Earle Johnson, Jr. is my barber. I visit him no less often than every three weeks. To do so would risk the wrath of everyone I know.
Unlike more popular styling clip joints of the 1970s and '80s, Earle decided long ago he didn't need to keep up with newfangled hairstyles for men. A two-hour visit to his shop on any afternoon will confirm that he made the correct decision.
When Earle is finished, you don't need a brush; you can use a comb. For the younger generation, a comb is a 10-cent piece of plastic that sells for a dollar, and you can part your hair on the side with it.
It doesn't work if you part it in the middle, unless you've got plenty of Vitalis or Brylcreem in use. "A little dab won't do ya" anymore.
There is always good conversation at Earle's, usually based upon the slew of sports and mechanical magazines he has collected at no charge over the years. Did I say years? Make that decades.
This past week I put together 11 dollars from my piggy bank and marched down to have my usual visit. The conversation between gentlemen waiting was already rocking and rolling by the time I arrived. Most of it concerned the recently completed college football season.
"Texas was the best team in the country, I tell ya," blurted "Texas" Tommy Walker, hardly a surprising viewpoint given his upbringing in the Lone Star State. "They'd a-beat that Tivo if they could have caught those Gators somewhere."
The group looked on as Earle explained to Tommy that, "His name isn't Tivo; that's that thing you have to buy before February to make your rabbit ears pick up television stations." What could I add to that?
Big Bill Davis is probably the heaviest customer. An extra plank was added under the chair a few years ago to support the former "Southern Conference Lineman of the Year."
Bill went about 240 in his days of glory but may have some of those numbers reversed now. Locally known as "the man who once knocked Sam Huff on his hind-end," he put out his cigar and explained "the facts of life" to a waiting audience.
"Texas was too young to win a national title; if that Colt McCoy comes back they might win it next year, then again, they might not." Adjusting his pants as he plopped down, "somethin's a-bindin' me" he proclaimed, Big Bill advised that Alabama and Oklahoma could be tough to beat as well. "If I had a steak dinner to bet on it, I'd take Florida."
Sammy Thompson, representing the slumping home building business, allowed that with one full season under his belt, "Dabo could take Clemson all the way." He has it on "good authority" that C.J. Spiller is probably going to win the Heisman Trophy.
Unable to restrain myself further, I asked, "Who do you fellas think will win the Pac-10 and the Big Ten next season?" Everyone agreed "Utah was a lot better than people realized," Southern California will "always be good as long as Carroll is out there," and that while Rich Rodriguez is going to get Michigan back into the national spotlight, we can look for Ohio State and Penn State to fight it out "up there" once again.
If this is any indication of what the general impression of the public is, it seems odd that all the teams under consideration are the same teams that were in the mix this past season.
Is it more than just a coincidence? More than a source of reference? Look at the history of the BCS since inception in 1998; many of the same teams just contend year after year.
A quick look at the title games reveals Oklahoma has been in four, Ohio State three, and Florida, USC, and LSU two each. That's 13 appearances between just those five teams.
Some of the earlier contestants like Tennessee, Florida State, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, and Miami haven't been seen around the national title scene in years. For all the talent and ability they have possessed, even Texas has been only a one hit wonder.
The general agreement at Earle's is that the BCS is junk and has ruined all the Bowl games. "The title game isn't a Bowl Game; what's the name of that Bowl if it is a Bowl?" asked Big Bill. "Nobody cares about the old great Bowls anymore," said Sammy.
The discussion ended with the feeling that there are only 10 or so teams that will ever compete for the BCS Title and that everyone else is along for the ride.
The solution to this mammoth problem? Who knows—by the time it was my turn to be sheared, the conversation had moved to whether a 30-30 or 30 ought six is better to bring down a four-pointer.