Thursday, December 3, 2009

Back in the Saddle, Haters Skedaddle

And so I return, bringing all the latest sporting bulletins from the Caribbean island of St. Thomas!

*In a thrilling nine-hour match, the St. Thomas Admiralty defeated the St. Kitts Explorers 10 wickets to 8 in the annual O'er-seas Croquet Gathering. T'oussaint Germaine tunneled the crucial ball deep into the fourteenth circuit, setting off riots in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie.

*For the ninety-seventh year in a row, the Traveling Hurricane Footing Club of Greater Hispaniola emerged victorious against the St. Thomas One-Footers, dashing the hopes of an island people who had been swept up by the skill and panache of 'Balancing' Billy L'Entree-nous. Footing is a local sport too difficult to describe here, but it involves a lot of hopping. The devastating loss set off riots in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie.

*The Coconut Throwdown, started as a civil gathering of naval officers during World War I, was met with massive protests. The complainants held signs bemoaning the loss of 20,000 coconuts for the four-hour event, which now pits the aristocracy from the British Virgin Islands against visiting American celebrities staying in the U.S. Virgin Islands in a game involving the pitching of coconuts through a burning hoop. This year's result, a 312 coconut victory for the Americans (owing in large part to a debilitating wrist injury sustained the night before by Sir Evelyn Bairdmore), set off riots in London and Washington, D.C.

And there you have it! Okay, let's get serious for a moment. Some stuff happened in my absence, and it's time for a little re-cap.

*First, fresh in my mind, Duke lost its first game of the year last night, falling to Wisconsin 73-69. But I'm not that upset; Wisconsin shot the lights out in the first half, and their crowd carried them through the second, despite Duke getting very close on a number of occasions. It's unfortunate that the loss cost the ACC their first ever loss in the ACC-Big 10 challenge, but it's good for the team to get an early taste of the road, and all the trouble that comes with a hostile environment. On a squad laden with veterans like ours, you maybe hope for a better result, but when Nolan and Scheyer combine for 7-24 from the field, you aren't going to win many.

*Last Saturday, however, poor shooting didn't stop us from beating UConn in the championship of the NIT Tip-Off. Duke shot 29.6% from the field, an abysmal number, but the defense was swarming and UConn didn't hit a 3 all game (they only attempted four). True, the Huskies suffer from a dearth of shooters, and true, MSG is a tough place to shoot anyway. But their athletic talent was supposed to trump ours, and our physical, fearless demeanor was a nice surprise. It was particularly gratifying to see Lance Thomas mix it up so well on the offensive glass.

On the flip side, we also saw the first instance of Coach K's infamous stall offense. With 11 minutes left and Duke up 18, Scheyer and company began staying at the top of the key, running the shot clock down, and trying to milk the time until the end of the game. From that point on, we made one field goal. ONE. The rest of our points came on foul shots, and those were all in the final minute. Which just flabbergasts me, as usual. The team offense looks amazing, they're on pace to score 80 points, and all the sudden you stop playing? Because of an 18-point lead with 12 minutes left? This usually costs us one big game a year, and this time the Huskies got within 8 going into the final minute. It is such an ineffective strategy. There aren't enough italics and bolds in the world to emphasize that 'such.'

To steal and mangle a well-heeled football proverb, "a prevent offense only prevents you from winning." It didn't, in this case, but in the past it's cost us a sweet 16 game against Indiana, a final 4 game against UConn, and an ACC championship against Maryland. And apparently Coach K will never stop reverting to it with a big lead. WHEN YOU'RE BEATING A TEAM'S ASS, CONTINUE BEATING THEIR ASS. Don't settle for a forced three with two seconds left on the shot clock. It interrupts the flow, kills the rhythm, and concedes the momentum.

Gag me.

Other stuff:

*Drew Brees is awesome. Some of the passes he threw against the Patriots, especially the forty-yard bullet touchdown over the middle, had me agape. He's the definition of that old cliche: a "pure passer." This is what happens when touch, strength, and brains combine.

*The Giants stink. The loss to Denver, a sinking ship if ever a ship sunk, is inexplicable. The playoffs feel like a longshot at this point.

*Bama and Florida stayed unbeaten, setting up the college football game of the decade this Saturday. I cannot friggin' wait.

That'll do it for today. Good to be back, it's a new day.

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