New years and the decade in review. From Independence to Topeka to Virginia to Oklahoma …

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“Time, why you punish me, like a wave passing into the shore, you wash away my dreams …”

I was going to blog about 2009. Seemed to make sense considering today is the last of the year. It was an interesting year. One that included everything from three apartments to two jobs to one (or two, though I don’t count one) breakups.

But, inspired by a good column by Kevin Haskin, a former colleague and a guy I learned a lot from in Topeka (http://cjonline.com/sports/basketball/2009-12-30/column_closure_comes_for_the_aughts), I opted for blogging about the end of a decade.

It’s strange. It just hit me that when this decade began, I was in my early 20s, fresh out of college with my first full-time job at a newspaper, a cheap apartment in which the furnace didn’t work for a week during December and an unwarranted cocky attitude. Here’s a little rewind …

The jobs: Independence (Kansas) Daily Reporter (2000), Emporia (Kansas) Gazette (2000, 2001, 2002), McAllen (Texas) Monitor (2002, 2003), Topeka (Kansas) Capital Journal (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), Daily Press in Newport News (Virginia) (2007, 2008, 2009) and Tulsa (Oklahoma) World (2009).

Best game covered: 2002 Class 2A championship: Colgan edges Olpe in double overtime.

Best game attended: 2007 Armageddon at Arrowhead. Electric.

Worst game attended: Olpe girls 85, Burlingame 4. You can’t make that up.

Thoughts: Six jobs in 10 years. The good thing is they’ve all been bumps in circ (from 8,000 in Indy to over 100,000 in Tulsa). I’ve done everything from covering college football and basketball beats to news copy desk to assistant sports editor.

Proud of: The amazing people I’ve worked with. Favorites over the years have included Brian Thomas in Indy; Gwen Larson and Jesse Newell (now at the LJW) in Emporia; Wade “Nacho” Baker (now the SE), Oscar, Todd and Kristin Huber in McAllen; Tim Bisel, Eric Turner, Kevin Haskin, Brent Maycock, Rick Dean, the late Pete Goering, hell, pretty much everybody in sports in Topeka; the entire sports crew (Jeff, Andi, Rupe, Sean, Clyde, Sonny, Nick and the writing staff) and select news deskers in Newport News. And while I’ve only worked three months in Tulsa, the sports deskers and writers have been nothing but nice. I’m sure I left somebody out.

The states lived in (four): Kansas, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma.

Cities lived in (nine): Independence, Emporia, McAllen, Cottonwood Falls, Harveyville, Topeka, Williamsburg, Newport News, Tulsa.

Apartments lived in: Eight. Houses lived in: Four.

The relationships: You’re crazy if you think I’m going in-depth. There’s been a marriage, a divorce and a handful of relationships/breakups. Honestly, though, I value the time I spent with all of them, especially Melody and Jena.

I miss: Washburn and hanging out at Bullfrogs with Steve. Pete Goering, who mentored so many of us in Topeka. Turbo’s in Indy. Bruff’s in Emporia. Tom and Jerry’s in McAllen. Terry’s and Tailgator’s in Topeka. Matadive karaoke and Brickhouse (above with Charles the Steezenator) in Newport News. Cats Fu and Chu.

I don’t miss: That 75-mile commute to work from Cottonwood Falls to Topeka. The 40-mile commute from Willamsburg to Newport News. The 30-mile commute from Harveyville to Topeka. Seeing quality people cut at previous stops. My 2000 Ford Ranger or 1995 Lumina.

The sports highlights: The 2007 college football season. 2008-09 college basketball season. 2002 NCAA tournament. 2003 Royals. Most of the Chiefs 2003 season. Zack Frickin’ Greinke.

The sports lowlight: Them. Crackas. Be. Shaken. Nough said.

Last and pretty much least. The before and after. Hootie was right. Time is punishing

2000

2009

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Please, ESPN, Youtube, et al, stop showing severe injury clips; More on Big Ten expansion

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We live in a strange society. People slow down to see the carnage in wrecks, others can’t look away at awkward scenes in movies (Am I the only person who changes the channel when I know somebody is about to be embarrassed?), some listen to crap like Marilyn Manson. A lot of morbid stuff out there.

One train wreck I’ll never understand people watching is severe injuries in sports. Remember Shaun Livingston’s grisly knee injury? The former NBA star tore nearly ever tendon in his leg and broke several bones a few years ago during  a game. Many consider it the worst injury in NBA history. Total hits on youtube: More than 100,000.

Joe Theismann’s broken leg in 1985 may be the most infamous injury in sports history. It was so gruesome that Lawrence Taylor was screaming and waving frantically for help from the Redskins sideline. It also ended Theismann’s Hall of Fame career. Total number of hits on youtube: More than 2,000,000.

There have been dozens of others nasty injuries that people just can’t seem to take their eyes off. Napoleon McCallum’s dislocated knee in 1994 (an injury that resulted in a ruptured artery and torn calf), Robin Ventura’s broken and dislocated right ankle in 1997, Freddie Mitchell’s broken leg, DeAndre Brown’s broken leg last year, etc.

The latest gruesome injury was suffered by Texas A&M guard Derrick Roland (pictured above), who suffered a broken leg in last night’s loss to Washington. That injury is already up on youtube.

I’ll be honest. I’ve seen some of these. But I’ve rarely gone looking for them just to watch. In fact, I’ve had enough. It’d be great if ESPN and the other networks would stop replaying them over and over. And it’s not enough to warn viewers that the footage isn’t for those with weak stomachs. Just don’t show it. And why does youtube allow this stuff? The only things youtube doesn’t seem to allow are porn (not that I’ve searched), death and copyrighted material (thanks a lot RIAA for Nazi-banning all the Hootie and the Blowfish videos).

Every time one of these injuries occurs, the earlier ones get a lot of run. And the hits go up on youtube. Hell, I’ll bet several people who clicked on this blog did so to find links to clips. Suckers. Thanks for the blog hits, though.

Alden tees off on Big 12, Big Ten

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden (above) is a buttoned-down guy. He rarely says anything controversial and rarely strays from walking a straight line (the latter might have cost Missouri an Orange Bowl bid in 2007, but that’s a blog for another day). But he loosened up considerably in a Q&A with the Columbia Daily Tribune’s Joe Walljasper (a hell of a columnist) on Sunday. Here’s the link to that interview, well worth a read: http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2009/dec/20/frustration-and-temptation/

The most intriguing comment in that interview:

Walljasper: Is there some sort of concern about alienating Texas to the point it would leave the conference?

Alden: You know what, I don’t know the answer to that question. There are a couple of schools — Texas, Oklahoma, maybe Nebraska — that aren’t in favor of sharing things equally. But whether that means people are worried about alienating Texas, I don’t know.

It speaks volumes. I gotta think Missouri is gone if the Big Ten extends an invite.

Another item that stands out in that interview: Alden points out that Missouri will make $9 million in TV revenue this year, that’s $3 million less than Texas and about $1.5 million more than Baylor. But here’s the kicker … Illinois, yes 3-9 god-awful Illinois, will make $21 million.

Stay or go?

As I’ve stated before, Missouri would be foolish not to leave if the Big Ten offered. The Big 12 simply can’t match the conference academically or financially. However, the best-case scenario might be Missouri using all of this as leverage to level the playing field for the likes of MU, KU, K-State, Colorado and Iowa State. Dan Beebe and company should be nervous about the Missouri/Big Ten flirtation. Then again, this is the same guy who said the Tigers’ big rivals were Texas and Texas Tech. Sort of like Darth Vader’s big rival was the Tusken Raiders. More of Beebe’s brilliance on Tim Griffin’s ESPN blog http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=4755750 (Denial ain’t just a river in Texas, er Egypt, commish).

Other expansion links to click: http://www.big10mizzou.com/, http://www.810whb.com/podcasts (Frank Boal podcast) and the KC Star’s “Mad” Mike DeArmond with another solid take http://videos.kansascity.com/vmix_hosted_apps/p/media?id=8141194

Big Ten expansion: Up to 16?; where Missouri fits in; seriously Beebe?

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Miscellaneous notes, news and thoughts on Big Ten expansion and Missouri potentially leaving the Big 12:

Megaconference coming?

 

Much of the speculation this week has been about the Big Ten adding Missouri, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, etc. But according to the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein, the conference may look at adding up to five schools. I’m familiar with Greenstein’s work from my year as ASE in Newport News (also a paper in the Tribune chain), and the guy does solid work. This information has merit. Here’s a link to the story: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/chi-17-big-ten-brite-dec17,0,3820862.story. There’s also a poll at this link on which school would be the best fit (Missouri led by a wide margin at the time this blog was posted).

Suppose the Big Ten+1 goes to 14 teams. Say those teams are the most logical choices (Pittsburgh, Missouri and Rutgers/or Syracuse). The Big Ten would be adding TV markets in St. Louis, Kansas City and New York. And each of those schools has impressive academic resumes. You’d also have the best basketball conference in the country and possibly the best football conference.

Alignment

 

Above is map of the current conference geography. From a previous blog, here’s a look at the Big Ten+2, if Missouri joins (scroll down to the bottom): https://erniewebbiii.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/it-could-happen-missouri-should-jump-if-big-ten-comes-calling/.

Here’s the alignment I’d like to see if the Big Ten becomes 14:

North Division: Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Syracuse/Rutgers.

South Division: Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri.

This also means the conference has a championship game in football, which would rake in millions.

Clueless commish?

 

That’s Dan Beebe above, commissioner of the Big 12 conference. Have to admit, he sounded completely, utterly lost Wednesday when asked about Missouri leaving the conference. To paraphrase, he said the conference would let Missouri know how valued a member of the Big 12 it is (commish-speak). But then he said Missouri fans appreciate and would miss their “rivalries” with Texas and Texas Tech.

Huh? Missouri’s rivals are Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois and maybe Kansas State. Tiger fans would not miss playing anybody in the Big 12 South. Perhaps Baylor in football (of course, Missouri did lose to the Bears this season). The Longhorns have throttled Missouri in football for a decade now. That’s not a rivalry. Missouri is 5-1 against Texas Tech in Big 12 play. Not a rivalry. And neither is a rival in basketball.

Beebe Bias?

If you believe what you hear on the radio, specifically in Kansas City, and read message boards for the Big 12 North schools not named Nebraska, you’d think Beebe’s day went something like this:

6:30 a.m.: Wake up to alarm clock set to Buddy Holly (FYI, he’s from Texas) music

8 a.m.: Drink morning coffee from Texas A&M mug.

10 a.m.: Pick up Texas AD DeLoss Dodds dry cleaning.

Noon: Lunch at Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater (always with a side order of corn)

2 p.m.: Afternoon tea with Bob Stoops and Barry Switzer

7 p.m.: Dinner with Tom Osborne

Speaking of radio, WHB 810’s Kevin Keitzman and guest Jack Harry, a TV sports anchor in Kansas City, had an entertaining and spirited debate on Missouri leaving the Big 12. In the end, both said they hoped the school could use its likely flirtation with the Big Ten as leverage to move closer to a balanced Big 12. You can hear the podcast here (it’s worth a listen): http://www.810whb.com/podcasts.

The “new” Big 12

If Missouri does leave, I’d like to see TCU join up. It makes the most sense. Arkansas isn’t leaving the SEC. It’d be stupid to do so considering how much money the Razorbacks have made by moving to that conference.

Here’s a look at potential alignments if that happened:

Big 12 East: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Baylor, TCU

Big 12 West: Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

Note: Past columns from the Topeka Capital-Journal available at http://blogs.cjonline.com/authors/18-Ernie-Webb

It could happen: Missouri should jump if Big Ten comes calling

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Missouri to the Big Ten. If you’d asked me that two months ago, I’d say the odds were about 10,000-to-1. Last week, 100-to-1. But if the following report http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/chi-15-big-ten-foot-dec15,0,2684882.story is true and the conference looks to expand, Missouri needs to aggressively pursue an invite.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the advantages and disadvantages of a potential move to the Big Ten.

Advantages

1. TV revenue/exposure: Missouri isn’t the only Big 12 team frustrated by the conference’s current contract. The conference signed an extension with ABC/ESPN in 2007 that lasts through the 2016 season. It also has a deal with FSN through 2012. The former is worth $480 million, the latter $78 million, for a total of about $560 million. Obviously, that’s big-time money. BUT, the Big Ten’s TV contracts with ESPN (10 years) and the Big Ten Network (25 years) is worth, get this, $3.8 billion.

And here’s the kicker … the Big Ten’s package guarantees that nearly every home game for a conference team is televised. The Columbia Daily Tribune’s Dave Matter breaks down the contracts/MU’s frustration here http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2009/sep/18/big-12-tv-contract-frustrates-missouri/.

In addition to the money, TV exposure is an important recruiting tool. In 2008, a year in which Missouri ranked in the top five at one point and was in the top 25 all season, two of its games, vs. Buffalo and at Baylor, were not televised.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten has a 10-year, $1 billion package with ESPN, which, coupled with its 25-year, $2.8 billion deal with the Big Ten Network, guarantees that nearly every home Big Ten game is televised. In 2009, the Tigers’ games against Furman, Bowling Green, Baylor and Iowa State were not on the networks. That’s not good for recruiting.

2. Equality: Maybe it’s not true, and Missouri officials would never admit  it, but the perception is that a handful of schools (Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Oklahoma) receive favorable treatment within the conference. The conference headquarters moved to Dallas, and there have been whispers that conference officials would like to keep the football championship game in Texas (it currently rotates, though the 2009 and 2010 games were/will be in Irving, Texas). The Kansas City Star’s Mike DeArmond, who covers MU, even refers to the conference as the New Southwest Conference here http://campuscorner.kansascity.com/node/571

3. Competitiveness: While it’s true Missouri, and pretty much every team in the North, has a decent shot at playing for the Big 12 championship every season, the Big Ten does not have a championship game. Playing Ohio State and Penn State occasionally seems a bit easier than getting hammered by Texas or Oklahoma every year. Of course, the Big 12 North teams could actually man up and beat said teams for the conference title.

In basketball, the Big Ten rarely is as good as the Big 12, and there is no Kansas, which Missouri is never going to be, in the Big Ten.

4. Bowls: The Big Ten talk picked up steam a few weeks ago when Missouri was not chosen to play in the Insight Bowl, even though it was slotted for the No. 6 team in the conference. The bowl committee opted instead for Iowa State, which finished 6-6. Why? Because the committee believed Iowa State would travel better.

Anybody who thinks the bowls pick based on merit is delusional. Still, some conferences, including the Big Ten, have clauses that prevent bowls from such conduct as mentioned above. At 8-4, Missouri would be in the higher-slotted bowl (Tiger fans should be happy with the Texas Bowl, which is actually a better bowl, but that’s a blog for another day).

This is the third straight season in which Missouri has been bypassed by a bowl for a team lower in the standings. in 2007, Kansas went to the Orange Bowl despite losing to the Tigers. In 2008, the Gator Bowl opted for Nebraska, which Missouri defeated 52-17 and finished second to the Tigers in the Big 12 North. The Tigers fell to the Alamo Bowl. In 2009, Missouri fell to the last (eighth) slot in the bowl pecking order. See a trend here?

Disadvantages

This is getting far too long, so here’s a quick look at the downside of going to the Big Ten: 1. Rivalries. Forget about playing Kansas twice a year in basketball, something any Tiger fan would miss. You can keep the football rivalry, but it likely moves to the first month of the season, which just doesn’t seem right. You’d also lose rivalries with Nebraska in football, Kansas State and Iowa State. 2. The weak North: There aren’t many divisions easier to win in major college football. Honestly, I can’t think of much else. The move makes sense to me.

The new “Big Ten”

West Division: Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, Missouri.

East Division: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue.

Or

North: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State

South: Missouri, Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue

There you have. A lot of copy on something that probably won’t happen. But it’s a lot more likely today than it was yesterday.

TV shows I wish they’d bring back … and never show again

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1. Wonder Years: Yes, Seinfeld is my favorite show, followed by The Office and Cheers, but those shows are available in syndication and on DVD. The Wonder Years? It’s only on in Canada right now. And it may never be in syndication because the RIAA thinks it should be paid a fortune for the rights to the music used in the series. I think people from all generations can identify with this show. The only negatives about: 1. It only ran five years (it would have been nice to see Kevin and Winnie’s senior year); 2. They kill off the dad (Dan Laurie) in the final episode (he dies during Kevin’s freshman year of college).

2. Seinfeld: Let’s be honest … the characters in this show are pretty much scumbags. They are not good people. But damn are they funny. The first season wasn’t great, but find an episode that wasn’t good. You can’t.

3. Cheers: 1993 was a rough year for TV. We lost Wonder Years and Cheers that year. Unlike Seinfeld, most of the people in Cheers have some decent qualities. And unlike Seinfeld, this show was great from start to finish. In fact, as great as the show was with Kirstie Alley, it was even better with Shelley Long. Hell, this show might still be running. It went out on top, though, just like Seinfeld.

1. Family Guy: I tried to like this garbage. I really did. An exgirlfriend insisted I give it a chance. So I popped in one of the 4,538 Family Guy DVDs she owned, and laughed about three times. In three hours. It’s just not that funny. There are two kinds of people: Those who love Seinfeld, and those who love Family Guy. There is nothing original in the later. Cartman is right. I’m not resorting to liking a show just because a bunch of people think it’s cute. It’s not. And Stuey is just flippin’ creepy.

2. American Idol: I’ve never tried to like this garbage. Nor will I. William Hung made millions of dollars because of this show. Read that again, and then tell me why anybody would watch it.

3. The Real World: The first year or two was, you know real. The last 16 have been, you know, not real. Now it appears to be a manufactured piece of crap featuring a bunch of great-looking people. It might be mildly entertaining if they went small-town (Real World Guymon, Okla., or Real World Fredonia, Kan.) or dangerous (Real World Compton).

The blog about nothing, or, as Nettles would say, randomly …

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I love notes columns. No one did it better than longtime Topeka Capital-Journal writer/editor Pete Goering …

TCU vs. Boise State. Seriously? It’s hard enough for the little guys in college football in this archaic system to get a shot at the big time. So two mid-majors have a monster season, and they’re reward is a game against each other in the Fiesta Bowl?!?! (punctuation bump to Nick Mathews). Why not give the Horned Frogs and Broncos a shot at Florida or Ohio State. Of course, Boise State did beat Oregon this year. As good as this game likely will be, I want to see David take on Goliath (TCU vs. Florida, e.g.).

… With that in mind, enough of this locked-in Pac-10/Big Ten traditional garbage. The Rose Bowl is a big part of the problem with the BCS. Take, for example, this quote from 2007:

“We’re not in favor of a plus one,” Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said of a title game that would be added to the end of the bowl season. “That would probably require sending teams out of their historic bowl alliances. We’re opposed to that.”

In other words, why change anything? “Well, that’s just like your opinion man.” It’s also tradition that times must and always do change. FYI, the last three Rose Bowls have an average margin of victory of 20 points. And all three included Southern Cal. Lots of variety there.

… Best bowl matchups: Sugar Bowl (Florida vs. Cincinnati), Gator Bowl (Florida State vs. West Virginia), Fiesta (Boise vs. TCU). If Cincinnati wins and Alabama loses, the Bearcats can make a case that they should be the national champions. Bobby Bowden’s final game is a no-brainer. TCU-Boise should be a great game.

… Worst bowl matchups: Insight Bowl (Iowa State vs. Minnesota), Alamo Bowl (Michigan State vs. Texas Tech), New Mexico Bowl (Fresno State vs. Wyoming). No explanation needed.

… At one point Monday, rumors circulated that the Royals were working on a deal with the Cubs for Milton Bradley. Jose Guillen and Milton Bradley in the same outfield? Why not round it out by trading for Elijah Dukes or asking Barry Bonds to come out of retirement?

… The 2010 Masters may be the first golf tournament covered by ESPN, The Golf Channel, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, the National Enquirer, Hard Copy and E!

… Was that Joe Flacco or Joe Pesci playing quarterback for the Ravens Monday? At least Pesci hit his targets.

Forget about the rankings, it’s time for a college football playoff

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 I was going to blog about the BCS rankings and make a case for TCU to play Alabama for the national championship. I figured this would be somewhat easy because the Horned Frogs have dominated basically all season. While you can make a case for TCU, you can also make good ones for Cincinnati and Texas. So what did I decide after 90 minutes of analysis? The BCS/bowl system is as exciting as Al Gore on NyQuil. It’s time for playoff in the Football Bowl Subdivision. 

That is more obvious this year than perhaps any other. There are FIVE undefeated teams after the regular season. Only two of those will have a shot at a national championship, and that’s a shame. If the archaic, money-grubbing, close-minded and pig-headed college presidents and major conference commissioners had a clue, we’d have an eight-team playoff featuring a little bit of everything. 

National powers? How about No. 1 seed Alabama, No. 2 Texas, No. 6 Florida and No. 8 Ohio State? You like underdogs? We’ve got third-seeded TCU and fifth-seeded Boise State. Round out the field with rising Cincinnati (the four seed) and No. 7 seed Oregon, which went 10-2 with losses at Boise State and at Stanford. 

What happens with the presidents’ beloved bowl games? You’ve got four “major” traditional bowls: Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose. Add the Cotton, which was unjustly demoted in the 1990s, and that’s five. The championship game, currently the BCS bowl, would be No. 6. With an eight-team playoff, seven games will be played. Create another major bowl, with, of course, a massive commitment from a national sponsor, and you’ve got seven bowl games in an eight-team tournament. The bowls can rotate between the quarterfinals and semifinals.

What about all the other bowls? Keep ’em. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding teams for a good season. But there should be a rule that no 6-6 team plays in a bowl. Only teams with a winning record go bowling.

This isn’t a ground-breaking proposal. Plenty of others endorse a playoff. It’s a shame in a season in which we’ve got five unbeatens that only two have a shot at winning it all. There’s no legitimate reason to stick with the current system. A playoff would make more money than the current setup. More importantly, you’d have an undisputed champion. Well, as close to undisputed as you’re going to get. 

2009 College Football Playoff (Sponsored by Anheuser-Busch)

Saturday, Dec. 26

Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 TCU vs. No. 6 Florida

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Ohio State

Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Texas vs. No. 7 Oregon

Orange Bowl: No. 4 Cincinnati vs. No. 5 Boise State

Saturday, Jan. 2

Rose Bowl: Highest remaining seed vs. lowest remaining seed

Extenze Bowl (or another major sponsor): Middle two remaining seeds

Monday, Jan. 9

Sprint Bowl title game