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MY LOUSY WORLD: A few odd theories

Theories are fun, but not those conspiracy theories that anyone can come up with. Since they're impossible to disprove, the theorist feels justified and just a little smarter than the rest of us objective dummies. We're all a little slow, since we can't prove George Bush and the Jews didn't plan 9/11, or that Clinton wasn't responsible for the deaths of Vince Foster, Jim McDougal and Jayne Mansfield.

The theories I love are odd ones with some actual rationale. My friend Mike “Soup” Fink has a few pet theories … some old, some new, some borrowed, some blue.

He ran a borrowed one by me recently, which I've coined, “The Nerd Evolution Theory,” that originated with his friend Chuck. Chuck is upper-middle age and admitted to Mike he was a nerd in high school. Cheerleaders, brainiacs, the girls next door … they all denied his very existence.

But that seems to be changing, Chuck chirped, because “the older a guy gets, the better his romance odds become.”

His theory purports that the teenage dork might be considered quite a catch 45 years later when other men are dying off.

Technically, he's probably right, since statistically the average life expectancy of a woman is five years longer than that of a man. That leaves a lot of still-frisky widows just chomping at the bit, so to speak.

Combined with other factors such as riskier lifestyles, it adds up to a dork's odds increasing daily, particularly if he watches a lot of TV instead of mountain climbing or skydiving. Chuck said many retirement communities boast three women per every man. Still, my “Theory of Diminishing Returns” says if I ever end up in a community with a 3 to 1 ratio, the guy next to me will have six! I'll still be watching TV alone.

But I can't dispute the once-geeky Chuck's Theory of Nerd Evolution. Even Erkel and Pee Wee Herman might eventually be considered studs if they live long enough, I suppose.

That was Fink's borrowed theory, but he also has “something new,” and I'm intrigued – although deeply troubled by his thought process.

First the setup to what I've named Mike's “Big Cow Theory.” A few weeks ago, I shingled a three-car garage on a big farm on the outskirts of Cody. Driving the winding, dirt road, there were cows nearly as far as the eye could see, and beside nearly every one was a cute, little, still-wobbly calf.

I told Fink about this, and we agreed those little suckers are almost as cute as kittens.

“I bet it almost makes you want to stop and pick one up,” he offered.

“Well, yeah … I'd never really thought about it, I guess,” I answered, bemused.

And then his theory: “Ya know, if you stopped every day and picked up a calf, by the time they're full-grown cows, you'd be strong enough to still pick them up.”

Now, my first thought was, “Hmmm; I never figured Fink for a crackhead.”

Yet, what he was putting out there was technically accurate. He and I used to lift weights together and are both aware of the magical gym formula of muscle-growth: “Repetition + increased resistance = larger, stronger muscle mass.”

My friend Soup, in an insane way, was transferring that formula to farm animals, and theoretically, he's spot on. If I indeed drove that road every single day and lifted a calf over my head, eventually I could clean-and-jerk a full-grown Guernsey.

But it would be foolish on so many levels. First, it's much simpler and convenient to go to the gym and pick up barbells. It's difficult and awkward trying to get a good grip on a calf. Also, your average calf is gonna be thrashing and scrambling to get away. So before you could perform the proper set of repetitions, you'd have to chase and tackle it several times.

True, this would increase my capacity for aerobic exercise, but chances are eventually someone would notice and report me. The humiliating “Police Reports” page of the newspaper would say, “Passerby reported short, unkempt-looking man in a roofing truck trespassing on private property. ‘He does it every day and always stops to hoist cows over his head.'”

So Fink's theory will remain just a theory, because that is not how I roll.

I don't think my friend was trying to give me a bum steer, but simply stating a theory, and one with credible rationale. Still, to come up with something like that, theoretically he might be crazier than a pet coon.

The Sports Guy is currently sitting in a terminal at Denver International Airport. I thought about trying to hitch a ride with Auston Carter and see if there was room on the flight to Poland, but had some doubts as to whether or not my chiseled physique would pass for a wrestler.

Instead, I'm thumb-twiddling and flipping through sports publications to kill a two-hour layover. It appears that all is not well in Big 12 land. In fact, it resembles the deck of the Titanic.

As many of you who pay attention to national sports broadcasts might be aware, the Big 10 opened a can of worms by stating earlier this year that it would like to invite as many as five other schools to join its party. Apparently feeling left out, the PAC-10 is evidently willing to kick things into nuclear escalation mode by offering spots to six of the Big 12 members.
More telling, nobody seems to be in a rush to deny that little rumor.

So, imagine if you will, a landscape where the Big 12 is suddenly the Big Four and Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Iowa State are attempting to ascertain the license number of the truck that just hit them. Wyoming better start taking notice.

Don't think for a second the Big 10 and PAC-10 could expand without repercussion. The Southeast and ACC would quickly plunder Big East leftovers and possibly a Conference USA school or two.

Let's face it. The Mountain West Conference is already starved for attention and kicking at the door of the BCS to be let in.

If you think that door is hard to get open right now, just imagine how things will be when two-thirds of Division I football schools and virtually all of the “power players” are consolidated into four super-conferences, each complete with their own multi-million dollar television network.

Notre Dame might be able to tred water in such an environment. Wyoming cannot. And don't even try convincing me that The Mountain deserves mention in the same breath as the Big Ten Network.

Wyoming and the rest of the Mountain West can hardly afford to wait around and see where the dust settles after the initial wave of conference expansions. Acting is far better than reacting in this case.

If Boise State and Nevada aren't already on the Mountain West speed dial, now's the time to start pushing digits and making an offer. Send a call out to Fresno State and San Jose State as well — there are a lot of television sets in California, and the Mountain West's largest downfall at present is its lack of media share compared to BCS leagues.

For that same reason, if Baylor really is left out in the cold, the MWC might want to give the Bears a look. A second Texas presence would keep TCU from feeling lonely and also could help add more market share. As a league, I'm not sure where you go from there, but I'd be making those phone calls long before the folks over in the Western Athletic Confernece ponder making a grab for Colorado State, TCU, BYU, Utah, UNLV and San Diego State.

Beyond shuffling chairs on the conference deck, though, Wyoming needs to have a worst-case scenario plan. What is the school prepared to do in a landscape where four superconferences rule the NCAA landscape?

By all indications, it isn't a question of “if” massive conference realignment is coming to the NCAA's upper ranks. It is only a question of “when” and “how.”

Even though Wyoming and the Mountain West Conference aren't standing on the front lines in this change discussion, any actual changes will inevitably sweep through every league and every program in college football's bowl subdivision. The best thing Wyoming and the MWC can do right now is be proactive and start laying a plan so that we have options when the official membership offers start to fly.

It seems the last several weeks have been nothing but work at the Bonner residence.

Holiday weekend? What holiday weekend?! It passed by in a blur of dirt, plants and heavy lifting.

Brad and I have been accused of being slightly obsessive/compulsive — we prefer to say “we don't let much grass grow” when projects are involved. And, so far, it's working for us — and we're increasingly aware that we really deserve each other.

As you may know, we're currently living in tight quarters. While our newly-remodeled house is perfect in many ways, the closets leave a lot to be desired — not to mention the single bathroom. Oh, and we also need some more bedrooms — but we're biding our time before embarking on the next remodeling project, which left us in a bit of a dilemma.

We realized we really needed to utilize our outdoor space to avoid feeling claustrophobic. The backyard is our favorite part of the property, but last year's construction left it in pretty sad shape. The towering pine tree that we cut down to accommodate the project left a huge expanse of dirt and debris — dirt that has been mud through many of the last months.

So, several weeks ago, we decided we'd be well-served to spruce things up for the immediacy. A little fix-up would render our yard useable for the summer months.

My muscles currently don't feel like “little fix-up” adequately describes the project, even though it all started innocently enough: Let's buy some sod so we can get rid of the dirt patch right outside the back door.

So Brad and I picked up three tons of sod a couple Fridays ago. By Saturday afternoon, we had that wonderful sense of instant gratification. Overnight lawn!

But could we just leave it at that? Of course not ...

One of us (I may deserve the blame) decided we should build a small patio as well. Several loads of pea gravel, sand and pavers later — not to mention worn out gloves and an atrocious sunburn — we had our patio, complete with a fire pit and benches repurposed from the original house's fireplace hearth and mantle.

Then back to our real jobs for the week. On the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday, a load of cedar landscape timbers landed in our driveway. Hello, gardens!

While Brad filled and patched holes in desperate need of grass seed, Bliss and I planted vegetable and herb gardens on Saturday and Sunday.

Not to miss an opportunity, we had a little dinner party on Sunday night, and then we headed to the greenhouse for more plants on the Memorial Day holiday.

Hmmmm: Is it really a mystery why I'm feeling so fatigued after the three-day weekend?

But, there was a tremendous sense of satisfaction as we sat on the patio Monday evening, gazing at our projects — and actually enjoying the backyard the way we envisioned.

Little Bliss has enjoyed the process, I think, while offering loads of the variety of help only a 3-year-old can offer. Digging sand out from between the pavers (we finally relented and bought her a sandbox), riding in the wheelbarrow, stealing shovels and “planting” flowers plucked from brand-new plants. Ugggh.

She even got a pair of purple Dora the Explorer gardening gloves (but she doesn't want them to get dirty.) And I really thought I was imparting some of my limited gardening knowledge to her — including that dandelions are not the most desirable garden plant.

Though I will admit I've been gentle about it since she loves the little yellow harbingers of summer so.

As we were driving along a county road yesterday morning, Bliss spotted a field full of dandelions.

Excitedly, she pointed them out.

“Mom, look at all the dandelions,” she almost shouted. “Some of them are the smelling kind and some are the blowing kind!”

I'm afraid all our efforts of the past few weeks may go to the weeds if Bliss has anything to say about it.

As stated previously, there is no such thing as a free haircut. I'll premise my proof with a few words about my opinion page photo. The conservative doo you've been seeing is misleading. After that bizarre, short-hair stage I went through, I launched “Operation Repo.”

The Tea Partiers can have their country back; I just want my hair back!

That photo was taken several months after I had shaved my head for a short film role, but hair-nostalgia soon got the best of me and my trusted, long-time stylist, Monica. Tiring from fruitless attempts to dissuade me, she said if I was determined to reclaim my life-long shaggy look, I might as well go all the way with one long length instead of a return to the ghost town of Mulletville.

She clearly thought me imbecilic (I've been called worse!) for not staying with the short look she swore made me look 10 years younger, but trimmed me up and wished me Godspeed.

After 12 school years of Beatle bangs followed by 35 years of mullets of varying degrees, I was in quest of the Holy Grail: the ponytail. For more than a year I've been inching toward it, often wearing the Bret Michaels headband to compliment the thinning front, while the sides and back kissed my shoulders and flirted with my back. My hair was longer than ever before and only months from gold.

And then one Saturday evening in March, a common group of friends again razzed my lengthening locks — particularly the sides, where the headband indentation accentuated the distinctive “poofiness.” I've had that thick, two-tiered side hair since my teens when I came to Cody and baseball teammate Dave Beemer called me “Ponderosa Pine.”

But I was totally at peace with it. My future ponytail was a work-in-progress, and soon I'd be past that in-between stage Monica warned me about. They continued the derisive critique though, and one gal, (we'll just call her Phoebe) uttered that fateful offer: “Hey, I'm cutting his (her boyfriend, who we'll call Chandler) hair tomorrow. Let me ‘trim' yours too; we'll all have a little wine, order a pizza and have a haircut party.”

The five of them were united, with Chandler promising if I just let her thin the sides, he'd quit calling me “Mushroom Head.”

They threw around that word, “free” haircut, and the deceptive, “… not one bit shorter; just not as bulky.” Finally when I heard the seductive, “It will probably look even longer once it's thinned out,” I acquiesced.

The next day as I watched Phoebe trim Chandler's simple-to-cut, Beaver Cleaver hair, I tried to back out. Again she insisted my precious length wouldn't be tampered with, so when Chandler vacated the chair, I walked to it like a lamb to the shearing.

She began gently, but soon those scissors sounded like swords flailing through the air, hair clumps landing heavily on my shoulders. I jokingly feigned panic, but when I glanced around and saw the fading smiles and widening eyes, I sensed life as I knew it had just changed.

Then I really freaked out when Phoebe stopped, studied my head and actually offered the scissors to Jen and Linda with, “Hey, if anyone else wants to cut some, I won't be offended.” WHAT? Three people you never want to hear that from are a dentist, urologist and anyone trimming your hair!

An ashen Jen — almost as if feeling pressured — slowly took the scissors and a few quick snips of her own.

Long story (and hair) short, I looked into Chandler's bathroom mirror and saw something resembling my mullets of old … except this one a really bad mullet. I gasped but stifled a scream, sparing my good friend Phoebe's well-intentioned feelings. After all, cutting hair isn't her regular job and she never claimed to have a degree in long-hair restoration.

I said as little as possible, but when I ran into friends Scott and DeAnna on my home, they howled with a pitiful delight. The first thing DeAnna was a dear to point out was “The right side is over an inch shorter than the left.”

Free haircut, my keester! After weeks of hysteria from nearly everyone I knew, and an awkward chance encounter with Monica, I allowed another stylist I'd met to take a stab. She warned me there was no salvaging what length remained, but I made her try. After a $15 re-trim, it didn't look much better — only shorter. My ponytail dream had ended.

Next week I'll return to Monica and beg her forgiveness for straying. I know we'll have to start over, but if she agrees to take me back, I promise I'll never again look for it free on the streets when I can pay for it from a real pro!

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. I start this week's column off with that note because, for those of you who attended last weekend's state track meet in Casper, the reminder might be necessary.

The assignment seemed simple enough. Travel to Casper for three days. Attend the state meet. Shoot photos like crazy and send the occasional blog post home via laptop computer to keep those interested from afar or those unable to travel from Powell to Casper apprised of the action.

But we all know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice, men and sports editors in planning meetings.

Now, to be clear here, I really did do my homework, faithful reader. I checked the weather forecast before I packed. I knew there was a chance of rain. I knew the temperatures were supposed to drop off from the low 70s on Thursday into the weekend. Heck, I even knew the wind —a permanent fixture in Casper — was supposed to rear up.

I knew these things, and still I remembered my first state track meet in Wyoming, parading about the Kelly Walsh track in sunshine and shorts. How bad could it really be? After all, this was the state track meet, with June right around the corner.

I took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Heck, I might have even chewed on the boat.

Let the record show that, before departing for Casper, I made the conscious decision to pull most of the winter gear out of my car to make room for other “essential items.” The winter coat that's been planted in the back seat since last football season? Gone. The thermal blanket that's been in the back seat “just in case”? Gone. Stocking hat and gloves? Not on this trip.

Boy was I suckered.

These are the sorts of mistakes I expected to make during my first year in Wyoming. Instead, I fell into the sophomore jinx because, as many of you are aware, it did not get into the 70s on Thursday. That small chance of rain did not stay small on Friday or Saturday. And the temperatures that were supposed to fall into the 60s for championship Saturday instead decided to keep falling through the 50s, into the 40s, and narrowly flirted for a period of time of entering the 30s —all while a 30 mile-per-hour wind howled its approval.

This explains why, as championship Saturday rolled along, I found myself huddled against the side of a shed, surrounded by others, desperately trying to stay warm and relatively dry. They say misery loves company. Now I know that the reason for that is because its harder to freeze to death if you're sharing body heat with two or three dozen other shivering spirits.

Welcome to the state track and field championships, sponsored by the Wyoming High School Activities Association. And hypothermia.

Last Saturday will go down in my personal history as one of the most miserable days I've ever spent covering a sporting event. I can't, in clear conscience, rank it ahead of standing in a 20-below wind chill atop a hill in Rapelje, Mont., covering six-man football, but it definitely gets solid consideration for second place. Had it not been for a long-forgotten Polartec shirt stashed away in my mountain pack in the trunk, I'm not sure I would have made it through the day.

As it stands, I survived long enough to see what had to be one of the most abbreviated state trophy presentations I've ever attended. Congratulations, here's your trophy, now run and get back on the bus to warm up. Quite the change from the nearly hour-long loitering on the infield that had accompanied last season's awards.

The moral of the story here, faithful reader, is that three-day advanced forecasts in Wyoming appear to be no more reliable than throwing a dart at a wide range of weather options. I'm learning from this mistake, as are many others, I'm sure.

So next May, when you're wondering why I'm standing in snow boots and sweating to death in 85-degree heat at the state track meet, you'll know exactly the reason why.

AMEND CORNER: Remembering Willie

(This column originally appeared in another newspaper in 2002. I think it makes an important point, so I have submitted it, with a few minor revisions, for this issue. I hope you will agree and forgive me for recycling it for this Memorial Day.)

In a song called “The Green Fields of France,” an Australian folk singer, Eric Bogle, addresses a young soldier whose name is engraved on a cross in a World War I cemetery in France.

The soldier, Willie McBride, was 19 when he died in “The Great War,” World War I. At the time, this war was called “The War to End All Wars,” and it was arguably one of the most senseless wars in history.

In one of the verses of the song, the singer asks this question of Willie:

Did you leave any a wife or a sweetheart behind,

In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined.

Although you died back in nineteen sixteen,

In that faithful heart are you forever nineteen.

Or are you a stranger without even a name,

Enclosed forever behind a glass pane,

In an old photograph, torn and battered and stained

And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame.

Unfortunately, there are millions of men, and women as well, who have been casualties of the many wars fought over the history of mankind, and nearly all of them are not even names on crosses or photographs in our memory books any more. They are forgotten by history, remembered, if at all, only as estimates of the number of dead in almanacs and casualty lists in military records.

For our collective memory is short, and only our most recent war dead are still real people to those of us who survive. Willie and his comrades, who died in wars so long ago, have no one to remember them at all.

Willie, of course, was British, not American, and when he died, America was not yet involved in World War I. But it is still worth remembering him when we pause for Memorial Day on Monday.

We Americans like to think that we arrived at where we are all by ourselves, but our way of life and our way of government have their roots in conflicts throughout human history. The ancient wars of the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Romans and the colonial wars of the 17th and 18th centuries contributed to the development of our society, just as the conflicts of 1776, 1864 and those of the last century did.

In short, the foundation for our society and culture rests on the military and civilian dead of centuries of warfare. And most of those individuals are remembered, if at all, as names engraved on crosses or as unidentified faces in photographs. A few moments of reflection by us is the only monument the vast majority of them will ever have.

More important, the more we reflect on those faceless dead and how they died, the more likely we are to work toward ending the cruelty and waste of war.

As you remember our war dead on Monday, save a few minutes to reflect on those faceless others who gave their all — guys like Willie McBride.

I'm so excited, I'm just going to blurt it out: The girls have come home to roost!

Yes, our five little pullets (the fancy name for young hens) are comfortably ensconced in their backyard coop.

SPORTS GUY: Prepare to be shocked

According to the saying, lightning never strikes the same place twice. The Sports Guy begs to differ.

Last season, lightning struck on the surface of the Harry Geldien Stadium track when the Powell Panthers produced some last-minute magic in the boys' 4x400 relay. That head-to-head battle with Cody determined a team title and brought the state championship home to Powell.

There are storm clouds gathering once again.

The Sports Guy recently found himself with a few free minutes, so he did what sports editors are prone to do. He simulated the entire state track meet. Twice.

The track website Milesplit Wyoming includes a neat feature that allows users to simulate a track meet. Based on the best times, heights and distances from results input into the site's database, a hypothetical order of finish can be established for any collection of schools one cares to include.

Naturally, I had 3A track on the brain.

According to the machine, Panther fans had best prepare for a nerve-wracking weekend. Its state track scenario has Powell lining up opposite Douglas in the boys' 4x400 relay with a state title on the line.

Sound familiar?

Of course, not every track meet in the state of Wyoming — including last weekend's regional meet —has found its way into Milesplit's database. That's why yours truly spent some quality time with 36 pages of regional track results strewn about the office simulating the state track meet based solely on the results from 3A's two regional meets.

The verdict again has Powell lining up in the 4x400 with a state title at stake. Only this time, the Panthers will be running down Jackson rather than Douglas to defend their title.

Hey, this is starting to sound like fun.

But the possibilities don't end there. Take a look at the girls' regional data and there's a chance we could be looking at a 3A state track meet against which all others will someday be compared.

If the data from the regional meet holds true, runners will line up for the 4x400 relay final with only two points separating first from fourth place in the team standings. If you thought last year's boys' 4x400 head-to-head race against Cody was the peak of drama, imagine how insane the atmosphere at Kelly Walsh will be if four schools — half the field —step into the starting blocks this Saturday knowing that a state title could be a little more than four minutes away.

Of course, there's no guarantee that any of these scenarios will actually come to pass. After all, that's why they play the game and why we love to sit back and watch every minute of the action.

Nevertheless, the data does point in one very clear direction. Both Panther track teams have the opportunity to make some noise in Casper this weekend. Both teams have a chance to come home sporting new trophies for the trophy case, and both are looking at a situation where every performance matters if they're going to make it a reality.

That's exactly how things should be on the final sports weekend of the 2009-2010 school year.

The Sports Guy has a new electronic toy and, weather and wi-fi permitting, will be posting a regular blog from Casper. Check the Powell Tribune's blog frequently to check in on him and get his latest observations from the state track and field championships.

On a recent Friday — the day the East Entrance of Yellowstone opened for the season — Bliss and I loaded in the car for a mother-daughter day in the park.

Charlie, the fat-butted Aussie, came along for the ride as well. Brad, however, declined — asking if he could, “watch it on video” instead. Right ...

This was not what Northwest College needed.

An academic year that had already featured a faculty-adminstration standoff and controversy over recruitment letters added another chapter to the drama last week when a flare-up at an off-campus party spilled back onto campus. That incident resulted in six student-athletes being placed on disciplinary suspension and three members of the Trapper men's basketball program being dismissed from the team.

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