I Might Be Right Again, But Didn't Say So

I told Number One Son and his buddy several weeks ago that I thought the best destination for free agent NBA star LeBron James is the Miami Heat. This was shortly after James came up missing in the two biggest games of his career in the playoffs against the Boston Celtics.

Whether James isn't the star that many tout him to be, or whether the problem was the inadequate help deployed by his club, the Cleveland Cavaliers, is not clear to me. What was plain was James could not win a title by himself. Therefore, I concluded, he should go to a team with a least one other scoring threat, and preferably, with a player who could be the 'Alpha' if James isn't in the mood, or able. I suggested the Miami Heat with Dwyane Wade who clearly is no stranger to taking over ballgames and with Pat (I coach the Contending, you coach the Rebuilding) Riley waiting in the wings to come back to the bench.

Of course, I did not write it here.

And of course, it may come to pass.

We'll know in a few days.


Friday Night

Just finished watching the listless St. Louis Cardinals lose a baseball game to the scrappy Kansas City Royals. KC, which switched managers in mid-May, are roughly a .500 ballclub since the hiring of Ned Yost. Hats off to them. The Cards, on the other hand, continue in enigma mode. They appear to be playing below their ability and manager LaRussa's laidback, station-to-station style doesn't do anything to jumpstart the club.

Pujols does not look right to me - he appears to be lethargic in the field and he looks as lost at the plate as I have ever seen him. He does not appear to be in command like in years past. I don't know if it contract issues or not, but I think something's on his mind.

Hitting coach Mark McGwire comes in for some of the blame for the team not performing well. I think that's fair. I'll be glad to be rid of the LaRussa Gang.

Stepped on the scale this morning (on purpose) and saw a number that was below a number ending in zero that I had been well above for a long time. That's a rather obscure and convoluted way of saying I have dropped to someplace I haven't seen in a while. My lovely bride has switched jobs and is now working for a weight management establishment. I am reaping some benefits and she is losing some weight also. Huzzah!


Cool Image Of The Moment

An update to the template for Central Standard makes posting photos at the top much more pleasant and appealing, I think.

Currently I'm featuring a picture of the offices of John Marshall Clemens who was Justice of the Peace in Hannibal, Mo. some years back. I snapped this picture during our vacation last fall and used Windows Photo Gallery to do some editing, made it black and white, etc.

Of interest, Clemens was born the 11th day of August, just as I was. We are separated in age only by the number of hours required to total 160 years.

Also of interest is that he was the father of a son Samuel, better known as Mark Twain. But you probably guessed that.


The Ground Will Shift, VI

So the Big 12 conference did not implode and no one saw that coming. Or not coming.

So, for now, it appears things will settle down and that would mean my prediction that Notre Dame will join the Big Ten would be incorrect. But I will stand by it.

The commissioner of the Big Ten said they would look to expand over an 18-24 month period and we are roughly six months into that.

Things may be quiet for a while, but I would not be surprised if there is more movement in the near future.

I Kid You Not

A passage from the book 'The Caine Mutiny' by Herman Wouk

Another day and another passed of rough seas and lowering skies; of rolling and pitching, cold winds, and cold damp eating into bones softened by tropic warmth; of a treadmill of watches in a wheelhouse dank and gloomy by day and danker and gloomier by night; of sullen silent sailors and pale dog-tired officers, of meals in the wardroom eaten in silence, with the captain at the head of the table ceaselessly rolling the balls in his fingers and saying nothing except an infrequent grumpy sentence about the progress of the work requests. Willie lost track of time. He stumbled from the bridge to his coding, from coding to correcting publications, from corrections back up to the bridge, from the bridge to the table for an unappetizing bolted meal, from the table to the clipping shack for sleep which never went uninterrupted for more than a couple of hours. The world became narrowed to a wobbling iron shell on a waste of foamy gray, and the business of the world was staring out at empty water or making red-ink insertions in the devil's own endless library of mildewed unintelligible volumes.

That is great writing. You may be familiar with the film that came from this book but those players are vague and misty spectres compared to the flesh and blood that Wouk puts on the pages.

The Ground Will Shift, VI

This morning I was all prepared to tell you that Texas A & M was leaning toward joining the Southeast Conference (SEC) and that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would join up with the Pac 10. This was indicated by ESPN.com.

Then I was going to tell you that all of that had been rumored for a few days and not to forget that the end game for all this shuffling around was the Big Ten Conference's desire to have Notre Dame join them. To that end, the next logical move, or moves, would be that the Big Ten would make moves as if to pick off a team or two from out east. Say a Maryland from the ACC, or Rutgers or Syracuse from the Big East. There has to be some shaking out there to get Notre Dame a little skittish.

Well, hold the phone.

Stories abound right now that Texas will stay in the Big 12, or be willing to listen to the idea of staying, instead of jumping to the Pac 10. If the Longhorns and their Big 12 South brethren decide to stay, the conference would go forward with 10 members. And it would appear to bring the conference jumping to a halt. For now.

Keep you eye on Big Ten, however. If I am right about Notre Dame being the end game, the Big Ten will have to do something to keep the chaos going. And they probably have to do something out east.

Stay tuned.


The Ground Will Shift, V

Subtitle: The One Where I Tell You It's Not All About the Money.

I have been tracking the recent developments in national college athletics and posting here the relevant details. This morning, for example, if you Googled 'big 12' you could find over 5,000 articles. Not everything is worth looking at, but obviously there is no lack of data. (Previously on Central Standard, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.)

A recurring theme in a number of those articles has been the lament, "It's all about the money!" as an explanation for all the changes in the college landscape that have occurred or are anticipated. This is a worn out phrase, an easy crutch for people to use as a club to whallop whatever is going on that they do not approve of, as if money is wrong. What it generally reveals is the speaker doesn't have as much money he wants and is mad that somebody else is getting some. In other words, the reaction is all about the money, but that irony is never grasped.

To the point: I don't believe that the changes that we are seeing the conference alignments are all about the money. Let me quickly add that I'm not saying money is not a factor. Of course it is. It's an ingredient in all of this - a major one. But my point is, it's not the origin of this chaos. It is definitely a residue, but it's not what it's all about.

What it is all about is forcing Notre Dame to join the Big 10. That's it. That's all. Let me tell you why I think so.

This chaos we are seeing in June 2010 began in December 2009. Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney said the conference would seek to expand from it's then 11 teams. He speculated on a time frame for accomplishing this of about 18 to 24 months. Immediately, everyone knew he had his sights set on Notre Dame. But everyone also jumped to the next thing we all 'knew' and that was ND has always been, and longed to always be, independent in football. Then everyone made the next jump which was to start guessing about which other teams made the most sense for the Big 10 to invite.

From that time until now, Delaney and the Big Ten have said very little publicly. Very neat. One school whose inclusion in the conference which made sense to almost every observer is Missouri. Good academics, competitive and improving football and logically geographically situated. Mizzou, everyone agreed, was logical. It was deemed a matter of time before the Tigers would be in the Big Ten.

But a funny thing happened on the way to what we all knew. There came rumblings of Nebraska having struck the fancy of the Big Ten and the Huskers have everything Mizzou has, only the football is better. (Darn it!) Then Texas, whose behavior is worthy of many posts, began to intimate that if Nebraska left, they had no interest in the Big 12. It was then clear that if Nebraska left, the Texas schools would bolt, probably to the Pac 10. Then it came out that Colorado would join the Pac 10 and they did. Then Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Now the Texas schools are free to make their own deal.

It looks as if the Pac 10 will add two or three Texas schools plus the two Oklahoma schools from the Big 12. The Big 12 will be history. Texas A & M may or may not go to the SEC. The SEC and the ACC and the Big East will consider their options and begin nabbing schools or have schools leave them or both. It's chaos.

Meanwhile, independent Notre Dame sits and watches one conference die, the remaining conferences strengthen and has to begin to ask itself, "Is the path to football glory, prominence and championships enhanced or weakened by independent status? Is the BCS going to favor the strong conferences? Or the strong schools in those conferences? What will happen to the Big East, where all our other athletics compete?" The importance of Notre Dame is that it's a school with a national audience. When they play, people are interested and TVs are on. Alumni are all over the country and the South Bend campus fits geographically into the footprint of the Big Ten TV network, which already is in 30 to 35 percent of homes in the country. Yes, that's a money part.

By taking Nebraska, the Big Ten reduced the number of possible seats at the conference's table. How many are available? Two more? Four more? I don't know. Neither does Notre Dame. Remember Missouri is a logical choice, so there may be one less seat. Maryland makes sense, too, so there's another seat gone, possibly. What about Rutgers or Syracuse and the New York City market? You know how to play musical chairs, don't you?

There is chaos out there and the herd may stampede very soon. Options will begin to disappear and Notre Dame knows it. Their AD said this thing will all settle out in 45-60 days. I think there is more meaning in his words than just the definitions. I think Notre Dame will finally jump and they will jump to the Big Ten and it will be in 45-60 days.

Remember how it began? An announcement that the Big Ten was looking to expand and they have hardly lifted a finger since and we've got chaos. Everyone knew they wanted Notre Dame and I think Notre Dame will run right into their waiting arms.


The Ground Will Shift, IV

Subtitle: The One Where Mizzou is Left at the Altar.

From NJ.com:

According to a report on orangebloods.com Nebraska has agreed to leave the Big 12 and join the Big Ten and will announce that decision on Friday. The report said if Nebraska leaves, the Big 12 will break apart.

The report also lists the Big Ten's priority wish list, as reported by ESPN, with Notre Dame being No. 1, Nebraska No. 2 and either Rutgers or Maryland as No. 3.

Well, now Kansas can laugh at me.

It appears that Nebraska has decided to join the Big Ten and it is only logical to assume they would not do so without assurances an invitation was forthcoming. If so, the Big Ten is now 12 teams and can hold a conference football title game at the conclusion of each season. This was a big goal for them. What would motivate them to add any more schools? I'm not sure what it would be and if Missouri has it.

Missouri still appears to be waiting for an invitation from the Big Ten, according to multiple sources.

An athletic director with knowledge of the Big Ten said, "Missouri is getting cold shoulder from Big Ten."

The fact is we don't know anything about Mizzou, in or out. Officials in Columbia have been very tight-lipped and nobody else is talking. So while it's not certain they are not invited, there's not much reason to hope. Yet.

From the Kansas City Star:

Missouri, meanwhile, is making my job a lot tougher but finally doing the right thing. Following advice of consultants hired to help guide them through the shoals of expansion, MU officials are maintaining a silence they have been unable to pull off for the last 25 years. Missouri has always been surrounded by "sources" more than willing to tell the media exactly what is going down. Now the powers that be at Mizzou are remaining mum in the face of rampant speculation and quite obviously have not shared details of what is or is not going on with a circle of people large enough to spring leaks.

The Ground Will Shift, III

For the Kansas Jayhawks and their proud basketball heritage, all this could not be more demeaning. All of a sudden, Kansas' status as a major player in college athletics has been placed in the hands of Nebraska and -- humiliation of humiliations -- archrival Missouri. (ESPN.com)


Look, I understand the uncertainty. Later in this post we will see that Mizzou's fate is uncertain, as well. But still, it's KU. There's more:

While (Mizzou and Nebraska) decide whether to abandon the Big 12 for the more lucrative Big Ten, Kansas sits and sweats. A pullout by the Huskers and Tigers could result in the collapse of the Big 12 and strip Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State of the safety and privileges of membership in a Bowl Championship Series conference.


I don't enjoy the demise of the Big 12, the successor of the Big 8, the longtime home of Mizzou athletics. But the clock was ticking as soon as Texas joined. Our neat little world became the Longhorns' playground and college athletics would never be the same.

ESPN Rumors is reporting that if Notre Dame decides to get into the Big Ten quickly enough, bringing that conference's membership to 12, then there may be no further expansion by the conference. This is the part where Mizzou gets left with nowhere to go. If Nebraska and Missouri do not commit to the Big 12, Texas, Colorado and four others will jump to the Pac-10. Couple that with the Big Ten suddenly being satisfied with adding only Notre Dame and the Tigers are out in the cold. This scenario is why I speculated that the Big Ten stirred this pot to create chaos to entice the Fighting Irish. The Big 10 has been strangely quiet since it began the whole thing.

Stay tuned.

The Ground Will Shift, II

It's hard to believe that less than a week ago, hardly a soul outside of the parties involved had any inkling the Pac-10 might be on the verge of inviting Texas and five other teams. But with The Conference Realignment Texas Hold 'em Game suddenly moving at breakneck speed, we could be sitting here a week from now looking at a radically altered landscape.

That was the assessment of an article Monday from SI.com. This article is worth some study because the writer lays out 16, count 'em, 16 scenarios for conference expansion. And for all we know, he hasn't listed what will actually occur.

ESPN today:

Nebraska's decision on whether to commit long term to the Big 12 or leave for a potential Big Ten invitation could come on Friday, a school told ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Tuesday. The source said the school is leaning toward the Big Ten, but an invitation hadn't yet been extended, and there was no indication when that would occur.

The Oklahoman on the state of the Big 12 Conference:

The clock ticks down. The Big 12 could die, maybe as early as Friday, as Nebraska's deadline looms. Nearer My God To Thee. Some lament, wondering what will happen if the league gives up the ghost. I wonder what will happen if the Big 12 lives. You want chaos, let these schools stay together 10 more minutes. Someone might torch a campus.

Orlando Sentinel on the possibility of Florida State leaving the ACC for the Southeast Conference:

Now, two decades later, as another round of college football expansion seems imminent, there is a chance the SEC will come knocking on FSU's door again. Seriously, does anybody really think the big, bad SEC is going to stand by idly and let other conferences expand to a point where they surpass the SEC in power, prestige and number of TV viewers? If the SEC is going to expand, why not pursue Florida State – a school that fits into SEC both geographically and philosophically.

The writer of this story advises FSU to stay away from the SEC because playing and winning the ACC is a clearer path to championships. What article leaves out though is that if a bunch of teams begin gravitating toward four super conferences, the ACC would be a shell of itself, if it remains together.


The Ground Will Shift

I may change the name of my blog to "After The Fact".

I just deleted two posts from the queue because the subject I was going to write about is old news already, so there's nothing for me to say. This happens more than you know and that is why the "After The Fact" moniker is apt.

Which leads me to get right on this topic because I've been turning it over in my mind for weeks now and by the weekend there may be very little left to anticipate.

The national college athletics landscape will probably undergo a change soon. This is an understatement of the one hundredth magnitude. Remember when the Big 10 added Penn State? Remember when Arkansas left the Southwest Conference for the Southeast Conference? Remember how the SWC fell apart and four of those schools joined the Big 8 to form the Big 12? Kid stuff. All of it, kid stuff compared to what may transpire in the weeks and months ahead and the first shoe may drop this weekend.

Some months ago the Big 10 Conference made it known that it intended to expand to at least 12 teams. Once a conference gets to 12, it can create divisions and hold a conference championship football game. It can be lucrative and keeps the conference in the news during the lull before the bowl games start. It is believed that the Big 10 is interested in asking Missouri to join. Additionally, it came out that the Big 10 might not stop at 12 but might go to 14 or 16 teams, forming a super conference. Possible additions included Notre Dame, UConn, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas, as well as Missouri.

This news caused other conferences and media outlets to begin speculation about what Big 10 expansion might mean. Simply it would mean the first domino. Other conferences would contemplate, probably pursue, getting to super conference size of 14 or 16. Logically, they cannot ALL get that large and it would mean that some conference(s) would cease to exist. Most often mentioned as likely expanders were the Southeast and the Pac-10.

But that was just openers. This week the floodgates opened. The Big 12 held their annual meeting and apparently delivered an ultimatum to Missouri and Nebraska to declare their intentions concerning conference fealty by Friday.

At the same time, the Pac-10 was meeting and it's commissioner was given the liberty to extend to any number of schools invitations to join if he, the commissioner, thought it in the best interest of the conference. Near the end of those meetings, a website believed to be credible reported that the Pac-10 would extend invitations to the Big 12 South schools, minus Baylor, plus Colorado, effectively blowing up the Big 12.

That is roughly where we are without anything actually happening. Many questions loom. What will Missouri and Nebraska say Friday? This preemptive strike by the Big 10 may be turned into a reactionary move if the Pac-10 moves first. Will they? Whither Notre Dame, which treasures it's independence in football, but may lose it's conference for other sports, the Big East, in all the upheaval. If Notre Dame finally joins the Big 10, will that be all the conference does? And if Big 10 didn't have any more interest in Missouri, but the Texas schools pull out of the Big 12 killing that league, will Mizzou be left with no conference? Was the Big 10's announcement of its intentions designed to create chaos in order to drive Notre Dame to the safety conference alignment?

What looked like an 18-month story has turned into a fluid situation that changes daily.

And I wonder if the University of Texas should be independent. They killed the Southwest Conference and they are about to drive the Big 12 into the ground. Not because they are destructive, but because of competitive imbalance. Nobody can stay with them. If I were the Pac-10, I would be careful what I asked for unless I want the Longhorns winning the conference most of the time.


Somebody Explain This To Me

Why are so many who are politically left of center - you know, the intelligent, tolerant, enlightened ones - such Bigots when it comes to Israel?


You Bet I Miss Him

Former president George W. Bush reflecting on his time in office Wednesday in Michigan:

"Yeah, we water-boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," Bush said of the terrorist who master-minded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. . . "I'd do it again to save lives."

Like a drink of pure, cold water after wandering in the desert for way too long. Unfortunately we have far too much more time to chafe under the uncertain hand of the current administration.


The Billy Goat Hex

I knew nothing of the supposed Billy Goat Hex that, according to the story, hangs over the Chicago Cubs franchise. Nothing until October of 2003 when the Bartman incident occurred. If you remember, the Cubs were leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 in the eighth inning and had a 3-2 lead in games in the series. The Cubs were less than two innings away from their first World Series appearance since 1945.

Then came the Bartman incident. A foul ball was lifted down the leftfield line and headed for the stands. Many fans tried to catch the ball, and so did Chicago leftfielder Moises Alou. He reached in and couldn't get it. Steve Bartman reached for the ball and he didn't get it. But Alou reacted angrily, thinking he could have caught the fly if not for the fans. Bartman bore the brunt of that dropped foul.

Incidentally, given new life, the batter got on base, as did several behind him. The Marlins kept hitting until they put 8 runs on the board. They won the game and, the next night, the series. Florida went to the World Series and the Cubs did not. And that is when I heard, for the first time of the Billy Goat Hex. Here is the story:

It's not a coincidence that the Chicago Cubs, up 2 games to 1 over the Tigers in the 1945 World Series, lost Game 4, then the series, and haven't won much since. At least not according to Cubs fan William Sianis, a Greek immigrant and owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, who attempted to attend Game 4 with his billy goat, Murphy.

Murphy was not allowed to stay in the stands even though Sianis had bought a ticket for his pet. As Chicago owner Philip "Wrigley put it at the time, "the goat smells." When an angry Sianis finally left the park, he supposedly put a hex on the franchise, cursing them to a futile existence without another World Series crown.

Murphy died shortly thereafter and Sianis passed away in 1972, three years after he allegedly had attempted to lift the hex from the Cubs. But that same year, 1969, the Cubs surrendered a nine-game lead to the Mets, the eventual champions, in the pennant race and the Billy Goat Hex apparently lived on.

From the book The Treasures of Major League Baseball.