1. Ask me what I did tonight. Go ahead, ask me. ("OK, Squirrel Bait, what did you do tonight?"). Tonight, for my job, I took Amanda Beard out to dinner. Amanda Beard, the three-time Olympian with seven medals in swimming. Amanda Beard, who last summer was the most downloaded female athlete in the world (never has someone in goggles been so Googled). Beard is still a student at the University of Arizona, and though she seems to be on the Van Wilder graduation track, you have to admire that she's even attending school. It's not as if she needs to -- earlier today she closed on a 3,100 square-foot crib west of Tucson (you can almost hear it now: "Party at Amanda's house!"). Anyway, Beard could not be more delightful or down to earth if she were the person on a reality show that you actually rooted for. I really like my job.
2. Driving to pick up Beard at her current home, I passed the U.S. Handball Hall of Fame. The very existence of this building presupposes that there is a famous handball player. Sorry, no one's coming to mind. If you're planning a vacation around visiting the Hall, be advised that parking is limited. I spotted four spaces out front.
3. My wallet? A rubber band double-wrapped around two credit cards, a driver's license and an ATM card. I never worry about losing my wallet.
4. In March of 1995 I was sent to Buffalo to cover the Division III national championship basketball game (which is another way of saying that I don't think you'll see me getting an SI cover billing on a story any time soon) between the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Manchester (Ind.) College. I mention this only because of the game's two coaches. UWP's coach was a 47 year-old lifer, a likeable, entertaining guy who seemed destined to remain bypassed by D-I hoops despite his success. Manchester's coach was a 20-something riser who was far more famous than any of his players. Today both of them are head coaches in the Big Ten. UWP was coached by Bo Ryan, who won four national championships with the Pioneers before getting his big chance at Wisconsin. The Badgers have yet to lose a home game under him. Manchester's coach was Hoosier-hero Steve Alford, whose Iowa Hawkeyes (14-4) nearly upset the No. 1 Illini last week. If you're curious, Wisconsin-Platteville beat Manchester that night.
5. Last Saturday I hosted the fifth annual Johndance Film Festival, a salute to cinema, cabin fever and one sportswriter's self-delusional megalomania. Basically, it began five years ago as a way to escape a winter afternoon in New York City by inviting friends over to watch movies, eat and drink all day. We call it Johndance -- after Sundance. Like any Hollywood gala, the afternoon starts with an air of electricity ("Who are you wearing?") but by the third or fourth movie in, when a nimbus of flatulence hovers over the room and you realize you've just spent two hours of your life watching Chuck & Buck that you'll never recover, you begin to thank God you aren't Richard Roeper. For the record, this year's films were, in order of showing: The Maltese Falcon, Murder By Death, Felicity (pilot episode; one of the chicks brought it), Collateral, Withnail and I, and Slapshot.
6. Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart's decision to remain at USC for his senior year overshadowed the story of many stud underclassmen coming out for the NFL draft. Florida will lose its top defensive player, linebacker Channing Crowder, as well as leading rusher Ciatrick Fason. Ball State wideout Dante Ridgeway, who led the nation both in receptions and receiving yardage, is coming out. As for running backs, besides Fason, who was 19th in the nation in rushing, Louisiana Tech's Ryan Moats (7th), Oklahoma State's Vernand Morency (8th) and Minnesota's Marion Barber III (18th) are also all coming out. Of course quarterbacks Alex Smith (Utah) and Aaron Rodgers (Cal) are on the list as well.
7. Television City game: What's the largest U.S. city that has never been the setting of a television show (drama or sitcom)? Here's my list of TV-friendly metropolises (not including Metropolis, from Lois & Clark) thus far:
Baltimore: Homicide Boston: Cheers Chicago: Good Times (or ER) Cleveland: The Drew Carey Show Dallas: Dallas Detroit: Home Improvement Houston: Reba (I'd prefer not sharing how I knew this) Los Angeles: Melrose Place Miami: Miami Vice Milwaukee: Happy Days Minneapolis: Mary Tyler Moore New York: Seinfeld Phoenix: Alice Philadelphia: Angie Portland: Hello, Larry Sacramento: Eight is Enough ("Oh we spend our days/like bright and shiny new dimes ...") San Francisco: Too Close for Comfort Seattle: Frasier St. Louis: Lucas Tanner (OK, I'm reaching on that one) Washington, D.C: The West Wing
Without giving it too much thought, I couldn't think of a show that was set in Atlanta, I don't know exactly where Hazzard County is supposed to be; Denver, Mork & Mindy lived in Boulder; or New Orleans. I really should think about taking some continuing education classes, no?
8. The 'Cuse is 20-1 and just think, Carmelo Anthony would only be a junior for the Orange right now. Scary.