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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kansas Jayhawks Need To Keep Clint Bowen

The almost should-have-been near upset of TCU would never have happened if Charlie Weis was still the Kansas Jayhawks head football coach. Clint Bowen deserved to keep the job before Saturday, he deserves to keep it just because of Saturday, and he will continue to find ways to deserve it the rest of the season.  Opposing coaches know it and everybody who’s seen KU football recently knows it, but the athletic director is still hedging. I suppose that's in case Peyton Manning decides to retire and become a college coach. But just in case you needed it spelled out, here are the five main reasons:

5.            He’s A Proud Alum

I don’t know of any potential coach out there who takes the success of KU football as personally as Clint Bowen. He wants the program to succeed as much as I do or any other long time KU fan. You can tell the losing and the jokes get to him. It can backfire because there’s a potential for burnout, but it would be nice if a KU football coach worked too hard.

4.            Recycled Coaches Don’t Work

Gary Barnett wants the KU job. Gary freaking Barnett. The former Colorado/Northwestern coach. Gary Barnett is 68. His reasoning as to why they should hire him? “Why shouldn’t they?” I’ll tell you why, Gary. Because you’re 68. You’re less than a decade younger than Bill Snyder (he’s 75). Also, Gary, you’re a recycled coach. Just like Charlie Weis. You know how well that worked. That is not a road to success.  

On a side note that is probably more relevant than it isn't, Gary Barnett is now a color commentator on college football radio broadcasts. I listened to him a couple weeks ago. Not only did he and the play-by-play guy pronounce the Oregon quarterback's last name as "Mary-ohta" the entire game which is is wrong, wrong, wrong, (it's "Marr-ee-ohta") Barnett's "this is what I would do if I were the coach" thoughts were also less than correct. To put it nicely. Gary Barnett last coached a college game in 2005. Joe Paterno last coached a college game more recently than Gary Barnett. By six years. Joe Paterno died almost two years ago. And Gary Barnett wants to coach again. At Kansas.

3.            Fan Base/Athletic Department Patience

Also, if Gary Barnett gets hired and things stay as they have been, in two years Gary Barnett gets fired and Clint Bowen is already head coach somewhere (like Washington State or Iowa State, etc. and so on). Then Bowen isn’t even an option. However, if Bowen gets hired, he has a built-in extra few years of leeway. At least, he better have.

2.            He’ll Never Leave

If Clint Bowen builds KU into a success, we know where he’ll be in ten years. And twenty years. And 25 years. He’ll still be at KU, trying to make it even better. He. Will. Never. Leave. Lawrence-born, Lawrence-bred, Lawrence-educated, Lawrence-married, Lawrence-worked…. And Lawrence-buried. Bowen’s a lifer if you give him the opportunity.

1.                   Seriously, You Have A Better Idea? 

Any other coordinator who wants to become a head coach might have better credentials on the field, but he’ll never have the passion and dedication to Kansas like Clint Bowen. Never. This was the job Clint was born to have.   

Our continuing feature, "Both Bowens."

photos courtesy: ljworld.com, celebritypost.net 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Kansas Jayhawks Football Game 9: The Last Best Chance

Skipped previewing the Kansas Jayhawks football game last week against Baylor because we all had better things to do than think about a guaranteed loss.

This is a home game for KU, which is nice, but what kind of advantage is it when there are barely 20,000 fans in a stadium that seats 50,000? In Clint Bowen’s first home game as interim head coach (second overall) the Hawks almost beat Oklahoma State, which is nice, but that was a month ago and they haven’t looked remotely competitive since.

This week is not only a home game, it’s easily KU’s last chance to win a football game this season. As a proud alum, I want to give them a chance in the rivalry game against Kansas State that ends the season, but…. Well, I suppose anything’s possible. Not likely, but possible.

Both KU and Iowa State come into this week’s game with identical 2-6 and 0-5 records. Both nearly lost by the same score last week, KU to Baylor 59-14, ISU to Oklahoma 60-14. Most other team stats are really comparable, except that ISU’s offense is averaging almost ten points a game more than the Hawks. I think teams without football programs are averaging more points per game than KU, so that’s really not a shocker.

Where KU has some sort of advantage, bizarrely, is defense. The Cyclones are giving up close to 38 points and 500 yards a game, KU is right around 32 and 450. I could throw numbers out that give the Hawks a fighting chance here, but I’ve been a KU football fan too long to try and talk myself into thinking victory before the game starts.

The Hawks could win, and it would be a nice thing for Clint Bowen and the rest of the team, who have been searching relentlessly for something that clicks long enough to put a W up there. But they could easily lose.

On the bright side…. It’s basketball season! 

Weekly guaranteed "Bowen" picture returns
photos courtesy: kuathletics.com, popsugar.com

5 Reasons Budweiser Bought 10 Barrel: One Beer Drinker’s Thoughts

The sale of Bend, Oregon-based 10 Barrel Brewing to Belgium-based InBev, which now owns Budweiser among others, sent shockwaves through the beer drinking world and angered many an Oregon beer fan. “How dare they think they can reach in here and take what’s rightfully ours,” is an echo of every takeover/sale that’s ever happened, from New Amsterdam (the territory, not the gin) to Stax Records and on and on and on. That’s not surprising. What should be surprising is that it’s the first time a Central Oregon-based brewer sold out to a major firm. Here are five reasons 10 Barrel sold to InBev, which shall be known as “Budweiser” for the purposes of this article. 

5.            Location, location, location

The most prestigious beer address in the country, if not the world, is Bend, Oregon. Budweiser couldn’t build a plant in the shadow of Pilot Butte without drawing protests and injunctions (real and imagined) every step of the way. The only way Budweiser was getting a Bend address was to buy one. It’s still not that easy to find a beer made in Bend east of Colorado. With Budweiser’s massive distribution network, 10 Barrel will be in all 50 states plus Rio, Madrid, Rome, Moscow, Tokyo, Perth… and Bend’s beer reputation will only grow because of it.

I guess the location is all right.
4.            Straight cash, homey

The noted philosopher Krusty the Clown, in possibly my favorite Simpsons episode ever, “Kamp Krusty,” was asked by Bartholomew J. Simpson why he sold his name and likeness for so many products. Krusty’s response could very well apply here:

“They drove a dump truck of money up to my house! I’m not made of stone!”

Guess what 10 Barrel’s now-former owners never have to do a day in their life ever again? Go to work. Isn’t that why people start their own business? It’s not to work 90+ hours a week, it’s the payoff! This is the payoff. They can do whatever they want. Yeah, I know they all say they’re sticking around. How long do you give all three at the new company? I say less than a year till somebody steps away, voluntarily or not.

3.            Nobody else in town was going to sell

How many times do Bend breweries get offers from companies to sell out a year? Once a month? More? Yet most of them want to keep doing what they’re doing the way they're doing it. Crux Fermentation Project wants to keep it small. Boneyard is on a big expansion for them, but has found that “enforced scarcity” creates more demand than they could have ever hoped. Cascade Lakes figures that owning pubs and stocking them with your own beer is the way to go. Reason #2 made 10 Barrel the place most likely to sell.

2.            The big expansion and big summer recall happened too close together

Here’s a potential hidden factor. In the video announcing the sale, the founders say “we’ve grown really fast in the past two years.” Unchecked expansion is fine until something goes horribly wrong, and in 2014 it did. 10 Barrel voluntarily recalled at least a million bottles of their summer favorite, Swill, because of possible overcarbonation that could have caused the bottle to explode. Imagine the costs. Not only is all the product you had for sale now unsellable, now you have no product on the shelves. All your summer profit projections are gone. You’re banking on that money to pay back the loans you’ve taken to grow really fast. And there’s no way it’s coming back. You’re looking at big, big trouble. Then Budweiser backs a dump truck of money up to your door. Bankruptcy or Budweiser? Easy choice.

1.                   Deschutes Brewery is only going to get bigger

As of right now, Bend’s signature brewery is in more than half the country and continuing to head east, the latest expansion coming in DC and Virginia. No doubt they’ve been offered by big brewing companies time and time again. But why sell? They are a major reason that small breweries have popped up everywhere, and by keeping tied to their roots, they keep tied to the idea that they’re small.

From the FAQ:

"We are not owned by, or selling to, any large brewer or other entity, nor do we have any plans to. We’re having too much fun to change." — Gary Fish, Founder and President

The sale of 10 Barrel isn’t going to drive down beer production in Bend. If anything, it will encourage people who couldn’t find Oregon on a map to seek out Central Oregon brews. “A rising tide lifts all boats” is the proper response for the sale of 10 Barrel, even if it should really be some kind of beer metaphor.   

Meanwhile, have a beer.

10 Barrel logo courtesy wweek.com, all other photos by the author.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My San Francisco Giants NLCS Game Five: I Had To Write It Down

Come along with me as we go to watch the San Francisco Giants take on the St Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the NLCS on October 16th...  We can't leave until four o'clock because we're going with one of my friends who can't get out of work until then. That's okay? All right. We're now in the city and we're near AT&T Park...

Hmm, parking around the park is more intricate than I thought it would be.

Top 1st inning: Hmm, every parking space around here is free, but limited to two hours. Well, that makes sense, I guess.

Bottom 1st inning: I have never parked on the street in downtown SF. I think that’s because there’s never been a place to park in downtown SF at 5:30pm. There is today.

Top 3rd inning: Hey, that wasn’t so far to walk to the park. Got to keep that in mind for next year!

What’s that “aahhhhh” sound we're hearing from the stadium? The Cardinals must have scored.

ESPN Sportscenter App: Yep.

Walking around the park, on the walkway between the right field bleachers and McCovey Cove, the thought flashes through my mind that we ought to stay out here for the bottom of the third, in case the Giants hit a homer. It is immediately followed by the thought that the Giants haven’t homered all series, and they probably won’t start now. I don’t say anything. We continue on the walkway and go into the dugout store on the 1st base line.

Bottom 3rd inning: Joe Panik hits the Giants' first homer of the series onto the walkway between the right field bleachers and McCovey Cove. Loud applause and cheering inside the store as the Giants take the lead.

My immediate thought: Dammit.

4th inning: We step into The Lucky Strike just as Tony Cruz mashes a home run to give the Cardinals the lead, again. We walk though and it seems all right, but all right is not good enough tonight. Especially after that home run. Maybe some bowling someday.

5th inning: After wandering the streets, the first beer is finally ordered at The Polo Grounds. Even though the place is packed, we find standing room at the bar between two giant teevees and not blocking anybody’s view. In addition, they notice and serve us quickly. They also apparently make their own rotating, seasonal beer, or at least have an agreement with a local brewer to make a few kegs with their name on it every now and again. We order it and though it is lighter than we would have liked, it doesn’t suck. We make a mental note to come back on a day when there isn’t a game, or even during a non-playoff game. Watching an away game there would be good as well. The Giants fail to score in the two innings we’re there, and we fail to find chairs. We move on.

My Google maps show that a place I’d like to try, Marlowe’s, is not far away. We decide to head that way, but are open to distractions. We are distracted by a sign alerting us to a bar three stories up, past a stairway that is manned by a bouncer-type at the bottom, although that feels more for show than anything else. We go up the stairs to find that The Alchemist has no teevees showing the game, so there are about a dozen people there, sipping custom very alcoholic drinks. Again, we make a note to come back and head back down the stairs.

On that very same block, my attention is drawn to a plaque on a building. It is a historical marker, but the building is not old enough to warrant a designation such as this. I look closer, and see that I have just walked past Jack London's birthplace. It is too dark to take a picture, but the historical significance of the area- and the night- continues to grow in my mind. 

We wander in the direction of Marlowe’s but are drawn in by The Brickhouse, a seemingly old bar in a seemingly old building. If they’ve faked it to look like they’ve been there forever, they’ve done a hell of a job. Any business on a classic San Francisco-named street like Brannan just seems like it’s been there forever. (It opened in 2001, but I don’t know how old the building is.)

When I hang out with certain people, there seems to be a certain magic in the events that happen. I could go for hours on the fortuitous happenings that occur while hanging out with certain people. We could have had a chance at Panik’s home run, but I didn’t listen to the little voice. This time, we listen to the little voice and go into the Brickhouse…. To find empty seats in a prime location at a long communal table just across from the bar and in front of the biggest teevee in the place.  After making sure our luck has held and the seats are vacant, we sit down and get acquainted with our friendly neighbors while having beer. It is the 7th inning.

8th inning: Mike Morse happens. We order food, anticipating that since it's tie game and the Giants are involved, we may be a while.

I had told another friend of mine who is an Uber driver that we would be wandering about near the ballpark, and would let him know when we settled on a place. Obviously, the Brickhouse qualified as a settling-in place. The top of the 9th inning is just about to occur when a person comes in and stops next to my chair. It’s him, and also by some marvelous happenstance, now the seat next to me is open, which he occupies.

The luck seems to turn when he shows. In a 3-all game, Casilla has two on and one out, then the bases are loaded with two out. Casilla’s night is done, and Jeremy Affeldt comes in and after a stomach-churning at bat, gets a grounder right back to him. He sprints to first to tag the bag for the final out. He is as aware as we are that seemingly easy plays have not been easy in the late innings in this series.

Bottom of the 9th: Pablo opens with a single and Bruce Bochy sends in a pinch-runner. You don’t remove Pablo unless you’re going for it right then and there, and if it doesn’t work you now have lost a big bat and a quality fielder. Bochy is going for it. Pence flies out and the pinch-runner does not move. Belt singles and now it’s first and second with one out. A double play sends the game to extras, and Pablo is not available.

When Travis Ishikawa came to bat I was surprised. Bochy usually double-switches in the late innings to get a better left fielder in there. This game he did not. He also does not pinch-hit for Travis’ light bat. Travis does not let him down. When first hit, I thought it was a double off the bricks and the decision to pinch-run for Pablo was the right one. As it turned out, of course, the pinch-runner was not necessary.

The Uber driver taped the final pitch. I got a little excited.

Our food comes mere minutes before the bar is filled with Giants fans exiting the ballpark. The people next to us buy us beer congratulate us on our good timing. A guy in full Giants gear sits across the table from me and says deadpan, "Did anything happen?" "Not really," I reply.

It takes us longer to get the check then it did to do anything else inside the Brickhouse. That place is definitely worth a return trip.  We exit and begin heading back to the car, still brimming with excitement from the game. We intentionally avoid the area right next to the ballpark, because we can already hear helicopters and sirens. The energy is carrying down the side streets to us. It feels like New Year's Eve. We chat with excited Giants fans on the street. Thumbs ups and high-fives are regular occurrences.

It is not time to leave yet. We make one extra turn and go into Katie O'Brien's. It is full but not crazy full. After a fairly easy trip to the lavatories, we look for seats, and there is an empty booth. We nab that, and get drinks. The buzz of the finish is so palpable that the bar patrons cheer the highlights. That never happens.

After a final beer, it is time to go. We turn the wrong way and spend a few extra minutes walking the streets of downtown San Francisco. Even the homeless guys are talking to themselves about the Giants. They are trying to sleep lying on a block that's being rebuilt, so no one will bother them for sleeping in front of a building. They are lying against the fences at a construction site. Many don't have shoes. It is a part of the city that is ignored in these days of prosperity. Thousands of people have spent hundreds of dollars tonight to cheer for people they don't know who playing a game. If they gave just part of their money to help the plight of these men, it seems everyone would be better off.

It is a sobering reminder of what lurks in the shadows. A pennant and a trip to the World Series doesn't seem like much as we get in the car and start the drive back.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kansas Jayhawks Football Game 7: 29 and Counting.

“KU has lost 26-consecutive true road games and 29 games away from Lawrence overall.”

This is not from a Texas Tech Red Raider fan site lobbing bricks at the Kansas Jayhawks in anticipation of Saturday’s meeting in Lubbock between two teams that are 2-4 and 0-3 in the Big 12 (it’s a 2:30 pm CT kick on Fox Sports Net, I know you’ve already set the DVR).

This is also not a quote from any media outlet that covers KU, who in the interest of fairness and journalistic integrity note all relevant statistics, warts and all.

No, this quote is from the one place that is basically required to spin everything that happens to Kansas football in a positive light, the weekly media release. By the school. Approved by the program. It is entirely possible that it is seen by interim head coach Clint Bowen before we get a chance to see it. And that’s in the weekly media release.

Believe it or not, there is actually some positive spin in that quote. Did you spot it? It’s the part where it implies that KU really hasn’t lost 29 consecutive away games, because three of those games are considered “neutral location” contests.

This, clearly, is the positive spin of a program that if it isn’t at rock bottom, it can positively reach out and touch it. “We’ve really only lost 26 road games” is flat-out delusional talk. You’ve lost 29 straight. I speak now as an alum, owning up to the truth. We’ve lost 29 straight.

I looked it up. KU last won on the road- okay, fine, “away from Lawrence” on September 12th, Two thousand and NINE. In El Paso, against UTEP.  The final score was 34-7. On 9/12/09, Mark Mangino was still KU’s head coach (it was his last season). Todd freaking Reesing was the starting QB. And get this- KU was actually ranked. They were 24th. The win, in the second week of the season, was part of a five-game win streak to start the ’09 campaign, and coming off their second consecutive bowl season and win (they beat Minnesota in the Copper Bowl in ’08, and of course won the Orange Bowl the season before), there was of course plenty of hope that this was part of the Jayhawks resurgence.

It wasn’t, as you well know. After winning five straight to start ‘09, KU lost seven straight to end the season. Mangino resigned under threat of being fired for “conduct detrimental to the university,” although apparently treating players like dirt is okay when you’re winning.

Then they hired Turner Gill. You may recall how well that worked. Then they hired Charlie Weis. You know how well that worked. Now we’re on Clint Bowen. It has been more than five years since KU has won a road game. This is their last real chance to break the streak this year, because KU’s last three road games are against currently ranked opponents. And not just ranked teams, but Top-15 teams (#4 Baylor, #11 Oklahoma, and #14 Kansas State. Although how the Mildcats are ranked 14th is beyond me. They came close to Auburn, sure, but they’ve played awful teams otherwise. They’re at Oklahoma this week, so they oughta be out of the Top-15 the next time the polls are released). It’s not looking good.

Not to add insult to injury (don’t forget this started with a quote from a KU-sanctioned press release), but can you recall those three neutral site games that KU lost that makes Jayhawk staff claim the losing streak is “really” only 26 games? They weren’t bowl games, obviously. They were the final three contests against Missouri, at Arrowhead Stadium. To which I say: Screw Mizzou!  (Any excuse to say “Screw Mizzou!” is a good one.)

Barring some sort of offensive firepower miracle, KU will lose their 30th consecutive “away from home” game in Lubbock. I don’t know what the NCAA record is for longest away losing streak, but I feel confident that the KU media guide will not tell me how close they are to owning that record. But I’ve been surprised before.
Our proverb around here: Where there's Clint, there's Julie.
photos courtesy: kansas.com, celebritybabyscoop.com (don't judge, that's where Google search led me)