Tuesday, March 30, 2010

500 and counting...

As we head full bore into spring and slide from March into April I took note in my running log that I had eclipsed 500 miles in three months.  For most of my running friends that's a pretty ordinary three month period.  But the fact that I'm on pace to run 2000 miles is quite surprising.  I haven't totaled that amount in two decades.

That fact sent me scurrying back to my old running logs to see the last time I hit that amount of mileage in three months.  It hasn't happened since 2005.  The first three months of that year I hit 560 miles.  That's also the last year that I was running what I consider respectable times, sub 6:30 pace for 5K etc;  The year started going sour in mid-April when I suffered the first of what ended up being a half dozen diverticulitis attacks through the year.  The attacks along with the Levequin I had to take to combat it but it real dent in my running.  And then there were the hurricanes... which only contributed to the stomach issues.

By December of 2005 my the diverticulitis had wrecked my intestines and I unexpectedly ended up in a New Orleans hospital while on vacation.  The two surgeries that followed to repair my guts put a real dent in my running.  I can remember trying to run four miles in late April of 2006 about two months after the second surgery and struggling to run 11 minute pace. 

Getting sick like that only reinforced my love of running.  So much so that I've had both of my Achilles repaired in the last three years so I stay with the sport I love.   No, the surgeries haven't helped my running, but it certainly stoked my passion for it.

I don't expect to hit 2000 miles this year.  As the heat sets in I plan to scale back the miles and focus on putting in just one good long run a week.  The only thing that can derail my marathon plans this fall would be the sciatica which refuses to go away.  It's better than it was six months ago, hopefully it will be better six months from now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

In Praise of Cole

Cole Aldrich is going to the NBA.  I took something of a shot at the junior center in an earlier blog.  Cole didn't live up to my expectations this past season.  To hell with my expectations.  Cole will leave Kansas ranking as one of its all time great pivot men.  That's quite a list when you consider names like Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Lovellette, and Walt Wesley.  In fact Cole is the best center to play for the Jayhawks since Wesley.  I don't consider Danny Manning or Dave Robisch centers!

He will leave Kansas as one of my all time favorite players.  He dominated the middle and I will never forget the unexpected performance he put in against North Carolina and the Tarheels All-American big man Tyler Hansborough.  I regret that I never got to see him play in person.

Aldrich isn't the first Jayhawk center to leave school early.  Wilt Chamberlain left to join the Harlem Globetrotters for one year before going to the NBA.  The only other true center that I remember leaving KU early is Victor Mitchell.  That's one for the trivia buffs.  Victor never made it to the NBA.

Most Jayhawks who leave school early don't have much of an impact in the NBA.  The late Norm Cook, a first round pick of the Boston Celtics was a bust.  But then there's another Celtic first rounder, Paul Pierce, another all time Jayhawk great who has enjoyed a stellar NBA career.  Other Jayhawks who have left school early in recent years have had mixed success at the next level.  Julian Wright really hasn't found his spot in New Orleans.  Darrel Arthur has had mixed success in Memphis and Mario Chalmers is still trying to fit in with Miami. 

Here's hoping Cole's professional career hits the Pierce/Chamberlain trajectory and not Victor Mitchell's!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It's That Time of the Year

Spring has sprung meaning the gun has sounded for outdoor track and field.  I've written in the past about Estero's distance ace Erick Montoya.  He went to Tallahassee this weekend and ran a terrific 3200/1600 double.  Erick, now a senior headed to Florida next fall, ran a terrific PR for the 3200 Friday night of 9:08.81 good enough for sixth place.  The high school scene for Florida distance running is on fire.  Montoya came back on Saturday and clocked a 4:17 1600 to finish second, the time was just off his PR.

The other high school hot shot I plan on keeping my eye on will be Lawrence High's Roy Wedge.  The senior distance ace has been almost unbeatable in cross country.  His track credentials pale in comparison to his accomplishments on the turf.  Wedge has the ability to crack 4:20 in the 1600 and 9:25 in the 3200.  An academic superstar, Roy Wedge should be a force on the track in Kansas this year.

On the college scene I will watch the progression of Oregon freshman Jordan Hassay.  She ran a fast 1500 in 4:14 in her outdoor opener Friday night at Stanford.  I am also hoping that Oklahoma State sophomore German Fernandez can finally get healthy and pull off some fast times later in the spring.  The biggest question is just how big a score indoor heptathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton will put up this spring in the decathlon.

Among the pros I'm looking forward to seeing what Galen Rupp can do now that he's free of his college responsibilities.  Also a big race in the offing later this spring for marathon star Ryan Hall at Boston.  And then there's the boatload of talented middle distance runners on the female side.  Anna Pierce, Jenny Barringer, Maggie Vesey and Shannon Rowbury could produce plenty of fireworks.

And finally here's hoping to good health to distance star Lauren Fleshman.  Lauren appeared to be a shoe in for the 2008 Olympic team at 5000 meters and then the injury bug hit.  Lauren's reportedly has moved to Albuquerque and is back in training.  She's truly one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.  Here's to good health and a return to competitive racing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Perspective of Age

I don't like getting older.  But one thing the time I've spent living my life has given me is perspective.  I say this because I'm steaming about the lack of perspective, education if you will, of the 30 somethings and those of the tea bagging, birther, Christianist, ilk that think the United States is going to hell in a hand basket.

These "new wave" conservatives throw around the word socialism the way their Republican compatriots of the past used the word communism.  It's the same thing with the Tea Party.  I believe a handful of folks involved in this movement are truly concerned with the out of control spending by our federal government, but many more of these folks would have been just as comfortable at a cross burning 50 years ago.

Our country has a lot of problems.  Our education system is in the toilet.  Schools have stopped teaching the three R's and now teach kids how to pass proficiency tests.  The problems started with the formation of the Department of Education back in the 1970's and the spate of unfunded federal mandates that forced our schools to add layer upon layer of bureaucracy that does nothing to advance the education of our children.

Now I'm looking at it from the perspective of a news manager with 20 years of experience at hiring.  The difference from 1991 when I made my first hire in the quality of journalists coming out of college to 2006 when I made my last hire is shocking.  I hired young people right out of school.  The 1990's versions knew how to spell, had a decent knowledge of how government and the courts worked, and knew that hard work was their ticket to advancement.  15 years later these graduates had a shocking sense of entitlement.  There lack of general knowledge was shocking.  I was lucky in that during my last gig as a news director I was able to find some exceptional young people, but everything I hear from my friends still in the business it's only gotten worse.

What struck this nerve was a Facebook posting by a friend who had gone to see Karl Rove.  It touched off a pretty interesting debate.  One of the respondents went on a rant right out of the Rush Limbaugh/Karl Rove/Dick Cheney playbook.  One of the more interesting revisions of this person's history was that George Bush wasn't a conservative.  Gee, that's not what Republicans were saying in 2000.  I even voted for him in 2000.  But then he started a war in Afghanistan that he ignored in favor of another war that we didn't need to fight in Iraq.  He bankrupted our economy fighting these wars.  His administration did more to stifle our civil liberties in eight years than any previous administration in the last 60 years.

The other one that struck me was a another rambling respondent who thought that our founding fathers were Godly men who based the founding of this country on capitalism and the Bible.  It just made me chuckle.  I think Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison would be shaking their heads at this notion.  We're a constitutional Republic in which one of the major tenants is the separation of church and state.  It amazes me that people that decry any efforts to stifle gun ownership seem to forget the church and state section of the Bill of Rights.

I never thought I would see the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I never thought I would see Republicans control Congress.  I lived to see both things.  Now I'm witnessing the self-immolation of the Republican party.  It's going to be really interesting to see if the GOP can survive the assault of the Christianists, tea baggers, and birthers.  I long for the Republican party of Barry Goldwater, Howard Baker, and Bob Dole.  I fear those days are long gone.  My goodness, I'm old and cranky.  

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March Gloom

March Madness has turned into March Gloom.  I wanted to take a few days to fully digest the spanking my beloved Kansas Jayhawks received on Saturday from the Northern Iowa Panthers.  Let's get one thing straight, UNI is NOT a top ten basketball team.  They were a team on a roll and a team that Kansas took too lightly.

The loss hurts almost as much as the shocking upset that Arizona delivered to one of the most talented teams in KU history in 1997.  Arizona actually had a very good team that year and went on to win the whole enchalada.  UNI doesn't have a prayer of getting to the Final 4 and that's what makes this all the more perplexing.

There are those who want to blame Bill Self.  You could find fault with some of his coaching decisions.  But the blame sits squarely on the shoulders of Sherron Collins.  He's one of five best point guards in Kansas history.  The problem is he's a point guard who wants to shoot and when his shot isn't falling, it become problematic.  His inability to step up when he needed to on Saturday is what cost KU the game.

The scorer on this year's team should have been Xavier Henry.  X and Cole Aldrich should have been the focal point of the offense.  I could find fault with Self for not pushing this down the teams throat but I suspect it would have done more harm than good because as long as the ball as in Collins hands there wasn't much he could do.  Self couldn't turn to Tyshawn Taylor because his ego had gotten just as out of control as that of his senior teammate Collins. 

The other disappointment was the lack of progress by Cole Aldrich from his sophomore to junior year.  Cole played well and probably more consistently than he did last year.  Defensively there is no doubt that Aldrich was a dominating force but on the offensive end with all the promise he had shown the year before, he was overshadowed by sophomore forward Marcus Morris.  Don't kid yourself, Cole Aldrich isn't a lottery pick.  He'll be a servicable NBA center but I don't know if he'll be the next Andrew Bogut or the next Eddie Curry.

Next year's edition of the Jayhawks could be a better "team" than this years.  The key will be whether Tyshawn Taylor decides to grow up and if the Morris twins come back for their junior year.  And should Xavier Henry decide to spend another year at Mount Oread the Jayhawks could make a very deep run next March.

Kansas lost a game it had no business losing on Saturday.  This same scenario will happen again and again because that is the nature of the NCAA Tournament.  As for me, I don't believe in Cinderallas, but I will be rooting for Cornell this weekend... Go Big Red!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blah Blah Blah

The Czarina and I made our annual journey to Lehigh Acres to run a 4 mile race.  Lehigh is to the Fort Myers area as Raytown or Belton are to Kansas City.  But that's a whole other blog.

Once again picture perfect weather greeted us.  It was a cool 50 degrees with no humidity.  The year before had been very humid with windy conditions.  My plan was simple, run negative splits and break 30 minutes.  I really thought I could run 29:30.  The year before I ran 30:32 coming off plantar fasciatas.

I got out as comfortably as I could hitting the mile in 7:26.  I was tracking a damn fast old guy (age 72) about 60 yards in front of me in a pack of about four or five runners.  Unfortunately instead of working to catch him by two miles I decided to wait until after two and start working.  I realized my mistake when I hit two miles in 15:06 and knew I would have to run my ass off to break 30 minutes.

Out of the pack one guy about my age started coming back to me so I worked to catch him just before 3 miles.  I was slowly but surely pulling up to the old guy and the rest of that group but simply ran out of road.  I ran my last mile in 7:25 and hit the finish line right in 30 minutes flat.  I really wasn't that tired and feel like I could have run faster if I had pushed earlier but I was happy because I negative split the last two miles.  I just need to lengthen my long runs and add a tempo run to my weekly routine.

As for the Czarina, I don't know what happened because the wheels must have fallen off.  She was the defending Grand Master champion.  She went out about like she had done the year before (she was actually ahead of me last year at the mile) hitting the mile in 7:40 but then she just started slowing down.  She was beaten by some folks that usually don't finish ahead of her and ran 32:16, a good 20 seconds slower than the year before.  It was good enough for second in her age group.  I think she's realized the non-stop snacking during "American Idol" is taking its toll!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Pureman

My career in broadcasting would have never taken root were it not for the sports director at Sunflower Cablevision in Lawrence, Kansas.  Rich Bailey remains a fixture on the sports scene in Lawrence even though he left his job at Cable 6 long ago.  "The Pureman" still works as the press box announcer at K.U. football games.

Rich took an 18-year-old freshman and tried his best to teach him the ins and outs of sportscasting.  I prepared his depth charts, took care of the stats, and as time progressed did color commentary.  Through Rich I met a whole world of adult broadcasters who were as colorful and fun loving as their nicknames suggest.  There was the irrepressible "Big Blue" Bob Neu, the flamboyant Kevin "The Guy" Wall, photog extraordinaire Brad "Tomato Man" Richmond, and the off beat reporter Reed "The Steed" Black, aka "Burrito Man."   This teenager got to spend a lot of time with these broadcast professionals.  Many tales were told and much beer was consumed.  Bawdy would best describe the time I spent fishing and carousing with these "gentleman."

The set up was unusual in that we did everything live to tape.  The productions aired on the local cable station and they were good enough to win some national awards.  We covered Lawrence High football and basketball, K.U. swimming and women's basketball, and the Kansas Relays.

My favorite broadcasts were the state high school basketball tournament which we did in 1975 and 76.  We watched the progression of one of the greatest high school teams in Kansas high school history, Wichita Heights.  The team was led by former K.U. and NBA guard Darnell Valentine.  A Larry Drew led Wyandotte team upset Heights in 75.  The following year Valentine and company came back and demolished Wyandotte leading 24 to zip after the first quarter.  I'd never seen anything like the all out press and scrambling offense dreamed up by Falcon's coach Lafyette Norwood.

Rich did his best to mentor me as did Tom Hedrick.  Tom taught a sportscasting class at K.U. and served as the "Voice of the Jayhawks."  Tom had been the play by play man for the Kansas City Chiefs the year they won the Super Bowl.  He had been a sports anchors in bigger markets like Cincinnati and Dallas.

Tom's sportscasting class usually contained a jock or two.  My two favorites were Nolan Cromwell, the Ransom Rambler.  Look him up.  He was one of the greatest athletes to ever pass their Kansas.  An outstanding Wishbone quarterback, a record setting hurdler for the track team, and an All Pro for the Rams as a safety, Cromwell may be the best athlete I ever saw.  The other athlete I remember was a pretty fair basketball player, Herb Nobles.  When Tom asked us to get interviews with an athlete ol' Herb interviewed himself.

By the time I was a college junior I yearned to move on to KLWN radio and work as a disc jockey.  It wasn't until my senior year that the local AM station gave me a job.  I don't think the general manager Hank Booth knew what to make of me.  I worked with another Bailey buddy, "Big Blue" Bob Neu.  Now those were the times.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Otterly Ridiculous

We're fortunate enough to live right next to a very large nature preserve.  It's called the 6 Mile Cypress Slough and one of our favorite running trails borders its length.  The asphalt sits about 30 yards away from a thick forest which is home to all manner of animals.  Heavy rains a couple of days ago have left the Slough flooded and its brought creating a feast for the wading birds which we see regularly on our runs.

This morning however was the shocker of all shockers and made me wish I carried a camera.  About a mile from my front door I came across a family of otters playing along the banks of the sheet flow of water running through the slough.  As I approached they stopped their activity to watch me and came up along the bank but as I drew even to them the family scattered back into the water to play. 

You see just about everything on the trails, alligators, big snakes, deer, wild boar, and incredible birds including a variety of herons, hawks, and the huge wood storks.  I never thought I would see otters, especially in an area which is dry about half the year.  I'm sure they had made their way up from Estero Bay which sits about four miles to the south. 

Spring has sprung in Florida.  I'm enjoying it before the heat and humidty take hold!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bloodied but Unbowed

The saga of  Washington Mutual took an unexpected turn today in federal bankruptcy court.  A supposed "Global Settlement" was brought before the judge.  I was half paying attention to the share price before I went to lunch and got an excited phone call from a good friend.  He asked if I was watching the share price and I quickly logged onto my trading account and about fell over.  The WAMU commons had plummeted from 40 cents a share to 10 cents a share in less than 15 minutes.  The preferred's had tanked tumbling from 90 dollars to a mere 8. 

My first thought was hmmm, an opportunity to buy more.  But the mayhem on the message boards made it impossible to determine what exactly had happened in court so I stood pat.  What had happened was that WAMU's lawyers announced a deal that would make bondholders whole while stiffing the shareholders.  The big question now is whether the judge will sign off on this "deal" or begin asking some serious questions.

The biggest questions is how a company that was worth 52 billion dollars when it was seized could be sold for 1.9 billion to JP Morgan.  Amazingly the share prices recovered after the disastrous plummet.  The commons climbed back to 19 cents a share, the same share price we were at about six weeks ago.  The preferreds are back to 58 dollars, even higher than it was at the end of December. 

What happens next is anyone's guess.  I think this could take at least another year to play itself out.  I feel certain the perferreds will pay off, the commons, I'm not so sure.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

School's Out

I don't live in Kansas City anymore.  I haven't called it home for more than a decade.  But I follow the events there with interest.  Last night something happened that will probably shock the nation, but really didn't surprise me.  The Kansas City, Missouri School District voted to close 26 schools.  That's more than 40 percent of its schools.

I started covering the mess that is the KCMO school district back in 1980.  At the time it was battling a desegregation lawsuit and white flight was already underway.  The school board which functioned like a bunch of spoiled three year olds, was chewing up and spitting out superintendents every year or two.  By the end of the 80's the federal courts had stepped in throwing hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars at the the city's tired and failing schools.  The district went from having serviceable Chevys as schools to Cadillacs.  Many buildings needed much needed remodeling but they didn't need to become palaces.  It did nothing to stop white flight.

According to the Kansas City Star about 18,000 students attend school in the KCMO district.  That's about the same number that went there in 1889, yep 1889!  The district at one time had more than 100,000 students. There's plenty of blame to go around but it falls squarely on the various school boards who plundered the district coffers for patronage or used their positions of power for their own personal agendas. 

It's a shame because I can remember when I was in high school the KCMO schools were still considered pretty good.  Like a lot of major urban areas the city itself is in danger of imploding.  The suburbs are doing just fine thank you but the city itself, a city I chose to live in, is in a shambles.  The Mayor is a buffoon and if the movers and shakers that support the city, The Halls, the Kempers, etc; don't do something soon to redirect what's going on, Kansas City will mirror the disaster that is Detroit.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More Than I Can Chew... for now...

Today marked my first real race of longer than five miles in more than five years.  I ran the Hooters to Hooters half marathon on what turned out to be a perfect morning.  I wanted to see where I am at in terms of preparing for a fall marathon.  My efforts at 8K and 5K earlier this winter suggested 1:45 was a possibility but deep down inside I knew that I was short on training to get there.

I hit the first mile in 7:40 and it felt so easy but I knew that it would feel that way until sometime after six miles.  I decided to run by feel and not worry about my splits.  I immediately realized that I was gradually slowing down mile by mile and was hitting eight minute pace by mile five.  At seven miles the race hits the first of two major climbs in the space of two miles.  Hills don't exist around here.  You get your hill work running bridges and this particular bridge in the middle of this half marathon was one I had trained on last summer.  Given my hip and leg problems I have been avoiding hills lately.

Those two miles just about kicked my ass.  I was pretty much stuck in 8:20 mode until the final mile when I finally sucked it up and ran an 8:05.  I finished in 1:47:33 averaging 8:12 per mile.  It wasn't horrible and overall I don't feel like I gave it 100 percent.  The run told me the one thing I already knew, I need more long runs.  Whether or not my right hip and leg will cooperate remains to be seen.

As for the Czarina, after much complaining about not wanting to run this race she signed up on Friday.  The cool, windless day really helped her and she ran nearly three minutes faster than she did last year finishing second in her age group.  The Czarina was about eight minutes behind me.

We've got a few 5K's and a 4 mile race before we're done racing for the spring.  Hopefully I can dip below 22 minutes before the heat sets in.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beware the Ides of March

I've written in the past about a speculative stock, wamuq.pk.  It's the common stock of WAMU, the nation's largest savings and loan seized more than 18 months ago by the FDIC and sold for a pittance to JP Morgan.  It appears the wheels of justice are beginning to turn.

Today the bankruptcy judge handling the case was supposed to rule about a four billion dollar deposit WAMU's holding company had in reserve in an account surprisingly enough with JP Morgan.  The holding company wants its money back and of course JP Morgan doesn't want to fork it over.  Surprisingly the lawyers for WMI, the holding company, asked to delay the ruling for another week because both parties apparently close to reaching some sort of "understand", ie; settlement.  The news sent the common stock up 20 percent.

The stock at 33 cents is still a bargain if and this is still an if, JP Morgan does settle and pay for the true value of WAMU.  The likely outcome is some sort of stock swap.  A one for one deal would bring a massive windfall.  JP Morgan stock is currently more than 40 dollars a share.  The next week should be interesting.  Here's to a settlement!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

T for Texas, H for Hughes Rudd

I started thinking about what led me to television news.  So this is the first entry of what will be a series of my life and times in television, a career spanning more than 30 years so far.

I was unusual in that as a child I liked watching the evening news, Walter Cronkite in particular.  The bug really bit me hard in the 6th grade when our teacher, Milton Pippenger, would have students record a short newscast into a tape recorder before school started.  I became addicted to it.

About the same time I developed an obsession for the CBS Morning News.  I had fallen in love with Hughes Rudd.  He was a droll Texan who mixed his acerbic humor into his newscast.  It got to the point where I would actually get up at 7 a.m. to watch the entire hour before heading off to school.  Rudd was almost always joined by Bruce Morton, a great reporter, who would offer the latest out of Washington D.C., and a comic posing as a sportscaster named Ray Gandolf. 

Eventually CBS hired a very young Sally Quinn to join Rudd at the anchor desk.  I never really liked the combo and quit watching shortly thereafter.

Rudd was a great writer.  Only the legendary David Brinkley showed a sharper wit and pointed copy that would nail you between the eyes.  Unfortunately I didn't discover Brinkley until I was a working journalist.

The news bug didn't really take hold until it occurred to me that I couldn't face the prospect of eight years of college if I majored in political science.  A degree in Poly Sci would mean getting a PhD and I really hated school.  The only that I loved as much as politics was sports and since I wasn't going to be the next Jim Ryun I saw journalism as a potential career.  Newspapers did little for me.  They seemed pretentious and I loved to talk so radio and television made more sense.

Just before the start of my freshman year at K.U. somebody suggested I approach the sportscaster at our local cable news station about helping him out.  I knew Rich Bailey having been interviewed him on a couple of occasions.  Rich said if I could do stats and make his depth chart boards, I could have the honor of sitting with him as he did games and if I was lucky, do a little color commentary. 

I remember our first game just like it was yesterday.  We did a horrible junior high football game at Haskell pitting Central Junior High against West Junior High.  We recorded the game onto a black and white reel to reel video tape recorder with a bang box punching between the two cameras.  I was hooked.  By basketball season they actually started paying me ten dollars a game.  That could buy a lot of beer back in 1975!