A Tough Loss, But A Great Season

The Ohio State-Kansas game lived up to its billing — a tough slugging match between two heavyweights.  Unfortunately for Ohio State (and me), Kansas took the Buckeyes’ best shot and came back strong to win.  All credit to the Jayhawks for hustling and scrapping and getting the rebounds and loose balls that allowed them to turn the tide in the second half.

Obviously, I’m sorry that the Buckeyes could not hold their lead and could not make their goal of the national championship game.  Their loss, however, does not take away from what has been a wonderful season for the team and its fans.  This is a group that battled through adversity and tough stretches and came back to play extremely well down the stretch and in the NCAA Tournament.  Much as I would like to have seen the Buckeyes win and get the chance to knock off Kentucky, there is no shame in losing by two points in a hard-fought game to a basketball powerhouse like Kansas.

I’d like to thank William Buford and Jared Sullinger for coming back to play another year, when they could have gone to the NBA and made a lot of money this year instead.  I’ve relished watching Aaron Craft play, and Deshaun Thomas develop into a much more well-rounded player, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. make crucial shots when the team needed them most.  I’ve enjoyed watching Shannon Scott and Amir Williams and Sam Thompson and catching glimpses of their bright futures.  And, I’ve appreciated the hard work of Thad Matta and his coaching staff as they have gotten the team ready to play, game after game.

An evenly matched contest like the one played tonight is a game of inches; the fact that things didn’t bounce the Buckeyes’ way at the end doesn’t detract from a great year.  I know it’s tough for the players and coaches, who were hoping for something even more; it will be some time before the sting eases.  In the meantime, I just want to say thanks for lots of great basketball, Buckeyes!


A Walk For A Friend

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since our friend and colleague, Ken Golonka, died tragically and unexpectedly.

Today was the first annual Ken Golonka Memorial Walk, a three-kilometer stroll through the grounds of the Franklin Park Conservatory, with the proceeds to benefit the National Blood Clot Alliance.  It was a cold and overcast day with a hint of rain in the air, but many of Ken’s friends and family members were there nevertheless.  The weather may have been chilly, but our spirits were warmed by the memories of our missing friend — by our interest in doing what we can to help make sure that the health issues that befell Ken don’t take other people out of our lives.

It’s always difficult to deal with the death of a loved one; it leaves such a terrible void.  It’s heartwarming to see Ken’s family and friends working to make something positive out of his passing.  Ken himself was someone who was dedicated to service in his church, his community, and his profession.  He would be pleased to see that his family and friends are following in his footsteps.


Coaching, And Kansas

Tonight Ohio State plays Kansas in one of the Final Four national semifinal games. The winner gets to move on to the national championship game; the loser will celebrate a great season but also wonder about what might have been.

A lot has been written about the match-ups in the game.  How will Jared Sullinger, who missed the first game between the Buckeyes and Jayhawks in December, fare against shot-blocking center Jeff Withey?  Will cat-quick Jayhawk Tyshawn Taylor be able to play his game notwithstanding the suffocating defensive efforts of Aaron Craft?  Who will guard the Buckeyes’ versatile Deshaun Thomas, and who will try to stop Jayhawk Elijah Johnson?

One match-up that hasn’t been talked about much is the match-up of coaches.  Kansas is led by Bill Self, one of the best coaches in the game.  He has won a national championship at Kansas and has done a great job of getting this team — generally viewed as having less pure talent than prior Jayhawk juggernauts — into the Final Four.  I thought Self outmaneuvered North Carolina’s Roy Williams last weekend as both coaches dealt with the loss of UNC’s point guard.  In the second half Kansas went to a triangle-and-two defense that seemed to knock the Tar Heels off kilter and left them flummoxed for the rest of the game.

Ohio State’s Thad Matta, on the other hand, seems to be under-appreciated by many people.  They acknowledge that he is a great recruiter, and they applaud his courageous way of dealing with the challenges posed by his physical condition, but they downplay his “Xs and Os” skills, criticize him for not using his bench, and say he doesn’t use his timeouts effectively.

I don’t get this criticism, and think this year’s NCAA Tournament demonstrates that Coach Matta can match up with anybody.  He has this year’s team motivated and ready to perform, also also has shown a lot of flexibility in how Ohio State has played its opponents.  Against Gonzaga, which had a strong 7-footer in the middle, he moved Sullinger around and away from the basket for some uncontested jumpers.  Against the fabled Syracuse zone, he changed the positions of Thomas and Sullinger and Ohio State made interior passes that led to some easy baskets; he also recognized that Lenzelle Smith, Jr. was not the focus of Syracuse defensive plans, and in the second half Smith helped to lead the Buckeyes to victory.  In every game, Coach Matta and his staff have put the Buckeyes in the position to win — and that is what you want from a coach.

When the ball tips tonight, we’ll see how Coach Matta has decided to deal with the match-up issues posed by the fine Jayhawk squad.  Before the game begins, however, Ohio State fans should take a moment to thank Coach Matta and his assistants for a job well done — and then hope that they have done a similarly good job in preparing for tonight’s tilt with the Jayhawks.


Today I think I bought the first lottery ticket I’ve every purchased — and it was pretty obvious to the guy I bought it from.

Normally I pay no attention to lotteries.  Ohio has had one for years, but I’ve never played it because it seems like a sucker’s bet.  I didn’t play even when Ohio joined the “Powerball” lottery some years ago and the pots got bigger.  When the jackpot gets north of half a billion dollars, however, I’ve got to dip my toe into the legalized gambling waters.  Why not?  Even though the odds are astronomical, the payoff is, too.  What’s a few bucks when you could conceivably win enough money to set your family up for generations?  I’m with UJ on this one.

I was in Cleveland today, and on my way back I stopped at a gas station along I-71 to buy a ticket.  I figured that this helped my chances, because the winners of these big lotteries always seem to buy the winning tickets in a small town.  Unfortunately, when I got up to the counter I didn’t have the slightest idea how to buy a ticket.  I didn’t know the name of the lottery, I didn’t know how many numbers you had to pick, and I didn’t know what it meant when the guy asked me if I wanted the “megaplier.”  So, I just asked him to pick the numbers randomly.  For all I know, he pocketed the cash and gave me some tickets from last week.  I wouldn’t know the difference.


Today It’s all About the Millions

If lunch chatter was any indication there’s no doubt that tonight people will be talking about the huge jackpot that someone might win after tonight’s Mega Millions drawing at 11 p.m in Atlanta.

It’s hard to believe that no one has hit the jackpot in the drawing since January 23rd, that ‘s eighteen straight drawings with no winner. So far just this week 840 million tickets have been sold. Last night even Steven Colbert said he put a lot of thought into picking his numbers and he picked 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

We employees at the Windward Passage don’t fool around with the small payouts, we only pool our money together when the payoff gets really big ! Yesterday it stood at $540 million, but just a few minutes ago they reported that the grand prize is now up to $640 million because of brisk ticket sales today.

We all know the chance of winning is one in 176 million and that there is a far greater chance of being hit by lighting, but the fact remains someone is going to win so why not play. Since I am already living a life of leisure as a retiree I don’t have a clue as to what I would do with the money, but I know one thing – I will be blogging from somewhere other than Columbus Ohio !

Babymoons, Push Gifts, And Other Novel Pregnancy-Related Cultural Developments

There hasn’t been a pregnancy in Webner House for more than two decades.  A lot has changed, apparently, since Russell greeted the world back in 1988.

Yesterday I went to lunch with two young female colleagues, one of whom is in her second trimester.  They talked about “babymoons,” whether she expected a “push gift,” and other topics that made me feel like I had been dropped into an alternate world where people speak what seems to be English but the words have no meaning.

It turns out that a “babymoon” is not a reference to a part of fetal anatomy, but rather a honeymoon-like trip that an expectant couple takes before the life-changing birth of their first child.  That sounds like a good idea to me, although if Kish and I had known what the immediate weeks after childbirth would be like our babymoon probably would have focused less on romance and more on racking up as much sleep as possible.  A “push gift,” on the other hand, is a somewhat crass term for a present the mother receives from her fellow parent to compensate for the pain of labor and childbirth.  No word, however, on whether the other parent receives any gift to acknowledge the challenges involved in living for months with a hormone-charged being who might burst into tears at any moment for no readily apparent reason.

What else is new in pregnancy?  Well, thanks to Demi Moore and her famous Vanity Fair cover photo, more pregnant women are having naked photos taken, some at weekly intervals to track their progress, and then posting them on on Facebook and other social media websites.  It’s also apparently popular to take a plaster casting of the pregnant woman’s belly, the better to preserve her condition, in all its three-dimensional glory, for posterity.

I can’t imagine our doing any of that stuff, but then our grandparents undoubtedly would have thought it was weird that we were practicing breathing techniques and back rubs at Lamaze classes, that Kish was wearing anything other than black tent-like garments intended to mask the fact of pregnancy, and that I would want to be in the delivery room when the big moment finally arrived.  How people deal with pregnancy seems like one of those areas where there have been quiet, but profound, changes in our social and cultural mores.

Another Disturbing Example Of Why Sports Fans Are Crazy

Sports fans are weird.  “Fan” is short for “fanatic,” after all, and “fanatic” has the connotation of someone on the edge of reason.  Perhaps sports fans in Texas are even weirder than your average, run-of-the-mill sports nuts.

How else to explain the bizarre story of Jesse Joe Hernandez, who was moments away from being executed in Texas for the murder of a 10-month-old boy he had been babysitting?  As Hernandez was being prepared for his lethal injection, was he reflecting on his life or his crime, or contemplating what lies beyond?  Nope.  Instead, he laughed and smiled looked at the audience of witnesses to the execution and said:  “Go Cowboys!”  Apparently, the Dallas Cowboys are his favorite team.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone would be focused on professional football at such a moment.  Much as I enjoy sports, I don’t think I’m going to be pondering the next football season when I’m at death’s door.

A Sad Note In The Bluegrass World

Earl Scruggs died yesterday at age 88.  Scruggs was a fabulous banjo player who was half of Flatt and Scruggs, the legendary musical duo with the even more legendary name.

Most Americans know of Earl Scruggs’ music through his performance on the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies.  Many people beyond a certain age feel pangs of guilt about the fact that they love that rousing ballad about Jed and his discovery of black gold, which is one of the most memorable TV theme songs ever.  Scruggs’ unique three-finger picking style helped to make that song iconic, and also introduced a generation of musically curious people to bluegrass music and the joys of songs like Foggy Mountain Breakdown.  If you liked the sound track of the movie Bonnie and Clyde, you liked the music of Earl Scruggs.

Bluegrass music has a bad reputation among some people — mostly self-consciously highbrow people who are only dimly aware of it in the context of corn pone shows like Hee Haw and who have never really listened to the music itself.  It’s as much American “roots” music as blues or jazz or ragtime; born in the hills and dales of the American countryside and first played using fiddles, banjos, and other instruments that the folks of the village made themselves or had already available in their households.  It was Saturday night music, designed to get people dancing and moving after a week of work.  The structure of good bluegrass music is pretty sophisticated, but mostly it’s fun to listen to and guaranteed to get your toes tapping.  Check out Earl Scruggs’ performance of Foggy Mountain Breakdown (with Steve Martin) below if you don’t believe me.

Rest in peace, Earl Scruggs.  You helped to open the door to an entire musical genre for many of us.

Off To The Big Easy

The basketball Buckeyes left Columbus today for New Orleans and their Final Four matchup on Saturday with the Kansas Jayhawks.  Although there wasn’t a formal pep rally, the team buses drove through campus on their way to the airport and got an enthusiastic sendoff from the Buckeye faithful.

Go Buckeyes!

Dawn Of The Age Of Urban

Today the Ohio State football team began spring practice.  Although Urban Meyer has been the head coach of the Buckeyes for months, and has been responsible for reeling in a fine recruiting class and for setting a very demanding tone in the off-season conditioning area, today marks his first practice as coach.

There’s a lot of buzz in Columbus about the Urban Era.  In many ways, he has been very different from Coach Tressel.  He seems to be more open to media appearances than Coach Tressel was, he’s a lot more direct in his communications, and he’s not afraid to upset the apple cart and change how things are being done.  His overarching focus seems to be on competition, competition, and competition, whether it is in winter conditioning or anything else related to football success, and he’s always thinking of ways he can motivate his players to be more competitive, more focused, and more dedicated to winning.  That might mean making players who underperform in conditioning wear a special colored shirt that reflects that status, or it might mean dictating that the underperformers must drink water from a garden hose rather than quaffing chilled Gatorade.  For every publicly disclosed motivational tool, there are probably dozens known only to OSU football insiders.

I don’t want to focus too much on football right now, because I want to enjoy the Final Four ride with the Buckeye basketball team.  It’s worth noting, however, that a different tone has been set, and the members of Buckeye Nation welcome it.  We’re glad that Coach Meyer sets high standards; now we’ll begin to see whether his players can meet them.  Even though Ohio State had a disappointing season last year and is barred from going to any bowl games this year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this year’s spring game sets an all-time attendance record. We want to see Coach Meyer on the sideline at the Horseshoe for the first time, ready to lead the Buckeyes back to their rightful place atop the Big Ten.

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

Every morning the old boring guy and Kasey and I go for our walk.  When that happens, Kasey runs all over the place.  She’ll go take a sniff by that tree, then race across the path to take a good whiff of a fire hydrant.  Of course, I can’t blame her for enjoying the great smells.

The problem is when Kasey goes behind me, and then races around in front of me.  When that happens, her blue leash usually gets stuck under my tail.  It ends up in a tender spot, if you catch my drift.  The movement of the leash across my rump really chafes back there, and I don’t like it.  When that happens, I do a dead stop until the old boring guy takes the leash from under my tail.

Other than that, I’m getting used to Kasey.  She’s not bad to have around.

Asking For Outfit Guidance From The Fashion-Challenged

Every morning my lovely wife takes great care in assembling her outfit, thoughtfully matching her skirt or pants, blouse, sweater, shoes and a fashion accessory like a scarf or pearls.  And then she foolishly throws caution to the winds by asking me what I think of the final combination.

I always say that her choices look good — because, in fact, they always do.  The unfortunate reality, however, is that my opinion is without value because I have absolutely no fashion sense.  I can’t distinguish between subtle shades of black.  I don’t know when — if ever — it’s appropriate to wear plaid.  I have no clue which colors “go together” and which colors “clash.”  (“Clash” seems like pretty violent imagery for a clothing-related issue, incidentally.)  Indeed, I can’t even figure out how to hang up most of Kish’s clothes, what with all of the mysterious straps and outsized or undersized holes, much less express a meaningful view of whether they logically should be worn together.

I probably inherited my fashion obliviousness from my father.  During the ’70s he plunged into the outlandish clothing trends of the decade with reckless abandon, going all in for brightly colored Sansabelt slacks, loud checked jackets, white loafers with the gold buckles, leisure suits, and shirts with zippers.  It’s probably fortunate for me that, as a lawyer, I’m expected to wear basic gray or blue suits, white shirts, and some kind of drab tie.  I can manage that without embarrassing myself.

So this morning, Kish will ask how she looks, and I’ll say she looks great as she always does.  Lately, though, I’ve been noticing that after I express my heartfelt opinions she’s likely to go change her outfit, anyway.  Maybe she’s not relying on my sense of chic after all.

The Value Of A New Face

When I was a kid, they performed the first human heart transplant.  People were amazed, and it was a story and topic for discussion for days.

Now, of course, heart transplants happen with boring regularity, and we cease to be astonished by the advances in the medical sciences.  Whether it is non-invasive surgeries that allow athletes to bounce back within days from procedures that use to require months of recuperation, or drug therapies that can control formerly deadly diseases, or the implantation of devices to regulate heartbeats and stimulate nerve activity, medical miracles have become commonplace.

In my view, we should retain a bit of our awe at what doctors can do.  Consider this heartwarming story of a man who became a recluse for 15 years after his face was horribly disfigured in a gun accident that tore away his lips and nose.  In marathon surgery doctors replaced his jaw, teeth, and tongue and made him look like a normal human being.  He can now brush his teeth and shave and has regained his sense of smell.  More importantly, I imagine, he’s got his life back, and will no longer be too embarrassed to venture outside into the world like everyone else.

Amazing!  Just amazing, and wonderful for this poor man and everyone else who has suffered disfiguring injury.

On A Rocker-Filled Front Porch

One final point about the Homestead:  it has a fabulous front porch full of high-backed white rocking chairs.

If, like Kish and me, you are an avid reader, there’s nothing like a rocking chair on a bright afternoon.  We drank tea and read our books as the sun moved slowly across the sky; I was taking a fresh and enjoyable look at Dickens’ Oliver Twist on the recommendation of my friend the Liberal Kegler.  We rocked gently in the sunshine and when I felt the warm air and faint smell of flowers and background noise lull me into drowsiness I leaned back, closed my eyes, and dozed with pleasure.

There are worse things than a good book, a rocking chair, and a sunny day.