!  As someone that has seen a LOT of movies, I will say that the remake of True Grit was a good movie.  However, I still found the original to be a better movie overall.  Jeff Bridges did a good job in his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, but more than once it sounded to me like he was trying to make him sound like Billy Bob's character of Carl in "Sling Blade."  I kept waiting for Bridges to say, "How much you want fer them french friend pertaters, mmm hmmm?"  You can't beat Robert Duvall as Ned Pepper, and frankly, I thought the young girl in the first movie was better than the second, if only slightly. 

The remake was better in a couple of areas.  First, Josh Brolin's portrayal of Tom Chaney was much better than the original.  He brought a sinister quality to the character that was lacking in the first one.  Second, the scenery was much closer to the book than the first.  The novel was set in the east of Oklahoma/Fort Smith areas and the Coen's stuck to that look very well.  The original movie looked like it was shot somewhere in the lower Rockies.  Good job Coen's on remaking a classic, but this writer prefers the Duke's version hands down. 

So this thought spurred another.  What remakes ARE better than the original?  Hollywood seems to be running out of original ideas at times, hence the large number of remakes that are put out every year.  Do them well and you have a fan here, do them poorly and off into trash bin please.  Did I just read that they are remaking "Footloose" and "Red Dawn?"  Please, someone stop THAT madness now.  My top 5 movies in which the remake surpassed the original are as follows:

1,  The Thomas Crown Affair.  The remake was sleek and sexy, Pierce Brosnan was a stylish Art Thief/multi-gozillionaire.  In the originial, Steve McQueen robbed a bank.  Nothing too stylish there.  Throw in a very heated over-40 sex scene (let's here it for people of a certain age!) and the remake wins hands down.

2. Oceans Eleven.  Yes the original with the Brat Pack rocked.  Yes, Sinatra and Martin are the essence of cool.  I never have figured out the Sammy Davis Jr. thing.  I mean, yes he can sing and dance, but beyond that, he's "The Candy Man" guy.  Who can take a rainbow.....sorry, I digress.  The original shows what Vegas used to be like.  The remake shows the big business that it is today.  Again, the remake is more stylish and I haven't seen many on screen pairings where the timing is as good as between Brad Pitt and George Clooney in this film. 

3.  3:10 to Yuma.  Again, loved the original.  The remake was better.  Christian Bale and Russell Crowe bring more depth to their characters than in the original.  The shooting was pretty good too!

4.  Cape Fear.  Robert DeNiro plays a pyschopathic bad guy. Do you really think anyone does it better than him?  Enough said...

5.  The Maltese Falcon.  Okay, unless you are a HUGE movie buff, you probably wouldn't know that Bogey's version wasn't the original.  The Maltese Falcon came out first in 1931, but as Bogart's version is one of the top Ten movies of all time, it has to be on this list. 

Agree or disagree?  Other movies to add?  Would love to hear what you think! 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Razorback Sports

Happy New Year!  By and large, those that know me know I am a huge Razorback fan in all sports.  The 2000's have been a decade marked by transition and rebuilding among the many Razorback sports programs, especially the major sports, Football, Basketball, Baseball, as well as the retirement of legendary athletic director Frank Broyles.  That is another topic that could take up several blogs and will be touched on at some point. 

Today I would like to wax poetic about the rebuilding job assigned to John Pelphrey and how his task has turned out to monumentally bigger than the task so successfully undertaken by football coach Bobby Petrino.  Pelphrey is in his fourth year, Petrino is in his third.  The past two seasons for Pelphrey have produced a losing record.  The past two seasons for Petrino have resulted in consecutive bowl appearances, Arkansas' first BCS appearance ever, and a return to national prominence significance. 

There has been much unrest in Razorback-land over the state of the basketball program and that has shown itself in the low attendance numbers over the past few seasons.  5,000 and 6,000 numbers have become commonplace in a stadium that seats almost 20,000 and when first built, had an extensive waiting list for season tickets.  Razorback fans, where are you?  It's time to get your butts back in the seats because the bandwagon is going to fill up quickly under THIS coach.  Here's why:

1)  Housecleaning-John Pelphrey inherited a mess.  A much bigger mess than most people know about.  Under former coach Stan Heath, discipline was an afterthought to winning basketball games.  He recruited several athletes that could play, but considered themselves bigger than the team or the program.  Offshoots of this atmosphere included poor academics, poor class attendance, drug use, and other criminal behavior by the players.  Heath did as well as he and his staff could trying to control their team, but were ultimately unsuccessful.  When Pelphrey took over, the majority of the team was academically insufficient and in danger of being ineligible.  It has take multiple suspensions, intense focus on academics, and team/character building to dig out of the hole that was partially dug by his predecessor, and partially dug by the current staff as it affects API, grades, and students transferring.  Without placing blame in just one area, the staff has turned the numbers around off the court and the results are easy to see.  This team is a TEAM.  One that plays together, and yes, plays for their COACH.  Is every player going to be happy 100% of the time?  No, and its not realistic to think that they would be.  But as one that has attended games and talked to other fans that have, the atmosphere around this team is markedly different than at any point in the past four years.  This only portends good things to come. 

2.  Player development.  Does anyone remember Delvon Johnson's averages last season?  2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and .5 blocked shots.  This season?  10 points, 9 boards and 4 blocks per game.  He's a completely different player.  Julysses Nobles?  4 points, and 2 assists last season, 9 points and almost 4 assists.  Glenn Bryant is better, Marcus Britt is better.  Why are these players important?  They are the supporting cast.  No one would argue that Rotnei Clarke and Marshawn Powell are the two best players on the team.  Clarke has been playind as good as last year and Powell looks to be back to full speed after breaking his foot in the off-season.  The players mentioned before have all raised their level of play to that of legitimate SEC players.  And the team is peforming better for it.  I just finished watching Arkansas "upset" Tennessee at home in both teams SEC opener.  Did Arkansas play to the level when they were nationally ranked and significant?  NO.  Are they playing better than last season?  ABSOLUTELY.  The difference?  In this game, it was Nobles and Johnson.  Both had monster games as did Rotnei Clarke.  But the first two are better BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN COACHED UP.  It's obvious to anyone that knows basketball. 

3.  Recruiting.  Arkansas' recruiting class for next season is ranked as high as number 3 in the country by one ranking service.  It is inarguably made up of elite players.  Three things attract elite level players.  1)  Opportunity for playing time, 2) Opportunity to play in a program/system that will get you ready to play at the next level and 3) Coaching Staff.  That's it...bottom line.  Many people have made the argument that the "Big Three" of next year's recruiting class is coming to Arkansas because they are from Arkansas.  That's simply not true.  Each of the players from Arkansas has stated they are coming to Arkansas because of John Pelphrey.  The two players from out-of-state echoed that same sentiment.  They want to play for Pelphrey and they want to play winning basketball.  AND THEY CAN PLAY.  I was fortunate enough to see some of them play in person over the holidays and the future is bright for Razorback basketball. 

As of today, Arkansas is 11-3 overall, 1-0 in the SEC with that one win coming against an SEC East team that we were supposed to lose to.  Yes, the loss to Texas this week was inexcusable both in size of loss and in effort put forth by the players.  But one loss does not a season one win does not either.  This team has a chance to win the SEC West this season and WILL play in the postseason this year.  The SEC is down, there is no question about that.  20 wins in the SEC may not guarantee a trip to the NCAA tournament.  If we finish as successfully as I think we will, we might need help to get to the big dance.  Looking in my crystal ball, this writer forsees a record at the end of the year of 21-9, 10-6 in the SEC and co-champs of the SEC West.  Will this get us to the tournament?  I hope so!  Will we be better next year under THIS coaching staff?  Absolutely.  So find your seat on the bandwagon...if you wait until next year, there may not be room!