39 posts categorized "Read Chuck's Posts"

February 04, 2013

You just never know

It's remarkable sometimes how an athlete's career plays out.

Years ago _ it was the summer of 1997 _ I stood on the floor of Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, interviewing the quarterback of the winning team in an Arena Football League playoff game.

This particular quarterback, who played for the Iowa Barnstormers, went on to win two regular-season MVP awards in the NFL and was the MVP of the 2000 Super Bowl.

Of course, we're talking about Kurt Warner. But in 1997, who could have foreseen all that happening? Arena football could be fun to watch, but it wasn't exactly the NFL's prime feeder system.

Now, fast forward to December 2007. I slogged through an ice and snow storm so I could get to Cedar Falls to cover a Northern Iowa football playoff game. Not sure what I was thinking because this was after I had retired and I easily could have said, nope, not gonna risk it. But my trusty Pathfinder got me there safely and, looking back, I'd have to say it was worth it.

Northern Iowa was unbetean and a contender for the Division I-AA championship. But the Panthers were upset that day, in part because they had a terrible time trying to tackle the opposing quarterback.

He was big, strong, had a cannon for an arm, was fairly mobile and he just wouldn't go down, even as defenders seemed ready to wrestle him to the turf. Time after time, he slipped away to make a key play. He ended up throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. Afterward, he sat in the modest interview room and talked to us about the "insane atmosphere" in the UNI-Dome and how much fun he had playing there.

Well, on Sunday that quarterback performed in a much bigger dome, in a much bigger game.

Yep, it was Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens, MVP of the Super Bowl, former quarterback at Delaware.

This is one of the great things about football or any other sport. You just never know where it's going to take someone.

 

 

September 07, 2012

Chasing a Legend

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The good folks in the central Iowa city of Boone have long been accustomed to trains rumbling through their town. The city has a rich railroad history and straddles the main east-west line of the Union Pacific, which runs dozens of trains daily on those tracks. L-o-o-o-n-g trains, mostly. So one more locomotive pulling a line of cars into town is no big deal.

Unless the locomotive is the UP 844, that is.

The 844 was the last steam locomotive built for the Union Pacific. It was delivered to the railroad in 1944 and pulled some of its most glamorous passenger trains, such as the Overland Limited and Los Angeles Limited, before the UP shifted it to freight service in Nebraska in the 1950s. Known as the UP's "Living Legend," the 844 is said to be the only steam locomotive never retired by a North American Class I railroad.

The 844 was dispatched to Boone for the city's annual Pufferbilly Days celebration, and when it steamed in from the west on Thursday, I knew I had to see it. I would have done it by myself, but my friend Angela and her daughter Alexa agreed to go along. Alexa is only 2 -- she'll be 3 in November -- but she's already seen the light: She's a true train buff.

We decided to head out of town, then turn around and chase the locomotive on Highway 30 back toward Boone. To nonbelievers, this might sound like a pretty nerdy thing to do. But among railfans it's an entirely honorable pursuit, so to speak. Angela even enlisted the help of "spotters" to chart the 844's progress: her parents in Jefferson, 27 miles to the west, and her in-laws, who farm near Grand Junction, about 20 miles from Boone.

Angela's mother called as we drove west to report the train was in Jefferson and moving fast. We thought the Highway 169 bridge over the railroad would be good spot because you can see a long way down the tracks in both directions. We were right. When Angela's father-in-law called to say he heard the train in Grand Junction, we looked to the west and saw the locomotive's head lamp. It's amazing how far away you can be and still see those lamps glowing on the horizon.

I'll show my age here: I can remember catching sight of the occasional steam locomotive when I was growing up in Lima, Ohio -- a great town for train watching, by the way. So when the shiny black 844 churned into view, pulling baggage and passenger cars painted in UP yellow and crimson, it was, for a moment, like looking into the past. Well, except for that modern diesel locomotive coupled behind the tender. But the 844 was doing the work.

The moment passed quickly because if we were going to catch the train, we had to get moving. We thought we were gaining on it as we neared Ogden, where we turned on to Old Highway 30, hoping we could get to the Kate Shelley Bridge in time to see the locomotive at the most spectacular railroad site in Iowa -- the wide Des Moines River valley spanned by one of the tallest and longest double-track bridges in North America.

As we started down the dusty gravel road leading to the valley, we saw a News Channel 8 car coming up the hill.

Dang!

We laughed, because that was a sure sign we were too late.

Back on old 30, we drove into Boone and ... what was that Angela noticed on our left? 

Yellow train cars. Then we heard the whistle and saw the smoke. The 844 -- it burns fuel oil now instead of coal -- was crawling through town and we were right with it. We passed several people along the tracks taking photos. A woman was shooting video with her iPad. We drove to where we thought the engine would park, and when we saw all the people waiting with cameras, we knew we were in the right place. 

I stood near the edge of the tracks as the massive engine inched past, its eight huge drive wheels turning slowly as Angela shot video with her iPhone. "They're taller than you are," she said later. Yes, they are. At 80 inches in diamater, they dwarf me by a good seven inches. Quite a sight and worth the effort.

And where was our littlest train buff?

Sound alseep in her car seat.

But you can bet she'll be awake on her next train venture later this month. That's when Thomas the Tank Engine is comes to town.

 

 

October 29, 2011

Easy audience

Entertainers must love performing in Des Moines. It's such an easy auidence.

Take last night, for instance. Frankie Valli, of The Four Seasons fame, played the Civic Center and he got a standing ovation just for walking out on the stage. He hadn't done a thing, yet people stood and clapped anyway.

Maybe they were showing their appreciation that Frankie, at age 77, was still able to walk onto a stage. Or maybe they were applauding the fact that here was a guy well past his prime who would try to sing "Sherry" and "Walk Like A Man," songs with falsetto parts more suitable for a 12-year-old whose voice hasn't changed.

He sang both songs, of course, and yeah, he didn't hit those high notes quite like he did in the 60s, but he was pretty darn close. Pam joked that when he knew he couldn't hit a note, those were the times he held the microphone out for the audience to sing along.

Frankie had four young male singers -- The New Seasons? -- backing him. It was fun to see those guys get into the songs because they weren't even born when Frankie and the original Seasons hit the big time. Frankie had his own six-piece band, plus an imported five-man horn section. They either play together a lot or spend hours rehearsing because it was a very slick production.

At one point, Frankie said he was going to do some songs from a new CD. That's usually the low point for an "oldies" show because fans don't want to hear new songs. They want the old ones they remember from their youth. Fans still cheer when Paul McCartney sings his recent material, but they go wild when he does Beatles stuff.

But Frankie's "new" material turned out to be his version of old songs like "Call Me," "Spanish Harlem" and "Let It Be Me," so it was OK. I never could have envisioned a medley that combined "My Girl" and Groovin'," but Frankie and his bandmates pulled it off. 

In the end, it was a typical concert featuring a popular act from long ago who still has it. Audience members cheered, sang along, danced and clapped in rhythm to the music. And I always think: 40 or 50 years from now, will today's Justin Bieber fans still be going to his shows and singing along?

I just can't see that happening.

Pam and I saw "Jersey Boys" a couple of years ago, so when we learned Frankie Valli would be here, we decided we had to check out the real thing. Or at least one-fourth of the real thing.

Trust me, the real thing was better.

 

 

September 08, 2011

Iowa-Iowa State 10 years ago

Every generation, it seems, has that riveting moment, when there's an event of such magnitude that you'll always remember where you were when the news broke. My parents' generation had Pearl Harbor. For those of us who are Baby Boomers, it was President Kennedy's assassination (sixth-period study hall in the eighth grade at Elida Junior High School). Those born after JFK was shot had the September 11 terrorist attacks 10 years ago.

Pam and I were in the kitchen, watching one of the morning news shows on our 9-inch portable TV, when the jets slammed into the Twin Towers. I was getting ready to drive to Ames for Iowa State's weekly football press conference and, with a full staff in the AP Des Moines office working on the Iowa angles, I was still free to see what was happening at ISU.

It was eeriely quiet. All the regular reporters were there, but the normal kidding and jocularity was absent. Everyone seemed compelled to speak in hushed tones. The Iowa-Iowa State game was to be played in Ames that Saturday and it was like no one wanted to appear crass enough to ask the question until someone finally ventured, "Do you think they'll play the game?"

The question went unanswered that day, a Tuesday. The next day, the two schools announced they would play. A day later, the game was off, part of a domino effect of postponements started by the NFL. Eventually, officials from the schools decided to reschedule the game for the end of the season, on November 24.

Maybe it was because of what led to the new date, but I didn't notice the rancor and pettiness among fans that usually occurs during the week of this game. The terrorist attacks had given us a new perspective on sports. Also, both teams were 6-5, so each had a good chance of going to a bowl regardless of who won. No need to get upset about anything. Just play football. And it turned out to be one of the better games in the series -- for me, maybe the most enjoyable of all the Iowa-Iowa State games I've covered.

Iowa State won 17-14. The game wasn't decided until ISU's Adam Runk made a late interception and quarterback Seneca Wallace ran for a first down that enabled the Cyclones to run out the clock. Both teams received bowl bids and Iowa got the better deal: the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Iowa State went to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport.

So, which game to cover? I'd never had to make that choice because this was the first time in my career that both teams went to a bowl. Hmmm.

Actually, it was an easy decision. Sorry, Cyclones, I just couldn't pass up a chance to go to San Antonio and hang out on the River Walk. Which I did -- after spending each day working, of course.

Now it's 10 years later and we're getting ready for another Iowa-Iowa State game. Iowa State needs to win more than Iowa does because when you look at the Cyclones' schedule, you don't see many potential victories. But the Hawkeyes have regained the momentum in this series and they're going to play just as hard to keep it going.

Just give me a game that's close and entertaining and I'll mark it down as a good day.

 

June 17, 2011

A wall of their own

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Fenway Park has its Green Monster, Wrigley Field its ivy. Old Crosley Field in Cincinnati had a terrace angling up to the outfield wall, which made life interesting -- and sometimes perilous -- for those chasing down fly balls.

Unique touches are part of a ballpark's charm and so it goes with the Martensdale-St. Marys High School diamond in the tiny town of St. Marys, south of Des Moines. When a hitter sends the left fielder back to the wall, you can take that literally. Because part of the left field fence truly is a wall _ the brick wall of an old gym.

There's no longer a school attached to it and it's not even a gym anymore. Now it houses -- get this -- an indoor hitting area. Martensdale-St. Marys may play in Class 1A, the division with the state's smallest schools, but it's strictly big-time when it comes to baseball.

The building's roof rises initially at a modest angle from the top of the wall, then inclines more sharply upward to the peak. A ball that hits off the wall is in play. A ball landing on the roof is a home run. Learning that bit of information took me back to my younger days when I'd stand in the barnyard of my grandparents' farm in western Ohio, toss a ball into the air and try to hit it onto the roof of the barn. Or, if I really got ahold of it (that happened only rarely), over the barn.

The St. Marys diamond, which sits on the east edge of town, doesn't have a barn. But a postcard-perfect white church stands beyond the right field fence, replete with stained glass windows and a tall, elegant steeple. I forgot to ask if a powerful left-handed hitter had ever broken one of those windows.

Naturally -- this being Iowa, after all -- a cornfield borders the ballpark down the left and right field lines. That adds to the challenge of finding foul balls that carry out of the park, but there's always a handful of youngsters eager to tromp through the rows of green stalks to find them.

On a warm summer evening, with the sun dipping behind the church, a baseball fan would be hard pressed to find a more bucolic spot to watch a game. Did I mention the concession stand? Alas, no cheese balls, but bag of popcorn, a hot dog and a large pop costs all of $3.50. Let's see, $3.50 in a major league park would get you, well, it probably wouldn't get you anything.

Topping it off, you get to see one heck of a high school baseball team. On Thursday night, Martensdale-St. Marys routed Winterset 18-3 (it took the Blue Devils only 3 1/3 innings to score all those runs) for its 60th straight victory, which broke the state record held by Lansing Kee, another small-school baseball giant. 

Highlighting the victory: Robert Walker tagged one onto the left field roof, the ball landing with a thump and rolling halfway to the top before tumbling back down. The church, on this night, escaped untouched.

If the Blue Devils win out and claim their second consecutive state championship, their streak could reach into the upper 80s.

Even those diehards at Fenway would be impressed with that.

 

May 14, 2011

Oh, the things you learn

A little research can turn up the darndest bits of information.

What I found Friday is a perfect example. I was looking for some background on Chuck Connors. Now, anyone from my generation knows Connors starred in the TV series The Rifleman as Lucas McCain, the sharp-shooting rancher who was always helping the local sheriff deal with the bad guys. And most trivia buffs can tell you that Connors also played major league baseball, albeit for a short stint -- one game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, 66 with the Chicago Cubs. More than a cup of coffee, but not enough for a caffeine high. He did manage to hit two home runs, though, one of them off New York Giants ace Sal Maglie.

What I didn't know until Friday was that Connors also played professional basketball. He was tall and lean around at 6-feet-6, so he certainly had the build. And this was in the 1940s, when 6-6 meant you played center. Anyway, Connors played one season for the Rochester Royals, another for the Boston Celtics and then played four games in a second season with the Celtics.

Alas, his hardwood career was just as undistinguished as his career on the diamond. It turns out that ol' Chuck's TV character was a much better shot than the guy who played basketball. During his time with the Celtics, Connors shot, get this, 25 percent from the field.

Yikes.

Oh, but there's more. It seems that Connors' most noteworthy achievement in basketball was becoming the first NBA player to shatter a backboard. Once I stumbled onto this little nugget, I found it mentioned in many places. But really, who knew?

The thing is, Connors didn't break the glass board with an eye-popping, Blake Griffin-type dunk. And no, he didn't shoot it with his rifle. All it took was an ordinary shot hitting in just the right place. Or, in this case, the wrong place.

It happened while the Celtics were warming up for a game with the Chicago Stags at Boston Arena. They had to move out of the Celtics' usual home, Boston Garden, because Gene Autry's rodeo was playing there. Everything seemed fine, except that a worker had failed to insert a piece of protective rubber between the rim and backboard. So when Connors fired up a two-handed set shot, the ball clanked off the rim (what would you expect from a 25 percent shooter?) and, as fans and players looked on in shock, the backboard shattered.

You know what a really bad shot in basketball is called, right?

Yep, Chuck Connors shot the ultimate brick.

 

 

 

April 03, 2011

Butler coach is tops

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey has been raking in the hardware lately. The Associated Press named him its men's coach of the year. So did Basketball Times and the United States Basketball Writers Assocation. 

Brey is deserving of those awards. He did a fine job with the Irish this season. They won 27 games, challenged for the Big East regular-season championship, earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and reached the Sweet Sixteen, all notable accomplishments.

But someone else has proven himself to be the best basketball coach in the country. How can you not give that tag to Butler's Brad Stevens? Two straight years in the national championship game? Butler?

It defies comprehension. Because he's not doing it with McDonald's All-Americans coming out of high school. As the old joke goes, Roy Williams, John Calipari, Bill Self and Mike Krzyzewski sign McDonald's All-Americans. Stevens' guys eat at McDonald's.

Let's be fair. The Bulldogs aren't just a bunch of guys that Stevens rounded up one noon at the YMCA. The star of last season's team, sophomore Gordon Hayward, was good enough to go in the first round of the NBA draft and is now with the Utah Jazz. Matt Howard, this season's leader, was regarded as a top 100 high school player by some recruiting services.  Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Zach Hahn were all-state players in high school.

Still, these weren't players who had coaches across the country drooling over them. They're just solid players who know the game, understand their limitations and can figure out how to capitalize on their strengths. And for the second straight year, they're playing on the final night of the season while the bluebloods of the game can only watch.  

Stevens looks like your high school valedictorian. If you were a bartender and he walked in and ordered a drink, you'd card him.  But Stevens knows which buttons to push and when. He's got it figured out and he coaches players who know how to win. Heck, they easily could have gotten knocked out in the first round by Old Dominion. But there was Howard, in exactly the right place for a putback just ahead of the buzzer.

Virginia Commonwealth was loaded with athletes, yet Butler outrebounded them by 16 in Saturday night's national semifinal and held the Rams to ... let's see ... oh, zero fastbreak points. Pittsburgh shot 62 percent against Butler in the second half, yet the Bulldogs still won. They held Wisconsin, one of the most efficient teams around, to 30 percent shooting. When Butler and Florida were tied at the end of regulation, it was time for us to leave to join some friends for dinner, so I turned the TV off. When Pam queried, "Don't you want to see the end of the game?" I told her, "I don't like Butler's chances in overtime." Shows what I know: Butler 74, Florida 71.

Connecticut is favored by 3 1/2 points in Monday night's championship game, which makes sense. UConn's Kemba Walker will be the best player on the floor. The Huskies' coach, Jim Calhoun, is more than twice Stevens' age and already has won two national titles. And they've been an amazing story themselves, winning five games in five days in the Big East tournament, then adding five more victories in the NCAAs.

But win or lose, Stevens still gets my vote. What he's done the last two years is nothing short of remarkable. You sure wouldn't want to count he and his team out Monday night.

 

 

December 17, 2010

A man who saw his duty ... and fulfilled it

Bob Feller's baseball career overflows with achievement and records, which is to be expected from the man who once was voted the "greatest living right-hander." With Feller's death this week, his accomplishments once again are getting attention.

And they are impressive: 266 victories, 2,581 strikeouts, seven seasons leading the American League in strikeouts, three no-hitters and, a figure to me that is even more astounding, 12 one-hitters. When Feller was on, he couldn't be touched. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility and remains today the greatest of all Cleveland Indians.

But there's something I find even more admirable than all the victories and all the times he sent batters trudging back to the dugout after yet another futile attempt to hit him. Two days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Feller, at the age of 23 and just coming into his prime as a pitcher, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, the first major-leaguer to do so.

Can you imagine a professional athlete nowadays volunteering to go fight in Iraq or Afghanistan? Let's see, we had football player Pat Tillman, we had ... well, he's the only one I can think of.

But it was different in the 1940s. When we went to war then, Americans weren't told to take the kids on vacation, as our former president suggested after the terrorist attacks of 2001. No, they sucked it up and sacrificed and the thousands who were young enough and healthy enough joined the fight.

Many major league baseball players were drafted. Others enlisted. Ted Williams not only lost prime playing years during World War II, he was back in uniform flying fighter jets during the Korean War.

Feller lost the entire 1942, '43 and '44 seasons and most of the 1945 season while in the Navy. Instead of winning games, he won eight battle stars serving as chief of an anti-aircraft battery on the battleship USS Alabama.

In the three years before the war, Feller won 24, 27 and 25 games. In the first two full seasons following his return, he won 26 and 20 games. His strikeout totals in those five seasons: 246, 261, 260, 348 and 196.

So, it's reasonable to assume that had Feller not served -- and as the sole supporter of his family he could have received a deferment -- he would have had 90 to 100 more victories, which would have put him well over 300, and about  1,000 more strikeouts. But Feller never whined about his lost numbers because he felt he was doing something far more important. He often said his greatest victory was winning the war.

Feller was blunt and outspoken. You could say that at times, he was a grouch. Pam would use the word crotchety. But I had no problems in the only two professional dealings I had with the former fireballer.

When I covered the opening of his museum in Van Meter in 1995, Feller was the perfect host and signed autographs until the last fan was satisfied. Several years later, I returned to the museum for an appearance by Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson, forever entwined in baseball lore because Branca threw the pitch that Thomson hit for the home run that became The Shot Heard 'Round the World. Now they were friends and even had developed their own little schtick. It wasn't Rowan and Martin or the Smothers Brothers, but they were entertaining and fun to be around.

When I introduced myself, Feller fixed me up with a seat between Branca and Thomson so I could talk to them while they signed autographs. Afterward, he thanked me for coming and asked if I got everything I needed.

So, I have nothing but positive memories of Feller. And as a beleaguered Indians fan (that's probably redundant), oh how I wish he was still pitching.

 

November 03, 2010

So long, Big Red

It's going to feel a little strange when Nebraska plays Iowa State in Ames on Saturday. Because it most likely will be the very last time we see the Cornhuskers at Jack Trice Stadium.

That's too bad, and I say that even though the games with Nebraska usually have turned out  badly for Iowa State. They've been playing each other since 1896 and this will be the 105th game between the two rivals, though it's hard to call the series a rivalry because it's so lopsided. Iowa State has won only 18 of those games.

Still, the Cornhuskers always have been an attraction when they showed up. They had such tradition and such good players. No matter how much you'd read about Turner Gill, Mike Rozier, Roger Craig, Ahman Green, Tommie Frazier, Eric Crouch and, the best name of all, I.M. Hipp, and no matter how often you watched them on TV, it was much more interesting to see them in person.

Besides, the Nebraska helmets always were good for a joke, you know, the one about the big red "N" standing for Nowledge.

The few times Iowa State did manage to beat Nebraska made it all the more satisfying for the Cyclones. Heck, in most cases, it made their season. To this day, the most memorable play I've ever seen from the Cyclones came against Nebraska. It was the 1992 game and if the name Marv Seiler pops to mind, we're thinking alike.

Iowa State prevailed 19-10 in a game it had no business winning. Nebraska was ranked seventh in the country and coming off routs of Colorado (52-7) and Kansas (49-7), both nationally ranked. Iowa State was 3-6 and a 28-point underdog.

The Cyclones led 12-10 early in the fourth quarter after four Ty Stewart field goals, but it seemed inevitable that Nebraska would get serious, score a couple of quick touchdowns and put it away. That was Seiler, a fifth-year senior making the first start of his career at quarterback, became an unlikely hero. From his own 20, Seiler kept the ball on an option to the right, found daylight as he turned upfield and headed for the far-off end zone.

Marvelous Marv went 78 yards before safety Tyrone Byrd dragged him down 2 yards short of a touchdown. Byrd caught Seiler about 20 yards earlier and tried to strip the ball as he rode him. Then, it was like Byrd realized, "Hey, I better bring this guy down before he scores."

Fullback Chris Ulrich did score on the next play, but it  wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't. Seiler's run had dissipated whatever wind was left in Nebraska's sails.

After Saturday, Nebraska can start a new rivalry in this state. The Cornhuskers are leaving the Big 12 for what they perceive as greener pastures in the Big Ten and they'll play Iowa every year. It'll be fun to see how that matchup develops over the years.

Any Iowa future Iowa State-Nebraska game would have to come in a bowl. At least, that's the only time they should meet.  Scheduling Nebraska as a non-conference opponent would be absolutely foolish. With the Cyclones playing nine conference games starting next season and Iowa on the schedule for the foreseeable future, ISU needs to fill those other slots with schools that have directions or hyphens in their name. Nebraska-Omaha is fine. Nebraska is not.

And here's another piece of advice for Iowa State administrators: Don't even think about scheduling Utah again.

 

September 24, 2010

Big day at Iowa State

Another football Saturday at Iowa State is coming up and this one is huge.

It has nothing to do with the opponent (Northern Iowa) or the date (September 25) or the type of game we can expect (entertaining and competitive).

No, this game is big for a much more important reason.

It's Taco Day!

Iowa State serves up a pretty good spread in its pressbox on game days. Maybe not always the healthiest fare, but the menu changes with each game and the food is nicely prepared and tasty. And there's plenty of it.

They never put out a bad meal, either. But ISU pressbox veterans -- and I'm among the most veteran of all -- will tell you the tacos are the best of the lot. You can get beef or chicken (or both), hard shell or soft shell (or both), lettuce, tomatoes (not on my plate) and chips that you can drown with a thick, gooey cheese sauce.

As I said, we're not talking healthy eating here. But hey, once in a while you've got to stop to smell the nachos.

This year, though, there's a complication that will make things a bit more challenging.

Used to be, you could go up and down the food line as often as you wanted. Then, at halftime, out came dessert. Sometimes it was cookies, sometimes it was cupcakes, other times it was brownies or lemon bars. Whatever the item, few managed the discipline to resist them.

Now, to cut costs -- which is entirely understandable in these times -- the food folks limit you to one trip through the line. And the dessert is out there, too, so you have to work that onto your plate as well. You can pile on as much as you want, but only once.

So what's a taco-holic to do? Two huge soft shells? Three or four smaller hard shells? Stack the nachos and cheese sauce on top of everything else?

Hmm, this is going to require some strategy. Good thing the game doesn't start until 6 p.m. Gives me more time to plot.

Lest you think that's the only reason I'm going to Iowa State on Saturday, I just want to note that when kickoff approaches, I'll have my game face on (hopefully free of dried cheese sauce), eager and ready to pay attention and work.

Will I remember to wave at my friends Jim and Joyce at the end of the first quarter?

Probably not.

But it won't be because I have another plate of nachos beside me.