Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Despite the 4-Month-Old Joke, Fuson Will Do Well

As you know, I’ve got correspondents all over the place.

After all, this column doesn’t just wake up in the morning and automatically become the well-oiled, smooth-running machine it appears to be.

Everything depends on me getting a lot of help.

To name just a few of my helpers, there’s my “West Coast Correspondent,” my “Eastern Iowa Correspondent,” the reader who prefers to go by “Pissed Off in Pocahontas,” the very dependable “Singapore Correspondent” from that far-away place, a guy who refers to himself simply as “Rural Iowan,” the sharp-eyed "Eastern Iowa Woman," the sharp-tongued “Alive in Clive” and, of course, the famous “Greta in Graettinger.”

There are eight or nine others-—"Priscilla From Pisgah" and “Hi, This Is Crazy Chris From Coralville" among them--who have strong opinions and don’t mind sharing them with me.

This is the time of year when a number of those folks come out of the woodwork, out of the machine shed or just out of the car after driving back from a two-month snowbird stay in Florida.

I mean, “Eastern Iowa Correspondent” has spent the last couple of months trying to figure out how Steve Alford and his Iowa basketball team went from having a 12-1 record in December and was en route to the Final Four to wondering how soon his dad—Sam Alford, I mean—is going to come out of retirement so he can help the kid keep his $800,000-a-year job.

“Eastern Iowa Correspondent” also said in an e-mail to me that news is traveling slowly these days.

You used that line several months ago about how Alford’s teams and Kirk Ferentz’s teams have something in common—they both peak in November,” the guy wrote. “Ken Fuson just used it now.”

I had to check ol’ Kenny’s most recent column in the local paper to find out what “Eastern Iowa Correpondent” was talking about.

It turned out that Kenny, a good friend of mine and a guy I predict will thoroughly overshadow Dave Barry when it comes to writing funny stuff, used the “Peaking in November” line to help illustrate how simple it is to be a humor columnist.

Actually, I heard the "Peaking" line from Bob Brooks, the radio and TV sportscaster from Cedar Rapids who did the play-by-play on the first football game Iowa ever scheduled—a 24-0 loss to Grinnell on Nov. 16, 1889.

Brooksie and I sat next to each other on press row at the Drake-Iowa game Nov. 30 in the Knapp Center when the Hawkeyes won, 91-75.

By the way, on that historic day 116 years ago when Iowa had its first football game, Jim Zabel and Ronald Reagan were sharing the "Sound Off" responsibilities at the WHO-radio studios in Des Moines. Jim Walden was bringing them coffee.

Here's the start of my Dec. 1, 2004 column that was headlined:

Iowa's Ferentz and Alford Have Something in Common

A guy who spends a lot of time around the University of Iowa’s football and basketball scene was telling me this one before the Hawkeyes demolished Drake, 91-75, last night at the Knapp Center:

“There’s a joke going around that Kirk Ferentz, the football coach, and Steve Alford, the basketball coach, have something in common,” the guy said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Both of their teams peak in November,” he answered.

Now, I know Ken Fuson is a busy guy and probably didn’t realize I used the “Peaking in November” line in my column last December. And I suppose Diane Graham--who reads all of my stuff--was asleep at her desk, so she couldn't tell him.

Heck, if he had asked, I gladly would have given the "Peaking" line to Kenny at the time. Anything to help out a fellow columnist, you know.

Here’s what “Eastern Iowa Correspondent" said in his e-mail to me:

“I see Ken Fuson wants Steve Alford to "be a gentleman and go quietly" without demanding a big buyout. He also anonymously [thank God] quoted me about Alford and Ferentz having one thing in common -- their teams both peak in November. That line must be circulating, because I don't even know Fuson. How long has he been doing a column? He wasn't writing one when we left Iowa in late December.

“I haven’t heard anything that indicates Alford is all done. The Iowa wrestlers took some pressure off him by placing fourth in the Big Ten meet, their worst finish in 38 years. Hey, that goes back to the days of Eric Wilson! Thank God for Kirk Ferentz and his football team.”

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: Even though I've written plenty of times that Alford has outworn his welcome in Iowa City, I agree with "Eastern Iowa Correspondent" that he'll be back for another season. But if attendance at Carver-Hawkeye Arena doesn't improve big-time next year and if Iowa doesn't get into the NCAA tournament when Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner are seniors, it'll be adios, Stevie-boy. As for Eric Wilson, he was Iowa's very first sports information director. When he was doing publicity work, not all of the football players were wearing helmets and none wore face-guards. As for the Hawkeyes' wrestling program, where's Dan Gable when he's needed? As for Ken Fuson, he's in the early stages of being the local paper's replacement for Dave Barry, the syndicated humor columnist. Kenny will do just fine. As I said earlier, Barry's humor can't hold a candle to the stuff Fuson will be writing once he gets on a roll].


Is Jeanette Trompeter gone yet?


A reader e-mailed me with this comment:

"Is there any question about who is No. 1?"

The reader then sent me a copy of Richard Cirminiello's ratings of Big Ten football coaches in Here they are:

Best Coach – Kirk Ferentz, Iowa – If there was any doubt Ferentz was among the Top 5 coaches in college football, he put that to rest in 2004. With no healthy scholarship backs on the roster, he turned the offense over to young quarterback Drew Tate, leaned on his defense, and willed the Hawkeyes to an eight-game, season-ending winning streak. After three straight ten-win seasons, Iowa is a legit national power, which is why Ferentz is the target of nearly every athletic director and NFL GM with a vacancy.

Most Underrated – Joe Tiller, Purdue – It’s been so long since Purdue stunk, it’s easy to forget how Tiller rescued the program eight years ago. He’s put the Boilers on the next rung below Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten, and has appeared in more bowl games than all other Purdue coaches combined. Tiller will always favor the pass, but has proven to be so much more than just a great coach for producing fantasy numbers.

Most Overrated – Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin – For good reason, Alvarez will forever be a legend in Mad Town, but back-to-back Rose Bowls in the late 1990s shouldn’t give him lifetime immunity from criticism. The Badgers have been eminently average the past five seasons, struggling to find balance on offense, and dropping at least one game as a heavy favorite every year.

Coach on the Hot Seat – Joe Paterno, Penn State – JoePa isn’t going anywhere until he says so, but the scrutiny he’s been feeling from the media and the fans is going to intensify with another season of mediocrity in Happy Valley. Penn State has been in a five-year freefall, prompting many to wonder aloud if the coach should step aside. Paterno has the defense to get back to the Big Ten’s first division in 2005, but desperately needs more production from his offense.

Bucking for a Promotion – Glen Mason, Minnesota – Mason has won at places like Kansas and Minnesota, where his talent and depth were always a couple of tiers below the conference elite. Although he’s yet to get them over the hump, he has helped make the Gophers an annual factor in the Big Ten. Mason has owned Joe Paterno since 1999, and could wind up replacing him whenever the legend decides to step down.

Best Offensive Coordinator –Terry Malone, Michigan – The Wolverine offense has been one of the nation’s most explosive balancing acts since Malone assumed his current position three years ago. He’s also one of the game’s better recruiters, landing the top in-state prospect each year since 2001.

Best Defensive Coordinator – Brock Spack, Purdue - No conference has a better collection of defensive coordinators, so you could finger Jim Herrmann (Michigan), Norm Parker (Iowa), Tom Bradley (Penn State) or Bret Bielema (Wisconsin), and not look foolish. At a school better known for its quarterbacks, Spack has done a magnificent job of annually taking athletic defenders and transforming them into a stingy, opportunistic unit.

Best Off-season Hire – Ron Zook, Illinois – Scoff if you must, but Zook was miscast as the replacement to a legend like Steve Spurrier. In a pro town where the pressure’s dramatically lower, he’s liable to surprise people. Zook will still get out-coached some Saturdays, but he’s already brought a much-needed energy boost and a crack recruiting staff, led by Mike Locksley, to Champaign.

Worst Off-season Loss – Rob Ianello, Wisconsin – Charlie Weis didn’t want Ianello in South Bend because of his work as a tight end coach. He wanted him because he’s widely regarded as one of the premier recruiters in the country. Ianello has been a recruiting coordinator at Alabama, Wisconsin and Arizona, earning attaboys at every stop.


If somebody can explain to me what that story in the local paper said the other day about Mediacom's Chicago Cubs' telecasts this season, e-mail or call me. The thing was too confusing to those of us who had our sportswriters' lunch today at the Oriental restaurant in West Des Moines. When those deep-thinkers can't figure something out, you know it's written poorly.


Susan Chandler of the Chicago Tribune writes today:

"They're talking about it at Boeing Co. headquarters. They're trying to figure it out on Yahoo's Boeing message board. They're speculating about it on Capitol Hill.

"Who is the female Boeing executive who had an affair with Boeing Chief Executive Harry Stonecipher?

"Stonecipher, a 68-year-old married man, was forced out of his job Sunday because of a consensual sexual relationship with a Boeing executive who did not report to him. The affair was of relatively recent origin, having started in January, Boeing Chairman Lewis Platt told reporters Monday.

"But the Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer wouldn't name the female executive or provide any more details about her relationship with Stonecipher, except to say that she was a long-term Boeing employee, and she is still with the company.

"On Tuesday, Boeing said it isn't through looking into her role.

"An investigation into her actions is continuing," said a company spokesman. Among the things being looked at is whether the executive may have traveled at company expense or spent other company money in connection with the affair.

"An investigation into Stonecipher's actions determined that he hadn't misused company money, Boeing said Monday.

"Stonecipher was brought back from retirement to reinforce ethics at Boeing and restore its reputation with its largest customer, the Pentagon. The affair was uncovered after an anonymous tip from an employee, the type of internal vigilance that Stonecipher had encouraged.

Boeing doesn't have an explicit policy that prohibits employees from dating or having extra-marital affairs. Stonecipher was let go because the romantic entanglement "reflected poorly on Harry's judgment," Platt said, and because embarrassing details could hurt the company if they came out.

Employment attorneys said Boeing is being prudent by not taking action against the female executive until it knows the facts....."

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: Poor old Harry Stonecipher. They bring the guy out of retirement, and then he has a problem like this. Well, hell, maybe it's not a problem after all. Don't forget, Harry is 68. I'll bet there are plenty of 68-year-old guys who'd like to have his problem. For all I know, the guy's next job might be as an actor in the erectile dysfunction commercials that talk about the difficulty associated with having those 4-hour erections].


My "Singapore Correspondent" e-mailed me this AP story he noticed on the website:

Field of Dreams still draws fans

Town offers other attractions to stream of visitors

DYERSVILLE, Ia. (AP) -- More than 15 years after Ray Kinsella built it, people still come to the Field of Dreams.

Just like Shoeless Joe Jackson, throngs of baseball fans -- 65,000 a year -- are drawn to Dyersville to see the ballpark Kevin Costner's character built in a cornfield in the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams."

The field reopens for the season April 1, two days before the first major league baseball game takes place. But while the famous cornfield is by far the town's biggest attraction, there are many other things to do and see here.

Dyersville calls itself the "Farm Toy Capital of the World." Here you'll find the National Farm Toy Museum, doll and woodcarving museums, and several companies that manufacture die-cast replicas of farm equipment -- Ertl, Scale Models and SpecCast. Annual toy shows held in November, March and June also draw visitors.

"All the other attractions were here before the Field of Dreams," said Karla Thompson, executive director for the Dyersville Chamber of Commerce.

Dyersville is also home to the St. Francis Xavier Basilica, built in 1889, featuring twin gothic spires, 64 windows and a marble foundation beneath the altar. Services are held every Sunday, including two in Latin. "People come up from Des Moines (190 miles away) just for the Latin mass," Thompson said.

The National Farm Toy Museum opened in 1986, three years before the movie. It features over 30,000 toys and exhibits with tractors, implements, trucks, miniature farm dioramas, and toy manufacturing information.

"The higher the detail, the less 'toy' they become," said Anne Reitzler, the museum's manager. "They become more collectible."

On March 19 and 20, the Farm Toy Museum welcomes the Midwest Toy Truck show, a smaller version of the bigger show held each November, which typically attracts 8,000 to 10,000 people. The Summer Farm Toy Show is scheduled for June 3 to 5.

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: I took batting practice at the Field of Dreams park a few years ago when I visited there. Try as I might, I couldn't hit the ball into the cornfield. But I hit several pitches to right-centerfield that would have been singles and doubles. Sign me up, coach].

Vol. 4, No. 317
March 9, 2005