Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The War on the Register, Part 1

It's on.

We've made it to Northwestern week, and (even more so than Syracuse, Illinois, or Indiana) this one is in the bank. Tate's back, not that he needs to be. Jake Christiansen showed us enough against NIU. While it's nice to have Tate back, the Hawks would likely get by Northwestern regardless.

So let's move to the most recent object of my scorn: The Des Moines Register. "Iowa's newspaper" was once the most pro-Hawkeye news source in the state. If you're ever at Tweeter's in Okoboji, look at the DMR posters, where the Sunday sports page, "The Big Peach," proclaimed Iowa win after Iowa win to the masses. Those, my friends, were the days.

The Register is no longer a Hawkeye mouthpiece. In fact, it's no longer pro-Iowa in any way, shape, or form. It's the most anti-Hawkeye, pro-Cyclone rag on the planet. The DMR has apparently made the decision to alienate fans of the state's largest university and most prestigious sports program, opting instead to publish a paper for people who can't read.

So, this week, I will chronicle the ridiculous, the biased, and the completely idiotic coverage of Iowa sports being published by the so-called newspaper of the state.

Target One: Nancy Clark

And oh, what a target she is. Nancy Clark has been writing for the DMR since shortly after freezing Han Solo in carbonite...

OK, maybe not. Ms. Clark has been a "sports" columnist at the Register for 15 years. She toiled in relative obscurity, writing mind-numbingly boring Iowa travel columns in the summer and puff pieces about gymnasts from Coe in the winter. But, before the start of last football season, Jabba the Clark suddenly became infamous due to one single column. In her preview of...her football preview, Nancy Clark took a shot at, of all people, football bloggers:

Today I'll be talking with Dan McCarney. The bloggers won't. I'll also be posing questions during Iowa State's media day to Bret Meyer, Todd Blythe and Jason Scales. The bloggers won't. Monday, I'll be chatting with Kirk Ferentz. The bloggers won't. I'll also get in a word at Iowa's media day with Drew Tate.
The bloggers won't. Tuesday, I'll interview Mark Farley at Northern Iowa's media day. The bloggers won't...
.Know that if the information is coming from the mainstream media - the accredited reporters, broadcasters and photojournalists - they are following strict professional guidelines that the looser outlets don't require. The information has been verified, has been scrutinized by editors, has been fact-checked and proofed.

Needless to say, some people didn't appreciate this much (just Google "Nancy Clark Des Moines Register" and see what comes up). Of course, the comment about the strict professional guidelines is absurd (see Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, Dan Rather, 75% of the breaking stories on ESPN.com, and Erin Jordan...of the Des Moines Register). But, even more than the apparently moronic statements was her rationale, or lack thereof. The king of college football blogs, Every Day Should Be Saturday, actually called Nancy Clark for an explanation and printed the interview. When she was asked why she thought it was necessary to take bloggers to task, she replied that it was mostly due to the problems experienced by Jenny Lillis (which was unfortunate) and Stevie A's Celebrity Hot Tub Party (which did not happen). Of course, both of those were due to message boards, and Jabba refused to differentiate between the two. Clark, in fact, declined to name one blog which she has ever read.


"I hate bloggers!"

Cultural and technological illiteracy notwithstanding, Ms. Clark's attitude towards blogs is not why she is the current object of my scorn. It's the fact that she had taken it upon herself to shoot down the Hawkeyes at every turn while repeatedly treating Lames like Notre Effing Dame. Not content with pissing off web nerds, she has taken dead aim at Iowa fans in general this season:
  • Her September 13 column did everything but predict an Iowa State victory at Kinnick, thinly veiling her belief that Iowa is soft
  • On September 24, she lambasted the Hawks, saying "the only thing perfect about Iowa is their record"
  • On October 25, she felt Iowa fans needed a "reality check" in reaction to the Drew Tate thumb injury (forgetting that all of "the sky is falling" talk was coming not because of Tate's injury, but the three losses in four games)
In the meantime, she has used her substantial, erm, leverage to prop up the McCarney and the Clones at every turn:
  • In her August 15 column, she said ISU was completely capable of winning all seven of their home games this season (including Nebraska, Texas Tech, and Mizzou)
  • The aforementioned September 13 made Todd Blythe look coherent, and we all know better than that
  • On October 1, she actually wrote that the Lames win over UNI (a 1-AA team, mind you), "saved McCarney's coaching career" (standards are that high in Lames now, huh?)
  • My personal favorite: On October 15, in the wake of a 34-9 loss to Boomer Sooner, Jabba actually claimed that Iowa State could win their last five games, including wins against Tech and Misery and at Kansas State. Who is the deranged, myopic fan now, Nancy?
  • Only on October 22 did Nancy begin to come to terms with reality: "With Latest Loss, ISU's Season Tipping Downward"
I don't ask for objectivity from columnists. If the DMR wants to hire a Lames homer to write a column, so be it. Just come out and say it. Don't guise it as some sort of objective look at sports in Iowa. Don't attempt to veil the insults you throw at 60% of the college football fans in the state. And, for the love of God, don't even think of writing a column taking bloggers to task because we're supposed to trust you as a source of actual, fact-based, unbiased sports reporting. You look stupid when you do.

On a completely unrelated topic, ESPNU announcer Brian Kinchen, who called his own discussion of catching a football "kinda gay" during the Iowa-NIU broadcast this weekend, has been suspended by The Worldwide Leader. The video is no longer on YouTube (damn you, Google), but it was one of the greatest moments in the history of sports television. A completely inappropriate comment, followed by a SOLID fifteen seconds of awkward silence. Unfortunately, Mr. Kinchen appears headed for the same commentator scrapheap as the Miami announcer who wanted to get involved in the UM-FIU fight.

UPDATE: The "kinda gay" video can be seen here. Thanks to KB.

Friday, October 27, 2006

"Gonna Get in the Hot Tub!"

OK, I know I have been AWOL for pretty much the entire week, but there isn't that much to write about Iowa/NIU. I don't have the energy to really get up and running tonight, either, so I'll leave you with these picks, straight from the hot tub:

NCAA
  • Wisky -21 v. Chief Illiniwek
  • Big Blue/Smart Kids over 44.5
  • Hoosier Daddy +6.5 v. The Trainwreck That Is Michigan State
  • (I can't believe I'm saying this) Lames +4 @ Kansas State
  • tOSU -27.5 v. Gopher Nation
  • Boomer Sooner +1.5 @ Mizzou
NFL
  • Texans +3 @ Tennessee (One of the worst games in the history of all time, but Houton's the better team...for literally the first time in their history)
  • Saints -1.5 v. Baltimore (I will pick the Saints every week at home until someone proves that these teams aren't unintentionally throwing games at the Superdome)
  • Saints/Baltimore under 37 (Money all year on Raven Under)
  • Jets +2 @ Cleveland (Makes no sense to me)
Fernandez would like me to add Bucs +8.5 @ NYG, but I won't take the Bucs north of the Mason-Dixon line after mid-October, especially not with a quarterback named Gradkowski. But it's not a horrible bet. I also like the Rams +9.5 @ Saint Diego.

I'll be back Sunday, and I have a big, juicy topic in mind. In the meantime, Go Hawks. I leave you with this:


"Too hot in the hot tub! Hey! Rub-a-dub in the hot tub! Hoo! Too hot!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Wheels Come Off

The football season has spun out of control.

Iowa's performance at Michigan was unsurprising. It wasn't necessarily horrible, given the circumstances, but it wasn't great, either. A team built on the run (to the point that it has recruited exactly two legitimate wideouts in 8 years) can't go for 41 yards rushing and expect to win. It's that simple. And it wasn't Young vs. Sims. Both backs struggled. To make matters worse, Mike Hart went for 126 against the allegedly inpenetrable Iowa front four. Sure, there was a little good news (mostly that Norm Parker finally discovered the blitz), but none of that was enough to overcome the fact that Iowa has dropped three of its last four.

And yesterday brought worse news. Drew Tate will miss at least one, and up to four, weeks with an injured hand. And, as we all know, Iowa saying that a player will miss one week generally means at least two. Ferentz has adopted the annoying Bill Belichick habit of hiding injuries as long as possible (for instance, the "last-minute" holdout of Tate against Syracuse). Of course, they won't say who the starting quarterback will be. Let's hope, for the sake of next year, it's Christiansen.

Throw in Garret Wolfe (who, until a couple of weeks ago, was a Heisman darkhorse) and the Northern Illinois Huskies, and this week looks disturbingly interesting. I'm not saying Iowa will lose (lowly Temple was able to hold the aptly-named Wolfe to 45 yards last week). But, in a normal year, this game wouldn't last beyond halftime. Unfortunately, it almost certainly will go to the wire, much like the rest of this season. The wheels seem to be coming off, and I can't think of anything short of the now-annual walloping of Wisky that would change that. Just remeber, Iowa fans, that it could be worse. You could be a Michigan State fan.

"If we intentionally don't show up for the first half, then
come from 35 back to beat Northwesern, do you think

everyone will forget how we let the Irish come from 24
back to beat us? Or I could always just slap myself again."


Speaking of the wheels coming off, I have lost the ability to correctly choose the winners of football games at any level. The football in Vegas was a Hawkeye-like near-disaster, salvaged only by a good run at the Monte Carlo poker room and Mirage pai gow tables. In any case, I'm back.

I have to do some research before I write it (especially to see if I can get video), but I want to do a column on the rash of idiotic and ridiculous commercials, most of which have nothing to do with the product and are in no way entertaining. Let's just hope that Bridgestone commercial with the people dancing and singing about anything but tires is on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I've Got Nothing

You know, I really wanted to post something tonight, but I don't know what to write about. I'm having a particularly difficult time getting up for Big Blue this weekend (part implosion at IU, part Vegas trip). Not to mention there's precious little about Michigan that is worth mocking. What are you going to get them with? Steve Fischer/Fab 5 jokes? Those are 10 years old and don't even relate to football. Charles Woodson is overrated as a pro? The 1997 team only got half a national championship? Princeton stole their helmet design and made it look cooler? Desmond Howard is a pretty decent college football analyst?

But there's more to it than that. Earlier this week, I documented the desire of Iowa fans to be included among the big boys (Big Blue and tOSU; I don't think you can include the Pennsylvania State University anymore, last season notwithstanding). Now, if you have ever been to Iowa-Michigan, even at the Michigan State Pen, their fans act with a quiet confidence. I'm not opposed to matching their condescending attitude. So I'll save the venom, and maybe Iowa and Michigan can come together to agree that John L. Smith is a horrible football coach. That being said, I'll most likely be wearing my "Ann Arbor is a Whore" t-shirt at the Mirage on Saturday.

Stay classy, Washington Husky Napoleon Dynamite
in stonewashed jeans. Stay classy, indeed.


So, instead of getting riled up over Iowa-Michigan, I guess I'll write about things I've heard/watched/read lately that haven't sucked, and a few that have.

A word of warning, as told by comedian Jim Gaffigan:
Have you ever seen a movie a couple of years after it came out and tried to talk about it with your friends? They look at you like you're a leper. I went to my friends and said "Hey, I just saw Heat!" "Heat? That came out six years ago." "But I want to talk about it now!"
My point is that, aside from music, I don't generally keep up. I've seen one movie in the theater in the past 6 months (The nearly fantastic Talladega Nights). I read books in paperback. I watch sports, Deal or No Deal, and Studio 60 (more on this later). I do, however, buy about 8 new albums a month, so I make up for it in music. So, without further ado...

Positive: Chuck Klosterman books
OK, so I've only finished Killing Yourself to Live, and I just started Fargo Rock City, but they're both fantastic. In fact, Killing Yourself to Live is the best book I've read in at least 10 years.

Despite his mutual love affair with Bill Simmons (a writer who was once great and has now become the Chris Berman of the internet, culminating with his video golf rendezvous with Le Tigre last week), I've always liked Klosterman's work, especially for the now-unreadable Spin magazine (also, more on this later) and the always-readable Esquire. He's irreverent. He's funny. He references even more pop culture and obscure music that I do. And he's from North Dakota, which makes it so much cooler. Killing Yourself is his three-month road trip to the sites of famous rock deaths (Kurt Cobain's greenhouse, Graceland, the site of the Skynnard plane crash, Clear Lake, etc.) but it's also about everything else in the life of an average twentysomething. Trust me, it's readable only for his discussion of cocaine people vs. marijuana people from the Great White nightclub fire. So, if you like music (especially CCR and Kiss) and you like a relatively easy read, it comes highly recommended.

Negative: Iraq books
Look, they're relatively in-depth, and they give you facts that the administration hasn't wanted in the public domain, but there are three problems with the genre. First, they are more or less redundant (culminating with the late-to-the-party Bob Woodward and State of Denial, which basically just sums up Cobra II and Fiasco and is written by a man who was once great and now just writes what will sell. Jesus, just look at the glowing report of the administration Bob paints in the first two Bush at War books. Suddenly, Bob's critical because everyone else is. That's journalistic integrity at its finest. Can you tell this pisses me off?) Second, they're insanely depressing. To put it in perspective, I just recommended a book that culminates with the Kurt Cobain suicide because it's 9000% more optimistic than Fiasco. Third, the authors go on television and give you the newsmaking parts of the book, so why bother reading? I don't want to discount Iraq, but you can get everything relevant from the morning paper and Brian Williams.

Thumbs Up: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
I wrote about this show earlier, but it only looks better after the first few episodes of...

Thumbs Down: 30 Rock
I LOVE Tina Fey. I loved the Tracy Morgan years on SNL. Hell, I even like Alec Baldwin in the obnoxious, slimy executive role. But this show is nearly unwatchable. I appreciate the attempt at omitting the laugh track, but it's not funny enough to make it as a comedy and not well-written enough to become a Sports Night-ish dramedy. Dead on arrival. Sorry.

Mad props: The Proposition
I rented it from Blockbuster (I never remember seeing anything about it in the theaters), and it's a pretty damn good flick. The film is a western set in Australia. It's bloody. It's graphic. The dialogue feels very cool in spots. It's more or less a Quentin Tarantino western, without the Tarantino self-idolizing director's commentary.

Smack down: Nothing. I haven't seen any horrible movies in a while, basically since Fernandez left town.


A quick list of very, very, very good recent albums (with ratings on a scale of 10):
Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass - 7/10
Beck, The Information (reviewed earlier, though incorrectly; it's not quite as good as thought) - 6.5/10
My Morning Jacket, Okonokos - 7.5/10
The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (again, reviewed earlier and incorrectly) - 8/10
Janet Jackson, 20 Y.O. - 2/10 (add one for each exposed nipple)
Cat Power, The Greatest - 8.75/10
Bob Dylan, Modern Times - 8/10
M. Ward, Post-War - 9.5/10 (would be the album of the year, if it weren't for...)
Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies - 13/10

Barring any moments of inspiration, I probably won't be posting until next week. I leave you with this:


Go Hawks. Beat Big Blue.

Cuh-lassic

I'll post later tonight (on what, I don't know), but I wanted to get a link up to one of the funniest articles I've read in quite some time. The always entertaining Fire Mark May blog has a post today entitled "I Hate Your Favorite Team" by Glenn Phelps, a professional referee.

You think replay can stop me? I AM REPLAY!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Moment of Truth

There has been a lot of "The Sky is Falling" after the Iowa loss to Indiana this weekend, and, to a certain extent, rightfully so. The Hawks went from the top 15 to outside the top 25 in a span of 2 weeks, and with Michigan on tap there's little room left for optimism. Needless to say, the city is on fire.

A little overdramatic? No?

Iowa football has reached a very interesting point in its history, though, and the Hawkeye faithful must now make a choice. The result of that choice is going to dictate exactly what happens from here.

You see, we have been spoiled. Iowa's 2002 team came from (literally) nowhere to run the table in the Big 10 and get a BCS spot. The 2003 team was impressive and entertaining, garnering an Outback Bowl spot and smacking the mighty Florida Gators in their own backyard. 2004 was equally remarkable, finishing in a third-straight Top 10 finish and The Greatest Play In The History Of Iowa Football.

That's why last year's team was so disappointing, and the impending implosion of this team feels eerily similar to all of us die-hard Hawks. This simply isn't the way things are supposed to be now. Iowa has made The Leap and should obviously be included with the rest of the Big 10 elite. In fact, that point is so obvious that we can't believe when the season goes awry.

But history proves otherwise for the Hawks. The current generation of students and recent alumni probably don't remember it (I know I wouldn't if I didn't have their biggest game on DVD), but Iowa had a period like this once before. In 1985, Hayden Fry had the Hawks at #1 in the country. Think about that for a second. Iowa was once the best team in the nation. They beat #2 Michigan at Kinnick to solidify that spot, but a road loss to Ohio State and subsequent loss in the Rose Bowl ended all hopes of a championship. The next two years, Iowa went a combined 19-6 and played in two consecutive Holiday Bowls, winning both.

The next season, Iowa was 6-4-3 (including a loss to Indiana). The year after that, they were 5-6. Sound familiar?

The point is this: Present-day Iowa fans (including yours truly) have entered every season looking for a minimum of 9 wins and a New Year's bowl, with the outside chance of a run through the Big 10 and VERY outside chance at a national championship. In essence, we firmly believe we should be included in the upper eschelon of the Big 10 with Michigan and Ohio State. There are two very big questions surrounding such expectations, however. First, do we really want a program like that? Second, even assuming we do, can it be done?

Question 1: Do We Want It?
There are definite consequences to building a program that is positioned to win a national championship. First and foremost, putting together a team and program that can hang with the big boys requires, in many ways, selling the soul of Iowa football. A common thread tying together Iowa fans is not only love of winning football, but of "winning the right way." This is not to say that Iowa runs a squeaky clean program. The administration and coaching staff has looked the other way when improper things have happened or swept those things under a very big rug. But the relatively minor transgressions of the Iowa football team (Benny Sapp notwithstanding) pale in comparison to the problems confronting the perennial contenders. Just look at a short list of problems on these teams:
  • The Reggie Bush agent kickbacks
  • Maurice Clarett's booster kickback/stolen radio/cell phone/hatchet/Grey Goose issues
  • Probation at Alabama for booster actions reaching back into the early 90's
  • Lawrence Phillips
  • Christian Peter
  • At least 10 other Huskers in the mid-90's
  • Peter Warrick's free trips to Dillard's (not to be confused with Tyler Smith and Mike Henderson's free trips to Dillard's)
  • The 80's...and 90's...and 00's Miami squads, so bad that the Miami/ND game was widely known as "Catholics vs. Convicts"
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Just think of what would happen if the Miami-FIU fight would have broken out in Bloomington this week, or if Drew Tate took a suitcase full of I-Club cash. I would be outraged, and I certainly wouldn't be the only one. I'm not saying that every top-notch program is corrupt (say what you will about Lloyd Carr, but Michigan has been realtively scandal-free), but the track record speaks for itself. If you want to win big and win consistently, you may have to take a shady character or two and look the other way as they act improperly. I don't think Iowa fans are willing to do that.

Question 2: Can We Do It?
Even if we were willing to cede the high ground, I don't think it's possible to build a sustainable top-notch program at Iowa. It's not really possible to put together a definitive list of the top 10 programs of the last 25 years, but any list would almost certainly include the following schools:
  • Miami
  • Florida State
  • USC
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • Penn State
Those are the only six teams that have won multiple national championships since 1980. You have to include Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, and Notre Dame in the conversation, as well, even though each has only won one title since 1980. For the time being, let's include those teams. Now, consider the recruiting bases of those schools. Miami, Florida, and Florida State get to mine the state of Florida, which has almost certainly become the most talent-rich state in the nation. USC gets California. PSU, OSU, and Michigan all have multiple urban areas and ties to the east coast states. Tennessee is a prime choice throughout the south. Oklahoma routinely mines Texas for talent. And Notre Dame is Notre Dame. All of these schools have, or have built, tradition and prestige that draws recruits from other areas.

The wild card in that conversation is Nebraska, but you have to remember how the Huskers did it. Much like Iowa, there is no dearth of giant farmboys to put on the offensive line. Their offense was built on that resource. Also, don't discount the effect of Omaha, where NU found at least one great running back or option quarterback every year (Ahman Green, Brook Berringer, Eric Crouch to name a few). Much like ND and Boomer Sooner, tradition drew other players. Finally, the fact that Nebraska was the one and only great option team meant the best option quarterbacks and running backs in the country wanted to go there, especially because they weren't necessarily desired anywhere else (Tommy Frazier was lightly recruited by everyone but the Huskers).

There isn't the same kind of recruiting base in Iowa that the other teams had. We can grab a player or two each year from in-state recruiting, but a program built almost exclusively on Iowa talent would leave us looking like Ames. Fry went to Texas, and was pretty successful there. Ferentz has recruited Illinois, Texas, Florida, and (interestingly) New Jersey. But rarely has a player from one of those states who has been targeted by one of their own in-state teams and Iowa chosen Iowa. While Ferentz and Chris Doyle have developed that talent into something special, there is only so much that can be done. Remember, the 2005 Iowa recruiting class was widely considered the best in school history, and it was still generally considered the third best class in the conference. I don't think there's any way that the program can keep up, and it's merely a question of geography.

Take the one position where we've never had enough talent: cornerback. The shortcomings of Adam Shada were tragically exposed this past weekend, and they'll likely be exploited again this week. But there has never been a top-notch corner under Captain Kirk. Cornerback is a position that requires absolute, pure athleticism. You can find an un-athletic quarterback and win (see: Nathan Chandler). You can find undersized players and turn them into strong, tough giants (see: Robert Gallery). You can even transform a slow linebacker into an unstoppable defensive lineman (see: Matt Roth and Mitch King). But you can't just convert someone into a corner. It's a position that requires instinct and feel and, above all else, speed and athleticism. We can't seem to find that here, and we pay every year for it.

So, maybe it's time we give up the expectations of grandeur and accept the fact that Iowa football will always work in cycles. We can have those two to four years of rarified air, and then we'll settle back into the 8-4 and 9-3 seasons. I think once we accept that fact, we'll enjoy the season much more.

Except for losses to Indiana, that is. Those will forever suck.

This column is far too long already, so I'll wrap it up and hear what you guys think.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Juggernaut, Week 6

Wow, if you thought Michael Irvin's tie was big on regular television, watch it in HDTV...

Speaking of Irvin, in case you missed it, the entire ESPN National Football League crew has decided to take turns berating The Playmaker on national television. First it was Tom Jackson's "Are you retarded?" comment. Now it's Steve Young with this:



In Young's defense, The Playmaker was making no sense. In Irvin's defense, he did go to the U, so his Greco-Roman wrestling match with the English language is understandable.

So it's week 6. The Berserkers are on a bye (anyone up for a boat trip?), and the Bears play the Monday night game, so there's not a whole lot to talk about from here. The picks:

Denver (-14) vs. The Corpse of Al Davis
I'll continue to pick against the Raiders until they make me stop. I also like the over (36) in this game, even though neither team scores that much. A line that big almost demands a cover of the over.

Jay Eee Tee Ess Jets Jets Jets (-2) vs. Joey Harrington
Miami is in shambles. The Dancing Bear is benched and complaining. And the Jets aren't quite as bad as advertised. Also like the under (36) here. Speaking of Joey Harrington...

Bills (-2) at Detroit Rock City (Pick of the Week)
This is Vegas' obvious overreaction to Buffalo's meltdown last week. But the Bills had played pretty well up to that point, and that was the Bears. This is most certainly not. Look, we all know Oakland sucks and Tennessee sucks. But how bad do you have to be to lose to Green Bay? You might be the worst team in the league, but you're absolutely more than 2 points worse than Buffalo, even in the House That the Assembly Line Built. Plus, Ditka picked Detroit to win. Load up on Buffalo.

Chiefs (+6.5) at "The Champs"
Buy a half-point to get to +7, but this is the continued Championship Effect. Look, even though Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl last year, they were a six seed when they did it. They weren't the best regular season team last year. Plus, their quarterback crashed a motorcycle and lost a significant bodily organ in separate incidents. And yet the oddsmakers have treated them like the '86 Bears all season. They're 1-3 ATS, with the only win against the Dancing Bear. This line should be closer to a field goal. Look, it's worth the extra half-point to lock in the potential push, but don't fret over betting on Damon Huard.

Carolina/Baltimore under 33.5
Sure, that's a low number, but Baltimore Under has replaces Bear Under as the go-to pick. Baltimore 0-4-1 O/U this year, with all of those games under 34.5. Carolina is only 1-4 O/U, with the only over against lowly (and, at the time, overrated) Tampa. Take the under. Laugh your way to the bank.

I'm not taking them, but I don't mind Dallas/Houston over 43, Bears/Buzzsaw over 40, and Cincy/Tampa under 44...you know what? I like that one...

Cincy/Tampa under 44
This isn't the usual Tampa D, but they got berated by Chucky Gruden this week. Look for them to finally put the clamps on someone, and that will be Cincy. Look for Tampa to win a low-scoring game. Or at least let's hope they do, if only for the mental health of legendary Bucs fan and debate judge Jason Fernandez.

The Best Jason Fernandez picture on Google.
Note the backwards Tampa hat. He was already
ashamed of this team. Can you blame him?


Updates throughtout the day, including video of the U and Florida International getting it on last night once it hits YouTube, a fight that makes Illini/Mich State look like pattycake...actually, that Illini/MSU brawl was more of a catfight.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hoosier Daddy

Well, that was pathetic.

I could deal with the OSU loss because they were simply better. Iowa didn't play particularly well in that game, but it wouldn't have mattered. That can't be said today.

Adam Shada has the back of James Hardy's jersey memorized (let's face it, even Tim Dodge was a better cover corner). Andy Brodell once again showed that you apparently don't need a pair of human hands to be a wide receiver and punt returner (I think he has hooves, like a horse or an ISU sorority girl), but you do need hands to actually be effective in those positions. Damien Sims played well enough, but the fumble in the third quarter was killer.

Norm Parker's defensive playbook is written on a cocktail napkin

So let's discuss this defense. I know they're banged up. I know losing Mitch King hurts. But everyone knows you blitz a freshman quarterback, especially one who has been starting for exactly two weeks. Iowa blitzed maybe four times in that game, and was generally successful in doing so. Of course, they won't do it more than that, though I don't think anyone knows why. Parker's playbook (which I'm almost certain is only one page long) worked when he had speed and talent and experience on defense. He doesn't really have that now, though. He has Adam Shada. So he has to adjust. He has to put pressure on the other team, because the front four can't get it done (especially not without Mitch King). And if he's incapable of putting together a defensive game plan that can do that, he has to go.

Everyone has had a sneaking suspicion that this team isn't any good. We thought we had proof of a little amount of talent after Purdue, but I think we can be pretty sure now that this team isn't going to get it done. Drew Tate is only as good as his receivers. That means Drew Tate is pretty damn bad, because Herb Grigsby and Andy Brodell couldn't catch a cold. You can't return punts if your punt returner is unwilling to touch the football. You can't take chances insode the 30 if your kicker has suddenly forgotten how to kick. And you sure as hell can't win football games when you run a playbook you found on Tecmo Bowl. It's time for some changes, and the culprits are easily identified.

So congrats to the 12 Indiana football fans in attendance today. It was a big win. As for Iowa, this season is precariously close to the edge. The fall into oblivion is next. And Big Blue is all that stands in the way.

Oh Dear God

Save us, oh great one

I hate watching this team.

UPDATE: 28-24 Iowa as Tate puts the entire state of Iowa on his back. In other news, Mike Gottfried has been openly cheering for Indiana since the middle of the second quarter. Did you know he coached Ironhead Heyward? He also apparently suffers from Ron Zook syndrome.

UPDATE: Adam Shada apparently has money on the game. 31-28 Indiana. I just called TO's pharmacist to plan a potential non-suicide attempt.

Friday, October 13, 2006

You Don't Need Double Talk...

...You need football picks.

"Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?"

So, after successfully making a run at some college games last week, I'm jumping back into the game. I've got four college games to choose from:

Purdue (-7.5) at Northwestern
The Boilermakers got punished last week in Iowa's early October resurrection. But Purdue is much better than they looked last week, and Northwestern is exactly as bad as you think (1-4 ATS, and the loss to 1-AA New Hampshire was not available for wagering purposes). I liked this line more at 7, but anything in single digits should be covered handily by a team that spent the week running wind sprints and Oklahoma drills and hoping Joe Tiller didn't swallow them whole.

Mizzou (-1.5) at Texas A&M
This line makes no sense. Mizzou has been crushing teams and will continue to do so against A&M, the closest thing the Big XII has to Michigan State. The Tigers are 4-1 ATS this season. A&M needs to run the ball to win, and they won't be able to do that against Mizzou's front 7. Speaking of Michigan State...

THE Ohio State University (-14) at Michigan State
Forget that tOSU had pushed or beaten the spread 12 straight times until last week's classic letdown game against BGSU. Forget that tOSU has covered against Michigan State in each of the last three seasons. Forget that Michigan State has unofficially forfeited every game left on their schedule. Just take a deep breath and let your decision come down to this one simple question: Who would you rather have your money on? This guy...

Or this guy?



That's what I thought.

Wisky (-8) vs. Minny
Badger alert, people. This team is much, MUCH better than anyone thinks. Bielema has settled in much better than anyone could have expected. Wisky is 4-0-1 ATS so far and - get this - a whopping 11-2 ATS at Camp Randall over the last 3 years. Throw in an especially hostile home crowd (Wisky hates Minny almost as much as Iowa hates Minny), a truly sorry Gopher squad, and the fact that there's still no "D" in "Minnesota" (to the tune of almost 400 ypg allowed) and this is going to get ugly fast.

I'll be home for the Iowa game, watching the Hawkeyes in beautiful HDTV for the first time, so I'll have plenty of time for in-game updates, discussions of Iowa basketball media day, and assorted other topics as I prepare my assault on Vegas. Until then, Go Hawks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What Happens When an Entire State Doesn't Care About Football?

Look, Indiana football forever sucks. It's the byproduct of playing in a state obsessed with basketball. I don't want to rip them too much, so I'll make this one quick.

Things seen more often than an Indiana football fan:

Sasquatch (or yeti, if you prefer)

Loch Ness Monster

Martians

The Lindberg baby

Weapons of mass destruction

UConn football fans

Steve Alford with atrocious hair

Mark Mangino's Toes


Coherent post-game comments by John L. Smith

Attractive ISU sorority girls

Indiana wins over Iowa*

There's nothing left to say about Cory Lidle that hasn't been said. I thought he was a pretty damn good fifth starter for this team. Apparently, he liked to gamble, which is generally a good sign. God bless the family and friends of all those killed in the accident.

* - Yes, that is Marv Cook. Love him.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Case Against Rachel Ray

So, any of you out there who know me outside this blog know I love the Food Network. I like Emiril (he's slightly annoying, but the food looks fantastic). I love Iron Chef. I even love Iron Chef America. And I LOVE Everyday Italian with the lovely Giada de Laurentiis.

That's why it pains me to say that I can't stand Rachel Ray. Let me tell you why:
  • Everyone has had an annoying song running through their heads over the course of a day. Sometimes it's something by Britney Spears. Sometimes it's something by 80's supergroup The Power Station (c'mon, you've heard "Some Like it Hot"). On especially bad days, it's "Apache" by the Sugarhill Gang (and that's going to be in your head all day now). Well, that's how I feel about Rachel Ray's voice; at least once in the course of my day, I will inexplicably think "I'm Rachel Ray, and I make 30 minute meals!" Someone kill me.
  • I'm a lawyer. I'm single (hey, ladies...). I have no children. I live in Davenport, Iowa. And even I can't afford to spend $40 a day on food. Though if wishing made it so.
  • The sound of her voice makes me want to cut off my ears with a chef's knife.
  • Now she's going for Oprah-esque market saturation. That means I have to watch a commercial with her (and the corresponding annoying voice) at least twice a night on network television. "We're going to have some R & R!" There is neither rest nor relaxation involved.

"I'm Rachel Ray, and I make people want
to scoop out their eyes with a soup ladle!"



That's why the general public fascination is inexplainable. She is neck-and-neck with Terrell Owens for most annoying person alive. Who could possibly want to watch and listen to her at any point in the day? "$40 a Day" is on right now, and the Elliott Smith suicide album is making me feel better than her show.

Now, as for the rest of the Food Network personalities...

...that's entirely different.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Internet Gambling Bill...Exposed!

Last Saturday, both houses of Congress passed H.R. 4954, the Safe Port Act. Attached to the bill, as it came out of committee, was a long-discussed internet gambling bill. The bill can be read here. I'll do my best to give you a breakdown of this thing.

THE POLITICS

The internet gambling bill has been floundering in Congress for years. Its primary sponsors have been Jim Leach (R-IA2) in the House and Bill Frist (R-TN) in the Senate. Why these two? Well, Bill Frist wants to be President in a couple of years (he has NO CHANCE, but why would reality matter to a member of Congress?) He needs the votes of the religious right to make that happen, and what better way to get the votes of the Christian right than to impose their moral superiority onto everyone else? Frist makes sense. Leach is more difficult. Jim was my Congressman for a couple of years (he's the Congressman for Iowa City), and he's a genuinely good guy. He takes no PAC money and generally votes his conscience (he was one of only 4 Republican Congressman to vote against Iraq and broke from the administration on the recent torture bill, because being against torture puts you at odds with the modern-day GOP). If it were anyone else, I would be looking for money coming in from Riverside Casino, but Jim doesn't do that. I think he saw a lot of people get in trouble with gambling in the Quad Cities, and is seeing it now in Iowa City, and genuinely wants it stopped.

Frist and Leach were initially joined by the representatives of Nevada and New Jersey, but they almost immediately flipped. Casinos figured out that it would be very profitable to put their brand name on casino sites. After all, who would you trust with your money, internetpoker.com or caesarspalace.com? So Vegas and Atlantic City wanted this killed while they built their own sites, and Harry Reid and friends did his best to do that. It was blocked at every pass. It was omitted from other bills. Anonymous holds were in place. Amendments to include it were killed.

So, how do you get a bill passed that can't see the light of day? Get into the conference. For those of you who failed high school civics, the House and Senate each pass their own version of a bill, then representatives of each house meet in conference to hash out the differences. In early September, the House and Senate passed alternate versions of the Safe Port Act, which added something like $200M to the port security budget. When the conference representatives were chosen, Mr. Leach was included. He attached the internet gambling act to the bill, knowing that nobody could vore against port security, even if it also included a death blow to PartyPoker.com and, subsequently, Norman Chad. And that's exactly what happened; the bill passed unanimously.

What? No giant fields of internet qualifiers at the WSOP
next year? But I've already ordered 10 new blazers and
the corresponding t-shirts! I haven't been this mad since
my second divorce! And that young guy's really immature!


THE LAW

This law doesn't prohibit online gambling; that's allegedly accomplished by the Wire Act. It doesn't do anything to the gambling sires, which are all located overseas and cannot be affected by U.S. law. What the new internet gambling act does is put the onus of enforcement on the banks. Under the act, a "designated payment system," such as a bank or credit card, cannot accept a withdrawal request made by a prohibited financial institution, defined as internet casinos, poker rooms, and the like. "Designated payment system" also includes third-party intermediaries, like PayPal (which doesn't make transfers to and from casinos) and Neteller (which most certainly does).

It also exempts certain activities, like commodities trading, horse racing, and Indian casinos. Interestingly, it includes an exception for fantasy sports, but limits it so that a fantasy league can't be structured to mimic sports betting (like a "fantasy league" where you pick a team every week, play against another team based on the spread).

The signing ceremony is set for October 13, which is this coming Friday. Federal regulators will then have nine months to put the statute into effect.

THE EFFECT

How this is going to work is still up in the air. The big question is whether the regulations will extend "upstream." In other words, the banks can easily identify and reject a transfer directly to PartyPoker or Pinnacle. Of course, a large number of these transactions don't go directly to one of thse sites, but rather goes through a third-party intermediary. The most prominent of these is Neteller, which is based in England (outside the reach of the statute). Neteller could decide to comply, which would cut off that outlet. But, because it's overseas and has no US presence, Neteller could also tell the government to shove it. If they did, the regulators could possibly prohibit Neteller transactions just as it prohibits transactions from the poker sites themselves. That is the big question.

In the short term, Neteller has released a statement to customers saying, more or less, "Business as usual." But they're also making non-European account holders reaffirm the terms of use agreement, which might allow them to release account information to federal regulators if required. A significant number of the internet poker sites have decided to leave the US market, including the Big Dog, PartyPoker. Others have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Pretty much all the sports sites are also waiting until the regulations are put in place. Also, for those of you out there who like international finance, PartyPoker, PokerStars, and a couple other poker sites are traded publicly in London. They lost, on average, 40% of their market cap in one day. This has made some people VERY hesitant about Party's liquidity, especially since millions of dollars in withdrawals will be made in the next few weeks. On the plus side, nobody on the McLaughlin group this morning (including Pat Buchanan, who loves this thing) said it would last (the common sentiment being about 4 years).

The FAQ at the TwoPlusTwo.com legislative forum has some excellent information (just check your sources before you rely on anything). Otherwise, lord only knows what's going to happen. If this thing works, Vegas property values are going even higher than they were before.

In the meantime, good luck. I'll be at Riverside and the Isle.

Consider the Switch Flipped

Iowa finally found it yesterday. A 30-point home win over Purdue to get them to 5-1. It looked like the lightbulb finally went on for this team. Al Young didn't play, but Damian Sims ran for over 150 yards and Shonn Greene added quite a few more, making this the first game where Iowa's running game came through huge. In other words, Al's not getting his job back.

Prepare to see a lot more of #28

The defense gave up a few too many yards, but Shada's 98-yard interception return was enough to make us all forget. The offense looked significantly stronger than last week. And that's why I think it was "THAT game" for Iowa this season.

It's become common knowledge that Iowa improves as the year goes on. Their system is not complex; zone block, one-cut running, play-action passing, and screens on offense, base 4-3 cover 2 on defense. But it takes about 4 weeks for the offensive line to gel and the defense to truly understand their roles. Because of that, there always seems to be THAT game each season where it all clicks. In 2002, it was a 35-28 win at Penn State. In 2003, it was the 30-27 win against Michigan. In 2004, it was a 38-16 stomping of Michigan State. And lasy year, it was the 34-17 win at Purdue. Purdue got it again this year. The good news for Iowa fans, other than the fact that we finally got to THAT game, is there is at least one more coming, the game that defines each Iowa squad, where they put an unexpected smackdown on someone. 2002 Michigan. 2003 Minnesota and Florida, 2004 Ohio State and Wisconsin, 2005 Wisconsin. So get ready, because it's about to get fun.

Other Notes:

National Football League picks today - Chicago/Buffalo over 34, KC/Arizona over 39, San Francisco -3, Oakland/SF under 40, and San Diego -3.5 (I might consider buying a half-point here to get it to a field goal).

I'm not one to care that much about it, but Iowa State got screwed last night. For those of you who didn't watch, Austin Flynn should have had a touchdown catch, but he was inexplicably called out of bounds. Now, the Blythe offensive PI was correct, and he should have been called for about 3 more, but that Flynn TD would have changed that game completely. Other things from that game:

  • Blythe's cute little halftime pep talk, where he got hoisted up on someone's shoulders like a 5-year-old boy and pretended to be Rudy, didn't work at all. Kind of like most ISU graduates.
  • If you wanted to see how far the mighty Huskers have fallen, you only had to look to last night. After the game was cemented, the sideline reporter (I think it was Dr. Jerry Punch, who has a doctorate in kicking ass) was cornered by an NU lineman who said "Will we get some respect now?" What, for beating Iowa State? Even the guy in the booth said, "No offense, but this is their third loss." Five years ago, would you ever expect Nebraska to expect some kind of additional respect for beating an under-.500 ISU team?
  • Speaking of things that don't make sense, what was with the yellow shirts in Ames? How can you not be in red? Do you really want to give up your team's primary color at home? the ISU inferiority complex continues.
  • It was my only pick yesterday, and NU covered with ease. Well played, Bill Callahan. Well played. My upcoming Vegas trip thanks you.
  • How many times do you think McCartney's going to watch that lone Jake Christiansen series from yesterday's Iowa game for clues? He is obviously already game planning for next September. How else can you explain the fact that he didn't watch a single minute of Nebraska's previous games? McCartney was obviously shocked to see Nebraska throw the football, not to mention that they weren't being coached by Tom Osborne.

The Yankees are done. Firing Torre would be the dumbest thing Steinbrenner has done since hiring George Costanza. Big Stein is thinking that Torre is coddling the players, and that's why they didn't beat the Tigers. That couldn't be further from the truth. You want to know why the Yankees couldn't beat Detroit? It was the Achilles' heel all year: pitching. You can't win a 5-game series with Jaret Wright figuring prominently in the plans...and, as I type this, ESPN reports that Torre has been canned. Of course, we can't possibly know if that is true or not. After all, if ESPN was right about all the things they reported, Terrell Owens would be dead.

Speaking of which, Coundown is officially the dumbest show on television. Ditka and Irvin discussed the best team in the NFC. Ditka said something about playing football games and winning National Football League football games, then picked the Bears (the only real pick). Irvin said "T.O.! T.O.! T.O.! Make plays! T.O.!" and took the Cowboys.

"Did someone say T.O.? T.O! T.O.! We gotta be talkin' bout T.O.!"

Then, Ed Werder called in to report that the Cowboys are taking an alternate route in the team bus because they got hit with some eggs in the parking lot last year. Apparently, I needed to know that information. In other news, I usually take 53rd Street to work, but I think tomorrow I'll take Kimberly Road because the stop lights are shorter. You must know that. It will change your outlook on life. I was half expecting Berman to turn to Irvin and say "You're with me, T.O." I hate ESPN.

I know I promied this before, but I'll write my work up the internet gambling bill this afternoon. In the meantime, Bear Over.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Notes and Erratia

So, I've been a little bit AWOL this week, but I figured this is the best time to clear up a few things before this weekend. In no particular order:

The Yankees lost 4-3 on a Curtis Granderson RBI triple. Hey, the Tigers are pretty damn good, and it's not surprising that they win when Verlander is on the mound. I still think the Yankees take this in four. And for all those MVP voters out there, this shouldn't change a thing. (Also, what the hell are you doing reading this blog? You're an MVP voter, for chrissake. You've gotta make that REAL!)

Sure, he may be Grand(erson), but he's no M.V.P.

Can anyone tell me why ESPN runs their updates at :18 and :58? Shouldn't they be evenly spaced? Would moving the :18 to :28 or placing a third update at :38 put too much of a strain on the system?

Other recently released music recording reviews (I can't think of another word that starts in "R" ):

The Decemberists - "The Crane Wife" - I have never been as big on this band as other people. I think it's mostly due to the fact that I don't like Melville novels or high school productions based on Melville novels. That said, "Sixteen Military Wives" (from their last album, Picaresque) is a great tune and the best video made in quite some time:

So, in all honesty, I was looking forward to this album only for the possible sequel to that video. Well, ladies and gentelemen, it is an absolute masterpiece, far more entertaining than Picaresque and absolutely stunning musically. Part of it is surely big-label production (the band made the jump to Capitol Records this time; their previous albums were on Kill Rock Stars), but most of it is due to the band's move away from Arcade Fire-like chamber pop. This is a more consistent album, and it's better for it. It runs out of steam ever-so-slightly at the end, and for that it gets 8 tigerhawks.

The Killers - "Sam's Town" - Did you know that "Mr. Brigtside" was the first song The Killers ever wrote? Did you know that "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" was second? Did you know they haven't made a half-decent song since?

In business school, we talked about firms identifying their core area of expertise and sticking to those areas. Companies that don't do that generally struggle. Well, The Killers' area of expertise was making mediocre, 80s-tinged music and wearing mascara. They've pretty much ditched both of those now, and it's not for the better. There are a couple of bearable songs here, but even that's a stretch. Do yourself a favor and listen to The Hold Steady. Or Born to Run. Or nails on a chalkboard. Two tigerhawks.

One more thing: Deadspin has set up an impromptu fund for soldiers in the platoon of Sgt. Adam Knox, the OSU fan killed in Iraq a couple of weeks ago. They're going to put together some things to send to the troops in one package, rather than a whole bunch of individual things. I'm making a donation, and wanted to notify everyone else. Also, if you want to help out one of your own, the Paradise I-Club in Florida sent packages in the past, so you may want to contact them, or set something up with your local club or just your friends.

Irish hawk asked for it, and you're all gonna get it. Analysis of the internet gambling act, and a rundown of the people behind it, after dinner and a bottle of wine.

Big Ten Football Arithmetic

Take this:

"Has there ever been a worse team that talks as much smack as Illinois? They've lost 11 games in a row, and they're acting like the '89 Miami Hurricanes." - Hawkeye State, 9/23/06

Add this:

"Dez Howard just said it best on SportsCenter: John L. Smith is the only coach in America who could lose that game. This was inevitable." - Hawkeye State, 9/23/06

And you get this:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's that Papi Guy's Name Again?

M. V. P.

Five for five. Homer. 2 doubles. It's already been voted on, but if you needed any more proof, Derek Jeter is the MVP. Period. I grew up in a Twins house, and I like Morneau and Mauer, but that man above is the most valuable player in baseball this year. Period. Oh, and the Yankees beat the Tigers 8-4 in Game 1 of the ALDS. The Cards and A's also won today.

On the YES postgame report, they just played a Cingular commercial where they said their phones only play the best music "like the new video from Young Jock (?)" I immediately called to cancel my Cingular phone.

Speaking of which, today was the best new music release day in quite some time. I'll keep updating throughout the week when I hear new stuff, but here's the first couple of new albums:

The Hold Steady - "Boys and Girls in America" - So, if you wanted to make an album I would love, you would combine these things: Nasty classic guitar riffs, smartass lyrics, a song about horse racing, and a reference to Kerouac's On the Road in the title and first song. Mission accomplished, Hold Steady. Their previous release, "Separation Sunday," was my favorite album of last year; I told everyone who would listen that SS was what would have happened if Bruce Springsteen had completed "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle," fired the E Street Band, hired Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble, and made a concept album about a Catholic girl who was born again, died, and was more than likely resurrected. This one isn't quite as good, but it's much more structured and accessible. If you can deal with Craig Finn's voice (an acquired taste; much more shout than song, also much like early Springsteen), this is great stuff. I give it 8.5 tigerhawks.


Beck - "The Information" - I haven't truly enjoyed a Beck album since "Midnite Vultures." Of course, when you write songs as bizarre and brilliant as "Sexx Laws," "Hollywood Freaks," and the immortal "Debra," you can't just go back to the well. "Sea Change" was beautiful in spots but a little too depressing overall. "Guero" felt like a watered-down version of "Odelay." I would like to note that I have only made it through this album once, and it was in my office while I was writing a brief, but it feels like Beck might be back. I am going to withhold judgment until I can get a full-fledged listen, but it's tentatively getting 7 tigerhawks.

Hopefully, I'll soon be able to get to the Decemberists and some of the other new stuff I've heard over the last couple of weeks. In the meantime, The Yankees Win! Theeeeeee YANKEES WIN!!!

If a Statute is Passed in a Port Security Bill and Nobody Notices It, Does it Make a Sound?

OK, a quick recap of Saturday before I move on to other things:
  • Iowa simply was not good enough for Ohio State. And the faster you come to that conclusion, the better you'll feel about the game. Iowa didn't play a perfect game (Tate was mad at himself, but he had no protection all day), but they didn't play a particularly poor game. The first time Antonio Pittman went off tackle, you could hear an audible gasp from the crowd. They were too fast, too athletic, and, quite frankly, too perfect. Nobody - I repeat, Big Blue, NOBODY - is beating this team.
Just give him the Heisman. It's not even close.
  • I've been to pretty much every game played at Kinnick Stadium in the last seven years, and I have never seen or felt it like it was on Saturday night. The atmosphere was positively electric. On Gameday that morning, Herbstreit said that the only way Iowa had a chance was if the crowd could impose its will on the game. Trust me, they tried. And that made tOSU's win even more impressive. No false starts. Two delay of games. By my count, only three penalties in the game (including a phantom pass interference). And an absolute stomach-punch touchdown at the end of the first half, followed by a groin-kick touchdown at the beginning of the third that effectively ended it. I couldn't have been more impressed with tOSU.
  • Kudos to the Hawkeye fans (an estimated 6000 of them) who made it to Gameday, despite the school's best efforts. I'll give the administration this: The set looked dignificantly better that I thought it would, framed by the Old Capitol. It could have been better close to the stadium (especially because the people parking at Kinnick were the last ones to show up; the lot was mostly empty when I got there at about noon), but it looked pretty good. Nice work, students. Extra kudos for some hilarious signs.
  • I still can't believe Corso put on Herky's head. It was incredible at the time, but the kiss of death in retrospect.
  • Purdue is going to be VERY interesting. Homecoming should help keep the crowd in it.
Now, the other important news from Saturday was the passage of the Internet Gambling Bill by Congress. It was attached to the Port Security Act. I haven't had much of a chance to look at it yet, but it looks like the bill will require banks and other financial institutions to create safeguards which can effectively prohibit deposits and withdrawals from offshore gambling organizations. It should be signed when President Bush returns from vacation and will be fully implemented by the end of June 2007. It is noteworthy that this does not make online gambling illegal, although the Wire Act is still in place. However, PartyPoker has already said it will leave the US market immediately following the signing, and I would guess most of the online casinos and sportsbooks will follow. I gave up online gambling as a precaution quite a while ago, but I would suggest pulling your money until the rest of this shakes out. There will invariably be loopholes (the most recent one being posted is simply putting money in an overseas bank), but this could very well be the end of small-stakes online poker for a lot of people. And, for those of you in Iowa City, you can thank bill author and sponsor Jim Leach.

I'll be back later to talk Yankee baseball and some big-time new music out today.

M. V. P.