Monday, November 16, 2009

16 NOV 09: Who's the Man?

The first-ever Columbus "Ultimate Guys Expo" concluded Sunday at the Trade Center. Some of us thought this already happened twice a year, when the gun show came through town....

The Ultimate Guys Expo had amazing timing, as it came during a weekend break in the federal trial of Mark Shelnutt. In the past few days, people following the case have been introduced to two very different men - one a convicted drug "kingpin" (using the Ledger-Enquirer's headline), the other an attorney. Torrance Hill and Shelnutt broke up their "bro-mance" before that word was cool.

If you think about it, both Torrance Hill and Mark Shelnutt have presented different perspectives on what a real man should be. One lived a big-bucks high life, with a network of aides and international connections. And here's the amazing thing - the other man is simply an attorney.

CORRECTED: So who's closest to the standard for manhood? Today we borrow from Ultimate Fighting, and present the first Columbus Ultimate Guy Championship. Our four contenders are Torrance Hill, Mark Shelnutt, Jason Dennis from the WXTX "For Men Only" reports - and yours truly. I'm probably already at a disadvantage, because I've never called my computer room a "Man-Cave."

The criteria for this contest come directly from the advertising promoting the Ultimate Guys Expo. So may the best guy win, as we compare and contrast....

1. COGNAC TASTING. Torrance Hill had enough drug money that he probably invested in a bottle or two. Mark Shelnutt is the son of a minister - so he probably has a hidden chilled bottle of champagne, ready to drink with his wife if he's acquitted.

Jason Dennis is a devout Christian husband and dad, so I doubt he downs anything stouter than wine coolers. And as for me - I'd like to thank Piggly Wiggly for the in-store coupon, allowing me to buy four two-liter bottles of Coke Zero at a discount the other day.

2. COOKING. Torrance Hill probably has no experience with this. His drug use stopped at cocaine, not methamphetamine....

As a busy downtown attorney, Mark Shelnutt likely has gained most of his nourishment at restaurants such as Minnie's and Ruth Ann's. Jason Dennis openly talks about grilling outside on weekends. But my Sunday evening dinner was cooked indoors on the stove -- with store-brand macaroni and cheese costing several cents less than Kraft.

3. CIGARS. They say one bad habit leads to another, so I suspect Torrance Hill has smoked a few. But Mark Shelnutt doesn't look like a cigar smoker to me. Maybe if he handled more immigration cases....

I recall Jason Dennis offering cigars to friends, when he became a father. But if he offered one to me, I'd turn it down. I can spot second-hand smoke in my lungs 50 yards away when I'm jogging - and after playing poker in a few local clubs, I'm a bit amazed I still can jog at all.

4. FISHING. You might say Mark Shelnutt's family background is into "fishing for men," so he's probably good at this. But Torrance Hill is a very different story. His background is in hunting, not fishing - as in law enforcement authorities hunting FOR him.

It's not hard to imagine Jason Dennis fishing with his children by a lake. But I'm certainly not an "Ultimate Guy" in this category. I don't even go fishing for attractive women at dance clubs anymore.

5. FANCY WHEELS. Testimony in court this past week indicated Torrance Hill once owned a race car. Maybe he should have sold it to Carl Edwards, so the Aflac sponsorship can win at least one Sprint Cup race.

I don't tend to spy other people's cars, which probably makes me a failure here as well. But Mark Shelnutt strikes me as an attorney with a modest car, as opposed to a Cadillac. And if Jason Dennis doesn't drive what co-workers used to call a "Mommy-Van," the day isn't far off.

6. FOOTBALL TAILGATING. Torrance Hill may have opened his tailgate often in parking lots. But I doubt he was slow-roasting ribs before a game -- more like lightning-fast "downloads," if you know what I mean.

Some might say part of the federal case against Mark Shelnutt involves tailgating. Prosecutors say he accepted $125,000 in legal fees in a supermarket parking lot - but there's no evidence so far that Shelnutt turned around and made a "high-steaks" purchase.

Jason Dennis's children play youth soccer on weekends. I suspect his "tailgating" is limited to post-game packages of cupcakes.

And the tailgating topic is my ultimate downfall as a guy. I've never really done that outside a football game. The "birthday tent" for my older brother in September [6 Sep] doesn't really count - not when you have to unload cases of beer about four blocks away.

BLOG UPDATE: The second week of Mark Shelnutt's federal trial opens today. Judge Clay Land told jurors he expected a two-week trial. And Shelnutt certainly would like a decision this week - because SOA Watch protesters might need defense attorneys next Sunday and Monday.

When court was last in session, Federal Judge Clay Land threw out one of the 40 counts against Mark Shelnutt. Land admitted outside the jury's hearing he had "concerns" about the government's case -- and that seems understandable. If an attorney with big legal fees offered to buy my dinner at a restaurant, I'd consider it a blessing....

Federal prosecutor Mel Hyde testified Mark Shelnutt tried to pick up a restaurant tab for it - and Hyde didn't even know Shelnutt was there. I've never met Hyde, but maybe his hair is cut like a Fort Benning officer.

Mel Hyde also told the court Mark Shelnutt seemed "paranoid" at times, and offered him free Georgia football tickets. Hyde says on every occasion, he turned Shelnutt down. The lesson here should be obvious - have Auburn football tickets ready as a backup.

We'll see what the defense offers this week - but for now, let's offer a few more weekend discoveries:

+ A Friday afternoon jog found river water had receded from the Phenix City Riverwalk, but still covered the downtown part of the Columbus Riverwalk. All right now - which city needs to be cleaned of corruption more?

+ A federal report indicated Columbus Bank and Trust controls almost 58 percent of the banking deposits in Columbus. If this much dominance concerns you, it could be worse. One TV station has almost 100 percent of the news viewers on Saturday and Sunday.

+ Fort Benning announced the gate at Custer Road will remain closed on weekends and federal holidays, to save money. Is this move really necessary? Why not put soldiers on K.P. duty at the gate with buckets of potatoes, to teach them multitasking?

+ The HLN network aired a Clark Howard consumer advice program, which was taped at Fort Benning several weeks ago. This month marks 25 years since I began work at that cable channel. It's been CNN2, CNN Headline News, simply Headline News - and now I call it "Helen" for short.

+ Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell confirmed to the Ledger-Enquirer he'll retire when his current term ends next year. Deputy Heath Taylor plans to launch a campaign for the job this week - so Russell County could be trading in Tommy guns for Heath bars.

+ Instant Message to Indianapolis Colts linebacker Philip Wheeler: Aw, c'mon - this was your big moment in the Sunday night spotlight. Why didn't you tell the TV audience you went to Shaw High School? Do the Raiders have to get back to the playoffs first?

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