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Mark Shields: Year-End Odds and Ends

College football games, movies, politicians — and a prediction for 2009.

Here are some year-end observations:

New Year’s Day hangover sufferers usually fail to understand that drinking is not a spectator sport — the whole family gets to play, whether it wants to or not.

Mark Shields
Mark Shields
Going to a post-season college football bowl game used to be quite an honor back when there were basically just the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl.

But this year’s college bowl games total 34, which include, among others, the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., and the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

The problem with 34 bowl games is that there aren’t 68 college football teams with bowl-worthy win-loss records. At least seven teams in those bowl games had lost as many games (six) as they had won. There was a time when a college football coach whose team had lost six games that autumn would have been well-advised to begin immediately exploring employment opportunities in the aluminum-siding business. Now, that coach could boast of having led his team to the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, or the GMAC Bowl (who’s underwriting this one?) in Mobile, Ala.

Sean Penn is a terrific actor whose performance as San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, in Milk has been almost universally praised. But, for my money, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt, as the ecumenically minded Father Flynn at a Bronx Catholic school in the post-Vatican II 1960s, and Clint Eastwood, as an embittered and widowed Walt Kowalski of Detroit in Gran Torino, are the two finalists for the 2008 Academy Award.

I would pay to see Dustin Hoffman as Rumpelstiltskin.

After he ran unsuccessfully for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination, the late and, yes, great Arizona Rep. Morris “Mo” Udall used to joke that, after his own losing campaign and his home-state Republican colleague Barry Goldwater‘s 1964 loss to Lyndon Johnson, Arizona was the only state where mothers didn’t tell their sons they could grow to become president.

Since then, Former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt tried and failed to win the 1988 Democratic nomination and Republican Sen. John McCain, having lost the GOP nomination to George W. Bush in 2000, lost the White House to Barack Obama in 2008.

If you or anyone you know has presidential ambitions, Phoenix, Tucson and Tempe may not be the best places to launch your campaign.

A prediction for 2009: Sometime in the next several months in an Illinois prison, one convict will turn to his cell mate and say, “The food was a lot better here when you were governor.

After this disastrous year, when my 401(k) shrunk into a 201(f), I have narrowed my financial advisers to just two: Sealy and Simmons.

Baseball has to be a truly great game in order to survive the men who own the teams and run the sport.

I pray every day that no grandchild of mine will ever grow up to be a New York Yankees fan. Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for OPEC against the destitute and frostbitten New England widow with no oil in the furnace or cheering for the big-city bankers foreclosing on the Little Sisters of the Poor.

In a year of many good lines, none was better than that of political guru and Louisiana native Charlie Cook, who attributed to a home-state Democrat this most flattering description of the state’s cerebral, reform-minded Republican governor, Bobby Jindal: “We’ve tried smart. We’ve tried honest. We’ve just never tried both smart and honest.”

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him.

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