Well, the counter-backlash is on…

…all sorts of bloggers are saying “Fire Tedford? Have you lost your mind? Do you know what it was like before he was here?”

Well, as a matter of fact, I know exactly what it was like, and it’s called Vanderbilt. And I assure you, if the Commodores were to find themselves suddenly in a position where they were regularly being ranked and winning 7 or 8 games and a bowl every year, I and those like me would be over the moon.

But if they lost every time they played in Mississippi, never beat Florida the whole time, couldn’t get into the SEC title game – well, we have a word for that too, and it’s called “Tennessee for most of Steve Spurrier’s reign at Florida.”

Look, I’m not saying “fire Tedford” at all. I’m saying that if you want to get to a level beyond where Cal is now, he may not be the guy to get you there. In one respect, Cal is unfortunate in that their rise back to respectability dovetailed almost precisely with Pete Carroll’s arrival at USC and the corresponding Trojan revival. But think about the games USC has lost in that span: almost always on the road, and always by a narrow margin. Two questions should loom huge:

1) When’s the last time USC got blown out?

2) When’s the last time USC lost a huge game?

For 1), I honestly can’t think of one. And for 2), the only one that springs to mind is the Rose Bowl against Texass (sic) – the 3-OT loss to Cal in ’03 was of a piece with the losses to Oregon State or Stanford. Now if Cal had won in ’04, the world would look very different today – but that’s neither here nor there.

Bottom like: USC wins in the clutch. Cal rarely does. Even though I’ll probably be there Saturday night, freezing my nuts off, I’m not kidding myself, because for all his success, Tedford hasn’t met the Ric Flair standard: if you wanna be the man, you gotta BEAT the man.

flashback, part 14 of n

My paternal grandmother was my introduction to death.

She had a stroke about a year before she died, and my father and his two brothers drew up a rotation, and two or three nights a week, we were over at my grandparents’ house making dinner and looking after the two of them. When she finally died, it was the first time I was cognizant of anyone I knew dying. (It didn’t help that Bear Bryant shuffled off this mortal coil before the month was out, too.)

Well, my grandfather had been more or less a subsistence farmer until the two boys were old enough for high school. At some point (I guess before the third was born, but not by much) he went to work in the steel business for a couple of decades. All this is by way of saying that when he found himself a widower at age 70, he was not really well-prepared for domestic life by himself. And so everybody continued to look after him – and in our case, that meant he came to dinner on Tuesday nights. It must have started that spring, but it was a going thing for over a decade – because in 1993, when I went to pick up my new Saturn, my first task after bringing it home was to go collect him for dinner.

I guess it must have petered out sometime while I was at Vandy, because I don’t think he was coming over by the time I came home that first summer. Of course, even though he was limited in how well he could take care of himself, he held on pretty good for another decade after that before dying only a day or two short of age 91. Given that three of my father’s four grandparents and his dad lived into their 90s, I’m pretty sanguine about the quality of my Y chromosome…of course, given how well-preserved my maternal relatives were despite decades of unfiltered cigarettes and radiation exposure, my X could be pretty money too.

Anyway, it’s flabbergasting to think that all that started over 25 years ago. There are big pivotal events in my life that were 2/3 of my life ago. When you contemplate how much time has gone by, it seems absurd that the midpoint of my life now is somewhere in my freshman year of undergrad, because that second half has FLOWN by comparison. But the wife has it right: every year goes by quicker than the last. All the more reason not to dawdle.


Get used to it: Dan Snyder, the little half-a-bastard who owns the Washington Redskins, is only 43 years old. There is every chance he will have control of this team for the next four decades. There is every possibility that the Skins are going to be the new Oakland Raiders: trapped under the thumb of an owner with no grip on reality and surrounded by sycophants with no ability to run a football program.

After two decades, it looks like my NFL team could well be in a death spiral for the rest of my life.

SO much to look forward to…

Football Wrapup, part 2

“Nobody knows nothin’.”

Never has this been more true than this September. Three of the top six teams in the AP poll went down to defeat this weekend, all to unranked opponents. The number of ranked teams upset in the month is greater than I can remember, and the inconsistency is all over the place. The only thing you can count on is that there will be fear and loathing and gnashing of teeth in Florida, as Tim Tebow is being held overnight with symptoms of concussion after leaving the stadium in the back of an ambulance halfway through the 3rd quarter in Lexington.

Right now, I think you have to say that Alabama is probably the top team in the country, passing Texas based on the fact that the Longhorns haven’t played anyone worth mentioning (a win over Virginia Tech utterly trumps a win over the TTs at this point) and passing Florida based on the fact that if Tim Tebow isn’t there, that team doesn’t go. The biggest question mark in the SEC is “what happens when an offense built around one player loses that player?” If there’s not another five-star prep option QB waiting in the wings, Florida may hit a bump.

As for the Commodores, well, if you can’t get well against Rice you may not ever get well. But it’s not a conference win, and 0-2 in the SEC is not promising with the kinds of threats on the horizon (the aforementioned Florida, a Georgia team with a knack for the great escape, a South Carolina squad that just knocked off #4). However, next week is home against Ole Miss, a team that was inexplicably overrated coming into the year and got exposed by a South Carolina defense that hasn’t contained Vanderbilt the last two seasons. A win over the Rebs would go a long way toward putting Team Commodore back on the straight and narrow.

For the first time in a long time, I find that I can watch games all Saturday, doesn’t matter who’s on, there’s something worth seeing. And that is a very pleasant development.

Football wrapup, part 1

Disasterbation, n. the act of supporting Cal football. orig. Stagger Lee, Sept. 2008.

To quote directly:

In retrospect, it should have been obvious to a small child that this is the way to beat Cal this year: stack the box to stop the deadly Jahvid Best, overload on the pass rush, and force a quarterback in his first full season to make plays to receivers with a combined total of four catches and no starts when the season began.

Well, another year hasn’t improved things much. Oregon did just that, and at last check are up 39 on the Golden Bears. After losing to Boise State, everybody wrote off Oregon, and neglected to look up when they pounded Utah, and now the hayseed hippies of UC-Eugene are delivering the worst defeat of the Tedford era.

This is a team loss in every sense of the word. Offense: feckless. Defense: helpless. Special teams: anytime your superstar punter delivers a punt for five yards, you know how special teams are doing.

It’s time to ask the question: is Jeff Tedford capable of delivering a must-win game? Think about it: since 2002, when’s the last time Cal won a significant victory against a meaningful opponent? They had to miracle out wins in bowls against Virginia Tech and Air Force and Miami, they’ve still never won in Los Angeles under Tedford, the Texas Tech fiasco is known to all and sundry. The Oregon State loss in 2007 when a win would have sent Cal to #1 in the country. The Big Game that year when a win might have salvaged the biggest collapse since the walls of Jericho.*

Tedford’s big kills are: a triple-OT win at home against USC in 2003 and a Holiday Bowl disemboweling of Texas A&M. Other than that, the team has struggled against teams it should beat, frequently backed into wins against teams it should have blown off the field, and – reliably – lost every single consequential road game since 2002.

Jeff Tedford has hitherto gone unchallenged by a fan base of Old Blues who remember the age of Tom Holmoe and haven’t seen a Rose Bowl in fifty years and are just grateful to be televised and ranked. And if you are happy with 8 wins a year, occasional bouts of top-25 ranking, and a rock-solid home record, and can live with being a sub-500 team on the road and spitting the bit at the most pivotal moment, that might be enough. But the day is coming, and coming soon, when people start asking what it’s going to take for the Bears to finally break through.

* A collapse surpassed the next year by Vanderbilt, who lost to the likes of Mississippi State and Duke in the course of pissing away a 5-0 start.

For the record…

New Wayfarer by Ray-Ban, model 2132, tortoise frame, lens 902/57 (brown polarized), 52/18mm. See, Sunglass Hut, they DID make a brown polarized New Wayfarer.

I lost my shades at the beach house last month. Fortunately, it turns out my sister-in-law found them. Which saved me an impulse purchase of another hundred-something bucks. Because I’ve basically come to realize that the Preds, the Oakleys, the little silver-blue things from back in ’02, all the other stuff – it breaks down in the face of the single most iconic form of eyewear on the planet. Besides, I can’t remember the last pair of sunglasses I kept successfully for three years – except I can and they were black Wayfarers that I got my first year at Vandy and hung onto in some form for a decade. Even after the eyepieces went wide from leaving them in the car one year at City Stages, and believe me, you can leave a car in the shade but in Alabama it’ll still get hotter than hell.

All this is just so I have a record of what I need to replace them with when things go awry. =)

Are you serious?

“But Obama has made it even more explicit, regularly proclaiming his determination to rely on rational analysis, rather than narrow decisions, on everything from missile defense to Afghanistan — and all the big issues at home.”

And the problem here is….?

Memo to the Washington Post: if you don’t want to finish as the fish-wrapper division of Kaplan Test Prep, it’s way past time to put David Broder in a home.

Much Miserable Shit

So apparently tomorrow, we’re finally going to get MMS on the iPhone. Assuming you have a 3G or 3GS, that is. And of course, since it’s AT&T, there’s no telling how well it will work if at all.

This represents the rare-but-not-unheard-of phenomenon of Apple guessing wrong. A lot of things that they’ve done in the last 15 years or so were good guesses, mostly regarding legacy features that could be dumped (SCSI? ADB?) or premium products marketed brilliantly (“No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.”) or features that could be ditched without consequence (i.e. 2009 before releasing an iPod with FM radio).

But back in the days when the iPhone was under development, I am willing to bet that Himself made a bet: that given the opportunity, people would eschew sending postage-stamp-sized pictures for a quarter a pop when they could email a full-sized pic for free. And thus MMS support didn’t make it into the iPhone. Of course, since MMS is a data service, it’s possible to cram other things in there, and once video messaging became part of the package, MMS suddenly took off.

Which left Apple in a bad spot again, because at the time, the hottest camera in phones was a 2 MP camera that still took, at best, 176×144 video. And there’s no nice way to put it: that looks like shit. And as I said two years ago, the reason the iPhone doesn’t take video is because Himself won’t let it until there’s a way for it to take video that doesn’t look like ass.

It seems that day has come – iPhone and Nano alike now take 640×480 at 30 fps, which is equivalent to standard-resolution television or the low-end Flip camera. Which is good enough for Himself. Better late than never, but the two year delay is the price of the mentality that keeps Apple in a premium price niche (and keeps the stock bumping around 180).

And so we get to the final delay: AT&T. On the day that iPhone OS 3.0 went live, with MMS capability, 29 of Apple’s 30 carrier partners were live with MMS service. Guess which one wasn’t?

And this is because unlike SMS, which rides on the control channels for free, MMS is a data service. And as we have proven over and over and over and FUCKING OVER, AT&T’s network is not up to handling the data requirements of the installed base of iPhone users. Adding an additional data capacity to the phone will only increase the load on what is already a weary and wobbly network, especially in New York and San Francisco.

The iPhone has customer satisfaction ratings that most manufacturers would sacrifice their children for, but the number-one complaint of owners – by a huge margin – is the AT&T network. And rightly so.

Pro Football Update

Well, as always, the Redskins are what unites DC, and today they are united around one theme: Jim Zorn is dumber than a sack of hammered feces. When your special teams coach has to handle your clock management for you, when you’re running trick plays over and over inside the 5, when you’re playing the worst team in the NFL and never cross the goal line in five trips inside the red zone (and come away with only 3 field goals for your trouble), your playcalling is clearly for shit.

On the bright side, I won both my fantasy league games, largely because I had the fortune to get Drew Brees in one and the brains to draft Ronnie Brown in the other. You’d think nobody ever thought of a direct snap to a running back in the shotgun – it’s called the single wing, jackass, it was the basis of all football for the first two decades of the NFL – but the Monday Night Football team kept crowing about “Wildcat!” with all the exuberance of a teenage girl who just discovered the shower massager. As somebody who watched the Alabama Crimson Tide play the back end of the 1993 season with a slotback under center for most of the game (the immortal David Palmer, and no not the President), all I can say is that the NFL is like watching a bunch of 4 years olds play soccer – as soon as one discovers something, they all run after it in a pack like nobody’s ever done it before. Face it, people: your superior entertainment takes place on Saturdays, not Sundays.

College Football Wrap

* Not much to say about Bama, but their marquee win against Va Tech looks a lot better today than yesterday. (Although the biggest winner had to be LSU, whose out-of-conference win looks a HELL of a lot better now.

* Cal is not as good as they will be ranked tomorrow. They played a great first quarter and a great fourth quarter, but the middle 30 minutes are the sort of thing that make Old Blues hold their faces in their hands and moan about how Cal always snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. Riley needs to hunker down a little and the pass defense needs to learn to adapt to marquee receivers – and with Maryland’s loss to Little Middle, Cal now only has this game all year to hang its hat on. Going on the road again next week, to a suddenly wakeful Oregon, and then hosting USC at home – well, let’s just say we’ll know a LOT more about Cal in two weeks than we know now.

* Utah was ranked. BYU was ranked. Both lost to unranked teams. WHERE’S YOUR GOD NOW, MORMONS?

* Sigh. Vandy. I think the exact words you want are “Same,” “Old,” and “Vandy.” The regression to the mean is sudden and unwelcome, but even with the injuries and departures, there’s no excuse for only mustering 3 total points at home to likely the worst team in the SEC West. The Dores didn’t break 100 yards total offense – or manage a drive longer than 4 plays – until the 4th quarter , and despite pinning Mississippi State deep over and over in the first half, utterly failed to capitalize – the three points came following a Bulldog fumble on their own 5 that left Vandy with first and goal.

The truth hurts: Larry Smith is going to be a great quarterback someday, but today’s not the day. 12/32 passing, for a whopping 124 yards, will avail you nothing. Add true freshmen in the backfield – a backfield that amassed a whopping 33 yards rushing – and what you get is a Commodore squad that will struggle all year to build and sustain drives, which means the Vandy defense will be increasingly taxed all game long and lead to breakdowns in the 4th quarter…which, translated, equals “Same Old Vandy.”

Nothing to do now but wait for tomorrow…and if the Redskins shit the bed against the Rams, again, it’s going to be one hell of a long year for football.