ROBBIE CANO IS GOLDEN, BABY.
The Gold Glove, as most of you know, is a fielding award given to the best hitter at each position. Or the most legendary. Or the one with the most fielding hype behind him. Unlike every other award in American and international sports, it does not rely on things like statistics or actual ability in the stated category. It's a little bit like the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing. None of these idiots who get to vote know how to measure sound editing, and instead of studying up or asking around, they just give the award to "Avatar."
That being said: I'll take it. And even though Cano probably (slash definitely) didn't deserve this award, he's less of a stretch than some other winners. Particularly Derek Jeter, who UZR has as the third-worst shortstop in the AL. Even an eyeball test of Jeter this year was enough to confirm that he had no range. Defensive metrics, which are admittedly imperfect, gave Jeter the worst range score of any shortstop in baseball.
Gold Glove, y'all. What a prize. Teixeira also won. Maybe he deserved it. But still, screw that guy.
On to basketball. Last night, I watched an ESPNU All-Access Special on the Dukies called "Training Days." It was pretty awesome. This was the first of two hour-long specials on the team, and it followed the players and Coach K starting with the blue-white scrimmage and ending after the St. Augustine exhibition. The second part is on Thursday night on ESPN2. There were also 4 half-hour specials called "All-Access: Duke Men's Basketball" that I missed. The re-airing schedule of every show is listed here, but I'll give you the basics:
If you want to catch the 4 Duke Men's Basketball half hour specials, your last chance is next Tuesday, November 16, between 6-8 a.m. They'll be airing consecutively. I'll be there. I'm almost positive this is different content than the 2 hours airing this week on "Training Days," but maybe someone who's sure can verify that in the comments.
For last night's "Training Days" 1-hour show, there are a lot of options you can check out. But if it looks like Thursday night's part 2 only airs once. So try not to miss that.
Highlights of last night:
1) I made my girlfriend sit down with me and watch the special. She comes from a non-sporting background, but I got her into baseball almost immediately. I'm not sure how that worked; maybe it was because her first experience was a live game at Yankee Stadium, or maybe because that was the beginning of our relationship and she wanted to have common interests and thus convinced herself to become a fan in order to snare me in her web. In any case, by the time our first college basketball season rolled around, she felt more secure about things and was past the point where she felt like indulging my sporting passions. She was all like, "you're on your own, homes."*
So last night, I forced her to watch. My theory was that it would showcase the Duke personalities in a non-game situation and give her a vested interest in the season. You can't just thrust a non-believer into the action and expect them to be on board. They have to know who they're rooting for, and last night's special was a perfect opportunity. It wasn't an easy sell, though. She desperately wanted to do anything but watch "All-Access: Training Days." (Weird, right?) I had to physically restrain her from leaving the couch a couple times, and she kept glancing longingly at her computer. I eventually had to shut the screen. Then I resorted to making bargains as her dissent grew. "Just give me this one hour," I said.
Gradually, though, I think my plan started to work. She complained less and less, and I could sense that she was interested in a few of the stories. Then, magic happened: the camera showed babies. Assistant coach babies, more specifically. That did it. The human element had arrived. More specifically, the baby element. There were lots of 'awwwws,' and the struggle to escape the couch stopped on a dime.
Thank you, children of Nate James and Chris Collins and Steve Wojo. Thank you for being adorable to women. I think it would be too weird to insert a picture of a cute baby, so here's a puppy:
2) My favorite part of the special came when they followed Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler to media day in Charlotte. It started out with a long drive, and they arrived at their hotel at midnight. The next morning, the cameras were in the room while Singler sat shirtless on the bed, rubbing his eyes, and Nolan wrapped himself in the blankets. Singler spoke about the requirements of media day, and it sounded like he'd rather jump off the hotel balcony if given a choice. In that moment, hunched on the side of the bed, mumbling to the floor, he looked incredibly world-weary and resigned. Then he turned back to the camera.
"Should be a lot of fun, though."
He was being genuine, too. Not about the fun part; he knew it wouldn't be fun. But it was almost like something clicked in his head. "Oh no, I'm complaining, and I'm supposed to be grateful. Better say something appreciative." It was pretty hilarious. "Yeah man, every day I come home from school this gang of older kids jumps me and beats the shit out of me and steals whatever money I have in my pocket. Then they insult my mother and remind me the same thing will happen tomorrow. It's really awful. (pause) Nice to have education, though."
Later, at the actual event, the camera caught him talking about some of the questions he'd heard during the circus. They asked him which superpower he would choose. "I said flying," Singler told the camera, conveying the fact that this was the dumbest question as yet asked in the wider world. "Then they asked if we were going to do what we did last year. I told them I'm not a psychic." He grinned almost impishly at his response. Then the same 'uh-oh' mechanism from the hotel kicked in.
"It's been a lot of fun, though."
3) Do you guys notice that Coach K says words that end with 'G' funny? I didn't realize it until yesterday. I always knew he over-enunciated in a kind of borderline creepy way, but in yesterday's special it hit me that 'g' words get their own extra syllable. 'Hang,' for example, becomes hang-guh. It's like he took a personal vow to spend his life recognizing the letter 'g.' I won't let you go unnoticed, G! I will sing-guh your praises!
4) Speaking of our leader, I think he was very conscious of the camera during his practices and film sessions. I was hoping for one of the legendary Coach K outbursts, but none were forthcoming. There were a lot of platitudes and moments of fatherly advice, but he only swore once. "This is what you looked like when you were getting your ass kicked in the scrimmage," he told his players during an unguarded moment. Even then, he seemed to realize the mistake pretty quickly and change the tone. There's only one solution for this: hidden cameras. State-mandated surveillance. Do we know any sympathetic judges in North Carolina?
5) The Casey Peters story was pretty awesome. He started out as a team manager his freshman year, but he worked hard and stayed after practice and trained and lifted and etc., and they made him part of the team for his sophomore season. The players all talked about how much they liked and admired him. It was a goose-bump inspiring segment. Also, in a very short clip of the players walking to a 7am practice, he was wearing a Yankee hat.
Casey Peters: A Good Person.
Casey Peters: Destined to be nicknamed "Casey Sanders."
6) Kyle Singler can cook. He made a team dinner at his apartment, and the meal was spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. Basic, but it looked good.
7) They showed Josh Hairston and Kyrie Irving's Intro to Acting Class. Look, I know both guys are freshmen, but it's never too early for constructive criticism: if they seriously want to consider a career in acting, they have a lot of hard work ahead of them.
Seriously, though, I actually took that class at Duke, and I remembered some of the exercises. At first, all the students were walking around at a fast pace. Kyrie Irving, for whatever reason, kept spinning in circles. Later, each student had to "become" a character the teacher gave them. Hairston was some kid from a poor family, and Irving was a guy named "Flip" who was arrogant. "I didn't bring anything to the circle," said Kyrie, "because I'm already too good."
Finally, Hairston and Irving did a scene together. This was my second-favorite part of the special. It started with them having what seemed like a mild argument. Then, out of nowhere, Hairston punched Irving, who fell to the ground. "It wasn't that big a deal," Kyrie protested, hopping up as if the punch hadn't hurt him at all. "I didn't mean it." Hairston turned away dramatically. I forget whether they resolved things by the end. I hope so.
8) At one point, everyone on the team made fun of Nolan Smith's toenails. When they asked him about it during one of the sit-down interviews, he deadpanned, "actually, ladies love my feet." Then he eyeballed the camera until everyone started laughing.
9) Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler both have unnerving stares. They're capable of bugging their eyes out and just zoning in for minutes at a time. I think I understand why they're both so good under pressure. They can enter a weird hypnotic place and just sort of coast. I'd like to see an all-access special where the two of them have a staring contest. I'm not sure who would win, but I hope this is how it would end:
10) Kyle Singler can also paint. He made a mural on the theme of last year's team that I thought was surprisingly good. Not that I know what good art is. Good art frightens and confuses me. But I enjoyed his "Hoop Dreams" basketball-in-the-clouds work.
11) Josh Hairston is a delight. Personality-wise, he's my new favorite freshman. I can't remember anything he said, really, just that he made me laugh a couple times and seemed really expressive and interesting.
12) Did anybody else notice that there were a ton of conservative commercials during the special? Talk about knowing your audience. I guess tv's perception of Duke fans is that they're all tea-partying wackos. The first commercial I saw was a really long one about a commemorative 9/11 tenth anniversary coin made of 'real gold' and 'reclaimed ground zero silver.' The building, along with a ship they made from salvaged steel called the USS New York, were on the coin in silver. They could be flipped up to show like a vertical perspective of lower Manhattan. I've seen some tacky shit in my time, but this really took the cake. Also, the girlfriend had an extreme moment when they talked about the reclaimed ground zero silver.
"It's probably from the teeth of the victims. No thanks."
"That's fairly morbid," I said.
"So are these coins."
Fair enough. Later, there was a Glenn Beck commercial, and after that there was some more American flag memorabilia or something.
13) After an hour of well-spoken Dukies, it was a relief to finally see some bad-assery. Before the St. Augustine game, Nolan Smith was in the center of the huddle. "Let's go set the fucking tone," he said. "Let's go after this shit!"
14) This isn't about the special, but my pal Jill sent me this link the other day. It's about a couple idiot frat boys at Duke who sent out party invitations. They tried real hard to be funny and failed miserably, but they managed to be outrageously sexist and misogynistic along the way.
Dear Duke students: stop undermining my school at every fucking turn, please. Or, as the Gawker writer put it:
"(In all seriousness, Duke really just needs to chill out with being Duke for a while. Seriously guys. Just... take a break. Just don't be Duke for a while.)"
Honestly, it's not even worth defending the student body anymore. Not until somebody speaks out against the idiotic fringe elements. You know how people are always saying, "I wish moderate Muslims would come out against the terrorists"? Well, I'm applying that line of logic to Duke students. Either make your voice heard, or expect people to keep lumping you in with the rest of the arrogant cretins.
We'll stop at lucky #14. Two more quick things. First, Bill Simmons wrote a pretty hilarious tweet yesterday:
Second, I've decided to include what might have been a hilarious dig in yesterday's comment section. After a long discussion of great sports books, a commenter named Jake offered his take:
The 5-Point Play by Coach K about when Duke won the national championship in 2001.
Now, I can't tell if this is a dig or not. Maybe the book is legitimately good. But if he is talking shit, I can only say: well done, Jake.
Tonight, there are a few games to whet our appetite. Hopefully Charleston beats Maryland. Until tomorrow.