Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Are There Football Spies Among Us? TCU Thinks So

TCU's Gary Patterson thinks there's a spy in the college football ranks.  Not quite 007-style but he does think the Baylor Bears got an edge on Saturday in something that someone saw at a Frog practice or scrimmage.

Patterson says the Bears ran a particular play against his team that has only been run by one group.

"Our own offense," he said.  "When would you have seen that?  Sometime in the spring in a scrimmage? Some other time?"

"I've been playing Art Briles going back to Houston and he's never lined up and ran a read option out of a double-wing, tight end formation, ever. But there's only team that ever has: our offense. So where would you see that?"

"People come to our scrimmages in the spring and the fall," he explaines. "There (are) a lot of guys that are ex-coaches now that can write down on a piece of paper how you defend each other."

It's one reason why he limits media access to practice.  Like most programs do, TCU only allows media members to attend and shoot practice during particular drills.  Practices are also, typically, closed to the public.  He admits he'd rather be overcautious in this area.

Even Patterson admitted he got some video from a newscast "five or six years ago" out of Lubbock that fired his kids up. "It's my job to help you do your jobs," he said referring to the media. "It's also my job to help my kids not get beat."

Patterson isn't the first coach to believe that there are football spies out there or that opposing teams can learn something from watching local newscasts.  When I covered the University of Tennessee, there was a rumor going around that a Vol scout was in Atlanta one weekend and saw something that the Bulldogs were working on in video used on an Atlanta affiliates 6pm newscast.

Who knows. 

The Cowboys took advantage of the Redskins a number of years ago when they charged admission to training camp.  Then-coach Dave Campo sent one of the Cowboys scouts to watch Redskins practice.  That Redskins game on September 18, 2000 resulted in Campo's first win, a game ball for the scout AND yours truly!

TCU vs SMU: The Lesson Gary Patterson Learned from the 2005 Loss

It's the battle for the Iron Skillet.  4th-ranked TCU puts its 3-0 record on the line when they play 2-1 SMU on Friday in University Park.  The Frogs will be the highest ranked opponent ever to visit Ford Stadium.

The Famous Skillet Getting Air-Time
Honestly, many of the current TCU players have no clue what the Iron Skillet is. 

"Isn't it something you cook in?" half-joked safety Tejay Johnson.

The trophy for the winner of this game was born after the post-WWII college football boom, according to both schools.  TCU and SMU students created the ceremonial trophy that was given to the game's winner.  The tradition died but was resurrected in 1993.

TCU's Gary Patterson has only lost once to SMU in his ten years as the Frogs head coach.  That one loss came on September 10, 2005 when the then-Phil Bennett coached Ponies beat TCU 21-10, ending the school's six-game win streak over the Mustangs.  It was the Frogs only loss of the season. 

The loss came a week after TCU had upset 5th ranked Oklahoma in Norman.  Let down game?  Trap game?  What happened the week between the OU win and the SMU loss?  Patterson explained during his weekly media briefing on Tuesday.

"The mistake I made is that I shouldn't have let anybody come to my practice," Patterson said.  "I was asked by my marketing group if I would allow media to come see our team because nobody had really showed up and we'd been 5-6 before in 2004."

"I let people come down and talk to my players on the field after practice on Sunday and treat them like celebrities.  That's the way they played all week.  They didn't concentrate they didn't do anything they needed to do to get ready for the ballgame."

So is Patterson doing anything differently this week, after the win over Baylor?  Well considering it's a short week and the game is this Friday, they'll be in shorts all week.  Patterson has found it keeps them fresher when they don't have a full week between games.  Another lesson learned.
Monday, September 20, 2010

Cowboys Locker Room Report: Don't Believe the Hype

That's what a number of Cowboys players were trying to tell the media today, doing their best to channel Public Enemy.  Unfortunately, I don't think we're the ones that need convincing of that.

Safety Gerald Sensabaugh brought up the fact that the Cowboys are constantly mentioned in the same breath as this year's Super Bowl.  Receiver Roy Williams alluded to it, as well. 

To that you have to ask - isn't it the Cowboys themselves that are doing it?  Remember quarterback Tony Romo on stage at the Cowboys training camp kickoff party in San Antonio telling fans that he would "See them at the Super Bowl!!!!!".
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pet Friendly Paradise: Hotels That Get it Right

MSNBC has a nice little piece on pet-friendly hotels in the U.S.  While I haven't stayed at any of the properties profiled, I have braved the plane hell and hotel hassle of bringing my dog with me on the road and found some great options.

Birdie in San Antonio
All Kimpton properties are pet friendly.  I brought my dog, Birdie, to Seattle where we stayed in the Alexis Hotel   which is within walking distance to Pike Place market.  It was fabulous.  They had a gourmet dog-bone welcome gift for Birdie, as well as their own beautiful lab on staff.

From Seattle we stayed at the Pacific Palisades hotel in Vancouver, another Kimpton property which welcomed us with open arms.  Birdie's gift was a simple little travel dog bowl from Ikea.  They were nice enough to decorate it and it's become our travel bowl for her any time we're on the road.  It was a cheap little item that the staff put some effort into making special.  Smart gesture on their part as it has become a lasting, warm memory for our family.

Many more pet-friendly hotels come to mind.  Birdie has visited the Hotel San Jose in Austin, a few Ritz-Carlton properties, the Omni Hotel in Corpus Christi and Hotel ZaZa in Houston where she got on tv when a local station did a story profiling hotels that have "gone to the dogs".

We've also stayed in New York's Waldorf-Astoria, where the doormen absolutely fell in love with Birdie.  I was surprised at how accommodating they were.  They were just fabulous. 

The security guards at a particular office building on Park Avenue didn't appreciate it, however, when she decided to use the bathroom on their greenspace outside the skyscraper (of course, we picked it up!) When a dog's gotta go, she just has to go.

Some Advice: 
Check the hotel's website regarding its pet policy but go the extra step to call the property directly.  With Kimpton properties, you know they are pet friendly but you still have to let them know you are coming with your pet.  Also some hotels use their own discretion.  The Waldorf-Astoria's website said one thing, while the representative from the hotel said another.

Some hotels charge crazy-high fees while others allow pets for free.  It's on a hotel by hotel basis and it's always better to call the property and get a contact name of a hotel representative in case there's any discrepancy or confusion.
Thursday, September 2, 2010

5 Tips For Women Traveling Alone

5 tips for women traveling solo
Taking a selfie, before it was cool, at Parc de la Cuitadella during a solo trip to Barcelona in 2008

Travel is one of the few things you spend money on that makes you richer. It's a shame to limit your travel with friends and loved one. While there's incredible joy of experiencing a city or travel experience with a partner, traveling solo opens up an entirely new world. 

Antoni Gaudi, Solo Travel
La Perdera, Barcelona

The great thing about going it alone is that you can do absolutely whatever you want.  Want to sleep till noon and have a theme-park dinner at 10pm in the Tivoli Gardens?  No problem.  Plan to spend all day on the Mediterranean Sea?  You can.  Want to sit at that cafe right off the Seine River and people watch in Paris for two hours, you can and no one will complain.  There is no one to tell you can't.  It's the ultimate freedom.

You also meet the most fascinating people.  I had dinner with the actual Pep, of Barcelona's famed Cal Pep restaurant one night.  He was busy but spent time with during dinner at his magnificent restaurant explaining the dishes in broken English while I mangled my responses in terrible Spanish.    

 From Balcony at Les Ombres

I've lived in Guam, vacationed in Tel Aviv, run a half marathon in Jerusalem and jetted to Barcelona and Paris all solo. I've also spent way too much time on the road for work by myself. There are safety precautions every women traveling solo should consider. Here are five top tips for your next adventure.  While these are primarily focused on international travel, these tips work for any destination. 

5 Travel Tips For Women Traveling Solo

Keep Your Purse Close and CLOSED
When strolling solo through Barcelona's Gothic Quarter or gawking at the Eiffel Tower, you'll be alone in a sea of people.  First and foremost, keep your purse closed and tucked securely under your arm.  I don't bring a big backpack, for many reasons, but from a safety perspective, it's impractical.  A pickpocket or thief can grab something out of one of those zipper pockets even if it's securely closed with safety pin or other attachment.  I carry a nice mid-size crossbody bag, nothing too big or too small, and keep it closed at all times. Barrington Gifts Stadium Crossbody bag or GiGi New York's Madison Crossbody are great for touring a city.

Don't Carry Your Entire Wallet 
Tallin, Estonia

Bring a small cardholder to hold your essentials: one credit card, ID and some local currency. I usually don't exchange currency prior to departure.  I have an international ATM card that charges significantly less fees and commissions when changing money so I generally get local currency through an ATM. I also use a credit card that doesn't charge international exchange fees which, again, saves money. 

With your small card case, if you do have the unfortunate luck of getting something stolen lifted, at least not everything is gone. Carry just one card and some cash for the day. 

Don't Wear a Ton of Jewelry

When traveling overseas or traveling solo, wear the less expensive jewelry.  I have a great big shell ring, some silver pieces and beaded necklaces that I bring.  None of the good stones or really nice watches.  With a lot of sparkles on your hands or ears, you will stick out like a sore thumb and in a bad way.  You will attract attention of potential pickpockets, gypsies or others who might think you a good candidate to rob, attack or do something even worse.  Don't do it.  It's just not worth it.

RELATED: Chic travel jewelry

Old City, Jerusalem, Israel
Old City, Jerusalem

Dress Appropriately
I learned this the hard way.  I was walking through Jerusalem's Old City and got terribly lost.  I was wearing an outfit that, honestly, was pretty conservative for me: a long-sleeved knit top, denim skirt and closed-toe shoes.  Having my legs exposed as I was unknowingly walking towards the Muslim Quarter was the mistake of a lifetime.  I had men sneering at me and hurling words I didn't understand.  It took a sweet 12-year-old boy to clue me in. 

"You must stop," he said.

"I'm just trying to get out of here," I replied.

"No," he responds.  "You are not Muslim.  That is the Muslim Quarter.  You are not allowed."

Light bulb moment.  Message understood.

Walking back to my hotel, I got more awful comments thrown my way by a variety of men.  It was really one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've ever had.  The rest of the trip, it was jeans and long-sleeved shirts.

Take a moment to understand the cultural expectations of the city you're visiting. If it is expected that women cover their shoulders, legs and face, you should comply. If you want to make a statement, don't visit the city or the site. You made the choice to go there, wear the appropriate clothing and there shouldn't be an issue.

RELATED: Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv Review

Don't Let Them Know You're Solo
Part of the fun of traveling solo is that you meet a variety of people and end up chatting with some lovely folks.  Some, though, not so lovely.  Don't let them know you're alone.  If some inquiring mind asks you why you're eating alone, or hiking by yourself, just say you're visiting your dad or that your brother is back at the hotel.  My father actually lives in Israel and spent a few days of my time there with me.  He didn't have the stamina to run around with me all day, so I would be alone most of the time.  The "dad at the hotel line" worked quite a bit for me when dealing with those guys. 

RELATED: Brown Beach House Tel Aviv Review

What About You? 
Are you a solo traveler? Is there a place you're dying to visit by yourself? I would love to explore Rome solo. Have a question about visiting a city solo? Email me.