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March, 2011:

Everything feels brand new

Tomorrow, I’ll attend the Cubs’ Opener at Wrigley Field. That’s a different kind of day. Today, Major League Baseball’s first regular season games were today. Opening Day gives me a feeling of renewal.

Winter is irrevocably gone (even if there are predictions for a foot of snow on the East Coast this weekend). For the next six months, we will get the daily drumbeat of 12-15 games every day. Everyone’s rested, every team has delusions of grandeur unspoiled by reality, and no one’s in a slump.

It’s like the first day of school. No one’s behind on their work, no one’s overwhelmed by anything yet.

The other thing I like about the start of the season is hearing Vin Scully and Dick Enberg again. Enberg is sort of a neophyte, taking the Padres TV job last year after decades with NBC and CBS doing NFL, NCAA and some Major League games. Scully has been doing Dodgers games since they were still in Brooklyn back in 1950. At 83, he’s better than anyone else out there. Tonight, I listened to him a little driving home and then as I was fighting writer’s block here.

He started the game musing about the matchup of Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw, how these two pitchers appear to be the aces of their respective team’s staffs for years to come. It reminded Scully of all the Koufax-Marichal matchups, or later the Drysdale-Marichal matchups. He totaled the times Koufax and Drysdale each went against Marichal. “And the only pair of Hall of Famers to face each other more often were Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver, who faced each other 17 times.” What a great setup to the game. Later, as Lincecum took the mound in the bottom half of the first, Scully explained how most pitchers’ stride is 80% of their body height. So a 6-foot pitcher’s stride is 4-foot-6 or so. Lincecum’s stride is 110% of his height. Again not a bad way to describe where he gets his power.

Not many announcers today provide context without over dramatizing every moment.

Dick Enberg is much the same way. He spent an inning of the Padres-Cardinals game talking about Jimmy Connors after Belleville, Ill. (Connors’ hometown) came up in conversation. You don’t hear much of that in NCAA Tournament games, or in NBA games or in football games.

Anyway, tonight I’ll go to bed excited that I’ll be at Wrigley Field again. I’ve been to games there every year since 1982. A lot of bad baseball, yes. But going there is like Christmas to me.

Egg on his face

As I noted yesterday, Matt Painter had little reason to leave Purdue for Missouri. It didn’t really add up. But the St. Louis Post Disptach’s Bernie Miklasz seemed to have the story nailed. Yesterday, things just looked very good for Mizzou. Today, Miklasz wrote that Painter took the job and was going to West Lafayette to say goodbye to his team.

Except he wasn’t. In fact, Painter did consider the Missouri deal, but it just wasn’t enough to lure him away from his home state and his alma mater. Painter signed a contract extension through 2018-19.

There’s a lot to be excited about right now with Purdue basketball. We are moving into our new offices and locker room complex over the next couple of weeks. Our program is built on hard work, and we are ready to get back to improving as a team and a staff. At the end of the day, my heart is at Purdue, and this is a place where I want to win a national championship.

Oops.

For Miklasz’s part, the crow eating is in progress. Miklasz went so far as to suggest Painter would make an appearance at the Cardinals’ opener at Busch Stadium tomorrow. Sounds like someone gone overboard with some anonymous sources.

Is Bernie red-faced? Well, yeah.

At Lafayette’s Journal and Courier, the sports staff should celebrate. They did enough on-the-record reporting and showed the patience not to report something as fact even when other, larger organizations were reporting it. They trusted their instincts and didn’t rush to be first, only to be right.

Good job.

A Common Thief … Too Common

Hackney’s on Harms celebrated St. Patrick’s Day the way you would expect a neighborhood restaurant owned by an Irish-Catholic family. They had an Irish band, Harp and Guinness on tap, corned beef, cabbage and all the expected fare.

They also got the Glenview Police involved and had them collar a 52-year-old woman, a former bookkeeper at the Harms Rd. location. Because she was in charge of making the nightly deposits and because inadequate controls were in  place, she was able to embezzle something to the tune of $186,000 from September 2008 until the restaurant caught on last fall.

It appears that the bookkeeper was pocketing cash from each day’s receipts and then writing a check from Hackney’s account to the bank to make up for the lost cash. It was a confusing scheme, and it’s a little surprising neither the bank nor Hackney’s caught on sooner.

That said, I know exactly how it feels to find someone in my own organization with his hand in the cookie jar. His scheme was doctored (or plain forged) receipts that went on his expense reports. This fraud totaled only a tenth of what Hackney’s experienced, but it was no less stinging. Family businesses rely on trust — sometimes too much — with employees.

We discovered this in January and I wonder why we didn’t catch on sooner. The problem is simple. The system of controls we have in place is inadequate. We’re a small business, and most employees are stretched thin. The company president approves the expense reports, but he only checks to be sure all the receipts are in the report and that the numbers match. He’s not spot-checking them for irregularities.

It was a brutal lesson for one man to learn when he came into the office to be informed he was fired. It could have been worse. Unlike the Masterson family who owns Hackney’s, we decided not to prosecute. (I use the word we to indicate it was discussed. Collectively we decided not to get police involved. I won’t tell you what my course of action would have been had it been my call.)

At least we learned our lesson, too. Right?

A Prince and a Boozer

Apparently, Carlos Boozer leased his Los Angeles mansion to Prince a few years ago for $70,000 a month. When the lease ended, Boozer found the exterior painted with purple stripes, the symbol Prince formerly used, a number of alterations to his house, including plumbing work to accommodate salon chairs, and other things one generally does not do while renting.

Boozer filed suit, but he and Prince sorted things out. They even became fast friends.

Prince paid to restore the house to its original condition, and Boozer agreed not to divulge any specifics about what was happening in his home.

Specifics, not imagination-inspiring generalities. That, Boozer was happy to dispense.

He knows how to live. I’ll put it that way.

One can only imagine.

Painting the town… oh nevermind

Tomorrow will bring dread or relief in West Lafayette, Ind., as Matt Painter will announce his intentions. He will either stay head coach of the men’s basketball team at Purdue or he will accept the same position at the University of Missouri.

Logic says that Painter is simply trying to get leverage for himself and his assistants, and Mizzou is a willing accomplice. If Painter were really on his way out, Cuonzo Martin might not have jumped at the Tennessee opening. After all, as the Lafayette Journal and Courier notes, Martin and Painter share an agent.

Indiana fans remember quite well the dalliance Bob Knight had with New Mexico in the Spring of 1988. Knight reportedly was headed back to Bloomington to say goodbye to his team and to then-AD Ralph Floyd. Only thing was, he stayed, and he remained in Bloomington for 12 more seasons.

But, that was then. This is now. That was Bloomington, Indiana, back when it was on par with Chapel Hill, Durham, Lexington and Westwood as the centers of the basketball universe. Purdue might have a nice program, and West Lafayette might be a nice place to live, but it’s not that many rungs above Mizzou and Columbia.

Add a strained relationship between Painter and his AD, and maybe this makes a little more sense than once thought. I know Purdue is going to give a longing look towards Brad Stevens at Butler (not sure if he’d take the job) and towards Shaka Smart at VCU, but how do you recover from a rising star leaving what he said was his dream job?

Bernie Miklasz says it looks good for Missouri. And while Miklasz is wildly optimistic (he is a bit of a homer, and I don’t know how good his connections are in the college hoops world), some of this makes sense.

Purdue came back today with a sweetened contract that would also bump up the pay of his assistants. Miklasz said Painter was not overly impressed. It’s going to take something to convince him to stay. At least the Purdue students are rallying in support of Painter.

Eleven students? Eh, it’s a start.