Big 12 rankings, Week 13: Tigers say so long, Aggies whimper out

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Oklahoma can still win the Big 12, Missouri whips Kansas on its way out of the building and Texas A&M does its thing (choking) against Texas. The Longhorns and Aggies swap spots in this week’s rankings:

1. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1, 7-1) | LAST WEEK: Bye | NEXT WEEK: Vs. Oklahoma

THE RUB: It’ll be interesting to see how Oklahoma State responds after the two-week layoff and dream-crushing loss to Iowa State. A loss could knock the Cowboys out of the BCS picture.

2. OKLAHOMA (9-2, 6-2) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Iowa State 26-6 | THIS WEEK: At Oklahoma State

THE RUB: Despite the losses to Tech and Baylor, the Sooners are where they always are: in the hunt for a Big 12 title and a bid to a BCS bowl.

3, KANSAS STATE (9-2, 6-2) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: Vs. Iowa State

THE RUB: A 10-win season with this bunch should cement the legend that is Bill Snyder. It might even get the Wildcats a BCS bowl.

4. BAYLOR (8-3, 5-3) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas Tech 66-42 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Texas

THE RUB: The Bears have rebounded nicely from a midseason skid, winning four straight games. A win this week and in a bowl game gives Baylor its first 10-win season in 174 years.

5. MISSOURI (7-5, 5-4) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Kansas 24-10 | THIS WEEK: End of regular season

THE RUB: Saturday’s win epitomized Missouri’s season: a terrible first half, followed by a dominating second half. KU officials tweeted “we win” when Missouri announced it was heading to the SEC. Interesting, considering the Tigers now hold the all-time series lead by one or three games, depending on who’s counting.

6. TEXAS (7-4, 4-4) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas A&M 27-25 | THIS WEEK: At Baylor

THE RUB: Somehow, someway, the offensively challenged Longhorns sent the Aggies whimpering to their new conference.

7. TEXAS A&M (6-6, 4-5) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Texas 27-25 | THIS WEEK: End of regular season

THE RUB: If the Aggies were a closer, they’d be former Royal Ricky Botallico.

8. IOWA STATE (6-5, 3-5) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Oklahoma 26-6 | THIS WEEK: At Kansas State

THE RUB: The Cyclones cost Oklahoma State a shot at a national title. Now they could knock the Wildcats out of a BCS bid.

9. TEXAS TECH (5-7, 2-7) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Baylor 66-42 | THIS WEEK: End of season

THE RUB: How did this team beat Oklahoma? Tommy Tuberville’s meltdown against Baylor was great TV.

10. KANSAS (2-10, 0-9) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Missouri 24-10 | THIS WEEK: End of season

THE RUB: The Jayhawks had plenty of opportunities to build a sizable lead against their rival on Saturday and couldn’t even muster 100 yards of offense in the first half. This is a Football Championship Subdivision level program right now.

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I’m into fitness, take 13: Mashed potatoes and barbells

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Six months without dairy-laced mashed potatoes. Damn did they taste good.

Aw, Thanksgiving. I’d been looking forward to this day for a long time. One-hundred-twenty-eight days, to be exact. That’s how long it’d been since I’d gorged on dairy.

During that time, I lost about 30 pounds and six inches off my waist. It was worth it, no question. And Thanksgiving served as one of my motivators.

I circled a few dates on the calendar when I revamped my intake (remember, I don’t use the “d” word; it’s a lifestyle change). One was my first attempt at a 5K on September 24. Another was the Bow Tie Ball on Nov. 19. The third was Thanksgiving.

Setting goals is critical. Running my first 5K helped get me through the summer.

The good news is I did eat quite a bit, notably the mashed potatoes (a longtime favorite) and three pieces of pie. The bad news is that I felt guilty. Despite all the running, lifting, situps, sweating, fending off trips to American staples (and obesity traps) like McDonald’s and Taco Bell, I still felt bad about eating poorly. Never mind that I didn’t eat nearly as much as I have before on this day.

Instead of dwelling, I did something that made me feel a little better: I worked out. Fortunately, my dad has a weight set. Once my stomach settled roughly seven hours after eating, I went up stairs and busted out a 45-minute session of bench presses, military presses, curls and several other lifts. I added 250 situps and ran double-digit stairs.

The point is, even if you have a bad day at the table, don’t let it affect your day at the gym. You’ll feel better. After I wake up and cut wood for several hours tomorrow, all that guilt will be gone. And I’ll circle another date on the calendar: Christmas. Tis the season for cheating (but just a little).

WHERE I’VE COME FROM

Before and after, though I've dropped another 30 pounds since the after.

It’s a little sad, maybe really sad. Early tonight, I was thinking about my weight on Thanksgiving. That love-hate relationship with the scale has been a mostly-unhealthy obsession for years. So much so that I went all the way back to college and knew exactly what I weighed …

1998 (senior year of college): 190

1999: 195

2000: 180

2001: 215

2002: 260

2003: 280

2004: 280

2005: 260

2006: 260

2007: 255

2008: 275

2009: 300+

2010: 250

2011: 213

Me at 213 pounds this week, about 100 fewer than two years ago.

Not a pretty picture. And I’m mortified at that jump from 2001 to 2002. That was in the midst of a bad marriage/divorce. Instead of focusing on the negative … on the positive side, I’ve lost about 100 pounds in two years.

I’m so thankful that my body had enough left after years of abuse that I could get back in shape. Losing 100 pounds in your mid-30s simply is not easy, nor is carrying all that weight for all those years. To not have any major health problems, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer … I’m grateful.

I’m also thankful to all of you who have been so supportive during this reclamation project, from my family and friends to my girlfriend … I can’t express how much it means. And to my loyal “following” on Facebook, you have no idea how much your compliments and “likes” mean. They are great fuel.

Happy Thanksgiving. Thank all of you for making a difference.

My third shot at prom

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Shana and I set for the Bow Tie Ball.

Regrets. We all have them, and chances at redemption are few and far between. One of mine has always been my junior and senior prom. Prom should be one of the highlights of high school. It’s your chance to shine, show off, dazzle your classmates.

My appearances at prom pretty much sucked. Many of you who knew me back then know I was painfully shy, especially when it came to girls. I wasn’t exactly a ladies man in high school. In fact, you can count the number of dates I had on both hands … even if you don’t have fingers.

Like many others, that was an awkward time for me. My parents were in the midst of a divorce my junior year through the summer of my senior year. The family would probably tell you I was a rock during that period, stoic, as always. I was putting on a great show.

Inside, I was lost and hurt. My way of coping was eating. The pounds came on fast. As the pounds piled up, the confidence floated away. Girls were more daunting than bungee-jumping. So, I didn’t ask anybody to prom.

Freshman year. As I look at this, I think I should have had some serious game back then.

A lot of kids can go to prom stag and not miss a beat. A lot of kids cannot. Despite the fact that I had a slick teal tux for junior prom, I wasn’t into it at all. I stayed for dinner and left. No class photo. No dancing. I shrugged off the compliments about my tux as pity. I regret leaving so early to this day.

Senior prom wasn’t much better, despite a black and gold tux with a cane. I stayed for dinner and the class photo, then I left. No dancing. That was a mistake. Several girls at the after party asked why I’d left without dancing with them. I didn’t have an answer. I remember thinking, “It’s so awesome being everybody’s friend!”

I’ve thought about those nights over the years. It’s not that they altered life. It’s that they summed up a significant part of high school – social life. The regret is that I didn’t try harder. More specifically, that I didn’t have a date.

Fast-forward 17 years. It’s the spring of 2011, and I’m working at Washburn. We’ve been tasked with putting together a gala event to launch the school’s sesquicentennial celebration, which lasts through 2015.

The event, the Bow Tie Ball, is a black-tie affair with wine, food, dancing, pictures, mingling, you name it. My first thought? “Hell yeah! I get another shot at prom!”

Ironically, I weighed about the same at prom as I did at that time, around 250 pounds. So, I dedicated myself to looking good for the event. From July 19 to Nov. 19, I worked my butt off at the gym and ran nearly every day. The results? Thirty-six pounds lost. By the day of the ball, I was wearing the same size tux as my suits in college.

Last week as I tried on my tux. Mirrors never lie. At least the good ones.

The biggest change going into my third prom? The girl. I didn’t have to be nervous about finding a date. I had the girl. In fact, I had the girl. That’s right, my girlfriend and I went to the same high school. She was the prom queen her senior year and my freshman year.

As I did my senior year of high school, I wore a black and gold tux. The girlfriend, who’s even more beautiful now than she was back in the day (when she was the it girl at Burlingame High School), wore a gorgeous blue dress a friend found in China.

What a contrast from 17 years ago? No shyness or embarrassment. Complete confidence, partly because I looked decent, but mainly because I had the best-looking girl there.

I took a great deal of pride in hearing women – and our president – compliment her dress, as well as her beauty. I took just as much pride in those “wow, look who Ernie brought” looks.

From loneliness at prom, to having the prom queen hanging onto my arm. So much for regrets.

Beauty and The Beast. Of course, if anybody else calls her a beast ...

Big 12 rankings, Week 12: A little chaos is a lot of fun

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He's a man, he's 40, and his team isn't playing for a national title.

Talk about eating your own. The Big 12 has a history of upsets derailing a team’s shot at a national title, and that happened again Friday night when Iowa State rallied from a 17-point deficit to upset No. 2 Oklahoma State. Oklahoma followed suit, losing to Baylor the following night. The rankings didn’t change much this week, despite a slew of surprises:

1. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1, 7-1) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Iowa State 37-31 (2OT) | THIS WEEK: Bye

THE RUB: The Cowboys have lived on the edge often this season, winning several games in which their opponents imploded. That didn’t happen Friday night in Ames, where Iowa State limited its mistakes and ended Oklahoma State’s national title dreams.

2. OKLAHOMA (8-2, 5-2) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Baylor 45-38 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Iowa State

THE RUB: For all the talk about the Sooners missing All-American Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma’s biggest issue is defense. OU has allowed 86 points in its two losses. Anyone else notice that Big Game Bob has lost a lot of big games lately?

3. KANSAS STATE (9-2, 6-2) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas 17-13 | THIS WEEK: Bye

THE RUB: Another game, another close, gritty win. There’s something to be said for finding a way to win every time out.

4. BAYLOR (7-3, 4-3) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Oklahoma 45-38 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Texas Tech

THE RUB: Twenty-one times a charm for the Bears, who beat Oklahoma after 20 consecutive losses to the Sooners. Baylor has won three straight games by a combined 11 points.

5, MISSOURI (6-5, 4-4) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas Tech 31-27 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Kansas

THE RUB: For most of Saturday’s game, it looked like Gary Pinkel wasn’t the only one at Mizzou tipping the bottle. But the Tigers found a way to win and are bowl eligible for the seventh straight season. Not bad considering they went to two bowls from 1984 to 2002.

6. TEXAS A&M (6-5, 4-4) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Kansas 61-7 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Texas

THE RUB: Texas A&M led Kansas 61-0 at one point in the third quarter. Not even the Aggies could blow that lead.

7. TEXAS (6-5, 3-4) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas State 17-13 | THIS WEEK: At Texas A&M

THE RUB: With back-to-back road games coming up against Texas A&M and Baylor, the Longhorns are looking at a four-game losing streak to close the regular season and a mediocre 6-6 record.

8. IOWA STATE (6-4, 3-4) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Oklahoma State 37-31 (2OT) | THIS WEEK: At Oklahoma

THE RUB: Does any coach get more out of less than Paul Rhoads? The Cyclones have won three straight and own wins against Iowa, UConn and Oklahoma State.

9. TEXAS TECH (5-6, 2-6) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Missouri 31-27 | THIS WEEK: At Baylor

THE RUB: The Red Raiders choked away a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter in Columbia and are looking at a five-game losing streak to close the season, plus no bowl bid.

10. KANSAS (2-9, 0-8) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Texas A&M 61-7 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Missouri

THE RUB: On the positive side, few things are more entertaining than listening to KU’s radio team during a loss, which means quality entertainment every Saturday for three months.

How to treat the ladies: Tis the season for love

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Drinking on Christmas Eve. Why? Probably because I was single, though that changed shortly after.

Last Christmas was the first time I’d been at home for the holidays since 2006. That alone made it the best Christmas in years. But what really made that day, as well as Christmas Eve, special was the beginning of a relationship that has changed my life for the better.

At that point, the girlfriend and I had been flirting for a while through Facebook posts and messages. That all started in September 2010 when we both attended a football game at our high school alma mater. That wasn’t the best time for me, though, in her words, she knew she had me.

Fast-forward a few months, and our exchanges on Facebook were playful enough that family members took notice. Family members I grew up with and who taught me in high school. I’m sure it was very awkward when we first started dating.

After a few weeks of “catch me if you can,” the girlfriend finally realized I wasn’t very bright. That is, I really had no clue she was interested in hanging out. Yes, I’m dumb. Anyway, I remember getting an email that included her phone number. It still didn’t register.

We didn’t even exchange text messages until Christmas Eve, when she asked if I’d be interested in stopping by to see her family in Burlingame. I didn’t go. Again, I’m dumb. But we did spend three hours on Christmas Eve exchanging text messages.

As has become tradition when I’m home, I stayed at my brother’s place that night, with my niece and nephews sleeping around their favorite uncle on the couch (insert “awwwww” here). As my niece and nephews passed out, dreams of Santa delivering presents in their heads, I lay on the couch, with a cover over my head to prevent the light from my Blackberry waking the kids up, texting her.

My nephews and niece on Christmas, sporting presents from their uncle, including the boys' Jeremy Maclin jerseys.

We exchanged more texts on Christmas. The first thing I did when I got home that night was send her an e-card from Hallmark for her birthday, which is the day after Christmas.

Less than two weeks later, we had our first date. Of course, she had to ask me out for a third time. Finally, I got the message.

Nearly a year later, I think of all the wonderful things that have happened since we became a couple. The new – and better – job. The weight loss. I’ve lost about 40 pounds and six inches off my waist since Jan. 8 (our first date). The new outlook on life. Until the last year, I’ve been a pretty negative person. Not the case anymore.

I realize the changes are the result of my hard work, and I’m proud of that. I also realize that it wouldn’t have happened without having some amazing people in my life, from my parents to my brother. And, yes, of course, the girlfriend.

As it turns out, she’s the best gift I received last year, and I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am and how excited I am to spend this special time of year with someone so special.

What can I say? Every day feels like Christmas.

Big 12 rankings, Week 11: Pokes roll on

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Brandon Weeden, left, and Oklahoma State are 10-0. OK, so that's Scott Bakula with Sinbad in Necessary Roughness. Bakula's character and Weeden are the same age.

Oklahoma State rolls on, Kansas State continues to be the Cardiac Cats and Kansas continues to be historically bad:

1. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-0, 7-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas Tech 66-6 | THIS WEEK: At Iowa State

THE RUB: The Cowboys continue to put up video game-like numbers, embarrassing the Red Raiders. The last time Oklahoma State was 10-0 (1948), Brandon Weeden was 5 years old. OK, I made that up. OSU has never been 10-0.

2. OKLAHOMA (8-1, 5-1) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: At Baylor

THE RUB: How in the world did this team lose to Texas Tech? The Sooners still control their own destiny in the Big 12 title chase … and can crush rival Oklahoma State’s dreams along the way in a few weeks.

3. KANSAS STATE (8-2, 5-2) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas A&M 53-50 (4OT) | THIS WEEK: At Texas

THE RUB: I said last night that the Wildcats are very good, but also very lucky. That was not received well. Of course, it doesn’t matter how they win … they win.

4. BAYLOR (6-3, 3-3) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Kansas 31-30 (OT) | THIS WEEK: Vs. Oklahoma

THE RUB: The Bears looked a lot like the Bears of 1996-2009 until the fourth quarter in what would have been a horrifying loss to a team that looks a lot like the Bears of 1996-2009.

5. MISSOURI (5-5, 3-4) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas 17-5 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Texas Tech

THE RUB: The good news: Extending a middle finger at the Evil (Overrated) Empire on your way out of the conference. The bad news: Will Henry Josey, who emerged as one of the top running backs in the country this year, recover from an ugly knee injury?

6. TEXAS (6-3, 3-3) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Missouri 17-5 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Kansas State

THE RUB: The Longhorns’ offense was already subpar, and now they’re down to their fourth-string running back. This week’s game against K-State will be critical come bowl season.

7. TEXAS A&M (5-5, 3-4) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas State 53-50 (4OT) | THIS WEEK: Vs. Kansas

THE RUB: This team was ranked in the top 10 at the start of the season? The Aggies are not mentally tough, coughing up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter in four losses. That starts with the coach, Mike Sherman, who won’t have that title much longer.

8. IOWA STATE (5-4, 2-4) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: Vs. Oklahoma State

THE RUB: The Cyclones’ winning streak (two games) comes to an end this week against the Cowboys. ISU closes with three of the top 12 teams in the AP rankings. Looks like basketball season in Ames.

9. TEXAS TECH (5-5, 2-5) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Oklahoma State 66-6 | THIS WEEK: At Missouri

THE RUB: Maybe it’s time to lock Tommy Tuberville in a closet. The Red Raiders have lost their last three games by an average score of 53-11.

10. KANSAS (2-8, 0-7) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Baylor 31-30 (OT) | THIS WEEK: At Texas A&M

THE RUB: Somehow the Jayhawks managed to punish their fan base even more than they already had, blowing a 21-point lead in 12 minutes. To quote Homer Simpson, this is the suckiest bunch of sucks who’ve ever sucked.

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Week Two Big 12 rankings: The awful music video edition

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Preseason Big 12 rankings: The Star Wars edition

Never mind Paterno … how about the victims?

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Being a great coach is not an excuse for essentially ignoring a child molester in your own backyard.

There are times when I miss having a newspaper column. I’ve missed it quite a bit the last few weeks with a couple of larger-than-life stories circulating: Missouri going to the Southeastern Conference, and the hideous scandal at Penn State.

The latter is one of the most disgusting, disturbing and disappointing stories I’ve followed. Not because it might potentially cripple one of the nation’s best football programs, or because it will tarnish longtime coach Joe Paterno’s legacy.

It’s a terrible story because of the victims. The young men allegedly victimized are the story here. I say allegedly because Jerry Sandusky still has the right to a fair trial. All the evidence, and there’s a ton of it, points to the former Penn State defensive coordinator being a sexual predator who used his charity – Second Mile – to find his victims.

Jerry Sandusky, right, was seen working out in the football facility just days before the scandal broke.

A week after the scandal broke, dozens of young men and boys have come forward and said Sandusky violated them. You name it, it’s in the grand jury report. Everything from inappropriate touching to using Penn State’s football facilities to sodomize pre-teens.

As I type this, breaking news scrolls across the screen: Paterno, in the middle of his 46th season as the Nittany Lions’ coach, is being fired. This just hours after he announced that he would resign at the end of the season, one in which Penn State is 8-1 and battling for a BCS bowl bid.

All of this a day after students flocked to his home to support the 84-year-old coach. Talk about misguided. Paterno may have been a great coach, but he completely failed as a man. Like many others, including his athletic director and president, Paterno could have stopped Sandusky years ago.

Paterno should have contacted the police in 2002 after a graduate assistant informed him that he’d walked in on Sandusky raping a boy in the shower facilities at Penn State. How many more children suffered as a result of this negligence?

Penn State’s solution in the wake of the 2002 incident? Tell Sandusky not to bring kids with him to the football facility. In other words, do your worst elsewhere. What a travesty.

Yet, you still read about poor Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who went to Paterno in 2002. He should have gone to the police. You still read about JoePa and his damaged legacy. He should have gone to the police. What about the boys and their damaged lives?

Penn State may never recover from this. Paterno’s legacy definitely won’t. For the next 50 years when he’s mentioned on TV, it’ll come with the tagline “whose legacy was marred by a child molestation scandal and cover-up.”

A small price to pay compared to damage that’s been done to the lives of dozens of young men and boys.