Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Several months ago I wrote an entry explaining ten ways college football could be improved. One of the selections I had was to keep the Rose Bowl a Pac 10 vs. Big Ten game. After the BCS selection show, I realize that I was as wrong as can be. The committee chose Pac 10 champ Southern Cal (as they should have) and Big Ten runner-up Illinois. Here's where this creates a problem: Teams ahead of Illinois, including the same Missouri team that beat the Illini this year, are going to non-BCS games with about a tenth the payout. The thing is, this year there was virtually no chance for the system to get anything right. For example, how do you determine that an SEC school with two losses (LSU) should be in the national title game, playing in their home state no less, while another SEC school with a nearly identical resume (UGA) goes to the Sugar Bowl to play the joke of the year?
And don't give me the old "but Hawai'i is the only school in the country without a loss!" nonsense. I'll put my life savings on the Dawgs in that game. This isn't last year's Boise State, this is a team with an arrogant coach and an overrated system-quarterback.
Anyway, there are a number of new problems that need to be addressed after seeing what happened with the BCS this year. First of all, the Big Ten can no longer play this "we can't play after mid-November! It's tradition!" game. Get the top two teams in the conference on a neutral field and force teams like Ohio State to validate what they've accomplished this year. Either that, or don't screw Missouri for having a 13 game season.
Consider this: The school Ohio State would probably have had to play in a Big Ten title game is Illinois. Illinois is the only school who beat the Bucks in the regular season, just like Missouri had their only regular season loss come to Oklahoma before their San Antonio rematch. It's pretty stupid that one team had to play the team that handed them their only defeat for a second time, while Ohio State got to chill out with their feet up.
Then again, what do I care? The real National Championship game is in two days in Chattanooga Tennessee.

Go App State.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Santos' Curtain Call

Since the last posting on this blog, several things have changed in the college football landscape, both FBS and FCS. Boston College is now twice beaten, as is Oregon. Ohio State fell to Illinois, and all of a sudden the national championship game is likely to involve some combination of LSU, Kansas, West Virginia and Missouri. So as we enter the final games of the regular season, and then the conference championship games, we can reflect on what we've learned this year in the season of the upset.
First and foremost, both Kansas and Missouri are for real. Does this mean OU couldn't possibly win the Big XII Championship game 49-17? Nope, that is still a possibility. Of course, the Sooners aren't even guaranteed a spot in the game; but start to finish, even with debacles in Boulder and Lubbock, they've been the best team in the Big XII South. If they beat Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Bowl, they're in. If not, they'd need Texas to lose to A&M in College Station, and even then it's a 3-way tie with some whacky tie-breakers. I'm not going to even try to figure that one out.
Second is that the Big Ten is bad. I mean, it's really bad. So bad that Michigan, who lost to Appalachian State and Oregon while giving up 73 points in those two games, was still alive for a Rose Bowl birth. So bad that Northwestern, a team that went 3-5 in the conference, lost to Duke. Losing to Duke in football is considerably worse than losing to Appalachian State. And ASU wasn't the only FCS school to beat a Big Ten team: North Dakota State handed it to Minnesota in the Metrodome too (NDSU is a transitional school right now, but still technically in the FCS). What does all of this mean? That these bowls are entirely possible:
Rose Bowl: Arizona State 31 Ohio State 17
Citrus Bowl (Capital One... whatever): Florida 49 Michigan 7
Outback Bowl: Auburn 24 Wisconsin 10
Alamo Bowl: Missouri 46 Penn State 6
Champs Sports Bowl: Clemson 28 Iowa 0
Motor City Bowl: Central Michigan 24 Michigan State 16
Sun Bowl: Oregon State 35 Northwestern 13
The thing that sucks? Every single school in the Big Ten is bowl eligible except Minnesota! That's because the 10th place team in the Big Ten went 3-5 in the conference. I say the NCAA boycotts Big Ten schools in bowls. Do I hate Ohio State and Michigan that much? Apparently. Have a nice life, Lloyd Carr!
Moving on. Let's talk championship subdivision for a moment. Remember the whacky tie breakers that would be needed to figure out the Big XII North champ if the chips fall a certain way? Well, the CAA had that this year. Richmond and UMass both finished 9-2 overall, 5-1 against common opponents, 7-1 in the conference (they did not play one another), and 0-1 against FBS teams. I didn't understand how they figured this one out, but UMass got the automatic bid to the 1-AA Playoffs (for simplicity's sake). Richmond not only got a bid as an at-large, but a home game as well. Delaware will host Delaware State (more on that later), and James Madison and UNH are also in the party. That means that a total of five CAA schools are in the 16-team field, including a four-loss team in New Hampshire. When Ricky Santos and the Cats lost at UMass a couple weeks ago, I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who thought that was the final nail in the coffin. But bravo to the selection committee for giving them an invite. That's a team that could give Northern Iowa a scare. Anyway, without further ado, my games to watch this weekend (both divisions).
#2 Kansas vs. #4 Missouri (at Kansas City)
Yep, this is the battle for the Big XII North. Who would've thunk it. I watched the Hawks drop 76 on Nebraska a couple weeks ago, which was incredibly impressive until I realized that 76 on Nebraska's D is like 30 on Oklahoma's. Nonetheless, both offenses are awesome. Todd Reesing vs. Chase Daniel, and the victor might be earning a trip to New York.
Kansas 38 Missouri 35

#8 Virginia Tech at #16 Virginia
The most meaningful Commonwealth Classic in a LONG time, and certainly the biggest since Tech joined the ACC. No team has more "what ifs" than UVA, whose two losses have come to Wyoming in the season opener, and NC State. Tech lost that early game to LSU in a rout, and the heartbreaker to Matt Ryan and Boston College. If the Hokies win, they'll get a rematch with BC in Jacksonville. If not, it'll be Hoos and Eagles for a trip to the BCS.
Virginia 20 Virginia Tech 17

Arkansas at #1 LSU
The Battle for the Golden Boot looks lopsided, but it isn't. The thing is, no one can run on LSU, but no one can stop Darren McFadden (or Felix Jones for that matter). Something's gotta give, and if you know Darren McFadden's game, you know better than to doubt him. A damn shame this game isn't in Fayetteville.
Arkansas 30 LSU 24

#6 Georgia at Georgia Tech
Good, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate has to be the best name of a rivalry game. This year, Reggie Ball isn't around to win it for the Dawgs (for those of you who forget, Ball was the GT quarterback who threw the ball away on fourth down in a loss to UGA). However, that won't make much of a difference. It's a shame Tashard Choice didn't have a team around him this year.
Georgia 37 Georgia Tech 10

Alabama at #25 Auburn
The only game that might be a bigger rivalry in major college football is Ohio State and Michigan. Unfortunately, neither of these teams is especially this good. I mean, Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe last week. I'm pretty sure Bobby Boucher left that school for South Central LSU, but I can't quite recall. Anyway, I'm excited about the possibility of Nick Saban not having a winning season.
Auburn 31 Alabama 17

#16 UNH at #1 Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa was dominant this year. No one played better from start to finish than the Panthers. You know how the Cy-Hawk Trophy is played between Iowa and Iowa State to basically determine the college football championship of the state? Well, Iowa State won this year, but they weren't so fortunate against UNI, the actual champs of the Hawkeye State. The thing is, if any team can have a total explosion in a game, it's New Hampshire. Ricky Santos beat THREE bowl subdivision teams in his time at UNH (Rutgers in 2004, Northwestern in 2006, Marshall in 2007), so there's no question he can handle high profile opponents. It's not likely to happen, but if it does, a UMass UNH rematch is possible in two weeks. Also, remember that when UNH was the #1 seed in 2005, it was Northern Iowa who knocked them off in Durham. Let's see if the 'Cats can return the favor.
New Hampshire 35 Northern Iowa 30

#12 Fordham at #5 UMass
This game is totally uninteresting. Yes, Fordham has won six of seven, but if UMass doesn't win by two touchdowns or more I will be completely shocked.
Massachusetts 41 Fordham 10

#9 Delaware State at #8 Delaware
By far the most interesting game of the weekend. In 1891, Delaware established "The State College for Colored Students". In 1947, that school became Delaware State College, and finally Delaware State University in 1993. The school's football program has been around for decades, yet for some reason has never been able to get their fellow state university on their schedule. Not once have the two schools, the 1st and 2nd largest in the state, played one another. They are located less than an hour apart, and are the two main public institutions in the state. So why, when DSU has tried repeatedly to play the University of Delaware, has a game never been played between the two? To quote ESPN's Jeff Pearlman; "The University of Delaware's persistent refusal to face Delaware State University in football is cowardly, pig-headed, self-righteous and, worst of all, oozing with racism." Somehow, BC and UMass manage to play every few years. Forget that we aren't in the same conference, we're not even in the same division! Somehow Georgia and Georgia Tech get it done annually. Amazing, isn't it?
Well, DSU finally got the game, but it wasn't up to Delaware. Once again, a great job by the selection committee. I hope I'm not alone in cheering on the Hornets this weekend, and it won't have anything to do with UD's football players.
Delaware State 30 Delaware 28

Enjoy the games as well as the Turkey everyone.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Who lives up to da hype? Halo 3 and BC

Okay, so a few games have come out in the past couple months that look totally awesome. But seriously, if you've played through the Halo series, and you can tell me that anything tops Halo 3, I might smack you in the mouth. That isn't to say Halo 3 is the best, but rather that I am opinionated, and I love a good franchise. Speaking of which, I still have not yet played Metroid Prime 3: Corruption yet, and that definitely looks awesome. So who knows, maybe I'm totally wrong. My roommate Matt claims that BioShock is better than Halo 3. Matt doesn't get it. But enough about video games, there are more important things to discuss.
How about them Stanford Cardinal! 40 point underdogs to USC in a game that somehow wasn't picked up by ESPN or FSN (sliding to VS.) and they pull off the upset. Unbelievable. Jim Harbaugh (who took some shots at Pete Carroll prior to the season) has plenty to squawk about now. And you know what the amazing thing is? USC's loss might not have even been the worst one in LA on Saturday night! That's right, the Notre Dame Fightin' Irish beat the totally inept Bruins, spoiling the possibility of ND going 0-8 to start the year. Dear UCLA: Fuck yourselves. If they go 8-4, I hope they opt out of bowl consideration. You don't deserve it when you play as inconsistently as they do.
Andre Woodson blew it against South Carolina (three HUGE turnovers), John David Booty threw four picks, and Ray Rice's Knights got up-ended again. DeSean Jackson and Matt Ryan are officially the favorites for the Heisman going into the second half of the regular season. Speaking of which, how crazy is it that a lot of schools are already six games in. Seems like the season just started.And speaking of Matt Ryan, the BC Screaming Golden Eagles are now #4 in the polls, which is exactly where UMass is in 1-AA. Explain this to me. UMass is undefeated in 1-AA, and in their only game against a 1-A team, they played a national championship contender tight for four quarters. We dropped to fourth. I know I ranted about this already, but it pisses me off.
Also, has a Texas vs Oklahoma game ever been as overlooked as the one this past weekend? Seriously. And on an even more bonkers note, it isn't OU and Texas atop the Big XII... but Kansas and Missouri! And the Big East? Not Louisville and West Virginia, but South Florida and Cincinnati! What the hell is going on?
UMass. 2007 National Champions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

#4 UMass... Go Figure

Alright, so UMass went to BC (ranked #11/#12) and played one hell of a game. Actually, they played one hell of a half. At intermission, BC led 17-0, which was more or less what most people had been expecting. What they hadn't been expecting was for UMass, despite a ridiculous number of penalties and one very questionable overturned call, to make it a ball game in the second half. After two Liam Coen touchdown passes - one a bomb to Rasheed Rancher, the next a quick slant to Jeremy Horne who went all Dexter Jackson on the BC defense - UMass was down 17-14 and the Amherst faithful got the chance to make some noise. But after a long, penalty-aided drive by BC ended with a TD run by Andre Calender, and Coen went out with a knee injury, UMass finished themselves off. A drop on third down by Rancher, and a missed field goal by Chris Koepplin (his first of the year I might add, albeit from 46 yards) were the nail in the coffin. BC won 24-14.

In past years, this would have meant one thing: Absolute scrutiny for the top 15 team, and praise for the team from the lower division for having such a hard fought game. This year, what happens? BC shoots up to #7 in the polls (with help from all those above them who lost), and UMass - get this - FALLS from #2 in 1-AA to #4! They've put up over 30 on every 1-AA team they've played, and handled BC as well as any 1-A team all year, and they're at risk of losing home field for the 1-AA playoffs!

This is ridiculous. I love college football, but if we're judging everyone evenly, then lets even out the money, even out the schedules, and call everyone a winner. Of course, no one wants to do that, so then we move on to plan B. What is plan B?

UMass moves to the bowl subdivision. Otherwise it's going to be same-old same-old. No respect, I tell ya.

PS: How good is your new Heisman frontrunner, DeSean Jackson?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wofford? How about UMass

Know what the biggest upset last weekend was? Wofford College over Appalachian State. Hands down, no doubt about it -- anyone in 1-AA beating ASU this year is insane. That's how good the Mountaineers are. As you can imagine, I'm not done with my 1-AA ranting yet. But for now, on to this weekend's big games.

Games that look good but aren't:
#1 USC at Washington. I like Ty Willingham, and I like Washington, and I'd like him to be successful so that Notre Dame will feel stupid. However, this ain't happening.

Auburn at #3 Florida. This game, at the beginning of the year, had some serious hype. The Tigers were the only team to beat UF last year. However, this year they already have home losses to USF and a putrid Mississippi State team.

Games people should be talking about:
#6 Cal at #11 Oregon. The PAC10 will start to get some respect one way or another. If ABC shows some shitty ACC game instead of this, I will lose it. This game may feature the nations most electrifying player (DeSean Jackson) and its most underrated quarterback (Dennis Dixon).

#5 West Virginia at #18 USF: Matt Grothe of South Florida is also in the conversation with Dixon for most underrated QB. In fact, Dixon, Grothe, and WVU's Pat White are three of only six quarterbacks in the country without a pick.

My game:
Okay, so I'm a homer, and I'm more of a homer for UMass than I am for any other team I've ever rooted for. That being said, I think Saturday could be the day. UMass has played eight division 1-A opponents in its history, and has lost eight times. However, they play just a little better each time around. Last season, the Minutemen traveled to Navy, and a late fumble by Matt Lawrence cost them dearly in a 21-20 loss to the Midshipmen. Navy went on to finish the regular season 9-3.
This year, Lawrence is our go to guy. Think he's hungry for redemption? I'd say so. Now the obvious counter-argument is, "You got BC at a baaaaad time". Well, maybe so, but I wouldn't want it any other way. The #11/12 team in 1-A vs. the #2/2 team in 1-AA. Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but there was a similar matchup almost four weeks ago at the most famed stadium in college football (sans Rose Bowl). Yeah... let me refresh your memory.
So this weekend, I'll be in Chestnut Hill, section PP, wearing the maroon #84. I'll be there not to see my school get cremated by BC. I'll be there to see them pull off the biggest win in school history, including the win over Adrian Peterson's Georgia Southern team in the 1998 National Championship Game. I'll be there to see UMass beat a school from the flashy ACC, carrying 85 scholarship players to our 63. I'll be there to see what no one in America is predicting. Go ahead, read the previews. "Boston College's next three opponents are UMass, Bowling Green and Notre Dame. Look for BC to start 7-0." Guess what, we aren't Bowling Green, who struggled with Temple. We aren't Notre Dame, who have been outscored about 1,000 to 3 this year. We are UMass, and we have a good football team.

That's what I'm looking for.

Go U.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Winners, losers, and cheaters.

College football has its first awesome weekend coming up. At least, I hope it does. Perennial powers collide when Notre Dame visits the Big House at 3:30, and then again when Florida State plays at Colorado at 10. Oh... wait... those teams all suck.
On to the good games.
Tennessee at Florida: It's is a game I'll probably watch for 8 minutes, then get so disgusted with that I throw a baseball through my television. I am frigging sick of Florida, and I know I'm not alone there. That being said, they are definitely better than Tennessee, plus they just own this game. The pick: Florida by 10.
Ohio State at Washington: UW beat Boise State last weekend to end the longest winning streak in the nation. Unfortunately, Boise State is basically the Ian Johnson show this year, so I'm not terribly impressed. I will be if they can win this Saturday. I'll also be thrilled. Hell, I'm takin' 'em. The pick: Washington by 1.
Arkansas at Alabama: I'm really going to enjoy this. Why? Because I can't stand Nick Saban. Don't get me wrong, I think he's as good a coach as there is in the country, but I also think he's an idiot in terms of his decisions on leaving a good situation at Michigan State, then leaving a great one at LSU. Finally he realized that he belongs in the SEC, not the AFC. Still, I'll enjoy seeing Darren McFadden shred his defense. The pick: Arkansas by 14.

Louisville at Kentucky: When you look at the best quarterbacks in the country, a few guys just have to be on the list. Matt Ryan, Pat White and John David Booty definitely, Colt McCoy, Colt Brennan and Tim Tebow probably, and maybe a Nate Longshore here and an Armanti Edwards (yup) there. However, two guys who have to be near the top are Brian Brohm and Andre Woodson. These guys are nice. The problem is, Kentucky's defense is okay, and UL's is frigging atrocious. The pick (UPSET SPECIAL): Kentucky by 7.
USC at Nebraska: This could be a great game. USC could also win 56-10, but judging by how poorly they played against Idaho, I wouldn't count on it. Dear Trojans: Having 9 good running backs isn't better than having two great ones. The pick: USC by 13.
Boston College at Georgia Tech: I really would like BC to start 4-0 so that UMass can make an Appalachian State-esque splash on September 29th, but I just don't know if they can win this game. Tashard Choice is just straight narsty, plus the game is in Atlanta. Hey, what's up with BC playing three ACC games in the first three weeks? Not to mention two of them against the defending ACC champion and runner-up? The pick: GT by 4.

As promised, there is also the loser list. Meaning that there are some games this weekend that are just unfathomably terrible. Here are the worst of the worst in 1-A. No picks here, sorry.
Temple at UConn: Temple lost 42-7 against Buffalo last weekend. That was Buffalo's third win in the past two seasons. Temple also doesn't have a stadium. Too bad the Big Five don't do football. Otherwise Villanova would get to smack the Owls around too.
Illinois at Syracuse: I don't know about the rest of you, but I remember a time when waking up on a Saturday meant turning the TV on around noon and seeing ESPN+ showing Donovan McNabb run the option with Kyle McIntosh. That team was nasty. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Eastern Kentucky at Western Kentucky: Again, I give props to WKU for making the leap to 1-A, and they seem to be doing an okay job. But seriously; who the hell are they playing? Last weekend they beat West Virginia Tech by 87 points. That's not a typo folks, it was 49-0 in the first quarter. Ridiculous.
Notre Dame at Michigan: One of these two teams will be 0-3 by Saturday evening. Here's the matchup: Irish running game (F) vs. Michigan's run defense (F). Irish passing game (F) vs. Michigan's pass defense (F). Michigan's running game (B+) vs. Irish running defense (D-). Michigan's passing game (C) vs. Irish passing defense (D). Looks like Michigan should take this one. If Mike Hart weren't playing, ABC would seriously have to consider pulling this game in favor of whatever the best Ivy League matchup is.

And finally, the cheaters. A moment for me to express myself.

For the past half dozen years or so, the suspicion of players using performance enhancing drugs to gain an advantage on the field has gone from occassional mutterings to the full-fledged outcry and demand that players be banned from their sport. Through this entire time, I held the comfort of knowing that surely it was only guys like Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Justin Gatlin, David Boston and Shawne Merriman who were doing these substances. Never would such a shadow be cast over my beloved Red Sox or Patriots. Until it happened.
Rodney Harrison did it. He did it, and then he admitted it, and now he is serving his suspension. And to me, it isn't enough. I actually have my own Harrison jersey, though I'll probably throw it in the fireplace the next time I dig it out of my closet. There is only one thing worse than losing in my opinion, and that is cheating. Actually, cheating and lying is the worst combination, but cheating alone is still about as severe an offense as there is in these games. Rodney Harrison will now forever be under suspicion, even though he claims to have only used the substance for a short time. He deserves that suspicion, and more. In fact, I'd say Bill Belichick should release him. At least I had originally thought that, until it came out that he, too, is a cheater.

Yes, the Patriots had someone on the sidelines videotaping Jets defensive coaches signaling in plays. This is about as blatant an offense as there is. The NFL confiscated the tape and confirmed what the Pats have been doing. About as "caught red-handed" as it gets. This turns my stomach. Maybe it's pathetic, that in an offseason that saw Pac Man Jones participate in a strip club melee that resulted in a man being paralyzed, and Michael Vick plead guilty to sponsoring illegal dog fighting, that I am so disgusted by stealing plays. But that is where I stand. I would rather lose than cheat.
Any day.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Quick Comment on Appalachian State vs. Michigan

Okay, so everyone's explanation for what happened in Ann Arbor yesterday is, "Lloyd Carr isn't producing, and Michigan was unprepared". I want to make sure that at least someone puts this in writing, so here it goes:

Appalachian State is a great football team. Armanti Edwards is a great football player. ASU won championships the last two years (and will probably do it again this year) because they are a good team, not because they're a 1-AA (or FCS) school. If they joined the ACC today, they would beat a handful of teams in that conference. If they played Michigan 5 times, would they more than once? No, they wouldn't. But it's no more absurd than a team from the MAC beating a team from the Big Ten. Those kids can play.

Everyone got it? Good.

Also, quick congrats to Clay Buchholz for his no hitter against Baltimore. Clay has big balls.

And UMass... awful performance against Holy Cross. 57 penalties and 12 turnovers. Fortunately they were playing a school from the Patriot League so everything is okay. BC in t-minus four weeks.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

This is known as "The Happies"

Happy opening day to all. Big, big Saturdays in Berkeley, South Bend, Chestnut Hill, and especially Blacksburg.

Personally, I'll be heading a tailgate at the UMass vs Holy Cross game (as well as attending) at 11:30. Should be a good game, and by good I mean not-close-with-the-good-guys-on-top.

I have plenty to say about a cetrain Patriots safety later, so if you want my first real thoughts on performance enhancers (I've stayed away from it during Bonds' last month or two), stay tuned.

Enjoy the games everyone, and sorry again about a lack of updates.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Year 1 After JaMarcus (psst: who cares?)

Major college football begins its 139th season tomorrow, and unlike most seasons there will actually be some teams worth watching on the opening Thursday. Funny thing is, a lot of schools haven't started classes yet. I'm sure that will keep fans in Starkville, Mississippi from packing Davis-Wade Stadium to see MSU vs. LSU... Not. Okay, suddenly the new thing in the SEC is to have a conference game in August. It's never going to be a great game, but it will be one worth watching. I can't recall if it was last year or two years ago, but they started with South Carolina playing Miss. State when people were interested in seeing how the SC offense would look. This year we get a sneak peak at #2 LSU in year 1 A.J. (after JaMarcus).

Fortunately for fans of college football, that's only one of four games involving ranked teams on opening Thursday. Another involves a team I had a chance to watch very closely last fall, #16 Rutgers University hosting Buffalo. Yeah, that's the State University of New Jersey against the State University of New York. This one won't be close.The Big East has another ranked team, #10 Louisville against 1-AA doormat Murray State. How much of a pansy do you have to be to schedule a game like that? I mean, the guys played a home-and-home with Miami earlier in the decade, so I can't really say it's bush-league, but Murray State? Come on.

#24 Boise State is playing a similarly ridiculous game against Weber State. As Sports Illustrated once told us, "That's weeeeeeeber, with a long eeeeeeee". Ian Johnson is really all alone with this team, with Jared Zabransky, Jerard Rabb and Drisen James all gone. Boise and Rutgers somehow don't warrant any television coverage, while Tulsa and Louisiana-Monroe can be seen on ESPN2. This is why Disney should not run the biggest sports entity on the planet.

Because then we wind up with things like "The Bronx is Burning"

Monday, August 27, 2007

A really crummy update.

Google has optimized Blogspot for Windows. Specifically, they've optimized it for Internet Explorer.

I know -- not good.

Anyway, I'm not going to be on a PC for a while, so articles are going to be without hyperlinks or pictures (maybe) until I get back to UMass. Sorry.

On a happier note, today is the 21st birthday of Kevin M. Wolfson. Kev is a 2004 alumnus of THE Belmont High School and is in his final year as an engineering student and collegiate cyclist at Dartmouth College. He is also capable of decapitating an ornery 390 pound bengal tiger with his bare hands. Happy birthday Mr. Wolfson.

Also a nice note: Team USA faced their first real test of the FIBA Americas Championships last night against Brazil. Actually, it was supposed to be their first test. Brazil has one budding star (Leandro Barbosa), one very solid big man (Nene) and one kid who clearly has game but hasn't appeared in the the NBA yet (Thiago Splitter). However, team USA had absolutely no trouble with this batch and LeBron, Melo, Kobe and company took care of business, 113-76.

USA begins bracket play tonight. This is where they get their shot at Puerto Rico and, eventually, Argentina (though ARG only has Luis Scola. No Ginobili, no Noccioni, no Oberto). Stay tuned.

Friday, August 24, 2007

We're doing Mozart in December!

The UMass Department of Music and Dance announced today that there will be a performance of Mozart’s Requiem by the UMass Chamber Choir, University Chorale, Symphony Band and Orchestra in December. The venue at this point is St. John’s Church in Northampton (the site of one of three performances of Brahms’ Requiem last year). Next week I’ll be meeting with the choral director Deanna Joseph and a few others to discuss the logistics of the semester, and I plan to express my desire to move the performance to either Greene Hall at Smith College (if they want to keep it in Northampton) or to UMass. A thousand bucks should do the trick, right? Stay tuned for more info on this as it becomes available. I’ll hyperlink to the actual event once it’s up on the UMass website.

Also, a belated congratulations to Thomas Cole, who was named interim chancellor at UMass. Cole comes to us via Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college which he has been associated with for most of his career (including when Clark and Atlanta U were two separate schools). Welcome, Dr. Cole.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lots of hoop news

Fortunately for team USA, they can make roster changes between the FIBA Tournament of Americas and the actual Olympics. This is opportunity number one for the U.S. to qualify, and almost certainly the only one they’ll need. The team, as mentioned earlier, dropped Kirk Hinrich and Shane Battier in order to pick up “pure shooters” Mike Miller and Michael Redd. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Mike Miller the same guy who wears a women’s headband during games to keep his mop from getting in his eyes? And doesn’t he reek at basketball? Oh, fantastic. Just what the doctor ordered.
Some countries, like Argentina, aren’t sending their best players to the FIBA event, which is in Las Vegas for one reason or another, again making it easier for the U.S. to lock up a spot in Beijing. Team USA started the qualifying yesterday with a 43-point rout of Venezuela. Other opponents, such as Leandro Barbosa’s Brazil team and Carlos Arroyo’s Puerto Rico will make for stiffer competition. However, for the time being, the US looks pretty good. This is largely due to the presence of good shooters (Michael Redd, Kobe Bryant) and good defensive players (Kobe again, Deron Williams, and even though I don’t love him on this team, Tayshaun Prince). Last night Kobe and Redd combined to knock down 5 of 7 from downtown, proving that they’re capable of scoring from deep with the 12-seamed international ball. Miller, meanwhile, was 2-for-8 from deep and continues to look like an uglified Rebecca Lobo on the floor. Again, it will be easier to gauge how these guys are doing once they play some of the tougher countries. Stay tuned.
Among other countries, Leandro Barbosa dropped 30 (albeit on 9-for-26 shooting) to help Brazil beat Steve Nash-less Canada. Uruguay beat Panama 88-84 despite a 14 point effort from UMass’s own Gary Forbes! Good luck to Gary and please work on your free throws. Those were killer last year (1/5 last night). Carlos Arroyo went 0-for-10 from the field including 0-for-6 from deep and Puerto Rico lost to a bunch of no-namers from Mexico. Keep an eye on these games, especially when Argentina starts playing. Not because they’re any good, but because I want to see if they come out wearing these atrocities:Speaking of atrocious things – remember when Kentucky bailed on UMass and their early-season meeting? If not, the story is here. Basically UK and UMass signed a contract for a home-and-home series last year. The Minutemen went to Rupp arena on December 22, 2006 and lost 82-68. This year the Wildcats were scheduled to return the favor in a game at TD Banknorth Garden. Except, Kentucky bought out the game for 50,000 bucks. This will wind up costing UM about a quarter of a million dollars. Well – it’s not quite the same, but the University of Houston has agreed to fill the vacancy in our schedule created by Kentucky’s selfishness. Thank you, UH – and does anyone else see this as a great opportunity for adidas (who outfits both schools) to have a throwback night? Come on, you know you want it.And finally some good news from Oakland. The Golden State Warriors have officially added Stephane Lasme to their roster. Lasme will make the minimum this year, with a second year team option making the contract total about 1.14 million bills for two years. Congratulations, Stephane. Get ready to run your ass off with those guys.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I hate spending money -- I don't hate football

So I took my already overpriced Honda Accord in for its 80,000 mile service yesterday and got some pretty standard work done. New brake pads, CV boots, a new battery and a little work on the door locks. Imagine my surprise when they plopped a $1,500.00 bill on my lap. Thanks, fellas! I really appreciate it! Herb Chambers seems like a cool guy with good taste in cars, but that’s probably the last time I have E.Honda serviced at one of his places. On the bright side, it was immaculate when I picked it up, which is never the case when I take it to a local place. Also, I got the chance to look at the cars in the showroom (this is on Comm Ave, where they have Infiniti, Honda, Mini, BMW, Saab and Porsche). Although it was on the top floor of the adjacent building, it appeared as though there was an old Porsche 959 on the third floor of the BMW/Porsche building. For those of you who don’t know about it, the 959 is the illest car on the planet. Once I graduate and am making $900,000 a year at 24, I’ll look into getting one.
Speaking of graduating, we are now officially nine days away from the start of college football. Who’s excited? This guy sure as hell is. To everyone headed back to school at (and I’m not hyperlinking this many damned schools) Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, FSU, Georgia, Michigan, MSU, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Rutgers, South Carolina, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, or Wisconsin – be grateful. Those of us at UMass, UNH, Appalachian State, Youngstown State, James Madison, Texas State and Richmond wish we had what you have. In case you didn’t get it, the first schools are the ones where going to a football game is awesome, the second set are schools where it should be but isn’t. And if you go to another 1-A (FBS) school and are currently saying “Hey, what about [Cincinnati, BC, WaSU, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota]”, just realize that no one envies you.
Clearly I had nothing relevant to write about today, so here’s to Thursday -- I'll have a bit to discuss regarding the FIBA Tournament of Americas.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Saying goodbye to the OB (Warning, this is the least interesting thing I've ever written)

After seventy years in the not-terribly-friendly confines of the Orange Bowl, Miami Hurricane football is moving on out. They will join other elite programs like Temple University, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and USF as the schools too cheap to build and maintain their own stadiums. Much like the others have done with their local NFL Teams, the Canes will invade the space already occupied by the Miami Dolphins. Not only that, but the Florida Marlins – the only franchise in professional sports with a perfect post season series record – also play at Dolphin Stadium (seriously… in their history they’ve only made the playoffs twice, and have won the World Series as many times). So aside from this meaning that serious conflicts between the baseball and football teams will be inevitable for the next 25 years, there are many other issues “The U” might want to consider as it transitions out of their soon-to-be-rubble horseshoe.
(Editors’ Note: Speculation is that if and when the Orange Bowl comes down, a new stadium will be built in its place specifically designed for baseball and will be the new home of the Marlins.)
The Orange Bowl has seen some pretty good teams and some pretty good games over the past several years. It saw two of the three “wide right” games against Florida State (and the one and only “wide left”). It hosted what is widely considered the greatest game of all time in the 1984 Orange Bowl (1983 season), where Miami beat Tom Osborne’s Nebraska team on a last minute stop of a two point conversion to win the national title. It was where Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass to Gerald Phelan some how gave BC an improbable birth in the Cotton Bowl. It’s an icon in college football, there is no denying that. I guess Miami decided it was just time to move on.
But why? It doesn’t really seem logical to me. First and foremost, the city of Miami wants the Canes to stay. They offered to back renovations of over $200 million (WHAT?!) for the OB just to keep the team from leaving. That’s enough money to fix every loose bolt, every creaky bench, every leaking sink, and they’d still have enough left over to put up a new jumbotron. They could basically turn the Orange Bowl into an upscale version of (insert other horseshoe style stadium here). Man, they must have really wanted out.
Additionally, how are they going to pack Dolphin Stadium when they can’t even get half the seats in the existing stadium filled? Dolphin Stadium, aside from being located in Miami Gardens, seats more people than OB, and that had already been an issue. In 2001, when Miami had one of the best college football teams ever assembled (don’t argue with me here – I don’t care if you went to ND, Oklahoma, Nebraska, FSU, USC, or anywhere else), they still didn’t fill the place. They failed to get 40,000 people into the stadium in three of six home games, and didn’t come close to capacity in five of six (the only one they sold out was against Washington, to whom they had lost the year before). How exactly is a currently mediocre team going to fill an out-of-the-way NFL facility?
I’m not as invested in this as it seems, in fact I don’t even like Miami football. However, the big time programs should play in their own houses. I know that the University is like eight miles from the Orange Bowl too, but at least that’s their place. Now they’re going to be playing at a stadium with another team’s name on it. It’s just not right, and you sure as hell wouldn’t see it from other colleges. Georgia Tech isn’t going to ditch Bobby Dodd for the Georgia Dome, Rutgers won’t move up to Rutherford, and Washington won’t be leaving Husky Stadium for Qwest Field, even though they were kind enough to host the Seahawks during construction. NFL stadiums hosting NCAA teams always has a lame atmosphere, and I fear Miami might see that when they make this move. Dolphin Stadium may be a hell of a lot nicer, but it can’t touch the Orange Bowl (or Michigan Stadium, Neyland, Ohio, Beaver, Lane, Kyle Field, Mountaineer Field, the Carrier Dome, Bronco Stadium, etc) for atmosphere.
Oh, and once again: The Princeton Review can bite me.

UMass gets no respect from Princeton Review

The newest edition of “Princeton Review Best 366 Colleges” hits shelves today, and guess who’s taking a few unsolicited shots at the University of Massachusetts? That’s right, a bunch of asshole nobodies in New York (yep, that’s where Princeton Review is. It’s in New York. Not Princeton, New Jersey. It’s in New frigging York). In recent years a point of amusement in Amherst was that UMass was annually climbing the party school rankings, up to #9 in 2006 and #7 going into 2007. This year, however, Princeton Review has dropped UMass from that list, and instead has stuck us on a few less glamorous ones. Let’s take a look:

Long Lines and Red Tape: #17. This is one that I cannot really argue with. The lines at Whitmore for financial aid in September are about a mile long, and signing up for classes on Spire, though it has improved, can definitely make the blood pressure shoot up. Having dickheads like Michael Gargano running the campus doesn’t help too much either.

Their Students (Almost) Never Study: #5. Thanks, guys. So basically all those kids I see in the library with Red Bulls at 2:30 am on a Wednesday during midterms aren’t studying, they just feel like abusing their bodies. You’re right. We don’t even know how to read. Eat me.

Campus is Tiny, Unsightly, or Both: #12. There is a problem on the UMass campus with a lack of continuity between the buildings, meaning some have a very classic New England feel to them, and some are modern or even space-aged chic. That being said, the UMass campus is NOT unsightly at all.

Least Happy Students: #20. Right, we have the least happy students in the country. Go out to the campus pond on a sunny Friday afternoon and you won’t see 500 kids out there having the time of their lives. Really, we sit inside all day and cut ourselves. We lock ourselves in the bathroom, listen to emo music and cry because our school makes us so damn sad. Seriously, it’s depressing isn’t it?

I understand that with these sorts of things, someone is always going to be upset, but let’s get real. UMass is respected worldwide (#96 in US News, #45 in London Times, #102 in Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s global rankings, #53 in University Metrics’ G-Factor Rankings, #99 in Newsweek’s Top 100 Global Universities, and #124 in the QS World University Rankings). The Princeton Review is making it sound like it rests somewhere between a sewer and a maximum security penitentiary (although, in terms of state budget that’s pretty accurate). The point is that UMass Amherst has happy students who actually do study and enjoy the campus. Someone needs to back the school up, and it isn’t going to be Jack Wilson, so it might as well be me.

Also, in terms of credibility, Whitman College has the happiest students and Holy Cross is among the country’s most studious schools. Hey, Princeton Review, go swim in a pool of gasoline and then play with matches.

Perhaps a less angry tirade when I settle down later.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A really super duper sincere apology

Okay, so due to public outrage, I hereby retire as someone who will ever mention anything about soccer. Admittedly uneducated on the subject, I took a few shots at MLS and specifically a few franchises that are currently losing money, such as the New England Revolution. Apparently there are more MLS fans who read this blog (six vehemently opposed the entry in the comments section) than there are in the Greater Boston area.
So in summary: You cats are right, the Houston Dynamo is a sweet name. Gillette Stadium is a great setting for a soccer game. The Colorado Rapids could totally take Chelsea. And finally, but most importantly, the LA Galaxy didn’t have to pay a British guy 250 million bucks to help MLS make the sport popular in the U.S., they just felt like supporting a former Spice Girl.
That’s it. From now on, just gridiron football, hoopla, maybe some baseball through October, video games, movies, and a few other random tidbits. That’s all I’m doing. Peace.

UMass actually beat Florida

As promised, a tidbit on the unveiling of UMass’s new adidas football jerseys. The Minutemen changed the jerseys for all of their sports to adidas in 2005 with the exception of football and hockey, which had separate existing Nike contracts. Now that the contract has expired, the minutemen are wearing jerseys which are almost identical, but have three stripes instead of a swoosh. I have to admit that I’m a fan, especially because there is no longer the dumb loopy line under the back number (If I find a picture showing this I'll add it).
Unfortunate news today out of Virginia Tech, where two kids are in pretty rough shape after a carbon monoxide leak. This coming as students are just returning, having spent a summer reflecting on the shooting that occurred in the spring. Believe me; I’m not speaking in jest when I say this: Virginia Tech is developing a reputation as Tragic U. Fortunately the alumni we call “The Vick Family” is giving some comic relief.
Back to football, I recently saw a Boise State t-shirt which said the following: Boise State beat Oregon State, Oregon State beat USC, USC beat Arkansas, Arkansas beat Auburn, Auburn beat Florida. Therefore: Boise State, 2007 National Champions.
I like the logic here, as it implies that if you beat a team and they beat another, then it’s like you defeated both of those teams. Let’s take a look as how it works for boxing:
Lou Savarese beat Buster Douglas
Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson beat Trevor Berbick
Trevor Berbick beat Muhammad Ali
There you have it: Lou Savarese is simply the greatest. Of course there is a better way to look at this, and it’s back in college football:
UMass beat UNH
UNH beat Northwestern
Northwestern beat Illinois
Illinois beat Michigan State
State beat Pittsburgh
Pitt beat Cincinnati
Cincy beat Rutgers
Rutgers beat Louisville

Louisville beat Miami
Miami beat BC
BC beat Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech beat Wake Forest
Wake beat Ole Miss

Ole Miss beat Mississippi State
Miss State beat Alabama
Bama beat Hawaii
Hawaii beat Arizona State
ASU beat Washington

Washington beat UCLA
USC beat Arkansas
Arkansas beat Auburn
Auburn beat Florida
Therefore: UMass, 2007 National Champions.
Amazing, ain’t it?

Superbad is Super-Freakin-Awesome

So now that UMass football has held its media day and all of the preseason polls have been released, I was going to devote my first entry of the week to the maroon & white. However, after seeing both Superbad and Knocked Up this weekend, I have to share my thoughts on each. Here is my initial statement, starting with Knockage: Knocked Up is a fun movie with a sweet storyline which gets a little bit too “real” at times and doesn’t provide much in the way of side-slitting laughter. Superbad is a hilarious movie which should lead to the FCC or whoever controls this to take American Pie off the shelves of every video store on the planet because it is now so superfluous it’s not even funny. How’s that for a run-on?
Seriously though, my friend Anthony told me that Knocked Up was the best comedy ever. Do you know what I think after seeing it this weekend? I need to get help for Anthony. I need to have him see a doctor. This is nuts. There are so many moments throughout that movie that you just want to scream at the characters in the movie because it frustrates you so much to see the mistakes everyone keeps making. The movie critic website hits the nail on the head by pointing out that there are some things the viewer likes about the main characters and some things they really hate about the main characters. Perhaps the funniest scene is one that was actually deleted from the movie, where the doctor delivering Allison’s (Katherine Heigl) baby has a mini meltdown – seen here. It’s a good movie, but there are just a lot of components that make it less comedic. I’d give it three stars out of five, but I’m critical of this stuff and if a girl wanted to go see it, I’d go again. Then again, if a girl wanted to go see Underdog, I’d probably go. Because I haven’t had much luck with the ladies, much like the boys in…
Superbad. The funniest movie I’ve seen while in college, hands down. Funnier than Wedding Crashers or Talladega Nights or 40 Year Old Virgin. This movie is the real deal. If you want to laugh your face off, go see this. I’m so tempted to drop about 50 one-liners from the movie it’s scary. I’ll refrain, but just know that I saw it on Friday night and my stomach still hurts from laughing so hard. I refuse to give any spoilers. Just go see the movie. Do it. Go now. Seriously. Five stars.
Update on UMass’s new unis and other stuff later today.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It's the (43rd) Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is one of my favorite times every year, when a set of rankings comes out that are so thoroughly dissected by people all over the country, and so severely scrutinized by people whose schools are not on “the list”, that you wonder why we even bother. It isn’t the writers’ top 25 of college football, no. It is the US News and World Report top US Colleges. There is not a single set of rankings I take more seriously in the month of August than these bad boys. That isn’t saying much, but still, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be left out of this one. Let’s break out our evaluation hats shall we?

Numero uno and nombre deux are, shockingly, Princeton and Harvard. This has been the case as long as I’ve been following these rankings, although they’ll occasionally flip positions or even be tied in some years. They’re always at the top for two reasons: they are incredibly competitive and they have loads of money. That’s right, the wealth of the school is taken into account (UMass is already screwed… we have one three-hundredth as much money as Harvard. That ain’t an exaggeration; it’s about $20 billion for the rich kids, $60 million for us). So we’ll consent to those schools being one and two, but how about the rest of the top ten? Well, first off, here’s the list:
1: Princeton
2: Harvard
3: Yale
4: Stanford
T-5: Penn
T-5: Cal Tech
7: MIT
8: Dook
T-9: Columbia
T-9: U Chicago
That’s right; I cut the Blue Devils no slack on any rankings page. They don’t deserve it. Other than my obvious gripe with their presence at number eight, I can’t really argue with any of these. Stanford should always be in the top five by default just based on how unbelievably spectacular Palo Alto is, and I’m always happy to see the locals (Harvard, MIT) get their due. After the top ten, here are the rankings relevant to yours truly, either because I have friends at the schools, or the school interests me, or because I just feel like rambling about nothing in particular:

11: Dartmouth
My friend Kevin is entering his senior year here, and every year I could depend on the Big Green making the Top-10. It would be nice to vicariously find myself among the elite of the country in something. I’m disappointed in you, Kevin. Your boys (and girls) are slipping.
T-14: Northwestern
Another school attended by a friend of mine. Dan “Dayne Train” Lawner (he used the nickname well before Dane Cook) is here. It appears as though the University of Chicago is establishing some distance as the premier school in the Windy City. This is unfortunate, because frankly no one cares about U Chicago.
T-14: John’s Hopkins
My sister is a 1997 graduate of JHU and my dad went to grad school here. That’s pretty much all I can say about the school. Go Jays.
21: California (Bizzerkley)
The first public school on the list. Does anyone else find it completely ludicrous that they found twenty schools better than this one? When I’m czar of the world, Cal will be top 5 every year, no questions asked. Sorry, Stanford – these cats (er… Bears?) are the real McCoy in the Bay Area.
T-23: Virginia
The second highest rated public school, and definitely one of my favorite schools in the country. I went down to UVA to visit my buddy Ross during spring break of 2006, and the place is unbelievable. Beautiful girls, beautiful campus, fun school.
T-25: UCLA
If I could go to any grad school in the country, this would be in my top ten. A public university in Westwood, California, and a good school at that? Sounds a little too good to be true.
T-25: Michigan
The Wolverines are slipping here, and not surprising. When you employ someone as deficient as Lloyd Carr as long as UM has, bad things are bound to happen.
27: Southern California
I feel like USC students have the same condescending opinions towards UCLA that Stanford kids have towards Berkeley. Well, guess what SC, you’ve been Punk’d (sorry, I didn’t need to go there).
34: NYU
Another personal favorite, and they seem to be around here in the list every year. My friend Pete essentially runs the school and I’m sure he’s pleased with where they are: Not so high that they start becoming flooded with bookworms, but not so low that coke-toting celebrities switch to USC.
T-35: Boston College
My archenemy, and the school that I wanted to go to from age 10 to 16 (before I got real and figured out that it wouldn’t happen).
T-38: Illinois
Another public that I’m a big fan of. Actually, my old man considered taking over the Aeronautical Engineering Department here. Not sure why anyone cares about that, but I just thought I’d throw it in.
T-50: Syracuse
I visited SU three times my freshman year, and I’ll say this: They have a great combination working for them much like UVA. A nice campus with pretty ladies, and going to sporting events is unbelievably fun. The only setback is… well… you’re in Syracuse, New York.
T-54: George Washington
The highest ranking school that rejected me. Wait a second, you mean I don’t get to pay $46,090 a year (that was actually what it was going to cost – and they advertised it) to go to school with a bunch of clove smoking hippies? I’m so sad. Not. I would have been much better off at a place like…
T-54: Maryland
Also a school that rejected me (so I guess it’s the co-first). UMD was actually my first choice, and I have to say, they let me down easy. A professor (Dr. Sylvester James Gates, a somewhat renowned string theorist) whom I mentioned in my application actually called my house to tell me he’d put in a word for me. I’ll always appreciate you, College Park.
T-57: Boston University
The third school of which I am a rejectee. These guys, unlike Maryland, were a bunch of pricks. They sent me a letter basically saying “just because you have ties to our school doesn’t mean you can waste our time”. Well, BU, go f*** yourselves. My SATs are actually higher than the school average, so eat me.
T-64: UConn
The fourth and final rejecter on the list (technically URI should be here too, but I didn’t apply there. They just sent me a rejection letter anyway because it was the chic thing to do at the time). They actually are now public enemy #2 after BC.
T-96: UMass
Up two spots from last year, the second straight year we’ve gone in the right direction. As long as we’re steering away from triple digits, I’m happy. Plus, hey, we should be in the top five in Party Schools when the new Princeton Review ratings come out (currently #7).

What needs to be kept in mind is that for every school that moves up, another moves down. In fact, if you look up the rankings on Google News, there are local papers from all over, griping about how Local State U has fallen two spots from last year. It’s fairly amusing, and might explain why US News does the rankings in August instead of September, when every college newspaper would piss and moan on their front page about how absurd it is that “Central Tech Valley Community College” is #395 and their school is #486.

Also worthy of note on the UMass front is that this year will be the school’s first without Chancellor John Lombardi, who has taken over the Louisiana State system. Lombardi was known for being a funding maniac who wanted to increase the school’s competitiveness, both of which might help explain the school’s improvement from the 2006 rankings (#105) to 2007 (#98) to now (#96). President Jack Wilson has now hired some cat named Thomas Cole, who is going to be Wilson’s puppet for a year. Fortunately, I’ll be gone before any real damage can be done.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this later.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A little football talk... nope, not that "football"

So David Beckham did it. He finally played a decent amount in an MLS game and gave us a look at how he’ll manage playing here. The verdict? Damn son. Guy’s nice. Playing about half of the LA Galaxy’s match against DC United yesterday, Beckham had a goal and an assist to Landon Donovan and looked like he’ll be just fine playing here for the next five years. Of course, this leads to further questions about the impact Mr. Becks will have on the sport of football (soccer – we’ll just call it soccer) in the United States.

First and foremost is the issue of club names. There are some guys in the MLS who can downright play the game. There are obviously solid American players (Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson) as well as foreign stars (Beckham is head and shoulders above, and then Christian Gomez, Jaime Moreno). The guys are real players, so why do the teams have Mickey Mouse names? Not all teams are guilty here, as the expansion franchises (such as Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA) have done a nice job. But only one of the founding fathers of the league (DC United) has a name that is acceptable. Please, the New England Revolution? The Los Angeles Galaxy? I’m surprised Bechkam hasn’t demanded an immediate change to something manly, like “LA City”. Okay, that’s a terrible suggestion, but you get my point. Keep the good names, fix the rest. Personally, I’d go see an FC New England match, but I’m not paying money to see a team with “REVOLUTION” written in comic sans font across the front of the jersey. Speaking of which…
There is a major problem with a lot of the jerseys in MLS. I just checked Wikipedia and was appalled to learn that only two franchises in the MLS are currently profitable. Fortunately, the league is going in the right direction, unlike, say, the NHL. But still, that’s not great news for a league that has been around for some eleven years now. So a good question is; what’s a good way for a club to make money? Sponsorship, DUH! How to the European and South American clubs do it? Get a title sponsor, and have their logo on your jersey. It’s become the norm in soccer, and believe it or not, it actually looks 39 times better than the way clubs are doing it now. Well, most clubs. Again, some have it right (see: Toronto FC, DC United… this is becoming redundant). So I took a gander at the LA Galaxy jerseys to see if Beckham made a good choice in his move and, guess what: The team changed jerseys significantly upon his arrival! Seriously, they went from green and gold to navy and gold, got a title sponsor (Herbalife) and put the team seal on the shoulder. It looks really sharp, just as a soccer jersey should. Hopefully the rest of the clubs will follow suit. Suit… suit starts with S… you know what else starts with S?
Pre Beckham 2007 LA Galaxy Jerseys

Post Beckham 2007 LA Galaxy Jerseys

Soccer specific stadiums, or SSS’s for short. These are vital to the success of the league. Why? I don’t know. They just are. Apparently having one has helped LA become the most profitable team in the league though, so it must help. Plus they’re just so much more logical. You don’t want a stadium 5 times bigger than you need for various reasons. First of all, it looks pathetic to have 9,000 people sitting in an NFL stadium, as is the case at Gillette when the Revs are playing or in Kansas City for Wizards games. Plus, the idea of a team having its own venue is a draw in and of itself. If New England renovated Nickerson Field to have stands on each end and a total seating capacity of around 20,000, they’d do much better. A bunch of the teams have already made the switch, some are in the process (New York, Salt Lake), but others (NE, Kansas City) still need to hop on the bandwagon.

If Major League Soccer can make some of these improvements, and I think they will, I’ll start caring. Otherwise, I’ll just continue to cheer on my favorite English teams. Those, of course, are Norwich City (yeah… I’ll explain in a moment) and Liverpool. I’m a fan of the Carlsbergs ever since I educated myself about the Hillsborough Disaster, and I’m a fan of Norwich City because some guy in Malaysia talked me into it in 2005. I was trying to figure out which jersey to buy (they were all bootleg but looked very authentic) at his shop for around 40 ringets (7 bucks), and was initially going to go with Arsenal, but was talked out of it. Malaysians have an affinity for Manchester United, so he persuaded me to go with that one, but I view Man U as being the Yankees of club soccer (though I’ve been told that Chelsea is more like the Yanks in terms of buying whomever they want, and Man U is more like the Braves, whatever that means). Needless to say, I said no thanks. Being an apparent Manchester fan, this bothered the man, and he proceeded to convince me to buy a Norwich City jersey. It was sharp enough, and the corporate sponsor was Proton, a Malaysian company, so I figured it would make a nice souvenir if nothing else. After buying it, I got an English Premier League program and educated myself about the “Canaries”. Apparently in 2004 they won the 1st Division and were promoted to the premiership. Well, I didn’t have an English Premier League jersey for long. After 2005, they were relegated back to what is now the Football League Championship. Oh well, the faux jersey is still pretty nice, even if the ironed-on logo is decomposing.

Anyway, I don’t want this to turn into a Uni Watch rant, so I’ll cut myself off. Although before doing so, I’ll enlighten you all with this fun story about the Norwich club. Nothing quite like getting the runs at a team dinner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Games of the year in college football

Each year college football season somehow gets loaded up with these “must see” weekends. The result is that there are some Saturdays when it’s not even worth it to leave your couch, and others when you might as well be mowing your lawn. Here’s a look at the must see game from week to week in college football, as well as one less notable but still very interesting match up. In three cases, the weekend was just so loaded with great games that I had to include them all, so please forgive me for September 15th, October 6th and November 24th. Here they are:

Sept 1st:
Must see match-up: Tennessee at Cal: Last year, Cal was in the top ten to start the season and just got it handed to them in Neyland Stadium. This year the game is in Berkeley, where the Bears have a better shot against the Vols. Still, I’m very hesitant to take any Pac 10 squad not named USC over an upper tier SEC school.
Undercard: East Carolina at Virginia Tech: The Hokies’ first game since the tragic campus massacre. Many ACC schools are wearing memorial decals and patches for Tech, who will be using this as a tune-up for their next game in Baton Rouge.

Sept 8th:
Must see match-up: Texas Christian at Texas: TCU always seems to be a dark horse early in the year. This season they’re in the top 25 and play at Darrell Royal in week 2. As long as Mack Brown’s kids don’t overlook the Frogs, they should be okay, but this is a better match-up than people think.
Undercard: North Carolina State at Boston College: Tom O’Brien makes his return to Chestnut Hill. NC State actually upset the Eagles last year, so there will be plenty of motivation for BC to exact some revenge on the former Chuck Amato boys.

Sept 15th:
Must see match-up: No way am I picking just one game here. Tennessee at Florida, Notre Dame at Michigan, and USC at Nebraska are at the top of the list. However, I’ll be most interested in…
Undercard: Florida International at Miami: The rematch of last years brawl in OB, which saw 13 players ejected, 31 suspended, one color commentator (Lamar Thomas) fired, and Larry Coker even more on the hot seat. Should be entertaining, though it seems Randy Shannon has a better grasp of his players than Coker did.
Sept 22nd:
Must see match-up: Penn State at Michigan: The last time the Nittany Lions were in Ann Arbor, they suffered their only loss in 2005. It wasn’t without controversy, either. Lloyd Carr got two seconds added to the game clock on Michigan’s final drive, which ultimately bought them one extra play. Chad Henne hit Mario Manningham in the back of the end zone, and the rest is history.
Undercard: Temple at Bowling Green: This is the only opponent the Owls have beaten in a long, long time. There’s nothing better than two truly awful football teams going toe to toe in a battle for MAC doormat-ness.

Sept 29th:
Must see match-up: Auburn at Florida: When the Gators went to Jordan-Hare last season, it was the only loss for the eventual national champions. Keep in mind, both Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier won one national championship in Gainesville, but neither did it while going undefeated. This year the game moves to the Swamp, where the Tigers can’t count on any phantom tuck-rule calls in their favor.
Undercard: Maryland at Rutgers: If the Scarlet Knights can beat the ACC dark horse in this one, look for RU to start the season 7-0 before the most brutal part of their schedule arrives.
Secondary undercard: UMass at Boston College: Okay, so this game is of no interest to anyone. But hey, if it was your blog you could randomly throw your school in too. Plus, you never know

Oct 6th:
Must see match-up: This actually blows away September 15th, and here they are: Florida at LSU, Nebraska at Missouri, Virginia Tech at Clemson, Georgia at Tennessee, Notre Dame at UCLA, Ohio State at Purdue, Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas. Also keep an eye on…
Undercard: Stanford at USC: Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have taken some shots at one another. If the Trojans have a chance to drop 80 on the Cardinal, don’t look for them to hold back in the second half.

Oct 13th:
Must see match-up: Auburn at Arkansas: This will be the Tigers’ second tough road test in three games, and this time it’s against an opponent they lost to last year. Darren McFadden, as we all have learned, is a complete freak of nature and probably the best player in college football. Keep an eye on the Hogs if they can get by Auburn again.
Undercard: Wisconsin at Penn State: Once again the Nittany Lions have a real chance to be the wrench in the gears for the Big Ten’s “Big Three”. It seems unlikely that no one will slip up, and this is a game that Wisconsin had better be ready for.

Oct 20th:
Must see match-up: Auburn at LSU: Holy cow, let’s review this stretch for Auburn. In 22 days they play at the Swamp, at Arkansas, and at LSU with one home game against Vanderbilt thrown in the middle. This is by far the toughest stretch any team in the country will have to face this season, Notre Dame included. Speaking of which…
Undercard: USC at Notre Dame: I think it’s been roughly 97 years since the last time the Irish beat the boys from Troy. Of course, two years ago they came one Bush-push away from doing so. This year should be more of the same, and this almost certainly won’t be ND’s first loss of the season.

Oct 27th:
Must see match-up: West Virginia at Rutgers: The Big East Championship Round Robin Series begins here. Last year Rutgers still had a shot at the BCS when they went to Morgantown, but fell in triple OT. This game has three Heisman candidates (Pat White, Steve Slaton and Ray Rice), two very good coaches (Rich Rodriguez and Greg Schiano), and will probably welcome as big a crowd at Rutgers Stadium has ever seen.
Undercard: Nebraska at Texas: Last year’s win in Lincoln was sort of the “coming out party” for Colt McCoy. Texas is once again the stronger team this year. What the hell has happened to the Big XII North?

Nov 3rd:
Must see match-up: Wisconsin at Ohio State: The Big Ten Championship Round Robin Series begins here (sound familiar?). Does anybody know what Jim Tressel’s record in the horseshoe is? I mean, in six years the only losses I can think of are the Vince Young game and any time they’ve played Wisconsin. It’s weird.
Undercard: LSU at Alabama: I really wish this game were in Baton Rouge so the Tiger faithful could really let Saban have it. LSU is a heck of a lot better than the Tide this year, so Les Miles had better take this game or he’ll be quickly on the hot seat.

Nov 10th:
Must see match-up: Michigan at Wisconsin: I’m giving the Big Ten priority over the Big East here, which is a questionable move on my part, but what the hell. These two schools have played a pair of awesome games in the past two years, and each time the home team has won. Camp Randall will be off the hook for this game.
Undercard: West Virginia at Louisville: Last year Louisville jumped to #3 in the polls after their 44-34 win over the Mountaineers. This time we shift back to Morgantown, where the ‘Eers had a dramatic, triple overtime victory over the Cards the last time they met.

Nov 17th:
Must see match-up: Ohio State at Michigan: In recent years, Auburn’s dominance over Alabama has made this the premier rivalry in the country. Add in the fact that they were #1 and #2 last year, and the fact that the loser was going to the Rose Bowl (not a bad consolation prize), and you have one hell of a match-up. Lloyd Carr is 1-5 against Jim Tressel, so if the Bucks take this one, watch out.
Undercard: Northwestern at Illinois: This is even more shameless than putting UMass on the list. However, I love my friends, and they represent the Big Ten, so here’s Mike Wilbon U versus Chief Illiniwek.

Nov 24th (Many games played on the 23rd):
Must see match-up: The day after thanksgiving always yields some great games, as does that Saturday. Here they are: Nebraska at Colorado, Texas at Texas A&M, Arkansas at LSU, Boise State at Hawaii, Florida State at Florida.
Undercard: Duke at North Carolina: If you don’t love Duke football, you don’t have a soul. They are the most pathetic group of student athletes this side of Cal Tech Hoops. This will be Butch Davis’ first chance to embarrass the Dookies.

Dec 1st:
Must see match-up: Rutgers at Louisville: Last year, 44,111 fans jammed into Rutgers Stadium, including temporary seating behind the usually open end zone, to see the Scarlet Knights pull off the biggest win in school history. It was something else. A school that has been famous for futility on the gridiron toppled the #3 ranked program in the country. This year, RU wants more. They want a Big East title. This game could decide who gets it.
Undercard: UCLA at USC: The upset that kept the Trojans out of the BCS Championship was nice, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. UCLA still was a middle of the pack team in the Pac 10 last year, and didn’t look all that impressive against Florida State in their bowl game. Look for USC to drop 60 in the coliseum.

Of course, the Big XII, ACC and SEC Championships all qualify as “must see”, but we’ll wait until the conference standings take shape before we get into those.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Best of All Time

In a move that was both pointless and unproductive, I've assembled a list of the greatest players in the history of the big three (NBA, NFL and MLB). The one exception to the "no secondary leagues" rule is that Negro Leaguers will be included. USFL/ABA stars will not. Here they are:

MLB All Time Team:
C Yogi Berra
1B Jimmie Foxx
2B Rogers Hornsby
3B Pete Rose
SS Honus Wagner
LF Babe Ruth
CF Willie Mays
RF Hank Aaron

U Ty Cobb
U Ted Williams
U Josh Gibson
U Roberto Clemente
U Ernie Banks

SP Cy Young
SP Walter Johnson
SP Roger Clemens
SP Warren Spahn
SP Nolan Ryan

RP Sandy Koufax
RP Bob Gibson
RP Satchel Paige
RP Steve Carlton
RP Lefty Grove
RP Juan Marichal
RP Tom Seaver

NFL All Time Team (Just the 24 starters, not a 53 man roster):
QB Johnny Unitas
RB Walter Payton
FB Earl Campbell
OL John Hannah
OL Steve Hutchinson
OL Gene Upshaw
OL Dwight Stephenson
OL Lou Groza
TE Mike Ditka
WR Lance Alworth
WR Jerry Rice

DL Bruce Smith
DL Joe Greene
DL Kevin Greene
DL Reggie White
LB Jack Lambert
LB Mike Singletary
LB Dick Butkus
DB Deion Sanders
DB Darrell Green
DB Rod Woodson
DB Ronnie Lott

K Gary Anderson
P Sammy Baugh
NBA All Time Team:
PG Oscar Robertson
SG Michael Jordon
SF Larry Bird
PF Tim Duncan
C Wilt Chamberlain

G Magic Johnson
G Bob Cousy
G John Stockton
F Jerry West
F Elgin Baylor
C Kareem Abdul Jabbar
C Shaquille O’Neal


I really have nothing to add to this. Feel free to vent about how strongly you disagree.

USA Basketball is... fun... sort of...

So it officially appears that Team USA Basketball is headed back to where they were in 2002: The middle of the pack in international competition. After being embarrassed in the 2002 World Championships and finishing in sixth place, they again played poorly in the 2004 games in Athens, finishing with the bronze medal. After dominating the rest of the world since basketball became an Olympic sport, the US had finally reached a point where merely throwing their talent on the floor would not suffice. The low point came with their first game in the Athens games: A 92-73 blowout loss to Puerto Rico which was the first loss since NBA players came together to form the original “Dream Team” in 1992. After losing one arguably fixed game in 1972, and another in 1988, the United States lost three times (5-3) in the 2004 games. Something needed to change.

Editor's note: Keep in mind that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States. This is like Taiwan engaging in a conflict with China, and the Chinese Government ultimately being overthrown by twelve 5'3 guys from Taipei.)

Enter Jerry Colangelo, former majority owner of the Phoenix Suns and major basketball guru. Team USA brought Colangelo in to assemble a team that would once again dominate the competition. Colangelo started out with a major strike against him: He hired Mike Krzyzewski as head coach of the team. Let’s count all of the times that a college coach leading professional players has been an effective move: ______________. Exactly. Krzyzewski’s first assistant was also Jim Boeheim. Okay, so we have one hall of fame college coach being backed up by another. Fanastic.
Then came the selecting of play, and believe it or not they did a great job here… at first. The problem with the 2002 and 2004 teams is that there were too many people who just wanted to score and not enough all around players. Having Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, Michael Finley, Raef LaFrentz and Jermaine O’Neal starting might look great on paper, but who in that group is going to play a morsel of defense? No question about it, the worst decision in this span was putting Richard Jefferson on the floor in 2004. RJ started all eight games for the US, finishing the tournament 18 for 56 from the field (WOW) including 6 for 23 from the short international three point line (eek). The United States as a team shot 31% from the three point line for the tournament; a far cry from the 44% shot by their opponents. So clearly we can see a few problems: Too many hot dog swingmen, not enough distributors, too many crappy shooters, and no one who plays defense. How did Colangelo and his buddy Rudy Tomjanovich fix this? They fixed it by bringing in a few true pass-first point guards (Kirk Hinrich and Chris Paul), some great defenders (Hinrich and Shane Battier) and a few guys who can shoot the ball (Hinrich, Battier, and Carmelo Anthony). Hey, that Hinrich guy seems to be coming up an awful lot. Let’s take a closer look at how he and Mr. Battier did: Hinrich started three games, shot 46% from the three point line, and dished out 19 assists. Battier started five times, shooting 54% from the field, 48% from three, and grabbing 22 boards. Again, they were also probably the two best defenders on this team.
The team still had a few “why are they here?” players on the roster in Joe Johnson and Antawn Jamison, but for the most part the roster was solid. The team rebounded from the 11-6 performance in ’02 and ’04 by going 8-1 in Japan. USA basketball appeared to be on the right track. Now this:
Kirk Hinrich and Shane Battier (as well as newcomer Greg Oden) have withdrawn from USA basketball. Why? Because apparently their roster spots were going to be offered up to two of the following: Hinrich’s for Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams or Michael Redd, and Battier’s for Mike Miller or Tayshaun Prince. Nice work, Team USA. Mike Miller for Shane Battier. I hate all things Duke, and even I can’t wrap my head around that one. Let’s just go back to the mistakes that made the United States second fiddle to countries like Argentina and Serbia & Montenegro.
Alright, I should stop complaining and just throw out the twelve man roster that needs to be on the floor next summer in Beijing. After all, I am the smartest person in the world. Here it is:

Deron Williams, PG, Utah
Great defender, great point guard
Chris Paul, PG, New Orleans
Had 44 assists in Japan
Kirk Hinrich, PG, Chicago
Can shoot, can defend, can pass
Michael Redd, SG, Milwaukee
Maybe the best pure shooter in the NBA
Salim Staudamire, SG, Atlanta
I’m not even close to joking
LeBron James, SF, Cleveland
Too much of a freak to cut out
Carmelo Anthony, SF, Denver
Captain of the team, played well in 06
Shane Battier, PF, Houston
Best defender on the team
Elton Brand, PF, LA Clippers
Best face-up post player
Shaquille O’Neal, C, Miami
If you’re arguing with this, kill yourself
Dwight Howard, C, Orlando
Shaq the second
Tim Duncan, C, San Antonio
The only effective player in Athens

I don’t think many people can argue with the three centers. Those are guys who can dominate inside. Teams will never outrebound the US. The argument I’d foresee is, “what did Dwyane Wade do to deserve getting cut”. Well, I’d say it’s just that we don’t need him. He’s a 6’4 combo guard who isn’t a great shooter. Of course, he’s also one of the few guys I’m almost certain will be on the team. Oh well.
I still feel that the United States will go into these games as the country to beat, even though they haven’t won in any of the previous three major international events (2002: Yugoslavia, 2004: Argentina, 2006: Spain). Nonetheless, if it’s the same selfish, horsepoop brand of basketball that we saw in the previous Olympics, don’t expect too much from this group. If they play solid, inside-out team basketball, who knows: Maybe it’ll be 1992 all over again. …well, maybe ’96.

Editor's Note: Great input from my friend Matt once again: "I'm pissed about Hinrich leaving because he's the type of player I'd want to see on Team USA in like 2012 too, we need some longevity on a Dream Team."