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5 things in no particular order, late edition

Stuff I’ve been meaning to blog about for days, weeks and months, even. Enjoy.

1) A (bath)room with a view, five months late

The number of times I’ve moved in my adult life is almost too absurd to consider. Starting back when I officially stopped living at my mother’s house 15 years ago at age seventeen, I’ve called no less than 13 different residences home. The majority of those moves were only across town, but a couple did take me across the country. In any case, such has been my life and my luck that nomadism is the norm. Earlier this year, hubby and I moved for the second time since our return to Denver from our adventure in Chicago. This time, fate landed us on the doorstep of a colleague who, having been our partner and commiserator in newspaper job loss, was heading out of town for greener employment pastures and needed tenants for his lovely home. We left our tiny condo in the hope that someone might take it off our hands permanently (no such luck, yet) and that we could welcome the end of this tedious recession (anytime now, economy) with a bit more leg room.

The house has many of the wonderful idiosyncrasies of a place that has been lived in for a long time. My favorite is the window in the second-floor shower. It’s small and up high on the wall (I have to stand on my toes to see out) and doesn’t reveal anything that a discreet bather wouldn’t. Still, it allows for a nice view of the tops of neighboring trees and houses and, if you look hard enough before the hot water starts to fog it up, the Rocky Mountains. If I shower in the early afternoon on a clear day, the sun shines on me and the water in such a way that I feel as if I am outside, which takes me back to the days early in my childhood when my cousins and I would bathe in my aunt’s back patio. The light is best at the end of the day, when the warmth of the setting sun soothes as much as the hot water. Serenity is welcome anywhere one can find it.

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5 things in no particular order

5 things, World Cup edition. Lots of links coming your way, so click away and then come back.

1) This one is for us.

The World Cup is now merely days away. I would venture to say even hubby can’t wait for the games to start, if only because he’s probably very tired of hearing me say how excited I am. He’s not interested, and though I made an effort to get into American “football” for his sake, I’m in no hurry to try to convince him to watch the real stuff. I’ve never been interested in convincing any American that soccer in general, and the World Cup in particular, really is great fun to watch. Non-believers — and there’s no other way to describe them — don’t want to be convinced. There have been countless attempts to put the magnificence of this event in terms they can understand. This one is pretty funny if you know American sports (though I would cast Argentina as Duke basketball and France as the Boston Red Sox).

The fact is some Americans take great pride in hating soccer. I don’t have patience or time for that. Those of us who love the sport love it more than enough for the rest of the country and are comforted by the fact that the rest of the world has our backs as far as this argument is concerned. The nice thing is that for this particular Cup, American sports media have bought in. In previous cycles the bulk of the coverage would be spent on trying to draw non-fans to the game, trying to explain the sport’s idiosyncrasies, and introducing top players like flash-in-the-pan Olympians instead of treating them like the world superstars they are. Even the play-callers were once chosen based not on their experience covering soccer, but on their experience covering American sports, in hopes that U.S. fans would recognize the voice, if not the action on the field.

Mercifully, that era is long behind us. Football isn’t merely coming to America. It’s here. All the Cup previews and analyses I’ve seen and read make it clear that the major sports media have figured this out. ESPN and ABC are carrying every game in this World Cup with coverage that respects the game and the fans. They aren’t devoting 300 staffers to Cup coverage for the non-believers. They are doing it for us.

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No cheering in the press box, or a rumination on the greatest joy in sports

Imagine the baseball playoffs happened only every four years and only four teams got to play. Imagine the intervening years were one long tournament to see who got those four spots, one of which always seemed to go to the Yankees. Imagine there were baseball teams that had never gone, some that had only gone once. Imagine fans that prayed for a chance to see their teams step on to the field in the World Series just once in their lifetimes.

You can’t. I can’t. And it doesn’t matter, really, because there is no hypothetical that would convey with any accuracy the sheer ecstasy a World Cup birth can bring to an entire country. The Yankees in this case are Brazil. Yes, I’m talking about soccer, a sport that makes many a silly American laugh or sneer or take pride in the fact he hates the sport precisely because the rest of the world loves it and say, “We have our own football, and it’s better, and we still call the winner of the league ‘world’ champions.”

But, you know what, it’s his loss. That guy won’t cry like a little girl when his team simply makes it in to the big tournament, won’t run to the middle of the street after the game to see it flooded with fellow fans, incredulous and delirious, because the national team did it. They’re in. WE’RE IN! He won’t see his president declare a national holiday the next day because for the first time in 30 years, they’re in. WE’RE IN!

All of that happened in Honduras on Wednesday night, right after Jonathan Bornstein of the U.S. Men’s National Team headed in a goal in the waning seconds of its final World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. For the U.S., the goal tied a meaningless game–they had punched their ticket to the 2010 “finals,” as they say in Europe, four days before. For Honduras, it meant the “catrachos” hop-scotched Costa Rica for the North and Central American region’s third automatic bid to the greatest sporting event in the world. It will be the country’s second ever trip to the World Cup and the first in 27 years. Most of America wasn’t paying attention when the goal happened. Honduras was on its knees. And afterward, it was euphoric.

It’s an unwritten rule in sports journalism that you don’t cheer in the press box. Sports writers are impartial observers, not fans. Even at The Daily Tar Heel, students covering UNC basketball games were not allowed to wear Carolina blue to the games. You can love the team as much as the next guy. You just can’t wear it on your sleeve. Same goes for the guys in the booth. Sure, most teams in every major league here in the U.S. has regular season radio or TV announcers who call the games with a soft-spot for the locals, but the biggest games get the biggest pros. So for the greatest play in the history of the Super Bowl, the call went to the monotone Joe Buck.

Listen to that Honduran play caller crying as he announces the U.S. goal and Honduras’ entry into the World Cup. It’s hard to imagine any American play caller getting that emotional about anything. Sure they get excited–Gus Johnson is good for that much–but has anyone actually broken down in tears on the air? It wasn’t just the play caller either. If you listen close, you can hear people in the background yell “Gol!” right before he does. The whole booth was watching and praying. The whole country was. And when it was all over, the whole country celebrated.

Honduras is a special place for me. I spent four formative summers there as a teenager, starting right after 8th grade, when my dad was transferred there by Chiquita. He doesn’t work for Chiquita anymore, but he’s still there, still growing bananas. The older of my two younger sisters doesn’t remember living anywhere else and the younger of the two never has. I have dear friends from those summers who I still keep in touch with, and memories that will always make me smile. So even though I root for the U.S. National Team, I wanted that Bornstein goal for Honduras.

It’s a poor country, one wracked by gang violence and currently embroiled in a political fight between a democratically elected, yet politically dangerous Chavez-wannabe and a quick-to-the-crackdown replacement government that resorted to a military coup at a time in history many believed Latin America had finally left that regrettable tactic in the history books. Honduras needed Bornstein to make the goal. And now, he’s a national hero. There was a palpable joy in Honduras’ celebrations, but also relief and maybe some hope that everything will be OK. Soccer has done this before.

Franklin Foer’s book “How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization” is a fascinating read. Using everything from local to international leagues, Foer looks at how certain squads are microcosms that illustrate the defining political questions of our time. The trope holds up in some cases better than others, but the underlying truth is that no sport, no social gathering place, figurative or otherwise, has the ability to affect the power structures that govern the world like soccer. That may not seem plausible to Americans because no sport played in the U.S., certainly not soccer, is capable of bridging the painfully entrenched lines in the sand between Rush Limbaugh’s right wing and Rachel Maddow’s left.

Moments of tragedy have united us–the days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the mass shooting at Virginia Tech–but just as quickly, it seems, the old divisions rear their ugly heads, bigger and uglier than before. We are a much, much larger country and much more diverse than Honduras, so bringing everyone under the same tent isn’t as easy as heading in a goal from a corner kick (and that’s not really all that easy). Maybe there will never be anything we all agree on, nothing that will drives us all to dance in the streets with joy. I suppose that’s OK. Few countries, few peoples, will every feel get to feel what Hondurans are feeling right now. I’ve come to expect the U.S. to make it to the World Cup every four years. My little sisters might never know this feeling again. They deserve it. Honduras deserves it.

The theme for another few days at least . . .

. . . remains college basketball. Even though the Final Four is days away, lots of happenings on the coaching carousel, none bigger of course than Kentucky. John Calipari of Memphis taking the reigns from Billy Gillispie has the sports pundit world all a-twitter. Calipari is a good coach and will certainly make the Wildcats national title contenders once again. Consider this, though: Two years ago Kentucky was paying $2 million dollars for a well-respected coach with a national championship and a pristine reputation (Tubby Smith). Now, the commonwealth finds itself paying $10 million dollars (if you add the recently fired Billy Gillispie’s buyout to Calipari’s salary) for a coach who has never won it all and whose first Final Four appearance had to be vacated due to NCAA violations. Not exactly what I’d call a bargain.

But who cares about Kentucky! The teams still in it are (1) Connecticut, playing for a banner the NCAA might not even let them hang up if the accusations of using an agent to help recruit a player proves true; (2) Michigan State, playing the role of host in Detroit and working desperately to give its recession-beaten state something to cheer about; (3) Villanova, trying to call up the ghosts of their Cinderella championship in 1985; and, of course, (4) North Carolina, trying to send out my favorite crop of players in the history of my fandom on the perfect note. My bracket has the Heels beating Michigan State in the championship game. Would that it be so!

And in that spirit, here’s another gem from YouTube:

NCAA Tournament ad review: It’s NOT about drinkability

When you watch a sporting event that’s bound to attract a large audience, beer commercials are inevitable. The latest campaign by Bud Light — “The difference is drinkability” — is dumb and disappointing, considering the fact that the folks at Anheuser Bush are usually good for entertaining ads. (I also would point out that Bud Light is “drinkable” because it tastes like water.) Few of the commercials airing during March Madness have been memorable, but a couple have stood out to me.

The first is a Vitamin Water ad featuring Christian Laettner and Rick Pitino. (Unfortch, the video is no long available on YouTube.) I know. I know. I hate Duke, so why do I like this ad? Because that last-second shot against Kentucky to go to the Final Four was probably the highest high of Christian Laettner’s storied college career, which went nowhere in the NBA. It’s funny to see him make fun of himself a bit by allowing us to imagine that he’s always trying to relive it. I’ll also add that Laettner’s Duke teams were actually good. My biggest beef with Duke and Coach K is that they have been coasting on the glory of that back-to-back championship team ever since. They hadn’t made it past the tournament’s first weekend in several years — despite favorable seeding — and got to the Sweet Sixteen this time only to be dismantled by Villanova. And yet, when the pre-season rankings come out in the fall, guess who’ll have a spot reserved in the top ten?

Getting back to the commercials, though, and speaking of Coach K (because no college coach gets more TV ad time than this man), another good one featured him with UNC coach Roy Williams, Louisville coach Rick Pitino and coaching legend and curmudgeon extraordinaire Bob Knight shilling for the new Guitar Hero Metallica.

The throwing of the drum set is what kills — that and Knights knobby, old man knees.

5 things in no particular order

1) Not having a job doesn’t always mean you have nothing to do.

I would argue, even, that one has more to do: look for a job, file for unemployment, do all that stuff you’ve been meaning to do around the house but had been avoiding thanks to the ready-made excuse previously provided by your job. For me, the last two weeks without the paper have been crazier than I anticipated, which is nice in that I’m not just sitting at home playing the Wii in between fits of “what am I going to do with my life” while the cats look at me disaffectedly from their perch by the window. Busy is good. (Even if it means this blog gets neglected — again.)

I am stepping closer to what I think/hope will be my next career. I am helping other print journalists continue to do their work online. And I am moving, not cross-country this time, just across town. A ten minute drive from the shadow of Coors Field to the doorstep of the Mayan Theater. I suppose baseball for movies not a particularly good trade to make in the summer, but we will still get to a few Rockies games. And maybe next year we might have seen some of the Oscar nominees before they are announced. Hubby is busy too. So busy, in fact, his plans for creating an online media empire have limited our quality time even more than our old jobs used to. But we have to be optimistic about the future — how else can we look at this situation and not go crazy? — and optimists, apparently, have a lot to do and a lot of calls to make.

2) Audrey Tautou: the French Penelope Cruz?

I love the movie Amelie. It just makes me happy. That may be an odd way of describing a movie (and very, very, few movies I’ve seen fit that description), but it just works. The heart of the movie, of course, is Audrey Tautou. She was also wonderful in A Very Long Engagement (a lovely, if slightly long, World War I movie), but less so in Da Vinci Code (the not so lovely adaptation of the overwrought and overwritten novel of the same name about evil Catholics who — SPOILER ALERT! — are not actually evil). Her latest role is that of fashion legend Coco Chanel, which is in her native French. (It co-stars a mustachioed Alessandro Nivola! Sweet!)

Like Penelope Cruz, Tautou is a petite European woman with grandly expressive eyes and talent who shines in her mother tongue. Even if you don’t understand, her words, her voice, are moving. But like Cruz, Tautou’s performances falter in English. The translation, the extra layer of foreign-ness derails them. Cruz was able to overcome this with help from Woody Allen, who turned the language barrier, the change in demeanor from one culture to the next, into an asset in Vicki Cristina Barcelona. Could he give Tautou a job next?

3) On a no-good-very-bad feud or be careful what you wish for

First, the Broncos fire Mike Shanahan, which was exciting news in these here parts. The two-time Super Bowl-winning coach had taken a seat of the sofa of mediocrity and showed no signs of getting up. A shake up was necessary, but a few months removed, the Broncos seem to have gotten a little more than they bargained for.

After the hiring of young Josh McDaniels, formerly an offensive coordinator for the mighty New England Patriots, most Denver fans thought the team would be riding two young bucks (McDaniels and promising QB Jay Cutler) to long term success. McDaniels appears to have had other ideas. He quietly (but no quietly enough) inquired about getting former Tom Brady back-up and sudden flavor of the NFL trade talks QB Matt Cassel to follow him West. Cassel did — but stopped at Kansas City. This all got under Cutler’s skin, and understandably so. Why would a coach want to consider replacing who everyone recognizes is the best player on his team. Does McDaniels not think Cutler is worth the time it would take to teach him a new offense?

McDaniels has since tried to make nice with Cutler, who is not having it. Cutler put his Denver mansion on the market (good luck getting it sold, Jay). So have his parents. Sour grapes, much?

To be sure, McDaniels made a mistake in going after Cassel, but Cutler is starting to look like the brat in this situation. He may be a good quarterback. He may even have a stronger arm than John Elway, as he has famously claimed, but Elway is the one with the Super Bowl rings. Cutler, good as he may be, still hasn’t won much of anything. Sports pundits are starting to label him a diva and a whinner (and since even a stopped clock is right twice a day, you can’t help but think that the label might stick in some circles).

I don’t know what will happen. Maybe Cutler cut a secret deal with Shanahan to go wherever the ol’ coach plans to land. Either way, I really wish I didn’t have the jersey of a guy who suddenly doesn’t want to wear it.

4) You don’t know what you got, ’til it’s gone

March Madness is here! The Selection Show is mere hours away, and I wanted to reflect on a coach I’ll be rooting for in the tournament (until such time as he faces the Heels, of course). The coach is Tubby Smith, formerly of Kentucky and currently of Minnesota. Though his Golden Gophers are “on the bubble,” as they say, it’s more than likely that they are heading toward a birth in the Big Dance. The same cannot be said for his old team. Kentucky didn’t exactly fire Smith — you can’t fire a coach that has won you a national championship and made you a mainstay in the NCAA tournament for a decade — but they asked him in their best Southern drawl, to please get the hell out so we can get someone who will take us to the Final Four more times than you. Smith obliged and Minnesota was only too happy to welcome him.

Kentucky is one of those “storied” programs, the winningest in college basketball (though UNC could pass them if they win it all this year — fingers crossed!), so any fool would take an offer from them. That’s what Billy Gillespie of Texas A&M did after the Billy the Wildcats really wanted (Donovan of Florida, a former Kentucky assistant and two-time national champion) turned them down. To say that Gillespie has struggled is an understatement. He has recruited some good players, but his teams have underperformed, leading to a handful of embarrassing losses (Gardner-Webb, VMI, to name two) and a recent letter from the once proud program stating the Wildcats will, in fact, accept an offer to play in the lowly post-season NIT. Suddenly, Tubby is not looking so bad. And he beat Louisville this year.

I’m certain Kentucky will be back. UNC played an 8-20 season not so long ago, and here they are trying to win their second title in five years. But UNC had to drop kick a coach (Matt Doherty) prematurely (three years) and open their wallets wide (really wide) to get the next one (Roy Williams) in order to return to glory. When Kentucky bid Tubby a not so fond adieu, I had a feeling it would take them more than one try to get to where they wanted to go. Donovan is still a possibility — as long as Kentucky is willing to match the millions that Florida will throw at him to stay — but whoever the next heir to the throne of Rupp turns out to be, one thing is for sure: his name is not Gillespie.

5) There’s something about Idol

I’ve never watched full episode of American Idol, but I’ve (rather reluctantly) become a fan of a few of its participants over the years. There’s no denying that the people who make it on the show have talent, more talent, I would say, than some of the people who’ve managed to get significant face time on MTV over the years (Ashlee Simpson comes to mind). The show is obviously orchestrated to manufacture a non-offensive, not particularly creative, easy on the eyes and ears winner, and not all winners make it out of the box Idol puts them in. But Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, at least, have hung around in the pop culture consciousness long enough for me to know who they are and even download a song or two.

And yesterday, I saw a video of David Archuleta singing the Selena song “Como La Flor” on the fly in a concert in San Antonio (her home), and I have to say I was endeared. I loved that song and now find myself hoping he records it. I don’t even think he was the Idol winner, but he sounds a little like an English-speaking Luis Miguel and he has a nice smile.

Previewing the game nobody is talking about

I think the student ticket distribution policy has changed since then, but when I was at the University of North Carolina, getting a seat to a men’s basketball game against an ACC opponent was like looking for the holy grail.

First, you’d have to go the to the ticket office to get a wrist band with a number on it. Then, the Friday before distribution, ticket officials would announce the “magic number,” which is where the line for tickets would start. The Saturday of distribution, you’d have to show up at the Smith Center at 7 a.m. (or was it 6 a.m.?) with your wristband and be there when your number was called before the line formed — the numbers were called in small batches, simultaneously. If you weren’t there, you would lose your right to a spot in line, which would form inside after the numbers had been called. You could be 100 feet from the person calling out your number, but if he or she didn’t see you before they got to the next number (and roll call went quickly), you would lose your spot. This happened to me for the Duke distribution, which is even more complicated because there are two sets of numbers, one for seniors and graduating grad students (which I was) and one for everyone else.

I missed the Duke game my first year because it was scheduled for the week of spring break — front page news on The Daily Tar Heel when the schedule was released in the fall. And after making it through the labyrinth my second year, it seemed the ticketing minotaur at the end of it wanted to chew my head off rather than give me my tickets. I was so mad.

Salvation came, though, in the hands of my good friend Nate, who called me in The Daily Tar Heel newsroom minutes before the game started to let me know his roommate had an extra ticket. I sprinted across campus and managed not to hyperventilate from the exertion as we were finding our seats shortly after tip-off. The Heels lost (Damn, you Chris Duhon!) but Nate’s call, the sprint, the game, all together are among my favorite memories of my time in Chapel Hill.

Much as I love the Heels, though, and much as I enjoy nurturing my hate for Duke, I will be the first to admit that the hype over the rivalry has gotten a little crazy (the headline above was written in sarcasm, if you were wondering). ESPN will never be accused of underselling a sporting event, be it the NBA or the bowling tour, so when it happens to be airing the Tobacco Road rivalry, viewers are going to be subjected to commercials for it for at least a month. Piles of books have been written, the best of the lot being To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever by Will Blythe, if only because the title is awesome. HBO has gotten into the game, with an hour-long documentary (currently on my DVR to watch list) and the most recent Sporting News features a retrospective and insider photos. This is all great for those of us who love these teams, but likely less interesting for those who don’t.

If you belong in that latter group, be thankful, my friends, that ESPN isn’t showing Sunday’s UNC Senior night game against Coach K’s crew. Otherwise, the endless stream of hype and game previews by Dickie V would have left you breathless and quivering about a week ago. Still, if you’re looking for (decidedly biased) reasons to watch (or not to watch), here they are.

1) Final home game for UNC’s seven seniors and at least two juniors likely to bolt for the NBA, which means more standing ovations than a State of Union speech.

2) Danny Green might dunk on Greg Paulus again.

3) Gerald Henderson might break someone’s nose for old time’s sake.

4) Someone other than Billy Packer will be calling the game! Hallelujah!

5) If coverage starts early enough, we might see Michael Copeland’s handshakes.

The game itself? Senior jitters (some scrubs will start) and UNC’s typically porous defense will allow Duke to stay in the game in a back-and-forth first half, but UNC’s depth — especially in the post, where Duke has nobody — will help the Heels pull away eventually. Roy will take Bobby Frasor and Michael Copeland out at the 2 minute mark and Danny Green at the 1:00 mark and Tyler Hansbrough at 0:40.

5 things, in no particular order

1. That race is still going on?

Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune projected that Saturday Night Live alum-turned-talking head Al Franken would win the long protracted fight for the Minnesota senate seat that still hasn’t been resolved more than a month after the election. According to the paper’s count, Franken leads by almost 200 votes. When hubby told me this, I realized I hadn’t thought about that race or national politics in general in weeks.

To be sure, anytime President-elect Obama has appointed someone to his Cabinet, I have usually looked up from what I was doing and read up on the story for a few minutes, but a few minutes was it. There was a time, mere weeks ago, when I couldn’t get enough political news. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I read everything I could find, and in the days following loved all the various ways columnists and reporters put the historic win in perspective. It’s likely, I suppose, that I OD’d and am now giving myself time to recover so that when Obama really is president, I’ll go back to a larger dose of news. But, on the other hand, it’s nice to see the wars of words that take daily place on the blogosphere go on without me and without giving me any more ulcers.

And speaking of Senate races . . .

2. Have Senate replacement battles always gotten this much attention?

Obviously, an invitation to join the Senate’s millionaire boys club means you’re set for life, which is why so much attention is paid when someone is tapped — rather than elected — to the position. Still, it seems like this year more than most, people are going crazy over all the possible appointments. Obama (whose own seat is at the center of the most controversial fight, given his governor’s kaching moment after Obama’s election) has asked a handful of senators to join his administration, leaving at least three seats open seats open. There’s VP-elect Biden of Delaware, Secretary of State to-be Hillary Clinton of New York and Secretary of the Interior to-be Ken Salazar of Colorado. Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Caroline Kennedy has declared she wants Hillary’s seat, which was once held by her uncle Bobby. I think she’s qualified, even though some see it as a dynastic power grab. I’m not from New York, so I can’t speak to what the people of that state think, but at least you know she’s not in it for the money. There’s something to be said for someone who doesn’t need lobbyists to pay for her new house (like they did for former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska) while she’s deciding on how to vote for particular pieces of legislation. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

In my own state of Colorado, there is a long line of potential candidates for Salazar’s post, but you better believe that Republicans are licking their chops for what they now see as a gettable seat. Nobody would have beaten the popular Salazar in his re-election bid two years from now. His replacement would be an incumbent too, but a much more vulnerable one, and Obama’s coattails may not be what they were this year after he has two years of having to deal with the current economic mess under his belt.

And speaking of Obama …

3. How many pastors does it take to controversify an inauguration?

A lot of people are making hay of his invitation of megachurch pastor Rick Warren to the inauguration to read the invocation. It’s easy to see why. Warren was among the California pastors who supported Proposition 8 in California, which took away the rights of gay couples to marry after those rights had been established as constitutional by that state’s Supreme Court. Gay people helped Obama get elected and celebrated with him on Election Night even as they saw their rights stripped away by a group of people who campaigned on lies (churches would be forced to marry gay couples — not true) and innuendo (children would be indoctrinated into the gay lifestyle — as if).

Obviously, many Obama supporters are upset over this. What really bothers me is not Warren but this: Why is religion allowed to play such a big role in the public square in what is by every definition a secular government? Say what religious people will, our country wasn’t founded by committed Christians “under God” (those words did not appear in the original pledge of allegiance). It was founded by Enlightenment humanists who wanted to establish freedom from religion in government. Many of the first settlers who came to the colonies, including those legendary Pilgrims, were fleeing a monarchy that exerted too great an influence on their religious lives. Those early Christians wanted the government to stay away from their houses of worship. The long and winding road that led us from that to this is a bit baffling to me.

I don’t think that this was a calculated political decision by Obama. I truly believe he is a person of faith and wants that faith represented during his inauguration. But his faith, as far as his office is concerned, is beside the point. He may not agree with me, but the Constitution does.

And speaking of Christians . . .

4. Will this recession finally end the commercialization of Christmas?

I wonder how many pastors out there are taking advantage of this economic downturn — in which many families are toning down the gift-giving — to remind people that Christmas (or Hanukkah for that matter) was never about gift-giving. Bill O’Reilly is wrong about the “war” against Christmas — it isn’t about political correctness and those who say “Happy Holidays!” That’s merely a surface distraction, in other words, O’Reilly’s bread and butter. The true war against Christmas is the commercialization of it. When you’ve got a list of gifts to buy a mile long and it takes an hour just to find a parking space at the mall, who has time to reflect on family and friends, the year gone by and the year ahead, and, most importantly, what the holiday truly means. I don’t hope to have another recession like this one any time soon. The abstention from gift-buying may be a sign, for many families, of economic duress, but I hope at least some embrace the idea that you don’t have to buy anything to make this of all holidays worth celebrating.

And speaking of celebrating . . .

5. Is Tyler Hansbrough the greatest Tar Heel of all time?

Well, no. At least, it’s arguable, but the boy has scored more points than any other player who has worn Carolina blue and that is as great an accomplishment as any in college basketball. It’s a record I don’t expect to be broken again in my lifetime, which is exactly how old it was (30 years) until yesterday, when Hansbrough made it his with a little more than 7 minutes to go in the first half. Besides, few of the players capable of it would stay in college long enough to see it through. That’s what’s great about Tyler — he is a quintessential college player. He loves college life. He may not go on to be an NBA star, but in this game, he is one of the best.

I’m glad I got to watch him break the record. I hope I get to watch him win it all in March. Go Heels!

Are you ready for some football? Week Pro Bowl selections

I’ve been neglecting the Broncos — well, sort of. I’ve been watching the games the last few weeks (it’s not exactly a choice in this household), but I haven’t been live-blogging the games as I planned to do at the beginning of the season. Part of the problem is that live-blogging requires sitting in front of the TV keeping your eyes and mind on the game for the full 3-plus hours. That’s a long time for someone with a short attention span like me. Yes, there are a bizillion commercial breaks and time outs but just sitting there for that long is hard enough.

Also, the season has been bizarrely schizophrenic. One week the Broncos are playing well against a playoff team like Tampa Bay, and the next week they lose to Jacksonville and follow that up by getting smashed by New England. One week they beat Atlanta, another potential playoff team, and the next week the lose a not-even close game to the 3-win Raiders and follow that up by beating the Favre-led Jets in Jersey. Who are these people and why are they forgetting to eat their Wheaties every other week? Sigh.

This past Sunday, the Broncos could have clinched their division. Instead, though, the Chargers somehow scored 12 points in less than two minutes and won, keeping their hopes of blaming the season on referee Ed Hochuli, whose bad call in Week 2 is going to loom large in San Diego’s playoff elimination if it comes down to a single loss. No matter, right? The Broncos are still in Sunday if they put away the Carolina Panthers, the ones who started the pre-season darling, surely Super Bowl-bound Chargers on their lost season with a last-second touchdown in Week 1. But alas, the Broncos didn’t want to make it easy on themselves, or Hochuli, I suppose. So we’ll see what happens this weekend.

In the meantime, there is some good news to be had for Broncos fans. Receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler have made the Pro Bowl!

Isn’t Cutler single? Maybe while he’s in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl he can romance a wannabe professional surfer who moonlights as a housekeeper at his hotel and give her a pep talk about getting sacked by Warren Sapp and throwing his first good NFL pass, which is just what she needs to get a perfect 10 during the big surf competition at the end. (Yes, that is a Blue Crush reference.)

Anyway, congratulations guys! Wear sunscreen!