MAY
24

Will $$$ Buy Happiness In College Football For Northwestern?

I couldn’t help but notice that Northwestern has just built the Taj Mahal of practice facilities on its campus, spending $270 million on something that is pretty incredible. The headline on Pete Thamel's story about it on Yahoo.com says "Move over Clemson, Oregon and Alabama ... Northwestern's ridiculous new practice facility is on another level." Then Pete gushes about it even more.

The story raises certain questions (like why didn’t Northwestern invest the money in that dump of a stadium they play in) but will also provoke questions at other schools (like "why don't we have something like this?"). The whole concept that spending that kind of money will gain a competitive edge in college football is something I’m not certain is always true, and many alumni when they’re not winning rationalize the lack of success by saying it’s because other folks have more money, more alumni, more “something we ain’t got.”

So I've gone back 12 years in the world of college football to test a theory, because I believe that no matter how well you've figured anything out in college sports, every 12 years another generation of athletes enters school and there's no guarantee each generation will look at things the same (if you've ever been a parent, you pretty much can guarantee they won't look at things the same). Thus by going back 12 years, you can compare the power players of the last generation to this generation. And I think you do see a trend. 

In 2006, for example, Florida won the National Title. A lot of money, a lot of alumni, great weather, great facilities. They were so good they won the National title again in 2008. But then they dropped to 8-5 in 2010, 7-6 in 2011, 4-8 in 2013, 7-5 in 2014, then had a couple of decent seasons before falling to 4-7 last year. Did the money dry up? Less alumni? Bad weather? No, Urban Meyer left and they hired the wrong coach. Two different times. 

In 2005 Texas won the National Title. A lot of money, a lot of alumni, great facilities. But these are their records starting with 2010: 5-7, 8-5, 9-4, 8-5, 6-7, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6. No less money, no less alumni. But their coach didn't change with the times, then when they made a change, they hired the wrong coach. 

In 2004, USC won the National Title, with all the alumni and money of the others I've mentioned. Then in 2010, they dropped down to ordinary, with records similar to many in the middle of the pack: 8-5, 10-2, 7-6, 10-4, 9-4, 8-6, 10-3 and 11-3 last year. What happened? Pete Carroll left and they hired the wrong coach. In fact, they had 4 different coaches over a 3-year period before Clay Helton survived the battle royale and has held the job the last 2 years. 

Go back a few years to 1998 and Tennessee won it all. They've lost 6 or more games 8 times in the last 11 years. Phillip Fulmer was fired and three times they've hired the wrong coach (now Fulmer’s the AD and has a chance at the rare “double-double” of being the wrong choice as AD who then hired the wrong head football coach; if he somehow can become University president, he could get the even rarer “triple double”).

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MAY
24

Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Goodnight Tampa Bay!

Some sound bites need to be preserved. For example, the call by Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler of Jayson Werth's walkoff home run in Game 4 of the 2012 playoffs for the Nationals is still on my cellphone. If I ever need a smile or a few goosebumps on my arms, I play it. It just never gets old.

John Walton's call last night of the final seconds of the Caps Game 7 win over Tampa to return to the NHL Finals for the first time in 20 years qualifies for that sort of preservation as well. True, it wasn't as dramatic since the score was 4-0, but Walton has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of this franchise and blended all of that in to his final call.

"The pain and anguish that so many of us have felt over the last 20 years and throughout the Ovechkin era," Walton shouted, "...the puck drops...and that is gonna do it. Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Goodnight Tampa Bay, The Washington Capitals are the 2017-2018 Eastern. Conference. Champions!"

Pure poetry.

I only listened to him say this about a dozen times this morning. So click on the video to hear it a few times yourself...

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MAY
24

Even The Squire Is Probably Celebrating Caps' Game 7 Win

It's been about 45 days since I last posted anything, and a lot of it had to do with the Washington Capitals. They were taking us all on an emotional roller coaster ride, and quite frankly, I was at the superstitious point of thinking anything I said would jinx them one way or the other.

Well, the strategy worked, and you can thank me later.

The last few years I have had reasonable hope the Caps would get past the second round and finally win a Stanley Cup. Obviously that didn't happen, but this year I KNEW not to get emotionally involved, thinking this team just wasn't all that good and no chance at the Cup.

Wrong again.

Now we will be playing hockey in June in Washington. And the story lines are springing forth like lies from a politician's mouth. My favorite is that after years of hearing George McPhee (former Caps GM) say he's working hard to put together a team that could win a Stanley Cup, he's actually going to be involved in doing so for the Caps, although it's because he's the GM of the opponent in the finals.

But that's for next week. For today, it's a great day to be alive and bask in the glory of finally not losing a crucial Game 7. I feel so good, I think Jack Kent Cooke has temporarily taken over my soul :) 

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Today's Caps Headlines Aren't Exactly Inspiring Confidence

Well, tonight it starts.

The Washington Capitals open the National Hockey League playoffs at home in just a few hours against Columbus. The Washington Post has already filled me with tremendous optimism thanks to such headlines as “Caps Goal Is To Exceed Reduced Expectations” and “Trotz Isnt Secure and He Might Need A Deep Run To Stay”, although they almost got to the glass being half full instead of half empty with “Caps Changed Their Approach and They Might Have a Shot.” Nothing fires up a fanbase like knowing they "might" have a shot.

Even the Columbus newspapers know the torture the Caps have put us through, as the headline on their lead columnist’s story is “Capitals fans know all about playoff pain.”

Yes. We. Do. And no, the columnist is not dressed like Captain Obvious. But he could be.

My goal is to just not end up like the crying kid in the Caps jersey you see in the picture like I do every year. That might as well be my avatar the last 20 years as I start out so optimistic, then we lose games we shouldn’t, lose series we are favored in, and God forbid a game go into double or triple overtime. All that means is I’ll stay up until 2 AM, then go to bed cursing “why did I stay up this late to see this? You KNEW this would happen.”

But enough about the past. This is a new season. A clean slate. I’m putting on the Caps sweater at 7 and will start my delusions immediately afterward. In fact, I’ve already started them, interpreting Pittsburgh’s 7-0 shellacking of Philadelphia last night as a trend that will lead to the Pens being so overconfident when they sweep the Flyers, they will be ripe for the taking in the second round.

Drink with me, folks. It could happen. Stanley Cup or bust…

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Dave

Update: The Caps blew it, losi...

There is a noticeable lack of optimism now among the Caps faithful....
Friday, 13 April 2018 2:02 AM
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Welcome To National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day....

Since every day is apparently national SOMETHING day (yesterday it involved pets), today we honor melted cheese between two slices of bread: National Grilled Cheese Sandwich day.

I always wondered who decides these things, because there’s a national day for just about every kind of food, animal or occupation imaginable. And there are far more than 365 foods, animals or occupations, so clearly there’s some overlap.

I struggle with grilled cheese because if I’m going to invest a lot of cheese, a flour-based product like bread and grill/bake it, I’m going to  make a pizza. It’s is nature’s perfect food, and why mess with what God has already perfected?

But there are times when a toasted grilled cheese sandwich – served with a mandatory bowl of tomato soup – can be pleasing. My issue, as is the case with everything I cook, is I use too many ingredients. I have to have significant amounts of American cheese, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, and if I have any in the refrigerator, provolone. As a separator, I will put a thin slice of ham between the various types of cheese, and occasionally will even add a few thin slices of pepperoni.

See? I end up making a pizza again.

I Googled the topic to see just how serious people take this manufactured holiday, and the answer is pretty serious. The first story to pop up is titled “9 ways to honor National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on Thursday.” Of course it’s from a newspaper in Milwaukee, and in Wisconsin they do take their cheese extremely serious. But with that kind of reverence, you’d almost think they have a “Tomb Of The Unknown Cheese Curd” or something there too.

So enjoy National Grilled Cheese Day...until tomorrow...when it's National Peach Cobbler Day...Blame Someone Else Day...International Skeptics Day...and Friday the 13th...

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Hey FB: Forget Artificial; Show Some REAL Intelligence

Following Mark Zuckerberg the last few days testifying here in D.C. has been entertaining to say the least. A lot of it is just political theater, but there have been moments that make you think this is all the plot of some bad, bizarre science fiction novel.

Take for example, these three situations where Zuckerberg struggles to give any sort of a direct answer (which generally means “I know the answer but I don’t want to tell you”):

  • When a user deletes their account, does the account actually get deleted and completely wiped off the server? Twitter users described Zuckerberg’s response as similar to the way Chester Cheetah stutters in answering questions in commercials. I’m going to take that lack of a direct answer as a “no, the info does not get completely wiped off the server.”
  • When a person logs off Facebook, does this mean Facebook is no longer connected to a user’s browser? Zuckerberg’s tapdancing on this was really interesting because if a program I have terminated still stays in my browser and looks around, it’s not a program. It’s a virus. And since it’s Facebook, all users have already allowed it to come through the firewall and anti-virus protection. There’s nothing to stop it. Don’t think it happens? Search for something when you’re logged off. Then notice how Facebook miraculously shows you an ad for the same thing the next time you log on.
  • Does Facebook accumulate information on people who have not even signed up for a Facebook account? Zuckerberg gave an answer that is basically “yes,” saying they need to do so for various reasons. As an example, if you allow Facebook to access your contacts, they’ll build what Zuckerberg calls a “profile” of each whether they have a Facebook account or not. Click on a link to a story on Facebook and you don’t have an account? They’ll grab info on your IP address, computer, phone, etc. and eventually match it up to other information they’ve gotten. Why? Because it’s what they do: gather and sell personal information.

But the part that really made me think of Zuckerberg as more like “Dave” in 2001: A Space Odyssey, was his insistence on Artificial Intelligence saving Facebook and the world. Indeed, there is actually a headline in The Washington Post this morning that says “Zuckerberg says AI will solve Facebook’s problems.”

Which is kind of frightening.

Artificial Intelligence is nothing new. It can be looked at much like you’d perceive an actuarial table on steroids. An AI program gathers as many facts as possible about a particular subject, then with the help of an algorithm, uses all the past factors as a way to predict a present or future situation. Us old-timers call it “experience,” but AI systems don’t sleep, eat French fries, or have senior moments.

In non-subjective areas, I can see how it would be invaluable. But in subjective areas, it can have limitations. And quickly yesterday, someone by the name of Jon Stewart Mill on Twitter presented a thread (he also links to this article to back up his thoughts) showing just how wrong all of that could go:

  1. Here's a serious worry about AI. When AI is allowed to do its thing based on standard statistics, social justice activists see the results as being "biased," when in fact they just represent reality (as indicated by the data, at least).
  2. How do you "correct" this fake "bias"? Introduce real bias. Make the AI begin with a warped picture of reality or a messed up value function. Make the AI actually racist, sexist, etc. That will be really messed up. Could it happen?
  3. SJWs now have serious power in tech, as we know. When Big Tech brings in "ethicists" or "ethical consultants," you can bet they'll be SJWs. The programmers themselves, who may not be SJWs won't have a say on this.
  4. The SJWs will make the programmers design the relevant AI's so that it gets them the "non-biased" results they want. Disaster and injustice will ensue.

So what he’s saying is if you analyze all the facts and they don’t say what you want it to say, some might change the formula until it does. Is that possible? Certainly. Could the AI Zuckerberg develops possibly have a particular bias so a preferred message shows up on everyone’s timelines and ones he disagrees with don’t? I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Could other media outlets use the same program if it were offered? Who knows?

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National Pet "Day"? How About National Pet "Year"?

Today, I have been informed by social media, is National Pet Day. Which is kind of strange to me, because in my house, every day is National Pet Day.

Our house is owned and operated, 24/7, by two criminals named Doodle and Schoodle. They are bichon frises, which I can only guess is French for “stubborn and hungry.” They do what they want, when they want, and are blessed by being in the same house with the world’s greatest enabler, my wife.

These dogs are treated so well, my goal in life is only to be treated as well as the SECOND dog. I’ve long given up on ever obtaining lead dog status.

My wife and I have always been dog people, so we’ve always had one in the house most of our lives. Before moving here in 2000, we lived in High Point, NC and had the greatest dog of all time, a black lab named Butch. In his youth, there was no dog more obedient, as I could tell him to stay, go upstairs and be gone for a half hour, then return and Butch was still patiently sitting.

This, however, all faded away when the requirements of my job called for me to travel more and more, leaving my wife and Butch home together alone. Somehow, someone started teaching Butch the rules were for other animals. I’d be sitting on a sofa watching a show and Butch would just take a “don’t mind if I do” attitude and help himself up on the unoccupied space. Commands of “stay” turned Butch into the RCA Victor dog, as he turned his head and gave a quizzical look as if to say “you talking to me?”

That “someone” was revealed when Butch and I were out in the front yard one day. Butch had decided my instructions to him to not drift away from me were more of a suggestion than a rule, and when something caught his interest down the street, he took off. With Butch, if he chose not to listen to the calling of his name, one other thing always drew him back: the offer of a “treat,” particularly “cheeeeeese.”

As I called to Butch, asking if he wanted some “cheeeeeese” a voice rang out from an upstairs window, shouting “Don’t do it Butch. It’s a trick!” That “someone” had been unmasked.

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These Are Not Autographs You Will See For Sale On Ebay

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Mitchell Gold, and in it I mention that I ended up getting a chair autographed by both Mitchell AND his dog. Some found that a little unusual.

“That’s not the only thing unusual about my Dad,” would be my daughter’s response.

But I will grant you that I do look at the whole autograph deal a little different than most. I have some sports memorabilia – an autographed picture of Julius Erving in a Virginia Squires jersey, a throwback Redskins helmet (the gold one with the big “R”) signed by Sonny Jurgensen, and a Virginia Tech helmet signed by Frank Beamer and Michael Vick.

The first one I ever pursued was Erving. I grew up in Norfolk watching the brief tenure of pro basketball in the area, and Erving was amazing. At the same time, Jurgensen was the quarterback for the Redskins, and at the age of 13, I thought he was the best quarterback of all time (still do, for that matter).

But it was Erving who soured me on any further sports hero worship. Later in life in the late 1990s, a great friend and business partner knew one of the then-minority owners of the Orlando Magic, and Erving worked for the team at the time. My friend and I were in Orlando, so he arranged for us to get tickets to the Magic game that night and meet my childhood idol.

Sometime in the second quarter, we were told if we went back to the hospitality room, Erving was there. I was introduced to him, told him how much I enjoyed watching him as a kid, and he gave me one of those “Um, yeah…nice to see you…” and walked away. Erving owed me nothing, so I suppose I should not have been annoyed by the 13 seconds of gruffness he provided. But it did tarnish some of those childhood memories, and served as a warning to me if I wanted to keep enjoying those memories, don’t meet those people in person.

Such was the case with Jurgensen, who by all accounts I’ve heard is a great guy. Several of the autographed items I have came from doing charity work for the Washington Redskins Alumni Association, as the director at the time knew I liked him and obtained them. He also offered to introduce me whenever Sonny was at Redskins Park, so I asked if it would end up being like my deal with Erving.

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Recent Comments
Chris G.

Best QB of all time????

I personally think it's Joe Montana, but Sonny?? On the Eagles all-time list alone, he's behind Randall Cunningham (Plastic Man p... Read More
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 8:08 PM
Dave

I think you've had one cheeses...

Sonny could read defenses and find open receivers better than anyone in his prime and did it on a bad team. To say he's only the s... Read More
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 9:09 PM
Chris G.

He's not better than Randall.....

or Van Brocklin who won a championship---or McNabb...... could he have done what Nick Foles did???? He couldn't have done the Phi... Read More
Wednesday, 11 April 2018 12:12 AM
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Back In The Day, You Could Disagree & Still Respect Someone

One of the great things about having a child is realizing they have no idea what you’ve done in life. It’s as if they think you’ve never left the house, and if you did, you certainly didn’t meet anyone interesting.

Such was the case Sunday when my daughter was reading The Washington Post Magazine. The cover story was about a businessman and gay activist by the name of Mitchell Gold, and I mentioned I’d like to read it to see how he was doing.

“You KNOW him?” my daughter asked, as if I had just grown a second head.

“Of course I do,” I replied, as apparently my daughter didn’t notice I had left the house for 25 years and worked in the furniture industry, allowing me to meet a lot of interesting people, including one Mitchell Gold. “He and I never got along, but he’s a good guy. He even built a piece of furniture for us that he customized just for you.”

Since she was 5 at the time, I suppose it was fair she didn’t totally recall all of that. So I began telling her the story of Mitchell Gold, and it immediately bought to mind how different times are from way back then. These days, you couldn’t disagree with someone the way Mitchell and I did back in 2000 and survive.

That’s because according to the rules of social media today, it seems that if you disagree with someone, they have to die. You have to destroy them. There is no middle ground. They need to lose their job, lose their career and be branded with a scarlet letter if you have a different view. Disliking them and respecting them at the same time is not allowed.

Mitchell and I managed to do both. It’s not that we didn’t care for each other because of politics, issues or anything like that. We were just two hard-headed people who liked doing things our own way. When I was named to be president of a company in Los Angeles called The Wexford Collection (a division of Rowe Furniture) Mitchell was already an established star at a sister company that bore his name. It seemed like I had just landed at LAX when the emails from him started, suggesting how I should run the company. Not surprisingly, we immediately clashed.

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