THE NEW year is in its infancy, and with it comes optimism and uncertainty.
You would like to believe 2011 will bring a much better economic climate than its predecessor. I always lean toward the optimistic side of things, so I do believe better times are in store for us.
If Christmas retail shopping is a harbinger of things to come, an upswing may be on its way as local businesses enjoyed brisk sales this holiday season.
It's only a matter of time before things turn around on the national front. Hopefully, it filters down to the Ohio Valley, and soon.
My biggest concern in 2011 is the well-being of our schools in Eastern Ohio. No local school district can be classified as being exceedingly strong financially.
Some are in worse shape than others. Bellaire is in the most precarious position. The state is helping direct operations for the district as it battles its way out of a $3 million hole.
With John Kasich taking over as governor this month, even tougher financial times are looming. Kasich is no ally of public schools, and they will be likely targets of his deficit-cutting agenda.
OUR PRAYERS for a speedy recovery go out to Ed Metz. The former Bridgeport High girls' hoop coach underwent open-heart surgery Monday in Washington, Pa.
NEW YEAR'S DAY is not the same now that the bowl games have been spread out all the way through Jan. 10. I realize it is all about the mighty dollar, but it is stupid to make some teams wait some 6-7 weeks to play in the bowls.
Moreover, how can there by 35 bowl games? There are not 70 quality Division I college football teams to rightfully earn berths, as attested by a bevy of 6-6 teams playing in the bowls.
In the Oregon-Auburn championship contest, I am rooting for the Ducks and think they will get it done via their frenetic offensive attack.
I BLAME WVU's bowl loss Tuesday on Oliver Luck. When the Mountaineers' new athletic director opted to make head coach Bill Stewart a virtual lame duck, it put the program in a state of disarray. I have never been a fan of coaches in waiting, as it causes too much lack of accountability.
OUR BEST wishes and congratulations go out to D. William Davis as he ended a stellar 32-year stint as Belmont County Eastern Division Court judge. Serving three-plus decades on the bench is a most noteworthy accomplishment. I have come to know him well enough to call him a friend. His tenure as judge was one characterized by fairness and class. He leaves some big shoes to fill.
PITT OFFICIALS may have second thoughts about their new head football coach. Mike Haywood -- on the job less than a month -- has been arrested on charges of domestic violence. While the former Miami of Ohio head coach may eventually vindicate himself, a measure of doubt will remain in the minds of many Pitt partisans.
WHAT BEGAN as a nightmarish debut season for Brian Kelly as Notre Dame's head football coach has morphed into unbridled optimism for the 2011 season. The Fighting Irish won their last four games, including marquee victories over Southern California and a bowl blowout of Miami. Kelly is a proven winner and offensive guru. With good health, the ND grid program should take off this year.
SPEAKING OF taking off, gas prices are out of control. I fueled up New Year's Day morning before Mass in Bellaire and the price was a staggering $3.13 for unleaded. Unfortunately, it is only going to worsen in the coming months.
IF YOU don't mind laughing your tail off, I recommend seeing "Little Fockers." We took it in on New Year's Eve. It was simply hilarious.
NOW THAT we have survived a frigid December, hopefully the recent heat wave is a harbinger for a mild winter. I hope we do not revisit the February of 2010.
Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleader online.com