Monday, July 30, 2007

Would Michael Vick's legal problems be getting as much attention if he had beaten a woman?

Even non-sports fans are aware of the legal problems National Football League quarterback Michael Vick is facing. Vick, who is one of the most popular athletes in America, currently is facing dogfighting and animal cruelty charges that stem from alleged dogfighting activities authorities say took place on property he owns in Virginia.

As his legal problems unfold, it is a certainty that he will receive wall-to-wall media attention. In the 24-hours a day, seven-days a week news cycle world we live in, his problems will result in ratings gold so get used to microscopic coverage of him.

If there is anything we should have learned so far in this mess, it is that people love defenseless, domesticated animals. And when folks believe they have been intentionally harmed, they will make their displeasure known loud and clear. Since these accusations, Vick and his NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons, have been on the receiving end of lots of protests. The protests have been loud and passionate.

Hopefully, all involved will remember that Vick is innocent until proven guilty, but if he is guilty, he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The accusations against him are pathetic, and if he is guilty, he should spend time in prison. For his sake, I hope he is innocent and did not mess up his life over something like this.

However, one question that keeps popping in my mind since this began is: Would Vick's problems be getting as much publicity if he had been accused of beating up a woman instead of being cruel to an animal? Violence against women is something that happens too frequently, including violence by athletes against women. Stories involving athletes and violence against women are reported fairly often.

But, where are the protests condemning this type of behavior? Where is the wall-to-wall media coverage of this type of violence? Though I don't have statistics at my fingertips to back this up, I think it is reasonable to assume that violence against women occurs more often than against dogs.

So what is the deal? Does America care more about dogs than women?

Or is this another example of me thinking about something way too much?

Reader, you make the call.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quotes of the day: The Simpsons

Well, the much-hyped movie from The Simpsons opens on Friday. In recognition of that, here are some quotes from the television series. More quotes can be found at

Homer: I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me Superman.

Homer: Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals...except the weasel.

Homer (lecturing Bart when he was caught stealing): How could you?! Haven't you learned anything from that guy who gives those sermons at church? Captain Whatshisname? We live in a society of laws! Why do you think I took you to all those Police Academy movies? For fun? Well, I didn't hear anybody laughing, did you? Except at that guy who made sound effects. (Makes sound effects and giggles) Where was I? Oh yeah! Stay out of my booze.

Homer (drunk): Look, the thing about my family is there's five of us. Marge, Bart, Girl Bart, the one who doesn't talk, and the fat guy. How I loathe him.

Ralph Wiggum: Me fail English? That's unpossible.

Mr. Burns: I'll keep it short and sweet -- Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business.

Troy McClure: Hi. I'm Troy McClure. You may remember me from such self help tapes as 'Smoke yourself thin' and 'Get some confidence, Stupid!'

Homer: If The Flintstones has taught us anything, it' that pelicans can be used to mix cement.

Grandpa: My Homer is not a communist. He may be a liar, a pig, an idiot, a communist, but he is not a porn star.

Homer: A woman is a lot like a refrigerator. 6 feet tall, 300 makes ice.

Lionel Hutz: Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Will Gordon Gee's departure impact Vanderbilt football and other sports?

Now that Gordon Gee has announced he will leave Vanderbilt to take over as president at Ohio State, the big question to answer from a sports point of view will be whether his successor takes a different approach to managing athletics. The changes Gee brought to Vanderbilt were radical (such as eliminating the position of athletic director), and his active support of sports was a departure from predecessor Joe Wyatt. He understood that successful athletics could greatly impact all aspects of university life.

It is undeniable that athletics greatly improved in Gee's tenure. Though yet to post its first winning record since 1982, the football program is more competitive than before he came. The men's basketball team made the NCAA Sweet 16 this year, and the women's team won the SEC tournament. Also, other sports like tennis, golf, and bowling thrived. And, of course, the baseball team was ranked number one nationally for much of the most recent season.

However, what will the future hold? I predicted last month (see June 12 entry) that the football team will return to a bowl this season for the first time since '82, and Gee's departure does not impact my decision. Coach Bobby Johnson is first rate and has done a good job rebuilding the program. The football team will get over the hump.

Unfortunately, when a new administration takes over, they tend to only look at wins and losses when evaluating personnel. Hopefully, they will not make that amateurish mistake when taking a look at Johnson. He is the man for the job there.

After years of suffering, Vanderbilt fans have slowly begun regaining their self-esteem when it comes to sports. Athletics, as a whole, have been gaining momentum. Let's hope the new folks don't mess up that momentum.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Eating lunch with Elvis Presley at Captain D's

Dreams are among the most fascinating of God's creations. Why do they exist? When we go to sleep, why can't we just snooze away without something engaging our minds or subconscious or whatever you want to call it?

I've never put much stock in dream interpretation, but I guess they must mean something. The other night I had a dream I was eating lunch at Captain D's. This is odd to me because I rarely eat there, and when I do, I get my food at the drive through window. But as the dream began, I was sitting in the restaurant and looking down at my food.

As I was chewing, I looked up and Elvis was sitting across from me, eating his lunch. He looked a lot like he did on his comeback special in 1968. Tanned, dark hair slicked back with sideburns. He wasn't wearing the leather suit he wore on that show, but he looked like Elvis before the fall.

As I looked at him, I was shocked. I had a feeling like I was overwhelmed; almost frozen. I could not move. It was a similar feeling that people have when they dream they are being chased, but their legs are too heavy to move.

There was no conversation between us. He didn't say anything. He just sat quietly. He seemed very comfortable with me. The feeling I was getting from him was kind of like when you have eaten with somebody many times so there is a familiarity that doesn't require you to make chit chat.

While he seemed very comfortable, I was trying to repress my overwhelmed feeling. The restaurant was crowded, but nobody noticed it was him. It was confusing. I could not understand why nobody was noticing him. To use another comparison, it was like when a person dreams they go to work or school naked and are embarrassed, but they get confused because nobody seems to notice they are naked.

Unfortunately, the dream ended there. Don't know what happened after that.

As for what this means, I have no idea. I like Elvis' music, but I would not classify myself as a die hard fan. Maybe I had some Elvis residue swimming around in my brain, and it had to come out this way.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Peaceful actions can many times overshadow evil intent

Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.

We have all heard these words, in one form or another, for most of our lives. If nothing else, it is a warning for us not to be too naïve.

It would be nice if we could accept at face value the actions of people. After all, we want to believe in the good that people do.

However, we must also remember that we live in a cynical age. The good actions some take are sometimes an underhanded tool to get them one step closer to what they really want. And, many times, what they really want is self-advancement of their agenda at the cost of everybody around them.

Bob Dylan wrote a great song that he released in 1983 titled "Man of Peace," in which the refrain was: "Sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace."

I couldn't help but think of that song recently while observing the actions of the renegade government of North Korea. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran get most of the attention when it comes to international news these days, but the country we must keep our eyes on the most is North Korea.

They have been getting a lot of pats on the back recently for concessions they have made relating to their nuclear weapons program.

Earlier this year, they agreed to shut down their main nuclear reactor and made other concessions in exchange for oil in a deal with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia, according to published reports.

This eased a stand off that began in 2002 when North Korean officials admitted to having a secret uranium enrichment program. The urgency to neutralize their nuclear program reached its peak last October when they successfully performed an underground test explosion.

Recently, North Korea announced they have finally shut down their main nuclear reactor.

In some respects, this agreement should cause a big sigh of relief. The idea of a government as unpredictable and defiant as North Korea having nuclear weapons was scary enough to cause foes like the United States and China to work together toward getting some sort of resolution of this situation.

However, given the secrecy in which North Korea's government operates, we must make sure not to let our guard down when dealing with them. After all, these concessions could be just a trick to cause us to take our eyes off other treachery they are involved in.

An obvious example of this government's treachery is as it relates to human rights abuses. Simply put, North Korea is a tough place to live if a person is poor or wants to worship freely.

In the last couple of years, the government has been cracking down on citizens who cross the border into China in order to find food or make money. Human rights organizations have reported that only the elite in that country are provided for by the government, which claims to be socialist. The rest are left to fend for themselves, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The government won't help their people, but then brutally punishes them when they seek help elsewhere, according to HRW.

Kay Seok, a North Korea researcher for HRW, recently provided this example in an essay: "A 42-year-old woman...was deported from China in December 2003 and served 18 months in a North Korean labor camp. (She said) ‘Every day, I saw someone dying. We were given a fistful of powdered corn stalk, three times a day, and people had trouble digesting it. Many people died after having diarrhea for a week. They left patients in the hallway outside toilets. So many people died, they wrapped the bodies in plastic sheets and buried them in a mountain.'"

Or consider the plight of Korean evangelist Son Jong Nam.

He recently faced execution simply for preaching Christianity. According to the group Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Son was originally imprisoned and tortured for three years with 200 inmates, many of whom were Christians arrested for their faith. Most died within six months.

Recently, U.S. elected officials have become involved in the effort to have his life spared.

The bottom line is North Korea will likely continue to be a significant source of evil as long as the current government is in place.

Don't let them trick you just because they have made a few concessions recently.

Leopards can't change their spots.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

10 songs I don't want to hear any more

During the week, I have to drive a lot, usually spending about two hours a day in the car. Because of so much time on the road, I listen to all sorts of radio stations. Some days I hit on a streak of good songs that makes the time go fast, but there are also days where I hear scores of stinkers.

Unfortunately, because of the repetitive nature of most radio formats these days, I hear many songs over and over and over again. It amazes me that a person can drive just about anywhere outside middle Tennessee and hear stations that have the exact formats as ones here locally. It's just the same stuff no matter where you go. I guess that is the nature of corporate radio.

Because of this, there are a lot of really good songs that I just can't stand anymore. The songs remain good, but I'm sick and tired of them. They provoke no positive emotion whatsoever from me. Also, there are songs I never liked that I really despise now.

So, here are 10 songs that I don't care if I ever hear again

"Dream On" by Aerosmith -- I'm not the biggest Aerosmith fan in the world to begin with, but I used to really like this song. But, for whatever reason, this is the song in their catalogue that radio stations really like to wear out. Recently, I took a 90-minute drive and heard this song four times. I'm not kidding.

"Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison – I love Van the Man, but this is the only one of his I ever hear. I have reasonable expectations. I don't expect them to play anything from the "Astral Weeks" album, but it would be nice to hear "Moondance" or "Domino" or "Bright Side of the Road" every now and then.

"Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger – I saw Seger at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville circa 1987, and it was one of the best concerts I've been to. However, when this one comes on the radio, it's time to switch the station. This was on his "Stranger in Town" album, and there are at least five songs on the album that are better than this one ("Feel Like a Number," "Still the Same," "Hollywood Nights," "The Famous Final Scene," and "Brave Strangers").

"Can’t You See" by the Marshall Tucker Band – A flute fits surprisingly well into the southern rock sound. The singer really pours his heart out on this one, but after hearing him 12,000 times, I don't have much emotion to spare for him anymore.

"Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult – I'll always associate the song with the Saturday Night Live sketch in which they went behind the scenes to watch it being recorded. "I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell" is the famous line from that sketch. Other than that, the tune is pretty stale these days.

"Layla" by Derek and the Dominoes – I know this is sacrilege, but I need a breather.

"Working for the Weekend" by Loverboy – Sweet sassy molassey, I don't like this song or the band that plays it. Let me re-phrase that. I don't like the band, but I HATE THIS SONG. HATE! HATE! HATE! But, if it's Friday afternoon, get ready to have it crammed down your throat a zillion times.

"Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd – Again, here is a band with a pretty rich catalogue of songs, but this is usually all we here (along with "Gimme Three Steps" and "Sweet Home Alabama," both of which could have easily made this list). "Tuesday's Gone" is a really underrated song of theirs.

"Beast of Burden" by The Rolling Stones – When did this song become a staple of radio play lists worldwide? I can't get away from it these days. Not a bad song, but where is "Street Fighting Man," "Under My Thumb," or "Paint it Black"? Don't hear those much anymore.

"Small Town" by John Mellencamp – I like his stuff, but this one is overexposed big time. Stale bread loses its flavor quickly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Talkin' Jean Van de Velde Massacre Disaster Blues

The British Open golf tournament begins Thursday and returns to probably the toughest of the courses used for that tournament: Carnoustie. The Open hasn't been played at Carnoustie since 1999 when one of the most spectacular collapses in golf history took place. French golfer Jean Van de Velde went to the last hole with a three-stroke lead, needing only a double bogey to clinch the win. However, he made bad decision after bad decision en route to a triple bogey seven. He later lost the tourney in a playoff.

Carnoustie is a beast, especially when the weather is bad. Most people only remember Van de Velde’s follies, but all the golfers in '99 really struggled. Scottish golfer Paul Lawrie won it that year, but he was only six over par.

According to one recounting of the tournament, Sergio Garcia went straight from the course to his mother's arms where he broke down and wept after one tough round. Garcia was only 19 at the time, but any course that can make grown men cry is all right with me.

Over the weekend, I watched a preview of the tourney, and the commentators walked the course in order to give the viewer an idea of what the golfers will face. The most intimidating thing I saw were the steep bunker walls that the players have to hit over when hitting a ball out of a sand trap. I struggle hitting out of the sand and would really flounder having to elevate the ball so quickly just to get out of the hazard. Of course, after two or three tries, I usually just throw the ball out anyway.

Who will win? Tiger Woods has won the last two Opens so he has to be a frontrunner. Factor in that he hasn't won a major title this year, and he becomes that much more of a frontrunner. Historically, Phil Mickelson does not play well in this tournament. Additionally, the British Open is tougher to handicap because of all the European golfers that I have never heard of because they don't play much in America.

So I’ll take the easy way out and pick Tiger.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm throwing "throwing under the bus" under the bus

Okay, I tried a little too hard to be clever with that headline, but the point is I am getting really tired of the newest cliche to sweep broadcasting: to throw somebody under the bus.

I hear this analogy mostly in sports broadcasting. Typically, it occurs when an athlete is unnecessarily critical of a teammate in public. For example, if a team loses a game, an athlete might throw a teammate under the bus if he implies that the teammate was the reason they lost. Many times, it is taboo for an athlete to criticize a teammate in public, and when it happens there is a backlash.

One athlete that I have heard this saying applied to has been Dallas Cowboys' wide receiver Terrell Owens. Back when Owens played for the Philadelphia Eagles, he was publicly critical of quarterback Donovan McNabb's reluctance to support him when he wanted to re-negotiate his contract. He attacked McNabb's leadership, and many accused Owens of 'throwing McNabb under the bus' in order to get what he wanted.

Of course, this is just one example. It is a cliché that is used ad nauseum. Sports broadcasters who use this cliche are usually the same broadcasters who describe the simplest plays with words like 'unbelievable' or 'incredible.' With all this repetition, broadcasters either don't have a whole lot of imagination any more when it comes to word choice or they believe the audience is so dumb that they have to keep things basic and simple.

So, no more throwing under the bus. The bus stops here. I will not use that cliche on this blog. Never. It's gone to the graveyard that houses repetition.

Say goodbye.

Monday, July 16, 2007

People who have dated Stevie Nicks

While surfing the net recently, I did some reading on the career of singer Stevie Nicks, who is most well-known for the years she spent in the band Fleetwood Mac.

As those familiar with her know, she is an attractive woman. Also, when reading about her life and career, it is equally obvious that she has dated a lot of people.

I don't mean that in a negative way. She can date whoever she wants. However, the list of people she has dated has some interesting names on it.

As we all know, the internet can many times contain incorrect information so I cannot verify as correct all the names that appear on this list. So, if any names appear here in error, I apologize. I just thought the list of people she has dated has some interesting people on it.

The list:

Lindsay Buckingham
Mick Fleetwood
Warren Zevon
Don Henley
Joltin' Django
Dr. Nelson Talbott
Captain Jacques Milk
Hguod Nhoj
Mitt Romney
Steve Jones
Dylan's Mr. Jones
Dana Lowe
Elmer Johnson
Oxblood Oxheart
Omar Durkee
Blind Boy Grunt
Pope Benedict XVI
Bob Cobb
See See Martin
Raymond C. Gordon
Porterhouse Longfellow
Bob Lobertini
Steve Young
Mr. Jimmy
Nate Cherolis

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nothing frustrates me more than when politicians treat me like a two-year-old

I really don't ask for much other than for people to treat me like an adult.

Do not patronize me. Do not treat me with a condescending attitude as if you think you know more than I do. Do not make a ridiculous statement or decision then provide a half-baked reason for doing so that insults my intelligence.

Politicians have been trying to deceive me a lot lately, and I am pretty angry about it.

Of course, most cynics will respond that politicians try to deceive folks all the time. Why should now be any different than all those other times?

I really don't have an answer for that, but I do know I am sick and tired of elected officials who like treating me like a moron. And, believe me, both Democrats and Republicans have been coming out of the woodwork lately trying to make me feel like an idiot.

It all began recently when President Bush commuted the prison sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice and sentenced to 30 months in prison when he lied to a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA officer's identity while he was Vice President Cheney's chief of staff.

Bush said he was commuting the sentence because it was "excessive" when compared to others who have been convicted of the same crime.

This may or may not be so. Both supporters and opponents of the president's decision can provide plenty of data that defend their reaction to his decision.

However, the president's motives smell fishy to me, and he misses an important point. Elected officials, and those who work for them, should be held to a higher standard. They are working to serve the public (that's you and me, folks).

Therefore, when people with stature this high break the law, they must be held accountable in ways that demonstrate they have broken the sacred trust the public has placed in their hands.

Call me crazy, but committing perjury in a court of law is very serious business, and it must be treated as so.

Libby should have gone to jail to show that all people in this country are held accountable for their actions. Instead, we are left with just another example of how people can break the law and get a pass because they have friends in high places.

It doesn't matter that Libby still had to pay a fine and will be on probation. The president had a tremendous opportunity to prove an important point to the American people, and he let it slip through his fingers.

But wait, folks, there is more.

In the aftermath of this, many of the current Democratic presidential candidates immediately criticized the president's decision.

One critic was Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York who said Libby's commutation was politically motivated to protect the White House.

Oh, really? Of course, Senator Clinton conveniently fails to mention that when her husband's presidential administration ended in January 2001, it ended amid a flurry of controversial pardons, including one of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

True, Mrs. Clinton wasn't the president and didn't make those decisions. However, her willingness to criticize President Bush while letting her husband off the hook is a display of a remarkable double standard.

Senator Clinton simply does not have the moral authority to criticize President Bush on this matter. In criticizing him, she is banking on the public's short memory span.

In other words, she wants to exploit what she perceives to be the dumbness of the American people. She believes we are too dumb to remember what happened way back in 2001.

And yes, there is even more.

Congress got into the act when Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced plans to hold hearings to look into the commutation of Libby's sentence.

Rep. Conyers is a long-time member of the House. Was Conyers clamoring for hearings back in 2001 when Clinton signed his controversial pardons? Not that I am aware of.

But now, he is leading the charge to get to the bottom of the Libby mess. Political opportunism does not get more obvious than this, and he is counting on what he believes is the stupidity of the American public to not recognize this.

Apparently, this fellow thinks we are dumb as trees and will not recognize his transparent motives.

The bottom line is many politicians underestimate us. Maybe they are right to do so.

After all, we put up with an awful lot of nonsense in Washington but will not lift a finger to combat it.

Voters have a chance to make a lot of noise in 2008. Let's hope we do so.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alabama football going back to its cheating ways?

As much as I hate to admit it, the University of Alabama possesses the most storied football program in the Southeastern Conference's history. However, for the last 15 years or so, the biggest news they have created was when they were twice put on NCAA probation for violating rules. Basically, they cheated and got caught.

Both times, the penalties they received were severe. When discussions were ongoing the second time they got in trouble, there were even whispers that the program could get the 'death penalty,' meaning they would have had to shut down their program for one or two years. That did not happen, but the fact that was even mentioned shows how serious the problems were.

Most sensible people would conclude that Bama had learned its lesson and would do nothing again that could result in problems. However, consider this blurb I found in a recent published report:

"Alabama has self-reported three secondary NCAA violations since Oct. 16, 2006, and is preparing a report on Coach Nick Saban's recent contact with recruits that might have broken the rules, 'The Birmingham News' reported. Two of the violations came after Saban's hiring on Jan. 4, though one happened without the knowledge of Saban or his staff."

I guess, the beat goes on down at the Capstone. Part of what brought Bama down in the past was an institutional arrogance that believed they were above the governing authority of the NCAA. Well, if they keep this up, they may get another taste of how strong the NCAA's powers are.

Pride always precedes the fall. And in Bama's case, they have tons of pride.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Abiding in God

Here is an interesting factoid I came across while reading a Biblical commentary:

"One of the apostle John's favorite Greek words to describe the nature of a believer's relationship with God was 'meno.' Most often translated as 'remain,' 'abide,' 'live,' or 'continue,' this word occurs 112 times in the New Testament. Of these occurrences, 66 are found in the writings of John (40 in the Gospel of John, 23 in I John, and three in II John).

"Some scholars have suggested that 'meno' actually signifies something beyond simple fellowship with God. The progression is given as: 1. knowledge of God; 2. fellowship with God; 3. abiding in God. Clearly, John desired the deepest possible relationship between God and His children."

I really struggle with the third part of that progression.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A study in human depravity

The depths of depravity the human heart can reach still surprises me at times, but all that really proves is that I remain pretty naive after all these years. The bottom line is evil exists no matter how much some folks try to deny its existence.

My prayer is for God to intervene in the matter that is described below and see that all the guilty be brought to justice. We all know His perfect justice will occur in the next life. However, these folks need to be made an example of in this life. It's that simple. It doesn't get any worse than this.

Police: Boy forced to have sex with mom

West Palm Beach, Fla. -- Two teenagers were accused of gang raping a woman and forcing her 12-year-old son to join in the attack, then beating him and pouring cleaning solution into his eyes.

Authorities allege Avion Lawson, 14, and Nathan Walker, 16, were among a group of about 10 masked suspects who forced their way into the woman's apartment in a crime-ridden housing project the night of June 18.

The two were being held without bail Friday on suspicion of armed sexual battery by multiple perpetrators, sexual performance by a child, armed home invasion and aggravated battery. Both were arrested this week, but formal charges had not been filed. Authorities said the two would be charged as adults.

"Any rape case is horrible but this takes it to another level, something you can't think of even in your worst dreams," police spokesman Ted White said.

According to the police report, a man knocked on the woman's door at about 9 p.m. and told her he had a flat tire. The mother and son, whom police have not identified, went outside and were ambushed by a group of gun-wielding suspects.

The victims told police they were forced back into their home and beaten and sexually assaulted. According to authorities, the men raped, sodomized and beat the woman, then forced her son to participate in the assault at gunpoint, making him have sex with his mother in front of them.

The boy was then beaten and had numerous household cleaning liquids poured into his eyes, according to the police report.

The suspects also stole a few hundred dollars worth of cash and jewelry, White said.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Guilty pleasure: The Monkees' 'Head'

I was going through a box of old tapes the other day when I came across a film that The Monkees made called 'Head.' It had been a long time since I had watched it, so my expectations were kind of low when I slipped it into the VCR. After all, I must not have been impressed with it if I had left it buried in the bottom of a box in a closet. However, I had forgotten how quirky it was, and I really enjoyed it.

The Monkees made the film after their television show ended, and it is pretty obvious they were trying to change their image. The film is about as far from a sit-com as you get. It has no plot and pretty much rambles from scene to scene with no real structure. Maybe that is why I like it. It goes out of its way not to be mainstream.

When it was released, the film bombed. They alienated their fan base with the subject matter, and the audience they were trying to reach still dismissed them as being 'plastic.' The film itself is very hit and miss. The musical sequences work fairly well, but there are some dead spots as they wander from setting to setting. One of the most inspired bits has them frolicking as dandruff in actor Victor Mature's hair. Mature has a recurring part in the film as their tormentor (his character is listed only as 'The Big Victor' in the credits).

The film embraced a lot of the psychedelic images of the day (it was made in 1968), which makes it interesting as a period piece. The most enduring piece of trivia from this is that Jack Nicholson co-wrote and co-produced it. The Monkees are a far cry from 'One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.'

If you are looking for something offbeat, this is definitely it.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Is the entertainment worth the price being paid?

It is early July, but we are only weeks away from the start of football practice for teams on all levels of play.

As the old cliche goes, many championships are not won in the cold of winter, but in July and August when teams go through grueling practices in preparation for the new season.

That may or may not be so, but there is no doubt that coaches and players nationwide will be sacrificing a lot in the coming weeks.

I don't think there is any question that football is the most physical and dangerous sport being played. Some players take a substantial physical pounding on every play.

Because of the sport's widespread popularity, the long-term toll this pounding takes on players is a subject that is not talked about a lot. However, the game does take a toll, and in some cases, the toll is tremendous.

Now, before any of you roll your eyes at what you anticipate will be a tantrum against violent sports, let me say upfront that I love football.

In the fall, it is not uncommon for me to go to a high school game on Friday night. As a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I am a rabid follower of the Volunteers. On Sunday, most of my autumn afternoons revolve around how well the Tennessee Titans are doing.

I am a lover of the game. However, as with all things we love, it is important to be a good caretaker of it, and that it is why it is important to look at this topic.

Recently, the lid has been blown off a controversy involving the National Football League, its player's union, and retirees. This is a controversy that has been simmering for about a year, and it recently made it all the way to Congress.

At a hearing in Washington, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law heard testimony from the league, the union, and former players regarding the league's disability plan.

Former players have become increasingly vocal about what they say are unnecessary delays and other problems related to attempts to file claims.

During the hearing, many former players came forward with emotional testimony in which they charged that the league and union required players to go through mountains of unnecessary red tape in order to qualify for disability benefits.

Players like former Minnesota Vikings guard Brent Boyd leveled accusations of fraud and corruption. According to Boyd, he suffers from brain damage because of the lingering effects of concussions suffered while playing football, according to published reports.

Given its teflon image, it will interesting to see how this all plays out for the NFL. The NFL is the most popular and power sports league in America, and it can usually muscle its way out of any image crisis. But I am not so sure about this one.

This is an issue that will continue to unfold in the coming months, and my guess is we will see a lot of reform.

As for fans like you and me, what do we make of long-term injury effects? We get entertained by the games, but is it worth it when looking at the problems many players face later in life?

Obviously, nobody forces anybody to play this sport. Nobody forces anybody to play when they are injured as well.

However, I believe fans are guilty of a type of malpractice when we fail to look at the long-term price being paid just so we can be entertained.

I don't know what we can do to make up for this malpractice. After all, we are just the paying public.

Maybe all we can do is be a little more aware that this problem exists and be grateful for what the players provide us.

Many times when a player gets injured, fans react with indifference. It's a chance to talk to your buddy or go to the concession stand to get something to eat. If the injured player lingers on the field, we often get impatient.

In many ways, we have become desensitized to the peril the players often put themselves in just to please us.

So, am I saying we should all care a little more for them?

I hate to be sappy, but the answer is 'yes.' Caring never hurt anybody.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

ESPN's New York Yankees fixation about to hit a new low

I turn on ESPN radio first thing in the morning, and they are talking about what's wrong with the Yankees. I turn on SportsCenter when I get home in the evening, and they are talking about what's wrong with the Yankees. I turn on Baseball Tonight to see the day's highlights, and they are talking about what's wrong with the Yankees.

For a network that proclaims itself the 'worldwide leader in sports,' ESPN sure is content to cram the same ol' thing down our throats day after day. Of course, in baseball season, that same ol' thing is the Yankees.

Well, they have taken it a step further. Starting on July 9, ESPN will begin an eight-week mini-series that commemorates the 1977 New York Yankees' season in which they won the World Series. I guess if the current Yankees can't win, ESPN figures they will glorify them in another way.

I've warbled about ESPN's Yankees fixation before (see May 17 entry), and I'm sure I will again. With this mini-series, it re-affirms their determination to cram the Yankees down our throats in every conceivable way.

What will be next? The programming possibilities are endless: Breakfast with Joe Torre? Fly fishing with Mariano Rivera? How to serve up the perfect home run pitch with Kyle Farnsworth?

All I know is some day soon I expect to come home, turn on ESPN and see Linda Cohn making out with shortstop Derek Jeter.

And it won't surprise me a bit.

Monday, July 2, 2007

It's a June mini-swoon for the Braves, but our heads are still above water

June wasn't the kindest month for the Braves, but it wasn't that bad either. Atlanta limped home with a 13-15 record for the month and was the walking definition of an inconsistent team. However, we showed signs of turning it around late in the month by winning our last five games.

There were a lot of challenges in June. Chipper Jones missed time on two separate occasions because of injuries, and his absence has left a big hole in the offense. Andruw Jones' funk got worse as his batting average slid below .200 at one point. Plus, the back half of the starting rotation continues to sputter.

Still, things could be a lot worse. Right now, we are only four games out of first place (as of this writing), which is pretty remarkable considering how poorly we have played. Fortunately, the first place Amazin' Mets also bumbled through the month. We began the month four and a half games out of first, so despite our problems we actually were able to break even.

However, we can't bank on the Mets playing like Little Leaguers for much longer. Andruw has to de-stinkify himself, and Chipper has to stay healthy. Plus, Chuck James and Kyle Davies have to grow up and pitch some consistent innings.

The big question is whether any of these things will happen. Has Andruw been totally shattered by his slump to the point that he cannot get it together? Is Chipper too old and brittle to be counted on consistently? Is it time to trade for some starting pitching?

I don't know. I really don't know.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Third party madness? Get ready for 2008 free-for-all

It isn't easy being a politician on the national level these days. Nobody thinks they are doing a good job.

The numbers vary depending on the poll, but the approval ratings of the president and those serving in Congress are hovering around 25 percent.

Given how low the ratings are, 'hovering' may not be the best choice of verbs because these folks are barely keeping the government off the ground in most people's eyes these days.

Simply put, people do not like the direction our elected officials are taking us.

These numbers are especially important because the presidential race of 2008 is under way. There is no clear cut favorite in either the Democratic or Republican parties, and if these poll numbers are to be believed, candidates who serve in Washington have some big black marks against them.

After all, if approval ratings are this low, how are any presidential candidates serving there going to run on their records with any pride?

Of course, not all candidates are serving in Washington right now, but the frustration being felt by most voters is being directed toward just about everybody who is trying to win their vote.

Most people do not have confidence in either the Democrats or Republicans right now.

So, with a national election just around the corner, where do voters turn?

Next year's election may be the first time in a while where a third party candidate can make an impact.

A third party candidate really has not had a major impact since Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 election. Though he did not win any electoral votes, he definitely gave voters an outlet who did not want to vote for either the first President Bush or Bill Clinton.

Since then, there have been other third party candidates who have had smaller impacts. Perot ran again in 1996 and got nine percent of the vote. Also, Ralph Nader got 2.7 percent of the vote in 2000.

To this day, some Democrats fume at Nader because they feel he took votes away from Al Gore in the most controversial presidential election in our history.

Those criticisms still make me laugh. Why do Democrats automatically assume those voters would have voted for Gore if Nader had not been available?

If those voters felt the Democratic Party was the best choice, wouldn't they have ignored Nader? It is obvious those voters thought Nader was the best choice, and there is no guarantee they would have even voted if he was not on the ballot.

It is almost as if the Democrats feel like they were entitled to those votes.

Of course, the door swings both ways on this issue. Back in '92, some Republicans echoed many of the same complaints when they believed Perot took votes away from President Bush, which paved the way for President Clinton’s win.

This sense of entitlement borders on arrogance that infuriates most voters.

For these reasons, the stage is set for a significant third party candidate next year.

Who could it be?

Lately, most of the speculation has centered on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. At this point, Bloomberg appears to be a classic political opportunist.

He was a Democrat before his 2001 mayoral run and at that point switched to the GOP. Then, a few weeks ago, he dumped the Republicans with many speculating that he will run for president as an independent. Given how negatively folks are viewing the two major parties, his defection appears to be a savvy move.

Since he is a billionaire, he will have the deep pockets necessary to fight the Democrats and Republicans.

Also, Nader has been making noises that make him sound like he is preparing to run again. He recently made the political talk show rounds in which he ripped Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to shreds.

Regardless of who it is, look for that candidate to make his move early next year. Because the Democrats and Republicans have both streamlined the primary process to the point that it is almost irrelevant now, both parties should have decided their nominees by next February.

At that point, other candidates could emerge from everywhere.

And then the race will really begin.