Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Nightcap

Tonight's Nightcap is brought to you by Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Because if you can survive a few glasses of Laphroaig, you can survive just about anything.

Here are some of the recent headlines in sports:

No quiero hacer pis en una taza
Sammy Sosa officially signed a one year minor league deal with the Texas Rangers today. In a telephone interview, Sosa proclaimed that he is "fresh (and) relaxed," that his "body is in shape" and that there is only a "one in a million" chance that he wouldn't make the team. Coincidentally, those are the same odds that Sosa will make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. But at least it's nice to see that Sosa was productive during his year off and learned how to speak English again.

Now I ain't saying she's a gold digger...
Latrell Sprewell has been hit with a $200 million palimony suit from his babies' momma, Candace Cabbil, after the size of the payments he was giving her began to diminish in value. I know there are four mouths to feed, and she did give up that sweet hospital job making 25k a year so that she could stay home with the kids (and the nanny and the housekeeper), but $200 mil?! That seems a bit exorbitant. I now realize that when Sprewell famously turned down a 3 year, $21 million contract offer because, "I got my family to feed," he wasn't actually being greedy at all. It's just that Ms. Cabbil apparently is incapable of raising her kids for less than 10 mil per year.

Speaking of guys with a choking fetish
Kobe Bryant was suspended by the NBA for one game for his blow to Manu Ginobili's face which was, according to NBA Lord of Discipline Stu Jackson, "an unnatural act." Bryant appealed the decision, believing that he should be able settle this ordeal the same way he does anytime he commits an unnatural act...by writing a check. The NBA denied the appeal, but compromised and declared that rather than being forced to sit out a game against a real NBA team, he could just miss the Knicks game instead.

By the way, how would you like to be a fan in New York who paid a couple hundred bux a ticket on Ebay or StubHub to see the Lakers come to town and then find out a few hours before tipoff that instead of Kobe, you get to see Maurice Evans play? Kobe's not going to miss the game check that much, but David Stern sure did screw over the casual fan on this one. And here I thought the NBA cared?

Remember the 90s?
Here's a message I received from a Cowboys fan today that pretty much said it all in regards to the state of Big D. "I don't know why people are so pessimistic about Norv Turner as the head coach. He's just two 14-2 seasons away from being a .500 coach."

Theo Epstein Likes to Watch

The Boston Red Sox will be building an indoor batting cage for the visiting team on the 3rd base side of Fenway Park. One of the walls of the cage will be shared with "Game On," a Red Sox owned bar and grill. That wall will be a one-way mirror that allows patrons to watch the visiting team take batting practice. This will be a great opportunity for Red Sox fans to scout their future $70 million free agent acquisitions, since- as evidenced in the JD Drew signing- looking good in batting practice is the only requirement for getting a long term deal from the Red Sox front office.

Out of respect for Tony Dungy, Minnesota bans latent homoerotic activity for one week
A Minnesota school district has shutdown all wrestling activity for the next eight days after 24 high school wrestlers were diagnosed with herpes gladiatorum, an HSV-1 infection passed by skin to skin contact. The moratorium on all practices and meets should be sufficient to contain the outbreak, but this incident has left the sport with a black eye. And a rash. A blistering, painful rash.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wilbon Calls It Like He Sees It

As frustrating and irritating as ESPN has become in recent years, there are still a few ESPN personalities who I do like. Dan Patrick and Eric Allen come to mind, as does Michael Wilbon.

Today, a judge granted an injunction on the two game suspension of the #1 high school player, OJ Mayo, which had been the result of two technical fouls he received in a recent game. Here is what Michael Wilbon had to say about the entire incident, as well as some new camera angles taken by fans:
(sorry about the static in the audio at the beginning; it clears up after 8 seconds or so...)



Those are some harsh words for the future USC guard. Having seen the new footage, OJ is a little more culpable than I originally thought. But I still think the ref took a dive.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 29, 2007

Stanford Offense Has Howland Seeing Cardinal

For about 18 minutes, it looked like UCLA was going to exorcise their demons at Maples Pavilion. But then Stanford reminded the Bruins faithful that horror films always have sequels. After allowing 46 points in the entire game against Cal on Thursday, UCLA's defense surrendered 50 points to Stanford in the second half alone, and the Bruins once again left Palo Alto with a defeat. For all the progress Ben Howland has made with the UCLA program, winning at Stanford has proven to be a difficult task. Steve Lavin routinely lost at Maples (including the worst loss in UCLA history), and now Ben Howland is 1-3 at Stanford.

I'm not sure what it is about Maples Pavilion that makes it so difficult for UCLA to play their best basketball. Maybe it's the taunting of the 6th man that gets to them (although they have been much tamer of late than in recent years). Maybe the Bruins' players become disconcerted by what are annually the least attractive cheerleaders in the Pac-10. Or maybe UCLA is cursed. In 1996, Jim Harrick allegedly violated NCAA rules by having too many active players at a dinner with two prized recruits who were all set to sign with UCLA. Harrick then falsified expense reports in an effort to cover up the violation. UCLA administrators seized these violations as an opportunity to fire Harrick. With Harrick gone and a NCAA investigation looming, the two recruits- Jason and Jarron Collins- turned down UCLA and elected to attend Stanford instead. From that point forward, road trips to Stanford have brought the Bruins nothing but trouble.

Now sure, there were actual basketball reasons for the Stanford victory Sunday night. The Cardinal played with greater intensity in the second half. The officials were not allowing UCLA to play their physical brand of defense, leading to a 33-15 free throw discrepancy. Lawrence Hill caught fire and seemingly everything he tossed up found a way into the basket. A saner man might point to any of those observations as reasons why Stanford prevailed. But as for me, I choose to blame a beady eyed coach for being careless during a lobster dinner.

If UCLA fans want to find a silver lining, here's all I have to offer. After the Cardinal victory, Stanford students stormed the court in celebration. In UCLA's only other loss this season, Oregon fans also stormed the court when the final horn sounded. Generally speaking, storming the court is only reserved for victories over an elite program. Whether they're really in the same tier as Florida and North Carolina yet is debatable, but the Bruins are once again storm-worthy.

As for Stanford, after victories over UCLA and USC, they should be the next participant in the Pac-10 roulette of teams in the top 25. If they do enter the top 25, they'll become the 7th Pac-10 team to be ranked at some point during the season. Of course, Dick Vitale still considers the Pac-10 to only be the third best conference in the country, behind the ACC and SEC.

Here was another gem from Vitale during the first half of the Michigan State at Ohio State game, in which Vitale was watching Oden for maybe the third time this season:
"I tell you one thing, Dan. This is the first time I've really seen evidence of (Oden) being an effective offensive player. In fact...I think he's ahead of Patrick Ewing at the same stage, offensively." How does that work? First you imply that up to that point you'd never seen any evidence of him being good offensively, and then after he hits a few jump hooks, he's ahead of Patrick Ewing? Wouldn't that mean that during Patrick Ewing's freshman year, he never gave any indication of being an effective offensive player? Even for Vitale, that's insane. Ewing, by the way, averaged 12.7 points and shot 63% from the field his freshman year. I guess Vitale was just turning a blind eye to the facts.

Finally, I've been informed that as a sports blogger, it's my obligation to post some sort of Power Poll. But it's getting late, so I'll just post a top 5:

1. Florida. In coast mode until the tournament begins.
2. North Carolina. Forget Hansbrough- that freshman class can fly.
3. Wisconsin. Great defense and Alando Tucker is one of the best creators in the country.
4. UCLA. If UCLA is going to return to the Final Four, Darren Collison needs to step up his play.
5. Ohio State. Inconsistency on offense is the only thing holding them back, which is ridiculous since all they need to do is consistently put the ball in the hands of Oden.

Knocking on the door: Kansas, Oregon, Texas.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tar Heels Show No Mercy

Arizona is getting an absolute spanking from the Tar Heels today, and North Carolina doesn't even have Brandan Wright available today.

North Carolina has been quicker and more aggressive all game. Maybe the 10 AM start hurt them, but Arizona has to come to terms with the fact that they just aren't that good right now.

This is now five losses in the last seven games for Arizona. Lute Olsen, to his credit, is responding to this latest embarrassment with class and dignity. Oh who am I kidding? He's screaming and stomping around like always.

(One thing I will give Arizona credit for. Even down 27 points, the McKale Center crowd is making a decent amount of noise. I'm impressed.)

At 14-6 overall, but 5-4 in the Pac-10, Arizona is now creeping into bubble territory. Hard to imagine from a team that's been in the top 15 for most of the season. But with the way the Wildcats are playing, a 19-11 finish to the regular season seems very plausible. Will that be good enough?

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 26, 2007

West Coast Bias

If you're going to have a coming-out party, ya might as well make it a block party. Stanford freshman Brook Lopez set a school record by blocking 12 shots en route to his first career triple double (18 points, 11 rebounds). USC kept driving into the paint, and Stanford defenders kept swatting it away. When the final seconds had ticked off the clock in the Stanford 65-52 victory, the Cardinal had amassed a grand total of 19 blocked shots. The Trojans had 67 field goal attempts in all, so that translates into nearly 30% of SC's shots not ever making it to the rim. You'd think at some point, the Trojans would have learned that trying to score from the low block was a bad idea. But this is Southern Cal we're talking about, and learning isn't really that high on the priority list over there.

The depth of young players in the Pac-10 is astounding. One week, it looks like Spencer Hawes is the best freshman in the league. Then it's Chase Budinger who starts to dominate with his play. A few weeks later, Ryan Anderson puts a few good games together, and his name starts to get mentioned as a Freshman of the Year candidate. Now, the Lopez twins have announced their presence in the conference. You could put together a team of just the best freshmen in the Pac-10, and they would be a top 10 team in the country. I just hope they decide to stick around for a couple years.

The headline at Yahoo Sports reads, "Torrid Huskies Upset Ducks." Obviously, the headline writer doesn't also read the Yahoo odds page, or he would have known that by tipoff, Washington was a 4.5 point favorite in the game. (By the way, if you ever do encounter a torrid husky...well, you don't want him around if you're wearing short pants- if you know what I mean. A word of warning though: If he does lay into you, it's best to just let him finish.) Still it was a much-needed win for the Huskies, as any hopes they had for making the Big Dance (save for winning the Pac-10 tournament) would have been pretty much eliminated with a loss Thursday. As it is, Washington is 2-6 in the Pac-10 with 10 conference games remaining. They probably need to go 7-3 in those games to have a shot at an invitation. One of those games will be a visit to Eugene, Oregon for a rematch against the Ducks, where I'm sure the team will remember the "overrated" chant that came from the Huskies faithful tonight. That may have been a miscalculation on the part of HuskyFan.

UCLA now stands alone atop the Pac-10 after overcoming a slow start (boy, does that sound familiar) to beat Cal 62-46. Once Arron Afflalo began to heat up and the UCLA defense tightened up, Cal lost any hope they had for an upset bid. The Bruins now go to Palo Alto, which over the last decade, has been a nightmare game for UCLA. The Bruins will have to play 40 minutes of energetic basketball if they hope to escape Maples Pavilion with a win. I'm not so sure that they'll win, but I do feel pretty confidant that they won't get swatted 19 times. That's just the type of preparation you can expect from Ben Howland. Well that, and the Bruins don't have a single reliable scorer in the low block. Thank heaven for small favors.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Getting Things In Order

I'll be out all day. Next post sometime this evening after the Pac-10 games have concluded.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Costly Mistake

Zach has already covered this in the AOL FanHouse (once again, my decision to join the living in the outside world has caused me to fall behind the pack), but since some of my readers (Hi, dad!) haven't yet caught on to the good work being done over at AOL , I thought I'd give my thoughts on the matter. Besides, it's a bit of a slow news day, and I really don't want to write about T.O. or Michael Vick.

Last season during an Oregon/Washington matchup in the Pac-10 tournament, Aaron Brooks and Ryan Appleby were involved in a play in which Brooks was the recipient of what appeared to be incidental contact to the chin. Brooks responded the next trip down the court by delivering a forearm shiver to Appleby's face, opening a cut that required six stitches to repair. Brooks was ejected and the Pac-10 responded by suspending Brooks for Oregon's next game vs Cal, plus the season opener against Lehigh and this Thursday's game at Washington.

At the time, Oregon had the opportunity to appeal the suspension, but declined to do so. This decision was made in part because the team knew that Brooks was in the wrong, but also because at the time, the Ducks were a struggling team and Brooks to that point had been a frustrating, underachieving player. But now, Brooks has finally developed into the player scouts originally thought he would be and is the frontrunner for Pac-10 Player of the Year. The Oregon Ducks in turn, are a surprising 18-1 and in serious competition for a #1 seed in the tournament. Going into Washington to play what has to be an angry Huskies team is no easy task, and a loss here, while not catastrophic, will certainly be damaging to the Ducks' hopes of winning the Pac-10 regular season and getting that top seed in the dance.

To his credit, Brooks has been very mature in accepting responsibility for his actions and has not complained once about the suspension (unlike Appleby, who implied in an interview that suspension may have been too lenient.) When asked about being suspended for Thursday's game, Brooks replied, "You have to suffer the consequences for the mistakes you made." In doing so, Brooks has established himself as a leader both on and off the court. Unfortunately, Thursday, he will most decidedly be off the court. The Ducks will try to rally around the absence of their leader, but seeing as how Brooks has always been the guy to initiate a rally when they need it, I don't really like their chances.

(Oh, and a message to the Washington student body. I'm sure you already know this, but if you do beat the Ducks Thursday night, you are not to storm the court on this one. I know you're 1-6 and looking for any reason to celebrate, but just because your team has been a disappointment thus far, it doesn't mean that this win has any added significance. This is a game that you're supposed to win.)

One other side note: I watched all of the Pac-10 tournament last year, but I don't remember this incident at all. It might have something to do with the fact that I was watching at Hooters, and there was a waitress there that reminded me of Kate from Kate's Playground. And since I couldn't find a picture of the altercation between the two scholar-athletes, I've decided instead to go with a photo of Kate looking quite scholarly herself. You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Role of Puppet #2 Has Been Filled

It looks like it's time for me to accept that once again, I will not be the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders, as they will officially introduce Lane Kiffen as their new leader today. That's a disappointment. It's not that I'm a Raiders fan, it's just that I think it would be a fun challenge to coach an NFL team, and the Raiders looked like the best chance I'd have. (If you can still call the Raiders an NFL franchise, that is.) Sure, I'm not really all that qualified- I have no NFL head coaching experience, or even any NFL coordinator experience for that matter. And no, I've never been a college head coach either. But hey, neither has the guy the Raiders hired, so I really wasn't all that far behind on the ol' experience ladder.

Kiffen does have one edge over me. He's coming from the USC program, which means he's accustomed to coaching overpaid thugs, so it should be a smooth transition to the Oakland organization. (To be fair, the Cincinnati Bengals have clearly surpassed the Raiders in the criminal department. Yesterday, DB Johnathan Joseph became the ninth Bengal arrested this year when he was charged with marijuana possession. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe Marvin Lewis is actually a drug lord and being a head coach is his cover.) As the son of coach Monte Kiffen, Lane also has pedigree on his side. Is that the new strategy now? If you can't land an experienced coach, then try to at least get the son of a coach? If that's the case, then Randy Moss would have much preferred that Al Davis had hired Bill Belichick's son, Stephen. Then the two of them could have compared notes on which coast has the best weed.

So now this leaves the Dallas Cowboys as the only remaining head coaching vacancy in the NFL. Unfortunately for Jerry Jones, most of the hotter names in the industry have already taken jobs elsewhere. But luckily, whoever Dallas does hire won't have that tough of an act to follow, since the last coach only went 34-32 over four seasons. Right now, the front runner appears to be Chargers defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips. If Wade does get the job and he's able to duplicate the kind of results that he got from the Chargers defense, then he might actually be able to return the Cowboys to their form of the early 90's. By that, I of course mean a team full of players being involved in drug trafficking and usage, confrontations with wild women, and late-night shootings.

I don't know if Wade Phillips' name really has enough sizzle for Jerry Jones, so I'm not certain that he'll be given the job. Especially since there is still one other guy still out there who could really excite the fans in Dallas. A guy who, while never reaching the elite level in the NFL, has had nothing but success in his time in the Pac-10. A guy who in a few short years, accumulated college football hall of fame credentials. A guy who as a head coach, has led his team to two championships. I'm of course talking about Danny White.

Hey if Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen can pull names out of their butts, then why can't I?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Super Bowl Shuffled

In my previous post where I broke down the playoff scenarios, I don't know how I overlooked the "two African American coaches face off against each other" storyline. My only answer is that the Lounge sees no color.

Either that, or I just wasn't really convinced that Tony Dungy was black. I mean, the dude wears a sweater vest on the sidelines.

I have to admit, I'm a bit troubled by the fact that two African American coaches facing each other is such a big story in this day and age. I recognize that it's a milestone, and for that reason is cause for celebration. But at the same time, if the message being delivered is "Black people are smart enough to be successful head coaches," then the underlying principal is that there are still a lot of NFL owners who question intelligence based on skin color. I'd really like to think that we're beyond that kind of thinking by now. Hopefully, the media's reinforcement of an African American coach's ability to lead is superfluous.

On the other hand, any journalistic measure that expedites the advancement of Karl Dorrell into the NFL makes me a happy camper.

Besides, if you heard the speeches from Tony Dungy and Jim Irsay, Dungy had nothing to do with the Colts making it to the Super Bowl. It was all God's doing. I know I've ranted about this before, so I'll try not to say too much this time. But contrary to Irsay's words, there is nothing "humble" at all about giving God the glory for winning a freaking football game. All you're really saying is that you have been chosen by God for greatness, which also implies that your opposition has not. That's not humility, it's self-aggrandizement. If you want to give God the credit for the birth of your child or the ass on your secretary, go for it. But let's give the credit for the outcome of games where it belongs- with the players, coaches, and officiating crews.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe God really does use sports to deliver his messages. If that's the case, then the fact that Peyton Manning's Colts are going to the Super Bowl must mean that God has reconsidered his stance on this whole homosexuality thing and He's cool with it now.

It would also mean that God has stopped being a Saints fan. I think the turning point was when Reggie Bush did his flip into the endzone and began dancing. That little jitterbug was Otto Graham's move; and if there's one thing we learned last week, it's that you don't go into another player's house and steal someone else's moves. The score of the game from that point forward: Chicago 23, New Orleans 0.

It turns out that L.T.'s royal rumble wasn't the only major event that transpired in the wake of the Patriots/Chargers game. During the postgame handshakes, when Eric Parker met up with Reche Caldwell, he must have given the Patriots' receiver whatever disease he had that makes it impossible to hold on to a football. The passes Brady was tossing to Caldwell were so soft, even Terrell Owens could have held on to them. But Caldwell was dropping them like Bill Belichick drops a mistress. You'd think if anyone would have been capable of keeping his eyes on the ball, it would have been Reche Caldwell.

The postgame scene has really gotten out of control in the playoffs. The NFL needs to limit the number of photographers that can go onto the field at the end of the game. It's ridiculous that the players and coaches have to wade through a sea of a cameramen to give each other the requisite congratulations. That must be why Tom Brady sprinted off the field without acknowledging anyone as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Yeah, I'm sure that was it.

Can anyone explain why Jim Plunkett was chosen to present the AFC championship trophy? And did anyone else notice that he almost said congratulations to the Patriots at the end of his speech? I'm sure when he was rehearsing his speech the night before, he assumed it would be the Patriots he was giving the trophy too; and this was just a slip of the tongue. I can't really blame him. I'm still having a hard time believing that the Colts beat the Patriots too.

You know else is having a tough time dealing with the Colts finally making it to the Super Bowl? Edgerrin James. He can't be happy at all. Fortunately $30 million can dry a lot of tears.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Viewers Guide: The Lesser of Four Evils

Since my team was eliminated a long time ago, I'm still undecided about who to root for in today's championship games. Perhaps the best way to determine which teams I want to see win is by examining the two weeks of hype that will lead up to each Super Bowl matchup. As we witnessed during last season's "Jerome Bettis is from Detroit" extravaganza, the weeks leading up to the actual game are all about creating a storyline for the casual viewer. (Well that, and drinking heavily in the host city.) So let's break down each potential pairing and see which is the least annoying:

Matchup: Patriots vs Bears
Storyline: The Patriots get a chance to exact revenge for the humiliating 46-10 loss in Super Bowl XX.
Imagery: Refrigerator Perry scoring a touchdown. Steve Grogan being beaten to a pulp by Richard Dent and company. The Super Bowl Shuffle.
Chances that the storyline will cause nausea: Minimal.
What I wish the storyline would be: Mike Ditka just ranting for two weeks about everything the Patriots "get away with" would be entertaining.
Outlook: Tolerable. And hey, it would be nice for Refrigerator Perry to get some work.

Matchup: Colts vs Bears
Storyline: Manning's offense vs Bears' defense. The Interstate 65 Bowl.
Imagery: Close-ups of Manning audibling at the line of scrimmage. Brian Urlacher making plays. Farmland. Um...Sonic Drive-Ins?
Chances that the storyline will cause nausea: Moderate, which is the lowest ranking I could give any two week tribute to Peyton. So really, not that bad.
What I wish the storyline would be: The quarterback that could never beat Florida in college versus the former Florida QB; or the QB that always f*cks up in crunch time versus the QB that just wants to f*ck around.
Outlook: Perhaps a bit on the boring side, but at least I won't be made to feel like it's a game that transcends sports.

Matchup: Patriots vs Saints
Storyline: The teams that saved a nation. The Patriots were "America's Team" after 9/11, and now the Saints symbolize hope for the city of New Orleans in post-Katrina times.
Imagery: Patriots players waving American flags. Saints players visiting Katrina victims in shelters. I'm sure U2 will be involved.
Chances that network coverage will cause nausea: Inevitable
What I wish the storyline would be: The team with the stadium that housed poor black people during Hurricane Katrina versus the team with the stadium where it's impossible to ever find any black people in the stands.
Outlook: I'd advise a vacation to Brazil during these two weeks.

Matchup: Colts vs Saints
Storyline: All Mannings, all the time. Archie played for the Saints and never made the Super Bowl, but now Peyton won't suffer the same fate. The Manning family is from Louisiana, so there will be plenty of Katrina talk too.
Imagery: Peyton Manning unloading emergency supplies at the New Orleans airport after Katrina.
Chances that network coverage will cause nausea: Guaranteed. Just thinking about it made me throw up a little.
What I wish the storyline would be: Draft dodgers. The Colts dodged a bullet when they chose Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf #1 overall (hard to believe there was actually a debate at the time). Reggie Bush dodged Houston when the Texans shocked everyone by picking Mario Williams ahead of Mr. Bush.
Outlook: Just shoot your tv after the conference championship games end and buy a plasma on Super Bowl Sunday. You've been meaning to upgrade anyway.

So, it looks like the most appealing option is the Colts vs Bears. Sure there would be a ton of Peyton Manning talk, but at least the networks would actually be talking about football, which is a major change of pace from past years. As added bonus, if the Bears make the Super Bowl, then there's a chance that Rex Grossman in Miami might lead to him being the first starting quarterback to ever be arrested on the eve of the big game. Also, Peyton Manning could become the first player ever to play in a Super Bowl and star in every commercial aired during the same game. Good times all around.

Separating From the Pac

Someone call the SPCA because some Huskies were just abused in Pullman last night. As the result of an ankle injury suffered in practice Friday, U-Dub fans caught a glimpse of what life without Spencer Hawes would be like, and it wasn't pretty. Derrick Low and his fellow Cougars had their way with Washington, holding the usually potent Huskies offense to 28% shooting en route to a 75-47 victory. The Huskies fall to 1-6 in the Pac-10 and have been virtually eliminated from the conference race. At 11-7 overall, they'll need to duplicate last year's rally to the end the season if they want any chance at all to make the tournament. Unfortunately for the Huskies, the Pac-10 is much stronger this season, so such a rally seems very unlikely. The only silver lining I can offer Washington fans is that without the opportunity to showcase his skills in the NCAA tournament, the chances are improving that Hawes will actually return for his sophomore season.

I'm not surprised that national writers, by way of their AP votes have largely ignored the very impressive season the Oregon Ducks have had thus far. I am however surprised how under appreciated they were by Fox Sports this weekend. The 18-1 Ducks, a legitimate top 5 team in my opinion, were hosting 12-7 Cal today; however you wouldn't have known it by watching FSN as they were nowhere to be found. For some reason, Fox elected to show Arizona State at USC in that same time slot. Now I know 'SC is up and coming and LA is a bigger market, but this was an embarrassingly misguided decision. The Southern Cal game ended up being relatively uninteresting as the Trojans built up an early lead and cruised to a 58-49 victory. The Oregon game however, was a track meet, with the Ducks rallying from an 8 pt halftime deficit to win 92-84. I'd love to give you more information, however since the game wasn't televised, I'm at a loss. I'm willing to guess that Aaron Brooks had a lot to do with the victory.

If there is a basketball god (and I believe there is, and his "buy it now" prices for UCLA tickets are outrageous), then Bill Rafferty will be assigned for UCLA games in the NCAA tournament. Otherwise, I'm all alone in screaming out "Onions!" when Arron Afflalo takes control in the last five minutes of the game. Afflalo relishes taking the big shot, and time and time again he delivers. Saturday, his play was huge once again, as anytime Arizona started a run, Afflalo quickly responded. He finished with 22 points on 9-14 shooting, and the Bruins kept pace with Oregon by beating Arizona 73-69. A few other points about the game:

Lorenzo Mata's horrendous free throw shooting (barely over 30%) is finally costing him minutes. During the final five minutes of the game, UCLA coach Ben Howland had no choice but to bench Mata in case Arizona opted to employ the "swat-a-Maht" defense.

When it was announced before tip off that Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was going to be out of the game with a knee injury, UCLA fans wondered if the Bruins would be dominated on the glass. Fortunately, Alfred Aboya stepped up his game and gathered a career high 11 rebounds. I keep waiting for Aboya to have his "Ryan Hollins moment" where he realizes that he's an athletic big man and starts to control the paint like one. This game was a big step in that direction and with a little more progress, this guy will be a weapon in the Bruins arsenal.

UCLA likes to defend the high pick-and-roll by doubling with their big man and trying to force the guard to pass the ball out of the designed play. By and large, it's been a successful strategy, but now teams are responding by setting up the pick much further back ("higher") than the normal set. This then creates a much greater distance for the UCLA big man (usually Mata) as he tries to sprint back and recover once the opposing guard has passed out of the double. Arizona State was effective with it at times, as was Arizona in the first half of Saturday's game. I expect more teams to adopt a similar strategy in the future, and it will be interesting to see if Howland has a counter-punch for it. (Switching to the faster Aboya might be the answer.)

As any non-Arizona Pac-10 fan can attest to, nothing brings greater joy than watching Lute Olson turn red and stomp around when things aren't going his way. There has been plenty of stomping lately, now that Arizona has lost three straight conference games for the first time in 23 years; and I've been beaming the entire time. Now, I'll probably feel bad when the day comes that Lute actually has a stroke on the court; but until then, it's all smiles baby. (And yes, I know I'm being a hypocrite because if I weren't a Bruins fan, I would absolutely hate all of Ben Howland's on court antics. Fortunately, sports fans are entitled to hypocrisy.)

I'm probably guilty of West Coast bias here, but I really believe the Pac-10 is the best in the country this year and worthy of two teams in the top 5. If this weekend the AP approves my application for voting privileges, my rankings would be as follows:

1. Florida
2. Oregon (gets the nod over UCLA by virtue of head-to-head)
3. UCLA
4. Wisconsin
5. North Carolina

Friday, January 19, 2007

You Aren't a Fool...Are You?

Here's the "fight" between KG and Antonio McDyess as it was called on ESPN. The altercation itself is maybe 10 seconds, but I went ahead and included about two and a half minutes because I found it so entertaining.



Hard to say what I liked best about this video, but here are some highlights:

KG has mastered the NBA technique of backpedaling while waiting for a teammate to hold him back. Or maybe he's trying to make it back to his bunker where he keeps his Nines, Uzis, etc...

You can tell that Garnett's got an internal struggle about whether to throw a punch to build his rep, or to hold back and avoid a suspension. The end result is a motion that's a cross between a slap and a girl throwing a baseball.

Mark Jones, keeping it real by proclaiming that the players are, "bowing up on each other."

Mark Madsen. At first, he's playing dead on the court. Then he notices what's happening on the court and leaps up with a look of "How could KG not have known that I was flopping?"

Mark Jones again: "Not sure exactly how that all started. Or what the genesis of that was." He's also unsure of its origins, beginnings, progenitors, or its rudiment.

The PA system in Minnesota playing "Theme from a Summer Place" which, while perhaps intended to be soothing, immediately made me think of Animal House; and the scene in which the angel and devil pop up to dispense advice. Unfortunately, none of that sequence is fit for print, but anyone that has seen the movie should feel free to quote it in the comments section. I just wish one of the T-Wolves cheerleaders could have participated in the re-enactment.

The ESPN cameras and microphones catching KG saying, "That's bullsh*t. That's f*cking bullsh*t," immediately followed by Mark Jones saying, "Kevin Garnett telling Chauncey Billups right now, what McDyess did was straight up wrong."

A fan screaming out, "You're not in Indiana anymore!"

Finally, Mark Jones qualifying his remarks by saying, "I'm just reporting what I saw." Um..yeah, that's pretty much what the viewing audience is expecting from you. Does this mean that the rest of the time, you're just making stuff up as you go along?

..The end result was that both players were ejected; and I believe there's a mandatory one game suspension that goes with it. I might be wrong there, but even if it isn't mandatory, I'm sure David Stern will suspend them anyway. Slap fights are an embarassment to the league.

And if you're reading this from a location that blocks YouTube, here's a still photo that captures the essence of the altercation:

After Singing this, He Made a Spinach Dip in a Loaf of Sourdough Bread

This is a bit old, but here's a reminder that Kenny Chesney won't be the only guy giving a quarterback man-love during the Colts-Patriots game.

Making a Believer Out of Me

At the beginning of the season, USC was identified as one of the talented, up and coming teams in the Pac-10 and a legitimate NCAA tournament contender. However it wouldn't have surprised anyone if USC had fallen short of those expectations, because...well, because they're USC basketball, and that's what they do. They've had plenty of talented players in the past (Jeff Trepagnier, Desmon Farmer, Errick Craven, Sam Clancy etc), but have always ended up playing as a dysfunctional collection of individuals, rather than as a team. This year however, USC has four very skilled starters- Nick Young, Taj Gibson, Gabe Pruitt, and Lodrick Stewart- all of whom play energetic, unselfish team basketball. Any of those four players can step it up on any given day, as the Arizona Wildcats learned the hard way tonight in a 80-73 USC victory. Lodrick Stewart carried the Trojans early, and Nick Young put the game away late, finishing with 30 points. While they still have some glaring weaknesses- a very shallow bench and poor crunch time free throw shooting- the Trojans are a team to be reckoned with.

Arizona, however, seems to be plagued with the problems that always impeded USC's seasons in years past. On paper, they are spectacularly talented. However, once the game starts, the team is marred by selfish play, as each player is clearly trying to make a statistical impact to impress NBA scouts. The player most guilty of selfish play is sophomore forward Marcus Williams, who has taken about a third of the team's field goal attempts in the last four games. As a result, the ball movement has been very poor of late. The other problem with Arizona is they have no bench to speak of; and so the starting five appear to wear down a bit in the last five minutes of the game.

While USC's players may be establishing themselves as a legitimate member of the upper half of the Pac-10, USC's students were not so convinced of their status. After the final seconds ticked off the clock of their mid-season home victory, SC students rushed the court in celebration of handing Arizona its fourth loss of the year- much to the surprise of the players who were in the midst of a routine postgame handshake. C'mon guys, you go to Southern Cal, not CSUN- act like you've won a prime time game before. Even Fox Sports anchor and USC alum Lindsay Soto was embarrassed by her fellow Trojans. Said Soto during the postgame wrap-up:

"You would have thought they had just won the tournament with the way fans rushed the court. We need to learn how to win."

Actually, it was a bad day for all Fox Sports reporters covering that game, as another one conducted this interview with 21 year-old freshman Taj Gibson in the SC locker room:

FSN reporter
: How nasty was Nick Young's dunk?
Taj Gibson: It was pretty nasty. It should make top 10 on ESPN.
FSN reporter: ESPN?! We FSN, dawg! FSN!!

Back at the sports desk, Lindsay Soto followed it up by pointing to the FSN logo on the microphone and saying in her best sorority voice, "Duhhh." That's why she gets the sports Emmy.

In other Pac-10 action, UCLA beat Arizona State 60-50 on a night when the Bruins were obviously looking ahead to their matchup with Arizona Saturday. The last time USC had a big win, it was over Oregon; and the Ducks responded by rallying together and beating UCLA. UCLA will be presented with a similar scenario in a couple days. Saturday's game should be pretty tough for the Bruins, as the Wildcats are certainly going to come out playing aggressively after back to back losses to SC and Oregon.

The Ducks continued their winning ways with a 66-59 victory over Stanford, and remaing atop the Pac 10. Aaron Brooks carried the team, which had to rally back from an 8 point second-half deficit. Rather than try to describe the game, as an experiment, I thought I'd try to capture the ebb and flow of the game, as experienced through television cutaways to Oregon cheerleaders:



As you can see, the game was mostly tight with a few turnovers here and there, causing the lead to flip back and forth. While there was one huge performance from the Oregon squad, by and large, it was a well-coordinated, streamlined effort. I look forward to watching the Ducks play as much as I can this season.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust

Tuesday night, U.S. federal authorities arrested two founding members of NETeller, the #1 site used by online gamblers and poker players to transfer funds between accounts. As a result of this action, NETeller has suspended all transactions between U.S. players and internet gaming sites. This is just the latest in the U.S. government's crackdown on internet gambling. (Tho state lotteries, racetracks, and Indian casinos- all sources of state revenue- remain legal.)

I've ranted about this before, but none of what I said was as focused and poignant as the speech given on the House floor by Congressman Barney Frank last July (unfortunately, there's a problem w/ the audio synch, but the words themselves are still on point).



As an avid poker player, I am disheartened by the reality that one of my favorite recreations is being taken away from me. Unfortunately, we poker players are a disorganized and self-centered group, so it's unlikely we'll influence any meaningful changes to the law in the near future. So I guess I'm just going to have to accept it. But if the government tries to limit my ability to drink or view lesbian cinema, then I'm moving to Australia.

G'day all.

Second to None

I've been having trouble w/ my DSL service for the past 12 hours or so. Considering that my disconnections first occurred while I was in the middle of a rather sizable pot in online poker and I was forced to auto-fold, it's amazing that my laptop hasn't been smashed against a wall.

Since I don't know how much time I'll actually have online, I'll make this entry short. While it seemed going into this season that it was foregone conclusion that Greg Oden would be the #1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft, is it possible that Kevin Durant has actually surpassed Oden as the best NBA prospect in college hoops? Durant has been putting on quite a display this season, demonstrating a great outside shot to go with very quick post moves and rebounding skills. Since Big 12 play has begun, the 6'9" forward is averaging 34 points and 13.5 rebounds per game, including a 37 point effort in last night's triple overtime classic at Oklahoma State.

It's hard to imagine any team passing up on Greg Oden, as there is a dearth of true centers in the league, and it's rare for a team to get an opportunity to draft a 7 footer who can defensively dominate the post. But while, it's becoming clear that Durant may very well be the next Kevin Garnett, it's still hard to tell whether Oden is the next Olajuwan or the next Mutumbo.

My guess is that an NBA GM would never risk the possible backlash that would come with letting Oden fall to #2, so he'll still go first overall. But this year, when an NBA league executive is pulling envelopes out a giant clear ball, it might be the team that gets the #2 selection that ends up being the real lottery winner.

(Update: I've just been informed that Bill Simmons also wrote today about Durant potentially being a better NBA prospect than Oden. It's pretty sobering to realize that my topics have become so obvious that even Simmons is aware of them. It's not a good feeling (not the being unoriginal part...the sober feeling. I don't like it all.) I guess I need to expand my thought processes a bit more. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to work on my preview of the NFL Conference Championship games, and the inevitable arrival of the Peyton Manning face giving the Patriots another trip to the SB and a chance to avenge their 1985 Super Bowl loss to Chicago that my buddy Sully is still upset about. Also, I'm thinking about adding a sidebar so that the Insomniac's Gal can write about American Idol and shopping at the mall in LA. Yeah, that will be fun.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Class is in Session

For any poker players out there that want to improve their short-handed tournament play, I highly recommend Poker After Dark on NBC at 2:30 am. What makes this show a little different than all of the other poker coverage that's saturated the airwaves is that NBC and Full Tilt have minimized the editing, and broadcast the majority of hands dealt. While this obviously makes the production less expensive for NBC, it also provides a greater educational tool for the aspiring poker player, who can get a better feel for the texture and tempo of tournament play. This week should be inspirational to even the novice player, who will quickly realize that at the very least, they have the same skill set as Chris Moneymaker; and if he can win a bracelet, then anyone can.

The rest of the lineup includes:
Jamie Gold, Johnny Chan, Chris Ferguson, Doyle Brunson, and Carlos Mortensen.

And of course...Shana Hiatt (tho unfortunately, NBC hired a high school drama student to apply her makeup- so I'll post a pic from a better day.)

Now I Can Mute in Peace

ESPN's Boston Sports Guy made his broadcasting debut tonight on ESPNU when he served as color commentator for the matchup between University of San Francisco and Pepperdine. I had planned on breaking down his performance; but unfortunately my body had other ideas, and I fell asleep within 15 minutes of the tipoff. I can't totally blame Simmons for my slumber, although his nasal monotone delivery certainly didn't help matters. Sleep deprivation and a few porters were bad pregame preparation on my behalf. So with my apologies, I present instead this exclusive and rather amusing interview with Bill Simmons conducted by a Celtics blog last week:

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Few Curious Days

After a full weekend of sports, my body is now composed primarily of pizza and beer, my eyes are glazed over from around the clock television, and I'm more exhausted now than when the weekend began. In other words, it was just like any other weekend at my house. But after watching 48 hours of sports, I'm left with more questions now than when the games began. Of course the biggest question on everyone's mind is:

Is Oregon the best team in the Pac-10?
Ok, Ok, maybe people will be focusing on football instead. But after winning at the McHale Center Sunday to follow up their victory over UCLA, I just wanted to mention that the Ducks are proving they're for real. At 16-1, Oregon is worthy of a top 10 ranking. Alright, now on to football.

Is Andy Reid aware that there are only 60 minutes in a football game?
His decision to punt on 4th and 15 with under two minutes to go and only two timeouts remaining is perhaps the most timid move in playoff history. Even if things had worked out perfectly according to plan, the Eagles were going to be looking at getting the ball with about 45 seconds left with no timeouts and needing 40 yards to get into field goal range. Is that really a better alternative than taking a chance on converting 4th and 15 to keep possession of the ball? I know Andy Reid must have felt uncomfortable going for it without having Freddie Mitchell on the roster, but it's still a chance that needed to be taken. Even Marty Schottenheimer thought Andy Reid was being too conservative. Speaking of which...

Who will be the Chargers head coach next season?
While it's difficult to point the finger squarely at Marty for the loss (more on this later), there's still little doubt that Schottenheimer is gone following yet another early exit from the playoffs. The logical choice to replace him would be offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, but since when does logic enter the equation in the NFL? I submit that the Chargers need a coach who can continue the rich Chargers tradition of falling short of expectations. They need a coach who can build up the hopes of fans early only to fail later in pressure situations. They need a coach who can handle defeat with both poise and stoicism. They need a coach who can spin losses as being positive, "learning experiences" to grow from. In short, they need Karl Dorrell.

Will LaDanian Tomlinson end up being the greatest franchise back ever to not play in a Super Bowl?
Maybe it's still too early, but given San Diego's recent performances, it's looking like a very definite possibility. Tomlinson did everything you can ask a back to do Sunday- he scored 2 TDs and set up the Chargers 3rd touchdown- but it still wasn't enough to secure the victory. He's the best back in the league, but he needs more help if he's going to get further in the playoffs. L.T. should give Eric Dickerson a call. The two would have a lot to talk about...if Dickerson could speak English, that is.
(Ok, maybe that honor should go to Barry Sanders. But for some reason, I've always viewed Sanders as more of a "highlight" back rather than a "franchise" back. And if that doesn't make sense now, just watch Reggie Bush's career over the next five years and it should become clear.)

Why is Philip Rivers' favorite receiver Eric Parker?
Better yet, how is Eric Parker even in the league? The Chargers made a ton of mistakes- two terrible personal fouls, a dropped interception, an interception that became a fumble, drops by Vincent Jackson, and a terrible, drive-killing lob pass by Philip Rivers as well as horrible clock management in the final drive- but in my view, the worst offender of them all was Eric Parker. On the first two drives, Parker had drops on passes in New England territory that cost the team an opportunity to make a statement early. Then, after fumbling a punt that he misjudged by a good yard, he lacked the sense to fall on the ball and preserve possession for his team. His failure to execute cost the Chargers a minimum of 10 points. Parker seemed overwhelmed by his surroundings, and I have to wonder if the Chargers would have been better off by incorporating veteran wideout Keenan McCardell into the gameplan.

Is this the year that Indy finally beats New England in the playoffs?
I want to say "yes," but history won't allow me to do so. Maybe after Bill Simmons writes his latest "Ode to Tom Brady's Testes," I'll pick the Colts out of spite. Get back to me later.

So which fan base is the most disappointed this Monday morning?
There are plenty of good candidates for this dubious honor. Chargers fans saw their team let an 8 point, 4th qtr lead slip away at home. Eagles fans know that their coach for the foreseeable future not only has a Fupa but a Mangina as well. USC fans actually decided to show up for one of their teams' basketball games, only to see a 10 point lead vanish into thin air. University of Miami fans realize that they're the only ACC school that can't beat Duke. And Seahawks fans...well, Seahawks fans are always complaining about something.

I'll give second place to Ravens fans- just because I failed to mention that game at all. So yeah, Ravens fans are sad. But they had to know their team was a pretender all along, right? Everyone else knew they were the AFC's version of the Bears (who were lucky that the Cowboys fell apart in Seattle, giving the Bears at least one playoff win), so expectations shouldn't have been that high in Baltimore.

But none of them can compare to the disappointment felt by Keeley Hazell fans upon viewing the Keeley sex tape that was leaked onto the internet (NSFW) this weekend. Talk about a wasted opportunity. Here's a tip to any guy who's setting up a video camera to record a sexual encounter with one of the most beautiful women on the planet: Once the action begins, have a little awareness as to where the camera is positioned so that the viewer can see something other than your shaved ass moving back and forth. Is that really so much to ask, dammit?!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Definition of a Leader

After last week's loss to Oregon, UCLA's shooting guard and team leader Arron Afflalo expressed disappointment and frustration that he wasn't able to get a touch in the final, game-deciding possession:

"It's a mistake I'll never make again," he said of that final shot. "I don't know how I'll do it, but next time, I'll find a way to get the ball in the end."

Arron Afflalo is a man of his word:


Friday, January 12, 2007

Freudian Slip or Just Bad Choice of Words?

To get a little context for Barry Bonds' recently failed drug test, an AP writer decided to interview Omar Vizquel. Because when I think about players who might have some experience with performance enhancers, my mind immediately goes to Omar Vizquel. Either that, or Visquel was the only person at the Giants complex at the time.

But as it turned out, if you just take things out of context a little bit, Visquel had some very insightful commentary on the current environment in MLB:

"There are so many substances out there right now you don't know what you should take or what you should not. Right now, I'm afraid to take vitamins for the same reason. You don't know what's going to be positive or what's going to be negative. Anything with chemicals in it can be bad."

"This year we had the best chemistry on the team."

Best chemistry, Omar? Yeah, I'd say so. A roster full of major leaguers that includes Barry Bonds, and there's only one positive drug test all season, and it's for amphetamines? I'd say that's some excellent chemistry. That's like Mr. Wizard quality stuff right there. If you ask me, only the Cardinals had better chemistry than you guys last season. Great job, Giants!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

How's That Working For You....Being Clever?

The line of the night comes from NFL Adam over at The Hater Nation in his analysis of the LA Galaxy's decision to spend a quarter of a billion dollars to bring David Beckham stateside:

The owners of the Galaxy are banking ($250M to be exact) that Beckman will be to the Galaxy what Wayne Gretzky was to the Kings. But in the end, Beckman will probably be to the Galaxy what Emmitt Smith was to ballroom dancing.

As I mentioned over there, if owners are really serious about increasing the popularity of soccer in the United States, this isn't the person that will attract mainstream fans:




This is the English import you want to draw the eye of the casual viewer:



<

By the way, Sports Illustrated reports that the $250 million number is mostly hype. MLS will likely be paying around 10 mil/year while the remaining $40 million per year will come from endorsements.

In the Real World, Andruw Would Have Dove

This is some actual in-game footage of MLB 2k7 being played on an XBox 360 as presented at CES this week. The game is due out this March.

I'm not the gamer I used to be, but I think I'll have to pick this up. Who knows if it can match the fun gameplay of Little League Baseball for the SNES, but it sure does look amazing:



Some of the video is a little jerky, but they've still got a few months to smooth it out. Other than that, it's the most realistic looking baseball video game I've ever seen. If it weren't for the fact that there was a full crowd at a Braves home game, I might have been fooled into thinking that was actual game footage in the opening frames.

(IGN has a larger res version of this video.)

The Nightcap

Tonight's Nightcap is brought to you by my favorite way to kill brain cells on a slow sports day, Negra Modelo.
Chill. Open. Drink. Repeat until asleep...

-I have no idea what the Giants are thinking in bringing back Tom Coughlin for another year. Haven't they been watching the last few seasons? It's obvious that after Eli Manning makes a mistake, he goes into a shell and is worthless for the remainder of the game. What he needs is a coach that will put an arm around him for encouragement, not someone that will berate him and make him feel like a failure. Eli doesn't need Tom Coughlin. He needs love, support and maybe to share a few tears. He needs Dick Vermeil.

-Coming off of his performance against an average Michigan secondary in the Rose Bowl, USC WR Dwayne Jarrett has elected to ride the momentum and declare himself eligible for the NFL draft. Jarrett is part of a rich tradition of Southern Cal wide receivers who have left early for the draft and now must live up to the illustrious standards set by former first rounders Mike Williams and R. Jay Soward. GMs, you've been warned.

-In college hoops, both Connecticut and Duke lost yet again and should continue to sink in the polls. Someone is going to make a "They are who we thought they were" joke, but it's not going to be me.

-I'm sure this quote was taken out of context, or perhaps Coach K didn't have time to frame the response the way he wanted. But if you're at all concerned about your school's image as a haven for spoiled trust fund kids, you shouldn't explain your team's performance in this manner:

"Just because you're at Duke doesn't mean you inherit winning," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "You inherit money -- you don't inherit knowing how to win."

-Looking back at the box score from Tuesday night's Ohio State/Wisconsin match, Greg Oden only had 6 field goal attempts in 30 minutes, while his Buckeyes teammates decided to hoist up 26 three point attempts. Watching the game, there were many trips down the court where a guard launched a three within the first 15 seconds of the shot clock without ever looking inside. That is ridiculous. Someone needs to let Ohio State coach Thad Matta know that he has a 7 foot tall, freakishly athletic teenager on his roster. I think this might be some useful information for the team.

-It's been revealed that Barry Bonds failed a test for amphetamines at some point during the 2006 season. (It's funny how information regarding Bonds always manages to get leaked out.) I don't see why there should be that big of an uproar over this. He may have tested positive, but it wasn't for steroid use; so it won't give rabid fans the satisfaction they desire. Besides, I went to a few Giants home games last season, and after watching SF play for a few innings, I know I needed to pop a few greenies to stay awake. So really, I can't fault Barry if he needed a little pick me up between Pedro Feliz and Shea Hillenbrand at bats.

-In related news, Mark McGwire tested positive for Alzheimer's disease, Sammy Sosa tested positive for English comprehension, and Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for twice the recommended dose of Viagra.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Bunch of Hot Air in Glendale, AZ

After Boise State's one point victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, all of the talk was about how that victory showed that the "mid-majors" are for real and deserve to play with the big boys. Every announcer and columnist talked about how great it was to watch the Broncos play, and that their performance was just another reason why a playoff was needed so the Broncos could prove their worth.

So when the season ended, and the writers were given a chance to show the Broncos' true worth and validate Boise State's inclusion with the traditional powerhouses, where did they place the Broncos in the final poll?

Fifth... For the only undefeated team in Div I-A.

I wrote in a previous post that if writers truly believed that mid-major teams really belonged in the discussion for the national title hunt, then a big step would be to include Boise State near the top of the preseason polls. That way, if the team did go undefeated, they'd have a realistic shot of being invited to the title game.

Today, ESPN writer Mark Schlabach posted his preseason rankings. According to Schlabach, where does Boise State (which returns the majority of its offensive line and Ian Johnson to an innovative Chris Petersen offense that was praised nationwide by writers just a week ago) get to start out the 2007 season?

23rd?!

(Oklahoma, which lost to Boise State, and most likely will lose Adrian Peterson, is sixth.)

As was revealed this season, if a non-BCS team starts the year low in the polls, they are automatically eliminated from national title consideration- even if they go undefeated. So sorry Boise State fans, but your Fiesta Bowl win, while a fun story for a few days, didn't really earn you any respect amongst the the powers that be in the college world. Once again, you are amongst the have-nots in 2007.

It's a nice little racket we've got here in the sports community. At the beginning of the year, writers create a scenario in which the little guy has no chance to achieve the ultimate glory; and then at the end of the year, these same writers can blame the BCS system for not giving the little guys a chance. But hey, at least they're guaranteed some good copy.

Monday, January 08, 2007

While Troy Smith's Draft Stock Plummets...

It's all smiles in Gatorland right now...

A Few Costly Days in Front of the TV

I'd like to thank the Dallas defense for stopping the Seahawks' two point conversion attempt and at least salvaging a big bet for me after the Bruins' nightmare. It wasn't enough to bring me back to even (especially after Wazzu upset Arizona), but at least I still have the use of my fingers for another week. But what was Ben Howland doing going for the win in the final seconds while down two points rather than the tie? Didn't he realize that Bruins supporters needed overtime in order for UCLA to have a chance to cover the 2.5 point spread?

On the bright side, I got a text message from Carrie Underwood tonight. It said simply, "I'm available."

Of all the controversial moves that the Cowboys made this season- taking on T.O., signing and cutting Vanderjagt, etc. - the transaction they're regretting most is bringing in Kurt Warner to be their placeholder during the playoffs.

People are going to make Tony Romo out to be the goat of the Cowboys game, but I think that's pretty unfair. Sure, if he'd held on to the snap, the Cowboys would have gone up two with a little over a minute to go. But the way the Dallas secondary was playing, is there really any doubt that afterwards, Seattle would have just driven down the field to set up a game winner for Josh Brown?

Also, I know that this was the first round and not the Super Bowl, but Seahawks' fans are no longer permitted to complain about getting jobbed by the officials. The penalty yardage stats for the game were: Dallas 8-74, Seattle 3-15. Refs were giving away pass interference yardage to Seattle so freely, I thought Jerry Rice must have still been in uniform for the Seahawks.

But hey Cowboys fans- I know you're a little worried that Tony Romo went from being the next Roger Staubach to the latest Alex Smith, but things could be worse. You could root for a team that was locked into Eli Manning as their franchise QB. I had a little money on the Giants (getting 7 points, thank you) and I was cursing him for 60:00 minutes to just make a play. I can't imagine what it must be like to have that guy determining your fate for 16 weeks.

Jeff Garcia led the Eagles on a game winning drive in the closing minutes of their matchup with the Giants; and while I'm sure he enjoyed that, things didn't work out perfectly for Jeff. The Eagles won the game with a field goal which meant that it was David Akers that was getting hugged by all the big burly men instead of him. Plus, the game ran so late that Garcia wasn't able to get home in time to see "You're the One That I Want."

The scent of man-love was ripe along the east coast Sunday, as Jim Nantz and Phil Simms held hands and wept at all of the tenderness on display in Foxboro. Bill Belichick shared a few warm moments on the sidelines with his son (presumably conceived from one of the times he chose to actually have sex with his own wife rather than someone else's), and then he barreled through a photographer in order to hug his former assistant, Eric Mangini. I'm not sure why there was such an army of photographers there to capture two middle aged, overweight men hugging each other. It wasn't really something I needed to see. Watching those two sets of man boobs being held close to each other made me as uncomfortable as a female intern at ESPN being called over by Sean Salisbury to check out his new phone.

By the way, that was a helluva move that Belichick put on the photographer who stood between him and some hot 'Gini action. He grabbed the photographer and tossed him aside like he was a frail woman. Jim Lampley would have been proud.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Every Duck Has Its Day

I sure misread this UCLA-Oregon game. Oregon is quicker, more focused, more aggressive, making some great interior passes, and shooting lights out from the field. Put it together, add in the fact that Arron Afflalo is ice cold, and it equals a 10 point halftime lead for the Ducks that feels more like a 20 point mountain.

UCLA has been a 2nd half team all season, but this feels like the Ducks game to win. I fully expect to be witnessing a sea of yellow storming the court in about an hour.

Hopefully, there's a sense of deja vu for UCLA fans watching this game. If there's any silver lining for UCLA fans, it's that in 1995, UCLA also took their first loss in early January (Jan 5) in Oregon. That season turned out alright for Bruins fans.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Money Won is Sweeter than Money Earned

I took a hiatus from sports betting for a few months in order to regroup and maybe gain some perspective on the sports world without the element of gambling. And you know what I learned during that time? I learned that not betting really, really sucks. So after a visit to my bookie legal Nevada sportsbook, I've got some renewed interest in some upcoming games. Here's what I like this Saturday.

Indianapolis -7 vs Kansas City. Ok, I don't know how the Colts will stop Larry Johnson. I'll concede that point right up front. But at the same time, I think the Chiefs are just happy to have made the playoffs and have no real expectations of actually advancing any further. More importantly, any time you have the chance to bet against a team coached by Herm Edwards, you have to jump on that opportunity- even if the opposing quarterback in Peyton Manning. I think the Colts will pour on the points at home and this game will mirror the Colts/Bengals matchup from a few weeks ago.
Indianapolis 38, Kansas City 24

Dallas +3 at Seattle. I can't confirm this, but I think Kenny Easley and Carlton Gray might be in the Seahawks starting secondary. The unit is so beat up that I'm surprised that Mike Holmgren hasn't tried to talk Deion Sanders out of retirement to cover his old pal, Terrell Owens. The Seahawks so desperately need some warm bodies, that they'd even take some players off of the Notre Dame secondary. Ok, no team is that bad off, but you get the point. Owens, Glenn and Witten are going to be wide open Saturday. Short of kidnapping Carrie Underwood before the game, I just don't see anyway that the Seahawks stop the Dallas offense. Sure, Dallas has had their own problems on defense of late, but I think they'll be able to make just enough plays to give false hope to Cowboys fans...before getting eliminated in the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Dallas 35, Seattle 27.

There are also three Pac-10 games on the slate that intrigue me:

UCLA -2.5 at Oregon. I know I said a few days ago that UCLA traditionally has problems on the visit to the state of Oregon, but I like this game a lot... probably too much. I like this game so much that if UCLA doesn't cover, my next post will likely be from a safehouse in an undisclosed third world country. Oregon has been a nice surprise so far this year, and their future is definitely bright, but they haven't faced a defense like UCLA yet this season. The Bruins defense is like a dominant offensive line in football. They just relentlessly pound away, and by the last quarter of the game, the opposition is so worn down that they start to lose their will. This will be close early, but UCLA will stay true to form and pull away in the 2nd half.
UCLA 85, Oregon 72.

Arizona -2.5 at Washington State. Don't tell Bruins fans I said this, but I honestly think that Arizona is the best team in the Pac 10. That isn't meant as a slight to UCLA- it's that the Wildcats are just that good. Ask anyone who saw Arizona put away Washington- this team is a scoring machine. The Cougars will try their slow down approach in an effort to stay within striking distance, but all that will do is lessen their margin of defeat.
Arizona 67, Washington State 54.

Washington -15 vs Arizona State. I hate laying this many points in any basketball game because garbage time can be a killer. But the Huskies are so pissed about their 0-3 start that they'll be unleashing hell on the Sun Devils. Remember that scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton beats the living crap out Jared Leto? ("I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every Panda that wouldn't screw to save its species"). It's going to be kind of like that. But with cheerleaders.
Washington 91, Arizona State 66.

Action on five games tomorrow. Ahhh...that felt good. Now I just need the new year to bring me some new results. (For the uninitiated, my 2006 picks were laughably bad.) I think the only way to finish this night is with a few hours at the Full Tilt Poker tables. The Feds aren't executing poker players for treason yet, are they?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

TNT Needs Some TnA

Just because there isn't a bowl game to watch today doesn't mean there isn't plenty of great sports to watch tonight. Besides, the football world needs a few days to collect itself after witnessing Notre Dame getting demolished yet again:

Arizona at Washington (FSN, 7:30) : This game will feature two of the best freshmen in the country- Chase Budinger and Spencer Hawes. Catch them in college now while you can.

UCLA at Oregon State (Prime Ticket, 7:00): UCLA has historically had a tough time on the road trip to the state of Oregon. This game almost didn't make it on tv until Fox realized how bad they'd look if the Beavers pulled off the upset and there were no highlights available. Any diehard Pac-10 diehards- is it Corvallis or Pullman where they have a hot tub in the arena? I get my middle of nowhere arenas confused.

LA Lakers at Sacramento (TNT, 7:30): Charles Barkley will be subbing in for Steve Kerr, creating a dream team announcing duo of Marv Albert and Sir Charles. I just wish this game were being played in LA instead of Sacramento. After staring at the Lakers girls for a few quarters, Sir Charles would turn to Marv and say "F*ck this game, Marv. Let's get outta here, grab some strippers, and get loaded," followed by Marv with an emphatic "Yessssssss."

Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Week to Stop Sniffing Glue

I'm not sure if I have any readers left after taking a little break for the holidays, but if I do, thanks for sticking with me. I just needed a few days to recharge my batteries and begin the charade of my New Year's resolutions before settling back into my old ways of sloth and debauchery. But now the beer is cold, the porn is deviant, and I've got a brand new box of tissues. So let's get things rollin...

One of the problems for me with doing a weekly recap is that I read so many different sites with sports commentary that by the time a day has passed since a game has finished or a story has broken, I feel like it's old news. That's one of the reasons why it's tough for me to read Bill Simmons' weekly column on ESPN. He waits until Friday to make his commentary, and by then, I've already read much more entertaining remarks on Deadspin, one of MJD's outlets, The Hater Nation, etc. But nonetheless, I do think there were a few big stories that came down this week, so I thought I'd throw my two pennies in on the matter. Besides, after losing my readership (hopefully temporarily) I'm probably just writing this for my own amusement anyway, so I can talk about whatever the hell I want.

Did JaMarcus Russell pass Brady Quinn as the #1 QB prospect in the 2007 draft?

If you didn't watch any college football during the regular season and just tuned in for the bowl games, you would have thought that it was JaMarcus Russell that NFL scouts had been drooling over all season and not the Domer QB. Russell demonstrated poise and amazing arm strength in a 41-14 rout of Notre Dame. He also showed the ability to allude the rush and fight off would be tacklers, which are attributes that would really come in handy if he were to be drafted by the Oakland Raiders. Brady Quinn on the other hand, looked very ordinary- often making poor decision and inaccurate throws. However to be fair, the two QBs were playing against two very different calibers of defenses. LSU has one of the best defenses in the country and, as mentioned many times by Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long, their team speed was vastly greater than Notre Dame's. The Irish secondary had given up deep balls all season, so it really wasn't much of a surprise that Russell could connect on a few bombs in the Sugar Bowl. Also, Brady Quinn only had one receiver (Samardzija) who could even catch a ball, and the LSU defense was keyed in on him. One red flag on JaMarcus Russell is his decision making on the road. The LSU Tigers amazingly only played four road games this season and in two of them (at Florida, at Tennessee), he threw three interceptions. Even in the Sugar Bowl, he lofted some passes that better defenses would have made a played on (one was so bad that even the Notre Dame secondary was able to intercept it). Brady Quinn on the other hand has had the benefit of Charlie Weis' tutelage for two seasons. It's going to be a tough decision for an NFL team to make (and this is all assuming that Russell even decides to leave early), but right now, I'd give the slightest edge to JaMarcus Russell. Quinn still has the Senior Bowl and combine to change my mind.

Is it time to give the "Mid-Majors" some respect?

After Boise State's dramatic one point overtime victory over Oklahoma, all the buzz was that the Broncos deserve a chance to compete for #1, and that this game would have two big effects: It would legitimize the non-BCS conference champions as BCS bowl game participants, and it would further the push to a playoff system. I however, am skeptical. (What else is new?) What did Boise State's victory over Oklahoma prove that wasn't already made evident two years ago when an undefeated Utah team demolished Pittsburgh 35-7 in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl? That game featured a more dominant performance, an undefeated team from a non-BCS conference, the #1 overall pick in the following draft, and even had a hook and lateral play of its own. But has there been any more progress towards a playoff system since then? Have any non-BCS teams been given any preseason hype leading up to the following season? Nope. So just because Boise State ran a few more beautifully executed gadget plays, I don't really think things will change.

By the way, if the mainstream media really believes it's time to give the mid-majors a legitimate chance at a national championship, it has the power to do so. Rather than penning columns about the need for a playoff system that isn't feasible under the current BCS contract, what AP writers can do to enact change is to put a non-BCS conference team in the top 5 of the AP preseason poll. The reason Boise State never realistically had a chance to compete for the national title is because they started the year so low in any polls that there was too far to climb to get to the top. So next August, put Boise State as one of the top 2 teams in the country to start the year and make entry into the BCS title game theirs to lose. You want to see the BCS university presidents rally for a playoff system? Just introduce the possibility that an outsider can actually push them out of their monopoloy for the championship. Then you'll see some change.

Maybe football players should be thanking Xenu after a big win?

Boise State's win over Oklahoma was amazing. Considering that they had to convert a 4th and 18 Hook and Lateral, a 4th and goal halfback option pass, and a statue of liberty two point conversion, their victory was practically a miracle. Who was responsible for these miracles? Well, Boise State head coach Chris Petersen is a loyal Scientologist. Perhaps it was thetanic cleansing which led Boise State to victory? Or maybe it was the Christian God- working in his mysterious ways- who compelled Oklahoma to lose so he could guide Bob Stoops out of Oklahoma and over to Dallas to be the Cowboys next head coach? Or maybe, just maybe, whoever or whatever created us has no interest in the outcome of a football game at all? What do I know tho? I'm just a mere mortal who thinks too much.

Who should be #1 next year?

During the Rose Bowl, Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, and Bob Davie blamed those nasty "bloggers" for making knee-jerk reactions and premature evaluations. They then went on to state that the winner of the Rose Bowl should be the preseason #1 team going into 2007. Since USC ended up pulling away in the 2nd half, then the Trojans should be #1 in 2007. Talk about a premature, knee-jerk reaction. While USC should certainly be in the conversation for #1 next year, it's pretty hasty to put them (or anyone, really) at #1 next season considering:

1) The score was 3-3 at halftime with neither team looking like a top 10 squad. I'm not sure why one dominant 2nd half from USC should erase the memories of 12 total points over the previous six quarters.

2) USC still wasn't able to run the ball. Until the score was 32-11, the Trojans did not have a positive rushing gain from a running back in the 2nd half. UCLA was also able to contain USC's rushing attack in the regular season finale. With Dwayne Jarrett gone, things will only get tougher for the Trojans offense.

3) There's a very slim chance that Pete Carroll could go back to the NFL. I don't see it happening, but it's still a variable. But honestly, why would he want to leave Southern Cal, where he owns L.A. and gets the pick of the litter amongst both high school recruits and SC song girls?

4) If JaMarcus Russell decides to stay his senior year, it will be tough to ignore the Tigers for preseason #1.

5) Florida may actually be better once Chris Leak moves on. Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin are going to be dangerous weapons next year.

6) If Brian Brohm stays at Louisville (and possibly, but unlikely Michael Bush), the Big East's postseason performance warrants giving the Cardinals consideration for #1.

7) And what about Boise State and Ohio State? The Broncos are coming off an undefeated season and the Buckeyes might be as well. Yeah, they're both losing their starting QB, but both teams run great systems and can be expected to contend for their conference title next season as well.

Memo to the ABC crew. Next time, leave the irrational proclamations to us bloggers.

...So there ya have it. Sorry it took me so long to get to these. I'll do my best to get back on top of things for the rest of 2007. By the way, I intentionally left out "spankygate," - the investigation into the identity of the SC song girl who showed a little bit of underbutt during the Rose Bowl. "With Leather's" commentary on the fallout from the flash reflects my feelings perfectly:

Anyway, you'll pardon me if I'm a little testy about this whole episode. It's just that I kind of see myself as a year-round appreciator of cheerleaders, and now everyone wants a piece of the Song Girls. Get with the times, man. The Song Girls get me through slow news days. I feel like one of those expert drunk drivers out on New Year's Eve, watching what I drink because all the amateurs are out.

Amen, brutha. See ya in the fast lane.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Programming Note

Guess who's back? Back again. Shana's back. Tell a friend...

After a bit of a legal battle with the World Poker Tour, the lovely and talented (well, maybe just lovely) Shana Hiatt will return to television tonight as NBC debuts "Poker After Dark," a new late night series featuring poker pros competing in winner take all tournaments.

Unfortunately since it's network tv, Shana won't be able do any of the filthy, acrobatic things she's done in my mind. But the show is airing in the much coveted 2 am slot (eat that, Ron Pompeil) after all of the Skinemax movies have finished for the night. By 2 am, Cindy Brunson on ESPNews usually looks hot to me, so I imagine Shana is going to look like the hottest chick on the planet in my sleep deprived, mildly inebrieted state. I look forward to signing off my nights w/ her before finally crashing a few hours before dawn.