GOD! WHAT A GREAT NIGHT! The weather's nice, the temperature is in the low sixties, and it's the first night of college football season! Surprisingly, the games haven't really been all that bad, at least not the ones I've had the privilege of watching.
Of course, not even I was interested in some of the games being played tonight, such as the powerhouse battle between the Temple University Owls and the University of Buffalo Bulls. It would take an entire article -- such as this -- to explore the true wretchedness of both teams, which had a combined record last year of 1-21. (Here's another one!) But they fought it out this evening in Buffalo, and after four tough quarters of action, the score was ...
Temple 3, Buffalo 3.
I kid you not.
However, after two college football overtime periods (!!!) the Buffalo Bulls managed to eke out a 9-3 victory. So, they deserve congratulations. I guess.
I was able to watch pretty much all the game between South Carolina and Mississippi State University. It tells you something about the game when South Carolina punter/kicker Ryan Succop ends up being named player of the game. Of course, he DID kick three field goals, and DID turn a potential blocked punt into a crucial first down, which was pretty amazing. That South Carolina won 15-0 -- well, that tells you how much an impact he had on the game. But in this case, the score is really representative of how well both defenses played -- for instance, in the first half, there was something like 150 total yards.
In other news: I was glad to see the Central Michigan University Chippewas fight hard against Boston College. They lost 31-24 but they put up a good fight and I like to see that in a MAC team, particularly if the MAC team is playing Boston College, which I detest. Northwestern, a team which pretty much everyone in the Big Ten likes, did well against Miami of Ohio, winning 21-3.
As for Kent State and Minnesota -- well, the less said the better. But if you are reading this on late Thursday/early Friday, do find a way to turn on the game between Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. NAU is a Division I-AA school ... and they're holding their own against the Sun Devils.
CORRECTION, 9/1, 6 a.m.: As it turns out, I should have referred to the University at Buffalo, as the school is a branch of the State University of New York. Sorry. Also, 30,000 Buffalo fans turned out for the game. So help me God, they rushed the field. If that's not proof college football is an amazing game, I don't know what is.
JUST KIDDING, of course.
TODAY AT LUNCH, I was discussing college football with two fellow alumni of Big Ten Conference schools when talk turned to this week's upcoming games. A bit sourly, I remarked that the lowly Vanderbilt Commodores stood a pretty good chance of knocking off my revered Michigan Wolverines. This prompted a bit of surprise among my colleagues, but I was only half-joking when I said Lloyd Carr could find a way to grab defeat out of the jaws of victory. If anyone could, I figured, Michigan's football coach would be the one to do it.
My sour mood wasn't improved when I stumbled across Detroit Free Press scribe Mike Snyder's recent column discussing how Carr reacts to his critics. Namely, he ignores them like a kindergartener and presses on blindly forward, regardless of what they have to say. Mr Snyder writes:
In Chicago at the Big Ten media days earlier this month, Carr explained that he doesn't read the newspaper, especially during the season. Part of that approach came from the book "The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership," written by USC president Steven B. Sample, who swore off reading the newspaper to avoid getting sucked into the criticism.
"You're still going to know because people are going to tell you," Carr said. "His deal was, rather than get it from a writer, I'm going to get an interpretation from one of my friends. He's going to have his biases too, but at least I know what those are."
Carr still checks out a national newspaper occasionally to be informed on world events, but the only outside information about his team is from the articles brought to him by the U-M sports information department or his secretary. And that's just to keep tabs on what his players are saying.
Anything about him - and as Michigan's coach, there's always something - he'd prefer to avoid.
Oh, swell. Ohio State has Jim Tressel as coach, and we've got frickin' Nero. What the hell? I mean, here we are, coming off the worst season in more than two decades, and the coach isn't going to bother listening to anyone out in the real world? We've lost three out of our last four games against Ohio State, and the coach isn't going to give a moment's thought about what others think might help? Come on!
Oh, if only that was all. But Mr Snyder continues:
Which leads to the written speculation about his job status. Athletic director Bill Martin, U-M president Mary Sue Coleman and the Board of Regents strongly support Carr.
"Lloyd Carr is the Michigan football coach and we are extremely grateful to have Lloyd coach this team and represent our university," Martin said. "He has been our coach for the last decade, he is our football coach and I cannot foresee any reason why he wouldn't continue as our football coach."
Well, what if ol' Lloyd managed to lose YET AGAIN to The Ohio State University? There's a fine reason if I ever saw one. Here's another one: Lloyd manages to somehow lose more than three games again this time around. Here's another one: Lloyd keeps running the ball on third and long! I could go on. It wouldn't be difficult.
Quite frankly, if Mr Martin cannot foresee reasons why Lloyd wouldn't continue as Michigan's football coach, perhaps we should soon start looking for reasons why Mr Martin ought not continue as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. Our pathetic basketball program, for instance. As for President Coleman, it's understandable why she supports Carr's tenure -- for seven years, she was president of the University of Iowa!
Iowa! That perennial mediocrity of a school! They have long wanted to oust Michigan as a Big Ten football powerhouse, and with each passing year they seem to be getting closer to that goal. Maybe this is all part of their secret plan -- install one of their own as Michigan's president, then let the vine wither from inattention.
Anyway, I fear the prognosis is grim for this year's football season. But I will say this. As a proud Michigander, I support my football team and will gladly eat my words should I be proved wrong. As such, if Michigan's football team goes 10-2 this year, I will commend Coach Carr for his performance. If Michigan's football team goes 11-1 this year, and we beat Ohio State, I will openly admit I was wrong to call for him to be cashiered. If Michigan's football team goes 12-0 and we win a national championship, I will make a pilgrimage during 2007 to The Original Cottage Inn, at 512 E. William St. in Ann Arbor, and will gladly offer my apologies for my lack of faith to anyone within earshot. Between bites of deep-dish pizza, of course.
THE NEW YORK TIMES -- they've actually had some good stuff lately -- recently had a nice article on how to shop for electronic goods. The trick, as The Times' clever correspondent notes, is to search for the best deals in an industry where prices fall as a matter of course. Damon Darlin writes:
Wait even longer to buy any electronics. The cardinal rule of the industry is that prices always go down. There is no reason, despite increasing inflation pressures elsewhere in the economy, for that to change this year. Remember that you rarely need new electronic devices.
When you do — or you think you’ve waited long enough — you can turn the makers’ and merchants’ competitive natures to your advantage. The market for digital cameras, flat-panel TV’s and external hard drives for backing up data, an emerging category, are especially tumultuous right now.
Manufacturers are adding myriad features and making pricing more opaque, but there is a method to cut through the confusion to spot the bargains.
Do give the article a read; it should prove especially interesting to my audiophile and technosavvy readers. It was even interesting for me, a famous technofeeb, as it contained information about products I had given a passing thought to buying. Of course, if I've gone out and purchased an electronic device, it means the device in question has not only become uncool and commodified, but that the entire industry which makes it has decamped to the Far East.
I mean, I'm the guy who got a cell phone a mere 22 years after its introduction onto the broader market in 1983. I'm still amazed I've managed to do things like access my voice mail with it. As for doing fancy crap like text messaging or sending e-mail with the phone -- well, I'm just not very good at it, as shown by this Actual Test Message I sent a few months ago:
THANKS stop Sorry for text msg ineptitude stop pls clarify last part of msg stop tyvm bjk
Not only that, but I can't think of any major electronics purchase since then, thus providing additional confirmation for my technofeeb status. In fact, I think my last major electronics purchase was -- well, perhaps it was 2004, when I got that new 24" television, to replace the 13" set I had in college. Yeah, that's right. Also that was the year I finally signed on for high-speed Internet. Yes, it took me that long. Shut up.
Anyway, give the article a look; it's got some good tips and neat ideas. As for me personally, I have a feeling I'll be taking one of its key lessons to heart -- wait, wait, and wait ...
RIGHT NOW in northern Manchester, it is overcast, the winds are calm, and it is -- FIFTY-NINE POINT THREE DEGREES. On August 25, no less! Truly this is a sign that autumn, the season of miracles, will soon be upon us here in the northern part of the country. God be praised!
THE NEW YORK TIMES recently ran an excellent article on how bad college football teams are increasingly making good money by playing much better teams during football season. This practice, which for the better team results in what are known as "chump games" here at The Rant, is nothing new to college football. However, as The Times reports, the addition of a twelfth game to the college football season has made the practice ever more lucrative.
As a devoted college football fan, I find this trend rather unfortunate. However, I can see its positives, and I'm glad to see the Big Ten conference -- which I follow above all others -- has done an all right job in its scheduling this year. Although there are certainly some howlers in the mix -- Michigan hosts Ball State, for instance, on Nov. 4 -- it seems like the Big Ten teams have collectively decided to not embarrass themselves too much.
That's nice to see. For the embarrassment factor (or, if one wishes, the "respect" factor) is crucial to how a college football squad is perceived. If a team embarrasses itself through playing patsies much of the season, it will rightfully get no respect for its accomplishments. Instead, the team will get cruelly mocked and belittled the entire year, no matter how many wins it racks up. Occasionally, this happens to a team through no fault of its own, if the team happens to play in a crappy division (*cough* PAC 10 *cough*). However, most of the time, it is due to an easy schedule stacked full of hapless non-conference opponents.
In the Big Ten, for instance, Wisconsin or Purdue would appear most likely to rack up the highest embarrassment factor this season. Wisconsin is a decent football school, but the Badgers' schedule is so easy they should be a bit ashamed of themselves.
Wisconsin starts out playing Bowling Green, an iffy school at best, and then they face The Fighting Leathernecks of Western Illinois University, a I-AA class school. Then, they face an iffy San Diego State Aztecs squad (from the less-than-impressive Mountain West conference). Only then do they get into the meat of the season -- which arguably has four tough games at most. And then, they wrap things up with Buffalo! Buffalo! A team so bad its only victory last year was over a team named for a venereal disease! (That would be the Kent State Golden Flashes). Even then, Kent State only won by four points. So you can see that if Wisconsin does really well this year, they won't really have earned all of their wins.
Much of the same goes for Purdue, whose schedule is arguably even easier. Purdue doesn't have to play Michigan or Ohio State this year, so if they win the Big Ten, it would be like England winning the World Cup without Germany or Brazil taking part. Their "chump games" include Indiana State (a I-AA school which went 0-11 last year), Ball State, and Hawaii. They do have some tough games, of course; the Big Ten by its nature involves tough games; but when you don't have Michigan or Ohio State in the mix, and you do have Illinois and Indiana, that's an issue.
Still, I'm glad to see the Big Ten, for the most part, isn't giving into temptation. Many Big Ten "chump games" are actually not all that chumpish, with good opponents from the Mid-American Conference (which has quickly become kind of a second division for the Big Ten) and other groups.
Although I hate Ohio State and pray fervently for its football team to fail miserably, I must give the Buckeyes credit for playing Northern Illinois, a good MAC squad, in its first week -- and then playing Texas in the second week! They arguably have just two easy non-conference games -- against Cincinnati and Bowling Green. That will make it all the better when we ruin their season again in November. Penn State also has just two easy games -- against Youngstown State and Temple. Their first two games will be against a surprisingly good Akron Zips squad -- mark my words, they'll put up a fight -- and Notre Dame. Again, no slouching there.
And although Michigan is playing Ball State in November -- Gad -- that's arguably the only real "chump game" the Wolverines have this year. Central Michigan should do fair and Vanderbilt DID knock off Tennessee last year, so perhaps they'll come out swinging this year.
OK, so we have three "chump games." That's still average, and we have the toughest game at the end, so lay off.
Overall, though, I'm pleased with how things turned out schedule-wise. Although some football fans may despair, I'm glad to see the Big Ten schedule plenty of games with the MAC, and wish they would do more of it. It's important that regional rivalries be established and maintained, as that will only serve to strengthen both conferences' programs. One day, I'd love to see the Big Ten and MAC explore a promotion-relegation arrangement, in which the bottom Big Ten team and the top MAC team would switch divisions. That would make things TRULY exciting. But for now, this is just fine.
SO RUMOR HAS IT the certifiable president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may take some sort of action tomorrow aimed at hastening the Apocalypse. I would not normally mention such things here at The Rant, but given today's events in Boston, I would like President Ahmadinejad to know:
LIKE MOST PEOPLE, I have a particular style of dress which I like, and fortunately for me that style is easy to maintain. It will not surprise Loyal Rant Readers to know this style involves wearing a) Oxford-style shirts and b) slacks. In fact, I like Oxford-style shirts and slacks so much that I pretty much wear them exclusively.
Why, you ask? Well, I just like it that way. That's not to say I don't wear other outfits, but I only wear those when the time and place is fitting.
For instance, T-shirts are almost always relegated for when I'm doing chores, I'm sick, or I've somehow been cajoled into taking part in athletic activity. Sweatshirts are worn only during fall sporting events, and sweaters are worn only during winter, particularly holidays. I haven't worn jeans in years, as I don't find them comfortable. And although some men in Manchester find it perfectly fine to walk around not wearing a shirt, I'd rather wear an Oakland Raiders jersey than go shirtless. (You're welcome, I'm sure).
Anyway, as I said, one thing I really like about my style of dress is that it's easy to maintain. The shirts last for a long time despite frequent dry-cleaning, and because they're almost always in plain colors, they match with pretty much everything and never go out of fashion. (Not that I care about fashion, but hey). This evening, though, I think I scored a two-fer at the mall.
I got four really nice plain dress shirts that look quasi-fashionable and were in a variety of colors; they fit great and look nice and are incredibly comfortable. Even better, they were all on sale, so I got these really nice $34 shirts for $21 each. Then, at the sporting goods store, I managed to get these three nicely-knit plain T-shirts for $3 each, when they were regularly $9 each. So not only did I manage to get decent deals at both stores -- considering other styles of shirts were much more expensive -- I managed to get lots of clothes shopping done at once.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON appears on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" to discuss "Snakes on a Plane."
(For those of you are at work -- or are minors -- note that this clip contains strong language).
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
BAD (expletive) CINEMA WITH BEN!
WARNING: Some tiny spoilers ahead.
IT'S A VERY GOOD THING the marketing people behind "Snakes on a Plane" embraced the devotion of those who wanted to have a bit of fun with the film, because only that saved this wretchedly stupid movie from bombing fiercer than Dresden. That said, the movie is so dumb that it is laugh out loud funny, to the point where I was howling with laughter throughout key scenes, such as when the snakes attack everyone in the economy section. In short, "Snakes on a Plane" is a beautiful thing -- and I encourage everyone who enjoys movies so bad they're good to watch it in the theatre.
It's difficult to say a lot about the movie, because, well, "Snakes on a Plane" somewhat sums it up. But here goes. There are snakes on a plane. This plane is being used as a transport flight for a key government witness in an organized crime investigation. The soon-to-be defendant in the matter, knowing the witness has seen him incompetently execute a man, has put the snakes on the plane to liquidate the witness. At the proper time, the snakes -- primed to be hyper-aggressive -- run amok and start attacking the passengers. The snakes are aided in this, I would note, by passenger actions that violate several regulations of the Federal Avaiation Administration.
Anyway, like I said. Snakes on a plane. As for the passengers on the plane, I was expecting Leslie Nielsen to pop up and announce he'd had the lasagna for dinner. That said, Rachel Blanchard is hot. Also, Gerard Plunkett plays the second-most reasonable character in the entire movie, a suit-clad British businessman who is constantly irritated at the indignities he is suffering. But the most applause must be for Samuel L. Jackson, for without him carrying the movie with his presence and acting and all the rest, the movie just doesn't move.
All in all, though, it was a good show and a lot of fun. Also, for those of you who were wondering, there were a total of five utterances of (expletive), including two at the very end of the (expletive) movie. Yes, that absolutely made it worth the price of admission.
DAMN YOU, Wendy’s International Inc.! Damn you for approving a radio advertising campaign so downright clever I nearly pulled into one of your restaurants for a burger the other day, even though I had just eaten a healthy lunch not 90 minutes before.
I refer, of course, to the radio commercial discussing the new “Wendy’s Melt” sandwich. Recently, I listened to this commercial whilst in my car, and I was greatly alarmed when I responded to the ad with good cheer and a desire for the new “Wendy’s Melt” sandwich. It’s not fair when advertisers tap into people’s sense of alienation like that. Nor is it fair when they callously tug at their instinctive reactions to things.
The ad, for those of you who cleverly avoid terrestrial radio, involves an announcer warning against the perils of eating the same burgers over and over again. For burger-vores, this apparently leads to a dulling of the instincts. That, the man warned, would lead to burger-vores developing an interest in celebrity couples. And what clothes they were wearing. And when they were having babies. “Don’t,” the announcer warned, “let this happen to you.”
Well, I consider myself warned. Thus, I thank Wendy’s for their clever and pleasant advertising campaign, even though they’re reportedly testing out an Ohio State University-themed sandwich at certain Wendy’s restaurants in Ohio. One would hope a certain school up North is soon given the same respect.*
ON A RELATED NOTE, I must condemn Taco Bell parent company Yum! Brands Inc. for allowing Taco Bell to run its annoying “Fourthmeal” campaign.
Oh, I’m sure it’s effective and all with Taco Bell’s core audience – namely, college students who have the munchies for one of a hundred reasons. That goes double if it’s 2 a.m., triple if it’s on the weekend, and quadruple near Ann Arbor in spring. That’s not really my complaint. My complaint is just that it’s stupid.
Not the “Fourthmeal” idea itself – that’s quite clever – but the descriptives used to describe “Fourthmeal.” Actual Taco Bell press releases refer to, and I quote, “crunchy, spicy, melty, and grilled taste experiences.”
What the hell does that mean? I mean, I’m sorry, but how does something taste crunchy? There’s no taste buds for crunchy! Also, if someone can provide proof of an actual fire-breathing grill anywhere in a Taco Bell, I’ll eat a Grilled Stuft Burrito. It might take me down with it, but not without a fight, I can assure you.
* Not that we need it, because … ah, crap! Now I want a Blimpy burger. Mmmm. Blimpy. Fried mushrooms**, quad, onion roll, blue cheese, fried onions. Yeah.
*** Jesus God – half the time any more, I can’t even remember what day it is, yet I remember the sequence of how to order at Blimpy’s. Help me! Somebody, help me!
Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh: at evening, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning.
-- Mark 13:35
OVER THE PAST couple of weeks, I’ve noticed the concept of speculator-initiated life insurance (SPIN) has been getting a rather rough rap. Simply put, SPIN lets speculators buy (and pay for) life insurance policies on the elderly, whom they pay for the privilege. The people being insured get two years’ use of their policies for free, and some small cut of the policies’ face value – say 1 pc or so.
Yet the way certain commentators describe it, one would think the speculators were lying in wait to suffocate the elderly in their hospital beds. One such commentator is Terry Savage of the Chicago Sun-Times. Writing for TheStreet.com, she says:
It sounds like a script from "The Sopranos": Someone takes out a life insurance policy on your life -- then decides to order a "hit." Of course, in real life that would never happen to ordinary people. Or would it?
A new life insurance practice -- not exactly a scam because it is legal, but dangerous -- could put you in the position of being a target. At the very least, it gives someone a tremendous incentive to see you dead sooner rather than later!
Mrs Savage goes on to argue that because “little old ladies” are being offered the deals, something is clearly rotten in Denmark. It’s not the only article TheStreet.com has carried on the practice, either. A few weeks earlier, it had published a news story showing that large insurance firms, investment banks and – this should surprise no one – hedge funds were among those funding the industry. This brings us back to Mrs Savage’s article, in which she warns that eventually, those elderly who sign up for such deals ultimately don’t know who owns the policy on their lives, a supposedly nausea-inducing state of affairs.
Now, all that said, I don’t mean to entirely discount Mrs Savage’s argument. After all, as a graduate of the University of Michigan, Mrs Savage is clearly a person of refinement and discernment. Plus, she was once an options trader; so if this creeps her out, perhaps there is something a bit off about it.
Still, this is how I see things:
1. Speculator A offers to buy a life-insurance policy on elderly Patient B, and pay Patient B 1 pc of the policy’s $1 million face value, or $10,000, for the privilege. Speculator A will also loan Patient B the money to pay for the policy from Life Insurer C for two years. If Patient B passes on during that time, Patient B’s estate will benefit accordingly, and Patient B can get that fancy obelisk marker he was considering.
2. For a simple example, let us say the “break-even” point on Patient B’s policy is in 15 years’ time. Should Patient B pass on in more than two years, but less than 15 years’ time, Speculator A will have earned a return at the expense of Life Insurer C. If Patient B passes on in more than 15 years’ time, Life Insurer C will start to earn an outsized return on premium dollars, at the expense of Speculator A.
3. Patient B gets money from Speculator A for essentially doing nothing. Plus, he gains an incredible amount of enjoyment knowing that no matter how things turn out, Speculator A or Life Insurer C has a good chance of getting screwed. This boosts Patient B’s Internal Spite Reserve to the point where Patient B has a good chance of living until he is 110 years old.
4. Patient B is having trouble seeing a downside here.
5. Now we’re just haggling over price.
I mean, really. At first blush, if there’s anything wrong with the offers being put to these “little old ladies” down in Florida, it’s that they’re not getting their fair share of the investment. For God’s sake, folks, haggle. There’s no reason, other than sheer naked greed, why these speculators are only offering 1 pc to the people who, in the end, have to do all the work. Why not 2 pc, or 3 pc, or even 5 pc?
Of course, one would have to make sure taking on the policy made sense, and be sure about any financial or tax consequences that might arise as a result. But still: why not 2 pc, or 3 pc, or more?
As for the fear that parties unknown might try to bring about someone’s hasty demise, that’s a bit silly. For one thing, some large corporations already take out life insurance on their rank-and-file workers, and we haven’t heard about any firms knocking off stockroom clerks to make their quarterly numbers. For another, knocking off the elderly would have what the industry might call “significant downside potential.”
I mean, I’m sorry, but even the most rabid hedge fund trader wouldn’t risk giving up his great and well-compensated life for life in an institution. Particularly when life in said institution would “underperform” in terms of “liberty,” and “outperform” in terms of – well, use your imagination. Besides, that’s not even getting into the whole “eternal damnation” thing, and if there’s justice in this world, eternal damnation would be the natural consequence of putting strychnine into some senior’s lunchtime fruit cup.
But anyway. I’ll be the first to agree the whole idea of speculating in life insurance is a bit morbid and creepy. I also think it’s an extremely foolish proposition – but primarily so for the buyers of such policies, who would seem to shoulder an amazing amount of risk. After all, medical technology keeps getting better, and people generally want to stay alive as long as they can. Still, if the buyers – and the life insurers – are shouldering all the risk, it also seems like a proposition in which the insured could potentially enjoy a nice return. Even if one doesn’t know exactly what is in one’s fruit cup.
OBLIGATORY BOILERPLATE ADDENDUM: Investment involves risk, and people can and do lose money. Amazing sums of money. So much money you wouldn’t believe. As such, you should strongly consider consulting with a licensed financial advisor before making investment decisions. You absolutely must do so if you’re considering something like the above, which is bound to be an incredibly complex series of transactions. Always read the prospectus. Past performance does not equal future results. Don’t enter into any contract you don’t fully understand, and if you’re buying life insurance over television, for the love of God read all the fine print and make sure you realize what you’re buying, etc. etc., forever and ever, Amen.
RECENTLY, in the Philadelphia suburb of Narberth, Pa., the premiere for a movie called "Invincible" was held. The movie is based on the true story of a Philadelphia bartender, who made the Philadelphia Eagles football squad through an open tryout and went on to play wide receiver for three years. As I understand it, the movie should be quite popular in Philly.
That said, it appears at least part of the premiere was conducted with the class, decorum and dignity one generally associates with fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, and the competence one generally associates with the team itself. This seems like as good a time as any to again note the Eagles haven't managed to win a league championship since 1960.
(via Minnesota Vikings fan Steve Silver)
P.S. For those of my readers who may actually root for the Philadelphia Eagles -- God help you -- I'm sorry my comments remain broken. Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like -- or, just download the Cheesesteak of Suffering from these guys! You're welcome!
WELL, EVEN THOUGH the Manchester Wolves lost this evening to the Florida Firecats by the thinnest possible margin, it was a good season and one of which the team can be proud. Just minutes ago, the Firecats defeated the Wolves by a score of 40-39, in a hardfought game in Florida, putting an end to our playoff run in the arenafootball2 league, and our championship hopes for this year.
It was an incredibly exciting game, though -- I listened via radio -- and it went down straight to the wire. In the end, I certainly wish much had gone different: that some of our key players hadn't been hurt; that our kicker had made extra points which later proved crucial; that our quarterback hadn't thrown an interception which ended our last drive. If we had just one of those many nails, we could have perhaps saved the kingdom. But all of that is now past.
Certainly the Wolves have a lot of which to be proud. They won four games in a row at the end of the season to get us to the playoffs, and then they won an exciting playoff game at home. They played well as a team, and I could see where individual players certainly improved their skills over the course of the season, or made significant contributions to the team. All that speaks a lot about the players on the team and their character.
Although the arena-football season is over for me now, the Arena Football League will start up again early next year and its af2 minor league will start up again early next spring. I've found the games lots of fun and will likely splurge for a Wolves season ticket next time around. If the AFL or af2 has a team in your area, and you're a football fan, I'd encourage you to give the game a shot. It's football in the off-season, there aren't any bad seats, it's affordable and it's a heck of a lot of fun.
I HAVE A horrible confession to make.
On Thursday, talk at the office revolved around how the Boston Red Sox had dropped four straight against the two of the worst teams in baseball. The prognosis for the team was grim: the Sox were collapsing and we were down three games and the season was over. Then I said something like:
ME: Well, fortunately, it’s football season!
This prompted at least one of my baseball-loving colleagues to look at me as if I was insane. But it really wasn’t my fault! I mean, it’s football season! It’s practically autumn, the season of miracles!
Could I really be blamed for being more interested in that night’s pre-season game between the Indianapolis Colts and the St. Louis Rams? Could I really be blamed for wanting the Rams to knock Peyton Manning flat on his keister, even though he would only play for like three minutes?
I don’t think so! Particularly because Quarterback Candyass got shaky again when the Rams managed to put him under pressure, and yet I still had to listen to the frickin’ announcers go on about how wonderful the Golden Child was. Please. But I digress.
My point is: I’m from the Rust Belt and my family is from the Rust Belt, and in the Rust Belt, football is king. I grew up with football and grew up with my team and football is the sport that binds us all together. I love football – not only pro football, but college football and minor-league football and minor-league minor-league football. Truly it is the greatest sport ever invented.
So I have to ask for understanding and forgiveness from my colleagues and friends here in New England. That goes especially for when the NFL playoffs start in January and I show up to work with my Terrible Towel and root for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the greatest football team in all of history. But it also goes for now, when my interest in the Red Sox starts to wane in favor of pre-season maneuvering and news about the college game and all that jazz. I’m sorry. It’s my Midwestern roots.
That said, for those of my readers who are die-hard baseball fans, I would encourage you to make Basegirl a daily stop on your blog-reading list. She’s an excellent baseball writer and a devoted Red Sox fan, so go give her a read. Start with her essay on the Sox getting swept by the Royals.
RECENTLY, USA TODAY ran a story about homeowners who are selling their expensive homes in highly-priced real-estate markets and moving back into the rental market. In its story, the newspaper also profiles young people who are renting as opposed to owning, and so on.
Over at Boston Gal's Open Wallet, writer Jane Dough takes issue with the downsizing homeowners' strategy. She argues they're trying to time the housing market, a tactic she says is not all that bright:
While it may make sense in some cases to sell your home and downsize to a rental for economic reasons (going back to school, starting a business, etc.) generally I would not think this was a great idea. Personally I prefer the idea of being both an owner and a landlord. Owning a two family home seems like a way to hedge your bets against both the home owner market and the rental market. If more people are buying rather than renting, then your house appreciates. However, if more people are selling and renting, then your home may depreciate in value, but the amount you charge for rent should increase (since more people are looking to rent).
I am sure this is not a fool proof idea - but an interesting one to explore. What are your thoughts? Is the owner-occupied two family home the best way to get the best of both worlds (owning a home while getting the benefit of a renter helping you make your mortgage payments)?
For what it's worth, here's how I (as a long-term renter) see things.
Having a tenant in one's home is not for everyone. After all, as every landlord knows, tenants are an ungrateful and surly lot who play loud music at odd hours and take every opportunity to wantonly damage a landlord's investment. True, it is possible that, through some miracle, a landlord might find a quiet tenant who has a steady income, pays his rent faithfully and without fail, and whose sole hobby is stamp collecting. However, a landlord has a better chance of ending up with some ne'er-do-well deadbeat who consistently gives excuses as to why he can't pay his rent, and who will put up a fight when you try to evict him, and so on.
Yet for those who can stomach having a tenant and are handy, a tenant can add significant value to one's bottom line. A year's rental income can easily add up to many thousands of dollars, even net of taxes, in the nation's larger cities. That can be applied straight to one's mortgage. Paying down's one mortgage ahead of schedule should result in substantial savings on interest payments, allow one to own one's residence outright sooner, and alleviate the bite from property tax payments which would otherwise come out of one's own pocket.
I don't think one can or should view the issue as one of hedging, though. A Hong Kong property tycoon once summed up the real-estate market in three words: wait, wait, wait. Provied a homeowner doesn't use his home as a piggy bank, having a tenant will simply let him pay down his mortgage quicker, eventually leaving him in the clear and giving him the maximum freedom to do what he wants with his asset.
In that respect, there's no difference between one's home and an investment property one rents out. Investment properties also have advantages. In addition to rent payments (which would hopefully cover the property's PITI payments), investment-property owners can take advantage of certain tax provisions (e.g. depreciation rules, 1031 exchanges, and so on) that may make owning outside property a better play in the long run. But that would be a decision for which one ought seek professional advice.
THERE WERE MANY THINGS bad about the Seventies: the oil shocks, the stagflation, the 55 mph speed limit. Yet perhaps the worst part about the decade was that even the few good things in it, such as Star Wars, were occasionally tainted with the massive suckitude that infested everything else. When it came to the Star Wars franchise, perhaps the worst such incident involved something called "The Star Wars Holiday Special."
The "Holiday Special" has been broadcast only once: on Nov. 17, 1978, on CBS. According to its Wikipedia entry, it is so horribly bad that George Lucas, who had little to do with the final product, removed his story credit. It is so horribly bad that an actual television critic called it "the worst two hours of television ever." It is so horribly bad that its "special guest stars" include Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman and -- wait for it -- Jefferson frickin' Starship. Yes, that Jefferson Starship.
I'm sorry, but when Jefferson Starship is presented as a Special Musical Guest, you know the show's going to bite. Anyway, after the special aired, the "Holiday Special" wasn't widely available for nearly three decades. That is, until June 3, 2006, when somebody uploaded the thing to YouTube. Here you go!
True, that's only the first nine minutes, but God knows that's about all you should really watch at one sitting.
I DON'T KNOW about the rest of you, but I think America's college football coaches -- Joe Paterno excepted -- have collectively gone stark raving loony. It is, after all, the only plausible explanation for them naming the Ohio State Buckeyes the No. 1 football squad in the USA Today pre-season coaches' poll.
I hear my readers muttering, so let me assure you: even though I hate Ohio State and all its works, this is not sour grapes on my part. Really.
Yes, the Buckeyes have Troy Smith and Antonio Pittman and Ted Ginn returning on offense. They do not, however, have A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel, Ashton Youboty and a whole host of other players returning on defense. Maybe it's just me, but Ohio State's great defense last year played a huge part in why they did so well, and without those key players I can't see why they should get a No. 1 ranking.
Ohio State should be No. 3 or No. 4, but not No. 1. Rather, No. 1 should go to Notre Dame, which has whole bunches of its top starters returning and will be an extremely formidable squad. Instead, Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 -- and tied with USC for that! (Texas, last year's national champ, is in the No. 2 spot, and I suspect that's overly generous -- their quarterback last played in high school).
Meanwhile, the coaches ranked Michigan, which went 7-5 last year, No. 15! What the hell were they thinking?
Loyal Rant Readers know I'm a fanatic partisan on behalf of the Michigan Wolverines, the greatest and best college football team in history. That said, I can't believe we deserve to be ranked No. 15. Much of that is because Lloyd Carr remains as coach, and barring a miracle season, that alone should knock us down five or six spots. But also, I'm not convinced Michigan's present players have proven themselves yet. The squad went 7-5 last year. They need to earn a high berth. We should've been somewhere in the twenties.
Meanwhile, Iowa and Penn State were ranked No. 17 and No. 19, respectively. This does not compute. Iowa is a surprisingly good team: for instance, it only lost to Michigan last year in overtime (and OT in college football is notoriously stupid). As for Penn State, it continues to have Joe Paterno as coach, which should automatically boost Penn State several notches. Sure, PSU's defense left too, but No. 19 seems a bit low.
Of course, I do realize that all these rankings will prove moot after the first couple of weeks, particularly when Akron knocks off Penn State in Happy Valley. What's that? You think I'm kidding? Only a little, my friends, only a little. As a Midwesterner, the Mid-American Conference is almost as near-and-dear to me as the Big Ten, and the Akron Zips are a team one underestimates at one's peril.
GOOOOOOAL! We did it! The Manchester Wolves, the minor-league arena football team which I have been following closely for the past several weeks, won its first playoff game. Now, the team will head on the road to play the No. 1 Florida Firecats or the No. 2 Green Bay Blizzard, depending on how the playoff game between No. 3 Memphis and No. 6 Louisville turns out.
It took the Wolves a while to get things started, but we ended up with a 55-47 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers, who managed to blow a two-possession lead in the first half and later had a few “problems with protection,” as Peyton Manning might say. But as it happened, my fourth arena-football game turned out to be the best yet.
Simply put, the game – the actual football being played on the field – was downright thrilling. On WBS’ first drive, their quarterback, Mike Granieri, threw a long bomb to WR William Ferguson in Manchester’s endzone. Ferguson tried to catch it, but unfortunately for him, ran into the back wall of the endzone. The ball came out, bounced off the wall, and went straight into the arms of Manchester DS William Haith, who then ran it back to midfield.
Things like this happened the entire night. But, as I said, it took the Wolves a while to get things started. After Haith’s interception, Manchester turned it over on downs in WBS’ territory, and the Pioneers marched back to score a touchdown. Halfway through the first quarter, it was WBS 7, Manchester nil. A field goal late in the quarter made the score 10 to nothing.
I mean, Manchester started so slow that even the guys with the T-shirt slingshots were having trouble launching the things into the stands. WBS got another field goal early in the second-quarter, and it was now 13-0. This did not bode well.
Manchester got on the board with an impressive Ari Confesor reception, in which the wide receiver broke a tackle and ran into the endzone. But WBS came right back to make it 20-7, after Haith missed a tackle.
But wait! Who’s there to catch the long bomb in tight coverage? That would be WR Wendell Williams, who made a huge catch which then set up a Marc Bacote touchdown reception. A few minutes later, Haith came up big again with a huge interception in the endzone, which set up another long-bomb TD to Williams. Suddenly, there’s two minutes left in the half, and it’s Manchester 21, WBS 20.
Now it really got interesting. On the next drive, WBS found themselves on fourth down near midfield. They tried for a field goal, which their kicker missed. Manchester got the ball back with just 15.9 seconds to go. Manchester drove down the field and tried a field goal, and they missed too! But a holding call on the Wolves gives the ball back to WBS – which then tried to kick another field goal! And that got blocked!
So much for the first half. The tempo kept up in the second half. Deep in their own territory, WBS had no choice but to try a field goal, which was wide. Haith caught the ball off the net and then proceeded to run all the way back down the field for a touchdown. This was just electric. I mean, my God -- it was truly the momentum shifter. Manchester was up 28-20, and wouldn’t give up the lead for the rest of the game.
That said, WBS stayed in it until the very end, something it did not do the last time around. After the Haith runback, the two teams largely played an offensive shootout, in which each drive consisted of a few plays, followed with a passing touchdown. There were some great plays and some great stops, and as the game started to wind down, Manchester had a 55-47 lead over WBS.
WBS had just scored a pretty slick touchdown – a result of a throw off the rebound net – and their kicker, former USC K David Davis, stepped up to kick the PAT. Making the point after touchdown would cut Manchester’s lead to seven, and make it much easier for WBS to tie the game should it again score. HE MISSED IT. It was probably the most important PAT all season, and HE MISSED IT. Unbelievable!
Still, even then, it wasn’t over. Manchester didn’t succeed in scoring or running out the clock, giving WBS the ball back with 15 seconds to spare. The first play was a gadget play which was easily broken up, and the second play – well, it ended with a sack. Manchester won, 55-47, and must now face one of two very good teams.
OK, here’s the recap:
MOST UHF-LIKE MOMENT: I realize that some readers may not have experienced the comedic joy that is “UHF,” the cult-classic movie from “Weird Al” Yankovic. So, thanks to the magic of YouTube, here’s a short scene from the movie – one of the shows aired on the UHF station Weird Al’s character manages.
Heh heh heh. I love that scene. Anyway, this week’s most UHF-like moment was experienced when a little boy in my section triumphantly secured a prize-filled envelope, dropped from the heavens by one of those motorized blimps one often finds at minor-league sporting events.
I have to say the blimp is really clever. People REALLY love the prize blimp; in fact, they love it about as much as they do a home-team touchdown. With good reason, too: it drops prizes like gift certificates to steakhouses and what not. This little boy, meanwhile, was so excited at getting the envelope he didn’t even open it until someone asked what he had won. When he opened it, he discovered it was a buy-one get-one-free pizza coupon. He was thrilled. I was stunned. With all that build up, I was half-expecting a diamond ring inside!
MOST INVENTIVE HECKLER’S REMARK: “Use your hands! Use your hands!” This was directed not at an opposing player, but rather the two families engaged in the giant ice-cream sundae-eating contest on the other side of the arena. The winning family, as it happened, won $40 in gift certificates to a local ice-cream shop.
MOST INEPT PLAY DURING GAME: WBS kicker David Davis shanks a gimme point-after-touchdown at a crucial point in the fourth quarter.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE: Manchester defensive specialist William Haith hauls in two interceptions and runs a field-goal try back for a touchdown, among other accomplishments. Simply put, he was en fuego. As are the Wolves, at this point. We’ll see how they do next week on the road!
It’s Time for Yet Another Installment of …
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!
An occasional Rant feature
BLOGGERS ARE A naturally generous group of people. Each day, millions of people spend time and money to provide their readership with enjoyable content, and ask for nothing in return. Yet some unscrupulous scoundrels take advantage of bloggers’ good will, and hotlink images hosted on said bloggers’ Web sites.
Some may wonder, “What’s the acceptable way to deal with these bandwidth thieves, particularly since many of them are undoubtedly teenagers, and as such are sullen and hostile to established authority?”
Well, this is my take on it. I figure I can’t stop people from hotlinking images hosted here at The Rant. However, I can “accidentally” change the coding for the image in question, turning it into this:
What’s that? Yes, I do rule. It is the perfectly appropriate response. Since most of the people doing the hotlinking haven’t yet realized the late Fifties and early Sixties’ inherent coolness and nostalgia value, this image can only serve to remind them of their parents. As such, it will embarrass them in front of all their friends. Yet, it will not prove so embarrassing that it will result in any lifelong emotional trauma.
That’s pretty much what I plan to do this month with the latest edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered!, in which I provide personal responses to the many hundreds of people who arrived here via various search engines. Even though many of the queries are strange. So without further ado, here we go!
QUERY: you can t hide your briann eyes. and your smile is a thin disguise. Lyrics
ANSWER: Please, for the love of God, don’t ever agree to sing the national anthem before a major sporting event.
QUERY: eating one minute oates without cooking
ANSWER: Jesus Christ, it only takes a minute or so to cook the one-minute oats. Must you have no patience?
QUERY: what does no whammies mean?
ANSWER: The ancient cry of “No whammies!” goes part and parcel with the home-selling Sale Inoculation Process. It’s something like feng shui in reverse, except feng shui is more rational.
Basically, one hires a listing agent to package one’s home for sale, and prior to the listing being published, the agent wanders around the home screaming, “No whammies! No whammies! Stop!” If no “whammies” are detected, you’re more likely to get your asking price. However, if one’s agent finds “whammies” during the process, you’ll undoubtedly be forced to accept some cheapskate’s low-ball offer, particularly if you signed up for an adjustable-rate mortgage.
QUERY: nudist beekeepers
ANSWER: Oh dear.
QUERY: michigan state flag notre dame 2005
ANSWER: This query refers to the gauche and classless act which the Michigan State University football squad performed following its victory over the University of Notre Dame last year. The Spartans, having won the game in overtime in South Bend, Ind., proceeded to take their school’s flag and plant it in the Fighting Irish’s field.
This pathetic and miserable action came back to haunt the Spartans, as they proceeded to go 2-6 in Big Ten conference play – and as their two wins were against Illinois and Indiana, they may as well have gone 0-6. Hell, they would’ve had trouble beating the Tri-Lambs.
QUERY: ad vitam paramus
ANSWER: Say, we’re heading to New Jersey!
QUERY: the seventies sucked
ANSWER: You’ll find no argument from me on that one.
QUERY: oregon weird
ANSWER: You’ll find no argument from me on that one, either.
QUERY: californians weird
ANSWER: Um, not south of Fresno, they ain’t. OK, most of them ain't.
QUERY: dislike of californians
ANSWER: Hey, you shouldn’t dislike Californians. Californians are people just like you and me, except they often have bunches of money from stock options or the real-estate boom. Furthermore, they often can’t stand their fellow Californians, which prompts them to leave California and drive up the prices everywhere else, thus making their new home just like California. Hey, you’re from Oregon, aren’t you?
QUERY: i was a nerd in high school
ANSWER: Yeah, but I bet you did well in the Internet boom and are now dating a swimsuit model. One of the cool things about early middle age is that all the things that made you unattractive back in the day now make you attractive. Well, except for acne. And a paunch. Still, though, you get the idea.
QUERY: is king uzziah influencing christians today?
ANSWER: I think we can safely say the answer is No.
QUERY: buying vernors in nh
ANSWER: Dude, you can’t buy Vernors in New Hampshire. It’s Vernors! You have to special order it from back home. As it happens, though, you can do that here.
QUERY: why do we like reality television?
ANSWER: Beats the hell out of me! However, I have to admit I’m a bit more open to the idea of reality television than I was previously. That’s because the shows have apparently started hiring writers out of desperation to turn out product that doesn’t suck. I approve of shows hiring writers.
QUERY: men who get nauseous
ANSWER: You have so arrived at the right place.
QUERY: smoking cessation insomnia
ANSWER: Quitting smoking lessens one’s need for sleep (no, really!), so this is perfectly natural. Cut down on caffeinated beverages at night.
QUERY: is soy milk ok for sinus
ANSWER: Knock yourself out.
QUERY: moral of malaysian youth has gone from bad to worse
ANSWER: Next they’ll be wearing short-sleeved shirts!
QUERY: paris rome american cockroaches hate americans
ANSWER: I love you too, Jacques.
QUERY: hate the steelers
ANSWER: I love you too, Carson.
QUERY: how much do manchester wolfs make a year?
ANSWER: Players for the Manchester Wolves minor-league arena football team make $200 per game, with a $50 win bonus. Thus, they receive cash compensation which can range from $3,200 to $4,000 during the 16-game regular season (plus extra for playoff games, I would guess). League rules allow players to receive subsidized housing and food, but I’m not sure how much they receive.
Anyway, I’ve a post in the works about this: the economics of the league, and much about the league, are fascinating. Everyone, and I mean everyone, works like the devil.
QUERY: roth ira uk equivalent
ANSWER: As I understand it, the closest UK equivalent to the Roth IRA is an ISA (Individual Savings Account) scheme. Apparently, Chancellor Brown has not yet figured out how to tax the income, capital gains or dividends associated with this product. Thus, take advantage.
QUERY: retire without investing
ANSWER: It will be difficult to maintain the standard of life you’ve come to expect without investing. However, there may be ways you can passively invest, such as through a 401(k) plan, and let the experts handle things (for a fee). Talk with your advisor.
QUERY: when people owe me money
ANSWER: Ensure they pay.
QUERY: value of 1969 $20 bill
ANSWER: I’m guessing it would be around $20, but hey. Take it into your local coin dealer and check.
QUERY: you have just noticed in the financial pages of the local newspaper that you can buy a $1 000 par value bond for $800.
ANSWER: I have just noticed that my questioner is asking a basic finance question, undoubtedly put to him as part of a homework assignment. Go read the excellent wiki finance page on bonds, in which you can learn about the basics of bond pricing, plus nifty things like consols and Bermuda callables.
QUERY: americans negative net worth percentage
ANSWER: 15 pc or so at any given time.
QUERY: what is the economic impact on consumers when people shoplift from stores
ANSWER: Simply put, it raises the price for everyone else. As such, people who shoplift from honest merchants are godless and wretched, particularly because it gives certain electronics firms an excuse to post proto-fascist goon squads at the entrances to their establishments, demanding to look inside paying customers’ bags as if said customers were felons.
QUERY: asking for the engagement ring back
ANSWER: It might be wise, before engaging on this course of action, to ensure your medical and life insurance policies are up-to-date and active.
QUERY: how to write a cease and desist letter to stop harrassment by a neighbor
ANSWER: First, you should start with a friendly greeting, such as, “Ernest, you rotten bastard.” Then, address your complaint accordingly: “If I ever catch you and your goddam German shepherd anywhere near my property again, I’ll personally cut off your reproductive organs and compost them.” Close with a proper salutation: “Also, stop trying to borrow my lawn mower, you scoundrel.”
QUERY: naughty conversation starters!
ANSWER: I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find “Let’s make out!” a perfectly fine conversation starter in the right circumstance.
QUERY: art of talking to waitress
ANSWER: Well, it’s like how things are in “The Art of Conversation,” an old short released as part of Nick-at-Nite’s “How to be Swell” public-service announcements: “First, you say something. Then, someone will say something back. Nod your head from time to time and try to look interested!”
Oh, just write your number on the receipt like everyone else. She’s busy and has 18 angry customers and Shelly called in sick and she just doesn’t have time to talk with you.
QUERY: i bring not peace but the sword source
ANSWER: Matthew 10:34
QUERY: nicotine withdrawal tingly
ANSWER: That’s your circulation improving! Or a sign your feet are falling asleep. Take precautions accordingly.
QUERY: i was discovered along santa monica s 3rd street promenade then launched april fool s day 1995. starbucks coffee company
ANSWER: As a former area resident, I’m suspicious of anything discovered along the 3rd Street Promenade. I’m doubly suspicious if it involves the Starbucks Coffee Co. Any company that can successfully convince people they should be happy to pay $4 for coffee-flavored beverages is far too powerful for its (and our) own good.
Anyway, that’s it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time, when I address many more pressing issues of the day, such as why Peyton Manning is a candyass. See you then!
I'M HORRIFIED AS USUAL -- just had to mention it. Carry on!
I HAVE BEEN inexcusably late in thanking the good, fine people at Jalopnik, the auto blog (did I mention they're good, fine people?) for linking to my angry rant about those Ford commercials with Taylor Hicks. I'm proud to report their link sent me whole bunches of traffic, including several hits from no less than the Ford Motor Co. Yeah.
(Hi, Ford Motor Co. employees! I wasn't kidding! I'm this close to zoom zoom zooming about in an Isuzu!).
Anyway, one can clearly see the writers and editors at Jalopnik, which is part of the Gawker Media empire of fine publications, are discerning and cultured individuals. Certainly, we at The Rant tip our hats to Jalopnik's hard working scribes, and appreciate their help in the good fight.