Tar Heel Fan

Friday, June 30, 2006

Also In the Sports Blogosphere

Since the sports news is slow(read: I do not care about Wimbledon, the World Cup, or who Ozzie Gullien likes or dislikes) I offer up some fine material from some fellow bloggers/internet writers who are obviously a heck of a lot funnier and better at this deal than I am. The first is a site called Deadspin which offers sports news/commentary/general humor. It may be one of the best sports blogs out there and they even have a whole section devoted to the horrendous Chris Berman. It is not because they like him. Also linked from that site is a college football blog called Every Day Should Be Saturday. This blog offers us a absolutely hilarious(as well as profanity laced so consider yourself warned) list of reasons why Disney/ESPN/ABC sucks. Here is a sample:

29. Wide angle shots, fades, and pensive shots of young athletes recounting the trauma of growing up poor/fatherless/in Bosnia/stricken with acne/slightly nervous/average/motherless/ with rickets/etc in puff pieces. Adversity, dear ESPN, is boring. Show us how long it takes for Matt Leinart to pick up a girl in a bar–now that would be Sportstainmenttastic! Hey-yo!
Any gratuitous abuse of ESPN is always welcome here at Tar Heel Fan. That being said I do find some of the writers at ESPN.com extremely funny. Bill Simmons aka "The Sports Guy" is one of my favorite writers for his wit and insight into sports. During the NBA Draft he kept a running diary which is well worth reading. Perhaps the best section was describing the New York Knicks first pick:

And that brings us to our featured attraction of the evening ... "THE KNICKS ARE ON THE CLOCK!" ESPN wisely works the MSG crowd into a hostile frenzy by showing the obligatory "KNICKS UNDER ISIAH THOMAS" graphic. Has there ever been rioting at an NBA draft before? 9:34 -- Stephen A. on the No. 20 pick: "I'M A BORN AND RAISED NEW YORKER, OK? YOU HAVE GOT TO GET A DOG ON THIS ROSTER, I DON'T CARE WHERE YOU FIND HIM. I DON'T CARE, YOU GOT TO GET SOMEONE WHO WILL BE IN PEOPLE'S FACE, SOMEONE WHO'S HARDCORE. YOU LOOK AT ISIAH THOMAS AND HIS DRAFT HISTORY ... YOU KNOW THAT HE KNOWS TALENT ... THIS PICK HAS GOT TO WORK. IT'S GOT TO WORK!" (Translation: The Knicks need to pick someone good.) 9:36 -- There are those moments in sports when you expect something great, and then it actually happens. And then there are those rare moments in sports when you expect something great, and something even greater happens. This was one of those moments: The Knicks on the clock, the crowd pushing for Marcus Williams, and then ... --Stern: "With the 20th pick, the New York Knicks select ... Renaldo Balkman." (Crowd explodes in horror.) --Stern (over the boos): "Renaldo is not here." --Patrick (without missing a beat): "And it's probably a good thing." (Shot of a beaten-down Spike Lee laughing hysterically.) 9:36 -- That was fantastic

Speaking of which, how can Isiah Thomas draft a guy from two-time NIT Champions South Carolina(read: not a good team) who did not even average double figures through three years of college(read: an average player on a not so good team) especially when Marcus Williams was still on the board? Oh wait, it is Isiah Thomas, so forget I asked.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

NBA Musings

Yeah, I know I really do not care that much about the NBA. The held the NBA Draft tonight and because of the 19 year old age limit the best high schoolers will be enrolled at a college near you next season leaving one of the weakest drafts in recent memory. On the UNC side David Noel was taken 39th by the Milwaukee Bucks. Congratulations to Noel who is a great athlete and exceptionally hard worker. He was the glue last season and gave a group of young players the lift they needed to beat all the predictions. J.J. Redick was taken #11 by Orlando and Shelden Williams was apparently told two weeks ago that Atlanta was taking him despite their need for a point guard. The ESPN talking(or shouting in the case of Stephen A Smith) heads lauded Williams' defense and he was named defensive player of the year twice. I also happen to believe that those awards were based on shot blocking and the fact he played at Duke. His one on one defense was horrible. I lost count of the number of decent to exceptional centers who racked Williams up for major points which included Sean May doing it twice for over 20 points and 20 rebounds in 2005. And who can forget that faithful March 4, 2006 at Cameron Indoor Stadium: Here's hoping Shelden plays better defense in the NBA than he did on Tyler Hansbrough that night. NBA Draft talk also afford us the opportunity to poke fun at Isiah Thomas who still is being permitted to show up and run the New York Knicks on a daily basis only now he is the coach and has a one year clock to fix the mess he has made there. It is not happening so Knick ownership should fire him now like they did Larry Brown(who had no business being there, had an impossible roster to work with, and may be past his prime.) Over at ESPN.com Patrick Hruby and Kurt Snibbe have put together some funny photoshops linking Thomas with some disastarous moments throughout history. I thought this one was particularly humorous for obvious reasons: And no as a Tar Heel fan I still hold Thomas in utmost contempt for being on the 1981 Indiana team which beat UNC in the National Championship game...and for kissing Magic Johnson on the cheek before one of the NBA Finals in the late 1980's.

Satire News Article

DUKE SETTLES LAWSUIT WITH SATAN Trademark Case Seen as Source of Recent Troubles at Duke DURHAM(THF)-Duke University, citing a desire to put "all this ugliness behind them" agreed to pay the Prince of Darkness more than $10 million in damages related to a trademark infringement lawsuit the Evil One filed against the university earlier this year. According to court papers, Satan, filed suit in US Federal Court in Greensboro, NC for what he called "egregious infringement upon his trademark and name" for the university's use of the Blue Devil mascot. The filing, which was recently unsealed, demanded millions in damges and royalty payments for the school's long standing use of the image. Duke contested the suit on the grounds the Devil is not blue but red and the matter was immediately heard by federal judge Mark O'Connor. According to court documents O'Connor opted for a quick ruling against the university saying any use of the devil in such a manner as to "intimidate opponents is a clear attempt to draw upon the reputation of Satan" and ordered the school to pay the full damages to Satan. The Duke legal team, despite their own association with the Dark One, called the ruling a sham and indicated they would not comply. Duke patent refusal led to O'Connor issuing a most unusual contempt of court order which stipulated that Satan could have free reign to "do as he wishes" with the university until they comply with the court order. The contempt citation was issued on March 3rd one day before North Carolina played the Blue Devils in Durham. Duke lost their senior night game to their hated rivals. What followed can only be described as "three plus months of hell" for Duke. On March 13 several members of the lacrosse team were involved in an off campus party where a rape was alleaged to have occurred. The following week the Duke basketball team was eliminated by LSU from the NCAA Tournament. In April, as the lacrosse case spiraled out of control, the Duke women's basketball team lost the national championship game to Maryland. In June former Duke guard J.J. Redick was charged with DUI near campus and over the weekend Duke AD Joe Alleva was involved in a boating accident where his son, J.D., was charged with operating a boat while under the influence. According to an anonymous Duke official, the boating accident was the last straw. "We thought we had grounds to have it overturned" said the official, "but Satan is just relentless with the stuff he can throw at you and we decided it was best to put this whole thing behind us" Individuals close to the Devil say he is satisfied with the outcome and will follow the court's mandates to leave the university alone for the time being. When asked if Satan would pursue similar mascot related litigation, Hell officials said he had already reached an agreement with the DePaul Blue Demons which included their move to the Big East. Demonic officials said Satan would "wait and see how that Herb Sendek thing works out at Arizona St." before deciding on whether to challenge the use of the Sun Devil as a mascot in Tempe. Sources also indicated that Satan's contract with Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was not effected by the lawsuit against the university.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NCAA Tournament Expansion Talk

The men's and women's basketball committees are meeting this week in Orlando and one of the hot topics up for discussion is whether they should expand the NCAA Tournament to include more than the current field of 65. This idea was floated back in March at the Final Four and USA Today raised the issue in May on the grounds of parity. In both cases expansion propsals topped out at 80 teams. Now as the committees prepare to meet the National Association of Basketball Coaches is asking for complete doubling of the field to 128 teams. That's right 128 teams. The reasons cited for such a grand expansion are the failure to include tournament worthy teams and the fact the 64/65 team format has been in place for a long time. The also cite the increased number of Division I teams, the fact the NIT is now controlled by the NCAAs, and the George Mason tournament run. First of all the longevity of one format over another is a weak argument. I would take that to mean it works and very well so there is no need to change it. As for NCAA control of both postseason tournaments, that does not seem to matter to me. The two reasons I take issue with the most is the "George Mason" argument and the increased number of Division 1 teams. The GM argument stipulates that by expanding the field it increases the chances for small schools to have their own magical Final Four run based on the Patriots' improbable run in the the 2006 Final Four. However I would argue that a 128 team expansion would actually kill such runs because it add an additional game these Cinderella schools have to play. It is my observation that the more games a lower seed has to play the worse off they are in continuing the run. In a 128 team field GM would have played a team 11 spots lower than them before facing the higher seeds. While there is no conclusive evidence of how an extra game would effect the outcomes of future matchups I tend to think that had GM been saddled with an opener against a lower seed it would have hurt them going forward. And if they contest the first round a weekend before the round of 64 or even at different sites then changing sites or experiencing a delay also gives higher seeds more time to prep for the upcoming lower seed. I think the GM argument is a celebrity cause for the coaches who want to strike a tone with the fans who they perceive are hungry for a bevy of lower seeds penetrating deep into the tournament. I think the rarity of the feat is what makes it compelling and special to watch. The second argument on the number of D1 schools is also a simple argument to refute. Taking the CollegeRPI rankings posted by Jerry Palm there are 334 D1 schools playing basketball. The argument the coaches are making is based on that number but the real number that should be considered is the number of teams which finished above .500 last season which is only 171 teams. Why is this important? Because outside of winning an automatic bid there is no way a team which lost more than they won should get anywhere close to the NCAA Tournament. In fact I am not entirely sure a team that is under .500 in their conference should be allowed into the NCAA Tournament. Assuming you use this rule it would mean you are taking 75% of the teams, who, in many cases, did nothing but finish with one or two more wins that losses. This would essentially render the regular season worthless except for purposes of seeding. It would set up a system where all a major conference school has to do is win 15-17 games and they know they are getting in to the tournament. And while parity is nice the tournament also has to have credibility and adding 63 teams, of which there are at most eight who were borderline exclusions, is an inherently bad idea. Getting into the NCAA Tournament must actually mean more than playing one game above .500 all season. The prize of winning the national championship must be based on earning your way into an exclusive field of teams which includes enough good teams to make you earn your way to the top. A field of 65 is less than half the winning teams out there which means the regular season has served its purpose in weeding out the bad teams. The reasons the NBCA gave are cover for the real motive behind such an expansion and that is job security. Most of the job stability which surrounds a coach is tied to his ability to make the NCAA Tournament. Coaches like Jim Boeheim, who floated the 80 team field at the Final Four, are afraid they cannot guarantee a spot in the tournament every year because of the increased parity from the mid-majors. They also unwilling to give up there lucrative home games against St. Sebastian's School for the Fingerless in exchange for road games at mid-majors or even hosting them for fear they will get beaten at home. In other words there are apparently enough coaches who would feel a lot better about keeping their job if getting into the tournament were easier. In my opinion getting into the tournament is not supposed to be easy. Getting a NCAA berth should mean you played well all season and you acquitted yourself as one of the best 65 teams in the country. Yes, automatic bids to lower seeded conference finishers does muck things up a bit, and yes a few teams would get shafted every year who could have won one or two games. But the last thing you want to is make so a winning record virtually locks you into a NCAA Tournament berth and until I see more than one #11 seed making the Final Four every 20 years I would not tinker with the current system. It seems to a do a decent job producing a worthy national champion.

Monday, June 26, 2006

UNC Loses Baseball National Championship

So up 1-0 in the series and 5-0 in Game 2, the wheels came off UNC as they surrendered 11 runs and eventually lost 11-7 on Sunday night to send the series to a decisive third game Monday. It was close but horrible fielding, missed opportunities on offense, and a badly timed visit to the mound did UNC in against Oregon State as they lose the game and the national championship 3-2. Tied 2-2 in the top of the eight UNC puts runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs and then moved the runners on a fielder's choice to first. What followed was two strikeouts, the last negating a steal of home. In the bottom of the eight Daneil Bard(MLB 1st round draft pick) is cruising after giving up 2 runs in the fourth. With two outs and Andrew Miller(also a MLB 1st round draft pick) warmed up in the bullpen, UNC coach Mike Fox visits the mound and discussing removing Bard for Miller. After Bard pleads his case and stays in he walks Bill Rowe and then surrenders a single. Miller comes in and a routine grounder to second is thrown past the 1st baseman allowing the go ahead run to score. As much as the error hurt the two spots where I thought the game was lost were (1) failing to score when the bases were loaded with one out in the eighth and more importantly (2) Mike Fox's ill timed visit to Bard at the mound. If there was one thing my Daddy taught me about baseball it is never disturb a pitcher who is getting the job done, regardless of the pitch count. Bard gave up two runs in the fourth and after that did not throw a single breaking pitch the rest of his stint. He threw 42 fast balls and was retiring the Beavers easily. My question for Fox would be what made you think he could not handle the one more batter? Why not let him keep going in the rythym of the the game and see what unfolds instead of walking out there, make him think he is done, and effectively killing his confidence? Maybe it unfolds the same way but I have a feeling that if Fox holds firm, Bard finishes the inning unscathed. I would have personally preferred to see Bard face Bill Rowe and if he failed to retired him then actually taking him out for Miller who then could stay in the game indefinitely considering he is a starter. Fox essentially out thought himself and as a result the Heels come in second. As my Daddy would say, "I've passed this way before..."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

On Vacation

I will be out of contact until about Tuesday taking a vacation. I will be pulling for the Tar Heels as they try to win the College World Series this weekend. GO HEELS!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stanley Cup Championship Musings, Part 2

-If there is one issue I have with Raleigh is their penchant to do things in a strange way. When you win a championship, especially in the professional world, you usually have a parade(it also should be noted that if NC State finishes 4th in the ACC and beats Notre Dame in a bowl game the Irish did not even want to be in you have also have a parade/celebration of some sort, but I digress.) Concerns about construction downtown led city officials to opt for a parade essentially through the RBC Cente parking lot to a stage where the crowd listened to speeches and were generaly euphoric. Of this was not a bad idea since 30,000 people showed up and it was a atmosphere reminiscent of the tailgating that went on before the playoff games. Then again some people were not happy with the lack of a downtown parade so they decided they would have one of those too today at noon. The team will also be honored by the General Assembly and assuming the combination of heat and no discernible parking downtown does not limit the crowd too much it should be a raucous time. -I saw local TV coverage of the celebration and it was downright comical. Well it was comical on WRAL, on WTVD they actually did a better job with it. I would actually love to here the backstory on how the two competing stations decided on where they would station reports for interviews. WTVD put two reports at the beginning of the parade and interviewed players before their vehicle actually entered the parade route. The interviews were thorough as possible and the reporters were not generally in the way. Contrast that to Mark Roberts for WRAL who staked out somewhere in the middle of the route. When I picked up watching it he was basically walking around babbling in a vain effort to find a Canes player to interview. In the first set of vehicles that came through were Canes support personnel which apparently Roberts did not realize this so he was moving about wondering when the Canes players would come through so he could interview them. Finally he got on in the form of Nicolas Wallin who he began to interview and the was interrupted by three Raleigh PD motorcycle cops coming up the side which led to Roberts saying the following: Well it looks like we are in the way here so we are going to move back as you see the Raleigh police department is coming through here. (To one of the cops coming by) Hello Seargent, we are staying out of the way, thank you. (After the cops pass through) Oh we have another chance to talk to Nicolas Wallin. Priceless stuff. Mark Roberts is the guy who stands in front of the big map of the Triangle roads every morning(and possibly during the evening news broadcast) and tell you where all the traffic trouble spots are. In other words it does not sound like he will be manning the anchor desk anytime soon. The WTVD reporter made the mistake of telling Doug Weight that he would, "See him in training camp." Weight is an unrestricted free agent and probably will not be back with the Canes though it is possible he might return. -Jim Rome, who I normally detest, gave excellent props to the Canes yesterday on his show. He was trying to guess where the Cup was at that moment. Erik Cole(a big Rome fan) called in and said Brind'Amour had it at his house. How does that work exactly? Does Rod just have it sitting on the kitchen counter or table? If he has a dog I cannot imagine he would put it on the floor for fear he might want to "mark" it. During the parade he told WTVD he slept with the Cup in his bed which I think is funny. I wonder how those guys who take care of the Cup feel about all of this handling of it. They use white gloves and polish it up nice then the Canes players promptly hug and kiss it, pour beer in it, and possibly drool on it in their sleep. I am sure they just go to a happy place. -I also noticed Brind'Amour was wearing an NC State hat. That is as close as NC State has been to any sort of championship for almost three decades. -And finally, to those like myself who said hockey would never work in NC, hockey does not belong in the South, and hockey will eventually usher in the Army of the Potomac to occupy our Southern cities, I would say we were wrong and anytime you hear the words "Carolina" and "championship" it is cause to celebrate.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stanley Cup Championship Musings

First of all I will make the full disclosure that I have been to this point a bandwagon fan. I actually was, like many people, resistant to the whole "Southern hockey" deal as an assault on traditional Southern heritage. When the playoffs started I softened that stance because I felt that a Raleigh professional team making a run for a major championship demanded my support so I readily jumped on board even though I knew very little about hockey and even found it tedious. So the past three months have been a learning experience for me as I figured out how the game was played, discovered that even though only 2 or 3 goals are scored there is still plenty to be excited about, and that hockey can be a nice companion sport in the winter to my true love which is college basketball. So, while I rejoice with all Canes fans with the big win, I also know my place as someone who came along a little late in the game and by no means do I put myself on the same level with those hard core fans who have been there since 1997. That being said I can say going forward I will support the Canes and look for great things from them in the future. A few other thoughts: -This is the first professional title in North Carolina history which is huge for the state and the city. It is also huge for the franchise because it should make novice fans like me permanant supporters. I also maintain, as I speculated before Game 5, that this is truly a North Carolina championship that is both inclusive and exclusive in nature. By that I mean all North Carolinians can get behind this win unlike the college basketball titles which tend to address only part of the state's population. In terms of exclusivity I think it very much a North Carolina only championship. I do not say this to disparage fans in South Carolina or Virginia but I am pointing out that the title was won in our capital and is something that North Carolinians can lay greater ownership to in terms of state pride. The two pro teams in Charlotte, though in North Carolina, are considered to be shared by both of the Carolinas. This is also the first time I have been living in a city that won a championship of any kind. -As for the game, the Canes came out and played some impressive hockey. They were the agressors, the put pressure on the Oiler defense, while playing some excellent defense giving up one goal which came after Cam Ward had made two saves on the play already. It was a great effort befitting a veteran and talented team. The moment Rod Brind'Amour took the Cup was sensational as thought years of frustration and desire came pouring out in one incredible moment. -Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe trophy which is the playoff MVP award. Some argued that Brind'Amour should have won it and had the Canes won in five games he would have but Brind'Amour essentially disappeared in Games 5 and 6 but was a factor in Game 7. His locker room leadership provided the Canes the inspiration they needed but unfortunately that does not tabulate in the voting. Not that Ward is not deserving. He mad some impeccable saves throughout the playoffs and his play coming in when Gerber was getting eaten alive by Montreal save the playoff run from complete disaster. -Apparently the anti-Carolina contingent, which seemed to be relagated to traditional hockey cities, can be found in spades among the Charlotte citizenry. Tom Sorenson has a piece on the Charlotte web site which I will not link as not to hand him any free hits. Sorenson, being such a witty fellow, proceeded to denigrate the Canes Game 7 win as only the 393rd biggest game to occur in the state of North Carolina. Among the games he lists which were allegedly more important were all the Panthers home playoff games, games David Thompson played in for NC State, any UNC-Duke game, Ric Flair winning or losing WWF/WCW/WWE wrestling titles, Charlotte Hornets playoff games, NASCAR races, and even some UNCC(yeah I know its Charlotte now but I do not feel like playing nice) basketball games. Wow, jealousy is so unbecoming. I had no idea the people of Charlotte would have reacted with such vitrolic envy over Raleigh having a pro team win the first professional championship in North Carolina history ahead of the Panthers and Bobcats. The sad part about Sorenson is that he plays right into the hands of the national media who still question the placement of a team in Raleigh and some who say the Canes did not deserve the Cup because they do not have "true" fans. Yes, as a recovering anti-hockey guy I can relate to that feeling and I would also say there are more than few bandwagon people jumping on just because they are winning. I also know that the fan base has been truly and permanantly enlarged by this event(myself included and yes I know that places me on probabtion for at least five seasons.) I know that there were 18,000 people at the RBC Center last night who stood the whole game in cheering the Canes to victory. It is unfortunate that there are some people who allow such incredible jealousy to produce this kind of hatred. Sure some people do not like hockey and there are others who cannot go along with it because it eschews Southern tradition. I also think most of those people would agree that regardless of how they feel about hockey or the culture they understand that this is a great moment in the sun for the State of North Carolina. This title gives North Carolina ever greater credence as a state than can support professional sports. Good ol' fashioned North Carolina pride demands that in the very least you give a small cheer for the positive light this sheds on the state and on our capital. And for anyone who cannot stomach the thought of hockey or carries such an incredible level of envy of Raleigh because they got the girl while you were left at the altar should, for the good of the state, remain silent. Believe me, you are doing more harm to the reputation of the state than anything else.

Monday, June 19, 2006

CANES WIN GAME 7!!!!!

CAROLINA HURRICANES:
STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS From ESPN.com:

The Weekend That Was

I came to a realization Saturday night. I realized how glad I was that the NCAA Tournament does not include a best-of-seven series to win the championship. I just do not know how much I could deal with UNC being up 3-1 on someone and have them lose two straight games and look really bad doing it. Of course I would have to think that UNC would have more titles since series play tends to produce the better team in the end. I really hope that is the case tonight as Carolina hosts Edmonton in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canes looked flat and basically were steamrolled by the Oilers physical play in a Game 6 loss 4-0. I also thought the Oilers got away with felony assault on some checks but that does not tend to matter when you allow Edmonton to carve up your zone and get clean shots at Cam Ward. Erik Cole returned to the lineup after being at three months with a broken neck(and let it be said that I hope I can go back to doing anything three months later if I ever break my neck or even two cracked vertabrae as was the case with Cole) There is nothing like a Game 7 for ALL the marbles. One goal could win it and the Canes need to wake up and take it right to Edmonton's zone, they need to be physical, and they need to leave it all on the ice because there is no tomorrow. UNC baseball is rolling at the College World Series. They topped Cal State-Fullerton Friday night in extra innings and last night handed #1 Clemson a 2-0 loss. If the Heels win once more they get a slot in the best-of-three championship series(yeah I know what I said before.) UNC has some very strong pitching including two guys taken in the first round of the MLB draft earlier this month. Here's hoping for another national title in Chapel Hill. In case anyone was beginning to think Phil Mickelson was on the same level with Tiger Woods, Mickelson took care of that by choking away a one shot lead with a double bogey on the 18th hole of the US Open yesterday at ultra difficult Winged Foot. Mickelson who called himself an "idiot" afterwards used his driver and sent the ball into the rough and then instead of chipping back onto the fairway tried to hit the ball out of the woods and played pinball with the trees. Needless to say I can relate which is why the US Open is so fun because all of these pros end up looking like your favorite uncle after he has had five beers and lost four golf balls. Now, Woods did not make the cut but he also had not played since the Master because of the death of his father. I know I was barely thinking straight two months after my father died and given Earl Woods prominence in the golfing career of his son it may take Tiger a while to get his "A" game back. The difference between Mickelson and Woods in that situation is Woods would have found a way to win. He would have either made a smarter club selection on the drive or pull out some tremendous shot to at least salvage the playoff. It would have been Mickelson's third straight major title, now all it is images of Vintage Lefty choking away the big one. My father-in-law who theorizes that Tiger Woods majors drought was the only reason Phil finally won most likely enjoyed yesterday's result. He has some serious dislike for Mickelson. And let me note that my opinions of the NBA Finals and World Cup soccer are the same as they were last week. On the NBA front I watched Dallas opt to foul Shaquille O'Neal instead of actually playing defense since O'Neal makes about one free throw as often as they score goals in World Cup soccer. The NBA is just not good basketball to watch and the fact they are starting game at 9:20 PM EDT is atrocious. They spend so much time on pre-game and I cannot really be sure what can be said about the game that has not been said every 10 minutes on SportCenter every day and night. As for the World Cup, there is more time spent kicking the ball around than anything else. I see final scores of 0-0 flash by which means two teams kicked the ball around for over 90 minutes and nothing happened. I also find the players behavior after they get knocked down as though a sniper in the press box has blown a hole in their right leg only to bounce up once a yellow card is issued to their opponent. I know baseball is also low scoring and so is hockey but at least there are things happening in the context of the game. I see very little going on in a soccer match.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Surveying the Media

The sports spotlight has shone on Raleigh during the Stanley Cup run and produced lots of Hurricane related stories. Here is a sampling of what I found: Local Media Pessimism Following Game 5 loss: CANES' 112 POINT SEASON, PLAYOFF RUN PROVEN TO BE FLUKE BY GAME 5 LOSS RALEIGH POLICE ON SUICIDE WATCH FOR FIRST TIME SINCE NC STATE ACC QUARTERFINAL LOSS WEEPING HEARD NEAR RBC CENTER, GNASHING OF TEETH TO FOLLOW CITY OF RALEIGH ON THE EVE OF TOTAL DESTRUCTION National Media Bias Against Canes' BRIND'AMOUR VOWS TO DRINK BLOOD OF YOUNG CHILDREN FROM CUP IF CANES WIN NBC'S PIERRE MGUIRE; OILERS CRAIG MCTAVASH SET WEDDING DATE HOCKEY IN RALEIGH? EXPERTS SEE LITTLE HOPE OF SUCCESS AUTHENTICITY OF CANES FANS QUESTIONED

THE EDMONTON OILERS: GREATEST TEAM EVER?

Of course the Ryan Smyth coin controversey got plenty of play:

OILERS SMYTH DIGS QUARTER FROM ICE; CALLS SOMEONE WHO CARES

SMYTH USES QUARTER TO BUY GUMBALL MACHINE RING JUST IN CASE

RBC CENTER COIN WORTH ALMOST TWICE AS MUCH IN CANADA

And finally there is much talk about the Oilers "momentum" and Canes' injuries

OILER WONDER WHERE MOMENTUM WAS AT WHILE THEY WERE FINISHING 8TH IN THE WESTERN CONFERENCE

CANES' INJURIES LEAVE ONLY MINOR LEAGUE TALENT ON THE TEAM

WITH GAME 6 RESULT ALREADY DECIDED NHL MULLS MOVING RIGHT TO GAME 7

Yes this was all satire but the one true headline I want to see in my Sunday morning News and Observer is this one:

CANES WIN CUP

GO CANES!!!!

Talking About Momentum

"Momentum" is one of the great buzz words in sports media. There have been whole articles written about it. It even has a nickname("mo'" or "big mo'"). It stands as one of those incredibly abstract and unproven concepts which sports journalist pontificate on for hours on end as it pertains to the results of the next game. Given the amount of attention it garners you would think we would have some sort of concrete definition on which to cling. "Momentum" in physics is best described the "tendency for an object to continue to move in its direction of travel" That is probably an apt description of the application in the sports world but in the case of physical momentum inertia is the driving force. What would we find if we examined the inner workings of sports related momentum? In terms of sports momentum I would describe it as the tendency for a player/team to continue to confidently play well and succeed in competition based on the results of the last contest as well advantages gained from favorable circumstances. Or if we wanted to use a formula we could say: Momentum = Good play + Confidence x Favorable Circumstances Take the current Stanley Cup Finals matchup between Carolina and Edmonton. The sports pundits have universally declared that Edmonton now has the "momentum" going into Game 6. And according to the formula they are probably right, lets take a look. Good play in Game 5 in addition to increased confidence coming off a win and staving off elmination multiplied by home ice advantage in the next game and two key Hurricane injuries. And if you reverse to apply the formula to the Canes you have poor play in the last game coupled with the doubts stemming from the final play and the failure to win the series at home multiplied by injuries and Game 6 on the road. In other words the fact the Canes played badly and lost in a bad way supposedly renders a negative impact on the level of play they will bring in Game 6 which is magnified by being on the road and dealing with injuries. Edomonton on the other hand should experience a continuance or increased in their excellence of play from Game 5 coupled with new found hope which magnified by the fact they are better off in terms of injuries and playing at home. And if you just read that and thought, "That is a load of crap" you would be right because any and all talk of momentum outside of a single game is total poppycock. Since it is my formula I will now pick it apart. In terms of "good play" your play is only as good as your next game. What you did in Game 5, aside from giving you a fresh dose of confidence, has no bearing on Game 6. The next game is a different game with different conditions and a blank scoreboard. Your body feels different and everything they may have worked in Game 5 could turn into disaster in Game 6. As for confidence it is extremely fragile. I happen to think had Cam Ward somehow stopped that blast 16 seconds into Game 5 and denied Edmonton a 1-0 lead from the start the Canes would have won the game. Not because it would have given the Oilers one less goal but because it took the wind out of the Canes early and gave Edmonton confidence within the context of the present game. A player's level of play and confidence are subject to change at anytime based on the flow of the game. There are some rare instances were elite players enter a zone where both of these factors operate at the top level but usually it is more like a rollercoaster ride. This is probably even more of the situation in hockey because the game tends to be more chaotic than the other major sports. So much depends on deflections and perfect opportunities that good play came come(Eric Staal scores twice) and go(partially to blame for giving up the GW goal) at the blink of an eye. As for favorable conditions there is some constancy here in that home games give the home team fan support and injuries take key players away but then again given how the above factors mainfest these can be rendered pointless. And if any of the above nonsense fails to persuade then the fact there is two day break between games is enought to dissuade any thought that momentum exists. UNC coach Roy Williams had an interesting take on momentum when he was asked about sustaining it going into the tournament after UNC had been playing so well and 10 straight games. He said that Dean Smith taught him that momentum has to be recreated upon entering tournament play and then sustained from there. I would add that it must be recreated repeatedly given the nature of the NCAA Tournament. In terms of professional championship series I think momentum must at the very least be created when you change venues. Anytime there is a break in the normal flow of games or a change in the conditions it is my opinion momentum is reset to zero and is recreated at during the game. In this series the Canes created momentum by coming back in Game 1 and it seemed to carry to Game 2. Then the series shifted to Edmonton so momentum was set to zero and the Oilers won and for the most part carried it into Game 4 but the Canes played better and took the 3-1 lead. Everyone says the Canes had momentum except they shifted back to Raleigh so momentum is reset once again and the Oilers seized upon it immediately to ultimately take Game 5. At this point people are talking about Edmonton's momentum which I would argue does not exist because the series has shifted once more to Edmonton. While I do think that momentum is a small factor in the way teams play I think the individual play of players, the bounce of the puck/ball, and lots of little things no one can control has more of role in the results of games. The Canes will either play better or they won't. The Oilers will either do a good job of defending their zone or they won't. And somewhere in there a fluke goal will get scored, a bad play will be made, and someone will do something sensational to save the game for one team or the other. And I know for fact momentum will have nothing to do with it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Official Duke Bad Back Excuse

At Duke not only are you armed with a jumpshot, you are also armed with the skills to win in life, and an excuse when things are not going so well. According to ESPN.com J.J. "U-Turn" Redick will resume draft workouts next week after "resting his back." You really cannot make this stuff up can you? For those who might not know the "back problem" excuse has some glorious history at Duke. In 1995 Duke basketball hit a bit of a rough patch following the 1994 NCAA Runner-up finish. They started the season well enough but as they entered ACC play the wheels came off in a hurry. Mike Krzyzewski suddenly and mysteriously took a leave of absence to address a serious back problem and exhaustion. The team was turned over to Pete Gaudet who promptly ran the it straight into the ground. Duke finished 2-14 in the ACC and was dead last. As the above linked article from Truth About Duke points out the losses which according to NCAA rules go on the record of the head coach were expunged at Coach K's request. In the realm of speculation is a rumor that upon his return Coach K had a meeting with his assistants and pointedly told Pete Gaudet that he had " F---ed up his program." Gaudet left the team shortly afterwards. So now comes J.J. Redick who apparently took a week away from showcasing his uncanny ability to create his own shot so he could rest his back. What is even more disturbing is the timing of the whole thing. According to the ESPN article Redick canceled workouts with Orlando and Boston on Monday telling them he needed to rest his back. Less than 24 hours later he gets popped for DWI. How embarassing is that? You tell potential employers that you are physically unable to workout for them but you are obviously well enough to go out a party until 1 AM before getting caught trying to evade a police checkpoint. Redick has apparently rescheduled with these teams and the first question I would ask Redick when he arrives is if his back needed rest why was he out partying and drinking until 1:00 in the morning? And the second question would be whether or not he thought the workouts were so unimportant that he could cancel them on some unverified excuse and then go out partying that night? In my opinion a person who is in the process of marketing himself to a team that is going to invest millions of dollars in him should take the utmost care of himself. In fact during this stage of the draft process he should refrain from doing anything that might reflect negatively on him including getting drunk, especially if he had just canceled two workouts to "rest his back." The latter DWI issue makes Redick look like he lied to the teams in question about his status and really wanted to hang out in Durham instead of working out with these teams. In the real world if I were interviewing for a highly competive position and I decided to cancel the interview because I was sick only to get arrested for DWI that night I am pretty sure that potential employer is going to stop returning my calls. This whole mess is dumb on so many levels without even mentioning the stupidity of getting behind the wheel while legally intoxicated. Anyway, he should probably talk to his former coach and find out the best way to get his unpleasantness expunged from his record, Coach K is really good at that kind of stuff.

Ooops! Canes Lose Game 5

The Carolina Hurricanes lost Game 5 in OT to the Edomonton Oilers on a shorthanded goal off a lazy pass from Corey Stillman to Eric Staal. The Canes were hearding up ice on the power play when Stillman was bothered by a defender and hung the puck out in the open ice. It was taken by an Oiler player who went one-on-one with Cam Ward and put it past him in the top corner. Game 6 will happen Saturday night in Edmonton. Two thoughts: 1. People are complaining now about karma and how too many fans treated this like a coronation rather than a game that needed to be won. And yes there was way too much presumption going around Raleigh yesterday and even before that when the Canes locked up the 3-1 lead. I do not believe in karma however and having witnessed any number of seven game series in the three major sports which use them I can tell you that more times than naught a team up 3-1 loses Game 5 and then wins Game 6. The flip side to that is the rare case that we are witnessing a complete debacle on the part of Carolina and the 3-1 lead will eventually turn into a Edmonton win in Game 7. Make no mistake it is a very precarious perch the Canes are not sitting upon. There is pressure to take care of business in Game 6 as to avoid Game 7 which would be a free for all, everything on the ice affair that anyone could win. 2. The Canes still have two chances to win it, with one of those happening on home ice. They won in Edmonton once already so there nothing to say they cannot do it again but it will be tough since the Oilers have the momentum and questions about Aaron Ward and Doug Weight injuries loom very large in the background. On the positive side the Canes have not lost two straight playoff games since going down 0-2 in the 1st round to Montreal a testimony to their resilence. And in terms of the bigger picture early March was the last time they lost three straight games. It was a bad play but based on what I have seen from these guys they turn losses into motivation to play better and win the next game. I expect nothing less come Saturday night.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Stanley Cup Finals Game 5 and Other Musings

The Carolina Hurricanes lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 with Game 5 tonight at the Big ATM(aka The RBC Center). This is a great scenario for the Canes, playing at home with a chance to clinch the Cup but is it also fraught with danger. Yes, 3-1 leads are commanding but I would venture to say that a 3-1 lead in hockey is probably the least commanding of the professional sports given the manner in which goals are scored. It would be real easy to lose this game and the have to go back to Edmonton for Game 6 where the odds of winning decrease in proportion to the increasing pressure. All of sudden you are looking at Game 7 and anything can happen then. The best bet is to wrap it up now. There must also be strong resistance to having this game feel like a coronation and a foregone conclusion. There have been rumblings that the fan base is getting ahead of itself which is not a good sign. However if the weather is a sign we are currently being rained upon from tropical depression Alberto so take that for what it's worth. NC State AD Lee Fowler has decided to begin the rehabilitation of his image following the basketball coaching search by coming out and essentially saying NC State fans at Wolfpack basketball games suck. Well, he did not say that but he did say this:

"It's kind of taken on what the college atmosphere's about and the fans have done a good job of giving that to the Hurricanes," Fowler said. "It would be great if we could get our fans to yell that way for 40 minutes because those fans were at a level I had never seen before."

Nice way to call your fans out there Lee! First of all the fan support has been great for the Canes and it has turned aside that annoying national media mentality that hockey would not catch on here. Though it should be said that I think it has been and will to some extent be a bandwagon team. My opinion is that Carolina is on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup so I would the fans would come out in droves and cheer passionately for them. If the Canes experience a downturn in the future I would expect the attendance to dwindle but I also think that if they win tonight it will do a lot to bring more permanant fans into the fold. Secondly, Fowler needs to understand that the key to having a rabid and passionate crowd is to win games, get ranked, hang some banners and stop being UNC and Duke's doormat. Wolfpack nation was as divided as a fan base could be over Herb Sendek who had a winning program but not one that was bringing the championship glory much less a very exciting brand of basketball. Couple that with the persistent losing to Duke and UNC(including a 24 point drubbing at RBC this past season that initiated a four game losing streak) then your fans are going to be less than inclined to bring the passion. Do you think the Cameron Crazies would be the Cameron Crazies unless Duke was winning the way they have won over the past 25 years? Win some games Lee and until that starts happening stay away from the media. And finally if the Canes do win the Cup tonight the question has been raised by one of the astute posters at the 850 the Buzz blog of whether this would be the biggest win in North Carolina sports history. The assertion was made that it would because the only other national championships won in this state have been the ten NCAA basketball titles(9 men, 1 women) by UNC, Duke, and NC State. Since each of those schools can only claim a fraction of the state's population then it is not a title that can be celebrated by all North Carolinians. I would agree with that and also add that the Stanley Cup is a more prestigious prize than the NCAA title plus it is a higher level championship because it comes from a major professional league. I also believe that the Carolina Hurricanes are truly a North Carolina professional team as opposed to the Charlotte Bobcats or Carolina Panthers who are really shared by both North and South Carolina because they are located on the border in Charlotte. The fact the Hurricanes play in the state capital make them very much a North Carolina team and if there is anything more telling it is the unity Wolfpack, Tar Heel, and Blue Devil fans have found in cheering the Canes on. The Stanley Cup is in Raleigh tonight, it is up to the Canes to make sure it stays there.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

J.J. Redick Charged with DUI

Former Duke star, ESPN darling, presumed lottery pick, and all time ACC leading scorer J.J. Redick was charged with DUI this morning in Durham after he attempted to evade a police checkpoint by making a U-turn(which according to my late father is something you never, ever, do.) Redick only blew a 0.11 which is a tick above the legal limit but the law is the law so what can you do. Redick's arrest comes a mere few weeks before the NBA Draft which Redick was inexplicably projected to go as a lottery pick. Given all of the attention that gets paid to off the court issues, the arrest may impact Redick's status somewhat though it is a first offense, a mistake a lot of people make, and he is a clean cut white boy from Duke. Oh wait a minute I forgot that last part does not matter anymore. In fact there are few things I am wondering like whether or not Duke will launch a full investigation into the basketball program perhaps suspending the entire team for the next season. Maybe Coach K will resign under pressure since he obviously has very little control over his players. The warning signs are there and Duke would be foolhardy to ignore them and should crush the basketball program like a walnut under the merciless hammer of justice lest the name of Duke be soiled! I also find the whole episode humorous considering Redick's clean cut reputation and the fact Dick Vitale cannot help but be completely spastic in his effusive praise of all things Redick. The spin from Duke's #1 fan will be interesting when it comes forth. And I am pretty much laughing my Carolina loving self silly over the irony of Coach K's constant mantra about being a "leader" and "arming" his players with more than a jumpshot but preparing them for life, which has now been turned on its head. Hey K, here some free advice, how about arming your kids with the good sense to know when to call a designated driver or even a cab. In fact, if you anywhere within the juristication of the Durham DA, Mike Nifong, I would highly recommend the cab option since it also provides you with an alibi witness just in case someone accuses you of some unsavory act. Redick is due in court on July 17 where pretty much nothing of consequence will happen.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Canes One. Win. Away.

The Carolina Hurricanes took care of business in Edmonton tonight taking a tight 2-1 decision to give them a commanding 3-1 lead with Game 5 Wednesday night in Raleigh, NC. That's right on Wednesday night you could have a professional hockey team clinch the Stanley Cup as the home team in Raleigh, NC.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The World Cup

Just so you know, I really could care less. I hardly ever watch soccer much less the World Cup. Even though this year the U.S. has a highly ranked team I really have a hard time watching the World Cup. I find it tedious at times and the play is boring. The guys can flat out kick the ball which is amazing but generally speaking I will probably watch snippets here and there, especially in the championship game(because I really like watching drunken Europeans nearly riot over something as trivial as sports) *If something wild happens like a riot or the U.S. makes it to the semi-finals I might give it more attention, other than that I will be in my yard watching the grass grow.

The NBA Finals

Just so you know, I really could care less. I stopped watching the NBA when Jordan retired after 1998. Even though this matchup of Dallas and Miami is a "throwback" to the star powered, highly talented Finals of the Jordan years I really have a hard time watching the NBA. I find it too predictable at times and the offensive sets are boring. The guys can flat out shoot though which is amazing but generally speaking I will probably watch the very end of the fourth quarter, especially in the clinching game(because I really like watching championship moments) Dallas won Game 1 over Miami 90-80. *If something wild happens like Shaquille O'Neal eats someone then I will give it more attention, other than that I may use it as a filler post.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

CANES WIN 5-0; NOW UP 2-0 ON OILERS

Or to put it into "redneck" terms the Canes took the Oilers behind the woodshed and beat the ever living daylights out of them with a two-by-four. Basically the Canes' players were angry despite winning Game 1 because they played horribly for the first two periods. Game 2 was a different story as the Canes dominated ever facet of the contest. By the beginning of the third period the Oilers were down 3-0 and so frustrated that they basically starting hitting the Canes players just for the fun of it which resulted in two more power play goals. Players on both sides afterwards called it playoff hockey and these sort of things happen when the rout is on but there was no excusing the hit Oiler goon Georges Laraque gave to Andrew Ladd presumably as payback for Ladd hitting Roloson in Game 1 and taking out the Oiler goalie for the rest of the series. Which is fine except Ladd was pushed from behind into Roloson by Burgeron so maybe during practice today Laraque can hit Burgeron to make sure justice is fully served. Laraque got a major penalty(which I did not know resulted in a 5 minute power play. If this had happened 10 minutes earlier the Canes would have won 7-0) and a game misconduct resulting in an ejection. He did the same thing during the San Jose series we will see if the NHL sits him down for Game 3 or not. Anyway, the game was a statement and while the Canes have done nothing but hold home ice, the manner in which they throttled Edmonton coupled with the loss of Roloson makes a Oiler rally very difficult. Of course they say Edmonton is a tough venue to play for the road team. The Canes need to keep the stellar play going and grab at least 1 of 2 on the road.

Al Qaeda-Iraq Coach Suddenly Resigns

Pressure to win against the U.S. proves to be too much BAGHDAD-The Al Qaeda-Iraq Insurgents terrorist team is without head coach Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his staff this morning who departed overnight under immense pressure from a 500-lb U.S. bomb which flattened his home and office. Sources close to the situation say Zarqawi and his staff were reviewing a new game plan when the U.S. overwhelmed the Insurgent defense and completed a long pass directly into Zarqawi's living room. The final score of the match was U.S. 8 Insurgents 0. Team owner Osama Bin Laden is now faced with the ardous task of filling a coaching position in an already competitive market. A spokesman for Bin Laden said that they were currently looking at candidates from the "mid-major" level and are really interested in someone who has experience dealing with the United States and Britain. Many analysts believe that this means Bin Laden will be taking a long look at terror leaders in Afghanistan though one cannot rule out the possibility Bin Laden will go "outside the family" to Hamas or Iran to garner the "next great terror leader." While the field is wide open one thing is certain, the process will be a quick one. "Allah willing we hope to tender an offer in a matter of days and fill the post." said Ala Muhammed Barak. "And we certainly will not be taking 33 days and then settle for some unproven Motlov cocktail hurler who happened to plant a few successful IEDs over 20 years ago. No, we want a proven winner who we know can recruit" Barak says securing and holding new recruits will be the primary focus of any new man in Iraq. It has been rumored that certain committed players quit the team and signed on with the U.S. squad leading to the ouster of Zarquawi. Barak also indicated that they are presently resisting the calls from some to go after a "big name" terrorist for fear that the contract demands might be too much for the terror oufit to handle. "Things have been pretty lean for about five years now, revenue is way down, and the season ticket fan base is not what it once was prior to 2001. Some of the more well known terrorists might hedge at the possibility of having to live in a cave. Demands for things like 80 virgins in the afterlife and direct flights to heaven upon martyrdom is not something we really have any control over" Zarquawi, who enjoyed some success against the United States, is sure to be a hot commodity in one of the upper level afterlife leagues. Sources close to Satan himself say Zarquawi is already being considered for the head job on two underworld teams, the Screwtape Six-Six-Sixers and the Diablo Burning Lakers. Zarqawi has been unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Customary Duke Bashing

I was reading through the threads and realized I had been lazy in fulfilling the one of the primary tenets of the "Tar Heel Fan Blog Charter" which is engaging in occasional Duke abuse. I ran across this play diagram on the Inside Carolina message board found at a out of date anti-Duke website: The play described above is from the 1999 NCAA Championship game when Duke at 37-1 took on UConn. Duke was a heavy favorite since they only had one loss(a buzzer beater against Cincinnati in the Great Alaska Shootout) and despite the fact that UConn was also a #1 seed. As the game unfolded the UConn defense held a Duke team, which included future lottery picks in Elton Brand, Corey Magette, William Avery, and Shane Battier, in check. With 20 seconds to and UConn leading 75-74 Duke rebounded a Husky miss and senior guard Trajan "the Alaskan Assassin" Langdon brought the ball up. Duke opted no to take a timeout(or they did not have any) but rather put the ball in Langdon's hands to try and win the game. Legend has it that when Langdon looked to the Duke bench for direction coach Mike Krzyzewski simply said, "Take 'em Trajan." Langdon brought the ball front court and then attempt to drive the lane but was stopped short, picked up his dribble and then fell down with the ball and was whistled for traveling. UConn got the ball back and was subsequently fouled. They hit two free throws to give them the 77-74 win. Of course Langdon was 7-15 and had 25 points so it was not a bad decision to have him push for the shot but I am wondering why Duke did not have Avery, the point guard bring the ball up and then set Langdon up coming around a screen off Avery's penetration. At any rate I thouroughly enjoyed watching such a highly regarded Duke team choke it away like that in the final seconds.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Considering Michelle Wie

In case you did not know, Michelle Wie is the 16 year old golfing phenom from Hawaii. She is blessed with incredible talent and is capable of driving the ball just as far as the men can. Oh, did I mention she was only 16? Aside from her incredible talent she also carries herself with great composure, she has a very telegenic smile and wonderful personality. So far she has already secured huge endorsement contracts and is set to be a fixture on the golfing scene for the next 30 years. Oh, and she has yet to win a single tournament on the professional level. I always operated on the mentality that one should at least have some kind of body of accomplishments before being handed the keys to the kingdom. That is no longer the case, just ask LeBron James. One of the problems with Wie is that she splits time between trying to qualify and win in men's tournaments and actually playing on the LPGA Tour. Now let me get the gender issue out of the way first. I have no problem with women competing with men as long as the sport places them on equal footing in terms of physicality. In other words women should not play football, the physical differences such as the fact women are weaker than men percludes a woman from being able to play football at the same level as the men. The same is true of basketball and baseball. Golf is different. A woman(or in this case a girl) can obviously develop the skills and strength necessary to hit a golf ball the same distance as the men. There is no pronounced physical aspect of the game which gives a man a significant advantage over a woman. So as long as Wie earns her way into the tournament then she is free to play against the men. This past week Wie made an effort to qualify for the U.S. Open and she was close but eventually failed in her bid. And while I have no problem with Wie trying to qualify or even playing in men's tournaments, I think that has become an obsession that may end up harming more than helping. Playing with the men is one thing, playing and winning is another and she needs to be doing that more right now. There are two schools of thought here. One is that you should seek out competition or conditions which are superior to you and by playing against those you can continually raise the level of your game. The second thought is to play against comprable or even slightly weaker competition to get the experience of winning and gaining a sense of success as a confidence builder. Wie seems to be opting for more of the first school thought rather than the second. Having been a competitive runner I know the value of pushing your own limits against people who are better than you. That being said, had I opted to constantly have my butt handed to me over and over I would probably lack any real confidence despite the improvement I might see in my times. The competition I faced in high school provided me a perfect mix. I ran against comparable runners with 50/50 odds of winning, I faced guys who I had no prayer of beating but could at least hang behind to force myself to run faster. I also faced the cupcakes who I can beat handily. There was value is each of those situations for me, even when I was 300 meters ahead of the second place guy. Winning is one thing. Knowing how to win or understanding how to handle the pressure associated with pulling a win out of a tough competition is a totally different animal. Wie has little experience with learning how to win in a tough situation. Going on and playing the men may be good motivation to push the limits of her game but if she fails to develop confidence and a winning mentality I think it will weaken her as an all around player. My advice to Wie(because we all know she checks out Tar Heel Fan every day) is to break-up her schedule and spend some more time on the LPGA winning tournaments. She needs to be in a final round pairing with Annika Sorenstram with the LPGA Championship on the line to understand how to make the clutch shots and experience the joys of winning. She can still take her cracks at the men's tour but notching a few LPGA wins, especially in the majors would server her just as much right now as taking her lumps against the men. She is only 16. She has so much time ahead of her to develop her game completely and then go after the men's tournaments.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I Think Barry Has Something For That...

The quest to expunge the records book of Barry Bonds highly questionable 73 home runs in 2001 came to an unfortunate halt when St. Louis 1B Albert Puljos went on the 15 day DL with a strain/tear of his oblique muscles. The time off and the subsequent recovery time when he returns pretty much spells an end to the hope he could top Bonds' single season home run record thus clearing at least one tainted mark off the books. Of course had Puljos cheated and been using steroids he may not have suffered the injury. Isn't that how it always is? One guy cheats by taking steroids and breaks the record. Another guys comes along and is on track to break the record using hard work and natural talent only to end up with a season threatening injury. Given the compeltely classless individual Bonds is he is probably off somewhere laughing.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Spelling Bee

A 13 year old girl from New Jersey has won the Scripps Spelling Bee. Katharine Close spelled some word which she will probably never again use in her life but hey it was good for the gold last night. Close beat out Finola Mei Hwa Hackett of Canada and Saryn Hooks of Taylorsville, NC who got royally screwed by the judges for saying she missed a word she actually spelled right. Now how does that happen? Don't the judges have the word in front of them? I am unsure how she can spell the word correctly and the judges dismiss her when one would think they have the word written down in front of them? Also, I did not know there was instant replay in the Scripps Spelling Bee. Apparently it is more like the college football system where the officials make the call. Can you imagine the excitement if the parents could challenge like NFL coaches do? Because it is a competition ESPN usually covers the Bee and for the first time ABC showed it in prime time. I actually could do with even more sports related references during the Bee which would undoubtedly make it more entertaining: Play by Play Announcers Get one of the notorious loundmouth guys to do the Bee. Can you imagine Dick Vitale doing color analysis. "Robin I really like this kid, Rajiv Tarigopula, he is major PTPer. Did you see they way he parsed the etymology on that word? Awesome baby with a capital A!!!! I am convinced he is going to be a BMOC, Big Man on Campus. In fact he looks like Duke material to me, they should have him try and spell Krzyzewski! Let me tell you something Coach K is one of premiere basketball coaches in this country." Or go for something like the play-by-play rambling of Bill Murray's groundskeeper character in Caddyshack "The word is 'ursprache' Close is mulling it over. The Cinderalla story, was unable to talk until she was three, about to become the Scripps Spelling Bee Champion.......She got it right! She got it right! More Pronounced Reactions from Contestants and Parents An interview following elmination: "I have seen better #$&%*^ judges at elementary school spelling bees. I mean every word I got was either from Scandanavian or French origin and everyone knows I am much stronger on the Greek origins. It was clear the ^*&+#$@ Scripps people were sick and tired Indians winning the contest." Or when Saryn Hook was mistakenly eliminated it would have been fun if her parents stood up and starting yelling at the judges Coach K-style: "That's bull***t, that it total bull***t. How can you--She spelled it right! She got the f---ing spelling right and you are too f--ing stupid to realize it? There is no f---ing second "s" in the f---ing word. You killed us. You f---ing killed us." I think if a kid got a word right he or she should scream like Alonzo Mourning does after doing, well anything, or have some ten year old kid spell the word and then as he is walking back get in the face of one of the other contestants and say something like, "Come and get some!" I would have paid to see the winner, Close, pump her fist Tiger Woods-like when she won. Then she could have jumped up on the judges table with her arms in the air. When they gave her the trophy she could have either sat their kissing it like MJ did when he won his first NBA title or walk around the room hold it in the air. Collapsing face down on the floor in a heap of tears would have worked too. More Post Spelling Bee Follow up Stories ABC actually has an article on their web site about past participants but it is all good news. I want to hear about the kid who following his crushing defeat at the hands of some obscure 13 letter noun of Russian origin is thrown out of his house for failing and ends up homeless. How about someone who won the contest at age 11 and then proceeded to blow the prize money on Power Ranger action figures. There is also the story of that fourth or fifth grader who does so well he thinks he can make the jump straight to high school only to drop out by the second year and is now selling mortgages out of some strip mall location on the bad side of town. Then there is the kid who had a lot of promise, actually finished in the top 10 twice and won it all his last year who ends up only pulling B+ averages in high school, gets a chance to attend a major university but eventually transfers to the local community college and is now a manager at the Home Depot. Some Final Random Thoughts I hope Katharine Close has some quality people protecting her "brand." In fact she should probably ink at least one or two endorsement deals right now. My best advice for Close comes from the immortal Venus Flytrap from WKRP in Cincinnati who said(while drunk), "Go pro, skip the Olympics!" Seriously, if I was Saryn Woods I would file some kind of greviance with the Spelling Bee people. Winning this thing take some serious concentration and to toss her out and then bring her back undoubtedly threw her off her game. And again, how can the judges not know whether or not she got the word right? If they do not know then who does? If Scripps wants to have this thing really take off they should come up with things like rankings and even find a way they can put the contest in a tournament bracket. Since ESPN's ultra hype machine is on board you would have little trouble getting the Bee to be as big as the NCAA Women's Tournament. You should also add some competitions throughout the year to generate some win-loss records and stats to be followed. The fantasy league would not be far behind. Of course if you did all of that you would also need to start testing for performance enhancing drugs. We all know that the point it becomes big money parents, teachers, and contestants alike will be looking for that "edge" by taking drugs to improve their memory. Scripps would need to do random drug test to see if contestants had unusually high levels of B-12 or ginseng in their system. In fact they should look into this now. Do not make the same mistake MLB made and turn a blind eye to the use of performance enhancers. Sooner or later you will get some kid who has won a record three straight titles going for a fourth only to find out he has been juicing it up since he was eight. *Author's Note: I referred to Katharine Close as being unable to speak until she was three. I have no idea if that is true but was taking a little license to make a joke. She spelled words that I would not have clue how to spell so she deserves a congratulations for obviously being a total genius. No offense was intended in the writing of this post nor did I harm any animals. Copyright © 2006

Thursday, June 01, 2006

HURRICANES DEFEAT BUFFALO 4-2

CAROLINA HURRICANES EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS The Canes gave a scare going down 2-1 in the second but followed up with three goals in the third to win the Prince of Wales Trophy(yeah I know, I could do without all of the snooty Canadian names too but what can you do?) Anyway the #8 seed in the West, the Edmonton Oilers, who somehow managed to get through will be the opponents for the Stanley Cup Finals which will begin on June 5th in Raleigh, NC. The Canes have home ice and will be favored to win the Cup. I mentioned the Prince of Wales Trophy and the story goes that in 2002 when the Canes beat Toronto to win the Eastern Conference they skated around the rink with the Prince of Wales Trophy much like the winning team does with the Stanley Cup. Tonight they posed for a team picture with the trophy and then went to locker room. Very businesslike. It reminded me of an urban legend of UNC's James Worthy who was asked if the team wanted to cut down the nets at the regional final in 1982. Worthy said no because they were the not the nets they wanted. UNC won the title a week later.