Roll Out The Roundball

Tonight Big Ten basketball teams begin playing their conference schedules.  Wisconsin takes on Nebraska, and Illinois plays Minnesota.  Ohio State kicks off its Big Ten season tomorrow against Northwestern.

It should be a very interesting Big Ten season.  By far the most surprising team so far has been Indiana.  The Hoosiers, who were woeful the past few years, are undefeated and have a last-second win over mighty Kentucky under their belts.  Many people thought Indiana was a year away, but perhaps coach Tom Crean and the young Hoosiers have other ideas. We’ll get a good sense of the Hoosiers’ real strength soon enough — they open at Michigan State and then welcome the Buckeyes to Assembly Hall in what should be a barn burner.

I haven’t seen all of the Big Ten teams play yet, but the conference appears to be strong and deep.  Ohio State likely would be the favorite if Jared Sullinger were 100 percent, but he has been hobbled by injuries and his status throws the conference race up for grabs.  Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Purdue are always tough.  Minnesota has been a surprise — although they really haven’t played much of a schedule — Michigan has lots of talent, and Illinois and Northwestern have gotten off to good starts.  Northwestern, in particular, is a challenge to play because they run a back-cut offensive scheme that other teams don’t see very often.

Of course, that’s one of the great things about college basketball — coaches can play different schemes and use different looks that can catch opponents off-guard and allow for upsets.  This year’s Big Ten conference race should be competitive, and entertaining.  Let’s get it started!


Big Apple Christmas

This year Kish decided it would be interesting to go to New York City for Christmas.  It was an inspired idea.

Some people find the pace of New York City overwhelming; others just can’t stand the crowds.  If you fall into one of those categories, you should stay away during the holidays.  The calendar is packed with events, and the streets are crammed with people.  If you like New York and like activity, however, consider making a December visit.  In addition to the corny standard tourist activities (like a visit to Rockefeller Center) it’s a good time to see the City.

For here is the Big Apple’s dirty little secret — for all of the town’s cosmopolitan diffidence, it turns out that Gothamites really like Christmas.  They like skating at places like Bryant Park, pictured above.  They like the lights and wreathes and other decorations.  They like hearing the Christmas carols played over every loudspeaker, and they like it when guys rush onto the subway, play a few hurried bars of Feliz Navidad on a guitar and an accordion, collect a few donations, then dash to the next car at the next stop.  They like eating tiny bags of piping hot, sweetened pecans, cashews, and almonds.  They like wearing long scarves and Santa hats.  Oddly, you’re much more likely to hear someone wish you a heartfelt “Merry Christmas” in flinty New York City than you are in friendly Columbus.

I’m not saying you should go to New York City to embrace the Christmas spirit — but I am saying that it is a fun place to celebrate the holidays, have some good meals, drink some well-poured seasonal cocktails, and enjoy walking around a metropolis where the surroundings and the people alike are lit up like Christmas trees.  Our little Christmas trip to New York City was one of the most enjoyable Christmases that I can remember.

Gum-Snapping Fashion

When we were in New York City, we noticed many young women who were dressed to the nines.  They were wearing breeches, and knee-high boots, and dainty short white coats, and scarves that were carefully tied so as to look as if they had been casually tied.  A very strong high fashion vibe was in the air, everywhere — but then the whole look was destroyed when you saw the young lady, mouth agape, chomping away on a wad of gum.

You never see Vogue models with gum in their mouths.  There’s a reason for that — the vigorous jaw workout that goes with gum chewing is neither attractive nor classy.  You can put together the most attractive high-fashion clothing ensemble imaginable, one that would fit comfortably on the streets of Paris, and if you’re grinding away on a lump of gum you may as well be wearing ratty, ill-fitting sweats and walk outside with a bad case of “bed head.”  It is simply impossible to look cool and fashionable when you’re chewing gum.

I find this curious.  Anyone who pays as much attention to their appearance as these young women obviously do must be aware of how their unseemly gum-snapping is perceived.  Do they just not care how they look to strangers on the street as they chomp away, and do they then dispose of their gum in some fashionable way when they reach their fashionable destination?  Or is the gum an intentional statement that is designed to convey some kind of ironic message too subtle for me to comprehend?