Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Nightly Daily recommends: Mr. Jimmy's BLAH BLAH

In the latest installment of blogs I like, I encourage you all to visit Mr. Jimmy’s BLAH BLAH.

Mr. Jimmy always has a fresh and entertaining take on issues that are on his mind. His postings are well written, creative, thought provoking, humorous, and sincere.

Though he does not post a lot (hint, hint), it always brings a smile to my lips when I visit, and there is something new to read.

Check it out.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Media likely to ignore NFL's dirty little secrets amid Super Bowl hype

Personal note: The following is a newspaper column I wrote last year before I had this blog. Though a few of the references are dated (for example, Rick Reilly no longer writes for Sport's Illustrated, etc.), I believe the issues are just as relevant as one year ago. You won't hear much about these topics during Super Bowl week.

America is a country where hype is a part of every day life, and we are about to enter a week that ranks a "10" on the Hype-O-Meter.

This week the hype surrounding the Super Bowl will kick into overdrive. Yes, it is that time of year as pundits from all walks of life will dissect the game.

By kickoff, the media hype will reach excruciating levels as the same information will be rehashed over and over again. As much as I like football, the hype really is an exercise in futility.

Never have so many media members said so much with so little content, and nobody will be happier than the National Football League.

When ranking organizations that know how to control the media, the NFL has to rank near the top. The league is a popular, money-making machine, and because of this, the media often seems to take a hands-off approach when covering the league.

For example, why don't we see more reporting about issues relating to steroids and human growth hormone?

True, the league does have a steroids testing policy, but the media rarely forces the issue when covering the league.

Conversely, the media seemingly cannot get enough when it comes to the steroids controversy in baseball.

When former slugger Mark McGuire was recently kept out of the baseball hall of fame because of the steroids issue, both electronic and print media beat the story into the ground until it was six feet under.

This was despite the fact baseball had no steroids policy when McGuire played, and he never failed a steroids test.

Compare that with the treatment the media gave San Diego Chargers' linebacker Shawne Merriman after his suspension for violating the NFL’s steroid policy this year.

Merriman was suspended four games for the violation, but there was little media hand wringing.

His transgression was quickly forgotten as he was elected to the Pro Bowl and was a finalist for league defensive player of the year.

New league commissioner Roger Goodell will give a "State of the League" speech during Super Bowl week. My guess is the media will ask few questions about Merriman and the message his incident sent to the public.

In another area, consider the lack of coverage regarding the long-term health problems NFL players often face after their playing days are over.

For example, former Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters committed suicide last November.

When physicians examined Waters' brain, they found he had the brain of an 85-year-old man with signs of Alzheimer's disease. Many experts believe this damage was the result of the repeated concussions Waters suffered during his playing career.

Players with long-term health problems extend far beyond Waters' problems. Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly wrote an excellent column earlier this year that dealt with the problem.

He described the plight of several now retired players.

For example, according to Reilly, former Oakland Raiders' center Jim Otto has had more than 60 operations, including 48 to his knees, three on his nose, three on his shoulders, and three on his back. Reilly wrote that Otto's ankle looks like "a science project."

Jim Plunkett, who quarterbacked in the NFL for 15 years, suffers from constant back and neck pain and has a spine so curved that he walks with a permanent tilt.

Former offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf now walks with a cane, and because of the head-first blocking technique he was taught, he is now two inches shorter than he was in college. He has two artificial hips and his ankle needs fusing. He joked in the article that he "has more titanium in my body than in my golf bag."

The list could go on and on, but I believe the picture is clear. When we watch the Super Bowl, the players will be sacrificing a lot more than their competitive spirit.

Shouldn't this trouble us? Shouldn't more questions be asked about this?

The answer is obviously 'yes' on both counts. The media is supposed to be the mouthpiece for the public, but my guess is they will ask few questions about this.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, the game is the thing. It seems to be all that matters.

The NFL is truly coated in Teflon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The GOP race remains wide open

We are about one month into the presidential primary season, and the Republicans are no closer to selecting a clear cut frontrunner for their nomination than when the process began.

That isn't a bad thing. I've written before that the race for the presidency should be a marathon and not a sprint.

Both Democrats and Republicans have tried their best to condense the election process by frontloading the primary season. After all, more than 20 states will hold primaries on February 5 (including Tennessee).

I believe that is bad because voters need to see candidates exposed to the pressures of a campaign as much as possible. If nominees are established quickly, then they can coast their way to November.

However, that is not likely in either party this year, and that is especially so on the Republican side.

Watching the competition between the candidates has been exciting, and the results so far show us the race has a long way to go.

Arizona Sen. John McCain won New Hampshire and South Carolina. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won Michigan and Nevada. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won Iowa and placed a close second in South Carolina.

Nobody has been able to pull ahead of the pack.

The campaign has been aggressive, and because it has been so tight, the candidates have had to be on their toes.

Additionally, the presence of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will finally be felt when the Florida primary is held Tuesday.

Guiliani's strategy has been risky. He has virtually ignored the early primaries and caucuses, and he got trounced in each of those states.

He is hoping a strong showing in Florida will springboard him to big wins on Super Tuesday on February 5.

Though it could work for him, I hate this strategy. Frankly, I believe it is an arrogant approach.

The other candidates have sweated blood while fighting it out in the other states, while America's Mayor has chosen to set his own agenda at the expense of the American people.

Voters need to see Giuliani in the campaign thunderdome to determine whether he is presidential material. He is blowing that opportunity by believing he can breeze on to the scene late and expect everybody to accommodate him.

My prediction is that he is waiting too late and won't be able to generate momentum. Timing is essential in politics, and Giuliani is proving that he doesn't understand that.

Ask former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson about that. Last year, the political scene was abuzz about him possibly entering the race.

However, he waited and waited and waited before making his announcement, and he lost his momentum.

By the time he announced his candidacy on The Tonight Show, the moment had passed him. He seemed like yesterday's news even though his campaign was only beginning.

Though the party's convention is still months away, one can't help but speculate what it will be like if the situation remains as it is. We could be looking at the first contested GOP convention in decades.

In the last couple of decades, both the Democratic and Republican conventions have become more and more irrelevant. Nothing of real substance happened.

Party nominees have been selected in recent years well before the convention, so this event has been watered down to a well-choreographed public relations event.

There was some drama at the GOP convention in 1976 when Ronald Reagan strongly challenged then-president Gerald Ford, but other than that, these events have been fairly quiet.

Perhaps the protests that occurred at the disastrous 1968 Democratic convention caused officials in both parties to more tightly control these events. The violence at that convention occurred when protests against the Vietnam War were at their most passionate.

The result was the Democrats came off looking like a party that couldn't run an orderly convention much less run the country. That event likely played a significant role in getting Richard Nixon elected.

The bottom line is the Republican race will have a lot more drama as the weeks unfold.

That may not make the leaders of the party happy, but it is good for voters.

And that should be what is important, right?

Friday, January 25, 2008

The weariest woman in America

Stacie Warren of Vermont was recently cited on a second charge of bigamy for having three husbands, according to the Associated Press.

Officials say she married a third time two months after being charged with bigamy in 2007, according to the story. The story said when her first two husbands were told of her alleged bigamy that they 'pretty much didn't care either way.'

Think about how much energy it must take to maintain three marriages.

I betcha she drinks a lot of Jolt Cola.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ex-con is now lucky millionaire, but I still don't like the lottery

A convicted bank robber on parole who recently won a $1 million lottery prize will get to keep the money, according to an Associated Press story.

Buying the ticket violated the Massachusetts man's parole because part of the agreement stated he could not "gamble, purchase lottery tickets or visit an establishment where gaming is conducted," according to the story.

However, officials have ruled he will get to keep his jackpot.

I'm glad for him, I guess, but I really don't like the lottery. It's just another way for a state to milk more money out of lower income households for projects.

I don't care that the lottery in Tennessee has generated a billion dollars to send students to college. And, yes, I realize that playing the lottery is voluntary.

It just strikes me as odd that we have a system that seduces people of limited means with promises of riches, and then we use that money to send kids to school who, in most cases, could have found another financial way to go to college.

However, this is something that the people want, so I guess I should shut my big fat mouth.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I know two things about this year's Super Bowl

Well, the New England Patriots and the New York Giants are set to play in the Super Bowl a little less than two weeks from now. There are two things that are absolutely certain about this game.

The first is that the Patriots will be picked by most to win (early point spreads have them a 14-point favorite). The second is that I will be rooting for the Giants.

For some reason, the Patriots are one of those teams that really get under my skin. Maybe it is because they seemed to enjoy running up the score on other teams this year. No matter how big the lead, the Pats often kept throwing the ball late in the game to get as many points as possible. They came across to me like bullies rubbing their opponent's face in the dirt.

Or maybe it is because they got caught cheating earlier this year, but portrayed themselves as the victims. During the first game this year, NFL officials caught them videotaping their opponent's assistant coaches in an attempt to steal their signs. They were clearly breaking the rules, but never expressed any contrition regarding their deeds.

Whatever the reason, I will be against them.

As for the Giants, I am happy that quarterback Eli Manning has gotten them to the big game. He has received a lot of heat from Giants fans and the New York media for the growing pains he has gone through as a leader. However, he is now one game away from being a Super Bowl champion.

Even though Manning played his college ball at Ole Miss, many Tennessee fans support him because his family did so much for the Volunteers’ program (of course, brother Peyton played at UT).

Also, get ready for the hype. Do yourself a favor. Don't watch ESPN between now and the game. Why? Because they are going to spend the next two weeks cramming this game up the collective wazoo of the American public.

The hype has only just begun, but I am already sick of it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The primary process needs to be overhauled

As the race to win the presidency continues, there are lots of conclusions that can already be drawn.

Perhaps the most important conclusion is that Iowa and New Hampshire have way too much power when it comes to setting the tone for the campaign.

In both the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, candidates spent weeks canvassing the states with the hope of starting the presidential campaign with a bang.

Since then, the campaign has moved on to other states, but the power these two states have should concern us.

After all, candidates spent more than $50 million in those two states. That is a staggering sum even by the extravagant standards of today.

For weeks, candidates trudged through the cold and snow to press the flesh with as many people as possible. For the folks in those states, it must have been a wonderful experience.

Voters in very few states have the opportunity the folks there have. Candidates walk through diners and have rallies in high school gymnasiums so the chance to get close to one of them is a lot better than most places. Here in Tennessee, candidates will likely not venture outside of the big cities while campaigning.

The Iowa and New Hampshire results have played a big role in defining which candidates have momentum and are serious contenders.

So, this begs the obvious question: Should these states have this much power?

When compared to the demographics of the rest of the country, these two states aren't much like the rest of the nation. Both states are predominantly white with small black and Hispanic populations.

The states are mostly rural with no huge metropolitan areas yet the one million voters of those two states often play the role of king (or queen) maker before the other 200 million eligible voters get a chance.

Of course, the media onslaught in those states doesn't help. After Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won in Iowa, the media saturated the airwaves with news of his momentum and backed it up with polls that predicted he might win New Hampshire by more than 10 percent.

In contrast, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton was getting buried by the press who was reporting that her campaign was in big trouble and might be permanently derailed with a loss. She almost cried at one point.

Of course, that did not happen. Clinton won New Hampshire so the storyline shifted, and she became the "comeback kid" of the campaign. I don't really understand how a candidate can be a "comeback kid" after only one primary, but that is how the media spun her victory.

So, what can be done about the power these two small states have? There have been many suggestions regarding how the primary system can be re-structured.

Perhaps the best idea is for our country to go to a regional primary system, which was recently discussed in detail by USA Today. Under this system, voters in certain regions would all vote on the same day.

For example, the country could be divided into four separate regions: the Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

Primaries in each region would be held on the first Tuesday of the month in April, May, June and July.

To eliminate the possibility of one region having too much influence (like Iowa and New Hampshire do right now), there would be a rotation so no region would vote first in consecutive elections. For example, the Northeast could vote first in one presidential primary election. Then, the South could vote first in the following election and so forth.

The bottom line is a system like this would improve the primary system and provoke candidates into campaigning in more states instead of devoting so much time to Iowa and New Hampshire.

This proposed change is not meant to show disrespect to those two states. Their voters are to be commended for taking their votes so seriously.

However, other states deserve just as much attention as they get from candidates, and that is not happening right now.

Tennessee's primary is only two-and-a-half weeks away. How many visits from candidates (other than Fred Thompson who is a Tennessean) can you recall?

Not many, I bet.

And that is the problem.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The 'F-bomb' isn't obscene anymore?

I recently stumbled across the plight of David Binner who lives in Pennsylvania.

According to an Associated Press story, Binner recently apologized for including a vulgar message on a $5 check he had to write for a parking ticket he received. Apparently, the message included the 'F-word,' and authorities charged him with disorderly conduct because they believed the comment was obscene.

The charge was dropped after he apologized.

However, the most interesting comment in this was made by the attorney for Binner who believed he would have been acquitted if it had gone to court.

"The F-word isn't what it used to be," said attorney Keith Williams. It doesn't have a sexual connotation anymore and so can't be considered obscene, the AP reported.

The F-word isn't obscene? I know that our society is getting coarser, but certainly we haven't reached the point where this word has become just another word.

Or maybe I am that much out of touch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Vanderbilt/Tennessee men's hoops match up should be a good one Thursday night

Besides the NCAA tournament, college basketball is at its best when conference play first begins in early January. This is when the contenders and the pretenders begin to get separated.

On Thursday night, Vanderbilt (16-1, 1-1) visits Tennessee (14-1, 2-0) in the best match up so far in the SEC.

Vanderbilt received its first loss on Saturday, falling to Kentucky in double overtime in Lexington. Tennessee looked great on its road trip to South Carolina, whipping the Gamecocks 80-56.

Newcomer Tyler Smith continues to sparkle for the Vols while Vandy big man A. J. Ogilvy definitely gives the Commodores an inside presence. Tennessee's biggest weakness is rebounding, especially on the offensive boards. Ogilvy could give them match up problems.

Since the game is in Knoxville, I'm taking the Vols (then again, I would take them if they were playing in Nashville).

If you are only a casual basketball fan, make sure to watch this one. The two teams have a combined 30-2 record.

You don't see that every day.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Volunteers' 2008 schedule looks as challenging as ever

For better or worse, The Nightly Daily is fixated on the Tennessee Volunteer football program 12 months a year. So, even though the 2007 season just ended, it is not too early to start talking about next season.

A good place to start is the 2008 schedule. It looks to be as difficult as it was in 2007.

Here it is:

Aug. 30 -- UAB
Sept. 6 -- at UCLA
Sept. 20 -- Florida
Sept. 27 -- at Auburn
Oct. 4 -- Northern Illinois
Oct. 11 -- at Georgia
Oct. 18 -- Mississippi State
Oct. 25 -- Alabama
Nov. 1 -- at South Carolina
Nov. 8 -- Wyoming
Nov. 22 -- at Vanderbilt
Nov. 29 -- Kentucky

Traditionally, the Volunteers play one high profile non-conference opponent, and this year, it will be UCLA. We play them on the road, so let's hope that trip goes a little better than our visit to the University of California last season. The Bruins struggled in '07, but a lot of that was due to injuries. Look for a tough game.

Additionally, a trip to Auburn comes on the schedule, replacing Arkansas in the SEC schedule rotation. Another tough road trip will be to Georgia, who will likely be the pre-season favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division. So that is three tough road games right there.

The home schedule features games against Florida and Alabama. Both those teams crushed UT in '07 so hopefully a little payback will be forthcoming. The Vols play a total of seven home games.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I may buy The Weather Channel

Television programming is considerably different when compared to when I was a boy.

Back then, there was only ABC, CBS, NBC, and the public broadcasting station. If a person had said back then that people would some day have access to hundreds of channels like we do now, that person would have been greeted with a lot of skepticism.

Cable television in my childhood consisted only of the television stations in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Huntsville, Ala.

Since then, obviously, everything has changed. Just about every type of programming imaginable is only a click of the remote away.

While that can be both good and bad, there can be no debate that television programming gives us instant access to information that was not easily available in the past.

For example, The Weather Channel is a staple of just about every household I know.

If I am at a friend's house watching football all afternoon, we usually take a few trips around the dial to see what else is on. And during those trips, we usually stop at The Weather Channel to see what they are talking about.

It doesn't matter if it is a beautiful, sunny day. We will take the time to check out the forecast and see the local radar. It is almost as if it has been encoded in our DNA that we must take a peek at that channel more than once in an afternoon.

I do the same thing at home. During an evening of television watching, I usually stop at The Weather Channel several times even if they are talking about something I saw them discuss an hour ago.

I am at a loss to explain why I do that, but we all do things that we can't explain.

Before you scoff at me, it is important to note that I must not be the only person who does this. Because of the way this channel draws in viewers like a moth to a flame, the channel has become extremely valuable.

The Reuters news agency recently reported that The Weather Channel’s privately held parent company is putting it up for sale.

The asking price? $5 billion. That's right. That is billion with a 'b.'

Media properties rarely get sold, and because of this, they are very valuable when they hit the market, according to the Reuters story. The story stated one of the reasons the channel has value is because of the way it deals with time-sensitive weather coverage.

After all, if a person fears there is violent weather in the area, he needs information now, and what better resource than a channel that is solely dedicated to weather. Am I the only one who has watched the channel when a hurricane is making landfall just to see if meteorologist Jim Cantore is getting smacked around by the winds?

The channel is able to give blow by blow status reports when big weather events are happening.

Because of this time-sensitive value, viewers are less likely to record the channel's shows and fast forward through all the commercials when they watch it. As you might imagine, this makes the channel very popular with advertisers.

However, none of this really explains why I have such a fixation with the channel. I just checked the current conditions, and it is partly cloudy with a temperature of 52 degrees.

I checked it about an hour ago, and it was the same. And it probably will be the same when I check it before I go to bed.

Maybe this has more to do with the general blandness of television programming than anything else. Other than when there is a major weather threat, The Weather Channel is pretty monotonous.

Then again, most of the rest of television programming is monotonous, too. Bruce Springsteen once sang that there is "57 channels and nothing on."

Well, the number of channels has increased, but the song remains the same. The Weather Channel is about as exciting as everything else that we watch.

Most reality shows are dull, and The Weather Channel is the ultimate reality show. It plays out every day and has a direct impact on us all.

So, I guess there are worse things on TV to watch.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This one's for Nelson Talbott and Captain Beefheart

While growing up, my friends and I all enjoyed music, and we had a lot of fun discovering new sounds.

One such friend is Nelson Talbott, and I'll never forget the day he bought Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. The look on his face as we listened to the album was priceless.

I thought of that recently while reading through a book called 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. It includes Trout Mask Replica. So Nelson, just for you, here are some of the things they had to say about that legendary album.

"After the experimentalism of the hippy movement, the avant-garde's influence on rock blossomed with the likes of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. With Beefheart's old high-school friend Zappa on production duties, Trout Mask Replica fused blues, country, free jazz, and southern boogie into an opus that would go on to become one of the most influential albums of the Seventies and beyond.

"The double albums 28 tracks are generally seen as too testing for most, with the freewheeling approach to composition and lyrics bewildering the casual listener. However, Zappa's tight control behind the desk helps form an abstract canvas for the Captain's flights of lyrical fantasy, with "Moonlight in Vermont," "Neon Meate Dream of an Octafish," and "Old Fart at Play" among the most memorable.

"Beefheart did not use headphones when recording his vocals for the album -- the result was that he sang in time to the reverberations in the studio, which added another element of complexity to their already heady brew. Trout Mask Replica went on to be influential far beyond the success the Magic Band enjoyed at the time, with prog, punk, and new wave all taking cues from this late Sixties masterpiece."

Nelson, it's not every day that a friend buys an album that is a masterpiece. Well done.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

114-year-old woman registers to vote: why won't you?

A 114-year-old Chicago woman recently registered to vote, according to the Associated Press.

Virginia Call had apparently voted up until about 20 years ago when she moved and forgot to update her voter registration information. Now, she can vote if she chooses to.

Lots of cynics will say that one person's vote doesn't make a difference, but I really believe the upcoming presidential election is one of the most important in years. As the red and blue state divide of the last two elections have shown, a significant chunk of America thinks we should go one way, while the other chunk believes we should go another.

As always, if you can't be bothered to vote, don't complain to me when you are unhappy with our government. If you don't vote, you are blowing a chance to have your voice heard.

And that is nobody's fault but your own.

So stop your whining. This means you!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Quote of the day

"What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet." -- Woody Allen

I think that pretty much says it all, don't you?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A new year brings new opportunities

Well, 2008 has finally arrived, and if you are like me, January is a time of optimism.

The whole year is ahead of us, and if we are fortunate to be alive 12 months from now, we will hopefully be able to look back at a year full of achievement and success.

In January, we are all looking at a blank canvas, and it is up to us to draw and paint what 2008 will become. While that sounds like a sappy cliché, it is the truth.

We have a lot of control regarding how the year will unfold for us, and there are many ways to exert that control.

Many folks make resolutions as a way to get themselves motivated, but I haven't had much success with those in the past. When I try that, I often give up on them by Valentine's Day and wind up more frustrated than before.

Let's face it; most of us lack the discipline to follow through on resolutions. It is either that or we set our goals so high that we get easily discouraged and just give up.

However, as I get older, I am realizing that I have a lot more control over my life than I was willing to admit when I was younger. Many times, we feel helpless regarding circumstances in our lives, but we all have the power to create change.

It is easy to be negative. In the workplace, we have to answer to our bosses. We all work hard for our paycheck but Uncle Sam seems to take a bigger and bigger bite out of it so we feel the government has control of us, too.

Plus, we all have personal obligations in one form or another that consume a lot of our time. With all these forces pulling at us, it is easy to feel like a helpless dancer.

While these things are a strong reality in our lives, we have to be careful not to let them dictate every aspect of how we live.

Obviously, we can't cast all these responsibilities to the side and forget about them. However, we can put them in their proper perspective.

For example, the pressure of the workplace is something we all share. At some point this year, we will all feel under the gun.

We will fill overwhelmed and wonder: "How in the world will I be able to meet the expectations of my boss?"

All too often, the pressures of our jobs dominate our lives. Not only does it affect us in the office, but we take those pressures home where it impacts our home life.

At a moment like this, we have a decision to make regarding how we will deal with this.

While these pressures can be suffocating, they only begin to suffocate us when we allow them to. Like I said earlier, we all have a lot more power over our lives than we understand.

It all comes down to a simple question: Are we going to let the pressures of this world control us or is it going to be the other way around?

I'm not trying to minimize the pressures and responsibilities that we all face. We all have responsibilities that are enormous.

However, the bottom line is we all have to learn how to avoid letting these factors control us.

Take it from somebody who has had to learn this the hard way. If you don't learn to control the pressures of your life, you will face a day of reckoning that will not be pretty.

I am not the smartest man in the world, but I do know we are blessed with only a certain amount of days to live. The choice we all face is: How are we going to live those days?

Are we going to let the pressures of this moment dominate our lives? Or will we do the best we can and be content with that?

I think the answer is obvious. The pressures of today will only be a faint memory years from now. So, why let them consume you now?

Since I don't believe in making resolutions, here is some practical advice.

Take a few deep breaths. Slow down. Make time to savor life. Enjoy 2008.

It could be the best year of your life.

Friday, January 4, 2008

It's good to see the Titans back in the playoffs, but can they beat San Diego?

Congratulations to the Tennessee Titans for closing the regular season with three consecutive wins. It was ugly at times (especially on offense), but a 10-6 record and a playoff berth are accomplishments worth applauding.

The Titans travel to San Diego to play the Chargers on Sunday. Of course, on Dec. 9 the Titans played the Chargers in Nashville and lost 23-17 in overtime. It was a heartbreaking loss because the Titans blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead.

The Titans definitely have the psychological edge in this game. They know they should have beaten the Chargers last month and will relish the opportunity to right that wrong. Plus, the Chargers have floundered in the playoffs in recent years. After posting a 14-2 record last year, they gagged and lost to the New England Patriots at home. Additionally, the Chargers have lost their last three home playoff games. Will all this failure cause doubt?

The big question for Tennessee is the health of quarterback Vince Young. He strained a quad muscle in the win against the Colts. His mobility is part of what makes him a big play threat. If he can't move around, the Titans might be better off starting backup Kerry Collins.

Not many folks are giving the Titans a chance. I've seen some point spreads that have the Chargers as much as a nine-point favorite. That's too many points. If nothing else, most of the Titans games have been ugly and close.

However, I'm picking the Chargers. In recent weeks, running back LaDanian Tomlinson has really gotten on track, and when he is rolling, he is the best back in the NFL. The Titans are a young team, and my gut tells me some of them will be happy just to be in the playoffs. And, as we all know, that is not an attitude to have in the playoffs.

The pick: San Diego 24 Tennessee 19

Last week: 4-3 (.571), Overall: 131-47 (.735)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowa caucuses show how little the mainstream media understands politics

The Iowa caucuses have shown us just how unpredictable politics can be, as well as how little the media knows about politics.

At the start of the presidential campaign back in early 2007, there was lots of coverage that stated former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the obvious frontrunner for the Republicans. Those same pundits said New York Sen. Hillary Clinton was the clear frontrunner for the Democrats.

The voters of Iowa have shown just how pointless it can be to anoint leaders months before an actual election takes place. Giuliani didn't come close to winning Iowa as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were the choices of Republican voters there.

As for Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards made her life miserable and showed the race for the Democratic nomination is not a one-horse race.

So, what's the point here? Don't let the media be too big of an influence on how you will vote.

Study the candidates. Take control of your vote.

And don't be sheep that need to be led around by the nose.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's a good time to be a Tennessee basketball fan

Now that the college football season has finished (for Tennessee Volunteer fans, anyway), it's time to take a look at how this season should unfold for Tennessee's men's and women's basketball teams. Frankly, the season looks bright for both of them.

I won't focus on the women's team in this posting, but let's just say there is little to worry about. Pat Summitt has her team looking razor sharp despite the Lady Vols recent loss to Stanford.

The men's team recently completed an impressive road trip that included wins at Xavier and Gonzaga. Both those teams will be in the NCAA tournament in March.

The Volunteers are 12-1 heading into SEC play on Jan. 9 when they host Ole Miss. Coach Bruce Pearl has recruited a lot of talent, and he seems to be doing a good job getting it to mesh together.

The Vols only loss was to Texas, and when I watched that game, I had a flashback to Jerry Green's final team when he coached Tennessee. That team also had a boatload of talent, but he could not harness it, so it never came together as a cohesive unit. It was a shame because that team was ranked as high as fourth in the polls before falling apart down the stretch.

As I watched the Vols lose to Texas, I saw nothing but lazy defense and players willing to chuck up shots as quickly as possible. However, since then, the team's defensive intensity has improved, plus newcomers J.P. Prince and Tyler Smith have been playing extremely well.

The only concern is the prolonged shooting slump of Chris Lofton, but he is too talented to let this slump last all year.

Interesting statistic to ponder: Since Pearl came to Tennessee, the Vols are 39-4 in games in which they have scored 80 points or more. Keep that number in mind as the season unfolds.

Undoubtedly, teams are going to want to slow things down and get us into a half-court game. If we can control the tempo of games, I believe that stat is a tremendous indicator of how successful the team will be this year.

The SEC Eastern Division is there for the taking. Kentucky is obviously down. Florida is talented but inexperienced. Vanderbilt can score a lot of points, but their defense is iffy. Georgia is a bit of a mystery team, while South Carolina has looked really unimpressive at times this season.

Tennessee has the best talent in the division. Can they win it? Time will tell.