Friday, May 30


If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.
— Yiddish proverb

The ”Framingham scale” is a risk-assessment tool that arose out of an ongoing study centered in Framingham, Massachusetts, into heart disease and the factors that contribute to its occurrence. It takes into account things like personal characteristics, family history, diet, and exercise frequency; based on those criteria, my dad figured he was pretty safe. His family has very little history of heart disease, he eats well, and as was empirically proven not so long ago, he’s probably in better shape than I am. In fact, according to the Framingham model, Dad determined that he had only about a 2% chance of getting heart disease in the next 10 years.

So it came as a surprise when he started having “exertion-induced” chest pains a couple weeks ago. It started when he was doing his usual morning runs, but it progressed to the point where far less strenuous activity — even taking his springer spaniel, Jake, on a leisurely stroll through Cooper Creek Park — would make his chest hurt so much he’d have to stop and sit down. His own doctor suggested that he go in for a treadmill test in the lab at the Medical Center, so he scheduled one for Thursday morning.

My mom, who was out of town all week visiting her own dad in Virginia, called me Tuesday night and asked if, just for her own peace of mind, I would go down to Columbus and accompany my dad to his test. I just had a deadline on a major project pushed from September back to January, so things had quieted down quite a bit at work, and I told her sure, I could spare a day or two off. Dad, of course, thought it was unnecessary; when I called him and asked if he felt like having some company this week, his immediate response was, “Your mom got to you, didn’t she?” When we walked out the door at 6:15 Thursday morning, him in his running outfit, he carried a change of clothes with him in a duffel bag, thinking he’d take the treadmill test, knock it out, then change and go into the office.

Most people — including anyone who runs as much as my dad does — usually go 10 to 12 minutes on the treadmill before it really starts getting to them. Thursday morning, Dad barely even made it to three. His chest started hurting, his EKG spiked, and Dr. Chhokar, the cardiologist, laid him down and broke to us the bad news: There was some kind of lesion blocking one of the major arteries in his heart, and it was serious enough that she wanted to go ahead and take care of it that day. She transferred him down to the cardiac cath lab at St. Francis, and that afternoon they did a balloon angioplasty and inserted a stent into the weakened part of his left coronary artery.

My sister and I saw the pictures right after they brought him out of the lab, and Dr. Chhokar estimated that Dad’s artery was about 98% blocked. Two percent had gone from being Dad’s safety blanket, his reason for being confident in his health, to being the astonishingly thin line separating normal, everyday life from God knows what.

It doesn’t give you a lot of confidence in the rightness and orderliness of the world to know that someone who ate, exercised, and did everything else properly — to the point where he had a better theoretical chance of hitting a double-zero bet on a roulette wheel than contracting heart disease — could still be going into the hospital to try and stave off a coronary, much less someone you love. I told Dad right before he went into the cath lab that if this was all healthy eating gets you, I was going out and getting a fricking Triple Baconator and large fries from Wendy’s. And yet that knowledge, that at any given moment 2% can either be carefree life or imminent death, is also liberating in a weird way: If you know that your chances are almost completely up in the air no matter what you do, doesn’t that give you more license to do the things you want? Eat the Triple Baconator, blow off work to go to that baseball game, go skydiving — you might as well. The chance might not be there tomorrow, and there’s not much you can do about it.

But just as 2% can be two very different sides of the same coin, that freedom brings with it responsibilities. If you know that whatever you have can be taken away from you so randomly, then you’ve got that much more incentive to make sure your “affairs are in order” at any given moment — and not even in a legal sense, but in the sense that you’re straight-up with your family, your loved ones of all stripes, that nothing has been left unsaid or undone. In between Triple Baconators and skydiving, you might also use some of that newfound freedom to hand out an “I love you” or “I’m proud of you,” whether the recipient is expecting it or not — just to make sure there’s no doubt.

I don’t think I’ve been holding back that much on saying those things to my dad, but I guess now I’m going to make doubly sure. I spent a lot of time today thinking about all the things that, had they gone just a little bit differently, might’ve taken away any remaining opportunity I had to do that: What if I’d told my mom I was just too busy to go home this week? What if I’d just ignored her phone call completely Tuesday evening, figuring I was dog-tired and I could just call her back later? What if the treadmill test had been scheduled for one week later, and in that one-week interim Dad went on a run that took him from one side of that 2% to the other?

Like I said, it’s scary to think that all of this might’ve simply come down to Dad, and by extension the rest of our family, being extraordinarily lucky. Maybe even the kind of luck that lets you hit a 49-to-1 bet. But even if that’s all it was, I’ll take it over the alternative. And whatever responsibilities arise out of having to make the most of that luck, I’ll take those too.

Thursday, May 29

The Old School Plus One revisits 1999.

Before we start digging into the 1999 season, it probably bears pointing out that my first crack at putting the Old School Plus One into action has already created a fair bit of controversy — although that seems to have more to do with the winners I picked (i.e. not Tennessee or Florida State, the two teams that played in the actual national-title game that year) than the plan itself. So just for the sake of argument, Vol fans, let’s say that Tennessee did beat Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and went on to the national-title game. That means the Vols have beaten both a loaded, 10-1 Buckeye team and either Florida State or the 12-1 Arizona Wildcats to claim the national championship — which means that you’ll no longer hear any more harrumphing about the Vols not really being that good, even from douchebags like me.

And isn’t that pretty much worth it right there? Yes? No? Maybe? Whatever — on to 1999.

1. Florida State (11-0) — ACC champion
2. Virginia Tech (11-0) — Big East champion
3. Nebraska (11-1) — Big 12 champion
4. Wisconsin (9-2) — Big 10 champion
5. Alabama (10-2) — SEC champion
6. Tennessee (9-2)
7. Kansas State (10-1)
8. Michigan (9-2)
9. Michigan State (9-2)
10. Florida (9-3)
11. Marshall (12-0) — MAC champion
22. Stanford (8-3) — Pac-10 champion

Remember when this guy wasn't an asswipe?

Florida State is the AP’s wire-to-wire #1, while Virginia Tech has to work their way up from a preseason #13 to the number-two spot going into the bowls. Because of a less-than-imposing schedule, though — the Hokies’ best opponent in terms of wins and losses is a Miami team that will finish the season 9-4 — the undefeated Hokies are still viewed with skepticism by a substantial portion (though by no means a majority) of CFB’s fans and pundits. For the most part, those doubters would rather see Nebraska pitted against FSU in the national-title game; Nebraska sustained their one loss of the year against 18th-ranked Texas in a shocker in Lincoln on October 23, but got their revenge by crushing the Longhorns 22-6 in the Big 12 title game.

Rose: #4 Wisconsin (9-2) vs. #21 Stanford (8-3)

Same as the actual 1999 game. (Kind of a down year for the Pac-10, wasn’t it?)

Fiesta: #3 Nebraska (11-1) vs. #5 Tennessee
With no ranked Pac-10 teams available, the Fiesta reaches across the country for an at-large SEC team guaranteed to sell tons of tickets and put plenty of fans in the seats.

Orange: #1 Florida State (11-0) vs. #2 Virginia Tech (11-0)
With the undefeated ACC champion already locked in, the Orange jumps on the only other 11-0 team in the country, Virginia Tech, to secure the same matchup that ended up playing in the actual ’99 title game.

Sugar: #6 Alabama (10-2) vs. #8 Michigan (9-2)
Just as the actual Orange Bowl did in ’99, the Sugar matches the SEC champion with a heritage-rich and strong-traveling Big Ten team.

WHAT (I THINK) HAPPENS: What we’ve basically ended up with here is the same four matchups we got from the BCS in the actual 1999 bowl season, only the Orange and Sugar have effectively swapped games. So it’s not hard to predict what happens: Wisconsin beats Stanford 17-9; Nebraska whacks Tennessee in Tempe, 31-21; Florida State knocks off the Hokies 46-29; and Alabama loses to Michigan on a missed PAT in overtime, 35-34.

Florida State maintains their #1 ranking, and Nebraska moves up into the spot vacated by the fallen Hokies, so the national-title game matches the Seminoles vs. the Cornhuskers in a rematch of the 1992 and ’93 national-title Orange Bowls — and for the third time, the Seminoles come out on top in a thriller.

ANALYSIS: Once again, Kansas State fans will grouse that their team didn’t get a shot at the title, or even a major bowl invite, but once again, their case is undermined by a lackluster postseason performance (a squeaker 24-20 victory over unranked, 6-5 Washington in the Holiday Bowl). The bigger issue here is that Florida State is forced to play another game even after knocking off the only other undefeated team in the country, but again, you have that sizable contingent of folks who wanted the Cornhuskers, not the Hokies, to be the Seminoles’ date for the national-title game. As someone who felt all along that Virginia Tech was worthy of their Sugar Bowl berth that year, I personally don’t think FSU had much left to prove after beating the Hokies, but would it really have been the end of the world if the ‘Noles had had to play another game? After all, if Nebraska ended up beating FSU, the Cornhuskers would’ve had a fairly airtight case for deserving the crystal football themselves. In the end, it all comes down to one rule: If you want the title, you gotta win whatever game is put in front of you.

A memo from the desk of Arnold T. Pants, Esq.:
Crabs, veeps, and douchebags, oh my!

· On Wednesday I got this month's issue of the Nature Conservancy magazine, and the blurb on the cover said "Counting On Crabs," referring to the importance of horseshoe and other crabs in maintaining the health of coastal ecosystems. Somewhere, in an alternate universe, I like to think I received a copy of that magazine with the same headline, only the subhead read "My wild night with Paris Hilton." Zing! Count it!

· Though I am an avowed Barack Obama supporter in this year's presidential election, you may recall that Obama, as fine a leader as he is, wasn't my first choice. Optimus Prime, regrettably, sat this election out, but it still did my heart good to see include Prime on its list of possible Obama VP nominees:

- heroic
- beloved by millions of people
- doesn’t need his own Secret Service detail, as he is a giant battle robot
- can voice over his own ads and it will be awesome

- Energon needs may betray problematic views on energy policy
- although technically able to assume presidency on grounds that adoption of current big-rig transformed form counts as a “rebirth” and it happened on American soil, expect a court challenge to his viability
- predictable target of negative ads: “How Do We Know He Will Not Go Insane And Try To Exterminate Humanity?”
- likely Megatron endorsement of John McCain in response

Of course, if Optimus turns down such an offer, there are always other choices. Who, for instance, could bolster the Democrats' national-security résumé more capably than Anthony Stark (I-N.Y.)?

· If it's a generally accepted truism that producers of comedy films will pick out the very funniest scenes from their movie to put in the trailer to entice audiences, what does that say about Mike Myers's upcoming movie "The Love Guru"?

· Turning to things that don't suck, ESPN has already dibsed the TV rights to the Georgia-Alabama game on September 27, which increases the chances that it'll be a night game. And you know what that means: 1) an unforgettable pre-game atmosphere in Athens, and 2) one that, by 3 in the afternoon or so, I'll be too drunk to fully take in. Oh well, I'm sure it'll be fun while it lasts.

· But anyway, since that last video did suck, I'll send you out with one that doesn't: the top-secret, behind-the-scenes version of the legendary Bill O'Reilly "Inside Edition" meltdown that was making the Interweb rounds a couple weeks ago.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy -- and by "nicer" I mean "bigger," and by "guy" I mean "self-important waste of oxygen." Happy trails, wankers!

Monday, May 26

Solving the playoff predicament:
The Old School Plus One.

I know y'all may be tired of the college-football playoff debate, and I'm sure that at some point in the recent past I promised I wasn't going to hash it out anymore -- but a few weeks ago, shortly after the major-conference commissioners gave the thumbs-down to the idea of a four-team playoff, Tony Barnhart floated the idea of a simple plus-one system that would place 10 teams in five elite-level bowl games (the current Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta BCS bowls, plus a newcomer) and then, after those five games have been played and the rankings have re-sorted themselves, take the #1 and #2 teams in the BCS rankings and pit them against each other in an "official" national-title game. Barnhart readily admits this isn't a new idea -- he says Vince Dooley was talking about it way back in the Bowl Coalition days -- and honestly, when the BCS first announced the implementation of a fifth game starting with the 2006 season, I thought this is what it was going to entail (rather than just being an extra game to squeeze in two more teams).

Barnhart's off to a nice start here, but I've still got a big problem with it -- namely, that the BCS formula, with its tidal wave of decimal points and obscure computer rankings, is apparently still involved. I've made no bones about my distaste for this system, to the point where I'd be perfectly happy if we just went back to the old days when bowls could invite whomever the hell they wanted, no computer rankings, decimal points, selection orders, automatic berths for any team ranked at a certain level or higher, or any of that. However, I think there's a way to have something that traditional and still throw a bone to the folks who think, and not without reason, that some kind of playoff is the only gentlemanly and proper way to pick a single national champion.

I call it the "Old School Plus One." Once all the regular-season and conference-championship games have been played, the bowls get to make the same mad dash for teams that they did in the pre-Coalition days. They can maintain any conference tie-ins they find desirable, but beyond that it's every bowl for itself. And with the BCS system obliterated, no bowl is forced to take any team -- from either a major conference or one of the "mid-majors" -- just because it's achieved a certain ranking. And nobody has to take turns as far as inviting "at-large" teams, either. This means that two bowls could conceivably offer invites to the same team, so it'd be up to that team to decide which one it wanted to go to.

Sometimes a difficult decision like that isn't such a bad situation to be in.

Then, after all the bowls have been played, the top two teams in the country, as ranked by the AP, face off in the national-title game. That game would be administered by a body independent of any of the existing bowls, so it could be held anywhere in the country; theoretically, the NCAA could handle it like the Super Bowl, with cities, as opposed to bowl organizations, bidding on "hosting rights" years in advance.

There are tons of advantages to this system, and doing away with the infuriating BCS formula is just one of them. Bowls would be freed up to arrange the best and most lucrative matchups, instead of being locked into the BCS's arcane selection process. The bowls could make more money by bidding out their TV rights individually rather than as a "package." And teams that don't win their respective conference championships can still have a shot at the national title -- but they first have to earn that shot by beating someone who did win their conference. The downside -- if you choose to look at it that way -- is that high-ranked "mid-majors" wouldn't get the automatic berths they enjoy today, but the way for them to solve that problem is the same as it is for any other team: play a formidable out-of-conference schedule, win every game you can, and line up a bunch of people to buy tickets. Some of the people who read this site probably have me pegged as a borderline communist, but with the Old School Plus One, I'm lettin' the free market rule, baby.

Over the next couple weeks, I'll be showing how this system would've worked in each of the past 10 years since the BCS was implemented in 1998. For the purposes of these simulations, I'll assume that the four bowls that comprise the BCS in real life would retain their conference tie-ins -- i.e. the Rose gets the Big 10 and Pac-10 champions every year, the Fiesta gets the Big 12 champion, and the Sugar takes the champion of the SEC -- but beyond that, anything goes. I'll plot out which teams I think would've gone to which bowls and project who would've won each game; in some cases the games will feature the same matchups that they did in real life, which will make predicting the outcome pretty simple, but other times, when the matchups are purely hypothetical, I'll simply be making my own guesses. From there I'll settle on which teams would've ended up #1 and #2 and therefore ended up in the national-title game -- and you'll have the opportunity to vote on whether you think that outcome is better or worse than what actually transpired that year (and, of course, give more detailed opinions in the comments threads).

Everybody up to speed? Then let's start with 1998, the inaugural year of the BCS system.

Here I'm just throwing a bone to Holly, 'cause she probably isn't gonna like what's coming next.

Tennessee (12-0) -- SEC champion
2. Florida State (11-1) -- ACC champion
3. Ohio State (10-1) -- Big 10 co-champion
4. Kansas State (11-1)
5. Arizona (11-1)
6. UCLA (10-1) -- Pac-10 champion
7. Florida (9-2)
8. Texas A&M (11-2) -- Big 12 champion
9. Wisconsin (10-1) -- Big 10 co-champion
10. Tulane (11-0) -- Conference USA champion
16. Air Force (11-1) -- WAC champion
18. Syracuse (8-3) -- Big East champion

Going into the last week of the regular season, there are three undefeated teams (Tennessee, Kansas State, and UCLA), and the big question is who's going to be left out of the national-title game. But then all hell breaks loose (UCLA gets stunned by unranked Miami in a game postponed from the very beginning of the season; K-State loses the Big 12 title to Texas A&M in double-OT), and the question becomes which of seven one-loss teams will be matched up against still-undefeated Tennessee.

Rose: #6 UCLA (10-1) vs. #9 Wisconsin (10-1)

Same as the actual 1998 game; Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin all finished 7-1 in conference play, and Ohio State and Wisconsin didn't play each other, so the Big Ten invokes its rule that in case of a tie for league champion, the Rose Bowl berth will go to the team that last got invited to Pasadena the longest time ago.

Orange: #2 Florida State (11-1) vs. #18 Syracuse (8-4)
I don’t know whether the Orange would’ve actually taken Syracuse in this scenario, but I think they would’ve taken an actual conference champion (even if the Big East was a subpar conference that year) over Kansas State or a Florida-FSU rematch.

Sugar: #1 Tennessee (12-0) vs. #3 Ohio State (10-1)
Grabs a Buckeye squad that brought a ton of fans to see FSU-OSU at the Superdome the previous year.

Fiesta: #8 Texas A&M (11-2) vs. #5 Arizona (11-1)
Has a tough choice between Arizona and tOSU; opts for Arizona because they're closer.

WHAT (I THINK) HAPPENS: Wisconsin beats UCLA 38-31, and then all hell breaks loose a second time as the top two teams fall on consecutive days — first the Chris Weinke-less Seminoles fall in a shootout to the Donovan McNabb-ful Orangemen, and then Tennessee’s extraordinary and well-documented luck runs out as the Buckeyes, more specifically their defense, boot the Vols from their perch as the nation's last unbeaten team. After that, Arizona’s victory over an offense-challenged TAMU squad in front of what effectively amounts to a home crowd seems almost anticlimactic.

With #4 Kansas State getting embarrassed by Purdue in the Alamo Bowl, Ohio State and Arizona advance to #1 and #2, respectively. And the Buckeyes beat the Wildcats in the title game, 31-20.

ANALYSIS: I don’t think a lot of people would’ve quibbled with Syracuse getting a spot in one of the major bowls, nor with fourth-ranked Kansas State being left out of the party (particularly given that they didn’t end up making much of a case for themselves against Purdue). Probably the biggest thing people are likely to argue with here is the predicted outcomes for these games, but I think the upset projections are valid. Remember, Syracuse came within a point of knocking off the eventual national-champion Vols that year; they beat Michigan by 10 in the Big House; and they absolutely destroyed a 7-2 Miami team 66-13, so I think Donovan McNabb could’ve led them to an upset of the hobbled Seminoles. Meanwhile, Tennessee struggled to outscore that same hobbled FSU team in the actual Fiesta Bowl, so I think a case can be made that Ohio State — who really hadn’t even been played close all year, save for the stunning upset to Michigan State near season’s end — would’ve finally handed them a loss.

And again, this wouldn’t be a case of the national title getting "stolen" by a team that didn’t win its conference, since Ohio State was a Big 10 champion that year.

So I know the Tennessee fans out there are going to hate this outcome, but . . . how about the rest of you?

Once again, feel free to leave any suggestions, dissents, criticisms, or whatever in the comments thread; I'm looking forward to seeing how this system plays itself out over the next few seasons.

Thursday, May 22

The Friday Random Ten isn't going anywhere until it's touched everything in the room three times.

I know that after all the awards this blog has won, the accolades, the effusive links and praise from other sites far and wide, you probably have this impression of me as a together, in-the-know individual with my finger on the pulse of everything hip. Well, I'm flattered you would think something like that, but as I felt obligated to admit in a conversation this past weekend, I'm actually a basket case, a teeming cornucopia of hangups, phobias, and obsessive compulsions -- so much so that I occasionally wonder how I'm able to function at all in a public setting. So lest y'all get tempted to place me on too high a pedestal, I'm giving you a peek behind the curtain into the creaking funhouse of my inner psyche with Five OCD Hangups I'm Probably Never Going To Be Able To Shake:

Anytime I enter something into an alarm clock or microwave, it has to end in 4
I was born on the 4th of June, 4's my lucky number, so anytime I set my alarm or enter something into the microwave timer, it has to end in 4. Supposedly 4 is unlucky in Japan because their word for the number four sounds like "death" (though that hasn't stopped them from giving all kinds of weird names to other stuff).

I have trouble throwing away anything with a picture of a cute animal on it
This particular neurosis has gripped me ever since I was a hypersensitive child, and even today I have to muster every bit of emotional strength I have to roll up an empty Pedigree bag like the one pictured above and throw it in the trash. I don't know, I just have this fear that somewhere a Jack Russell is dying a horrible death due to my thoughtlessness. See also: chocolate bunnies, inability to consume.

Anytime I drive over rumble strips, I have to sing "Hail Georgia"
Specifically, I'm talking about those sets of rumble strips that you see leading up to stoplights on public highways all over Alabama, the ones that have two sets of rumble strips spaced far apart followed by three close together. The "brump, brump, brump brump brump" sound your tires make as you go over them is almost the exact cadence of the whistle blows that the Georgia Redcoat drum major makes before launching into some fight song during a game; my sister and I noticed that one weekend as we were driving home to C-Town, so for good luck (I think the Georgia-Florida game was that weekend), we sang "Hail Georgia" every time we went over one. And now I can't stop. Laugh if you want, but it worked, didn't it? Hmmmm?

I can't drink from water fountains
I'm sure I've alluded to this on the blog before, but I'm incredibly germ-phobic, mainly when it comes to the foods and beverages I put in my body. And I would no more drink from a public water fountain than I would guzzle from a jug of milk that had a nice swampy layer of curds floating on top. Thanks to inconsiderate sick people and prepubescent kids who haven't yet been told that they don't have to actually put their tongues on the faucet in order to drink the water, these things are festering petri dishes of germs and sickness, or at least that's what I tell myself whenever I get thirsty enough to be tempted to drink from one.

I hold my breath when joggers pass me on the street
My general germphobia also manifests itself as a hypersensitivity to smells, which obviously includes foodstuffs that might be even the teensiest bit past their sell-by dates but also includes other people's bodily odors. I generally try to smell as presentable as possible at any given moment, and while I understand that not everybody is in a position to be similarly spruced up at every single hour of the day, I still reserve the right to not catch a whiff of your sweaty musk as you run by me. Who goes jogging in the middle of the damn day, anyway? Don't you people have jobs? And if so, what do you think the people at those jobs are saying when your sweaty ass returns to your office? For this same reason, I no longer attend outdoor music festivals between the months of April and September. Any of my Birmingham neighbors who've ever gotten a whiff of the humid, sweaty miasma hanging over City Stages in the middle of June will back me up on that one.

Yes, I know I'm borderline nuts, but I'm still glad I got all that off my chest. Anyway, here's the Ten:

1. Thievery Corporation, "Focus on Sight"
2. U2, "Exit"
3. Moby, "Oil 1"
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Around the World"
5. U2, "Bullet the Blue Sky"
6. Moby, "Inside"
7. The Dust Brothers, "Marla"
8. Richard Cheese, "Only Happy When It Rains"
9. The Dust Brothers, "Medulla Oblongata"
10. The House of Love, "I Don't Know Why I Love You"

All right, readers, now it's time to fess up to your own hangups and compunctions (and throw your own Random Tens in the comments thread there while you're at it).

Wednesday, May 21

It went nicely with his "Montreal Expos 1994 NL East Champs" bomber jacket.

There are actually quite a few Georgia grads in Birmingham, mostly either at Southern Progress or in the financial industry (though a few have started coming over here for medical or dental school), but not all that many Georgia Tech alums that I know of, so when I see some evidence of open GT fandom, it gets my attention around these parts. Just a little bit ago I was taking Champ and Jenna out for our daily lunchtime stroll around Five Points, and as we were waiting to cross 20th Street, a guy jogged across the street wearing a shirt that had a little yellowjacket logo on it next to the legend 3-PEAT!

My brain immediately cranked into action trying to think what that could be referring to. What had Georgia Tech won three times in a row recently? ACC basketball titles? Hell, they were lucky to win three ACC games last season. Three baseball titles? Maybe three football games in a row over a hated rival? Clemson, perhaps? No . . . Maybe Virginia? No . . .

The answer finally came to me right as he jogged by, but I didn't believe it until I saw the back of the shirt with my own eyes:


Now, I don't seriously think this guy was making a deliberate effort to publicly boast about Tech's eight-year-old "3-peat"; more likely it was just the first shirt he grabbed out of the dresser drawer before going out for his lunchtime run. But no matter what context you put it in, it's still pretty hilarious if you're a Georgia fan.

Bless y'all's hearts, Georgia Tech. Bless y'all's hearts.

Tuesday, May 20

Playoff argumentation the second: the "Because I Said So" part.

OK, I thought I had left the playoff debate behind for good, but the whole thing left a sort of "earworm" in my head (one that, on the bright side, replaced Bananarama's "Cruel Summer") and, upon the further reflection that that inspired, I realized there was an anti-playoff argument in addition to the rational, somewhat objective argument presented the other day: the reasoning-free, purely subjective "'cause I don't wanna" argument.

College football is like Kate Hudson in "Almost Famous": Explanation coming in 3, 2 . . .

Here's the deal: The current CFB postseason, with its weird-ass bowl sponsors and its clusterfuck of a title-selection process, makes college football kind of like that hot mess you dated back in college. She was a total trainwreck, and you wondered how she maintained enough mental stability to so much as put one foot in front of the other sometimes, but she was stupidly, blazingly hot, all kinds of fun in the 50-to-75 percent of the time she wasn't collapsing into a blubbering mess, and perhaps most importantly, actually enjoyed hanging out with your dirty, unpleasant-smelling ass. Yes, college football's postseason system is a Romper Room of dysfunction on an annual basis, but . . . doesn't that kind of make it unique? Do you really want it to straighten itself out with the cold, ruthless corporate efficiency of the NFL?

I don't, and I'm one of the biggest NFL fans around -- my Georgia fandom didn't shift into overdrive until I was actually at UGA, but I've been a Washington Redskins fan since my dad got the green light to decorate my three-year-old self with a #81 Art Monk T-shirt. Yet even as I've maintained joint Bulldogs/Redskins rooting interests over the past couple decades or so, I've liked the NFL and college football for reasons that are actually really different. They aren't interchangeable, and I don't want one to turn into the other.

Before I continue, a moment of silence, please, for the Quiet Man.

The NFL has but 32 teams, all of whom are relatively even in talent, so an "upset" really only means that some actually-pretty-decent team managed to overcome a point spread nobody would touch in the college game. It's only logical that measures should be taken to single out one superior team that rises above the rest; yes, every team except for one has to end their season with some kind of disappointment, but they're all big boys, and it's not like they aren't getting paid enough, so I have no problem telling the other 31 teams tough shit, try again next year.

But college is different. There are 120 teams covering a dramatically huge spectrum of ability from "dynasty" to "hopeless bottom-feeder," so if someone manages to pull an upset and somehow manages to pull out, say, an 8-4 season after years of failure, maybe I don't want to subject them to a system where they might have to end their season on a down note. Lest you think that makes me a bleeding-heart softie, I want the same thing for the perennial powerhouses. Think of it this way: I was kind of psyched that, after a trying 2006 season in which the Bulldogs had to right the ship after a 1-4 slump, they still got the chance to end the campaign with a blaze of glory by upsetting the Hokies in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. At the same time, I'm really grateful that the Dawgs got to end the 2007 season as Warrior-eviscerating Sugar Bowl champions rather than a future trivia question ("Which SEC team missed the 2007 plus-one playoff field by thaaaaat much?"). Yes, a single, indisputable national champion is an admirable goal, but is it one I'd trade the above simple pleasures for? Not if the only proposed methods of achieving that goal are as vulnerable to abuse and whoring-out as today's playoff proposals are. Honestly, maybe not at all.

Oh, yeah, you remember this.

I don't know -- maybe it's just because my continuing development as a sports blogger has shown me that there are far worse things in the world than something to be endlessly argued and bantered over, but I no longer think a split national title is nearly the affront to God, country, and the memory of Pop Warner that I used to. And I know you may be out there grumbling, "You'll change your tune if it's Georgia that ends up 'sharing' the title with Southern Cal this year," but you know what? If one poll ends up putting Georgia at the top at the end of the season and another poll puts someone else there, I'm still going to be thrilled with my team and the season they played. I'm still going to cry like a little girl with a skinned knee when they hoist that "National Champions" flag over Sanford Stadium before the 2009 home opener. And I'm still going to shove it in the faces of any and every Georgia Tech fan I come across.

Now, I still think the BCS is still someone's sad idea of a science project and has no business being anywhere near college football, but that doesn't mean a playoff is the answer. Again, I'd be perfectly happy to just kick it old school and go back to the status quo ante Coalition that existed back in the days of gigantic shoulder pads and Dick Enberg. Yup, this commie pinko liberal, who's in favor of gay marriage and marijuana legalization, will still defend tradition to the death when it comes to college football. If it was good enough for the 1980 Dawgs -- and boy, was it ever good -- why can't it be good for us?

Playoffs?! OK, you can talk about playoffs.

With a plus-one playoff proposal recently having been shot down by the conference commissioners of D-IA, the already heated (and seemingly endless) debate over a playoff in IA football has ramped up yet further in the blogosphere. Most of the CFB blogs I read on the regular, surprisingly, are against playoffs -- even more surprisingly, this goes double for the Georgia blogs, as Senator Blutarsky, Paul Westerdawg, and Kyle King (among others) have all come out against such a system despite the fact that it might've given last year's 11-2 Bulldogs the shot at the Big 'Un that many felt they were unfairly denied. At the other end of the spectrum, you've got (among others) Sunday Morning Quarterback, who has not only made eloquent pro-playoff arguments in the past but has gone so far as to call one more or less inevitable.

It's prompted me to do a little wondering of my own about what my true opinion is on this, and the closest thing I can come up with is I don't actually care. I know that's one of the most annoying things a blogger can do, to write a long-ass post that basically amounts to "Hey everybody, my opinion is that I have no opinion," so let me modify that somewhat: Whatever opinion I have on this matter has far, far less to do with me wanting a playoff than it does with not wanting -- with extreme prejudice -- the system we've got now, i.e. the BCS.

In theory, I'm attracted to the idea of a plus-one playoff; looking back over the first 10 seasons of the BCS and what it would've looked like had a plus-one been in effect, it's hard to say for all but one or two of those groupings that any of the teams involved wouldn't have made a fine and respectable national champion had they ended up winning it all. However, my interest in a plus-one has two major caveats, and the first one is the potential for a four-team playoff to grow wildly into something much bigger and more diluted -- or, as Blutarsky calls it, mission creep. The textbook example of this is the NCAA basketball tournament, which started out with only eight teams in 1939 and has more than octupled in size since then; and even if you dismiss that by delineating all the reasons that college hoops aren't analogous to college football, there may be an even better example of "mission creep" in the college bowl system. In 1939 there were five bowl games -- Rose, Cotton, Orange, Sugar, and Sun, all of which have remained respectable institutions with generally high (though varying) levels of prestige -- but this coming season we're going to have 34. If you'd asked Cotton Bowl founder J. Curtis Sanford back in 1937 whether his financing of a new bowl would one day lead to an annual game in Shreveport between the number-seven teams in the SEC and Big 12, I'm sure he would've told you "Don't be silly," too (though that would've been partly because he wouldn't have even known what the Big 12 was). And if you'd asked him about a bowl matching the third-place team in the Big East with the fifth-place team in Conference USA that was named after not even a pizza restaurant but said pizza restaurant's Web site, I'm sure he would've at least given thought to burning you for witchcraft.

If there's one thing we should have learned about the country's conference commissioners by now, it's that they're some greedy mofos. I realize that's because they have to be; their top priority isn't college football writ large, it's their own conferences first, the sanctity of college football second. Looking again at that what-if post about a plus-one on Blutarsky's site, you'll note that no Big East teams would've been invited to the plus-one party for the last five seasons, and only one ACC team would've gotten the call in the seven seasons since FSU last played for the title -- think Mike Tranghese or John Swofford wouldn't have raised a stink about that at some point? Given that more playoff games would equal more money, it would be completely implausible if they weren’t eventually able to drum up enough support to crack open the playoff field a little more and expand it to include four more teams and a pair of more-or-less-automatic berths for their conference champions.

He up and swiped Miami, VaTech, and Boston College right out from under the Big East's nose -- what makes you think he won't f$#! with your playoff?

So if a plus-one playoff ever does get implemented, there has to be a Doomsday Device built into it that says the very minute someone even suggests expanding the field beyond four teams, the whole thing blows up and we go back to the circa-1991, pre-Coalition, every-bowl-for-itself system, split titles and all. Clap to this: How is our current situation really all that different? There’s still just as much disagreement over national titles on a regular basis, and still the danger of a split title, as 2003 proved; only now we can’t even figure out who’s going to be in the national-title game without a calculator and a college-level expertise in statistics, which is stupid. Any average math-averse Joe like myself should be able to sit down with the sports section on a Monday morning and, after less than 60 seconds’ worth of perusing the poll results and conference standings, figure out who’s going to be playing for the title, whether those teams are going to be matched up in one game or spread out over two or even three. But I can’t do that now because we’ve just arbitrarily thrown algorithms and something called the Colley Matrix into the mix. I think part of our current distaste for the BCS stems from mistrust, because we’re basically throwing the poll results into a Cuisinart along with some computer rankings whose formulas or methodology are known only to a tiny group of people who may not even be football fans in the first place and expecting everyone to just accept on faith whatever comes out. And I’m sorry, but this isn’t a faith-based business.

Have a playoff or don’t have a playoff already, but whichever you end up deciding, let’s get rid of the BCS. An old-school, unstructured Wild-West bowl system might not be preferable to a playoff, but in practical terms it’s certainly no worse than letting math geeks have this much say in who gets to play for the title. Basically, after ten years of the BCS, I think I've come to the conclusion that a split title, while certainly not the ideal situation, wouldn't exactly be the end of the world; it's when we have to slog through the aggravation of an arcane jumble of decimal points, and still arrive at a split title anyway, that I really start to feel like the sanctity of my favorite sport is being arbitrarily and pointlessly messed with. And that's when I get pissed.

Sorry if that disappoints both the playoff proponents and the BCS folks, but what can I say? Even a commie pinko like me can be a traditionalist about some things.

And honestly, if the chaos of the old bowl system could give us moments like this, was it really that bad?

Saturday, May 17

Happy weekend: Separated At Birth goes video.

I think I've been pretty clear that I find Headline News talk-show host Glenn Beck pretty worthless; his right-wing-masquerading-as-"independent" viewpoint is so transparent only a complete retard couldn't see through it, and his "angry white man" shtick more often comes off as whiny, entitled, and ineffectual. Yet there's one big, overarching reason why Beck grates on my nerves even more so than most right-wing talk show hosts. It isn't his politics, because I can even give Beck a little credit for not being totally mindless in his opinions, unlike, say, Sean Hannity; nor is it the fact that he gets to hold forth for an hour every weeknight on HN without any kind of liberal counterbalance, because it's not like they're the only network doing that.

No, the most grating thing about Beck is that he has only one speaking inflection: sarcasm. Not just sarcasm but the forced, repetitive sarcasm of a guy who's convinced he's hilaaaarious. Here's Glenn ranting on global warming (shockingly, he thinks it's bogus):

See? That whole time he's playing exactly one note, and it's "this is stupid so I'm going to be as condescending as possible. 'Dja get that? CONDESCENDING." I was trying to figure where I'd seen/heard something like that before, and then a couple weeks ago, in a conversation about favorite "Kids in the Hall" sketches, it finally hit me.

Any of you KITH fans remember this?

Yup -- Glenn Beck is Dave Foley, The Partygoer With A Sarcastic Speech Impediment. It's all right there, people.

Friday, May 16

It's time for the Friday Random Ten+5 to pack it in.

Hillary Clinton may have won Tuesday's West Virginia primary, but even a 41-point victory in the Mountain State only brought her 12 delegates closer to Obama's total, and John Edwards's subsequent endorsement of Obama pretty much negated that and then some. Now, a lot of people are clamoring for Hillary to get the hell out of the race, but I'm not; until her chances go from "improbable" to "mathematically impossible," she's got a right to stay in this thing as long as she wants, and I don't really buy the line that the Democratic Party is somehow being irreparably damaged by her continuing to contest the race. As long as both she and Obama keep their race civil -- and, at least for the last couple weeks, they have -- then their continued competition mainly serves to highlight just how much better either one would be than John "Four More Years" McCain.

But that doesn't mean that there are plenty of other people out there who need to hang it up. "Seinfeld," Joe Gibbs, the Citroën DS, and the "Bourne" film series all had the good sense to end on a high note and call it quits before they ruined their respective reputations; it's probably too late for this week's +5 to salvage their reputations, but nevertheless, this Friday we're spotlighting Five People, Places, And/Or Things That Just Need To Hang It Up Already.

"American Idol"
I will confess to having followed this show only once: the season that Birmingham homeboy Ruben Studdard won (and even then I only watched the last few episodes). Otherwise, I'd have rather watched vomit dry on the sidewalk, and apparently the rest of the country is starting to come around to my way of thinking -- last season's finale was down 19 percent in viewership from the previous year, and the current season's premiere was down 11 percent from last season's. Plus it's not like the winners are even going on to that much success, at least not the ones from Birmingham. Yet that doesn't stop teenyboppers from all over the Southeast from bum-rushing the Magic City like clockwork whenever there's an audition here, as if there's something in our water that will magically turn them into sure-fire superstars. (Sorry, but I'd like to be able to get a table in a goddamn restaurant without having to wait for a table of 14-year-old Carrie Underwood wannabes from Murfreesboro to finish their desserts.) Every fad burns itself out eventually, and this show's time has clearly come. Fox, please pull the plug on this thing before Paula Abdul shaves her head and mows down a photographer. You know it's gotta happen any day now.

As brazenly retarded as the idea of a civilian-market Hummer seems now, I can actually kind of see why it might have been appealing when the first Hummers went on the market back in 1992: Our Hummer-equipped army had just kicked Iraq's ass, the economy was back on the upswing, and gas was less than a dollar a gallon. And, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger had one. Sixteen years later, though, we're no longer kicking Iraq's ass quite as handily, the economy's in the shitter, and you have to take out a second or third mortgage just to fill up your gas tank. (On my way to Columbus last weekend, I paid more than $50 for a fillup for the first time in my life. In a fucking Jetta.) Tellingly, GM doesn't even sell the original military-based Hummer H1 anymore; now all they've got is the H2 and the smaller H3, which are both based on existing mainstream SUV platforms. So it shouldn't be too surprising that a brand name that once said "tough, rugged fightin' man" now screams "I have a tiny cock and I'm too dumb to realize I just paid $55,000 for a glorified Tahoe," nor that Hummer sales plummeted 22 percent last year. GM, it's time to euthanize this pig, and start sinking some investment dollars into a decent hybrid already.

Al Davis
Once upon a time, Al Davis was known as a hard-charging iconoclast whose uncompromising "Just win, baby" attitude helped lead the Oakland-slash-Los Angeles Raiders to three world championships. Unfortunately, he's long since tap-danced over the line separating "eccentric" from "nuttier than Rocky the Flying Squirrel's turds," and with the Raiduhz holding a 19-61 record over the last five seasons, that "commitment to excellence" legacy has pretty much devolved into "the only owner in the NFL who goes through coaches faster than Daniel Snyder." Maybe it's time for Davis to hang up his spurs, ride his Rascal scooter off into the sunset, and sell the team so that a slightly saner head honcho can have a shot; Raiders fan Tom Hanks, perhaps?

Ralph Nader
Doing so may have doomed America to at least four years of George W. Bush's head-slapping incompetence, but I can kind of see why Ralph ran for president in 2000, since at that time, it was possible for reasonable people to think there wasn't that much difference between the two major-party presidential candidates. Of course, eight years, one catastrophic terrorist attack, two wars, one hurricane and a bajillion gas-price increases later, we all know better -- well, everyone except ol' Ralph, who threw his hat in the ring a fifth time a few months ago. Not that he doesn't have some legitimate points to make, nor some legitimate criticisms of both major parties, but -- Jesus, Ralph, how many times you gonna tilt at this particular windmill? You went from 2.9 million votes in 2000 to 465,650 four years later; if that trend continues, in 2008 you can expect to get lapped by the Greens, the Libertarians, the Constitution Party, and possibly even Alan Keyes. Dude, it's time to pack this thing up while you still have a better public reputation than Mike Gravel.

The "Saw" film series
The original "Saw": clever, if highly disturbing. "Saw II": still disturbing, somewhat less clever. "Saw III": OK, now you're just trying to come up with new ways to torture people. But then there was a "Saw IV" last fall, and there's going to be a "Saw V" next fall, followed by a "Saw VI" sometime after that. Seriously, how many films are y'all willing to make just to come up with the most Rube Goldbergesque way to possibly kill someone? Look, we get it, you guys are sickos; now quite while you're ahead, 'cause you make too many of these movies and eventually you're gonna be reduced to "traps" that involve lawn darts, lead paint, or Ford Explorers with Firestone tires. And has anyone noticed that the last few movies don't even involve saws?

On the waiting list: the entire MTV network, George W. Bush (obviously), Bai Ling, and the "Terminator" series. Seriously, PG-13 "Terminator" movie? Starring who, Miley Cyrus as the T-X 2.0?

Blehh. Anyway, here's the Ten:

1. Dead Kennedys, "Take This Job and Shove It"
2. Team America, "America, Fuck Yeah"
3. Dr. Dre, "Nuthin' but a G Thang"
4. Miles Davis, "Blue in Green"
5. Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight" (Thus proving that I do, in fact, have two ears and a heart)
6. U2, "The Sweetest Thing"
7. Pet Shop Boys, "One Thing Leads to Another" (Grandmaster mix '98)
8. Suprême NTM and Cut Killer, "Nique la Police"
9. U2, "One"
10. The 13th Floor Elevators, "You're Gonna Miss Me"

How 'bout y'all? Put your own Tens, as well as your own instructions for people who need to just give it a rest already, in the comments.

Tuesday, May 13

It's all over now, bébé bleu.

First Jenna Bush, now this.

Yup, that's Melissa Theuriau in that picture, and she done got herself hitched. And she didn't even tell me beforehand. (Thanks to Mack Williams and LD, by the way, for breaking the news to a brother gently.) Anyway, the point is, FAIL. There's going to be a period of mourning here at Hey Jenny Slater, I'm not gonna lie to you.

But in the meantime, nominations for a replacement are officially open. Nobody who's married or otherwise romantically attached; also no drug addicts, country musicians, porn stars, Scientologists, or Republicans. Everything else is on the table.

OK, some drug use is acceptable.

God is teasing me! Just like he teased Moses in the desert!

Man, you try to be a better person, you vow to give in to anger less and not be so judgmental of people, and then you read something like this"

Vito Fossella built a career as a staunch "family values" pol, polishing his image in his predominantly Catholic district with a string of anti-gay votes.

He even shuns his gay sister, Victoria Fossella, refusing to go to family events if she and her partner attend, a source close to the family said.

His double life is now exposed with the news he has a 3-year-old love child with a divorced Air Force colonel, and critics are calling him a hypocrite.

Making this even more fantastic is the fact that Fossella, the Republican representative of a district comprised of Staten Island and a small section of Brooklyn, got arrested at the beginning of this month for driving around Fairfax County, Virginia, with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit, and his extramarital affair first came to light when his mistress came to bail him out of jail.

Now, you can say what you want about a guy like, say, Jerry Falwell -- and Lord knows I have -- but I'll at least give Falwell this: He may have preached a petty, exclusionary brand of Christianity completely at odds with almost everything I've been taught, but he at least did us the courtesy of following that in his own personal life. He apparently never went and hooked up with gay guys in hotel rooms, and we haven't seen any "secret families" come out of the woodwork to reveal that Falwell fathered X number of bastard children and funneled them cash for years. This guy Fossella, though, not only carried on a years-long affair and fathered a child, but he thought he still held moral superiority over his gay sister, to the point where he refused to so much as breathe the same air as her at family gatherings. And that's even before you get to his multiple votes on Capitol Hill punishing not only gay people but even the people and communities who try to stand up for them.

This type of thing makes me want to go out and just punch somebody -- and it says something about the current state of the Republican Party that they're not willing to give him the heave-ho just yet. Sure, he's hateful, hypocritical scum, but . . . he got re-elected by a 14-point margin two years ago!

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

Saturday, May 10

The Friday Random Ten+5 ties the knot. On Saturday.

The Friday Random Ten+5 experienced a 24-hour delay this week due to Blue-Screen-of-Death-related issues with Hey Jenny Slater's central mainframe, but it's probably just as well that it turned into a Saturday Random Ten this time around, because it coincides with the wedding of Jenna Bush. Now, as you know, she and I have a bit of a history together, but I wasn't terribly shocked to hear the news that she'd gotten engaged. I was, however, surprised to learn that she was getting married on her dad's ranch in fricking Crawford, Texas. Tell me, readers, and I'm talking to both men and women here -- if your family connections gave you the option of getting married at either the White House or a ranch in east Texas, which one would you pick? If I was Jenna Bush I'd be like, "Look, pops -- you're more than likely going to leave office with an approval rating in the 30s, and I'm going to be saddled with a public rep as daughter of one of the most inept presidents in history. This might be my last chance to salvage something positive out of this train wreck of a presidency, so screw your stupid ranch, I want a Rose Garden wedding. MAKE IT HAPPEN."

On the other hand, maybe this was the plan all along, which might explain why Dubya was spending so much time cutting brush down there. Still, I could write you a long list of places I'd rather get married. In fact, I think I'll get started on that list right now: In honor of dear Jenna, this week's slightly belated +5 is Five Places I'd Rather Get Married Than Crawford, Texas.

The 50-yard-line at Sanford Stadium
I realize there is only a very specific cohort of potential brides-to-be who would agree to this, but it's not like I'd be wanting to have it during halftime of an actual game (though that would be pretty sweet). Just your average summer Saturday, when the stadium isn't in use, would be fine. Though I'd probably at least have Mark Richt on the guest list. And Uga VI.

Las Vegas
One could argue that a prefab wedding ceremony at a kitschy Vegas chapel, officiated by an Elvis impersonator, would not really befit the son or daughter of the leader of the free world. But let's be honest -- at this point, how much more damage could this possibly do to the Bush legacy? And given that Nevada is more than likely going to be a swing state in this year's presidential election, it couldn't hurt to do a little pandering to the voters out there.

The Vatican
I realize that the Bushes aren't Catholic, but if it was my family, I figure there'd be nothing wrong with my dad the president calling up Pope Benedict and being like, "Hey, Your Excellency, do me a solid and marry my son and daughter-in-law at St. Peter's." Maybe he could sweeten the deal by promising to continue the ban on government funding for stem-cell research, I don't know.

The backyard of one of my ex-girlfriends
Again, this seems like something that would be well within the power of a sitting U.S. president to do; if my dad can order the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without giving them access to legal representation or even charging them with anything, he can rub one of my ex-girlfriends' sweet faces in it by issuing an executive order appropriating her backyard for a First Family wedding.

Austin, Texas
I mean, if you have to get married somewhere in Texas, at least do it someplace that has some decent bars.

Anyway, congratulations to the happy couple. If the wedding ceremony's in Crawford, wonder where the honeymoon's going to be? Lubbock? Romantic Fort Worth? While y'all ponder that one, here's the Ten:

1. Nine Inch Nails, "Wish" (remix)
2. The Sloppy Seconds, "Just Because You're a Girl"
3. The Dust Brothers, "Who is Tyler Durden?"
4. Elvis Costello, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding"
5. Passengers, "Miss Sarajevo"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Minimal" (Lobe remix)
7. The Beastie Boys, "Do It"
8. Public Enemy, "Burn Hollywood Burn"
9. The Chemical Brothers, "Come With Us"
10. Crowded House, "Walking on the Spot"

Now that's a Random Ten that just oozes romance. Throw your own Tens, and your dream wedding locations, in the comments.

Tuesday, May 6

Living every week like it's Shark Week:
"30 Rock" vs. Georgia's 2008 schedule.

Apologies for the slow blogging over the last couple days, folks -- I've been working on a piece for something the Roll Bama Roll guys are hoping to put out later on this year (unless they weren't ready to announce that just yet, in which case I've been surfing the Web for porn). But I hope you'll excuse me for doing a little football work on the side, because we're getting right into the heart of silly season -- the point in the year at which we gridiron junkies give up all pretense of sanity and just start begging PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE for football season to fucking start already. Bloggers very much like myself are forced to spin thousand-word posts out of practice reports or spring scrimmages, and when we don't even have those to write about, we get desperate and start reaching big-time -- until the point where we're throwing up stuff like this or this, which are the sports-blogger equivalent of going to the cupboard and guzzling the vanilla extract.

The whole "College Football Teams as Other Things" archetype is always a good fallback, though, not to mention something I have some experience with. Roll your eyes if you want, but crap like this has earned me an upcoming spot as a guest lecturer in Dr. Marian Hamilton-Fletcher's semiotics class at Duke University (SOTC 4112 -- Group Comparisons of Things to Other Things: Theory and Practice).

The next installment in that less-than-distinguished series? Georgia's 2008 Schedule as "30 Rock" Characters. Now, this is only going to be funny to that select group of people who both a) follow Georgia football and b) watch "30 Rock" religiously, and perhaps not even to them. But it's perfect in its own weird way because the Dawgs, God love 'em, are like the Liz Lemon of football: Extremely talented, even "hot" by many standards, and very near the pinnacle of their respective career paths -- yet afflicted with the kind of neuroses and brain-fart propensity that always seems to bring them down just a few steps short of the brass ring. The 2007 season was a prime example of this.

So who are the people who'll be traveling in and out of our orbit and causing us problems this season? We'll start on opening weekend and progress chronologically.

(ADDED: Welcome, readers -- make yourselves at home, try on anything you like, feel free to grab one of our sales associates if you have any questions. And thanks much to Campus Clicks for the link; I've got you down for fifty bucks and my firstborn.)

Georgia Southern: Kenneth the page
Friendly, non-threatening; any gathering involving them is going to be polite and relentlessly upbeat, even as they're being put resoundingly in their place. Yet while it maybe easy to write them off as lightweights, after the Appalachian State-Michigan debacle there's no way we're going to be taking them lightly. "In five years we'll all either be working for him . . . or be dead by his hand."

Central Michigan: Pete Hornberger
No real rivalry here. Capable, always good for an unexpected flash of brilliance, but they've got too much baggage (MAC affiliation/the teenage son he's afraid of) for us to ever want to trade places with them.

at South Carolina: Devon Banks
Unctuous, devious, but mostly just annoying. Rivalry with Florida/Jack Donaghy (q.v.) has seen its share of interesting moments, even an upset or two, but even when they somehow succeed in ascending to the top echelon they never hang around for very long. Just as Banks tries to convince people he's heterosexual, the Gamecocks are determined to convince people they're SEC-championship material; no sane person should believe either one.

at Arizona State: Cerie
Just there to look pretty; in the grand scheme of things they don't actually figure that heavily in our chances for success (or lack of same). Yet just as many viewers wouldn't mind a hot blonde like Cerie getting more screen time, most Georgia fans would be perfectly happy to play some tougher, BCS-conference road games now and then.

Alabama: Tracy Jordan
They're not on crack, they're straight-up mentally ill. Currently vying for the title of Hot Mess of the SEC; down for a while, now poised for a major comeback, but at the same time highly dysfunctional, always in danger of a very public and embarrassing implosion. Capable of just about anything, from an awe-inspiring victory to an abject humiliation. Ongoing, frequently vicious rivalry with Auburn/Jenna Maroney (q.v.). Fervent belief in all manner of paranoid conspiracy theories (Auburn or Tennessee constantly plotting against them/"I believe there are 31 letters in the white alphabet").

Tennessee: Frank Rossitano
Obnoxious, and proud of it; they both live to provoke people. Deliberately wear some of the tackiest outfits imaginable, which more often than not include a trucker hat. On paper, they're losers -- so why are they so good at f$#@ing with us?

Vanderbilt: Toofer
Smarter and classier than most of the nut jobs they're surrounded by, but chronically incapable of rising above them. Both have Civil War legacies they'd probably rather people not know about (Toofer's ancestor fighting for the Confederacy/Cornelius Vanderbilt's fraudulent claim to being a naval commander). They score a big win every now and then, but somehow it never becomes a habit.

at LSU: Dr. Leo Spaceman
Two erratic sorts whose competence is always in question due to seemingly mindless risk-taking and wildly experimental play-calling; frequently make people wonder whether there's any higher brain activity going on up there at all -- and yet they somehow never pay a price for it. In fact, they still manage to hold the fates of power players such as Alabama/Tracy Jordan and Florida/Jack Donaghy (qq.v.) in their very hands on a regular basis. But what can you do? Football's not a science.

vs. Florida: Jack Donaghy
Powerful, cunning; their mere names inspire fear and/or respect to varying degrees. Still, they're not without numerous flaws and hangups (overdependence on Tim Tebow/cookie-jar collection). There are also some serious mommy issues lingering here, if Steve Spurrier counts as a mommy. We're beginning to make up some ground in this relationship with a satisfying victory here and there (42-30/calling them a "Class A Moron" in the Post), but there's still a long way to go before they truly see us as equals.

at Kentucky: Josh Girard
When we found them, they were opening for a puppet. Since then, they've gotten fairly talented in their own way; particularly good at impressions, whether it's Christopher Walken or a wide-open NFL-style offense. They test well with female viewers 12 to 24, but those people will buy just about anything. Yeah, they score a major triumph every once in a while -- they even punked us not that long ago -- but more often than not, when they meet up with a true superstar they come out of it looking like they've just been klonged over the head with a fire extinguisher by Elizabeth Taylor.

at Auburn: Jenna Maroney
Long history with Liz/Georgia. Was the star of the show for a while, but even that only went so far, as neither the "People's National Champion" nor a starring role in "The Rural Juror" inspired much lasting respect; now feeling very threatened by Alabama/Tracy Jordan's resurgence in the public eye, and hunting desperately for gimmicks (Tony Franklin's spread offense/Jenna's collagen injection and skin peel) to remain relevant. Perhaps not the sharpest knives in their respective drawers, as prior relationships with David Blaine and Terry Bowden will attest.

Georgia Tech: J.D. Lutz
Constantly frustrated about their respective places in the world and increasingly bitter about it. Due to either a lack of imagination or simple laziness, they've become content to offer up consistent mediocrity, whether it's five-loss seasons or an endless series of sketches revolving around hobos. Prone to calling us all manner of nasty names, yet once the smoke has cleared, they're on their knees begging not to be sent to some frigid, snowy clime (Alaska for Lutz, Boise for the Jackets).

And I guess that's about all there is to say, except we're gonna eat your family.