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4 posts from January 2010

January 18, 2010

"You Get What You Settle For"

That is my favorite line from Thelma and Louise, the 1991 movie about Louise, an Arkansas fast food waitress (Susan Sarandon), and a housewife named Thelma (Geena Davis). They jump in Louise's 1966 Thunderbird convertible and hit the road for a little getaway. The women stop at a roadhouse before they reach their destination, and Louise shoots a man who threatens to rape Thelma. They end up hunted by sympathetic police, discover the strength of their friendship and freedom from boredom, and, with cops approaching, hold hands up in defiance as they drive off a cliff into a canyon. There's a lot more to it, but that's the essence of what people remember about the movie. Oh, plus Brad Pitt, the hitchhiker they pick up along the way; he's definitely memorable. The movie's tagline: "Somebody said get a life...so they did."

Well, while you're reading this I'm "getting a life" and taking a road trip from California to Florida in a Mustang convertible with my friend Julie Janss. Julie lived in Des Moines before moving to the LA area, owned the Enchanted Florist in Urbandale and later taught yoga. She wants her convertible in Florida, so instead of just meeting her in the Sunshine State as I usually do in January, we're catching up on life while absorbing the scenery of the southern U.S., a cross-country road trip I've never done before. No weapons, no hitchhikers, no going off cliffs. But there will be plenty of time for conversation and journeying from the main roads for some adventures. I doubt we'll have a Hollywood-worthy journey, but we'll settle for nothing short of a grand time to enjoy friendship.


May 2010 be a year in which you settle for nothing less than experiencing something grand that you've never done before! 

Wistful thinking

If you've seen the New York Jets in the NFL playoffs, you know they're happy to have Shonn Greene in their backfield. And Greene has to be delighted he's there because, heck, he's one victory from playing in the Super Bowl.

But if you're an Iowa fan, no one could blame you for engaging in a little wistful thinking as you watched Greene tear through the defensive lines of the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers.

Oh what might have been if he had remained with the Hawkeyes for one more season.

Remember, Greene skipped his senior year at Iowa to enter the NFL draft after a sensational 2008 season.  He rushed for more than 100 yards in every game, was named the Big Ten's offensive player of the year and received the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back.

But Greene already was older than most college juniors (23) and his market value was high. Everyone understood when he decided to move up. The opportunity and potential earnings simply were too tempting.

Just for fun, though, imagine if Greene had been around this past season.

First, redshirt freshman Adam Robinson and true freshman Brandon Wegher did an admirable job splitting time at running back. They combined for 1,575 yards and 13 touchdowns and averaged a respectable 4.6 yards a carry.

But they weren't Shonn Greene -- and they didn't occupy an opponent's attention to the extent Greene would have if he had been carrying the ball. Just think of the pressure he would have taken off quarterback Ricky Stanzi. It's not a stretch to think that if Greene had stayed, the Hawkeyes might have been undefeated.

Even after Stanzi rolled his ankle in the Northwestern game, you've got to figure the Hawkeyes would have held on to win that one if Greene had been around. As for the Ohio State game, the Hawkeyes almost won that one -- maybe should have won it -- with what they had. Now, how much better would they have been with Greene thrown into the equation?

Of course, an undefeated season wouldn't have necessarily put Iowa in the BCS championship game (See Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati). But it certainly would have given the Hawkeyes a chance. And think about how much fun the debate would have been with yet another undefeated team in the BCS mess, er mix.

If only ...

But hey, Iowa ended up having a great season and Greene's pro career is off to a promising start, so everyone has something to celebrate. The season played out the way it did and can't be changed. Still, a little wistful thinking sometimes can't be helped.

January 14, 2010

They'll never look at Barbie the same way...

 Allie Pohl's Ideal Woman Necklace is a real conversation starter. When viewed upside-down one might see a cat head, but when you ask Pohl what it is, she'll tell you it's a "Barbie doll crotch." And that's not the part of Barbie society tends to notice. The necklace is a silhouette from the waist to just above the knees, and it's been marketed for just a few months in fun fluorescent colors, plus a version with bling—Swarovski crystals.

Business owner Pohl writes that the necklace reflects her "belief that society is obsessed with the image of the perfect woman....My artistic objective is to critique trends that I find impractical or destructive to the female form. I strive to express the absurdities, conflicts and hypocrisies society presents about 'ideal' women." Each day she's worn one someone has made a comment, so she's set up a blog for necklace owners to share their experiences. 

The necklace is available in purple, turquoise, mirror, black, fluorescent pink, white and yellow on a 16-inch or 24-inch chain. The Ideal Woman is small (2 mm), medium (3 mm), large (5 mm) or extra large (7 mm). Prices range from $20 to $55. The Swarovski crystal one is a special order. 

January 04, 2010

Bowl memories

The scene outside my window looks nothing like the photos in the paper this morning. You know, the ones of those University of Iowa students frolicking in the ocean as they await the Hawkeyes' game in the Orange Bowl.

I see snow on the trees, snow on the roof, snow on the ground, snow everywhere. Icicles, a couple of them at least four feet long, used to hang from the eaves, but I knocked those down. The snow, I can't do anything about. Maybe we'll see the grass again in April.

Anyway, snapshots and newspaper stories from a bowl game would have made me envious many years ago. And what football fan hasn't felt that way? Think about when the Rose Bowl comes on television. You're sitting at home on a cold New Year's Day and there's the sold-out stadium on your TV screen, the sky a perfect blue, the San Gabriel Mountains rising in the background and the field as green as any pasture in Ireland.

But I went to enough bowl games when I was working that I'm perfectly happy to watch them on television now, though that first view of the Rose Bowl on TV still is, and probably always will be, the most dazzling scene in all of football. Some of those bowl games were memorable, others not so much.

When Iowa went to the Rose Bowl after the 1981 season, ending its 23-year bowl drought, my masters at The AP decided to do it up big. So whatever the team did out there, I was to tag along. You should never complain when you're traveling on someone else's dime, but I felt I was in Southern California long enough that I could have registered to vote.

I followed the Hawkeyes to Disneyland and Universal Studios. I went to every practice. Before eating with the team at Lawry's restaurant one night, Ron Maly, who was covering for The Des Moines Register, and I wrote our stories in the restaurant's kitchen. Not that there was any hardship involved. We ended the night eating prime rib. 

For two solid weeks, I wrote two or three stories a day. Believe me, I was running out of things to write, so the game itself was a welcome diversion. Well, sort of. I had to figure out what to write after the Hawkeyes fell flat on their collective faces and lost to Washington 28-0. And this was after Pam and I pulled ourselves out of bed at 4 a.m. so we could get to our seats for the parade. At least they were good seats. And the right price, too -- free.

Two years later, I was looking out on maybe the bleakest scene ever. It was one of those dark hours before dawn, the wind howled, snow blew everywhere and it was about 25 below. This was the day I left for Jacksonville to cover the Hawkeyes in the Gator Bowl. Which turned out to be the coldest Gator Bowl in history.

It was so cold the pipes in the stadium froze. No one brought enough clothes. One day, several of us ventured out to Jacksonville Beach for a media luncheon to get some stuff on Florida, Iowa's opponent. Gray clouds hung low over the beach, which was pounded by evil-looking waves. No one was tempted to take a dip. I sat next to Florida coach Charley Pell, a charming fellow who later was busted for some NCAA rules violations. OK, it was 107, but after 50 or 60, who can keep track?

Neither team acted like it wanted to play the game and Florida won 14-6. The wind chill at kickoff: 13 below. I told you it was cold.

So, Pam and I go from there to Miami, where the weather was much more pleasant and we saw a classic -- Miami foiling Nebraska's gutsy two-point conversion attempt at the end to win 31-30 and deny the Cornhuskers the national championship. I wrote a Nebraska sidebar and received a nice compliment from the desk editor in New York. I thanked him and then told him I had a lot of practice writing about the loser. It was my fifth bowl game and the team I was covering lost four of them.

Iowa's appearance in the 1984 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim was memorable, and not just because Chuck Long threw those six touchdown passes to lead a rout of Texas. That was the trip that introduced us to Crackers, one of the finest bars ever.

The music was great (oldies, of course), the servers lively (every hour they stopped what they were doing to sing and dance) and at midnight, a huge American flag unfurled from the ceiling while Kate Smith's "God Bless America" blared from the speakers. I'm no super patriot, but it was pretty cool. I think we went every night. Much to my embarrassment, it was only later that I realized that Orange County, how do we say it now, trends conservative. My first clue should have been the local airfield's name -- John Wayne Airport. Duh.

We were back in Southern California the next year, watching Ronnie Harmon fumble four times -- and drop a touchdown pass -- in another Rose Bowl loss for the Hawkeyes. But those gaffs were all accidental, right?


The 1988 Peach Bowl became a lot more fun when we discovered Flamingo Joe's, a downtown Atlanta bar that played lots of old music. I think Mark Neuzil, then with the Cedar Rapids Gazette, won us free drinks by guessing the singer when the following intro was played: "Been forty days since I don't know when .. "  (Lee Michaels, "Do You Know What I Mean"). 

Naturally, we went every night -- but only after writing our stories

One of the Holiday Bowl trips produced some extra work over a rumor that Iowa coach Hayden Fry was being considered for the Southern Cal job. This was before the days of the internet, so we had to drive around to find the newspaper that reported this tidbit so we knew what we'd be asking about. Then several of us, including Marc Hansen of the Register and Bob Brown of the Fort Dodge Messenger, waited in the dark (it gets chilly at night in San Diego) for Iowa to finish practice so we could corral Hayden. He was polite and, as you might expect, he laughed the whole thing off.

A couple of days later, Bob and I approached Hayden after a luncheon the day before the game and Bob asked an innocuous question about the game. Hayden must have thought Bob said something about Southern Cal because he said, "Are you guys trying to piss me off?" Not sure what he heard, but it had nothing to do with Southern Cal. Still, Bob and I laughed about that for years.

Before the 1991 Rose Bowl, I wrote quite a bit about Iowa working hard on punt protection because the Hawkeyes had a couple blocked during the season. So the first time they punt? It was blocked, of course. I just looked at Ken Peters, the kind-hearted soul who heads the AP sports operation in LA, and shook my head.

Now the challenge is stopping Georgia Tech's run-happy triple-option. Some doubts about the Hawkeyes' ability to do that must be creeping in because Tech is now favored by five points, after the line opened at 2 1/2.

Norm Parker will have his defense ready, but it sure would help if the Iowa offense plays well. The Hawkeyes managed to get by with only their defense in the regular season finale against Minnesota. That won't cut it Tuesday night. Just look at what Navy and Air Force did in their bowl games. They run an offense similar to Tech's and made their opponents, Missouri and Houston, look silly. And Tech is doing it with better athletes.

No matter the outcome, I don't need to be there. I'll be perfectly content watching from the comfort of my sofa, regardless of what's going on outside.

Besides, I'll be in Florida in less than a month -- and I won't have to write a word.