A Trip To Champaign

On Saturday Ohio State makes its first road trip of the season.

The Buckeyes travel to Champaign, Illinois and Memorial Stadium to take on the Fighting Illini and play once again for the Illibuck trophy.  Illinois is one of those teams that is a bit of a cipher in this early part of the season.  They’ve only played three games and come into the game with the Buckeyes at 2 and 1.  In their opening contest they lost to Missouri, 23-13, in a game where they led at halftime.  (Missouri, incidentally, hasn’t lost a game this season.)  In the last two games the Illini have spanked Southern Illinois and beaten Northern Illinois 28-22.

Mikel Leshoure

It’s tough to draw a lot of meaningful guidance from those games, but it is clear that Illinois prefers to run the ball.  They have a big, mobile running back, Mikel Leshoure, who is 6-1 and 230 pounds.  Leshoure has run for 100 yards in each of Illinois’ three games, has scored three touchdowns, and has broken some big runs.  The Illini quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase, is a rangy freshman who is the second leading rusher on the team.  With Leshoure and Scheelhaase leading the way, Illinois ranks 18th in the FBS in rushing yards per game.  The passing attack, however, is a little less robust, averaging 130 yards per game to rank 112th in the FBS.  On the other side of the ball, Illinois’ defense seems to be improved over last year, when they gave up an average of 30 points a game.

How will it play out? Playing on the road in the Big Ten is tough, and Ohio State always draws a big, hostile crowd and a fired-up opponent looking to make a statement.  In such situations, senior leadership is crucial; fortunately, Ohio State has a number of upperclassmen who knows how to perform on the road.  I think the key for Ohio State will be avoiding turnovers and avoiding special teams mistakes.  Ohio State’s goal will be to get ahead early, force Illinois to abandon its running game, and make Illinois’ freshman quarterback carry the load.  If they can accomplish that they will put themselves in position to win the ballgame.

Beating Illinois on the road will be a challenge, but it is a challenge the Buckeyes have to overcome if they want to contend for the Big Ten championship.

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Dirty Sports

Pro baseball has its steroid scandals, and pro football does too.  College football and basketball witness periodic allegations that teams have cheated in recruiting, in paying athletes, and in committing various violations of NCAA rules.  It seems like every sport struggles with some issues of cheating.

Is any sport more troubled in that regard than cycling?  From reading new reports you get the sense that cyclists are human pincushions who are willing to subject themselves to almost any kind of drug or other form of hare-brained treatment in hopes of gaining a slight advantage over competitors and then somehow avoiding detection by the sport’s regulators.

Cycling suffered another black eye today, when the winner of the Tour de France announced that he had tested positive for a small amount of a banned substance — a stimulant that increases breathing capacity and the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream. He says that he was the victim of food contamination, and the allegations will surely be carefully investigated by some supervisory panel.  Cycling enthusiasts, however, must be cringing once again at today’s headlines.

Summer Work

The Miscellany News, Vassar’s student newspaper, has posted on Flickr some photos of pieces displayed at the “Summer Work” show at the Palmer Gallery.  Although the slide show doesn’t identify which pieces are by which artist, I have a pretty good idea of which pictures show Russell’s work.  In any case, I think all of the pieces are good.

Boardwalk Empire

Kish and I have watched the first two episodes of Boardwalk Empire, the new HBO series.  It is fabulous, and we are already fully and blissfully hooked.

Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson

For those of you who haven’t seen the show, it is the story of Atlantic City in 1920, as Prohibition is just beginning.  The focal point of the show is Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, an elected public servant who just happens to be the head of the Atlantic City underground.  Nucky is brilliantly played by Steve Buscemi.  As with so many HBO series, however, there are many other intriguing characters and historical figures who have their own subplots, including Arnold Rothstein (the gambler who fixed the 1919 World Series), a doughboy returned home from World War I who sees a life of crime as a way to make his way up in the world, an emotionally stunted IRS prohibition agent, a well-read female Irish immigrant who has been brutalized by her drunken husband, and Al Capone, among many, many others. We will happily follow the serpentine twists and turns of the plots and subplots as the season progresses.

One of the things we enjoy most about HBO series is their ability to capture the mood and setting of long-gone places and times.  Deadwood, with its spot-on depiction of a brand-new, mud-spattered, lawless town founded on a gold boom, is a good example.  Boardwalk Empire is a worthy successor — and with Martin Scorsese directing, you would expect nothing less.  The sets, costumes, and scripts do a fantastic job of recreating the era, 90 years ago, when American tried to go dry and a boom in organized crime resulted.  It is one of those time periods that seems to have been lost in the shuffle, largely skipped over in American history class when the teacher went directly from World War I and the Treaty of Versailles to the stock market crash and the Great Depression, with perhaps only a brief mention of the Jazz Age and flappers.  I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about what that era was really like.

One of the

Vote Yes On Issue 4

In addition to all of the federal and state races on the ballot in November, central Ohio voters will cast their ballots on Issue 4, a 2.8 mill property tax levy to support the Columbus Metropolitan Library system.  I strongly support Issue 4, and I hope Franklin County voters will, too.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library system is exceptional.  It has won national awards for excellence and is devoted to community service.  Its local branch libraries have become fundamental parts of many central Ohio communities.  That is certainly the case in New Albany, where the library branch is one of the cornerstones of the Market Street area and is a hub for meetings of local groups.  It also contributes greatly to the foot traffic that helps the nearby local stores.

Libraries are one of the institutions that help to bring communities together and makes them feel more like, well, communities.  A vote for Issue 4 is a vote for money well spent.

A Visit To Cleveland’s West Side Market Area

Cleveland's West Side Market

I was in Cleveland last night and took some associates from the firm out to dinner.  (Thanks very much for the company, ladies!)  They decided we should go to a restaurant across the street from the West Side Market at the corner of West 25th St. and Lorain Avenue in the Ohio City area of Cleveland.

The West Side market clock tower

The West Side Market, which opened in 1912, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Cleveland.  Made of yellow brick, with a sturdy yet gracefully curved facade and a stunning clock tower that features cross-hatched brickwork, the West Side Market is an architectural gem.  It still serves as a functioning market, although it was closed for the day by the time we arrived in the area.  It is one of those lovely buildings that makes older neighborhoods great.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood around the West Side Market seems to be struggling somewhat.  As we drove up, we saw a policeman handcuffing a suspect next to a patrol car in the entranceway of an apartment building, and on the opposite side of the street a titanically drunk man was weaving uncertainly back and forth as he made his way down the sidewalk.  These are the kinds of things that make you question whether the neighborhood is very safe.  Although our restaurant served good food and offered an excellent selection of beers, it was largely deserted during the early evening hours, and I found myself wondering if the security issues were affecting its patronage.

According to my dinner companions, the neighborhood and other supporters are working hard to preserve the West Side Market, and obviously that kind of campaign is important.  Our brief visit to the area, however, also indicated that physical structures are only part of the equation.  Urban neighborhoods will thrive only if residents feel safe in walking the streets and visitors feel secure as they drop by to shop, eat, or enjoy a fine Belgian ale.  It looks like the West Side Market area still has some work to do in that regard.

When Aliens Come Calling

With all of the problems in the world, it is noteworthy that the United Nations has decided to focus on the pressing topic of impending extraterrestrial visits and has appointed Mazlan Othman as the person aliens should contact if they come knocking at Earth’s door.

Who is Mazlan Othman, you may ask?  Why, she is a Malaysian astrophysicist who heads up the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and therefore is the perfect person to deal with the issue of alien first contact.  She explains that, when aliens first communicate with Earth, “we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all sensitivities related to the subject,” and the UN “is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”  One can only imagine what kind of meaningless, politically correct drivel the slow-moving UN political processes would produce as Earth’s “coordinated” response to an alien contact.

Perhaps the clever plan is to baffle the alien ambassadors.  When they show up and say “take me to your leader,” we will escort them to some unknown, politically powerless head of an obscure UN organization who will read them some multicultural blathering and expect them to be satisfied with the UN’s coordinated balancing of various “sensitivities.”  And then, with any luck, the aliens will conclude that Earth is too weird to deal with and move on to Venus.