Friday, February 29, 2008

30 Teams in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles

Welcome to FreezeFire's new series, 30 teams in 30 days. If you've got it available, play a song that makes you feel like you're on a road trip. I personally recommend Open Road by Bryan Adams. We'll start in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles

A look back: The Maryland Birds failed to win 70 games last year, but for the ninth time in 10 years, the Baltimore Orioles managed to finish in fourth ahead of the luckless Tampa Bay Rays. But the Orioles have acknowledged that they’re rebuilding, and have jettisoned some of their more recognizable pieces. That will make the Orioles better in the long run, but it will probably also make them the worst team in the AL East in 2008.

Positives on the field: Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora are still around, giving Baltimore two solid hitters. Ramon Hernandez is a decent catcher. Brian Roberts is a fine second baseman, but he’s likely to be moved any day now. That leaves the Orioles with several young players in the other spots, or several stopgap veterans. That’s not a way to win games, no matter how good Adam Jones is. Markakis may be asked to do too much, and could have a sub-par season as a result.

On the pitching side, Jeremy Guthrie is a fine starter, and Jamie Walker’s solid at the back of the bullpen. But Guthrie is no ace, and the Orioles won’t get Walker many opportunities. There are far too many questions for Baltimore.

Positives off the field: The Orioles are discussing moving their spring training operations to Vero Beach, Fla., once the Los Angeles Dodgers leave. That would make Baltimore’s spring training a required experience for an O’s fan, no matter how bad the Birds are.

Negatives: Where to begin? The Orioles’ projected rotation consists of Guthrie, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen, Steve Trachsel and Hayden Penn. That could be a good rotation…someday. But that time is not this year. Guthrie is not an ace, Cabrera is a head case, Loewen and Penn are very young and Trachsel is on the back end of his career. There’s not much to like about Baltimore’s pitching.

On the hitting side, the four and five hitters are projected as Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff. That won’t win in the American League at any point in their careers. Dave Trembley will need time after the Orioles have decided to wave the white flag on 2008.

Outlook: Baltimore wasn’t going to compete in the AL East anyway, not with Boston as the defending champion, New York and Toronto coming back strong and Tampa Bay looking like it has improved. So it made sense for the Orioles to blow it up and start again. As long as this becomes a one-time thing that results in building and not becoming the Marlins, it will benefit Baltimore in the future. But this year will be painful for Baltimore. 100 losses is likely.

Projected finish: 5th in AL East. Season opener is March 31 at Camden Yards against Tampa Bay.

Spring base: Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The team plays almost all of its games on the East Coast of Florida.

Fan of the team?: Check out Camden Chat, an Orioles blog and fan community.

Come back tomorrow: Tomorrow we take a look at the team with the name change, the Tampa Bay Rays.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Bryan Adams.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ecstasy to agony

The Wednesday theme was supposed to be soft news. But the Wednesday theme sucks. So I'm junking it. Honestly, I just wanted an excuse to blog about my air bed.

Now, on to tonight's topic. Most of you have no idea about this situation, which involves two Virginia schools that I covered in December and January. Throughout the year, Stonewall Jackson had dominated every team it faced. The Raider girls were undefeated in the regular season and their district tournament. Potomac had struggled with injuries most of the year, and entered with double-digit losses. As you might expect, nobody gave the Panthers any chance against the Raiders in the first round of the regional tournament. In fact, a fellow journalist who also covered Stonewall privately told me after the Raiders thrashed Battlefield that Stonewall would not lose a game before the state tournament.

So of course, a tip-in by Potomac at the buzzer gave the Panthers a 60-59 win over the Raiders. In the blink of an eye, an undefeated season is gone, and it means absolutely nothing. Game over. Season over. For Stonewall's seniors, dream over. Meanwhile, Potomac is one win from the state tournament despite having to fight hard to even make it in as the second seed from its district.

This is the reality of sports, fortunes can change in an instant. Strangely, the reality hits hardest at the amateur level, where one postseason loss can turn a fantastic year into disaster for the top teams. The professional sports don't have that. The NFL has that reality of one loss ending a year, but if they so choose, each player can come back and try again next year. They choose their eligibility, or if they want to go somewhere else. The other three sports give multiple options. For an NCAA team to win the national title, it must go 6-0 in the postseason. An NBA team can go 16-12 and win the title.

At that same level, the reality divides into elite and underdog. The underdog is happy to still be playing, taking pleasure in every unexpected success. The elite set their sights on the title from the beginning. For them, anything short of making the highest level is a disappointment.

It is both the blessing and the curse of being on a top team. When an athlete plays for a poor team, the pressure is almost none. You simply enjoy the game, and losses don't tend to hurt as much as they would for a good team. On a team that has a chance to win everything, every loss is a blow. The pressure is fun, and the success enjoyable, but defeat is a terrible experience. Either way, there are positives and negatives.

That's why amateur athletics are such an important part of our culture, they bring out the most human emotions. This Stonewall-Potomac game was a reminder of why we love March Madness, why we love struggles with everything on the line. It's who we are.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Seven Wiser.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Deadline Deals

The hockey trade deadline has now come and gone. This tends to be right up there with baseball for excitement in terms of deadlines, because football's comes at Week 6 and the NBA has a stupid soft salary cap that nobody can figure out. Hockey has a hard cap and comes at the perfect time. Here's my look at who won and who lost:


Pittsburgh Penguins- The Penguins were aggressive again at the deadline, as they believe they can win the Cup. While the Devils stood still, Pittsburgh added Marian Hossa at little cost to them, plus Hal Gill from Toronto. The knock on Hossa is that he played on all those Ottawa Senators teams that choked in the playoffs. Is he tough enough to be Pittsburgh's missing piece? That will determine just how good this deal was.

Washington Capitals- The Southeast is so weak that it pushed Washington into thinking it was a buyer, and it's hard to argue that now with the haul the Caps brought in. Washington adds forward Sergei Federov and goalie Cristobal Huet, plus Vancouver's Mike Cooke. The Capitals probably won't win the Cup, but nor will they be an easy out.

Dallas Stars- Brad Richards was a great move. The 2004 Conn Smythe winner should give Dallas the offense it needs to help Marty Turco put the playoff demons behind him and lead the Stars deep into the playoffs. Dallas has become a serious threat to win the Cup, one of several in the West.


Eastern Canada: What were the Habs, Sens and Leafs doing? Toronto was handcuffed by Mats Sundin's selfish refusal to allow himself to be rented for pieces that can help the Leafs. Aside to Sundin now that the deadline has passed: Free agency implies that you can sign with anyone after the year, you could have easily re-upped with a better Toronto team. Montreal forgot it was a buyer and dumped Huet to Washington, while picking up nobody. That'll finish the Habs off. As for Ottawa, the Sens added grit with Martin Lapointe, but they needed to solve the goaltending problems, which they failed to do. Not a good day for Canadian teams in the East.

New Jersey Devils: While the Penguins got aggressive, the Devils did nothing, watching Pittsburgh establish itself as a contender. New Jersey's got a strong team in place already, but are they really that confident that this year's version is that much better than the one the Senators waxed last year in the second round?

Detroit Red Wings: Ditto for the Wings, who watched Anaheim, Dallas, Minnesota and San Jose all improve their chances of sending Detroit home with another disaster. When you're as dominant as the Wings have been, you don't think you need much, but everything starts again in April, and Detroit usually folds in April.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Jack Ingram.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The life and Times of John McCain

As most of you know, John McCain found himself at the center of controversy when a New York Times story suggested that McCain might have had an affair with one of his aides, Vicki Iseman. The Times followed up with a column that stated the story was about McCain's recklessness and disregard for others' opinion of him, and how it could hurt his chances for the presidency.

For years, the New York Times has been the gold standard along with the Washington Post in terms of print journalism. It has great credibility with its readers and journalists who work for other papers. It has great credibility with sources. It has its detractors, but these are few and far between for the most part. For the last 80+ years, the Times has been IT in terms of journalistic integrity.

That's why this is appalling. The Times might have followed up with a column that gave a full explanation, but as the most trusted newspaper there is, the Times has got to know how that story is going to read. I agree with the Times that it had to be mentioned in some capacity, because the information was essential to understanding why McCain's advisors were concerned about his situation.

But a paper, any paper, has to make sure that what they say can be taken in only one way. If the American public can interpret something as scandalous, it usually will. The Times has to know this. The paper has earned credibility by checking and double-checking its work to make sure it is both clear and accurate. That allows it to survive the occasional mistake, but the paper has to do better than that. Because it is the gold standard, the Times is held to the highest standards, and something confusing just isn't good enough for it.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Nickel Creek.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Welcome to the wild, wild Midwest

After a Sunday where everyone in the Big 12 played, nothing is settled except that Texas is good, Colorado is not, and the other 10 all have strengths and flaws. There are three teams that can probably feel safe: Texas, Kansas and Kansas State. Everyone else is at least two games behind those three teams. Barring a complete pratfall, K-State will finish 10-6 or better since the Wildcats play Colorado and Iowa State, along with KU and Texas.

So there's three solid teams. Texas A&M is crumbling, and could cost itself a bid. Home losses to Oklahoma State and Nebraska impress nobody. A&M could easily lose out since it has to go to Baylor and Oklahoma, along with hosting Kansas (the other game is Texas Tech). That would probably knock the Aggies out of the NCAAs.

If A&M falters, Baylor and Oklahoma are both in great shape. Oklahoma will have the better case since it beat Baylor twice. But Baylor now has a signature win after beating K-State. Being completely honest, the Bears should not lose again until the conference tournament. That would make Baylor 22-8, and that should get the Bears in. Oklahoma must beat A&M at home. Other than two over Baylor, the Sooners' best win all year is Gonzaga. While 20 wins normally gets you in, it didn't for K-State last year. Oklahoma must beat A&M to feel completely sure going to Kansas City.

As for the rest? With the least losses, Nebraska probably has the best chance, albeit a long shot. Wins over Arizona State and Oregon look good, but a loss to Colorado looks bad. Nebraska needs to hold serve at home and beat either Oklahoma State or Texas on the road to have a shot. Win both and win a game in KC, I'd have to say Nebraska belongs for sure. But I doubt it happens.

Oklahoma State is sizzling right now, but a loss to Missouri would give all that momentum back, and the Cowboys are an NIT team anyway. Same for Missouri, despite the tough schedule. Texas Tech might not win another game in the regular season. Iowa State is in the same boat, and Colorado is Colorado.

So, my outlook for the Big 12 at this point is that five bids are likely, six is possible. Texas, KU and K-State are in (barring a collapse), Baylor and Oklahoma looks good. Texas A&M controls its own destiny, but if it slips, the door opens for Nebraska. No matter what, it's going to be a fun ride. Unless people comment telling me this is what they want, this won't be a regular posting, but I will start commenting on conferences more frequently.

While I have you here, I'd like to tell you about Freeze Fire's upcoming series: 30 teams in 30 days. It's a month-long preview of Major League Baseball, leading up to the American season opener in Washington between the Braves and Nationals. It starts on February 29th, and I'll lead off with the American League East, the division I know best. Don't worry, other posts will still be coming up to go along with the series. Enjoy.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy The Used.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy birthday, Mike

This is normally a spot where I talk about some kind of news in sports, or politics, something along those lines. But today is no normal day. Today would have been my father Mike Angell's 49th birthday.

At 14, you don't expect to lose your father, and you really don't know what you have until you lose that relationship. But death is not the end of the relationship. Since his passing, my father has given to me in many ways. One of the most obvious is the re-opening of his side of the family. Due to personality conflicts, I grew up having seen my aunts and uncles on my father's side once, maybe twice in 14 years. One aunt lived in the next county, and I had never seen her. That changed once my father was no longer around. I've often wondered if giving that gift to make our family complete was the reason for that.

It wouldn't shock me if that was the case. Mike wasn't someone who saw his own successes as being more important than those he cared about. His sports teams certainly displayed that. As a fan of the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns, he saw the Browns win an NFL title in 1964, then never saw Cleveland reach a Super Bowl in 43 years of life. In the last 13 years, two of his sons (obviously not me) have a combined four Super Bowl titles. He never saw his Indians win a World Series. I have two titles from my Blue Jays.

But that wasn't what mattered most to him. He cared most about spending as much time as he could with those that mattered to him. That was the reason for the family firewood business. Although we hated having to split wood all day long, (as a result, I hate snow to this day) we did it because he wanted to spend as much time with his family as possible. He had a normal job for years, one where his bosses enjoyed having him. But that cut into his time with the family, so he decided to build his firewood business from something he did on the side into a way of life.

From making deliveries to his friends and neighbors, he expanded to include restaurants throughout the Washington D.C. and Baltimore metro areas. He added accounts that he knew he couldn't get to frequently without spending much of his time on the road, then added partners local to those areas to share the revenue with. He understood his business and was determined. An example can be found in California Pizza Kitchen. When he first started to add restaurants by taking a contract with The Italian Oven, he had his eyes set on the more famous CPK chain from the start. About a year after adding The Italian Oven, he had not only taken on barbecue chain Red River, but had nine California Pizza Kitchens receiving firewood from him once a week. From there, the business expanded to include Carrabba's, Macaroni Grill, Famous Dave's barbecue and Red Hot and Blue, plus other smaller places. For the Red Hot and Blue account, he had things figured out so well that he had a free order of potato salad written into his contract every time he made a delivery to any of his RH&B restaurants. (Later, I had a free peanut butter pie written into my contract. Then it was discontinued. I wasn't as good at this as he was.)

But although I might not be as good at that, I think I've got the determination, and that's what's led me to the Trentonian. I know he had something to do with that, and I know that I'm making him proud by doing what I'm doing. One thing Mike knew how to do was push for talent. From the beginning, he was on me to do well in class because he thought I do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. Now I am doing what I love. He pushed Simon just as hard in baseball, and Simon was the second-best player in the district his senior year.

Everything I do, I do to honor him. I'm proud to be his son and grateful for all I've received because of him.

My time is up. You've all been great. In honor of Mike, enjoy Merle Haggard.

Backhanded soft news

So Wednesday is quickly becoming the day that I don't end up posting anything. So, what do I talk about today? Probably one of the biggest time-wasters ever: reality television.

The way I look at it, there aren't many good things about reality television. Most of the drama and fights are artificial, caused by the premise behind the show. Plus, a lot of them just seem pointless to me. There is no appeal to me watching people try to live without technology on Survivor. I can't say I believe the show, I remain convinced they hand these players a feast after the cameras stop rolling. As for the shows with no game element whatsoever, I just don't care. I don't need or want to see how average people live with each other in a mixed situation. I can already see that in real life.

To date, I have found only two reality shows that I like: The Apprentice and The Mole. I think probably the main reason these shows have made my short list is because the drama is not the focal point of the show. Although the drama is huge for The Apprentice, the main focus is what goes on in the business tasks, save for last week's episode when Piers Morgan got trashed by a demon named Omarosa for the entire episode. My Lenten resolution was to reduce my cursing, so I won't call her what she deserves.

As for The Mole, the show is dramatic enough because of the challenges, and there's no need for additional drama. That doesn't mean that it doesn't happen, because some games bring out undesired emotions, and tough losses amplify emotions. But the lack of drama is making a return this summer: ABC is planning to bring The Mole back without celebrities, who ruined the game the first time out. All I have to say about that one is that I really hope they bring in the right host. When a game forces you to think, it's great to watch, and a good host can really make it worthwhile.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Amanda Wilkinson.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Time to go, Kelvin

Kelvin Sampson's Indiana Hoosiers knocked off Purdue tonight, putting the Hoosiers in first place and giving them a bittersweet win over their most bitter rival. Bittersweet, because that might have been Kelvin Sampson's final game as the Hoosiers' coach. It's a little too late.

As big of a jerk as I think Bob Knight is and was, (and I do, as evidenced here.) he didn't cheat at Indiana. IU fans pride themselves on that fact. The Hoosiers never get probation, and they are seen as one of the few things in college basketball that has little negative. So it's a punch in the gut that Sampson cheated...again. This time he did it as the coach of Indiana, and Hoosiers fans are outraged. They should be.

But why is he still coaching this team? Sampson should have been suspended as soon as these allegations surfaced unless Indiana was darn sure that he was innocent. Because they investigated it, it's obvious that Indiana is not convinced of their coach's innocence. So why let him keep coaching? The answer is simple: it's because Sampson's team is leading the Big Ten. There's no other explanation. If he didn't have a great shot at a title, the obvious move is to remove him as coach, because IU has nothing to lose. But if he's innocent and Indiana deprives him of a shot at coaching a team to a title, he'd be upset, and justifiably so. He'd be a lock to leave.

But to be honest, I think Sampson's as innocent as Roger Clemens, making this a risk Indiana could afford to take. If it backfired, so what? At least the Hoosiers would have done the right thing, and kept their integrity. Instead, they've left it to be questioned, and that could really backfire on them, especially if the NCAA takes this into account.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Summercamp.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Andy Pettite shows class

Welcome to another post at Freeze Fire, and today the subject is Andy Pettite. Basically, this was the complete opposite of Roger Clemens. Pettite admitted he had made a mistake, explained why he made said mistake and asked for forgiveness from the fans he let down with his actions.

Contrast that with Clemens, who played a tape of a conversation with Brian McNamee while never asking him to tell the truth. Clemens's story fell apart as his friend Pettite and wife Debbie both gave testimony that backed up what McNamee was saying. In a matter of hours, Clemens went from maybe being credible to it being more likely that Ron Paul would win the presidency than that Clemens was telling the truth.

That's what this is all about. Two men who cheated, to put it in black and white. One of those men continued to deny, deny, and blames everyone but himself, even if that means throwing his wife and friend under the bus. In the process, he makes himself look like a whiny 6-year-old desperate for anything he can use to save himself from trouble. The other man was honest from the beginning after he was accused of use of HGH. He took all the blame himself, calling the action stupid and desperate. Basically, he showed a level of maturity that his friend and ex-teammate still has not mastered.

Yes, Andy Pettite used illegal substances. But today is not the day that he should be crucified for that action. He told the truth from the beginning, and in doing so, he kept his honor. For that, he deserves our respect.

The question now becomes what the Yankee clubhouse thinks of this. New York can't afford to let this become a distraction. The Yankees will need Pettite to be what they asked him to be when they signed him: a reliable No. 2 starter who can win the Yankees some games. If he becomes a distraction to players like Derek Jeter, who has shown nothing but class as the Yankee captain--with the possible exception of the A-Rod situation.

But this may be Jeter's toughest challenge as the Bronx Bombers' captain yet. Jeter must keep the clubhouse together in the wake of this situation, which has yet to show how Pettite will be received. I say this is Jeter's challenge because manager Joe Girardi has not had this kind of pressure before. He was a manager for one Florida, which is essentially no pressure at all. New York is the most intense pressure in baseball, especially in this borough. So Jeter must help his manager shoulder the load. If he can't do it, there's a team to the north waiting for any opportunity the Yankees would give them if New York slips in any way.

Oh, I'm not talking about the Red Sox there, they're the favorite in the division already. I'm referring to Toronto.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy City Sleeps.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I don't understand Nascar

As you might know, the Daytona 500 is tomorrow. To be completely honest, I couldn't care less. It's just cars going around in a circle for a certain amount of laps to me. I know that many people care who wins and will watch every bit of the race. But I don't really understand why.

First, I don't see what the appeal of watching is. There aren't highlights, there aren't fantastic plays. If you watch a baseball game, you're going to see a home run, a great piece of hitting or a nice defensive play. Football, you'll see a great catch or a sack. Hockey, a great shot or an even better save. Even though I hate the dunk, basketball has that moment of excitement for those who love it. Even tennis will have an absolutely gorgeous shot at the end of a rally. A car race has what, exactly?

Second, I don't understand the concept of teams. They compete against each other. They help each other a little, but for the most part, they're competing against each other to try for individual glory. The team is basically pointless, because it's an individual victory and an individual responsible for the win. So why even have the concept of teams if its members are going to compete against each other as well as everyone else? It's foreign to me.

Third, I'll be honest...watching the "sport" is the equivalent of watching rush hour. You can see everything these cars can do on any given interstate at 5:00 p.m., and it's usually more entertaining. The only difference is that the speed is divided by half, but the aggression of the drivers is the same. If I ever get the urge to watch a Nascar race, I'll just go out to I-70 with my beach chair and get comfortable. Basically, it'll be more entertaining.

But I guess it's just a world I'm not supposed to understand. That's okay, because I don't have to. Luckily for me, NBC has the good sense to put on a hockey game between Detroit and Dallas. If the game sucks, I've got a Playstation 2, I can always use that. Either way, I won't be watching this race.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Waiting for Evangeline.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Arlen Specter, give up

Photo through Creative Commons

As those of you who know me are aware, I'm proud to be a Republican. I'm conservative in my beliefs, and proud to be originally from a red state. But were I a resident of Pennsylvania in 2010 for Senate, I absolutely would not be voting for Arlen Specter, even though he's a Republican.

This is tax dollars at work in the Keystone State: Arlen Specter is spending his time on a witch hunt to punish the New England Patriots for taping other teams' signals for years. Now, I hate the Patriots, and I openly rooted for the New York Giants to win Super Bowl XLII. I did feel bad for my friend Jenni afterwards, but I still was happy the Giants ended the Patriots' perfection bid.

This is going way too far, though. Let the NFL police itself, it has a system in place to punish teams who do this. What does it matter to Specter what the Patriots do and what they don't do? Are sports really more important than running the nation from the perspective of what's best for Pennsylvania? In his own state, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney has essentially cleared the Patriots from any wrongdoing, saying it made no difference. Shouldn't this be a sign that Pennsylvania deserves better than this?

In other news, some former St. Louis Ram named Willie Gary is suing New England for $100 million in damages for this. Let's get this straight: every team tries for an edge. New England just got caught. Why can't we let this die already? This story is being beaten to death. It was one thing when it was just the league and its teams. When it involves our legislative branch and our legal system, it becomes lunacy.

Fortunately, Arlen Specter's time might be running short. The good people of Pennsylvania should send a message that they care about the running of the country and how the country benefits Pennsylvania when they elect their leaders. Whether that means a different Republican or a Democrat, so be it. The Keystone State deserves a politician who looks out for those other than himself.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Ashley Monroe.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Life on an air bed

Since yesterday was a day for real news, today will temporarily become my soft news day this week. Expect soft news to establish a permanent home on Wednesday, unless something happens again. So I'll celebrate Pitchers and Catchers Report Day by talking air bed.

Most people don't have experience sleeping on one for an extended period of time. Since moving into my duplex in August, I've slept on one every night. Before that, I had slept on a traditional mattress every night. I can honestly say that I'll never go back unless I absolutely have to do so. To emphasize that, my current bed had a chamber snap, and I still have yet to tell my mother about it, even though she'd love nothing more than to buy me a real bed. I love sleeping on air instead of springs, and keeping my current bed is the only way that can happen, short of my buying a new one.

What are the benefits? You control how firm the bed is with the flick of a switch. Is the bed sagging? Hit the switch, fixed in seconds. Is it too firm? Twist the dial, release a little air, and it's perfect. Plus, the feel of sleeping on air is fantastic. No springs putting unnecessary pressure on your back, as is always stated in the commercials.

That brings me to the one big difference between an air mattress and an air bed: the chambers. An air bed has multiple chambers, lifting you off the floor, albeit not as much as a real bed. But although there's not as much lift, it still feels like a real bed.

On the negative side, it's not durable, and there's no point denying that. That's to be expected since it ranges from 1/5-1/10 of the cost of a real bed. But occasionally, a hole does spring up. When that happens, you can try to either fix the leak with the kit they give you, or duct tape. I would honestly recommend duct tape, because the kit is 0-for-2 in fixing leaks. Plus, a chamber can occasionally burst. If that happens, the bed gets a weird bulge and can no longer distribute air evenly. That makes it difficult to sleep well on it, because you've got an air bulge on your side, or you're on the bulge. Either way, it's tough.

But overall, the air bed's positives just outweigh its negatives. For under $100, it's more comfortable than any regular bed I've used, and can be taken anywhere. The only problem is its durability, but if that's the only reason I would choose a bed, I'll take the better comfort and work around the durability. That's my opinion, the air bed is one of my best purchases, and I've never regretted the choice.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Carolyn Dawn Johnson.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

William and Mary president out

(Editor's note: This post was moved to the top since I believe it takes highest importance)

Today is Wednesday, which was about to become my traditional "soft news" day, where I talk about something random. But something more important has happened today, and I will talk about that first. If I have time, the soft news post will come later tonight.

Today's blog post focuses on Gene Nichol's removal as president of the College of William and Mary. To tell the story, I turn to a better source, my friend Christen Crocker, a student at W&M.

-The school wants to canonize him and everyone outside wants to crucify him. Some outside the school are saying it was a good thing they fired him, because he was anti-Christian (Wren Cross) and he allowed 'degeneracy (the sex workers' art show) to come and demoralize the students'

But Wren Cross was overblown. He should have not tried to make a unilateral decision, but most of the Christians didn't care that much. The sex workers art show put him in a no-win situation, and he did ban nudity. Plus, it was the student assembly who brought it here.

On the other side, he was shady about a donor who withdrew $12 million because of Wren Cross, and all of his mistakes brought a lot of bad publicity for the school.

The funny thing is all of the more "liberal artsy" classes, such as modern language, philosophy, art, etc. are cancelling class. All the hard sciences are saying that's the way the world works, and wondering why would we shoot ourselves in the foot by canceling classes to prove a point at an institution of higher learning. The dichotomy is comical.

I think the student body and professors generally like him, but a lot of people are letting emotions get the better of them and making really outrageous statements. Some minority students are now saying they don't feel welcome or safe if he's not here. I'm not sure where they're getting that as we were not racist before he came, although he has definitely worked hard to promote diversity

I don't necessarily disagree with the decision, just the way it was carried out. The Board of Visitors were under pressure to fire him and so they held our Charter Day weekend and lauded him, ate with him, etc. Then at the end told him they weren't renewing his contract AND offered him hush money to say that it wasn't an ideological difference, which is awful.

In his exit last night, Nichol did well in encouraging the students to continue learning and to leave their mark on the school as a way of doing something for him. He added that he did not want what is happening to cause minority and lower socio-economic status students to leave. --

There will be no "My time is up" ending here, because today's post is not my work.

Thanks again to Christen for this. Statements from President Nichol and board member Michael K. Powell are available here on FreezeFire, and can be found here for President Nichol and here for Michael K. Powell. You can also scroll down to find the statements.

William and Mary statement 2

Michael K. Powell's statement:

February 12, 2008

Dear Members of the College of William and Mary Community,

President Nichol has announced he will not serve the remainder of his term. We had hoped that he would and regret his decision. The Board of Visitors decision not to renew his contract after his current agreement expires on June 30th was extremely difficult. President Nichol achieved some outstanding things during his tenure. His energy and passion is legendary. He is a truly inspirational figure who has enjoyed the affection of many. After an exhaustive review, however, the Board believed there were a number of problems that were keeping the College from reaching its full potential and concluded that those issues could not be effectively remedied without a change of leadership.

It is critical to explain that this decision was not in any way based on ideology or any single public controversy. To suggest such a motivation for the Board is flatly wrong. Indeed, the Board has been repulsed by the personal attacks on the President and his family. The uncharitable personal assaults are unworthy of anyone who professes to care about the College and there should be no joy when things do not work out between good people.

Many policies championed by President Nichol are fully embraced by the Board. We agree unflinchingly with the President’s efforts to make William and Mary a more diverse educational environment. His achievements in this area will be the most enduring part of his legacy. We will continue the pursuit with vigor and will insist that all future presidents of the College do as well. We strongly support the Gateway program and will work to put it on sound financial footing by building an endowment that will allow it to blossom. Equally, we continue to see the enormous value that attends to the efforts of internationalization and civic engagement. And, so there is no doubt, the Board will not allow any change in the compromise reached on the placement of the Wren Cross.

The Board is cognizant that its decision will be deeply disappointing to many, especially members of our faculty and student body. Our sacred stewardship and full insight into the affairs of the College convinced us change was necessary to advance the best interests of the College. We understand the sense of loss and will work hard to heal all wounds.

But it is important to remember that William and Mary is stronger and more enduring than any one person or any one board. It will continue to rise and thrive through the ages. She is the Alma Matter of a Nation and the vibrancy of our students coupled with the wisdom and dedication of our masterful faculty will keep the College shining more brightly than any star in the constellation of higher education.

The College will begin a search for a new president immediately. In the interim, the Board will appoint Dean W. Taylor Reveley effective immediately to serve as President until a permanent leader is found.

Michael K. Powell ‘85

Rector, Board of Visitors

William and Mary statement 1

The following is an e-mail from Gene Nichol distributed to William and Mary, presented here in its original form.

Dear Members of the William & Mary Community:

I was informed by the Rector on Sunday, after our Charter Day celebrations, that my contract will not be renewed in July. Appropriately, serving the College in the wake of such a decision is beyond my imagining. Accordingly, I have advised the Rector, and announce today, effective immediately, my resignation as president of the College of William & Mary. I return to the faculty of the school of law to resume teaching and writing.

I have made four decisions, or sets of decisions, during my tenure that have stirred ample controversy.

First, as is widely known, I altered the way a Christian cross was displayed in a public facility, on a public university campus, in a chapel used regularly for secular College events -- both voluntary and mandatory -- in order to help Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and other religious minorities feel more meaningfully included as members of our broad community. The decision was likely required by any effective notion of separation of church and state. And it was certainly motivated by the desire to extend the College’s welcome more generously to all. We are charged, as state actors, to respect and accommodate all religions, and to endorse none. The decision did no more.

Second, I have refused, now on two occasions, to ban from the campus a program funded by our student-fee-based, and student-governed, speaker series. To stop the production because I found it offensive, or unappealing, would have violated both the First Amendment and the traditions of openness and inquiry that sustain great universities. It would have been a knowing, intentional denial of the constitutional rights of our students. It is perhaps worth recalling that my very first act as president of the College was to swear on oath not to do so.

Third, in my early months here, recognizing that we likely had fewer poor, or Pell eligible, students than any public university in America, and that our record was getting worse, I introduced an aggressive Gateway scholarship program for Virginians demonstrating the strongest financial need. Under its terms, resident students from families earning $40,000 a year or less have 100% of their need met, without loans. Gateway has increased our Pell eligible students by 20% in the past two years.

Fourth, from the outset of my presidency, I have made it clear that if the College is to reach its aspirations of leadership, it is essential that it become a more diverse, less homogeneous institution. In the past two and half years we have proceeded, with surprising success, to assure that is so. Our last two entering classes have been, by good measure, the most diverse in the College’s history. We have, in the past two and a half years, more than doubled our number of faculty members of color. And we have more effectively integrated the administrative leadership of William & Mary. It is no longer the case, as it was when I arrived, that we could host a leadership retreat inviting the 35 senior administrators of the College and see, around the table, no persons of color.

As the result of these decisions, the last sixteen months have been challenging ones for me and my family. A committed, relentless, frequently untruthful and vicious campaign -- on the internet and in the press -- has been waged against me, my wife and my daughters. It has been joined, occasionally, by members of the Virginia House of Delegates -- including last week’s steps by the Privileges and Elections Committee to effectively threaten Board appointees if I were not fired over decisions concerning the Wren Cross and the Sex Workers’ Art Show. That campaign has now been rendered successful. And those same voices will no doubt claim victory today.

It is fair to say that, over the course of the past year, I have, more than once, considered either resigning my post or abandoning the positions I have taken on these matters -- which I believe crucial to the College’s future. But as I did so, I thought of other persons as well.

I thought of those students, staff, faculty, and alumni, not of the religious majority, who have told me of the power of even small steps, like the decision over display of the Wren Cross, to recognize that they, too, are full members of this inspiring community.

I have thought of those students, faculty, and staff who, in the past three years, have joined us with explicit hopes and assurances that the College could become more effectively opened to those of different races, backgrounds, and economic circumstances -- and I have thought of my own unwillingness to voluntarily abandon their efforts, and their prospects, in mid-stream.

I have thought of faculty and staff members here who have, for decades, believed that the College has, unlike many of its competitors, failed to place the challenge of becoming an effectively diverse institution center stage -- and who, as a result, have been strongly encouraged by the progress of the last two years.

I have thought of the students who define and personify the College’s belief in community, in service, in openness, in idealism -- those who make William & Mary a unique repository of the American promise. And I have believed it unworthy, regardless of burden, to break our bonds of partnership.

And I have thought, perhaps most acutely, of my wife and three remarkable daughters. I’ve believed it vital to understand, with them, that though defeat may at times come, it is crucial not to surrender to the loud and the vitriolic and the angry -- just because they are loud and vitriolic and angry. Recalling the old Methodist hymn that commands us “not to be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,” nor “afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.” So I have sought not to yield. The Board’s decision, of course, changes that.

To my faculty colleagues, who have here created a distinctive culture of engaged, student-centered teaching and research, I will remember your strong and steadfast support until the end of my days.

To those staff members and alumni of this accomplished and heartening community, who have struggled to make the William & Mary of the future worthy of its distinctive past, I regret that I will no longer be part of that uplifting cause. But I have little doubt where the course of history lies.

And, finally, to the life-changing and soul-inspiring students of the College, the largest surprise of my professional life, those who have created in me a surpassing faith not only in an institution, but in a generation, I have not words to touch my affections. My belief in your promise has been the central and defining focus of my presidency. The too-quick ending of our work together is among the most profound and wrenching disappointments in my life. Your support, particularly of the past few weeks and days, will remain the strongest balm I’ve known. I am confident of the triumphs and contributions the future holds for women and men of such power and commitment.

I add only that, on Sunday, the Board of Visitors offered both my wife and me substantial economic incentives if we would agree “not to characterize [the non-renewal decision] as based on ideological grounds” or make any other statement about my departure without their approval. Some members may have intended this as a gesture of generosity to ease my transition. But the stipulation of censorship made it seem like something else entirely. We, of course, rejected the offer. It would have required that I make statements I believe to be untrue and that I believe most would find non-credible. I’ve said before that the values of the College are not for sale. Neither are ours.

Mine, to be sure, has not been a perfect presidency. I have sometimes moved too swiftly, and perhaps paid insufficient attention to the processes and practices of a strong and complex university. A wiser leader would likely have done otherwise. But I have believed, and attempted to explain, from even before my arrival on the campus, that an emboldened future for the College of William & Mary requires wider horizons, more fully opened doors, a broader membership, and a more engaging clash of perspectives than the sometimes narrowed gauges of the past have allowed. I step down today believing it still.

I have also hoped that this noble College might one day claim not only Thomas Jefferson’s pedigree, but his political philosophy as well. It was Jefferson who argued for a “wall of separation between church and state” -- putting all religious sects “on an equal footing.” He expressly rejected the claim that speech should be suppressed because “it might influence others to do evil,” insisting instead that “we have nothing to fear from the demoralizing reasonings of some if others are left free to demonstrate their errors.” And he averred powerfully that “worth and genius” should “be sought from every condition” of society.

The College of William & Mary is a singular place of invention, rigor, commitment, character, and heart. I have been proud that even in a short term we have engaged a marvelous new Chancellor, successfully concluded a hugely-promising capital campaign, secured surprising support for a cutting-edge school of education and other essential physical facilities, seen the most vibrant applicant pools in our history, fostered path-breaking achievements in undergraduate research, more potently internationalized our programs and opportunities, led the nation in an explosion of civic engagement, invigorated the fruitful marriage of athletics and academics, lifted the salaries of our lowest-paid employees, and even hosted a queen. None of this compares, though, to the magic and the inspiration of the people -- young and older -- who Glenn and I have come to know here. You will remain always and forever at the center of our hearts.

Go Tribe. And hark upon the gale.

Gene Nichol

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dear ESPN, I don't care

Image through Creative Commons, courtesy of Rudy C. Jones.

If you watched college basketball last night, you were treated to some very interesting basketball games. You had Texas holding off Kansas at the end. You had Villanova getting screwed at Georgetown for a brush 80 feet from the basket. On the women's side, you had Tennessee somehow catching and releasing a shot in 0.2 seconds. Three fine finishes. So, to lead off SportsCenter, ESPN started with...Roger Clemens?

Look, I know to a fair amount of people, Clemens-Brian McNamee is a huge story. I'm not one of them. First, Roger Clemens is retired now (again), so why does it matter? He's not a player, and he's not eligible for the Hall of Fame. Until he satisfies one of those requirements, why should I care that much? Second, this story has been ongoing for the past few weeks. The only thing new that comes out is McNamee injected Clemens or his wife some amount of times, and Clemens denies. We know that already. No new information will come until Clemens and McNamee go before Congress, or a judge or someone else outside of baseball.

Third, this isn't the most important thing going on right now. It's just not. Everyone was talking about the college basketball games. They were all huge stories. The NBA and NHL are coming into the most important part of the regular season. Why does a retired baseball player's actions with his trainer from a decade ago take priority over actual sporting events? Isn't that what ESPN is supposed to cover?

If that's not enough, ESPN's got Clemens leading off the Web site, along with four or five stories on tomorrow's meeting. CBS Sportsline, by contrast, is leading with a story concerning the Daytona 500. I hate NASCAR, but at least it's current. That's probably the only time you'll see anything positive about NASCAR here.

For anyone who cares about Missouri basketball, check out Shawn Garrison's take on Stefhon Hannah's situation over at Big MO Sports, a site held in high esteem here at Freeze Fire.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy The Scrantones

Monday, February 11, 2008

Welcome to Ottawa, Cory Stillman

Photo obtained through Creative Commons

This was originally going to be about Amy Winehouse's totally blank look when they announced her award at the Grammys last night, giving many the belief that she was bombed out of her mind. This would shock nobody. But because the Ottawa Senators are my team, they take priority when they make headlines. The same applies to the Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Cardinals and Indiana Pacers.

It's quite a headline today for the Senators, as Ottawa acquired left wing Cory Stillman (pictured, with A) and defenseman Mike Commodore from the Carolina Hurricanes, sending defenseman Joe Corvo and right wing Patrick Eaves. For Ottawa, there's little not to love about this move. Stillman has Stanley Cup experience with both Tampa Bay and Carolina, the two squads that won the Eastern Conference prior to Ottawa's victory and the last two Eastern Conference squads to win the Cup. He's a scorer, and outside of the top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley (the CASH line, CAptain, Spezza, Heatley) and second-liner Mike Fisher, the Senators don't get a lot of offense. Stillman can jump right in, pair with Fisher and go to work. On the blue line, Commodore is a tough, gritty defenseman. Toughness was Ottawa's problem last year against Anaheim. If the Sens get to the finals again, Commodore's grit will be very useful.

On the Hurricanes' side, the move is simply a white flag on this season and a hope to rebuild. At first glance, it would seem premature, given that Carolina trails Southeast leader Washington by just one point for the third seed. But the Hurricanes do not get much scoring, they wouldn't even be in the playoff race if they weren't in the awful Southeast and Stillman and Commodore are free agents at the end of the year. Commodore is cheaper than Corvo, but Corvo is signed for two more years after this season. As for the swap of wingers, Stillman is a 34-year old veteran. During the Stanley Cup playoffs this year, Eaves will turn 24. He's got a chance to be a fine player for many years. But that time to develop hasn't come yet, not while in Ottawa on a team that thinks Stanley Cup every day while it has its three stars.

The goals of the trade are simple: Ottawa makes itself a serious contender for 2008. Carolina hopes they gained pieces to do the same in 2009. But if you're just looking at the short-term, the big winners are the Sens. The big losers today are the Montreal Canadiens, after two players got arrested.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Marcel.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Earth Hour's timing is off

For those who don't know, Earth Hour is a world event this year that encourages every person and business to shut off all lights at 8 p.m. local time. It's a lovely sentiment and a noble goal. But to be perfectly honest, the timing of it couldn't be much worse.

Whoever picked March 29th as its date needs to take a look at a calendar. March 29th is a Saturday. This is, along with Friday, one of the busiest nights of the week for businesses. People are going to be enjoying their nights out on dates, at restaurants with their families, going to sporting events, etc. There is little chance businesses will be participating in this event because of that.

On the topic of sporting events, March 29th is the date of the NCAA West Regional final in Phoenix. Phoenix is three hours behind the East Coast, and as such, the basketball game tends to start around 5:30-6:00 Eastern time. This means Earth Hour will begin as one of the most important basketball games of the season is ending. The only way college basketball fans will sacrifice the end is if one team is up 20. That tends not to happen in regional finals. Plus, the NBA and NHL have games, and spring training's final day is March 29, meaning teams play night games to get used to the switch before the games count.

Couldn't the organizers have planned this for a weeknight, say March 26th? It would have worked just as well, with far fewer hurdles to overcome. This in turn would make Earth Hour more effective. With little incentive to go out and few sporting events, it would be much easier for lights to go out. There will still be some successes, but this will likely not have the effect its organizers are hoping for. It's a shame, because it's a great idea and could work with good planning. But the planning leaves much to be desired, and it will take a lot of luck to pull this off.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Dan Fogelberg.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Z is for...Redskins coach?

Jim Zorn was the first man to play quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, taking over the job in 1976. He guided the Seahawks until midway through 1984. Later, he became an assistant coach, and was the quarterbacks coach when Seattle reached Super Bowl XL. Basically, Jim Zorn is a legend in the state of Washington.

Notice I said STATE of Washington, not CITY of Washington. For reasons unknown, Redskins owner Dan Snyder promoted Zorn, his offensive coordinator for the last two weeks, when the Redskins weren't playing, to the top position. This ends the search for Joe Gibbs' replacement in the weirdest way possible. There is nothing wrong with wanting Jim Zorn on your staff. The move to fire Al Saunders as offensive coordinator was foolish, but the move to hire Zorn as his replacement was a good one. Zorn is a solid quarterbacks coach who deserves to have a chance to move up.

But moving up to the head coaching position? What could Snyder have seen in two weeks of off-season to convince him that Zorn is the man to lead this team as the successor to Gibbs? It's not like Snyder didn't have quality candidates waiting to replace Gibbs. He had two: the aforementioned Saunders, who took the same position in St. Louis (great move for the Rams, by the way), and Gregg Williams, now the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville (great move for the Jaguars).

Snyder interviewed former Giants coach Jim Fassel and former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci multiple times. He offered Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the job and was turned down. This is what the Redskins have become among coaches, a joke.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Snyder knows something I don't. Four NFL coaches have been hired this offseason, and only Atlanta's Mike Smith has even been a coordinator before. But after this fiasco, Snyder better have rolled a seven on Zorn or he'll hear it from an already agitated Redskins fan base. Right now, he looks like a complete fool.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Jupiter One.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bedard heads northwest

The Baltimore Orioles finally made the trade everyone expected them to, sending ace Erik Bedard to Seattle for a package of prospects. What this does is it makes the Mariners a legitimate threat in the American League West. The AL West was only going to be a two-team race anyway, because Oakland is rebuilding and Texas is likely to be terrible because some things never change. That left only the Los Angeheim Angels (note: On this blog, the Angels' city name will always be fused to Los Angeheim to mock their horrid choice) as the favorite to win the division.

But now with Bedard joining Felix Hernandez, the Mariners easily have the best 1-2 punch in the division, possibly in the American League when both are healthy. Plus, Seattle plays in Safeco Field, a pitcher's dream park. Bedard should only get better as he goes from 1-2 starts a year there to about 15. He becomes even more of a fantasy gold mine than he already was, and his team becomes a real threat, despite the fact that their lineup is solid but won't scare anyone. Other than Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners' everyday players are solid players who aren't stars. But the Mariners won't need to score a lot, because the rotation is solid and J.J. Putz was lights-out in the closer role last year. He posted a 1.38 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP, outstanding numbers. Hand him the game in the ninth and he usually hands you victory.

On the other side of the coin, the Orioles appear to finally have accepted what everyone else already knows: they aren't a good team. Baltimore is officially rebuilding now, as opposed to the last five years, when the Orioles were unofficially rebuilding. Truth is, the Orioles don't have much. Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora and Nick Markakis are all good players. But Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff at the 4 and 5 spots (CBS's projection) will not work at all. Ramon Hernandez is a solid catcher, and Adam Jones, a center fielder who comes over in the Bedard deal, should help Markakis solidify the outfield. That leaves Luis Hernandez, a AA call-up from last year, as the shortstop, while Jay Payton and Luke Scott fight for left field. Luke Scott? Sounds like a guy I went to high school with.

What this all means is the Orioles will be closer to 100 losses than 100 wins. Finishing at .500 would be an accomplishment for them, but at least they've finally admitted that what they were doing wasn't working, which should improve them in the long run.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy the Eli Young Band.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Starting with Romney

Welcome to my blog, where I plan to talk about...basically a lot of different things. If I think it's relevant and worth talking about, you'll find it here.

So I'll christen my blog by talking about the important development coming out of the Republican Party, which is Mitt Romney's announcement that he will no longer seek the nomination for president in November's election. I have to say that I'm quite pleased with this decision from Gov. Romney. I was not a fan of his inability to take a position, so I did not wish to vote for him in November. But I did gain a lot of respect for Gov. Romney because he recognized that a fragmented Republican Party will do nothing to help the party's chances in the election.

That now leaves John McCain and Mike Huckabee as the only legitimate candidates remaining in this race. Yes, I can hear the Internet crowd screaming that, technically, Ron Paul is still in the race, but with 14 delegates and no states won, he has no chance at winning the nomination. Deal with it.

Back to Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee. Sen. McCain has won 707 delegates according to an Associated Press story today. Gov. Huckabee holds 195 delegates in his corner, and Gov. Romney had 294. Gov. Romney's delegates are a wild card here, so I'll come back to them. Of the remaining states, Sen. McCain is likely to win in Wisconsin, Washington, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Vermont, Rhode Island and Oregon. The Arizona senator does very well in reliably Democratic states, which all of these states and DC are. He is also in good shape in Pennsylvania, a solidly blue state with many Republicans between its cities, New Mexico, a red state with a fair amount of Democrats and Ohio, which is a swing state every election.

If he wins every delegate in those states, Sen. McCain would sit at 1087 delegates, leaving him 104 delegates short of the required 1191. The other states to be decided are Kansas, Louisiana, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, Indiana, North Carolina, Nebraska, Kentucky, Idaho and South Dakota, all solidly red states. Gov. Huckabee has a slim chance to catch Sen. McCain here. But Sen. McCain has already proven by winning South Carolina that he can take conservative states. So Gov. Huckabee's chances are slim, even if all of Gov. Romney's delegates pledge themselves to him. In fact, that is likely the only way Gov. Huckabee has any chance unless something goes horribly wrong for Sen. McCain.

So as much as I like Gov. Huckabee, the best thing for him to do is to renege on his committment to answer the bell in every round and become a candidate for vice president. He has siphoned enough votes from Gov. Romney to hand Sen. McCain the nomination, and it is almost impossible to forsee a scenario where he wins the nomination. Therefore, he would be doing himself and his party more harm than good by staying in the race.

Gov. Romney did the right thing today by falling on the sword for the GOP. It is time for Gov. Huckabee to do the same. It was time for Ron Paul to do that long ago. I'm on record as supporting McCain/Huckabee in 2008.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Amanda Marshall.