Friday, June 30, 2006

Couple of things

- Again, quite disappointing, but something I already knew. Athens-Clarke County lacks adequate affordable housing for its poor ... and by 'adequate' I really mean 'any.' A new study by the Athens Housing Authority, and presented to the Partners for a Prosperous Athens, revealed that no three-bedroom rental unit exists in this county under $500 per month

This problem has trigged us folks at IHN of Athens to launch a transitional housing program, where we require guests to put 30 percent of their income toward rent, and we pick up the slack. And then, through working with the guests and helping them acquire the necessary job skills and financial management skills, move them toward finding long-term residence somewhere in town.

- I'm trying to determine my reading list, and where to go next. I'm about done with Take It Back (which might be James Carville's best book since We're Right, They're Wrong). I've got three in my possession to turn to next - The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. DuBois, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 (graciously loaned to me by my boss) and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne LaMott.

I've wanted to read DuBois for a while now, but LaMott's book was pretty entertaining when I thumbed through it a while ago.

- Coco Crisp makes a remarkable, game-saving catch and the Red Sox win their 12th straight ... their longest win-streak in 11 years.

- Georgia Sports Blog gets all official with a discussion about John Soloski's suit against Michael Adams.

On pitching

One of the things that most impressed me about the Braves' run of titles from 1991 through 2005, was the ability of former pitching coach Leo Mazzone to get quality starts out of seemingly washed-up or ineffective pitchers. Take away the magical run through, say, the late 1990s where Atlanta trotted out the most intimidating three starting pitchers in (possibly) Major League Baseball history in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, and what you've got is a remarkable run pieced together by one or two 'aces' and three or four journeymen.

Consider John Thomson. Here's a guy who never compiled a winning season or ERA lower than 4.00 (including a frightening 8.04 ERA and 1-10 record in 1999) prior to joining the Braves in 2004. He comes to Atlanta, promptly goes 14-8 with a 3.72 ERA and helps guide the Braves to yet another divisional title.

And there's tons more examples. Jaret Wright. Albie Lopez. Paul Byrd. Damian Moss. Pete Smith (twice). To a lesser extent, Steve Avery (who opened with three magical seasons in the early 1990s, but then never lived up to his long-term potential).

All of this points to excellent coaching by Mazzone, who was able to get enough quality starts out of rather ineffective pitchers during the regular season and turn the ball over to, at the very least, one 'ace' pitcher to carry them through the postseason.

And pitching is ultimately what's at the core of Atlanta's recent 5-21 slide (as an aside, Hillary marveled at the fact that it is pretty friggin' difficult to lose 21 games in a month ... 'you've only got, like, 30 days in a month!'). The deft touch of Mazzone is obviously missed, among the starters where Smoltz is the only one turning out consistently solid performances.

But also among the bullpen. For all of the Braves' woes, they've actually been hitting the ball pretty well and playing good defense. And, for the most part, despite some of the weaknesses of Thomson and Jorge Sosa coming to light, Atlanta is getting enough decent starts to post a .500 record or better.

The worst bullpen in the Majors is killing them. Smoltz has seen six leads vanish after he departs (including his previous two starts against the Red Sox and the Yankees) because the hodge-podge of relievers is flat-out unable to hold on to the win.

Which got me thinking about the value of a closer (obviously) and also a set-up man. Remember how dominant that first Yankees team to win a title in the 1990s was? It was partially because they were trotting out Mariano Riveria in the seventh and eighth innings, and then bringing in John Whetteland to shut the door. The same goes for the Anaheim Angels a few years back with Francisco Rodriguez and Troy Percivel.

If you look back, the one year Atlanta won the World Series, in 1995 (arguably the best team, with the 1993 squad being a close second), the team was so effective because of its dominant bullpen. The Braves would open up a lead, bring in Alejandro Pena in the seventh or eighth innings, and then turn to Mark Wohlers to close it out.

But, what has been a long problem of not just the Braves, but of practically all teams, has been the ability to keep those closers performing at such a high level. The list of closers who 'lost it' in Atlanta are too numerous to mention - Wohlers, Greg McMichael, John Rocker, Dan Kolb, etc.

When I look at the difference between the Red Sox in 2003 versus 2004, I see the primary one being the emergence of Keith Foulke as a shut-down closer. Sure, adding Curt Schilling was pivotal, but the inability of Boston to close out a win the previous year - particularly in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees - prompting Theo Epstein to hunt down a marquee closer. He got one, and Boston got its first championship in 86 years.

Last year, Foulke struggled with control and injuries, and no one stepped up. The Red Sox faltered down the stretch and couldn't hold a lead against the eventual world champion White Sox in the American League Division Series. This year, Jonathan Papelpon has emerged as, possibly, the next Riveria, while Mike Timlin is re-settling into the set-up role he flourished in back in 2004. As a result, Boston is sitting in first place in the American League East.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Missed opportunities

The Sojourners Convention, which flooding forced me from, partially continued on despite smaller crowds and a shaved-down schedule. And Sen. Barack Obama, the primary reason I had initially applied for the scholarship, did deliver the keynote address on Wednesday morning.

And his speech was most impressive:

Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting "preachy" may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man.

Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers' lobby - but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart - a hole that the government alone cannot fix.

I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation's CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway.

I think that we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys. I think that the work that Marian Wright Edelman has done all her life is absolutely how we should prioritize our resources in the wealthiest nation on earth. I also think that we should give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished.

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy.

Couple of things

- Not shocking, but unfortunate. The U.S. Supreme Court said states can redistrict at any time, ultimately meaning whenever a new party comes into power they can redraw the lines to suit their needs ... of course, those lines will make for partisan districts meaning close-to-monopoly-like scenarios. Just don't think this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

- While The Wife is quite a tough businesswoman, Russ's wife is just flat-out tough. She's in a friggin' roller derby league. How cool is that?

- Fenway Park welcomed back Pedro Martinez with open arms, giving him a standing ovation and then roughing him up by tagging him for eight runs in three innings. And this is how it should be. This guy gave everything he had in his seven years with the Red Sox, becoming the most dominant pitcher in the game - perhaps in a generation - in doing so. He deserves to be applauded, and I'm proud the Red Sox Nation honored him rightfully. Boston Dirt Dogs had been imploring us to boo him mercilessly upon his return, and I'm glad the rest of the fans flat-out ignored that ridiculous request and cheered him.

- Four episodes into the first season of 24, and now I've got to get the next DVD. A quick question, though ... can Kim not call for help on the borrowed cell phone while running away from the terrorist kidnappers? This thoroughly infuriated The Wife last night.

- Dude, I'm a good Democrat, but this is absolutely stupid. Not only is it a complete waste of taxpayer money, but city councils - even in the fantasy land of Berkley, Calif. - have no impeachment powers over the federal government. Yeah, this is the kind of press our party needs right now. Kudos, wacky people in California. Kudos.

Draft recap

Again, I've said it before and you folks are going to really stop believing me, but I'm sincerely not a big NBA fan. Yet, oddly enough, I am fascinated by the league and, most importantly, the NBA Draft. So what can we come away with from this year's draft?

- Despite the overwhelming need for a point guard - highlighted by selecting unproven Marvin Williams over eventual NBA Rookie of the Year Chris Paul last season - the Atlanta Hawks picked power forward Sheldon Williams from Duke with the first pick and then power forward Solomon Jones from South Florida with their second pick. The rationale? General Manager Billy Knight (also known as the worst NBA executive not named 'Isiah Thomas') said he'd look to the free agent market for a point guard ... a market which includes Speedy Claxton and Bobby Jackson. Yep. That turnaround is right around the corner.

- Tons of trades. Many mind-boggling. Why would the TrailBlazers do an unnecessary trade to get LaMarcus Aldridge ... particularly when the Chicago Bulls wanted Tyrus Thomas all along?

- If anyone had a worse draft than the Hawks, it was the Knicks. Cementing his role as the underlord of professional basketball misery, Isiah Thomas passes on UConn's Marcus Williams, arguably the best point guard in the draft (who was amazingly available at the 20th pick), to take South Carolina's Renaldo Blackmon. Then, with their second first-round pick, the Knicks tab Mardy Collins ... a point guard. Not only is it laughable enough to take perhaps the third-best player from South Carolina's basketball team with your first pick, but you don't think he's going to be around at No. 29? So much so, you pass up the best player available in the draft?

- The Celtics had a busy day, dealing their first round pick away to land Sebastian Telfair and former Hawk Theo Ratliff (who must be pushing 50 now). Telfair's a good pick, though still a project. He could become the point guard Boston needs is he can live up to his potential.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Couple of things

- Well, the speculation is finally over as Mayor Heidi Davison announced she'd seek a second term, joining three others vying for the top position in the Athens-Clarke County government. One of those three is one of the darlings of the Athenian blogosphere in Andy Rusk, who's been more than gracious enough to post both here and at Athens Politics. I like Andy, but I'm leaning strongly toward supporting Davison's re-election bid. She had a rocky first year or so, but I feel she's rebounded strongly, particularly with her launching of Partners for a Prosperous Athens and her committment to IHN of Athens.

We've also got a logjam for the District One seat with Doug Lowry, James Garland and Jim Ponsoldt. Lowry's been a declared candidate almost since Charles Carter began whispering he'd be retiring, and he's put together an impressive coalition of supporters from what I gather. Garland has been active with us local bloggers, while Ponsoldt has strong name recognition in the community. This should be the most entertaining commission race.

Though that could change once everything becomes official in District Nine, where, as of Wednesday morning, only Kelly Girtz has registered. Supposedly Chuck Jones and Alvin Sheets are going to jump into this thing as well.

- In news of the not-so-shocking kind, Georgia baseball coach Dave Perno won't be going to LSU. Perno's a good coach and all, but are we to really expect he was a serious candidate for best opening in college baseball? This is like the Notre Dame job in football, isn't it?

- Per the suggestion of one reader, I did a little research and discovered that my all-inclusive movie channel selection also means I have access to the HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and Encore OnDemand movies ... for free. Which means if it's currently on one of the movie channels, I can view it whenever I want. So, in the past couple of days I've added Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle, The Interpreter, House of Wax and Madagascar.

The Interpreter was, oddly, boring, while Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle had plenty of cheap laughs and was full of weird and totally random cameos (since when does Jamie Kennedy make for a high-profile cameo?). House of Wax was brutally bad and full of stars from The WB looking for a way to fill the summer (it was, however, by absolute sheer random chance, the third movie featuring Elisha Cuthbert I've seen in the past week, so I suppose that's not so bad). All in all, Madagascar and its animated self was the highlight.

Though The Wife and I began watching the first season of 24 last night (again, oddly enough, yet another Elisha Cuthbert vehicle).

- It's quite possible that Kyle at Dawg Sports may possibly be coming back around to Major League Baseball. If so, this is earth-shattering news.

- If you haven't yet, feel free to check out my mis-adventures in Washington, D.C. (where Russ is glad I wasn't killed in the shower ... seriously, the place had a whole 'first-motel-Tom-Hanks's-character-in-Big-stayed-after-being-transformed-into-a-grown-up' kinda vibe to it). But I did, however, have a very nice Saturday. Worked in the morning, went to Cali-N-Titos for lunch (Hillary is right ... the empanadas are amazing) with Matt, who proceeded to accompany me to AthFest (my first trip there ever) to see Ishues and The Renegades, returned to the house to watch the numerous movie channels and then went to Ed and Lindsey's for dinner. So that was a good day ... the following two, not so much.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mr. McGinty goes to Washington (cut short edition)

As some of you may remember, I was fortunate enough to be selected to receive a scholarship to attend the annual Sojourners Convention. The convention was to open on June 26 and run through this Wednesday. It had compiled an impressive collection of speakers - ranging from Sen. Barack Obama to Sen. Rick Santorum to DNC Chairman Howard Dean to Sen. Sam Brownback to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

I was pretty fired up.

So, what happened?

Well, how about some of the worst flooding in the Washington, D.C. area in years.

After arriving Sunday night and spending much of the evening in my hotel room watching Flash Flood Warnings scroll across the bottom of every channel, I awoke Monday morning to discover the Metro was shut down for the day, several government buildings were closed, taxi service was sporadic and bus service was limited (and backed up due to the closing of the Metro, with lines stretching three blocks long).

So my options to reach the site of the convention - located across the city from my hotel - were limited and non-existent. With five to six inches of additional rain possible over the next 24 hours, I made the educated decision - as did half of the convention's attendees apparently - to get the heck out of town.

What followed was an epic ordeal at Ronald Reagan International Airport, where everyone and their uncle is literally fleeing the city. After switching my flight from Wednesday to Monday at 1:45 p.m., I arrive at 10:30 a.m. and join the line for check-in. At noon, I'm finally off to the screening process. And I was fortunate compared to some folks. A lot of people in line ultimately missed their flights because of the wait, while one poor soul behind me had spent the past 20 hours at the airport because he had several flights cancelled due to weather.

We board the plane around 2:10 p.m. (though, I must say, the folks at Reagan International Airport had oddly put at Gate 3A the plane for Greensboro, N.C., while at Gate 3B was my plane for Greenville, S.C. ... safe to say, with a muddled intercom system, this led to much confusion). Twice we taxi over to takeoff, and twice weather shuts us down. We don't get up into the air until 4 p.m. and are forced to fly a different corridor due to the storms along the East Coast.

I don't get to Greenville until a little after 5 p.m. and back home until after 6:30 p.m. (upon which I made a quick journey to Cali-N-Titos to pick up dinner considering I hadn't had an actual meal in about 48 hours).

But if I told you just about the ordeal at the airport and the severe flooding, I'd be selling you considerably short. Because, originally, it wasn't the flooding which prompted me to consider leaving early. No ... that distinction belongs solely to the Hotel Harrington (as an aside, The Wife said I should have known what I was getting into simply by visiting the web site).

To say the Hotel Harrington is a 'modest' hotel is as grand of an understatement as saying that the character of Lewis Skolnick was a tad dorky. The lobby is the size of, well, say the coat closet in your house ... if your coat closet was staffed by a fairly agitated man of some unknown foreign nationality. The elevator lights (you know, the ones that denote the floors as you ride them) are hand-drawn, while the elevator itself is roughly as large as a shoe box.

My room was located in the far corner of the sixth floor and wasn't much bigger.

For my next trick, I will attempt a magical escape of this room.

It's also a tad warm in the room, and a little research reveals I have no control over the air conditioning. It's a central unit ... for the entire hotel. What I do have, however, is a large, bent metal pole protruding from the ceiling and oddly affixed (loosely) to the wall. Scribbled in pencil next to the affixed portion of the pole is the word 'On' with a crude arrow pointing up underneath it.


This is a bit disconcerting, but I figure I can live with that.

The following morning, I learn that because I checked in a day ahead of the rest of the group from the convention, I am being forced to check out and then re-check in at 4 p.m. I can't really comprehend this, and I don't think the guy at the front desk can comprehend me. We around and around on this, and I finally relent and head up to shower.

I'm also notified there's been some overbooking done at the hotel, so I can't necessarily be assured of getting a room. So I'm now very concerned ...

Back at the room, I turn on the hot water so I can shave and, remembering it took a while to get going from the night earlier, I give it a few minutes. Well, a few minutes later ... the water is still ice cold. Turns out the hot water, for the entire hotel is out ... for an undetermined amount of time ('Could be days ... could be hours ... who knows?')

At this point, I begin to look for a new hotel ... only to find them either booked up or running for roughly $225 a night. So now, I'm seriously considering leaving ... though the lure of the convention itself is singlehandedly keeping me in my unsavory accommodations.

However, the updates on the severe weather coupled with the non-guarantee that I'd, you know, have a room when I returned seal the deal. So thanks, but no thanks ... I'm going home.

And that's that. A promising trip cut short, but, hey, everything works out for a reason I suppose.

Is there a lesson involved? Perhaps listen to your wife's advice when it comes to a hotel, though I kinda like the whole 'not-visiting-a-city-during-a-flooding-episode' one I picked up.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Couple of things

- As the Braves continue a most awkward and, quite honestly, unexpected slide, Terrance Moore pens a column which touches on some things discussed earlier here, namely that for the vast majority of Atlanta, the population is rather indifferent to the successes of the team (and all of its sports teams). I think there's plenty of truth to that argument, even if Moore, as usual, is a bit over-the-top in his pronouncements.

- Notre Dame riding a wave of (financial) success on their name? Shocking, I know. Won't we be presenting them the national championship trophy prior to the opener with Georgia Tech. You know, just go ahead and get it out of the way?

- Please ... let it rain.

- The Wife and I picked up the complete movie channels package from Charter a few weeks ago through some unusual and incredibly affordable deal the company was offering, and safe to say those 20-plus channels now dominate our evenings. This has freed me up to watch such new, modern classics like National Treasure, By Dawn's Early Light, The Wedding Date and The Girl Next Door.

- Seriously though, The Girl Next Door was most entertaining. Hillary told me yesterday she didn't find it funny, but I thought it had its moments. Plus, that Elisha Cuthbert is quite an attractive young woman. The Wife asked if she would crack my Top Five, and I felt fairly confident if re-polled today, she would (as an aside, The Wife's Top Five begins and ends with George Clooney ... and I can respect that).

- Georgia Sports Blog is doing a bang-up job keeping tabs on Georgia could possibly add as an opponent for 2007. I'm still lobbying for Penn State, though that's not too likely. Though Texas A&M would be kinda cool too. He also ranks the SEC stadiums by toughest-to-play, and sticks Tennessee at No. 2. I'd agree with LSU No. 1, but put Florida at No. 2 (though my only reservation is the Gators have struggled there since Steve Spurrier left).

- Attention everyone ... today is Russ's birthday, so be sure to wish him well. Plus that fella is heading off to Chicago in a week or so, so there's that.

Real Work Conversations

Hillary: I've never had Powerade before.
Me: I like it better than Gatorade, to be honest with you. I mean, both are good, but I really like the blue Powerade.
Hillary: I've had Gatorade. When I was a kid, I used to eat the powder mix.
Me: That's fairly disgusting.
Hillary: I know it was wrong, but it tasted so right.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Friday Night Lights

Having spent between three and five years of my life covering high school athletics, one of my favorite times of the year is prep football season. I relived some memories yesterday with Texas, and it got me pretty fired up for this upcoming season.

And this year should be a pretty good one. There's a new football coach at Clarke Central, while its former coach, William DeVane, has taken a job at Hart County (where he got his start). Oconee County, likewise, has a new coach after a sudden, and peculiar, lack of patience with Neal Auer (despite the fact he had led the Warriors to a Region 8-AAA title just one year before and guided them to the playoffs in the year he was dismissed).

Also, the best player in this area since Tony Taylor patrolled the field for Oconee County in 2001 will be on view as Greene County's Josh Nesbitt will try to lead the Tigers to a second trip to the Georgia Dome.

Last year Nesbitt threw for more than 2,800 yards and 31 touchdowns, while running for 1,200 and 22 touchdowns. has him ranked as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the country. He's worth the trip to Greensboro.

Realities and fantasies

I love a good 'disconnected-from-reality' letter-to-the-editor every so often, and Christopher Walcott from Colbert was able to supply me with one for today.

I don't want to focus on it too much, seeing how a large portion of what he writes is so oddly distorted and lacks the appropriate context, but it's safe to say that Walcott's history lesson regarding al-Qaida is horrifically misleading.

While he is right in agreeing with the author of a previous letter than Osama bin Laden was a leader in the Afghan resistance, he misspeaks when he says simply that bin Laden 'broke away from the mujahedeen to form al-Qaida.' In reality, the mujahedeen evolved into al-Qaida in the weeks following Saddam's invasion of after the Saudia Arabia government refused to let bin Laden use the mujahedeen to repel the Iraqis. That, coupled with what he viewed as the desecration of Mecca as U.S. forces, women included, were allowed to take up residence in the country to free Kuwait.

And, truth be told, the U.S. did break off considerable financial support to the mujahedeen once the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan because, quite simply, there was no need to back an insurgency that had already triumphed. The original author might be too harsh in saying the U.S. 'dumped' bin Laden and the mujahedeen, but Walcott is equally as misleading in suggesting we didn't.

The terrorist bases which were discovered were uncovered in the Kurdish portions of the country, which were free from Saddam's oppressive rule. While it's true Iraq participated in some terrorist activities, these actions were few and far between and often poorly planned and executed (like the botched attempt on President George H.W. Bush's life).

The 9/11-Iraq connections Walcott attempts to discredit are almost too laughable for me to even address. There's considerable evidence of direct and indirect linking done by different members of the Bush Administration - see here, here and here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Couple of things

- People, I've said once before and I'll say it again - there is no such thing as a bias against Cedar Shoals High School. During my days at the paper, I can't tell you the number of times I had this allegation leveled against me and my co-workers ... that we somehow had it in for Cedar Shoals (typically by the same small group of individuals). I remember one time, heading off to cover a basketball game at Cedar Shoals at the end of a week in which I had written three stories on the Jaguars' basketball program (including one on the front page of the paper that morning), only to be greeted with hostility at the ticket gate by two gentlemen who said 'Oh, now you've decided to give us some coverage when we're hosting us so-and-so ... you know there's more than Oconee County out there to cover.'

In this particular instance, Virginia Duncan thinks the paper has it in for Cedar Shoals principal Tommy Craft ... ignoring the fact that news did happen when he prohibited the reading of a speech by a student (and then, in a purely petty action, refused to allow the student the opportunity to graduate with the rest of his class). That's news ... as is the possibility some sort of inappropriate actions by a Cedar Shoals administrator occurred, and it doesn't matter if it happened four minutes ago or four years ago. And Jason Winders and Jim Thompson were within their bounds to comment on it.

I like the folks at Cedar Shoals. The overwhelming majority of my experiences with the school have been very positive, but that vocal minority is doing a bang-up job in damaging their reputation.

- Not that I'm surprised about this, but doesn't the judge's own ruling seem a bit odd. I mean, doesn't 'intent' have a lot to do with whether or not something is gerrymandered? Because you intend to carve out a voting population favorable to one particular group is OK as long as it doesn't look like a gerrymandered district? That seems to me to be pretty counterintuitive.

- I've got a bunch of questions about this whole Republican-Party-was-vandalized story ...

1. Can the kids not find something better to do with their time than to screw around with the Republicans' banner? And, according to the story, it sounds like it took a painstaking amount of time to remove the banners and rearrange them. Go rent a movie or something.

2. OK, and Ed Brown, jump to conclusions much? It sounds like a partisan thing? Because, as Hillary pointed out in the office yesterday, you think the Democrats have their act together enough to coordinate this? And, seriously, why in the world would the local party focus their energies on messing with your banner? We'd file a lawsuit first, or something.

3. And John Elliott ... you still have free speech. Having your banner vandalized has not, in any shape or form, diminished your ability to get your message out. There is no one preventing you from talking about tax cuts and clear-cutting.

4. Finally, why in the world is a simple vandalism story on the front page of the newspaper? A banner was tampered with. Windows weren't broken, cars weren't set ablaze ... this seems to me to be blotter material.

- Not that I care, but the Miami Heat won the NBA title ... robbing us of possibly one of the greatest sports moments of all time - David Stern handing Mark Cuban the trophy. Seriously, after Cuban sprinted onto the court in Miami after Game Five and stared down Stern a la Sting descending from the rafters to clean out the WCW, who wouldn't pay to see that exchange?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Fenway South

I was fortunate enough to attend Friday's Boston-Atlanta game at Turner Field, and if you had moved in the left field wall some 50 yards and jacked it up a bit, you would've sworn you were in Fenway Park.

Not only were the Red Sox fans distinctly louder throughout the series (except for a brief moment following Jeff Francouer's home run in the seventh inning of last night's game ... and the place settled down after a six-run eighth inning with two outs for the Red Sox), but the Braves fans seemed downright lethargic.

I know you're stuck in a slump unseen since the days of Andres Thomas, losing 17 out of the past 20 games and falling into last place in the National League East, 14 games back from the Mets, but still ... show like you care a little bit, will you?

"It sucks. It's very irritating. I've never experienced anything like that. I'm in my own place, and I hear all these 'Let's Go Red Sox' chants. It just kills you in the outfield when they're cheering against you in your own home park. The Red Sox are getting louder cheers than we are."
- Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francouer

BTW, if I had audio of this, I might make it my cell phone ring.

The Red Sox sweeping the Braves, particularly after Francouer thought he had singlehandedly saved the day, almost makes up for Phil Mickelson's collapse at No. 18 in the U.S. Open.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Geographical Animosity

Sadly, there appears to be a new trend in our increasingly partisan country - and that's the concept of villifying an entire region and/or area for one's own political purposes.

Take, for instance, the comments made by Chuck Jones, a candidate for Athens-Clarke County Commission, at Athens Politics. Jones openly speaks of his disdain for the Cobbham neighborhood and says they're 'everything that is wrong with Athens.'

Really? Not our high poverty rate or traffic issues or difficult attempts to execute smart growth ... but the neighborhood of Cobbham. Even more so, Cobbham isn't even in the district Jones is running in, so such negativity is even more puzzling.

But we shouldn't be surprised by this. In the 2004 presidential campaign, President Bush repeatedly made derogatory comments about Massachusetts and Vermont in an attempt to fire up his base and ridicule Sen. John Kerry and former Gov. Howard Dean. Likewise, after the election, many Democrats openly began to poormouth the South and Heartland, often using this cartoon to illustrate their point.

I thought if you ran for office or served as an elected official, so were entitled to serve all your constituents, not just the ones you liked and not the ones you didn't.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

On Tiger

Seth Davis from the Sports Illustrated U.S. Open blog, penned a nice piece on the public's reaction to Tiger Woods after the death of his father, and, more importantly, Tiger's reaction to the public's reaction.

As an aside ... I was in a NCAA Tournament pool with Davis once. Safe to say, I was at a distinct disadvantage considering, at the time, he was one of the on-air personalities for CBS Sports.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Audience participation

Purchasing Phil Steele's annual college football lovefest has got me jonesing for the release of NCAA Football 2007, which mercifully will be in my possession in approximately 36 days. So, with that in mind, I figured I'd open up my selected dynasty to the reading public at large.

Now, of course, I always start right off the bat with Georgia to see how unfair EA Sports has been to them (with the exception of D.J. Shockley ... they had him as the second coming of Randall Cunningham as far back as his redshirt freshman season), so there's that. But don't be mislead. Part of the challenge is to take a mid-level team to the next level and then earn a better coaching position.

So, I thought I'd get some reader input for this one.

Ground Rules

When I say mid-level team, I don't mean some college with no shot at a decent ranking or success like, say, Western Carolina. I mean I want teams who participate in competitive conferences, but haven't quite reached the threshold yet. A good example would be, say, Arizona. There's something to work with there, and you get to play in the Pac-10 so a win over a Southern Cal or Oregon is going to go a long way in helping out in the polls.

So, Syracuse? Possibly.

South Carolina State? Not so much.

The caveat is, of course, you can't choose a SEC team. I can't play Georgia for the conference championship, no matter how weird, yet fascinating, it would be to lead Mississippi State to greatness.


In the past, I've been North Carolina, Oregon, Northwestern and Virginia Tech. I know, I know ... I cheated a bit on Virginia Tech, but it was the first year they had Marcus Vick, and he had something like 94 speed. It was impossible to pass that up, and there wasn't a third-and-long I was unable to convert by tucking it and running. Always been partial to the whole ACC lineup, primarily because you still get Miami and Florida State in the regular season, and I still get to beat up on Georgia Tech.

Last year saw me go 10-2, 13-0 and 12-1 with North Carolina, win two national titles and load up on talent before heading off to Athens to take over Georgia.

The Options

I've been working on my short list, so here's what we got for you to choose from ...

Middle Tennessee State
Southern Miss
Texas A&M

As of now, I'm partial to either Southern Miss or Washington. The latter's got a decent mobile quarterback in Isiah Stanbeck to work with.

Cast your votes. See who I can guide to greatness.

Preview time

Because such a fabulous job was done by I'm A Realist, I figured I'd lend a hand and post all of the links for his 2006 SEC Football Previews. So, here they are in the reverse order of when he posted 'em:

Mississippi State
Ole Miss
South Carolina

Also, picked up a copy of Phil Steele's College Football Preview, which typically is the college football preview magazine. My only problem with this particular publication - and it stretches back several years - is that ole Phil has an irrational love for Tennessee (well, that and the massive crush he has on himself ... it takes me three to four sentences along the lines of 'I was the only one to correctly pick Oregon State would finish with a plus-four turnover ratio three years ago' per preview to actually get to this season's picks).

He had it something bad for Casey Clausen back in the day, apparently oblivious to the fact that Casey Clausen was, well, pretty terrible as a starting quarterback. And this year is no exception as he's picked the Volunteers to finish first in the SEC East. Perhaps this isn't too outlandish as I think Florida is a bit overrated and Georgia has got a lot of rebuilding to do, but to say Tennessee is the hands-down favorite in the division is ridiculous.

As an aside, I do agree with him about Arkansas. Who's with me to go to Little Rock and watch the 'Hogs upset Southern Cal in the season opener?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Letter-mania ...

Man oh man ... some good material on the opinion pages today ...

- Jim and the Athens Banner-Herald editorial board pens the obvious, but much-needed acknowledgement to the North Georgia United Methodist Council. Having grown up a Methodist, and knowing that my uncle has in the past attended this conference, this is one of the many things this town does right. We put on a good show, provide a good venue and, in return, we get a couple thousand of the most gracious folks you'll ever meet come up here to visit.

In addition to bringing their dollars to the community, the United Methodists bring a commitment to service, as evidenced by the fact that something called the Great Day of Service has become a centerpiece of the annual summertime meeting. This year, the Great Day of Service will actually stretch across two days, Wednesday and Thursday, as hundreds of meeting attendees take time to fan out into the community to perform a variety of service projects.

As in past years, this year's Great Day of Service includes projects designed to benefit a wide cross-section of Athens-Clarke County. Some conferees will be playing bingo and hosting sing-alongs at a number of local nursing homes, others will visit the Clarke County Jail, and still others will be doing painting and other maintenance work at local social service agencies and private residences. Many will take time to give blood, while others will spend time praying for the community and its needs.

So kudos to the editorial board and welcome back to Athens-Clarke County to the North Georgia Council.

- Jim Baird apparently wants pictures of flowers and kittens on the front page of the paper. But whose fault is it really here? Should we blame the media for posting the pictures? Perhaps the military for disseminating the photos? Or should we point the finger at society in general for having such a craven thirst for such images?

But I suppose it's easier to blame the media, so everyone from right to left does that rather than shine the spotlight on themselves ... carry on then.

- Last night, Matt and I watched Georgia's 11-6 win over South Carolina to clinch a berth in the College World Series. While killing time in between the innings, he'd flip back and forth between the game and Ann Coulter on Fox News. And it would just anger him as he'd say 'did you hear what she was saying about 9/11 widows? ... she's a nut!'

I haven't really gotten worked up too much about this whole thing. Of course Ann Coulter is a nut. Of course Ann Coulter says absurdly inflammatory things. I mean, that's what she does.

But, truth be told, she's a marketing genius. Folks are watching her every interview and flipping through the pages of her book. Folks on the right scream 'that's right Annie darling ... you tell 'em!' And folks on the left respond with 'she's a freakin' wacko!'

Still ... they all tune in. So, while I more or less agree with Irene Budoff's letter, I'm rather indifferent to Coulter's latest piece of fluff.

She's pretty out there. I don't agree with her. Her writings are insensitive. I didn't need a new book to figure that one out.

- Not sure who this Shawn Glynn fella is ... but he makes some sense.

- This one actually ran on Sunday, but I had a lot of problems with Jeff Emmanuel's column defending the Marines at Haditha ... partly because of the implications he made in it. I had some factual issues with it, seeing how he discounts much of the reporting and public investigative work done on the case. And, how in the light of such revelations, we should simply give the accused Marines the benefit of the doubt.

Now, I've had two grandfathers, several cousins and my brother-in-law all serve in the Armed Forces, and they were all darn fine servicemen and servicewomen who did our family and country proud ... as are the vast, overwhelming majority of those in the service. But we shouldn't simply use the sacrifices and dedication of those men and women to gloss over the possible crimes committed about Haditha. If anything, Emmanuel's suggestion would do a disservice to that majority of those in the service.

Most of the journalists I know are dedicated, hard-working journalists ... but because I know of those folks doesn't mean I can't call Jayson Blair what he is - a phony who is a disgrace to journalists everywhere.

This isn't an argument about the Marine Corps, but rather about what happened at Haditha by small group of Marines who possibly committed crimes against a civilian population. Perhaps I'm being too hard on Emmanuel, who himself is a military veteran, since he does admit in the end of his piece that if crimes were committed that punishments should be doled out ... but his column seemed too apologetic at times for me, attempting to excuse the deaths of the innocent civilians.

'Back a Dog into a corner ...'

Third trip to the College World Series in six years. Not bad. (Photo courtesy of Athens Banner-Herald)

Apparently all Georgia's baseball team needs is to be one loss away from having its season end. That's seven wins in the past three weeks with the Bulldogs on the verge of elimination. And that's impressive.

And by boy Bobby Felmy came through ... a solo home run and two-run triple in the seventh inning.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Good riddance

Not that death is really ever a good thing, but the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is welcome news in the seemingly consistently frustrating battle against Iraqi insurgents.

Al-Zarqawi was, more or less, a bastard. The fact he's not around anymore means he won't get the opportunity to personally concoct some cruel attacks on either U.S. forces, innocent Iraqi civilians or foreign aid workers and journalists.

Still, while it's good he's gone, it's also a far cry to see this singular act moves the U.S. closer to adequately securing that country. Al-Zarqawi was the lader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and terrorist operations don't exactly function with one supreme leader overseeing all of their actions. Typically, they operate out of numerous independent cells, many of whom never interact with each other, meaning the death of al-Zarqawi, no matter how welcome, may factor very little in the long battle against terrorism.

Plus, the death of al-Zarqawi will do little but stoke the fires of those most fervent Iraqi insurgents. Already, in the wake of his death, al-Qaeda vowed to continue its 'holy war' and car bombings killed 19 in Baghdad.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Independent candidate in 115

In what should definitely be an interesting twist in the local political landscape, E.H. Culpepper announced today that he would be seeking the Georgia House seat for District 115. He'll be going up against Democrat Doug McKillip and Republican Regina Quick as an independent, meaning he has to garner roughly 1,200 signatures on a petition to gain access to the ballot.

And he's instantly got the most name recognition - as well as impressive resume - in the race ... something which doesn't happen often with independent candidates. He's the vice chair of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority and development director of the Classic Center Authority. Plus he's racked up numerous civic awards, as well as considerable years of service to the community.

This should be pretty good ...

Here's the press release below:

E.H. Culpepper Launches Independent Candidacy For Georgia House Seat 115 with Petition Drive in Five Points

ATHENS, June 7 – Seeking to put years of political and civic service and deep statewide connections to work on behalf of the Classic City, Elijah H. “E.H.” Culpepper announced today that he is seeking a spot on the November General Election ballot as an independent candidate in Georgia House of Representatives District 115.

“I have one purpose in running: to help the Athens community immediately,” said Culpepper. “I have been a bridge builder my entire career, and Athens needs someone who can work across party lines to represent the diversity of our community while having the experience, credibility and relationships to make a difference under the Gold Dome.”

District 115 includes much of central and eastern Athens-Clarke County. Democrat Doug McKillip and Republican Regina Quick are the other announced candidates for the seat.

In order to earn a spot on the ballot, Culpepper must secure signatures from five percent of the registered voters in the district – approximately 1,200 individuals – by July 11. All nomination petitions must be notarized by a notary public. Only registered voters can sign the petitions, which are being circulated throughout the district.

“Just as most Athenians resist being labeled, I’m not interested in running as a Republican or Democrat,” says Culpepper. “Serving this district has nothing to do with party affiliation and everything to do with working with leaders in both parties to serve Athens and the University of Georgia.”

Culpepper will hold the first briefing with petition registrars tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. at 1730 South Lumpkin Street (in a tent in front of Appointments at Five), and will meet with interested media for a question and answer session at 11 a.m.

“I don’t believe we’ll have trouble getting the signatures,” says Culpepper. “My goal is to have 2,000 signatures by early July so we can begin campaigning in earnest.”

Added Culpepper, “I believe local voters are ready to see the city they love get the respect and attention it deserves under the Gold Dome. I’m not interested in launching a political career, building a resume, or furthering myself in any way. I just want to help this great city build on its strengths: the University of Georgia, a thriving downtown, a strong commitment to the environment, an entrepreneurial business community, a diverse population, and a hard-working, dedicated workforce.

I know where the right doors are in Atlanta, I know how to open them, and I know the people behind them. I want to be a problem solver – not a politician.”

Culpepper, a resident of Five Points, has a deep reservoir of community service. In his 48 years in the area, he has served on numerous state, regional, and local economic impact, transportation, and civic committees. He currently serves vice chair of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority, chairman of the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority, and is development director for the Classic Center Authority. He is also a partner in E.H. & Eye Catering, which is well known for its award-winning barbecue ribs. He has previously been a partner at Fortson, Bentley & Griffin and an officer at Clarke Federal Savings and Loan Association before its merger with Fulton Federal. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia law school.

Locally, Culpepper has received the 2005 Spirit of Athens award from the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. He has chaired or been a board member of the Touchdown Club of Athens, the Chamber of Commerce, the Athens Country Club, Salvation Army, the Athens YWCO, and many other community organizations.

“There are serious challenges for this region, and we need to get to work on addressing them instead of focusing on partisan politics,” said Culpepper. “We need to maximize state support for the University of Georgia. We need to attract the jobs and opportunities that our citizens need and deserve. We need to leverage the world-class research of UGA to attract companies and jobs. We need to protect the unique character of Athens while providing opportunities for our citizens – this is not an ‘either/or’ proposition.”

Unleash the inner fury

I like it when Kyle at Dawg Sports gets worked up, and his ridiculing of a, well, ridiculous knock on Georgia is priceless. College Football Resource ranks the Dogs fifth, but only ranks Mark Richt as the 'third-best coach in the SEC' and takes some shots and how 'predictable' the offensive schemes are ... along with the absurd claim that Georgia's backfield of Kregg Lumpkin, Thomas Brown and Danny Ware isn't that impressive.

Says Kyle in response:

Buck Belue threw 12 touchdown passes in his senior year, but the Bulldogs were 27-3 in the games he started. If you'd rather have Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung directing your offense, you deserve to go 2-8 . . . as Notre Dame did in the year Hornung took home what was already college football's most overrated award.

Kyle holds back on CFB's portion of black bean soup because they don't like the play-action pass.

It's a good read. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Real Life Conversations

Primarily I like the 'Real Work Conversations' but given the impressiveness of this recent exchange, we might regularly expand the category.

Sherman: I've never heard of this show.
Me: Oh, Dog the Bounty Hunter is excellent.
Matt: He's got a son named Leeland, who has the shaved head all the way around the bottom, but really long on top and tied into a ponytail.
Ed: Let's put it this way ... he looks like the guy ahead of you in line for the Mindbender at Six Flags.

That's good, that's bad

The positive news first - facing elimination, Georgia won three straight games, including a 3-2 win last night over Florida State, to advance to the NCAA Super Regional. Tim and I went to the game ... and by that I mean, got to the front gate, saw it was sold out and determined we'd watch it at Sons of Italy.

As an aside, why in the world is the Banner-Herald's beat writer for Georgia baseball writing the notebook, but not covering the actual game?

On the news of the lousy variety, the Yankees score eight runs in 1.1 innings against Josh Beckett and rout the Red Sox 13-5 to reclaim first place in the American League East. Per usual, Boston Dirt Dogs is predicting the end of the world.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Forest for the trees

Don't get me wrong, I think that BikeAthens does a lot of good things and is deserving of praise for its work in promoting alternative transportation in this community. But it's letters like Brad Aaron's this past weekend which make me want to shout 'you're missing the bigger picture!'

In the letter, Aaron criticizes the Athens-Clarke County Commission, Kathy Hoard in particular, for daring to ask how the community could calm traffic ... all because Hoard and five other (various) commissioners opted against the specific ones proposed by BikeAthens. So Aaron's problem is not that the commission isn't doing anything, it's that the commission isn't doing what he wants them to do.

Heck, he even admits as much - 'The current majority - including Hoard - consistently ignores ... most recommendations from BikeAthens, the only citizen organization in Athens-Clarke County devoted to traffic calming.'

So it's my way or the highway? Pardon the horrific pun.

And what's the primary focus of his criticism? You guessed it ... it's the nonsensical idea to three-lane Prince Avenue from Milledge Avenue on to downtown. I don't know why the advocates of this proposal haven't realized this train has done run. With Jackson County entering a period of solid growth, and with these people finding jobs in Athens-Clarke County (and their working here is very beneficial to our growth and development as a community), their main corridor to downtown is Prince Avenue. As a result, this road is seeing increased traffic.

So, forgive me if I think the commission made the appropriate decision in saying that three-laning this portion of the road would lead to worse traffic rather than 'calm' it.

And I've never truly gotten what 'calming traffic' means. Does it mean slowing it down? Because I've seen plenty of people speed right along three-lane roads ... and I've seen cars detour to quiet neighborhoods to avoid congestion on our primary roads (roads designed for such traffic flows).

Does it mean increasing gridlock and stretching my commute time from home-to-work into a 25-minute ordeal? If that's the case, than traffic-calming is doing a bang-up job on Hawthorne Road, where cars stretch back from the Oglethorpe Road intersection all the way back to Atlanta Highway.

Does it mean making it more conducive for pedestrians? If that's that case, than those four people sitting outside at The Grit, the handful of folks walking along Hawthorne Avenue and two or three cyclists I see outside of campus must be thrilled.

There simply are more cars than bikes, and more cars are used to travel to work and recreation than bikes or walking. This isn't to say that I'm opposed to any sort of plan to promote alternative transportation, it's just that said plan must respect the vast majority of people in this community who rely on their vehicle for transporation.

It's why plans like Alice Kinman's multi-use pathway proposal for Old Hull Road are the future of this community, because it accomodates all parties (and, to be fair, Aaron did mention this in his litany of complaints). It's why finding a way to keep Prince Avenue from Milledge Avenue to downtown and finding/creating bike lanes and paths are necessary for this community to work.

Take speed humps for example. Sure, they're annoying ... but they also cause me to drive considerably slower in a neighborhood or area which has them. You want to slow traffic down by The Bottleworks? Stick two or three of those things over there, with a pedestrian walkway in the middle ... I'd venture to say folks will slow down.

Same goes for traffic circles (like the ones found along Boulevard), though I don't like the idea of closing off neighborhoods to thru traffic ... primarily because that seems incredibly hard to enforce.

I'm all for Aaron's ultimate goal of creating a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists, but he's also got to understand that simply three-laning every road in this community won't accomplish that. It's time to think outside the box, and here's hoping he takes a long hard look in the mirror and comes up with some of these ideas rather than offer criticism when his organization's plans aren't rubber-stamped by the commission.