Knights Inch Closer to Taste of Sweet Sugar

Tonight the University of Central Florida Knights (9-1, 6-0) will host the University of South Florida Bulls (2-8, 2-3) in their second to last game of the college football regular season.

UCF is guaranteed the school’s first ever spot in one of the Bowl Championship Series games if they hold on to win the American Athletic Conference.

With games left against the Bulls tonight in Orlando and the Southern Methodist University Mustangs next Saturday in Dallas the odds do seem to be in favor of UCF holding on for a conference title and coveted BCS bowl spot.

The UCF Knights will host the USF Bulls tonight and will try to inch one step closer to the school's first ever BCS bowl appearance. Photo R. Anderson

The UCF Knights will host the USF Bulls tonight and will try to inch one step closer to the school’s first ever BCS bowl appearance.
Photo R. Anderson

As it currently stands UCF is projected to go to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans where they will most likely face the Tigers of Auburn University.

Of course this is merely a projection based on the information at the time which makes planning for a January 2, 2014 excursion to Louisiana hard to predict.

While on paper UCF should have little difficulty defeating USF and SMU, in reality no one really knows what will happen until the games are actually played.

The UCF versus USF game is just one of many marquee matchup games this weekend as the college football season ramps down and teams from sea to shining sea battle for those coveted bowl game invites.

As stressful as that can be at times for all involved the fact that the games are played is certainly better than a world where the outcomes are known in advance.

From the start of the season most people were convinced that Alabama and Oregon would square off for the National Title this year.

When UCF and SMU met at Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas in 2007 the Knights went on to win the Conference USA title. This year the Knights will earn a automatic BCS bowl berth with a victory over the Mustangs.  Photo R. Anderson

When UCF and SMU met at Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas in 2007 the Knights went on to win the Conference USA title. This year the Knights will earn a automatic BCS bowl berth with a victory over the Mustangs.
Photo R. Anderson

As the preseason script went Alabama would be looking to win their third straight title and the Ducks of Oregon would be trying to show that they were worthy of all of the hype and could win the big game when it mattered by ending the Crimson Tide’s threepeat bid and bring an end to the Southeastern Conference’s stranglehold on the National title.

Some students at the University of Oregon were so sure of this likelihood that they had “We want Bama” shirts printed and sold on campus at the start of the season.

A funny thing happened after the ink on those shirts dried though.

Oregon lost some games and the Ducks were knocked out of the chance to face Alabama this year. On the bright side the “We want Bama” shirts did not have a date printed on them so they should still be valid next year when Oregon and Alabama are likely once again ranked near the top of the teams to beat list.

And even Alabama is not “guaranteed” a spot in the National title game. The Crimson Tide still have to survive games against fourth ranked Auburn this weekend in the Iron Bowl and the SEC Championship game in two weeks in order to make it to the BCS National Championship Game.

Second ranked Florida State University climbed the polls after Oregon fell and while they should certainly manhandle a hapless University of Florida Gators team this weekend even their seat in the title game is not a given. Florida State also has some looming off field pending legal issues that could affect their roster for the rest of the season so their path is far from easy.

So that brings us back to this weekend where today and tomorrow will be filled with wall to wall college football games.

Football and cheese stuffed deli meat is the perfect combination. Photo R. Anderson

Football and cheese stuffed deli meat is the perfect combination.
Photo R. Anderson

And if two full days of college football were not enough there is also a full slate of NFL action on Sunday making this truly a weekend for football fans to be thankful.

Throw into the mix some leftovers from Thanksgiving and a football fan would have very little reason to leave the house from Friday morning to Sunday night. They should still maintain standard hygiene rituals though for the sake of those around them if they do decide to stay glued to the television all weekend.

Considering the fact that many fans would have started their gluttonous football weekend with three games on Thursday, they should at least leave the house on Monday for work before returning home for Monday Night Football.

With that much football to watch it is advisable to stay well hydrated and to get up and stretch at least once an hour to keep the blood flowing and minimize the risk of numbness in the posterior regions. And again be kind to yourself and others by remembering to leave time to shower and freshen up from time to time during the wall to wall pigskin marathon.

While this weekend marks the arrival of copious amounts of football, the arrival of the countdown to the bowl game season also means that by January there will be no more college football and by February the NFL season will be over.

So enjoy the games while you can football fans and prepare for the months ahead when the gridiron goes dark.

Of course that is the time when the Ballparks of Spring Training come alive so one is never really left without sports to enjoy.  And football will be back by next summer to help those suffering from withdrawal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to watch. Go Knights!

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Time for Thanks, Turkey, and Football

Tomorrow people in north and middle North America, also known as Canada and the United States, will celebrate Thanksgiving.

While there are of course other areas of the world that celebrate a day of thanks over the course of the year the American and Canadian version are the most similar to each other and just so happen to occur on the same day.

I am sure we all remember the stories from grade school when we made construction paper hats and played pilgrim while learning about the first Thanksgiving feast which may or may not have had fish as the main course instead of what we have today.

This year is also the first time since 1888 that Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah both occur on the same day.

For the first time since 1888 Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah occur on the same day which means there will be plenty of dreidels being spun alongside the turkey and dressing. Photo R. Anderson

For the first time since 1888 Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah occur on the same day which means there will be plenty of dreidels being spun alongside the turkey and dressing.
Photo R. Anderson

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are both times to reflect on what we are thankful for and spend time together with friends and family.

Of course in recent years Thanksgiving seems to have become less about the time with family and more about the planning for Black Friday shopping.

While stores once waited until the predawn hours of Friday to start their sales, more and more stores are now opening on Thanksgiving day to allow shoppers to get an even earlier start on the holiday of commercialism.

When I was younger very few stores were open on Thanksgiving. There were of course the diners like Waffle House that never closed their doors and a smattering of gas stations and convenience stores to help travelers reach their destinations.

Aside from that you would be hard pressed to really find anything open on Thanksgiving that counted as a shopping experience.

During college I worked for Albertson’s grocery store. At that time Albertson’s was the only grocery store in town that was open on Thanksgiving which meant that I worked on Thanksgiving.

I was amazed at the number of shoppers who seemed genuinely surprised that a grocery store would be open on Thanksgiving to which I would usually respond, “Well we are here because we knew people like you would have last minute items to get.”

And most of the customers were getting one or two items that had been forgotten during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (I lost count of how many cans of cranberry sauce I rang up). There were of course also a few people that decided that Thanksgiving was a good time to do their monthly shopping as well.

The first year I worked on Thanksgiving was also the first year that I did not spend Thanksgiving with my parents. They went to Georgia to visit my grandmother but they were kind enough to leave me a cooked turkey leg before they left.

While I did not like missing time with my family due to having to work I could understand that a grocery store being open on Thanksgiving was providing a service to help bring those family gatherings together.

What I can’t get behind are stores that do not sell groceries being open on Thanksgiving just so people can shop for the latest gadget or other must have item.

Such is the world we live in today where even the thought of taking one day to reflect on thankfulness is turned into a reflection on give-me-ness. In the coming years I fear that all stores will be open on Thanksgiving as the commercial aspects and need to make a buck trumps the tradition of the holiday.

Speaking of traditions I will be heading once more to see my parents for Thanksgiving as they were kind enough to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to make the trip out to see my grandmother this year.

As in years past with Thanksgiving with my parents there will be parades and football to watch and of course lots of food to consume while watching the parades and the football.

As a former Boy Scout I was taught to always be prepared regardless of the situation. As the son of a mother who believes ham is not a Thanksgiving meat, I always keep an emergency ham in the freezer. Photo R. Anderson

As a former Boy Scout I was taught to always be prepared regardless of the situation. As the son of a mother who believes ham is not a Thanksgiving meat, I always keep an emergency ham in the freezer.
Photo R. Anderson

One thing that there will not be this Thanksgiving however is ham. The lack of ham on the table has become an area of debate over the last few years between my mother and me.

For my part I recall that Thanksgiving was always a two meat holiday where both turkey and ham were on the table joined by stuffing and various other side dishes of the season.

My mother is convinced that Thanksgiving was always about turkey and that the ham was only on the table for Christmas and Easter.

It is hard to say who is right in the meaty debate since neither of us is backing down from our positions any time soon. What is known is that ham and other pork derivatives are my favorite type of meat.

Given the choice and an unlimited ability to process sodium I would have some part of a pig for every meal whether it was ham, bacon, pork ribs, or pulled pork.

While not quite playing like the defending Super Bowl Champions the Baltimore Ravens will cap off a busy day of holiday football when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow night. Photo R. Anderson

While not quite playing like the defending Super Bowl Champions the Baltimore Ravens will cap off a busy day of holiday football when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow night.
Photo R. Anderson

So while I would love to have some nice warm ham tomorrow I am resigned to the fact that the only meat on the table will be from a plump flightless bird.

But Thanksgiving is not about the food, it is about the time with family. And for my family it is also about a house divided over the Dallas Cowboys.

I am just glad that I will have a decent Baltimore Ravens game to watch tomorrow night after witnessing what I hope is another colossal collapse by the Cowboys in the fourth quarter.

So on this Thanksgiving spend time with your families if you can and know that the shopping can wait. But if you simply must shop on Thanksgiving remember that we have the internet for that so you can order all of those must have items from the comfort of your couch with your belt undone because you are too full of turkey and pecan pie to move.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to see about finding somewhere to get a nice ham I can sneak into the Thanksgiving feast. I am sure I can hide it under some stuffing.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Astros Looking for Elusive Victory in Court

Few can argue that the Houston Astros on field performance last season was abysmal at best and criminally negligent at worst with a group of unproven young prospects being thrust into the roles of Major League Baseball players and proceeding to lose more games than any other Astros team before them had done.

To be fair it was not the fault of the players that they were put into the situation of being over matched throughout much of the 162 game Major League Baseball season and the past few seasons have each included over 100 losses.

The players fought hard and are certainly to be commended for how they handled the cards they were dealt and while there were certainly many cringe worthy moments there were also a few moments that helped give hope for things to come.

Empty seats and losing records are both common these days at Minute Maid Park. Photo by R. Anderson

Empty seats and losing records are both common these days at Minute Maid Park.
Photo by R. Anderson

In fact the hope for better things to come and be patient with us as we rebuild lines became the mantra that the Astros front office repeated time and time again.

Tired of watching the Astros lose? Be patient with us as we rebuild and hope for better things to come management would reply.

With abysmal performance on the field, and the lowest payroll in all of baseball, one would think that the sole focus of the team’s management during the offseason would be improving on field performance. They would be wrong.

Instead of focusing on the on field issues that made the baseball team representing the nation’s fourth largest city a laughingstock, the current ownership is suing the former ownership for breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation or omission and civil conspiracy.

As part of buying the Astros two years ago the current ownership group also purchased a 46 percent share in CSN Houston from the former team ownership group.

Once upon a time under the old regime there was a Ballpark with a train and a grand view of the Houston skyline. Photo R. Anderson

Once upon a time under the old regime there was a Ballpark with a train and a grand view of the Houston skyline.
Photo R. Anderson

CSN Houston is the channel that airs all of the Astros games as part of the team’s regional sports partnership.

Currently CSN Houston is still only viewed by about 40 percent of the Houston market. This is an issue when one takes into account the new nature of baseball where teams count on revenue from television deals to help fund the day to day operations of the franchise.

The more money a team receives from television, the more money they can spend on players who then appear on the television. Or so the business model goes.

During a news conference at Minute Maid Park last week the current Astros owner stated that the ball club has lost tens of millions of dollars and “perhaps hundreds” of millions because of a business plan for the television network that was based on what they feel are “inflated numbers” by the former Astros owner and others involved in the ownership group of the network.

Now it has been awhile since I owned my own company but I am pretty sure that running a business has not changed that much in the last decade to the point where one could not tell if they were losing tens of millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars.

If the current ownership of the Astros cannot tell the difference then boys and girls the problems at the ballpark built at the old train station are bigger than we all thought.

And of course in the return volley between feuding millionaires the former Astros owner countered by saying that his representatives dealt “fairly and openly” with requests for information going on to say that “Any suggestion otherwise is absolutely false.”

For his part the current owner has said that his team went deep into the books of the team prior to purchasing the team.

Under the current Astros leadership the view of the skyline has been replaced by billboards that seem better suited for the side of the road as opposed to a Major League Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Under the current Astros leadership the view of the skyline has been replaced by billboards that seem better suited for the side of the road as opposed to a Major League Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

So if the books were looked at and the team was still purchased it would seem to me that the new ownership was happy with what they saw.

Two years after the fact when things are not going their way under the current watch it seems counterproductive to blame issues on prior management.

Of course this is exactly what seems to happen these days. Take for example the world of college football.

Coaches usually have a two or three year window where they can blame poor results on the previous coach since the players on the field were recruited by a previous regime.

In Washington D.C. it is common to blame things going poorly on a previous Presidential administration.

Of course, in the event that a new coach wins with someone else’s recruits or a new president finds success with the policies of their predecessor credit is really given to those or set them up for success.

So it is with the current situation the Astros find themselves in.

Time after time I have heard the current ownership group say what a mess the farm system was left in by the previous owners. And yes, an argument could be made that after years of neglect an overall of the farm system was needed.

But had the farm system been left in a pristine condition it is highly unlikely that any credit would be given by the current owners to the former owners.

Indeed it is far easier to blame issues on others than to look in the mirror and see that perhaps the issue lies within.

After two years under the new ownership group the Astros really are in no better shape than they were under the former regime.

In fact one could argue that they are actually in worse shape with drops in attendance and 60 percent of the fan base unable to watch any of the games from home.

And of course for those fans who do make it to the ballpark they are greeted by increased ticket prices, dynamic ticket pricing for the popular games, and an obstructed view of the Houston skyline thanks to billboards that look better suited for a Minor League Ballpark than a Major League Ballpark.

I am not qualified to pick sides as to whether the owner of Astros past or the owner of Astros present is to blame for the current state of the team.

It very well could be that the former ownership group is to blame for the current state of the franchise.

It could just as easily be that the current ownership has bit off more than they can chew and feels that blaming the former owners is the best way to draw attention away from that.

I do know that unless something changes soon the owner of Astros future will be brought in and no one will get a holiday goose.

Okay, perhaps that was a bit too much Charles Dickens for one night.

Victorian literature references aside, it will be up to the courts to decide whose side is the most truthful in the tale of two owners and whether it will be the best of times, or the worst of times.

Until then the offseason for the Astros will be as muddy as the regular season with finger pointing, accusations and pleas for fans to be patient and to temper their great expectations.

There is of course a shelf life on patience and for many fans who have watched beloved traditions fall by the wayside that expiration date is quickly approaching and one does not need to be visited by three spirits to see that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to read some Dickens for some reason.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

A Day that Changed Both Space and Time

Today marks the 50th anniversary of two things that changed the world.

On this date a half century ago events on two continents made the world seem both larger and smaller at the same time.

I am referring to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the premiere of the British television show Doctor Who.

One this day 50 years ago America lost a president and perhaps some of its innocence as well. Photo R. Anderson

One this day 50 years ago America lost a president and perhaps some of its innocence as well.
Photo R. Anderson

Now, to be fair I was not alive 50 years ago on the day that changed everything; having arrived on the scene a little bit after that.

But, as a student of history and an avid Whovian I feel fairly confident in assessing the impact that both events had on the world in general.

And one does not need to have been alive on that fateful November day to feel the impacts of those two events.

So let us start with President Kennedy whose assassination on a Dallas street around four hours from where I am writing this changed the face of politics and gave breath to a whole industry of conspiracy theories as to what happened.

While I suppose one can argue for both the lone gunmen theory of a single shooter versus multiple shooters that does not really change the fact that a President of the United States was slain and with it a part of the innocence of the nation was slain with it.

President Kennedy was not the first president to be assassinated. In fact William McKinley, the 25th U.S. President, was killed in 1901. So it stands to reason that there were people alive in 1963 who were alive the last time a president was killed.

But for many younger Americans they had never witnessed the death of a president, let alone one as popular as JFK.

Individuals tried to assassinate both Presidents Ford and Reagan and I would like to believe that lessons learned from the Kennedy assassination helped protect both of those men from being killed.

The Warren Report sought to explain the Assassination of Presidnet John F. Keneedy although there are still many theories about what really happened. Photo R. Anderson

The Warren Report sought to explain the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy although there are still many theories about what really happened.
Photo R. Anderson

While I was not alive to have the “where were you when you heard that JFK was dead? moment I do know where I was when Ronald Reagan was shot so I can relate to having a memory forever linked in time.

The shock of John F. Kennedy’s assassination as well as the events to follow helped shape the world I was born into one completely different from the world my parents were born into.

In the same way people born after the 2001 terrorist attacks entered a world that is a far different place than the way the world was when I first experienced it.

Every generation there are events that shape the world view for the generations to follow.

Shaping the world view throughout the course of time of course brings us to the second event that we are remembering today.

Doctor Who started as a humble television program and turned into a phenomenon that changed the face of science fiction television. One could argue that without Doctor Who there would not be Star Trek, or Star Wars.

While America was dealing with the killing of its president across the pond Doctor Who was taking his first flight in the TARDIS. A half century, and a few coats of paint later the Doctor and the TARDIS are still having adventures and inspiring the minds of generations. Photo R. Anderson

While America was dealing with the killing of its president across the pond Doctor Who was taking his first flight in the TARDIS. A half century, and a few coats of paint later the Doctor and the TARDIS are still having adventures and inspiring the minds of generations.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course one could also argue that the worlds of Star Trek and Star Wars would have existed even without the birth of Doctor Who which shows that much like people failing to agree on the details of the Kennedy assassination there can be multiple schools of thought on the impact of the good Doctor.

But what one cannot ignore is that Doctor Who helped shape countless programs that came after it.

Time travel is a central element of Doctor Who that helps people yearn for a way to go back and fix things that went wrong or prevent future missteps.

With his trusty “it’s bigger on the inside” TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) and companions Doctor Who goes from one end of time and space to the other stopping various events in human and alien history from occurring.

Whenever time travel is placed in the equation there are always those who come up with the what if we could have gone back and stopped so and so scenarios.

What if we could have stopped Hitler?

What if we could have stopped the Titanic from sinking?

The list goes on and one regarding events in history that many would change if they could.

Of course not all events regarding time travel are global in nature. There are the more personal goals as well such as going back in time and telling your earlier self to take a different job or not get a certain haircut, etc.

There are about as many theories about the ability to time travel as there are about who killed President Kennedy.

A few years back Steven King wrote a book about someone going back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. There was even an episode of the television show Quantum Leap that dealt with the topic. And yes even Doctor Who addressed the assassination.

With mankind fascinated by the ability to right what once went wrong Doctor Who comes with a built in following. Of course the strong writing and acting help keep the Whovians coming back year after year going on 50 years.

Through the tragedy of the death of an American President and the hope of a British television show that sought to show that all of time and space could be explored people were led to think, explore and find ways to make the world a better place.

Who’s to say what will happen in the next 50 years, or even if the world will still be around. But if there is still a world in 50 years I would make a pretty strong wager that it will be a world full of time travel even if that time travel is only done through the magic of the Doctor and his companion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for a Doctor Who Marathon.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Every So Often Everyone Needs a Ferris Day

Yesterday was a Ferris Bueller kind of day.

No it wasn’t the type of day where anyone stole a Ferrari and sped down the streets of Chicago.

And it was not the type of day where “my best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw me pass out at 31 Flavors.”

Instead it was a Ferris Bueller Day in that I took time to slow down since as Ferris would say, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

For me a nice Ferris day involves some waves and some birds. Photo R. Anderson

For me a nice Ferris day involves some waves and some birds.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course for anyone who has been under a rock where they do not have access to John Hughes films Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, is the central character in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” which is for many the definitive work on the subject of goofing off.

In the movie Ferris and his friends skip school and spend a day traveling through Chicago and having one adventure after another while being pursued by the high school principal Mr. Rooney.

Throughout my life I have taken the Ferris philosophy to heart time and time again.

Whether it was skipping school to catch a baseball game, or skipping work to do pretty much anything other than work, I have long been a firm believer that one needs to take a personal wellness day now and then.

Unfortunately my scenic view was interrupted briefly by a "Rooney". Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately my scenic view was interrupted briefly by a “Rooney”.
Photo R. Anderson

With temperatures topping out around 70 yesterday the weather was not too hot and not too cold making it about as perfect as one could want for a Ferris Day.

With weather like that almost anyone in their right mind would blow off work and whatever else they had planned and just enjoy the day.

Unfortunately as I have gotten older I have become slightly more responsible with my Ferris days. So with items on my calendar that could not be moved I decided that a full Ferris day was impossible to pull off.

So when it came time for lunch I decided to take a drive down to a park along Galveston Bay and roll the windows down and enjoy the view for my Ferris day lunch.

The view included waves, birds and a very inconsiderate guy in a BMW.

When I first arrived at the park I was the only car there so I backed into a parking spot and enjoyed the sights and the sounds of having the place all to myself.

Views like this certainly make work hard to think about. Photo R. Anderson

Views like this certainly make work hard to think about.
Photo R. Anderson

About 10 minutes into my peace and quiet a green BMW pulled into the park. This was not an issue since the park is certainly big enough for several cars to fit in.

It became an issue when the driver of the BMW decided that the best place in the entire park was right in front of my car.

So my peace and quiet was temporarily interrupted by a “Mr. Rooney” that just had to park right in front of me while he took a picture of the scenery.

Thankfully the man in the BMW was gone almost as soon as he arrived and my uninterrupted view of the bay was restored.

Sadly the next interruption to my blissful Buellerness came when I realized that as much as I wanted to stay there all day I had other things that needed to be done.

So while my Bueller Day only lasted an hour or so it was certainly a perfect break in the day and reminded me that it is certainly important to take time to relax now and then.

And of course if one happens to have access to a classic Ferrari, it can make goofing off even better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning my next Bueller Day.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

The King, the Intimidator, and the Jimmy?

Yesterday Jimmy Johnson won his sixth NASCAR championship.

Johnson won five straight titles from 2006 to 2010 before returning to his winning ways by capturing the 2013 title.

Aside from needing a second hand for all of the Championship rings, the sixth victory places Johnson one title away from tying two of the legends of the sport, Richard “The King” Petty and Dale “Intimidator” Earnhardt who both have seven championships.

It should also be noted that aside from having seven championships Petty and Earnhardt have something else that Jimmy Johnson does not have, nicknames.

Kyle Busch (rear) has a nickname and more wins in the Nationwide Series than any other driver in the history of the series. Jimmy Johnson does not have a nickname, but he does have six NASCAR Championships. Photo R. Anderson

Kyle Busch (rear) has a nickname and more wins in the Nationwide Series than any other driver in the history of the series. Jimmy Johnson does not have a nickname, but he does have six NASCAR Championships.
Photo R. Anderson

Throughout its storied history NASCAR has been a sport with colorful cars and even more colorful personalities who seemed larger than life and had the nickname to go with it.

In addition to “King” and “Intimidator” some of the other top nicknames throughout the ranks of NASCAR include, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, David “The Silver Fox” Pearson, Ricky “Ironman” Rudd, Jimmy “Mr. Excitement” Spencer, Bill “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Elliott, Tony “Smoke” Stewart, Kyle “Rowdy” Busch, Kevin “Happy” Harvick and Darrell “Jaws” Waltrip.

Yes I know that people were calling Johnson “Five Time” when he had five titles and very well could call him “Six Pack” now but that does not really count in terms of a nickname.

And yes there are several drivers like Jimmy Johnson who seem to suffer from nickname deficiency. Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, and Matt Kenseth are among the drivers in the garage area without nicknames.

The fact remains that a driver who is one Championship away from joining the upper elite ranks of NASCAR champions and two titles away from having the most ever does not have a nickname.

Call me crazy but a man with six titles going on seven, with Hall of Fame type credentials is the type of driver that should have a nickname.

Throughout Johnson’s career there have been several attempts to come up with a nickname but non aside from the “let’s say how many titles he has” variety have stuck.

Kevin "Happy" Harvick finished third in the Sprint Cup standings to Jimmy Johnson. Photo R. Anderson

Kevin “Happy” Harvick finished third in the Sprint Cup standings to Jimmy Johnson.
Photo R. Anderson

That is not to say that Jimmy Johnson is not a good driver. I think the fact that only two other drivers have more Championships shows that he is among the top to ever race in the sport but his lack of a nickname and the fact that he makes winning look so easy has certainly rubbed some fans the wrong way through the years.

I suppose one could combine those two areas and nickname him “Easy Driver” but that does not really seem like the type of nickname that would look good on a t-shirt in the infield.

One could try to come up with a nickname related to Johnson’s number and sponsor but “Lowe 48” sounds too much like lower 48 and might make fans in Alaska and Hawaii feel like the lower 48 states are picking on them again.

So number and sponsor does not work for a nickname and “JJ” is not really a nickname either which brings us back to the drawing board.

Of course since all of Johnson’s titles have been with crew chief Chad Knaus on the pit box people might go so far as to say that the nickname should be Jimmy “Thanks to Chad” Johnson but that does not seem to fit either.

So once again Jimmy Johnson will be at the head table at the NASCAR Awards banquet and once again no nickname will be announced when he is introduced to give his speech.

Between them Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson have 10 NASCAR titles. One thing they don't have are nicknames proving that nicknames may make the driver more colorful but they don't necessary make them fast. Photo R. Anderson

Between them Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson have 10 NASCAR titles. One thing they don’t have are nicknames proving that nicknames may make the driver more colorful but they don’t necessary make them fast.
Photo R. Anderson

Such is the nature of NASCAR these days when a man can win six titles and drive so fast in the process that he does not have time for a nickname.

Here’s to hoping that Jimmy Johnson can spend some time this off season after the usual rounds on the talk shows and Sports Center and come up with a nickname.

While a nickname certainly won’t convert me to the Johnson camp it may do a world of good for some of those other fans who are on the fence and like their drivers to have a nickname to go along with the ability to make left turns at a high rate of speed.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to plug some more words into the nickname generator to see what sticks.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Dario Franchitti Retires from Racing, Leaves Void

Dario Franchitti, four-time Indy Racing League (IRL) champion and three time Indianapolis 500 Champion, announced yesterday that he was retiring from racing at the age of 40.

In the announcement that shocked much of the racing world, Franchitti stated that he was following the advice of doctors who cautioned him that returning to racing and risking further injury once he recovered from injuries sustained at the Grand Prix of Houston last month would be detrimental to his long-term quality of life.

Dario Franchitti, shown during the Grand Prix of Houston, announced his retirement from the Indy Racing League yesterday. Franchitti cited injuries sustained at the Grand Prix of Houston as a leading reason for the retirement. Photo R. Anderson

Dario Franchitti, shown during the Grand Prix of Houston, announced his retirement from the Indy Racing League yesterday. Franchitti cited injuries sustained at the Grand Prix of Houston as a leading reason for the retirement.
Photo R. Anderson

Franchitti sustained multiple injuries, including his third diagnosed concussion, during a last lap crash in the Grand Prix of Houston when his car made contact with another car and became airborne and rolled up into the catch fence before landing back on the track.

While the wreck was certainly bad most fans figured that Franchitti would heal and return to his big box retailer sponsored car next season.

After all, that is what drivers do they get back on that horse that threw them, or in this case the car with all that horsepower that they crashed in.

If someone had approached me that October afternoon when I was standing in Victory Circle and told me that I was witnessing the last race of Dario Franchitti’s career I would have likely said that they were crazy.

After all, Franchitti had wrecked his car before and returned. He even returned to the car after attending the funeral of one of his closest friends, Dan Wheldon, who was killed in the season finale last year in Las Vegas.

Racers put their lives on the line every time they strap into their cars and know deep down that each lap could be their last. That is just in their nature and is part of the formula that makes them who they are.

For years it has also been part of the formula for athletes in all professional sports to not show weakness or anything that suggests anything less than invincibility.

NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd once drove an entire race with his eyelids taped open following a wreck the previous week.

A bad weekend at the Grand Prix of Houston ended Helio Castroneves' (front) championship hopes and a last lap wreck ended Dario Franchitti's (rear) career. Photo R. Anderson

A bad weekend at the Grand Prix of Houston ended Helio Castroneves’ (front) championship hopes and a last lap wreck ended Dario Franchitti’s (rear) career.
Photo R. Anderson

Countless football players through the years have played with broken bones and other ailments that would keep most anyone else confined to the couch at home.

Some athletes really do feel that they are invincible and others feel that showing any weakness or not getting right back into competition opens the door for someone to take their place.

Adding to the pressure are the fans who expect their star athletes to do all of this and more in the name of entertaining them.

But in recent years as more and more science has gone into studying the long term effects of people taking repeated hits to the head there have been a growing number of athletes who have quit at their prime to look at the big picture.

Just this year several NFL players have walked away from the game citing the risk to their future quality of life as the reason behind it.

Fans at the Grand Prix of Houston were able to watch efforts to remove Dario Franchitti from his crashed car on large monitors around the speedway. It was announced yesterday that those will be the last images ever of Dario Franchitti in an Indy Car after doctors warned him of the potential for further injury is he continued to drive. Photo R. Anderson

Fans at the Grand Prix of Houston were able to watch efforts to remove Dario Franchitti from his crashed car on large monitors around the speedway. It was announced yesterday that those will be the last images ever of Dario Franchitti in an Indy Car after doctors warned him of the potential for further injury if he continued to drive.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, it could be that with today’s athletes making more money than those in the past it is easier for them to walk away with productive years still left in their careers.

As one of the highest paid drivers in the Indy Car paddock Dario Franchitti certainly should not be hurting financially so walking away from the sport for him would not be the same as a driver who was scraping to get by from race to race.

But when one of the sports biggest stars and ambassadors walks away it is certainly worth noting.

I commend Dario Franchitti for taking a look at the big picture and walking away while he still has the ability to leave on his own terms. Were he to keep driving Dario Franchitti would be in more wrecks. That is just the nature of the sport.

Of course no one can say that the future wrecks would be any worse than his wreck in Houston but at the same time no one can say that they wouldn’t.

Speaking of the career ending wreck in Houston there will be people who continue to blame the track for it happening. And while there were certainly flaws in the track that resulted in last minute repairs the fact remains that cars can wreck even under the best of circumstances.

When the Grand Prix of Houston returns in June 2014 there will likely be a new track configuration and event organizers will have to take into account the feedback from teams regarding the issues with the track this year. But, one cannot and should not blame the track for ending Dario Franchitti’s racing career.

Two days prior to what turned out to be his career ending accident I was able to exchange pleasantries with Franchitti as he was driving around on his scooter along pit road. After wishing him good luck for the weekend we both went our separate ways.

Had I known then that it was his last weekend as a professional race car driver it is hard to say whether I would have handled the exchange any differently then just two professionals doing their jobs trackside.

What I do know is the sight of Dario Franchitti on pit road will be missed by fans and competitors alike as there is a certain weight and presence that one carries as a four-time champion.

That is not to say that Dario Franchitti carried himself in an arrogant manner. Quite the opposite in my observations I found him to be quite the gracious ambassador for the sport who did not mind stopping his scooter to say a few words with his fans.

Time will tell what the next chapter entails for Dario Franchitti and how much fan interaction that new chapter will include.

He could remain in the sport as a color commentator on the broadcasts or even as a team owner. Dario Franchitti could even join Mario Andretti and other past champions in promoting the sport around the world.

Of course Dario could just as easily move to a castle in Scotland next to Sir Sean Connery and they could look out over the land and swap stories of days gone by.

Whatever the future holds for Dario Franchitti he has earned the right to choose his path and he is going out on his terms while he still can and one definitely needs to respect that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to do some shopping at that big box retailer that adorns Dario’s car.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Chilly Weather Brings Chili Weather

Dropping temperatures around the Texas Coast this week have ushered in the return of several cold weather traditions.

The power lines are filled with hundreds of migrating birds each evening looking for a place to rest up for the night.

Locals are dressed like they are ready to catch a ski lift in their puffy jackets and fuzzy boots.

And I have a never ending craving for chili.

Now, in fairness around this part of Texas I am sure there are people for whom chili is an every week kind of meal.

After all, with so many chili cook offs to enter one would need to spend the entire year perfecting the recipe prior to the start of competition season.

When the craving for chili strikes there is a quick process for feeding the craving. Step one, purchase a can of chili. Photo R. Anderson

When the craving for chili strikes there is a quick process for feeding the craving. Step one, purchase a can of chili.
Photo R. Anderson

And with the start of various hunting seasons there are all sorts of exotic meat beyond cow that people can put in their Texas chili.

More power to those who have the year round urge for chili but for me the urge to eat chili coincides with falling leaves and falling temperatures.

Of course I can eat a chili dog or chili cheese fries year round but to sit down with an actual bowl of chili as the main course takes temperatures below 60 degrees.

Over the past few weeks I have sampled chili of all shapes and sizes but much like Goldilocks and her porridge I have not really found one that has been just right.

Growing up my mom made a certain chili which much like her special birthday meatloaf just always tasted good.

Add the fact that the chili was always served in bowls that had gold leaf accents, and it truly was a meal fit for a king.

A few weeks back I went over to my parents’ house to watch a college football game and eat some chili. The chili was not served in the gold bedazzled bowls from my youth and did not quite taste the same even though I am sure it was the same recipe but the visual was different.

In the days and weeks since that first chili I have had Steak ‘n Shake chili, Dairy Queen chili, and even some Wendy’s chili but none of them have really scratched my chili loving itch.

Step two for quick and easy chili at home includes embellishing the chili to taste with the addition of cheese and other flavors. Photo R. Anderson

Step two for quick and easy chili at home includes embellishing the chili to taste with the addition of cheese and other flavors.
Photo R. Anderson

While Wendy’s chili was one of the first standalone fast food options in that segment I have not found it as enjoyable since my body decided it no longer liked green peppers.

Last night, much like many nights before it, I was once again craving chili. But as I drove along the road with the intent to stop and get some chili to eat at home I started eliminating one option after another.

The Wendy’s chili was ruled out due to the aforementioned green pepper issue.

Steak ‘n Shake was on the wrong side of the freeway and I did not want to battle traffic.

Dairy Queen would have me put the chili on a hot dog or a burger since they did not have a standalone option and that didn’t work since what I was wanting was just chili without the hot dog or the beef patty on a bun.

So with three strikes I tried to think of other places to get chili.

Now, Waffle House has yummy chili but much like Steak ‘n Shake it was in the opposite direction from where I was heading so it was also ruled out.

The same was true of a mom and pop sub shop that makes chili from scratch.

In the end I did not have chili last night and instead had some sushi which is about as far away from a steaming bowl of chili as one could find.

Step three in quick chili at home is the best step and includes eating the chili. Photo R. Anderson

Step three in quick chili at home is the best step and includes eating the chili.
Photo R. Anderson

The temperatures are predicted to be even colder over the next couple of days which means I will be even more likely to want some chili.

I guess if all else fails I can try to make my own chili but that would require me to go grocery shopping and come up with a chili recipe.

While I love to experiment in the kitchen, that seems like a non-chili season effort.

If all else fails I guess I can just get some cans of Hormel chili to keep on standby in the event of a chili craving emergency.

My quest for cold weather chili will likely continue at least until the temperatures around here climb back into the 80’s by the end of the week at which point it will once again be too hot for delicious warm you to the core chili until the next cold front rolls through and gives us a couple days of winter..

I know people in the colder climates who have about 8 months of chili season are probably laughing right now at the fact that winter has just now arrived on the Gulf Coast but it is not like we really can control the weather. Besides, the palm trees like it hot.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call my mom and see if I can place a to go order for some chili.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Day Set Aside to Honor Those Who Have Served, Sacrificed

Today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, also known as November 11th, is set aside as Veteran’s Day in America.

The holiday got its start on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War.

Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning in 1919, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938.

In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, and became a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

So while this has long been a day set aside to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the armed forces to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy, the way to honor those troops has changed in many ways through the years.

Americans still put out their flags on this holiday. Some towns still hold parades and the banks and post office are still closed.

The honoring of veterans has moved into the nation’s sporting events as well allowing thousands of people to celebrate and remember in mass.

Large American Flags have long beena tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute let a sour taste however. Photo R. Anderson

Large American Flags have long been a tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute left a sour taste however.
Photo R. Anderson

Watch almost any sporting event over the past weekend and there were displays of patriotism and honoring of the troops as far as the eye could see.

As troops have not always received warm welcomes on the home front it was especially nice to see how the men and women of the armed services are respected and appreciated for their sacrifice.

Had the honoring of the troops stopped at the pregame ceremonies it would have been the perfect way to say thanks. Unfortunately many teams and in some cases leagues took things a tad too far for my taste.

Many teams added camouflage flourishes to their uniforms as an homage to the troops. These flourishes in many cases included camouflage wristbands and towels as well as camo caps for the coaches.

While I agree that honoring the troops on Veteran’s Day is a good thing I often cringe when I see people wearing camouflage without “earning it.”

Now, I know this is hunting season in most of the country, or at least down in Texas. So to be clear I am not trying to take away anyone’s right to wear camouflage and a bright orange vest while going hunting for wabbit, or deer, or ducks for that matter.

What I am saying is that over the past few years I have become more and more sensitive to people wearing the current style of military camouflage when they are out and about in their daily lives.

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy's Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much. Photo R. Anderson

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy’s Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much.
Photo R. Anderson

I have no issues with people wearing old school green camo since that can usually be determined not to be current issue and looks nothing like what the troops are currently wearing.

I even have a pair of camouflage cargo pants that are extremely comfortable but I made sure that I did not buy the “official” pattern when I got them.

So this weekend when I saw the various players with camouflage towels, and coaches with camouflage hats, I questioned if that was really the best way to honor the veterans.

For years baseball players have worn camouflage uniforms a couple times a year to honor the troops so the trend is certainly not limited to football.

I certainly can be in the minority opinion here but to me the camouflage the troops wear is earned through the sacrifice of making it through basic training and then further tested through battle.

Using a camouflage towel to wipe up sweat between plays on the field just seems wrong to me.

In one of the games I was watching one of the camouflage towels fell to the turf and was stomped on as the players moved to that area of the field.

I know that the towel was not dropped intentionally, but seeing the image of that fallen towel had the same reaction for me as if I was seeing an American flag on the ground.

I guess I look at the camouflage that the troops wear as an extension of the flag that they are sworn to protect.

It would be deemed highly inappropriate for a football player to have a sweat towel that looked like the American flag on the field so in the same way the camouflage towels just seem equally inappropriate to the point of being offensive.

Again, I know that the intent of the teams and league is completely honorable and meant to pay tribute to the troops but the execution just strikes me as wrong.

Honor the troops with the 100-yard flags that are rolled out for the National Anthem and held by real soldiers in uniform.

Honor the troops by having people stand and cheer when a vet is on Jumbotron screen.

Honor the troops by thanking a veteran for their service.

These are perfectly fine ways to honor the troops without trivializing the uniform.

Again, I may be completely out on a limb here and perhaps the masses see no issues with the camouflage being used by athletes and coaches.

But to me it screams out like a cheap gesture and also a way to make money as the camouflage caps are often available for purchase by fans.

I have never served in the military and do not pretend to be able to speak for the troops. To do that I asked an Army reservist their thoughts on the uniform pattern being worn by others and they said, “Camo is a uniform worn by the military and should be given the proper respect. Too many have died with the uniform on for it to be the latest fashion trend.”

And again before I get angry replies from hunters neither I, nor the soldier quoted above, are referring to the camouflage cap you can get at Walmart with your hunting camouflage pattern and favorite team’s logo on it.

I am talking about the use of the current military camouflage pattern and nothing else.

So, on this Veteran’s Day if you see a soldier, make sure you thank them for their service which makes your freedom possible. For that matter thank a veteran any time you happen to cross paths with them since thanks should not be limited to a single day of the year.

And if you see an athlete wearing camouflage know that their heart is likely in the right place. But try not to go out and buy the same camouflage cap they are wearing since there was a price paid and a sacrifice made every day by thousands of Americans in that pattern and wearing that comes with a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for your country.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to place on the patio

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

If a Twitter Joins the Stock Market Does it Make a Sound?

The other day Twitter joined the ranks of companies that have gone before it in the tech sector and went public.

Yes, the company that introduced the world to #hashtags and retweeting has gone mainstream with an initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market.

Through the years tech companies have entered the stock market with a bang with some weathering the storm and becoming actual players in the market and others faltering and falling by the wayside.

It is of course too early to tell which one of those categories will best describe Twitter when all is said and done but history has definitely not always been kind to internet based companies.

With social media rather young in the grand scheme of things it is hard to put a price on how much owning a piece of the next great thing.

Thanks to Twitter I can now tell the world how I am feeling 140 characters at a time from my phone proving once again that technology fills voids that we did not even know we had. Photo R. Anderson

Thanks to Twitter I can now tell the world how I am feeling 140 characters at a time from my phone proving once again that technology fills voids that we did not even know we had.
Photo R. Anderson

For every tech sector home run like Amazon and PayPal there are the forgotten fads such as MySpace and pets.com.

But while the world waits to see what fate ultimately befalls Twitter investors scooped up all of the shares that they could and the founders of Twitter became billionaires on paper overnight based on the value of their stock.

This of course is not too shabby for a company that has never turned a profit and sees the world in 140 character installments.

A few months back we here at Triple B joined the world of Twitter (@TripleBBrand) because a) we often find ourselves talking in 140 character sentences during the day and we wanted to share them and b) #everyoneelsewasdoingit.

During our time on Twitter we have followed a few news sources and learned a few things but for the most part Twitter has not really grabbed and held our attention the way we thought it would. #muchtodoaboutnothing.

The world of Twitter has also brought the need for rampant in game updates by journalists. While this is meant to tease their stories I would much rather wait for a fully formed story than to be bombarded by in game updates such as “Sources tell us @Ferguson just ate a burger on the sideline, says he is ready to reenter game #Spartanfansrejoice.”

So the news of Twitter going public has us wondering if that means that Twitter will suddenly change in some way to make it more exciting or offer new features to rock our 140 character worlds.

Ironically, I can be far more verbose in the world of SMS messaging on my phone with 160 characters to play with in my messages as opposed to the 140 Twitter allows. #Twittergotschooledbyalexandergrahambell

The business model for Twitter appears to be making money through advertising on “sponsored tweets” while allowing users to continue to tweet their hearts out for free 140 characters at a time.

While that plan may seem fine and good to some, the advertising major in me just does not see that as a sustainable business plan and feels that users will be asked to pay for the privilege of tweeting at some point.

It is like the old saying of the drug dealer giving away his product at first to get the audience hooked before jacking up the price once they are addicted. And there are certainly Twitter junkies out there from all the hashtagging I have seen in my short time in the Twitterverse.

I am of course not calling the fine folks at Twitter drug dealers but I fail to see how they can ever turn a profit by continuing to give their product away for free.

This is a debate that has been in the newspaper industry for years and is also why more and more mainstream newspapers are starting to charge for premium content on their websites since giving it away for free online was hurting their printed versions.

And while I do not claim to be an expert on investing what I do know about it is now that they are a publicly traded company most investors are all about the profit first and altruistic values second.

So the profits will need to roll in or investors will sell and those billions of on paper wealth will dry up. #heretodaygonetomorrow.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need, the need to tweet.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson