Resolved: my little month-long prediction sideshow is OVER. Done. I can't take the self-esteem blows anymore. After failing to muster even a .500 record with the college bowls, I didn't even wait two days before reeling off a 1-3 streak in the first weekend of the NFL playoffs. Not even two days, guys.
Masochism isn't good for anyone, so enough. Let's cover the weekend in sports, using an abbreviated Awesomeness Scale.
1 - As Awesome as Being Shamed By a Community of Amish
Duke loses to Georgia Tech on the road. This takes the early top spot as 2010's most frustrating game. We were ahead for most of it, things started to level out around the 10-minute mark of the second half, and they held on by 4 at the end. And this is what happens when you play a ranked team on the road. You don't content yourself with small leads; you push it out, or you get swamped in the momentum of a rabid home crowd when the pressure's on. Time for a bold statement:
This loss is on Coach K.
Some truths about the game:
1) Our guards are far superior to theirs.
2) They outrebounded us, and will probably be one of the few teams to do so this year.
3) We couldn't hit a 3 to save our blue hides. 6-28, 21%.
These three elements were readily apparent very early. Smith and Scheyer could basically drive at will, and Tech had nothing for them on D. But in typical Coach K fashion, they were hamstrung by a stifled offense. More bold. More anger. Instead of turning those two loose, letting them penetrate when they were overplayed, he insisted on that ridiculous entry-pass-to-the-wing offensive set. Every time down the court, Scheyer had to force it to either Singler, Smith, Dawkins, or whoever on the wing. The results:
1) The Tech guards were able to overplay him defensively, using smothering defense because they knew he wasn't going to drive by and make them pay in the interior.
2) Instead of creating wide open shots by making the D collapse, this led to one-on-one wing play that resulted in contested 3s (and hence, the lower shooting %) and purposeless post passes to the likes of Zoubek, who has been christened in my head and heart as "Old Snowshoes," based on my stepfather's amazing description of how he moves.
3) It isolated the three guards on the wings, leading to a dearth of offensive rebounds and second chances.
This game could literally have been a blow-out if Scheyer and Smith were given the green light to drive. Too many years with Paulus at the helm has given Coach K a complex. YOU FINALLY HAVE A PAIR OF GOOD GUARDS, MIKE. LET THEM LOOSE. LET THEM THE FUCK LOOSE.
Georgia Tech may be ranked #17, but they have no business beating us. That one goes down as an embarrassment. When they come to Cameron in early February, we'll win by 15. And the loss sure as hell doesn't bode well for the rest of the season. In the past few years, we've lost because of poor recruiting. We didn't have the pieces. But going down will be a hell of a lot harder to take if we do have the pieces, and just get coached to death. I'm feeling shades of 2002 already. In my imagination, a bunch of guards from Indiana are raining 3s and turning around to smile at their parents in the stands, both hands raised in surprise, because my gosh, this isn't supposed to happen!!!
2 - As Awesome as Being Shamed By a Community of Hipsters
Not as bad as the Amish, because their morals aren't as consistent, but still uncomfortable. This goes to UNC 78, Virginia Tech 64 and the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight being canceled. First, the Tar Heels. I hate that this team will now start to improve, and that the process will last all season until they're inevitably better than Duke by March. I hate this. They have four losses, but three of them are to Texas, Syracuse, and Kentucky. Even having played these teams will be a huge benefit as the season goes along. Meanwhile, the best team we've played is Wisconsin, who admittedly look pretty good after beating Purdue. I'm not blaming anyone for this; the scheduling didn't work out to let us face anyone top tier. But I already resent the Carolina resurgence.
As for Mayweather-Pacquiao, what can you say? This fight would have been amazing. It could have saved boxing, or at least sparked a renewed interest that led to something. But no, it couldn't happen because Mayweather is afraid to fight anyone worth a damn and started insisting on some bizarre bloodletting ritual that cut to the heart of Pacquiao's honor. Ridiculous. Boxing sucks. Mayweather is a sissy. Instead, they'll both fight no-names, win, and probably continue to avoid each other. It's the only sport other than college football where the system is so entrenched and awful that it prevents the simple, desired match-ups from ever happening.
3 - As Awesome as Being Shamed by a Community of Seniors
Look, you're going to feel bad. There's some gravitas behind those old faces, and they still got a lot of fire. But at the end of the day you probably did something like take too many NutraSweets from the wicker basket by the coffee or upset a woman named Eloise by tossing a pinecone to yourself. It ain't like you're happy, but you'll survive. This goes to the Philly-Dallas and Baltimore-New England games, blowouts from the word 'go.' The former game was doomed to be totally unenjoyable anyway, since both teams are heartless and hated. The second was actually fun to watch for a little while, just because the Ravens defense is full of tough, funny personalities like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Also, Reed's habit of lateraling the football every time he makes an interception is one of the best things going in the NFL right now. After his pick, I immediately started saying "here comes the pitch!" (I was by myself), and my excitement rose as he started carrying the ball in one hand. Then New England got him almost down, and out came the ball! So much fun, and it worked, too. But the rest of the game was pretty boring.
4 - As Awesome as Being Shamed by a Group of Men Whose Voices Have Unconsciously Take on the Timbre and Inflection of Rush Limbaugh
Frightening because of how their jowls shake, but there's a little bit of inner joy in this situation. I'll give this to Arizona over Green Bay. I didn't really care who won this game, though I have a strange aversion to Aaron Rodgers that I'm a few years away from being able to explain. But this is what an NFL Wild Card Round should be; two teams with no defense and fun offense playing a game with sudden swings and unpredictable results. After the Arizona kicker missed that last field goal and Green Bay won the toss, I got so sure in my head that they'd win the game that I actually became certain they wouldn't.
Does that make any sense? It was like, neither defense is any good, Arizona just blew a huge chance, and smart money says Green Bay marches down the field and wins. But this game is so weird that at this point the opposite must happen. And then the pick-6! Fun times.
5 - As Awesome as Being Honored by the Rotary Club when You Hoped to be Honored by the Lions Club
Not quite the fraternal lodge you were hoping for, but it ain't nothing. This goes to the Jets. I was playing poker on Saturday, and we were half-watching the game, half paying attention to our cards. The only person in the room with a firm rooting interest was a British dude wearing a Jets jersey. He sat on a leather chair yelling things like "well played, mate!" and "mark him! mark him!" And it struck me that this was exactly the way a Jets victory needs to be celebrated. Here's what we know about them: they wear green, they have to ask permission to use the Meadowlands, their coach cries at every press conference, and most of their fans are foreigners.
But they're a New York team, damnit, and that's nothing to sneeze at. See if you can catch me sneezing (hint: give me a room full of dust and cat dander and some bright lamps, and it still won't happen). Good for the Jets. I think they have a fighting shot at the Chargers next weekend, but I think they'll blow it near the end because that's kinda how they roll. Bless you, boys.
Not a lot of sports happening tonight, so maybe use the chance to tell someone dear that you appreciate their efforts. Welcome to Monday.