Still Putting Lipstick on a Pig

It appears that we won't have to replace our entire staff after all. One key voice remained with us and didn't bolt for greener pastures. Of course, nobody else wanted him, but we applaud his loyalty to Cyclone Nation nonetheless.

             Heigh-diddly ho, Clone Fans!  Remember me?  No, I haven't resigned my position at Cyclone Nation (point of order:  You've actually got to HAVE a job before you quit doing it – The next paycheck I get from CN will be my first one.)  I'm still here, and much like Cliff Claven, I'm going to sit here nursing a cold beer & bore you with meaningless facts about ISU sports. 


            I wanted to write an article detailing my trip to Iowa City for the basketball game, but my wife POLITELY SUGGESTED that I'd darn well better write our Christmas letter before I even thought about doing an article for CN.  [Just in case you were wondering, we're doing alright, our dogs Spunky and Bandit are on squirrel patrol 24/7/365, and our cats Bank One Ballpark ("Bob" for short) and Hilton still enjoy sleeping, puking on the hardwood floors, and listening to ISU sporting events on the radio while we're attending said events].  I also thought about writing up my impressions of the Mediacom Classic loss to Bradley, but decided instead to summarize the whole month of December in ISU sports instead (translation:  writer's block & general laziness set in).


            December started out with Drake's visit to Hilton.  Unfortunately, between deer season and going out to the farm to help my father sort cattle, I only caught part of the second half on TV.  That last second shot by Dunston was a heartbreaker, but the refs made the correct call by disallowing it.  Considering how well Drake has played since that game, I'll take some positives out of the game, despite losing a game we were in a position to win.  Hubalek was only playing his second game back from the suspension, and Taylor/McIntosh got caught in Drake's press.  I'm going to consider this a learning experience.


            On Friday the 8th, my wife Janis & I drove over to Iowa City to catch the game against the Hawkeyes.  We missed the last one in Iowa City, but the trip over there four years ago was pretty cool, especially since my VERY distant relative by marriage, Clint Varley, helped ISU win the game over "Captain Hairdo" and his team.  I tried to convince Chris Williams that he should blow off studying for finals and make the roadie to the game, but that poor fool actually thinks he should get full value for his education.  What's up with that?  It's just as well that he missed the game, because the ISU basketball team missed part of the game as well.  The game wasn't as ugly as that Colorado game at Hilton a couple of years ago, but it wasn't exactly a clinic in basketball fundamentals either.  Iowa beat us by making steals, getting rebounds, and hitting more of their shots than we did.  Good for them.  I still think they'll fold up like a tablecloth once they hit the "Big" Ten schedule, but they've got bragging rights on us for this year.  That should change next December when we bring them into Hilton.


            Savannah State?  To be honest, I think I spent most of that game watching "CSI New York" or something like that.  Any comments I'd make on that game would be pure fabrication.  Not that I'm against "dry-labbing" a report or two, but why bother for Savannah State?


            We attended the Bradley game with my sister-in-law & her husband Hooter the next weekend at "the Well" in Des Moines, and I was impressed with the team's improvement since the Iowa game the weekend prior.  Our guards were moving the ball down the court much better than they had done in Iowa City, and Johnson & Johnson were banging with Bradley like pros.  Bradley brought a suffocating defense to the game, and I think they'll go far in the Valley this year, but the performance of "the Johnsons" and the team's general attitude left me somewhat optimistic.  Clark may be playing a diminished role this year on the stat sheet, but it looks like he's trying to be a leader out on the floor.  Whenever there was a stoppage in play, I saw him go over & talk to his teammates, and he initiated every huddle between freethrows (when he was on the court).  Cory "Vanilla" Johnson & Wesley "Chocolate" Johnson may be the focus of the discussions on message boards, but Rashawn Clark is still the backbone of our team.


            The Ohio State game was supposed to be a massacre.  I even thought that tOSU would be too much for our young squad.  Shows you what I know.  I was shocked to see Marsden playing through his mono, and I've gotta take my hat off to the young man.  Several of the "couchbound coaches" on the internet have spent the fall slamming on Marsden's effort in the preseason, but this month's games have proved to me that Ross Marsden will be essential to ISU having ANY success in conference.  The kid's tough, and that, by itself, is enough to get him some playing time.  It's too bad that we couldn't hold on long enough to take tOSU down to the wire, but seeing the first 35 minutes of this road game against a Top 10 team was a window on the past.  I half expected to see Kantrail Horton or Jacy Holloway come in and bring the ball up the court.  I won't call it a moral victory, but I will say it wasn't an unbearable defeat.


            SE Missouri State played at Hilton the Saturday before Christmas, but I was busy building fence out at the farm again, so I missed it.  Christmas was pretty cool because my sister & her boys came back from Iowa City to spend the holiday with Mom & Dad.  Dad gave my nephew Deven one of those pool/foosball/air hockey combo tables for Christmas, and that kid is the most talented seven-year-old pool player I've ever seen.  I was playing him after dinner, and I found myself trying to give him game tips until my inner monologue shouted "HEY, what are you doing?  He's Seven Freakin' Years Old!  Let him enjoy the game before you go all "sports parent" on him and try to teach him how to put spin on the ball!"  I'm not saying that he's the second coming of Willie Mosconi, but if you're ever at the Corner Pocket in Ames and a guy with a goatee brings a three & a half-foot tall wunderkind in carrying a Snoopy cue case, please don't spoil the surprise.  We'll be earning his college savings, and I'd appreciate you letting us harvest marks on our own.  What did I get for Christmas?  A humidor, a couple of shirts, and six bred heifers.  I guess I'm "officially" a cattleman now.  I'd better get myself a big hat & dinner-plate belt buckle.  Yee-haw.


            We ended the month with a trip to Ames to watch ISU beat North Dakota State.  Jiri Hubalek's reawakening is the big story of that game.  Jiri was fighting for rebounds & working the ball inside like a man in that game, and I don't think he attempted a single questionable three-pointer all night.  I'm glad he's getting into the system.  ISU will need him down the stretch.  You could say that his play isn't impressive since he had about four inches on the tallest Bison in the game, but that's even more impressive in my book.  A game where you're the tallest one on the court would be a situation where you've VERY tempted to take a couple of possessions off, but he looked good all night.  He ended up sitting a couple of booths over from us at Hickory Park after the game, and I thought about going over & congratulating him but decided that he'd probably rather eat his meal in peace than talk to some schlub "writer" from an internet site.


            My expectations for this year's conference schedule are somewhat muted.  Early on (before Minnesota proved to be paper tigers), I thought we could win 8 or 10 games in the Big 12 this winter & squeak our way into the Big Show in March.  Now that our weaknesses have been exposed, I'm thinking that six to eight wins would be a good performance.  We're sitting at 9-5 right now, and six wins would get us to 15-15 (plus the Big 12 tourney games in Oklahoma City) and give us an outside chance at the NIT.  Probably better than an "outside chance" since Coach Mac is somewhat of a media darling, and the NIT would want him in the mix for publicity if the choice between ISU and another team were close.  Even if we lose the rest of the games on our schedule, I think we'll be fun to watch as long as the team keeps playing within the system & getting better every game.


            ISU Football is a mystery to me right now.  I think we made a good choice with Gene Chizek, and it appears that we're getting recruits lined up for signing day – but I'm going to wait ‘til the spring game before I get excited about the program. 


            I'd like to address all the speculation about my leaving Cyclone Nation for a job with ESPN…………………………………..OK that was kind of funny.  Don't worry Clone fans, I'll still be here as long as Steve, Jonathan or whoever takes over the day-to-day ops at CN keep opening my emails & posting my stories. 


I would like to take a moment here and salute Chris Williams & Brent Blum for their tireless promotion of CN and ISU sports over the last year.  I got to meet Chris & Brent at the CN Recruiting Bash last February, and they've been very cool to me ever since that day.  They edited my dispatch from the Dallas Big 12 tournament last spring, and when I sent Chris an email saying "I'm going to comment on the football games anyway, how about doing it with a byline?" he encouraged me to sit down and do the work every week.  Let's face it:  I do this stuff by the seat of my pants.  I usually sat down in front of the Mediacom replay show every Monday night & typed my story in one burst of creativity.  I would then email it to Chris and then my words would magically appear on CN the next day.  It didn't matter what was going on in his life, he always made sure to get my "Putting Lipstick on a Pig" columns uploaded onto the site by Tuesday night.  Brent was usually too busy being the King of All Central Iowa Media to deal with a peon like me, but Chris always used Brent as a buffer.  Usually, I'd make one joke in each article that crossed the line of good taste, and the version running on CN would have that sentence removed.  Chris would always tell me "Dude, you know I liked that joke, but Blum thought we should cut it."  I'm sad to see Chris leave CN, but I'm really looking forward to seeing his byline at the Ames Tribune – and most important of all, as a real journalist, he'll finally be able to afford to buy me a drink occasionally.  Godspeed, Chris and Brent.  You will be missed.


Now I'm going to list Cylent Bob's 2007 Resolutions.  Feel free to add your own.


  1. I shall endeavor to write the best Internet football columns (in the category of "Columns written by non-journalists") available to Cyclone fans, and I will not rest until my writing receives endorsements from Ellis Hobbs III, Paul Shirley, and Coach Al Murdoch. 
  2. I shall continue to preach the good news of Euseph Messiah and Milan Moses.  Based on his performance at KSU last fall, I'm looking forward to seeing how Euseph handles an enlarged role in this year's offense, and let's face it – anyone who can play D-1 college football while suffering from Crohn's disease is ten times the man that I am.  Anyone can kick ass when he's 6-5, wicked fast and can jump like a terrier, but I always like to cheer for the little guys who get lost in the linebackers until they make the big catch, or the guys who choose to play with pain.
  3. I'm going to try and stay positive in my reports.  Not positive towards the coaching staff or the AD, but positive towards the student-athletes.  Coaches and Administrators make good coin doing what they do, but students wear the cardinal & gold because they want an education & for love of the game.  I'll always try to remember that fact.
  4. I will scotch-guard "Bobby Trippe" so that we don't have to yank him down & put him back on the bus every time it sprinkles.  If there's one thing in this world that's less appealing than a ratty old stuffed boar's head, it would have to be a MOULDY old stuffed boar's head.
  5. I shall make the trip to Ames for multiple ISU Hockey games this winter.  ISU hockey is an undiscovered gem, and Williams, Winterboer & Blum have all talked about how we've got to get up to a game sometime.  Let's do it this winter.
  6. When I DO make it to Ames for an ISU Hockey game, I promise not to drink Chris Williams under the table.  He recently threw down the gauntlet to me with a "yeah, you're just afraid to run with the young pups since you're an old man now."  The thought of drinking him into unconsciousness, then stripping him down & leaving him along the shores of Lake Luverne (covered with bread crumbs to encourage the ducks to molest his lifeless body) does make me laugh, but out of respect for what he's done for CN, I shall handle him with kid gloves.
  7. I want to write a column for CN covering the least publicized athletic endeavor on the ISU campus this spring:  The ASCE/Master Builders Concrete Canoe Races.  Students in the Civil & Construction Engineering departments build a canoe out of concrete & race it against other Midwest schools.  If I can't use my bully pulpit here at CN to pimp one of my favorite college activities, then why am I writing at all?
  8. I will cover the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City from the perspective of "Joe Six-Pack" this spring, and I hope to write MULTIPLE articles this time.  Last year's one article after the Okie State loss really sucked.
  9. I will finally break down and get an ISU tattoo during the 2007 calendar year.  I've always resisted getting a tat because I couldn't find a design that I was sure would look cool in a decade or two.  Tasmanian Devil?  That's so 1995.  Road Runner?  Cool, but somewhat dated.  Unicorn?  Whoever asked that is going to get punched right in the throat.  Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons?  Way too "inside baseball", and it will probably creep people out big time.  Now that the ink craze has crested, I'll hop on the bandwagon and get mine.  I haven't decided on what to get yet:  It will either be a moderately sized old-school Cy (the "kickin' Chicken" mascot) on my shoulder or calf - or a full back panel of Bryan Heger dunking on "Big Country" Reeves while Greg Hester, Andrew Skogland, Clint Varley & Chris Ceaser are all cheering him on from the bench.
  10. I'm going to find a new catchphrase in 2007…but until then, I'll see you out in the lots, Clone Fans.




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