Friday, July 31, 2009

Checking for an End of the Week Pulse

Now that it's been a week since I last posted here, and even though I have no original ideas or anything remotely interesting has happened in that time, I suppose I should put something up for the few of you that have grown furious over looking at that same black and white picture that's been up for a week. So, I will revive the old gimmick post I once did every Wednesday where I take a screen shot of's top stories and basically point out what crappy stories make the top stories list in a world without football. And at the end, I determine if there is any sort of pulse in the world of sports.

Report: Manny, Ortiz on '03 list.
Well, well, well. A tip of the hat to you, Jose Canseco. After everyone wrote you off as a money-seeking whore, it turns out that you were right. I just hope this makes my Jose Canseco Donruss 40/40 Club baseball card that's in a box somewhere at my parent's house go up in value.

And it will also be thoroughly enjoyable to watch Red Sox fans realize that their franchise and its players do not, in fact, poop rainbows and are just like every other team in every sport.

Source: Odom, Lakers agree.
Apparently, there was a problem with Odom's request to be paid in Gummy Bears. Finding 12 metric tons of those is harder than you think.

BoSox working on deal with Indians for Martinez.
Once they find a reputable HGH dealer in Boston, which should be pretty easy, this one is done.

Arroyo not surprised in list of 104 includes him.
That makes three! Only 22 away from our first all-steroids team.

Washington at Jets camp.
A big, fat screw you from me to Leon Washington for cheating me out of some valuable fantasy football points last season. Thomas Jones does all the dirty work and then you steal all the glory in the redzone. I hate you.

At worlds, rival mocks Phelps on swimsuit issue.
Is this the Olympics? No? Okay then, no one cares. It's swimming.

Dodgers land Sherrill from Orioles.
Just over a month until football gets started again. But good luck to the Dodgers with Sherrill now on the team.

Raiders, No. 1 pick reach deal.
Congratulations, Darrius Heyward-Bay. You're career is over before it starts. Partially because you now play for the Raiders, but your quarterback will come from this group: Jeff Garcia, Bruce Gradkowski, JaMarcus Russell, Danny Southwick (that has to be a made-up name), Marques Tuiasosopo, Kenny Stabler (okay, I made that one up) and Andrew Walter.

In progress: Tiger makes furious surge at Buick.
Can a golfer really have a furious surge on a Friday? To me, a furious surge should be reserved for a Saturday, possibly a Sunday. I can see the headline "Furious surge by Tiger to get into contention for Sunday." Or, "Furious surge by Tiger falls short in final round of Buick." Today should get the "Tiger making noise on day two of Buick" treatment.

MLB Rumors: Up to the second trade chatter.
Shell out $3.33 a month to get the latest on trades that won't happen or that we get horribly wrong!

PULSE: Thanks to a recent injection of cow muscle builder, we're stronger than ever!

Friday, July 24, 2009

SEC Media Days Recap in Pictures

Now that the non-informative circus that is SEC media days has come to a close, I feel like some sort of recap of the three days is necessary. And necessary in pictorial form.

Tuesday, July 21

The media arrives. Wait, I'm sorry, wrong picture.

There. Much better.

Before any work can begin, they need a run through the free buffet. Pictured here is trip number four through the line.

Wednesday, July 22

Dan Mullen, Rich Brooks, Bobby Johnson and Bobby Petrino really entertained the media. Actually, Mullen and Brooks were engaging and at times, especially Brooks, pretty funny. However, the photographer fell asleep during the Bobby Johnson session and was still sleeping when they took the stage.

Thursday, July 23

Nick Saban's arrival was much more unassuming than the last two years'.

Mark Richt was so compelling that even bums outside the Winfrey Hotel couldn't stay awake to ask for change. Not to worry, Hoover residents. After this man was reported to Hoover police, 27 officers responded with weapons drawn and this menace to society is now safely locked away.

Houston Nutt was in fine revival form, preaching the gospel of Ole Miss to all the unbelievers. He manged to get one convert, as a lone media member voted Ole Miss to be SEC champion.

Urban Meyer tried to explain to all the media just how complicated his revolutionary idea of wanting the fastest team in America is. They were awed and can't wait to tell the rest of us about it throughout the entire college football season.

The media's SEC football Jesus, Tim Tebow, made an appearance. He answered questions, fed everyone again with just a few fish and loaves of bread and renewed man-crushes across the country.

Friday, July 24

Although strangely in cartoon form, Auburn fans marched on the Winfrey Hotel when they heard that seriously, Gene Chizik really is their head coach. Luckily for everyone there, Hoover police broke up this demonstration with their newly acquired M1 Abrams main battle tank, which was flanked by dozens of officers on Segways.

No, Danny Wuerffel did not show up. However, when Steve Spurrier got his first question on Stephen Garcia, he sighed, then momentarily drifted away to a special time when he had a competent quarterback.

Les Miles still doesn't have an LSU hat that sits lower on his head.

Lane Kiffin told the media that Tennessee still had a lot of work to do before the season starts, but that Vol fans shouldn't be worried because this man will have an instrumental role in getting the team ready for the fall.

Finally, after nothing was really said for three days, it was time to get the hell out of there.

The media claws its way out of Hoover.

And the coaches make their way back home.

Until next year.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

You'll Find No Originality Here

I've been out of pocket for the last two days so I've had no time to stick to my posting schedule that I haven't actually ever stuck to, which makes this post right on time with my anti-schedule and thus not late at all (if that makes any sense). And since I've had no time to post, I haven't been able to come up with a semi-original or blatantly stolen idea. That means you're about to go through a buffet line of links. Please get a new plate each time you go back and no, we do not allow take-home boxes.

-Ben Roethlisberger may love the ladies a little too much. And in a bad way. He's denying the claims and the Steelers say they are standing behind him.

-It's early, but new Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is giving former State coaches Sylvester Croom and Jackie Sherrill some tough competition in the always popular "players arrested" category. Mullen, just seven months into his job, has had five players arrested since he took over in December, the latest of which is running back Anthony Dixon. This story is several days old now, but if you missed it, Dixon was arrested for driving under the influence and was also cited for careless driving and not having proof of insurance. To me, two things stick out here: One, he was driving a Chevy Impala. State boosters, get this man an Escalade, STAT! And two, his drink of choice for the evening was champagne. Unless King Cobra or Silver Thunder makes a brand of champagne I'm unaware of, someone needs to introduce him to finer alcoholic beverages.

-Tony Bernazard, the Mets' vice president for player development, appears to be a graduate of the illustrious Ed Orgeron School of Management. After studying under the master, Bernazard recently visited the clubhouse of the Doube-A Binghamton Mets where he took off his shirt and challenged the entire team to a fight. No word if one side of the room began screaming "Binghamton Mets" while the other side responded with "Wild Boys."

-If this lawsuit takes away any of the joy I get out of playing EA's NCAA Football game, I'm coming for you Ed O'Bannon. Mark my words, mark my words.

-SEC media days starts today. Here's the schedule if you're at home, have ESPNU and want to hear a cluster bomb of cliches. Today's lineup of Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Kentucky should be compelling and rich.

-J.P. Losman can no longer murder your fantasy football team in a week nine spot start. Instead, he'll murder your United Football League fantasy team for an entire season. I should also mention this is the first time I've ever heard of the United Football League.

Enjoy your Wednesday. Back on Friday.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Buyer Beware: Unproven Head Coaches in the SEC

Recently, there was an article in the Clarion-Ledger by Kyle Veasey in which he writes about a few of the reasons behind Mississippi State's hiring of Dan Mullen. The most important of the reasons discussed in the article was State athletic director Greg Byrne's desire to have an vastly improved and much more entertaining brand of football on offense. And who could blame him after watching just one game of the Bulldogs' offense led by the mastermind that was Sylvester Croom. Speaking of what he was looking for on offense, Byrne said, "We wanted to be unique. We wanted to be something that our kids and our fan base would be excited to be a part of." It was only later that he mentioned what he was looking for in an actual coach. He said, "We wanted to find the right fit for Mississippi State. Now, we were definitely interested in finding someone who had a very good offensive pedigree. And one that we felt would be able to highlight an area that we felt like we needed improvement."

Even in mentioning the type of coach for which he was looking, Byrne still emphasized the idea of innovative, exciting offense and not proven results. Now, I bring this up because that sounded vaguely familiar to something I remember hearing in December of 2004. Ole Miss had just fired David Cutcliffe and was in the beginning stages of a coaching search. If you remember, Cutcliffe's lazy approach to recruiting had essentially given Ole Miss three years of self-imposed probation, the first of which was finally felt in 2004 and would be much worse in 2005. Among his other faults, Cutcliffe often appeared to be one of the least energized and dynamic coaches in the country, while remaining one of the most stubborn. His refusal to change on many fronts ultimately led to his firing.

So when Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone and then Chancellor Robert Khayat set out to find his replacement, the things they emphasized that they wanted most in the next coach were all of the major attributes Cutcliffe was missing: Passion for recruiting, dynamic, energetic and an openness to change. They also mentioned they wanted a proven head coach, which we know now they did not find (note: I tried to find the transcript from this press conference, but NO COPY EXISTS ANYWHERE. It's like the two of them set out to erase any record that at one point, they belived Ed Orgeron met their qualifications to coach Ole Miss. Don't tell me Robert Khayat wasn't one powerful son of a bitch. That old man conquered the Internet.). Instead of finding a guy with proven results, they went with some abstract qualifications (like, say, a "national title" in recruiting) and made what had to be one of the top three worst hires in the history of the SEC.

Compare the qualifications they listed for the eventual Ed Orgeron hire to what they wanted for his replacement. Pete Boone said, "Fairly simple. I would like to find a proven SEC head coach. It's as simple as that." That qualification led them to Houston Nutt, who had obviously proven himself at Arkansas, and whose hire cannot be accurately measured in terms of "percentage better than the Ed Orgeron hire" (if someone could mathematically figure out that formula I would be impressed). Now, I'm not saying that Dan Mullen is going to be the next Ed Orgeron. One would think that to be impossible. Seriously, 10-25 and 3-21 in SEC play in three years is almost unbelievable. But, looking back at SEC coaching hires since 1992, history does not bode well for Dan Mullen.

I decided to look up the records of unproven (and by unproven I mean those with no collegiate head coaching experience) coaches taking over programs that had struggled in the years previous to their arrivals and were not in what I would call good situations. They were dealing some combination of recent losing seasons, history of losing, lack of talent, probation, a divided fan base or poor facilities (I'm sure you can come up with more, but these were some of the bigger issues facing each of these schools). I also took a look at coaches with college head coaching experience who took over these programs to find out the difference between the two. What I discovered was, that for the most part, if you haven't been a head coach before and you're coming into a bad situation, expect to lose big.

First, the unproven coaches who took over schools in bad situations.

-In 1995, Tommy Tuberville took over an Ole Miss program nearly destroyed by probation and in the previous two seasons had gone a combined 8-14 (and one of those years involved the "coaching" of one Joe Lee Dunn, which was probably the darkest year in Ole Miss football history). In four seasons, Tuberville put together a 25-20 record while operating with nearly 25 less scholarships than most of the competition. However, while I think he pulled off one of the greatest coaching performances in college football history (considering the circumstances), it should be noted he compiled only a 12-20 conference record.

-Sylvester Croom began coaching a Mississippi State team that was just awful in Jackie Sherrill's last three years (7-27) and was also hit with NCAA probation, although not as severe as Ole Miss'. In five seasons, which most State fans will tell you was two season too long, Croom had a 21-38 record and a 10-30 mark in the SEC.

-At South Carolina, Brad Scott took over for Sparky Woods, who, in five years in Columbia, had a 24-28-3 record. Scott, also in five years, went 23-32-1 and 12-27-1 in the SEC.

-Guy Morriss replaced Hal Mumme at Kentucky in 2001. While Mumme did get Kentucky to two bowls, he left them with a healthy does of probation as well. He finished his time at Kentucky with a 20-26 and a 10-22 SEC record. Morriss managed to go 9-14 and 4-12 in the SEC, but did get the Wildcats to a bowl in his second year.

-Here's our first debatable situation: Ed Orgeron taking over for the fired David Cutcliffe. As I mentioned above, Cutcliffe's lazy recruiting efforts had essentially given Ole Miss a dose of self-imposed probation (I tried to research this and use what I remembered, but to the best of my knowledge, of the signees from 2002-2004, 45 of 61 made it to campus. And of those, maybe half actually contributed). His replacement was walking into an SEC team with no depth, not much talent and not a single competent quarterback on campus. Granted, this situation was not nearly as bad as the one Tubberville came into, but it wasn't very good. As we know, Orgeron went a spectacularly bad 10-25 and 3-21 in the SEC.

-And although it probably shouldn't count, Vanderbilt had two unproven coaches start their careers in really bad spots. Rod Dowhower (does anyone even remotely remember this guy?) picked up the pieces after Gerry DiNardo (10-26) went to LSU and crapped out a 4-18 and 1-15 mark in the SEC in two season. Then the brains at Vandy decided to go with another untested coach in Woody Widenhofer, who, in five season, went 15-40 and 4-36 in the SEC.

Tallying up those less than impressive records, there was one guy who managed to have a winning record. Tommy Tuberville, who still had a losing record in the conference.

The final damage: 107-187-1 (.363)
SEC record: 46-161-1 (.221)

Now, the experienced coaches taking over schools in bad situations.

-Terry Bowden took over at Auburn for Pat Dye, who managed to get the team placed on probation and compile a 10-11-1 and a 4-9-1 SEC record in his last two years. Bowden, whose first two teams were ineligible for postseason play, had a 47-17-1 and a 30-14-1 SEC record in six seasons.

-Danny Ford became head coach at Arkansas after three disastrous years under Jack Crowe and Joe Kines, who combined to go 12-21-1 and 3-4-1 in the SEC (Kines coached Arkansas' only season in the SEC before Ford). In five seasons, Ford went 26-30-1 and 16-23-1 in the SEC.

-Although technically Jackie Sherrill was hired in 1991, I'm going to throw him in here (it's all my damn research so I'll do as I please and you'll like it). Sherrill took the place of Rocky Felker, who compiled a 21-34 and a 5-28 SEC record in five years, and in 13 seasons went 75-75-2 and 43-59-1 in the SEC.

-Lou Holtz took over for the failed Brad Scott era (see record above) and in six years at South Carolina had a 33-37 and a 19-29 SEC mark.

-I once scissor kicked Lou Holtz in the throat. Just kidding. Wanted to see if anyone was still reading. But I would enjoy doing that.

-Houston Nutt replaced Danny Ford at Arkansas, and in 10 years went 75-48 and 42-38 in the SEC.

-Houston Nutt also replaced Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss and in his first season put togther a 9-4 and a 5-3 SEC record.

-Although this next guy is debatable, I'm including him here. Bobby Petrino walked into a job that was surely not as bad off as some of the others listed here, but it certainly wasn't ideal. There was no question the talent level was running dry at certain positions in Houston Nutt's final year. And when the big guys, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, left, coupled with not much remaining on defense, this wasn't a great job in the coaching world. Throw in the very public and disastrous divorce between Houston Nutt and the school and fan base, and I would consider times not to be so good at Arkansas. In his first year at Arkansas, Petrino compiled a 5-7 and a 2-6 SEC record.

-Gerry DiNardo, who sucked at Vanderbilt, went to LSU to replace Curley Hallman, who was 16-28 and had an SEC record of 10-21. Somehow DiNardo would go 33-24-1 and 19-20-1 in the SEC.

-Steve Spurrier took over for Lou Holtz at South Carolina (see record above), who was just 16-19 in his last three years in Columbia. Spurrier has gone 28-22 and 15-17 in the SEC.

-And Rich Brooks, even though Guy Morriss had a winning record the previous year, came to Kentucky with the school starting to feel the pains of probation and having a coach running away as fast as he could. Brooks has gone 32-41 and 13-35 in the SEC. Although, in the last three years, Kentucky has not only gone to bowl games, they've won them.

-Again, although I'm not sure it should count, Bobby Johnson stepped into the vortex of losing that is Vanderbilt and has put together a 27-56 and a 12-44 SEC record. And it should be noted, much to my dismay, he did get them into and won a bowl game last year.

So, after all that, obviously there's a little more success when someone who at least has a clue takes over.

Final record: 410-339-4 (.544)
SEC record: 226-272-3 (.451)

If you're scoring at home, it's .544 for the proven coaches and .363 for the unproven (.451 to .221 in SEC play). Of course, it seems logical those with head coaching experience will have better records because, like most anything, if you've done it before you tend to be better than someone who hasn't. And there are some other factors for attracting coaches I didn't consider, like resources, a commitment to football from the administration and prestige of the job, but I'm not sure exactly how to measure those (That means schools in really bad situations would certainly have a harder time hiring a coach who has head coaching experience.). But the difference in the numbers between the two groups is pretty strong (through some of my own mathematical skill, I estimated that an experienced coach coming into a bad coaching situation is worth roughly 2-3 more wins per season than an inexperienced one).

As these numbers show, Dan Mullen will most certainly struggle in his first two, possibly three years. It's possible he could have some success, after all even Sylvester Croom fell ass-backwards into an eight win season, but any sort of sustained success seems doubtful. Even Tommy Tuberville, who is the standard bearer in the SEC for unproven coaches, only had one season in which he won at least eight games and never won more than six in his other three seasons at Ole Miss. And, of course, as soon as he got his chance to move into a better situation, he left. I assume Greg Byrne knows he's rolling the dice with Dan Mullen, but I'm not sure he understands how long the odds facing him are.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Let's Watch the Home Run Derby One More Time

(Small aside before I start, which makes me wonder if this is technically an aside since the main material hasn’t started yet: Remember when I said I was going to establish some kind of posting regularity? Well, I didn’t even make it one week before falling off schedule, which actually kind of impressed me. I thought I’d at least make it a week before indifference set it. Now I know just how lazy I really am.)

Welcome to the single worst week of sports all year long. Baseball, which is just something mildly entertaining to occupy time between the end of basketball season and the beginning of football season, has taken a break from its March to November marathon. NBA free agency signings have calmed down after a furious 12 hour period in which we already knew who was going to sign where. And it’s still way too damn early to start talking about college football. I actually thought about it this past weekend and within several hours of having those thoughts Greg Hardy and Dexter McCluster were in a car wreck that put Hardy back in his protective boot for another week or so. I’m not implying that I believe in any sort of weird jinx based on positive thoughts on Ole Miss, but my point is that September through December is already going to be such a soul draining, physically destructive experience that I don’t want to add any length to it. I’m doing my best to ignore it for the next month.

So with absolutely nothing to watch over the next few days (unless you count the All-Star game, which is debatable. Although, I suppose I’ll watch since I’ve already seen Four Brothers on TNT at least six times. Now if Con Air is on tonight, that might change things. I’m always up for a good comedy.), let’s go over what you can expect to see from now until Friday night when baseball games return:

-No less than 14,982 breakdowns of the two All-Star team’s lineups. Nothing says analysis quite like mentioning that both of these lineups are loaded with talent. You think so, doctor? Wait, Eric Young, you have something else to add? Yes, that is true. The three, four and five hitters for the America League are going to be tough to get out.

-The home run derby on a seemingly constant loop. This year’s derby was probably the most enjoyable for me in recent memory. Mainly because I watched it at a bar with the sound off, which meant I didn’t hear one word from Chris Berman, Joe Morgan or Steve Phillips. A trio of more insufferable gasbags I cannot recall.

-All-Star highlights on a constant loop. This game really counts!

-A quarter of a million breakdowns of the All-Star game. Well said Fernando Vina. You’re right, the American League was able to win because they scored more runs. Hadn’t even considered that.

-Several thousand segments on what to expect in the second half of the baseball season. I agree, John Kruk. Those teams in first place right now are going to be hard to beat. And I’ll bet you’re right, we will see some of them in the playoffs. What’s that, Eric? No, I don’t want to listen to you anymore.

-Hours of trade speculation by guys who have no idea. There has to be, or there at least should be, a website that tracks baseball, football and basketball writers/TV personalities/analysts claims or reports on trades that will happen according to their sources. I want to see what percentage of these trade claims actually happened. It can’t be more than 10 percent. And the site needs a really detailed archive. For instance, we could go back to July of 2008 and see that one of ESPN’s baseball guys said his source told him that the Braves were trading Mark Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman, a bag of balls, a minor league pitcher and a turd sandwich. Then we could all laugh at the ridiculous….oh, wait. That actually happened.

I’m sure I’ve left some a few things out, and, if so, go ahead and file those under unwatchable with the list above. Could you say that again, TBS? Yes, I am interested in watching Sahara again. Very interested.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Finally, An Update

My apologies for the recent bout of ass-draggery, but chalk it up to the long weekend and that I receive exactly zero dollars for the incoherence in which you read here. That of course means I'm lazy and chose to do other crap than sit in front of my computer and type. So there. Anyway, I do have an announcement of sort pertaining to posting around here. I am going to do my best to establish some posting regularity on the Beast. Ideally, I'll be putting something new up for every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (assuming none of those are involved in a holiday or long weekend). I'm pretty sure I've said this before and you can see how well I stuck to it. Nevertheless, I will make every effort possible to stick to that schedule. Someone please remind of this next week when I go six days between posts.

A couple of thoughts from the long weekend...

I know it's hard to feel sorry for someone who makes or has made millions of dollars, but I couldn't help myself when I watched Andy Roddick in the post-match ceremony of the men's final at Wimbledon. Roddick had just played as well as he could play (other than the last few points of the final game) and still lost to Roger Federer. And you could almost see him, sitting in his chair staring blankly into space, realizing he may never have what it takes to beat Federer. For the record, I hate, I mean HATE, when writers or announcers try to tell you exactly what an athlete is thinking during a game or right as the game ends, so I have no idea if that's what he was thinking. But you couldn't deny seeing the devastation and heartbreak written on his face.

I'll be interested to see how he responds to losing not just this match, but the fashion in which he lost it. Knowing that probably for the rest of his tennis career when it really counts, he simply cannot beat two guys: Federer and Nadal (that is if Nadal ever bounces back from his knee problems, which seem to be strangely glossed over by the tennis media. Haven't his knees been bothering him for several years now? I'd be a little worried since they don't appear to be getting better). That realization had to become pretty clear on Sunday. Personally, I don't think I'd go outside for like three weeks if I had lost on Sunday . But then again, I'm pretty weak-minded and live my competitive mindset vicariously though 18-22 year old college football players. So we see who has the real problem.

I hope that poor bastard gets over it.

Finally, switching gears to a much sadder story, the Steve McNair murder. I don't feel the need to either pile on the morality or speculative train like seemingly everyone else in the free world, so I'll not be offering the same opinion you've heard since the details starting coming out on Saturday and Sunday. I did however want to try to explain why this bothered me, and potentially those also from Mississippi, more than I thought it would. Of course, since I'm so selfish, it only bothered me in a way that directly affected me. I suppose I should be more upset that a wife no longer has a husband or that four kids no longer have a dad, but forgive me for my selfishness.

When you grow up in Mississippi (I spent the first 25 years of my life there), you put up with people outside the state constantly taking a big, fat dump on it. People in entertainment and media, those state ranking reports that regularly have Mississippi at the bottom and even just people you meet are always there to let you know what the rest of the country and world thinks of your state. Certainly a great deal of it is deserved as Mississippi has more problems than I care to list in the space here. But what all these people and reports rarely acknowledge is that, although the state is troubled, it has some pretty great parts and people to it. And Mississippians take great pride in those people and places because they, the people and places, create rare moments of positive attention for the state.

I don't know Steve McNair. Other than what other people say about him, I have no idea what he was like outside the game of football. But I can tell you he was great for Mississippi. He, along with other athletes like Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Archie Manning and, yes, even Brett Favre (as you know, I'm not a fan, but he is most certainly good for the state), was someone all Mississippians could point to and say, "Look, here's something special from Mississippi." Not to be overly dramatic (although it may be too late for that now), but it was almost as if the guys mentioned above, and there are plenty of non-athletes too, represented each resident of the state as they performed in their respective professions. And we, even though we didn't know or will ever know these guys personally, always had a sense of pride whenever they succeeded because it felt like we were a part of something special.

To me, that kind of a close relationships, even though it's a one-way relationship, is normally found between fans of a team and its players. But it's pretty amazing when it happens between an entire state and its more famous native sons who aren't a part of a singular team. And I think that relationship developed in Mississippi because of the closeness of the state, both geographically and socially, and what we, as Mississippians, have all put up with our entire lives, which gives us a common bond. It's sort of like (and I'm stealing the following illustration from someone, but I can't remember who said this. My apologies to that person.) when you go through a tough experience with people you don't know, like a really hard class in college. The experience of making it through the class brings you together and you're forever connected to those people. And even though you don't really know them, you could run into them later in college and always talk about how tough that class was. That's what Mississippians have with each other. We all share, no matter who we are, what it's like to grow up in a connected place like Mississippi.

Mississippi is not a particularly big state in terms of area (31st in the U.S.) and its population is just under three million (32nd in the U.S.). If you were to name a town in the state, my guess is that you could come up with someone who lived or had lived there, and if not, you could use that degrees of separation game and have someone named within two degrees of you. So, for instance, when the story of McNair's death broke on Saturday, you, in just three phone calls, could have been talking to a friend of a friend of a friend who lived in Mount Olive and asked them for their reaction to the news. It's an extremely loose, yet tight-knit place (if that makes any sense). That's why when I found out about McNair's death I felt like we had just lost "one of us." Steve McNair and the rest of Mississippi could relate to one another because we were all raised in the same state, even though all of our upbringings were different. And it sucks to have lost one of us, especially one who was so great for and to Mississippi.