Mack Brown is everyone's favorite football coach, as long as you limit the universe to haters of the University of Texas.
His screechy voice is forever droning out excuses for why his team can dominate the recruiting wars every year but can't seem to get close to a national championship. It can get on the nerves of title-hungry UT fans, but for the rest of us, it's pretty entertaining.
This year Brown outdid himself. When it looked like the complicated computer rankings used to determine who gets to go to a major bowl game were going to leave UT on the outside again (hello, Holiday Bowl! we're baaaack!), Brown stamped his feet, put on a mad face and whined about how unfair it was that Cal was ranked over Texas.
And it worked. Cal had one game left to play (UT's regular season was finished already); they won it handily but still dropped in the rankings behind UT.
So whining works. Which is contrary to what we've always heard, so we decided to ask an expert.
We started by calling Cal, but -- it being in Berkeley and all -- we were told by one professor there'd be no child-psych experts willing to talk about something as "trivial" as football. (Ooooookay, hippie dude.)
Then we reached Dr. Carolyn Crowder, the co-author of Whining: Three Steps to Stopping It Before Tears and Tantrums Start.
Q. Should whining ever be rewarded?
A. No, never. It shouldn't be rewarded, because it's a manipulative approach. When you're whining, you're trying to manipulate someone into doing something for you.
Q. If a subject thinks a task is too difficult -- like, say, cleaning their room, or maybe having to beat Oklahoma at least once in their coaching career -- is it common for whining to be a strategy?
A. Yeah, sure There's a straightforward way to do just about anything, and then there's all these other techniques that are manipulative or immature because you don't know what to do.
Q. How much is whining seen as a strategy for adults, even those with prestigious leadership positions at top universities?
A. It's exactly the same problem [as it is with kids]. They've been doing it all their lives, and it's worked for them, so they continue to do it.
Crowder went on about how whiners like to see themselves as victims, how "you should not try to make someone pity you or something," and other such stuff related to Brown. One thing she couldn't help with: whether UT will beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
If they don't, we're sure it'll be the refs' fault.
The Republican majority in Congress has been crowing about how it has a mandate to change America. It already seems to be taking hold.
One of the first moves the House GOP made after the election, of course, was to pass a new rule saying it's no longer a bad thing if you're a congressman who's been indicted. Go ahead, continue to serve in a leadership position -- especially if you're Tom DeLay.
(DeLay has not been indicted in a continuing Travis County investigation into campaign contributions, but his House colleagues are taking no chances. Or they really know their man.)
That inspiring bit of Republican in-your-faceness has spread like wildfire across the country, or at least in Montgomery County.
There, a Conroe attorney was indicted for accepting bribes in connection with his wife, a prosecutor. Brent Dornburg and Terri Lynn were both charged with one count of bribery each -- DWI cases against Dornburg's clients, according to the allegation, would mysteriously get dismissed by the D.A.'s office where his wife works.
So you have a lawyer who's accused of illegally gaming the justice system. You probably wouldn't want that guy working for the county while he's under indictment, right? Wrong. At least in Conroe, where if it's good enough for Tom DeLay, it's good enough for Brent Dornburg.
The county's Board of Judges voted to keep Dornburg on the list of attorneys who get paid to defend indigent clients. Local rules stated that indicted attorneys "shall be removed" from the list; a three-judge panel of the county board amended that to the friendlier "may be removed." They then decided Dornburg may not.
The Conroe folks also showed a keen grasp of the Bush-DeLay attitude toward that old mainstream liberal media, which means everybody but Fox News Channel and Drudge. Those not returning calls on the matter: Dornburg, his wife, the three-judge panel, even the two judges not on the panel who later expressed disapproval of the move.
Gosh, guys -- sorry to bother you.
Middle America, Slightly Twisted
American City Business Journals is a respected chain of weekly newspapers that offers in-depth economic coverage in 40 cities across the country.
They decided to perform an extensive study of the demographics of America's counties and determine which one best reflects the overall U.S. market.
The answer: Galveston County, which "bears an uncanny resemblance to the nation in several respects," such as youth population and home ownership.
So, just to be clear -- the county that best represents America is one with a tradition of workday-morning blow jobs from crack whores (see "The Breakfast Club," by Wendy Grossman, December 11, 2003), where a billionaire beheads and dismembers a drifter and gets acquitted (see Robert Durst), where gangs are a violent problem (see "Gangstas in Paradise," by Margaret Downing, December 6, 2001) and where Tilman Fertitta gets to build whatever development he wants wherever he wants.
Alan Miles covers all the craziness in his weekly paper The Twisted Parrot, which also espouses the kind of laid-back entertainment philosophy we thought was more prevalent at Jimmy Buffett concerts and wife-swapping clubs (and Galveston, for that matter) than in Middle America.
"That's surprising," Miles says of the ACBJ findings. "I've heard a lot about Galveston, but I have never heard that we're a lot like Peoria."
Maybe Galveston's changing? Becoming more normal?
"Well, yeah," he says. "But our paper is really popular, so it's not that normal."
For Better or Worse
The Houston school district, always looking for ways to improve teacher morale, made a change last week to a longstanding rule that barred married teachers from working at the same school.
No one knows how long the old policy was in place or the reasons behind it, but new HISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, in announcing the change, made the bold statement that "I think HISD should promote marriage, not discourage it."
Saavedra's policy positions on apple pie and motherhood are yet to be announced. Still, the old policy was an occasional irritant for teachers, and the local unions pushed for a change.
So are Houston schools about to be hit by a tsunami of weddings by teachers no longer forced to live in sin?
"I haven't heard of such an onslaught yet," says district spokesman Terry Abbott.
Actually, we're not all that sure the change will be as marriage-friendly as the district claims. To be sure, the district is convinced: The old policy "made it impossible for teachers to save expenses by riding together to work at the same school," a press release noted indignantly.
What more could a married couple possibly wish for than the magic of commuting through traffic together every morning and then working all day in the same building? You just can't get too much togetherness in a marriage, right?
Talk about a silent majority -- what about all those married teachers who've been able to say up till now, "Gee, honey, if it were up to me, we'd be working at the same school. That damn HISD administration!"
And it's not like you could show up at the board meeting and protest the change. "It may sound like a good idea, board members, but you aren't married to my spouse" is not going to play well on the home front.
The HISD administration clearly doesn't give a damn about those folks. It's all sunshine and rainbows, according to the district.
"You'll have to watch for a sudden surge of marriage announcements and honeymoons put off till summer," Abbott says.
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Right. We'll be checking the divorce filings, too.
Out on the Cutting Edge
The Houston Chronicle, like daily newspapers everywhere, is desperate to capture the young demographic that's no longer getting its news from print. So there's a lot of pseudo-hip pop culture in the paper, and other flailing about in an effort to prove that the old gray Chron is not some fuddy-duddy old-timer that can't appeal to the whippersnappers. There are only so many Christina Aguilera updates to publish, though, so they've taken a bold new step: dick photos. Photographs of engorged penises, like this one from the December 2 Preview section. Engorged penises on T-shirts worn by happenin' young musicians. That will get the kids.
Welcome to the cutting edge, Chron. Soft-core porn is a bold step, but you've taken it proudly.