The firing of Tubby Smith

I still remember the day like it was yesterday. About 6 years ago, I came home from work to discover that Tubby Smith has been hired to become the new head basketball coach for my favorite college basketball team, the Minnesota Gophers. I had to check several sources to determine whether this was a true story. A legendary coach was going to lead my Gophers! How did they possibly steal Smith away from Kentucky? I had visions of several Big Ten championships and many long run NCCA tournament runs for the Gophers. It was bound to happen. We got a steal, a guy who won a championship at Kentucky and was regarded as one of the top college coaches in the nation. If someone would have told me at the time that Smith would be fired in 6 years, I would have told them to visit their personal psychiatrist. There is no way that would happen. But it did!! After several disappointing seasons and unfulfilled expectations, Smith finally got the boot.

Many of the big name commentators in college basketball cannot understand why Smith was let go. One play by play guy even heaped praise on Smith for going to 3 NCCA tournaments in the last 6 years. But the fact of the matter is that Smith just did not get the job done here in Minnesota. So what if he took the Gophers to 3 tournament appearances! His Big Ten record was well below 500, his recruiting record was very mediocre which is crucial measuring stick for a college coach. A few of his key recruits left school and transfered. His record at Minnesota does not justify him getting a big contract. As Gopher fans, we expected much more and Smith’s tenure did not deliver what was expected from the program. Maybe Kentucky knew all along about this guy.

There are expectations that a new coach will be hired within a few weeks. Shaka Smart would have been an excellent new hire but apparently he is staying put with VCU. I hope they will look at Brad Stevens or Andy Enfield, the coach of Florida Gulf Coast. These guys are among the brightest and best young coaches in the game. Stevens might be one of best coaches in the country. I would love to have him coach here but the odds of having that happen are somewhat slim in my opinion.

There are many pros and cons of taking this job. Any coach would love the challenge of coaching in probably the best and most competitive conference in college basketball. The exposure the Big Ten gets is amazing and I think any coach would love to coach in a big time conference. However, the Gopher program has a few issues with their facilities. They have no fancy practice facility like other schools have and a very old and aging arena. I think it would be very hard to sell the program to some recruit with those conditions. I personally believe their lack of a practice facility hurts them more than they want to admit. Otherwise, the university is a very solid place with great fan support and the Twin Cities is a wonderful place to live despite the weather.

I think the AD Norwood Teague made the right decision. I believe he will bring in a coach who will turn things around and make the program a consistent winner. I was very impressed to hear him talking about the importance of having a good recruiting record in his search for a coach. You have to bring in those blue chip players and more importantly, develop them. That was the knock on Smith. I wish Tubby Smith the best of luck in whatever future plans he has. He was a classy coach who ran his program the right way but in the end, his poor Big Ten and recruiting record did him in. I never imagined Smith would get fired but he simply did not meet expectations of the program. I commend Teague on raising the bar for the program. Finishing 6th place or lower every year is simply not good enough for us long suffering Gopher’s fans. We expect a lot more.

The greatest man ever to walk the earth

Throughout the course of history, there have been many great men (and women) who have made a lasting impact on society with their great deeds.  Of all those many great people, the best one lived nearly 2000 years ago. He was not some great ruler of a country nor was he a famous scientist or doctor.  No, this man was a carpenter. He lived only about 34 years yet his life and especially his death have impacted millions of people for many generations. This man is none other than Jesus.

With Easter coming up next weekend and people of the Christian faith like myself reflecting on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is also interesting to look at Jesus and what type of man he really was.  The thing that really strikes me, when I study his life, is his great passion and love for all people and his humility.  He also wanted people to pass on that kind of love to their neighbors as well. Imagine if everyone in the world applied that concept today? He often spoke of humbling yourself and putting others ahead of you. He was no doubt a big celebrity back then but you would not know it by his actions.  It was considered a very humbling job back then to wash someone’s feet but Jesus did this to his disciples. He took time to serve other people, especially those in need. He was not too big time to help anyone out.  Just the fact that he was willing to give up his life to help all of mankind is no greater testimony of his character.

I often wonder what Jesus would think if he were living in today’s world. I think he would be outraged and saddened by our society. Those things that I mentioned above are sadly lacking. People are very self-centered these days and Jesus would strongly condemn that type of behavior. He would also condemn people who are trying to change the way the bible is being interrupted today. The same teachings that applied 2000 years ago also apply today!!

In today’s secular and troubled world, Jesus and the followers of the Christian faith are often mocked and ridiculed. It is frowned upon to even show a display of Jesus in a public place or mention his name in print. To me, that is very sad that people are so ignorant about a man whose teachings could make such a big positive difference in our world today. I would strongly recommend anyone who thinks that Jesus was just some fantasy folk hero to really study who he was and about.  Your attitude may change completely.  Our world would be a much better place if more people actually applied the teachings of Jesus to their own personal lives.

I challenge anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus to put words into action this week.  Maybe you need to go down to that local homeless shelter and assist in any way you can. Or volunteer to clean the bathrooms at your workplace when nobody else want to.  Perhaps you can pay for someone else’s meal at a local restaurant. Jesus would not think twice about doing these things so why not you? There is no better way of honoring the greatest man ever than following his example.

The Iraq war, was it necessary?

This past week marked the 10th anniversary of one of the most controversial wars ever. It is hard to believe that it is now 10 years since that night when we were glued to our televisions with images of the skies of Baghdad  being lit up and the words shock and awe being used to describe what was going on. The scene looked just like in 1991, during the first gulf war, and many including myself were thinking this war was going to be short and swift as well. We were going to help overthrown Saddam and get out of Dodge as quickly as possible, right? Well things did not turn out that way and who could have imagined that we stayed as long as we did.

I have totally mixed feelings about the war and whether it was necessary in the first place. The is no doubt that we needed to get rid of Saddam Hussein. He basically stuck his middle finger out at the rest of the world and ignored any international rule of law. He also used chemical and biological weapons against his own people and killed many thousands.  Prior to the start of the war, there was very credible evidence that he had been stocking up on weapons of mass destruction. Combining a total nut case of a leader with someone who has access to wmd’s is a total recipe for disaster. He had to go before he did something catastrophic to not only his country but the whole region.

We did remove and capture him very quickly and our military deserves huge praise for the swiftness of the operation. The whole middle east is much safer without him in power. But what about the post Hussein era in Iraqi? Did we just think that we could just walk into Iraqi, overthrow a cruel dictator and do anything we wanted in the country without any resistance? That is where our failures in the war just begin to start.

It seemed like things started to go downhill for us after we overthrew Hussein.  The insurgency was far stronger than what was anticipated. Only after a wise decision was made to bring over more troops did the tide shift back in our favor.  I cannot believe that our military planners were so ignorant of the power of those insurgents. They seemed to greatly underestimate their capabilities and it cost our troops greatly.

One has to also wonder why we did not remove Hussein after the first gulf war. What was the thinking behind leaving him in power after stopping him from invading another country? Did we think that he was going to all of sudden turn a new leave and become more compliant with the UN? I personally feel it was a mistake not to take him out the first time around.

I am sure that Iraq is a much better place today because of our actions but we spent nearly a trillion dollars not only for the war but to rebuild Iraq. Is that really necessary?  What happens if Iraq turns on us in the future? The same can be said about Afghanistan. We seem to be spinning our wheels in that country. I often wonder if it is wise to be using tons of our money to help out other countries.  Sometimes I wonder how the people of those two countries feel when they see us staying there for such a long period of time. I cannot imagine that they are very happy with us.

I think these two wars are something this country and it’s leaders can really learn from in the future. Where do we drawn the line when it comes to going to war with a country or helping it rebuild? What about Syria now? Are we suppose to police the world every time a conflict comes about? Those are very difficult questions to answer and depend entirely on the circumstances involved. If our national security is at risked or our allies, then we must use our resources wisely. But we cannot afford to get caught up in these long drawn out wars that totally zapped all of our resources and money.

In hindsight, the war in Iraq was way too long and should have not lasted for ten years.  Sometimes I question whether we should have spent more of our time and energy in Afghanistan hunting down and fighting our number one enemies Al Qaeda. They are the bigger threat to this country. We need to save our resources for groups like them and other terrorist organizations.  But the world is a much safer place with Hussein dead and out of power.  Iraq is a totally much better place these days. Only time will tell if this war was really worth the cost.  I really think we could have done the job with far less lives lost and without spending a trillion dollars.

The extremely wide open NCCA hoops tourney

The other day, a co-worker of mine stopped by my cubicle to ask me a question. He was going to join our NCCA office pool along with a few online bracket challenges and wanted to pick my brain on college hoops. So Mark, he asked me, what teams do you think will make the final four this year? In very Rand Paul like fashion, I gave him a little speech on how the tourney was completely wide open this year and about 20 teams could end up in the final four or even win the championship. Seriously!! It is that type of year. I advised him to buy a lucky coin because I have absolutely no idea who will end up cutting the nets down on April 8th. By the way, we do have work related discussions at my job as well!!

In a few hours from now, the selection committee will announce which teams have qualified for the big tournament. It is still uncertain who are the top seeds in each region but one can only guess, it will be Indiana, Louisville, Gonzaga and a toss up for final number one seed. None of these teams really excite me that much. I think there is a great possibility that none of these teams will make it to the final four. Since I live in Big Ten country, I have seen Indiana play many times this year and they are no doubt a very talented team. My concern with them is this, how do they deal with a very physical team with a player who can match up with Cody Zeller? He seems to be the engine that drives the Hoosiers and stopping him seems to such down their whole offense. Gonzaga has played a weak schedule. Louisville is a good athletic team with strong guard play and they might be the best team at this moment in college basketball.

I have never seen this much parity in college basketball for years. It seems like the kiss of death to be the number one ranked team in the nation. Those teams have gone down many times this year. Just look at what happened with the conference tournaments. 3 of the top 6 teams got knocked out on the first day. It has been a crazy year and the tournament promises to hold more suspense than I have ever seen. You could easily have a 10 seed, 13 seed and a 9 seed make the final four. It is that wide open this year. Forget about breaking down film and studying each team closely. Like I said, you are better off just taking out your lucky coin and using it to pick your brackets.

Having said those things, I still expect a few teams from the Big Ten to make the final four. It is the toughest conference in the nation and all the teams that will qualify are very battled tested. People like to talk about Indiana, Michigan and Michigan St. but what about Ohio State and Wisconsin? Wisconsin might be the most underrated team in the nation. They are very capable of beating anyone. They might be a good dark house pick along Ohio State.  Another dark house team that nobody talks about is Miami. They might make some noise in the tourney as well with their good guard play and experience.

The uncertainty of this tournament will make it one of the best ever in my opinion. Be prepared to see many upset alert signals. There is certain to be some mid major team come out of nowhere and shock the world. But I still believe when all is said and done, Louisville will be cutting down the nets on April 8th. I wish everyone the best of luck in their brackets and have fun. It it is going to be a wild and very unpredictable tournament.

The food police

A recent story in the news kind of caught my eye. The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, decided to take a bold and courageous act by banning the sale of all 32 oz soft drinks in the city. In his mind, this move will help curb the rising obesity problem that has plagued Americans for years. My question to the mayor of NYC is this, why stop there? Why not just ban all Big Macs from McDonalds, any 12 oz and over steak at any steakhouse or restaurant, all large sweet rolls, large ice cream cones and large glasses of beer? The list is simply endless. Bloomberg and his little liberal buddies could have a field day with this type of reasoning. Just regulate all unhealthy food and all will be fine and dandy with the world. No more fat people. Of course, Bloomberg’s plan will never work. Trying to regulate people’s eating habits is one of the biggest examples of over-regulation that I have ever seen. I do not need some politician trying to dictate to me what I should or should not eat and how much. It is a sad day in this country when we have politicians who think the government should hold people by the hand and dictate how they should run their own personal lives. That is not the government’s job, it is the responsibility any person living in this country. What ever happened to the concept of personal responsibility?

Of course drinking 32 ounces of a sugary beverage is bad for you. There is absolutely no personal gain that can gained from drinking that much soda besides quenching your thirst. By the way, you might want to stay close to the nearest bathroom if you indulge in that many ounces of a particular beverage. Be careful on any long road trips. But what good does it do when you ban a certain size of food item? If somebody bans a large size of a doughnut from my local deli, I might just get more of a smaller size to help satisfy my need. Instead of getting that large super-sized mug of pop, I might just buy a smaller mug and keep on refilling.

Poor eating habits are only part of why this country has so many overweight people. I personally feel most people do not get anywhere near the proper amount of exercise that they should be getting. Most of our jobs are spent in front of some computer and then we go home from work and sit in front of the computer again. Most of us live a very sedentary lifestyle and in my opinion, that is more of a problem than what we eat. Where is the outcry over this problem?

Instead of forcing some new regulation down our throats, the government should come out with new ads describing the benefits of eating well and exercising. I personally try to eat and stay very active because I see and understand the benefits of doing so. I feel so great after a good hard workout, It is like somebody gave me a feel good pill. And the same is with eating well. I can guarantee you that I would feel rather sick if I consumed a 32 oz drink of pop! But the same would not hold true if I drank 32 ounces of pure water.

Children need to be taught by their parents to eat healthy and adopt a healthy lifestyle. It is not the role of people like Bloomberg to do so. Children who grow up eating well will tend to do so in their adult years. Parents need to set a good example for their children by living a good healthy lifestyle.

I certainly agree that more people need to eat healthier in this country. It is true that overweight people tend to have more health problems as they age and drive up the cost of health care. I cannot deny that. But trying to regulate eating and drinking behavior will never work. There are just too many ways for people to get around it. People in this country want to be able to make a choice for themselves. We live in a country of freedom and that should apply to how we eat. If the government starts over-regulating food, it just starts a snowball effect for more regulations on our lives. Soon, we will have some government bureaucracy tell us what type of cars we are allowed to buy and how many miles we are allowed to drive in a single year.

I strongly believe in personal responsibility and this soda ban is a direct violation of our freedom of choices. If politicians thought the gun debate and people’s right to bear arms was difficult, wait until they start messing with our eating habits!! Mayor Bloomberg has crossed a path with our country and deserves the criticism he is receiving. I hope somebody comes up with the new 32 oz Bloomberg special. A big gulp dedicated to big government!!



Small town vs. big city living

The other day, I was driving around when a song came on the radio. It was by John Cougar Mellancamp, “Small town” I listened to the words of the song and it really touched me personally because I was born and raised in a small town as well. And yes, he is 100 percent right, you can breathe in a small town!! Suppose you had a chance to live in a small town of say, 5,000 people in the middle of nowhere or a larger metropolitan area like my current area of Minneapolis, Saint Paul which has over 3 million people. Which place is more suited for you and why?

I have lived several years in both environments so I would like to share my feelings on this topic. I think you answer to this question really has to with your own personality and age. I am willing to bet a large majority of people under 30 would rather live in a larger city. Of course, a lot of that has to do with more job opportunities, things to do and for any single person, the chance to have a much better pool of people to choose from. I was drawn by many of those things in making my decision to move here. If you are a young, single person, a small town can be a very dull place to live. I have never regretted my decision to move here. I still have a lot of small town in me and love going back to visit my family and relatives. But being single and without a family makes it difficult for me to move back to my hometown.

I think on the other hand that living in a small town is ideal for a couple wanting to raise a family. The cost of living is much cheaper. For instance, a typical house in my hometown is so much cheaper than around here. The crime rate is much lower and the school systems are much smaller and your child probably gets a better education. Imagine having your kids attend a school in a major city. I would rather have my kids, if I had any, to attend a small town school. I think there are way too many bad influences on kids in a larger high school located in a big city.

One of the things that really strikes me with living here as opposed to my hometown is the amount of anonymity that I experience whenever I go out in public. Not that I was the mayor but I usually bumped into someone I knew while going to a store in my hometown. Everyone knows everyone and it is very hard to lay low in a small town. It is entirely different in a larger city. I can go to my local Target store on a Saturday afternoon and not recognize a soul!! Unless you are a big celebrity like myself, hahaha!! you are usually very anonymous and some people like that.

The big advantage that larger cities have is in the entertainment area. There is never a shortage of things to do around here. We have 4 major league teams in town and for a sports fan like myself, I could not be any happier. Combine that with one of the larger malls in the world and many great restaurants, theaters, concerts, festivals and a person can never get bored. A small town does not even come close to offering that kind of excitement. Sure, many have retail stores but when the highlight of your weekend is going a McDonalds to have some chicken nuggets, then you might want to get some more excitement in your life my friend!!

While not having the excitement level of a big city, small towns have the advantage of much fewer people and less of that annoying traffic. It is a totally different scenario when you drive in a small town. I swear, I have never heard a traffic reporter giving traffic updates in my hometown. The only thing that one has to watch out for is those old geezer drivers who fail to stop at a four way stop intersection. There is very seldom any traffic gridlock at all. I just like having fewer people to deal with period!! Life is much slower and quieter without a lot of people running around.

I think the best solution for anyone wanting to experience both is to buy or rent in the suburbs. I can drive for only 5 miles and experience some nice country side and wilderness areas. Many of the suburbs around here have the feel of a small town. If you are lucky enough to work in the suburbs, then you have it made. No long commutes to a downtown workplace would be nice.

Small town living is probably better for your blood pressure and soul but if you really want to experience life, there is no better way than living in a larger city. Just remember to escape to a peaceful small town once in a while to regain your sanity!!





The death of an awful president

Whenever a president or ruler of a country passes away, there is usually a period when people reflect on how that person will be remembered and what kind of legacy he or she will leave behind. Such as the case with Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, you know, the guy who we gave cancer to. Judging from the responses I am seeing since his death last week, it is safe to say that he will not really be missed in this country. I for one will not miss him and will probably not start up any Hugo Chavez memorial pages on Facebook anytime soon. The guy was a complete moron and deserves to be remembered as a very mediocre president or should I say dictator.

There have been far worse rulers in the history of world and many more cruel and violent ones as well. But as far as running a country, Chavez failed miserably. Unemployment and poverty was very high, inflation keep up its steady high rate under Chavez’s watch and crime continued to skyrocket. His policies divided many people and created one of the most polarized countries in the world. You see, Chavez was a big time socialist who wanted to cater to the poor at the expense of the middle and upper class.

You can argue whether that type of rule is fair or not but what is not fair is how he treated his opponents. Nobody in the country dared to criticize him or the government or else they would be censored immediately. Imagine having Fox News or Rush Limbaugh being taken off the air because they said something critical of President Obama. And Venezuela is suppose to be a Democratic country? What a joke!! He controlled what was said on television and who ran against him so he would not lose power. With that type of control, why even bother having elections? Just appoint Chavez as president for life!!

Venezuela has a large supply of oil and there is absolutely no excuse to have that many poor people who live in poverty. Chavez claim to fame is to help the poor but his policies probably made many poorer. How can you possibly claim to be helping out the poor and have that kind of unemployment? His talk about helping the poor was just a publicity stunt designed to win him votes. I am sure he probably helped a few poor folks but the poverty and unemployment stats do not lie.

Sadly, I see so many parallels between the country of Venezuela and our country these days. There is more and more class warfare debate, unemployment remains high and there is a record number of people out of the job market. Sometimes I wonder if certain politicians secretly study the Chavez playbook of governing and want to apply those policies to the United States. We all know that Chavez was a big supporter of socialism and I see some of that type of thinking trying to be applied in this country. The fact is that socialism has always failed and will continue to fail. Capitalism, not socialism brings people out of poverty and helps the poor. Maybe Chavez should of studied Ronald Reagan and learned how to properly govern and run a country.

A good example of how NOT to run a country is the 14 years of Chavez rule. He was a failure and just proves that socialism does not work. And by the way, God is the one who gave Chavez his cancer, not the United States!!