Sunday, March 30, 2008

March Madness: Final Four

For the first time ever, since the field was expanded, all four top seeds from the regionals advanced to the Final Four, and I'm pleased to say I have all four in my bracket: Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina and Memphis.

Memphis impressed again with their strong showing in whipping Texas in the Lone Star State. Maybe losing to Tennessee earlier in the year was the best thing that could have ever happened to them. They got their ship into shape and have had smooth sailing ever since.

UCLA also looks sharp, especially freshman center Kevin Love, but they look like the weakest of the 4 to this point.

North Carolina and Louisville was a great game, and the Tarheels also look to be powerful! Poplar Bluff's Tyler Hansbrough is having a great season and tournament. He simply willed the Tarheels to the win over Louisville.

Kansas and Davidson was the best regional final of the bunch. I had Kansas winning, but couldn't help but pull for Davidson and sharp-shooting guard Stephen Curry. I love watching Curry play, even away from the ball and watching his quick release. It dawned on me how much his play reminds me of a kid I covered in high school in Tennessee, Cannon Whitby. Whitby played at Obion Central and was very similar. He was slight of build, but with quick feet, a quick release and a deadly accurate shooting touch. So much so, that he's #3 in the Tennessee state high school scoring records, with almost 3,500 points. (I could have sworn he broke the state scoring record, but perhaps they updated those later, since I noticed both the guys ahead of him played in the 1960's) The most amazing part of his point total, and the ones ahead of him, were they all played BEFORE the 3 point shot. Nonetheless, Whitby's total is around 400 more than former NBA stars Tony Delk and Anfernee Hardaway. Also of note, Cannon's brother, Denver is only a little over 200 points behind Cannon in the Tennessee state scoring records.

Who'll win the final four? Well I've got North Carolina, but am pulling for Memphis. Interesting that Memphis' semifinal game is against UCLA, who beat the Tigers for the National Championship back in the early 70s, in the game where Bill Walton solidified his reputation as one of the greatest college players ever. Memphis had a great team that year too, with the likes of Larry Finch and Bobby Parks playing for one of the best college coaches ever, Gene Bartow.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sometimes, I seek out old friends...

As we get older, we value our old friends even more. Some of them are personal friends. Some of them are our "friends" with whom we grew up. As the rain beat down this day, I went looking for some old friends to see what they were up to or to remember how much I loved them. Some of them, you might find surprising.

One of them was a Memphis based band which I grew up on, Big Star. I remember the music. I remember the time. Heck, I remember shopping at the grocery chain for which they're named.

I also remember the other bands I used to go see back in my youth in West Tennessee: Target (with Jimi Jamison), The Windows, Rasin' Kane, Head East, Snowblind, TR Crooks and more.

There's been a lot of "girl groups" through the years, but first was The Runaways. One of the greatest concerts I "never saw" was The Runaways opening for The Ramones. (it was canceled due to poor ticket sales....oh my) Back in the day, I couldn't choose between Joan, Lita and Cherie. Know what? I still can't!

Back in the 70s I would have given anything to sing like Al Green. I still would. I'll never forget John Kilzer telling me how he learned to play guitar by trading his complimentary Memphis State basketball tickets to Teenie Hodges, Al Green's guitar player and Memphis songwriter, for guitar lessons. Man!!! I'm STILL jealous....even to this day!

There were SO many great ones that came from within a stones throw of me, and I marvel at them, like Bobby Whitlock, from Lake County, TN. (not to mention...but also a regular on the old Johnny Cash show was an up and coming musician/comedian named Steve Martin)

Of course, when I think of Lake County, I think of one of the biggest influences on me musically and in so many ways: Carl Perkins. I'll always treasure the times I coaxed him into telling me stories about the old days, and how to live life these days.

That was back when Clapton and I had more hair.....he still has more than me. I'll never forget Carl telling me how Dave Edmonds "corrected" him on some of his own songs! He said he was taken aback for minute, but then realized Edmonds was RIGHT. Carl said he had strayed from the original way he played some of his old songs over the years, but that Edmonds was such a devotee, he knew the original versions note for note, and "that boy knew what he was talking about!" By the way, if you want a real treat, watch the Youtube clips from the old Johnny Cash Show. You'll be shocked at just the kind of talent that appeared on that show! It was awesome...from Joni Mitchell to ??? In the meantime, Carl was so cool! I miss him so much!

Such a cool clip...cause it includes 3 of my favorites: Carl, Setzer and Edmonds....

Friday, March 28, 2008

March Madness Impressions: Sweet 16-Elite 8

March Madness continues, with the cream slowly rising to the top. Tennessee proved to be not so creamy as Louisville blew them out. I was afraid of this, with Tennessee's inconsistent recent play combined with Louisville's jelling and improved health. Should be a great game between Louisville and North Carolina, as the Tarheels are hitting on all cylinders too! I should take time though, to congratulate Bruce Pearl. He's done a marvelous job at Tennessee and I really appreciate his giving tribute to the late, great Ray Mears by wearing the orange blazer from time to time. I got to know Mears while he was serving as AD and AD Emeritus at UT Martin, and he was a wonderful man. Mears was the one who put Tennessee basketball on the map, even though it slipped off for a few years following his departure. His struggle against depression was heroic and inspiring. I'm a richer person for having known him.

There has been a lot written and said about Memphis' poor free throw shooting. When you're ahead 30 points at halftime and cruising, you don't have to worry a lot about free throws. "Tiger High" was certainly impressive. I just know Big Jack Eaton's smile is as wide as the state of Tennessee right now.

Xavier continues to impress and all the while, making my wife, Bridget look like a genius! Bridget picked Xavier to make it to the final four as her "darkhorse" pick, and she's looking pretty smart right now! Xavier's overtime win over West Virginia was the only close game of the Sweet Sixteen. Don't you know CBS HATES that the majority of the games weren't any closer.

Davidson's a great story. They're well coached and play well together. Stephan Curry is a treat to watch, just like his Dad was! Davidson has an enrollment of 1,700. That's about the HALF the size of Union University in Jackson, TN, and well less than the full time enrollment of West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, KY.

Kansas is VERY impressive, along with Texas. Maybe the Big 12 was the strongest conference.

Stanford's Lopez twins are awesome. Unfortunately, they didn't have enough to go with them.

Western Kentucky's Ty Rogers of Eddyville, KY STILL has the shot of the tournament. Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples wrote Rogers may never have to buy a beer in Eddyville again. Truth is, he never has. Eddyville is in Lyon County, a dry county, no beer. In Kentucky, when they say dry, they mean DRY! I hated to see the Toppers fall to UCLA, but they fought a good fight.

Overall: Let's not get too wound up on who should do this or who should do that. Keep in mind that we're talking about 20-year-old boys. Did you do everything perfect when you were a 20-year-old kid? MANY will attest that I did NOT!

Jody, We Hardly Knew Ya: Murray State women's coach Jody Adams jumped ship after only one year at Murray State. It was a great year, with the Lady Racer's 1st NCAA tournament appearance. Can't blame her for cashing in. although it's tough for Murray. I watched Adams play high school basketball for Bradley Central (Cleveland, TN) and the winningest HS coach ever, Jim Smiddy (1,217 wins-206 losses), and then play for the winningest college coach ever, Pat Summitt. What a pedigree. Heck, I watched Pat Head Summitt play college basketball at UT Martin! I guess that makes me an "old dude" as the kids say. Smiddy always impressed me. I watched him coach so many games over the years, and I never saw him raise his voice or even get out of his chair. Maybe he did, but I never saw it. He just sat there calmly, in that yellow blazer. His kids were just SO well drilled and coached. They were like a machine. To me, he always seemed so very organized and prepared. Pat Summitt, on the other hand, is a general. She truly has a commanding presence. When I've been in the same room with her, she has such a powerful aura about her. It's amazing. How cool is it that Adams played for and learned from both.

Don't EVER ask a coach for Bracket help: The winningest Men's college basketball coach, Bobby Knight picked Pitt to win the NCAA tournament. I didn't. Pitt didn't even make the Sweet 16. Am I smarter than Bobby Knight? Nope. It's just that coaches don't watch many teams play basketball. They just watch THEIR teams and THEIR opponents tapes.

Commercials: Observation from the "Guitar Hero" commercial: Slash now makes Keith Richards look like the "picture of health." Observation from the Applebee's commercial: That's voiced by the "Northern Exposure" guy. The fact that I immediately recognized the voice says a lot. What a perfect choice for their voice over!

American Idol: Hated to see Chikezie go. Would much rather retread Michael Johns be sent packing, or Kristy Lee Cook, who went "Lee Greenwood" on us! On the way up: David Cook. On the way down: David Archuleta (although I still predict Archuleta makes the final 2).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

March Madness Impressions: Round 2

On to the sweet sixteen and several of the "sexy" upset picks are now gone: Butler and Sienna among others, although Davidson remains alive. My final four remains alive too: Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis and UCLA.

Several experts had Butler picked to beat Tennessee and the Vols did everything they could to prove them right by turning the ball over so many times and playing so sloppy. In the end, their talent won out, but it was a close call. A.J. Graves for Butler played an outstanding game and almost rallied the Bulldogs to the win. Next up for Tennessee is Louisville, who looked very impressive. If Tennessee plays Louisville like they played Butler, they'll be sent packing.

Davidson had a great record coming in, and proved they were no fluke in knocking off Georgetown. Dell Curry's kid is a chip off the old block as a pure shooter!

Western Kentucky is a great story headed to the sweet sixteen. I'm especially happy for Eddyville, KY's Ty Rogers as his college career gets extended at least another week! Go Toppers! although I don't know if they can give UCLA much of a game. That Kevin Love looks unstoppable. Ty better hit a bunch of 3's.

Memphis squeaked by Mississippi State in a game that I'm afraid might be a foreshadow to the Tigers bowing out in the next round against Michigan State, or on down the line. They were ahead pretty comfortably with less than a minute to go, and MSU started fouling, and Memphis started missing their free throws (again). They hung on, but it was too close for comfort.

KFVS 12 in Cape Girardeau, MO had a difficult decision Sunday afternoon. KFVS covers portions of Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas and had simultaneous games involving Memphis, Louisville and Arkansas. Did they make the right decision? I don't know! I'm just glad I didn't have to make that call! They DID get some help in that Louisville and Arkansas wound up involved in blowouts. In the meantime, it made me long for the days a few years ago when they split the games with ESPN and you could watch more or less the game of your choosing.
They have a package on DirecTV which allows you to watch any of the games you choose, but I choose not to pay for it! (I'm pretty cheap)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hand Me My Phone, The News Is On...

If you haven't noticed, local broadcasters are moving more and more to the web. They're trying to embrace new technology and changing consumer habits. If they don't, they'll be left behind. Key to the metamorphosis is moving to cellphones. Local stations are already having viewers sign up for news updates and weather updates sent directly to their cellphones, but they're also quietly moving to the next phase, which should be available in a year or so. That's right, you should soon be able to watch KFVS 12 and NewsChannel 6, along with other stations, LIVE on your cellphone.

There's still a lot to be determined. An industry-wide standardized format has to decided. That's happening right now. Once it is, a small tuner will then be manufactured into the new phones. They also have to decide whether to charge for the service. Some industry analysts think there's a good chance the service will be free, because the local stations will add this feature to their local advertising packages. Several cellphone companies already have video services available, but they're not very popular. Those video services are usually short clips of recorded video, be it news, sports, etc. Consumers would rather see the LIVE broadcasts from their local stations and networks. I think it'll be a big hit, especially if it's a free service.

On the downside, it'll be just "one more thing" distracting drivers and causing auto accidents. Which brings us to the next logical question, when auto accidents are caused by folks watching "Wheel of Fortune" instead of the road, who gets sued?

Friday, March 21, 2008

March Madness Impressions: Round 1

In MY bracket, the Final Four is Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis and UCLA, with North Carolina winning it all. This even though my heart of hearts championship game is Memphis against Tennessee again!

After watching the 1st round games, I wonder if Tennessee can get there, and maybe it's the "deflation factor." I've watched a lot of tournaments over the years, and one thing that has stuck with me for a long time was what longtime TSSAA and Milan broadcaster Bill Haney told me once. He didn't call it the "deflation factor," but instead, after a team won a great game late in the year, or in the tournament he would simply comment, "There's no way they can win anymore. They done beat who they wanted to beat." I watched it time and time again. A team would rise up and play a fantastic game and win a game, against all odds, and then the rest of the way, they couldn't come close to matching the intensity level reached in that emotional game. I'm wondering if that's not Tennessee's problem. Ever since they played such a fantastic game in knocking Memphis from Number 1, they haven't been the same team. They followed up their emotional win over the Tigers with a loss to Vanderbilt and have not looked like the same "pre-Memphis" team since.

In their opening game against American, they looked bad, by their own standards. We'll see if they can get their "mojo" back, but for the time being, they've looked somewhat "deflated," like "they done beat who they wanted to beat."

I hear so many analysts talking about the Big East and Pac 10 teams, but to my mind, there are at least 10 teams which could win the tournament this year. So many are great teams at times, but so beatable at other times. It should make for an exciting tournament. I'm really pulling for Tennessee and Memphis, but I don't get too bummed if they lose. I made up my mind a long time ago that my happiness would not hinge on whether a group of 20 year old boys did what they were supposed to do.

In the NCAA tournament, I always pull for my favorite teams, but I also pull for the "local" kids, too. It was great to see tiny Eddyville, Kentucky product Ty Rogers nail the winning shot for Western Kentucky against Drake! It's great to see what Poplar Bluff's Tyler Hansbrough has been able to do for North Carolina.

Friday night presented a dilema for CBS Afilliate KFVS in Cape Giradeau, MO. They cover parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois and a slice of Arkansas. Friday night, at once, we had games involving Louisville (Kentucky), Memphis (Tennessee) and Arkansas.

I covered Rick Byrd's Belmont teams when they were in the NAIA, playing Union and Lambuth, and I came out of my seat when Belmont almost beat Duke. I thought it was a "hoot" that their best player was a transfer from nearby Trevecca Nazarene. Seeing David Lipscomb and Belmont in the NCAA Divsion 1 make me wonder if the days of the NAIA are numbered. I also covered Dave Loos (Austin Peay) when he was in the NAIA at Christian Brothers. I always thought the world of both of them. Class Acts!

Commercials: The Old Spice commercials kinda weird me out. I wonder if they're really effective in boosting sales.

Announcers: Love Verne Lundquist & love Tim Brando, even though he made a big goof in declaring the SEC was still looking for it's 1st win in the tournament after Tennessee had already won. I understand Jim Nance is a very nice person, although I find him totally devoid of personality as a play by play guy, in any sport he does. A lot of fans hate Billy Packer, but he doesn't bother me. I kinda like him. You never wonder what he's thinking or where he stands. I also like Bill Raftery. Solid knowledge and a little fun, and that's what it's all about.

PS: A while back, I blogged about Orlando Columnist Mike Bianchi's assertation that only an "idiot" would pick Tiger Woods to beat the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Of course, in the end, Tiger sank a 24 ft putt to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. To his credit, Bianchi has declared himself an idiot and admitted, maybe TV folks aren't so stupid after all.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American Idol-The Moment of Truth

On the American Idol results show, 2 of the 3 "retreads" found themselves in the bottom 3: Carly Smithson and Kristy Lee Cook. I have to admit, I was surprised Carly was in the bottom 3 and I'm not sure what to chalk it up to. Could it be a backlash against one of the foreigners left on the show (the other is Michael Johns, the "retread" and Australian whose real name is Michael Lee. who made the top 10)? Could it be everyone thought she was a shoo in so they didn't bother voting? Who knows!

In the end, I kinda hated to see Amanda go. I was surprised too. I thought she had carved enough of a niche for herself to set herself apart from the rest, but alas her streak on American Idol ends, even as the streaks in her hair remain. So we're left with 3 of the original 4 "retreads."

It was great to see the performance by one of my favorites from the past Idols, Kelly Pickler. She's turned into a great performer, and you can just tell, she's still "a real hoot" to hang out with! She cracks me up!

Prior to the show, I had to sit through another thoroughly boring "The Moment of Truth." Note to the producers: Speed this show up or take it off the air! This thing is like watching paint dry, and it almost seems like the contestants are over-coached, and getting sleazier and sleazier. (Of course, if the contestants were as boring as me, it wouldn't be much of a show!) In case you don't know, the polygraph is administered way in advance of the actual taping, and also, in case you don't know, polygraphs are so unreliable, we still don't know if the contestants are lying or not.

PS: Get well soon, Candye!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

American Idol-More Beatles

Tonight American Idol took on the Beatles for the second week in a row. (Did I mention earlier that I'm a Stones guy and not a Beatles guy....but I digress) I found myself wondering if the royalties paid on these past 2 weeks figure into the settlement for the Heather Mills-Paul McCartney divorce.'s my take:

Amanda Ovemeyer: I thought the rocker girl did pretty good, but not great. To me, she still has the aura that she's posing a bit, to what she thinks a rocker girl should be. Simon wants her to step outside her comfort zone. I think she needs to stretch a bit, but she also needs to be very careful that she doesn't get stretched out of sorts! Note to Amanda: "Back In The USSR" is NOT a blues song.

Kristy Lee Cook: Better than last week, but this retread (someone who had a record deal earlier in their career, but lost it) is still standing on shaky ground. I guess it's a monument to my advancing age that I found it surprising that she had never heard of the song, prior to the show.

David Archuleta: David was also better than last week, although I wasn't as amazed and mesmerized as Simon. I still think he's probably punched his ticket to the final two because he does have talent and because of the TBF (Teeny Bopper Factor).

Michael Johns: Johns, another of the retreads, did a dreadful rendition of "A Day In The Life" from the Sgt. Pepper album. The singing was off key at times, and the arrangement was too close to the original, which leads to the inevitable comparisons with the original version. John's version was woefully wanting. Simon aptly called it "a mess." Johns (used to be known as Michael Lee) still strikes me a phony, as he strikes all the poses, but it seems so calculated and choreographed. The only person who could be smiling after that is Heather Mills, who envisions the settlement pot growing higher from the royalties.

Brooke White: I thought Brooke was ho-hum and very forgettable. Simon was spot on with his negative assessment. Not a great arrangement, not a great performance of "Here comes the Sun." Simon likes to compare her to Carly Simon, but methinks she's more of a Juice Newton.....not that there's anything wrong with that.

David Cook: The "Critter Club Kid" did a pretty good job. Not as good as the previous 2 weeks, but solid. Like Simon, I thought the "talk box" was a bit of a gimmick which didn't work that well, but I thought overall, it was very good, when compared to the others this evening. FYI, talk boxes are pretty much passe....they're On the downside, they can rattle your fillings loose. I once built one, which amused me, for a few weeks. Then I moved on. BTW, Frampton and I have a lot in common: In the 7os, we both had long, wavy hair, played guitar and goofed with talk boxes, nowadays our better days, and long, wavy hair are long behind us. Maybe that's why I kinda like him more these days!

Carly Smithson (Hennessey): Carly, the retread, turned in the best performance of the night, even though I was not "moved" by any means. Great singing, great inflection and of course, great tattoo. Am I imagining it, or is the huge tattoo on her arm getting colored in more as the show progresses. Line of the night came from Bridget,"By the time she's voted off, she'll be completely covered."

Jason Castro: His WORST performance of the competition and maybe the night. I kinda like this kid, but......oh my. I think Jason's a good kid, and I think he'll skate on through, especially with the TBF, but this night, he was really bad, especially compared to his recent performances.

Syesha Mercado: I thought she did a good job and had a nice arrangement. Didn't blow me away, but no one did tonight. In the interview, prior to her singing, she went 3rd person on us, which I abhor, but when it came to the singing, I agreed with Simon that it was her best performance in the entire competition so far.

Chikezie: Kinda a reverse of what he did last week. Loved the first part, hated the harmonica, hated the last part. Started out with a great idea, but goofed it a third of the way through. Seems like a good kid, but he lost me on this one by going "Appalachian" at the end. Looking on the positive, he could be the next Charlie Pride. I like Chikezie. I just hope some producer gets a hold of him, straightens him out, and that Chikezie listens to him.

Ramiele Malubay: WORST performance of the show tonight. She seems like a nice girl, and I'm sure she has a good heart, but my goodness, what a horrible song choice and horrible performance....which came up so very short.

Overall: I agree with Simon. It was a BAD idea to do Beatles songs 2 weeks in a row. It was kinda cute the first week, but then, it got somewhat ugly and boring.

Theme Weeks that SHOULD be: I would love a Stones week, or better yet, a Jerry Lee Lewis week. Maybe they could have the Killer there in person, where even at his advanced age, I'm sure he'd scare the Hell out of them and give them a brush with real rock n roll that would change their lives. Just like the "Catcher in the Rye," "Great Balls of Fire" should be required reading for students. They'd get a lesson in rock n roll they wouldn't soon forget. Linda Gayle Lewis could guest star.

*Who should be voted off: Michael Johns, Ramiele or Kristy

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Speaking of Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time. Although he hasn't won as many times as the great Jack Nicklaus, and he hasn't won 11 tournaments in a row like the great Bryon Nelson, he'll easily surpass the former, and has more than a passing shot at passing the latter. He very likely will go down, when it's all said and done, as the greatest professional athlete of all time, in any sport. We knew he'd be good, but to say he surpassed expectations is like saying Antarctica is kinda cool.
I read an column earlier this week from a respected sports writer in Orlando, Mike Bianchi, which agreed that Tiger was a great golfer, but also tried to make the point that he wasn't THAT great. That the vast majority of the time Tiger was a loser. That a local TV sports anchor who bet him that Tiger would win the Arnold Palmer Invitational was a most "TV folks" are, I believe is the way he put it. They bet a dinner on the outcome, with Bianchi taking the field, and the foolish TV sportscaster taking Tiger. Oooops....I'll guess Bianchi's dinner will be crow.

Bianchi went to great lengths to point out that Tiger had not won the majority of his tournaments against the 125 or so other golfers or so he faces each week. Over the course of his career, he's ONLY won almost 30 PERCENT OF THEM. He made some good points, especially about Byron Nelson's streak. He also left out some facts, including the fact that during a lot of his career, Tiger has been refining and retooling his swing to where it is now. Right now, I'd say it's pretty good! It also doesn't include the fact that with every tournament, Tigers gains even more valuable experience. It also doesn't include that fact that the prime age for golfers are the thirties.....which Tiger is just entering. Now reporters are natural skeptics, and that's a good thing, but on this one.....well Bianchi, and there are others like him, simply refuse to buy into the fact that Tiger is as good as he is. He is. Add to that the fact that each and every time he "does what he does so well," his confidence grows. Experience leads to confidence which leads to calm expectation which leads to......routine. That's why he "routinely" trounces the competition when he's close to the lead during final rounds. It works in reverse too. His competitors EXPECT him to beat them, and they EXPECT to lose. Does Tiger have a weakness? Yes, his driver. If he ever gets that straightened out, he might very well be invincible. Right now, if he drives the ball well, he's damn near invincible. If he drives the ball bad, he STILL has a shot a winning. That's saying something.

That leads to to this year, or one of those in the near future. Tiger has the best chance of anyone since the great Bobby Jones, of winning all four majors, the grand slam. Of course, when Jones did it, it wasn't what it is now, and the competition wasn't what it is now. Bianchi, and so many others, should simply give Tiger his due and marvel at what they're being blessed to witness. The combination of natural talent, drive and sheer will is so very, very rare.

In the meantime, I'll bet Bianchi will have an easier time admitting Tiger's greatness, than admitting that maybe, at least one of those "TV folks," aren't so stupid and foolish after all.


Played the Kenny Rogers Telethon in Sikeston, Missouri over the weekend. I LOVE playing telethons because they're always for such worthy causes and because it's a chance to renew friendships and acquaintances and get "caught up" with so many friends. It was good to see my old buddies Reid Howell, Terry Mike Jeffrey, Larry Carroll, Kevin Synan, Mike, Dan, Kenny, Gaylon, Gilbert, Scott, Neal and many others from WPSD, along with Mike Smythe of KFVS and Steve McPheters, who used to work at KFVS.

The NCAA Tournament seeds were announced. I thought that overall, there were not too many surprises. To those "bubble teams" that got left out, well you shoulda won more games. I thought Memphis as a #1 was expected. I thought Tennessee as a #2 was about right, although I wished they were a #1 seed. I really love Bruce Pearl and think he's done a GREAT job at UT. One of my friends used to cover him at Southern Indiana and can attest to what a great coach he is. The Vols are great offensively, but they better learn how to play better defense, or I fear they won't go too far. I'd LOVE to see Memphis (Tiger High) and Tennessee play for the National Championship, but both are not so good at shooting free throws, and this is the time of year that becomes pretty important with more and more teams playing half court games. Why are kids today so HORRIBLE at free throws? Maybe it's because they work so hard on their dunks, but quit playing "21" on the playgrounds! "21" was a popular game when I was growing up. Even today, I can walk to a free throw line at hit 8 out of ten. Remember the rules? If you make a basket, with EVERYBODY guarding you, you go to the free throw line and shoot until you miss. If you were a really good free throw shooter, you could win a lot! You could win even more if you were a good free throw shooter AND rebounder. I remember Popeye Jones who I covered in high school before going on to a great career at Murray State and then a relatively long career in the NBA being asked once about what made him such a good rebounder and free throw shooter, and he responded about the hours he spent as a kid, playing "21." Maybe more college coaches should require their players to play "21!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

VJ's....No, Not the MTV variety

Video Journalists. That's what they're called. Another phrase for the term is "One Man Band," or nowdays, a "Backpack Journalist." It's a TV reporter who goes out by himself to cover a story, shoots his own video and then returns to the station to edit his own story. All of this instead of sending out a reporter and a photographer. It's a cost cutting measure to provide greater coverage quantity-wise, with half the payroll normally expended. It's a relatively new concept....or is it.

When I broke in TV news in the early 80s in Jackson, Tennessee, I did it all the time. We had some photographers, but not enough to go around. Many stations still use a mix of crews and "one man bands," including at least one in Knoxville, among other markets. In Jackson, the few photographers we had went with the female reporters and mosts of the time, I shot my own stories. To be sure, in some ways it was a hassle and sometimes it probably resulted in a lesser quality story. After all, 2 heads are better than one, especially if the reporter gets to work with a really talented, bright photographer. The upside is that I learned a lot about the photography end of the process and became a better photographer myself. I even shot my own stand-ups (the part where you see the reporter on screen talking in the field). I simply set up a light stand to about my height, put it where I was going to stand, focused on it, then started the camera, moved the stand out of the way, stood in it's place and spoke that part of the story. The VJ concept has always been around.

These days, more and more stations are doing it to save money. It's not always enough. Just this week, a station in Reno dropped its newscasts and fired the entire news staff because they weren't making enough money off the shows. Most larger stations make a lot of money off their local news advertising revenue. Some smaller stations though, are going the VJ route to try to keep their profits as high as possible. In some cases, they're doing it simply to keep their operations profitable. With increasing competition from cable, satellite dish TV and the internet it's a real scrap to compete for the almighty advertising dollar. Add to that the state of the economy in general. Will we see more of this? Probably. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's indicative of the changes ahead in broadcast journalism. In other words, "Kids, better learn how to shoot!" I'll let you borrow my light stand so you can still see yourself on teevee!

Speaking of competition between stations, this is one of the best videos I've seen in a while. It comes from El Paso, Texas and features 2 of those big, bulky, SLOW microwave news vans involved in....a drag race! Hilarious! This could have been used in a "promo" about getting to the story first.

Sadly, I heard at least one of the photographers operating/driving one of the "Live Units" was fired because of this video. Oh well, I guess we've now got at least one more reporter having to work as a VJ.

American Idol Update: We bid farewell to David Hernandez, who lap-danced his way into America's hearts, if only for a few weeks. Oh well, I guess now, for David, it's back to the daily "Bump and Grind."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Duh Beatules...& more Madness

American Idol took on the Beatles tonight. As I've stated before, I'm more of a Stones guy than a Beatles guy, cause I'm more of a Rocker than a Popper. Nevertheless, here's my impressions:

Syesha: Not bad, but not outstanding. Very workmanlike. (workwomanlike?)

Chikezie: Brilliant arrangement and I thought he did a great job of delivering! BEST performance of the night.

Ramiele: I like this girl, but this performance was kinda "ho hum." As Simon said, "You're better than that. Kinda like when my arthritic Lab, Mazie tries to chase my car, Bless her heart......she tries so hard....but she can't keep up.

Jason: He's better than that too, but ho hum, a step down from the week before when he did a great job with a Jeff Buckley arrangement.

Carly (retread): Not bad, BUT...... she's a good enough singer. I'd love her more if she could flex her bicep and make the tattoo face on her arm sing, but keep in mind, that I have high expectations, and high standards. Maybe she's saving the "singing tattoo" til the finals. If she pulls it off...I'll be in awe....and heaven forbid....dialing in.

David Cook: The "Critter Club Vet" (Elks, Eagles Moose Lodge, etc) from Missouri did fine. Not the best, but not the worst. I have yet to buy into his "brilliance" which Paula, Simon, etc have heralded, but hey, he deserves to hang around another week..

Brooke: Not overwhelming, but I thought she did an above average job! Is she as genuine as she seems?

David Hernandez ( The former male lap dancer....not that there's anything wrong with that): I think he's got some talent, but I think he topped out talent-wise. WORST performance of the night. He was ripped by Randy and when you get ripped by a guy who used to play with Journey when they were on the're in big trouble. When Paula was down on it....oh know that you really screwed up.

Amanda (the Harley-riding, oxygen-selling nurse from Indiana): I actually think this girl could be really good when she matures.....but she hasn't yet. She's in danger of being labeled a "poser." Randy says she has a "southern bar" thing going......but me southern-self thinks in a southern bar....she might get her butt whipped (you gotta learn how to dodge the flying bottles).

Michael Johns (Australian retread): Poser....Yawn. Paula thought it was brilliant. More proof that drugs are not answer.

Kristy (retread): I don't know if it totally worked, but it wasn't a total flop either. Paula didn't get it. Simon thought it was horrendous. I didn't think it was that bad. I didn't think it was that good. I thought it was very courageous, but very average.

David Archuleta: I don't like "child prodigies, but this kid is good. He forgot the lyrics a couple of times and the arrangement was so "Vegas lounge." Things that make you go Hmmmm. It was his WORST performance, although he should skate through to the next week.

Based on this week:
Who needs to GO: Syesha and/or David Hernandez
Who needs to STAY: Chikezie & Brooke

* They need a Stones night....

My alma mater, the largest college by enrollment in Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State (surprised?), FAILED to get into the NCAA tournament by losing to Western KY in the Sunbelt Conference finals, but that's the breaks. Great game, and really reminded me of the "old days" when both battled in the Ohio Valley Conference. Still proud that the state of Tennessee gets FIVE in the NCAA tournament.

LOVE Bruce Pearl's orange jackets. Obviously an inspiration from the old Coach Ray Mears, whose acquaintance I treasured and still do. Do I think the Vols deserve a high seeding? YES! Do I worry their poor free throw shooting and streakiness might give them an early exit from the NCAA Tournament? YES!

On the other hand, could they get hot and wind up in the Final Four? YES! That's what makes March Madness so cool! In my dreams Tennessee and Memphis meet for the Nat'l Championship...but we have a ways to go. Let the Madness begin!

Blues Singer Prayer List:
Big Larry Allbritton (Williams), who has survived with pancreatic cancer longer than anyone I've ever heard of, has a new CD out, which is fantastic! I always thought a lot of Big Larry. These days, he's even more larger than life to me. He always had a smile and a word of encouragement for me. I always wished I had a fraction of his talent. I played a few gigs several years ago when he opened for me and he was so gracious. I couldn't believe it, since it was HE who was one of MY heroes.

Candye Kane: A slight acquaintance who's waiting to hear if her biopsy comes back pancreatic cancer, or another form of cancer. She doesn't deserve this. She's paid her dues. She deserves a break. I pray she gets one. Please God, give her a break. Such a fighter. Such an optomist. Such an inspiration. She's up for a Blues Music Award this year from the Blues Foundation. She got my vote.

Let's stick together.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Paying For Viewers

Recently, there's been a little mini-brew-ha-ha in some TV markets during ratings periods about some stations running contests and giving away cash during their newscasts. Some think this is borderline unethical and beneath the "lofty" standards of "good journalism." I'm not one of them. These days, with the economy and increased competition for viewers from cable, satellite tv and the internet, it's an all out grab for all these businesses can dream up to hang on to their increasingly shrinking number of viewers. It's nothing that radio stations haven't tried for years to lure listeners. Applying that tactic to local tv news seems like a no-brainer to me. They need viewers, and us viewers need cash!

Those with a "holier than thou" attitude toward the practice should realize that the broadcasting businesses is indeed a business, first. Conscientious journalists should continue to do their best to uphold their standards, but in between, lighten up, and give me the cash! In fact, I think the practice should be expanded to non-sweeps times too!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Snowstorm Postmortem-March Madness!

In the aftermath of the March 7th snowstorm, the forecasting award goes to......John Champion of WPSD. Champion correctly forecast 3-6 inches for the area, while so many others predicted much more. I'm so old! Champion was still in high school when he interned under us and wanted to be a meteorologist when he "grew up." He turned out to be a really good one!

In the meantime, with the snow on the ground, I took time to watch the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on ESPN-U and get a little "March Madness " flowing. The opening game was UT-Martin against Austin Peay (the top seed). UTM has two of the most exciting players in the country, in my opinion, in scoring machine Lester Hudson (4th in the nation), and Freshman phenom, and local kid, Marquis Weddle, of nearby Union City, TN. I think it's great to have a "local" doing so well for UT Martin. I remember, not so long ago, when passing on a local kid did NOT bode well for a former UT Martin coach. The local kid was Popeye Jones, from nearby Dresden, who went on to a stellar career at Murray State and then a long career in NBA.

This game matched two of my favorite coaches: Brett Campbell of UT Martin and Dave Loos of Austin Peay. I think Campbell is one of the brightest young coaches in the nation, and I'll always be in debt to him for NOT throwing me off the sidelines at one game a year ago. My wife, Bridget and I went to a UT Martin game and I was wearing my Middle TN State windshirt (instead of my usual Skyhawks sweatshirt) and preparing to sit way up in the rafters, when the UT Martin Sports Information Director said we could sit on Press Row if we wanted. I didn't care to (been there-done that), but Bridget really wanted to see a game "up close," so we did. I got some funny looks, but we were accommodated. On the other hand, I mean, it's not like I haven't thrown off a sideline before. I was thrown off the sideline at the '94 Peach Bowl, but that's another story!

I was a friend of Cal Luther's when he coached at UTM and LOVED UT Martin, even though I didn't go there to school (I was raised in nearby Trenton). I used to head to Martin and see many friends on weekends in MY college days, at Cadillac's, Maggie's, the Hourglass and more.

I went to MTSU and will admit, when I went to school, our players used to run through a huge poster of a commode as the crowd chanted "Flush Peay (pronounced pee) when we played Austin Peay. Those were the "good ole days" of the OVC. Later though, I covered Dave Loos when he coached at Christian Brothers in the NAIA and always admired him as one of the best, and classiest coaches I'd ever been around. I covered many battles between Christian Brothers and Lambuth and Union University. Later, I covered Loos at AP with clashes against Murray, UTM and more. Ironically, Campbell tutored under Loos at Austin Peay before moving to his job at UT Martin. Austin Peay won this game 78-77. It was a great game, although I'm sad for the Skyhawks, even though I'm so proud of them for advancing so far and having a chance to win! May I be the 1st to beg Hudson to come back for another year! Don't you know there are so many big schools which are so sorry they passed on Hudson. If Hudson comes back, UT Martin, with Hudson and Weddle, has to be a favorite for the OVC next year. I guess I need to toast them at Cadillac's sometime soon!

Murray also bowed out of the OVC Tournament this year, to Tennessee State, so I guess it's over for the locals, although they were great games!

The OVC Tournament was held at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, a place dear to my heart, too. I went to SO many shows there when I was in college (ZZ Top, Rush , Sammy Hagar and AC/DC with Bon Scott among many others), although my most endearing memory of Municipal was attending a Bob Dylan concert there a few years ago, when my wife leaned over, smiled and said, "I can't understand a ______word he's saying" I replied, "yeah, but it's Dylan, baby!" What a house! OK...I'm ready for March Madness. Let me reach for that bracket. I need to fill it out!