Monday, March 28, 2011

Cuonzo Martin looks like good fit as new coach for Tennessee men's basketball

Cuonzo Martin was officially announced as new men's basketball coach at Tennessee today, and I like what I see. I know there has been some hand-wringing by some of the Big Orange faithful, but we need to give him a chance.

His resume looks good to me. He was 61-41 at Missouri State, including a 26-9 record this year. His team won the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular season title. The team would have gone to the NCAA tourney but was upset in the finals of the conference tournament by Indiana State. He was also named MVC Coach of the Year this season.

I know some fans are disappointed that the Vols did not land a coach with a bigger name or more experience. I can see their point. However, Tennessee's options are hampered by the impending penalties from the NCAA. Even though the Tennessee job is a good one, not many coaches want to walk into a program going on probation. Give Martin credit for that.

The bottom line is we got a good coach. Not many Tennessee people had heard of Bruce Pearl before he came here. Like I wrote in the first paragraph, let's give Martin a chance. He is our coach and deserves our support.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Westboro is the worst

The freedom of speech guaranteed us by the first amendment is precious, and we should never take it for granted. In many ways, it is probably the most unique freedom we enjoy in America.

After all, Americans have opinions and are often not shy about expressing them. This freedom provides us a forum to have thoughtful and meaningful discussions about important topics.

It also allows people to blow off steam and state points of view that are not well informed. While this can be frustrating, it comes with the territory in a country that cherishes free speech.

However, the worst situations come when people do actions or say words that are so offensive that it is difficult to control our emotions. An example of a situation like this involves the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka, Kan.

Led by Fred Phelps, the group has gained notoriety in recent years by how it protests what is going on in the world as it applies to religion. Specifically, it has protested at the funerals of soldiers killed serving our country in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars.

Standing outside the services, the protesters hold signs that say 'Thank God for dead soldiers' and similar messages.

I think most people find these protests offensive both in tone and timing. My goodness, how can anybody believe that protesting at the funeral of a soldier is appropriate? Attacking people when they are grieving is about as low as it gets.

Phelps' group justifies its actions by stating that these deaths are a result of God's judgment against America for the moral decay our country is experiencing. While I do not believe anybody would disagree that moral decay is going on in our country, the Phelps' group clearly is incorrect in how it expresses itself and many of its ideas are just plain wrong.

The church has not limited its protests to soldiers, but also has targeted other Christians, Jews, and homosexuals. For a fairly small group, they get around.

For most Christians, this church is a great source of frustration. After all, most people just generically lump people of this faith into one category. Therefore, when a group acts like this, many blame all Christians for their behavior.

This is really unfortunate. Christianity is a beautiful faith, and beauty will always attract more people than the type of venom delivered by Phelps’ group. Unfortunately, the Westboro Baptist Church does not realize this and are truly driving people away from God.

Phelps has been taken to court in recent years about his group's tactics, and earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his rights by an 8-1 vote in one of these cases.

The Court reaffirmed what most of us already know. Despite the offensiveness of the group’s actions, it does have the right to protest in this manner.

I hate to admit it, but groups like these do make our country stronger in some respects. As a nation, if we can continue to function despite the counter-productive actions of these people, then I believe that makes our country better.

Do not get me wrong. If I came across this group protesting at a soldier's funeral, I would have to resist the strong urge to punch them all in the mouth. I do not like their approach and what they are doing.

I guess the best approach to this is to remember that the first amendment is a two-way street. Just as that group has the right to protest, we also have the right to oppose them and point them out for who they really are.

Remember, tolerance goes both ways. The Westboro Baptist Church would do well to remember that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lots of upsets in the NCAA basketball tourney so far

The NCAA men's basketball tourney has only 16 teams remaining, so here is a look at how my pre-tourney picks have done. On the bright side, all four teams I picked for the Final Four are still alive. I picked Kansas, Florida, Connecticut, and Ohio State, and I have Kansas winning the title. On the bad side, I only picked eight of the Sweet 16 teams correctly. I know there have been a lot of upsets, and that is to be expected in the tourney. However, several of the games I have lost were very close, and frankly, I'm quite bitter.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A lively dinner party

At one time or another, we have all wondered what it would be like to meet famous people from history. However, why not take this thought one step further?

Suppose a person could host a dinner party and choose four people from history as the only guests. Who would they choose?

I had some spare time this week, and my mind drifted to this topic. My choices surprised me a little bit, so here is who I would invite and why.

My first invitation would be to Jesus Christ. Whether or not a person is a Christian, there can be no disputing His impact on history. His teachings have shaped the personal conduct of billions of people for the last 2,000 years and will hopefully continue to do so.

Even atheists have been touched by Him though I am sure many of them would not admit it. Especially as the Easter season approaches, it would be wonderful to spend an evening with Him and just have a conversation.

My next invitation would be to President Abraham Lincoln. When reviewing our nation's history, it would be difficult to find a more important person. Lincoln steered the country through its worst moments.

Given the freedom we currently enjoy, it is difficult to fully appreciate the challenges Lincoln faced during his presidency. Obviously, our country is going through a lot of strife right now, but it is not in the same universe when compared to the Civil War.

Lincoln literally gave his life so that our country could be preserved. He had to watch as America tore itself apart so it could be rebuilt again.

Without a leader of his caliber, our country might be much different today. If he had failed, the United States likely would have splintered into several countries, and we would look like Europe today.

For that alone, we should be grateful. Who would want to be Europe?

The next person I would invite is former baseball player Bill Buckner. Sports can be cruel especially if somebody gets labeled a goat for a mistake that costs his team a big game.

This happened to Buckner in the 1986 World Series when he played first base for the Boston Red Sox. During game six, he let a ground ball roll between his legs that allowed the winning run to score. If he had made the play, Boston would have won the Series. Because of his misplay, a seventh game was played that Boston also lost, and the New York Mets became world champion.

Even though Boston finally won a World Series in 2004 and 2007, Buckner still gets unfairly treated.

After all, one play does not win or lose games. A mistake in the first inning of a game can be as costly as one in the last inning. Also, people conveniently forget that Boston had a three-run lead in game seven of that series, but let it slip away. And Buckner had nothing to do with that.

Because of this mistreatment, I think I would like to be Buckner's friend.

The fourth person I would invite is Adolf Hitler. I know this is sounds controversial, but hear me out. Obviously, Hitler was an evil man. There is nothing about him that is to be admired. He dedicated his life to unleashing unspeakable horrors on mankind, and he was despicable.

However, to truly understand good, I think a person has to try to understand evil. What would it be like to look into his eyes? Imagine what Jesus would say to him. I don't know what He would say, but I know it would be memorable and perfect.

It would definitely be a lively conversation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hairstyle Hall of Fame: Oscar Gamble

Oscar Gamble was a good major league outfielder who played from 1969-85. His batting average was .265 for his career, and he hit 200 home runs. He played for the Cubs, Phillies, Indians, Yankees, White Sox, Padres, and Rangers.

However, he is most remembered for the towering afro he wore in the 1970s. I don't miss much about that decade, but I miss his hairstyle.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japanese earthquake, tsunami bring perspective

Life can get us all down at some point. However, the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last week should provide a little perspective for us all. Life can change in an instant for both good and bad though what is going on in Japan is about as bad as it gets. If you are going through a tough season, hang in there because it will get better. If life is good for you right now, remain humble because the tide eventually turns for us all.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Charlie Sheen and an over-emphasis on Hollywood

For as long as Hollywood has been producing movies and television shows, a large portion of the American population has been fascinated by it.

I like being entertained as much as the next person, but I have never quite understood the celebrity worship that takes place in our country.

There is nothing wrong with being a fan of a particular artist. However, we cross the line when every movement or word spoken by that person is treated like national news.

The latest celebrity under the white-hot spotlight of scrutiny is Charlie Sheen. Sheen first came to prominence in the 1980s in such excellent films as 'Platoon' and 'Wall Street.'

Since then, he has had an up and down career. In recent years, he has had a lot of success on the television comedy 'Two and a Half Men.'

Of course, his personal life has been the subject of intense study in recent weeks by both the media and the public. With his apparent fondness for partying, he has apparently fallen into the abyss and appears in desperate need of a life preserver.

I have never watched 'Two and a Half Men,' but if his alleged behavior is true, I guess he is the one who is really the 'half a man' from that show.

Still, it is important to avoid taking cheap shots like the one I took in the previous paragraph. Because as much as we would like to deny it, we can not know for certain how we would react if we found ourselves in his shoes.

This is one of these situations where we really need to look in the mirror. If we have any genuine humility within ourselves, we would have to acknowledge that we are capable of falling into the same abyss that he allegedly has.

How would I react if millions of people told me how great I am? How would I react if lots of beautiful women were at my disposal? How would I react if I got paid millions of dollars just to do my job?

If I am honest, I would have to concede the possibility that it could impact my behavior. If people kept telling me that I was fabulous, chances are that I would wake up one day and believe that I could do no wrong.

While Sheen has nobody but himself to blame for some of what he is going through, the public has to be considered contributors to this situation. We are an odd country. There is something about us that is fascinated by watching celebrities struggle.

I do not understand it. It is like we love to build people up, but if they fall, we start kicking them when they hit the ground. Hollywood is a community that is known for its ruthlessness and lack of compassion. It appears this attitude trickles to the public when it comes to people who go astray.

Compassion can be difficult to muster when we see people struggle that appear to have all the advantages. When somebody has money, power, charisma, good looks, and popularity, it is a lot easier to not have patience with them.

However, should we not all strive to treat people the same no matter what their status in life is? Rich people and poor people may not have the same types of problems, but I think we would all agree that every one of us have problems.

I know I appreciate it when the people in my life show patience with me when I make bad decisions that make me look like a blithering idiot.

The bottom line is the way we treat people says a lot about us.

We would do well if we remembered that.

Monday, March 7, 2011

'Ding Dong' mixed nuts now the official nuts of 'The Nightly Daily'

The Nightly Daily is proud to announce that 'Ding Dong' mixed nuts is now the official mixed nuts of this blog. A friend of mine recently purchased them at an international market in Nashville, and the one bag I ate convinced me that this product needs wider exposure.

Imported from the Philippines, the snack is a mixture of cornick, green peas, cracker nuts, peanuts and fava beans. While the snack is satisfying, I must confess my fixation with it has more to do with its name.

How in the world did they arrive at the name 'Ding Dong'? Is the taste of the nuts supposed to be so potent that we should hear a doorbell in our heads when we eat them? Or is there a more sinister meaning?

I don't know. My guess is that this is another example of a foreign entity trying to enter the American market without a firm grasp on our culture. Therefore, they came up with what they thought was a clever name that would catch our attention.

However, that is pure speculation on my part. The important thing is we must remember that it is all about the nuts.

So, when you think of mixed nuts, always think: 'Ding Dong'!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tennessee men's basketball program awaits NCAA hammer

The relationship between big-time college athletics and the educational mission of universities has always been a curious one.

When looking from a purely logical point of view, they do not appear to have much in common. While most would agree that sports should play some role on campuses, the news regarding athletics often dwarfs achievements in education.

Of course, we do not live in a purely logical world. Our emotions work in tandem with our logical side to determine what is important. For this reason, sports are very important to many when looking at the overall picture of college life.

For those doubting this, the hoopla regarding the NCAA's notice of allegations against the University of Tennessee's athletic program should have driven this point home. It was big news that dominated statewide media, and that is saying something when considering all that has been going on in the world lately.

As a graduate of the school and supporter of the athletic program, the allegations are embarrassing. The most severe relate to the men's basketball program and Head Coach Bruce Pearl.

The NCAA alleges that Pearl and his staff broke rules, and that Pearl lied to an NCAA investigator about this. The program is also accused of other violations, including issues involving the football team. Breaking rules is bad enough, but lying to the NCAA in an attempt to cover up misdeeds is a remarkable lack of judgment.

As in most cases in life, the cover up is often worse than the original mistake. Because of this, do not expect the NCAA to go easy on the program when penalties are announced later this year.

Penalties could range from a loss of scholarships to a ban on participating in the NCAA tournament for the next year or two. Pearl's mistakes could literally cost the program millions of dollars if the team cannot play in the NCAA tourney next year.

Because of the severity of these issues, many wonder why Pearl still has his job. Most coaches would have been fired if linked to this type of activity. But, so far, Pearl has survived.

Still, Pearl's situation is not as clear cut as it seems. It is important to remember that he did a lot of good for the university in recent years.

When he came here, he took over one of the most underachieving programs in the nation. Almost overnight, he turned the team into a winner. This resulted in good publicity for the school and brought in lots of money. Thompson-Boling Arena went from being a half-empty barn to a packed house for most games.

Do not underestimate the importance of this. There is often a direct connection between a school's athletic success and the amount of donations it receives from alumni.

For example, when Northwestern University's long suffering football team underwent a resurgence in 1995, financial giving to the school went through the roof. For that school, a Big 10 championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl resulted in big bucks.

Up until this scandal, Pearl was wildly popular among University of Tennessee supporters and was considered a goodwill ambassador for the school. Now, this is all in tatters.

The bottom line is Coach Pearl is hanging on by a thread, and one more mistake will send him out the door. To paraphrase an old cliché, his tenure at Tennessee has one foot in the grave and the other foot is on a banana peel.

In many ways, the party is over. However, the possibility of redemption remains. We have all failed at some point, but we have had the luxury of not doing it in a public forum.

Times like these define a person's life. For Pearl, he can either fall into the abyss or commit to getting his career back on track.

Let's hope he chooses well.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Important announcement

Tonight, I had white beans and cornbread for supper. It was really good.

Thank you for your time and attention.