Thursday, May 27, 2004

Excited About This? I'm Not

So maybe you’re excited about the men’s and women’s basketball doubleheaders Iowa State will be playing in 2005 and 2006 at the Iowa Events Center/Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

I’m not.

Oh, those games beat the kick in the head that Dean Martin kept singing about a few years ago, but Des Moines should demand more.

What we need in the new arena are two Big Four tournaments. That means Iowa State, Iowa, Drake and Northern Iowa would all be playing men’s and women’s games there on successive weekends.

On one weekend, we could have this men’s doubleheader on Friday night: Iowa against Drake and Iowa State against Northern Iowa. On Saturday night, the losers would play the first game, the winners would play the second game.

The winner of the second game would be the tournament champion, the winner of the first game would take third place.

The arena would be full both nights. Fans from all four of the state’s Division I schools would make sure of that.

Hey, let’s make it an event.

The next weekend, those same four schools would also play a women’s doubleheader on Friday night. Let’s match Drake against Iowa State and Iowa against Northern Iowa.

Again, the losers would play Saturday night for third place, the winners would play for the championship.

The following year, the matchups would change. Indeed, change them every season.

It’s a can’t-miss project. A Big Four tournament is something I’ve been proposing since the late Maury John was coaching at Drake more than 35 years ago and before there was ever a Hilton Coliseum or a Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Des Moines and the four universities should make it happen, and it wouldn’t need to alter any of the other scheduling. There’s nothing wrong with Iowa playing Northern Iowa twice in one season, or Drake playing Iowa State twice.

It sure would beat bringing in schools from other parts of the country with hyphenated names and then scrambling to peddle tickets.

The Medal and the Flag

This article was carried in last Saturday’s Cedar Rapids Gazette:

MARENGO – Ervin Koehn’s nephew went halfway around the world to bring
back a battle flag to mark his uncle’s 85th birthday.

Koehn, who now lives in the Rose Haven Nursing Home in Marengo, worked as a combat medic in the Philippines during World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star medal, but never picked it up.

Koehn’s nephew, Lt. Col. Mark Maly of West Des Moines, took the flag along on one of the missions he flew in Iraq. Maly, 43, a United Airlines pilot, has been in and out of Iraq several times with the Iowa Air National Guard.

Koehn treasures the flag, according to his son, Dan Koehn of Cedar Rapids.

He and his family will hold an open house for Koehn’s 85th birthday Sunday at the American Legion Hall in Marengo. The Legion will present Koehn with the medal at that time.

[NOTE: Erv Koehn is my brother-in-law, Mark Maly is my son. It was a great celebration last Sunday in Marengo].

Big Nate Was ‘The Man’

An Iowa fan who goes by the handle “TucsonHawk” on the Internet sports chat lines had some input after Bob Nicholas was critical of those who weren’t happy with Hawkeye quarterback Nate Chandler (Nicholas’ nephew) last fall.

Here’s TucsonHawk’s e-mail:

“Great work on Big Nate.

“I hope those comments made on the Internet boards were early on because he simply got it done as time went on.

“Nate wasn’t the best QB to wear the uniform, but he may have been one of the faster learners. I always felt he was the best man for the job and, of most importance, he helped bring home the goods.

“Following Brad Banks didn’t help matters with regard to the expectation of fans.

“If anyone is still in denial, let’s look once again at the record, the teams we beat in the regular season and the resounding victory over Florida in which we were overmatched at his position we certainly didn’t have a chance to win.

“I’m proud of that kid for hanging in there when it was clear to some naysayers that he just couldn’t get it done.

“Well, he did. I want to let the relative know that by far the majority of Hawk fans appreciate what Nate did for us last season. In fact, I think most fans wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He was the most experienced and knew the offense.

“He was the man….and Kirk Ferentz stuck with him, to his credit.

Here’s a Movie I Can Pass Up

I don’t go to many movies these days, and now I’m starting to figure out why.

I was scanning the online edition of USA Today earlier this week when I came upon this headline:

Exclusive look: Meet those crazy ‘Fockers’

That tends to get your attention, doesn’t it?

Especially the “F” word.

The article, written by Claudia Puig, went on to say that a movie scheduled to be in theaters Dec. 22 is titled “Meet the Fockers” and is the sequel to the 2000 hit “Meet the Parents.”

[NOTE: I didn’t see “Meet the Parents.” But I’m sure Puig is right in calling it a hit. After all, if it’s in USA Today, it’s got to be right. Just ask Jack Kelley, a former foreign correspondent at the paper, who had a history of fabricating stories].

“Meet the Fockers” has a cast that includes Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, among others.

“Streisand and Hoffman play the Fockers (pronounced Fawkers), the parents of male nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), who is engaged to Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo),” Puig wrote. “In this film, the free-spirited Fockers meet the uptight Jack and Dinah Byrnes, played again by Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner….”

Puig doesn’t bother to explain how a family in the movie got to be named “Fockers” to those of us who haven’t seen a movie since “Miracle.” But, hey, I’m sure glad the family name is pronounced “Fawkers” instead of some other way.

I guess it wasn’t cool for Streisand and Hoffman to be called the Carlsons or the Joneses.

Maybe putting the name “Fockers” in the title will sell a few more tickets, right?

I guess I should ask Jody Crossman about all of this. She always seems to know.

Paying at the Pump

Sarah, not her real name, from Grimes, not her real hometown, sent this e-mail:

“When Ron got home late last night, his wife demanded he take her someplace expensive. So he took her to the gas station.”

Missing the Putt

This golf story comes from George Wine of Solon. I can’t swear how true it is:

A nun was sitting with her Mother Superior, chatting.

“Mother Superior, I used some horrible language this week and feel absolutely terrible about it,” the nun said.

“When did you use this awful language?” asked the elder.

“Well, I was golfing and hit an incredible drive that was going to go 280 yards, but it struck a phone line over the fairway and fell straight to the ground after only 100 yards.”

“And that’s when you swore?”

“No, Mother,” said the nun. “After that, a squirrel ran out of the bushes and grabbed the ball in its mouth and began to run away.”

“And that’s when you swore?” asked the Mother Superior.

“Well, no,” said the nun. “You see, as the squirrel was running, an eagle came down out of the sky, grabbed the squirrel in his talons and began to fly away!”

“Is that when you swore?” asked the amazed elder nun.

“No. As the eagle carried the squirrel away in its claws, it flew near the green and the squirrel dropped my ball.”

“Did you swear then?” asked Mother Superior impatiently.

“No, because the ball fell on a big rock, bounced over the sand trip, rolled onto the green and stopped two feet from the hole.”

The two nuns were silent for a moment.

Mother Superior sighed.

“You missed the goddam putt, didn’t you?” she said.

And Finally…..

An 11-year-old eastern Iowan named Nicholas asked his grandmother to name a word that begins and ends with “e” and has one letter in it.

His grandmother, who normally has all the right answers when it comes to her grandchildren, came up blank this time.

“Envelope,” explained Nicholas.

Vol. 4, No. 235
May 27, 2004

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Uncle Bob Is Proud of Big Nate

Uncle Bob started his e-mail to me this way:

“This is a note from a proud uncle.

“My nephew, ‘Big Nate,’ as he was so aptly called (usually connected with swear words in your neck of the woods) is alive and well in Buffalo.”

Big Nate is Nathan Chandler, the quarterback who led Iowa’s football team in total offense last season but never was able to win over the Hawkeyes’ fans.

Uncle Bob is Bob Nicholas of Huntington Beach, Calif.

“I just can’t understand it,” Nicholas wrote. “People with addresses like Super Hawk Fan, etc., punking my nephew. For what? Sure, he had a few rough starts, but a 10-3 record with the first January bowl win in almost 50 years and a final ranking of No. 8 in the nation. Go figure.

“Nate would be the first to say they were team wins, and they were. However, he did his part. Nate’s a class guy. Ask a real fan that I saw give Nate a souvenir Outback Bowl ball to sign with trembling hands in Mr. Chandler’s motel room in Florida.

“That guy knew quality and got to experience it up close and personal. I know his long drive home was easy. But, still, probably not as easy as some turd talking smack on the Net.”

Megan Cross of called attention to Chandler a few days ago.

“With all of the attention and focus on first-round draft pick J. P. Losman and veteran Drew Bledsoe, Bills fans may not have heard too much about free agent quarterback Nathan Chandler,” Cross wrote.

“On April 26, 23-year-old Chandler agreed to terms with the Bills along with 17 other undrafted free agents. While Chandler may have gone undrafted, he stood tall during his collegiate career.

“At 6-6 (and) 257 pounds, Chandler was 165-of-308 for 2,040 yards with 18 touchdowns while leading the Iowa Hawkeyes to a 10-3 record and an eighth overall ranking in 2003.

“’I come from a winning program in Iowa,’ Chandler said. ‘As a quarterback there, I sought toughness, competitiveness and overall winning.’

“As a senior in 2003, Chandler was selected to the team Leadership Council. This is a characteristic that he would like to carry over to the Bills.

“’Hopefully, I can bring an aspect of leadership and also encouragement from my teammates,’ Chandler said. ‘Whatever role I am able to fit into with this team, I just hope it’s one that lifts my teammates up and helps the program improve.’

“Chandler feels that his strength is understanding the game and being able t pick up the offense, a trait that is going to be very important coming into a new system.

“’At this point, it’s a brand new ballgame,’ Chandler said. ‘I’m just trying to adjust to this level. To have the opportunity to watch and learn first-hand from a proven veteran quarterback is more than a rookie can ask for.

“’Being able to learn from a veteran like Drew Bledsoe, who’s been through this process and has been in some big games is great. He’s a big-time quarterback and a great guy to be able to watch….’

At the recent rookie mini-camp, Chandler got a little taste of Buffalo and what it’s all about.

“’I enjoyed being able to participate in mini-camp,’ Chandler said. ‘It was great to see the support that Buffalo gives its team and just the quality of the organization. It was fun to be able to get out there with guys that seem bigger than life on television.’”

Added Bob Nicholas: “I’m glad to see anything positive in print regarding Nate.

“It seemed like most articles and comments in the past really didn’t do him justice (and much of the time were negative, lukewarm or worse….hurtful). (Last) year his dad flew me back to watch the ‘real thing.’ I was at Kinnick Stadium, a few rows back on the 40-yard line behind the Hawk bench at the Michigan game. Wow!
“Now, I’ve been to a Super Bowl (Rams vs. Steelers), a few Rose Bowls and different games of every kind and level. The personal connection combined with the awesome aura of overwhelming Big Ten football (and, I might add, a fantastic win) left all other sports events (of which I am a lover) in distance second place. Wow again!
“I’m very proud of Nate, not just for his athletic accomplishments. Heck, he’s already gotten to live a fantasy that most only dream of, even if his football career ends tomorrow, but more for his on and off-the-field character. His only real problem on the field is trying too hard and thus making some bad choices….Off the field, you’re not going to read about Nate getting into trouble. He is a product of very Christian moral values….”


I’m wondering which Big 12 Conference coach will get fired first—Colorado football coach Gary Barnett or Missouri basketball coach Quin Snyder? Both deserve to get canned, and I hope it happens very soon.


Don’t believe what you read in the local paper, or any other paper, about Tim Floyd--who was recently fired as the New Orleans Hornets’ NBA coach--becoming an unpaid assistant to Larry Eustachy at Southern Mississippi.

The local paper, in its desire to not let facts get in the way of a story, led off its “In the Loop” segment on Page 2 of the sports section Sunday with an item that first appeared in the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald.

The story said Eustachy “announced last week that Floyd would join him at Southern Mississippi as a non-paid assistant coach.”

Both Floyd and Eustachy, of course, are former Iowa State head coaches.
The editors at the local paper were horribly careless, which isn’t unusual. The story they put in the paper about Eustachy and Floyd came three days after the Associated Press carried a story that said, “Floyd denied a report he would become an unpaid assistant for his friend, Larry Eustachy, at Southern Mississippi.

“’He doesn’t need any help,’ Floyd said. “I told somebody that I would be watching a lot of their practices and games, but I’m going to be watching a lot of teams’ practices and games.’”

My guess is that we’ll soon see Floyd as a collegiate head coach again. That’s where the man belongs.


Moises Alou hit a home run to win a game for the Chicago Cubs last night, then his teammates streamed out of the dugout to congratulate him.

Possibly because of Alou’s recent comments that he urinates on his hands to toughen them for batting purposes, I noticed that no other Cubs were shaking his hand after the home run.

But all of the players—Alou included—began jumping up and down and hugging each other at home plate.

Maybe there’s more to this Cub story than a guy peeing on his hands. It could be there are other problems that none of us knew about.

What’s So Good About Page 2? Very Little

Getting back to Page 2 at the local paper for a minute.

It seems some genius suddenly discovered that Page 2 was important, both in the sports department and the real-news department.

I guess that’s why “10 Questions for Ricky Roundtable” or some such ridiculousness has suddenly become a big deal.

The people editing Page 2 in the sports department tried for several weeks to convince readers to write letters so they’d have something to put in the space. But evidently no one was interested in writing letters. At least none appeared.

My guess is that people have lost interest in writing to the paper and having to wait a week or so to find out how much the letters were edited or if they’d appear at all. In the computer age, sports fans have become too accustomed to getting instant attention by doing their writing in chat rooms.

Consequently, the local paper is one of few in the nation that does not print, or possibly not even receive, letters from readers.

That, my friends, is very embarrassing to someone who recalls the highly-charged letter-writing by readers that went on in the old Opinion Page in the very good sports sections of years gone by.

Vol. 4, No. 234
May 20, 2004

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Biggest Challenge: Staying Sober

Congratulations to my friend Larry Eustachy.

Not only does he have a new job, he’s also stayed on the wagon for more than a year.

Frankly, I’m happier that he says he hasn’t had an alcoholic beverage since April 23, 2003 than I am about his new job as Southern Mississippi’s basketball coach.

Heck, I always knew he’d get another job. He’s too good a basketball coach not to have one.

Staying sober will be his biggest challenge. It always is for any recovering alcoholic.

In my earlier writing life, I covered Eustachy and his Iowa State basketball team during the 1998-1999 season. His break-in year with the Cyclones wasn’t particularly impressive. His overall record was 15-15, his Big 12 Conference record was 6-10. Iowa State finished ninth in the standings.

I’ve always felt it’s better that coaches and the sportswriters who cover them keep their distance during the season. And that was the way it pretty much was when I covered Eustachy.

I visited with him a lot when I was lucky enough to catch him in his office at Hilton Coliseum at Ames, and I saw him in interview rooms before and after games at home and on the road.

I’ll admit I had heard that Eustachy liked to have something of an alcoholic nature in his orange juice after games.

The subject came up early that season when I was visiting with Adam Thompson, a pleasant young sportswriter who then was working in Ames and now works in Denver.
Thompson had gone to Utah to do a profile on Eustachy just after he’d been hired by Iowa State away from Utah State.

Thompson had talked with someone—I think it was another sportswriter—who told him that people out there suspected Eustachy was spiking his post-game orange juice with something alcoholic—probably vodka.

Eustachy didn’t realize they had those suspicions, but often the drinker is the last to find out.

I’ll admit it. Whenever Eustachy would show up in an interview room in that first season at Iowa State, I looked for the ever-present bottle of orange juice in his hand and wondered what else was in it.

Some people also began wondering what Eustachy had in the soft drink can that he kept drinking from during games. As far as I know, no one found out.

But I never saw Eustachy drunk in that season I covered him. I went to lunch with him a number of times, and when the waitress would say, “What can I get you drink?” he never ordered anything alcoholic.

Maybe it was because I was there. But I’d rather think it was because he was in a working situation.

I’ve written in this column in the past about how Eustachy showed up at our mid-week sportswriter lunch gatherings in West Des Moines, and paid for everybody’s food.

Alcohol was available in that restaurant, but Eustachy never had any.

During one visit, he was on his way to the airport for a recruiting trip. That would have given him a reason to have a snort of something or other because he disliked flying. But he drank hot tea. Straight hot tea.

When Eustachy was hired for the Southern Mississippi coaching job recently, he talked about how he had “bottomed out” and that he would always be a recovering alcoholic.

I wish him the very best as both a recovering alcoholic and a basketball coach.

Is the Wrong Alford Leaving Iowa’s Staff?

Some people have mixed emotions about Sam Alford’s Aug. 1 retirement as director of basketball operations at the University of Iowa.

“I’m glad he won’t be sitting on the bench next to Steve (his son, who is Iowa’s head coach),” one guy explained. “It always made me nervous when Steve turned to his dad—looking like he was searching for coaching advice—during Iowa games.

“On the other hand, I think the wrong Alford is leaving the Iowa staff.”

Excitement in a Phone Booth

A suburban man – Donald Leslie O’Malley, not his real name, who sells life insurance, not his real occupation, and is from Johnston, not his real hometown – claims this is a true story.

He was in a phone booth in downtown Des Moines the other day, trying to talk to a friend.

Suddenly, a woman pulled the door open, barged into the booth and tried to take the telephone book out.

“I don’t know how many phone booths you’ve been in lately,” O’Malley told me. “But there’s really not enough room for two people—especially a full-grown adult male and a hefty woman.

“I also don’t know what others who were watching thought when they saw that scene.”
Well, Donald, they maybe thought something was going on in there that couldn’t be described on a family website.

O’Malley said the woman couldn’t get the phone book out of the booth because it was attached to the wall by a chain. So she stayed inside the booth, leafing through the book.

O’Malley said he asked the woman if she was trying to contact the police or something. He said he’d get off the phone if it was an emergency.

“No, but I’m trying to get the Department of Corrections,” she woman said.
O’Malley added that the woman said, “Son-of-a-bitch this and son-of-a-bitch-that” while failing to find the number she wanted.

So what did O’Malley do while all of that was going on?

“I continued talking to my friend,” he said.

Just another day in the phone booth, I’d say.

News Like This Always Leaks Out

I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up to date with Moises Alou’s recent adventures in the National League or not.

News has leaked that Alou, the Chicago Cubs’ 37-year-old left-fielder, has a strange way of preparing his hands for the long, 162-game regular season.
He urinates on them. Apparently often.

Alou is one of few major leaguers who don’t use batting gloves, so it’s easy for calluses to form on his hands. But Alou told that urinating on them avoids the calluses.

Ever since Alou’s comments were printed, he’s been the butt of all sorts of jokes both in and out of baseball.

Dusty Baker, the Cubs’ manager, said fewer guys are shaking hands with Alou these days. I’m not sure how many players are high-fiving him either.

Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post had another comment.

“The last thing you want to hear when you’re sitting in a restaurant is this: “Good evening, my name is Moises and I’ll be your waiter tonight.”

Remember Jon Lazar?

The Internet is, indeed, a marvelous thing. I’m reminded of that every day.
I received this e-mail from Jon Lazar:


“I came across your e-mail address, and I wanted to say hello to you. I always enjoyed speaking with you when I played at Iowa, and I never hesitate to say hi whenever I come across an old name or face.

“I see you are still writing and doing well. I am well. I live in North Carolina. I miss the Big Ten and Iowa City, as that place has so many memories for me. My football days gave me a lot of joy. Now my work days do….and children.
“Take care and let me know how you are doing.

“Jon K. Lazar”

[Iowa and Iowa State coaches got into a hot battle to recruit Lazar in the 1970s, and the Hawkeyes’ Bob Commings won over Iowa State’s Earle Bruce. Lazar lettered in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978, and was Iowa’s leading rusher in his final three seasons. He ran for 392 yards in 1976, 411 in 1977 and 423 in 1978. The ’78 season was Bob Commings’ final year with the Hawkeyes. Hayden Fry became the coach prior to the 1979 season, and Dennis Mosley became the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher that year. Mosley’s total was 1,267 yards. Iowa’s records in Lazar’s seasons were 3-8, 5-6, 5-6 and 2-9. Iowa State’s records under Bruce in those years were 4-7, 8-3, 8-4 and 8-4. The Cyclones went to bowl games in 1977 and 1978].

Is There a Ford in His Future?

What I know about a tulip can be put into a thimble.

But a few of us went to the Tulip Festival in Pella last weekend, and saw a show that was about as wholesome as anything I’ve ever seen.

Once I had my fill of Dutch Letters, I particularly liked the antique car display, where I noticed that a guy was showing a 1937 Ford coupe. The sight of that car went directly to my heart. A ’37 Ford coupe was the first car I ever owned.

In the summer of 1952, I paid $75 for it at a gas station near McKinley High School in Cedar Rapids. It was a V-8 with mechanical brakes. It could go over 100 miles per hour easily. I proved it many times on Sixth Street SW past Cherry Burrell.
Don’t forget, I was only 16. Kids my age did stuff like that then.

I was heading into my final semester at Wilson High School, and always parked the ’37 Ford on J Street to the west of the school. I pointed it downhill so I could let it coast and start the engine if the battery was low, which seemed to be often.
I pretty much went to school only in the mornings in that last semester.

In the afternoons, I’d drive the ’37 Ford to Martin’s department store in downtown Cedar Rapids, where I did everything from run the elevator to take the postage meter to the Post Office to try to listen to Iowa’s football games on the radio while working in the mail room. I was trying to make enough money to get through my first year at Iowa.

The fall of 1952 was, after all, Forest Evashevski’s first season as the Hawkeyes’ coach. I managed to hide out long enough in the mail room to hear most of the unbelievable 8-0 victory over Woody Hayes’ Ohio State team on Oct. 25 that fall.
I sure miss that ’37 Ford coupe now.

Vol. 4, No. May 12, 2004

[This is Ron Maly’s editor. He said I should insert a message in this column, saying he thinks the American male is always on the lookout for a version of the first car he owned. So I’m guessing that Ron is scouting around for a ’37 Ford coupe. If anyone has seen such a car that might be for sale, e-mail Ron at There’s just one hitch. Ron says he’d like to get the car for $75 like he did in 1952. “Only in your dreams, Ronnie boy,” I told him].