Monday, June 30

The question is not "Do you want your face rocked off?", it's "How hard and how fast?"

I was at a Shell station in Orlando, waiting to purchase a bottle of red Powerade that I had deliberately selected over Gatorade to piss off the Florida fans in the immediate area -- it is the reddest-tasting red sports drink available in America today, and don't let them tell you otherwise -- when I saw this:

My heart went pitter-pat just at the sight of the words "COLLEGE FOOTBALL" in hundred-and-something-point type on the cover of a publication I had not yet seen, but when I saw that the dude who'd been given the honor of gracing the cover was Knowshon Moreno -- the namesake of my firstborn child, as anyone who's recently seen my Facebook page knows, and yes, even if it's a girl -- I'm not gonna lie to you, I may have made a bit of a spectacle of myself. One you might even describe as "girlish." But anyway, I thought you should know.

Two more months. Don't know how I'm gonna make it.

Sunday, June 29

Goodbye, Uga VI.

Not everyone will understand this -- though, hopefully, even non-UGA football fans will -- but as both a dog fan and a Dawg fan, I almost cried a little upon reading this morning that Uga VI, the sixth in Georgia's lineage of English bulldog mascots, died Friday night of congestive heart failure at the age of nine. Which I guess is actually 63.

His first season included a humiliating loss to Auburn and the controversial overtime loss to Georgia Tech (both recounted to some level of ragey detail here); his final season included an overtime win at Alabama, a thrilling upset in the Cocktail Party, our seventh straight win over Tech, and a ripping good blowout over Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. It's interesting to look back on just how much the football program changed -- the vast majority of it for the better -- during his "reign."

Anyway, as someone who is now a dog owner himself and who nearly ended up in the fetal position the last time one of his Bostons had to go in for what is actually a fairly common knee surgery, my condolences are with the Seiler family today. Uga VI was a damn good dawg indeed, but we're confident the next one will be too.

Friday, June 27

The Friday Random Ten+5 hopes all the bad things in life happen to you and nobody else but you.

In the wake of Georgia's spirit-crushing loss to Fresno State in the final game of the College World Series, a dejected Paul Westerdawg placed Fresno State RF Steve Detwiler -- who was 4-for-4 with two homers and all six of his team's RBIs -- alongside such luminaries as Steve Spurrier, Peyton Manning, and others on his "all-time Mount Rushmore of Hate and Contempt." Anyone who's ever bothered to get excited about a sports team probably has one of those, I'm sure, but my philosophy for assembling one is different from most people's, Paul's included, for the simple reason that I find it a lot harder to get mad at the guys who are actually good. Like, Peyton Manning made my life every bit as miserable on the regular as he did Paul's, yet because he was supremely talented and, by all accounts, a genuinely classy guy, I just couldn't gin up the energy to hate him. Similar deal with, say, Tom Landry and Yankees-era Joe Torre. And, sadly, Detwiler.

That's not to say I can't hold a grudge -- boy, can I ever hold one. But they have less to do with how miserable someone made my life as a sports fan than they do with how much of an asshole they were while doing it; I also factor in the corresponding assholishness-to-actual-talent ratio. (There's a related corollary to Muhammad Ali's "It ain't braggin' if it's true" rule: If it's not true, you need to shut the fuck up, hoss, and quit being such a douchewhistle.) So with that in mind, this week's +5 is my own personal Five-Man Mount Rushmore of Sports-Related Hate. What helps mitigate the hate, to some extent, is that each individual received some sort of karmic come-uppance after messing with me or my team, which I shall enumerate thusly:

Michael Irvin
For making Redskins fans' lives a living hell throughout the 1990s, I had to put a Cowboy on this list. But whom? Troy Aikman's too classy a guy; Emmitt Smith, while both dumb and a Florida grad, never seemed like that much of a jerk; Deion Sanders certainly achieved such heights of douchebaggery as to earn the title of yotta-douche, but he was only there for one of Dallas's three Super Bowls. So I'm going to go with Irvin, who matched Deion end-zone dance for end-zone dance and douche for douche while maintaining what I can only imagine was a robust and expensive cocaine habit. Yet only last year did ESPN finally rid themselves of him, and he's apparently still on an ESPN Radio show that, mercifully, airs only in the Dallas area.
Karmic come-uppance: Arrested for, and pled no contest to, cocaine-possession charges that resulted in a five-game suspension to start the 1996 season; arrested two more times for drug-related charges after his retirement from football.

Darryl Strawberry
My family moved to Georgia right as the Braves were hitting their stride in their historic 1991 season, and we actually got to go to the game in which the Braves clinched what would be the first of fourteen consecutive division pennants. But some people just couldn't stand the Braves winning one, including Darryl Strawberry, whose L.A. Dodgers were punked out of the NL West title on the last day of the regular season. Strawberry later told the media that the Braves only won because the teams they played didn't care whether they won or lost, while the teams the Dodgers played actually cared and gave them a better game; never mind that, particularly since this was before interleague play, the Braves and Dodgers were playing the exact same fricking teams. Who knows what kind of fevered logic Straw was trying to employ with that statement, but it earned him (lifetime) and the Dodgers (15 years) spots on my shit list.
Karmic come-uppance: Had 280 lifetime homers at the end of the '91 season but didn't hit his 300th for another six years -- nor before serving a 60-day suspension in 1995 for a positive cocaine test. Served a 120-day suspension four years later for possessing cocaine and soliciting a prostitute. (Full list of offenses here.)

Ben Leard
Leard, with the assistance of wide receiver Ronney Daniels (and, for all practical purposes, Georgia defensive coordinator Kevin Ramsey), was responsible for one of the worst nights of my life, in which the 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs found themselves in a 31-0 halftime hole to 4-5 Auburn and faced a 38-0 deficit in the third quarter before finally scoring some bullshit touchdowns to make the final score a little more respectable. Leard set new personal bests (416 yards, four TDs) in what was otherwise a fairly undistinguished career; the following year he also ended up on the winning end of a 29-26 overtime game that the Dawgs had led 13-0 at one point. Off the field, he was apparently such a douche that even my best friend Arlana -- an Auburn grad fiercely, violently loyal to anything Plains-related -- couldn't stand to be within a hundred yards of him.
Karmic come-uppance: Finished his Auburn career a mediocre 13-10 as a starter and went undrafted in 2001; signed as an undrafted free agent but then waived just 45 days later by the Patriots, who went on to win the Super Bowl that season.

George O'Leary
"Oh, Doug, you only hate George O'Leary because he was the only coach since Bobby Dodd to have any kind of consistent success against the Dawgs." Damn straight, and it didn't help that a) his three-game winning streak over Georgia began my senior year and b) his first two "wins" were fraudulent -- none more so than the 1999 game, which even today continues to fuel my white-hot hatred of everything Tech. But even after the ill-gotten OT victory in '99, O'Leary couldn't recognize the controversy with a little humility, he had to give the knife in Jim Donnan's side another twist with passive-aggressive comments about how he just couldn't believe Donnan would actually try for a touchdown when the Dawgs got down to the 1 with thirteen seconds left. Nor could he resist talking about how brilliant he was to order the game-winning field goal on third down in overtime (after having had the opportunity to witness Donnan's "mistake"). O'Leary hung around on the Flats for two more years -- long enough to beat Georgia one more time in 2000, and OK, that was a legitimate ass-whupping -- before transporting his shockingly oversized head elsewhere. Which brings us to . . .
Karmic come-uppance: Georgie boy's last home game at Tech was a 31-17 loss to the Dawgs, led by then first-year head coach Mark Richt, who would of course develop a reputation as a nightmarish death-bringer in the annals of GT mythology. Two weeks after that loss, O'Leary accepted the head-coaching job at Notre Dame, a tenure that lasted all of five days before being asked to resign due to falsehoods on his résumé. After three years in coaching Siberia, O'Leary resurfaced at Central Florida, where he went 0-11 his first season.

Steve Spurrier
Here's the thing: Back when Spurrier was torching Georgia's asses on the regular, he wouldn't have made this list at all, much less as Public Enemy #1. Yes, he routinely beat the Dawgs by victory margins no self-respecting UGA team should surrender. But you really couldn't argue with the guy, because he was that good. (Besides, admit it, Georgia fans: Getting a 40-point spanking from a Florida team that would go on to win a national title wasn't half as painful as coughing one up to Zook in '02.) But Spur Dog has maintained his cocky attitude in spite of the fact that he really hasn't accomplished anything since bidding Florida adieu after the 2001 season. His NFL tenure was notable only for proving something the rest of us already knew -- that fielding a fantasy team of washed-up ex-Gator legends was no way to get to the Super Bowl -- yet he had to drive my Redskins into the ground to do it. At South Carolina, he's 21-16, identical to the three-year record that got Tyrone Willingham whacked at Notre Dame, yet continues to trash talk. It's one thing to tweak the rest of the league when you can score 50 points a game in your sleep, Steve, it's another thing entirely when your quarterback's last name is Smelley and you're not even guaranteed a win over Vanderbilt anymore.
Karmic come-uppance: After upsetting Georgia 16-12 last season, Spurrier couldn't resist questioning why anyone thought Georgia was any good, given that they'd now lost to five SEC East opponents in a row; his Gamecocks proceeded to go 4-6 the rest of the season, including losses to three of the four Eastern Division teams remaining on their schedule, and miss out on a bowl game. Then there's the whole "still has to coach at South Carolina" thing.

Just missed the list: Tommy Tuberville, Michael Vick, Casey Clausen, Bobby Petrino, Keenan Jones.

No, Reggie Ball didn't make the list. Are you kidding me? I love Reggie Ball. Every Georgia fan loves Reggie Ball.

And now the Ten:

1. Blur, "Sing"
2. Pet Shop Boys, "Minimal" (Telex heaven remix)
3. DJ Shadow, "Ape Shall Never Kill Ape"
4. John Phillip Sousa, "The Liberty Bell"
5. Dr. Octagon, "I Got to Tell You"
6. Radio 4, "Red Lights"
7. 3rd Bass, "MC Disagree and the Re-Animator"
8. Cee-Lo, "Intro"
9. KRS-One, "Step Into a World (Rapture's Delight)"
10. Pet Shop Boys, "Hit and Miss"

All right, I'm headed down to Orlando for the weekend. Amuse yourselves with your own Random Ten and/or all-time sports villains in the comments.

Thursday, June 26

Central Michigan preview: Care to tell me what you're doing here, Chippewas?

By Chris Hansen
Guest Columnist

Located in the heart of the Bible Belt, Athens, Georgia, is a bustling college town that prides itself on its longstanding traditions and good times. But every once in a while Athens gets an out-of-town visitor looking for "good times" of an entirely different kind.

"GeorgiaGirl" is the screen name of an employee of the University of Georgia Athletic Department, which for years has been luring and exposing overrated teams that prey on weak competition. Earlier in this series you've seen them take down teams from Idaho and Hawaii, but this time we've stumbled upon a predator from the Midwest.

"Chip," who asked us not to use his real name, is a mid-major from Mount Pleasant, Michigan. He's successful -- a two-time defending MAC champion who came within three points of knocking off Purdue in last December's Motor City Bowl -- which makes it all the more puzzling that he'd be responding to messages from "GeorgiaGirl" in an Internet chat room. GeorgiaGirl, posing as a cocky Division I-AA upstart, asks Chip if he wants to "play," and sweetens the deal with a $750,000 paycheck. It isn't long before Chip says he's willing to travel all the way down to Georgia to meet her.

But he knows he's getting more than he bargained for on this trip when he sees our "Dateline" crew waiting for him at Sanford Stadium.

Hansen: Hi. Have a seat, right over there. So, Chip, what are you doing here today?

Chip: Just, uh, passing through the neighborhood.

Hansen: But this is kind of far away from your hometown, isn't it?

Chip: No, I was just kind of, uh, driving around.

When asked if he came down to Athens to play football with "GeorgiaGirl," Chip continues to insist he didn't -- until confronted with the transcript of his Internet chat. Using the handle "SexyChippewa4U," he engages in explicit sex talk with his prey.

"GeorgiaGirl": Hey ne1 looking 2 play ball

"SexyChippewa4U": yea im a baller. u ever played d-1a before?

"GeorgiaGirl": no its my 1st time, how r u @ scoring

"SexyChippewa4U": baby i had the top scoring offense in the MAC last yr. my QB can strech it out lo-o-o-o-ng hehe

When confronted with his own words, Chip changes his story, saying he was just "kidding around" -- even though his "kidding around" goes on for seven pages. But then he changes his excuse once again, saying he only wanted to teach the upstart Georgia program a "lesson."

Chip: I just wanted to teach them a lesson, you know, that what they're doing is dangerous.

Hansen: You wanted to "teach" them?

Chip: Yeah, you know, that they shouldn't go around just talking to or messing with teams from a long way away that they've never even played before.

Hansen: And that bag there? You needed all that stuff in the bag to teach them that "lesson"?

Chip: Oh no, no, that, that stuff's just for me.

We take a look inside the bag: returning starters. A lot of them -- sixteen, to be exact, including eight on defense. Yet there's something unusual about these players: It turns out that last year they gave up 461 yards per game and a season total of 517 points. I ask Chip about them, and even we find ourselves startled by his answer.

Chip: I was hoping that, you know, the Georgia team might use them on me.

Hansen: "Use them on you"?

Chip: Yeah, I like it when people move the ball a lot on me. I've given up an average of 400 yards a game or more four of the last six seasons. I just . . . I don't know, I kind of like it.

Hansen: Don't you think a lot of people would find that disgusting?

Chip: Yeah, probably.

I decide it's time to tell Chip what's really going on here: "GeorgiaGirl," the "cocky I-AA upstart" he thought he was talking to, is actually the Georgia Bulldogs, who went 11-2 last year and finished number two in the AP poll. They bring 17 returning starters of their own, and are already being talked about as a national-title contender.

By the end of our conversation, Chip seems resigned to his fate.

Chip: I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have come here and I'm sorry. What are they gonna do now?

Hansen: Well, there are 22 or so Georgia football players outside who are going to take you into custody, and I'd say there's a good chance they're going to beat you by 20 or 30 points. It's up to them, though.

Chip: I knew this was a mistake. I knew even as I was crossing the Georgia state line, I was like, 'This is a mistake.'

Hansen: But you did it anyway.

Chip: I couldn't stop, you know? I'd come this far, so I figured . . .

As Chip is questioned by the local media, it turns out this isn't the first time he's made such a journey: Last year, he traveled to Clemson, South Carolina, about 90 miles northeast of here, to indulge in his bizarre fetish. The year before that, it was Lexington, Kentucky -- again, he says, just to "put a scare into" an unsuspecting team.

Both times he was let go with a warning and -- incredibly -- allowed to roam the streets again. This time, it'll be up to his athletic director and the NCAA to determine what happens next.

We're going to pause now for a short break. When we return: Our investigation heads south to Gainesville, Florida -- where, incredibly, a familiar face from the south Pacific just can't seem to stay away . . . when "To Catch a Mid-Major" continues.

Chris Hansen is a 27-year veteran of NBC's news operation most famous for his "Dateline" series "To Catch a Predator," which has resulted in the arrests of more than 300 alleged Internet predators nationwide. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

You won't want to miss our next guest column, in which a candidate for the United States presidency shares a new strategy for beating South Carolina. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 24

Georgia Southern preview: If the Dawgs are overconfident, they'll get a bigger surprise than George Custer, you get me, babe?

By Dennis Miller
Guest Columnist

Editor's note: Last summer I did a series of previews of the teams on Georgia's 2007 schedule, but I won't be doing that again this year for two reasons. One, I'm highly superstitious and thus am always loath to make predictions like that simply from a karmic standpoint; two, I'm just lazy. Fortunately, I'm plugged in with a pretty extensive network of celebrities, and I managed to get a whole slew of guest columnists on board to do these previews for me. I've lined up a different celebrity to do each team, starting with Georgia Southern and going through the end of the regular season, and they'll be appearing every few days for the next month or so. Please make our guest writers feel welcome, and feel free to debate them in the comments. Thanks!

Wow, that Michigan-Appalachian State game last year was really something, wasn't it? That upset made Boise State over Oklahoma look like the German blitzkrieg through France in 1940. And boy, you could've heard a pin drop in Michigan Stadium when it was over -- I haven't seen that many bummed-out people since John Kerry's acceptance speech at the last Democratic convention. The Wolverine's stock proceeded to drop faster than M. Night Shyamalan's, to the point where beating a 3-9 Notre Dame team felt like hitting 21 at the Bellagio.

But let's face it, that upset was a long time coming. Those top Division I-AA programs aren't content to play the Festus Haggen to DI-A's Matt Dillon anymore -- their promo videos may have all the cutting-edge appeal of a Pat Boone album of Celine Dion covers, but they're recruiting better, their facilities are improving, and with a few guys even getting high-profile NFL jobs, I-AA is no longer looked upon as the Starbucks barista of college football, the mildly satisfying but fairly dead-end job where you're just biding your time until your master's degree in Toltec studies convinces some Fortune 500 corporation to give you a junior-VP slot and the keys to a leased Lexus. Good luck on that one, cha-cha, by the way.

So this brings us to Georgia Southern. Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but Georgia fans, if you're walking into this one expecting to dispatch the Eagles as easily as Pavarotti tearing into a Quizno's French dip, you're asking for a bigger shock than the one Thomas Dewey got on the morning of November 3, 1948. Let's don't forget that GSU actually beat the team that knocked off the mighty Wolverines in their own house last year; if they can accomplish that, they're not feeling any contractual obligation to shiver in their Adidas at the mere sight of you guys.

Let's hop inside the wayback machine and have a look-see at what happened the last time Georgia Southern moseyed into Sanford Stadium. Georgia had a roster packed with NFL draft picks and the QB who would go on to become the winningest D-IA quarterback of all time; Southern had a quarterback named "Chaz" and a triple-option offense that hasn't been in vogue since Barry Switzer was combing coke and underage girls out of the Oklahoma athletic dorms. And yet the Dawgs only led 13-7 at halftime, a score only slightly less embarrassing than the questions Jim Harrick put on his players' final exams. Georgia eventually won, but not before GSU's option attack got the Bulldog defense to overcommit more times than Liz Taylor.

Four years later, GSU has a new coach and a completely different offensive scheme, but they're still as dangerous as that Mexican peyote you bought out of the back of some guy's VW Microbus on the way home from Spring Break. They scored 36 points per game last year and rebounded from 3-8 to a winning season; that alone got Chris Hatcher talked up as a head-coaching candidate at Georgia Tech, so apparently somebody in I-A thinks the guy's ready for The Show. Even if those same somebodies once placed faith in Chan Gailey, whose playcalling was more conservative than an ice-cream social at the Heritage Foundation.

Now look, none of this means I'm prepared yet to strap on my Lyndon LaRouche signature straightjacket and plunk down five dimes on a Georgia Southern upset. Georgia's got enough name-brand players to stock an entire all-SEC team and still have some guys left over to carry Mikey Adams to his car, and they've also got a coach so coolheaded he makes Urban Meyer look like Richard Simmons. If they play this one to the best of their abilities, they'll be nursing a 30-point lead before the marching band can even start warming up for their halftime Foreigner medley.

But if they don't, this one's going to be uglier and more frustrating than the last two Matrix movies, and wouldn't exactly set a pleasant tone for a season in which the Dawgs are hoping to finally join Florida and LSU at the big-boy table of SEC teams that have won national titles in the Internet age. Mark Richt may have to pull a Harry Blackstone and yank another one of those motivational rabbits out of his hat, because the last time his guys played a I-AA team, they came out of the gate with all the fire and intensity of Garrison Keillor after a fistful of quaaludes.

It's as simple as this, Bulldogs: Take these guys seriously, play to your talent level, and you'll be on top of a Nixon-over-McGovern-sized blowout. Fuck around, though, and you'll get a bigger surprise than the one Sonny Corleone got on the Long Island Expressway. Buckle those chinstraps, adjust your jocks, and remember the immortal words of Alex Baldwin's character in Glengarry Glen Ross: "Coffee is for closers."

The 1997 Michigan team began the season with the kind of momentum that eventually dropped a crystal football into their beefy little hands; the 2007 version of that team left their season opener wearing the same expression Marcia Clark had upon hearing the words "not guilty." Time to decide which one of those you want to be. Capisce?

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Please pay attention to me.

-- Dennis Miller is one of America's most prolific comedians, having served notable stints on "Saturday Night Live" (1985-1991), "Dennis Miller Live" (1994-2002), and "Monday Night Football" (2000-2002), as well as a freelance position as a spokesperson for the Bush administration for the last five years. Though no longer appearing regularly on television, his radio program, "The Dennis Miller Show," can currently be barely tolerated weekdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Coming up next: The last man you ever want to come face-to-face with shares his tale of a shocking encounter with the Central Michigan Chippewas.

Sunday, June 22

Makes a great gift.

I'm sure you've seen these decals, right? They're wildly popular around the Birmingham suburbs -- they've got them for baseball, cheerleading, gymnastics, football, all kinds of things.

Anyway, here's what I want: A decal like the one above, only the silhouette is of a woman dancing on a pole (something like this would do fine). And the name below it is like "Shawnii #24" or something like that.

Can anyone hook that up for me?

Friday, June 20

The Friday Random Ten+5 has had a good run, but . . .

A couple days ago, Jill at Feministe directed my attention to this deeply unfortunate column by Dennis Prager predicting doom and gloom as a result of millions of young American voters getting excited about Barack Obama. Now, we can argue over the actual thesis of Prager's column, i.e. that "when youth get involved in politics in large numbers, it is not a good thing," which obviously I think is utter baloney. But the more offensive aspect of the column, to me, was that it obviously wasn't intended to convince or persuade any of these wayward youngsters, it was basically written only to call them naive idiots. See, there's a right way and a wrong way to talk to the under-25 crowd, and "withering condescension" really doesn't get it done; as I said in the comments thread to that Feministe post, it's fine to try to portray oneself as a wise adult when dealing with young people, but when you explicitly and unironically refer to yourself as "a wise adult" in doing so, you might as well be wearing a FEEL FREE TO IGNORE ME T-shirt.

So completely irrespective of whatever political point Prager was trying to make, he basically painted an intricately detailed portrait of exactly the kind of cranky, self-satisfied douche I don't want to turn into as I hit middle age. Actually, turning 30 has inspired me to think about a lot of things I don't want to turn into as I get older, the kind of behaviors that, were I to engage in them, would be a pretty clear indication that my useful time on this planet is up and it's time to just put me away peacefully. With that in mind, this week's +5 is Five Things That, If I Start Doing Them In My Old Age, You Have Permission To Euthanize Me. Obviously I'd prefer a fairly quick and painless exit, but under certain circumstances that I'll outline below, you have permission to take some liberties. Here we go:

Wearing socks with sandals/flip-flops
I have friends in their thirties who do this, and it never ceases to boggle my mind. I’m hardly a fashion expert, but even I’m smart enough to know that if you really feel that bad a need to wear socks, you need to be wearing actual shoes.
Upgrade death from "quick and painless" to "slow and agonizing" if: The socks in question are black.

Owning a car with whitewall tires
Whitewall tires are the automotive equivalent of segregated water fountains — somehow they seemed completely appropriate back in the 1940s, but that’s no reason to have them now. I remember when my dad and I went to the Chrysler dealer to buy my mom a Grand Voyager minivan back in 1993; my mom was a fan of the “wood”grain paneling you could get on those vans at the time, so my dad checked it off on the options list, but it turns out the woodgrain came as part of an options package that also included whitewall tires and wire wheel covers. “Stop right there,” I said. “If you put all this stuff on her car, there’s no way in hell I’m going to be seen in public in it.” The dealer graciously offered to delete those while keeping the woodgrain, and a grave automotive fashion offense was averted.
Upgrade death from “quick and painless” to “slow and agonizing” if: The car also has a padded vinyl roof.

Eating dinner before 5 p.m. (excepting major holidays)
This always makes me think of the “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry went down to visit his parents at Del Boca Vista and present them with a new Cadillac, and they insisted on dragging everyone to dinner at 4:30 so they could make it in time for the “early-bird special.” (Thus spawning Jerry’s immortal reply “I'm not force-feeding myself a steak at four-thirty to save a coupla bucks, I'll tell you that!”) In Europe, they eat dinner at eight or nine, sometimes even later; if you’re so desperate to eat dinner that you can’t wait past five, you need to be treating yourself to a bigger lunch.
Upgrade death from "quick and painless" to "slow and agonizing" if: The early meal is scheduled specifically to save an amount of money totaling less than $10.00.wik

Driving below the posted speed limit in light traffic
Last time I went home to Columbus for the weekend, I surprised myself by actually driving the speed limit as opposed to 10 or 15 over — saving gas and all that. But even $5-a-gallon gas isn’t enough to make me drive 55 on the Interstate.
Upgrade death from "quick and painless" to "slow and agonizing" if: I'm riding in someone else's car and tell them they're going too fast.

Criticizing the clothes that younger people are wearing
I reserve the right to criticize the music that teenagers are listening to; I've been hating mainstream radio pop since I was in high school. But griping about the clothes that "the kids" are wearing is a pretty clear sign that you're sledding down the slippery slope into old-codgerhood. Now, if people my own age are wearing it -- Crocs or tramp stamps, for example -- then it's fair game.
Upgrade death from "quick and painless" to "slow and agonizing" if: I make the specific criticism that the outfit in question is too revealing. By the time I turn 60 or 70, leering at slutty-looking 19-year-olds might be as much action as I can get, so I need to enjoy it while I can, you know?

And now the Ten:

1. De La Soul, "Magic Number"
2. James Brown, "Papa Don't Take No Mess"
3. Röyksopp, "Alpha Male"
4. The Beastie Boys, "Sure Shot"
5. Radiohead, "High and Dry"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Between Two Islands"
7. Pet Shop Boys, "Dreaming of the Queen"
8. Air, "All I Need"
9. The Dust Brothers, "Marla"
10. Massive Attack, "Hymn of the Big Wheel"

Now it's your turn, whippersnappers -- your Random Tens, and various old-age fears, go in the comments.

Thursday, June 19

Dr. Phil for secretary of state?

My parents are both Dr. Phil fans, and while I don't have any particular affinity for the guy, there is one phrase of his that I kind of like. Sometimes he'll be sitting there with his dysfunctional family du jour, and the mom will be talking about how her kids are a bunch of incorrigible shitheads with no respect for her or anyone else, and when Dr. Phil asks her why she's been doing X, Y, or Z to coddle, enable, or otherwise encourage the asinine behavior of her kids, she'll trot out the usual laundry list of excuses for why she's been doing what she's doing. And then Phil will lean down real close to her with his deadpan expression and ask, "So how's that working out for you now?"

I would love it if Dr. Phil could get Barack Obama and John McCain on his show sometime between now and November, because I hope there'd be an exchange like this:

DR. PHIL: Now, Senator Obama, you say you'd meet with foreign leaders, even those considered enemies of the United States, without preconditions, is that correct?

OBAMA: Yes, I feel that diplomacy and open dialogue between nations is the only way we're going to make any actual progress in solving international disputes and making the world a more secure place.

DR. PHIL: But now Senator McCain, you say you don't want to talk to those leaders without preconditions, or in some cases at all.

McCAIN: That's right, Phil.

DR. PHIL: Talk to me about that.

McCAIN: Phil, Senator Obama is talking about meeting with people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who's talked about wiping Israel of the map and who is supporting the insurgents who are causing the violence and instability in Iraq right now. To agree to a meeting like that would lend legitimacy to an oppressive dictator.

DR. PHIL: So you're worried about guys like Ahmadinejad being "legitimized," and you also told me backstage that you're worried about him developing a nuclear program, is that right?

McCAIN: Absolutely. A nuclear-armed Iran would be an incredibly stabilizing force in the Middle East.

DR. PHIL: And you think we shouldn't be talking to countries like that.

McCAIN: That's right.

DR. PHIL: Well, Senator McCain -- how's that working out for you now?

John McCain has already come under plenty of well-deserved criticism for falling in line with too many of the Bush administration's policies, but this spat over differing foreign-policy platforms highlights just how thoroughly McCain has bought into maybe the most unfortunate theme of the Bush presidency: the idea that we have to keep doing something even when it's not working or in fact worsening the problems we were trying to solve in the first place. Maybe this is their idea of "steering into the skid," but as anyone with any actual winter-driving experience will tell you, "steering into the skid" does not mean "keep steering in the direction in which the car is skidding."

So now we have McCain saying that Iran has a dangerous dictator who's gaining power and developing a nuclear program, and the solution to this is to just ignore him -- exactly what we were doing the whole time he was gaining power and developing a nuclear program. Clearly, severing all diplomatic ties with Iran has neither stemmed the tide of violence in Iraq or slowed down Iran's nuclear ambitions, but in McCain's mind, that just means we need to keep on not talking to them.

McCain has said that Obama "needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who is the head of a government that is a state sponsor of terror," but I think that should be plainly obvious -- not talking to them has done nothing to stem that state sponsorship of terror, so maybe talking to them will bring about some progress. It may not end up being effective, sure, but it certainly can't be any less effective than what we've already been doing. If anything, I think the burden should be on McCain to explain exactly what tangible benefits we've gotten from not talking to Iran, Syria, or whoever else these past few years, because I certainly don't see any.

I don't know why the neocons are so taken aback by the idea of an American president merely breathing the same air as someone like Ahmadinejad. They act like such a meeting would be completely unprecedented, but even five minutes' worth of Googling makes clear that that isn't true: Just take a look at the country that held the title of Biggest Threat To The United States before Iran stepped in, i.e. the Soviet Union. If being seen in public with our greatest enemy is such an anathema, what do you make of all these?

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower with the Khrushchevs, 1959.

Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev at the fricking White House, 1973.

Gerald Ford and Brezhnev in Vladivostok, November 1974.

And here's that symbol of American strength, Ronald Reagan, with Gorbachev in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1985.

Somebody's surely going to come along and say, "Well, the USSR and Iran really aren't comparable situations." And they're right: The Soviet Union was far more dangerous to the U.S. then than Iran is now. The Soviets had hundreds of actual nuclear weapons pointed at us for the better part of 40 years; Iran has a nuclear program that might produce weapons at some indefinite point in the next five to ten.

Now, it bears pointing out that none of those presidential meetings on their own brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union as an opposing superpower; it took 40 years for that empire to finally kick over. But if the choice is between invading Iran now or sitting tight for the next four decades trying to hash out ways to not blow each other to pieces, then I'll take Barack Obama and the 40-year wait (particularly considering that if our adventure in Iraq is any indication, an all-out war might not keep us out of a 40-year commitment to begin with).

The first word that the neocons always seem to jump to when Obama talks about meeting with leaders of hostile foreign countries is "appeasement" -- as if Obama was going to offer them the title deed to Israel in exchange for not shooting at us, which only the most insane right-winger would think was an actual possibility. You know, I'm willing to concede that a meeting between Obama and Ahmadinejad might not make any concrete progress; maybe it becomes clear early on that the Iranians are negotiating in bad faith, or maybe the two sides just can't come to a compromise on how to handle X, Y, or Z. But even if that's what ends up happening, we at least tried, we got our issues out there on the table, and nobody got killed. So what's the fuss about? It's also worth pointing out that at neither the above-pictured Geneva summit nor at the Reykjavik summit a year later did Reagan and Gorbachev actually agree to disarm anything -- but they both laid the groundwork for future talks, and by Christmas 1991 the USSR was a memory.

Would the same thing happen with one of the dictators Obama wants to talk to? Who knows, but it's certainly more likely to happen his way than it is by what we're doing (or not doing) now. John McCain has issued a lot of tough-sounding talk in the service of maintaining the status quo, but not once has he articulated what good that's actually done us. It's a good thing for McCain that Dr. Phil is unlikely to be invited to be a moderator at any of this year's presidential debates, because if Phil ever did succeed in asking him the "How's that working out for you now" question, I think McCain would be at a complete loss to find an answer.

The not-so-random 25, take two.

Since the debut of the composite preseason top 25, I've dug up a few new rankings and figured I might as well throw them into the mix. One of them, incidentally, is courtesy of EDSBS's own Orson Swindle, who gets to take his place at the big-boy table amongst all those other sage authorities of the mainstream (or semi-mainstream) media. I included him for two reasons: He runs a wildly popular blog that's respected by media types and average Joes alike; he's apparently considered authoritative enough that the Sporting News felt safe giving him a regular outlet; and I'm hoping he'll give me a guest-blogging spot one of these days. OK, so three reasons. But anyway, we've now got 14 sets of top 25s in this thing, all of them having been banged out after spring practice, so this should be a reasonably accurate preview of what we can expect the eventual AP and USA Today preseason rankings to look like.

The full details can be viewed on this spreadsheet; meanwhile, the (only slightly) revised top 25 is:

1. Ohio State (6 first-place votes)
2. Georgia (5)
3. Southern California (1)
4. Oklahoma
5. Florida (2)
6. Missouri
7. West Virginia
8. LSU
9. Clemson
10. Texas
11. Auburn
12. Texas Tech
13. Wisconsin
14. Kansas
15. Brigham Young
16. Arizona State
17. Illinois
18. Tennessee
19. Virginia Tech
20. South Florida
21. Oregon
22. Penn State
23. Pittsburgh
24. Wake Forest
25. Fresno State

Others receiving votes: Oregon State, Alabama, Michigan State, Utah, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Florida State, Boston College*, Connecticut, California, Cincinnati, Michigan*, Rutgers, Colorado*, North Carolina*, Boise State, Florida Atlantic*, Southern Methodist*. (* = new since last version)

"Ballots" that are new to this version:

NOLA -- New Orleans Times-Picayune (David Gladow), May 12
EDSBS -- Day Should Be Saturday (Orson Swindle), June 6
RAY -- Raycom Sports, June 11
SF -- Statfox, June 17

· Changes: Clemson and LSU switch places at 8 and 9; South Florida and Oregon switch places at 20 and 21; Pitt and Wake Forest switch places at 23 and 24. That's it.

· The long, lonely droughts of Boston College and Michigan are over, as both finally found themselves on a top 25 list (Raycom's); however, both are still a long way from cracking the aggregate top 25.

· Fourteen lists means a total of 140 top-ten slots, and they're still distributed among only 15 different teams, so again, there seems to be a lot of agreement with respect to who's top-10 caliber and who's not. I'm not a statistician, nor do I even play one on TV, but I'd be very surprised if the eventual "official" preseason top tens differed substantially from the one above.

· The one vote for Florida Atlantic came from the Times-Picayune's David Gladow; a bit of a stretch, perhaps, but FAU does return 18 starters from a team that won the Sun Belt and pounded Memphis in a bowl game last year, so who knows. As for the Southern Methodist vote, that was Swindle's. Yeah, I know, I know; I guess we should just be glad his #25 vote didn't go to Duke.

Tuesday, June 17

The National League bent my wookie.

As if Hank Steinbrenner's WAAAAHHmbulance ride wasn't funny enough on its own, it also brought us this instant classic of a headline:

In other news, I'm 30 going on 8. And now that we've all had a hearty chuckle over that, we can turn our attention back to good baseball teams.

We're here, we're queer, we're IN UR BASE KILLIN UR D@DZZ!!!!11!!1!1!one

It turns out that what coronary-disease couldn't finish, gay marriage apparently will:

This is the kind of stuff that makes me wish Esquire hadn't stopped doing their Dubious Achievement Awards. Look, I know gay marriage is controversial and is still a hot-button issue for a lot of folks, and I don't expect everyone to be comfortable with it, but can anyone defend this kind of rhetoric as not being completely bush league?

(Hat tip: Sullivan.)

Friday, June 13

The Old School Plus One revisits 2003.


1. Southern California (11-1) — Pac-10 champion
2. LSU (12-1) — SEC champion
3. Oklahoma (12-1)
4. Michigan (10-2) — Big 10 champion
5. Texas (10-2)
6. Tennessee (10-2)
7. Ohio State (10-2)
8. Kansas State (11-3) — Big 12 champion
8. Florida State (10-2) — ACC champion
10. Miami (10-2) — Big East champion
11. Georgia (10-3)
12. Purdue (9-3)
13. Iowa (9-3)
14. Miami (Ohio) (11-1) — MAC champion
15. Washington State (9-3)
18. Boise State (12-1) — WAC champion
19. Texas Christian (11-1)

For the first time since the BCS was implemented, we finish the regular season with no undefeated teams. Oklahoma comes the closest, blazing through 12 regular-season games with an average victory margin of five touchdowns, but craps their pants in epic fashion in the Big 12 title game and loses to then 13th-ranked Kansas State, 35-7. That boots them back into a trio of one-loss teams that includes Southern California, who lost to California in a triple-OT thriller on September 27 but replaces the Sooners in the #1 spot; and LSU, who lost to Florida at home two weeks later but pummeled Georgia in the SEC championship game to rise to #2. Everyone else has at least two losses save for a trio of dominant mid-majors, the best of which (Miami-Ohio) is still stuck in the mid-teens.

Rose: #1 Southern California (11-1) vs. #4 Michigan (10-2)
Same as the actual 2003 game.

Sugar: #2 LSU (12-1) vs. #3 Oklahoma (12-1)
Sensing an opportunity to be the "play-in" for the national-title game, the Sugar jumps on the Sooners despite the Big 12 championship fiasco to re-create the actual BCS national-title game from that season.

Fiesta: #10 Kansas State (11-3) vs. #6 Ohio State (10-2)
Another matchup that’s the same as the actual ’03 game, engineered primarily out of necessity since the Fiesta doesn’t want a rematch of a regular-season Big 12 conference game (KSU played both Oklahoma and Texas that year).

Orange: #8 Florida State (10-2) vs. #5 Texas (10-2)
Why this and not FSU vs. Miami, the Big East champion from that year? With no requirement to take anyone’s conference champion other than the ACC’s — remember, the Big East doesn’t have a specific tie-in with any of the top bowls — the Orange Bowl decides to invite fifth-ranked Texas (with a pumped-up, eager-to-travel fan base that hasn’t been to a BCS-level bowl in seven years) over #9 Miami, which would be a rematch of a regular-season game (and which would result in FSU-UM being played three times in the span of a single year). This would most likely bump the Hurricanes down to the Gator Bowl.

WHAT (I THINK) HAPPENS: Since most of these games were played in real life, it’s not too hard to predict — USC takes care of Michigan; LSU beats Oklahoma; and Ohio State takes out Kansas State. In the last bowl, I think Texas would’ve beaten Florida State in a close game.

So now we get the USC-LSU national-title matchup everyone had been clamoring for from the beginning. Who wins? Well, I’ve got my own ideas about how that game would’ve unfolded — I think LSU’s top-ranked defense would’ve given them a slight edge there — but either way, I don’t think anyone could say that the eventual winner wouldn’t have been a deserving national champion.

ANALYSIS: In a way, parts of this scenario are a little superfluous, because if the bowl bids had shaken out the way I’ve projected them, only two games (the Sugar and Rose bowls) would’ve mattered in terms of deciding the national-title pairing. But in that sense, at worst it would’ve only recreated what a BCS plus-one system would’ve done anyway. And anything that would’ve somehow given us a definitive LSU-Southern Cal matchup, I think, has to be seen as a good thing.

This is pretty much the kind of scenario that the Old School Plus One was tailor-made for: three teams at the top, all with the same record, and instead of just plucking two teams out of that group based on rankings and arbitrary computer data, we actually play a few games to determine which two get to spar for the national championship. The consensus #1, Southern California, isn't left out of the national-title picture like they were in 2003, but they don't get a free ride, either, having to get past a 10-win Michigan team before they can get their ticket punched to the Big One. And perhaps best of all, we can finally put to rest the endless back-and-forth between LSU and USC fans over who was really the national champion that year.

The Friday Random Ten+5 looks out for Number Two.

Now that Barack Obama has the Democratic nomination basically sewn up, attention has turned to find a running mate, which might be the most difficult part of a presidential campaign. Make a wise, thoroughly considered decision and you end up with a dignified statesman like Hubert Humphrey or Al Gore; half-ass it and you get, well, Dick Cheney. (Here's a rule of thumb: Given how many people these days automatically reply "I haven't been asked, and I'm not interested in the job" when queried about the possibility of their joining a presidential ticket, the guy who says "PICK ME PICK ME!" is someone you should run, not walk, away from.)

But anyway, I'm always ready to lend a helping hand in situations like these -- you'll recall that a few months ago I gave the Republicans five great choices for people they could nominate if they really weren't keen on John McCain, and now I've got five surefire options for Sen. Obama. And unlike the satirical list I linked to a few weeks ago, all of these options are real human beings who are eligible for the office. Which means no Optimus Prime, sadly, but here are Five Swing-For-The-Fences Vice-Presidential Options For Barack Obama:

Brad Pitt
My first instinct here was to go with Angelina Jolie, for obvious reasons, but it turns out she's not 35 yet and therefore isn't old enough to join a presidential ticket. So instead we'll go with her husband -- family man, international activist, and -- at the risk of sounding sexist -- someone who's a lock to swing at least a few female votes into the Obama column. (Also doesn't get nearly enough credit for being an incredibly gifted comic actor in films like "Fight Club" or "Ocean's Eleven," though that's neither here nor there.)

Tina Fey
Yeah, I know, I pull her name out all the time, but she's smart, funny, there probably hasn't yet been a job invented that she wouldn't be awesome at; and as a Clinton supporter, she'd be a bridge to the Clinton camp and bring in tons of female votes. And while she's a liberal, she does have a record of reaching out to conservatives:

Jack Donaghy: Those jokes you wrote for my Mitt Romney fundraiser, they were top-notch.
Liz Lemon: Those weren’t jokes. That was an appeal for a return to common sense and decency.
Jack Donaghy: Well, they got big laughs.

On second thought, making Tina Fey vice president would probably kill "30 Rock" for the foreseeable future. So maybe not.

Karenna Gore Schiff
Earlier this week, James Carville proposed the idea of a Barack Obama-Al Gore ticket, and while I think that would be great, it's hard for me to see someone who once won the popular vote in a presidential election settling again for a second-banana slot. So why not Gore's eldest daughter, who turns 35 just in time for the Democratic National Convention this August? She'd bring in the female vote, she has a strong record on the environment -- and when it looked like there was an opening for Al to throw his hat in the ring back in 2004, I had an idea to print up a bunch of "Re-Elect Gore" bumper stickers, and maybe this would be an opportunity to whip that out again.

Bill Cowher
Strong on defense, instantly locks down Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes for the Dems, and it's not like he's doing a whole lot else at the moment. And can you picture anyone messing with a former Cleveland Browns linebacker at diplomatic meetings? Let's see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pull that "Great Satan" crap with this guy glaring at him from across the table.

And my number-one fantasy choice for VP . . .

Dolly Parton
Pulls in the women's vote; puts Tennessee's 11 electoral votes in the D column; vaporizes Obama's disadvantage among blue-collar Appalachian voters. Even the most intractable foreign dictator would be reduced to tears by her heartfelt renditions of songs like "Silver Dagger" or "I Will Always Love You." And I'm sorry, I don't care if she's 62, she's still a fox.

There you go, Barack. Don't say I never gave you anything. And now the Ten:

1. Billy Joel, "The Downeaster Alexa"
2. Air, "Sexy Boy"
3. Radiohead, "The National Anthem"
4. Jimi Hendrix, "Foxy Lady"
5. Patton Oswalt, "Sterling, Virginia"
6. The Smiths, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
7. R.E.M., "The Apologist"
8. Sting, "Why Should I Cry For You"
9. DJ Cam, "Un Ete a Paris"
10. U2, "Desire"

Your turn -- put your Random Tens and VP suggestions (for either Obama or McCain) in the comments.

Wednesday, June 11

The return of the post-spring, pre-season, composite, comprehensively number-crunched, not-so-random 25.

The 2008 college-football-preview publications have started hitting the streets, and pundits around the country have started putting together serious top-25 lists as spring practice recedes in the rearview mirror and the season gets closer, so it's about time for another top-25 matrix like the one I did last year.

Before we get too deeply into the 2008 numbers, though, it's worth looking at the 2007 version to see how accurately it predicted the actual preseason rankings that would come out a couple months later. Looking at the preseason sportswriters' and coaches' polls, it appears that the composite was pretty accurate; other than some minor disagreement over West Virginia and Auburn, there are hardly any major differences amongst the three until you get down into the high teens, with very few teams having a discrepancy of more than one ranking slot or so.

So if last year is any indication, this year's matrix should be a fairly accurate preview of what we'll see from the AP and USA Today come this time in August. You can view the full, detailed rankings in a Google spreadsheet located here, but the composite top 25 goes-a like this:

1. Ohio State (3 first-place votes)
2. Georgia (4)
3. Southern California (1)
4. Oklahoma
5. Florida (2)
6. Missouri
7. West Virginia
8. Clemson
9. LSU
10. Texas
11. Auburn
12. Texas Tech
13. Wisconsin
14. Kansas
15. Brigham Young
16. Arizona State
17. Illinois
18. Tennessee
19. Virginia Tech
20. South Florida
21. Oregon
22. Penn State
23. Pittsburgh
24. Wake Forest
25. Fresno State

Others receiving votes: Michigan State, Oregon State, Utah, Florida State, Alabama, South Carolina, Notre Dame, California, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, Boise State.

Here's the rundown of the rankings that I used -- again, listed in chronological order of when they were released, since obviously the more recent ones are likely to be a little more accurate.

CSTV -- College Sports Television (Adam Caparelli), April 4
NC -- (April 21)
TSN -- The Sporting News (Matt Hayes), April 23
ATH -- Athlon Sports, started May 1
SI -- Sports Illustrated (Stewart Mandel), May 1
CBS -- CBS Sportsline (Dennis Dodd), May 5
AJC -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Tony Barnhart), May 5-7 (Part I, Part II, Part III)
ESPN -- (Mark Schlabach), May 9
LIND -- Lindy's, May 30
PS -- Phil Steele, June 2

You'll note that this year, in contrast to last year, I only included predictions that came out after most schools had completed their spring practice -- no knee-jerk super-early rankings that came out the day after the 2007 national-title game. I'll add more rankings into the mix as they come available, but in the meantime, here's what jumps out at me about this first set:

It really is crazy to go back and look at the 2007 composite, in which literally every single ranking had Southern Cal at #1, when you see how divided folks are over #1 this year. Four teams have at least one number-one nod for 2008, yet the team that has the most -- Georgia -- is in second place overall (primarily because of a ninth-place ranking from Phil Steele). Florida gets Steele's first-place vote but only a #10 from The Sporting News. And yet out of ten sets of rankings, only 15 different teams have at least one top-10 vote. What that tells me is that people are basically in agreement over who's top-ten caliber -- there just isn't much consensus about how to sort that top ten out.

Honestly, even as an SEC homer who could only giggle as Ohio State went down in flames to SEC teams in two straight title games, I have no problem with the Buckeyes being the overall #1 here. They have as many, or more, returning starters as anyone else in the top 25, and they should easily dispense with the rest of the Big Ten this year; really, the only reason to put them lower than #2 at this point is because you're docking them style points for shitting the bed against LSU in the Superdome. The only people who left the Buckeyes outside the top two were Lindy's (#3) and Tony Barnhart, and I suspect Tony's fifth-place ranking was more red meat for his SEC-oriented AJC readership than anything else.

Teams that are inspiring some debate: Texas Tech, a top-10 team according to Stewart Mandel and just outside the top 10 according to Schlabach and Steele (which, coincidentally, is also the name of my accounting firm), but down in the 20s according to Matt Hayes; and South Florida, Phil Steele's head-scratcher of a top-10 pick but only a high-teens team in the view of CSTV, CBS, and Lindy's, and a team that four people saw no reason to rank at all. Illinois, too, ranges from a top-10 spot (so sayeth Tony Barnhart) to a no-show (on Steele's list).

Conspicuous by their absence: Boston College, last year's ACC Atlantic Division champion and a #10/#11 finisher in the polls but unable to get a single vote this preseason; Hawaii, whose crown as the king of the mid-majors has evidently passed to BYU, a consensus pick in the mid-to-high teens; and fricking Michigan, whose complete and total absence from any of these rankings leads one to believe that the Wolverines' transition to a Rich Rodriguez spread offense is going to be a difficult one. Also, once-trendy California appears to have crashed right out of most people's lists after a late-season collapse in '07 (their only ranking so far this year comes from Steele); and Alabama, whose snub by everyone except Mandel and Lindy's looks like a sign that neither Nick Saban's celebrity status nor his ZOMG AWESOME recr00ting sk1llz! have yet made much of an impact outside of Tuscaloosa County.

Conspicuous by their presence: the Pittsburgh Panthers, who get a ranking from everyone except and Athlon; apparently the return of LeSean McCoy and a quarterback who played in one whole game last year are enough to make folks forget that the team is, you know, coached by Dave Wannstedt. Just outside the top 25, Michigan State got nods from four different pundits (exactly four more than Michigan did, so if you're a kitten, you'd do well to steer clear of Brian Cook for the next few months). And Phil Steele, God bless him, continues to confound with his assertion that South Carolina and Notre Dame are top-25-worthy.

Conference-wise, the big winners are the Big 12, with five teams in the top 25, and the SEC, also with five teams and another two lurking just outside. Of course, last year the SEC had seven teams in the top 25 plus two in the "others receiving votes" category. Still, both conferences should be fairly juggernaut-esque this year.

By contrast, the ACC -- with three teams in the top 25 and one more receiving votes -- looks like it's still going to struggle in its attempts to be taken seriously as a football superconference. Let's put it this way -- when your standard-bearer is a Tommy-Bowden-coached Clemson team, you're probably not ready for The Show just yet. The Tigers, incidentally, are pretty consistently pegged in the high single digits to low teens across the board, but let's be honest, most of us have heard this song before.

Your thoughts? Again, the composite will be updated if/when further top 25s are put out.

Monday, June 9

The Old School Plus One revisits 2002.

1. Miami (12-0) — Big East champion
2. Ohio State (13-0) — Big Ten co-champion
3. Iowa (11-1) — Big Ten co-champion
4. Georgia (12-1) — SEC champion
5. Southern California (10-2)
6. Kansas State (10-2)
7. Washington State (10-2) — Pac-10 champion
8. Oklahoma (11-2) — Big 12 champion
9. Texas (10-2)
10. Penn State (9-3)
11. Michigan (9-3)
12. Notre Dame (10-2)
16. Florida State (9-4) — ACC champion

The defending-national-champion Hurricanes maintain a hammerlock on the #1 spot for the entirety of the regular season, but a substantial herd of undefeated challengers spend the better part of two months jockeying for the right to challenge them. That is, until the Saturday Night Massacre of November 2, when no fewer than four undefeated top-10 teams (Virginia Tech, Georgia, Notre Dame, and North Carolina State) get bonked — all but one of them, the Dawgs, doing so at the hands of an unranked opponent. And the very next week, season-long #2 Oklahoma gets clapped up by unranked Texas A&M. The last remaining undefeated team other than Miami when the smoke clears and the blood gets scrubbed off the sidewalk? Ohio State, who replaces the Sooners at the #2 spot, whacks Michigan to claim half of the Big Ten title, and sits around waiting patiently for their invite to the big one.

Rose: #7 Washington State (10-2) vs. #3 Iowa (11-1)
The Rose takes Big Ten co-champion Iowa instead of second-ranked Ohio State to avoid a rematch of a regular-season game.

Fiesta: #8 Oklahoma (11-2) vs. #5 Southern California (10-2)
USC won a share of the Pac-10 championship that year, but lost to WSU head-to-head.

Orange: #16 Florida State (9-4) vs. #2 Ohio State (13-0)
The Orange wants to avoid an FSU-Miami rematch, as well as a bunch of Hurricane fans who don’t need to spend money on hotel rooms, so it takes the second-ranked Buckeyes.

Sugar: #4 Georgia (12-1) vs. #1 Miami (12-0)
The Sugar Bowl gets the top-ranked Hurricanes and what might be the best game of the entire bowl season. Not that I’m biased or anything.

WHAT (I THINK) HAPPENS: Iowa beats Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Oklahoma squeaks past Southern Cal in the Fiesta. Chris Rix sleeps through a final exam and the Seminoles get pwnz0rd by the Buckeyes, not that Sexy Rixy would’ve made a lick of difference. And the Bulldogs, sad to say, lose a hard-fought battle to the top-ranked Hurricanes.

With #1 and #2 surviving the bowl round unscathed, they meet in the national-title game, and we get the same double-OT thriller we actually got in January 2003 — and, under this system, the Buckeyes claim their second national title in five years.

ANALYSIS: As with the 1999 scenario, this year’s has the disadvantage of making the last two undefeated teams in the country each play a game before finally squaring off in the official national championship. But you can’t say there wouldn’t have been some great games along the way, particularly Oklahoma-USC and Georgia-Miami; there’s another good matchup in the Rose Bowl, which would’ve gotten the traditional Big 10-Pac-10 game it complained vociferously about not getting in 2002.

Don't try this at home.

For anyone who was hoping that maybe I'd start making better choices now that I've turned 30, it's probably worth relating one of the details of the birthday party/drinking binge held at the Blue Monkey this past Saturday night. The very last memory I have of that night is of two drinks sitting in front of me: a tequila shot and a partially-consumed glass of Scotch.

I, uh, don't recommend it.

Saturday, June 7

The category is "People Who Annoy You."

For the most part, even though I'm a proud Obama supporter, I've tried to stay out of the "you suck"/"no, you suck" rodomontade between the more extreme factions of the Clinton and Obama camps throughout this interminable primary season. I never called for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race, and I've even held back from laying into the angry Clinton supporters who've been threatening to vote for McCain, which, at the risk of looking like a martyr wannabe, I think should earn me some kind of Nobel Prize for self-control; again, I know that these people aren't necessarily in the majority of anything, they're just the most vocal, and nothing about what they're saying or doing is worth raising my blood pressure for just yet.

But I think I'm gonna have to go ahead and let off some steam here, because some of Clinton's more prominent supporters, even after the announcement that she'd be formally "suspending" her campaign this weekend, are continuing to go out of their way to be out-and-out Costco economy-sized douchebags. Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton and frequent TV surrogate for the Clinton campaign, brutally sodomized the meanings of words such as "fact," "undisputed," and "compromise" throughout the primary season, and then this past week took it upon himself to call upon Obama to choose Clinton as his running mate. A short time later, BET founder Robert Johnson -- who went so far as to drop a coy little allusion to Obama's drug use as a teenager on the campaign trail -- joined in and wrote a letter to Obama endorser Rep. James Clyburn telling him to get Obama to put Clinton on the ticket.

Then today, another vocal Obama opponent stepped up with a demand: Geraldine Ferraro, who did her best Rush Limbaugh impersonation back in March by claiming that Obama was only doing so well in the primaries because he was black, now thinks Obama should pay off Clinton's substantial campaign debts.

After a long primary season, the Clinton campaign’s expenditures have far exceeded the amount of donations it has received so far, and the campaign has accumulated debt of more than $19 million, according to campaign finance reports. Much of that debt consists of unpaid salaries and bills to vendors.

When questioned about Clinton fundraisers being asked to join the Obama campaign, Ferraro told The Hill, “These are the people raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. I would hope that [Obama] would do the same thing with his fundraisers to pay off Hillary’s debt.”

Boy, that's some kind of nerve, ain't it? It's basically like they're saying, "Hey, druggie! Black man! Yeah, you, Captain Affirmative Action! You better pick our candidate as your VP -- oh, and pony up some cash while you're at it."

I guess it's a good thing for the Democratic Party that Obama is too classy a person to respond to these people with the contempt and snark that they deserve -- if it were me in his position, I'd be tempted to respond in a manner similar to Jesse Jackson in a certain episode of "South Park":

Thursday, June 5

The Friday Not-So-Random Ten+5=15, or, uh, something . . . this is your life!

Just to give you an idea of how old 30 is, I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day and she mentioned that she'd run into one of our former next-door neighbors whose kids I used to babysit all the time. The younger of those kids is starting at Georgia Southern this fall; the older one joined the Marines, made it through Paris Island, and is currently headed off to California. It's always nice to know that the hyperactive six-year-old you watched after school is now more than capable of kicking your ass.

Anyhoo. This week's Random Ten+5 is going to be a little different -- it's not random, first of all, and I'm combining the Ten and the 5 into a Not-So-Random 15. This is the 15-Track Soundtrack To My Life, fifteen songs that made some kind of major impression on me at various points in my life and will be the starting point for the soundtrack whenever they make the Doug Gillett biopic. ("Doug Gillett: Chancellor of the Sexchequer," they'll call it.) Prepare to get video-tastic:

Lionel Richie, "All Night Long" (1983)
This is the first song that I can remember calling "my favorite." Don't laugh at me, I was five years old, and Lionel's career was pretty much hitting its peak.

Billy Idol, "Eyes Without a Face" (1984)
The first video I can ever remember seeing on MTV. It was also the venue through which I was introduced to the concept of the thong (at six years old).

Pet Shop Boys, "West End Girls" (1985)
I remember hearing this song on the radio right after my aunt got me my very first Walkman (or generic equivalent) as a First Communion present; even then, at the tender age of seven, I knew the Pet Shop Boys were fricking geniuses. (Technically, this was the first rap song to hit number one in the U.S.)

My Bloody Valentine, "Soon" (1991)
Right after we moved to Georgia, I remember going up to Atlanta to go shopping and go to a Braves game, and as we were driving through downtown, my mom was flipping through radio stations and stopped for just a minute or two on WRAS 88.5, Georgia State University's student radio station. This was even a few months before "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had started taking the airwaves by storm, so hearing My Bloody Valentine for the first time at the tender age of 13 was basically a revelatory experience for me. If every child has a moment when they put aside bubblegum top-40 pop and start listening to grown-up music, that was mine.

U2, "The Fly" (1991)
Just a few short months after hearing "Soon" in the car on the Downtown Connector, U2 released the first single off Achtung Baby, which was another transformative experience. Achtung Baby was probably the first album I ever bought and listened to nonstop to the point where I probably started wearing the CD out; what little I knew of U2 at that point was basically limited to "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "With Or Without You," and this was entirely different, darker, delivered with a wink and a wicked grin. I still think this is one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Under the Bridge" (1992)
Everyone I knew liked this song back during my sophomore year of high school, and that was the problem. As alternative music started to take hold amongst me and my group of friends back around that time, we all felt like we'd discovered something new and groundbreaking with this song and the album it appeared on, but that only lasted for a couple months before WCGQ started playing it every five minutes. Thus were we introduced to the concept of being "overplayed" and a good song being done to death by corporate radio. (CGQ has since switched to an adult-contemporary format, which is another unfortunate metaphor right there.)

A Tribe Called Quest, "Award Tour" (1993)
The song (and the album, Midnight Marauders) that really got me started listening to hip-hop. Pretty much the only rap I knew up to that point (aside from "West End Girls," of course) was "Walk This Way" back in 1986, which may or may not count.

Pet Shop Boys, "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing" (1993)
Still my favorite song, particularly the Beatmasters remix, and I still think Very is the single greatest pop album ever recorded. It has a lot to do with the fact that I had my first-ever actual girlfriend right around this time, and I got her listening to all this stuff too; she would later go on to be the only person to ever dump me twice, but some music is so good that it transcends even embarrassing memories like that.

R.E.M., "Nightswimming" (1993)
Contrary to most of my friends -- and most of the teenagers in the state of Georgia, probably -- I didn't like R.E.M. that much at first. The album that came out right as I was really starting to develop my own taste in music was Out of Time, which I still think is incredibly overrated; the only song I really liked on it was "Radio Song," and that was probably only because KRS-One was on it. But a couple years later, a friend of mine was playing this track off Automatic for the People, and I decided maybe it was time to give Michael Stipe a second chance. Automatic was a spectacular album, and I even became one of the few people who had anything nice to say about Monster.

Chemical Brothers, "Get Up On It Like This" (1995)
Underworld, "Juanita" (1996)
If my Friday Random Tens confound you on a regular basis with their obsession with electronic music, these two songs are probably to blame. I remember a classmate of mine taking me over to a friend's house shortly after I arrived at UGA in the fall of 1995, and his friend was a DJ who had crates full of CDs and promo 12"s all over the place; he put on a record by some group called the Chemical Brothers that he said was just about to drop its first album in the U.S. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard before, and I raced out and bought Exit Planet Dust almost as soon as it came out.

A year or so later, I saw the movie "Trainspotting" for the first time, and the song "Born Slippy" -- which is played at the very end of the film as Ewan MacGregor is abandoning his friends and making off with the drug money -- made an impression on me that was almost as big. I found out that the group that recorded the song was called Underworld, and I went out and bought their then-just-released second album, Second Toughest in the Infants. The opening track on that album, "Juanita," was a sixteen-minute, three-movement opus that almost left my jaw hanging wide open; it was amazing how they could take a song through so many twists and turns by making a subtle change here and adding another instrument or effect there, to the point where it sounded like a completely different song at the end than it did at the beginning. The version in the "video" above is cut down from the full-length version, obviously, but it's still pretty amazing, and after that I think it's hard to make the case that techno music, when done right, can't be beautiful in its own way.

The Police, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" (1981)
A couple years ago, Chuck Klosterman wrote a piece for Esquire about how not even individual songs but parts or aspects of songs could have profound effects on a listener. I can't explain why, but the last minute and a half of this song, where the lyrics basically end and The Police just basically start rocking out all over the place, are 90 of the most exhilarating seconds of pop music ever. The song itself is sort of anxious and frustrated when you really listen to it, but you can't listen to it without getting a smile on your face or a twitch in your legs, even if you're sitting behind the steering wheel, stuck in traffic.

Dean Martin, "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" (1965)
First song I ever sang at a karaoke bar. And I kicked ass.

Nina Simone, "My Baby Just Cares For Me" (1958)
As Dave Attell says, the song that's playing when you lose your virginity is a pretty critical piece of music, 'cause if it's not good, it's going to haunt you. (A friend of mine who remembers handing over his virtue to the soothing sounds of Steve Miller's "Abracadabra" sometime in the early '80s can attest to this.) So I guess I was actually kind of fortunate in that regard, even if I didn't actually have sex for the first time until I'd almost graduated from college.

The Jam, "A Town Called Malice" (1982)
The first song I ever downloaded illegally off the Internet. Thanks for the memories (and the spyware), Kazaa!

Just short of life-changing status, but still important: Miles Davis, "So What"; Devo, "Whip It" (currently the default ring tone on my cell phone); Nanci Griffith, "Red Brick Floor"; Massive Attack, "Unfinished Sympathy"; Right Said Fred, "I'm Too Sexy."

Oh, and "Never Gonna Give You Up," of course.

All right, readers, your turn -- which 15 songs do you put on the soundtrack of your life? Don't hold back any bad or embarrassing songs that really meant something to you at younger and/or more naive points in your life; we're all friends here.