Monday, February 7, 2011

The Showdown in Cameron

It's coming, guys. It's really coming, and it's going to be good. I swear, I'm going to talk a lot about Duke-UNC in just a second. But first...


Don't worry, I feel like a douchebag for talking about this. I really do. I wish I had that thing inside my brain that says, "Shane, every idiot and their mother has already expressed their opinion on this topic. In fact, at least some of these opinions will be exactly identical to the opinion you're about to express. Nobody gives a fuck what you think."

But I don't have that thing. Whatever that thing is, it skipped my particular brain.

So, Groupon. Maybe you're one of the people who has no idea what I'm talking about. If that's the case, Groupon is a company that gives out group coupons (have you unraveled the puzzle of the name now?) to restaurants, or something. Last night, they aired this Super Bowl commercial:

Now, before I get on my pedestal, let me quickly review the arguments- or justifications, rather- that I've heard.

1) It's hilarious.
2) It's not hilarious, but it's brilliant because everybody's talking about it.

I am not a hippy, or a granola, or a world peace fanatic. I'm on the liberal end of the spectrum, but I'm really not very good about caring about causes I'm supposed to care about. The sum total of the money I've given to Tibet or organizations supporting Tibet, lifetime, is zero dollars and zero cents. So maybe this next rant will make you think I'm a hypocrite. That's fair warning.

But sweet Jesus, what a scumbag commercial. Sorry to shit in the brilliant-advertising punch bowl, but here are the facts about Tibet: since China, a really fucking evil country, began to occupy them in 1949, over a million Tibetans have died. They also imprison and torture Tibetans routinely, and they've destroyed over 6,000 monasteries and temples.

And Groupon decided to use their suffering as an easy joke for publicity. A really easy, bad joke. I mean, not giving a shit is one thing, and I'm pretty guilty of that in the long view. But they really embraced the shittiness of indifference, and sent out the very ugly-American message that it's okay to laugh at the decimation of an entire culture. Hey, we're saving a couple bucks on food. Capitalism!

"But they still whip up an amazing fish curry."

Seriously? And the really sad part about this is that Christopher Guest directed it. I like him, and in a perfect fan world he would have said no to this crap. There's also a bullshit blog post post from company headquarters trying to explain the ads as self-parody, and asking you to donate money to Tibet, but it's a total rearguard action. They did what they did for attention. It worked, so I guess in a Machiavellian sense their strategy succeeded, although I have no idea whether this will hurt or help them in a business sense. Probably help, because the world is unfair.

But the central theme of the whole thing is the point: it's normal, bright, and even funny to remain blissfully unaware of suffering outside America. Just get your $15 discount and enjoy guilt-free dining. There's an element of that kind of selfishness in Larry David's work, but the whole point of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm is to parody that me-first American obliviousness. The humor comes from recognizing the moral vacuum. The Groupon ads have all the amorality, and none of the parody.

Anyway, the whole thing gave me a bad feeling deep in the gut. And I hope everyone who reads knows by now that I'll go to almost any lengths for a cheap laugh, including self-humiliation, so I'm not a particularly sensitive dude. But if a line exists, and it probably should, this one crossed it.


Hey real quick, how about that halftime show? Was that not the biggest piece of shit ever conceived? I had exactly one friend tell me he liked it, but I couldn't stop laughing at how horrible the whole thing was. The sound quality was poor, the songs sucked, and the kicker was when a bunch of people showed up on stage with boxes on their heads. I mean, seriously, that was the worst performance by a group of humans in world history, right?


And with that, I swear I'm off the pedestal and soap-box and everything else I piled up to give myself some artificial height.

Let's talk basketball. Please.

How about that first half for Duke? N.C. State is in the midst of a really sad plummet that will probably end with the firing of Sidney Lowe, but I don't care how about they are; Duke would have run any team in America off the court with that kind of play. It. Was. Beautiful.

Starting at 14:07, and lasting until 2:12, Duke went on a 41-13 run that represents the best basketball we've seen from the team all year. Including, I dare say, the part that included Kyrie. It was sensational, flowing basketball, full of running and great shooting and smothering defense. By the end, State looked like they'd rather be anywhere but on that court. It was a glorious pummeling. A great sign of how amazing we played is that I, and several others, actually felt sorry for N.C. State. I rarely pity an opponent, but Duke was so good, and the Wolfpack looked so downtrodden, that I experienced a slight twinge of sympathy. We beat them without mercy, and at some point, like a boxer taking one too many hard shots in the gut, they just crumpled.

There were so many highlights, but the best part for me was Seth Curry's long pass to Mason for the jam. You can see it here, it's the #1 play:

What a picture perfect pass. Seth has vision in spades, along with a sense of the moment, and he's starting to show it with some of these great passes, killer threes, and excellent defensive anticipation. (And since it's apparently turd-in-the-punch-bowl-day for me, I will admit: he double dribbled right before pass.)

As usual, the interviews in that video are awesome. Mason even comes out with some humor at the 2:45 mark.

Mason: Um. Four 3s from the shooters on the night. That's pretty good. Dropping treys like bad waiters.

Seth: That was good. That was good. He was saving that one.

Mason: I can't make it like, smooth, or flow, I just have to get it out.

And the Mase had his second straight very good game. With a 16-point, 12-board double-double, he controlled the inside and managed to play within himself. For the most part, anyway. He still has two really bad habits, and he shares these with Miles. They're very closely related.

1) He goes for steals way too often. This is particularly true when someone is posting up on him. He'll try to sneak around and steal the entry pass, and more often than not the offensive player will catch the ball, pivot, and put down an easy dunk. Mason is too slow to make those types of plays, and it's costing points in the pain.

2) He goes for blocks on other people's men. If someone is backing down Ryan Kelly, for example, he'll leave the other side of the paint, try to time his jump, and leap over Kelly in a block attempt. The result of this is that the other side of the paint, where his man is camped, is wide open. A good post passer will find his teammate for an easy dunk, but that's not even necessary; if the shot goes up unblocked, Mason's man is all by himself for an offensive board and put-back. This happens quite a bit.

The really frustrating part about these moves is that they're intelligence-based. If he could just control his own impulses, Mason would be well on the way to being a really effective big man for Duke. He's improving like crazy in every other area, but these mental mistakes keep happening.

The only other real negative from the game is that Duke became very, very stagnant after the great run. In the last 22 minutes of the game, N.C. State outscored us 31-25. That's some really poor offensive efficiency on our part. I attribute that mostly to the kind of boredom that sets in when you really annihilate a team, so it's probably not worth fretting about.

However: we are going to need every bit of focus, skill, and fortune to beat UNC.

There. I said it. I was on hand yesterday when the revelation hit; we could lose to this team.

Guys, they scored 89 points on Florida State. 80-fucking-9. You can read my very basic recap for Reesenews here, or you can skip it. There's no swearing, and I know this is a big swearing crowd. But the big number is 89. Florida State has let up more than 70 points exactly three times this year, with UNC-Greensoboro topping the charts at 73. You may remember Duke scoring 61, or Ohio State scoring 58. They're a really, really good defensive team, and UNC made them look silly. They broke them down completely and never looked back.

The Heels are already ranked 23rd in the AP poll, and later today they'll be ranked in the Coaches' poll for the first time a while. In my mind, this is a top 15 team, at least, by the end of the season.

I'm going to do a full player-by-player comparison tomorrow, but here's something to watch out for: Kendall Marshall is absurdly consistent. He's not a fast player. He's not dynamic, he's not quick, and he's not even a great shooter. By all rights, opposing guards should be able to pester him into turnovers. But they can't. Yesterday, he set a Carolina record for most assists in an ACC game with 16. It was the first time he'd played anything close to a full game (36 minutes), and make no mistake- it's a very good thing for Carolina that Larry Drew left. Those 15-20 minutes per game are much better used by Marshall.

And man, are the fans behind him. As I mentioned in the Reese article, he had the loudest ovation by far during starting lineups, and the crowd went nuts when he left the game. They love the guy, and rightly so; he makes the most out of his talents. He's very, very smart on the court. Ken Pomeroy has him 5th in assist rate (assists divided by made teammates' field goals while he's on the other words, what percentage of made baskets he assists on) in the entire country. And because he lacks the eye-popping natural gifts that make NBA scouts drool, he'll probably stay at UNC for 4 years. Learn to hate this man, Moody Blues:

Wednesday's game is going to be really, really tough. I'm not sure if the UNC freshmen are quite ready to get a win at Cameron, but on an off night for Duke, they're more than capable. And if the Plumlees don't play smart, we're in real trouble down low with Henson and Zeller. They both look very strong and efficient.

It's going to be awesome. No two ways about it. This is the first really meaningful Duke-UNC game in a while. Not only do both look excellent, but they'll both be ranked. They've sorted themselves out from the pack in the ACC (UNC is 7-1, Duke 8-1), and first place is on the line. If Duke wants a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament, this is pretty close to a must-win.

I am PSYCHED, guys. And I'm a little scared, which feels healthy. The short era of clear Duke dominance is already over. There's work to be done, and I want to see the Heels walk off that court as losers.

And here's one last incentive: we never lost at home last year. If we win Wednesday, we won't lose at home this year. The perfection proclamation is on the line. Protect the nest, protect the title.


  1. Protect the nest? Protect the damn house!

    PS - Welcome A. Murphy, who just announced!

  2. I was appalled at the Groupon commercial; it sickened me. I'm also glad to know someone else felt the same way. I will never support that company and I now hate Timothy Hutton!


  3. Everyone at my house had the same reaction to the groupon commercial. We don't really have boundaries for humor- everyone and everything is fair game. Everyone just exchanged looks that said "uh, I think that one crossed the line."

    What really sucks is that on saturday I bought a groupon for discounted greens fees for a nice course on the cape, and now I'm going to think about the eradication of Tibetans as I tee off. Screw Timothy Hutton, I never watched Leverage and never will.

    -Craig J.

  4. Leverage is on the black list, Craigh is right. As are all Christopher Guest movies, except any of them because they're hilarious and I can't not watch them. Craig, it's your duty to muff your first putt for Tibet. DON'T BE A DICK.


  5. And hurrah for the Murph!

  6. "The Groupon ads have all the amorality, and none of the parody."

    I always felt this way about Jenna Jameson.

  7. "The perfection proclamation is on the line."

    I told my dog this when he tried to pee on the wrong corner of the carpet last night.

  8. So, I had clicked a link that I thought would be Conan's riff on the Groupon controversy and it started with the following ad. I hadn't seen this during the Super Bowl, so I thought that this was the joke that Conan had somehow magically produced in like 24 hours.

    Turns out, I'm dumb and this was an actual other offensive Groupon ad that had run with Liz Hurley (we're buds, so I can call her Liz. I was one of the 100 that got the free Brazilian with her and made a spa day of it.)

    Anyway, in case you also missed it.