Wednesday, October 1, 2014



Someday in the not-too-distant future, many of us will startle our grandchildren by telling them that once upon a time, friends would meet for lunch, shake hands, and then eat without washing those hands after the shake. They'll be amazed that in the past, some people were insulted if someone didn't want to shake hands with them. We'll shock those grandkids by telling them that there was a time when folks would go to cocktail parties, meet new people and shake their hands without secretly thinking, "How am I going to sneak off to the bathroom to wash my hands before they serve the finger food?"

There's no doubt about it. Very soon, the handshake will be a thing of the past. It will go the way of the dinosaur, the lamplighter, and customer service. I will miss it. I already do.

 The Center for Disease Control says that good hand hygiene is the best way to prevent colds from spreading. I place the beginning of major handshaking avoidance with the Swine Flu Panic of 2009. That's when hands officially went from mere appendages to virulent petri dishes. That's when we were encouraged to keep our hand hygiene up to par. That's also when the handshake started to disappear.
There's some faulty logic there. Just because the best way to stop germs from spreading is by having clean hands doesn't mean that the best way to avoid germs is to avoid handshakes. No, the best way is for everybody to have clean hands. Your reluctance to shake your friends' hands before eating lunch presumes they don't wash their hands when they should. What kind of friends are you hanging out with anyway? 

I came rather late to germaphobia. I had thought my neuroses plate was full, but I guess there's always room for one more.  Now I'm thinking I made a mistake when I started worrying so much about the shake. I'm still not against using common sense. I don't advocate shaking hands with someone who has been sick or has been around sick people or who is bleeding profusely from the palm. However, don't you think we've taken this whole thing a little too far?

A handshake is more than a social nicety. It is actual human contact, something we experience less and less of in these digital days. It's believed that the handshake began as a way to show that a person was not carrying a weapon and wanted peace. Deals are sealed with a handshake. Someone with a good, firm handshake is thought to be a person of good character. So two questions arise. Does all of this handshake avoidance really work? Even if it does, is it worth it? 

Do you know anyone who is vigilant about avoiding handshakes who gets fewer colds or flus than anyone else? I don't. Even if they get fewer colds now than before they became shakeless, it's not like they used to get 50 colds a year and now they get only five. The average adult gets between two and four colds a year. If avoiding handshaking really does reduce colds, maybe that vigilant non-shaker can eliminate one of the colds per year. Is it worth missing out on all that human contact for an entire year to maybe avoid one cold? 

I'm not saying a cold is anything to sneeze at. When I get one, I go crazy. I don't understand how others can go on with their lives knowing how much I'm suffering, and I spend most of my time in bed wondering what it will be like having a cold for the rest of my days. 

However, I think we're getting mixed messages from health experts. In recent years, we've been told that physical touching is important to our health, especially our mental and emotional health. Just being touched by another person can help reduce stress and depression. So do you want to be sniffle-free but depressed? 

You know it's going to be a slippery slope. Today, handshakes are out, next it's hugs and kisses. After that, some medical journal will recommend that we just not touch anyone else anymore. As much as I hate colds, I have decided to try to worry less and shake more. I'm a friendly guy. Physical contact is just too important to me. It's important to everybody. I don't think there has ever been a prisoner in solitary confinement who has shouted joyfully, "I love it here! There's no chance of catching a cold from shaking hands with anybody. Please let me stay here alone forever."

This isn't going to be easy for me, either. But can't we at least try to be less hysterical when it comes to worrying about catching germs from other people? In fact, let's shake on it.

Friday, April 11, 2014


 What a great championship game! What a great Final Four! What a great prediction I made that Uconn would win based on the system that I revealed here last Friday.  (
But this column is not about my being right. Well, not completely. It's about what it was like to be in the Stadium for the games.

Except for the long shorts, everything that's great about college basketball has been great for generations. It's played by kids who sometimes are poised and sometimes make mistakes that kids make. Many fans actually know the players on the teams. Anyone who has even a remote connection with the school and team is allowed to go crazy for a little while. The cheerleaders do the same cheers they've always done in the same outfits they've always worn. The games are close. You can see the players shout with joy and cry with despair. 

Unfortunately, a great many people who were at the games this weekend didn't get to see many of these things that are such an important part of college basketball. They were too far away. The place was just way too big. The AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboy Stadium) isn't a typical basketball gym. About 79,000 people were there for each of the three games. 79,000 for a basketball game!  It's not exactly Hinkle Fieldhouse. Gene Hackman would have had a hell of a time convincing his team that it's no different from their gym at home.

In other words, every single resident of Storrs, Connecticut – the home of UConn – could have brought four friends along, and they all could have fit into the Stadium. And there still would have been room for Yukon Jack's Hilltop Grill and the Storrs Museum of Puppetry.

Do you like flat screen TVs? They've got one in the Stadium that is 160 by 72 feet. If you go to Best Buy to purchase one of these, remember that the size is measured diagonally. 

They sold the seats at the very top of the arena. You didn't need an usher to help you to those seats. You needed a Sherpa. What could those fans possibly see from up there? They couldn't see the dunks, the blocks, or the steals. They couldn't see the expressions on the faces of the players and coaches. Furthermore, there should be an NCAA rule that states no seats may be sold that are so far away from the court that fans can't distinguish between the cheerleaders and the players. Presidents Bush and Clinton were there, but I doubt if those with bad seats could even see them on the Giant TV. So thousands of fans missed the very things that are great about college basketball. 

If they hadn't read and believed my correct prediction, (which once again, may be found at ), they might not have found out who won the game until they got home.

Before Wisconsin's semifinal (but after practicing at AT&T), Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky said, "It's an insane venue. It kind of feels like you're outside…"

Why do they hold these games in such a cavernous place with so many awful seats? For the same reason that they charge five bucks for a bottle of water. Greed.

There's an old saying that goes, "Everything is bigger in Texas." However, it would've been much bigger of the NCAA if they had played these games in a smaller place.

Just as a postscript, one of the times that they cut to the two former Presidents on the oversized screen, I'm pretty sure I read Bush's lips asking Clinton, "Where is Lloyd sitting?" I could be wrong about that. Then again, I could be right. It's happened before.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


  Okay, you didn't win a billion dollars. You're not alone. Not one person in the Billion Dollars Warren Buffett Quicken Loans Pick All The Winners contest won. So Warren didn't have to pay out. Finally, something worked out for that guy. I have a feeling that many statisticians and math whizzes entered the contest and lost. They had all kinds of systems, using algorithms and even understanding what algorithms are. They still lost. Why? Because they didn't feed their machines the right information.

Maybe they should have looked at a different set of statistics.

I'm going to use the "point system" of picking Monday night's winner:

It always seems like the winner's colors are either red and white or blue and white. So give Wisconsin, Kentucky, and UCONN one point each.

I hate to pick on the Gators, but deduct one point from Florida for having a coach whose son plays on the team. It gets too complicated and unpleasant to watch. (Do the words "Bob Knight" mean anything to you)? While we're at it, I'm going to deduct another point from Florida for Billy Donovan naming his son Billy Donovan. So far, Florida is at -2.

In the recruitment battle, as a demonstration of how far coaches go to get kids to play for their team, I award two points for every player who doesn't come from the United States. The University of Connecticut wins this one because of the players that it has attracted from Connecticut's close neighbors, Jamaica, Ghana, and Germany. (Nice try, Wisconsin, but Germantown doesn't count).


I have to award five points to the coach who is hated more than any other coach every year – John Calipari. They wouldn't hate him if he were a loser.

As everyone knows, sentimentality is worth 12 to 16 points in big games. It seems that everyone is excited for Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan for finally getting to the Final Four. He teared up after beating Arizona, saying the game was dedicated to his late father, Butch. I'm tempted to deduct points because of people who have names like Bo and Butch, but I can't let my emotions get in the way of science. Wisconsin gets the sentimentality bonus of five points.

Experience counts. Therefore, the "They've Done It Before" points go to Calipari and Donovan. Two each. College coaching is a killer profession, so I have to award Billy Donovan 5 big points for being the coach who looks like he's in the best shape. Donovan and Ryan tie for Haircut That Is Only Seen On Coaches, earning their teams three points. UCONN gets one point for having the shortest player in the tournament whose name is Long.

So according to these calculations, UCONN should be cutting down the net Monday night.

Unless, of course, I should have awarded points for having the most players who are 6-8, having the heaviest player in the Final Four, having the best shooting seven footer, or for a coach having a wife named Ellen.

Enjoy the games.

New Bob Newhart Video

Check out Bob Newhart's first internet video by