Friday, November 28, 2008

The Start to the Holiday Season

I've been a bit of an emotional mess the past few days, and you'd think around the holidays, I'd be in a slightly better mood. I mean, I've eaten enough turkey the past few days to grow feathers, I only went to one store today for shopping and got out in 10 minutes, and my job has been going really well lately. And things with me and girl are amazing, but I got some news that one of my dear friends lost her mom to cancer this past week, and it's reminded me a lot of me losing my mom.

For the uninitiated, my mom died in 2005 due to cancer. They didn't catch it in time for her to go through chemotherapy or other treatment, and so she was gone that quickly. I got a call on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to come home and see her, and within a week, I was saying goodbye. It's probably one of the worst feelings I've ever had, mostly because of my closeness to my mom, and sitting there at her side watching it happen. I knew there was nothing I could do but wait, and I have never felt so powerless in my life. There's no amount of money that could have changed anything, and while prayer helped my peace of mind, it left me a lot of time to be with my thoughts. I kept wondering what I was going to do, and how I could handle losing an important piece of my life. But before she died, I told her about my planned trip to England in early 2006 and how important it was for me to go, but I was hesitant in going. She said, "You'll never have another chance to do something like this, so you need to go." The trip I took was in her honor, and to prove that I could do something like that.

Soon after her funeral, I came back to Portland and poured my life into my job and my friends, and very soon after that, girl and I started dating. Almost 3 years later, we are married and living happily in Portland. But admittedly, I wish that my mom was here now, to meet girl, to have been there at my wedding in person, to be here when we have our first child, to be here to be part of my life. And there have been times that I get mad at how unfair it is that she's gone. I know she's in a better place, and I'm happy she's not in pain anymore, and that there's a part of her that's with me all the time, but sometimes it just doesn't seem like enough.

I spent a lot of time afterwards dealing with my feelings for my mom, and admittedly went through a "rose colored glasses" phase, where I only thought of happy thoughts and good things about our dealings. Unfortunately, life is full of all sorts of moments, and I had to come to the reality of who my mom was - a wonderful woman with a big heart that was secretly scared of things she didn't know anything about and she spent her life letting other people control how she dealt with things. Time and time again, men made decisions that affected her and she put up with the situation to keep the family harmonious. I have an extremely strong female in my life now in girl, and seeing how my mom dealt with things, well, I can see why sometimes I have issues making tough decisions. I don't want to make anyone mad, even if it means that I do something that I don't want to or shouldn't do.

But, in the process of losing my mom, I've begun the process of finding myself and so far, it's been a pain staking, emotional, fun, annoying process. I see some of my strengths in my temperament, but yet I also tend to be quiet sometimes when I need to speak up. Girl has given me a lot of strength and support, and I'm better because of her, but it's funny to think that I met her just before one of the most significant times in my life. I think my mom would love girl a lot, and they'd be the best of friends, but sadly, the only talks they've ever had were spiritual. I think they were talking about a lot of my weird quirks, I'm sure.

The thing is that death is a normal part of life, and it's something that everyone will have to deal with at some point. It's natural to be angry, to be sad, to cry, but in the end, life for the rest of us goes on and you can't stop living it. I think for me, that was the lesson I needed to learn the most, and I still am learning it every day with each new challenge I encounter. If I could give my friend any bit of advice, it would be to remember the good and the bad, because those things are part of the same person. You may not like everything they did or said, but they loved you no matter what, and it's important to remember that.

Which is why around the holidays, I try and keep in touch with my friends and family a bit more, especially since you don't know what might happen. I may not be the best at keeping in touch, but I do my best to let people know that I think of them often. I mean, the holidays should be about giving of yourself, and sharing time with the people you care about. When I read the news story today about a guy getting trampled at a Walmart, it made me angry because the holidays for many folks are now about buying and consumption. I understand that we all take things for granted, and it's easy to get caught up in the moments like that, but we all have to remind ourselves that it's not what you can buy people, it's what you can give of yourself that matters. And you never know when you might lose someone close to you, so it's important to start now. Even if it's a phone call, an email, a text, or whatever, but say something. You'll be surprised how you feel afterwards.

And in relation to my last story about the Civil War, apparently, there's been a lot more animosity between the schools that I realized, but I still think this is the most friendly but nasty rivalry ever. I mean, Duck grads marry into Beaver families, I see Ducks rooting for Beavers at some points, that's not something I'd expect to see at say, a Auburn - Alabama rivalry. But that's something that makes this place rather unique, and one of the many things to love about Oregon. Hope it's a great game, and go Platipi!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Civil War Week In Oregon

So I spent part of my lunch hour crafting the following entry for posting about the Civil War. After putting it to paper, I found some more information out, but decided to post the entry anyway, so enjoy, but please read the notes at the end:

I’ve hesitated to write about it, even though I don’t consider myself a
superstitious person. But it’s gotten to the point that it can’t be ignored anymore, as Oregon State sits one win away from a Rose Bowl berth, something they haven’t achieved since 1965. After the team started 0 and 2, I don’t think anyone but hardcore Beaver fans would have expected this kind of run, but after losing to Utah and knowing they needed to win out to get there, they sit one game away from that very situation. And the team they get to face this weekend is their arch rival, Oregon.

The Civil War is a uniquely interesting rivalry to say the least. Since I didn’t attend either school, I don’t have any specific allegiance to either side except that as a bandwagon fan, I pay enough attention to wish them well and hope they do our state proud. Since I have a large number of relatives from Colorado, I got to enjoy watching Oregon destroy Colorado back in 2002 and give a few of my cousins a hard time afterwards. I felt the Ducks should have been playing in the championship game that year, but the BCS felt otherwise and got a rather anti-climactic final game that year. The problem occurred the preceding year when the Beavers lit up Notre Dame, and at that point, were the best collegiate team on the field but the polls didn’t rank them higher and the BCS passed them by. But I don’t think anyone except hard core Beaver fans figured that team would destroy the Fighting Irish. But that’s why you play the games.

I haven’t talked about the Beavers much simply because they aren’t in my wheelhouse of teams that I religiously follow. I like them well enough, but I don’t have a specific leaning one way or another, which really makes this week of all weeks interesting. For 51 weeks of the year, Duck and Beaver fans politely co-exist happily in Oregon without too much issue. But then Civil War week comes around, and the fans come out of the woodwork to abuse each other with taunts, barbs, and other assorted trash talk. I seriously think that Oregon – Oregon State is the most friendly nasty rivalry around, as I find it common to hear people say, “I’m a Duck but I like seeing the Beavers do well.” If you look around at most other rivalries, I can’t imagine opposing fans wishing good luck to their rival at any point, but that’s how things are around here.

It was weird going to school in Spokane listening to Huskies and Cougars trash each other during the Apple Cup week, and the battle of Montana produced some rather odd moments (I recall seeing a drinking contest between fans before one game that I went to using everclear. No, not the band, but the alcohol, working brain cells not included), but those rivalries never seemed to go away during the offseason. And for my family, the battles between Nebraska and Colorado, well, that was one of those topics you didn’t discuss around the holiday dinner table, lumped in with religion and politics, because you were just as likely to get a smile as you would a fork in the head. So moving here in 1989, I found the Civil War to not only match up to the name by how fans interacted with each other, but the general tone of pre-game talk and antics. Granted, if I had attended either of those fine schools, I might feel differently. I know following the Timbers, I do have people confuse my support for them for the Ducks because both teams wear green, and I tend to wear a lot of green. But that’s mostly relating to Timbers, although in saying that to people, most people are surprised we have a soccer team, much less one that wears green.

But, I’ve attended the same number of football games at each school (two), I’ve actually attended online courses for each school for graduate credit (three), and I have friends that support both schools rather passionately, so I’ve really avoided picking one school over another. It’s come down to who is doing well at that point, and I follow them as much at time warrants. This does go against most of my sport leanings, because I tend to pick a team and follow them closely and I try not to waver when picking teams to support, but right now, I have as many reasons to pick being a Duck versus being a Beaver.

But for 51 weeks of the year, it doesn’t seem to matter that much. I’ve only ran across one person in my near 20 years of being here that dissed on a Duck, and it was on the golf course. My friend Obi and I got paired with two older gentlemen for a round at Killarney in Hillsboro, who were really good guys to play a round with. After the round, Obi mentioned he took some course management advice that he’d seen on TV from Peter Jacobson, a long time Portland area golf pro. One of our playing partners was a long time Beaver fan, who politely said he wouldn’t take any golf advice from Peter Jacobson because he was a &%&$%# duck. And seriously, if that’s the most vicious thing I’ve heard in almost 20 years of Civil Wars, well, it’s tame in comparison to most. The passion is certainly there, but the fans are still extremely cordial to each other even in their trash talking. Which really makes this one of my favorite rivalries, because even in totally trash talking the other side, fans are still incredibly nice to each other. I hear stories of oddness, but I think for the most part, it’s the friendliest, fiercest rivalry around.

But I know this weekend, the stakes are pretty high. Oregon would love nothing more than to get into the Holiday Bowl with a win, and keep the Beavers from getting into the Rose Bowl, something the Ducks haven’t done in a while. Oregon State would love to show the country how good of a team they are, and beat the Ducks for the third time in a row. And the game falls on one of the last weekends of the college football season, which means it will get some pretty good attention during a Saturday afternoon. I’m sure this will be a well played, competitive game, but really I’m having trouble picking a side to support.

So for this week, if I’m asked which side I support, Ducks or Beavers, I’m saying Platypus! The idea actually came from girl, who in teaching at various schools always gets asked by her students what side does she support. And so she says Platypus, and really, this combination half-duck, half-beaver creature, really it’s the poster child for those of us Oregonians who really just want our teams to play well but haven’t really chosen a side yet. In my case, I probably won’t choose one side or another, simply because it’s nice to be able to appreciate both teams without feeling too guilty. Whether it’s my college days of going to a school that didn’t have a football team, or it’s the fact I have teams I follow more closely, I think for me this week, it’s a simple theme “Have a good game and may the best team win!”

Notes: So I wrote this and sent it to myself for posting, and then I get home, and of course I wrote this before reading John Canzano's blog about 112 reasons to care about the Civil War, and I learned a lot about the rivalry. While it won't cause me to choose a side in this affair, it does give me a greater appreciation for the history of this game, and what it means to others. So really, root for your side this weekend, and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Follow Up From Yesterday, Soccer Gets Serious in Portland

Ok, I spent some time thinking about yesterday's post, and I came to the conclusion that I grew up in an era of sports where sports were the game and now they reside in a world of entertainment and money for those fortunate to play. Back in my day, players stayed with their team for their career and you identified the player with the city they played in - Ripken, Bird, Magic, Stockton, Elway. Now, the days of free agency are here, and players move about so often, it can be difficult to keep track. Seriously, Shaq has played with 4 NBA Teams, Farve is now a Jet, Montana ended his career in Kansas City, and Randy Johnson has officially been with 5 MLB teams.

And Fantasy sports give fans the opportunity to put their general manager skills to the test, and do it in a way that you don't have to deal with any sort of reality. Instead of dealing with locker room issues, playing time questions, and many of the distractions teams deal with on a regular basis, fantasy allows you to pick and choose players at a whim and trade them in most cases whenever you like. The real world doesn't work like that, much like the real world doesn't give you instant replay to make the correct call or decision about things. The safety net isn't present, so decisions get made based on gut instinct and things fall where they may. But you don't have people calling up sports radio about your fantasy team getting destroyed by 40 points, or calling for a new coach.

I think expectations get fans in trouble, and perspective goes out the window when you start to listen to hype machines. And when those things start ranking seventh graders for potential pro prospects, it's hard to say that's a good thing. It's tough enough to play sports nowadays with costs up and school districts cutting back on sports, you then have the pressure of potentially playing for college and then possibly the professional ranks if you are good enough. Despite the overwhelming odds against a kid playing professionally, parents and kids often see sports as the way out of bad home situations. So with all of this going on, why should anyone expect expectations to be reasonable?

Because it's the right way and healthy way to approach sports. Sports can teach kids valuable lessons about working hard and playing as part of a team, but also that life isn't fair sometimes and you might lose a close game now and then. But when the effort is enough, the talent comes together at the same time, and things work out, winning can be the most amazing feeling ever. And keeping winning in perspective that it's special and losing isn't the end of the world is something that every sports fan should keep in mind. It's ok to celebrate, and it's ok to cry and curse, but it's also important to keep playing no matter what.

In the world of Soccer Portland style, my friend Obi runs a great little podcast called the 107 Report, which usually focuses a lot on the Timbers, but he did a great edition about MLS to Portland, starring some of the Timbers Army members that really understand what's happening with our bid. Based on his take, there's trouble in Philly, Vancouver has a pretty solid bid in place, and Portland is a serious contender for a team provided we figure out how to finance the stadium. It's always an interesting listen, so if you want to get a refreshing take on footy things with some cool musical interludes, visit on the interwebs for a listen.

This past week, we also saw a press release that a USL Premier Development League Team (PDL) is coming to Portland, affiliated with the Timbers. The Timbers play in the United Soccer League's first division, the top flight, while the Timbers PDL would play in the third division, filled mostly with local soccer talent wanting to showcase their stuff. The PDL plays from May to June against teams from Salem, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Victoria, and Abbotsford BC. Player development has been an issue for the Timbers for years, trying to develop and keep young players here, so this move makes logical sense. A player starting out can play here, hone his skills near the pros, and possibly be playing on a larger scale locally. While PDL players don't get paid, it is a stage to show some skill, and the Timbers name carries a lot of weight so I could see some players coming out just to try and play on the big stage. I also foresee some players that spent their years withering away on the Timbers bench, only playing in friendlies or blowouts actually getting some playing time to see what skills they have. Seriously, it shows the commitment to soccer that Merritt Paulson is making, and he's not just looking at MLS for his future, but potentially at making USL a strong option if we don't move up.

It was also announced that the Portland Rain will join the Women's Professional Soccer League next year, bringing women's soccer to the pro ranks here. This town loves women's soccer, from mad support for the University of Portland's women team, to sellout crowds during the Women's World Cup back in 1999 and 2003 here in town, so it's not a surprise that an organization finally recognized the potential for a team to do well here. We haven't heard many particulars about the Rain, as the website is rather generic, so I'm sure there will be more details coming. But the fact that someone is willing to commit time and resources to bring a product like this to the Rose City shows how well the great game is supported here. Plus, women's soccer is very entertaining, as they show a lot of the great skills you see in men's leagues throughout the world. Not that I have an issue with women's professional sports, but with soccer, lack of skill isn't an argument that holds much weight for critics to discount it.

Gee, with all this footy, I just might be more busy this coming summer. Not like that's a bad thing at all, and along the way, I'll be cheering and singing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Being a Proper Fan

I've written about perspective in the past, but apparently, it's not something that a lot of sports fans use on a regular basis. The fans in Eugene apparently decided they didn't like what the Ducks were doing, and so turned Autzen Stadium into a cascade of boos during the early stages of the game. Never mind it was in the first quarter, fans apparently didn't think the coaches or players were playing well. The Trail Blazers have been on pins and needles until tonight when Greg Oden came back, although the Blazers won their second game on the road versus Miami and have played well without their big center. Yet, for all of a 13 minute career in the NBA, Oden is a bust and another Sam Bowie.

I didn't spend a lot of my days listening to sports radio for the very reasons I noted above. Many sports fans lack the perspective to understand when they have things good, and tend to pile on when things aren't good or they perceive that it's bad. And let's face it, sports radio, newspapers and magazines sell well when they create controversy, even if they have to manufacture it because fans will come out on both sides of a red-button issue. With the day and age of being able to watch most sporting events at any point and get information 24/7, it breeds a certain level of intellect for sports fans but it also breeds a sense of being a know-it-all fan. I don't pretend to know everything about sports, but I know that coaching is a career that I would avoid like the plague. Not because I don't think I could do it, but seriously, to have every move made second and third guessed even with wins and many arm chair folks thinking they could always do better, it's a no win situation. And really, coaches get hired to be fired at some point, because even the best run across a losing streak, a change in direction of the organization, or just simply being tired of the rat race. It's tough to live under that kind of microscope.

And that's nothing to say about the credentials of fans that comment on games or situations within the team, and put in their two cents. Sometimes, fans want their team to be so perfect, it's easy to gloss over the issues and paint a rosy picture about injury problems, young talent, official conspiracies, tough road trips, you name it, it's brought up. Here's a news flash for some folks, most sports are set up to provide a winner and a loser. The only sports that I can think of that don't are soccer, where ties are part of the landscape, and college football, who would rather use a complicated mess of calculations to give the title to somebody rather than have an actual playoff to determine a winner. Teams lose, it's the nature of the game, but it's handling the losses that separate real fans from bandwagon fans.

I tried to come up with criteria to designate a real fan from bandwagon fans, and used home games, television matches, knowing current and historical players, watching your team on the road, and owning merchandise of your team, but I couldn't come up with a formula that made sense. Some folks can't afford ticket plans in today's market, and for me, one of the teams I follow is in England so it's difficult to fly across the pond and see a lot of games. I have Portland Timbers season tickets, an 11 game package for the Portland Trailblazers, I graduated from Gonzaga University and watch their basketball team religiously, I watch the Denver Broncos because of my grandmother's influence and I've been to games in Denver, and West Ham is a team I support because of Clive Charles, my wife, and being able to attend a game in one of the greatest sports venues I've ever seen. I've watched enough games in person and on television that I know my teams, and I get upset when they lose and am happy when they win. I get disappointed when things happen, but knowing the nature of the sports world, I realize that everything is cyclical. Unless you are in Detroit and you are a Lions fan.

The thing is that I support these teams win or lose, and have done so for a very long time. It was tough loving the Trail Blazers during the early 2000's when they were some of the worst personalities in basketball, and didn't care about anybody but themselves. Try getting up enough energy to watch this bunch get drilled night in and night out, while they constantly got in trouble for drugs, drinking, sexual crimes, and other assorted crimes. The bandwagon got really small, but the situation also provided perspective in the sense that it wouldn't always be that way. That's why I never leave a game until the clock is done, even in blowouts. You never know what you might see.

I also understand the importance of the bandwagons, and know the teams for which I'm really a bandwagon fan. It doesn't bug me if the Mariners lose, or the Ducks get into a great bowl game, or if the Beavers will get respect, the thing is whether they win or lose, I have interest in how they do, but it doesn't matter to me at the end of the day. I haven't invested enough to really count them as teams I worship, and I think this has to do with I didn't attend college here so I never made an attachment and I consider the Giants and Padres regional teams like the Mariners, and the Padres have more interest for me because their farm team plays locally in Portland, and I've seen enough games of theirs to know players pretty well.

I also know that sports isn't just sports anymore but it's entertainment, and sports needs to appeal to bandwagon fans much like hardcore fans. Entertainment dollars are tight, so people need to make smart decisions about where they want to spend money, and if they have a good time at an event, they might just come back and if they visit enough, maybe they'll become hard core fans. While it would be nice if every team could simply be supported by hard core fans, it's not an economic reality in a limited income world. I'd love to have season tickets for every sport I follow, but I can only afford the Timbers season tickets, so it's my choice amongst many. I also don't mind the bells and whistles at Trail Blazer games from the dancers to Blaze to stunt teams, because if you want your event to appeal to lots of folks, you give them options for entertainment.

I do find some recent comments about the Blazer dancers not being family entertainment hilarious, though, because a peave of mine is that sporting events shouldn't always be about family entertainment. Not that I am against families, but seriously, appealing to fans of all ages and interests is rather diverse, and if you are worried about protecting your family from jiggling, you may want to protect them from the profanity, rap music, and drunken behaviour that I've seen at some Trail Blazer games. The Blazer Dancers aren't guilty of not being family entertainment, they are guilty of not being very original in their dance moves. Sports fans will use their discretionary income for events, while families tend to spread their spending to various events, taking in a game or two as they can afford it. So if I'm taking direction on what entertainment I'd have at the game, would I choose the family that might take in one game now and then or the fan that will come to games as much as they can.

Look, I wished that some people wouldn't behave like jerks at events and spout off incoherent comments thinking they are clever and annoying a whole section, but I also wish that parents would keep control of their kids to not kick chairs in front of them during a full game, getting up every 5 minutes because they are bored, and then rewarding their kids' behaviour with sugar and candy. Perhaps my beef is more with parenting, but really what my point to this whole mad rambling is this: being a true fan takes perspective and patience, and it's OK if things are bad because they won't be always and it will make the good times that much better. We can all daydream about better days, unlimited money to buy talent, and an arena that can hold millions, but the realities are that cycles happen, money even for rich people is limited, and fans at events aren't all going to be 100 percent passionate or hard core. Until we can have the sports utopia, it's up to all of us to be better fans, whether it's keeping the booing to a more logical time or realizing that one player won't win a title no matter what. It's ok to be frustrated at your team, but it's remembering that there's always a next game and it's up to all of us to provide support in good times and bad. And keeping cotton candy away from kids that kick...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All I Can Say is Wow...

Last night was simply amazing, as girl and I watched history unfold on television as Barack Obama became the 44th man to hold the office of President of the United States. It was a significant moment just after 8 PM pacific when most major news networks called the race over, and then John McCain gave his concession speech. I wasn't sure what to expect after watching 2000 and 2004 unfold with the confusion, anger, court injunctions, reports of voting issues, and then being told each time that G.W. was in charge.

I have respect for the office of president, regardless of the party that holds the office. What I don't have respect for is people in the office who use fear to manage their plans, and make all decisions by trying to scare people into acceptance. This plan only works if your constituents are either too stupid to know what's going on, they are concerned about other things more or they just don't care one way or the other, as they are too easily distracted by the media's flavor of the day, American Idol results or what some drunk starlet is up to now. So instead of coming up with any real ideas about anything, let's distract them with lots of figures, distract them from the real issues with talk, or just say this is evil. You don't gain any respect with this type of leadership, but honestly, it took a near catastrophic financial crisis, two wars, and most of the world disliking the US before people realized that a change needed to be made. And their votes carried a powerful message.

It doesn't matter the color of someone's skin, but the power of their ideas and the passion by which they follow this power in inspiring others. I found Obama's victory speech to be stirring without being too overbearing, and the sights and sounds of people celebrating, crying, dancing, hugging, and generally being happy showed the signs of relief. We actually have someone in the office that we can be proud of, and while it's not going to be easy to get us out of the mess we're in, I feel Obama will set up his team of advisers to give us the best chance to succeed.

And I also felt proud of John McCain, who was extremely gracious in defeat, even yelling at some of his supporters who booed as McCain mentioned Obama's name. He said it was a time to celebrate and bring folks together, and while sometimes you hear that it's just talk, I don't think so with McCain. He's a genuine guy, and someone that I considered voting for in 2000 over Gore and Bush, but somewhere along the way, he aligned himself with groups that changed his positions and he became more conservative and less of an independent thinker.

We live in a rough world, with single issue people demanding time and energy to solve their crisis above everything else, when really this is a time for people to put aside their concerns and do what is best for the greatest good. I get that there are serious concerns, from saving Social Security to getting us out of wars to fixing our financial markets. But we need to allow time for the leaders to come up with a strategy and lead us into this new age. And I think we're all ready for something different, something we can be proud of, and watching it unfold last night was one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed.

Back to the world of sports for a bit, there was a great piece at ESPN's website about Greg Oden from Bill Simmons. Normally, I don't like Simmons' work, as he seemed to be preoccupied with those things Northeast, like the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, etc. It's great to have your favorite teams, but in a national setting like ESPN is, they tend to be very focused on teams within their area. Just saying, but back to the story, I liked his take on Oden. And so much as I want people to be wrong about Oden, it's hard not to feel a little down after the latest setback.

I can't call Oden a bust, because he's re-energized this fan base in Portland which was already buzzing after last year's 41 win season and 13 game winning streak, and then we add Rudy Fernandez, Jarryd Bayless and Oden to this team, and see what happens. And after Oden's knee injury last year, he's worked hard to rehab, but he's been in the community, doing interviews, representing the team, and generally showing off his personality. Oden is a great interview, and his ESPN commercial last year was hysterical, but because of his draft standing, I think some expectations have been put out there that it would be near impossible to live up to. Greg Oden needs to be a productive member of this team, but asking him to score 20 points a night and 13 rebounds probably won't be needed. As long as he stays healthy and contributes defensively by altering shots and getting rebounds, he makes us a better team. But really now, it's more simple than that for him, really we need him to get healthy and stay that way. My hope is that Oden will put all of this "bust" and "Sam Bowie 2.0" talk to rest, and we'll be the toast of the NBA.

Finally, gee, it's already time to bash the BCS? Well it is November, but I think the point made today on sports radio makes sense. Colleges and conferences don't want a change right now because they are making a ton of money in the current system, so if we want change, we need to approach the television markets and propose the playoff as a way to make money. But another key point is that despite folks being mad about the BCS, the TV ratings are still through the roof the past couple of years. So apparently, college football fans will bitch and moan about the lack of a playoff, but yet still watch the game. I get that the BCS does what it's promised by getting the top teams to meet for a championship, but I haven't watched the last 2 BCS championship games, and I plan to skip this year as well. The system is there to simply make money, and anyone that thinks it will do anything different is just kidding themselves. There's more money and a great incentive to make a playoff system, but as long as the TV ratings are through the roof and they are making decent money, why change?

Ok, folks, the rains are coming in November, so stay dry and warm. Peace oot..

Monday, November 3, 2008

Random November Thoughts

The blog has been getting a bit dusty lately, but that's for a lot of good reasons. It's hard to juggle a new marriage, work, house details, social obligations, playing soccer twice a week, and then try to find time to go to the gym and keep up on the television shows I worship. Compound that with girl and I's idea of hosting Halloween here at our house, and you can see why things have been piled up. I know a lot of bloggers use shorter entries and more frequent posts to break things up, but I tend to write longer topics and when the inspiration hits me. And lately, the inspiration has been here, it's just finding time.

And really, doing things you enjoy doing it should be easy to find time, but as with my last entry, that isn't always the case. I love going to the gym, but it suffers at the hands of other obligations. Much like this blog suffers from surfing the web, catching up on emails from friends, and from the fact that I spend 8 hours on a computer at work so of course, it's time to come home and spend 3 to 4 more hours in front of a box here. But big events have been piling up, and I felt it's time to weigh in a little bit on them.

The world isn't coming to an end, but if you listen to a lot of Trail Blazer fans, it certainly seems that way. Greg Oden injured himself in last week's opener versus the Fakers in LA, and it seems like people are calling him everything from a bust to the next Sam Bowie to fine china. I'm not ready to call him a bust, but admittedly, the injury prone tag is going to take some time to go away from him. It's been 18 months of an NBA career and so far, it's been a major knee surgery, rehab, ankle issues in practice, then 13 minutes in a game and then he rolls the ankle stepping on another player's shoes. Big guys tend to get hurt because of their natural position of rebounding, blocking, and taking abuse from other team's big guys, and so Oden isn't really an exception here. What is an exception is expecting this guy to dominate the world from his first game then be upset when he's banged up. The expectations should be more measured, as we have a key part in the overall cog of the Trail Blazers, not the end all guy who will lead us to the NBA title. Seriously, it's time to ratchet things down a bit, and be realistic. Yes, he's a number 1 pick, but 13 minutes then an injury doesn't label him a bust.

Huskyville is dealing with another coaching situation, as Tye Willingham is resigning at the end of the year with a little help from his team currently being on the longest losing streak in College Football right now. The Huskies are terrible in all facets of the game, but as with every other situation, Tye is handling the issues with class. He's not throwing players or the school under the bus, but simply trying to manage expectations as best as he can, which is hard when your team is 0 and 7 and staring at the possibility of another win-less season. Willingham is a great coach, and about as fun to listen to during interviews as Clyde Drexler, or as I called him Captain Cliche'. Clyde would talk a lot, but say a lot without really saying anything, while Willingham takes a cerebral slant on the same approach by talking a bit but not saying anything at all. The problem is that boosters and fans still hold a lot of weight in college football, and if they aren't happy, they make havoc for the schools, and Willingham never really said much about what was going wrong but a lot of vague generalities. I can't tell you why the largest college in Washington can't draw competitive talent for football, but when Oregon State is doing better than you consistently while playing in Corvallis, you have to raise your eyebrow. Mike Riley does a great job for the Beavers, but imagine what he could do with the facilities and money that is available up north. He'll get asked to go up there, and politely decline because he's happy where he is, and he's the guy for OSU. Who would want the Husky job, I have no clue...

Which brings us to the entire Seattle sports market right now, as today it was announced that Seattle is considered part of Portland's NBA market now, and based on Comcast's contract with the team, Trail Blazer games will be blacked out in Seattle unless you have Comcast. Gee, way to appeal to the NBA fans up there if you have any left after their team was stolen. Look, I know what the evidence says and I know what people are saying about the Sonics and it couldn't have happened to a nicer city, but seriously, I worry for the future of the league with David Stern at the helm. It's all about power, influence and money, and while he talks about bringing the NBA to China and England, teams in the US are struggling to keep revenue streams flowing, and then he allows a 39 year old franchise to essentially walk for nothing because the city didn't want to help with any more money for a facility. I respect the Seattle-Portland rivalry a lot, and I already have issues with the regionalization of the Mariners and Seahawks as they are repeatedly shoved down sports fans' throats in Oregon because we don't have NFL and MLB, so it's a little poetic justice to see the same thing happen to them up north by the NBA, but seriously, it shouldn't have come to this. And anyone who really thinks their franchise is totally secure really should shudder to think how easily that team was moved to Oklahoma.

The MLS to Portland bandwagon has slowed a bit, not because of the efforts, but simply we are in the evaluation period as Portland is among 7 cities vying for 2 teams for the 2011 MLS season. I like our chances a lot for one of the two teams, but as with anything else lately, it's all about timing. Right now, the economic world is still reeling from a credit crunch and markets having issues, and so taking on more debt, even for a city our size, is something that all sides need to be thinking about. But the amount being asked for and the potential return make the risk minimal, and the team's owners are committed to the long term future of MLS in Portland in addition to giving Triple A baseball a new home as well. It's a great plan, and one that I think everyone should consider and support. But with everything going on election wise plus the economics, I can understand some skittishness. But once you view the repayment schedule, the figures and facts, it's a win for everyone. And unlike other things, there won't be a lot of annoying political ads to distract you from the real issues going on.

Finally, please vote tomorrow. I do care who you vote for, but in my mind, exercising the vote is the most important thing citizens can do. Do your research, and make your voice count by voting. Oregon makes it easy with vote by mail, but I found myself spending about 2 hours researching issues on the web, and feeling like I'd done my civic duty. Tomorrow, we make history, and hopefully we can see the change that everyone seems to be craving right now. I'll keep my fingers crossed and the lights on for you...