CFP’d Off

I’m warning you in advance that this post is going to sound like sour grapes.  And, in fact, some of the motivation for writing it in the first place is sour grapes.  But I’m here to tell you that the College Football Playoff process that was rolled out to great fanfare only a few years ago is already broken.

ype12feWho made the college football playoffs last year?  Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia.  Those same four teams finished in the top five this year.  It was only because Notre Dame ran the table against a weak slate of opponents — and, because ND is nominally independent, a slate that doesn’t include a conference championship game — that college football fans everywhere avoided watching the same four teams play each other again this year.

In the five years the College Football Playoff has been in existence, Alabama has made it every year.  Clemson has made it four out of five times.  Oklahoma has made it in three of the five years.  It’s the same old, same old.

And, for Ohio State fans, what’s especially galling is that this year the playoff selection committee ranked a two-loss SEC team that didn’t win its conference — i.e., Georgia — ahead of a one-lose Big Ten team that won its conference championship.  I can understand Ohio State, which got whacked by Purdue during the regular season, being ranked behind Oklahoma, even though I think the Big 12 is a pretty weak conference.  But I don’t understand how a one-loss champion of a major football conference like the Big Ten can be ranked behind a two-loss non-conference champion.  To me, that result says that the selection committee has quaffed the SEC Kool-Aid and lost any claim to objectivity.  Every year we start with the presumption that the SEC is the best conference in college football, and every year every inference goes in the SEC’s favor.

Who did Georgia play out of conference this year?  Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, and the University of Massachusetts.  They aren’t exactly powerhouses, are they?  The rest of the schedule is SEC teams.  Georgia got pummeled by LSU and played Alabama close before losing.  The latter result reflects favorably on Georgia only if you conclude that Alabama is a bunch of supermen — but we don’t know that, either, because Alabama played only SEC teams, along with an out-of-conference schedule that included Louisville, which ended the season 2-10, the Citadel, Arkansas State, and University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

The system needs to be changed.  The playoff should be expanded, and every major college conference champion should be included.  I happen to think that Ohio State could give Alabama, Georgia, and any other team a good game — just as it did in 2014, when the Buckeyes somehow beat mighty Alabama and went on to win the national championship, to the surprise of every pundit and talking head on ESPN.

The champion should be crowned on the field, not in backrooms based on hype.

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My Aunt, The Author

Yesterday’s mail brought a welcome holiday gift: a book. Entitled Murder in the Village Library, the novel was co-authored by “Collett, Fogarty, and Webner.”

That’s Webner, as in my Aunt Corinne.

The back cover describes the plot as follows: “Vivid characters living in an idyllic gated community are confronted with greed, loss, and treachery in this action packed international thriller.” The book is focused on the library in the community where Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack live, which admittedly is pretty darned idyllic. And the fact that the cover lists only the last names of the co-authors gives the book a hard-edged, two-fisted feel, like you might get in a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer mystery.

I know from prior conversations with Uncle Mack that Aunt Corinne and her co-authors have worked hard on the book, and because Aunt Corinne is involved, you can bet your bottom dollar that the book is thoughtful, the plot is logical — and the prose is grammatically correct, carefully proofread, and properly punctuated down to the last semicolon.

Congratulations, Aunt Corinne! And if you’re interested in reading the book, I’d guess that copies are available from the Village Library itself.

(Not) Selling Savannah

Savannah, Georgia is supposed to be a really vibrant and interesting city, and a fun place to call home.  I was there for a brief visit once and liked it.

IMG_2873How do you find out about a city and what it is like to live there?  If you type “Savannah Georgia” into Google, one of the top options is the official website for the city.  With all due respect, it must rank among the lamest websites for any municipality in the developed world.

If you go to the website, you’ll see an odd array of buttons and links.  The six “popular links”  are “Mayor & Council,” “City Ordinances,” “Agendas & Minutes,” “City Employment,” “City Purchasing,” and “Flood Protection Information.”  Are those links really popular?  If you just wanted to find out about a city, would you ever want to go to those links?  And if you were trying to market Savannah as a place for outsiders to visit, would you seriously put any mention of “flood protection” on your home page?

The “News and Announcements” section doesn’t exactly show off Savannah as a place of fun and excitement, either.  For example, one bit of “news” is that 2013 city sanitation refrigerator magnets will be delivered next week.  You wouldn’t think the delivery of a refrigerator magnet would be a front-page news item, but in Savannah it is.  One can only imagine Savannah residents maintaining a state of cat-like readiness and waiting expectantly for that crucial refrigerator magnet delivery.  Do they dance in the streets when those magnets arrive?  And in case you’ve still got an appetite for news after learning about that bombshell, here’s two other, similarly thrilling front-page items:  “Tourism Advisory Committee to make recommendations” and “City crews respond to minor sewage spill.”

I’m not on the “Tourism Advisory Committee,” but I’ve got a recommendation — if you want to attract tourists, get rid of the hilariously bad website you’ve got now, with its mentions of floods, sewage spills, and sanitation refrigerator magnets, and develop an “official website” that depicts Savannah as the lovely, friendly, and entertaining place that it seems to be.

Stigmatizing The Super-Sized

Georgia is running a controversial ad campaign about childhood obesity.  It features black and white photos of fat, unhappy looking kids with messages about the dangers of being seriously overweight.

Some people object to the campaign, saying it stigmatizes obesity and poses risks to the psyches of overweight children.  Others contend that the ads amount to a form of bullying, and play into stereotypes about size and weight.

Isn’t this typical?  We often recognize that a condition that is produced by some form of unrestrained, voluntary behavior — in this case, obesity caused by overeating and lack of exercise — has severe health consequences and vow to do something about it.  But every effort to address the problem brings arguments by the self-esteem police at advocacy organizations.  And, ultimately, we end up paralyzed and incapable of taking effective measures to deal with the problem and truly help the people who need the help.

I think the notion that the Georgia ad campaign is harming the psyches of overweight kids, who otherwise are perfectly comfortable about their weight, is ludicrous.  Speaking as someone who was a fat kid — and who will always need to watch it — I am confident that most overweight kids are acutely aware of their weight and are embarrassed by it, ad campaign or not.

I don’t know whether these ads are a good use of public funds — but if they are going to work, they need to be hard-hitting.  We can’t effectively address childhood obesity through school lunch programs or food labeling campaigns; we need to reach the kids and their parents.  If tough ads can shame parents into better regulating their obese kid’s diet and exercise, or motivate the kids to quit overeating and get some exercise, that would be a good thing.  And if we can avoid paying for countless future bariatric surgeries and treatments for weight-related diabetes, or for intrusive government programs that check what’s in school lunch bags, through a few hits at the self-esteem of heavy kids, I think that’s a price worth paying.

Shame and embarrassment can be powerful motivational tools.  Why not use them?

Barhopping in Savannah

Last Friday mom, Amy and I arrived at Savannah airport around five and took a cab to the downtown Marriott Courtyard. After we got settled in our rooms we asked the front desk for a dinner recommendation and we decided on The Distillery which was a short walk across the street.

The Distillery had a huge selection of beers and ales to choose from, Amy ordered a wheat beer and I had a pumpkin ale which were both good. Mom ordered up appetizers which were all tasty, but Amy hit a home run by ordering alligator tails for dinner which can sometimes be chewy, but these were the most tender I have ever had. I had some crab soup the next day that was out of this world. We would highly recommend this place.

After we finished dinner we dropped mom off at the hotel and Amy and I set off on a fifteen minute walk to the Savannah River district which I had read about. On our way there we came upon the city square that had quite a bit of activity so we decided to stop at The Rooftop Tavern which was an open and airy upstairs bar with black light art and a huge balcony that overlooked one of the busy streets below. It was a beautiful evening so we relaxed awhile at one the balcony tables. The picture above is an example some of the art work that decorated the walls on the walk up to the bar.

When we got tired of the Rooftop the door guy recommended another bar close by called The Rail. The Rail is an old southern house that had previously been a boarding house/brothel converted into a bar. It’s rumored that the place is haunted. The music at this bar was real good and by the time we decided to leave the place was packed with lots of young people.

While at The Rail I told Amy I wanted a chocolate martini for my nightcap so Amy befriended some guys at The Rail who led us to Jen and Friends Martini’s a couple of blocks away. Jen’s was a small place, but packed and the martini’s were delicious and reasonably priced (only $7). Jen’s signature chocolate martini included a large chocolate bar laid over the top of the glass.

Overall our short stay in Savannah was terrific. The city was very clean and the next day Amy and mom enjoyed some of the many shops in the downtown area. Each of us would definitely go back to Savannah for another visit so if you have never been there give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.

Out Of Africa, Much Earlier Than Expected

This article reports on recent archaeological findings that raise interesting questions about accepted theories of human evolution and, in particular, about when human ancestors first moved out of Africa. Paleontologists have discovery ancient human remains — dating back some 1.8 million years — in modern Georgia, near the Caucuses. The remains are significantly smaller in physical size, and brain size, than previously identified Homo Erectus remains, and are by far the oldest proto-human remains found out of Africa.

Previously, the prevailing view was that human ancestors first journeyed out of Africa 1 million years ago and began to colonize the world. This discovery suggests that the human diaspora began much earlier — and may even indicate that there are significant issues about where certain human species actually originated.  The story of human evolution is a fascinating one, and much remains to be discovered and written.