Posted on: November 29, 2009 9:38 pm

Another loss for our profession

Sadly, Mike Penner has died. The great L.A. times writer passed over the weekend.

Category: General
Posted on: September 1, 2008 3:06 pm

Remembering New Orleans

Just had to post this story from 2006 in light of what is going on in the Gulf.

I went to New Orleans to chroncle Tulane's first home game since Katrina. I'll never forget the images from that trip. A sherriff's deputy took me on a two-hour trip around the city to see the devastation.


Category: General
Posted on: August 25, 2008 10:39 am

Bruce review in Kansas City

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, August 24, 2008, Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.

Eighty minutes after the published starting time, Bruce took the stage. By that time I was ready to either walk out or rock out. Bruce and the band had a whole lot of convincing to do.


It was an insult that the band was 1 hour, 20 minutes late. You expect that of Led Zepplin or the Stones because they were so high all the time. But Bruce is the working man's hero. On a Sunday night -- a school night for 11-year-old Jack Dodd -- The Boss Man was The Late Man. Worse yet, with no explanation.


The crowd didn't get into the first two songs, two obscure oldies "Ricky Wants A Man Of Her Own" and "Cynthia". But the top blew off the Sprint Center when the band launched into "Radio Nowhere", "No Surrender" and "Out In The Street". What Bruce lacked in punctuality he made up in charisma, singing "Spirit In The Night" to a woman in the front of the mosh pit. He continually reached out to shake hands and touch his fans. He even went crowd surfing at one point (with some help from security getting the 57-year-old safely back to the stage).

During the now-famous request part of the show he gathered up about 20 signs from the pit. (Myself and a family up in the nosebleed section brought signs too, but ours weren't seen obviously.) Whether it was a plant or not, Bruce picked up a sign that said "Let Max Sing". There's a reason Mighty Max Weinberg stays behind the drum kit. His rendition of the old Shirelles' hit "Boys" was admirable, not memorable.

The other requests were "Cadillac Ranch", "Working On A Highway" and "Candy's Room." I don't think I'd heard that last one live since 1978.


"Gypsy Biker" and "Youngstown" were face melters. Bruce and Little Steven went face to face trading licks on "Biker". Nils Lofgren playing a searing solo during "Youngstown", a tasty morsel that has been somewhat of a staple on the Magic tour. Bruce delivered a sermon about our lost freedoms under the Bush administration, the subject of pop tune "Livin' In The Future" from Magic. That's the subtle intelligence of his songs. Like all great songwriters, you've got to get beyond the music to the words so see what the artist is really saying.

The typical seven-song encore included a "Save The Last Dance For Me/Dancing In the Dark" medley. Bruce pulled a young girl out of the crowd to dance. Courtney Cox inspired a generation of young girls when she shot that video more than 20 years ago.

Bruce will stay with me until the next time he goes on tour. He made mention that this was the last stop on the Magic tour. Can't wait until he comes back. Just be on time, or close to it, Boss.


 Now the bad. Our new $250 million arena had a terrible sound system. The musty, old Kemper Arena across town has better acoustics, still. I just saw a Foo Fighters show there.



Sprint Center General Manager Brenda Tinnen deserves a kick in the rear for this letdown. She still hasn't figured out how to get people into the building in an orderly manner. We got there early enough but there was anecdotal evidence of people waiting 10 to 15 minutes just to get inside. Open a few more doors, Brenda!

The upper deck seats need to come with a warning. There are so narrow and constructed at such a steep angle that I'm waiting for someone to fall and get seriously hurt. At one point, I turned to the couple next to me and asked if they'd pay for season tickets to see the NHL or NBA in those seats. Of course, they said no. You have to be mentally and physically ready to curl up your legs for three hours. The cup holders are nice but in the dark they serve as obstacles to trip you up while you make your way down the row.

Don't know if I'd be ranting like this if Bruce wasn't late, but I read on one blog that people were outside demanding their money back.

At the end of the night I was inspired, just a little bit disappointed. I popped in Live in New York CD on the way home and was left with the words of a song that Bruce didn't sing Sunday night. It describes us all, "Land of Hope and Dreams"

This train, carries saints and sinners

This train, carries losers and winners

This train, carries whores and gamblers

This train, carries lost souls

This train, dreams will not be thwarted

This train, faith will be rewarded

This train, hear the steel wheels singing'

This train, carries broken hearted

This train, thieves and sweet souls departed

This train, carries fools and kings

This train, all aboard

Category: General
Posted on: August 22, 2008 12:41 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2008 12:23 pm

The Boss comes to town

Every few years he comes down from his mountaintop to descend into our pitiful lives, enriching them once again.

That's another way of saying The Boss is in town Sunday. That means church is in session. A Bruce Springsteen concert is something of a religious experience, an evangelical one. After three hours you leave the building sweating through your clothes having been taken to a higher place.

I'm hoping for another convert this time. I'm taking young Jack, 11, who is seeing his first Springsteen concert. He has no idea what he is in for. I've seen a few Bruce concerts. No, a lot. Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis. I'm not selling furniture to follow him around the country but you get the idea. I told Jack it's going to be loud, but I'm hoping after church is out that he will be uplifted too.

It happened to me 30 years ago almost to the day -- Thanksgiving 1978. In the small Kiel Opera House (3,000 seats), my friends and I found out why they call him The Boss.

It was like having a revival in your living room. I remember a then 27-year-old Bruce running through aisles playing "Spirit In The Night". A stark spotlight shining down as he sang the haunting "Point Blank." Remember, that's three decades ago. I can't find my car keys in the morning but I can give you set list from that night.

Back then Bruce was coming off his fourth album (remember those?), Darkness On The Edge Of Town. I was converted that year at the University of Missouri when I heard a bunch of students from the East Coast blasting his music out of a dorm window. That's the way things started back then. No I-Pods or downloads, just word of mouth.

Anyway, Bruce is 57 now. We're not contemporaries, just in the same decade of life. At 57, I hope I'm sucking on a cigar somewhere in the Caribbean (Cohiba, please). Bruce is still pounding out love, passion, truth, life and music.

From Greetings from Asbury Park to Magic, it's all been magic.

Get ready to get your face blown off, Jack. It's going to be worth it on a school night.

Category: General
Posted on: August 20, 2008 2:35 pm

Virginia muzzles; the Olympics puzzle

First, the Bob Pruett scandal. Now Virginia supresses free speech.

Does anyone else beside me think that this guy is juicing big time. "Cut his personal best by a massive .37"? Why isn't anyone covering these games raising the issue? I'm not talking just track and field either. Who knows what the Chinese are feeding those nine-year-old gymnasts.


Category: General
Posted on: June 20, 2008 10:22 am

What I've learned while on vacation...

 Forget about Notre Dame joining the Big Ten, Big East, etc...At least in the short term. The school re-upped with NBC in football this week through the 2015 season. That contract is the biggest reason Notre Dame has no reason to look around. The deal, now worth more than $10 million per season, still means Notre Dame gets to keep all the money. No other school has such a deal. That's equivalent to four Sugar Bowls each year for Hawaii which cleared $2.2 million from its first-ever BCS bowl.

Any conference discussions for Notre Dame would include the sticky situation of revenue distribution. ND would be silly to share any of it. Even though ratings were down during Notre Dame's 3-9 season, NBC obviously still sees a valuable television property.

 That brings us to the Big East and Mike Tranghese. The league is losing its heart and soul when Tranghese retires. The long-time commissioner was around when the league was formed in 1979 and kept it alive a few years ago when the ACC conducted its raid. The league is strong now but will continue to be vulnerable to another raid, especially if gas prices keep heading up and the economy keeps going in the tank.

One thought is that energy prices will force leagues to consolidate to save on costs. We already have four leagues of at least 12 teams (MAC, Big 12, ACC, SEC). Could there be more on the horizon? And would the Big East be vulnerable again?

 Among the cities to put in bids for upcoming Final Fours are Phoenix and Dallas. Might as well book both towns in the next decade. Phoenix has the new Phoenix University Stadium (home of the 2007 BCS title game). Dallas is going online next year with Jerry Jones' new stadium in Dallas, which could be the best stadium in the world.

Is there any doubt, then, the Jerry Dome (don't know what else to call it) will eventually be in the BCS rotation. The Cotton Bowl already has moved its game there.

 One local business owner told me that tourism is off 20 percent in Hawaii. The family and I went to paradise this month and something was missing: People. The real spike in airline prices hasn't hit yet. The beaches, hotels and towns just weren't as packed as they usually are this season. A person running a beach-related business told me she was "scared" about the drop off in tourism business.

 Still, it's hard to find a place where in one day you can see a 40-foot whale shark (it passed in front of our boat), spinner dolphins, sea turtles and Alice Cooper. The legendary rocker was getting up from his dinner at the Maui Marriott as we were sitting down. And, no, he didn't have snake.

 Even when it rains, the College World Series is still the best amateur event out there. Thursday was a washout but I'll be back in Omaha for the championship series next week. That will make it 17 consecutive years for me at the CWS and, yes, you are jealous.






Posted on: March 29, 2008 1:24 pm

Celebrity sightings in Phoenix

(notes from the West Region where today it's going to be a chilly 87)

--Russell Jacobson, third-round choice of the Phillies in 1999 (96th overall) is a good guy. Trust me on this because Russell is working these days at Zen, a trendy bistro in downtown Phoenix. After serving up my lettuce wraps the other night, he told me how proud he was of his new son.

He had given the baseball thing a try for six or seven years then moved on. We clicked when he told me he went to the College World Series three times with Miami. The CWS is the best. So is Russell.

--Thanks to Ken Kendrick, the Arizona Diamondbacks managing general partner. I wanted to meet Ken because I'd used him as a source on a couple of West Virginia columns. Friday night was perfect. The D-backs were playing an exhibition game against Colorado and -- what do you know -- I was there. We chatted for about 15 minutes in his seats down near the field. What a down-to-earth guy. He's a rabid Mountaineer booster and alum who still thinks Bill Stewart might have a few problems in replacing Rich Rodriguez.

--To the East German security guard who was in the breakout room with Kevin Love on Friday: Relax, dude. The media can police itself.

Here's the deal: On the off day at the regionals, there's a press conference then the players each go to their own room to do one-on-ones. The NCAA apparently has deemed that "moderators" accompany the helpless athletes. As I mentioned, Friday's moderator was way to full of himself telling us at one point to sit down so the cameras could get a shot.

Point is, we had Kevin Love going. What a great kid. What a great personality. He was really in the mood to talk and Mr. Moderator really ruined the momentum.



Posted on: March 7, 2008 11:39 am
Edited on: March 7, 2008 11:59 am

Friday musings

 Mr. Clemens, your protologist will see you now.

Seriously, Clemens and his shot-and-a-beer lawyer Rusty Hardin deciding to go to Washington has to be the worst decision since Chris Webber called a timeout he didn't have. Now you've done it Roger and Rusty. When the feds get done with you, Rog, you'll wish you told the truth right off the bat -- and hired a better lawyer.

 Tyler Hansbrough player of the year (SI)? You've got to be kidding me. Hansbrough has made his season by appearing on endless replays with blood on his face. Sure, he's tough but maybe he's not that tough. Maybe he's just a bleeder.

Michael Beasley is not only a better and more complete player, he is the heart and soul of Kansas State. With him, Kansas State is on track for its first NCAA Tournament since 1996. Without him, K-State would be looking over its shoulder at Manhattan (Kan.) High.

OK, that's not fair. Manhattan High just got upset in the state tournament.

 There's a few people freaking out over the foul on Stanford's Lawrence Hill at the end of regulation Thursday night at UCLA. I only saw it once but I didn't have a problem with it. When two guys go up chest to chest and a ball is blocked it's likely something is going to be called.

To recap, Collison rushed the ball upcourt, made a spin move, rose up for a jumper against Stanford's Lawrence Hill. Hill blocked Collison's shot but was called for a foul by an official trailing the play. 

Collison went to the line and hit both free throws with 2.5 seconds left to send the game into overtime. UCLA then won by 10 to wrap up its third consecutive Pac-10 title. 

To summarize:

1) It's an either/or call in that situation. Something is going to be called.

2) There was by some accouts "forearm-to-forearm" contact. All righty, then.

3) You're not going to get a call in Pauley Pavilion, Allen Fieldhouse, The Dean Dome, etc.

Not fair, maybe, but that's ball. 

  I've got a lot of juicy leftover stuff from the Rick Neuheisel interview. Watch for it this weekend.


Category: General
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or