Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Just so y'all know

As mentioned last week, Seth Curry Saves Duke! will be on a summer schedule for the next two months. This means a longer post Monday, and the Pick Six on Friday. There may be more posts sprinkled in occasionally, but for the most part, probably not.

The first longer Monday post, about the many planets in the soccer solar system, is below. See you Friday.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

La La La

Post temporarily removed...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Tribute to Nolan Smith

I wrote a thing about Nolan Smith for my friends over at Ballin' is a Habit.

You can check it out here:

Saying Goodbye: Nolan Smith

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sorry, My Friends

As you may or may not be aware, depending on how often you check this here blog, I've been absent without explanation the past couple days. Sorry about that. I'm at a summer internship that's been incredibly busy (a good thing), and until tonight I didn't have the internet at my new, temporary digs.

The 'ship lasts until the end of July, and my original plan was to update at night and post in the morning. Unfortunately, it looks like that probably won't be possible, so here's the the new plan:

*2 posts per week. We'll still do the Pick Six, since it's not that complicated for me, and I'll post something of my own on Monday. Less frequency is crappy, but I'm hoping to be able to do more feature-y type pieces since I'll have some weekend time to write.

Once August rolls around, things should be back to the normal schedule. Oh, and I still intend to get the new site up and running. I swear.

Until Friday, here's a picture of an astronaut in the sea. I call it "Dude Went The Wrong Way."

Friday, May 20, 2011

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX! Volume Four, Week Two

Life is starting to get back to normal. My little mini-vacation is over, the Yankees are winning baseball games, and the comments section is full of angry people. If the world ends tomorrow, I'll go out with a nice sense of stability. (Side note: what I really love about apocalypse predictions is that the predictor always puts themselves squarely on the line; according to Harold Camping, armageddon starts tomorrow with 207 million people dying. That's a bold-as-hell call, and there's no half measures. When tomorrow ends normally with about 155,000 people dying, as usual, he will be flat-fuck wrong, and all his followers will abandon him and he'll be a laughingstock. There can be no equivocating. Which, in a way, you have to admire.)

Stability aside, holy shit dudes...holy shit. This week of Pick Six is by far the most contentious, bitter installment to date. Some folks (two, actually) have serious gripes, all joking aside, and they're letting it spill forth in the rant. I think we've embarked upon the angriest volume yet.

I'll let the internet warriors speak for themselves. Vamos.



The Friday Pick Six is an original SCSD! game where six people make six sports predictions for six weeks. Along with their picks, they're allowed and encouraged to submit a 'sound-off' on any topic, sports or otherwise. When it's all done, the winner earns great honor among the people, while the two losers are exiled in shame and the three middle finishers go to purgatory, with the chance rescue their good name up to three times. To learn more about the rules, and about the current contestants, read below:


Here's how it looks:

The Last Chance Gals (3rd attempt, win or bust): Swetha & Sabreena
Purgatory Part 1: Marc, Monty
Newcomers: Craig & Tim, Tim B., John

-Volume Four Intros
-Week One


1. Tom.
2. Mike
3. Patrick and Dylan

Current Standings

1. Swetha & Sabreena - 2
2. Monty - 2
3. Tim B. - 2
4. John - 1
5. Marc - 0
6. Craig & Tim - 0

The gents who ended with straight zeros got roped in by the Boston Temptation. The Tampa Bay Lightning ruined their day, and they ended the weekend where they began it, with zero points. S&S, Monty, and Tim B. hacked their way to 2 points apiece, but it was a low-scoring affair all around.

Time for this week's docket:

1. The Mavs and Thunder play Saturday afternoon. It's game 3, so it's in OKC. Who scores more points: Westbrook, Durant, or Nowitzki?

2. Interleague fun! There are 14 interleague series' this weekend played between Friday and Sunday. That makes 42 games total. Who wins the most, AL or NL?

3. It must be lonely being the two NL teams during interleague weekend who suffer from the league imbalance and don't get to play an AL team. This weekend, it's the Rockies and Brewers. Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez pitches Sunday, and Zack Greinke pitches for the Brew Crew on Friday. Both have ERAs above 6. Which formerly great pitcher goes deeper into his game?

4. Yanks-Mets. Who will get more hits over the 3-game series between Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes?

5. Sunday is game 3 between the Bulls and Heat in Miami. Will any individual player score more than 30 points?

6. TEMPTATION PARLAY: For 5 HUGE points, enough to catapult anyone into the lead, pick the outcome of any 5 of the following: NHL game, NBA game, or MLB series. If you attempt this and fail, you lose 3 points. Anyone who refuses to attempt the parlay loses 1 point for cowardice.

We begin, like last week, with the recent grads:

Swetha & Sabreena

First off, damn you James Harden and your refusal to see a dentist. Secondly, this is easily the most uneasy we've ever felt about our picks. With that out of the way...

1. Dallas really has to win this game, not because of that must-win garbage that analysts spew around this early in the series, but because (spoiler alert!) we have picked them in the temptation. But based on game 2, the Mavs will likely win if Durant is quiet AND the Dallas bench has a killer effort, meaning Dirk won’t have to score a whole lot of points. Also, we figure Russell Wes is going to be a little pissed at his benching and is due for a trigger-happy game. So we’re taking the dark horse. RUSSELL WESTBROOK.

2. We thought about actually looking at all of the matchups and seeing if there was some sort of imbalance between both leagues, but that proved to be kind of tedious. So because the majority of our MLB allegiances tend towards the Dodgers (who will likely get swept in their set against the White Sox, but let’s ignore that for now), we’re picking the NL. If only this actually determined home-field in the World Series instead of the damn All-Star Game. NATIONAL LEAGUE.

3. Greinke is still coming back from injury, so he’ll probably be on some sort of pitch count. And Ubaldo did make it seven innings in his last start, so here’s hoping he’s on the upswing. UBALDO JIMENEZ.

4. For how long Shane has gone on about Curtis Granderson, we were pretty shocked to learn that his batting average is only .266 this season, whereas Reyes is sitting at .322 (yes, we actually did research this time!) Smart money says Reyes, even though the Mets pitching is god awful (sorry, Tim B.) JOSE REYES.

5. Only one player has hit the 30-point mark in this series and it was, you guessed it …. Chris Bosh! But we have a good feeling that Derrick Rose will be taking his talents to South Beach and come up with 30 plus. YES.

6. We were thinking about not participating, but then figured we were probably being too conservative this early in the game. Plus, in the chance that we lose the three points, it’s not like we can’t just make them up later when Shane starts inventing new rules.

1. OKC has been awesome at the Ford Center this postseason, and we think they should win, but the Mavs seem to do better as the underdog. DALLAS in GAME 3
2. The Cubs suck. Period. RED SOX.
3. It’s about time the Yanks started winning. Right? YANKEES.
4. The record disparity between Houston and Toronto is the best of the bunch. BLUE JAYS.
5. Philly’s got the dream team of Halladay, Lee and Oswalt going. And nothing like facing a former team to get Cliff Lee back in the winning column. PHILLIES.


First of all - let me say: fuck both Ryan Palmer and Graeme McDowell.

1. He's a monster, and he's at home - and also I'm pissed off at Durant for not finishing out the last series in six, which cost me a point. So I'm gonna have to say Nowitzki. No one has an answer for him. Anywhere.

2. Well, the NL has the best team in baseball, but I'm pretty sure the AL is stronger across the board. AL.

3. Definitely Greinke. I have no idea why - other than that I don't know anyone named Ubaldo.

4. I just went on a date the other night with a girl who's a Mets fan. She was pretty cool - but I'm picking Granderson anyway.

5. Hell no. Both teams are spreading things around.

6. I'm WAY too hung over right now to pick the outcome of 5 anythings - so call me a coward.

Tim B.

What I’m picking while thankful I don’t have the same relationship with my older brothers that Craig/Tim apparently has with his/theirs:

1. Well first of all, I don’t expect Russell Westbrook to ever play the game of basketball again. He’s gonna join Greg Paulus and that dude from George Mason in the official “Eric Maynor Owned Me” Facebook group. To be fair, Paulus is in several “[Insert college basketball player] Owned Me” Facebook groups, as John can attest.

Dirk has been absurd — I’m not gonna be the one to call him “ridirkulous” — to the point where Around the Horn asked the question “How can Thunder stop Dirk?” and I thought to myself, “What would an NBA fan from the 1980s think about that hilarious, when you think about it, question?” But, Dirk has averaged 26 on the road this postseason, Durant nearly 32 at home, and the fans in OKC are gonna be rocking. Durant goes for 34+ to win this one. The game is probably a different story.

Side question: At what point in this postseason do we forgive any and all of Dirk Nowitzki’s purported clutch failings? In other words, are we still having the “Dirk is one of the 10 best ever” conversation three weeks from now if he gets to the Finals and loses to a better Heat team?

2. The American League, as always. (The NL will have a far better playoff bracket this season, though.)

3. Both these guys are gonna be fine. The Rockies have barely ever seen Greinke, and the Brewers individually have great numbers against Ubaldo, but Jimenez has had his better starts on the road, and the Milwaukee offense, while good, isn't Colorado’s. Ubaldo lasts a touch longer.

4. Jose Reyes is 0-for-17 in his career against Saturday starter A.J. Burnett, which is far and away his worst career mark against anybody in baseball. But he’s also like the coolest player ever, and I’m sick of having to defend him to people who don’t understand how awesome it is to watch Jose Reyes play baseball, and so if this question were “Who will get more hits: Jose Reyes or the entire Yankees team” I’d still be picking Jose Reyes.

Curtis Granderson is a gentleman, by the way.

5. Yes. Juwan Howard. Good thing who we pick to score 30 doesn’t matter.

6. I wouldn’t be willing to do a five-team parlay on opening weekend in the SEC this September. But like O.J., if I did do it, here’s how I would have: Heat and Mavs in their Game 3s and the Yankees, Phillies, and Blue Jays. This is just me having my cake and eating it, too. No thanks.


First of all, I have to give props where they are due: Novak Djokavic has received no love from me over the years, but he made Nadal look like a commoner out there. Nadal was usually 10 feet behind the baseline getting yanked back and forth like he was a marionette of a master puppeteer. Rafa had little answers for the Djoker. I'm pumped for the French (which I hear is being played in France this year! Quelle merveille!)

I wish I had more time to address the snobbish comments of fellow contestant “Tim B”. I think his disrespectful statements like hilarious “university” down the road in reference to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill speak for themselves and sound eerily like the tongue-in-cheek characters that our host oft parodies. Yes, that’s right, UNC is a self proclaimed "university" on par with say Phoenix University or ITT Tech, maybe? I'm glad you find it hilarious and cute that us little public schoolers dare say we went to a "university".

I used to fall for these little games and refer to Dookies and such, but have since decided that such childish games serve little purpose and end up making the writer appear immature and foolish...Now if my avatar bugs you, well, all’s fair in the sports world…I hope you like teabags! And Megan from the comments...I’m glad you find NHL hockey to have the best/most exciting playoff systems in sports, professional or collegiate. Bold statement. Yes, I’m glad you enjoy staring at a sheet of ice while trying to find a small dot artistically flung this way and that until icing is called. You are a better and more knowledgeable and discerning sports fan than I. I hope that by refraining from going to any more NHL games in my life that I free up a ticket for you at just the right moment.

You just couldn’t resist another jape at my institution of higher learning ( “I guess I shouldn't be surprised that John was not willing to put in the leg work; after all, he did go to UNC. “ ). Yes you and your fellow highborn are better than me all around...please sleep well knowing that and lower your expectations of me in the future.

1. Well the trendy pick must be Nowitzki with all the press he’s getting. Also, Durant let me down last week...hmmm...He couldn’t let me down again could he? I’m pulling a last minute switch back to the German...I say he pulls out a well sharpened dirk and slices his way to a big night.

2. I don’t know...according to Wikipedia the AL has won 1808 games versus 1652 to the NL. This 52% percentage is statistically significant (95% CI: 50.6-53.9). Additionally the AL has won for the last 7 years. So I guess I’ll go AL.

3. Tough one...pretty equal as far as the numbers are concerned...it looks like greinke has only pitched a few times this year and so may still be warming up a bit...I say Greinke surges to the innings victory

4. Reyes looks to be playing well...gotta go with him (I admit I don’t know either of these players as a very poor pro sports fan these days).

5. Tough call...obviously ‘Bron DWade and Rose could pull this off, even in a relatively close affair...however, I just think this game turns physical and ugly with points hard fought for. I say NO.

6. TEMPTATION PARLAY: I gave this one due consideration. I ended up working backwards here in order to determine a break-even point of expectation. As long as I am interpreting everything correctly, I would have to get all 5 correct in order to get 5 points, otherwise it is -3 (with -1 for a Pass on the Parlay).

I would need to be at least 25% confident that I could get all 5 correct in order for this to seem like an even bet: E(points|p=0.25)=0.25(5)+(-3)(0.75)=-1

In order to have a 25% chance of getting all 5 correct, I would need to have a 76% chance for each of the 5 picks (0.76^5=0.25)

For baseball, in order to be 76% sure of a given series, I would need to believe that my team has a 68% chance of winning each game...this is more than a 2:1 odds.
In short, this is not a temptation, but a death trap. I hope that my Duke educated brethren have the confidence it takes to take up this bet so I can (likely) gain 2 points on those that enter. I EASILY RESIST THE TEMPTATION.

Marc, aka Mr. Intrigue

My first week can be characterized as a complete victory. The trap is set, and when I come surging from behind to crush the competition everyone will be flabbergasted at my impeccable Pick Six abilities. After this week I can wholeheartedly contend that Boston is the worst place in the universe and I'm ashamed at how far it has fallen since the days of revolution.

To celebrate my time off between normal school and summer school I ate a lot of shitty food, went to bed extremely early (8 o'clock at one night) and passed out on the floor in a drunken stupor at my girlfriends apartment, in front of her parents, who I had just met for the first time earlier in the week. In the morning the father told me to take care of his daughter, but then he changed his mind and said "Actually she'll probably be taking care of you." My finest hour.

On to the sports!

1. Dirk went absolutely bonkers in the first game and Durant also had a great game. This one is hard to choose because Westbrook is such a wild card. Some days he's amazing, and other days he pulls his best Bosh impression and attempts to shoot 1-18. Furthermore Westbrook has the wonderful ability of ignoring Kevin Durant. I'm going to have to go with Durant to impress the home crowd with the most points!

2. Fuck the AL, the DH is bullshit. NL 4 lyfe homies

3. More baseball, shit. Summer sports are the worst. Yahoo says Greinke is better so I'm going with him.

4. Joses Reyes is a beast. Going with him. Plus he's just soooooooooooooo cute.

5. Yes.

6. Here it is, the temptation. I can't resist it. I have to take it. Using my advanced quantum rocketry degree I've figured out that it's mathematically in our favor to take the temptation. There's no debate to this claim. Stephen Hawkings stopped by last night for a beer and he was blown away by my analysis. In fact he even patted me on the back. In reality he ran over me with his wheelchair while laughing in that chilling autotuned voice.

Red Sox over Cubs!
OKC over Dallas on Saturday!
Vancouver over San Jose on Friday!
Braves over Angels!
Indians over Reds!

Craig & Tim

Why did I eat Hot Fries immediately before bed? Maybe I'll luck out and have a dream about picking at my teeth with my tongue. Oh....hello. Tim here (not to be confused with Tim-2, / Tim-B, / Tim-Danny-Devito-From-The-Movie-Twins). I'm going to skip the BS and re-emphasize the fact that despite the rough start, we sneeze God particles. I'd also like to make it known that your iPhone sucks, and your lack of knowledge pertaining to the United States Constitution sickens me (that about covers 95% of America, sorry if you were wrongly offended).

1. Gotta go with Durant at home here. Look for OKC to play better defense at home. 24 of Dirk's deceivingly sexy 48 points the other night were at the line and we don't see that happening again. Durant is a versatile, pure scorer. Dirk is more reliant on the jump shot. If he goes cold on the road, it could be a long night for the rabbit-toothed German. Then again, he could walk right in and fart in the Unitarian church known as the OKC Arena. Tough call, but the fact that "Kevin Durant" is an anagram for "Native Drunk" means that he's the winner this week (and yes I refer to Native using the fire-water drinking version of the term).

2. The National League is just...there. I mean I'm a big baseball guy so I appreciate the National League; I respect their devotion to the hitting pitcher, I like the small market club as much as the next guy, but the whole league just kinda sucks. The AL has a record of 1806 and 1652 vs the NL in interleague play, and I don't expect anything different this weekend. AL takes it.

3. On the one hand you have Greinke, who hasn't gotten past 6 innings yet this season...but has yet to walk more than 1 batter in a start. On the other hand, you have Ubaldo who while giving up a ton of runs/walks this year and exiting games early on a consistent basis - is coming off a 7 inning outing in which he only gave up 3 runs. We're going with Ubaldo here. I call him Jimmy, because I don't like using foreign accents.

4. Jose Reyes. And that's all Forest Gump has to say about that.

5. Yes, there will be a 30 point scorer. Too many scorers here to short change. Still disgusted with the Celtics, so I'll admit we're going through the motions on this one.

6. We refuse to attempt this parlay and will take the 1 point reduction - for intelligence, not cowardice. I've done enough sports betting (and winning) in my life to know that a 5 team parlay is the last ditch bet of a desperate loser. We will not jeopardize our Pick Six chances on a suckers bet. This next statement may come off as misogynistic (and I don't care), but I bet S&S had to jump on them interwebs and fire up Ask Jeeves to find out what a parlay was. Hopefully they get suckered in and blow it; it would serve them right for their anti-Boston rhetoric. S&S, it would not surprise me if your ignorance led you astray here and you cost yourselves 3 points. At the same time, it would be equally unsurprising if you did not take the chance....after all you have no balls. It's science.

Is that it? There's no more questions we can weave demographic-based insults into? Oh well, taking charge in the Pick Six standings will have to do.


The gauntlet done been laid. Enjoy the NBA games this weekend, and if you're bored on Sunday afternoon, check out Duke lacrosse in the quarters against Notre Dame at 2:30 on ESPN2. See you Monday.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sports Shorts

Robinson Cano Improves 15th-Inning Batting Average by 1.000 Points

With a 2-RBI double in the 15th inning against the Baltimore Orioles, Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano sent his career 15th-inning batting average skyrocketing from .000 to 1.000, a record-tying turnaround.

"It feels good to have the monkey off my back," said Cano, who hails from the Dominican Republic. "I am now the best 15th-inning hitter in baseball, and nobody can take that away from me."

After the game, his Yankee teammates mobbed him by the dugout, fully aware of Cano's woeful numbers in the 6th extra inning.

"I'm really happy for Robbie," said right fielder Nick Swisher. "You never like to admit it, but it was certainly on his mind. That can weigh on you, as a person and a player." Swisher, who was replaced for defensive purposes in the 9th inning, could be seen weeping as the game continued into extra innings, well aware that he was missing his chance at history.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi expressed cautious optimism about Cano's feat. "It's certainly a step in the right direction," he said. "But Robbie has to realize he can't rest on his laurels. When you look at the numbers, there's a lot of work left to be done. He's still batting .000 in innings 16-47, and I know he expects more of himself than that."

Joel Anthony, NBA's Best Player, Leads Heat to Game 2 Victory

The Miami Heat have evened their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Chicago Bulls at one game apiece behind the efforts of Joel Anthony, the best player in the NBA.

Anthony, the team's star center, held the Bulls to a playoff low 75 points, including just 10 in the fourth quarter.

"It was a great night," Anthony said. "Anytime I can personally hold Derrick Rose to just 7-23 shooting, I know I have a good chance to win the game."

Playing before a hostile crowd at Chicago's United Center, Anthony was unfazed. He limited Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng to a combined 20 points, gave the team a spark through reserve forward Udonis Haslem, and prevented Bulls sharpshooter Kyle Korver to just one three in five chances.

"You can measure greatness in so many ways," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, "but true excellence means elevating your teammates. Tonight, we saw Joel inspire LeBron and Dwyane to score 53 combined points, and those are the little things that make the difference."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau agreed. "Joel Anthony was just too much tonight," he said. "Some of the stuff he had LeBron doing at the end of the game...we just couldn't handle it."

Anthony, who wears a bright purple jersey that says "The Best!" in neon green letters, grabbed 2 rebounds and scored 0 points in 22 minutes of action.

For 110th Straight Time, French Open to be Held in France

Satellite photographs taken yesterday above the Stade Roland Garros in Paris indicate that this year's French Open will once again be played in France.

The photos, taken from a distance of more than 4,000 feet, show workers preparing the many clay courts for what appears to be a tennis tournament. With the French Open set to begin this Sunday, it's all but assured that the timing is not coincidental.

"The French Open has been played at Roland Garros since 1928," said French tennis expert Gilbert L'Estrade. "It's important not to make any assumptions, but these photographs seem to be showing that in 2011, nothing has changed."

Fury quickly spread around the tennis world.

"It's a bloody disgrace," said Liam Holder, the head of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, which has held the Wimbledon tournament since 1877. "The unforgiving regionalism and prejudice of the French has reared its ugly head again."

Others shrugged off the news.

"Yes, it would be nice to have the tournament in a different country," said defending champion Rafael Nadal. "But these things are complicated, and we must give them time."

Many experts thought the French Tennis Association would take notice of the example set by the Madrid Open, which held its tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa this year. But FTA prime minister Francoise Lambert remained steadfast.

"The French Open will forever be in France," he said before an raucous crowd of nationalists. "And beginning in 2014, it shall be open only to French players."

ESPN.com Can't Find Score for Last Night's Sharks-Canucks Game

As of 10am eastern time, ESPN.com's NHL division still could not get a score for last night's western conference finals match-up between the San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks.

The game, held in Vancouver, is thought to have ended sometime last night around 10pm eastern time. In the twelve hours since, desperate phone calls and e-mails have gone unanswered as executives try desperately to find the result.

"We don't really know anybody in Vancouver," said NHL Division Chief Thomas Stuart. "One of our interns had a friend who moved there a couple months ago, but the kid turned out to be a total hippie who had no idea about hockey, and none of his friends could help us either."

After exhausting their personal connections and finding themselves no closer to the score, ESPN workers attempted to contact local newspapers.

"It was awful," said marketing coordinator Jim Erickson. "I was screaming out, 'does anyone know of a fucking newspaper in Vancouver??!' We couldn't even scratch the surface."

"Nobody even really knew where San Jose was located," said second-year administrative assistant Bethany Little. "I mean, is it in Oregon? Canada? We may never know."

ESPN staff was unable to remember any player or coach's name from either team, and the entire department deleted all NHL contact info from their cell phones last November. "We thought they'd call us if something important was happening," said Erickson.

One ESPN vice president had saved Mario Lemieux's phone number from the 90s, but all calls went straight to voicemail. Later, a staffer was able to use 411 to find the number of the arena in Vancouver. Earlier this morning, someone answered the line, but through the scratchy connection it became apparent that it was a representative from a beauty pageant scheduled to be held in the arena later this afternoon. The woman had no idea about a hockey game.

At approximately 9:30am, ESPN writers were ordered to post a fake story about last night's game with a fabricated score and story based on rosters found on a rudimentary fan website. According to the fictional account, which is accompanied by streaming video from a 1997 game, Vancouver scored 4 goals in the 3rd period to win 7-3.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Duke Can't Spell: Why UNC is Trouncing us on the Recruiting Trail

This was a hard one to read.

Deadspin reported, wrongly, according to some, that PJ Hairston officially announced that he'll be attending UNC.* The kinda sad part of that story is that the recruiting letters Hairston got from Duke spelled his name wrong. The really sad part is that his decision to go elsewhere came about because he thought of the Blue Devil system as 'mechanical.'

Which, you know...he ain't wrong.

It would be hard to argue that Duke has a free-flowing system, especially when compared to UNC. We're not exactly some fundamental Indiana high school squad from 1951, but we're a far cry from 'loose.' Hairston is somewhere 6'4" and 6'6", depending on who you ask, and you can see some highlights here.

The question becomes: did he make the right choice? If you were a swingman like Hairston, someone who could shoot and penetrate, would you rather play for Coach K or Roy Williams? There haven't been a ton of Dukies lately who resemble Hairston. We've had shooters, like Redick, who use the regimented system to come off pick after pick and get their points on shots. We've had players like Nolan this year, who thrived when given the freedom of the point guard position but looked like a flickering shadow of himself when subjected to the restrictions of the 2-guard slot.

But really, who was our last great non-point guard slasher? Please don't tell me Singler. Scheyer doesn't fit the bill, even before he was point. I guess you could argue Gerald Henderson, but he never seemed like he was at ease within the system and his performances were hugely inconsistent. Before that, maybe Deng? If I'm missing someone, let me know, but none are springing to mind at the moment.

What I'm saying is, Hairston probably made the right decision. And if that's true, it's just another example of Roy having a recruiting leg up on the Devils. We already know Duke can't land a big man; why would any promising center go to Durham with the track record they've established over the last decade? Good power forwards have been few and far between, and the failures of players like Shavlik Randolph are more pronounced than any success.

And it's worth taking a deeper look at Hairston's language: 'mechanical.' Is it just me, or is there a pretty obvious racial component to that word choice? Some will agree with me, and some will say I'm stretching, but I think 'mechanical' conveys whiteness. Something restricted, something militaristic, something in opposition to the free-flowing black game where players like Hairston will thrive. And whether you agree with me or not, you can absolutely bet that recruiters are exploiting that angle. Do you think Hairston spent hours studying Duke game tape, or analyzing their set offense? Maybe. But I bet words like 'mechanical' come from recruiters. That's what they whisper in his ear.

And if you're Hairston, hearing that, with your own worries about whether you'll fit in to a stifling Duke culture, maybe the misspelled name becomes a bigger deal. Maybe you see that kind of an error as an indication that Duke just sees you as a cog in a machine, that they don't care enough about your individuality to even get your name right. PJ? TJ? Makes no difference. Unless you're white or the son of an NBA star, you're nothing but a name to fill a position at Duke.

Mind you, I don't think that's true. But I do think it might be easy to convince someone like Hairston of the fact. I don't think the extreme racial perceptions of Jalen Rose persist to the same extent today, but you can bet they linger in a tamer form. Instead of "Uncle Tom," milder words like 'mechanical' are used. But the two are not unrelated, and it's clear from Duke's recruiting record that Coach K (for one reason or another) does not have a foothold in the urban black community. That reality, it seems, is half circumstance and half choice. How aggressively do we pursue those kids anymore? How much was Coach K turned off by swallowing bitter pills like William Avery?

Whatever the mix, Duke is crucially separated from a vast and rich source of basketball talent. Unfortunately, the team's style plays right into the hands of those who would exploit that image of separation. At this point, it seems like Duke's recruiting prowess is limited to excellent point guards and shooting guards.

As I've discussed before, that's good and bad. Good because the style is pretty high scoring and three-point shot heavy. Bad because it creates teams that aren't built for endurance or March success.

If you look at the overall pattern of Duke basketball since 2003, you have to see 2010 as an anomaly. The fortunate and surprising emergence of Zoubek and Thomas as ironclad enforcers underneath, along with a down year in the NCAA, created a perfect storm for a title. This past March looked a lot more like what we've come to expect from Duke, with an athletic team getting hot and sending us home early.

All of which means that we can probably count on UNC winning another title, even another two titles, before Duke breaks through again. It's impossible to predict how a season will develop, but as of now it would surprise me if UNC wasn't at least in the Final Four next season. It was wonderful watching the Dukies excel behind senior leadership this year, and the win in the ACC title game was glorious, but the truth is that was just a stepping stone for Roy and his young team. You could even call it a good loss. This time in 2012, we might see it as a crucial step in the construction of a championship team.

As we've seen, there's a delicate balance between recruiting college players who are championship caliber and recruiting guys who will stay for more than a year. You don't want to be Calipari, but you also don't want to be stuck with the Greg Pauluses of the world for four years.

Roy, you have to say, has found a way to toe that line and get the best of both worlds. What can you say about next year's Carolina team? Sure, luck is involved; you could argue that Barnes would never have stuck around if his season had started the way it ended. But now, Roy has his perfect mix of four year guys and raw talent. He found an ideal NCAA point guard in Kendall Marshall, a guy who has already proved his excellence at the college level and yet lacks the natural gifts to go early to the pros. He has the best big man tandem in the country in Zeller and Henson, two guys who complement each other's gifts, an offensive and defensive specialist. He got Barnes to return, a guy who could compete for Player of the Year. And he's got a supporting cast of returning players and fresh recruits from which, at any point, a star might emerge.

And he also seems to have perfectly bridged the racial line. He feeds the UNC dixie faithful their Hansbroughs and Zellers, but he also gets the best black players from all walks of life, and he does it while maintaining UNC's strong academic reputation. He's halfway between Coach K and Calipari. Or, better yet, he's standing solidly atop the mountain while those rivals are trying to scramble up the rocky slopes on either side.

Which is why it was so comical to hear UNC fans sound their negativity this season. I know there's never supposed to be a rebuilding year at Carolina, and I know the negative feelings from 2009 were still fresh, but the lack of perspective was still surprising. I wonder if they'd rather have a program like Duke, with its sustained medioxcellence- a new word I just invented to classify a program that is always nominally among the elite yet requires extraordinary circumstances to compete for a title- rather than a team that obeys a natural ebb and flow, riding waves of talent, floundering a bit in the low tide days but finding themselves positioned for a championship at least every three years.

Meanwhile, what do we see for Duke's future? Second in the ACC next season is probably a good bet. Austin Rivers will be the star, and he'll shoot a lot and score a lot of points in some games. Carolina will probably beat us both times during the regular season. Maybe the Heels will lose early in the ACC tournament and we'll win that. Then, in the second round or the Sweet 16, Rivers will go cold for a game and some athletic team will absolutely expose us underneath, and we'll be gone. And we'll sit at home and watch UNC win another title.

Maybe that's how it'll go, and maybe not. But the critical point here is that we expect it play out like that. At least if we're paying attention.

In today's ACC, it's Carolina's world. And Hairston's saga gives us insight into the perception of all the stars that will come into the college game in the near future. Duke is 'mechanical.' Duke is rigid. Duke is, when you get down to it, white. Duke will not allow you the freedom of expression you need to become a top draft pick. Duke is no place for big men, unless you want to end up in Europe or competing for playing time with goofs like the Plumlees.

"Duke is a great school," as Hairston said in a conciliatory gesture, and everybody claims to respect the program. But it's a different kind of great school, and a different kind of respectable program. There's a wide chasm that's been developing for a decade, and both sides seem increasingly accepting of the separation. But while Coach K builds the same kind of team he's built for years and suffers the same noble losses each March, Roy will be laughing all the way to the Final Four.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Ten Most Exciting Positions in Sports

One day after an Italian dude in Kansas City allowed 14 runs in a major league baseball game, I think we need some group therapy. Something to make us forget.

That something is a top 10 list- the most exciting positions in sports. Which essentially means this: if you have the ultimate player in every position, the absolute most dynamic and spine-tingling human possible, tailor-made and born to the task, which position is inherently the most exciting? Clearly, quarterback is more exciting than left tackle, and forward is more exciting than midfielder. But across sports, how do the rankings shake out?

Time for qualifications. First off, we're dealing with team sports only. There's no distinct 'position' in a sport like golf or tennis except the position of 'individual,' and the excitement level is dictated solely by the player's style. It wouldn't make sense to include a category like 'golfer' on the list. Second, I'm only including team sports I know and understand. Sorry, jai alai and gaelic football. Third, I'm eschewing sports that are limited to niche audiences. Sorry, lacrosse and field hockey and rugby.

After all the exclusions, I'm left with the following: baseball, basketball, football, soccer, hockey.

Let's get to it, and let me know your rankings in the comments.

Honorable mentions:

Soccer goalie

There are times, rare times, when a soccer goalie can bring fans to their feet with incredible performances. A few diving saves mixed with some intelligent snuff-outs mixed with overall consistency can make the keeper's presence felt. I'm thinking of Spain's Iker Casillas in the last World Cup, or Germany's Oliver Kahn in 2002. In general, though, the goal is too big for the keeper to exercise absolute control; you can only do so much if the circumstances are wrong, as Kahn learned in the '02 championship when, after allowing 1 goal in 6 matches, he watched Brazil slip two into net.

Speedy leadoff hitter/outfielder, baseball

I really went back and forth on this one. Maybe it should be on the list. Guys like Pete Rose and Rickey Henderson and Ichiro Suzuki and Kenny Lofton really are exciting, and there are many electric elements to their game. The infield hit, the bunt, the triple, the steal, scoring from first on a double, the diving catch in the outfield...there's a lot to be said for these guys. You could argue that the great ones at this position have the most baseball intelligence of any position except, possibly, catcher. They miss the list by the skin of their sharp, sharp teeth.

10. Goalie, hockey

Unlike soccer, the net in hockey is small enough that an excellent goalie can absolutely control a game. Back when I paid attention to the sport, I remember guys like Patrick Roy and the Rangers' Mike Richter dominating for 60 minutes, to the point where it felt impossible for anyone to slip one by. But the ultimate example a goalie singlehandedly determining an outcome will always be Dominik Hasek at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. In 6 games, Hasek allowed just 6 goals. The Czech Republic lost just 1 game, in the group stages against Russia, and they avenged that defeat with a 1-0 win in the gold medal game. The highlight of Hasek's dominance, though, came in the shootout against Canada in the semifinals. The whole video below is worth watching, but the action starts at 4:00. "Is anyone going to beat this goaltender??"

9. Center, basketball

I can't help but be reminded of our discussion about flow a few days ago in this space. A center is naturally a bit slower and perhaps more plodding than most other positions on a basketball court. But like it or not, there's something exciting about their height, and when that height is combined with great moves and great defensive prowess, an interesting kind of dynamism is birthed. We talked about Hakeem with his fluidity and grace, but even the hard brutality of a younger Shaq or the defensive dominance of Mutombo can be thrilling. It would be easy to leave this position off the list because of the myriad boring-but-effective players who have filled the center role, but as I said, this is about the best of the best.

8. Power hitter, baseball

Though Hank Aaron called the triple the most exciting play in baseball, many would disagree and give that honor to the home run. Nothing is more terrifying than watching a power hitter stroll to the plate for the enemy, and nothing is more exciting than seeing your man come up in the clutch. Ortiz still gives me nightmares, and even when he's slumping, I'm at the edge of my seat when A-Rod steps in the box. The possibility of a long ball is alternately titillating and anxiety-provoking. And when it comes to fruition, the explosion or devastation is incredible.

This was the best power hitter moment I've ever seen live. The Yanks were down 3-1 in the ninth inning to the Twins in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS. A-Rod was up with a man on base.

In some ways, that was the moment when Yankee fans knew the World Series was ours. The mystique that had been absent for a decade was back, at least for a year.

7. Forward, soccer

Messi and Pele and Maradona and Cruyff stand out as the best of the best. When these guys make a charge, you can sense the entire stadium start to buzz. The only problem is that actually scoring in soccer is damn hard, so it's still rare for their incredible brilliance to end with a goal. The genius is best experienced in highlight videos.

6. Running back, football

There are a thousand examples, and it can be exciting on a spectrum from the quick and juke-happy Barry Sanders way to the grueling, driving Ron Dayne way. Here's one of the best who most of us probably never got to see:

5. Receiver, football

This is always more pronounced in college, where the future greats can really dominate against d-backs who will never make the NFL, and when it's right, it's right. I'll never forget Randy Moss with his high green-and-white striped socks at Marshall (at least I think I remember those socks; YouTube seems to disagree), or Keyshawn Johnson in the Rose Bowl, or Chad Johnson and Houshmandzadeh killing Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

4. Pitcher, baseball

When a no-hitter or perfect game or even a 20-K performance are on the line, a baseball stadium is the most alive it will ever be in a non-playoff situation. I've mentioned this before, but the closest I came was a Chien-Ming Wang perfect game that was carried into the 8th inning before the Mariners broke it up. I get envious every time I see one go through to the end. Only twice in MLB history has a pitcher thrown a no-hitter in the postseason, and you have to consider those two of the greatest moments in sports history. Here's the end of one:

3. Point guard, basketball

I originally thought I might put this at #1, considering how exciting it is to watch Derrick Rose this postseason. And really, a case could be made. I can't remember ever having more fun at a live sporting event than watching Jason Williams play for Duke. He could do absolutely everything, and even though it might not seem possible, he brought Cameron Indoor to a new level of intensity. When a point guard can shoot, drive, and pass, he becomes pure electricity. As with the football receiver position, it's more pronounced in college since the competition is diluted, but you still see greats in the pros. Rose and Paul are the current best, with Westbrook a close third and Rondo and Williams in the running. In college, J-Will was my all-time favorite, but Ty Lawson is another recent dynamo. At their best, these guys are engines.

2. Quarterback, football

A great passing quarterback is a beautiful thing to watch. There's an aesthetic appeal about a ball slicing through the air in a tight spiral, a moving object destined to meet a larger moving object at an exact moment. The mastery of initiating that encounter makes a quarterback a type of wizard, a king of the most stressful position on earth. We could sit here all day and toss out the great names in football history, but for me, no offense or quarterback was ever as exciting as the fin-de-seicle Rams and Kurt Warner.

1. Shooting guard, basketball

In all of sports, nothing is quite as electrifying as hot shooting guard. They're the ones we remember the most, and the ones who become legendary. The greatest athlete in history played this position. It allows for unprecedented creativity, a freedom to express individual style, and the potential for hot streaks that seem to defy logic. There's nothing better.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Nadir

It's going to be a quick one today, my friends. Site design will soon begin earnest on the new home, and I hope to make the transition this week. Let's hit some quick points from the weekend.

1. I would say the Yankee organization is in its worst state since 2008. Maybe longer. After getting swept by the Red Sox and losing 5 straight, the team is now 20-18. Worse, they don't seem to have much hope. Everybody is old. Nobody, with the exception of Curtis Granderson, is hitting. The clutch hitting has been shit all year, but we survived and got off to an okay start based on a surplus of home runs. That well has dried up, and we're left with a bunch of stiffs and a whimpering offense.

The biggest stiff among them is Mark Teixeira. I'm at the point now where I wish he'd never been signed. He's hit .170 in 5 playoff series' with the Yanks, and he never, never, NEVER comes up with a big hit. The mental block in his brain is as real as the one we all perceived in A-Rod for so long.

Robinson Cano is having a terrible season. He's swinging at more bad pitches than ever, he's walking less than ever, and his average at .280 isn't good enough to make up for it. An OBP of .318 for a number 5 hitter just won't cut it. He has no plate discipline and doesn't seem eager to learn. Right now, he's Vlad Guerrero with less natural ability.

Jorge Posada is a prideful ass who should be booted from the team. When your average is the lowest in the major leagues, you should be getting on your knees and thanking your manager for batting you ninth from the bottom of your heart. I know it must be hard for him to cope with the reality of aging, but fuck, what does he expect? It was a total bush league move for him to sit out, and if I were Girardi I wouldn't play him for a week. Jorge has always been too prideful, but Saturday he gave the ultimate fuck you to the team.

Jeter is done. Period. Too old, not enough power, too many ground-outs.

Swisher is an ongoing frustration. Sometimes it seems like he's learned something from Long, and then he slumps.

A-Rod looked so amazing at the start of the year, and now he's all but useless.

Gardner and Granderson are the only offensive bright spots, particularly the latter. But it's not nearly enough. Red Sox starters owned us this weekend at home, and now they're only a game back. Tampa Bay could run away with the division. Yankee start pitching has been surprisingly effective this season, but the bats have let us down in a big way. More than anything, the team seems lifeless and ineffectual. It hasn't been fun watching them for about a month now, and I find myself wishing we were younger, more uncertain, more interesting. I'm ready for Jesus Montero. I'm ready for whoever's going to replace Jeter. I'm ready for the Teixeiras and A-Rods to finish their careers. There needs to be an infusion of new blood.

Right now, we're like Great Britain at the end of their empire. Stuffy, old, boring, and with less firepower than anyone thinks. It's time to move on. Unfortunately for the Yanks, we have too much invested in too many fading stars. This is the foreseeable future, and it stinks.

2. I love the Chicago Bulls. Other than maybe the Phoenix Suns, has there been a more exciting NBA team in the past ten years? Their style is so open and satisfying, and they're built in such a perfect way. I know I'll be accused of overreacting to one game, but I think they're going to win this series in 5. You can just seem them starting to understand their own strength. In the course of a single game, they lost their fear of Miami and went a long way to realizing the greatness that's been with them all year. Last night, it was great to see two former Dukies spearhead the effort. Boozer and Deng were phenomenal. And of course, there's Derrick Rose, the most electric man in sports.

3. Djokovic beat Nadal on clay again. Hoo boy. The drama for the French will be incredible. I'd be amazed if these two don't make the finals.

4. Great weekend for Duke sports. I saw the tennis team advance to the round of 16 with two easy wins in Durham, and I watched a quarter of the Duke lacrosse game as they beat Delaware to make the final 8. Tennis is fantastic to watch live, and lacrosse is interesting; I like it, but for some reason it makes me really miss football. Maybe it's because the two sports are similar enough to evoke the memories. I don't know. I just have the constant feeling of, 'okay, this is cool, but I wish it was football.'

5. I'm watching season 5 of Friday Night Lights in a kind of crazy binge. I'll finish the last episode today, and it's been great. Much better than season 4, and a nice series finale.

6. Dylan sent me this great video of a field runner who got away. Legendary.

That's it for today. Back in better form tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2011

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX! Volume Four, Week One

For those who didn't notice, Blogger screwed the pooch yesterday, briefly deleted my Thursday post, and permanently deleted a few comments from the last two posts. Also, I couldn't post the Pick Six until now. As always with this service, you get what you pay for.

So we can abide no more hesitations- the new class has mercury in their heels. They're rarin' to run! Also, this is by far the weirdest group of rants in the history of Pick Six, which is, to put it mildly, awesome.



Oh, that music! Goosebumps, folks! All interception returns should be set to dramatic music.

The Friday Pick Six is an original SCSD! game where six people make six sports predictions for six weeks. Along with their picks, they're allowed and encouraged to submit a 'sound-off' on any topic, sports or otherwise. When it's all done, the winner earns great honor among the people, while the two losers are exiled in shame and the three middle finishers go to purgatory, with the chance rescue their good name up to three times. To learn more about the rules, and about the current contestants, read below:


Here's how it looks:

The Last Chance Gals (3rd attempt, win or bust): Swetha & Sabreena
Purgatory Part 1: Marc, Monty
Newcomers: Craig & Tim, Tim B., John

-Volume Four Intros


1. Tom.
2. Mike
3. Patrick and Dylan

It's Week One, so there are no standings as of yet. The first docket is a true variety pack. Dig it:

1. The Internazionali BNL D'italia!

For those who haven't been paying attention to tennis, there's some real drama happening. Rafa Nadal is still #1, and still considered the king of clay, but Novak Djokovic has started the year 33-0 (second best all time), and even beat Nadal in a tense one at the final of the Madrid Open (a clay tournament) last week. Now the players are in Rome, again on clay, in the last tournament before the French Open. Who wins the men's draw on Sunday? Nadal? Djokovic? Federer? Someone else?

2. The Player's Championship! Pick two golfers, one American and one international, to finish atop the leaderboard. Everyone whose two golfers make the cut will get a point, and the person with the lowest combined score will take 2 points. If anyone's golfer wins outright, 4 points, even if they don't win lowest combined score.

3. Red Sox - Yankees. For this one, pick which team will win the 3-game set.

4. For this one, pick which Yankee pitcher (Colon, Sabathia, Garcia) allows the fewest hits. Do the same for the Red Sox (Buchholz, Beckett, Lester). If you get 1, 1 point. If you get both, 3 points.

5. What will happen in Friday's Grizz-Thunder game?

A- Memphis wins by double digits.
B- Memphis wins by single digits.
C- OKC wins by single digits.
D- OKC wins by double digits.


The Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Boston Bruins in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday. If you choose to accept the Boston temptation, you take the Bruins. If they win, you get 2 points. BUT BE WARNED: if they lose, you lose 2 points, which is a tough hit to take this early in the Pick 6.

We begin with the veterans, the graduating gals on their last legs. Take it away, dynamic duo:

Swetha & Sabreena

First, a disclaimer. It’s pretty clear that our strengths are way more tailored to fall and spring sports than summer, so we’re setting the bar low for this volume of the pick six.

1. Most likely, Nadal and Djokovic will end up in the final, and as impressive as this Djoker streak has been, it’s about time for Nadal to right the ship. Besides, Novak’s really annoying. NADAL.

2. Don’t really know anything about golf, so I guess our best odds are really just the people at the top of the leaderboard. LUCAS GLOVER AND RORY SABBATINI.

3. We hate the Red Sox and pretty much all teams from Boston, and these two teams tend to even things out. So given that the Red Sox took the first series and this one is in New York, it’s a no-brainer. YANKEES.

4. Well I googled Colon(o) and ended up reading about his questionable stem cell treatment. That makes me think his judgment is also questionable. He’s out. And Garcia kind of looks like The Rock. And The Rock has bad taste in movie roles. SABATHIA.

Who gives a shit about Boston. But I do kinda love Josh Beckett from his days with the Marlins. He’s off to a good start, and his WHIP is the best. BECKETT.

5. Aside from the end of Game 3, when OKC couldn’t buy a bucket, the Thunder have essentially controlled this series. But Memphis’s crowd is really good, and Tony Allen plays awesome defense, and this series has been so much fun that it has to go to a game 7, just like Boston and Chicago two years ago. We’re thinking Memphis wins an epic barn-burner, but then OKC comes back and kills it in Game 7. But for now, (B) MEMPHIS WINS BY SINGLE DIGITS.



First of all ... I'm just barely able to care about sports again after
the tragedy of the tournament. Very few things have made me as
unhappy, but I'm coming out of it and in to a nice fog of rage I
intend to keep going until we win again. Just be warned.

1. The Internazionali BNL D'italia!

I can't believe I'm doing it, because unlike some blog-authors, I'm not a huge Rafa fan. But I hate Djokovic even more. I mean - he just seems gross. I'm sure he smells bad, and I heard that he likes punching babies.

But- he's gonna win - because that's the way my damn world of sports is going this year. Asshole.

2. The Player's Championship is this weekend.

Wow. Golf.

Ok. First of all - it's not a sport. My overweight grandfather played two or three games of it a week while drunk. He wasn't in shape enough to play sports. Ergo - not a sport. It's a game - or an activity - or something. And really Tiger? Injury? My overweight grandfather played two or three games a week while drunk.

I have to pick people though - so I'm 100% certain that both Ryan Palmer and Graeme McDowell will win the tournament.

3. Red Sox - Yankees.

They're both on a 2-game losing streak, but the Sox are WAY worse than the Yankees this year. So I'm going to pick the Yankees - unless a group of 12 year old girls show up, in which case both teams will lose.

4. Garcia and Beckett. But that's Samuel Beckett, the dead playwright.

5. Finally - a real sport.

I REALLY want Memphis to win, because, I mean Jesus - the only reason they are good is because they have Shane Battier, and he's just willing them to win because he's that badass. However, I think Kevin Durant is tired of this series - so (C) OKC by single digits


In Baseball - Tampa Bay is on top of the division and Boston is on the bottom. I think this is telling, and for that reason I'm not rising to the bait. Tampa is going to win. They're also going to go out and run around the Boston Common afterwards all wearing mini-skirts and high-heels before grabbing some ice cream at JP Licks. They like oreo toppings... but not as much as they like sculling.

Marc, aka Mr. Intrigue

1. Mmm this is a tough one. Nadal is a baller on clay as everyone knows and Djokovic has somehow strung together an extremely impressive streak of victories. I'm not even going to consider Federer because, sadly, he's past his prime. I think Djokovic will eventually self destruct at some point and Nadal is going to take this fucker down.

2. I don't know anything about golf. I wrote about how much I hate Nascar last week and I hate golf just as much. It's a boring game, I won't even dignify it by calling it a sport. I rage whenever I talk about golf with my Dad because he claims how athletic you need to be to excel at it, then I just point to John Daly and punch him in the dick. Suck it dad. I'll just go with players I recognize so Rory Sabbitini for the international contingent, and Mark O`Meara for the Americans.

3. Supposedly the Red Sox suck this year and the Yankees probably spent 12 billion dollars to lose in 2nd round of the playoffs again. Another sport I hate. Holy shit Shane I'm starting to hate you. I suppose you don't have much choice considering sports in the summer are the most boring thing in the universe. I guess I'll pick the Yankees in this match up, not like it matters because the baseball season is 800 games long.

4. Sabathia, Beckett. Rage.

5. This series has been fantastic. Full of ups and downs (not Zach Randolph since he doesn't jump) and great shots. I think a lot of this comes down to how much Westbrook wants to ballhog and shoot terrible midrange transition jumpers. I think Memphis may be gutted after that 3-OT loss, but I think they will take Game 6. B. Memphis by Single Digits.

6. Oh I'm accepting the Boston temptation. If there's one thing everyone knows about Boston is that it's a city full of assholes. Assholes who love hockey and Kevin Garnett. I'm taking the Bruins to win this game.


1. Well as a statistician and competitive tennis player, I declare with high probability that I am the local tennis pro of Pick Six. I also commend the bold pick of tennis as the first pick of the season premier. I hope it turns out to be the hook that catches unsuspecting internet surfers, holding them entranced for the
duration. May many web hits come your way, Shane.

That said, this is a difficult assignment...like Nadal, I should be stone cold and pick not with my heart, but with the empirical evidence before me. Rafa’s last sacred ground was destroyed by the Djoker last week when he took him down on red clay in SPAIN!!! As much as it pains me, Novak is playing the best in the world right now on all surfaces...I hope that it is just everything coming together for him and that he’s not Djuicing because he is playing as a man possessed. On top of it all, Nadal is sick and who knows how his shape will be in the coming days. Can’t do it...the Djoke is on him...Nadal takes it with a classic final of heart and courage and storms into Roland Garros with all the mo. ¡Vamos Rafa! (or maybe Murray takes ND in Semis, but I’m going with Rafa). Sorry, Now I’ve run out of time...rest will be short this time!

2.Golf: Sorry guys, I’m taking the boring pick: the leader Watney. He has 5/9 top 10 finishes with a win this year and looks tough…here’s hoping the pressure doesn’t get to him. International I pick Rory Sabbatini over my original pick of Graeme McDowell.

3. BoSox or Yankees...Yankees have better record, it’s in NY...gotta go with the Yanks here.

4. Pitchers: No idea, I’ll go with Garcia for NY and Beckett for
the Mighty Mighty Bostons.

5. C- I like Durant.

6. Hockey...are there playoffs going on? I refuse to do any research here. I see Boston is a 3 seed and TB is a 5 seed. The game is in Boston. So I’m guessing that they are the favs. So maybe they have a 70% chance of winning…then by indulging the temptation I have an expected points haul of 0.7(2)+0.3(-2)=0.8 so I must do it...ok I googled something and see that someone I’ve never heard of is out for Boston...they say he’s good…well, I’m not here to puss out...I do hereby accept The Beantown Temptation!

Tim B.

First, I need to clarify one thing after the first-week introductions. While I do maintain that my goal is only to finish in third place, I am further specifying this ambition to include a distinct pecking order one through six, based off my impressions of my so-called competitors.

6. John

We all want John to finish last. But I am not prejudging John simply because he is an alumnus of that hilarious “university” down the road, but rather because John appears to enjoy playing this role of the hated competitor, which we can all agree is a little bit played out by this point, thanks to the Jets and the Heat.

5. Craig & Tim

I mean, I don't know where to begin with the problems of these two. First and foremost, of course, is that one of them is named Tim, which means I have to be Tim B., which is shall we say less than ideal. I’ve prided myself for 24 years on being the only Tim my friends knew; even when another kid named Tim showed up in my first-grade class, I wasted no time in coming up with a slick new nickname for him so I could still be the Tim. It worked.

Furthermore, they’re playing the Boston card, which only adds to their co-opting of my identity within the game. Plus, a team? Really? Call me back when you’re old enough to pick six yourself.

4. Swetha & Sabreena

They know what they did.

3. Me

I will use this brief space to inform Shane that, although he is correct on Fitzgerald having flow and Hemingway lacking it, he is totally wrong about David Foster Wallace, who is doubtlessly America’s finest novelist whose last name does not begin with the letter “F,” if not the greatest without qualification. (This isn't to say DFW has “flow,” which is a different and, in my mind, irrelevant question. J.P. Prince at Tennessee had “flow,” but he is nowhere near the caliber of the most anti-flow basketball player of all-time, Dirk Nowitzki. I just mean to say DFW is far far more than an “interesting plod.”)

2. Monty

Monty’s picture appears to come from a cricket match, and this marks him either as a man of pretentious tastes or stupid ones. It also makes me think he liked the Joseph O’Neill novel Netherland, which everyone said was almost as good as The Great Gatsby but which was, without hyperbole, 1/1000th the novel The Great Gatsby was, primarily because its narrator Hans was a somehow much more milquetoast version of Nick Carraway and its other principal Gatsby-like character, Chuck Ramkissoon, was needlessly mysterious and unexplained. (As an aside, my friend and I once got into an argument
over the greatness of The Great Gatsby, with our different judgments of the book basically deriving from his belief that Daisy Buchanan couldn’t have been worth it and mine that, at the age of 17, she definitely was.)

1. Marc, aka Mr. Intrigue

Although Marc spells his name with a “c” and has bought into popular music’s heinous bastardization of the alias, he did take the time to rant while a returning player, and his avatar includes a sentient bear. And he hates NASCAR. A worthy winner, indeed.

Oh, so there are picks, too:

1. Shane told us to wait until later in the week just in case upsets happened to Nadal, Djokovic, or Federer, which is kind of like saying, “Don’t pick Duke or UNC to win the 2012 ACC title just yet; I hear Tony Bennett’s got some strong recruits this year!” It’s pretty obvious it’s going to be a Nadal-Djokovic final, and it means more to Novak than it does to Rafa. Djokovic 7-5, 3-6, 6-4

Also, can anyone explain why tennis draws don’t pay attention to seeding? Why would No. 1 Rafa play No. 3 Federer in the semis instead of No. 4 Andy Murray? This, my friends, grinds my gears.

2. It’s interesting that the stipulation is to choose one American and one international, and I wonder if Shane did this simply because anyone paying attention to golf probably would have chosen two Europeans. The fact that almost all of the best players right now are European (Kaymer, Westwood, Donald, McIlroy, McDowell) is the second-biggest story in golf (behind Eldrick, obvs), and it will be fascinating how this evolves over the next several years, aside from Europe dominating the Ryder Cup, which will continue to suck. Save us, Rickie Fowler!

Oh, and my picks are banal: Martin Kaymer and Matt Kuchar. (I definitely would have picked Graeme McDowell if permitted two Euros.)

3. Red Sox won two of three at home, Yankees return the favor. Boston can’t win on the road outside of the AL West.

4. The insidious aspect of this question is that Sabathia will almost certainly pitch much longer than Colon and Garcia, and thus have more of an opportunity to allow additional hits. Plus, the Sox knocked around Sabathia pretty good last time around in Fenway, so I’ll go with Garcia.

For the Sox, Beckett leads the league in fewest hits per nine, but he’s already had his good start against the Yankees. Lester bounces back from a bad one in Toronto.

5. This has been a fun but not altogether well-played series, right? That’s the consensus? I can’t watch Greivis Vasquez playing important minutes without thinking about the time Tim Brando called him “the vivacious Venezuelan, from Caracas with love.” Now you can’t either. You’re welcome.

Speaking of Maryland, sad to see Gary go; such a fun foil for years, one who coached up some otherwise mediocre teams (Gilchrist’s ACC champs and Greivis’ co-champs as 4-seeds each come to mind) but also let us dominate the DC recruiting area. Turgeon may be the same: excellent in-game coach, but I wonder if his style — not too dissimilar from Bennett’s in fact — will do much to draw the DC kids to College Park.

And yeah, Memphis sends it to Game 7 with a tight 10-point Game 6 win.

6. Have any of you ever heard Jack Edwards, the Bruins’ NESN play-by-play guy known for his “Mine eyes have seen the glory” call of a US World Cup win, announce a Boston hockey game? Dude did not learn from why he was let go by ESPN. It is jarring to hear such a homer announcer call playoff games, even if they are on the local cable channel. It’s like Hawk Harrelson calling an ALCS involving the White Sox. Furthermore, hockey seems to me the sport most in need of an overhaul in how its announcers call the game. With HDTV, we can see the puck; you don’t have to pretend we’re listening to the game on radio. So drop the “Chara to Horton to Krejci” (those are three Bruins…I have no idea if they play on the same line) patter followed by the “Look at the play Bergeron makes here! Just, wow!” replay provided by the analyst, and tell me what is legitimately going on in the game on a deeper plane. (I still don’t understand the prominent hockey strategy of dumping the puck into the zone; I think 95% of the times this happens is because they’re changing lines, but there are times when it seems as if whoever flings the puck up the boards is thinking, “Yep, this is our best chance to score: an outlet pass to no one in particular.”)

This is all to say that, while Tampa’s won seven straight and Boston eight of nine, the Lightning have a goalie who’s been this far before and the Bruins don’t. Dwayne is gonna Rol-oson the Bruins in Game 1, so I’m resisting the Boston Temptation, the name of which I assume comes from a pick-up move perfected by Thomas Brady.

Craig & Tim

Let’s get serious for a moment. The past few days have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Excitement as the Bruins swept the Flyers to head to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they get a juicy matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning are the equivalent of a Mike D’Antoni-coached NBA team. Sure, they might put up be fun to watch because they put up big offensive numbers, but they’ll never win anything because they play no D. However, the joy of having the Bs make a run to the conference finals was tempered by the Celtics’ inability to play the sport basketball down the stretch against the Miami LeWades. Seeing LeBron fake cry after winning a second round playoff series was pathetic. Even more upsetting, Miami is coached by the snozzberry kid from Super Troopers and constantly looks overwhelmed/confused/tripping on mushrooms.

Speaking of the NBA Playoffs (Where David Stern making sure that Miami reaches the Finals happens!), the Celts, Lakers and Spurs were all bounced from the playoffs. Changing of the guard? Maybe. But one thing's for sure. There's gonna be some new blood atop the Pick Six Standings. Out with the old, in with the new. Here goes:

1- The Internazionali BNL D'Italia

First off, has anyone figured out exactly why professional tennis is played on three distinctly different surfaces? Other than tradition, there’s no other explanation. And “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is not a good reason to do anything. Why not play golf on clay? Or basketball on grass? It’s a mystery to everyone.

But what’s not a mystery is who is going to take this tournament. The frontrunner has to be Djokovic, who hasn’t lost this year and has beaten Rafa twice thus far. But I haven’t trusted a Serbian since World War I and I’m not about to start now. Nadal isn’t 100% and almost withdrew from the tournament before the third round. He’s more concerned with prepping for the French Open, anyways. Andy Murray is the biggest British choke artist since Lord Cornwallis- he’ll win battles but can’t win the war. We’re gonna go with Robin Soderling. The Big Swede is due. He plays well on clay (defeating Nadal at Roland Garros in 2009 and Federer in 2010). Plus, his middle name is “Bo Carl”, a pretty great middle name any way you dice it. Big serve, killer forehand. He takes Djokovic out in 3 sets today.

2. Player's Championship.

American - Ben Crane

It's tough to be laying 4 strokes right off the bat, but Ben Crane has been wining and dining Sawgrass for a couple years now, and it's about time TPC put out. Crane has finished in the top 10 at Sawgrass each of the last 2 years.

International - Martin Kaymer

Proven ability to perform under pressure and win a major tournament. Proven ability to hit fairways, which is especially important as the rough at SG thickens out later in the week.

3- Red Sox – Yankees

Red Sox. Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in blackjack. No one likes that person.

Growing up, being a Sox fan was like being the little brother who was always getting his ass kicked by an older brother (the Yankees). The older brother was bigger, stronger and more popular. he treated his younger brother with disinterested contempt and considered him an annoyance. Little bro harbored lots of smoldering resentment. Then, in 2004, it was like the little brother went to college, started lifting weights, dating the hottest girl in school, and came back home and beat up the older brother for the first time.

2007 was the college graduation. the little brother was now as big or bigger than the big brother, came home from college, beat the shit out of the big brother just for the hell of it, and stole the older brother's girlfriend.

Now they're all grown up and they don't like each other, but there's a perceived level of equality, at least to the rest of the family (MLB). It isnt true. We don't want close, tense games. We want to see the Yanks humiliated every time they step on the field. We want to kick the crap out of the Yanks every game of the year. We want them to fail.

The 2011 Sox haven't rounded into form yet. I think it starts this weekend against the Yanks.

4. Colon = No. Why? His head looks like a skin jar full of pennies.
C.ream C.heese Fatassia = Yes. Why? Because we have to pick one of these losers to win.
Garcia = No. Why? **rhetorical**

Bucholz = No. Why? Lester's too dirty to pick against.
Beckett = No. Why? Lester's too dirty to pick against.
Lester = Yes. Why? Lester's too dirty to pick against.

5- Grizzlies – Thunder

The Grizz got embarrassed the other night by Durant and Co. The Grizzlies' best players are a head case and a bearded Spaniard who looks like a 7-foot hobo. Meanwhile, the Thunder have the best pure scorer in the game in Durant, an emerging star at point guard, some Ibaka guy who only started playing hoops like 2 years ago, and a solid supporting cast. Plus, the Thunder play in Oklahoma City, where I don't believe there is anything other to do than play basketball because the entire state is a barren wasteland. The Grizz will put up a fight, but the Thunder take Game 6 by single digits.


Easiest choice of them all. B's take game one and go on to take the series. I can't wait to watch that retirement community known as Tampa try and muster up some embarrassing semblance of a legitimate fan base in fleeting support of their warm-weather NHL franchise. I guess if I had to rely on a little French jockey like St. Louis to backbone my team I'd be less than enthusiastic too. But at least I wouldn't also have emphysema. Go Bruins.


And that's it for another great week of Pick Six. Lots of highlights, but I particularly enjoyed Tim's shit-talking, Monty's repeated references to young girls, Marc punching his own dad in the penis, and Craig's use of an erotic family metaphor to explain the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. Well done, everyone.

FA Cup final happening RIGHT NOW, then it's Duke tennis, Duke lacrosse, Red-Sox Yanks! What a day. Enjoy some feel-good 60s tunes, and I will see you all Monday.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

In Praise of This Weekend

Before we begin, Carrie posed an important question late in yesterday's comments, and I think it bears exposure to a wider readership:

Which Supreme Court justice has the most flow?

I don't have the answers, folks. Maybe it's a question without answer, but I'm looking forward to the justifications. Feel free to go way back in time. If anyone says 'John Roberts,' though, I'll track you down to whatever country club restaurant you mistreat waiters at and slap you with your own khaki polo hat. Which I think is fair.


This weekend is just a sugar-sweet killer, a tiny little gem of sports the likes of which you find only in the spring season. The stars have aligned, and everything is happening at once. The great part about May and June is that it could happen again in two weeks. Let's go through the rundown, starting with a trio of local events to satisfy my bloodthirsty North Carolina base. I'll be posting a picture of the current Supreme Court justice whose personality most closely suits each sporting event, but without further context or explanation:

1 - NCAA Tennis - First and Second Round, Durham

Have you ever seen a high level college tennis match? It's almost always awesome, with a crazy amount of variety in player quality and drama that's practically inherent in the format. Real quick, a tutorial: it starts with three doubles matches, and the team who wins at least two of the three gets a point. After that, there are 6 singles matches, each worth one point. So 7 points are at stake, and the team who wins 4 points takes the match.

At a high level, the #1 singles match features players who may be low to medium level professionals some day (tennis being one of those sports where if you're really REALLY good, you typically don't play in college). It's fast, and it's awesome. The #6 singles, on the other hand, will be players you think you might be able to hang around with for a set. It won't be true (not even close), but it's fun to consider the possibility, and it's still fun to watch.

One of my best undergrad sports memories, non-basketball division, came at a Duke-UNC tennis match. The teams ended up tying 3-3, and the whole kit and caboodle came down to #6 singles, where one of my freshman dorm-mates, Pete Shults, was down a break in the third and deciding set. Everybody- fans, players, family- came to court #6 as the lights came on. Shults broke back and eventually took the set 7-5. His teammates stormed the court, we went a little nutty, and I was hooked into college tennis.

The only match I've seen this year was a regular season ACC showdown between Duke and UNC. Duke was up 3-2 and in the lead in both extant matches. I wandered down to #5 singles, and with the encouragement of the UNC fans, their player turned it around in the third set and won. The match came down to #1 singles, and UNC took that too for a dramatic 4-3 win. Theoretically, I should have just enjoyed the match and not cared who won. I go to both schools, and it's not like this is basketball. But I'll admit: I was a little annoyed that Duke didn't win, and was glad to see they beat UNC 4-0 in the ACC championship.

Okay, I've written possibly too much about college tennis. Here's the point: Duke hosts the first and second rounds this Friday and Saturday. At 1pm, the Dukies take on George Washington, and on Saturday at 3pm, they'll face the winner of Maryland-Michigan (who play at 10am Friday). I'm definitely heading over for at least the 1pm match Friday. If you go, say hey. I'll be the guy wearing the giant Uncle Sam hat and loudly berating anyone who looks foreign, because I'm stilled fired up about bin Laden and some things are more important than sports.

2 - NCAA Lacrosse, Sweet 16, Durham and Chapel Hill

This is another sweet spectator sport, and this weekend Duke and UNC are each hosting a Sweet 16 NCAA tourney game. You can see the bracket here.

A - Duke vs. Delaware, Saturday, 5pm. Duke is ranked 5th in the tournament, and they just lost 11-9 to Maryland in the ACC tournament championship. This will be a fun 1-2 punch with the 3pm tennis match, though there will probably be some unfortunate overlap.

B - UNC vs. Maryland, Sunday, 1pm. The Terps beat UNC 7-6 in the semifinals of that same ACC tourney, but UNC came back in the next game to beat third-ranked Notre Dame at home.

Again, I will at both of these, and it will be awesome. After looking at these match-ups, is it sad that my main reaction is, 'man, I hope Maryland loses.'?

3 - Yanks vs. Red Sox, The Bronx

Yankee Stadium. Buchholz-Colon, Beckett-Sabathia, and Lester-Garcia.

For a while it seemed like Boston was righting their ship, but they've stagnated recently and remain 3 games under .500. It turned out that Tampa Bay was the team with the true false beginning; the Rays are now tied with the Yanks atop the AL East. A sweep in Yankee Stadium by the Red Sox would put them at 20-20 on the year, and possibly spur them to greater heights.

Needless to say, that would be annoying. For an early series, I don't think it's a stretch to call this one 'important.' It wouldn't be a death blow if we took 2 of 3 or swept, but it would slightly cripple the Sox. If we can't win, we should definitely consider a strategy I've been advocating for years but which Yankee management studiously ignores- attacking Josh Beckett with a baseball bat.

4 - Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Rome

This is a tennis tournament, and you can see the bracket here. Normally I would not direct your attention to a non-major tennis tournament. I know how valuable your time is, and I'm not the kind of fellow to waste it. But we got some drama, gang.

Rafa Nadal is still #1, and still considered the king of clay, but Novak Djokovic has started the year 33-0 (second best all time), and even beat Nadal in a tense final at the final of the Madrid Open last week. ON CLAY. However, Nadal did make this shot:

Now the players are in Rome, again on clay, in the last tournament before the French Open. Who's going to win the men's draw on Sunday? Nadal? Djokovic? Federer? Someone else? The final will be well worth watching.

And I'll just say this: I can take many disappointments as a fan and human being. But Djokovic beating Nadal at the French Open? That would destroy me. It can't happen. Am I terrified? Yes. This sumbitch can't lose. And this quote from Rafa after the Madrid final was particularly soul crushing:

While Nadal holds a healthy advantage over Djokovic in the world rankings, the Spaniard said it's only a matter of time before Djokovic takes over the No. 1 spot if he keeps playing like this.

"The No. 1 ranking is not in danger -- it's finished. Let's not lie to ourselves, that's the reality," Nadal said. "Nobody likes to lose. I have to see what's missing and working with a cool, open mind to decipher things and find the solutions. To try to do a little better next time."

5 - The Player's Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

This past week, I've been taking up golf and loving it. I played a par-3 course on Monday and managed to shoot an 87, which is kind of bad but not terrible. I had several very good holes, though, and even came close to making a birdie once. There is very little more satisfying, at least in the beginning, than a precise iron shot. I'm not saying I'd take a glorious 5-iron over great sex or anything, but...I would take a glorious 5-iron over great sex.

Anyway, actually playing golf, I've found, makes me more likely to watch it. I sat through like an hour of a playoff between Lucas Glover and some other guy last Sunday, which is pretty unprecedented. The Player's Championship is called the 5th major by some folks (FDR was the first, I think), and it's cool because it has an island green on the 17th hole. They have to take the players out in little rowboats after their shot.

That's actually not true, I don't think, but it is basically an island hole, and it sets up some good drama. Could be fun to watch come the weekend.

6 - Thunder-Grizz, Friday, Memphis

I was too much of a tired old man to stay up for the entirety of game 4 at Memphis, when the Thunder had an incredible comeback to save their playoff lives in overtime. After the start of the game, I'd somewhat written OKC off. They blew a very important game 3 because Westbrook went into crazy egotistical ballhog mode, Durant got super passive, and the Memphis crowd did its job. When it looked like Game 4 was a bust too, I figured the Grizzlies would win in 6. Then the incredible gritty-gutty-scrappy win, and last night the Thunder defended at home with ease to take a 3-2 lead. I do not see them losing this series now, but I still think Game 6 will be pretty great. Can Memphis hold serve at home and at least give itself a chance in Game 7? Will Durant and Westbrook go in for the kill?

7 - Possible Bulls-Heat, Game 1, Sunday, Chicago

I'm pretty sure this would happen if the Bulls win in Atlanta tonight. It's fairly clear to everyone involved that Chicago is better than the Hawks, so hopefully it all ends tonight rather than dragging things out to a Game 7 in Chicago.

Anyway, the Bulls-Heat series is going to be spectacular. I'm so excited that I think I'll write a preview next week, which is a presumptuous move since my knowledge about these teams, or the NBA in general, couldn't fill a thimble. But here's the great angle for the series: it's a team who went through a fairly normal evolution (Bulls), with young guys who gelled over a couple years and gradually improved until they became legitimate title contenders, against a manufactured team (Heat), constructed to be instantly great and defy the usual progression. Fascinating.

I gave in to the monster inside myself and pulled hard for the Heat against the Celtics, and now I'm in the awkward spot of having to pull a 180, because I really, really want the Bulls to win. Watching this a few times should get me in the proper mood.

8 - The FA Cup Championship, Saturday, 10am, Wembley

Hell yeah I'm watching! It's Manchester City, who beat Manchester United in the semis, against Stoke City, which is a place where English people go to have sex. The FA Cup is the best thing you can win in England short of the actual premiership, and Man City hasn't won anything in quite a long time. I'm thinking the 1970s, but I will not deign to look it up. Anyway, it's a perfect way to start a Saturday. I plan to get up early, do some exercise so I don't feel horrible about myself, and then settle in. Soccer, tennis, lacrosse, baseball. What a day!

9 - Hockey, Sometime, Somewhere

Hockey is a sport that, on its face, essentially bolsters AND undermines a quality of life so often ignored, the glaring yet hidden substrata which we trod lightly upon lest the lesser angels of our nature bring forth such hobgoblins as would shatter our very conceptions of-

Oh God, I can't do it. There's hockey on, somewhere. Probably on like VH1 now, or something. Find it if you like.


Damn, I was really hoping to get to 10 things so I could include a picture of Harriet Miers. If anybody can fill in the last one, I'll be obliged. Tomorrow is Week 1 of Pick 6, plus a quick treatise on the most exciting positions in sports. That's right, I said positions. How do you even define that?

How indeed, my friends. How indeed.