Saturday, October 29, 2011

A small revival of my childhood

The 1990s decade continues to fall further back in history with each passing day. But a ‘90s TV staple is now back – and hopefully here to stay.

On the night of October 27, “Beavis and Butt-head” returned to MTV with new episodes for the first time since 1997. Many of today’s youth were not even born when the cartoon was cancelled after seven seasons. But for someone who was a kid back then, it was awesome to see these rowdy teens back on the tube.

I had always wondered if Mike Judge would pull some new episodes out of his hat after “King of the Hill” ended its run on Fox in the spring of 2010. When the news broke in the summer of that year that a “B&B” return was on the way, I immediately updated my Facebook status with the exciting news and shared my enthusiasm with my roommate at the time.

The first new episodes, called “Werewolves of Highland” and “Crying,” were quite different compared to each other. Yet they were just what viewers expected out of Judge and the producers. “Werewolves” had a much more complex plot as the boys thought they had to be bitten by a werewolf in order to get chicks when the saw the movie “Twilight.” On the other hand, “Crying” was simply about how Beavis’ eyes watered when eating an onion and the fact that Butt-head poked fun at him about it for the rest of their lives.

It was great to see some familiar characters as well, with Mr. Van Dreesen, Coach Buzzcut and Stewart Stevenson making appearances. In addition, the voices of every character sounded just like they did in the show’s original run. People’s voices do change a bit over time, but obviously the voice actors for the show – especially Judge – don’t fall into that category.

MTV has been the subject of numerous jokes over the last several years about how the network still calls itself by letters that stand for “Music Television,” but it rarely plays music videos. This episode featured several current music videos and TV shows that air on the network with the boys making fun of them as usual. Their impressions of the “Jersey Shore” characters were spot-on – and funny.

We all know that things change over time. People move away. TV shows go off the air. Life is constantly on the move. But when something that so many people enjoyed in the past returns, it makes you remember how great it was and gives you a chance to enjoy it again. “Beavis and Butt-head” may just be an inane, time-waster of a cartoon to some people. But to me and others who grew up in the ‘90s, it’s a childhood attachment of ours. And it’s great to see it back on television.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How sports can unite a community

This past Sunday, ESPN aired an outstanding in-depth piece on Outside the Lines about how high school football has helped heal some of the pain that will be forever felt in Joplin, Mo. This is the town that was devastated by an F5 tornado in May and lost over 160 of its residents.

Joplin High School was essentially wiped off the map by the storm. Students are now attending classes at a nearby mall. But the school’s football field, which was off-campus, remained mostly intact and allowed for players to practice and eventually play football there. The story was narrated by the Joplin Eagles’ head coach and members of the team. They all said that it was their goal to have football bring some stability back to their tattered community.

Over time, sporting events have been shown to be incredible emotional boosts for those who have endured a significant misfortune in their lives. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, playing football and baseball helped bring people together, especially when the New York Mets hosted the first baseball game in the state following that horrific day. When Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans upside-down in 2005, football fans rallied around the New Orleans Saints – a team that was experiencing success for the first time in years. Quarterback Drew Brees seemed to be someone everyone looked up to at the time, and Brees has gained a reputation for helping others in the New Orleans community.

The fact that sports can unite a group of people in need of some good news is an interesting concept. It just goes to show how fun and exciting athletics can be. Whether it’s the play on the field, the mascot dancing to a song blaring on the loudspeakers, the cheerleaders throwing each other in the air or any other entertaining element of a game, it is a time when everyone in a community can gather in one place and have a great time. It also gives people a place to go and temporarily forget about some of the stresses of life that we all experience. For those in Joplin, these stresses have reached terribly high levels over the last few months. That is why they are so glad to have something to cheer about now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Newer college coaches means growing pains in Florida

Mid-October means we are in the thick of the college football season. At this point, it is starting to become clear who the frontrunners in most conferences will be come December.

However, for the first time in a long time, the state of Florida may not be a factor in these races whatsoever.

On October 9, the Associated Press released its weekly poll of the top 25 teams in the nation. After a streak of 472 consecutive polls, there was no team from the Sunshine State included in this elite group. This marks the state’s first absence in such rankings since 1982. And there are a few more schools in Florida playing in the FBS (formerly Division I-A level) than there were back then.

There is one glaring reason that could explain why this streak came to an end. The BCS programs at FSU, UF, Miami and USF all have head coaches in either their first or second year. In the meantime, the programs at UCF, FAU and FIU certainly aren’t making much of a case to pick up their big brothers’ slack.

But as St. Petersburg Times columnist John Romano points out in a piece on this subject, Florida is a hotbed of high school football players, many of whom have starred on national championship teams at the college level and on Super Bowl teams in the NFL. In fact, the state has produced 10 national titles in college football. Clearly, even to this day, the athletes are there.

The challenge then becomes attracting top players to these schools. It is much easier for an athlete to pick a school that has a well-established, successful coaching staff in place. It is less tempting to play in a program surrounded by uncertainty due to the newness of its coaches.

So, as college football enthusiasts living in Florida, where do things go from here?

The answer is hurry up and wait. Fans will have to be patient for another two, three, maybe five years before they see the Sunshine State’s teams consistently ranked among the top programs nationally. In addition, these new coaches will either prove themselves by winning conference championships or will be forced out due to a lack of progress. Because of the pressure to succeed at these tradition-rich schools, time is not on the side of these coaches.