Friday, September 28, 2012

Just build it.

I'm getting tired of the rhetoric about the financial woes of the downtown area around the KFC YUM! Center and the failure to produce the expected revenue and tax base. Weary of the blabber about bringing an NBA team to town to share the Downtown Arena with the Cardinals and increasing the number of people downtown.

Just build a casino and watch the dollars roll.

There's room on the riverfront. You may have to move a barge or riverboat....but, hey...they float. No big deal. You want increased traffic flow and pedestrian movement around 2nd and Main?

Just build a casino and see Dick and Jane show up.

The religious right will not like this column. The evils of gambling right here in River City? Wake up and take a look around. Casinos haven't corrupted the morals of people in other states and areas. What are we in Kentucky...gullible sheep?  Show me the correlation of people stopping church attendance once a gaming facility is build nearby. You don't want to gamble? Then don't. You wanna go to church? Have at it. There's no law that says you can't do both.

Let's build a couple of casinos. One at Churchill and one downtown on the river. The rest of the state doesn't like it? Big deal. No one's forcing them to come to Louisville. David Williams doesn't like it? My tears flow. The guy shouldn't be able to dictate the fortunes of the largest city in the state from Burkesville or Frankfort.

We need a mayoral proclamation that this thing is going to happen and a gentle reminder to the rest of the state that it's Louisville's tax base and revenue that helps fund roads in Rineyville and bridges in Boston.

You want more money, y'all? Just build a casino in Louisville an watch your coffers fill.

Ohio is jumping in with both feet. Indiana and West Virginia did it years ago. Just how stupid we are in Kentucky? (don't answer that -- yeah, we're morons.)

We've always resisted things here that have paid huge divididens and reaped rewards in other areas. An huge international airport? Naw...forget it. City-county governmental merger. Took awhile. Bridges that bypass the city and actually improve travel? Surely you jest. We can't even build a full bypass around the city.

It's time to take the heads out of the sand and view reality. Roll the dice, Kentucky. It's a game you'll win.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gone but not forgotten

I got another phone call for Dad yesterday. The "Sarge" has been gone since 2006, but his popularity among the telemarketers for insurance agents, home improvement companies, home security outfits and credit card companies remains strong. This particular call was to inform him that the lawnmower had been diagnosed, problem spotted and how much it would cost to fix it. I explained to the caller that it was I, and not my dearly departed father, who had dropped the grass cutter off and would be picking it up.

My dad did cut the grass for many years, and grudgingly turned the responsibility over to me when he turned 81. For 13 more years, though...he supervised my weekly forays into the yard and rewarded me with a cold beer after the completion of the task. Those were good afternoons, sitting in the garage...sipping beer and talking about whatever crossed our minds. He died on a Tuesday afternoon, I normally cut grass on a Thursday. He was up and around for my lawn maintenance two weeks earlier, before he entered the hospital.

I thought about the call and the other calls he still occasionally receives and decided to do a credit check on him. An hour or so later, I discovered that he still had a fair credit rating, had five accounts with various card-issuing companies still active but no balance remaining on them. I made the appropriate calls to close and cancel these and four out of the five went very smoothly. One of them insisted on a copy of the death certificate before they would close the account. I told him he could drive down here and pick it up.

I decided to run my mom's credit history as well. She passed away in 1998. Two accounts still open, including a positive balance on a credit card that she had overpaid back in 1995. I called and explained. The customer service guy said he'd send a check.

If you have loved ones who have passed, it's not a bad idea to check their previous credit history.

All this reminds me of the time we signed the family Yorkie Bobby up for a credit card.

We're not sure how the caller got his information but we got a call one afternoon from a telemarketer asking for him. I told the called to hold. Bobby was sleeping on his favorite chair and drowsily looked at me when I told him he had a call. It appeared to me that he wasn't interested in taking the call, so I told Dad that Bobby had a call. Dad got a big kick out of this and suggested I find out who it was.

I told the caller that Bobby was interested in who was calling him. And, he may have been. He was always willing to go on walks with people, engage in a tug-of-war with his favorite toy or just submit to a good petting and combing. He told me the name of his company and why he was calling. I asked the caller to hold again and told Dad and Bobby. Dad asked Bobby if he wanted a credit card. Bobby lazily extended a paw toward Dad. We took this for a "yes".

Since Bobby couldn't speak for himself, I offered to get the details. A major credit card, low introductory APR and some other perks that escape my memory now. I urged the caller to continue. It sounded like a great deal for Bobby. After all, what if he was out on a walk and decided he wanted a bottle of water or breakfast burrito? What if he wanted to treat Sarge and I to a beer or a lunch at Dad's favorite restaurant?

We sealed the deal. Two weeks later, Bobby's credit card arrived via mail.

With a credit card comes credit responsibility. Since it was his first card, I sat with him and gave him a lecture on fiscal proprieties, paying off balances and identity protection. He passively listened while chewing on a beef jerky stick.

It was time to go shopping.

He needed dog food and his brush was pretty old, so we decided to go to the pet store where these supplies were available. Pet-friendly store, so he was able to accompany me in the store. We looked at different brushes, got the one that seemed like it was best suited for his coat and picked up a bag of his IAMS dog food. We proceeded to check out. The clerk rang up the purchase, scanned the card and handed me the receipt.

Bobby was now a consumer.

Since he didn't have a checking account and a steady income, Dad paid his first monthly statement for him. I urged Bobby to go out and seek gainful employment. Movie animal, police dog, security patrol...I told him he had several options. His ears perked up, though, when I mentioned that many dogs were used in advertisements and he was a cute fella, so I suggested he develop a resume and get employed.

He also got several more invites for additional credit opportunities. We used the card for several more months at the pet store and also one afternoon when Dad and I went to lunch at Dad's favorite Mexican restaurant.

Margaritas on Bobby!

Then, about a year later..sadly...Bobby passed away. It was my sad duty to mail in that final payment, cut the card in pieces and include a note that Bobby was gone. Dad received several phone calls to extend Bobby credit in the after-life and had to break the sad news of Bobby's demise to the telemarketers.

Bobby had a better credit rating than Dad.

I know that the three of them (Mom, Dad and Bobby) are re-united in the skies above...watching over us and enjoying long walks in heaven.

Pre-approved for a $5,000 credit limit.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Leaving are ya? Safe travels...

I'll admit that I was a bit shocked when I heard the news that Notre Dame was leaving the BIG EAST conference. Yanking out powerful teams in women's basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball and swimming/diving is never good...but these are areas I will get into in my Friday column over at CARDINAL COUPLE.

(If you haven't been there, here's a link below)

CARDINAL COUPLE

Here at this site, I will talk about the overall picture that Notre Dame was, is and will be. Some may disagree with some of my assessments and statements below...and it is your right to do so. Go start a blog an counterpoint me. E-mail me or leave a comment below. Go fly a kite or learn to speak Cantonese. It's your call.

1) Notre Dame was not a football member of the BIG EAST. They won't be in the ACC either. So, basically...they're a part-time employee. Football is the economic engine that drives conference and universities' sports programs. Football has caused most of all the conference re-alignment drama that has transpired over the last several years. Notre Dame refuses to share their Twix bar with the other kids on the block. A cash-rich, tradition rich program that is no longer one of the power-houses of college football or relevant in any national championship discussions. The "Floyd the Barber" of the Mayberry R.F.D. football landscape.

2) Notre Dame has a better women's basketball team than men's team. The poor guys...they'd have some regular season and conference success and then flame out in BIG EAST and NCAA Tournament play. They join a ACC men's basketball conference that will be a challenge. Duke. UNC. Maryland. Syracuse. Traditional top 25 programs and esteemed coaches. A colorful history and proud tradition. Notre Dame will be the "Flounder" of the ACC 'Animal House' in men's basketball. Bring back Digger.

Take that, BIG EAST! 
3) Does it really matter what conference Notre Dame is in? I heard that the BIG 10 was making similar offers to the Irish to pony up with them. The stickler was that they had to join in football also. And, there would be some great football matches in a BIG 10 Notre Dame football alignment. Imagine playing Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State each year. (Sorry, IU fans...this borders on migraine headache time for you and I apologize.) Notre Dame has agree to play a few ACC schools each year in football. Notre Dame vs. Miami, Florida State, Boston College and Virginia Tech do have some appeal. But, the independent tradition remains. It must get lonely up there in that rarefied, non-committal air. Greetings from earth below!

So...so long, goodbye, auf wiedersehen, adieu.

I doubt there will be any tearful, heartfelt goodbyes from the remaining BIG EAST members. I doubt there will be any gala bon voyage parties planned. I would like to see this concept, though. Dress up seven or eight student-athletes and have them perform this little ditty from The Sound of Music and have them perform it at the BIG EAST annual conference meeting in 2014. Link below.  

So long, farewell...

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My afternoon with Ozzy

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It was late Wednesday afternoon. I was preparing to see if I could get the lawnmower started again. A Tuesday attempt proved futile, so I stopped by Sears and got a "tune up" kit...which included a spark plug,air filter, bottle of motor oil and gas stabilizer. I'm not the most mechanical guy but I can successfully operate a screwdriver and adjustable wrench at times and these were the tools required to install the new parts. What'll I'll do with the oil and stablizer, I have no clue...but it was part of the package deal.

Then, the cell phone rang.

The next door neighbor. Frantic. Seems the family dog, Ozzy, had gotten loose from the plastic wire rope that keeps her tied up in the back yard. A call from another neighbor to report the break-out to the neighbor who called me. No one home, the dog meandering aimlessly around the back yard.

Put me in coach.

Sauntering through the neighbor's back yard, I saw the fugitive in the back corner of the yard. Staring at me. No wagging tail. No happy bark of recognition. A menacing growl, though.

Ozzy and I do not get along. It stems back from her barking and charging me one afternoon while I was cutting the grass. An attempted bite. A retaliatory kick in the side from me. Paul 1 - Ozzy 0. A frank discussion with the neighbor and a resulting shortening of the rope so that Ozzy could not reach me when I cut that particular section of the yard. Detente. Battle won but cold war still in existence

Ozzy loves Sonja, but Sonja was at work. As I stood my ground on this hostile turf  (picture Cardinal fans tailgating in Morgantown) I realized I needed a strategy to capture and secure the hostile. Making a slow retreat from the battleground, I returned to the house and searched the refrigerator. Sandwich meat. Yeah, that's the ticket. The old bait and switch.

I returned to the battlefield. Ozzy still in the corner, eyeing me like a safety eyes a wide receiver infringing the secondary. Gentle words, a toss of a slice of processed meat and the slow, wary approach of the escapee toward the offering. A step closer. Another toss of Fischer's best. Another consumption. One more step toward the hostile and another toss. I was now within a few feet of the loose plastic wire rope. No more growling. Another step and another offering. Reaching down slowly, unassumingly to grab the rope and...

Off Ozzy goes, sprinting through the backyard.

She runs around me in circles, barking and pawing. A chance grab of the rope fails. The heck with it. I'm out of sandwich meat. I walk away. Ozzy follows, at a safe distance. I turn, she stops. I walk, she follows. I decide to sit....she does, too. I stand, she stands. This game of chess is full blown now and I try to devise a strategy. I wonder just how far she'll follow me. I walk away again, but this time she stays. I offer a "Good, Girl !" and step towards her. No movement. Another step and she sits. "Stay, girl." She cocks a inquisitive head at me.  I walk to her left, behind her and approach the rope. She watches, almost disinterestedly. I bend down, extend the hand and ! Voila! I grab it. She turns her head and rolls over.

The winning of hearts and minds through feeding.

I tied a nifty sailor's knot to connect the rope again. I leave...battle won and game over. She barks at me once and returns to the shady tree line by the fence. I didn't strut it out, but if there had been someone there with me, I would have offered a fist bump or high five.

This does not mean that Ozzy and I are comrades now. This does not mean that I'll be wasting more processed meat on the canine. I was called into action, engaged the enemy and triumphed.

It's what neighbors do. I call the concerned neighbor with the news. I am thanked.

Buoyed by my victory, I attend to the lawnmower. After several minutes of labor...new parts installed and a yank of the starter rope. Growling, sputtering and then silence. I remember an old trick my dad taught me about spraying the end of the spark plug with starter fluid and reinserting. I have no starter fluid but I dip it in gasoline and reinstall. Same result. A belch, brief roar and then death.

1-1 on the afternoon.

I call "Big Jim"...my yearly lawn mower tune up guy. He's closed for the day but still in the shop. Tells me to bring it in Wednesday. He advises that there is some bad gas out there and he's worked on a few mowers that have had similar problems lately. He assures me he'll have it ready to go in less than a week. A week? You would have thought I called for a prostate check or colonoscopy.

Each day is an adventure, every moment provides the opportunity for surprise, intrigue and mystery.  What lies ahead, we cannot be certain of... but I will offer this sage advice:

Keep a pack of sandwich meat in your refrigerator. Just in case.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11. Let us never forget

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It was on 9/11/01 that the world as we knew it was rocked by the bombing of the World Trade Towers.

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was a salesman back in those days and had just completed taking an order from one of my customers. We were chatting when one of the employees burst into his office and breathlessly told us that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. He had a television in his office and he turned it on.

We sat there for the next couple of hours and watched the horrible events unfold. Employees would walk in, watch for awhile and then leave...some stunned, some crying and all unbelieving that such a thing could take place on our shores.

I didn't get anything else accomplished that morning. As I made my afternoon rounds, it was the obvious choice of conversation among my customers. Terrorism had hit home.

It could happen again.

My late father was an avid radio listener. He sat by his radio in the bedroom that day and listened to the tragic events unfold. I went to visit him after my work day was completed and we discussed the attack. I showed him the crashes on the computer. He expressed amazement that such a thing could happen. We talked about the Pearl Harbor bombing. We talked about the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We watched a special on TV later that evening that recapped the attack. We sat there in silence.

Stunned. Incredulous. Angry.

Later that evening I returned home. My wife and I discussed the events. She was at work as well when the terrorist attack occurred. She talked about a lady in a office she knew, who had a brother that worked in one of the towers. She hadn't heard from him. We found out later that he was at a corporate planning meeting somewhere else in Manhattan that morning and wasn't on site.

I think of the story that Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame's head women's basketball coach, tells. She had been recruiting in New England. She was scheduled to fly out of Boston that morning, on one of the planes that crashed into the twin towers. She had a schedule conflict and could not make the flight. Despite the intense rivalry between Louisville and Notre Dame, I cannot bring myself to cheer against the Notre Dame basketball team.

I remember my trip to New York several years later. Part of a football trip to Connecticut. Viewing ground zero. Going to the church where the first responders and volunteers gathered. Reading the notes, the details. Seeing the fire department patch in a case from my buddy Keith's fire department. He left Louisville a day after the attack to volunteer his services in New York.

I have a neighbor. A young boy. He was not born when the attack occurred. He has heard people speak of it. He asked me a very poignant question.

How could America allow this to happen?

I wish I had the right answer. Let us never forget that there are people who are constantly plotting and organizing for the downfall of our nation. They don't like our lifestyles, our beliefs, our religion and our politics. They will not rest. We cannot afford to, either.

As the years pass by since 9/11, the memories still remain strong. I pray that such horror never again taints our shores. I pray for the end of violence, wars and threats against our way of life. I hope that someday, all nations, all people and all philosophies can exist in peaceful co-existence.

Maybe I'm a dreamer...but, in the words of the late John Lennon, "I'm not the only one".
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Monday, September 10, 2012

Charlie Strong -- The Coach of the future?

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He came to Louisville at one of the lowest ebbs in Louisville Football history. The gridiron giants were getting dwarfed by the rest of the BIG EAST. They were on a three game losing streak to cross-state rival Kentucky. Steve Kragthorpe had disillusioned a fan base, the Cards hadn't "been bowling" since his arrival and Cardinal fans had had enough.

(Photo by Charlie Springer - UofL Card Game)
Enter Charlie Strong. The bridesmaid. The perpetual "candidate not chosen". A strong coaching resume, Florida contacts and a dynamic speaking style. Cardinal fans weren't quite convinced, though. They'd been down this path before.

Strong brought in a close group of assistant coaches. He wore out the public speaking circuit, challenging Cardinal football fans to renew their hope. There were gaps to fill in the program, issues to address and seats to fill in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The prevailing attitude amongst Cardinal fans was "Well, it can't get much worse...can it?"

Charlie spoke of a long term plan to get Cardinal Football back to the top of the BIG EAST standings. Warned us it wouldn't happen overnight. Informed us that he would install a winning attitude in the current and future players. It all sounded good.We'd heard it all before, though.

And, the Cards did return to a over .500 season in his first year. A dramatic win in the Beef O' Brady Bowl over a C-USA opponent in Southern Miss. Getting one of the best quarterbacks in Florida High School football to commit to Louisville. Plenty of other Florida guys were buying in also. It may have been a 7-6 first season record...but to Louisville fans, it was nirvana.

Season two brought more improvement. A win over Kentucky. The development of Mr. Bridgewater and a wealth of talented wide receivers and running backs to accompany him. Another bowl bid...a narrow loss in chilly Charlotte, NC to an ACC middle-of-the-pack school but a second straight bowl game. No longer the second best team in the state. Bigger, faster, more heart and another season over .500. 7-6? The Cards would take it...not satisfied it with but seeing it as another building block in the construction. They went to West Virginia, beat the Mountaineers and looked good in doing it.

Season three saw defensive coordinator Vance Bedford imploring Cardinal fans to "get on the train." A revamped defense, an offensive line that didn't serve as a punch line to a joke. Teddy confident, blossoming into a quarterback that was drawing praise nationally. Pre-season pick to win a temporarily hobbled BIG EAST.

We're two games into this season and two victories notched. A domineering win over the faltering Kentucky Wildcats. A sound thrashing over Missouri State. An offense averaging almost five touchdown a game and a defense allowing less than two.

A horse racing betting theory implies that one should watch out for a horse making its third career start. Especially if the first two showed a little improvement from the first to the second. The same philosophy can be applied to this third-year plan of Charlie Strong for his Cardinals.

Saturday, Sept. 15th. could very well prove to be the acid test for this Cardinal squad. North Carolina comes into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium smarting after a totally unexpected loss to Wake Forest. A Cardinal team looking to show their level of improvement by beating a TarHeel team that effectively shut them down 14-7 last year in Chapel Hill.

We'll see just how far the train that Vance Bedford wants us to board has progressed down the tracks next Saturday. A win could pave the way to a 6-0 UofL start...with patsies FIU, Southern Miss and Pitt next. Road games, yes. Winnable? Yes. And, three straight at home after the road trip.

Charlie, the green light is on and the tracks are clear. How far will this train go? A chance to accomplish something that hasn't been seen in Cardinal football history since 2006...when the Cards started off 8-0.
A chance to fast forward the timetable.

Is Charlie Strong the coach of the future? How many schools will come after the coach, waving more dollars, more prestigious conference affiliations and larger stadiums? The Cards have been traditionally been a stepping stone for aspiring coaches to upgrade (see Howard Schenellenberger, John L.Smith, Bobby Petrino, Vince Gibson and Lee Corso). Past performances have shown that leaving Louisville isn't always in a coaches' best interest. Motorcycles, bankruptcy, failure and goofy appearances on ESPN could happen.

The train could turn into a vehicle of opportunity for the coach who had been been kissed before accepting the Louisville head job. We hope not. Charlie speaks of his love and commitment to the community. He'll speak just as quickly about his daughters' volleyball experiences here in Louisville as he will about the Cardinal defensive strategy. How many third-year coaches have had their face plastered on a Maker's Mark
commemorative bottle (beside Billy Gillespie...whose lips were permanently wrapped around one?)

If they offer, will Charlie go?


Standing on the brink of possible brilliance, ready for the national recognition that behooves success...with feet firmly planted in the now, Charlie Strong is at a crossroads of sorts. In which direction he'll go is hard to say...but, for now, his current path has him strolling down the red and black highway and not consulting a GPS on On-Star.

We hope he doesn't need a road map.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Billy G still an idiot

Gillispie? WTF?

Many years ago in the land of BIG BLUE basketball, a young coach from Texas A&M came in and took over the program. Cats fans love him immediately. He had defeated Louisville in the NCAA Tournament a few weeks before and Tubby Smith, the doomed replacement of Rick Pitino, was finally outta Lexington.

Turns out that UK fans didn't know how well they had it with Tubby.

Billy G. eventually resurfaced in the Lone Star State and continued being an idiot. Now that he's hospitalized
with a stroke/heart attack/not sure....allegations are flying faster than a roadrunner down a dusty Texas road.

All class, BCG...all class. See the link and join the BCG Hate Club with me after reading it.

Coaches are constantly in the hot seat and under public view and scrutiny, I get it. They don't have to be idiots and jerks, though.

Billy would have served Hitler or Mussolini well if he'd been born a generation earlier

Jeez...

Billy the Kid...What Have You Did? .

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A clear winner

Even though the weather leading up to the annual UofL v UK football clash  was cloudy and rainy, it became
clear early into the contest that Louisville was the superior program. A 98 yd. drive for the opening touchdown. Two more drives of over 80 yards leading to the same.

Not that UK really cares.

The emphasis with most UK fans I know is basketball. Seeing if they can repeat as national champions.
Football a reason to tailgate on fall Saturday afternoons and not much else.

This has to be stressful to the head football coach Joker Phillips, the athletic director Mitch Barnhart and those associated with the program. Not that Kentucky has ever been a major power in the gridiron game...but there was a sense of at least being able to go to a bowl game during the Rich Brooks years
and the consecutive wins over Steve Kragthorpe's Cards.

Add that to the fact that the program is currently considered the doormat in the nation's most powerful football conference and you have apathy, disillusionment, disgruntlement, and indifference in a sport that
traditionally is a cash cow for major collegiate institutions.

IF they play it, will the Cats fans come?

Commonwealth Stadium is still the largest venue for non-racing sports events in the commonwealth of Kentucky. Whether it reaches 70,000 again for a football game in the near future or not will depend on a few factors...the opponent, the success of the Cats and the weather.

LOUISVILLE won the 2012 version of football Commonwealth style 32-14. It could have been 53-14 if Charlie Strong hadn't pulled his starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater before the final quarter began. A deference to the plight of his friend Joker? After all, they were on the same coaching staff together a few years back and there's no smoldering rivalry there that exists...unlike the Pitino v. Calipari cold war.

Louisville will travel to Lexington next year to play the Cats in football. Not to open the season, UK doesn't schedule it until the third game of the year. Louisville will be stronger, more experienced, deeper and better. UK may be in the first year of a new head coach. I remember a flyer I was handed several years ago when attending the annual game...which was in Lexington that year. It read 'Dump Mitch and Rich.' UK actually won that year in Commonwealth, Rich retired after leading the Cats to several bowl games and Mitch is still the AD.

What will they hand out at UK games this year?
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