Monday, December 12, 2016

College Football Bowls 2016-17

And so it begins again. The college football bowl season starts on December 17, 2016 and ends on January 9, 2017. Other than bragging rights, only three of these bowls have any real meaning. Those three are the two semi-final games and final game of the College Football Championship. The rest are what would be called "friendlies" in soccer. Or maybe Silly Season is more appropriate.

So let's break this down. There will be 41 bowls consisting of 80 separate teams. There are only 128 total teams in the NCAA FBS division (formerly Division 1-A). According to my math, that means an elite 62.5% of teams play in bowls. Teams have to win six games, seven if they play 13 games, to qualify for a bowl. So, you have to have at least a break-even record, 6-6. That is unless you don't. This bowl season there are 15 teams with the supposed minimum 6-6 record. There is also one team, Hawaii, with a 6-7 record and two teams with a 5-7 record. It's fairly obvious to me that if there are not enough teams with at least a .500 record, there are too many bowls.

I remember when there were fewer than 10 bowls so only the top dozen or so teams got an invitation. Now the #12 team in the SEC goes to a bowl game. Many of the games are now held just to satisfy ESPN's huge appetite for content. In fact, many of the newer bowls were started and are produced by ESPN. Because of this you will see crappy games played in front of a couple of thousand spectators.

Other than the three playoff games I will probably watch at least parts of Florida vs Iowa in the Outback Bowl, USF vs South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl and TCU vs Georgia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Florida, South Florida and TCU are teams I follow all season.

I'll also check out the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville where Georgia Tech plays Kentucky. This is my hometown and was a big event back in the day. The TaxSlayer Bowl name pisses me off. A couple of years ago the powers that be dropped the Gator Bowl part of the name. The Gator Bowl was founded in 1946 which makes it the sixth oldest bowl. I blame the bowl committee, the city and the sponsor for abandoning the historic name. What the hell is a TaxSlayer anyway? Even their crappy logo barely recognizes Jacksonville. 
The Cotton Bowl is no longer played in the Cotton Bowl. It is now played at AT&T Stadium, aka Jerry's World, in Arlington. To further confuse the issue, the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl is held in the Cotton Bowl. The longest bowl name is the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman although the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl are close behind. Do the teams in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl have to stay in a Motel 6? We also have the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. I'm not sure if Idaho or the Potatoes are famous. Then we have the Popeyes Bahama Bowl which is held in a second rate soccer stadium in that hotbed of American Football, Nassau.

I would guess that Alabama is favored in this year's playoffs.We may even have a rematch from last year between Alabama and Clemson. 

So how many bowl games will you be watching? Will you be following your favorite teams or maybe your favorite corporate sponsor? Happy bowling.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Charlie Rose & Civil Discourse

Full disclosure, I am a fan. Charlie Rose is a treasure. He is a very busy TV journalist. He does the CBS Morning News and The Charlie Rose Show on PBS. That's at least three hours of TV every weekday. He also does some segments on 60 Minutes, fills in as anchor on CBS Evening News, was an election night anchor plus numerous other stuff. To say he is busy is an understatement. Charlie is also 74 years old, actually closer to 75. 

Not only does Mr. Rose work like crazy, he is prepared for every interview. His wealth of knowledge is amazing. Charlie is not just a political or news expert, he is also a fan of the arts, science, technology and numerous other areas. He is one of the most curious people I know. He is also one of the smartest.

The reason I am writing this post is because I had been watching some so called "news" program with four or five talking head experts. They were arguing and disagreeing about something. Let me correct that, they were yelling at each other. Interrupting and talking over each other. Then later I tuned into The Charlie Rose Show on PBS. They were talking about the same issues but no one was yelling. The only time anyone stepped on someone else's line it was due to satellite delay. Charlie orchestrated the discussion in his normal smooth way. Guess which program I learned the most from.

I wish we had more thoughtful and civil discussions in our news coverage. I wish we had intelligent, curious, informed anchors, reporters and "experts" participating. I wish yelling was eliminated. I wish spin was banned. In spite of what Bill O'Reilly says, his No Spin Zone is almost all spin, his spin. 

Charlie is a Southern Gentleman, raised and educated in North Carolina. A graduate of Duke and Duke School of Law. He was never a practicing lawyer but I'm sure his law school training was great preparation for his career as a journalist. 

I'm old enough to remember when news shows including the Sunday morning political shows were civil. I remember when the great David Brinkley would interview a politician, ask probing questions, have a wry smirk after a ridiculous answer and then thank them for being on the program. Never a raised voice or open disdain. Charlie is cut from the same cloth as the David Brinkley's, John Chancellor's, Frank McGee's, Dan Rather's, Tom Brokaw's, etc. of our past moderators and anchors. 

Civil discourse, a dying art and behavior. You won't find much of it on the cable news networks. For a refreshing example of civility, tune into The Charlie Rose Show every night on PBS as people gather around his famous round table. You might learn something.

The world and the country need more real dialogue and less yelling.  



I recently watched Goliath on Amazon Prime Video. It's the story of a once prominent lawyer, Billy Bob Thornton, taking a case against his former worldwide law firm. Hence the disgraced, alcoholic lawyer (David) against the rich and influential big law firm (Goliath). Only one core court case, but lots of side stories and intrigue. 

The series was created, produced and written by David E Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro. Kelley's previous efforts include Boston Legal, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope and others. Quite a pedigree. 

I have had some problems with Billy Bob in the past. Maybe I had trouble separating his personal life (very strange) with his professional life (amazingly solid). For the last few years, I have enjoyed his work. This project is no exception. He portrays a conflicted, very flawed, free spirited, brilliant lawyer. He plays that beautifully. A little bit crazy. Not unlike Billy Bob. 

It is the best of times for outstanding TV programs and series. HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon, Starz, AMC, etc. are all producing stellar entertainment. Most of these are unencumbered by corporate advertisements and ratings. There is far more freedom than the 9:00 PM time slot on CBS or NBC.  

Back to Goliath, it's an old story but one well told. It plays into the general mood of the country that the rich control everything and have their own rules. The politicians, police, courts, even the church are in the pocket of the rich bad guys. 

William Hurt plays the head of the global and powerful law firm that he and Billy Bob founded. Hurt is now both physically and morally compromised. He barely cares about the ongoing case as long as he can destroy Billy Bob. It is revenge. He has many minions and millions to do that. His corporate client adds even more money and muscle to the fray. Dwight Yokum plays the head of the evil corporate entity. He convinced me and he didn't even have a guitar. The rest of the cast is also strong. 

I won't reveal any spoilers. Most of the plot twists aren't that surprising but they are well played. There are eight episodes. I think this is a one season series. Based on how it ended, it didn't feel like a to be continued... deal.

If you like well written and well acted drama, give Goliath a look. It is an adult program there is minimal nudity but Billy Bob has a real potty mouth. I rate it a solid A. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Crown

The Crown is a Netflix original program about the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II's ascension to the thrown of England in 1952. It covers the last parts of King George VI's reign and Elizabeth's first few years as queen. I recently completed watching the last of the 10 episodes. 

I'm not too sure how historically accurate it is. The major events certainly are, but there are numerous private conversations depicted. I assume the writers and producers took great liberties in this area, since the royal family is very protective of their personal privacy.

I found the first few episodes interesting, those about George's health issues and death, then the transfer of the crown to his mostly unprepared 26 year old daughter. There was also the story of how Elizabeth and Prince Philip came to be married. The performances were very good and the location shots were well done.

Unfortunately, I found much of it tedious. The internal conflicts among the different royal factions seemed more like a soap opera or maybe Downton Abby. I am not a fan of royalty or pomp and circumstance. The whole set of rules that guides the royal family is ridiculous as is the entire titular monarchy. 

I can't imagine living under those constraints. There is an army of people employed to enforce the rules and direct the royals. There were even laws about who they could marry. The series tries to make it out that all the royal family's trials and tribulations were monumental and important. That to me is like our current obsession with celebrity. Kim and Kanye are not important. In a real world, these issues are trivial, or at least should be.

I can kind of understand the UK keeping the monarchy, but only if they are pulling their weight. If the tourist dollars (£ pounds) they bring in more than offsets their upkeep. Seems to me that opening up all the royal residences to tours would be just as good as actually having a monarch with no real power. But I digress. 

I think The Crown is a well done, very well acted mini-series. The overall story is interesting and includes some of the real British politics of the time in addition to the backstage dealings of the Court of St. James's. I particularly enjoyed John Lithgow's portrayal of Winston Churchhill. His dealings with the young Queen Elizabeth and his own Conservative Party, especially Anthony Eden, are highlights. The series also gives some insight into Elizabeth's husband, Prince Phillip, although it is not always flattering. Princess Margaret's story is interesting and shows the cruel side of the royal rules and protocol. 

For history buffs and those who enjoy royal watching, this is a worthwhile investment of your time. If you liked Downton Abbey, I suspect you will like The Crown

I give the mini-series a solid B+ bordering on an A-. Take a look, it's way better than 91.7% of the other stuff on TV. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Very Random Thoughts - November 2016

  • We no longer have waiters and waitresses, they are now servers.
  • Saw a news story that said a local Taco Bell had been evacuated because of a gas leak. No kidding.
  • Can anyone explain why a company would use Michael Phelps in their commercials? Great swimmer, terrible spokesperson.
  • Thankfully for almost every side effect that a drug causes, big pharma develops another drug. They are always looking out for our welfare. 
  • Apparently, God and Jesus are in charge of the CMA Awards. Almost every winner thanked one or both of them. Busy guys, they control the outcome of award shows and almost all sports.
  • Whenever a football player is down on the field with an injury, the announcers tell us what an integral part of the team that guy is. Do crappy players ever get hurt?
  • Who thought that using only mascot names for NCAA basketball games in the U-verse TV guide was a good idea. When the listing says Tigers vs Bulldogs what schools are they talking about? In just the SEC there are two Bulldogs and three Tigers.
  • Our local Oldies radio station began to play all Christmas music on November 14th. Way too early.
  • My U-verse DVR/receiver went on the fritz so they sent me a new one. It was a self-install deal. The old one is to be returned prepaid via UPS. Unfortunately, the new DVR is smaller than the old one so it won't fit in the box. Customer care is always a priority at AT&T. 
  • Let's rename the pro-life movement to pro-birth since many are not really for all life or quality of life.
  • How come rich college coaches can do endorsements and advertisements, but poor college athletes can't? 
  • If "Conversion Therapy" can make gays straight, can it also work in reverse? Maybe teach it backward. Maybe just reverse the electrodes on the electroshock treatments. Probably should check with Mike Pence.
  • Are you supposed to wash your beard with shampoo or face soap?
  • How come football teams don't wear pinstripe uniforms?
  • Why does the news make such a big deal about plane crashes? Total worldwide commercial airplane deaths per year are usually measured in the hundreds. The worst year ever was about 2,400. Yet, there are over 30,000 traffic deaths per year just in the USA that barely get a mention.