Sunday, December 30, 2007

Welcome to the big time Mr. Huckabee

When the calendar turns to 2008 in a few days, the race to elect our next president will intensify.

On Jan. 3, Iowa will hold its caucuses, and the candidates who do well there will pick up substantial momentum as they head into primaries in the coming weeks.

There will be little margin for error because this is the most front loaded primary season there has ever been. For example, more than 20 states will hold their primaries on Feb. 5 (including Tennessee).

To this point, the most interesting aspect of the race has been watching the rising and falling of candidates in the polls.

There is way too much emphasis put on polls during an election season, especially the general national polls that the mainstream media report the most. National polls really don't mean much because we don't elect a president (or a nominee for the two major parties) through a general national vote.

To use polls more effectively, it is important to look at the race on a state by state basis.

In reviewing the polls in Iowa in the last several weeks, the most interesting story has been the emergence of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as a major player.

For months, he languished in the single digits of most polls as he methodically got his face in front of the voters in that state. That has changed in the last several weeks as he has surged toward the top of most polls taken there.

When this happened, everything changed for his campaign. More money flowed in, the major television networks became more interested in putting him on their shows, and voters began listening a little more closely to what he had to say.

However, there was one specific moment when it became apparent that Huckabee had truly arrived as a candidate with a chance to win. This occurred when all the other Republican candidates took aim at him and began to criticize him.

After all, candidates don't typically start ripping someone until they view him as a threat. Until a few weeks ago, Republicans treated Huckabee as nothing more than a pesky fly that needed to be swatted away every now and then.

Now, folks are coming after him with a big can of Raid.

For example, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney attacked his record on taxes while he was Arkansas governor and implied that he was soft on crime and immigration.

Independent groups attacked him before Christmas for a television commercial he made that invoked the birth of Christ.

I guess this is an example of how politics is different than most other aspects of life.

In most areas of life, the stature of a person is often confirmed by how good his reputation is and the good comments people make about him.

However, in a political campaign, we can measure how popular a candidate is by all the negative things that are said about him. For Huckabee, he was just another likeable guy until he got popular then the big guns got unloaded on him.

For a long time, I didn't understand why presidential candidates put themselves through the meat grinder of negativity that they have to go through to win that office. It seemed like too big a sacrifice to me.

Finally, it dawned on me that all this negativity was a stamp of approval that a candidate had arrived as a genuine political force. After all, the measure of a candidate can many times be made by understanding who his critics are and how they criticize him.

As for Huckabee, please don't misinterpret this posting as an endorsement of him in any way. I don't publicly support candidates anymore. I don't put signs in my yard telling my neighbors who to vote for. I don't contribute money to campaigns. I only advocate that people study the candidates so they can make an informed vote.

It's just that watching the rise of Huckabee recently has been fascinating. In most campaigns, an unknown comes from out of the pack to create drama for a little while.

Will Huckabee be able to sustain his momentum? We'll find out starting Jan. 3.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bad news: the Titans will lose to the Colts and the Volunteers will lose to Wisconsin

Before I make these predictions, I must admit that I am both tired and cranky. Therefore, my state of mind may be influencing the picks I am about to make. I'm not making excuses; I'm just being honest about my current state of being.

The Tennessee Volunteers play Wisconsin on New Year's Day in the Outback Bowl. Tennessee fans will remember that this is the bowl the Vols laid a giant egg in last season in losing to Penn State.

Unfortunately, I don't think this year will be any better. Since the SEC title game, nothing has gone right for the Vols. Though they are staying to coach in this game, offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe has accepted the Duke head coaching job, while receivers coach Trooper Taylor is heading to Oklahoma State.

Sprinkle in a half dozen players who aren't eligible for this game because of academic reasons and things don't look too bright.

As for Wisconsin, all I know is that they score a lot of points and allow a lot of points. That description reminds me of Tennessee so expect a lot of points to be scored.

Frankly, I just don't see how the Vols will be focused on this game. There is too much instability on the coaching staff, plus losing the suspended players will really hurt.

The pick: Wisconsin 37 Tennessee 27

As for the Tennessee Titans, I still can't get over the fact that they were only able to score 10 points last week against the miserable New York Jets. Saying the offense looked bad is an understatement.

Of course, if the Titans beat the Indianapolis Colts this week, they go to the playoffs. The Colts have already clinched their seeding in the playoffs so the big question is how much starters like Peyton Manning and Joseph Addai will play.

True, the Titans catch a break because the Colts will rest a lot of their starters, but I still can't get around our offensive woes. Even against the Colts' backups we will need to score 24 points, and I don't see that happening.

The pick: Indianapolis 27 Tennessee 17

Other NFL picks: New England over New York, Green Bay over Detroit, Cleveland over San Francisco, San Diego over Oakland, Pittsburgh over Baltimore

Last week: 5-1 (.833), Overall: 127-44 (.742)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Good movies make good stocking stuffers

I like good films, and that pays off handsomely during Christmas because people know they can get me a movie on DVD if they can't think of anything else.

I got The Departed and Walk the Line this year, which I really appreciate. I saw both films when they originally ran in theaters, but I hadn't seen either since.

For those who can't recall, Walk the Line is the biography of Johnny Cash. I liked the film for many reasons, but especially because they did not try to whitewash the problems he had (drug addiction, legal problems, etc.). Too often, films like these focus too much on the good and the result is an unbalanced view of a person's life. Cash had problems like we all do.

The Departed was the film for which director Martin Scorsese won his long awaited Oscar. It is about organized crime in Boston, and it is not for the faint of heart. It also boasts a big name cast: Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, and others.

Both films are worth checking out.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all

Luke 2:1-20 (NIV): In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in swaddling cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Mitchell Report caps a sorry era

In almost any large business, there is often a seamy portion that is not for the faint of heart.

When a person gazes upon it, the viewer's perception of the business is often permanently changed. For folks who are naïve and idealistic, seeing this often strips away a part of their innocence.

For others who have been hardened by the world, this ugliness only re-enforces their view of the world and makes them a little more cynical.

A moment like this occurred recently when Major League Baseball released the long awaited Mitchell Report. The report was the product of a commission headed up by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.

The commission's task was to investigate the impact illegal steroid use has had on professional baseball over the last decade or so.

The commission named more than 80 former and current major leaguers, which it claimed used illegal steroids during this time. The names in the report ranged from the inconsequential (Brian Roberts) to the extraordinary (Roger Clemens).

There has been no shortage of opinions regarding this report. Many questioned the need for it since most of the steroid use that is alleged occurred before Major League Baseball had a comprehensive steroid testing program.

However, this report was necessary. If nothing else, it puts this era of the sport into some kind of perspective.

For years, steroid use by major leaguers was the game's dirty little secret and rumors that certain players "were on the juice" circulated for years. To many, the inclusion of Roger Clemens in the report was a total shock, but he had been on the receiving end of rumors for a long time. Clemens, however, maintains that he has never used steroids.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig likes to talk about how the game is enjoying record attendance and that it is more popular than ever. While this is true, this popularity was fueled by the illegal actions of many.

Back in the mid 90s, the game was reeling after a work stoppage that eventually caused the 1994 World Series to be cancelled. Many fans swore they would never attend or watch another major league game again.

However, beginning in the late 90s, behemoths that looked like lumberjacks swinging a bat began slamming the ball out of the park. Home runs began flying out of ball parks in record numbers as players like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds took turns breaking the game's single season home run record.

It was a glorious time as every season seemed to bring another amazing feat by these highly paid entertainers.

Everybody got caught up in the wonder of it all. The fans, baseball management, and the media all bought into the idea that baseball had entered another golden age.

However, like all things that seem too good to be true, the golden age was really not much more than a lump of coal.

Renegade slugger Jose Canseco wrote a dubious book in 2005 that named players he said used steroids. Congressional hearings were held in which McGwire famously deflected questions from politicians by stating he only wanted to talk about the future and not what he might have done in the past.

Bonds has been relentlessly hounded, and the book Game of Shadows delivered a devastating portrait of him as a steroid user.

In the shadows of this calamity, Commissioner Selig asked Sen. Mitchell to lead the effort to record the impact of steroids on the game.

Though I have some problems with the report (primarily the credibility of the sources used to finger Clemens and others in this mess), I believe the report is important if for no other reason that it puts the last decade or so into a historical context.

Let's not kid ourselves by believing that the people mentioned in the report were the only ones who might have used the stuff. Far from it. Because of the lack of cooperation of most players with the investigation, the report likely doesn't come close to the true number of players who took steroids.

So, Commissioner Selig can take solace in the fact that baseball is more popular now than it ever has been. However, this success is built on a foundation of manure.

And, as we all know, manure stinks.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Titans play their latest must win game against the Jets this weekend

Well, the Tennessee Titans made us sweat a bit before pulling away from the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half last week to win 26-17.

Unfortunately, the Cleveland Browns also won, so the Titans remain one game behind them in the race for the final wild card playoff berth in the AFC.

This week, the Titans play the New York Jets at home. The good news is the Jets have been pretty bad this year. They are only 3-11, and two of those wins were against the hapless Miami Dolphins.

However, the Jets have shown a pulse recently. Last week, they played the New England Patriots close, which is more than a lot of teams can say. Also, back in week 11, they upset the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Just like last week, the Titans season is on the line, and they are going against a team that is simply playing out the string. I expect this week's game to unfold much like last week.

The Titans' offense is simply too inconsistent to expect them to blow the Jets out. It will be close early, but the running game will slowly grind New York's defense down. Kicker Rob Bironas will kick two or three key field goals in the second half to pad the margin of victory.

The pick: Tennessee 23 New York 13

Other picks: Dallas over Carolina, Indianapolis over Houston, Jacksonville over Oakland, San Diego over Denver, Green Bay over Chicago

Last week: 4-3 (.571), Overall: 122-43 (.739)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fifteen percent have been dumped by text message or e-mail?

The Reuters news agency recently reported on a poll dedicated to how lovers break up with each other.

According to the story, 15 percent of those in the survey stated that they had been dumped by either text message or e-mail.

Despite my advancing years, I have tried to remain a romantic and an idealist when it comes to relationships, but this survey tells me that there are a lot of really spineless people out there.

If you are going to break up with somebody, just say it directly to them. Of course, it is difficult to do, but think about how devastating it must be to check your most recent text message and see "U R dumped."

Some of you out there need to grow a backbone. And learn the Golden Rule.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Depressed people are in good company

The holiday season is notorious for causing problems for people who suffer from depression. Why? There are lots of reasons, but that is not the main point of this posting. If you suffer from this illness an important fact that might help you is that many historic and public figures also suffer/suffered from this.

Here's a brief list of just a few (this information is taken from the February 26 issue of Newsweek magazine):

Abraham Lincoln: U.S. president. Lincoln suffered bouts of serious depression from childhood through the years of his presidency.

Buzz Aldrin: Astronaut. He was unprepared for the celebrity that followed his famed moonwalk. He became despondent and turned to alcohol. Treatment helped him recover.

Dick Cavett: Talk show host. Cavett's affable persona bellied an inner despair that had plagued him off and on since college. Anti-depressants allowed him to recuperate.

Terry Bradshaw: NFL Hall of Famer and TV commentator. Professional help enabled the four-time Super Bowl winner to rebound after he became severely depressed when his third marriage ended.

Mike Wallace: Former 60 Minutes host. With antidepressants, Wallace overcame the major depression that resulted from a $120 million libel suit filed against CBS because of one of his reports.

William Styron: Writer. Styron described his descent into near-suicidal depression and alcoholism as well as his hard-fought recovery in his book Darkness Visible.

Drew Carey: Comedian, game show host. Before Carey made his name as a comic he weathered recurrent spells of debilitating depression and twice attempted to kill himself.

Thomas Eagleton: Vice presidential candidate. In 1972, he withdrew as George McGovern's running mate after it came to light that he had a history of depression and had received shock therapy.

So, you are not in this alone. Enjoy the holiday.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bob Dylan circa 1966

Interviewer: ...what made you decide to go the rock-and-roll route?

Dylan: Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a "before" in a Charles Atlas "before and after" ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The next thing I know I'm in Omaha. It's so cold there, by this time I'm robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain't much to look at, but who's built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything's going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?

Interviewer: And that’s how you became a rock-and-roll singer?

Dylan: No, that's how I got tuberculosis.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas won't be merry for everybody

We are now only a little over a week away from Christmas, and all the anticipation for it is building.

Just a casual tour in my community shows that a lot of folks are really caught up in the holiday.

I can't remember when I have seen so many homes decorated with outdoor lights. Some of the homes are quite beautiful and the owners should be commended for dedicating so much time to recognize the holiday's importance.

And, of course, about every business a person visits right now is buzzing with activity as people try to pick out that perfect gift for their loved ones.

Even though Christmas has become ridiculously over-commercialized, it is always heart warming to see the lengths some people will go to show folks that they love them.

Though many people look at Christmas from a secular viewpoint, it is important to remember that people of faith look at this day as something much more than an excuse to exchange gifts.

Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on this holiday, and sometimes this can get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season.

From a spiritual point of view, Christians have it really good in America. Governmental repression really isn't a factor when it comes to a Christian's decision to go to church. All he has to do is get out of bed and go.

However, this fundamental freedom that we all enjoy is often taken for granted. I know I take it for granted, and many times, I am simply too lazy to take advantage of the right we have to publicly worship.

A holiday like Christmas certainly helps a person's spiritual mindset.

Wars have been fought to preserve this fundamental right. Yet, it is easy to become passive when it comes to this. Religious freedom is easy to take for granted because we have so much of it.

However, there are folks all around the world who do not have this right. For many Christians worldwide, their observance of this holiday will be nothing like it will be here.

For some of them, they will be risking their lives by publicly celebrating the birth of Jesus.

For example, consider the plight of Christians in Iraq.

According to the web site, Iraqi Christians "are being hunted, murdered, and forced to flee -- persecuted on a biblical scale in Iraq’s religious civil war."

Christians have been in what is now known as Iraq since the time of Jesus, but times are really tough for them now.

The CBS News’ program 60 Minutes recently reported on the situation there.

Correspondent Scott Pelley gained access to a secret worship service and interviewed an Anglican chaplain who serves the church.

According to Pelley, the room was filled with women and children, but there were no men. The chaplain said there were no men because they had been killed or kidnapped.

He said that all the original leadership in that church had been taken and killed.

To illustrate how fearful Christians are there, the 60 Minutes report stated that most churches there do not want protection from U.S. forces.

They fear that if the military openly protects them somebody will covertly infiltrate their congregations and murder everybody. Therefore, they prefer to remain underground.

Think about that. The people there are so afraid of being butchered that they are afraid to ask for protection.

I'll go out on a limb and say that most of you reading this have never faced obstacles so threatening when it comes to how you worship. Yet, these people continue to push forward despite the overwhelming odds.

There are hundreds of other examples that demonstrate the struggles many face spiritually.

As we approach Christmas, we need to remember that the rights we enjoy aren’t available to many people around the world.

Folks like the Iraqi Christians should be an inspiration to all Christians.

They should also force us to analyze our own spiritual commitment.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty uncomfortable right now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Titans' playoff hopes on life support this week against Chiefs

Last week's collapse against the Chargers was one for the books. Blowing a 14-point lead at home in the fourth quarter is simply inexcusable. It would be easy to give up regarding a playoff berth at this point, but I'm going to cling to the hope that they still have a chance.

Right now, the Browns hold the last playoff spot in the AFC, and the Titans trail them by one game. Only three games remain, so the Titans will likely have to win out and get some help from other teams to steal the final playoff spot.

This week, the Titans travel to Kansas City to play a Chiefs' team that is in disarray. They are 4-9 and have lost six in a row. Stud running back Larry Johnson has missed several games with an injury while their quarterback play, whether it be Brodie Croyle or Damon Huard, scares nobody.

Kansas City has hard core football fans, and they make it one of the toughest places to play in the league. Plus, it is supposed to be really cold Sunday, and the Titans haven't had any experience playing in low temperatures this year.

At this point, fans can't expect much production from the Titans' offense. The defense will have to carry the team so expect a low scoring, defensive slugfest.

I'm betting that the Chiefs have given up and are playing out the string. I'm also betting that the Titans won't have too much of a letdown after last week's emotional loss.

The pick: Tennessee 14 Kansas City 13

Other NFL picks: Indianapolis over Oakland, Pittsburgh over Jacksonville, Cleveland over Buffalo, New England over New York Jets, New York Giants over Washington, Dallas over Philadelphia

Last week: 4-1 (.800), Overall: 118-40 (.746)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Quote of the day

"If I did give you power then you've got nothing. Nobody gives you power. Real power is something you take." --- 'Jock Ewing' on the TV show Dallas (1978)

For reasons I can't explain, I had a fixation on the character 'Jock Ewing' when Dallas first began back in the late 70s. For those who don't know, Jock was the patriarch of the powerful Ewing clan.

Actor Jim Davis played him and did an entertaining job. I say 'entertaining' because I thought Jock could be hilarious at times. Therefore, I could never quite figure out if Davis was intentionally being campy or if this was just one of those unexplainable things that made me laugh.

The whole show seemed campy to me, but I lost all interest in it when Davis died, which caused his character to be written out of the show. That was a smart move because I don't think any actor could have brought what Davis did to that role.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ancient Biblical wall found in Israel?

Archaeology has always fascinated me especially when it is used to investigate the Bible. For those of you who feel the same, here is an Associated Press story that I found interesting.

The story:

A wall mentioned in the Bible's Book of Nehemiah and long sought by archaeologists apparently has been found, an Israeli archaeologist says.

A team of archaeologists discovered the wall in Jerusalem's ancient City of David during a rescue attempt on a tower that was in danger of collapse, said Eilat Mazar, head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research and educational institute, and leader of the dig.

Artifacts including pottery shards and arrowheads found under the tower suggested that both the tower and the nearby wall are from the 5th century B.C., the time of Nehemiah, Mazar said last week. Scholars previously thought the wall dated to the Hasmonean period from about 142 B.C. to 37 B.C.

The findings suggest that the structure was actually part of the same city wall the Bible says Nehemiah rebuilt, Mazar said. The Book of Nehemiah gives a detailed description of construction of the walls, destroyed earlier by the Babylonians.

"We were amazed, she said, noting that the discovery was made at a time when many scholars argued that the wall did not exist.

"This was a great surprise. It was something we didn't plan," Mazar said.

The first phase of the dig, completed in 2005, uncovered what Mazar believes to be the remains of King David's palace, built by King Hiram of Tyre, and also mentioned in the Bible.

Ephraim Stern, professor emeritus of archaeology at Hebrew University and chairman of the state of Israel archaeological council, offered support for Mazar's claim.

"The material she showed me is from the Persian period," the period of Nehemiah, he said. "I can sign on the date of the material found."

However, another scholar disputed the significance of the discovery.

Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, called the discovery "an interesting find," but said the pottery and other artifacts do not indicate that the wall was built in the time of Nehemiah. Because the debris was not connected to a floor or other structural part of the wall, the wall could have been built later, Finkelstein said.

"The wall could have been built, theoretically, in the Ottoman period," he said. "It's not later than the pottery – that’s all we know."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Led Zeppelin apparently won't headline at Bonnaroo 2008

Weeks of speculation apparently ended late last week when Bonnaroo organizers said reports regarding Led Zeppelin headlining this year’s music festival were not true. The internet had been buzzing about the possibility, but the organizers said the rumors were wrong.

Superfly Entertainment and AC Entertainment said the line-up for this year's festival should be announced by late January or early February, according to published reports.

The festival takes place each year in the small town of Manchester, TN, which is where I live. I have lived here just about all my life, and it still amazes me that an event of this magnitude takes place here.

Manchester's population is only around 8,500 but around 70,000 to 80,000 people descend on our town during the event in mid-June. To paraphrase Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, the town during this time becomes a madhouse...a madhouse!!!!!!

In the past, acts like Bob Dylan and The Police have played here.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I wouldn't want to be Barry Bonds

Whether it is in the movies or in real life, it seems like most of us get as much pleasure from booing somebody as we do cheering for people.

Deep down, I guess we all like a good villain. There is something about our human nature that makes us want to be negative toward certain people.

There are lots of examples of this, but one of the most vivid ones from this year was the treatment of professional baseball player Barry Bonds.

In the last few years, there has been a media obsession with him for a few reasons. Of course, he broke major league baseball's all-time home run record last season, and most would agree that that is the most hallowed record in professional sports.

Hank Aaron held that record for more than 30 years, and as Bonds approached it, he received more attention than the president. Literally, every swing of the bat he made was reported by the national media.

Though it was a big moment when he broke the record, the achievement was not greeted with happiness. Just about everybody who was not a fan of the team he played for reacted with derision.

At every ball park he played in away from San Francisco (which was the team he played for), he was booed and jeered. He was treated like Osama bin Laden in baseball spikes.

Of course, the reason for this is because many have suspected for years that Bonds used steroids to help boost his performance. Therefore, many people branded him a cheater and not worthy to break this record. He came across like a villain compared to the heroic Aaron.

I'm not going to discuss whether Bonds is a cheater or not.

True, there have been books written where people have leveled damaging accusations at him. Plus, federal authorities have recently slammed him with perjury and obstruction of justice charges for testimony he gave before a grand jury about his alleged steroid use.

All of this will play itself out in the coming months and then we should all be able to deliver a more definite opinion about whether he did it or not.

I guess the point of this posting is that there is no way I would want to be Barry Bonds.

When thinking about that statement, it is pretty mind blowing because Bonds has achieved many of the things the world covets.

His professional achievements are stunning, and certainly all of us would love to be as good at our jobs as he has been at his.

Whether a person likes him or not, there can be no questioning that he has been one of the best baseball players of the last couple of decades. Even before the whispers about possible steroid use began, he had put up enough statistics to be considered a future Hall of Famer.

However, he is considered a pariah in many ways. He is a common punching bag for the media. Current players like Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling have been openly critical of him.

Retired players from earlier eras have grave reservations about him being selected to the Hall of Fame. The only people who have remained loyal to him have been the fans of San Francisco where he played so many years.

As I mentioned earlier, federal officials recently indicted Bonds on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. These charges date to testimony he gave to a grand jury back in 2003.

If nothing else, we have learned from other cases in recent months that when federal officials bring charges, they mean business. Disgraced quarterback Michael Vick and Olympic sprinter Marion Jones found that out the hard way, and both suffered stunning falls.

Additionally, for Bonds, news reports have stated that an old friend and an ex-girlfriend plan to testify against him.

The house is burning down around him.

It's easy to envy professional athletes, but when the wheels come off the tracks, the problems become magnified.

I hope Bonds gets a fair trial because we all deserve that.

However, that may be tough to get because folks love to hound people they perceive to be the villain.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Can the Tennessee Titans keep their playoff hopes alive against the Chargers?

The Tennessee Titans halted their three game losing streak by beating the Houston Texans last week. Any win is a good win, and they improved their record to 7-5 to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Fortunately, they have another home game this week as the AFC Western Division leading San Diego Chargers come to Nashville. The Chargers have struggled at times this year, but are coming off impressive wins against the Chiefs and Ravens. They are also 7-5.

The game boils down to one factor: stop LaDanian Tomlinson. Tomlinson is a game breaker and gets my vote for being the best all around running back in the league. The Titans run defense must step up.

With five losses, the Titans margin for error for making the playoffs is as thin as the hair on my scalp. They simply can't afford a loss at home.

Perhaps the biggest intangible in the Titans favor is that San Diego head coach Norv Turner is one of the least impressive head coaches in the league. Anybody who remembers how he handled ex-Tennessee Volunteer Heath Shuler when he coached the Redskins can attest to that.

A lot is at stake in this game.

The pick: Tennessee 27 San Diego 24

Other NFL picks: Indianapolis over Baltimore, Jacksonville over Carolina, Cincinnati over St. Louis, Seattle over Arizona

Last week: 8-4 (.667), Overall: 114-39 (.745)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Fred Claus ... it's lightweight but has a few laughs

Recently, I was itching to see a movie and chose 'Fred Claus.' Starring Vince Vaughn, it tells a pretty predictable tale about how Christmas gets saved.

I've always liked Vince Vaughn's humor. Kind of a wise guy, but his humor is smart and has an edge to it.

As for the film, it falls into the category of being something we've all seen before, but the talent of the cast saves it. There are some high caliber actors in this.

Paul Giamatti co-stars as Santa, and Kevin Spacey plays the villain of the piece.

I won't spoil it, but the film's funniest bit occurs toward the end and includes cameos by Frank Stallone, Roger Clinton, and one of the Baldwin brothers (I can't remember which one). It is laugh out loud funny.

If the rest of the movie were as funny as that one scene, then it would be a must see. However, it is pretty uneven, but has some laughs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Vince Guaraldi Trio swings on A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack

Yesterday, I discussed the pleasure I felt for an old Phil Spector Christmas album so it seems only natural that I bring up the soundtrack for 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.'

This is probably my favorite Christmas album. Propelled by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, the music put a memorable stamp on the cartoon and nicely fit the love and melancholy the storyline produced.

Among other things, one of the major statements the cartoon made (remember when cartoons actually had something to say?) was that commercialism was ruining Christmas. Keep in mind, the cartoon was made in 1965 so it really was ahead of its time when it comes to this subject.

As a boy, I quickly learned to love the Peanuts comic strip, as well as many of the films and television specials that came from this franchise.

I’ve written more extensively on this album before so if you are interested in reading more, please click here.

Obviously, this is an album you must own.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Phil Spector before the fall

Many things contribute to the Christmas season, and I think most of us would agree that music plays a big role in adding to the holiday mood.

Legendary music producer Phil Spector is known more these days for his dramatic personal life than for the fact that he once created some wonderful music.

My favorite production of his is a Christmas album he made back in the early 60s with several artists. Titled 'A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector,' it is one of the best Christmas albums I own.

Working with the Ronettes, the Crystals, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and Darlene Love, he applied his Wall of Sound production technique to some well-known holiday classics like: 'White Christmas,' 'Frosty the Snowman,' and 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town.'

However, the best is Darlene Love singing 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).' For years, David Letterman had Love come on his show and sing this song each holiday season. I don't know if he still does, but she always did a great job.

If you can find this in the discount bins somewhere, make sure to buy it. It is first rate.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

To Catch a Predator ... quality holiday entertainment?

Recently, we celebrated Thanksgiving, which gave us all an opportunity to do an inventory regarding the parts of our lives for which we should be thankful.

We should do this more than once a year, but if it takes a holiday like this to remind us to do so, it isn't the end of the world.

During the quieter moments of the holiday weekend, I spent some time flipping through the television channels to see how the networks were filling up their programming time.

After all, viewers are on the run a lot during this time and watch little television. Therefore, television networks rarely unveil new programming on long holiday weekends. They are content to trot out re-runs or show a lot of football.

However, the folks at the MSNBC cable network must have just thrown in the towel when trying to come up with ideas of what to show.

On Thanksgiving Day, they showed a long marathon of documentaries about life in prison. It was show after show of interviews with inmates and prison personnel about day-to-day life behind bars.

I guess I have to give MSNBC credit for creative thinking because watching just a little of these shows did make me feel thankful. Being in prison is about the last place I would like to be on Thanksgiving so these shows did make me feel good from that perspective.

However, despite a silver lining of good regarding these shows, I thought MSNBC's choice of programming was odd.

Until the next day, when they showed a marathon of programming that dealt with another group of folks who have made really bad decisions.

This marathon dealt with adults who try to entrap children into meeting them by using the internet.

Titled "To Catch a Predator," the program basically was a sting in which adults surf the internet looking to chat with teenagers and entice them into meeting for sex. Then when they show up for their meeting, they get arrested.

I had previously seen this show so I was familiar with what they were trying to do. The internet is a great creation, but like all things, it can be used for really bad deeds. And I believe most of us would agree that an adult cruising for kids on-line is a huge misuse of this technology.

So, MSNBC aired hour after hour of these programs in which the plot varied little.

Man after man was brought in before hidden cameras in which they were interviewed by journalist Chris Hansen. Then, he identified himself and cameramen swooped upon the unsuspecting men, leading to their arrest.

I agree that these programs do some good because they shed light on the dangers that exist on the internet.

However, the more I watched these programs, the more I felt their goal was to titillate instead of inform. The sexual talk was graphic on these programs that left little to the imagination.

After watching a couple of these programs, I couldn't help but wonder why they would stoop to such programming on Thanksgiving weekend.

Just a few years ago, it seemed like films such as "It's A Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed dominated the weekend. But to paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times have changed.

When it comes to television programming, nothing is sacred anymore. Television programmers strive to titillate us, and if they are willing to do this on Thanksgiving, then don't expect any boundaries during other holidays.

Can we expect "To Catch a Predator" marathons on Christmas Day or Eve?

How about Easter? Most folks don't understand why that holiday is celebrated in the first place, so why not serve up some programming to hypnotize the masses?

Television has been referred to as the "great American narcotic machine" and I believe the examples I cited earlier re-enforce that thought.

If we are content to sit and watch hour after hour of this stuff, we really are acting like somebody addicted to a drug.

And that isn't the fault of the television networks. It is ours.