CFP final finally here

It’s here.

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for since August. Yes, August. This college football season started in August. Has it felt too long? Not a chance.

And tonight is the grand finale, featuring two teams I really didn’t think would be here. I guess I should have expected Oregon, who has now reached the elite of college football programs, though has yet to win a national title.

Let that change tonight. Go, Ducks!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m four hours late on the pregame show.

Archer Season Six premiere

Last night proved that even a lackluster episode of Archer is going to be enough to get me through a stupidly-cold winter. The show’s not for everyone, but if you haven’t seen it yet do yourself a favor and just try it once. Proof that good television still exists in the world.

Quartet makes Baseball HOF

Three pitchers and one, well, everything, will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer at baseball’s Hall of Fame ceremonies, the first time in sixty years as many as four players will be inducted. Unlike in past years, when baseball’s writers sent long-since-retired players, managers, and executives to the hall, the Class of 2015 includes four guys who could probably still lace ’em up. Seriously, you think you could get a hit of Randy Johnson today?

Johnson, a star in both leagues and a notorious Yankee killer, led the field garnering one of the highest vote totals of all time. He’s followed by fellow pitchers Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, and catcher-come-second baseman-come-outfielder Craig Biggio.

Four players, one asks? Is the selection committee getting soft? I don’t think so. Cooperstown is still the toughest election in sports. And yeah, it’s a popularity contest, as most non-scientific elections are. If it were some formula based on stats or other metrics we could have a computer do it. But like the game itself, it’s played by human beings.  There are always political consideration. So John Smoltz wasn’t the best pitcher of his era. He’s a beloved figure. And he’s now part of the media that adored him so. Biggio? Sure, he was a stat compiler. But one of the best. And he did it for one team for his whole career, and apparently never touched the juice. That’s why he’s in and Bagwell isn’t. Simple as that. I’m happy to see steriod-tinged players are still getting no love in Cooperstown.

And how do I feel about people barely older than myself being bestowed with such lifetime achievements? I guess I’m okay with that too.

Stuart Scott, 1965-2015

Every generation has a “voice” to define it and call its own, and there’s a short list of people I would consider to be the “voice of my generation.”
Stuart Scott is on that list.
And add my name to his list of admirers, from fellow broadcasters to athletes to the President of the United States, paying tribute to Scott, who died yesterday at the age of 49.
For more than two decades, Stuart Scott was known to sports fans as one of the most recognizable voices and faces of ESPN, covering nearly every sport and at one time or another hosting pretty much every show that channel had to offer. Even before facebook and Twitter handles brought sportscasters to our every waking moment, Stuart Scott was one of those journalists who was always there. He was always there, with his before-they-were-cool hipster glasses and before-they-were-popular catchphrases. If you couldn’t be an athlete yourself, you at least wanted to be Stuart Scott. He had the “dream job” (which was in fact the name of one of the many programs he hosted or co-hosted through the years). And from what I’ve read over the past 24 hours, those who knew him “off the field” seem to suggest he was just as smooth in person as on TV.
In 2007 doctors found cancer in Scott’s appendix. He continued to work as he could through chemotherapy as his cancer went into remission, then did so again when the cancer returned. I guess one of the amazing details about Scott as a person and as a professional broadcaster was that you’d never know. Over the past eight years he was cancer-striken then cancer-free at least three different times. I guess he never really was cancer free, and that, boys and girls, is one of the bitch things about cancer.
I don’t remember the first time I heard Stuart Scott’s voice and I won’t remember the last. It’ll be with me, though, for the rest of my life. It’s there with all of us. The guy was as cool as the other side of the pillow, and dare I say… the voice of my generation.

New Year’s resolutions

I’m not really much for New Year’s resolutions, but the holiday does always make me think of life goals. It was December 31, 2003, shortly after I moved from one Binghamton address to another, that I began composing a list of such goals on my old business cards, the now useless ones which carried my erstwhile address. I would write one goal on each card, then throw them away when completed. At first they were quite banal: fold laundry, buy bananas, do taxes, etc., then they became more elaborate. By the end of 2005 the “list” had grown to several hundred cards, and I printed (most) of them in the December 2005 issue of The Binghamton Vanguard. I also talked about them on Politics After Dark, as I would on several subsequent year-end episodes.

Without too much self-congratulation I can say I’ve hit many of the items on that list from 2005. (I refuse to call it by the name people use now–“bucket list”–as my list preceded that film by half a decade.) I drove cross country, contributed to a deaf charity, and got married in a blue suit. Some are still in play: winning a Nobel prize, running for Congress, etc., but I’ve still got time. I’ve been adding to the list, of course, over the years, so the number of items has remained relatively constant. I guess that’s the idea. You never really want to be done. I’m sorry to say I’ve no record of what I’ve actually accomplished, as I am still in the habit of simply throwing the cards away as they are completed. But I’ve got the list from 2005, and I’ll update it here from time to time.

In the mean time, New Year’s or no, it’s always a good time for doing. Making the list is only half the fun. The real fun is in doing it. So good luck out there!

New Year’s Eve movies

eo11 diner

Two of my favorite movies of all time take place during the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. In fact, it’s the same New Year’s Eve–1960–though in Ocean’s 11 the year is never actually specified, we just assume it takes places during present day. Diner was filmed more than two decades later on the other side of the country, yet at their cores the films are more alike than different. Guys and their friends. Old friends. Guys you’ve gone to war with (literally or not), and would do so again.

Both movies are about growing up. Sort of. Actually they’re about not growing up, staying cool, and being young forever. I’ve seen both movies so many times I could recite them line by line. I assume you’ve seen them too and won’t rehash their plots. If you haven’t seen either one, do yourself a favor and watch them immediately. The originals. Yes, Ocean’s 11 was remade 40 years later with modern lads of “cool,” and I understand a musical version of Diner is now playing on the D.C. stage.


Don’t mess with the classics.

It became a New Year’s Eve tradition for me 15 years ago to watch the 1960 version of Ocean’s 11 on said day. It’s the quintessential party movie. The party where, like life and like the movie itself, you’re going to see a lot more dudes than chicks. Such is life.

This year I’m saving Ocean’s 11 for tomorrow. I guess given the events of the film, it makes sense to view it on New Year’s Day too.

Tonight I’m watching When Harry Met Sally, yet another of my favorite films with a climax on New Year’s Eve. To be fair, the film plays out over a decade or so of real time so one can’t really call it a “New Year’s Eve” movie, but it is Mrs. O’Connell’s favorite and I like it too. Hard to believe it’s 25 years old.

Sitting at home watching a movie with my wife? Was I not paying attention during Diner or Ocean’s 11 at all? Did I somehow let adulthood sneak up on me, take me in its clutches and demand I move to the suburbs?

Nah. I’m watching a movie with my best friend. (Proof that unlike what you hear in When Harry Met Sally, men and women can be friends… if they’re married.) And even though time has passed I’ve still got friends. We’re older and cooler… and still hanging out at the diner.

Binghamton sees opportunities slip by

My old hometown of Binghamton, New York, and its surrounding area took a pretty good one-two punch the last couple of weeks, further devastating that already quite devastated area known to many as “upstate.”

The best part? One of them was pretty self-inflicted.

I think the only two things that could have saved the Binghamton area in decades to come would have been 1.) casino gambling; and 2.) the exploration and development of energy from natural gas. Both of those fell apart earlier this month.

Not living in Binghamton anymore, not paying as much attention as I used to, and not caring nearly as much as I used to, I am unfamiliar with every detail of the twin sagas. And other than a few people at the top, I’m sure this is the case for everyone else as well. Nobody ever really knows the whole story. But the bottom line here seems to be: neither one of those projects is going to happen, whether sabotaged from within or without.

Casino gambling in the Southern Tier was hardly an issue when I left the area at the end of 2011. It surprised me to read some time later that someone with a brain started lobbying New York State to allow such a thing. The fact that one must lobby the government for “permission” to operate such a business is a story for another time, but it seemed at least the wheels were in motion to obtain such permission here. So the–wait for it–Gaming Facility Location Board of New York State was tasked, apparently, with selecting a venue worthy of such consideration. (If this sounds to you like something from Soviet Russia or The Hunger Games you have made an apt analogy.)

And District 12 didn’t get picked.


Not even the “clout” of State Sen. Tom Libous could wrangle that casino board to permit Binghamton such an honor. Libous says he will continue to lobby the governor. Right. (Insert joke here about doing so from prison.)

Much handwringing can be made over losing such a sweepstakes, but there is little excuse for things one brings upon himself. Case in point, I have never seen someone, or some group of people, so upset by something that might actually benefit the group as residents of the Southern Tier and their zealous fight against natural gas development. (Or as you know it, fracking.)

I’ve never seen a poll detailing the percentages of Southern Tier residents for and against “fracking” or any of its more pleasant-sounding names. My guess would be a majority would favor it or at least be apathetic. But a certain segment (led in part by Binghamton’s previous mayor and its previous member of Congress) was able to take hold of the issue and keep it at bay for years. And with the state’s recent moratorium placed on hydraulic fracturing (as it is actually called), it seems as though they’ve won. Bottle it up with a few more years of “studies” and boards and committees and “analyses” and it’ll disappear forever. Meanwhile, the state of North Dakota holds its 2% unemployment rate and staggering economic growth. You’re welcome, North Dakota. You’re welcome.

They could have at least sent a Christmas card.

Six a.m., day after Christmas

It was news several weeks ago when President Obama announced that December 26th would be a holiday for federal government employees. Oh, what a generous ol’ St. Nick, cooed the mainstream media.

It wasn’t the act itself (which was hardly without precedent) but the manner in which it was executed that should have received attention. What was required for the proclamation to be so was an executive order. An executive order, you say? Yes, an executive order.

An executive order is an act of an executive (here, the President) that manages operations within the government (in this case, the federal government) itself. For example, proclaiming a certain day to be a holiday. It is akin to a private business CEO declaring such a thing for his or her employees. It affects only the company itself, or in the President’s case, the federal government itself.

The bastardization of the executive order (sadly, this too is hardly without precedent), is one of the great misdoings of executive power in 20th and 21st century governance. Presidents now are in the habit of declaring “executive orders” whenever they feel it is inconvenient to rely on Congress (the branch of government tasked with legislating) to make laws. “Executive orders” today have shoehorned their way into having the full effect of law–see recent commotion and fuss over amnesty for illegal immigrants–though this was never the original intent (pardon the expression).

So enjoy your day of, federal government employees. At least it came about legitimately.