Grasping for straws that stir the drink.

Month: November, 2011

The case for — and against — an Alabama-LSU rematch

Niles, Ohio — After No. 2 Alabama’s thumping of Auburn this weekend, the clear-cut choice to play undefeated LSU in the BCS title game is — Oklahoma State?

Mike Gundy and one-loss Oklahoma State need help from voters to vault to the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings.

But in a twist that’s as hypocritical as it is illogical, it appears Alabama will get an second crack at LSU

There are a few reasons why the Crimson Tide and Tigers will meet on Jan. 9 in New Orleans, and a few better reasons why Alabama shouldn’t get the chance.

Alabama won’t play for the title because it didn’t win its conference. Heck, it didn’t even win its division. I know, I know, the division (and eventual conference winner) will be LSU. That’s like saying Scottie Pippin was the second-best player on the Chicago Bulls, which is accurate, but only because he played along side Michael Jordan.

Conference winners play for BCS titles; conference runner-ups do not. Don’t believe me? Since 1998, when the BCS first started, all but two competitors in the championship game have won their conference. (The exceptions were in 2001, when No. 14 Colorado stunned No. 2 Nebraska during the last week of the regular season. Nebraska then lost to Miami in the title game; and in 2003, when No. 12 Kansas State shocked No. 1 Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Oklahoma then lost to LSU in the title game.)

Nick Saban and Alabama will likely get a second crack at undefeated LSU.

Alabama will play for the title because ESPN has rights to televise the game. ESPN, better known as the worldwide leader in sports, is also the worldwide leader in manipulation. This is an organization that still allows Craig James on the air following the Mike Leach fiasco in 2009.

LSU wasn’t the only winner in the early Novemeber matchup with LSU. CBS also reigned victorious in the Game of the Century, drawing 20 million viewers. It was the most-watched regular season game on CBS in 22 years.

If the same number of viewers watch an Alabama-LSU rematch, it would be the second-highest rated BCS game ever, behind Texas-USC in 2006, which drew 21.7 million viewers.

ESPN already has Gene Wojciechowski workforce lobbying for the rematch.

Alabama won’t play for the title because there is already a precedent. As any Michigan fan remembers, the Wolverines were denied a second chance to play undefeated Ohio State for the 2006 national title.

Michigan’s only loss? To undefeated Ohio State during the final week of the regular season.

One-loss Florida (lost to No. 11 Auburn earlier that season) jumped Michigan and skunked OSU in the title game.

But to be fair, Wojciechowski in 2006 also thought it was unfair that the Gators got the nod ahead of the Wolverines.

Think of it this way: if the debate is between undefeated LSU, one-loss Alabama and, say, one-loss Oklahoma State, what facts do we already know? Is Alabama better than LSU? No, because it lost LSU earlier this year. Is Oklahoma State better than LSU? We don’t know, because the two teams haven’t played.

Alabama will play for the title because it deserves a second chance. Nick Saban’s squad is 4-1 against ranked opponents this season. On eight occasions, the Crimson Tide have limited opponents to 10 points or fewer.

It limited LSU to three field goals in more than a game’s worth of action during its 9-6 overtime loss earlier this month.

Alabama won’t play for the title because Oklahoma State has earned the right to play LSU.

This, of course, is dependent on an OSU victory against Oklahoma Dec. 3, which would push the Cowboys record against ranked opponents to 3-0.

The computer rankings, as of the Week 13 BCS standings, had Oklahoma State ranked as the second-best team in the nation. The biggest detriment to OSU’s title hopes? The voters.

Alabama will play for the title because Nick Saban said so.

That’s a good enough reason for most.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.


Bad Business Decisions: Part II

Milton, Ohio — Any good businesses should subscribe to the adage, “Any publicity is good publicity.”

Especially when it’s good publicity.

But some business owners can’t seem to get over their irrational fear of the media.

Sure, the media screws up frequently, but ignoring the media altogether is one of the worst business decisions.

For a story that will run in Sunday’s Vindicator, I visited a small, rural township for an all encompassing story on how the area is changing economically, environmentally and structurally.

I figured it’d be a good idea to stop and talk with a local party store owner, but when I arrived, I was greeted by a worker who, after pitcher her my idea, told me the owner refused to speak with me because our paper “can’t get (y)our story straight.”

Which story?

What was wrong with it?

Care to elaborate?

Nope. The cowardly owner also refused to leave her back-room office.

Maybe the owner was previously wronged by another media outlet. Maybe it was the media’s fault.

This time, though, in a no-lose, free-publicity situation, the blame is solely on her shoulders.

I won’t name the owner or the party store.


Because any publicity is good publicity.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.

Gingrich, Romney lead GOP social media polls

Niles, Ohio — During the 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama smoked his competitor, Sen. John McCain, in more ways than one, including an area that had never before had an impact on the presidency — social media.

The young, tech-savvy voters were a driving force behind Obama’s presidential victory. According to this snapshot taken three years ago, Obama had nearly 380 percent more social media followers than McCain.

McCain has since taken a liking to Twitter, but it’s a remorseful case of too little, too late.

When it comes to Republicans in 2012, the party knows it needs a leader with a strong social media following and the ability to keep up with the latest trends.

How are they doing so far?

Not great.

During last Wednesday’s CNBC/GOP Debate, I compiled the total number of Facebook “Likes” and Twitter “followers” for each of the eight GOP candidates. (YouTube could be included, but most videos are distributed through Facebook and Twitter.)

The results, which you can see below, don’t differ much from the most recent polls. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich lead in the real-life and social media polls. The candidates have a combined 5 million followers; Obama has more than 11 million just on Twitter.

Remember, these figures were from a single snapshot in time. Like any poll, figures can change quickly. It’s also important to note that there is a reciprocity between a candidate’s success and the number of social media followers. If former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman had a campaign that was dedicated to social media, he may have a better standing in the polls. By the same token, if he had a better standing in the polls, he would have more social media followers.

But why exactly is a social media following important in politics?

For starters, it’s free advertising. Obama can tweet a YouTube video to 11 million people; no Republican candidate can match that. And Obama’s 11 million followers can help the president reach a greater number of nonfollowers through the retweet function.

This is especially crucial when GOP candidates Huntsman, Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gingrich have all struggled with finances at some point during their campaigns.

Many are projecting social media to be a big determinant of America’s next president.

If today is any indication, and if social media is the determining factor, Obama will get re-elected with ease.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.

Economy is sicker now than in 2009

Niles, Ohio — Once a month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tests the vitals of America’s economy.

The most important number is the employment figures — the blood pressure, if you will — that acts as the barometer. If the numbers are positive, they are generally met with a renewed sigh of relief, because for so long the economy has gone up, down, left and right, but never remained consistent.

While positivity is associated with advancement, in this metaphor, it’s more associated with a disease. America continues to test positive for a deplorable economy.

According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, if the current 90,000-new-jobs-a-month pace continues, “the labor market will never start putting the backlog of nearly 14 million unemployed workers back to work.”

It’s a sickening thought.

Consider this question: are we better off now than we were two years ago, at the trough of the recession?

Most Americans say “no,” but the numbers say “yes.”

The national unemployment rate in October 2009 was 10.1 percent; the rate in October 2011 was 9.0 percent.

Better, right?


While America has popped painkillers, masking the side effects of the disease, the disease itself has only gotten worse.

According to EPI, during “the last two years, the labor force participation rate dropped from 65.1 percent … to 64.2 percent.” That small percentage decrease represents about 2.3 million workers.

Simply put, if those 2.3 million workers remained in the workforce and today were counted as “unemployed,” the nation’s unemployment rate would be 10.4 percent, higher than two years ago.

America's population-to-employment ratio, the share of the working-age population that has a job, is worse than in 2009, the trough of the recession.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that by this time next year, the unemployment will continue to fall and reach 8.5 percent, well off President Barack Obama’s 2008 proclamation that under his watch, and with help from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the unemployment rate wouldn’t rise above 8 percent.

It’s unlikely that Obama, after nearly three years in office, can flip the switch.

The question now, one year from the 2012 election, is this: will Americans decide to give Obama more time to heal the economy (presumably with his national health care plan), or will they call in a different doctor with a whole new medical diagnosis?

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.