Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gift cards: What everyone wants but never asks for

I'm sure by the end of this you will have called me cheap, stingy, even Scrooge. But to my defense, it's just my opinion - it doesn't have to be yours.

Well, it's Christmas Eve. Santa has packed his sleigh, Ruldolph has come to grips with his red rose, and I've yet to buy a single present. Not because I forgot, but this year I'm finally taking a stand to ignore the apparent commercialism surrounding Christmas.

Each year I wonder around Wal-Mart aimlessly looking for a gift under $20 to defeat the guilt that I (and everyone else) seems to get at this time of year. This year, however, the guilt is gone. No longer will I wonder how much my mom spent on the boxers and socks (Yes, she buys me same thing every year) to match her gift. Or how much my brother Jeffrey spent on my dress shirt.

As for me, I'm done with the hooplah.

I know that goes against every social order known to man. But if I don't stand up and say something, who will?

Every year low-income families go heavily into debt to buy their child something they play with for a week at most. An estimated $65 billion is spent on Christmas gifts in the U.S. alone! Wouldn't at least a portion of that be better suited for a homeless family or laid off GM worker? How did it get this way? When did the "Christ" in Christmas vanish?

First off, I'm not telling you not to buy your child or spouse a Christmas gift. But think about what the recipient actually needs. There is a worldwide yearly $85 billion worth of "value destruction" as a result of people buying gifts that they necessarily aren't fond of, according to Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics.

The solution: gift cards.

I know what you're thinking: that's not personal, there's no thought into it, and (my favorite) I'm just not doing that.

But how many times has a grandparent given you that forsaken plaid shirt or long white tube socks? They probably spent around $20 on the total gift, but to you it's worth nothing (maybe even less when you count the forced smile). In Grandpa's mind, he can't wait to see you in his new favorite shirt. In your mind, you're thinking what time does Fred's open to return it.

To counteract all this unnecessary confusion, buy a gift card. No, they might not see the significance of it now. But the next time their shopping, they have the pleasure in knowing that they can whip out a gift card to make a purchase.

For parents, stop feeding into the pressure to keep up with the Jones'. Because, in reality, they usually can't keep up with themselves. Instead of spending your yearly savings or taking out expensive loans for Christmas presents, invest in something meaningful - like a vacation. It will give the entire family time to bond while having a splendid time.

Well, that is my suggestion. Hope you enjoyed. I'll be traveling down Highway 82 to my hometown, Grenada, today with a pocket full of gifts - gift cards.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stansbury bounces in at Rotary

With the 2009 college basketball season looming and the start of practice around the corner, Mississippi State Men's Head Basketball Coach Rick Stansbury found time to stop by the West Point Rotary Club on Thursday.

Stansbury, whose team won the 2008 Southeastern Conference Tournament, spoke about last year's accomplishments and the future of the program. He accredited much of the team's success to senior forward Jarvis Varnardo and his father Winston Varnado, head boy's basketball coach at West Point High School.
"My job became a lot easier this year because of one person and his father," Stansbury said. "He deserves a lot of credit for what he did. Because a lot of young men don't have parents. (Others) don't have parents who will be patient and make the decision that will be best in the long run."
Varnado, who originally declared for the 2009 NBA draft, decided to return to Mississippi State for his senior year after consulting his father and others. Not only did Varnado decide to return for his senior season, but he gave up his scholarship to benefit the school's recruiting.
Jarvis has progressed exceptionally well since his freshman year in Starkville, Stansbury said.
“When he first came in three years ago, he was about 180 pounds,” he said. “He would play about 8 to 10 minutes and foul out. Now, he's going into his senior year and has the chance to do something no other college player has ever done. Think about all the great players: Wilt Chamberlin, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaq (O'neal). Jarvis has the opportunity to become the all-time NCAA shot block record holder.”
The 6-foot-9-inch Varnado, who has a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan, needs 141 blocks to surpass Louisiana-Monroe's Wojciech Mydra as the NCAA shot block record holder. He has averaged 161 blocks over the previous two seasons. Also, Varnado is only 19 blocks from passing Shaquille O'Neal as the SEC shot block leader.
Stansbury talked about each of the team's key returning players. One of those key players was Kodi Augustus, who began the 2008 season as a starter but was benched later in the year.
“I expected big things from Kodi last year, but it didn't happen as quick as we wanted it to,” he said. “But I anticipate big things from him this year.”
Augustus fought his way back into the lineup and made a significant impact in the SEC and NCAA tournament. Augustus' troubles were because of lack of understanding, Stansbury said.
Kodi is a great kid,” he said. “He just had a lack of understanding. I remember when (Kodi) came to me and said 'coach you knew when you recruited me I couldn't defend and rebound.”
Rebounding has been a thorn in the sides of the Bulldogs since the departure of Charles Rhodes. Outside of Varnado's 8.8 rebounds per game last season, the team suffered from the absence of a second big man.
The Bulldogs are also suffering from several injuries, Stansbury said. Elgin Bailey, who played a vital reserve role in 2008, will likely be out for the season with a dislocated ankle. Also, backup guard Twany Beckham will be out for the season with an injured hip.
Reserve players like Bailey and Beckham are important to the Bulldogs success, Stansbury said.
“The key to your team is not who starts,” he said. “It's those sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth guys. Those are the guys who make the difference in winning championships.”
Attempting to play a key role off the bench will be Noxubee native Shaunessy Smith and Alabama born newcomer Wendell Lewis. Lewis, who is listed as a 3-star native by, has a bright future ahead, Stansbury said.
“Two years from now, people are going to look up and say where did this guy come from,” he said. “He reminds me of Charles Rhodes a little bit.”
Rhodes, who left Starkville before earning his degree, returned and completed his education several week ago. Rhodes is one of many Bulldog basketball players to earn a degree. Mississippi State has graduated 78 percent of its players, which puts them second in the SEC behind Vanderbilt.
Along with excelling in the classroom, Stansbury has brought a winning spirit to Starkville. During his 11-year tenure, only two SEC teams have won more games than the Bulldogs – Kentucky and Florida.
The Rotary Club will be tying in their Nov. 5 meeting with the grand opening of the Ritz.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mississippi breeds football players

I’ll admit it. My home state of Mississippi is not known for much other than cotton and the blues. Take another look, however, and you’ll see that Mississippi has produced some of the most talented professional athletes in the United States.

Today, we’ll take a look at NFL players who have ties to the magnolia state.

1. Brett Favre

Arguably, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history was born in Gulfport, Miss. Favre, who recently came out of retirement for the second time, attended Southern Mississippi where he set school records for passing yards, pass attempts, completions, and touchdowns. Favre, a nine-time pro bowler, has won three MVP awards and currently holds the record for most consecutive starts.

2. Walter Payton

Walter “Sweetness” Payton, one of the greatest running backs of all-time, was born in Columbia, Miss. He attended Jackson State University where he rushed for over 3,500 yards and broke the NCAA’s scoring record by rushing for 65 touchdowns. Until the 2002 season, Payton was the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yards.

3. Jerry Rice

Starville, Miss born Jerry Rice is considered by nearly every football fan as the great wide receiver in NFL history. Rice, who attended Mississippi Valley State University, was drafted in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers. Rice went on to break numerous NFL receiving records. He caught 1,549 receptions and gained 22,895 yards.

Other notable NFL players from Mississippi: Eric Moulds (Buffalo Bills), Jerious Norwood (Atlanta Falcons), Jason Campbell (Washington Redskins), and Archie Manning.