Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Sign of a Merry Christmas

Hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas. I am making this wish because we are still in the season; in fact, it is day three of "The Twelve Days of Christmas".

More than that, I hope you may have received one of those gifts that surprise and illuminate your life in a new and surprising way. It's the sort of gift that teaches something valuable. How fitting it is that such a gift can come at Christmas!

Such a gift may be a total surprise, and probably didn't cost much, either. I was lucky this Christmas, I received that very sort of gift from my Parents. It was a book entitled, "Mighty Fitz, the Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald", by Michael Schumacher. The book is recently done, copyrighted in 2005.

I have always had an interest in the Edmund Fitzgerald, ever since I first heard Gordon Lightfoot's song in September 1976. It seems Mr. Schumacher may have had a similar experience, due to the fact that much of his work revolves around documenting music and musicians. At any rate, during the afternoon lull that frequently comes around Christmas Day afternoon, I started reading the book. Once I started, I could not put it down!

The author managed to flesh out the crew in a personal way, bringing them to life in a way that was new to me. But more than that, Mr. Schumacher traced in captivating detail the events of the days just before the wreck, describing the work and decisions that all of those who were associated with The Fitz performed, things that all of us who have been in the business of transportation do, almost by rote. But, the fascination comes out of the results of those deeds when cast onto the stage of the unique events of November 9th and 10th, 1975 on Lake Superior.

Not stopping at that ppoint in the story, the reader is then guided thru the investigations of the Coast Guard, the NTSB, and even the efforts of Jacques Cousteau's Calypso. Numerous deep dives were made and recounted.

If you, like me, have ever been involved in the Investigation of a Railroad Rules Infraction, it is very interesting to see how these things work in such a context. The demands of Insurance Companies and others that the cause be immediately determined, in spite of winter conditions on the Big Lake, simply cause you to nod your head as you sympathize with all who went thru those horrible hours during the tragedy, as they did their jobs and then had to retell their stories within the legal framework that was required. They knew, and we know, that nothing would be determined until the next Spring.

As we now know, even the following Spring would not reveal any answers.

It is hard to comprehend that today, we are fully thirty years beyond the tragedy that has been called, "The Titanic of The Great Lakes". Those thirty years have not been enough to allow the families and friends of the twenty-nine men on the crew to heal. The author reminds us of that, as he describes the legal situations that accompanied the raising of the Ship's Bell, or how one person went to Whitefish Point to claim a small amount of Lake Superior water that hopefully contained a loved one's DNA.

Read this book. Then go to the websites that are noted. You will learn much about human nature, about how captivating these five Great Lakes are to many, about how legal investigations can become so irritating, and how much risk there is in the simple act of transportation. And, you may never look out to the horizon from the shoreline of one of the Great Lakes in quite the same way ever again.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ohio State, Florida, BCS, and SEC

The BCS Title Game is set. All of us who care a lick about College Football know that Ohio State will take on Florida for the title of National Champion. I've heard all the arguments for and against the Gators being in this game.

Valid: The idea of a rematch between the Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines is not desireable. What if Michigan wins? Should there be a best two-out-of-three between these two teams? But the major issue, at least as brought up by one poster on another blog, is that the rematch would not be as financially lucrative to the BCS as another game. I heard alot of spin from the media-types as they tried to justify Florida as #2, but what it all boils down to is whether or not the voters wanted a rematch. And whether there is more money to be made with one team over another.

Not valid: The idea that the Southeastern Conference is the best in the US is just another old and worn out idea from years ago, just like how invincible any college team from Florida is.

One of the favorite mantras of all SEC fans is how much better their teams are than the Big Ten.

Honestly, I am not as upset about Florida playing in the Championship Game as I am about how all these pundits and so-called experts keep saying how the SEC is the toughest conference going. I will grant you that they are even from top to bottom, but I am convinced that had Ohio State, Michigan, or Southern Cal been in the SEC, either of the three teams would have been the conference's champion.

Example: Let's look at the last eight Outback and Capitol One Bowls (or whatever those Bowl Games were once known as), where the Big Ten faced off directly with the SEC.

Over the past eight years, the Capitol One Bowl record shows the Big Ten has a 5 to 3 advantage, and one of the SEC wins was an overtime game that could have gone either way. The Outback Bowl is even and 4 to 4, but once again, the SEC secured one win in overtime.

Last year did not look good for the SEC. Check the results, Wisconsin beat the pollster's darling Auburn by a lopsided 24 to 10 score. And Iowa beat LSU 30 to 25. Poor Big Ten, they really don't measure up to the SEC, do they?

So, now. Just for fun, let's see how this year's Bowl schedule might resolve itself.

Independence Bowl, Oklahoma State versus Alabama: Could go either way, but if the Okie State team that beat Nebraska and barely lost to the Sooners shows up, Alabama will be in for a big surprise and a long game.

Music City Bowl, Kentucky versus Clemson: Another game that depends on who wants to play. The team that feels better about being here will probably win.

Liberty Bowl, Houston versus South Carolina: Edge to South Carolina because of Spurrier.

Chick-fil-A Bowl, Virginia Tech versus Georgia: Who besides the most rabid SEC fans think that the Bulldogs, who barely beat the hapless Colorado Buffalos at home, have much of a chance? The short trip for UGA will help, but not nearly enough.

Cotton Bowl, Nebraska versus Auburn: This is a step up for the Cornhuskers to a bigger bowl, another chance for them to show everyone that they are back. Tommy "I should have stayed in Oxford" Tuberville will find a way to lose again. Nebraska will want this game, and so will their fans, and that will make a difference.

Outback Bowl, Penn State versus Tennessee: Is there any more of an overrated team than the Volunteers? They beat a worse than average Air Force team by one at home! I am so tired of everyone saying, "But we beat Tennessee". Penn State always overachieves in Bowl Games, chalk this one up as a win for the lowly Big Ten.

Capitol One Bowl, Wisconsin versus Arkansas: Please. This might be the mismatch of the season. Wisconsin is mad that teams like Boise State and Notre Dame and Wake Forest are in a BCS Bowl. Arkansas is only glad to be here. Result: The Badgers roll. Big Ten two, SEC nothing!

Sugar Bowl, Louisiana State versus Notre Dame: This looks like a lock for the SEC, but, as Lee Corso says, "a game that will be closer than the experts think". One big advantage for LSU is the short trip from Baton Rouge to the Big Easy.

BCS Championship, Ohio State versus Florida: Meyer got his wish, on January 9th, he will wish that he didn't. There is no way that Florida wins a sloppy game against Ohio State. Jim Tressel is the best game day coach in the country. This game will remind fans of the Nebraska romp over Florida a few years ago. Don't compare this Florida team with the Ohio State team that beat Miami of Florida for their Title a few years ago, this Florida team doesn't have the Coach that OSU has.

So, what are we at now? I see the once mighty SEC winning three Bowl Games and losing six, with the Big Ten winning three to the SEC's nothing. That's my prediction. Mine is as valid as Mark May's, only he has the ESPN camera and I don't.