The following blog is brought to you with the acknowledgement that there are certainly more important things in life than receiving a window over a middle seat—but let’s give this a try…..

Flying on an airplane is an experience that mirrors everyday life. You meet great people, you meet strange people and oh you run into your share of highly irritating people.

I have been on great flights, horrible flights and even flights where I met one of my top clients—its like my man Forrest Gump would say “you never know what you’re gonna get.” During the Holiday season, the odds seem to be against all of us.

A new survey from TripAdvisor found 83 percent of the more than 1,000 air travellers asked believe people have become “ruder” over the past decade and a lot less considerate of the feelings of others.

airline passengers pic

Their biggest complaint – parents who let their kids run wild at airports and on planes. That is certainly up there on my list but I have two bigger beefs with many of my fellow passengers.

How about those loud talkers who have no idea that maybe, just possibly everybody is either trying to sleep, read a book or just relax for a few hours??! That’s why the new mandate to allow cell phones on planes could become America’s newest nightmare—most people I talk to agree…

My other top pet peeve when flying is the protocol of getting off the airplane. I just love when every row is methodically departing then you have a random, often a rookie or just ridiculous passenger cut in line (sometimes in front of an elderly lady or a mother with her baby) and precede to leave the plane either not caring or not knowing what they just did??

So maybe after the stewards and stewardesses read all the FAA rules and regulations they could give a warning to clueless parents, loud talkers and linecutters???  My lead rant in this week’s trip around the Naborhood.

ST NICK: Friday the 13th was hardly unlucky for Roll Tide Nation. Nick Saban gets more money and hence more years in Tuscaloosa. I don’t think it was as simple as that though…..

The conspiracy theorist in me is going crazy with this one. The Saban headlines the past few weeks seemed to intensify by the day while surely stealing a lot of Auburn’s thunder. Yeah the fact that Gus Malzahn won the National Coach of the Year award not to mention Auburn’s hype for playing in the National Championship dropped to page 2 in the ole sports section. This– during the height of recruiting—coincidence??

A few weeks ago I thought the only way Nick Saban would bolt from Tuscaloosa is if a potentially great NFL job came calling and I still think that potential is alive and well. See exhibit Carroll Pete as an example of a Saban like coach whose only empty mark on the resume was failing at the pro level–one day I think Saban returns like Carroll did.  The Texas rumors have been out there awhile but I always considered Austin a lateral move— but really nothing Saban would do would truly surprise me.

He hardly bent over backwards to diffuse all the Longhorn chatter. I asked his quarterback AJ McCarron this week if he would be surprised if Saban would go to Texas and he didn’t emphatically say “no” even though he later said he believes he would stay. McCarron in the end told me he chooses to “stay out of his coaches business.”

Nick Saban

So Mack Brown is now left with a fighting chance of keeping his job? This may surprise many but Brown and Saban are actually the same age—both are 62 where Mack is only two months older than Saban despite the fact he looks about 10 years older. My point is Brown still has the same hunger as St Nick despite being in an entirely different situation. Many figure Brown will leave Texas and ride off into the sunset…I’m not buying that.

I maintain Brown deserves credit for building Texas back into one of the premier jobs in the country even though they have dropped off recently. Its worlds closer to being a national power  than the mess Saban inherited when he took over for Mike Shula in Tuscaloosa. I won’t fault Texas for wanting younger blood the same as I wouldn’t fault Saban for ever leaving T-town— just don’t put Alabama fans what you put Dolphin fans through….

HEISMAN HEROES: Its unbelievable to me the roll the Heisman Trophy is on. Not one sophomore won the award in the award’s first 72 years and then three straight sophomores win it. Then no freshman ever won it since they began striking the post back in 1935—now it seems we are assured of having two straight freshman winners!!

My friends at Disney’s Wide World of Sports do a great job of giving us access to College Football’s Biggest Stars at the end of every regular season. I’ve covered these pressers the past eight years and its a chance to get to know these guys away from those often uptight press conferences. Here is what I took away from this year’s get together beginning with the likely winner who a year ago was anonymous even among many FSU fans.

JAMEIS WINSTON—His media setting was prefaced by an FSU official saying the questions should only be about football—translation—nothing about the issues he has faced off the field recently. With that in mind, my first meeting with Winston, I was surprised how big he is and came away impressed how this redshirt freshman handles himself.

winston (2)

I predict he will be left off more than a few ballots for some voters but would be shocked if the Seminole doesn’t win by one of the largest margins ever. He told us he actually won a Heisman before—- as he gave himself one for dominating the NCAA Football EA sports video game back in 2006. Good stuff and for perspective–Winston was in middle school back then….he actually turns 20 the same day FSU plays Auburn for the National Title.

JOHNNY FOOTBALL: I have always been a big defender of Johnny Football—don’t understand why critics pile on so much. After an offseason where he was a daily headline and/or punchline, and continuing with a rough start in the season opener with his antics at Rice—its been crickets for Manziel.

Asking him what changed, Manziel tells me his lifestyle–he’s stopped tweeting, doesn’t go out as much and has learned how to stay away from the spotlight. The local guys who cover him in College Station tell me he has only talked to the media about once a month during this season and rarely even talks after games. Manziel has laid low….

This new found approach should help him in those NFL eyes where inevitably Manziel will be heading in a few weeks. Johnny Football says he is a better quarterback a year after winning the Heisman and the stats back it up where he has more passing yds and remarkably seven more touchdowns. I asked him the biggest area he has improved and he told me his accuracy—-it would be accurate to say he will be a 1st round pick—it will be interesting to see how high he will go.

AJ MCCARRON: I’ve always appreciated the Alabama quarterback where he was my preseason pick to bring home the Heisman. The All-Time winningest QB at Alabama will go down as the best signal caller the school has ever had and that is quite a statement. While Winston deserves to win the Heisman, it would have been interesting to see how McCarron would have finished, if he would have led a dramatic overtime Iron Bowl win over Auburn instead of losing a classic heartbreaker. I’ve maintained AJ can make all the throws and will be a better NFL quarterback than a lot of people think—those I know at Alabama agree. Don’t lump him in the same catagory as Greg McElroy and John Parker Wilson—he will be a better pro.

IRON MIKE: Have always loved Mike Ditka, probably because I never had to cover him. He could be rough with the media, as my New Orleans friends would attest but at least you know where you stood with him. It amazes me that the Bears waited till 2013 to retire his number. While the timing was odd, the scene was perfect. You don’t want to retire Ditka’s number in sunny fall weather—you wanted tough, brutal, and brisk conditions for a coach who was all of the above.

ditka pic

My one interaction with Ditka was when I was a Sports Anchor in Tampa, he came by my station to do a segment with me, promoting some male enhancement product. I talked with Ditka in our green room and asked him why he didn’t run against Barack Obama in the 2004 Illinois U.S. Senate race? He basically said he couldn’t in the end picture himself controlling his temper in the political arena. That would have been great theatre. He was tired that day but a good sport and a great storyteller.

Speaking of Ditka–this week was the 28th anniversary of the Super Bowl Shuffle. Can you imagine any team being that bold in today’s social media climate? Ditka’s Bears reflected their leader and amazingly recorded that classic just weeks before backing it up with a playoff run and an eventual Super Bowl Title. I personally loved the cheesy song and have always loved Ditka—-truly a one of a kind.

TOP DRINKERS: States are often ranked in terms of education, property taxes and other important issues–well I have a new one for you thanks to loyal blog contributor, Trace Trylko.  In the “spirit” of the  80th anniversary of the Prohibition, the ratification of the 21st amendment to the Constitution, we have an interesting state survey.  Though havng a drink has been legal nationwide for decades, some states have retained their zeal for restricting American’s right to partake. Others states are more lenient.

drinking pic

So which states are the best for drinking and which are the worst? Here’s the findings by TIme magazine’s Chris Matthews:

The Best

1. Missouri There’s no place better in the country to get your drink on than the Show-Me State. Missouri has no restrictions against open containers, and the only places it’s illegal to be drunk in public are occupied schools, churches or courthouses. While localities can pass laws banning public intoxication, it’s prohibited for cities and towns to require arrest for such offenses.

2. Nevada: Nevada has a deserved reputation for enlightened attitudes towards the sin industries. Similar to Missouri, there is a ban on local laws that make public intoxication illegal. Alcohol can also be purchased 24 hours a day, 7 days per week by any business that’s willing to keep those hours, and in places like Las Vegas, there are plenty of vendors that fit that description.

3. Wisconsin: Wisconsin’s cultural affinity towards beer and brewing is well known, and it has helped encouraged the state’s lax liquor laws. State law only prohibits sale of liquor between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., and minors under the age of 21 are legally allowed to drink as long as they are accompanied by parents, guardians or spouses of legal drinking age. That’s right, one way to avoid needing that fake ID is marriage!

The Worst

1. Utah: Many of the restrictive drinking laws around the country derive from a religious skepticism of alcohol, and Utah’s strong religious culture has helped motivate the passage of sundry drinking restrictions. Only beer with less than 3.2% alcohol by weight can be sold in grocery and convenience stores or on tap. Like a strong drink? You’re out of luck in Utah, as cocktails can only contain 1.5 ounces of a primary liquor, while alcohol can’t be purchased in restaurants without food. Oh yeah, keggers are out of the question too, as keg sales are prohibited.

2. Massachusetts: Massachusetts is well-known for its many colleges and universities, but the state’s laws seemed aimed at preventing these students from having very much fun. Out of state drivers licenses aren’t acceptable proofs of age under state law, meaning that out-of-state visitors can get turned away from bars. Bars are also prohibited from  allowing drinking games on their premises, and perhaps worst of all, happy hours are banned state wide.

3. Pennsylvania: If you’re not from the Keystone State, stocking up for a party can be a pretty confusing task. All wine and liquor sold in the state are done so by state-owned liquor stores, which don’t sell beer at all. If you want a six-pack of brews, you would think that a “beer distributor” would be the place to go, except that those establishments are only allowed to sell cases. For anything less you have to go to a restaurant with a liquor control board-issued license. Got all that? Me neither. Who needs a drink?

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT: The Holidays are meant for catching up with family and friends but my recent reunion at the Baseball Winter Meetings was unexpected and unreal. Who is the first person I see?? None other than my boyhood idol Bruce Bochy? Bruce Bochy? Yep growing up in Titusville Florida in the 70’s and 80’s I stiff armed the likes of George Brett and Mike Schmidt for a journeyman catcher who reached out to a budding baseball fan.

My first exposure to baseball was when my Dad started taking me to Cocoa Astros games. They were the single A minor league affliate of Houston and Bochy was their starting catcher. After getting his autograph, me,my Dad and Bruce would talk several times before games and once when I was a Bat Boy we even got to play catch. I  followed his progress all the way to when he made it to the show. My Dad and I remarkably even saw Bochy’s first Major League Home Run in person at the old Astrodome.

What was remarkable about Bochy was he was the least likely guy to make it but this slow grinding catcher worked hard and after a seven year Big League career, has gone on to be one of the most successful managers …ever. He has been employed since 1995 first with the Padres and now with the Giants where he has two World Series titles and counting.

34 years ago I took this picture with Bochy….



34 years later it was time for another one—still much shorter than the current Giants skipper.


Christmas came early for me, forget Pete Rose and Steve Garvey–Bochy will always be my guy—it was great to catch up and I’m proud of his success.

EXTRA POINT: We close out on a coach who like wine gets better with age. Good ole Steve Spurrier weighing in on his defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney‘s recent 110 mph speeding ticket, ” I didn’t know Jadeveon’s car could go that fast. He doesn’t have a pretty car like those FSU guys used to drive.” C’mon that’s funny—even my FSU friends have to admit that–good to see the Head Ball Coach hasn’t lost his fastball.









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