A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
At last, the summer doldrums are over. Trying to watch television during the summer is like hoeing sugar beets: You hoe out two weeds and five more sprout up to take their place. I tried, I honestly did, to find something to watch. After all, I have been retired for eleven years and do not have to prepare lectures about how a progressive and equitable tax system takes a higher percentage from the rich than it does the poor. Nor do I have to answer the usual questions: "Do we have to know that?" and "Will it be on the test?" No, dear blog reader, I have time to twiddle my thumbs and flip the TV remote endlessly in a futile quest for something to watch.
My search for television fare was hopeless. At least five bra infomercial programs dominated the airwaves. I had no idea. I had no idea that women buying bras was such a technically difficult and profitable business. No, I did not watch them. Also, numerous infomercial and other programs were concerned with building sexy bodies, sexy swimsuit bodies, and, trust me, one program (which I definitely did not watch) was called "Brazilian Butts." What is a Brazilian butt? Is a Brazilian one any different than a US of A one?
I tried other sports. I know there are soccer fanatics and they revel in watching people run all over a big field for hours butting heads and committing unseen fouls while trying to kick a little ball in a tiny net. But I usually lost interest after the first five minutes. Then there was championship poker, bowling, and major league baseball. I am sorry, baseball fans, but I lose interest in a 13 inning game when I don't know anyone on the teams and all I get to watch is closeups on the batter and the pitcher. I wait until the losing teams all get weeded out and then watch the World Series playoffs and that is quite fun. But that doesn't happen until fall. Golf fanatics ooh and aah over each swing of the golf club while watching the ball float through the air and land anywhere from a half mile to six inches from the hole, but if you're not into golf, it's like waiting for water to boil at a high altitude. And then there are sports like pool, billiards, table tennis, and who knows what else. If you are a parent of a male heir of younger age, you will be spending all summer traipsing from one Little League field to another chronically certain that your little future major leaguer is getting short shrifted by the coach and that the umps are doing your own team in.
But I digress. Last night the summer drought was over with a string of football games. Yes, football. The sport where boys and young men beat the living tar out of each other to move a little funny shaped ball up and down the field while thousands of maniac fans act like juvenile delinquents and make loud noises from the stands. The Utah Utes raised questions about how ready they are for the Pac-10 as they played an anemic game against my master's degree alma mater, Montana State. I cheered for the Bobcats and they played a better game than the Utes in the second half ending up only a few yards short of Utah in total yardage.
When babies are born in Utah, they are mostly born Republican until they go to college and study economics, and they are born either red (U of Utah) or blue (BYU). What makes football so much fun and causes football to generate so much interest is that generations of genuine hatred exist between the blue and the red. Now we can skip the political bloviators with their perpetual bloviations and can ignore the two or three dozen GOP Prezidential wannabes for a little while as they weed each other out with imaginative name calling, creative dissembling, and ego swaggering. Yes, we can focus mainly on football and life is back to normal.
So wives, your dear ones will be sitting on the couch all weekend for several months. Go out and buy stuff. Stimulate the economy. Your couch potato maniac husbands are not going to make any trips longer than to the bathroom at halftime, so don't fight it. Thank your lucky stars they won't bug you for awhile except for cold beverages, sandwiches, chips, ribs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and other gourmet items. If you have little kids, do not trust husbands to take care of them or change their diapers during their football trances.
Yes, the summer doldrums are over. Now on to Ole Miss and BYU tomorrow, not to mention a few dozen other games. No more AhBra infomercials or gas producing bloviators. We have genuine entertainment to take our minds off problems like unemployment, trillions and trillions and trillions of debt that little Murgatroyd age 2 will have to pay off, and the people who enter WalMart through the Exit door and exit WalMart through the Enter door. Happy football watching.
I taught all my college students to use two words, at least, which they all regurgitated to me in exam answers, in the hallways, in my office, when I would see them years after they graduated: plethora and egregious. Smart alecks. Though a plethora of reasons exist as to why the Curmudgeonly Professor is hacked off today, here is a smattering of the most egregious:
The Curmudgeonly Professor is a poor sport and a bad loser despite all the Pollyanna stuff about how "it isn't whether you win or lose, etc."
Jimmer Fredette and the BYU Cougars didn't quite have the gas to pull out a win over Florida in OT in the Sweet Sixteen.
San Diego State is not a team I normally love since they whomped the Cougars disastrously but more because some of them have made impolite references to some of my beloved BYU Cougars. Nonetheless, I was hoping they would get to the Elite Eight just because I am sick of the same teams always showing up there, like Connecticut, and SDSU didn't make the grade.
The Utah Jazz continue their downward spiral into oblivion and lottery team status by not being able to pull off a win against NOrleans last night. Though the Jazz have some talented players and a couple of star performances in every game, at least, the Jazz season is obviously doomed.
The BYU women's team lost to USC in the women's NIT.
Though the list was supposed to stop at five, I ask the NCAA finals selection committee if they think they were possibly, maybe, ridiculously biased in team selection as two of three Mountain West teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen and, what, maybe two of eleven (or so) teams from the heretofore mighty and now anemic Big East made it that far? No bias here, right?
Here are five reasons why every sports fan in America should watch the BYU-Florida NCAA basketball playoff game today:
Jimmer Fredette is one of the most iconic, superb basketball players to come along in decades. Win or lose, the game is worth watching just to watch Jimmer Fredette.
The Las Vegas line has Florida 3 over BYU. While BYU was also an underdog to Gonzaga, today could be the last time we get a chance to watch Jimmer play college basketball and we shouldn't miss the opportunity to watch this gifted player.
Jimmer is not only an exceptional once-in-a-lifetime kind of player, he is also a humble, self-effacing, and incredibly decent young man who merely goes back down the floor after making an impossible shot. He does not require or exhibit the usual methods of behavior exhibited by so many egotistical players.
BYU also has several other strong role players who, when on their game, are simply exceptional players such as Jackson Emery,Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock, and others who are capable of making outstanding contributions.
Coaches Dave Rose and Dave Rice both went to the final four as college players themselves and it is fun to watch these exceptional coaches see if they can outwit their opposing coach and team.
With Jimmer, the love for and mastery of the game of basketball are the shining motivations in his life. We can all be uplifted by watching this superb athlete try for the stars one more time no matter the outcome of the game. We're all cheering for you.
Once in awhile, or in 23 years in the case of Jerry Sloan, a story emerges that transcends the world of sports and touches us all. Such is the announcement yesterday by Jerry Sloan, the longest tenured coach with one team in the history of professional sports, that he knew it was time to go, to move on. Even an announcement that the governor or other prominent politician was resigning would not have created the stir caused by Sloan's announcement. For one thing, many people have no idea who the governor is or who other prominent politicians are. But for 23 years, Jerry Sloan has been the stern father figure and role model for Utah Jazz basketball, with that image becoming part of Utah folklore. The name of Jerry Sloan is a household name throughout Utah and throughout the world of professional sports.
To say that Jerry Sloan appeared to be a grouch, and fairly often, may be an understatement. But he also had a human side and was always moved by the troubles of his team members and others. The loss of his first wife, the loss of Larry Miller, his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame, and his retirement announcement yesterday all showed the human side of Jerry Sloan. But for 23 years Sloan prowled the sidelines of Jazz basketball games, sticking up for his players, barking at his players, barking at the officials who made egregious mistakes affecting his players, some times held back by his players or his assistant coaches, and occasionally being sent early to the locker room for one too many outburst. But his players and his fans always knew exactly where coach Sloan stood, what he stood for, and knew the lessons Sloan taught his players for 23 years, and by extension, seeped over into what the rest of us learned as well. Here are some of the most obvious lessons we learned from Jerry Sloan:
Compete. If we ever heard a more frequent comment than compete, I don't know what it would be. "We just didn't compete." "All I expect is for my players to go out and compete."
Work hard. Don't just work. Work hard. And if you don't, you'll hear about it.
Play as a team. Don't go off as individuals and showboat and show off. We win and lose as a team not as a bunch of hotshot individual stars trying to make the highlight reel.
Defend your team. Stick up for your guys.
Be stingy with praise, and praise only when warranted. Don't tell players they did a good job when they didn't.
Be humble and self-effacing. You are not the most important thing in basketball or anything else. Give credit to all who deserve it, who helped you get where you are and who made it possible for your accomplishments.
Do your job. You are being paid a lot of money to play basketball. So play basketball and do your job.
Do the best that you can do. "That's all I ask."
Be tough. Hang in. Grit it out.
There are more important things in life than the game of basketball.
If you are the coach, then you are the leader. Not the players, not the assistant coaches, not the media who often act as if they knew a tad too much, not my wife who occasionally offers her unsolicited advice.
If you are a basketball player, don't let your ego blindside you and stand in the way of doing what you are being paid to do.
Be loyal. Be loyal to your bosses, to your associates, to your players, to the organizations that hire and support you. If you can't be loyal, get off the boat.
I suppose I have left out a few lessons. But to Jerry Sloan, our legendary and iconic coach with the occasional stern growl and loud bark, we bid a fond farewell. Go see your collection of John Deere tractors in Illinois and play with your grandkids and have dinner with your wife and get introduced to household chores. You leave with our love, respect, and unbounded appreciation for your contributions to sports, to morality, to personal standards, and to the indelible lessons of decency and honesty and humility that will long be a part of our lives and our culture. Godspeed.
From time to time, the Curmudgeonly Professor feels inspired to share his brilliant insights and vast knowledge with two or three readers who check my blog. Today's knowledge is in the area of sports.
Before you get married (men, mostly) ask your betrothed and potential eternal helpmeet if she (he) likes to watch sports. Seriously. Then, to make sure she (he) is not prevaricating, sit down and watch two or three sports events with her. If she sticks it out to the end, you may have a chance. If she excuses herself for approximately 2/3 of the time, you have a problem. It takes several hundred hours a week to watch college football, NFL football, college basketball, NBA basketball, college volleyball, golf, soccer, and maybe even championship poker. Unless you want to be a sports widower, sitting on the couch for the rest of your married days by yourself, make certain, absolutely certain, that you won't be left in the lurch with a sports hater.
My grandson is an assistant women's bb coach at Utah Valley U. He gave his daughter, my great granddaughter, a miniature basketball hoop and a tiny basketball. Sadie, without instructions, marched over to the hoop and dunked the basketball. Sadie is off to a promising start here.
Utah Jazz still in a funk, dropping another one to Utah Jazz East (aka Chicago Bulls) last night by committing several blunders near the game's end. Started out season great, now wonder if they make the playoffs.
In recent game, sports announcer used one of my most detested cliches: "He can FLAT out shoot the basketball." Flat out? What is flat out?
Jimmer mania the most entertaining sports story out of Utah this year, all started by the kid from Glens Falls NY who started playing college ball at age two or three named Jimmer Fredette.
Will sports commentators please stop interviewing someone we absolutely could care less about while the game is going on, letting several minutes elapse while we have to listen to their inane blather, not knowing what is happening in the game. Thank you.
I still miss Ron Boone on Jazz TV.
To clear the air, my wife is an avid sports fan. She yells at the TV once in awhile "Get the Ball!" or, when it's 3d down and 8 to go, "How can you be so dumb by running up the middle?" Stuff like that. Thus we have perfect harmony as regards Utah Jazz, BYU Cougars and, in former days, Denver Nuggets and Broncos, Wyoming Cowboys, Colorado State Rams. We didn't much have time in Ann Arbor for the Michigan Wolverines, and Penn State just wasn't all that interesting in the 60s when we were there. Plus we some times watch other teams with a perverse interest in seeing them (hopefully) get beat, like the Lakers, the Heat, and (forgive me Utah sports fans) the Utah Utes. But aside from economics, sports are the most important thing in life.
The Utah sports world is segregated into a number of tight little kingdoms, each of which is ultimately more important than gerrymandered political districts. Starting at the north, the Aggie kingdom takes up space in Cache Valley, soundly detesting and booing both the Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars. Then comes the Weber State Wildcats with a covey of loyal fans who pretty much stay to themselves and that almost no one hates. Then comes the Big Red Utah Utes, that no one outside of Salt Lake City likes and a hop and a skip farther south and the BYU Cougars inhabit their own kingdom. Utes and Cougars do not like each other, although sometimes a Ute marries a Cougar or a family has athletes that split between BYU and Utah, and that can cause some interesting discussions. Wherever you go in Utah, you see Utah sports wear and BYU sports wear. The butcher at Costco told me my BYU hat offended him and that he didn't think he would sell me any meat. Most doctors in Utah graduated from the U med school, so chances are you are being treated by a Ute doctor who is a rabid Ute fan.
A few minor kingdoms exist with their own small but loyal fan bases, including Snow College, Southern Utah at Cedar City, and Dixie State in St. George, plus both major and minor junior colleges and private schools, and Utah Valley in Orem, destined likely to be by far the largest university in Utah and one of the largest in the west and just poised to find itself a major player in sports.
But whatever one's affiliation, the one unifying tie has been the Utah Jazz. Now the Jazz have had their fifth straight loss. With coach Jack Nicholson leading the cheers among his multi-millionaire buddies courtside at the Staples Center last night, the Jazz slumped to a 38 point deficit before Uncle Phil pulled the stars who then sat smirking on the bench (actually folding chairs) while the lesser Laker stars kept the margin in the twenties. Meanwhile Jazz exiles Boozer, Korver, and Brewer are doing just fine in Chicago and Wesley Matthews, conned out of Utah by the Trailblazers is lighting up the scoreboards in Portland. Jazz team members sat petulantly on their own folding chairs in LA with some heads partially covered, lost and dazed looks on their faces.
What to do? They can't all be sent to the D-League until they shape up. Venerable and veteran coach Jerry Sloan appears incredibly patient with his sluggish band of no-shows. Meanwhile, toilets flushed early throughout Jazzland last night as TVs clicked off and otherwise loyal and rabid Jazz fans scratched their heads and headed early to bed. Sports analysts are full of prescriptions and critiques. Some say playing for the Jazz can't be all that hard to learn since they have run only one play, the pick and roll, for 23 years, as D-Will reminded us in yesterday's press. But apparently playing defense, making shots, getting rebounds, and a few other fundamentals have escaped them, we hope temporarily. No mistake, we love our Jazz. We hate the Lakers. And we'd rather be Jazz fans and lose than be a Lakers fan and win. That's just the way it works. And some game soon, the Jazz will find themselves again and play like they did those few glorious games early in the season when they beat the best in the league before they started losing to the bottom feeders. The woeful countenances will disappear. Rebounding and shooting and defending will reappear. And we will never know what was eating them during the slump.
Here are the major sports gripes of the Curmudgeonly Professor:
Number One, hands down, the BCS. The BCS is an invention of the rich, babied, and protected, so cleverly conceived that it has become a monopoly preventing an equitable treatment of all college football teams. So far, no one has been able to bring it down. The BCS keeps making these inane excuses about why the BCS is so great for college sports. Are you kidding? The BCS is great for the members of the BCS who live in mortal fear that some other infidel team will crack the top two and therefore have to play for the national championship. As it now stands, the BCS bowl system will forever be a sham, a facade, until the monopoly is crumbled and every football team in America has a legitimate chance to reach the top.
The universal bowl system where teams who should have cleaned out their lockers with six or more losses during the season are merrily going off to a "bowl" game that very few care about. No surprise that TV viewing of bowl games is down. Who cares except a few alumni.
That issues for players who were allowed to play in bowl games were not settled before the bowl games were played.
Announcers who get bored with the games they are supposed to be announcing and go wandering off in inane directions or spend five minutes interviewing a "celebrity" while the game goes on and we have no clue what is happening.
The ninety second sports coverage allowed on local TV stations for which the sports guy has to hang around all night and then barely break a sweat.
Graphics on some TV sports coverage. Many are way too small and blurry, some are so far over to the side that they get cut off on some TV sets. Plus blanketing the screen with ads and garbage when you want to see what is happening in the game.
The inequities of markets and TV coverage that influence voters for things like NBA all star game.
The income stratosphere that has elevated football coaching salaries into the clouds. But, hey, if your school is making $20-$50 mill or more after expenses, who cares if you pay the coach $5 mill? Good business, right? But then the issue remains: Are we talking about a university, or a dollar generating machine?
Everything in sports has become "all about the money," to use a tired cliche. TV rights, TV markets, fan base, stadium and arena revenues, exorbitant concession stand fare. Ordinary mortals will never see anything but the nosebleed section in a pro bb game, while the moneyed, the famous, and those who get a free ticket from a corporate person who bought them for "business" reasons enjoy the close-up action. At least we have HD TV. Pro teams need to make a profit, and college teams need at least to break even. So what's wrong with the focus on $$$$? It's a dilemma.
The Curmudgeonly Professor never runs out of gripes. That is why he is a grouchy curmudgeon. But we will save a few others for later.
Here are the wishes that the Curmudgeonly Professor has for the New Year 2011:
That we could get through the entire year without some famous sports icon becoming infamous and embarrassing him or herself, the sports world, the fans, the media and the whole world by doing something stupid, selfish, immoral, cruel, or illegal.
That neither the Heat nor the Lakers will win the NBA finals this year. Go home early and practice up for next year. We need some fresh faces.
That no other sports icon will leave a team, a city, and a state devastated with a moronic press conference to announce that "I'm taking my talents to Miami." We'll get by just fine, thank you.
That the number of college bowl games can be reduced from how many? 200? to a respectable number of teams that actually deserve to be in a bowl game.
That we can restore New Year's Day bowl games to their glorious and rightful place in the sports agenda.
That we can get rid of the idiotic names of idiotic bowl games that no one cares about except a few alumni and, in some cases, apparently, only a smattering of fans who show up to watch some of these sports travesties.
That Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz will finally receive his rightful award of NBA Coach of the Year. Absolutely shameful that he has never received this honor.
That the BCS will vaporize, vanish into thin air, taking their bloviating members who keep avowing the "BCS is good for college sports." Wrong, you greedy folks. The BCS is good for the monopolists who control the money, the bowls, and the teams and who invent shameful and distorted reasons why they won't allow worthy non-BCS teams to play in their precious big-money, big-time bowl games. It's time to break up this little money grubbing love fest and make football playoffs into a system where any worthy team in the country has a right to be playing.
That no one on the Heat or the Lakers teams will be named MVP.
That a salary cap of $20 million will be put in place for maximum salaries for college football coaches. How ludicrous is this slot machine jackpot winning system going to become? Economists say it's a matter of how much $$$ someone brings in to the school, and, since English professors who win big writing prizes come cheap and work for peanuts and bring in little money, they labor teaching our next generation how to write and think, while football coaches teach great big boys how to bash the daylights out of other teams and generate zillions of dollars of revenue. After all, what is the purpose of a university? Something has gotten seriously out of hand here, folks.
That the entire year will go by without some sports commentator saying "That's what it's all about." Egregious. Two indefinite antecedents strung ungrammatically and unmercifully together.
That sideline commentators and reporters actually have some competence in the sport they are sideline commentating about, and that they actually think up some other question to ask a coach at half time whose team is losing by 40 points instead of "what changes are you going to have to make in the second half, coach?" Bless the coaches, who by and large endure these inane questions and speak civilly.
That we don't have to hear "the game was closer than the score indicates." The score is the game, and if someone blew it in the last 30 seconds after being ahead 30 points and then lose by 1 point, that is the game, people.
That we don't have to hear "we only beat ourselves, the other team didn't beat us." This weak chestnut is the ultimate illusion of whipped teams. Sorry, loser, but the other team beat you or you wouldn't be sitting on the bench 5 minutes after the game is over wiping away the tears and making excuses.
That the maximization of bare skin on cheerleaders be reversed so some sense of modesty prevails. Oh, I forgot. We're in the ticket selling business, not the modesty business.
There, sports fans, are just a few of the sports wishes the Curmudgeonly Professor fondly hopes for in the year of 2011. And don't wait up expecting any of these wishes to be fulfilled.
Here are a few gleanings and observations from the Curmudgeonly Professor about sports, etc.:
Apparently it has become mandatory to have really nice looking female sideline reporters. This is not a sexist comment, so don't blast me. Just an obvious observation. Many of them do a really nice job. Always fun to watch a short female sideline or courtside reporter interview a 305 lb. football lineman, or a 7 ft. basketball player.
Favre, say it isn't so. How many of our heroes are going to debase themselves with scandals?
My wife is screaming "3d and 7 and you're running the ball up the middle? How stupid can you get?"
I have only heard the obnoxious cliche "flat out" a couple of times this year, but that was twice too many times.
How many more colleges are lurking beneath the radar for NCAA investigations and penalties for misbehavior?
How many decades will it take for some one, some how, to bust the rotten BCS cartel/monopoly and turn football into the same democratic game that basketball has become? How many more bushels of garbage will be dumped on us by the BCS about how great and wonderful the BCS is for the game?
How soon will competing cable companies get their act together and stop childishly bickering over who gets to broadcast which athletic event?
What happened to my alma mater Michigan Saturday just when it looked like they might have a miracle year for a change?
When will BYU modernize and enlarge its electronic scoreboards and video displays? Time for an upgrade.
Is the U of Utah really, really good this year (which would be hard to swallow, but maybe they are!) or have they just played so-so or poor teams thus far, plus a couple more creampuffs ahead.
The butcher guy at Costco yesterday threatened to not sell me a 5 buck rotisserie chicken because I was wearing my BYU cap.
Time for more stadiums to modernize and put handrails up the aisles so people like me can get up and down without killing themselves. I watch lots of older folks struggle. If you want us to keep coming to the games and buying season tickets, fix the stadiums. Too complacent for too long. You probably never gave it a thought, so it's time to pay attention.
I'm sure I could think of more stuff if I work at it for awhile. Taking pictures of flowers is infinitely less controversial than sports.
Scoreboard prior to SDSU scoring another TD, final score 24-21. Words to Cougar fight song, the words to which I've never totally learned in 30 some years. When in doubt, I sing a verse of Ragtime Cowboy Joe, the Wyoming fight song.
BYU band forming the "Y" just before hopes were dashed.
Nevada cheerleaders, just to show how fair my blog is.
We BYU fans are not used to losing, so losing the third game in a row has brought us down to the depths of humility. While at the Farmer's Market in South Jordan yesterday, a guy wearing a Ute (as in Utah Utes) cap and tee-shirt pointed an ominous finger at me and said, Darth-Vader like, "You guys are in real trouble." I hoped he was wrong, but feared he may be right. After 10 years at Colorado State, I had become accustomed to losing, sitting in Hughes Stadium on Indian Summer afternoons and watching the CSU rams go down in flames time after time. And then, the years at U of Wyoming, where we had some ups and downs, mostly downs the last few years. U of Michigan and Penn State were used to winning. When we were first at BYU, the LaVell Edwards era was just getting underway and the stable of All-American quarterbacks was getting untracked. Except for a few inglorious losses, and the despicable losses occasionally to the U of U, we could go home from Cougar Stadium feeling superior and righteous and like we deserved to win another game.
No more, at least for the moment. We have a nationally touted new quarterback, a coaching staff that seems a bit offy on some calls and moves, and a bunch of players who might be good in a few weeks or a year or two, but which are a ways off now. Meanwhile, our dearly beloved enemy, the U of Utah, just beat up on creampuff no. 4 for the year and remains, for its efforts, ranked highly in the national polls. The U, in fact, may be pretty good this year, but we'd like to see them play a real football team before we pass the accolades. At LDS churches, the U folks gloat and the BYU folks mourn on Sundays after games like yesterday's. The trouble with the medical profession in Utah is that virtually all doctors and specialists were trained at the U med school and hospitals, so like my dermatologist told his nurse after I was pointing out the superiority of BYU, "Treat this patient roughly." A young lady at the Farmer's Market yesterday was wearing a U of U tee shirt and cap and I asked her if she was just wearing that to antagonize people and she assured me she was a real and true Ute, graduating this December, but instructed by her parents to get a real job for awhile this summer. I asked her if she would sell a box of peaches to a BYU type, and she said she would, but she would not be allowed to tell anyone.
So while the BYU Cougars take whatever time it takes to get up to speed again, we'll all try and be good sports and root for whoever is playing any time we would like to see get beat.