Archive for August, 2013

How do You Attract More Boys to Your University?

August 30, 2013


Tomorrow in Macon, Georgia, Mercer University fields a football team for the first time since 1941.  The team that it be playing, Reinhardt University of Walesa, Georgia, is playing its first game ever. Why are they doing it?

From what  I have  read, the school’s presidents say the same things that other university presidents are saying all over the country.  Football programs enhance the educational experience, raise a school’s profile, and attract more  students.  Mercer has its largest freshman class ever this year. How many girls do you think pick a school because of football?    

Of course, the football programs may also make  money  for  the schools.  But, that’s not a given.  The big  programs at schools like Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn make millions, but more small universities lose than make money on their programs.

11,000 fans are expected to show up for  the Mercer-Reinhardt game tomorrow, by the way. The stadium has 10,200 seats.  Will Mercer win the first game it has played in 72 years?  Who knows?  All we know is that Mercer has about 8,000 students, and Reinhardt has a little over 1,000.  Reinhardt has no record  since it has never played a game.  Mercer does have a record.  It won 3 and lost 6 games in 1941, the last year that it had a football team. 

Maybe Israel Should be Giving the United States Foreign Aid

August 28, 2013

Opher Aviran, Counsul General of Israel to the Southeast United States, with Dr. Tim Mescon, President of Columbus State University, who introduced him  to the Rotarfy  Club of  Columbus.

Opher Aviran, Counsul General of Israel to the Southeast United States, with Dr. Tim Mescon, President of Columbus State University, who introduced him to the Rotary Club of Columbus.

Opher Aviran, Consul General of Israel to the Southeast Eastern United States,  spoke to Columbus Rotarians about the close ties between the United States and Israel.  He spoke of the mutual economic benefits of American-Israeli trade connections,  using, as example,  how Israel’s high-tech development community contributes  to American businesses that  have facilities in Israel. I have read Israel does have some really talented digital whizzes.

Perhaps the  relationship’s working the best for Israel.  Their national economy is in much better shape.  Their national debt as a percent  of their  Gross National Product is less than 75 percent.  Our national debt’s percentage of our GNP is 106 percent.

We give Israel about $3 billion a year in foreign aid, which is the most we gave  any country between 1976 and 2004.  Maybe it should be the other way around.   To  be fair, a lot of that $3 billion goes to American arms manufacturers.  You could say it’s just another way of subsidizing the military-industrial complex.

Maybe our government should just stop sending money gifts to any  Mideastern ountry.  What  are we getting for it?  The country that we buy the most oil from, Saudi Arabia, doesn’t need handouts from the U.S.

Then there is the  military factor to consider.  What have we gained by spending almost $900 billion on the war in Iraq?  Actually, according to  a paper by Linda J. Bilmes of Harvard, the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will total somewhere between $4 to $6 trillion when you factor in longterm  medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replacements, and social and economic costs.  Our government says the Iraq war is over. If that’s the case why are we still pouring money into it?  We’ve budgeted $5.2 billion for it this year. 

Cruise missle

Cruise missle

What are we going to gain by sending $1.4 million Cruise missiles into Syria?  I guess it will give a boost to Raytheon, who now  manufactures those missiles.  We’ll have to buy some more to replace the ones we use. Will we raise taxes to pay for them? Of course not. We’ll just have to borrow some more from China.  Well, we could just transfer the funds from Medicare and Social Security.  It would be interesting to see the political fallout from that since the millions who have paid money into those insurance programs would be affected.

And those Cruise missiles may just be the beginning of the cost of getting mixed up in that civil war.  We don’t know what the consequences of attacking Syrian targets may be.  You just never know until you do it.


August 26, 2013

Mercer University Cranks up Football Again and Will Play Georgia Tech

Yes, after 72 years, Mercer University goes back into the football  business. College  football is a business, one that makes good money for the coaches and the schools, but not the players, who take the greatest risks by putting their bodies in harm’s way.

When I was attending Mercer, I  heard some tales about how the school decided to drop football after the  University  of Georgia beat the Bears 100 to 0 in Porter Stadium in Macon in 1941.  That tale turned out to be apocryphal.  I checked out the records, and the score was only 81 to 0.   It was Georgia Tech that ran up the biggest score against Mercer,  105 to 0 in 1914;  however, Mercer did beat  Georgia Tech in the first game Tech ever played.  In 1892, Mercer beat Tech 12 to 6.  It never beat  Tech again.  Mercer’s first game was also Georgia’s first game.  Georgia won 50 to 0, and Mercer never beat Georgia over the 49 years that they played. (They didn’t play every year.) And as far as dropping football because of the Georgia score, that’s not  the reason given. Mercer suspended all sports during World War II. It considered restarting  the football program after the war, but decided the $50,000 it would cost was too much.

Georgia Tech has agreed to play a non-conference game with Mercer as its 2016 season opener.  Tech says it is doing it to show  support for college football in Georgia.  That’s why it agreed to also  play Georgia Southern. Mercer will probably lose the game, but the money  should be good since Bobby  Dodd Stadium at Grant  Field holds 55,000 people and the TV money (if this  game is televised)  ain’t chicken feed.  Mercer’s new stadium will seat 10,200.

Mercer will play in the NCAA Division 1 Pioneer League this year.  It’s a non-scholarship league similar to the Ivy League which is also an NCAA Division 1 league.  That’s just for this year. Next season the team will move to  the NCAA Division 1 Southern Conference, which is a football scholarship league.

Mercer’s first game is in Macon Saturday against Reinhardt, which is located at Walesa, Georgia, which is near Alpharetta. .  This year the Bears will be playing schools as far away as California and New York.

The  big question is why the school  decided to do it. President William Underwood is quoted on the Mercer football website as saying, “This kind of college football will enhance our academic reputation by aligning us with other outstanding universities that compete in Division I non-scholarship football and by making Mercer even more competitive in attracting the most sought-after students.”  I suppose that  reasoning will still hold true when the team switches in 2014  to  the Southern Conference, which is an athletic scholarship league.    


Did America’s Got Talent Show the Worst Side of Human Nature by Exploiting Crying Children?

August 22, 2013

All right, I admit it.  I watch the low-brow reality shows America’s Got Talent,  American Idol, So You think You Can Dance, and Dancing with the Stars.  

I said low-brow, but not all of the material is low-brow.  For instance, the dancers on So You Think You Can Dance are, for the most part, anything but  low-brow.  Most of them are  trained  in classical and modern ballet and are impressive artists.

I have gotten to where I watch very little of American Idol. All of that yelling they call singing turns me off. However, some of the young performers demonstrate their considerable talent when they perform standards.

Also, I don’t consider expert ballroom dancing low-brow, and a lot of the dancing on Dancing with the Stars is  expert.

Some  of the acts on America’s Got Talent are classy, also.  Yes, there are sword shallowers, contortionists, magicians, and snake-handlers, but there are also impressive opera singers, symphonic-type orchestras, very talented dancers and musicians.

However, I was not at all pleased with the exploitation of young children being humiliated for the sake of money-making ratings.  Brother and sister Ruby and D’Angelo were pitted against  each other. D’Angelo and Amanda, incredibly talented ballroom dancers, won over Ruby and Jonas.  The cameras took tight closeup shots as the results were given and lingered on Ruby bursting into tears.  When asked how he felt about winning, D’Angelo said he felt terrible because his sister lost, walked over to her, hugged her and started crying himself.  Before it was over, all four of the kids were crying. All of this in front of millions of viewers. A friend of  mine said that incident represented the worst of human nature. I believe if not the  worst, certainly close  to it.  And, as one commentator wrote, “The buck stops with the parents.”   


Another Island of Hope in a Sea of Hollywood Flotsam

August 19, 2013

When I  read this  morning that Lee Daniels’ The Butler was number one in the weekend box-office results, I felt like shouting for joy. I just love it when a quality film that  relies on a story well told more than special effects, gratuitous violence,  and endless very loud crashes attracts profitable audiences.  It made $25 million.  It cost $30 million to  make. It should easily be turning in an impressive profit by next weekend.  Hopefully that will encourage the making of more movies like it.

The review in the Ledger-Enquirer found a lot of fault with the film and gave it 2 1/2 stars.  What a bunch of nonsense.  If there was ever a movie deserving of at least 4 stars,  Lee Daniels’ The Butler is it.

The  screenplay was inspired by the true story of African-American White House butler Eugene Allen, who served seven presidents. It follows the civil rights struggle from 1952 when Dwight D. Eisenhower, played by Robin Williams,  was president through the election of Barack Obama.

It depicts the butler’s relationships with the presidents during the Federal desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas,  the Nashville sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panther Party, the Vietnam War, the Nixon  resignation, the Free South Africa Movement, and President Obama’s 2008 presidential  campaign.

The movie’s all-star cast includes five Oscar winners and one nominee.  Forrest Whitaker plays the  butler, Opra Winfrey plays his wife, and  David Oyelowo plays his eldest son. Supporting actors include Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding  Jr., and John Cusack.

It’s very well done.  I was moved.  Don’t  pay any attention to the review in the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Music is Back

August 17, 2013

And you are invited to hear it at the River Center

Dr. Scott Harris, Director of the Schwob School  of  Music

Dr. Scott Harris, Director of the Schwob School of Music

The highly talented student musicians and their first-rate teachers are in place and the wonderful music is about to begin.  The Schwob School of Music, one of the finest in the world, is getting down to cases, and we are about to be offered a slew of wonderful concerts, most of  them  free of charge, and the new Director of the school, Dr. Scott Harris, wants to  see big crowds of music lovers showing up for the concerts.

At the school’s Opening Convocation today, Dr. Harris gave the school’s students as assignment.  He wants each of them to get four students from their main campus classes to come  to at least one student concert.  He is reaching out because he is concerned that the audiences for quality music are declining.

Some of that quality music was demonstrated at the convocation when violinist Sophie Wang blew us away with an incredible virtuoso performance of Gypsy Airs by Pablo de Sarasate.  It was a brilliant performance.  Baritone Byron Mayes, guitarist Alejandro Olson, and flutist Nancy LaChapelle also gave first-rate performances.

You can read all about the school and the upcoming schedule of perfroamces at this link.

It’s Monday, so I Have to Post Something

August 12, 2013

Well, I don’t really have to.

I have a choice.

We all have the freedom to choose.

That’s what the existentialists tell us.

Are they right?

Some say no.  They made the choice to believe in determinism.  We have been conditioned from birth.  That conditioning determines how we think and act.  Since they have the freedom of choice to believe that they can.

The existentialists also think we live in an absurd world.  Observation tends to back up that premise.

They also believe that life is meaningless, that each individual must give meaning to his or her life.

Where did I learn all that?  I already knew it to some extent, but the person who made the easiest to understand is a former Baptist preacher who decided to stop preaching and learn more about philosophy.  He has become an existentialist, but he still attends a Baptist church. That’s not as far-fetched as it may sound.  Being an existentialist doesn’t necessarily mean you are an atheist.  The man credited with starting the movement, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaarrd, said he was a Christian.

Turns out there different types of existentialists, Christian, atheists, and a few others.

Am I an existentialist?  I think I lean in that direction, but I’m not sure I buy into all of it.  After all, I have the choice to determine whether I do or not.

And I made the choice to post something today because I have stated that I will  try to post something by Monday of each week.  I made the choice to keep my word.  I did give myself an out by using the word “try.”

The Most Unusual Funeral I Have Ever Attended

August 9, 2013

It was truly unique.  It was also very moving, especially for anyone who had played in a Bob Barr directed Jordan Vocational High School Red Jacket Band.  I was one of  the few in the Evangel Temple sanctuary who had done that.   I was in the original Bob Barr Jordan band that was formed in 1946 when he came to the school.  Jimmy Cross, who died this week in Newnan of heart disease,  became a member about six years later. 

More than 20 years ago, Jimmy, along with other Jordan band alumni, formed an alumni band to play at a Jordan-Columbus football game half-time show that memorialized Bob Barr shortly after he died.  My contribution was to announce the show on the public address  system at Kinnette Stadium.  So many Jordan alumni showed up that the stands were packed. When the band came on the field playing the band’s signature “St. Louis Blues March,”  the crowd jumped  to its feet cheering.  I almost couldn’t speak my next lines I was so moved.  I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of tears in that  stadium that night.  My article in the July, 1991 issue of  Reader’s Digest tells the story.

  The band did not disband after that night.  It morphed into the Bob Barr Community Band, which is now made up of alumni from many high schools,  and, at Jimmy’s request it performed at his funeral.  He was also a member of the 17-piece Cavaliers, which also performed today at his funeral.   

It was a Christian service, but none of the songs played were hymns.  The Cavalier’s opening number was “Stars Fell on Alabama,” one of Jimmy’s favorites.  It also  played Count Basie’s swinging “Good News,” another  of his favorites.  For the closing number, most of the Cavaliers players got up and joined the Bob Barr Community band. 

Gene Kelley, who played first-chair trumpet and was the JVHS band president when I was the drum major, wowed the crowd in  the stands at a Jordan half-time show in 1947 when he played a solo of “Stormy Weather.”  It was so popular that he did it again the next year, and it became a tradition and the band’s first-chair trumpet played it for a number of years.  Jimmy played it when he became first trumpet.  Before Gene died he asked Jimmy to play it at his funeral, which he did, and today it was played for Jimmy by Bill Edwards and the community band.    

Following the service, the band played a 25-minute concert, which did include a hymn, and ended with the band playing the “St. Louis Blues March.”  Very special, indeed, for a very  special trumpet player, husband, father, grandfather, bank chairman, and, certainly not least of all, musician.

I’ve Lost Another Talented Friend

August 7, 2013

Jimmy Cross and I both played in a Bob Barr directed Jordan Vocational  High School Band.  I was in the orignal band that was formed in 1946.  Jimmy came a little later, in  time to go with the band to New York where it won the American Legion National  Band Competition in 1952. He played trumpet, as he did as a charter member of the Bob Barr Community Band . That  band will play at his funeral Friday morning, August, 9th, at 11 a.m. at the Evangel Temple on Veteran’s Parkway.  Jimmy died this morning.

He made his living in banking, retiring after serving a number of years as chairman of South Trust National Bank in Phenix City.

Jimmy was a talented musician and a fine friend. We’ll miss him.

As I mentioned in my last post, veteran Ledger-Enquirer reporter Connie Johnson died in an automobile accident in Columbus, Mississippi.  She was, in mjy view, a very talented reporter.

A Legendary Columbus Journalist Leaves Us

August 4, 2013

I just read on my old friend  John Cornett’s Facebook post where former Columbus  Ledger-Enquirer reporter Connie  Johnson died.  John was an executive at the L-E and worked with Connie for a long time. My old sailing buddy and former Columbus  Councilor Jack Bassett tells me she died in an automobile accident in her home town in  Mississippi a week ago. She was 89 years old. Her late husband Carlton was an editor. Both were top-flight journalists. The word that comes to mind is integrity.

Connie and I covered a lot of stories together, she for the paper and I for WRBL-TV.  Naturally, I usually broke the story before  she did because of the immediacy  of TV news, but she would always do a much  longer comprehensive report that contained things I wished I had the time to report.

People like Connie and Carlton represented responsible journalism at its best.  Not only did I admire and respect them, I liked them a lot.