Okay, Harrison, you made your play. We see you. We see your #1 recruit status in the land of high school basketball. We see you cultivating an aura of mystery about which college you'll choose. We see you delaying the press conference revealing your choice until the last possible moment. We see the fanfare. We see the publicity. We see you choose THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS.
We see you, Harrison. And know this: you have chosen war.
BEGIN EASTERN EUROPEAN DICTATOR MODE:
THIS EES UNPARDONABLE INSULT! YOU ARE MAKING VERY INCORRECT CHOICE, MEESTER BARNES! I VILL CONQUER YOU UNTIL YOU HAVE FACE LIKE ASPHALT! WE WILL PAVE STREETS WITH YOUR IMAGE SO DRIVERS MAY TRAMPLE IDEA OF YOU WITH FURIOUS NATIONAL WHEELS! NOBODY MAY SPEAK YOUR NAME WITHOUT SPITTING! VIOLATORS SHALL BE PUT ON JAIL TRUCK FOR MINIMUM EIGHT HUNDRED YEARS! THE PEOPLE VILL USE YOUR NAME AS INGLORIOUS VERB! YOU WILL BE COMPARED TO THE WORST ANIMALS IN POPULAR LITERATURE!
END EASTERN EUROPEAN DICTATOR MODE.
That's Harrison. Man, UNC's recruiting class is just really, really good. Ours was pretty good too, but now it looks like second class all the way. The odds of us winning a title any time in the next four years just took a big hit. The worst part is the hope. Harrison, couldn't you have just revelaed your choice a while ago and spared us the heartache? Why did you have to take this one down to the last minute?
Answer: he wanted to make a story of himself. Well, let me amend that: he wanted to make an even bigger story of himself. What does this say about his character? Hard to say...by all accounts, he's a smart, nice kid who works really hard. But maybe there's some ego there, too. Of course, that's not always a bad thing...and yet, what if it's his fatal flaw, damning he and his school to decades of failure?
Am I just trying to find any flaw to make myself feel better? Perhaps, astute reader. Perhaps.
(Semi-related Editor's Note: Faithful reader Spenser e-mailed me over the weekend to note that in last Friday's post, further proving my rich sporting knowledge, I mistakenly referred to Duke center Brian Zoubek by the name "Greg." My apologies to anyone named "Greg Zoubek" for the unfortunate association.)
*Manny Pacquiao is a beast. The Filipino boxer beat Miguel Cotto on Saturday night to win his 7th title in as many weight classes, setting a new all-time record. He began his career fighting at like 102 pounds, or something, and last night he was at 144 to beat the talented Puerto Rican. He's ridiculously fast, ridiculously strong, and ridiculously smart. Everything about this guy's talent is ridiculous. Now, it looks like a fight with the Pretty Boy (Floyd Mayweather Jr.) is in the cards. Mayweather is the undefeated phenom (40-0) who never seems to even break a sweat, much less show any physical signs that another human being is trying to punch him. If and when these two clash, it will be the undisputed fight of the decade. I'm already psyched.
*The HOT PICK OF THE WEEKEND failed when Florida took care of business, defeating South Carolina 24-14. There was a time, though...it looked dicey. Kinda. (Skip a few steps of forced logic and justification) In conclusion, I'm counting the pick as successful.
*While watching that game, I decided to flip to the end of the Ohio State-Iowa game, and that little adventure reminded me why I hate the Big 10. With 2:30 left and the score tied, Ohio St. took possession with a chance to win. And what did Tressel do? Tried to run the clock out. The Horseshoe (OSU's stadium) serenaded him with boos, and the offense only managed to kill about 90 seconds before punting. Iowa took over on the 35 with a full minute to gain 35 yards and attempt a game-winning field goal. Kirk Ferentz, their coach, took advantage of Tressel's inexcusable caution and marched down the field with bold playcalling and won the game, securing a Big 10 Championship and a Rose Bowl berth.
Oh wait, that didn't happen. He ran the clock out. Then overtime happened, Iowa got the ball first, and ran the ball twice into the line. Their QB got sacked on third down, forcing them to go for it on 4th and 26, which failed. So OSU only needed a field goal to win...did they run Pryor on roll-outs, looking for quick strikes and running room to make sure that the FG was only a chip shot? Nope. Tressel ran the ball 3 times, gained no yards, and put his new kicker on the spot for a 43-yard field goal.
It happened to go in, and OSU won, but it was absolutely the most cowardly, horrible end to a game I've seen all year. The Big 10 is so friggin' boring...and the fans knew it. This is the first time in my life I've ever, ever heard a home crowd booing after their team just won a game in overtime and secured a conference championship. And Tressel deserved it. Unbelievable.
*On the flip side of the caution spectrum, ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Bill Fucking Belichick.
I'm still in utter shock about that call last night. To recap: up 34-28 with 2:08 left on the clock, the Pats faced a 4th-and-2 on their own 28 yard line. Now, I know the terminology can be confusing, so let me be absolutely clear: there were 72 yards between the Patriots and the end zone. "Their own" 28 means they were on the wrong side of the field. And Crazy Bill, God love him, went for it on 4th down.
It's an absolutely insane move. You have to punt there. Have to! But at the same time, going for it takes the kind of balls that you don't find in many other people. It's a badass thing to do; you're saying you have confidence in the offense, you know you're going to get the two yards, and conventional wisdom be damned because YOU'RE JUST THAT GOOD.
Well, it failed. Faulk's reception came up short, Indianapolis took over on their own 28, and Peyton Manning did his thing. Colts win 35-34.
Was it a stupid move? Yes, quite possibly. But then again, Peyton could have worked his magic even if they punted. And it was only two yards for a team that had put up 34 points already. I'm not going to try and defend the call, but I will absolutely give Belichick credit for not being afraid, and for considering all options. That's why the guy is the best coach in the game, and it's why New England is a strong Super Bowl contender here in week 10. This time he failed, but next time he might not. And he'll always be the aggressor; you'll never see Crazy Bill back on his heels. Tressel should take notes.
That has to be the best game of the year so far, right? I can't think of anything better. After all the hype, that finish was spectacular. It's hard not to imagine a re-match between these teams in the AFC title game.
*The Undefeated Watch: the year's more than halfway over, so we can legitimately start looking at the two teams with a shot to run the table.
Indianapolis: Currently 9-0. After last night's great escape, here's the rest of their schedule: Baltimore, Houston, Tennessee, Denver, Jacksonville, Jets, Buffalo. Obviously, every game in the NFL is a potential loss, and there are no gimmes, but of those 7 teams, only 3 have records above .500. Houston and Jacksonville are both 5-4, but far from worldbeaters, and Denver is 6-3 and fading fast. By my made-up math, the Colts have a...47% chance to go undefeated.
New Orleans: Barely beat the Rams yesterday to go 9-0. Despite some cupcakes in their remaining schedule (Buccaneers twice, Redskins, Panthers), they still have New England, Atlanta, and Dallas. Only the Falcons game is on the road, though. Still, that New England game in two weeks looks tough. Made-up math: the Saints have a....28% chance to go undefeated.
That's all for now. Another Monday rises from the weekend's ashes. Start piling your mental sandbags.