Friday, January 29, 2010

In My Day, the Heyday, Friday was a Pay Day

Work is a bit busy today, so I'm gonna do some quick asterisks here and be the bumper and setter to your spiker.

*Federer just annihilates Tsonga in the Aussie semis, earning his place in the final against Murray. Should be awesome. On the topic of Tsonga, it seems like every generation of tennis has one or two guys who play absolutely electric tennis, get the crowd on their side, have a plethora of spectacular moments, and then sink like stones the minute they've made it "too far." I use that phrase because it's like watching a cinderella basketball team make it to the elite 8 in March Madness. They have a couple nice upsets in the first two rounds, which is great. It happens every year, and it's fun. But once in a while, the low seed somehow also manages to win a game in the Sweet 16. And despite their gutsiness, their exciting play, and their spirit, the Elite 8 round is clearly a step too far.* They're in the deep end, well out of their league. When the realization hits, it hits hard.

*Exceptions in my lifetime: George Mason, when they made the Final 4, and Gonzaga in '99, when they made the elite 8 and gave a terrific fight to UConn, the eventual champs.

That's what it's like to watch Tsonga. He gripped and clawed his way to the quarterfinals, winning a tough four-setter in round 3 against Tommy Haas, and followed that up with a 5-set, 9-7 win over Nicolas Almagro. Then he met Djokovic in the quarters, and went down two sets to one. That was the match he wasn't supposed to win. Except Novak got sick, or something, and basically stopped playing for the last two sets. The Frenchman was through to the semis.

And that was way too far. He didn't belong, and it looks like he realized that fact very early on against Federer. 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 was the score, a total annihilation. And Tsonga is firmly in the ranks of the shooting stars, those players who reach their maximum brightness somewhere between the 3rd round and the quarters, and then crash hard. Make a wish.

*Serena vs. Justine tonight. Don't miss it. Best women's since, like, Graf-Seles back in the day. It's on at 3:30 AM tonight, but ESPN will be replaying it at 8 AM tomorrow, so if you're up early, flip it on. The Federer-Tsonga match will be replayed Sunday morning at 10, a more reasonable hour.

*Last tennis news: Rafa is out a month. Blah. It's going to be one thing after another with his knees, that much is pretty clear. Total shame. Hopefully he fights back to be competitive for the French this year.

*The Dukies travel to the capital to face Georgetown on Saturday at 1. I don't see this being a particularly tough game. The Hoyas are ranked 11th, but just got owned at Syracuse. They also have a nasty habit of fading late in the season. I'm sure the place will be rocking, but I expect us to get a second road win somewhat comfortably.

*The second good game Saturday is Kentucky-Vanderbilt. The Commodores just took down Tennessee, and playing at Rupp Arena will be a good indicator of exactly where they stand in this crazy mix. Will also be fun to see how Kentucky bounces back from the Downey Massacre.

*The third is Kansas at Kansas State. Hostile arena for the 'Hawks, and a chance to prove they deserve the #1 ranking. If they lose, that honor might go to Villanova when Monday rolls around.

That's a wrap for now. Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama Has Gone Too Far

Quick, someone give me the number of the local Tea Party Chapter. Or their Earthlink e-mail address. Last night, Obama had the gall, the sheer nerve, the insane arrogance, to schedule his first State of the Union address at the same fucking time as the Duke-Florida State game. In the midst of a perfect home season.

Somebody tell this guy that North Carolina is a swing state. Wait, what's that? Nobody who attends Duke is actually from North Carolina? Fair enough.

Anyway, I might lose some street cred when I make the following admission. I fully intended to watch Duke, and then catch the SoTU on the net afterward. That was the plan. Then 9pm rolled around, and the Nova-Notre Dame game, which was the lead-in to Duke-FSU, was taking longer than expected. So I said 'what the hell, I'll just catch the first few minutes of Obama.' You all know how this story goes. Suddenly two crazy southern dudes are standing shoulder-to-shoulder shouting, Obama's shaking hands and kissing women, Pelosi is giving the introduction, people are standing, applauding, screaming, cackling, sitting on their hands, mouthing dissent, and so on and so forth. Next thing I know, it's 10:30, an NBC talking head is telling me he doesn't know what to think until he sees a poll, and I'm like 'holy damn, Duke is on.'

So yeah. I only caught part of the second half. The basic gist is that we didn't play great, but did enough to win. FSU has a pretty stolid defense, and they managed to come close with about 9 minutes left before we finished the job in a late flurry. The defense was up to standard, though the Noles had a pretty pitiful shooting night, especially at the line (6-14), and missed a lot of chances. Scheyer had 22 on a great shooting night, though he turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 4 times. Singler was in bombs-away mode, and shot well from inside the arc despite an interesting 3-10 stat line from 3. Nolan was 4-15 in a rough night. Outside of Earth, Wind, and Scheyer, only 17 points were scored. Plumdog Billionaire, aka Mason, seems to be fading in Coach K's estimation. He only had 8 minutes of PT, while Lance Thomas had 35.

FSU, though, is a very large team, so this win is a nice omen of what we can do against ridiculous size. They start 3 guys over 6'9", and ended up outrebounding Duke by 9. To win against a team like that even through sloppy play is a positive. Some other thoughts:

*Is it wrong to say that I don't like Mason Plumlee as a human? Something about his face, and his expression, and his bearing make me sort of cringe. He seems like a person I wouldn't like in real life. Like he's real entitled, or cocky, or something, but also kind of babyish. I honestly can't remember the last Dukie I had trouble rooting for. I even enjoyed JJ; I felt there was something relatable about him, despite his sometimes-arrogant demeanor. Mason Plumlee, though...I don't know. I just can't get behind him yet. Do any other Duke fans feel this way? Is this sacrilege?

*On the Earth, Wind, and Scheyer nickname topic: the originator of the fantastic moniker posted in the comments section yesterday. His name is Amogh, and he made the sign for the BC game. Here's a (hilarious) picture:

In particular, I love the color scheme, the off-kilter letters, and the uneven cut of the silhouettes. Oh wait, that's everything. Just an awesome production, everywhere you look. The whole thing looks like the pet project of a really enthusiastic second grader, which I think (and hope) was the point. Excellent work, sir. You definitely need to take a close-up photo for the sake of the internet.

*I've also come up with a name for my favorite basketball move in the universe. I described it in yesterday's post, and you can see the most famous example in the Jordan YouTube video at the 2:35 mark. The gist is this: a player drives to the basket, finds his way obstructed, pulls away as though he's given up the idea, and proceeds outside for one or two steps, just enough so that the defender gets complacent, before spinning back to his driving lane and continuing to the hoop. The new name for this move is:

The Peel and Wheel.

Because you peel away, then wheel back. Simple, memorable, rhyming. I have my first league game tonight, and I will definitely be trying the Peel and Wheel. Here's a video of Scheyer doing the world's slowest, choppiest Peel and Wheel from the Clemson game, courtesy of another commenter for yesterday. 10-second mark:

Honestly, that barely qualifies. The Jordan one was much better. But check out how Nolan Smith gives Erin Andrews an extra little look at the end of their interview, starting at the 3:00 mark. If Erin Andrews isn't turned on, she should be.



That's my new awesome Australian Open segment opener. The kids love it.

*Andy Murray is in the final, where he'll probably play Federer. This is kinda nuts, but no British man has won a major tennis tournament since 1934. That's a ton of pressure. How is that even possible? It's not true of any other big European nations, right? Here's a list of European nations who have fielded winners in that time: France, Germany, Sweden, Hungary (!), Czechoslovakia, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Romania (!), Russia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Croatia, and Serbia (!). That's 14 nations with champions, but no Great Britain. Here's the company you're keeping, Britannia:

Portugal: Considers the tennis racket useless because it's too flat to catch a fish.

Norway: Considers the tennis racket a really crappy snowshoe.

Poland: Doesn't understand why tennis matches have a lifeguard when there's no water around.

And that's (roughly) it. You need to start taking things seriously, guys. It's getting embarrassing.

*The big news: Serena vs. Henin in the final. That's just so awesome. Literally, that is the only match-up that I would have watched in the women's Championship. Pure power, with a little mental instability (but not as much as Venus), vs. the gritty comeback kid. Personally, I don't think there's any way Serena keeps it together for three sets. As great as they are, the Williams' are just so vulnerable to melt-downs in big moments. If it doesn't come easy, it doesn't come at all, or so it seems. And it won't come easy against Justine, that much is guaranteed. Henin wins in three, but the last set will be something like 6-1, with a lot of whining and exasperation from the American.

And that is about enough from me. G'day mate!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Earth, Wind, and Scheyer

Believe me, I hate to knock my own inventions off the pedestal, but "The Three S-Keteers" has officially been supplanted as the go-to nickname for Singler, Smith, and Scheyer.

The superior replacement, as you see in the title, is Earth, Wind, and Scheyer. I really wish I could take credit for this, but it was first suggested to me by an anonymous commenter in Monday's post. I googled it, and it has showed up, albeit rarely. It seems to have first appeared in the stands at Cameron during the BC game, and then it got a little publicity on a Duke message board. But I'm co-opting it, baby! Plagiarism: it's okay if I do it.

Not only is Earth, Wind, and Scheyer clever just from a pun standpoint, but it's also pretty accurate. Singler is earthy, more gravity-based, bigger, solid, while Nolan is quick, wispy, and spontaneous like the wind. It's even way better than the Giants version of Earth, Wind, and Fire from last year. In that case, Derrick Ward was supposed to be Wind, and it never really worked for me. I went along with it, mind you. I played their little game. I laughed when I was supposed to, said all the right things, shook all the right hands. But inside, I was dying.

Anyway. Earth, Wind, and Scheyer. That's a winner.

Hey, remember when I said Kentucky wasn't that good? Yesterday? And when I said, and I quote, "some crappy SEC team will beat you on the road"? Took one day to come true.

South Carolina snapped Kentucky's undefeated season 68-62 yesterday, officially ending their version of the perfection proclamation, which, let's face it, was stealing my thunder. Now, I've talked a lot of jive about Kentucky, particularly because I've always hated that school, but I'm not going to gloat about this loss. Here are some measured thoughts instead.

*I watched the whole second half, and I'm very impressed by Kentucky's freshmen. Despite the loss. John Wall in particular is just an insane player. I love him. It's not the first time I've seen him, but every time is like the first time with this guy. I can't help imagining what it would be like if Duke had won that recruiting battle. Coach K would be spending most of his days browsing through championship ring magazines and practicing cutting down nets.

*It was absurd, absolutely, patently absurd, for Kentucky fans to think they were going to go undefeated. With three freshmen starters. Even in a weak conference like the SEC, that just does not happen. Not in college hoops. It's too easy to lose on the road, even for a very good team. If there's any gloating in me, it's directed at their unrealistic fan base. Believe it or not, I actually respect Kentucky a little bit more after watching that game. I still don't think they're a Final Four team, but if the freshmen all stay another year (unlikely), watch out. They could be great. But undefeated this year? After the narrow escapes they'd already survived? That's just silliness.

*South Carolina's Devan Downey. Holy shit. He's all of 5'9", if you believe the media listing, and 175 pounds, but the man is a little machine.

He scored 30 last night, and it was such a joyful performance to watch. He basically scooted (I think that's the best word) through the defense at will, making strange, off-balance shots and just owning the court. Sometimes it was like watching old clips of John Havlicek dribbling through defenses to kill clock at the end of a game. It looked like Downey was moving in fast motion, like only his movements had been sped up on tape to 1.5 speed.

He even did my favorite move in basketball. Hopefully I can describe it; it's when someone drives in against a defender, pulls up, turns around to the perimeter like they've given up on the idea of penetrating, and then executes a quick spin to the exact same lane, catching the defender off guard. The most famous example is the #1 dunk by Jordan in this YouTube video, 2:35 mark:

That was kind of a choppy example, but Downey did that at least three times that I saw, and each time it left the defender looking like he had gravel in his shoes. Awesome stuff. I highly recommend watching at least one South Carolina game this year.

So Kentucky will drop in the rankings, and Kansas will resume the #1 ranking. Which is probably accurate. My bias leads me to nominate Duke as a potential Final Four team, but the honest assessment of the league right now puts three teams in what we'll call the 'upper echelon.' Kansas, Villanova, and Syracuse. That's it. Kentucky, Texas, Duke, and Michigan State are all on the second tier. Nobody else is really registering with me right now. Georgetown already looks like their usual late-season fade has begun, and WVU and Purdue are both grinder teams without championship potential.

Back to the Dukies. Tonight we defend the Perfection Proclamation, taking on FSU in Durham. The Noles are 15-4, and coming off a big home win against Georgia Tech. This won't be a cakewalk by any stretch, but with four days rest and a boisterous crowd, I think we'll win by 10-15. A win tonight and at Georgetown on Saturday might mean a top 5 ranking.

In other news, Federer took care of Davydenko in the Aussie quarters, but it wasn't easy. He lost the first set and trailed 3-1 in the second before taking a bathroom break designed to buy time while the sun set and mitigate the glare factor on the court. It worked, as he won 13 straight games and took the match in four sets. According to the recape, the Russian got a bit nervy as well.

Anyway, it's now been six years since Federer missed the semi-final of a Grand Slam tournament. Read that again. Talk about excellence. It might be the greatest stretch by an individual athlete in the history of sports. I certainly can't think of anything that compares. Maybe Alexander Karelin in Greco-Roman wrestling (3 gold medals and one silver, undefeated in international competition until the last match of his career, against Rulon Gardner for the gold in Sydney), or Georg Hackl in luge (3 golds, 2 silvers, 10 world championships), or the TigerSlam, but still, nothing quite measures up to what Fed has done. The only time in the last five years when he's missed a final was in Australia 2008, when he had mononucleosis. You know, that disease that completely zaps your energy and physically debilitates you for months? Yeah, he only made the semis that year.

He'll play Jo-Wilfred Tsonga on Thursday. Tsonga beat Djokovic in five sets, despite trailing 2-1, and, surprise surprise, Djokovic had an excuse afterward. He was sick, apparently. Okay, Novak. Thanks for stopping in.

That's all for today. Go Duke.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Lonely Wind Cries 'Rafa'

Bad start to the morning, ladies and gents. I woke up at 6:10 and decided to forsake the last half hour of sleep in the hope that I could catch the end of the Nadal-Murray quarterfinal from Australia. I turned the volume low on the tv, and the match must have started late, because it was only the third set. But Rafa was down two sets to love, serving at 0-1.

On the first point I watched, Murray won a baseline rally with a crosscourt backhand. Rafa followed with a winner of his own, a forehand up the line. But he planted his right leg hard before unleashing his whip-like stroke, and before the ball had even hit the back wall on the far court, he was trotting off. Medical timeout, right knee. The bane of his young existence. The source of chronic tendonitis and probably some other secret maladies. Murray jogged in place to stay fresh while Rafa sat with the trainer, worried. When he returned, he glanced to Uncle Toni in the stands, who also seemed anxious. They shrugged at each other.

Murray broke for a crucial edge, but Rafa fought back to force two break points on the Scot's serve. Again, he showed himself to be a man who never quits. Ever. Even if he's going to lose, he guts it out. Last year, in the French, he had nothing in the tank against Soderling. His knees were killing him. He'd never lost at Roland Garros before, but things were falling apart against the Swede. Still, Rafa ground it out until the end and went down with dignity. He never quits. But when Murray saved his service game with a couple well-timed aces, Nadal quit.

Unthinkable, and very sad. Predictably, Nadal approached the net with an apology for the victor. As if quitting because of an injury somehow went against the nobility of the game, as if it took away from Murray's win. It didn't; Murray had outplayed Rafa from the beginning, though he had to survive an early break and a second set breaker. But toughness and competition mean everything to Rafa, so it was only natural to apologize when he denied his opponent the victorious moment.

It raises, or rather re-raises, a major question about Nadal's longevity. Last year at this tournament, he won an impossible 5-set final against Federer, capping a stretch of three major victories in the last four, and a US Open semifinal appearance to boot. He was #1 in the world, finally overcoming the world's greatest player. But the disastrous French came next, and he had to withdraw from Wimbledon because of the knees, and he lost the long-sought top ranking. Another US Open semi-final salvaged his season, but ever since falling to Soderling, he's consistently come up begging against the world's top players; the likes of Murray, Federer, Djokovic, et al.

Are we seeing the end of a tennis legend at the young age of 23? Is there any hope for those faulty knees? Can he play a reduced schedule and maintain top form? What's the solution?

The press caught up with Murray after the match, and asked him about Rafa. "I have always looked up to him. He’s my favourite player and I am gutted for him."

Me too.

*On to happier news. How good is the ESPN World Cup commercial? I mean, Jesus, I'm generally not one to praise a promo, but they really knocked it out of the park. The music, especially, is just awesome. This might be the best theme song of all time. Dead serious. Sadly, I'm searching like crazy online, and it appears I'm not the only one. Queries abound, but ESPN has done a good job making sure it's nowhere to be found. Which seems stupid, since they should want any kind of publicity, but oh well. If anyone can find it, please let me know.

Instead, I'll post an old classic that always give me goosebumps.

A thousand and one rants and slogans don't prick my patriotic side one bit, but that shit makes me want to drape myself in an American flag and go around the world fighting communists. And it's not an exaggeration; the team really has to go through hell to qualify for the World Cup. The most recent example was the game we lost in Mexico, when Landon Donavan went over to take a corner kick and was showered with about thirty beer cups (along with the liquid contents) and other miscellaneous objects.

Slow night for sports. Duke puts the perfection proclamation to the test tomorrow, but the only thing to look forward to tonight is a potential Kentucky loss. I'm already really sick of Wildcat nation shouting about a perfect season. Wake up, folks. You beat UNC by two points at home. You squeaked by UConn (3 points) and Stanford (OT) on neutral courts. You're not that good. Some crappy SEC team will beat you on the road. And even if they don't, you're in for a rude awakening come tourney time. See you in hell. Here's how you'll know when you arrive: the devils are all blue.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weekend Awesomeness Scale, 1/25 Edition

Everything that happened in sports this weekend transcended the awesomeness scale.

That was the pretentious version. Here's the other: everything that happened in sports this weekend bridged the awesomeness scale. Every game, incident, and story touched down in two places, near the high and low ends of the spectrum. Let's brass tack it.

Colts Defeat Jets: 2 (As Awesome as Fighting a Shark in a Murky Pond) and 7 (As Awesome as Fighting a Shark on Land, with Duelling Pistols)

Why it was a 7:

New York is free from the green menace. All the Bandwagoners can stow their Jets gear back in the closet, or possibly get a refund since nothing they own is more than a month old. I get to stop being jealous. No endless debates about which Super Bowl run was more thrilling between Giants '07 and Jets '09. Jersey and Queens can resume their rightful places on the low rung of the NYC sports ladder. I don't quit trust Sanchez.

And this: Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning. There's nobody like him. The NFL is a giant mystery, and dynasties are a rare dinosaur indeed, but if you want to find a Michael Jordan equivalent in the league, it's Peyton. But then again, why even compare? Peyton excels in a highly stressful position better than anyone since Joe Montana. He overcame some early career jitters, and now he's an absolute assassin. And a genius, too, I think. His patience and wisdom yesterday were Solomon-like. There was never an ounce of anxiety on his face; just the usual Peyton annoyance, which doesn't slow him down. There was an amazing little moment during the game when Simms mentioned that during the first half of the last Jets-Colts game during week 16, the visitors became very frustrated because Peyton would call out the names of everyone who was blitzing on the play.

He would actually call out their names. He studied so much tape that he basically memorized everything the Jets were going to do. The man is a crazy wizard. He should wear a helmet shapes like a wizard's hat, and have a wand that he points at the defense before the play. Anyway, the Jets got weird enough with their schemes to puzzle him for about a quarter and a half yesterday, but that was it. Once he figures something out, it's like a chess grandmaster knowing he's fifteen moves away from winning. Though I didn't know it at the time, the last drive of the second quarter was the proverbial ballgame.

But talking about Peyton's greatness is sort of a tired thing these days, so let's move on.

Why it was a 2:

Despite my recently avowed hatred of the Jets, it only took about three minutes of spunky play before I switched my allegiances on Sunday. Then I switched back later because of Peyton, but would have been a good story.

My Girlfriend's Adventures with the Possession Arrow: 3 (As Awesome as Fighting a Dude Named Shark in a Prison Yard) and 8 (As Awesome as Fighting the Sharks from West Side Story, Musical Style)

Here's what happened: the basketball league I'm running started up last Thursday with a preseason scrimmage, and she came to help out. When people started playing, she worked the electronic scoreboard. She understands the basic rules, but the possession arrow mystified her. As most of us know, that particular feature is used to determine which team gets possession in case of a held ball, which happens maybe two or three times in an average game. So the arrow only needs to change that often. Unfortunately, not being familiar with this rule, she made her best guess based on the name itself. Possession arrow.

The upshot: she spent about two and a half hours frantically changing the arrow every single time there was an actual change in possession. Which must have happened like 400 times.

PS - I'm not a total dick; I didn't realize this was happening until she told me afterward. And that's when I understood why she seemed kinda stressed, and why the ref looked so confused every time he glanced over. Boy, did I laugh! (Not a total dick, just like 50-70%)

Why it was an 8:


Why it was a 3:

Whenever I told someone the story this past weekend, their first reaction was to laugh a lot. Their second reaction, invariably, was, "awww...poor Emily."

Saints Over Vikings: 4 (As Awesome as Having to Swim Among a Group of Sharks Wearing a Really Attractive Female Shark Costume) and 9 (As Awesome as Eating Shark at a Restaurant and Thinking 'This is One for the Good Guys')

Why it was a 9:

Favre! Ha! Throwing across the body, choking NFC Championships, just like old times. Great to see you still doing your thing, Brett.

As bad and predictable as that pass was, Childress needs to be drawn and quartered in the streets of Minneapolis sometime this week. Unbelievably poor clock management lost that game, not Favre (and oh yeah, the fumbles didn't hep). You don't often see coaching that incompetent. It was like he got to the 35, which would have been a 52-yard field goal, and decided it was good enough. So 90 seconds ran off the clock, a penalty pushed them out of range (the possibility of which is why you keep driving), and then Favre was forced to be himself.

Why it was a 4:

As much as I loathe Favre, I pity the hell out of Vikings fans. There have been some tough losses in the NFL in my lifetime, but when you consider the history, context, and demoralization present in yesterday's game, this has to be one the hardest losses in history. No exaggeration. The team has never won a Super Bowl. Older fans have seen four losses. Younger fans have suffered through the heartbreak of past NFC title losses, including one where a field goal kicker who had been perfect all year missed with a chance to ice the game. And then yesterday...missed opportunities and bad luck and a deafening crowd and everything else hamstrung them, and they STILL had a chance to win at the end. And then Childress and Favre blew it, and then they lost the coin toss, and then the refs screwed them in OT...

The whole thing was like a yo-yo, with the sphere being a super bowl berth, and it keeps coming down almost to within reach. And holding the string? A vengeful God.

Seriously, though, I play football on Sundays with a few guys from Minnesota. After the game, I sent a text message to my friend Nick offering my sincere condolences. His response was so utterly poignant that I have to re-post it here:

"This one is going to take some time. Fuck."

This one is going to take some time. I honestly can't even imagine being a Vikings fan yesterday. You must feel like everything is against you. You must feel like Job (second Old Testament reference, booya!). Ugh. I can't help but feel bad for that fanbase.

Duke Beats Clemson on the Road: 5 (As Awesome as Being Nicknamed 'The Loan Shark') and 10 (As Awesome as Being Nicknamed 'The Lone Shark')

Why it was a 10:

Road win! Booya! Toughness! Credibility! The NC State loss is shown for a fluke!

Why it was a 5:

Trevor Booker is a thug and an opportunist. He's the kind of guy who pouts when things don't go well, but is the first to start screaming at an opponent after a block (Singler) even when his team's down 15. In fact, the whole team are a bunch of thugs. Athletic? Yes. Tough? Yes. Any semblance of basketball skill? No.

I hate coaches who recruit teams like that. They'll win some games, and maybe even stay in the top 25, just by being physical and mean, but they can't shoot or score or anything else. It's annoying. I'm very glad we beat that team.

However, I wish someone on Duke had stepped up and muscled up on Booker. I guess we took the high road, but is it too much to ask that for a bench player to come in and send a message with a hard foul? Or for someone to submarine him and try to break his leg?

Too far?

Anyway, interesting sports weekend. And oh yeah, Rafa vs. Murray tonight in the Australian quarters! 3:30 AM eastern time! Wish I had DVR! Go Rafa.


The Land Shark

Friday, January 22, 2010

Post #200 WHOA

Man, this one snuck up on me. 200 posts. I am such an accomplished human being. I imagine you'll want to shower me with compliments and get my address so you can send me money.

I would prefer paypal.

Look, this blog has always been about sports. I'm not going to sit here and make a big deal of my

200th POST

because that's not what I'm about. So instead, I'm going to recognize the milestone by a simple act: attaching a picture of myself at my writin' desk. My boss took this photo for some kind of floor-wide photo album. The computer behind me is where I transmit my brain thoughts to you every morning, usually under constant duress from other employees demanding my menial labor. Notice the lack of windows, which I believe have contributed to my slow deliquescence into insanity. This is also clearly a Friday, since I'm wearing a t-shirt and have not showered or shaved, and I believe it was taken during the Yankee playoff run. And my hair is a mess because I made the decision to shave my head about a month before, and was still in denial that I needed to comb it any way, shape, or form.

There. Now we can feel closer, as writer and reader. The bond is strong.

Further digression: Answering Reader Comments. As you may or may not know, the best way to increase blog readership is to attack people who take the time to read your site and leave a message. So here we go.

Anonymous Commenter says:

Define "We." Can you even run the length of a baskeball court?

This was in response, apparently, to my use of the third person plural to talk about a sports team. As in, "I really think we have a great chance against Clemson Saturday."

To answer your question, reader, no, I cannot run the length of the basketball court. I'm a blogger, so I weigh 800 pounds, and I can only ever move if someone shoves an L-shaped stick down the back of my shirt so that a Snickers bar dangles by a string two feet in front of my face. Then I can kind of drag myself around for a few feet, like to use the bathroom or call a phone sex hotline. But the full length of a basketball court? Oh my Lord, no!

The real reason I include this comment, though, is because it contains a pet peeve of mine. Tough guy sports fans love to call people out on using the word 'we' to describe their team. "Oh," they'll say, wearing a sneer, "are you on the team? Did you throw a pass? Did you draw up a play?"

I've given this great thought, and here's my reasoned response:



(gasp, pant, wheeze)

200th POST

On to sports!

*It's Championship Weekend in the NFL. Here's your interchangeable preview. When I say Team A, just subsitute Vikings or Jets, and Team B is the Saints or Colts.

Team B has the clear edge, has been the stronger squad all season. They'll be playing at home, in a loud dome, and will be trying to prove that the momentum from their early undefeated stretch is back after some disappointing late season losses. Team A has the superior defense, and a strong pass rush, but Team B's offense is designed for efficiency and speed, which may nullify that advantage. Team B's quarterback, in particular, is adept at reading the defense and picking apart blitz packages with quick strikes. He could very well win the regular season MVP. But don't discount the motivation of Team A. They're an embattled franchise, and their historic woes in the conference championship game are well documented. They'll be playing with a chip on their shoulder on the road, and, if nothing else, strong defense should keep this one close. As a final note, Brett Favre is a total asshole.

There you go. Despite my glib tone, though, I'm looking forward to Sunday. I think the most interesting Super Bowl would be Colts-Saints, because it would be the first time in a while that the consensus best team in each conference made the big game. Of course, this whole damn city would go apeshit if the Jets made it, and I guess that'd be nice for some people. I could tolerate it. The only team I really want to lose is the Vikings. Seriously, whoever makes these decisions, please don't make me watch Brett Favre in the Super Bowl.

*Duke-Clemson at 9pm Saturday. This is going to be real, real interesting. It's a chance for us to turn our road woes around. If we lose, though, it's pretty much a rock-solid confirmation that our toughness quotient is hovering below the Quivering Coward line. Prediction: Nolan Smith scores 30, and mouths a swear word after a vicious dunk.

*The bottom half of the men's draw has reached the 4th round in Australia, and Rafa is through!

His potential Quarterfinal match with Andy Murray is on track, as the Brit advanced. In a surprising turn, the American John Isner beat electric Frenchman Gael Monfils, and he'll take on Murray in the fourth round. But the match of the round will definitely be Roddick against Fernando Gonzalez. Roddick is playing great tennis, but from the recaps it sounds like Gonzalez has the entire country of Chile out in support. Plus, it's starting to get really, really hot there, as usual. The players got a bit of a break in the first few days because of some rain and cooler temperatures, but the 100+ degree heat is back in effect. That does not favor Roddick, and Lord knows he can get riled by almost anything...a thousand screaming Chileans who don't care about tennis etiquette could easily do the trick. That match will be late Saturday/early Sunday, and is worth checking out if you're up late.

*Justine Henin is my hero. Thank God she's back to make women's tennis interesting again. She's into the 4th round, and her draw is shaping up nicely. It would be utterly ridiculous if she could win her first Grand Slam following the one year retirement, but this is the female version of Rafa, and anything is possible. Unfortunately, the only other interesting player, Belgian Kim Clijsters, lost last night. So the women's draw is basically Henin vs. Russians and Divas. Go Henin!

That should cover us for the weekend. Enjoy it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Road Patsies, and a Rant

It's officially a problem: we can't win a tough game on the road.

Last night goes down as the most embarrassing loss of the season. 88-74 was the final score, and the opponent was NC State, a supposed rival who don't really have much talent this year. When it ended, the student body predictably rushed the court, celebrating their first win against Duke in 35 years (or something).

This was one of two Duke games all year that was purchased by Raycom, some North Carolina cable outfit whose only northeast affiliate is in Maine. All of which means that I didn't get to watch the game. But based on reading the recap and checking out the box score, it's easy to draw some conclusions.

1) We didn't come out with any balls. Here was K's postgame quote: "I wish we would've come with more energy than we came with tonight. They came with superb energy and you want to be in a game where both teams are playing at that level. We could never match their level of play."

Couldn't match their level of play? NC State? You're ranked #6 in the country, coach! I don't care if this game was on the road. I don't care if the team had to wear clogs. You win this game! Or you're at least competitive. A 14-point loss in a rivalry game is just inexcusable, especially in late January.

2) The defense, normally great, took a night off. 88 is the most points we've conceded all year, and it's not even close. State's field goal percentage was a ridiculous 58%. That could mean one of two things; either they got a lot of easy shots, or got lucky and had an abnormally accurate shooting night. The fact that their leading scorer is a post player, and went 10-12 from the field, makes me lean toward the former.

3) We outrebounded them by a wide, wide margin, 38-23, and we even had 16 offensive boards. How do you lose a game with those stats? This is how: 22-57 from the field, for an ugly 38%. In a trend that does not make me the least bit happy, Scheyer seems to be a main culprit. Last night, he was 2-9 from inside the arc. He actually shot better from behind, going 3-7. His touch has been sporadic for most of the year, and we appear to be in the middle of a downswing.

4) Outside of the Three S-Keteers, we only had 13 points of production. Miles Plumlee only played 10 minutes. Mason only played 13. What's the deal there? I'd love some insight from any NC readers who got to watch the game.

5) In terms of stats, this game looks like an anomaly. But great teams find ways to fight back when things aren't clicking, and Duke couldn't manage the trick.

So. We've had three road games this year, and we're 0-3. Needless to say, I don't have a lot of faith in the team's chops away from home. This Saturday's game against Clemson suddenly went from a dicey proposition to damn near impossible. We kicked their cans up and down the hardwood at Cameron, and they'll be pissed. Meanwhile, our confidence is still trickling into a grate in the visitor's locker room in Raleigh. I don't like it.

Tangent: why won't Duke fans ever charge the floor? This has bugged me forever. Any time someone beats us on the road, their fans charge the floor. Always. Look at our losses this year: Wisconsin charged. Tech charged. State charged. The stupid explanation I always hear from Duke fans and the 'establishment' is that we should act like we've been there before.

Sucks to that, I say! I'm not advocating a floor-charge when we beat the EA Sports All-Stars in the preseason, or even a bad ACC team. But against UNC or Tech or just in a close game? Why not?

We're treated like the 'man' everywhere we go, and I think it's a huge mistake to accept that role. Look at this year's Yankees: yes, they were hated. Yes, they had more money than everyone else. Yes, every loss meant the world to the opposing team and their fans. But the team itself didn't give a shit. They had spirit, they had swagger. If someone got a walk-off hit, they were going to be mobbed and then attacked with cream pie. The team was loose, enthusiastic, and tough. And they won the World Series where the stodgy Yankee clubs of the past decade had failed.

So how about a little free-flowing spirit, Dukies? Not just the players, but the fans. Charge the floor. It's fun. It doesn't mean you've come down to the low level of your peers. In fact, the attitude that you're above them doesn't serve anything. I'm getting sick of the Cameron Crazies (who, let's face it, have lost all their mojo in the past ten years), sick of Duke's entitlement complex, sick of the rigid, restrained comportment of our team and our University.

Get. the. fuck. over. yourselves. Charge the floor. Dance in the stands. Get wild. Get pissed. Win on the road. Stop giving two shits what anyone thinks.

With the rest of Blue Devil nation, I'm staring down the barrel of a gun. We're watching the last ten years play out all over again. It shouldn't happen this year, but it looks like it might. There has to be an attitude adjustment or we're going to wilt as the season goes along and everyone else starts finding their stride. A 14-point loss at NC State, despite the strange stats, is un-fucking-acceptable.

Okay, I'm officially fired up. This is the year. Good things need to happen. After this, we're losing Scheyer and Singler, and it's rebuilding time. Except UNC and everyone else got better recruiting classes, so we have nothing to rebuild with. The ACC is down. The whole country might be down, in fact. The stars are aligning, Coach K, and you need to step up. This year has to be different.

Except it's not. Not yet. I never got to charge the floor at Cameron because apparently Duke is basketball royalty and it's beneath us. But we haven't won a title since 2001. UNC has. They charge the floor. Maryland has. They charge. Et cetera et cetera.

Here's the plan, Duke: you're not better than anyone. That's something you earn, not something you're born into. Here's what everyone really thinks: we're pussies. Sorry for the language, but that's the truth. We're like the effete son of a powerful king who assumes the crown by birth, but is completely incapable of leading. Slowly the kingdom crumbles. If there's an ounce of toughness and character and personality in the entire campus, the entire university, the team itself, rather than just an assortment of talent, please let it show. Remove the giant stick from that clenched spot where the sun's rays never shine, and learn the meaning of play.

That is the one and only solution.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Hate the Jets, and Other Ideas

Hey folks, sorry about the delayed post today. Blogger the website was not working at my work computer today, and I couldn't find an alternative. I hope this is not indicative of a long-term trend. Here's today's post, as composed at 9am this morning.

Here we go, Wednesday. I'm ready for a body shot.

*My cousin Justin e-mailed yesterday to marvel at the state of his life. He's a Jets fan, and a Republican, so it's a pretty good week to walk in his shoes. We'll focus on the football. My talking point throughout this whole Jets run is that I support them, I root for them, they're a New York team, blah ba-blah ba-blah. But forget it, I'm done. I hate the Jets. Here was my response to Justin:

I'm so friggin' jealous of this Jets run. I know I shouldn't be, because we had our moment two years ago, but everything about this run is awesome. Rex is a great personality, the team is exciting, Revis is the best player alive, Sanchez is likeable in an A-Rod type way, and Greene is a gamer too. Everywhere I look, Jets Jets Jets. You're the toast of the town. It's even set up to be an epic story this weekend: Colts lay down in week 16, and get knocked out by the team they waved into the playoffs. I'm rooting for the JETS because I like their style, but a hidden, resentful part of me wants them to lose by about 50 to the Colts.

Since writing that e-mail last night, my philosophy has evolved. I hate them. I've looked deep into my soul and discovered that I can't be happy for another New York team succeeding. As I've said before, there's really no rivalry between the Jets and Giants, and certainly nothing comparing to the state of Yankees-Mets these days. That's why I tipped my cap to them originally. Great, good for you Jets. Make your run. We'll all have a little fun, you'll win a game, maybe two, and next year we'll go back to the status quo.

But I did not foresee this. Like I said to Justin, everything about this team is likeable. It's becoming an amazing story, and I can't handle it. The effect in NYC if they beat the Colts would be calamitous. Jets fans would be spawned in every nook and cranny. Green and White as far as the eye can see. They need to lose this weekend. It needs to happen. Sorry, Jets fans. I truly am. I wish I had it in me to root for you, but I'm a Giants fan. I don't want to put up with your success. I'm a selfish individual who would rather watch a neutral third party take the Lombardi Trophy. May you lose in a blow-out this Sunday.

*Duke at NC State tonight. Like all ACC road games this year, it won't be easy. The Wolfpack have had some tough times at home this year, losing to Clemson by 3, to UVA by 8, and to Florida in OT. But to me, that only means the whole student body will be even more pumped than usual for our arrival. It's a great test leading up to this Saturday's visit to Clemson, which promises to be an absolutely miserable experience. I only give us about a 50% chance of winning that game, but it will also be an opportunity to take a huge leap; winning in hostile environments is a must. If nothing else, it builds team character and confidence. But let's be honest: some of the NCAA venues are basically road games. 1/4th of the crowd will be Duke fans, 1/4th will root for the other team, and the rest will be rooting for the underdog, which is never Duke. We need to become road warriors. Tonight is a great stepping stone opportunity.

*Rafa is through to the third round! He took down someone from Croatia in easy straight sets. There are tough matches ahead, but as of now he looks to be on a collision course with Andy Murray. The two will meet in the quarters if all goes right, and that will be the first time I set my alarm for about 3am. Oh, had to be special, didn't you? Had to have weird times for tennis matches. Weird times for summer. Weird toilet flushing. There's always something to prove with those Aussies. They always have to be different.

*Georgia Tech beats Clemson by 2 at home. Impressive showing by Clemson, actually. They're showing with each game that the blow-out at Duke was an aberration. But that's three quality wins for Tech, who have to be considered the second best team in the ACC now. They've taken down Duke, Carolina, and now Clemson, the three other ranked teams, but they've lost to UVA and FSU, both unranked. Peculiar team, those Yellow Jackets. They come to Cameron on February 4th, which will be the first big test of the Perfection Proclamation (see yesterday's post).

*UNC vs. Wake tonight. If the Heels lose, they'll drop from the top 25 for the first time in who knows how long. I won't call it a "must-win," but they've dropped two in a row, and at a certain point it won't make any sense to think of them as an elite ACC squad. They've got something to prove. So does Wake. Should be fun.

That'll do for now. Good on yer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Perfection Proclamation!

On a day that might be utterly disastrous for reasons I won't go into since this is a SPORTS blog, I've decided to lead with a bit of optimism. Hence,


On this day, January the 19th, as Capricorn giveth way to Aquarius, I hereby aver the following truth without regard to reputation or consequence:

O'er the remainder of the season, The Duke University Men's Basketball Team shall not lose a single game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Whereas they have yet to fall on their own floor, this ongoing flawlessness shall result in a perfect home year.

Crazy? On the surface, it may look like a lunatic's manifesto. Actually, though, much as I'd like to portray myself as hovering on that proverbial limb, this is a relatively safe bet. Take a look at the remaining home games:

FSU - Always, always a miserable, tough road game. Regardless of circumstances. But they won't get close in Cameron.

Georgia Tech - We lost by four on the road in a blown game, and the revenge motive will be strong. The Yellow Jackets showed they have some road chops with their win against UNC last week, but they'll be facing an onslaught in our house.

Maryland - It's a down year for the Terps, and the Crazies love nothing more than goading Gary Williams until he explodes. This is a surefire 15-25 point win.

Virginia Tech - Not a bad team this year, but early ACC road losses to FSU and UNC show what we can expect from them away from Blacksburg.

Tulsa - What?

UNC - This is the big daddy. We haven't gone undefeated at home since 2002-03, in part because Pyscho T owned us for four years. He never lost at Cameron, and in the two years preceding him we went down to teams like Maryland, Purdue, and Georgia Tech. But we haven't won against the Heels in Cameron in a long while, and this is the time. Don't worry, their recent slide is not making me overconfident. Yes, Zeller is out 4-6 weeks. Yes, they've looked pretty awful recently. Yes, they might even slip from the top 25. But Roy will have something going by the time they come to Cameron (March 9), and it will not be an easy game.

But we'll win, and the perfection proclamation will go down in history.

Today's proclamation has been sponsored by: Haagen Dazs Green Tea Ice Cream

I didn't even know this existed until last night, but it will surely change my life. I'm not a huge fan of actual green tea, but flavor something sweet with it? Home run, every time. Never miss a chance to get green tea creme brulee, in particular. Amazing.

Anyway, this ice cream is as good as you'd expect. Unlike most of its counterparts, the flavor here is pretty subtle, which will make you feel like a grown-up. It will also make you feel like a wise Asian person, in the Confucius mold. And since it's tea-flavored, there's no sugar, fat, calories, or anything.*

*Ice cream facts not approved by the FDA.

Moving on, three final points:

1) My friend Alex pointed out that yesterday's video game rant made me sound like a "70 year-old Fox News commentator." I read it over, and he's right. I apologize for that. I have no idea what I was even thinking. I don't even actually believe what I wrote. It was not my finest hour, I just got excitable. Also, it worries me. If I'm already going conservative at age 27, I'm screwed. In 8 years I'll be 35, wearing plaid, finding my way onto local news shows, challenging politicians to come take my guns themselves, if they're man enough.

2) Texas finally lost. It's my ironclad conviction that the Longhorns aren't that good. That means Kentucky will be #1 next week, and they have a cupcake schedule, so they'll probably stay there a while. But guess what? Kentucky's not that good either. Neither of those teams will make the final 4. The best four teams in the country right now, in order, are Kansas, Syracuse, Duke, and Villanova. Kansas will almost surely make the final 4. You may as well flip a coin to figure out what Cuse will do in any given year. They're the kind of team where being actually good might hurt them. If Singler returns to his old form, Duke will make the final 4, and Nova should make it too. There you go. Thanks for asking.

3) I swear I had a third point to make. Oh yes: ACC fans should all be watching Clemson at Georgia Tech tonight. The winner of that game stakes a solid claim as second best squad in the conference, and will probably be in the top 10. Plus, both teams are fucking huge and physical, and it should be a fun, grind-it-out game.

Happy Tuesday. Brown Down.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weekend Awesomeness Scale, 1/18 Edition

Well, here we are. Another weekend has wisped away like the only other thing that wisps...smoke. But what about vapor, you wonder aloud...isn't that another thing that wisps? Wrong: vapor is a type of smoke. Look it's science.

I think I have a long post in me today. First, I want to announce that I've come up with a theme song for the 2010 Duke Blue Devils. I love this squad, and I think we've got a lot of potential. But if there's one thing we need, it's less rigidity, less uptight behavior on the court. If there were four words of advice I could give, they would be: "Relax. Take it easy." And I'd draw out the easy into three long syllables, and the whole thing would be really melodic, and have a sort of 1970s disco-sounding flare, with a dash of modern poppy techno. But not the American kind; you'd get the feeling this was an Eastern European product, done by a guy with a fucking killer falsetto who grew up trading Michael Jackson mix tapes behind the iron curtain.

Based on these criteria, I've found the perfect candidate. Without further ado, Duke's theme song:

Believe me, this choice is going to have its naysayers. There'll be talk that it's not masculine enough, and...well, variations on that one, mostly. But just imagine Scheyer, big smile on his face, running the floor and dishing to that chorus. Seriously. Nothing but joy. The Final 4 would be inevitable. Even Zoubek would look good dancing to this song.


1 - Like Being Air-Dropped in North Vietnam, 1967

It was actually a pretty great weekend in sports, so it's tough to find something to fit this category. So I'll go with a commercial. Sorry for the crappy quality:

Do you ever wonder what aspects of our pop culture people are going to make fun of in like 20-30 years? I have to think it'll be these new uber-dramatic video game ads, where they have sweeping epic songs as a backdrop to crazy amounts of violence, plus every cinematic cliche you can think of. I had to watch this one a billion times this weekend, and it always annoyed me. It's creepy, it glorifies weird violence, it's fetishistic, and it poses as 'art.' I bet the people who designed the game are real smarmy and pompous. I bet they say things like "video games are the new artistic frontier.'

Fuck that. Video games are things played by chubby or ultra-thin pale kids who masturbate too much. Always been true, always will be. (Unless they're sports video games, which are cool and played by interesting people until they turn 22.) Video game culture will be skewered in like 15 years. That's an ironclad fact, unless our video game generation destroys the world, which actually seems pretty likely.

2 - Like Being Air Dropped into North Vietnam, 2010, But You Don't Have a Shirt and Your Chest is Painted with the Slogan "Ho Chi Minh Was Ho Chi Lame" (In Vietnamese)

Things have cooled off a little since the bad times, but this would still be bad news. This goes to New Orleans over Arizona. Call me crazy, but I wanted the Kurt Warner story to continue. Like many others, I find him fascinating. I'm not one of the legions of people who hate him for being Christian...I think that's a cool part of his story. The guy doesn't mess around with his core philosophy. You won't catch him taking a bath, getting the paper, feeling annoyed at a local dog, or being driven into the earth by a 300-pound D-Lineman without having a thought about God. I can respect that. And the reason I can respect it that he went through the wringer to get here. It's not like he was handed a sliver platter when he was 10 years old and started saying "God is good" while wrapping himself in different kinds of silk.

Anyway, I like New Orleans too. But if Warner retires, and by most accounts he will, the NFL will be less exciting next year. Just by a little. One less personality to follow.

3 - Like Being Air Dropped into North Vietnam, 2010, Chest Painted with the Slogan "Ho Chi Minh was Ho Chi Lame," but in English

Not good, but you could try to convince the villagers that the slogan said something else, like "Ho Chi Minh was Ho Chi-Rific." Only one word might be crazy enough to work. This one goes to Minnesota over Dallas. Normally this would have been lower on the scale, except:

A) Always nice to see Dallas lose, and
B) There were moments when I didn't hate Brett Favre

The mistake I made was that I started calling him "Father Time" in my head, and then I started thinking of him as an embattled old grinder who keeps plugging away and persevering. And then a little nobility started manifesting itself in his aura. It got my signals all crossed, and I didn't know what to think. Anyway, there's a little truth to those ideas. But he's still an egomaniac, a baby, and a me-first kinda dude. In his postgame interview, when he said "I gotta be honest, I was very concerned about this game," I imagined that he was being a pain all week in practice, whispering to teammates that he thought they'd lose, and generally not being helpful to Childress. That's Favre, to me. I hope the Saints beat them by 50.

4 - Like Being Air Dropped Into Rural Texas Dressed Up Like Ho Chi Minh

Let's be honest, nobody's going to know who you are. It just sucks to be in rural Texas (probably). I'll give this to the possible retirement of Ed Reed, the Ravens d-back who pitches the ball on 90% of his interceptions. I've mentioned it before, but I think this is a fantastic attribute. He and Kurt Warner should team up and do some kind of traveling talent show, if that kind of thing is still economically feasible (last I checked, it was, but that was during Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show in the early 1900s...I haven't seen any recent numbers).

8 - Like Being Air Dropped Into a Throng of Beautiful Vietnamese Virgins on Tet, the big Vietnamese Holiday, Dressed like Ho Chi Minh

Man, this is getting strange. Anyway, I skipped right to number 8 because most of the things that happened this week were that good. A few events qualify.

A) Federer, Nadal, Roddick, Djokovic, Clijsters, Serena Williams, and a few others did a charity event called "The Hit for Haiti." Federer organized it, and it was a doubles exhibition to benefit the earthquake victims. All the players were mic'ed up, and from the clips I've seen on YouTube, it looked pretty hilarious. This one in particular had me laughing out loud at 9am Saturday morning, and it shows that R-Fed has a sense of humor:

This is why I love these dudes. And by the way, the Australian Open is underway, and Rafa is through the first round. Expect more about this.

B) Syracuse over West Virginia. Good, solid Big East game, and The Cuse still looks like a very tough team to beat.

C) This commercial:

I've seen it about a thousand times now, and I still crack up every time. The guy's performance is just superb. I won't waste a lot of time trying to explain why I think it's so hysterical, but the way we raises both hands at the 7-second mark, like an over-enthusiastic middle school choir director, is just a triumph of improvisational acting. And then the transition into the emphatic finger point...breathtaking. I fucking love this commercial.

D) J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS! Seriously, the parallels to the G-Men during their Super Bowl year are just ridiculous. Just like Coughlin in '08, Rex Ryan is on the sideline just silently begging his quarterback not to fuck up. Even when the defense is out there, I think. He's still like "yo Sanchez, I know you're on the sideline, but please do not do anything stupid." And their D is just silly. Just a silly, silly, awesome unit. Revis is talked about so often that he should be overrated, but he's actually still underrated. He's a genius. If they can muster even an ounce of offense against, or just get lucky on a punt return or two, they can win. The whole thing is insane.

10) Like Being Air Dropped Into Heaven, and the Welcoming Committee is Jesus, Kurt Warner, Rafa Nadal, and a Slew of Vietnamese Virgins

Duke over Wake Forest in Cameron. I've got a special proclamation to make tomorrow, so I won't analyze this game a ton. But the basic awesomeness recap is this: we played a fast, athletic, physical team, and we played their style, and we kicked their ass. The Plumdogs were great. Singler still looks rusty, but he was grinding all game. Nolan owned on the drive. The Dawk made some positive steps. Scheyer's shooting troubles continue, but he managed the team well. And we looked loose. It was awesome.

Happy MLK Day. Relax! (UNH-UNH) Take it Eeeee-eee-zeeee!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tape Delay Blog: Duke-BC and UNC-Clemson

You know the drill, my friends. Everything is as written last night, with a minor style edit or two here and there. No post tomorrow, as I'm off work. Have a good day.



I just finished a nice run, and I’m a bit late to the game. As you can see, I’ll be time stamping this entry by the time that’s left in the game. Right now we’re about 4 minutes into the first half. The first thing happened when I turned on the tv is that Jon Scheyer missed a foul shot. Bad omen?

15:18: So far, no! He followed it up with a runner, and then Plumdog Billionaire, Mason Plumlee, dunked to give us a 9-6 lead.

15:00: Zou-Wreck takes us into the first timeout with his specialty: a dumb foul. If there’s an opposing player with an easy bucket to be made, you can count on Zou to be seconds behind with an unnecessary hack.

15:00: Okay, time to catch up! I’m here typing with my computer atop the official cardboard box of live blogging. My girlfriend is conspicuously absent, so I’m alone. I asked what time she’d be home earlier, and she said “it might be pretty late.” Live blogging nights are not her favorite.

I’ll be going straight through til 11 tonight. At least that’s the plan. After Duke-Boston College, UNC will be playing. Wait, who? UNC? Ohhhh yeahhhh...That’s the team that SUCKS.*

*Nominee #1 for insult of the night.

15:00: “He has a good heart. He has a feel for the game. He wants to win. Only. Only. Only!” That’s Coach K on Scheyer. I think we’re equally obsessed.

14:50: We’re back. Bob Knight is the color man for this game, and he was the one interviewing Coach K. I hate that this following clause is true, but I actually enjoy “The General” as an announcer. Even though he’s obviously a complete dick in real life. Rece Davis is play-by-play. Steady, reliable, attractive. Or so says…ROY WILLIAMS (smirk).*

*Nominee #2.

14:38: Plumdog Millionaire, Miles, gets an and-1 on a great offensive board. That followed a Singler miss, which brings me to a point I wanted to make at some point: Singler is highly overrated. His start to the year has been pretty bad. He can’t hit from 3, he seems too slow to drive, and he’s not big enough to play in the post. What happened to the slashing strong forward I remember from last year? Does he have Paulus Disease, where you get slower and worse as the year goes on?

13:53: Another offensive board by Plumdog Mill. Good also to see Andre Dawkins in the game early. Quiet as he’s been, this is a player we’ll need come February and March.

13:37: Massive subbing by Coach K as four newbies enter the game. Are we really 9 deep? Maybe, but you have to make an argument for Kelly, Dawkins, and Zoubek. Which isn’t the world’s easiest argument.

13:06: Reggie Jackson hits a long three for BC. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I believe it is the same person as the former Yankee slugger.

12:57: Jackson has that cool look going where he wears his headband way on the back of his head. Like in yarmulke position.

12:17: Damn, BC has the lead. It’s somehow harder to pay attention when you’re live blogging. Nolan Smith ties it up with a great drive. More penetration please, Nolan. (I hope that’s the only context I ever have for saying that sentence.)

11:38: Scheyer for 3!!! Fast break points, baby. The Crazies are getting throaty.

11:22: TV timeout. These ‘too heavy/too light’ commercials from Bud Light are friggin’ awful. They’re incredibly predictable, and it’s a stupid concept anyway. If I have to watch that redhead staple a corsage onto her asshole boyfriend one more time, I’ll probably staple myself. In the balls. On the other hand, always a pleasure to see the Sonic commercials with the improvisers…TJ Jagadowski, I think, and another guy from Chicago who’s pretty awesome.

11:22: Singler is so friggin’ pale. I think he sleeps in a coffin. Next to him on the bench, Ryan Kelly looks like someone you could easily trick into eating paint. Over and over.

11:22: Dallas Elmore shots two. What a cool name for an athlete.

10:56: Every time Dawk misses a three, I get more disappointed than I should. Great D by Nolan Smith, and Schey misses a three from the corner.

10:18: Proof that advertising doesn’t work: I’ve never visited Shouldn’t I have done that by now? It’s supposed to have women having sex with each other, and one of them is Danica Patrick. Shouldn’t that ad, of all ads, work?

9:35: Dallas Elmore also sounds like a good porn star name. I wonder if he’s on GoDaddy.

9:08: As Elmore draws a foul on Dawk, I’m making the decision to dislike the Gothic chapel representation on the back of the Duke jerseys.

8:14: As Dawkins draws a foul on a 3, my girlfriend calls with something heavy two blocks away that I have to help her carry. FUCK. SHIT. LIFE IS UNFAIR. BULLSHIT. COME ON! (Back in a while.)

5:58: Duke down 1, and I’m back. The girlfriend is just TALKING TALKING TALKING. (Reading over my shoulder, I’m not a total asshole.)

5:00: Balls going off feet, shoulders, hands, and BC is up 3. This sucks. I also don’t have a feel for the game. Singler is at the line. How did he get there? What’s happening? How many are these worth?

4:29: I’m listening to my girlfriend try to tell her credit card number to the (probably) Hispanic person at the pizza place. This is always a disaster. It’d be easier to try to explain the US Civil War to them, I’m convinced. Numbers translate so poorly.

3:15: Tie game as Singler hits one of two.

2:33: Long argument about memory vs. external hard drive. I’m the worst live blogger ever. Plumdog Millionaire gets another offensive board, and he’s back at the line. Duke by one.

2:21: Damn, BC is scoring at an impressive clip. I don’t like that, especially at our place. Defense is supposed to be this team’s specialty. At the same time, I like the looks of BC. Not sure how old or young their guys are, but I can see a team like this coming together in a year. I still think we’ll win this game by double digits, though.

1:54: Plumlee (Miles) looks awkward and bad trying to score in the post. For all his hustle and energy and whatever, this is the essential problem. He’s not smooth. Which is why his younger brother gets the Plumdog Billionaire title.

1:24: NOLAN STUFFS IT. Great pass from Mason.

1:01: Duke by 3. Smith at the top. DRIVE. Instead they try interior passing and Scheyer loses it out of bounds.

0:46: Timeout Devils. I’m going to look up the rebounding totals for this one. It seems like BC has the edge.

0:30: Nolan Smith is awesome. He hits a beautiful floating runner in the lane. BC holding for the last shot. Then he commits a dumb foul on the other end.

0:06: ESPN has Duke leading 23-18 on the boards. Mr. October hits two for BC, and Duke calls timeout, up 3 and with the ball. Time for some Nostradamus action: Scheyer dribbles left, fakes a pass, passes back to a big man on the right, who then hits Singler coming off a pick on the baseline. Singler attempts a three from the corner as time expires.

HALFTIME: Nope. They had to go the full length, and Nolan misses a three. I’m going to buy some GUS (Grown Up Soda). Have you guys had this? It’s amazing. Back for half #2.

19:10: Nolan Smith just had a filthy drive. I love it. I actually stood up and yelled ‘YOU NASTY, KID!’ in a voice and dialect that can only be described as very embarrassing. The girlfriend was not impressed.

18:13: Scheyer to Nolan. I don’t care how many times I say that, it will never be enough. Timeout BC. 44-35.

17:30: Alley-oop from Smith to Singler, and the DUKIES ARE RUNNING!!!!

17:25: If BC could hit anything from 3, they’d be dangerous. Their offense seems to keep producing open looks, but nothing falls.

17:08: Actually, just checked ESPN and both teams are 1-7 from downtown. Singler just got a technical…not sure what happened there, and the announcers aren’t either. Bob Knight hasn’t done anything but mumble in about three minutes. Lucky for him, he’s got that savvy old man mumble going on.

16:46: Beautiful pull up by Scheyer, and then Smith to Singler on a fast break. And then Singler COAST TO COAST! Sweet up and under lay-up, and Al Singer is forced to take a TO…Cameron is rabid. Hopefully this is the game that springs him loose.

15:44: Intentional on BC as an Eagle absolutely destroys Smith on an alley-oop attempt. This fast-break offense needs to stay permanently. The discipline, poise, and speed of the guards is a perfect fit for a running game, especially at home. I love what I’m seeing. This is JOYOUS, my friends!

I’m also eating some really awesome pizza. Sausage, green peppers, mushrooms. Unbelievable. It probably has something to do with the fact that Duke is leading by 15. I guarantee no BC fans are eating pizza this good.

15:44: Smith has 16 already. Singler with 13, Scheyer 8.

15:30: Threes just aren’t falling for us today. Or against Georgia Tech. I hate when this happens, because it’s so dependent on momentum, and against a better team it just makes things really, really hard. If we’d even hit 30% against Tech, that’s our game.

15:01: Plumdog Billionaire looks like his brother in the post, getting stuffed twice. Then he did that thing where you get really pissed off about getting stuffed and start playing over-zealous defense, and make things worse by drawing a foul. The ultimate shitty sequence for a basketball player.

13:45: He’s been great all year, otherwise I’d call this a coming out performance for Nolan. The amount of body control he has in the lane is just astounding. He deserves comparison to Henderson; his athleticism isn’t quite there, but his basketball skill has surpassed him at this point.

13:15: Reggie Jackson’s headband makes a baseline jumper.


12:24: Nolan is just unconscious. Bob Knight actually clapped on air for his shot fake. And what’s best about this is he looks like a friggin’ warrior out there.

11:00: This is the basketball equivalent of ‘seeing dead red.’ Smith just drove baseline and prepared for an out of control shot, but he’s been so damn good that the defender came over and fouled the shit out of him in a spot that was basically behind the basket. Both foul shots down. Duke by 20.

10:00: Scheyer, on the other hand, is ice cold.

9:45: With BC on the line, the Dukies are doing the intense humping motion, which was always my favorite distraction. Combined with weird moaning, it has to faze the shooter. Has to.

8:55: Admission: Plumdog Billionaire is a step slow. I’m starting to doubt whether he’s a legitimate future ‘star.’

8:13: It’s always sort of embarrassing to me when Zoubek takes a charge. It’d be like a tennis player with a killer serve dinking one underhanded. It’s just not cool. Play some defense. Maybe I need to start accepting this.

6:58: Texas is losing to Iowa State. I hope that holds. We need to end this “Texas is #1 in the country” nonsense.

6:17: Singler looks like crap on the perimeter. Until proven otherwise, he’s only an offense weapon on the break. His jump shot is just awful. No rhythm, barely any arc. Just flat and ugly.

5:00: Up and under for one final treat from Nolan. He’s got 24, which is tied for his career high. Duke by a lot.

4:35: Knight advocating for more PT for Dawkins, and I completely agree. If Coach K keeps him riding the pine like this, he’ll regret it big time when we don’t have that extra reliable guard off the bench later. Foresight, please.

3:44: This is the part of the game where BC, easily the dirtiest team in the ACC, generally gets chippy. We’ve already seen some hard fouls, and Singler just took a wild slap on the shoulder. Time to pull the starters, Mike.

3:44: This UNC-Clemson game should be very interesting, as should the UNC-Georgia Tech game on Saturday. Duke handled the former easily, and struggled on the road to the Yellow Jackets. Obviously, you can’t use the transitive property in college basketball, but it will give us an idea of the relative strength of the top ACC teams.

3:39: All starters still in, and Singler takes another wack.

2:50: Wow, Georgia Tech is about to go down to UVA on the road. Is there going to be a lot of parity in the ACC all year? Will every road game be hard?

2:29: Scrubs are in, so I’m going to give some final thoughts and then take a quick break before UNC-Clemson.

*Nolan Smith is awesome. A deserving player of the game with 24 points on 9-14 from the field, and 3 steals.

*Scheyer had a quiet game, but he was there when we needed a big basket. He has to regain his form from 3.

*Singler ran the floor well, but it seems like he’s got nothing for us out of the halfcourt set. This is highly disappointing.

*The big man story isn’t any more encouraging. We controlled the boards, a nice change from the Tech game, but there’s not even a glimmer of offensive production from the post. Mason Plumlee isn’t an option at this point, and it would be a miracle if he developed into a threat this year. Miles is a grinder, but not big or athletic enough to matter. Zou-Wreck is awkward on O, and solid on D, and Lance Thomas is our best inside defender, but without an ounce of offense. Singler is the key here, and his failure to bridge the gap between inside and outside with steady scoring is hurting us.

*On the bench, Scheyer is laughing it up with his teammates. Great to see. A selfish player would be sulking about his play. Schey seems happy for the team success.

*Another great night for team defense. As the buzzer sounds, BC could only muster 24 points in the second half.

*Overall, a great rebound from the road loss in Atlanta. We’ve got unranked Wake on Sunday night at home before traveling to State on Wednesday.



How do you like my new catch phrase? Clemson has an early 14-6 lead, and the crowd at Littlejohn is incredibly energized. It’s actually kinda fun to watch UNC deal with the ACC road phenomenon. Nothing is easy. And Clemson is still ranked. I’m a little skewed on how good they might be by the beat-down Duke dealt out last week. But judging by one game is foolish, and I am no man’s fool.

15:32: Who is Littlejohn? How do I not know this yet? Wikipedia says there are many Littlejohns, most of them British. But Google says the man in question is James Littlejohn, the school’s first business manager, who had a hand in a lot of the construction on campus. So there ya go.

Jesus, 22-8 Clemson. Make that 24-8 as Booker the Elder slams one down on the fast break. UNC is looking a lot like they looked when they got owned by Syracuse at MSG earlier this year. But Stitt has two fouls, which is the only bright spot for the Heels.

27-10. This is scaring the shit out of me for next Saturday’s game here. This is not the same Clemson team we saw at Cameron.

10:52: One thing I’ll say for Duke- they wouldn’t allow the pressure to get to them like this. UNC has 10 turnovers already. But I guess that’s what happens when you have a young team. Anyway, I like our chances for getting a win at Cameron this year.

9:49: Okay, it’s 35-12 Clemson, they can’t miss, UNC’s running scared, and it might already be past the point of no return. Meanwhile, I’m getting tired, the girlfriend is having trouble seeing the point in liveblogging a blowout that doesn’t even involve my team, and now UNC is missing wide open lay-ups. That’s my cue:


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Weird Poem for Jon Scheyer

A lot of you know that I hold Jon Scheyer in pretty high esteem. I won't recite his stats, but suffice it to say the dude is having a good year. So why not take my fandom to the next level? I have no other ideas for today. This is what you get. Tomorrow, live blogs of the Duke and UNC games, and then I'm off work Friday.

An Obsessive Person's Ode to Jon Scheyer

In the camps, around the fire
In cafes, where men perspire
They will know you for a liar
If you slander Jonny Scheyer

Blond and slim, with talent rife
Slicing zones just like a knife
If he marries in this life
I will surely hate his wife

Make a list of things you hate
in red ink, and if that slate
includes a certain Devil great...


A delay, my friends, to catch my air
at times, you see, poetic flair
leaves the artist weak and bare
with no vital force to spare!

Thankfully, a lack of verve
shall never plague a single nerve
of wond'rous Jonathan, observe:
he has moxie in reserve.

The healing touch of Saint Theresa
the eerie grin of Mona Lisa
the stance, askew, of Torre Pisa:
none shall match the pure mystic grace of my hero Jon Scheyer


A joke! Relax, you frightened scholar
You're right! My meter went to squalor.
(And yet, for but a paper dollar
I'd wring you by your Windsor collar)

But let us not our past lament
lest our errors we augment
My subject, aye! I catch the scent
Scheyer: Son of Firmament

Have you seen the bright blue eyes?
The swatting arms when he denies?
The roaring cheers, the female sighs?
The world will crumble when he dies

And from the ashes, angel wings
shall spread, and when the creature sings:
Wreaths of fire, sacred stings!
The end of days, the death of kings!

(Yesterday, I ate a snack
of cornflakes in my clapboard shack
and patterned in the milk, alack!
The face of Scheyer, staring back!)

It may be years before we fall
but though we fret, delay, and stall,
none shall ever hold our thrall
like Scheyer, Duke of Basketball!

(If any post will ever get me arrested, deported, or just restraining-ordered, it's this one. Or this one. Or this one. Anyway, please take this as a joke. See you tomorrow.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Still Say McGwire's Clean

Gonna be a quick one today, as the morning's getting busy. Asterisks, everyone's favorite.

*Mark McGwire officially admitted his use of performance enhancing drugs in an interview with Bob Costas on MLBTV yesterday. Obviously, this surprises no one. It's very easy to vilify him, but there's something important to remember: he just happened to be the dude that hit 70 home runs.

When I say that, I don't mean to excuse his cheating. He took the pills, or injected the juice, or whatever. He made that choice, and now he'll never be in the Hall of Fame, and his legacy is forever tarnished. Deservedly so. But there's this disturbing trend on the part of sports fans to make McGwire the ultimate bad guy, and what I'm saying is, he's just one of hundreds, maybe thousands. He's part of a trend of players who didn't have quite enough character to make the right choice. It just so happens that he's the dude who hit 70 home runs in a legendary year and got called before congress and had a national profile. But he's no more culpable than Morgan Castellano, a dude I just made up who took steroids in the minor leagues but could never hit a curve ball and was a liability in the field and thus couldn't advance beyond Double A.

So take it easy on Big Mark. At the very least, something in his brain compelled him to come clean yesterday. He didn't have to. Cynics will say it's a last-ditch effort to reverse his image and garner more HOF votes (since his first year of eligibility in 2007, he hasn't even come close). But I don't buy it; I think he's resigned himself to missing out on Cooperstown, and the confession came about because he legitimately wanted to lighten his pesonal burden. Does it excuse his PED use? I guess not. He was dumb and young and made a mistake that will never stop costing him. But he's also not a super-villain. He's a product. As pathetic or contrived or blame-shirking as it may have seemed when he wept to Costas and said "I wish I'd never played in the steroids era," you can't deny the hint of truth. He wasn't strong enough to be anything other than a man of the times.

*Pete Carroll is gone from USC. This is a very sad day. I don't doubt that he'll bring his same verve and ability to the Seahawks, but I'm pretty convinced that his approach is more effective with college kids than professionals. I'm ready to be surprised, but losing his personality on the college level is a big blow for fans, and not just Trojan fans. He always seemed like the anti-coach to me; instead of being a rigid, militaristic guy with a buzz cut or a fat slovenly-looking tyrant, he was positive, happy, and loose. Among all college coaches, he's the guy I'd want to play for (if he ever decided to coach pick-up games in Brooklyn parks on Sunday). Really, his individuality is comparable only to a few other D-1 coaches. Bobby Bowden comes to mind, but he's on the way out too. Maybe Chris Petersen from Boise State, though I don't know quite as much about him. But Carroll is somehow meant to be in charge of young men, and I worry that he's not as perfectly suited to the NFL.

Anyway, the overused phrase 'end of an era' definitely applies to this situation. He turned USC into a machine, and along with Urban Meyer became the most successful coach in the game. If you have some free time, this is a great 2007 profile on Carroll from the LA Times. I'll miss his passion, and the Seahawks just became my second-favorite NFL team.

*That's all for today, I think. Oh, but mark my words: Kentucky loses their first game tonight by about 15 on the road at Florida. And you thought I was done with predictions! And speaking of college bball, I think a live blog is in order for Wednesday night...Duke-BC at 7, and UNC-Clemson at 9...time to get real.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Done Predicting Anything, Including Sunrises

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.