March 8, 2008

Who to Watch in the Kobalt Tools 500 in Atlanta

The Usual Suspects:
#18 Kyle Busch - Still the hottest driver in NASCAR after another Truck Series win and currently dominating the Nationwide race, Busch always runs well at Atlanta. He currently leads all three series in points.

#24 Jeff Gordon, #48 Jimmie Johnson, #88 Dale Jr. - The three top Hendrick cars dominated practice and qualifying. Jr. was fastest in practice and 2nd in qualifying after a good finish last week. Gordon's on the pole, while Jimmie won both races at Atlanta last year and has looked much better than last week.

#99 Carl Edwards - Winner of two in a row but also the center of controversy, it'll be interesting to see how the #99 does with an oil tank cover attached. Will we see another backflip?

#9 Kasey Kahne - Very quietly third in points after a very disappointing 2007, Kahne has a victory at Atlanta and qualified well yesterday. A victory would really serve as notice to the other drivers that he's back and a force to be reckoned with in 2008.

#43 Bobby Labonte - In the top 10 in both practice and qualifying, Labonte has quite a few wins here over the course of his career.

Bottom of the Barrel:
#5 Casey Mears - A slow start by the Hendrick stable has been taken to an extreme by Mears. He remains in danger of being outside the top 35, and has been much slower than the other 3 Hendrick cars this weekend as well. He is desperately in need of a good result.

All Open Wheelers - It's been a tough start for all the drivers switching over from the IRL. No rookie is in the top 35, including the two (Hornish, Franchitti) who have made all three starts so far.

#84 Mike Skinner - With teammate Brian Vickers 13th in points and the #84 not having made a race, Allmendinger was pulled in favor of the veteran Skinner. In his first race, Skinner qualified in almost identical time to Vickers, and he will now have a chance to get some desperately needed points.

March 7, 2008

Did Carl Edwards (and Team) Cheat?

A couple of days ago, I wrote that Carl Edwards' penalty seemed somewhat harsh for a missing oil tank cover, but new evidence has been revealed which casts a different light on this matter.

In an ESPN article today, Lee White (GM of Toyota Racing Development) quotes some very relevant figures. First, Toyota apparently tested the difference made by removing this cover (which apparently is a big triangular object inside the car, not just a standard circular screw-on cap) and their wind tunnel results were 170 pounds of downforce. White added that Edwards' crew can be seen during a pit stop making other modifications to increase downforce as well (by 70 pounds, according to Toyota's wind tunnel). I'm going to ignore why Toyota might have been testing these particular configuration. Jeff Burton agreed, saying from "past experience" that removing the oil tank lid increases downforce and decreases drag.

So Edwards illegally increased his downforce by around 200 lbs and slightly reduced his drag in a race where a tenth of a second per lap is a huge margin? Yeah, that sounds like cheating to me. Downforce is everything, allowing the car to turn better and maintain more speed through the corners, and a reduction in drag is obviously good. Edwards' team claims the cover shook loose through vibration during the race, but I haven't heard anything about finding the part in the bottom of the car, or wear on the part, or a stripped screw. Burton added that the mechanics are meticulous about checking every detail of every car. It looks like the #99 team got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and they deserved every bit of that punishment.

Hockey or Boxing? Nice Knockdown Either Way

I'm never sure whether to say I went to a hockey game and a fight broke out , or I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out. This fight made it to Sportscenter and was worth finding. In their second fight of the night, the Flyers' enforcer scores a nice left. There's actually a website devoted to hockey fights, worth checking out.

I love that the officials stay out of the picture until a clear advantage is gained. The NHL knows half the fans are there for the fights.

March 6, 2008

Missouri Valley Tournament Preview

The first conference tournament for a league projected to get multiple bids is the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this weekend in St. Louis, "Arch Madness". Four teams in the MVC have a shot at an at-large, but only one is a lock, so this tournament could have serious bubble implications. Here's a look at the contenders and their potential paths, listed by seeding.

#1 Drake (RPI: 15, SOS: 85) - Their victory at Butler during BracketBusters finalized their berth in the NCAA's. Playing for the conference crown with a 15-3 conference mark, the Bulldogs staggered down the stretch, going 2-3 in their last 5 conference games. Their path to the finals goes through #8 Indiana State and then #4 Creighton. Neither team beat Drake in the regular season, though Creighton took them to OT in the meeting at Creighton. Definitely the favorite.

#2 Illinois State (RPI: 34, SOS: 77) - Not a team many have heard much about this year, this team is currently in based on Lunardi's latest Bracketology. However, their best nonconference win was Cincinnati, so their hold on the tournament is tenuous at best. They play the winner of the second play-in game (currently #7 Missouri St.), and then get #3 Southern Illinois in the semis, both of whom they swept in the regular season.

#3 Southern Illinois (RPI: 51, SOS: 11) - Normally a mid-major team with 13 losses is not on the bubble, but Lunardi has them as one of the "next four out". A look at their schedule shows why. Victories over Miss St., St. Mary's, and Western Kentucky (all RPI top 50) punctuate a 6-6 nonconference record, which also includes losses to top 50 Indiana, Butler, and USC. They get Northern Iowa in the first round, a team they split with in the regular season. The first round is absolutely must-win.

#4 Creighton (RPI: 55, SOS: 84) - St. Joe's and Oral Roberts were good nonconference wins, but the SOS is not there to merit an at-large right now. Creighton has to beat Bradley (RPI: 93) who crushed Creighton at Bradley. This is a rematch of a game last Saturday at Creighton that went to 2OT, with Creighton finally winning 111-110 to get the #4 seed. Creighton must beat Bradley and then Drake to get considered for an at-large, but if they make the finals, they might as well make it easy for the committee and win one more.

Game to Watch:
#2 Illinois State vs. #3 Southern Illinois - If this game happens, it's crucial for both. A win would put either team in, while a loss would probably knock either one out. It's hard to see the MVC getting more than 2 teams, though Illinois State would still have a slim shot if they lose. Illinois State swept the season's pair of games and would separate themselves from Southern Illinois with a victory.

#5 Bradley - Coming off a 2OT loss at Creighton, a team they already beat at home, Bradley should have plenty of confidence in the first round and could easily end the Bluejays' hopes of the NCAA's. Bradley's two games with Drake were split with a 1 point victory for each team on the road. The rubber match could go Bradley's way. Bradley would then want to see Illinois St instead of Southern Illinois, based on their split with Illinois St. in the regular season. If Bradley goes all the way, the MVC could be a 3 bid league, especially if Illinois St. is their opponent in the finals.

Southern Illinois over Bradley in the final.

A first round loss by any of the #2, #3 or #4 seeds would put them out of the tournament. Watch the finals Sunday at 1 on CBS and enjoy the start of (M)Arch Madness!

Greatest 897 Albums of All Time

Last month, Towson Univeristy's radio station ran a countdown of the greatest 897 albums of all time, as voted on by listeners. The full list is pretty impressive. Here are the top 10:

  1. Beatles- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  2. Beatles- The Beatles (White)
  3. Pink Floyd- Dark Side Of The Moon
  4. The Beatles- Abbey Road
  5. The Clash- London Calling
  6. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
  7. U2 - The Joshua Tree
  8. Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
  9. The Who - Who's Next
  10. The Beatles- Revolver
There's enough fodder there for hours of argument from any music fan. Personally, I think Nevermind at #19 is vastly underrated. Dark Side of the Moon, while I like it, doesn't belong at #3.

The station plays mostly indie-ish rock, which explains why Dr. Dre is at #308, further down the list than the Indigo Girls (#285).

On a personal note, it's absurd that the top-rated Phish album is Billy Breathes (#467). Junta (#508), A Live One (#686), and Rift (which didn't even make the list) are far better.

Definitely check out the whole list, though, it's fun to read all the way though. And if you live near Baltimore, give WTMD a listen.

The greatest 897 albums of all time (WTMD)

Most Overpaid Teams of 2007

With baseball season rapidly approaching, it's time for a look back at the most overpaid flops (as a team) of last year, and some speculation on whether history will repeat itself. All payrolls here. Without further ado, here they are in reverse order of overpayment:

Seattle Mariners ($106 Million, 88-74) - The Mariners won their last 5 to finish 6 back of the Angels. Granted the Angels spent as much as the M's, but you'd like to be a little more competitive for that much money. The Angels led all summer. Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre, need I say more?

"Another groundout, at least I got it in play..." (Getty Images)

NY Mets ($115 Million, 88-74) - Not a huge flop since they were in the playoff hunt the whole year, but it's clear that money doesn't buy clutch performance, even if you have the highest payroll in the NL. Their collapse allowed the Phillies (making $25 Million less) to close the gap. To be fair, the Phillies' payroll will close that gap some with Ryan Howard making $9 Million more than last year.

LA Dodgers ($108 Million, 82-80) - The NL West team with the highest payroll was lucky to break .500, and struggled mightily at the end of the year. Their 4th place finish was embarassing, especially since the Rockies and D-Backs COMBINED payroll was less than the Dodgers. The Padres were also under $60M.

SF Giants ($90 Million , 71-91) - Behind huge contracts to Zito and Bonds (neither of whom performed at a high level consistently), the Giants floundered to a last place finish and the 2nd worst record in the NL (Pirates, tied with Marlins). Good thing they let Schmidt go so they could sign Zito.

"I just gave up another homer, at least I'm rich..." (AP Photo)

Baltimore Orioles ($93 Million, 69-93) - An increase of $20 Million over 2006 netted the Orioles absolutely no benefit, leaving them still the second-best team in the Baltimore-Washington area. As a point of pride, the O's finished ahead of the Rays. On the other hand, the Rays only paid $24 Million to finish 3 games worse.

Chicago White Sox ($108 Million, 72-90) - The White Sox appear to have overpaid to keep an aging team together following their World Series victory, and it really cost them last year. 4th place behind medium market teams is not worth the 5th highest paid team in the league.

So what about 2008? The Orioles unloaded Tejada and Bedard for a collection of prospects and nobodies, so that should reduce the payroll but not improve the record. The Giants wisely disposed of Bonds, but Zito's monstrosity of a contract will be a burden on that team for years. The Dodgers and the Mets are likely to have much improved years with the addition of Torre and Santana, respectively. The White Sox and the Mariners might have the same result as last year, for the same price. Those owners have to love it.

Only 4 of the top 12 teams in payroll made the playoffs last year, and 3 teams in the bottom 8 made the playoffs. Money isn't everything.

PGA Golfer Tripp Isenhour Finally Bags a Birdie - The Demise of Other Animals in Sport

Tripp Isenhour is just another fringe PGA Tour grinder, a coin flip to make the cut each week. His stats belie his accuracy though. Tripp managed to intentionally hit and kill a noisy migratory hawk while filming a piece for "Shoot Like a Pro" in Florida. Unfortunately, this is illegal and obviously was captured on tape. Tripp now faces prosecution for bagging this birdie.

Of course, this post is just an excuse to post video of Randy Johnson exploding a bird in Spring Training a few years back.

And this rabbit who was disentegrated in a race.

And an impromptu funeral for a bird killed by a tennis ball.

Another race incident, this time sending a deer 15+ feet into the air.

Sharapova nailing Serena Williams at the net...while down 5-0. (Serena is a "bird" in the British sense.)

Video could not be located of Dave Winfield killing a bird with a throw from the outfield. Video could also not be located of me running over a squirrel with my bike after it somehow doubled back between the wheels.

March 5, 2008

J.J. Redick - Still beloved in the Nation's Capitol

So I had the privilege of watching the Wizards get blown out by 30 at the Verizon Center tonight. Seeing Andray Blatche go 1-10 shooting was almost as painful as watching the Terps blow a 20-point lead at home three nights ago. Maybe I should just give up on all forms of basketball for about a year.
Of course, the Magic feature former Duke standout and poet J.J. Redick. Redick rides the next-to-last seat on the Magic bench, playing in only 25 games the season to date, averaging 8 minutes a game, and most recently whining like a little bitch about his lack of playing time and demanding a trade. Which means that when the Magic were nursing a 25 point lead in the fourth quarter, the Verizon Center crowd got the pleasure of seeing Mr. Backne check into the game.

If J.J. were a condor, he would fly back to Duke, where he didn't ride the last seat on the bench.

From the second Redick checked into the game, the Verizon Center crowd heckled Redick. Everytime he touched the ball, the whistles and boos fell from the rafters. It was unbelievable. I thought only Terp fans hated Redick, but clearly he was universally despised by many more basketball fans than those of us who bleed the black, gold, white, and red (it's a special talent to bleed four colors). The taunting and heckling was so bad, it got a mention in the Game Notes section of the Washington Post article.

I felt oddly satisfied to be able to heckle Redick one more time. My hatred for Duke basektball cannot be healthy.

Major Conference Coach of the Year Awards

Here's a look at the coaches who have done more with less this year. Not all of these coaches will win their conference or even come close, but they all deserve credit for doing a great job, many under significant adversity. Of course, the media and coaches will probably vote for others than those listed here, but that's their mistake.


Seth Greenberg (VT) - The Hokies are one win away from the #3 seed in the ACC tournament. I don't think anyone expected that, especially with freshmen starting at point guard and center. The Hokies only have two upper-classmen who play.

Honorable Mention: Frank Haith (Miami), Oliver Purnell (Clemson)

Big 12
Scott Drew (Baylor) - You had the Bears with 20 wins this year? Yeah, right. Only two years removed from not having a non-conference schedule, Drew has led a young team to a season well beyond expectations. Taking a program from the worst of incidents (one player killing another) to the NCAA tournament, with sanctions along the way, in only 5 years certainly gets my vote.

Drew's first practice, hired after the murder (Image: ESPN)

Honorable Mention: Jeff Capel (Oklahoma)

Big East
Jim Calhoun (UConn) - With guards suspended mid-season and a team that didn't make the tournament last year, Calhoun rallied the team to a win at Indiana and things have been good ever since. 12-4 in conference and in line for a bye in the Big East tourney is pretty good with some adversity along the way.

Honorable Mention: Rick Pitino (Louisville), Bob Huggins (West Virginia)

Big Ten
Matt Painter (Purdue) - With the Boilermakers at 14-3 in conference out of absolutely nowhere, with freshmen leading the way and a deep bench, this is a no-brainer in my opinion.

Honorable Mention: Bo Ryan (Wisconsin), Tubby Smith (Minnesota)

Trent Johnson (Stanford) - From 18-13 to 24-4, the Cardinal have developed behind the strength and development of the Lopez twin towers. Stanford plays at UCLA tomorrow for a share of the Pac-10 lead with one game to play.

Honorable Mention: Herb Sendek (Arizona State), Kevin O'Neill (Arizona)

I've got spirit! How about you?

Bruce Pearl (Tennessee) - When was the last time Tennessee was ranked #1 before this year? Who's #1 in RPI and #2 in SOS?

Honorable Mention: Billy Gillespie (Kentucky), Rick Stansbury (Miss St)

Bubble Teams Finally Win a Few

For the first time in weeks, as Maryland sits idle, teams on the bubble are making a move. Ohio State got it started with a huge win over Purdue, their first over a top 50 team. Today, a bunch of other bubble teams got it going.

#57 Syracuse beat Seton Hall
#53 UAB and #69 Houston won
#39 UMass and #66 Temple won
#35 Dayton won
#55 Kentucky won
#61 Villanova won
#26 Miami and #30 Oklahoma won
#48 Texas A&m beat Baylor

#42 Ole Miss beat Arkansas
#46 New Mexico beat #27 UNLV
#45 K State won
#54 Virginia Tech pounded Wake
#32 Kent St won

#37 West Virginia beat #24 Pitt

That's a lot of upward movement while teams like Maryland sit still. Not good with probably two games coming up that can only hurt us.

American Idol Recap (3/5/08) - The Eight Ladies

It's still 80's night, and finally we can get into some of those high-pitched male vocals. That's right, it's ladies night again. After the men, for the most part, did well last night the pressure is back on the fairer, weaker sex. Some should take a page out of Hillary's book and either cry or whine that the boys are ganging up on her if the going gets tough. Off we go.

1) Asia'h Epperson - I Wanna Dance with Somebody - Whitney Houston - Again, someone takes on the top vocalist of the 1980's. Asia'h sang the song well, but of course she didn't quite reach Whitney level. On the other hand the song is very upbeat and everyone knows it. It might prove memorable as the night moves on. Randy said he recorded the song with Whitney, and that Asia'h took on a tall order and proved she should be there. Paula wondered if she could pull it off, but she nailed it. Simon said it was second rate Whitney after second-rate Celine Dion last week.

2) Kady Malloy - Who Wants to Live Forever - Queen - Can Kady skate by on being cute again this week? She was (as predicted by me) in some trouble last week. No Britney impression this week. This was a boring-ass song with boring-ass delivery by a boring-ass girl. I zoned out. Randy questioned the song choice, saying it was clean. Paula said it was her best performance to date. She mentioned tenderness and softness and I started missing Top Chef and Iron Chef. Simon again called out her "massive lack of personality."

3) Amanda Overmyer - I Hate Myself for Loving You - Joan Jett - I am growing to hate this rocker chick, despite liking rock myself. You might know this song as the tune to NBC's "I Wait All Week for Sunday Night" football intro. Maybe it's ESPN's for Monday Night. I don't know, but I'm not a fan. She couldn't have been more stereotypical in picking her song. Of all the great 80's rock songs with a high-pitched male voice, she took the painfully obvious road. Randy liked her return to "bluesy rocker chick". Paula complimented her face and said she found her niche. Simon thought it was fantastic. Lesson to contestants: give the producers what they want and you will be rewarded.

4) Carly Smithson - I Drove All Night - Cyndi Lauper/Celine Dion - The Irish chick has a world of BritPop to choose from. Let's see what she goes with. Ahh, Cindi. I was wondering who would go this route. Again, the girls have the entire 80s to pick from. This song is okay, but no one at home is singing along right now for the third song in a row. Carly sang the song very well, but I question how many votes this will translate to. Randy said it was another great performance. Paula said she is a dependable dog. Simon said she chose the wrong song, even though she sang the Celine Dion version of it.

5) Kristy Lee Cook - Faithfully - Journey - I wondered which chick would tackle the castrated vocals of Steve Perry. Her hair looks better this week, but she developed some kind of mild facial Tourette's since the past couple weeks. Of course, she didn't go with one of the top singable Journey songs, but rather with another meandering ballad. She's boring. It was boring. Randy said Journey is near and dear to his heart and he liked the (barely perceptible) country angle to it. Paula agreed it could be a country hit. Simon still found her forgettable, seeing 10th at best. Kristy said "Hey, top 10, that's okay with me." Really? Go the fuck home then and try to get your pawned horse back. At least pretend you intend to win.

6) Ramiele Malubay - Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) - Phil Collins - The petite cute Filipino picked a great sing-along song. That alone puts her through based on what others have sung tonight. She did lyric stumble a bit early. Of course that doesn't matter because the SONG BUILDS THROUGHOUT which is the key formula to a big Idol performance. She sang it very well and removed all traces of Phil Collins. I predict rave reviews just because she woke up the judges and crowd. Randy is proving me wrong, since he asked Ramiele a question first. He said she needs to find her confidence. Paula said she has a beautiful face and caught herself from saying her voice was colorful and then went off on a tangent about peanut galleries and mutts. Simon said it was good but a little old-fashioned. Ramiele was a little coy when Seacrest asked her about the personal reasons behind her singing that song.

7) Brooke White - Love Is a Battlefield - Pat Benatar - Brooke lost the guitar this week and added a distracting monster ring. She sang with just acoustic accompaniment, which made it feel like a half-assed bar performance. Why would you do this song sitting down? Why would you neuter it of its big notes? She's not as hot this week to me for some reason either. This might be the last song she performs on Idol. Randy said he really liked it, but he sounded tired saying it. Paula thought it was a wise choice and very pure, but thought she should have included the band more and built. Simon disagreed said that he liked it as just her and the guitarist and thought it was a great performance.

8) Syesha Mercado - Saving All My Love for You - Whitney Houston - Really weird outfit by Syesha tonight. I'm colorblind, so this might not be accurate, but it looked like a monochrome mini-jumper like Diana Ross would wear in The Wiz. Syesha sang the song well, and since it is a more restrained Whitney song she didn't have to compete with her. I thought it was well done and a good way to close the show. Randy said "good". Paula said "sophisticated, lovely." Simon said "A bit predictable but good." Apparently time was tight. That was literally all they said. Actually, I know it was because my TiVo just cut out during the recap.


Asia'h Epperson
Amanda Overmyer
Carly Smithson
Ramiele Malubay


Brooke White
Syesha Mercado


Kristy Lee Cook
Kady Malloy

I feel pretty confident that these two girls are going home. Kristy Lee Cook was totally forgettable, spastic, and hard to look at. Kady sang a boring-ass song early and seemingly refuses to embrace her sexy. Kady needs her sexy back.

NASCAR News: Edwards Gets Huge Penalty

After thinking about it for a few days, NASCAR dealt a harsh penalty to Carl Edwards and his team for a missing oil tank lid cover. Edwards was docked 100 points and the 10 points of seeding for the victory if he makes the Chase, while his crew chief is $100K lighter and has 6 weeks to think about it. Seems a little harsh to me. As an aerospace engineer familiar with drag in some applications, it's hard to believe that a missing lid cover would make that big a difference. I don't know exactly where it's located, but unless it's part of the grill or hood, it's hard to believe that would create a significant enough down-force to generate a competitive advantage. I understand NASCAR is working hard to keep the field level and prevent teams from making illegal changes, but many of the other drivers think this is a ridiculous penalty as well. To put it in perspective, 100 points is more than half of his points from that race and more than 20% of his leader's total through 3 races. The penalty dropped him from 1st to 7th. Expect an appeal.

In other news, the weather this weekend in Atlanta is looking less than ideal. Friday, the prediction includes T-storms, and the Nationwide race on Saturday will have flurries and wind with a high of 46. Welcome to the sunny South! It will be 68 tomorrow afternoon, though. Hopefully, they are able to get qualifying in, or else the "go or go home" cars will be screwed for the 2nd time in 4 weeks, crippling teams like the #84 hoping to make the top 35 through the first 5 races.

Final ACC Bubble Watch

IN: UNC, Duke

OUT (would need the automatic bid): Virginia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, Boston College

Clemson (20-7, 9-5, RPI: 19, SOS: 30) - The Tigers are probably already in with a very impressive resume. However, I think they need one more win to officially be a lock. If they were to lose at GT and vs. VT, they could finish in a tie for 4th in the ACC at 9-7. A subsequent loss to the #12 seed in the first or second round of the ACC tournament could be very damaging. That scenario isn't as ridiculous as you might think.

Miami (19-8, 7-7, RPI: 26, SOS: 25) - The Canes could lose out and be on the bubble, but finishing at .500 in league play would give a nice warm, fuzzy feeling. Tonight's game at home vs BC should provide that feeling. On the other hand, an 0-3 finish like the one described for Clemson would not be good.

Maryland (18-12, 8-7, RPI: 63, SOS: 14) - The Terps are in a world of hurt after the loss to Clemson, but they're still in the tourney in the latest Bracketology. Joe Lunardi and I agree that they're still barely ahead of the Hokies as well, on the weakness of the Hokies' non-conference efforts. At Virginia is a must win on Sunday. The Terps have no shot at a bye with their 0-4 record against VT, Clemson, and Miami, so they will face the #11 or #12 seed in the first round of the tournament (also a must win). I believe a subsequent victory over VT, Clemson or Miami in the quarters would put the Terps decisively in. Anything less is quite dicey.

Virginia Tech (18-11, 9-6, RPI: 54, SOS: 52) - The Hokies' problem is that they haven't beaten anyone worthwhile, though Lunardi has them as the last team in right now. They are 0-5 against the RPI top 50, and only have 5 wins over the top 100 (Maryland x2, GT, Wake, FSU). Offsetting those wins are losses to Penn St., ODU, and Richmond. There was no impressive non-conference win, you choose the best one from UNC-Asheville, UNC-Greensboro, and St. John's. To get in, VT really needs to beat Clemson on the road this weekend. That would give them the 3rd seed in the ACC, as well as a win over a top 50 team. I think a win over the #6 or #11 seed would then put them in for sure. If they lose to Clemson, it might take two wins in the tournament, so getting the bye at #4 (depending on Miami's record) might actually be a disadvantage.

Florida State (17-13, 6-9, RPI: 65, SOS: 18) - The Seminoles have been out of the picture for a while after a 3-8 start in conference. However, a closer examination shows that they had to play UNC, Clemson, and Miami twice each. Winning at UNC yesterday (or the OT game at home against UNC) would have been huge, but the Noles still have a shot. A win over Miami would give them the season sweep of the Canes. If the Noles can follow it up with at least two, maybe three wins, to make the ACC Semis or Finals, I think they sneak in through a weak bubble crowd. That of course requires a victory over Duke or UNC in the quarters.

March 4, 2008

March 30, 2008

So my gloom about the Maryland game on Sunday was partially erased today, when I was one of the lucky few to jump online and snatch up two of the tickets the Nationals made available for Opening Night at the new Nationals Ballpark, set for Sunday, March 30, 2008, against the Braves. I have read about people who had nightmares logging into the ticket system... all I can tell you is I logged in right at 9, was in the "waiting area" for about 45 seconds, them the ticket ordering screen popped on and I grabbed my two tickets. I should've maxed out at 4 and profiteered on Ebay (tickets in the hundreds of dollars currently)

As you can see above, the ballpark is quite unlike any others in the majors. For those of you familiar with D.C., the exterior of the park plays on the architecture of DC, using limestone, marble, and glass to fit into the federal style of architecture so common to the District. As you can also see at left, the Park is 13 blocks directly south of The Capitol Dome. Those with seats along the rightfield line will have a great view of the Dome. Unfortunately the stadium could not be built with an outfield opening up oriented towards the monuments, as that would cause home plate to face due west, an unappealing situation for a sport where 90% of the home games would have the first few innings played around sunset.

That is the Jumbotron at Nationals Park. I think by calling it a Jumbotron, you're doing it a disservice. The thing is the largest HD scoreboard at any professional sporting venue in the United States. Just look at that picture from their testing today. It looks like something you'd see on Playstation. Doesn't quite look real. It also looks like the Nats are retiring the number 10 like the Seahawks retired the number 12 (10th man for baseball = 12th man for football). Not quite sure how they can do that with Ronnie Belliard still on the team wearing #10. Maybe when he's inducted into Cooperstown they'll really retire the number 10.
Anyway, I am psyched. I always thought about those lucky people who were at Camden Yards the day it opened. I still think about those people on the rare occasions I opt to give Angelo$ money and see Nats games at Camden Yards. Now I'll be one of those lucky few to have stepped foot in Nationals Park the evening of the first ever game played there. It'll be a hell of a night.

Idol Recap 3/4

The top 8 guys performed tonight for a spot in the "finals" next week... really it's the "finals" to narrow the top 12 to the top 10 who get to take part in the Idol tour. Tonight the guys performed and proved why last year's group of guys was so incredibly weak. Before we get to reviews of performances, first let me weigh in on the David Hernandez situation.

In case your wife doesn't e-mail you storis from TMZ during the day and you hadn't heard the latest scandal involving an Idol contestant, it came out today that David Hernandez had a prior career. As a male stripper. At an all nude club. At an all nude gay strip club. For three years. So Paula's comment last week that David looked really comfortable on stage hits a little too close to home. Bottom line is David can sing. He can sing really, really well. But the problem is that if Idol doesn't kick David out, they've set a severe double standard. If you're trying to run a family friendly affair enough to kick out a large black woman who had posed for a few nude pictures, you have to kick out a hispanic male who made money as an all nude stripper in a gay club. The owner also made it sound like other services may have been available at this club. Who knows. Regardless, it's a problem for these Idol producers because David is a hell of a talent. Personally, I think come Thursday, he will be gone from the results show. We'll see if Rupert Murdoch is able to sweep this one under the rug though in the interest of ratings.

J-Red always knew he recognized David from a drunken night in Phoenix long ago.

On to the performances:

MIND-BLOWINGLY GOOD (no pun intended)

David Cook - You know your performance is good when you sing a version of a chart-topping song and I have no idea who originally sang it. I agree that Cook's plugged in version of Lionel Richie's Hello could be a hit today. It was totally fantastic. Wonderfully controlled. And great musically.

Jason Castro - The Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah is one of my favorite songs ever after hearing Josh Korr play it in 7134 Ellicott Hall freshman year at College Park. And Castro did it justice. An incredibly hard song to sing and Castro took it on. He's painful to watch though. He's uncomfortable on stage and doesn't exude the look of someone who wants to be there.

David Archuleta - He hit one or two notes off which is about ten less than the average Idol contestant and about one or two more than he was off last week. His version of Phil Collins' Another Day in Paradise looked effortless. Although I can see why the rumors are true that he's been hazed by the other guys enough to be known as the cast crybaby. Still, betting on him to make the top 5 is like betting on the Red Sox to make the playoffs... the odds are substantially stacked in your favor.

David Hernandez - Just a totally great performance. He looked focused, which I'm sure was hard for him. Ordinarily it's tough for a male to take on a song made famous by a female (see Chikezie review infra) but his version of Celine Dion's It's All Coming Back to Me was sung with great strength and was equally effortless. Unfortunately, I think he's gone for nothing related to his singing abilities.


Michael Johns - Sang a very good rendition of the INXS theme from The Breakfast Club. He hit some good notes and showed some range. But I swear to you, he looks at times significantly older than his 29 years. He'll have a successful career after this. But does it trouble you as much as me that his prior career was as a mascot for a rugby team??


Eze - Just isn't good enough. He isn't. But I think he'll make it through because of the Hernandez situation and because he was better than the other two below.

Danny Noriega - His performance may go down in Idol history as one of the most cringe worthy ever. Paula likes him for being who he is. Danny, I get that you're gay. And you've got no problem with it. But your performance of Tainted Love (thanks for the catch Brien, my mind was drifting I was so horrified) was fitting for a drag queen tonight with your hair flipping, ass and hip shaking, and everything else. It was horrid. But again, I think you're safe because David Hernandez will be gone and the next guy is worse than you and Eze combined.

Luke Menard - How he avoided getting voted off last week is beyond me. His performance of Wham's Wake me Up Before you Go Go was sung like an above average karaoke singer. He's got zero personality. Gone baby, gone.

Iditarod Kicks Off

The Iditarod sled dog race started in Anchorage this Saturday. Most people know about the Iditarod only what they learned in school or saw in the movie Balto. I, like many males in the 80s and 90s, grew up reading Gary Paulsen books (which I highly recommend to anyone with either a third grader or a third-grade reading level), so I know a little more about dog sledding than the average sports fan. But before last year, I hadn't given much thought to the Iditarod in years.

My wife taught 4th grade reading, and her students read a story about the Iditarod. So when we saw that Versus was showing recap shows of the race, we recorded them for her to show her students. She never ended up showing the clips to her students, but I was surprisingly hooked.

The Iditarod is 9 days long and the "action" is nearly continuous, so watching live coverage is not an option. The Versus coverage compresses the race into three hour-long shows covering the entire race. The scenery is beautiful and the drama of men and women basically alone in the wilderness for a week (except at checkpoints) is gripping. It's an amazing accomplishment just to complete the race, and to win it is a triumph of man over nature.

This year, has a cool feature where you can view the current location of the mushers on a map. It would be about as exciting as watching the live locations of UPS delivery trucks, except that it gives you an idea of how long the race is and how empty the course is. There is almost nothing at all between Anchorage and Nome except ice and mountains.

The first installment of the Versus show airs on March 16th. If you're like me and like watching the biggest events in the smallest sports, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Birdman Flies Back to Hornets

After a two-year suspension for drug abuse, Chris "Birdman" Andersen has been accepted back into the NBA fold. He came very close to being more like the Birdman of Alcatraz than one of the NBA's most-loved bad boys. The Hornets have the option to re-sign him to a pro-rated contract based on his last valid contract, and they have decided to do so. Birdman has been clean for two years following a successful stint in rehab in Malibu.

Birdman never posted impressive statistics, but he served as one of the faces of the franchise (along with Baron Davis) following their relocation from Charlotte. His size and energy will serve the Hornets well during their playoff push in the West.
Andersen was eligible for reinstatement beginning on January 27, 2008. He applied on that day.

In October 2006, CNNSI's L. Jon Wertheim wrote this excellent article about Chris' recovery and workout regiment during his long exile.

American Idol Prepares to Jump the Shark

For the past few years the same question has been asked ad nauseum: "When is Idol going to have a Beatles night?" Thankfully, we were spared by litigation and disagreements that kept the Lennon/McCarthy songbook tied up for quite a while.


It's no longer in limbo, and this is the year. This will be a disaster of epic proportions. The fact is that Lennon and McCarthy were not great singers. They were great songwriters who wrote hundreds of memorable melodies. The vocals and the instrumentation were quite simple. What do you think is going to happen when you throw extremely simple songs at however many contestants whose natural tendency is to look for notes to belt and exploit? Disaster.

bThe follow-up to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is Diva in the Washroom with Indigestion

The good news is that tonight might remind people just how great the songs actually are; that they were such huge hits based on such simple melodies. The bad news is that someone may go home before their time because they offend our sense of what a Beatles song should sound like.

Favre Hangs Up Spurs - Was He Waiting on Moss?

After 17 seasons, and hundreds of great NFL Films moments, Brett Favre has decided not to return to the NFL next year. This announcement has been long-anticipated, and would have been a foregone conclusion if not for his renaissance last season. Rather than rehash his great career, which I'm sure everyone else can do quite capably, I'd rather add an angle to the story.

Is it possible Brett Favre was waiting to see what Randy Moss was going to do in New England? Prior to last season, Favre was very vocal about wanting to play with Moss. No doubt, Favre had seen first hand what a motivated Randy Moss could do when Favre was in his House of Horrors phase in the Metrodome. I find it curious that he announced his retirement the day after Randy re-upped in New England.

Other news sources are sharing my suspicion. Apparently Brett Favre talked to Randy Moss late last week. Chris Mortensen is reporting that Favre committed to Moss that he would play more if Moss came to Green Bay. When Moss made his decision, it seems, so did Favre.

No matter what the case may be, I wish Brett Favre luck in his second life. I hope to see him on television in the future, whether in Bassmasters or an analyst position.

March 3, 2008

Shawn Marion Violates Physics - One Night, Two Teams, Two Games, Two Coasts

You might recall that the Miami Heat successfully protested the result of their Dec. 19, 2007, loss to the Atlanta Hawks because the official scorer improperly determined that Shaquille O'Neal had fouled out with 51.9 seconds left in overtime with the Hawks up 114-111. The Hawks went on to win the game. As a remedy, the league determined that the teams would replay the final 51.9 seconds this Saturday in Atlanta.

Have you caught on to the problem yet?

Shaq doesn't play for the Heat anymore. The Heat will still be without him for the final 51.9 seconds. Further, the Heat now have Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks while the Hawks parted with four players to obtain Mike Bibby. How did the league decide to resolve the issue? Surely not by flying all the December 19th Hawks and Heat to Atlanta to play less than a minute of basketball. They basically were forced to rule that all CURRENT Hawks and Heat players were eligible to participate in the make-up minute (with the exception of Hawks forward Josh Smith, who had fouled out at that point).
Shawn Marion can play for two different teams on two different coasts simultaneously

This leaves us with potentially the first game in NBA history started by one set of rosters and completed by another. Future civilizations will be confused when the official game books are entered and it appears that Shawn Marion played 51.9 seconds for the Miami Heat on the same night he played for the Suns netting 23 pts and 10 rebounds. If you look at the scoreboard, the Dec. 19th Heat/Hawks game is still listed as "suspended" with 51 seconds left in OT. Marion will statistically be on two teams on opposite ends of the country at the same time.

This could all be avoided in the future if the league mandates that all official scorer be polydacytlous, possessing at least six fingers on each hand. Make it so Mr. Stern.

Coach K Greatest of this Era?

For those of you that didn't hear, Coach K got his 800th win in an exciting game at NC State, and of course, discussion has ensued on his place in history. He's young enough that he could win 1000. Many of the talking heads have decided that he's the best coach of this era. Is he really the Adolph Rupp or John Wooden of the last quarter century? No way.

Two coaches should be really offended by those statements.

Bob Knight: 902 wins gets him in the discussion, and further examination shows just how great Bob Knight's influence has been. He won 3 national championships at Indiana, and the Big Ten regular season title 11 times in 21 years. However, in my opinion, the real measure of his influence is seen in his players and assistants who have gone on to success as coaches and in the NBA. Knight's legacy includes Isaiah Thomas, Randy Wittman (coach of the T'Wolves), Mike Woodson (Hawks coach), Lawrence Frank (Nets), Steve Alford, Mike Davis, Dan Dakich (now head coach at Indiana), and many others (43 total) including one Mike Krzyzewski. Cam Cameron even had the chance to learn from Knight.

Dean Smith: Taught Roy Williams, George Karl, and Larry Brown (need I say more?). Famous players include Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Antawn Jamison, and Rasheed Wallace. Throw in 879 wins (2nd to Knight), and 27 consecutive 20 win seasons, as well as 11 Final Fours (2nd to Wooden) and a 96.6% graduation rate. The numbers and the players don't even indicate how much effect he had on the style of play (and the crappy officiating) of the ACC.

So let's look at Coach's K legacy: Tommy Amaker, Quin Snyder, and a grand total of 8 coaches as of 2006. Jeff Capel (Oklahoma) and Mike Brey (ND, high school at DeMatha under the great Morgan Wooten) are the only ones doing well. Players in the pros: Christian Laettner, Boozer and Battier, Elton Brand? I'm sure I'm forgetting a few, but Duke is becoming notorious for good college players that do nothing in the pros.

Coach K is certainly good at winning, but he is definitely not the coach that defines this generation of college basketball.

March 2, 2008

Maryland Falls Apart, Blows Everything

I don't think there's anything I can say to fix the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. The bench played great, and the whole team played great until the last quarter of the game.

What's the problem late in the game? The Terps have sucked the last three times they've had a lead in the second half, winning only once. At Wake, Maryland scored 4 points in the last 5:19, but still pulled it out. At home against VT and Clemson, they haven't been so lucky. Clemson closed the game on a 34-11 run, and the Terps surrendered a 32-18 run to VT to end the game. Both runs lasted the last 11 minutes.

I guess all I can point to is the huge number of turnovers, but we just looked tired and harried at the end of the game. All of the fire had been taken out of us, even before the last couple minutes.

Just like the rest of the teams on the bubble this year, we have shown ourselves to be incapable of playing our way in. We now need a generous decision by the committee or at least a trip to the semis of the ACC tournament.

Credit Oglesby with a ridiculous, fully challenged pro 3 at the end of the game. That was a great shot. But really, how would OT have gone?

What's at Stake Tonight for Terps

Even Gary's stressed.

In case it got lost in all the other bubble teams losing lately, tonight's game vs. Clemson is absolutely critical for Maryland.

If the Terps win, they:
1. Are guaranteed a finish above .500 in the ACC.
2. Get a much needed 2nd win against the RPI top 50.
3. Are guaranteed at least a tie for 4th in the ACC, and have a good shot at a bye in the ACC tournament.
4. Move back into the RPI top 50, passing bubble teams like Syracuse, Ohio St., URI, and UAB.
5. Take sole possession of 3rd in the ACC by 1/2 a game.
6. Get only their 2nd win against an ACC team with a winning conference record.
7. Likely clinch a berth in the tournament!!

If the Terps lose, they:
1. Have almost no chance at a bye in the ACC tournament.
2. Could still finish tied for 4th, but could also finish tied for 6th.
3. Will fall out of the RPI top 60.
4. Will be 1-6 against the RPI top 50, and 1-6 against the top 5 teams in the ACC.
5. Will need a win at UVA on Singletary's Senior Day AND a win in the first round of the ACC tournament to have a decent shot at the NCAA's.

Just in case you thought the Tigers have nothing to play for, here's what they get for winning:
1. A guaranteed finish over .500 in the ACC.
2. At least finish tied for 4th in the ACC.
3. Sole possession of 3rd in the ACC.
4. Control of their own destiny for 3rd in the ACC and a bye.