Monday, September 29, 2008

Well, today was a shit sandwich

Today, Americans lost trillions of dollars. Trillions. Like, thousands of billions. The stock market lost seven percent of its value. Individual families are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not just wealthy ones either, there are people who are truly being financially destroyed by this. And while I'm not making any comments about the presidential candidates, I'm sure as hell not going to worry about bad-mouthing the people who are already in office. Thanks, A-team. I have to admit, I feel bat for Henry Paulson. The man probably hasn't slept a wink in months trying to resolve this mess that's been created.
Oh well. I guess I don't have to worry as much since I'm broke, unemployed and living out of a cardboard box.

Moving on, I wanted to bring some attention to something I noticed last night while watching the Eagles-Bears game. During a commercial break, an ad came on for the new Audi A4. Nice looking car. However, I wasn't paying so much attention to the visual attention of the ad as I was the audio. The music sounded incredibly familiar. So I went to my iTunes and found a song a friend had recently sent to me by Sigur Ros, a group from Iceland. Lo and behold, it's a blatant ripoff. However, not wanting to jump to conclusions, I figured that Audi may have collaborated with the band for the ads. Apparently not. I mentioned it to my friend, who apparently had also noticed, and she sent me this: apparently I'm not the only one who noticed. See what I did there, Audi? I gave someone else credit for doing more research than I did on the subject. I offered a mere hyperlink to someone else's website. I didn't act like this was an entirely solo effort.
Reason #4,591 I won't buy an Audi in my lifetime.

As for recapping the weekend in American gridiron football -- what a Saturday, eh? Vanderbilt is alone in first in the SEC East (4-0, 2-0 SEC) while Northwestern sits alongside Penn State as the only overall unbeatens of the Big Ten (5-0, 1-0). Smart kids keep on rollin'.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Didn't happen...

A few people asked me about a recent post (from Wednesday) that deleted. By a few, I mean two, or about 50% of my readers. Anyway, the removal came for a number of reasons, but it was mainly because I called out people, by name, for doing a poor job in their writing. Calling people out on their jobs isn't what I'm here to do. I'm here, of course, because I have a lot of thoughts.
Anyway, maybe the article will be amended in the next few days and put back up. In the meantime, Oregon State just beat USC, which means that this whole post must not actually be here. I must be in a total dream. I will not believe that I just saw USC lose to the team I watched blow it against Stanford in week one. Didn't happen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

If I'm better than you at your own job, then you're pretty bad

Editor's Note: This was originally printed on September 23rd, then removed because I didn't want to bash people and use names, and now is being reprinted because I have decided I just don't care.

So I more or less gave up on the dream of being an SID. Not completely. I mean, if someone called me tomorrow and asked if I wanted a job in that line of work, I'd be interested. However, I'm not trying day in and day out to get a job in that field.
Nonetheless, it still irks me when I see someone in a good position - say, SID at a great division 1 university - doing a crappy job just because they either don't pay attention to detail or are lazy. So you can imagine my reaction when I was looking over the press release from UMass Athletics prior to the UMass-Texas Tech game this past weekend, and came across some glaring errors. I mean, these aren't typos, they are truly egregious mistakes that should never be made in a serious athletic department. Without further ado:

Glaring Error #1: "2007 was a year of the upset for the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA). There were eight upsets of Football Bowl Subdivision teams, most notably Appalachian State defeating then No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor, 34-32 on Sept. 1. From the CAA Football conference, Delaware beat Navy, 59-52 on Oct. 27 and New Hampshire defeated Marshall, 48-35 on Sept. 15. In 2007, FBS teams were 51-7 against FCS teams. The other wins by FCS teams over FBS teams in 2007 are: Nicholls State over Rice (16-14), Northern Iowa over Iowa State (21-13), Southern Illinois over Northern Illinois (34-31), McNeese State over UL-Lafeyette (38-17) and last weekend North Dakota State over Central Michigan (44-17)."

Okay, first the article says that there were eight FCS over FBS upsets, then it says FBS was 51-7 against FCS. Well, where did that eighth upset go? It was NDSU beating Minnesota in the Metrodome. Also, it shouldn't say that NDSU's win over CMU was "last weekend", because it was last year. This is clearly an example of someone copy-pasting from an old press release.

Glaring Error #2: "UMass began the 2007 season at 4-0 for the first time since 1986, losing to Boston College, the current second-ranked team in FBS, by a narrow 24-14 score in Chestnut Hill."

Oh boy. Again, an issue of copying and pasting from an old release. Boston College is not number 2 now, they have not been ranked this year, and they were not in the top 10 when UMass played them last year. This release came from around the time BC played at Virginia Tech and at home against Florida State, which I believe were their two weeks at #2.

Glaring Error #3: "As a freshman in 2006 playing behind four-time 1,000-yard rusher and current Arizona Cardinal Steve Baylark as well as Lawrence, Nelson gained 235 yards on 47 carries for a 5.0 average."

In 2006, the depth chart did not include Matt Lawrence at halfback, who spent the year as Steve Baylark's lead-blocker. In 2007, Lawrence moved from fullback to halfback, and Nelson remained second in line.

This was only about half way into the release, at which point I jumpkicked my desktop and was unable to continue reading. Anyway, the point is, UMass is a great university with a wonderful athletic department. John McCutcheon is a great athletic director and has overseen several teams, from football to basketball to soccer to softball to lacrosse, become perennial winners. However, it is really inexcusable for the press release for a huge football game to be factually inaccurate. Jason Yellin may be a good SID, but he certainly dropped the ball here.

Anyway, that's enough for that rant. On to happier topics: The Boston Red Sox clinched the playoffs tonight and are still very much alive for the AL East title (2.5 back, 5 to go). They also reached the postseason by beating the Indians and Cliff Lee, who is now 22-3. Might as well beat the best, right?
Speaking of baseball, a wonderful piece by UniWatch writer Paul Lukas the other day about the closing of Yankee Stadium. Obviously I wouldn't have appreciated this article if I were a Yanks fan, but I like the comparisons he draws from that organization to our country. It's definitely worth the read.
Also, quick promo for Bev Freeman, a friend who is running a presentation at the Harvard School of Public Health on some of the issues surrounding the recent catastrophes in the Gulf Coast region. A lot of very interesting speakers are coming to speak from various institutions, including LSU and the Mississippi Interfaith Disaster Task Force. More details can be found here.
And while we're here, another shameless plug for yours truly: Check me out! Sorry. That's all.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

That dumb ad campaign

I recently wrote about a really awful ad campaign for Buffalo Wild Wings. Here's one example of the fans stabbing their team in the back. If I find the other I'll post it.
There is another current ad campaign that may challenge BWW for being total nonsense. It's Microsoft's series of ads with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. However, I'll say the verdict is still out, because I have a feeling they're going somewhere with this. Plus, they just came out with an ad countering the "I'm a Mac & I'm a PC" ads which is a pretty good response.
In the meantime, how about them Miami Dolphins. I'm still trying to figure out if the offense they ran with Ronnie Brown in the shotgun was a zone-read, sort of like what West Virginia runs, where he has the option to hand it to Ricky Williams coming around, or if where Brown goes with the ball is already determined when they break the huddle. Either way, it was very cool, and he scorched us.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More to chant about than SAT scores

It wasn't always like this. The SEC and Big Ten weren't always just about 40,000 student public universities with 100,000 seat football stadiums. In fact, there was once a time when the University of Chicago was a conference rival of Illinois, and Sewanee: College of the South would have conference battles with Alabama. It was a different era.
Then the second World War happened, and college sports more or less went on hiatus. When the war ended, schools had the opportunity to re-evaluate what they wanted for their athletic departments, and schools like Chicago and Sewanee got out of the big time. Since that time, those two conferences have as much history to brag about as any. Virtually all of the current 23 schools in the two leagues have rich football traditions with 60,000+ seat stadiums, 25,000+ person student bodies and countless bowl victories.
With two exceptions.
Vanderbilt and Northwestern, two almost-Ivy private schools have had some of the most incredible stretches of futility in all of college football. Northwestern once had an NCAA division 1-A record 34 game losing streak from 1979 to 1982. We're talking three straight years without a win here. That's tough. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has not been to a bowl game in twenty six years. Considering that the majority of the FBS competes in bowl season these days, that's fairly atrocious. But oh, how times have changed.
Today, with wins over Ohio and Mississippi, these two long-time doormats both improved to 4-0. And while they've played only two conference games between them (Vandy is 2-0 with wins over South Carolina and Ole Miss, NU starts their conference slate next week with Iowa), there is reason for optimism at both schools.
For Northwestern, the news is excellent. Assuming Tyrell Sutton isn't too banged up (he has a lower leg injury following today's game according to WGN), they'll have a shot to go to 5-0 against Iowa next weekend in Iowa City. After that they'll have their first big test with Michigan State. However, of the five toughest teams in the Big Ten, Northwestern does not have to play Wisconsin or Penn State (talk about luck), and gets MSU, Ohio State and rival Illinois all at home. The stars may be alligning for Northwestern. They aren't going to be making any trips to Pasadena in January like they did in their miracle season of 2005, but for this team to be able to look realistically at a 9-win season is fantastic.
For Vanderbilt the news is not as good. The 'Dores are in the SEC East, which means that they still have to play Florida and Georgia, plus they draw Auburn from the West, and go to Wake Forest for their finale. Assuming this team doesn't pull any top-10 upsets, and that just doesn't seem terribly likely, especially since they're getting some attention, this probably wont be better than a 7-5 season in Nashville. But hey, that's progress.
Northwestern had the first miracle season of the lovable losers that I can remember, coming in '95 when Darnell Autry and Pat Fitzgerald let the Wildcats to a Big Ten title and an appearance in the Rose Bowl against USC. Two years ago Rutgers tried to duplicate such an accoplishment by coming within one play of a Big East title which would have sent them to the Orange Bowl. However, in both cases, the teams were back to their old selves shortly thereafter, including this year's Scarlet Knights, who look just awful.
The lesson? Enjoy the success your teams are having in Evanston and Nashville. They could be back in the cellar at any time, so as long as they're winning, no empty seats should be tolerated. I mean, these are schools that play high profile games in relatively small venues (Vanderbilt Stadium holds about 39,000, Ryan Field around 49,000). Get out there and support them. Vandy's fans are doing pretty well. But NU? Come on, today there were 22,069 fans out there to see your school start 4-0 for the first time in 46 years! That's putrid! I mean, it's better than the 19,062 that showed up to your last home game and 20,015 who came out to see the season opener, but for chrissake this is major college football, not division II lacrosse.
Support your student athletes. They're earning it.

Also, nice job by the Minutemen today. Really. Great stuff.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Taking the eggs out of the basket

First of all, big, BIG ups to Carlos Zambrano for no-hitting the Astros last night in Milwaukee. Sure, the 'Stros can continue to bitch about how these games shouldn't be played in a venue that is so accessible to Cubs fans, but they haven't even shown up for these games. Today, Ted Lilly took a no-no for the Cubbies into the seventh. With the Astros losing back-to-back, and Milwaukee reeling, It appears as though the National League wild card is going to be Philadelphia's to lose. That is, of course, assuming the Mets can hang on to the east.
As for the American League, it was nice to see the Red Sox show some life in Tampa tonight, opening up a can of you-know-what on Scott Kazmir (who looked just awful). The Sox were 0-6 in the Trop this year before tonight. I'm still worried when Dice-K goes out and needs to throw this many pitches to get through innings.
Of course, I'm only bantering about baseball because of how badly the weekend went in football. Sure, the Patriots are 2-0 and USC thumped Ohio State, but that's basically where the happy news ends. UMass (#3/#5 entering the weekend) got absolutely housed at James Madison and have now given up 94 points in two weeks entering next week's showdown with Texas Tech (#10/11 in the bowl subdivision). If Tech, which had nearly 700 passing yards against SMU this weekend, is firing on all cylinders, they could easily hang 60 on the Minutemen.
As for the NFL, my picks to play for the Super Bowl aren't looking so hot right now either. Of course the Patriots were my pick to win it at the beginning of the year, but in the "I shouldn't pick them because them I'm probably being a homer" world, my secondary choice from the AFC is the Pittsburgh Steelers. While they've played well for two weeks, my NFC choice has not. Minnesota couldn't convert any of their drives into touchdowns and blew several chances to put the game on ice this weekend against the Colts.
Game of the weekend was probably the Monday Nighter between Philly and Dallas. Something tells me that these will look like the two best teams in the NFC in November, but neither will make the Super Bowl. Other than that, it's good to see some points being scored (sans Patriots-Jets).

Huge games this week for the Red Sox in Tampa and Toronto. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Southern Cal > Ohio State... and Ohio State < an arm pit hair follicle

There are very few chances I get to enjoy myself like this, but what USC did to Ohio State tonight was just delightful. The Trojans appeared to be on a totally different level than the Bucks. This is the third consecutive year that a team with great speed has made OSU look totally incompetent. We're talking top-10 vs. FCS type dominance. Man. USC didn't look this good against Idaho last year (or two years ago... whenever they played). But they made it happen tonight.

In other interesting games, South Carolina was the latest in the "STOP TRYING TO STRETCH THE BALL OVER THE GOAL LINE WHEN IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN" club, joining Oregon, Oregon State, and several other teams in the past year. And the crazy thing is that UGA's 14-7 win was a high-scoring affair compared to another SEC battle today. Mississippi State must have joined a very small group of teams today when they held Auburn to three points AND got scoring help from their defense AND lost. Yup, the last part is correct -- they lost. 3-2, to Auburn. I love coach Croom, but he went 7-5 last year with nothing but defense. He'll need to find people who can play offense if he wants to get to the 10-win territory.
But anyway, I'm getting back to this great Wisconsin-Fresno State game. A weekend recap should be up tomorrow or Monday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday update

Just a few quick items today. First of all, someone has put a clip of the police brutality at ECU on YouTube. This shows one of the two really bad parts I saw on ESPN, which is the totally intense throwdown, but it doesn't include a different cop repeatedly punching a student (possibly in the head) who is laying on the ground. Nice job. This is why law enforcement has gone from a respectable field to one that is on par with prostitution.
This reminds me: Be sure to check out the work of Grant Cerulo, a friend and old classmate of mine at UMass who is currently working in New York. He became famous in UMass circles for his video game "Riot UMass" following the Red Sox riots of 2004, and has gone on to do some other very neat work.
And on a personal note: How can a pair of $150 headphones have such a simple frigging flaw that never gets dealt with? The Bose Triport headphones are absolutely wonderful. They cancel out most noise and sound terrific. However, the plastic just above the earpieces is very flimsy and breaks. I got a pair for Christmas a few years ago and they broke. I was able to get a new pair under warranty, which also broke. Finally the third pair bit the dust in the exact same way. This time, rather than bugging the company about it, I've gone with the superglue route. Still, pain in the arse.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The dumbest ad campaign in recent memory

Has anyone else noticed this? In the new "Buffalo Wild Wings" commercials, the restaurant patrons get to have a say in a baseball or football game's outcome. In both cases they do something to prevent their own team from winning. The rationale is that they don't want the games to end because they're not ready to leave yet. Seriously, the idea is that sports fans would prefer to have a game go into overtime so that it will end at the same time they finish their lunch, rather than having their team win in regulation. This is supposed to sell chicken wings and beer.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tomorrow will either be awesome or terrible.

So for those of you who don't know (and I admit, I didn't until recently), tomorrow will be the first attempt to circulate a beam at the Large Hadron Collider, a Particle Accelerator in Switzerland. Unfortunately, it's been about five years since I saw the Nova program "The Elegant Universe", so I can't remember exactly what we hope happens here, but I'm pretty sure the concern is that the world might explode. That wouldn't be worth it for anyone, now would it.
In all seriousness, super colliders are actually pretty neat. We're talking about a multi-billion dollar facility in which physicists hope to create the Higgs boson, and then take steps towards proving superstring theory, and then ultimately the grand unifying theory. One of the knocks on string theorists to this point was that their ideas were untestable, therefore the entire concept is actually more philosophy than physics. Hopefully the result isn't an enormous black hole that eats the earth and spits it out in a distant galaxy. Unless that galaxy is totally livable and has other nearby planets with lot of fun alien species we can hang out with.

In unrelated news, ESPN showed footage from this past weekend's East Carolina-West Virginia game of police officers (I think they were rent-a-cops) beating the living you-know-what out of ECU students. More on that as soon as more videos circulate.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A fan's worst nightmare

Right now, somewhere in sunny Southern California, Bill Simmons is writing an article about his feelings on the injury Tom Brady sustained today. Unfortunately, his feelings are going to be the same as those of about three million Patriots fans, regardless of what he says. See, about a year ago, my buddy Matt pointed something out. I was ranting about how useless Simmons has become as a writer, and Matt basically said; "the most annoying thing is that whenever he writes something, it immediately becomes what all of his readers believe". He's right. Most Simmons fans are actually sheep who regurgitate whatever he writes.
So anyway, before all of New England says either "this is no big deal", or "this is the worst thing ever", I thought I'd give my own two cents on the issue.
First of all: I didn't like the hit. I don't know what Bernard Pollard was trying to do, but he wasn't going to sack Brady, and he was on the ground, so the likelihood of anything good coming of the hit was pretty much zero. I'm not saying Pollard is a dirty player, and had Morris done a better job in pass protection, it might be a moot point. Just saying it wasn't as clean as Dan Dierdorf seemed to believe.
As far as moving forward, I'm going on the assumption that the reports about the injury being season-ending are true. Matt Cassell came in and frankly did a nice job controlling the game. What does that mean? It means he didn't turn the ball over, he made a few plays with his arm as well as his legs, and he won the game. I think it's a virtual certainty that Cassell will be starting next week. However, there are some questions about what will happen next. Reports are that Chris Simms will be coming up to Foxboro for a physical this week and should soon be a Patriot. Ugh, what a disaster. Are we seriously considering having Chris Simms play quarterback for the New England Patriots? The kid who only got to play at Texas, over the more effective Major Applewhite, because his name was Chris Simms? The kid who couldn't beat Oklahoma? The kid who hasn't started more than ten games in a season? The kid who has never won a playoff game? I mean, isn't it better to start someone who is unproven (though looked good this week and knows the offense) as opposed to someone who is proven as someone incapable of winning big games? Come on. The kid's best known career highlight was a pick-six in college. Need me to refresh your memory?
Anyway, my hope is that Matt Cassell is the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. No one is going to replace Tom Brady, that's obvious. But Cassell has been around this team for three-plus years now, and he's the best prepared to take the reins of this offense. Chris Simms can go do color commentary for high school games in Texarkana.

Also, quick props to East Carolina for quickly becoming this season's media darling, and deservedly so. Other team's of note improving to 2-0: BYU on a terrible call, UNH with another FCS win over a BCS school, UConn, and of course UMass.

Quick self-promotion: My search for permanent employment now has a home. It's pretty amateur, but such are my abilities with UNIX and Dreamweaver.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The best and worst of a relatively boring first weekend

I admit, I was mistaken. Appalachian State didn't really "bring it" when they visited Baton Rouge this weekend. However, you have to admit, they looked pretty good on their first drive. Okay, they got taken to the woodshed, but who cares. LSU wasn't the only SEC team that put a hurtin' on their opponent this weekend. In fact, some of the performances were downright scary.
1 - Alabama: Yep, they did it. Their fans chanted "SEC" on College Gameday, which the Clemson fans tried to counter with chants of "ACC", but the two sound so similar that it didn't make much of a difference. Besides, Clemson fans had absolutely nothing to cheer about by the time 'Bama had made it 20-3. This is a team that was expected to be in the middle of the pack in the SEC absolutely trouncing a supposed national title contender. Things did not go well for the ACC.
2 - South Carolina: 34-zip in another ACC waxing, though this one was already discussed as it took place last Thursday.
3 - Kentucky: Both U of L and UK are rebuilding this year after losing their quarterbacks to the NFL draft, but I don't think anyone expected the 27-2 drubbing the Wildcats put on their in-state rival. That's two in a row for the folks in Lexington.
4 - Florida: June Jones isn't walking through that door. Colt Brennan isn't walking through that door. And if they were, it wouldn't matter. Florida is loaded.
5 - Ole Miss: The Houston Nutt era might be a good one. While Arkansas struggled with their FCS opponent, the Runnin' Rebels put up 40 points for the first time in almost five years in beating Memphis.
Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Auburn and LSU also had victories against lower-profile opponents on opening weekend. In all, the conference went 10-2 (though it should be mentioned that they were two baaaad losses) and dominated in almost all of their wins. It's also nice to see that one of the few schools that struggled was Arkansas and new coach Bobby Petrino. If they have a tough year, in what week will he quit? I'm putting the over-under at eight.

The game of the weekend (though can we really call it that when it ran from Thursday to Monday night?) was the last one, and one of the SEC's two losses. UCLA, which lost a game to woeful Notre Dame last year by turning the ball over seven times, overcame four first half interceptions to beat #18 Tennessee 27-24. This game had a lot of components to it, including several periods when Vols QB Jonathan Crompton looked completely incapable of hitting his receivers, either overthrowing or underthrowing by bizarre distances. Another was the play calling by Tennessee, who, despite being ahead for most of the second half, only handed the ball to Arian Foster thirteen times (he gained 96 yards on those 13 carries) while throwing 41 times (Crompton finished 19 for 41 for 189 yards and a pick). Nonetheless, it was an exciting game as each team took the lead once in the final two minutes before Tennessee sent her into overtime with no time on the clock. In the end, both teams played nauseatingly conservative football in OT, and UCLA won when UT missed a 34 yard field goal. Cheers to Rick Neuheisel, who has been unjustly criticized for his issues at Washington (fired over an NCAA office pool, are you kidding), and somewhat fairly criticized for what went on at Colorado, where he had some recruiting violations. He's not a bad guy, and it definitely a capable college football coach who will have UCLA back in the mix in no time.
In more important news, UMass beat NEC favorite Albany 28-16 behind 172 yards rushing from former Clemson commitment Tony Nelson. Up next: Holy Cross.