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Aggre-Catching-Up: 2013 Holiday Edition

Consider this my feeble effort to pry myself out of a bout of "burial by research."

» First things first, Early Voting is going on in the Houston area for City Council and HCC trustee elections. I'm covered in both of those situations and cast my vote for Robinson, Morales, and Glaser. I'll leave it to the smart readers to figure out what offices those match up to and why I chose them. I had something approaching fun working as an Election Clerk during the November elections, but I'm skipping out on that this time around. That's not intended to dissuade any readership who might be interested in doing so and working in the primaries next March - especially if you have any spoken language skill in Vietnamese, Chinese, or Spanish. One of the newfound joys in life is that I now get calls and requests for leads on that. Feel free to hit me up if that sounds like something you'd want to try.

» Compressing all of my football notes into the briefest possible bullet-point: I'm a little proud of myself for venturing out to see a few Coog games finally. I never thought much of the crowded environs at the old Robertson, so the travel-year for home games made it interesting to see the soccer stadium and pick up an affordable ticket at Reliant for the SMU shutout. On the high school front, my Trinity Trojans are still in the playoffs - but they go up against a team that dropped 61 points on them earlier in the season. Win or lose, though, the 5A-D1 title game *should* be an all-Metroplex affair. I'm going to love that if Trinity makes it. And I'm rooting for Allen High if they don't. I had the good fortune of watching the Cinco Ranch Cougars play Strake Jesuit this season. Luke Klingler (David's kid) was the QB and it looked like they were just playing catch until Luke took a hit and stayed out the rest of the game in order to avoid injury before the playoffs. Luke doesn't seem to have a college offer. He might land at a DI school. But I've got to think that there's a DII school out there that would kill to have a kid with his kind of arm and that might be a quicker path to a starting gig. His cousin, Cory Klingler (Jimmy's kid), will be playing on the offensive line for Rice over the next four years. And on a note of small-world-itis, David Klingler works right across the freeway from me. That's some kind of Coog overkill if you ask me. And on a sub-HS level ... yes, I'm aware of Case Keenum being the starting quarterback for the Texans. I've already instructed Aereo to DVR "The Sound of Music" tomorrow night due to the game being of more immediate interest.

» Looking ahead to Campaign '14, I'm just as amused as the next person about Al Hoang vs Hubert Vo. Amusing because Hubert's district gained a few points in Dem strength due to redistricting in the 2013 special session. For my boss's part, we gained some turf that I'm very much looking forward to working.

» Professionally, I'm finding this 2010 profile of Michigan State's use of video editing for their basketball team to be increasingly relevant to what I do for a living. Suffice it to say, there are some interesting rules that the Texas House abides by that make this so.

» The latest read on my Kindle: "The New Democrats and the Return to Power" by Al From, formerly of the Democratic Leadership Council. I thought I might read it in one sitting, but the flashbacks kinda took me by surprise. And yes, there will be a full review posted ASAP.

» Steve Teles's "Kludgeocracy in America" is something that I truly feel is worth a bit of written-word exploration (sometimes known as blogging). But if you're contemplating working as an intern for my boss in 2015, there's a higher degree of certainty that you'll get a fuller classroom-style treatment on it in the next legislative session.

» Combining the two points above, I'm also finally getting around to reading Stephen Waldman's (back when he was known as Steven) 1996 mini-opus, "The Bill." It only took me 17 years to get around to it. And it looks like it will be very much in use for those same interns, come 2015.

» End-of-the-year(ish) posts remind me that it's time to go through some of the random guitar noodling I've done over the past year. I'm pretty sure the pickings will be slim since the practice regimen has suffered in much the same way that the blog schedule has. I'll find something worth posting, though. That, or I'll finally do a recording of Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again." Don't say you weren't warned.


Election Law Diversions for the Day

More stuff I'm glancing at when the Election Law seminar gets too exciting to handle ...

» Chron: Texans coach says backup QB Case Keenum is having ‘a really good camp’
Aside from the obvious homerism that Case represents my alma mater, I'm also viewing this from a Texans-centric vantagepoint. TJ Yates obviously had a great run at the end of the 2011 season, but his performance looked a bit more like Tim Tebow than Jeff Hostetler. Case has some issues: size and arm strength among them. I think it's worth looking past Yates for a durable solution in case Schaub goes down. Yates may have some leftover confidence among teammates. All fine and well. But I'd be happier seeing some crisp completions to Andre Johnson deep downfield.

» Chron: Review: Google Chromecast
At $35 and a three-month freebie of Netflix, this is a big temptation. I buy a very minor amount of video from Google Play, which obviously cooperates with Chromecast. But the vast majority of my viewing is from Amazon Prime. If that gets added and HBO becomes accessible to non-subscribers, I may very well kill the cable bill. In the meantime, I'm deeply interested in the viewing quality of Amazon Prime via Chrome browser.

QUICK UPDATE: Jackpot! Also ... I just ordered my Chromecast. Nevermind that I also need to get a more up-to-date TV with HDMI ports. That's been on the agenda for a LONG time.

LESS QUICK UPDATE: Well, this makes things more complex: Vizio makes a smart TV that has Amazon Prime built in, as well as many of the other popular video add-ons. For under $200, I can get a TV that has the tools I want built-in, solving my need for a TV as well as getting the video I want streamed through it. I think that's a smarter solution for me, but I may keep the Chromecast just in case - possibly for Christmas re-gifting. For under $40, it's worth experimenting with. Basically, I only see myself using Amazon and YouTube for video until MLB, NFL, and HBO become more independent.


Cougar Aggre-blogging

A pretty busy weekend in extended Cougar sposts ...

» Chron: Piland, defense suffer through season opener to forget
» Chron: UH changes offensive coordinators in reaction to Texas St. loss
Brutal day and a dizzying turn of events watching a coach hired after an extensive Google search by Coach Levine. Here's hoping things turn around fast. For whatever team failings are going to reflect on Levine, the lack of returning starters is a bigger issue in my mind. I'm not sure how many of the kids we have lining up now are likely to be multi-year lettermen, but this isn't the first time we've been at the start of a four-to-five year project with unproven talent in the first year. I'm waiting and I hope to be seeing. Soon.

» AZ Republic: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb knows there is time to make amends
Also brutal. I'll be shocked if Kolb doesn't get some starting time for the Cards at some point in the season. The O-line is just too iffy for the team to see them going through only one QB. What Kolb shows off the bench will likely determine how much of a career he has from this point on.

» Chron: Case Keenum clears waivers; signed to practice squad
» Detroit Free Press: Lions reportedly sign CB Drayton Florence; add Patrick Edwards, Ross Weaver to practice squad
Elsewhere, RB Michael Hayes ended up getting cut by the Chargers (Jackie Battle is still in their backfield, however) and LB Sammy Brown was a late cut by the St. Louis Rams. Of the four, I'd have probably picked Edwards to take his talents to the UFL or CFL to prove what he can do. Nice to see Detroit being smart enough to hold onto him. There's some good history there with short receivers.

» Chron: Legendary UH athletic trainer Wilson dies at 85
Even our training staff at UH was legendary.


Some Un-Cartographic Aggreposting …

Well, so much for continuous mapping through the week. Yesterday got away from me and I'm presently doing some coding and databasing that I was hoping to have done a day and a half ago. First world problems, for ya. Anywho ... he are a few links worth noting before they go under-reported by me.

» Chron: Texans’ Keenum appears cut from the same cloth as Kubiak
It sounds as if Keenum will be the third QB in the game and playing with the second unit offense in tonight's game. I didn't bother catching the first preseason game against Carolina since I didn't think Case would play (he did). I'll be looking for an online feed of this after church tonight to get what I hope is not a last-gasp dose of watching Case chuck a football.

» Chron: UH QB Piland ready to put valuable experience to use
I'm not sure what to expect for this year's Cougar football team. For starters, I don't know any of the receivers. Charles Sims appears to be one of the better skill players to return. And as if David Piland's alma mater wasn't problematic enough for me, the up & coming running back hailing from arch rival L.D. Bell has me in a complete state of confusion this year. Nothing a good 8-0 start to the season wouldn't fix, I'm sure.

» ESPN: Kevin Kolb gets some slack for rough start
» AZ Republic: Arizona Cardinals quarterback competition will continue at least a week
» ESPN: Tommy Kelly Rips Kevin Kolb

I've said this before ... Kolb is the kind of guy who really needs three solid years to settle into a starting role with a team. Sad as it may be, he might not get that unless he shows some major indicators of being healthy and solid in the job this second season with the Cards.

» New Republic: I Was a Teenage Objectivist
Good for a daily laugh here. I made my way through one and a half Ayn Rand books during college. By the time I was approaching graduation at UH, the Daily Cougar editorialists were hard core objectivists. And a considerable number of friends were college libertarians of the Ayn Rand ilk. There was nothing about any of that compelled me to find selfishness and individualistic sociopathy as a worthwhile endeavor.

» Chron: Growth of Hispanic business doesn't match population
Worth going back and reading this for some additional perspective.

» FW Star-Telegram: Texas risks losing $31 million in federal transportation funding
Some interesting insights into federal budgeting here.

» NY Times: 'Al' and 'Joe' Lead the Spam Squad
Interesting reading for those interested in online and/or political communication. I'm pretty sure that I'm subscribed to almost every email list under the political sun (and several non-political ones as well). I've definitely seen the emails in question for this write-up and tend to loathe the deadline flurry of emails that multiple campaigns send out. But I'm also sure that my inbox is at the extreme end of the spectrum. I'm mostly interested in saving examples that I might want to copy an idea or two from. As for the qualitative disputes with the extent that campaigns hit "send", I'm not sure I'm seeing as good use of it this cycle as was on display in 2008. I think a big part of that is due to Team Obama's perspective of being an incumbent with a big, hefty list that they're interested in milking diminishing returns from. In 2008, the Obama group was new, fresh, and looking to rebuild many of the tools that were started up in halfway form in 2004. When multiple challengers run for an open seat in 2016, it'll be interesting to see if anyone challenges the existing vendors out there for online communication. And I hope it involves something better than relying on multiple emails a day on fundraising deadlines. If it puts an end to clients asking me if they can sign email blasts as being sent from their iPhone, I'll be all the happier.

» Foreign Affairs: The New Great Game in Central Asia ($)
Interesting if you're into Asian/China stuff.


Life in the Post-Keenum World

It's a big football weekend. Apparently, my church will be broadcasting the Texans game before and after our 1pm service. I've gotta be there to see that. Otherwise, Tebow-mania resumes tonight. In the interim, there's this interesting profile of the guy who has the inside track on being the starting QB for the Houston Cougars next season ...

» Chron: Heir apparent: Catching up with David Piland

In the comments, there's discussion over whether Lamar HS QB Bram Kohlhausen might compete for the starting gig. Frankly, I'm not sure how much of that is a bit of Houston-centric homerism. I certainly do hope that he's a strong enough competitor for the starting job, but I haven't given up on hopes that Drew Hollingshead might have a little to show as well. Bottom line, though, is that if Piland isn't the starter next season, then its news. The loss of senior receivers is more of a concern for the time being.

One point to tack on to all of this is the growing trend of high schools using multiple QB. What makes this particularly interesting is that this is exactly the format that Piland came out of in Southlake Carroll. So it's not like it would be a new experience for him.


Elvis Has Left the Building

For the record: Cougars > Nittany Lions. To the tune of 30 to 14. Case’s last game would have him finish as the 5th best passing yardage performance in a bowl game and a record for bowl games played in the Cotton Bowl (a point of old-school SWC pride, if you will).


Happy Football Gameday

Coogs kickoff at 11, so that’s where my attention will be.

Here’s ESPN’s preview. The Scranton paper notes that Penn State’s interim coach has had to contend with Ty Detmer and Tim Couch in previous bowl games. And looking beyond today’s bowl game, the Washington Times has a quick take on Case Keenum’s pro prospects:

But is this year’s resume enough to make Keenum a draft pick or at the very least get him on an NFL roster? Wes Bunting, the National Football Post’s director of college scouting, thinks so. He said that while Keenum doesn’t have the size and the arm strength to make all of the throws in the NFL, he has shown some improvement this year and as he gets older will get stronger and more precise. While it might not make him a starter, it should make him a quality backup.

“Is this a guy I’m going to trust to win football games for me in the NFL week in and week out? Absolutely not,” Bunting said. “But as a No. 2 or No. 3 guy early … When you watch around the NFL and Tyler Palko’s your backup, you can’t convince me that this guy doesn’t have a spot in the NFL. I think he could be that No. 3 guy early, he’ll develop into a No. 2. Kind of like what the Packers are trying to do with Graham Harrell. I think he can make a comfortable living in the NFL as a reserve-type quarterback.”

I think that’s about right. The two high-end comparisons that are out there for Case to take some confidence in are Drew Brees and Joe Montana (and yes, as a Montana-hater, it kills me to make this comparison). Both were undersized and lacked arm strength. Lacking some widespread acceptance of the bubble spread or Air Raid offenses in the NFL, Case will have to change his game a bit more to fit into most NFL schemes. He’s got a quick release and seems to be a decent reader of defenses, though. If those skills hold up at the next level, someone’s going to notice and give him a shot.


On Ranking Subjectively

» Chron: Cougars make strong case for best UH team ever

I seem to recall during my teenage years, that there was a certain hobby among those of us who owned (and sometimes practiced playing) an electric guitar of ranking the big-name guitar heroes of the day as a way of expressing our preferences. Yeah, so now the Chronicle does that with UH football teams ...

There are cases for teams from the Bill Yeoman era - 1973, 1976 and 1979 in particular - the Jack Pardee and John Jenkins days of 1989 and 1990, and, if you really want to dial it back, the 1952 Cougars, who were an impressive bunch on defense.

But if the No. 7 Cougars (12-0, 8-0 Conference USA) are to win Saturday when they host No. 24 Southern Mississippi (10-2, 6-2) in the C-USA Championship Game at 11 a.m. at Robertson Stadium, they could make a strong case of their own. In many ways, they already have.

While I hope this doesn't mean that I'll regress to the point of practicing Ozzy's "Crazy Train" for 12 hours a day, I'll simply say that the 1976 team is pretty hard to top from my perspective. But I'm not worried about records, NFL draft picks, sentimental choices for favorite players. What I grew up knowing about that team was this: the year before, the Coogs went 2-8.

My parents made a habit of driving from Mississippi to Houston about 3-4 times a year to catch games. The next year, we won the Southwest Conference in our first year, beat Texas 30-0, won the Cotton Bowl against undefeated Maryland, and finished #4 in the nation. Again, the folks dragged us from Mississippi to Houston just as before. But this time, a couple of trips to Austin and Dallas were added. I watched the 1977 Cotton Bowl on a small black & white TV of the babysitter we were staying with at the time. It doesn't get more hardcore than that. Somewhere in my parents' house is the commemorative Dr Pepper bottle from the game. And Jerry Wizig's book, "Eat 'Em Up" ends with this moment in history.

All of this effectively stamped in my mind as a definitive moment of what it means to be a Cougar. Be as much of a fan during the lean times as you are in the good times. Everything else - Andre Ware winning a Heisman, David & Jimmy Klingler being the best passers the school ever saw, Kevin Kolb & Coach Art Briles (a member of the 1976 team) restoring a great deal of lost luster since the Klingler days - all of that adds to the foundation for me. But the foundation is the foundation.

I'm certain that there are older Cougars who might point toward the 50s and 60s teams that are worth consideration. That's fine. For a lot of younger Cougars, Case Keenum's certainly a great foundation for their perspective. But at the conclusion of the parlor game, the entire exercise is more about defining what the school's team means to you or I. I just hope for the sake of kids today, that Dr Pepper makes another commemorative bottle.


What Case Means (continued)

... and Marcus McGraw ... and Michael Hayes ...

The slideshow of photos showing UH students camped out overnight for C-USA championship tickets and enduring a line that rivals registration back in the pre-internet days speak volumes. You never saw anything like this in the late 80s/early 90s. Even when we were winning. Even when the run & shoot offense was the most exciting thing to watch. I'm not sure how the Phi Slamma Jamma days that preceded my time on compus compare. But that may be the only decent comparison due to on-campus events. And even there, the seating was far more limited.

Bottom line: these kids are far likelier to go through the rest of their lives with a greater sense of attachment to the University of Houston than many of the students I shared a classroom with. For that alone, I'd cast a Heisman vote for Case Keenum if I could.

As Saturday stands, I'll be glued to the teevee at 11am. I'm really hopeful that we put the game away early enough for me to head out to church at my normal time. Otherwise, I might be a little late.


What Case Means

Swamped. Busy. Yadda. Just read Richard Justice if you're looking for something to read today ...

I heard from a UH grad during the Rice game a couple of weeks ago. He texted to say that while sitting there in the rain he was struck by how far UH had come. He said there was a full house at Robertson Stadium that night. That kind of game, he said, would have drawn maybe 15,000 just a few years earlier.

The University of Houston was left to die when the Southwest Conference broke up, and UH very nearly did that. The Coogs were 28-51 in the first seven seasons in Conference USA. They were 0-11 in 2001. Crowds routinely dipped below 20,000 at Robertson Stadium. Students stopped going to games.

When Dave Maggard interviewed for the UH AD job, he took a walk around campus and would stop random students and ask: “How’s the football team doing? How about the basketball team? Do you go to games?”

He found out that almost no one seemed to care about sports at UH and realized if he took the job, he’d have huge work to do, not just in coaches, facilities, graduation rates, etc., but also to change the culture of losing. Everything began to change when he hired Art Briles in 2003. Three years later, UH won the C-USA Championship Game in a packed Robertson Stadium, and Briles and Maggard celebrated with a long, emotional hug in the locker room. They’d done what almost no one thought possible.

The pre-Maggard attendance woes were something a lot of us 90s-era Coogs saw ahead. Attendance at the Dome was dreadful when the team was losing (or not playing UT or A&M). There was no reason to believe that taking games to a commuter college campus in a stadium that had long since seen better days was anything more than a cost-saver. My first game at Robertson certainly didn't leave me impressed with the move.

But I recall the CUSA Championship game of the Kevin Kolb era and even though it's hard to conjure significance from it when you're used to seeing meaningful SWC games, the atmosphere definitely changed by that time. When I see the games on TV or online these days and I see the excitement that students have and that Case Keenum generates, that's what I mean when I say there's no stat on his resume that I need to see to consider Keenum the best quarterback that the University of Houston has ever seen. Better than Kolb, Ware, either Klingler, and from the veer era: Elston, Davis, Burrus, Woodall. You name it - any sport, and era, any name - Case just stands a little taller.

To me, stats don't determine that. A perfect season or lack thereof doesn't determine that. The NFL's evaluation of him as a professional athlete doesn't determine that. It's strictly what one individual means to the school as a whole. And the fact is that there's a very real sense that Keenum has made a meaningful impact on not just the athletic program, but to the school as a whole. Since that happens to be a school I grew up loving and rooting for, and later attending and graduating from, that makes me really appreciate what Case has accomplished as a student-athlete, as well as what the others that David Justice gives credit to have accomplished in their roles. It's a very different UH than from what I grew up with ... and that's a good thing.

I'm sure there will be slightly fewer tickets sold next season when I assume David Piland is leading the team instead of Case and the names on the back of his receivers' jerseys will change from the talented crew we're used to this season. But I know that whoever follows will be building on a lot of what Case Keenum built in his time here.

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