Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Joe Willie Namath

Few things compare to a first rate sports documentary. HBO captured the essence of one of my first sports heroes, Joe Namath. Watching the 90 minute overview of one of football's most physically gifted quarterbacks brought back a flood of memories.

I can remember playing football with my friends. When I'd get my shot at playing quarterback I can remember imagining being Joe Namath, winging the ball 50 yards down the field in a perfect spiral. Of course I'd be lucky to chuck the ball 30 yards.

Namath is best known for his Super Bowl III guarantee of a victory in 1969. I remember watching that game, awestruck in disbelief by the way the New York Jets dismantled the Baltimore Colts. The Colts were a great football team. But Namath masterfully controlled the game and the Jets defense was ready for everything Baltimore threw at them. I became a fan of Broadway Joe there and then.

It chronicles how a small town football God from Western Pennsylvania ended up playing for the legendary Bear Bryant at Alabama.  How this hot dog Yankee ended up in a Southern football factory is a story in and of itself.  It shows how a colorblind Namath came face to face with segregation at its worst.

What struck me most about the documentary "Namath" was the amazing way he was marketed. He was one of the first rock star professional athletes. Namath was a trailblazer for today's mega-sports stars. What sets Namath apart from the Michael Jordan's, Kobe Bryant's and Tom Brady's is that he had a natural style of dealing with the media. He didn't run or hide from it but instead embraced it.

Of course he didn't live in the 24/7 sports machine that is ESPN and the myriad of sports blogs that permeate our culture. I suspect even Joe Willie would have imploded from the endless scrutiny, although he held up amazingly well in New York City. Regardless, Namath was the epitome of cool.

What I admired also enjoyed was Joe Namath was willing to share the highs and his lows. He didn't dodge the embarrassing drunken kiss me Kate moment on ESPN with Suzy Kolber. Namath owned up to it, embraced it and stopped drinking.  Joe Willie Namath is still a superstar more than 40 years after turning the world of professional football upside down.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

One Man One Vote

"Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway." - Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole

I'm a registered Republican.  I don't hide that fact.  If you were born in Kansas the odds are that you are a Republican.  I was a Goldwater Republican.  I liked the Kansas brand of Republicanism represented by Senators like Bob Dole, Jim Pearson, Nancy Landon Kassebaum and Congressmen and women like Jim Winn and Jan Meyers.  But sadly Republicans like Bob Dole couldn't get elected to be a dog catcher in Kansas anymore.  The mixing of religion and politics and the belief that government is the enemy has changed the political landscape there.

I live in Florida one of the spawning grounds of the Tea Party. Moderate Republicans like Charlie Crist get shown the door by the likes of Marco Rubio and now a Congressional carpetbagger like Connie Mack will try to unseat Florida's leading Democrat, Bill Nelson, from his U.S. Senate seat.

But I digress.  I went and voted early in Florida's Presidential primary.  The ballot was full of drop outs like Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann and one of the few GOP I respect Jon Huntsman.  I couldn't vote for Newt.  The man is a walking disaster.  So I cast my ballot for Mitt "Hide the Money" Romney.  Actually if he wasn't bat shit crazy I'd vote for Ron Paul.  That's who I voted for in the 2008 primary.  But I can't abide by his wish to dismantle all of our social safety net programs and getting rid of the Federal Reserve.

After George W. Bush I swore I would never vote for another Republican for President but I'm leaving the door open.  President Obama has made some major mistakes.  The stimulus package was a disaster.  He allowed Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to load it up with pork instead of infrastructure project that would have actually helped the country.  It's a long time until November.  It's going to be an interesting 10 months of campaigning.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1000 Miles What?!?

I just read part of a blog by a journalist with the Kansas City Star about running.  She chronicled her goal  to run 1000 miles in the course of 1 year.  It held my attention enough so that I read about half of it.  My initial thought was, what's the big deal?  I've run at least 1000 miles every year for the last 40 plus years and really for a runner that's not saying much.

It got me to wondering if she asked her co-worker Yael Abouhalkah for any training advice.  Yael was a very good high school distance runner at Shawnee Mission West long before becoming one of the leading political columnists for the Star.  Yael started running again in earnest a few years back and even snagged a qualifier for this year's Boston Marathon .  He'd kick my ass in a 5K right now.

Despite my initial skepticism about making a big deal over her 1000 miles I realized that it really was a very good thing.  Good for her.  She was 30 years old and wanted to do something that would help keep her healthy and to shoot for a goal which included running the marathon.  While she didn't reveal the time she ran in last fall's Kansas City Marathon I did some detective work and found that she ran 4:45.  That's not bad, but consider this, she ran 30 minutes slower than the Czarina did in her first marathon at age 48 on a similarly difficult course.  But hey, any marathon under 5 hours is a good thing. 

In the end the fearless blogger made her 1000 mile mark on New Years Eve.  I applaud her effort.  I think for the average person the thought of running almost 3 miles every day is a little daunting.  But I think about all my running buddies who would go mental if they ran anything less than 2000 miles in a year.  That's a threshold I rarely crossed since I started running.  But that's a whole different blog.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gone but Not Forgotten

I left Sacramento more than seven months ago.  But as you can see my friends at News10 haven't forgotten me.  Big Red, the satellite truck that I tried to help kill, made the trip to Candlestick Park on Sunday for the NFC championship game between New York and San Francisco.  Word has it that this could be Red's last trip.

Big Red was a beast of a truck and in its day state of the art.  If you go back and poke around you'll see a blog about the massive truck from 2010 and how I tried to ruin it and the man seated with the smug look on his face, the ever lovable Tom Wagner.  Big Red and Tom are almost inseparable in my mind.  The gentleman standing is John Larimore, photojournalist extraordinaire.  Between these two hunks is a reporter that I didn't have the privilege of working with because Kristen Drew joined the station after I left.

I'm guessing the media pass bearing my name is a left over from the California Tour of Amgen.  I applied for the credentials so I'm guessing the PR genius who handed them out put them all in my name.  I miss the folks at News10.  I could start naming a lot of names but let's just say it's a newsroom filled with great people.  It's too bad the sports warriors, Bryan May, Ryan Yamamoto, and Sean Cunningham won't be going to the Super Bowl this year.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Move Over Bruce

Word arose a week ago or so that Bruce Springsteen was releasing a new album with the E Street Band and planning a tour.   The news came as something as a surprise given the passing of sax player Clarence Clemons last year.

The new disc is called "Wrecking Ball" and carries with it a theme of the lousy economic conditions that far too many Americans are dealing with on a daily basis.  You can listen to one of the new tracks "We Take Care of Our Own."  The new album will come out in March.

The Boss will face a little competition from a new disc from Wayne Riker called "Guitar Decathlon."  Wayne is an extraordinary guitar teacher and has written a ton of instructional books.  Wayne and I have met just once but I used to hang with his brother Walt in the late 70's and early 80's before Walt went on to bigger and better things as Bob Dole's press secretary. 

Walt is a pretty fair drummer and helped out on a few tracks and that's how I became aware of this new musical project.  I pointed out to Wayne that he was going head to head against The Boss come March and it didn't take him long to fire back with this amazing picture. 
Wayne's band Crazy Elephant enjoyed top billing at the Satellite Club in Cookstown, New Jersey.  And in case you're wondering if Wayne can play and boy can he, enjoy these licks from "T Bone Shuffle."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jeff Withey's Hair

Kansas played one of the last unbeaten teams in Allen Field House Monday night, Baylor.  The first thing I noticed was Jeff Withey's hair.  The Kansas big man had sheared his long locks and the Jayhawks clipped the #3 ranked Bears by 18 points. 

I can say two things after watching this game.  Baylor is a very good team that ran into the environment that is Allen Field House.  Kansas is a great team when Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson play good basketball.  I blogged at the beginning of the season that this K.U. team will go only as far as Taylor and Robinson can take them.  But halfway through this season some of the other pieces are coming together that I hadn't expected in November.

Jeff Withey is turning into a talented big man.  The guy can block shots, has amazingly good hands and someday will learn to take the ball to the rack with force.  The other surprise is Travis Reliford.  The man can flat out play defense and now he's beginning to show some confidence in his offense.  He's a bigger, stronger, version of Pierre Russell. 

In fact a lot of these guys remind me of the players from that 70-71 Kansas squad.  Built like Mark Mathews,  Conner Teahan shots it like Mark Williams.  I've remarked that Robinson reminds me of Dave Robisch before so I guess that would make Withey, Roger Brown.  This team doesn't have a Bud Stallworth but Taylor can fill it up like Bud and Elijah Johnson is powerful player just like Aubrey Nash save for one thing.  Johnson can shoot free throws.

Kansas is going to hit some rough spots as it slogs through the conference.  But as I've blogged before, if Taylor and Johnson play their best, Kansas will be a team to contend with come tournament time. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Marathon Madness

The best men and women marathoners the United States has to offer lined up this morning for a crack at making the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.  For reasons beyond all rational reasoning NBC decided that this great event wasn't worthy of a webcast.  So fans who wanted to enjoy the full drama would have to avoid the Internet until 3 p.m. eastern for a two hour replay of the two races.  The telecast came nearly five full hours after the first man crossed the finish line.

The Czarina didn't want to wait and I didn't blame her so we followed the progress by way of Runner World's live blog.  Apparently the media was allowed to monitor a live feed of the race.  Guess the network didn't see the dollars that a lot of folks would have gladly paid to watch it live. 

Going into the men's race it appeared three men could claim clear choices as favorites to make the team.  America's fastest marathoner Ryan Hall, the resurgence Meb Kefelizghi, and the oft injured Dathan Ritzenhein.  Hall hit the accelerator from the gun and by ten miles only five men were in the lead pack.  By 16 it was down to four with the lone surprise being another Olympic veteran Abdi Abdiraham.  Ritzenhein, who finished 9th in the 2008 Olympic Marathon, fell off the pace at 18 miles.  Ritz courageously tried to chase down Abdiraham who bonked with three miles to go but fell a heartbreaking 8 seconds short.  So Hall, Meb, and Abdi will represent the USA in London.

The women's race went out at a more leisurely pace.  But it didn't take long for Desiree Davila to inject some pace and the field began to thin out quickly.  By eight miles the lead pack was down to eight women and by 15 it was down to six.  Mixing it up with the leaders was a contender from Leavenworth, Kansas; Arizona State grad Amy Hastings.  Hastings made a bold bid to take the race after 16 miles but her effort failed and by 18 miles she fell off the pace. 

The pace had already claimed Olympic medalist Deena Kastor leaving the three favorites, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Davila to decide the podium positions.  Hastings battled to finish a respectable 4th joining the three other runners in breaking the Olympic Trials record.  Fortunately Hastings (in the yellow top) she still has a chance to make the U.S. Track and Field team at 10000 meters.

Paul Hefferon, a product straight out of Johnson County and the University of Kansas finished the men's race in a respectable 2:16:46.  Apparently he's been training with the Hansen group out of Michigan.  At age 25 he has another shot in 2016 just as Hastings does, she's only 27.

A lot of media outlets have been crowing that the U.S. marathon team is the best ever.  On the women's side that could well be true but it's not even close on the men's side.  The 1972 Olympic team which featured gold medalist Frank Shorter, acclaimed writer Kenny Moore and walk-jogger proponent Jeff Galloway is still the standard.  Even the 76 team of Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Don Kardong would have to rate better unless Hall, Meb and Abdi all finish in the top 10 that would be a tall order.

Friday, January 13, 2012


This has been an intolerably long week.  The job search is dragging on to a point where a feeling of hopelessness is beginning to set in.  I'm going to try some new things to shake up the routine and inject some energy into my day. 

Making matters worse is a nagging problem with my left hamstring.  It started bothering me just after Christmas and while it is not a full blown muscle pull it's very sore.  I took five days off with light walking, biking and eliptical training before returning to some short runs.  The time off didn't help and the bulk of our racing season is just around the corner.  I'm going to run a couple of more days and if the soreness persists then I'll give it another week.

On the better news front we'll be getting a visit from Chris and Rachel Ronan in a couple of weeks.  A new Bruce Springsteen album is coming out later this year.  Better still, the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are tomorrow in Houston.  Remarkably the event is not being live streamed but will be shown on a tape delay by NBC.  You would think in this world of Internet coverage everywhere NBC would take advantage of it to make a little extra money.  I know I'd pay 10 dollars to watch the races live.

Finally I've been listening to one of my favorite overlooked albums.  I somehow overlooked George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" when I was a teenager.  As an adult I never get tired of listening to it.  It's been more than 10 years since Harrison died from brain cancer.

I recently watched Martin Scorcese's documentary on Harrison which left a lot to be desired.  It paled in comparison his film on Bob Dylan.  I think he tried to fit too many ideas into too long of a documentary.  The program was in desperate need of editing.  But then George probably would have liked it that way. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Belated Ho Ho Ho

All things considered, we had a pretty Merry Christmas around here.  News flash, Christmas was two weeks ago but the Russians really don't give up the ghost until this Sunday so I'm still within the statute of limitations.  Presents were jammed beneath the Christmas tree and were it not for the boy the pickings would have been pretty slim.  He went overboard.
Given our track record on gift giving the boy wised up this year and bought a bunch of stuff for himself labeling the gifts as being from Santa.  I like his way of thinking.  I believe even these earphones the Czarina bought for him had to be returned.  I didn't do any better.  The nice wristwatch I gave him ended up going back to Macy's.
The Czarina doesn't want Masha, our granddaughter, to leave me in the dust when it comes to my Russian.  She gave me an exact copy of the reading primer that Masha is using to learn how to read Russian.  Honestly I made out pretty well this year with some nice K.U. goodies and a cool cover for my Kindle.  The trio of my running hats the Czarina bought me left a little to be desired so this week she purchased three more, one even has lights on it for night running!
I'd say the Czarina made out the best of all.  The boy got her a lot of cool stuff including a trip to the spa and I got her a new Garmin which will hopefully last longer than the last one.  The boy must be worried that we will starve to death.
I couldn't eat the popcorn balls  that he got for us because of my digestive problems but I will enjoy the myriad of food he had delivered from Omaha steaks.  And just to be sure that we survive Armageddon he purchased two weeks worth of dried foods that are supposed to last 30 years.  I think living in California is finally getting to him.  But then again he's showing us that he's no longer a boy but a man coming into his own.  And a pretty good man at that! 

Least I forget, the best present of all came by way of Riga from Vlad, Natasha, Masha and Dasha.  We received a new Acer PC to replace our seven year old desktop.  It was wheezing, grinding and generally in its death throes when the new one arrived.  Talk about a great stocking stuffer!  Happy Holidays!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


2011 wasn't the best of years.  My job situation certainly tops the list of things that kind of sucked the air out of the situation but when all is said and done things could be a hell of a lot worse.  The best part of the year was the way it ended and that was due in large part to the efforts of the Czarina.

The start of a new year means a lot to Russians.  So with that in mind the Czarina was determined to do something special.  A 10 day visit from the boy demanded something in the way of a holiday romp so after much debate we decided on a two night stay on Miami Beach to bring in the New Year.  We stayed at the Miami Beach Resort which wasn't bad, but had probably seen better days.  It was comfortable enough.
We arrived Friday night and the Czarina decided we should start the last day of 2011 watching the sunrise over the Atlantic.  It was worth getting up extra early.  It was actually breath-taking when the sun broke through the horizon.  It made for a great way to start the day and after a little breakfast the boy and I headed back to the room to catch some extra ZZZ's.  It didn't take long for the Czarina to decide that she needed companionship at the waterside.  She started non-stop calling our cellphones.  She was like a kid on Christmas morning.

The weather was incredible and the ocean was perfect for swimming.  But by early afternoon it was time to start exploring South Beach so we headed out.  Much to our delight we found there was a street festival along Ocean Drive and we could see the massive preparations at the beach and even at the hotel for the night's activities.
In front of nearly one of these art deco delights stood a restaurant.  Each one was doing its best to convince the big crowds which included a surprising number of Russians to stop for some grub. The promise of a 50 percent off deal by this woman to the boy got us to stop for a late lunch.  Then after a lot of picture taking which will end up on Facebook we headed back to the hotel for a quick run and to ready ourselves for a long night.
We went back to South Beach and ate dinner at a burger joint called 5 Napkins. It didn't stand up to 5 Guys.  I'm not sure what was going on in this picture but we often argue about the tips.  We found that the restaurants on Miami Beach build in the gratuity.  My guess is that the Europeans don't tip because the Russians I know don't like to.

We had to blow about three hours before the big event so the boy talked us into going to a hookah bar.  I refused to partake in any of the smoking.  It reminded me too much of some old bad habits.

But it didn't stop the Czarina from indulging.  In fact I could tell that she had experience with the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.  I can only imagine the Czarina back 30 years ago having fun at the dacha.  It was a wonderful way to pass the time and in the blink of an eye we were headed to the beach for the big fireworks show.

It was an amazing time at the stroke of midnight.  Besides the massive fireworks display not more than a quarter of a mile from us we could see three other big shows going on up and down the beach and behind us across the bay.  The huge crowds were incredibly well behaved.  Even the journey home was pretty effortless even though the driver had to deal with some crazy traffic.

The brilliant end of 2011 will hopefully bring about a better 2012.  I can't help but believe it will.  It was a great way for some quality family time. All that was missing was Dasha, Masha, Natasha and Vlad.  Maybe next year, who knows?