Thanksgiving Day Programming on KACU

We hope that your celebration of Thanksgiving this year is wonderful, and we hope that our special programming provides a great addition to your day.  With the exceptions of Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin this evening, our complete selection of programming today is special in honor of the holiday.  Below you will find program information on all of the special programs and music heard today on 89.7 KACU-FM.


9AM–A Thanksgiving Celebration with Garrison Keillor 2011

From American Public Media, a broadcast of “Gratitude, Gravy & Garrison,” VocalEssence’s celebration of all things Thanksgiving. Keillor performs his signature monologue and contributes comic new lyrics to familiar songs and hymns.

10 AM-Noon-Giving Thanks with John Birge

From American Public Media, with music and stories for Thanksgiving, host John Birge creates a thoughtful, contemporary reflection on the meaning of the holiday. For listeners in the kitchen, on the road, or relaxing after the feast, Giving Thanks provides the perfect atmosphere for Thanksgiving: the warmth of great music, and truly memorable words.

Noon-Thanksgiving with Cantus 2011

From American Public Media, Alison Young is joined by Cantus, one of America’s best all-male ensembles, for singing and story telling about gratitude and what it is to be thankful.

1PM-A Thanksgiving Celebration with Garrison Keillor 2011 (repeated)


2PM-Special Daytime Music Mix


Lean Into The Light/Iron & Wine/Kiss Each Other Clean

Sound of the Bells/Jill Andrews/The Mirror

1234/Feist/The Reminder

Please Stay/Mindy Smith/Long Island Shores

**Earth & Sky**

What If The World Stops Turning?/Mindy Smith/Long Island Shores

Fly Away/Rosi Golan/Lean Balloon

Bittersweet Melodies/Feist/Metals

Looking Out/Brandi Carlile/Live At Benaroyal Hall

Before It Breaks/Brandi Carlile/Live At Benaroyal Hall

Angel/Dave Matthews Band/Everyday

Nothing At All/Madi Diaz/1% For The Planet-The Music Vol. 1

Let’s Go/Madi Diaz/Far From Things That We Know

Looking For You Again/Matthew Perryman Jones/(Single)

Come Monday Night/God Help The Girl/God Help The Girl

Mat Kearny/Where Do We Go From Here/Nothing Left To Loose


3PM-Special Daytime Music Mix


Winter Song/Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson/The Hotel Cafe Presents Winter Songs

Someone To Love You/Matt Morris/When Everything Breaks Open

Lungs Speed, Lungs Sped/Brooke Waggoner/Heal For The Honey

**This Week In Abilene**

Turn em Loose/Bigfoot Wallace/Malleable

Turn Of The Season/Amber Oak/Your Missing Piece

How Sweet/Leona Naess/Leona Naess

White Winter Hymnal/Fleet Foxes/Fleet Foxes

What You See In Her/Trent Dabbs/Noisemakers Sampler

Will You Be/Folk Of Flight/(Single)

It May Be Late/Harper Blynn/Loneliest Generation

**Star Date**

Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune/The Rocketboys/20,000 Ghosts

Stella The Artist/David Gray/Draw The Line

Happier/A Fine Frenzy/Bomb In A Birdcage

Walking Far From Home/Iron & Wine/Kiss Each Other Clean


7PM-9PM-Paul Winter Solstice 2011

The holiday tradition continues with Paul Winter’s Winter Solstice Celebration. A dynamic musical celebration in the extraordinary acoustics of the worlds largest Gothic cathedral – New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  Hear a unique exploration of the solstice tradition in cultures near and far. The Paul Winter Consort is joined by musicians from all over the world, including Russia’s Dimitri Pokrovsky Ensemble and gospel singer Theresa Thomasson. John Schaefer hosts the production from Living Music and Murray Street.

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World Series Game 4 Staff Predictions

The World Series is back in Arlington tonight in a pivotal game 4 match up between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Texas tied up the series at 2-2 yesterday in a 4-0 shutout. Earlier today, I was sitting down with KACU’s Meagan Freeman and Blane Singletary discussing the game. The conversation led to predictions. Meagan, wearing her Texas Rangers ALCS championship t-shirt, quickly took out a piece of paper and jotted down our predictions. Then we got the idea to poll the entire KACU staff.

Here are some things to take into consideration for the game tonight. This is the last game that will be played in Arlington, the winner only needs to win one more to claim the title, and each team has great home run hitters. Taking that and more into consideration, here is what us at KACU think will happen tonight.

KACU World Series Predictions (those who replied to my texts…)

  • Blane Singletary, Announcer – St. Louis edges Texas in a close one, 3-2.
  • Meagan Freeman, Announcer – Rangers edge St. Louis in a close one, 3-2.
  • Zane Goggans, Announcer – “Everybody is picking 3-2… I change my guess…” Rangers win big 10-3.
  • Kholo Theledi, The New Girl – “What is a normal score for baseball?” Texas loses, 3-2.
  • Caleb Robinson, Announcer – Rangers lose this one 5-3 (but only so Texas can win “epically” in the next two games).
  • Alek White, Announcer – Alek: “We lost 16-7”, Me: “That was two games ago, I need your prediction for tonight…”, Alek: “I would guess a win [for Texas] then, 10-6.”
  • Julie Coppedge, Announcer – Via text message: “Ouuuu ummm Rangers win 7-4 :)”
  • Keyi Zhou, Announcer – Rangers win in another close one, 30-28 (Keyi admits to not watching much baseball).
  • Sandy Byers, Traffic Manager – Texas will fall to the Cardinals again, 4-2. “Maybe by picking the Cardinals we can jinx them.”
  • Justin Brown, Budget Manager – Texas takes it, 5-3.
  • Dave Smith, Director of Operations – “Show me who’s pitching…” “Are they in Texas?” “2-0, Rangers.”
  • John Best, General Manager – Rangers win 4-3. “It’s gonna be a nail bitter!”

KACU Picks…

Rangers: 7 picks to St. Louis: 4 picks

Rangers win tonight, what do YOU think?

Wall Street vs. The NBA

As it’s been reported for the past several weeks, people are pissed at Wall Street.  Or at least that’s the perception.  The claim is that the Wall St protestors are angry at the wealth injustice in America and how people in the financial sector continue to give themselves raises, increase profits and benefit from others’ hard work while at the same time cutting back their work-force, laying people off, or not hiring new employees even after their companies produce profits in the millions and billions.  There’s merit to that, no question.

One thing I have continued to ask myself and my circle of friends since earlier this year is, why do we point the finger in anger at only some people in American society who are wealthy and not the more prominent people?  I’m namely referring to politicians and professional athletes.  In the spring, the NFL went into a lockout where multi-millionaire owners and players argued over who would cash in on TV contracts worth $9 billion.  Yeah that’s a lot of money.  Did anyone offer to give that money away, contribute it to the unemployed, create jobs for the jobless, or any endeavor to better our damaged economy?  No, they argued over who deserved what, what richness could be added to the already rich.  Where was the upset there?  I (sort of) hate to pick on the Dallas Cowboys but Jerry Jones is one of the wealthiest men in America (a billionaire I believe).  While he may be a stock-holder who has some investment on Wall Street, he also has pretty deep pockets and makes tons more money than the average individual, employed or unemployed.  Who stood outside his corporate office this off-season and protested the incredible amount of money he and his company (team) has made in a down economy?  Not to mention a third string player on his team who makes more money in one month than most of us have made before taxes in the last 2-5 years.  Where’s the protest?

This August the NFL players and owners came to some sort of agreement and they started their season on time.  So maybe that’s why there weren’t protests.  We now have pro football every Sunday.  I do know that whole sha-bang upset a few sports fans who were on the fence about whether they’d tune in for games this season. But I still see sold out arenas, people spending $90 for a Romo jersey (and after last week, last season, the season before that…I have to ask “Why?”), and fantasy football being played all over the place.  The lockout didn’t lose the NFL fanbase.  It’s alive and strong.  And each of those guys we cheer for makes more money than most of the people on Wall Street who are being terrorized by protestors daily.  I don’t want to necessarily defend the Wall Street people.  There’s a lot of greed, selfish ambition, and bad ethics going on there worth talking about.  I do want a more just form of protest.  If we’re going to cry out for equal pay for people in the work world, what about returning professional athletes to a pay scale similar to the 1950s and 1960s, where players on teams made an average wage versus the GDP of most 3rd world countries?

And what about politicians?  The GOP wants to have a debate every 2 weeks so a group of 8-10 people can tell you why they deserve to be the President of the USA a whole 13 months or more before the election takes place.  Is that healthy for the economy?  These people aren’t currently working for anyone.  Unless you count their campaign contributors.  But where’s the cry out for justice there?  Sarah Palin, whatever job she might have, is basically a political Snooki or Kim Kardashian, with her road trip around the country in the name of conservative politics.  Is she doing a documentary on how the average American is trying to budget themselves through this economic turmoil?  Is she doing research from business owners on what actual businesses need now to survive instead of what our political leaders have instituted that’s hurt the economy?  I don’t think so.  Is Rick Perry the current governor of Texas?  Doesn’t Texas have a budget deficit that needs fixing, hence the cuts of $400,000 to arts funding in Tx schools?  Should he be working to fix the state’s current problems before he tries to be an expert at solving the nation’s issues?  And not to only pick on the Republican/Conservatives as being guilty of this.  Last time I checked Barack Obama is the current President.  So why does he need to campaign for a job he already has?  Shouldn’t he be working more on fixing the country’s problems and (trying to) work with Congress on solutions to our current issues.  I know that takes time, energy, and patience.  It doesn’t take campaigning.  These people live off of someone else’s money.  They supposedly represent us, the people.  When was the last 9-5 job they had?  Who was the last boss they had who put real job expectations on them that they had to meet or else face getting cut (like you and I have)?  Yet politicians are some of the wealthiest people in the world, let alone in the country.  Where’s the protest?

Let’s just be fair.  We as Americans are constantly crying out for fairness, even if fairness is a concept that can’t be made into a reality in all situations.  We still want it.  If we the people really want an equal playing field, then why aren’t we there people lined up in front of the enormous houses of NBA players like Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Lebron James?  Why aren’t we constantly demanding owners of these teams to do more for communities and participate in the betterment of our country more than just being ridiculously wealthy?  And let’s still be upset at the NFL players and owners.  Just because they solved their $9 billion squabble doesn’t mean that they’re suddenly immune to public scrutiny, especially in the realm of fairness for pay.  If I had the chance to work for 8 months out of the year and have a 2 month off-season that included holidays, all for the guaranteed salary of over $1 million for 1 year, or a multi-year deal worth tens of millions, I think that’d be a pretty good deal.  However, I get about 2 weeks vacation with my job and roughly $30K/year.  I’m not complaining, I enjoy my job and the role I play in the community.  But the pay scale and the perks aren’t in different worlds compared to pro athletes and owners and politicians, they’re in different universes.  In the name of fairness, I’d like to see some of these Wall Street protestors walk to a different street and demand that maybe Lebron James and Michael Vick are incredible athletes, but they make too much money.  And let fairness speak to that real issue.

Favorable Underdogs

While favoring the big dog is often the most logical choice, favoring the underdog is often the most irresistible one.

The story of the underdog is a story that we can all relate to. I believe the reason why we want the little guy to take down the bigger guy is because we all feel like the small guy sometimes. When we watch the guy who isn’t expected to succeed do great things, it gives us the idea that we, too, can accomplish bigger things in our own lives. The triumph of the little guy gives us the “take on the world” attitude.

Sports are the easiest way that we convey our feelings about the little guy. Honestly, what sports movie is not about an underdog? From Seabiscuit to Cinderella Man to Rudy, it appears the underdog dominates the film industry, our hearts and imaginations.

Odds are, if you haven’t rooted for the little guy, you have bought your ticket to hop on some band wagon.

Some famous underdogs include Tom Brady, the 1968 New York Jets, the 1980 USA Hockey team, Rudy, Upset vs. Man O’War (100-1 0dds), Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson, Bob Knight vs. his temper, Tiger Woods vs. everyone, and Ricky Williams vs. weed.

Another prime example, and my personal favorite, is the 2005 NCAA National Championship football game. The USC Trojans, one of the most prestigious teams in all of football, were playing for their third straight title. On the other end of the field were the Texas Longhorns, who had not won a championship since 1970. All year, the Trojans were ranked number one, and Texas two. Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy and Vince Young came in with a second place finish.

The game was primarily back and forth until 2:09 left in the fourth quarter. USC was on its way to a victory, all they needed was two yards on fourth down to seal the deal. The Longhorn defense had other plans. Texas’ defense held USC to get the turnover on downs. The championship came down to fourth down and five from the USC eight yard line, Texas’ last chance at victory. With 19 seconds to play, quarterback Vince Young ran the ball into the corner of the end zone to put the Trojans in their place. Young finished with 200 rushing yards… Bush had an unimpressive 89.

The story of the underdog will always be one that I tell and retell the most. There truly is nothing better in sports than watching David kill Goliath.

The underdog will always be the favorite.

What do your dreams mean?

Ever had one of those crazy dreams where you woke up and wasn’t completely sure the dream wasn’t reality?

Well that happened to me last night. I dreamt that I was fired from my job for some random reason. Obviously, it was a dream or I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Or maybe, no one has the heart to tell me to go home….

Anyways, this post is not about my dream, but about dreams in general.

After my crazy dream, I began to wonder. What do dreams mean? I know it would be crazy to try to answer this question in a few paragraphs, but I would like to share some interesting information I have came across.

First of all I found an online dream dictionary, where you can look up certain elements of a dream to see what it symbolizes. Let’s try it out. Let’s say I had a dream about chocolate. First of all, I love chocolate so this might not be too far-fetched. What would you say that symbolized?

The Dream Dictionary says, “To see chocolate in your dream, signifies love, celebration and self-reward. It also denotes that you may be indulging in too many excesses and need to practice some restraint.”

What about dreaming about being in an airport?

“To see a busy airport in your dream, signifies the desire for freedom, high ideals, ambition, and hopes. It is an indication that you are approaching a new departure in your life. Some new idea is taking off or is ready to take off. You may be experiencing a new relationship, new career path or new adventure.”

So if you’ve been having some strange or reoccurring dreams, maybe your mind is trying to tell you something. Let us know, what do you dream about?

Who is right? Who is wrong?

Who is Right,Who is Wrong?

I am a Chinese student studying journalism in the United States. The two countries differ significantly in many ways, including political system, education system, religious believes an more. These result in different thinking styles, the way people do things, which we call “culture” overall.

Being bred and grown in China, Chinese people have the culture planted in their blood vessels. However, people within a group think very differently too. It all depends on the specific environment in which we have grown up and our different personalities.

Working at Radio Free Asia made me think more about the culture differences. When I was using social media the Face Book in America) to connect with young people in China, I encountered things that were not pleasant, as expected.

I look at people’s web pages to decide whom I was going to ask for interview. I tried to look for people with different views. A person’s profile attracted my attention. He used the communist flag, red background with the hammer and sickle, as his personal picture. Since he was so outspoken of his position, I thought it would be great to get his point of view which may stand for a group’s.

I sent a message to this person named “Progressive Club,” and asked if he was willing to be interviewed. He replied later, cursing me, using bad words, calling me “the traitor of China with the American imperialists.  ” I posted his reply on my page, and wrote, “I don’t have to reply, but I want everyone to see it.” Later on in the afternoon, a friend online sent me a link, saying, “Woo, you are famous.” I did not expect anything good. As expected, the Progressive Club posted a long essay on a website called “(fight) the western slaves.”  He said a lot of bad things about Radio Free Asia, and about me as well. I have to say, most of the things he said were not true. I was not surprised that someone would do that, but I think it’s good for me to take this chance to explain who I am, what I am doing and why I am doing this.
my response won a lot of support and respect, even though some people were still against me. The ideology differences are caused mainly by these aspects:

First of all, the differences between Chinese and America political system. Robert Reich, a  Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley commented on his post, China: Capitalism Doesn’t Require Democracy “The communist party is the only party there is. China doesn’t have freedom of speech or freedom of the press. It doesn’t tolerate dissent. Authorities can arrest and imprison people who threaten stability, as the party defines it. Any group that dares to protest is treated brutally. There are no civil liberties, no labor unions, no centers of political power outside the communist party….. China is a capitalist economy with an authoritarian government.”

Secondly, the differences of the education in the two countries. Affected by their political system, to some degrees, education is designed to serve the country’s political ideology. Since the Chinese government does not value freedom of speech, people’s religious believes (all Party members must acclaim to be atheists), they try hard to kill critical thinking skills students can develop in schools. Traditionally, teachers’ roles were to teach, and students were to learn – no criticism involved. Students who criticize will not be accepted culturally, under most circumstances. Further more, the country emphasizes the studying of science more than liberal arts – they want people with abilities to promote economic development rather than political reform — which make sense in this situation.

Fortunately, an increase number of Chinese people start to criticize the society, the education system, the traditional thinking patterns and the way people have always been conducting without thinking. Some may go extreme, which is not a good thing, while some still sticking to another extreme – every thing the government does must be right, and whoever criticizes are against the country.

The Student Code of China listed this as the number one doctrine: Love the country, love the people and love the Communist Party (translated). Through school education, many people were made believe that if you do not agree with the government, you do not love China. However, the fact has proved otherwise. Some times love comes from criticism. A spoiled child will not do much good for the world.

In America, the situation is totally different. The text books by no means can say, if you love America, you love the Republicans/Democrats/ U.S Federal Government. I know it sounds like a joke, but the comparison makes people know the situation in China.

The first day I worked for RFA, I watched the video instruction of using social media. The speaker has warned the audience that personal attack was not a surprise. I was prepared. It was somewhat disturbing though. Actually, this is quite normal for journalism. Whenever I read news on line, people attack journalists and each other. In china, because of the Great Fire Wall, many information is blocked, as Ma Jian wrote in his/her article, China’s Internet Dictatorship, “Eleven years after its initial connection to the World Wide Web (WWW), China’s access to the Internet is still guarded by firewalls, embedded in its proxy servers, which have proven to be more practical and impenetrable than the Berlin Wall.” But overall, the Internet is a good thing. Now Chinese citizens are closer to the truth than ever. It brings the world together, and may finally overturn the dictatorship, gain freedom of speech, of religious beliefs, like what just happened in Libya.

Quick! Write the Headline!

I never like to admit it, especially being a journalism major at Abilene Christian, but I don’t read newspapers for conventional reasons. In fact, unless I’m reading the sports page, I’m hardly ever actually reading news. I’m looking for other things.

I have a guilty pleasure.

Let me make something clear before I tell you what I read the paper for. News is extremely valuable. Journalism has given me a great appreciation for hard news, soft news, storytelling, writing and everything that goes along. I’m not downplaying the significance journalism plays in our world. In fact, I hope to see if anyone can identify with me.

I look for mess-ups in newspaper headlines — funny mess-ups.

Inadvertently funny newspaper headlines are what make the weightiness of news worth sifting through. Hypothetical situation; you are a journalist. You’ve been laboring on a news story all week and the five o’clock deadline is fast approaching. Time is ticking, five o’clock is moments away and you’re tweaking the last sentence of your article. You feel good about this story. You’ve interviewed the right people, gotten great quotes, your rhetoric is flawless and your editor is stunned with your skills.

It is time to turn in the article when you realize there is no headline! How can such an awe-inspiring newspaper article not have an astounding headline? You panic, deadline was thirty seconds ago. You quickly scan your wits to come up with a solution to your dilemma when you write this:

Oblivious to your unintentional pun, your story and your inspiring new headline run in the paper the next morning for the entire world to see.

It’s okay to laugh. I’ve learned that laughing at myself and my work has pushed me to become better at what I do. Enjoyment is something many people go without while on the job which is a saddening thought to me. Laughter is a line that can disconnect a job from enjoyment if we make a big deal out of ourselves; I pray that you cross it.

Here are some more funny newspaper headlines with Jay Leno!

Enjoy your day.

Predictions For NFL Season Pt 2

Funny how less than a week goes by and a slew of changes take place, and the NFL season hasn’t even started yet. But that’s the nature of this season, as I said before.

In the previous post I gave my take on the NFC for the 2011-12 season, who I think will do great, who could be sleeper picks for the playoffs, and also why I believe a few teams will do very poorly this year. In this post, I want to cover the AFC, give my predictions for who’s going all the way to the big game, playoff locks, sleepers for the postseason, and who is certainly not going to fair well.

First, I’ll start at the top. The Patriots have been one of the best teams in football for over a decade. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 as well as the 10 year mark of one of their biggest Super Bowl wins. In the offseason (just after the lockout ended) they landed some controversial players, namely Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth’s bad attitude during his tenure with the Redskins and disrespect of coaches made him a big enemy of most observant franchises, regardless of his talent level. The preseason seemed to indicate that the attitude was still there, that little had changed. This is something getting a little press here and there, on top of the signing of former Bengals receiver Ochocinco. You know, I don’t think either athlete is going to be the difference maker this season. I pick the Patriots to have a good year and go to the playoffs yet again, but only make it all the way to the Super Bowl if they can jive well on offense and get some better protection for Brady. And defensively they will have to play more like the Steelers to really have a chance.

James Harrison attacks offenses

Speaking of Pittsburgh, they’re another lock for the playoffs, barring an injury to Rothlesburger or something similar. They have had the components for championship runs for the past 5 years or more and I think they’ll continue to be a wrecking ball in the AFC. Plus, James Harrison has an even bigger chip on his shoulder than normal, with having to answer the constant questions of the media about his defense being “too old.” I think that label will make him a more ferocious player and probably lead to some other sanctions by the NFL for hard hits and maybe even some punches thrown during games. Harrison is a fairly dirty player anyway, so who knows.

The other AFC team who has been solid for the last decade is the Colts, led by one of the all-time greats Peyton Manning. This year, however, will be a very bad year for them. As ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said yesterday on his radio program, this is a poorly managed team built entirely around Manning. Without Manning they might win 4-5 games in a season. With him, they win 11-12. He’s the difference between a great season and a horrible one. They had 2 backups that coaches didn’t have any confidence in so they go out and hire a 16 year vet (Kerry Collins) with little understanding of their playbook and their offense. And he’ll start Sunday against Houston. I’m actually very glad they aren’t starting Manning this Sunday. Houston’s 3-4 attack with Mario Williams at LB would put Manning out for the rest of the year, leading to a 1-3 win season for the Colts. This way, Manning gets maybe 2 games to rest and recover and then come back week 4 at the latest and save the day. But still, they lack the offensive and defensive weapons to be true contenders in the postseason.

Manning and Joseph at their press conference after signing with the Texans

Houston will go to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history this year. There I said it. They should have gone last year but they couldn’t finish a game. They’d build a 2 score lead and blow it in the 4th quarter. Not this year. Again, that rebuilt defense will get better and better as the season goes on. Their D-line and LB core should be scary in weeks 1-4 and terrifying by week 5. JJ Watt, Demeco Ryans, Mario Williams, Brian Cushing, and the other guys in the box will wreck havoc on O-lines this season, starting with the Colts. The secondary is much improved from last season with the addition of Jonathan Joseph at CB and Danieal Manning at FS. I predict Manning will have a Pro-Bowl year. And let’s not forget the offense, led by Schaub, who has some excellent targets in TE Owen Danieals, Jacoby Jones and Andre Johnson, arguably THE best WR in the AFC. Oh yeah, and they have Arian Foster at RB. Their starting lineup is a fantasy football owner’s dream.

I’m reading online that the Jaguars cutting of David Gerrard guarantees a solid year for Houston. No, I don’t think so. An improved defense, and an offense that continues to put up points guarantees a good year for Houston. Cutting Gerrard only guarantees a rough 2-4 weeks for Jacksonville, a team that already didn’t have much going for it. Sure Gerrard is inconsistent, but in October and November he does well, he wins games, and that’s something the Jags should prize. I think they’ll have at best an 8-8 season. They just don’t have the personnel to do any better.

Another big item in the press is the Chris Johnson contract deal, which he finally got last week. Congrats. Now I hope he can manage to not get injured in the first 3 games and actually do something. The offense is on his shoulders anyways. They had one of the best WR in the history of football last season and didn’t utilize him. Yes, I’m talking about Randy Moss. Johnson will get 20-30 carries a game and if his body isn’t ready for that kind of work, watch out. That contract won’t be sweet for anyone in TN if he can’t stay healthy. I see the Titans at best winning 7-8 games, which could put them in the playoffs, but only if some other big AFC teams do really bad.

Like the Chiefs. Matt Cassel was great with the Patriots as the fill-in for an injured Brady, winning 10 games and making him a star. Last season with the Chiefs, not so much. He does have a great WR in Bowe, and an solid run game. Their defense could be great or mediocre. We’ll have to see. I’m thinking that they make the postseason only through the wild-card race and then bow out in the first week of the playoffs. But that’s if they play without drive and heart, which it seemed they did towards the end of last year. If they turn around and play with a fire in their chests, they could be a great team this year.

Oakland will be horrible again. You knew that whether you watched the preseason or not. Whoever thought Jason Campbell would ever be a game changer wasn’t watching real life football. He has a good game every once in a while. The rest are bad. Very bad. Their running game has to be the saving grace and that defense has to look like something more akin to the Steelers than what they have. I place them at the bottom of the AFC bin.

Colt McCoy

The Chargers, the Jets, and the Ravens will have good seasons, and be playoff contenders. That’s a given. What isn’t a given is the Browns. I pick these guys as sleepers. Colt McCoy is the real deal and he’s going to lead this team to great things. Plus, their other intangibles at RB and especially on defense make this team a solid choice this year.

However, on the other side of the state, the Bengals will continue to be bad……really bad. Another very poorly managed franchise as evidenced by the decision-making of the front office. We can start with Cedric Benson, who has the potential to be a great RB. But off the field he enjoys driving under the influence, repeatedly, and punching old roommates in the face. He also seems to enjoy doing this in the same place each time (in TX). The Bengals have depth at RB with Bernard Scott, who really should be given the starting job. With limited carries he’s done a considerably great job moving the ball. Plus Brian Leonard and Larry Johnson give them a consistent attack on the ground. But then there’s also the issue with not trading Carson Palmer. Trading him would have opened up the bank more to spend on areas of the team that need depth, like WR and TE, or on defense. But they didn’t. So instead they settled for a young QB with limited experience who looked very bad in the preseason. The Bengals will spend this season in the gutter unless their run game makes them shine, which is still a possibility. But on defense they won’t be able to hang with the power players of the league.

Lastly in the AFC east, the Bills and the Dolphins should go either .500 or worse. I say worse more for Miami than for Buffalo. Fitzpatrick and Jackson will lead the offense to some big wins. In Miami, the lack of a steady QB will limit them early. But if they can jell together by week 5, they could become a sleeper team by midseason. I just don’t think they have the intangibles to pull off a playoff birth. And Reggie Bush will be a bust wherever he is. He’ll have a good fantasy game here and there but he is NOT the playmaker he was billed as in the 06 draft.

Oh, and one note about my NFC predictions post, anyone catch the further developments in Chicago with Lance Briggs wanting out of Chicago, and Matt Forte not happy with his contract. Upset and angry players have a tough time producing on the field, especially when they’re your stars. Management should take note. And Seattle should great Gerrard while he’s available. They don’t have a better player at QB.

Predictions For The 2011-2012 NFL Season Pt. 1

It was probably the most unique off-season we’ve experienced in 20 years with the lockout. Teams and players didn’t start working out together, let alone figure out their free agency stuff until about a month ago. Usually everyone starts figuring free agency out in May, camps and OTAs start in late May or early June. The preseason is just a tune-up for starters (who are pretty much figured out by preseason game 2) and essentially auditions for rookies and walk-ons. This year, it’s preseason game 4 where starting positions are still up for grabs for a lot of teams. That’s uncommon and it’s going to produce some different football this year than we’ve had for a couple of decades.

On top of that, free agent signings have totally altered a lot of lineups for teams. Decent teams last year are really good (at least on paper) because of some big signings. A few teams that were playoff contenders last year could be Super Bowl contenders this year. One of them is the Eagles. Michael Vick at QB made these guys great last season. They kept Machlin and Jackson at WR, both playmakers and game changers. Vince Young’s the backup (I’m still not sold on this guy though) and their O line seems pretty solid. The defense got a big boost with CB Nnamdi Asomugha, arguably the best in the game last season. Add to that Asante Samuel on the other side of the field and you now have a defense that, if it can stop the run, should be a shut-down unit all around. That could be the make or break point for these guys to be in the big game at the end of the year. I predict that if they stay healthy, will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC this season.

Speaking of free agency and team makeovers, what about the Vikings? These guys made one big change and that was at QB. Thank goodness that (at least with one game left in the preseason) Brett Favre is actually done. The Vikings recognized last season that Tavarus Jackson really isn’t an NFL quarterback. He can’t hack it. Mark my words, Seattle will have an abysmal year this season. So Minnesota picks up Donovan McNabb. Last year McNabb looked bad, most of that because the Redskins have a pretty awful management and administrative office. Their coaches don’t really have much cohesion. Remember last year when McNabb was promised to be the starter by coach Shanahan, only to be replaced the next day by Rex Grossman? That was a lot of confusion for an organization that was pretty chaotic to begin with. So you put McNabb in an organization with some solid receivers like Bernard Berian and Devin Arishamadou (both former Bears receivers), and you include Adrian Peterson in the backfield, that’s going to be one powerful offense in the NFC.

Green Bay didn’t change much in the free agency, but why would they? These guys didn’t lose really anyone to free agency and they were the best team in all of football last year. I expect them to be solid this season too. Detroit ended last year looking good after being pretty horrible the year before (the season they finished with zero wins). They have a QB that’s slowly becoming a solid starter in Matthew Stafford. Their RB Javid Best will have another solid fantasy season and hopefully be a cause of some wins. And their defense continues to improve. They could be a sleeper pick for the playoffs come December.

Which leaves the Chicago Bears in the NFC North. I’ve spent the past 5 seasons as fans of this franchise, and have a pretty deep knowledge of their rosters over the past few seasons. Though I started following the team after they drafted Danieal Manning in 2006, I have subsequently moved a lot of my loyalty to Houston following Manning’s signing with them this off-season. Call it fickle if you want, but Manning was the reason I liked the Bears in the first place. But they still have another ACU alumni Johnny Knox, so they still have some of my allegiance.

They don’t, however, have much of my faith in a good season this year. My prediction for the Bears in 2011-12 is bottom of the NFC North Division. Last season they excelled in offense when Matt Forte was given carries. The first several games when the the run/pass ratio favored the pass, the Bears couldn’t drive and couldn’t score. Their scoring drives ended in FGs due to great field position from the kick-off returns of Manning and Hester. Once they balanced the play calling, Forte and Taylor led them down the field along with some good passing attacks. But that came later in the year. The O-line was bad from the beginning. The only steady and consistent presence was veteran center Olin Kreutz. This off-season they refused to give him a solid deal so he left. He was the only bright spot on the O-line.

Last season I really questioned Jerry Angelo’s management and Lovie Smith’s coaching. This off-season proved to me (and to many others) that these guys may have been good a few years ago, but they really can’t make solid management decisions. Add to that the constant moving of Manning 2 years ago from FS to SS to nickel back. He didn’t get a chance to solidify his position, so his play suffered. Last season he had his best year at FS alongside Chris Harris. The defense last season was a shutdown lineup. This year I think they will have a hard time stopping the pass, mostly because Urlacher is not in the form he was a few years back and there’s no noticeable sign of cohesion in the secondary. Their D-line will be solid again, but the secondary makes or breaks your defense. Look for the Bears to hold most teams to under 21 points, but not have the offense to put up numbers to win games.

Caleb Hanie, Bears #2 QB

Here’s why: Jay Cutler is not a winner. Going back to the mention of poor management from the front office and coaches, these are the same guys who chose to start Rex Grossman after seeing what Kyle Orton could do. These are the guys who chose to trade Orton for Cutler, a QB who (while he was in Denver) didn’t have a lot of defensive challengers in pass defense and did pretty well. He also had Brandon Marshall. Then he comes to a team with no all-star receiver (until Johnny Knox of course) and a slew of defensive powerhouses all in the same division. Cutler plays like a young Favre, a gunslinger who will throw pick after pick and then josh about it on the sideline, and do so in a championship game. Caleb Hannie proved in the NFC title game last year that he not only has the skills, the knowledge of the playbook, but also the raw fire and leadership to be the starter. But all of us TV viewers must have been watching a different game than the coaches and management, because Cutler will start and lose games this year. Hester and Knox are the bright spots on the offense. Roy Williams will be just as bad as he was in Dallas and Sam Hurd will end up being a name like Juaquin Iglasius, a great player who everyone had high hopes for but just couldn’t hack it.

Without going into too much other detail, I also predict in the NFC that Carolina will have a decent year, going about 8-8. Cam Newton looks like the real deal, DeAngelo Williams is solid, and Greg Olsen will be another point to my contention that the Bears can’t see talent while it’s on their roster, so they have to see it when the talent goes elsewhere. He’ll have a breakout year. Tampa Bay will do the same. The Falcons and the Saints are playoff contenders, as are the Giants and the Cardinals. Kevin Kobb in Arizona with Larry Fitzgerald is a match made in heaven. It will look like Kurt Warner came back in a different body. Dallas will be at the bottom of the rung again, due like Chicago to poor management and lack of insight into talent. Romo might have a decent game here and there, but without adequate protection and against solid defenses, they won’t be able to hang. The Rams and the 49ers could go either way, good or really bad. Time will have to tell.

Pt. 2 is coming soon with my predictions for the AFC.

The Power Of TEAM

The day after the conclusion of the 2011 NBA Finals has people obsessing over two different things: 1). Lebron James not living up to his own high opinion of his skills and talents, and 2). Dirk and Dallas finally achieving a world championship. There are many points that can be and have been made on both of these aspects. I don’t want to reiterate those points, some things are said more than they necessarily need to be.

While I never bought into the “Lebron is the greatest player” hype, I did think that he had more class before the finals. He revealed something in his character that is really lacking, and that is class and maturity. I felt Scottie Pippen’s remarks a few weeks ago that he was better than Michael Jordan verged on blaspheme. I know I wasn’t alone. Many in and out of the sport got into the dialogue and spoke up that there is no comparison to MJ, at least not while a career is currently going. We can’t even say with full confidence that Kobe stands toe to toe with MJ. So how could Lebron possibly be better after 8 years in the pros and no championships?

On the flip side, more focus needs to be going to the Mavs. Not only are these guys full of class, maturity, heart, and perseverance, there are countless stories of inspiration within the overall story of their success that we could all spend the next month telling each other. There’s the amazing story behind Dirk who has played his entire career in Dallas, not leaving to go elsewhere to win a champ (a-la Lebron last year). There’s the facet about him staying at the arena and continuing to work on aspects of his game after he’s already played a full game (regular season, playoffs and finals) with his German basketball coach to improve on what he lacked during the game. Is there a player in basketball (or other sports for that matter) with that kind of dedication to excellence? There’s Jason Kidd who now has a championship after 17 years in the league. There’s Jason Terry who got a tattoo of the NBA championship trophy on his bicep and guaranteed a Finals championship well before he earned it. These are but the tip of the iceberg.

There are two underlying points I’d like to make briefly here concerning the Lebron side of the game, and the Mavs side of the game, and both have everything to do with you culture and lessons we can pass on to our children and young people. Let’s start with Lebron. Here’s a guy who excels at basketball so much that he gets drafted without ever having stepped on a court of higher pedigree than teenagers in a gymnasium. That by itself will jack up your ego. He leads a Cavalier team through 8 seasons almost single-handedly, once to the Finals. Knowing that the team’s success was largely due to his contributions, that also must have affected his ego. Then he makes a big deal about moving his place of work to a town with 2 other superstar players and guarantees endless championships will be the result. After a convincing win over Boston, then Chicago, the Mavs must have seemed to be another stop on the bus tour to victory. But it didn’t work out that way.

Ignore the whole thing with Dwayne Wade where the two of them mocked Dirk’s sickness on camera. Ignore the comment made post game last night that all his haters still had to wake up tomorrow and live their same old lives. Ignore that he bolted immediately after the game and didn’t stick around to congratulate the winning team (Wade did that to his credit). All of these things and the myriad of others I think have a lot more to do with the lack of leadership and guidance he’s had in life, which is more of a tragedy than and place of blame. His mother must have had a hard time raising a man-child on her own. Come on, the kid is 18 and 6 foot 5? That didn’t happen over night. I can only assume that trying to put restrictions or discipline in place during his teenage years must have been hellish to say the least. Who were his father figures? Who were the men that brought him direction, accountability, and taught him the realities of life? I’d argue that based on his behavior, they either didn’t have much of an impact on him or they didn’t exist.

This is why we’ll never really be able to compare Lebron to Jordan. Jordan’s father James Jordan was an integral part of MJ’s life, his success in sports, and the man he became. One can only assume that James taught Michael that if he wanted to win at the highest level, his dedication to being the best could only be met by him. That’s why when Michael talked about trying out for a team in college, he only refers to himself as the best competition for himself. Lebron might be convinced that he’s the greatest, but he hasn’t proved that because there isn’t a father in his life to really push him, one that he respects as a man and will not just massage his ego all the time. Want further proof? Who was Mike Tyson before Cuss D’Amato? He was a punk kid that was in and out of juvenile detention. After Cuss he was the youngest champion in boxing history. After Cuss he never could put the pieces together.

Instead of hating on Lebron, or criticizing him, which I admit to having both done a bit of and also find it easier to do, we should be hoping and praying that someone with the maturity and character to lead him to become the man and athlete he has the potential to be, will step forward into that place. Until then, the best Lebron will ever become is a talented child who doesn’t play well with champions.

The other side of the subject is what we can all gain from the Mavs, high school and younger sports coaches in particular. Rick Carlisle made key changes in his lineup to give his team the advantage against the Heat. The players went along with his starting lineup. This meant key guys who normally started didn’t. They were ok with it, because in the end the team was more important than the individual. On the other team, you couldn’t say the same thing. Any coach who has ever tried to convince a ragtag group of kids to play together instead of against each other, tried to get one player to share the ball or the responsibility, or tried to work on teamwork now has a poster-child for such an endeavor. Has there been in the last decade (with the possible exception of the Boston Celtics a few years ago) a better example of team work versus individuals with talent where team work won? It’s hard to do. But this is the real deal, and that’s the best story from last night’s win. Teams win championships, individuals go home.