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Columns

I consider myself pretty much a face-to-face communicator. I don't really love talking on the phone — though I hate that my little sister refuses to answer hers (Hallie, I hope you're reading this.) Texting will do in a pinch, but it doesn't take the place of real communication ... You know the spiel.

But, I'll come right out and say it: I love Facebook. And I do mean love — with a capital L.

It may just be that my birthday was last month. Unless you hate birthdays, it's pretty hard not to like Facebook on your “special day.”

Before Facebook, my best and oldest friend in the entire world didn't remember my birthday unless I was lucky.

Suffice it to say, I'm not the luckiest person as a rule. But this year: The birthday wishes kept flooding in! Even from Princess Stephanie, the aforementioned friend most likely to forget. It was better than a flaming chocolate cake — and calorie-free to boot.

Birthdays aside, thanks to Facebook, I'm now in touch with people I never thought I'd hear from again (and, frankly, with some I didn't care to). Formerly close friends — and friends not so close — who had disappeared from my life now share pictures, funny thoughts and, of course, many, many crude remarks.

On any given day, I know my cyber-friends' political leanings, religious or non-religious views, musical passions, curse word preferences — even, weirdly, if some of them are wearing underwear. It's a strange world out there ...
But perhaps my favorite thing about America's favorite “social networking site” is a Facebook love story.

For the sake of privacy (that's a big thing on FB), I'll call the two people Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill are both longtime friends of mine. Jill graduated from Cody High School with me — Jack, the year before.

While I remain friends with each of them to this day, our separate friendships blossomed at different times in life.

Jill and I met in fifth grade. She was at my 10th birthday party when we put balloons in our tops and paraded around the neighborhood in hysterics. We were two of the “smart girls” in junior high and high school and thus had our share of classes together. We spent some time together in college, but Jill was much more serious about school than I was at the time.

Jack, on the other hand, came into my life when I started venturing into ... let's just call it the more wild side of things. He was smart, funny, an amazing writer and musician, and we became good friends and party buddies.

So now, years later, I'm friends with both of them on Facebook. Pretty soon, I notice they've also friended (yes, that is a word) each other. Over the course of several months, their comments to each other become more and more frequent.

Jack, the consummate bad boy, started making an occasional soft, kind remark (not too often, mind you, and they were usually directed right at Jill). Jill, on the other hand, started dropping the “F-bomb” regularly. You see where this is going ...

At one point, I thought to my matchmaker self, “Maybe I should suggest that they get together...” But I convinced myself to mind my own business — not an easy task. But their back-and-forth continued — complete with little winking, smiley faces. ; )

And I couldn't resist: I sent the message to Jill. “Hey, it seems like you and Jack have a lot in common. You talk a lot about the same stuff. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think you should get together.”

Suffice it to say, they were miles ahead of me. Six months, numerous cross-country flights, and some “let's introduce our kids to each other” visits later, they're madly in love.

Two people whose paths likely would never have crossed again, who have suffered through personal crises and failed marriages, have found each other. All because of Facebook — what's not to like about that?

(And, yes, my little sis is my Facebook friend, too. Sometimes, she even responds to my posts.)

SPORTS GUY: And so it begins

Last summer, I dared to tred into history's footsteps and quote from a 1965 gubernatorial proclamation, reclaiming the title of Wyoming's baseball capital for Powell. With the calendar transitioning to the month of July, the time has come for Powell's various teams to defend that lofty status.

It was only fitting, then, that on the eve of calendars turning from June to baseball's title month, the Powell Pioneers delivered a warning shot across the bow of the rest of the state. The premature fireworks display came in the form of a 32-run explosion on Tuesday night.

There isn't a team in the state that wouldn't gladly accept 32 runs as its output in a doubleheader. For a single game, that sort of total is practically unheard of in video game circles, much less on an actual grass-and-dirt stadium surface.

It was, as best I can tell, the greatest offensive output by a Wyoming baseball team this summer. Gillette shelled Rapid City for 28 runs in what appears to have been the previous 2010 summer high.

Admittedly, those 32 runs on Tuesday night mean very little aside from giving the Pioneers the inside track now for a No. 1 seed when district tournament play opens on July 22. Powell won't be able to carry any of that scoring surplus forward as post-season action opens. Scoreboards will still begin each game reading 0-0.

Still, there is a significance to the number.

The 2010 edition of the Pioneers has, in some ways, been a victim of its own prior success. I'm probably as much to blame as anyone for being blinded by it.

A stellar 26-11 summer has been lost in the relative familiarity of been there, done that. One year ago, that's a record we would have been celebrating. This year, it looks almost pedestrian, despite the fact that it has been achieved with as many as two regulars out of the lineup for two weeks of the summer.

The Pioneers' 12-game win streak in June was nice. But, again, it probably didn't turn heads around the community the way it should have because last year's team chained together 13 W's.

Of course, we forget that 13-game streak was believed at the time to be the longest on record for the club.

Two hitters clobbering the ball at an over .500 clip? We've seen that. A team drilling the ball in play at a .400 clip?

Impressive as it may be, that's a sequel as well.

So as we sit here at T-minus three weeks away from the start of Legion baseball's post-season, it was indeed refreshing to see the Pioneers step out of their own shadow with a statement so thunderous, so outrageously inconceivable, that it simply cannot be ignored. There's no guarantee that a title will come home to Powell in July, but the message has now been sent — the road to the title will, most likely, run through Powell.

There's still much work to be done. Pitching needs to be sharpened. Double-digit strikeout performances by the batting order need to be exorcized once and for all from the scorebook. Defensive play in the field can always be fine-tuned.

But the call to arms has now been issued. Not only the Pioneers, but the Babe Ruth and Little League squads should hear its call and respond with alacrity.

The calendar has officially turned to baseball's title month. Let the excitement and anticipation begin to build.

There should be a gradual buzz building in the days ahead as state tournaments move nearer. March may have its madness, but July holds fields full of dreams.

Here in Wyoming's baseball capital, that's just the way we like it.

Every now and then, you run into someone who jogs your memory back to a simpler time. I encountered one of those old friends recently, (let's call him “Mark Skates,” since that is his real name).

We saw one another at (let's say “church,” although that is not where it was), and since he was my American Legion baseball coach in 1973 and a softball coach/teammate years later, we commonly talk sports.

After Mark pointed out how ridiculous my hair looked, I realized he regularly reads my column. But then he asked an intriguing question. “So how come you write about the old baseball days, but never about the softball years?”

I pondered, then said, “Ya know, Coach, you're not the first one who's asked me that. And as God is my designated hitter, you shall see a softball column soon.”

Today, I keep that vow to Mark, and to Sen. Hank Coe, who had asked me that same question several years ago at a local spot that also wasn't church.

Throughout my 20s and early 30s, Cody Men's Softball League was a bastion of male revelry. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ... actually, there wasn't anything “worst” about it; I was young, quick, had long, thick hair, and I could run the bases without carrying an inhaler.

My first year after Legion baseball was dedicated to a team with my two brothers and our elder statesman/coach/pitcher, Irv Gerber, called the “Men's Christians.” Opposing us with mocking, maddening glee, in that league of about a dozen teams, was a team officially called “Chief Service.” But my brother Jess and I both recall they derisively referred to themselves as “The Heathens.”

Oh, Mark Skates and his merry men weren't a bunch of atheists or anything; I'm sure most of them were church-going young men who took communion and went to confession. But their confessions were probably a lot more fun to listen to than ours.

Since I was no altar boy myself at 20, I secretly hung around after the games to drink beer with the Heathens in the shadows. It was dubious, I guess, but I never saw it as a betrayal of Judas' proportions or anything.

So here's Skates, Jerry Skar, little George Francis, John Wiley and an entire family of “Ballingers” going against us Christians. Oh, and did I mention Bill “Blackie” Blake, often wearing some kind of fake, obscene nose, passing around a bottle of tequila between innings? How was our sincere, pre-game prayer gonna compete with THAT?

We had our big orange cooler of ice water and paper cups, versus their beer and tequila. Heck, occasionally they'd even carry their beers along while running the bases. That really got our goat, not to mention our oxen.

We chattered desperate clichés like, “Hey batter; hey batter … swing, batter!” They guffawed things like, “Hey, Francis popped up; guess who's buying the beer next game?” They they'd convulse in laughter, as we'd roll our eyes and try to turn the other cheek.

Oh, but how we Christians came to hate those Heathens. Our legendary games always ended 8-7, or 5-4, or 12-11 … always in their favor. As Skates reminded me the other night, “I remember one game, you guys were up 5-0 in the bottom of the ninth … we came back and beat you 6-5.” I said to Mark, “You're a dear to remember!”

We played a season or two at those old, short fields, with an over-sized ball we called “Melon Ball.” Coe hit home runs with irritating regularity, Loren Grosskopf once hit five in one game, and soon the league expanded to new, longer fields on Blackburn Avenue.

By that time, the rapture had taken place for the Men's Christian team and I had taken my under-rated skills to free agency. I played a few years for “Hidden Valley Ranch” with the Poulsen brothers, Alan Richardson and big Marv Nelson among other notables. Then for the bulk of my softball career, I found myself on “Jack Sports”… which was the Heathens under a new name. Suddenly, Blackie Blake, “the legend,” seemed almost mortal.

Oh, I joined in with their jokes about always beating our Men's Christian team, and my new, heathenistic teammates laughed like drunken hyenas. A piece of my heart, though, remained with that disbanded gaggle of second-place warriors that were heckled during team prayers.

And it begs the theological question, “Did God abandon the Men's Christians during those losses?” Certainly not, but he only helps those who help themselves. He wasn't the one over-throwing first base and misjudging fly balls during all those late-inning chokes.

Quick hits and short bits while staring at my calendar in disbelief over the fact that I'll be changing it to July next week.

• Where has the time gone? It seems like just last month that I was standing huddled and shivering in wind and rain at the Wyoming State Track and Field championships.

• Oh, wait, that really was last month.

• Then again, it was just this past Sunday that The Sports Guy was attempting to fly into Billings, only to have his flight recalled to Denver due to the threat of icing.

• In hindsight, that decision probably saved him from being on the ground for Billings' first tornado in more than half a century. Funny how seeming inconveniences sometimes turn out to have deeper purpose.

• Now that the dust has settled, it appears all that conference realignment anxiety in college sports was more shadow than substance. For those needing help keeping up with the changes, here's the abbreviated version — the Mountain West trades Utah for Boise State, the PAC-10 and Big Ten gain conference championship games and the Big XII, for now, loses its title game.

• Then again, Texas and Oklahoma still face off in the Red River Rivalry each autumn, so in reality the Big XII has the same title game as the past several seasons.

• I love soccer, and I'm really trying to get into the spirit of the World Cup. It's just very hard to do since I have to watch every game with the volume muted to preserve my sanity from the buzzing of those godforsaken horns South Africans love to blow. Are we really expected to get into the game when it sounds like we're being swarmed by angry wasps?

• Besides, all this talk of growing American passion for the sport is largely window dressing. The Los Angeles Lakers win — yawn — another NBA title and cars burn while so-called fans riot in the streets. Team USA gets jobbed by an official's call and watches the would-be game-winning goal come off the board against Slovenia, and fans have to endure 10 minutes of baseball highlights before hearing about it in the sports report.

• Compare that to France, where government officials flew mid-tournament to South Africa in an attempt to spur on their national side, and you instantly recognize the sport has a long way to go in this country to enjoy the same level of passion it does globally.

• It has been 16 days, 12 games and three states since they last appeared in Powell, but the Pioneers will finally resume baseball play on their home field this weekend. It's a great chance for area fans to reacquaint themselves with the local American Legion baseball roster as the team hosts the Heavy Metal Classic this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

• Hard as it may be to believe, the Pioneers feature two players currently batting over .500 this summer. Grant Geiser and Scotty Jameson are putting the ball in play at clips that most slow-pitch softball players would be happy with.

• Three others — Tyler England, Auston Carter and Colter Bostick —head into the weekend with batting averages at or above the .400 mark. Could it be possible that this year's Pioneer squad is swinging the sticks better than last year's edition?

• Here's a tip of the ol' ball cap to Powell's Kaleb Asay for his recent national collegiate title in saddle bronc riding. Enjoy the feeling that comes from being the best there is at what you do, and good luck working your way up the PRCA money list in pursuit of a larger title the rest of the year.

• While on the subject of being the best there is, how many Powell High School and Powell Middle School athletes reading this column are regular visitors to the weight room this summer? Your competitors are. Championships are won in the off-season.

AMEND CORNER: Unanticipated benefits

A few years ago, I did something that I thought was completely altruistic; I voted to pay more taxes so Powell could continue to have a swimming pool.

I considered this a completely unselfish act, carried out solely to benefit Powell's younger citizens. After all, aside from a couple of sessions in motel spas, I hadn't been in a swimsuit in 20 years, and I really didn't have any impulse to put one on.

Furthermore, my wife, who can't swim, totally avoids pools, and our children both live more than 1,000 miles from Powell. At the time of the vote, we didn't even have any grandchildren, so there wasn't even any expectation that I might want to take a visiting descendent for a swim in the pool.

As a result, I didn't expect to get any personal benefit from the pool at all, so why should I want to pay taxes for it?

Being one of those soft-hearted liberals, though, I voted to pay them anyway.

Since then, though, something has changed, and the change began with another altruistic impulse. Since I had not only voted for the pool, but supported it publicly, I began to think I might be obligated to put my money where my mouth is and buy a membership to support the pool. When I broached this subject with my wife, though, she suggested that, if I was going to go that far, I should also actually venture into the water. Not only would that demonstrate real commitment to the aquatic center, but it would do me some good as well.

Well, as it happened, about the time the aquatic center was getting ready to open, information from the annual health fair was advising me to increase my exercise level. It triggered the memory of one summer back the 1980s, when my daughter was preparing for the fall swimming season. I took to accompanying her to the pool before breakfast and swimming five or 10 laps while she covered about 40. I also remembered that, by the end of the summer, I was in pretty good shape.

As a result of this spousal advice and old memories, I have visited the aquatic center roughly twice a week to splash up and down in the big pool ever since it opened.

Now, as you can imagine, after 20 years of not swimming, my first swimming episode was not what you would call smooth.

Anyone watching my first session probably was afraid that he or she might have to jump in to save me from going down for the third time.

It is true that, with swimming as with riding a bicycle, once you've learned to do it, you never forget how — but knowing how to do something and doing it are not always the same thing. I had to keep telling my arms what to do and reminding my legs that they weren't supposed to simply float along behind while my arms did all the work. Convincing the four of them to cooperate took a while. Then there's that whole breathing thing, which has to be coordinated with the arms and legs to avoid inhaling large amounts of water, but I generally avoided that problem by swimming the backstroke most of the time.

Despite my basic incompetence at getting all my body parts to work together toward a common goal, though, I managed to cover a couple of hundred yards on that first visit. I had to take a breather at each end of the pool, but, I figured that was OK, since I was doing something I hadn't done since I was in my 40s.

Well, six weeks later, nobody is going to mistake me for Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps or even for the slowest beginning swimmer on the Powell USA team, but I have made progress. Every trip to the pool has been easier than the last, and I have stretched my workouts to 500 yards or so. On my last trip, I actually swam four lengths of the pool without once having to stop and gasp for air, and I only swam part of it on my back.

This week, I plan to do even better.

As for the benefits, this whole swimming pool thing, coupled with skipping desserts and cutting back on spaghetti, has resulted in the shedding of approximately 15 pounds, bringing me down to a weight I haven't seen since before the last time I went swimming. I'm breathing better, sleeping better, and my knees and ankles aren't bothering me as much as before.

Consequently, I'm counting on the activity to help knock off another five or 10 pounds.

Furthermore, quite aside from the health benefits, I now do have grandchildren, and a couple of them will visit next month. I'm looking forward to taking my granddaughter to the pool, and from what I hear, she's looking forward some time in the water with Poppa, too.

In short, by doing something for my community, I received benefits I hadn't expected at all, and I figure I am receiving a pretty good return for my money. There's a lesson worth pondering in that.

And hey! Come on in! The water's fine.

Has anyone else noticed the strange twitch Powell residents have developed of late?

When the wind is blowing a certain direction, people all over town can be seen stopping dead in their tracks, covertly bending their heads down to determine if a smell is emanating from their armpits. Satisfied that the odor is not, after all, coming from their armpits, they resume their progress. But, wait — there's that smell again, followed by an encore of the whole stop, bend, sniff and continue routine.

On second sniff, it's not body odor, but rather the pervasive, powerful stench of rotting piles of beans beside Coulter Avenue.

Ah-ha!

But the twitch persists ... the smell is that bad.

Rumor has it that when the bean mill burned in 1966, the same overwhelming, fetid odor took over the community.

Apparently, it got so bad that an addendum to the “Welcome to Powell” sign on the edge of town said something like, “It smells like something died here, but it's just the beans.”

Unlike the familiar, almost nostalgic, odor of sugar beets in the fall, the smell of rotten beans is becoming unbearable — especially for the poor souls who have to live or work adjacent to the mess. But, come to think of it, maybe they're actually the lucky ones. If they stay where they are, they'll eventually get used to the smell, right? Kind of like when you're smelling candles in a store, and after about the fifth one, your sense of smell quits, well, sensing.

But for those of us who live or work several blocks away from the putrid pile, the stench sneaks up on us like a stalker in the night. One minute, the back door at the Tribune is wide open and we're enjoying the sweet promise of summer.

Then — WHAM! — there it is, stealthily invading ...

The other day, in a moment prior to recognition, I actually wondered, “Wow, what shoes am I wearing to make my feet smell so bad?” I glanced down, saw the usual warm-weather flip-flops, and then (with some relief) it hit me.

The foul, gag-inducing reek of the languishing legumes had once again crept into the building.

The wonderment got me again when I got in my car later that afternoon — what is that awful smell? The answer that time was all too clear.

Our managing editor, whose phobia of vomit is well-known in our office, related that, on a recent trip across town, the smell of the decomposing beans gave her mother a gagging fit.

“Do not throw up in my car,” she threatened her poor mother, who managed to keep her cookies intact. But the incident highlights how bad it really is.

Please — someone, anyone — spare the good folks of Powell and move those beans.

Otherwise, another addendum to the Welcome sign may appear soon. How does, “Welcome to Powell. Now take some rotten, smelly beans and go home!” sound?

Most people say that scent is the sense tied to memory — I believe taste is a close second.

After a long night and a short morning of sleep on a recent weekend spent in Billings, I went to breakfast with some friends.

As soon as I opened the menu I knew exactly what I wanted — a Belgian waffle.

Thank you, Perkins, for printing delicious pictures in your menu.

This was no subtle food craving, it was deeply rooted in the cortexes of my brain.

Even the thought of eating this mass of carbohydrates flooded my mind with images of laughing with friends, hours spent writing and the great outdoors near Story, Wyo.

The spark of these memories started at Young Writer's Camp (YWC), which I attended as a high school-aged kid. On the first day of camp in 2004 we were teamed up to write something as partners. I was teamed up with Jason Cooper, the camp faculty member who taught screenplay writing.

Together, we wrote a story about an odd character, Brian Ariel. We decided our protagonist's name should be a combination of characters we liked at the time — The Little Mermaid (his) and Brian Griffin from Family Guy (mine).

Tangent: Nothing epitomizes the YWC like a big burly, bearded man in a red flannel shirt and overalls who knits and likes the Little Mermaid.

The story Jason and I wrote filled one short page in my journal with atrocious chicken scratch I call my penmanship.

Brian Ariel and his best friend “Blank” go on a dining excursion from the pancake house to Baskin Robbins where Brian is continually proclaiming that this and that, from goldfish crackers to waffles, are his favorite foods.

One short line of dialogue from our tale became a catch phrase for me and a tie to camp for years to come.

“Dude, I love waffles.”

After camp there were a handful of meetings of campers at the Perkins in Sheridan to share in the enjoyment and elation of waffles.

At a mere mention, a few YWC alumni proclaimed the need to have another waffle meeting this summer.

This all resulted from a simple memory and the desire to eat a waffle.

I find in times of confusion in life, we often regress or try to find the feelings of simpler times.

I had a stressful couple of weeks recently, and for no reason I had the undying desire to eat waffles with my favorite topping — strawberries. This craving came to fruition that morning at the Perkins just off King Avenue and 19th Street in Billings while I dined in bliss with two newer friends after a night of youthful frivolity.

This, of course, led to the need to connect to my camp friends current and old to reaffirm — dudes, I love waffles.

In short, thanks to camp, I can recall this amazing experience and the feelings of peace and self-realization.

Oh, the magic of camp, simple foods and memories.

The camp is sponsored by the Sheridan Arts Council and takes place from July 24 -31 in Story. Admissions still are open, and applying is easy to do at the camp website, www.youngwriterscamp.com.

It has been painful to watch the spreading disaster along the Gulf Coast in recent weeks.

The blowout of the British Petroleum well and the resulting oil spill has had tragic consequences already, and there is no way of knowing when it will end. Fishermen are losing this year's season, and worse, may be facing the end of their industry and with it their way of life. The same is true of those who make their living from tourism. Eleven people lost it all when the drilling platform blew up, leaving their families forever changed.

Wildlife has suffered, too. Habitat for pelicans and other birds may be permanently damaged, and unlike humans, pelicans can't choose another way of life. They are pretty much stuck with their instincts, and have no way of knowing how to deal with the oil that is killing them.

Despite the tragedy, one facet of this situation is, if not funny, at least a little humorous. The oil slick, you see, has invaded not only the beaches and wetlands, but our politics as well. The invasion has turned a lot of the complaints about government on their heads.

Suddenly, the complaints that the federal government regulates too much have turned into complaints that it wasn't regulating enough. Politicians who once didn't want the feds to do anything, are now complaining that they aren't doing enough.

The ridiculous assertions that Barack Obama is a dictator have turned into equally ridiculous claims that he is not acting forcefully enough to deal with the crisis. Those who have been screaming about a so-called power grab are now griping that the president hasn't grabbed enough power. And if they aren't complaining, they have been silent. TEA Party favorite Rand Paul in Kentucky, for example, criticized the president for stating that he would keep pressure on the company to deal properly with the disaster, asserting that the president didn't have the right to do that. Since then, though, he has avoided making public statements about the spill.

Finally, those who holler the government can't do anything right have learned that private industry doesn't always do things right either, and their mistakes can devastate lives as much or more than the government mistakes.

This disaster has, in fact, revealed a truth about our relationship to our government. Americans, in general — yes, even liberals — don't really like government very much, particularly when it inhibits something we like to do. But Americans — yes, even conservatives — also want the government to protect us from evil deeds and foul-ups of businesses and our fellow citizens.

In short, we have conflicting expectations and desires of our governenment. We want a small (and cheap) government, but we want it to be ready with resources (including money) whenever we have a problem, whether it's an economic crisis, a terrorist attack, a flood of illegal immigrants or, in this case, a disaster resulting from corporate carelessness.

Those conflicting expectations have created the mess we are in right now. We have demanded a lot of our government, while at the same time weakening its ability to meet our demands and cutting the funding for taking needed action.

The cry right now is for a smaller, more limited government, one that is less intrusive into our lives. But that demand is contradicted by other cries. We demand more protection from illegal aliens, rising health care costs, Mother Nature's torments and man-caused disasters. We also demand more intrusion into people's lives in order to detect possible terrorists or stop women from seeking abortions.

The political fashion right now is to be angry, and it's exemplified by the ranting of talking heads of both extremes. The sentiment this year is to “throw the rascals out” and elect “outsiders” to office.

Unfortunately, recent history shows that such actions don't work. Electing political outsiders such as Arnold Schwartzenegger and Jesse Ventura didn't solve the problems faced by California and Minnesota, and filling Congress or the state legislature with novices next November won't produce positive results either. And decisions made in anger are rarely rational, and often make matters worse.

That's because the basic problem remains. Americans will still want the government to take action on things that are bothering them — everything from stopping oil spills to banning birth control methods they don't like. And they will want those things to happen without paying the taxes necessary to carry out those mandates.

No matter who is elected, the winners will have to find a way to reconcile those conflicting demands.

Meanwhile, we have a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico because a corporation cut corners in the name of profit, and government regulation failed to prevent it. Oil is still flowing into the Gulf. Fishermen are losing their livelihoods and pelicans are still dying.

And politically, we are all slipping and sliding in a giant oil slick.

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.

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