Wishing, And Hoping

Today is the day the College Football Playoff Selection Committee earns its keep.

They’ve been watching games all season, and since mid-season they’ve been issuing interim rankings after each weekend of play.  But now the regular season games and the conference championship games are done, and it’s time to finally decide:  which four teams should be in this year’s playoff?

urban-meyer-explains-why-an-8-team-college-football-playoff-wont-work-and-he-makes-a-good-pointAlabama is in, of course, as the number one seed.  They romped through a pretty pathetic SEC without a loss and drubbed an offensively challenged Florida team in the SEC championship game.  That’s an easy call.  But who else do you select?  One-loss Clemson won the weak ACC, edging out a pretty one-dimensional Virginia Tech team in last night’s championship game, and has looked good at times but bad at times, too.  One-loss Washington played one of the easiest schedules in college football and won the PAC 12, beating up a hapless Colorado team in the championship game.  Oklahoma, with two losses, won the defensively challenged Big 12.

And then there’s the Big 10.  Ohio State played one of the toughest schedules in college football, smashed Big 12 champion Oklahoma on its home turf, and beat a series of top ten teams during the season, including winning a thrilling edition of The Game against Michigan.  But because Ohio State lost at Penn State, on a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes didn’t play for the conference championship.  Penn State did and won last night, coming from far behind to beat Wisconsin.  But the Nittany Lions have two losses, one of which was a 39-point thrashing at the hands of That Team Up North.

So who should join Alabama in the playoffs?  The dedicated members of Buckeye Nation obviously hope the Committee selects Ohio State, which was ranked number 2 after last week’s Committee vote.  Should the Committee just pick the one-loss teams from the Power Five conferences, which means Ohio State, Clemson, and Washington should make the cut?  Or should Penn State’s impressive run and conference championship knock out one of those teams?  But how do you vault the two-loss Nittany Lions above two-loss Michigan, which beat Penn State like a drum early in the season?

Ohio State fans are wishing, and hoping, that the Buckeyes make the cut.  Having watched a number of games with the top teams, I honestly think Ohio State is one of the top four teams — but I’m not on the committee.  We’ll know at 12:30.

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On The National Mall With The Joggers

I got up early this morning to walk down to the National Mall.  It’s a favorite place for me, ever since Kish and I lived in Washington, D.C. 35 years ago.  It’s also a favorite spot for joggers.  Why not?  It’s long, and flat, with lots of interesting things to occupy your attention as you trudge along.  And dawn is a good time to visit, too– especially on a day where the high temperature is forecast to hit 96 degrees.

Hanging With The DAR

 I’m staying at a downtown Washington, D.C. hotel and the D.A.R. — the Daughters of the American Revolution — is in the house, big time.  The group has flooded the Nation’s Capital for an annual conference.  According to a pleasant woman in the elevator, 3,500 of the D.A.R. members are here.  Yesterday all of them seemingly were genteelly and graciously  packed, cheek to jowl, into the atrium lobby of my hotel.

Two observations about the D.A.R.  First, this is a group that really, really likes the American flag.  From the little decorations on the lobby desk that featured Old Glory and the D.A.R. flag, to the red, white, and blue themes of many outfits, to the little jeweled and spangled pins sported by some members, flag references were everywhere.

Second, the D.A.R. must be one of the top national consumers of ribbons and medals.  The ribbons — which surprisingly seem to come in red, white and blue — are worn just below the shoulder on one side, and the medals are pinned on the other.  The medals are actual metal, too.  

According to my fellow elevator riders, at least some of the medals show how many relatives and ancestors were D.A.R. members.  That is pretty awesome, because some of the very well-coiffed ladies had phalanxes of medals tugging at their blouses that made them look like Soviet era generals atop Lenin’s tomb for the May Day parade.  One woman had to walk around with one hand daintily but firmly pressed against her collar bone to keep her astonishingly vast and undoubtedly heavy medals board from ripping her blouse to shreds.  Every one of her female ancestors must have been a D.A.R. member — maybe back to the Revolution itself.

The Generic Conference Room Breakfast

If you’ve been to a meeting in one of our major cities that starts at 9 a.m. or before, you’ve seen something that looks an awful lot like this spread.  It’s the generic conference room breakfast.  You grab a plate, bleary-eyed, and shuffle on down the line.

There are certain staples.  There’s coffee, of course, with sugar packets and little plastic creamers and plastic stirrers.  Sometimes the coffee will have a little name plate telling you the type of bean being roasted, but more often it’s just coffee, period, served in a generic metal dispenser where you push down the big button at the top and the coffee gushes out into a generic paper coffee cup.  Who cares about the blend?  We’re here for a meeting, and we just want the caffeine.

IMG_2984If it’s a top of the line spread, there will be bottles of juice, but more often the drink options are coffee, coffee, coffee, water from a pitcher, and cans of soda.  If you don’t want to pump yourself full of coffee, you can enjoy an early morning Sprite instead.

Of course, there are always bagels galore, with some pats of butter, little tins of creamed cheese, and containers of jelly.  The serving platter usually features some baked goods like muffins or scones, too.  And, because we might conceivably want to eat healthier, there’s some sliced melon, and grapes, and a few other fruits tossed in to make the plate look colorful.

And sometimes there’s something, well, odd.   In this edition of the generic conference room breakfast that I encountered yesterday morning in Manhattan, there was a large bowl of hard pretzels.  Pretzels?  A chance to fill the blood vessels with salt at 9 a.m.?  Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it was New York.

Is all of this food even edible, or is some of it plastic?  Does the stuff that isn’t consumed — which usually is about 95 percent of it — get recycled or donated to the nearest homeless shelter?  How many businesses In New York City, and Washington, D.C., and Boston, are dependent upon baking up those generic bagels, and brewing that generic coffee?

Downcast D.C.

IMG_1544I had a quick trip to D.C. this morning, returning this afternoon, and it was a downer.  In addition to the torrential rains and bleak skies, and the bumper-to-bumper, constant-honking, angry-gesturing traffic that made what should be a 15-minute taxi ride into an hour-long ordeal, the news on the radio was all about shutdown, shutdown, shutdown.  I saw tangible evidence of our inert government  when the cab drove past the Lincoln Memorial and I saw the “closed” sign and the barriers blocking off the area around the noblest structure on the National Mall.

Everybody on the streets, from the surly drivers to the sodden pedestrians, seemed deep in gloom, and I found myself sinking deeper into the mire with each fresh blast from a car horn.  It’s hard not to be depressed about the state of our nation when petty politics causes the closure of even public areas that are supposed to remind us of our nation’s glory.

Closing The Memorials

Some time ago I mentioned the fabled Washington, D.C. tale about laying off the elevator operator of the Washington Monument.  If funding was cut for the Department of Interior, the tale went, the elevator operator would top the layoff list — the reasoning being that inconvenienced tourists would apply pressure to restore the funding so they could ride in comfort to the top of the towering obelisk at the center of the National Mall.

With the recent partial government shutdown, the bureaucrats apparently went one step farther.  They closed the open memorials along the Washington, D.C. National Mall, including the vast World War II Memorial.  It’s not entirely clear why these open-air memorials would need to be closed; the stated reason was that the National Park Service was worried about the security of the memorials and the safety of visitors without the normal staff there.  So, some apparently essential employees had to erect physical barricades to keep people out who would otherwise be able to walk freely through the memorials, without the assistance of federal employees.

Then, groups of veterans appeared — World War II veterans, and Korean War veterans, and their families.  Elderly men in wheelchairs and using canes, they had traveled far to pay tribute and remember their service to their country, only to be denied entry by the barricades and signs.  After they were initially rebuffed, someone moved the barricades and the veterans poured through, to recall their service and lay the wreaths in honor of their fallen comrades, without any security or safety issues.

It was an embarrassing incident for our federal government, and it showed that the elevator operator theory only works when the federal funding reason for the inconvenience seems plausible.  When open air memorials are unnecessarily barricaded, and aged, stooped veterans wearing their medals and insignia are denied entry to war memorials that were built to honor their service, the elevator operator theory suddenly doesn’t seem like such a good idea, does it?

Ron Gone

Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has announced that he won’t be spending resources to contest Republican primaries in any states that haven’t yet voted.  It’s just another reason why Mitt Romney is now described as the “presumptive” Republican nominee.

Paul always seemed like somebody’s batty uncle.  Now that he’s called a kind of end to his campaign, he can go back to the House of Representatives, where he has served for years and accomplished virtually nothing.  (Of course, the people who support Paul probably think that is a good thing.  When you take a libertarian approach to the issues, you don’t want the federal government doing much of anything.)  Still, Paul was entertaining, and his views clearly resonated with a quirky core of voters.  Accordingly, he deserves a bit of farewell doggerel:

Bring all troops home, so Ron Paul said,

And while we’re at it, shut down the Fed

Time to get government off our backs

Which means we end the income tax

And there’s one other thing we hate

Yes, that would be the welfare state

We’ll also strongly protect our borders

While we all become gold hoarders

So anti-government Ron is done

Now he’ll head back to . . . Washington?