Monday, November 24, 2008

The birthplace of Killer Slacks

Most of my friends have no idea where the name of this blog originated. The truth is, it is the work of a fairly brilliant friend of mine, George Anognostakos. George and I worked together to write, direct, produce and edit a short film a few years ago called "The Alter Ego". It was part of the UMass Film Studies program, and it actually got nominated for an award (The Michael S. Roif Award in Film Studies). While coming up with a few absurd lines which appear in the middle of the film, George threw out "killer slacks broseph". And so the name was born. After about a year and a half, I've finally uploaded the film on YouTube. So, here it is, where Killer Slacks humbly began:
The Alter Ego Part 1

The Alter Ego Part 2

I'll post some of George's other work soon. Hope you enjoyed the film.
Tonight from Amherst: Jacksonville State 75 UMass 74... Seriously.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why Phil Knight should be publicly beaten

I will never feel bad speaking out against someone who is worth more than ten billion dollars. The thing about the economic crisis is, if you have ten billion dollars, you can lose 99.99% of your wealth and you're still a millionaire. Good stuff. Anyway, the reason Phil Knight is such a terrible human being is what he is responsible for doing to college football. There are two great philanthropists in division 1 ball: T Boone Pickens and Phil Knight, both of whom have given hundreds of millions of dollars to their alma maters (Oklahoma State and Oregon, respectively). Pickens' dollars have been used largely to renovate the facilities in Stillwater. Knight's influence, on the other hand, goes well beyond the expansion of Autzen Stadium. See, Phil Knight is the chairman of this little company called "Nike". And he has turned Oregon athletics into a walking billboard for his company. And nowhere is this more disturbingly evident than on the gridiron, where last night was the last straw for the Ducks.
See, over the last decade or so, Knight's influence on the aesthetic appearance of the Oregon football team has been great. They regularly try new things, virtually all of which make the person watching the team want to puke. Here's a look at the evolution of the Ducks' football attire:
Back in the 90's Akili Smith's Oregon teams had fairly ordinary jerseys. Yellow helmets, yellow pants, and green jerseys with yellow numerals at home, white jerseys with green numerals on the road. Very standard. Functional. That was the last time those two words could be used to describe Oregon's jerseys. Because in 1999, the Smith era ended, and the metallic era began.
The next era was the Joey Harrington era. This included the purchase (by Oregon, I believe, not Knight, though we know where the money comes from) of enormous billboards in major cities, trying to promote Harrington (and their new look). The era also included the introduction of the new-look helmet (ooo, shiny), a darker shade of green worn by the team, a change in the athletic logo, and the start of a new trend of using a ton of black in their jerseys.
After Harrington's years came the Kellen Clemens era. This is where shit just gets downright stupid. Random spots start showing up on the shoulder pads, and instead of piping on the pants, it's just sort of globs. Nice. But wait, it gets better.
Next is the Dennis Dixon era. More metal. Now the shoulder and knee pads have this fun new design that is supposed to look like steel, but instead just makes it look like the jerseys were made by Tibetan babies. Oh, right. And what the fuck is that font? Anyway, this era also ushered in the introduction of several new alternate options. In fact, in 2007, the team made sure to have a different look in every single game they played. This required the use of three different helmets, and various jersey/pants combinations. You may notice that only two helmets appear in that photo. Well, the third is fairly disgraceful.
This year, they had more or less followed the trend of 2007. That is, until yesterday, when they came out against Arizona in uniforms that are so far removed from anything that could be called a football jersey it almost made my head explode.
Nice compression sleeve, jackass.
First of all, their primary color is green, and green does not appear on the jerseys. Green and yellow with white trim would be the most reasonable thing for Oregon to wear at home. These are black with silver numerals and a little bit of yellow in various places. I'm sorry, Mr. Knight, but this needs to stop.
Even further, the whole trend of wearing black alternates at home during any game that anyone might consider a "big game" should probably stop, too. Programs like USC, Florida, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma don't do it, so why do FSU, South Carolina, Oregon and Maryland? Wear your school colors. That's why schools have colors.
Like UMass. Who lost 52-21 at UNH this weekend wearing maroon and white.
Basketball (1-1) vs. Memphis on Monday night should be a doozie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Madness is Here

After adding my little snippet about Montana State's stadium expansion plans, I also found something on renovations taking place at SIU in Carbondale (I was only looking into SIU because UMass plays them in hoops tonight with the winner ultimately facing Duke at Madison Square Garden). My guess is I could find similar things on any number of FCS programs' websites, so I'll just leave it alone. The point is, not every facility at this level of football is a just few pieces of aluminum around a patch of grass.
Speaking of UMass-Southern Illinois, college basketball season is officially underway, though in the tamest of manners. The most intriguing game to this point has been IUPUI and Northeastern. That being said, the UMass-SIU game will officially be the game of the year to this point! Sadly, that still doesn't get it any television coverage. UMass's following game, however, will be seen nationwide when they go to #12 Memphis on Monday night. Even without CDR, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey, Memphis still has Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, and Tyreke Evans, and that means bad things for my alma mater. But on to more important issues, the national picture:
UNC has received every single first place vote in both the AP and Coaches' polls. Makes sense, seeing as they were 35-3 last year and return virtually every important piece from that team. In fact, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough could potentially all be first team all-ACC. Wouldn't that be lovely. Really the only thing I care about is that Psycho T finishes his career 4-0 at Cameron Indoor, and the Dookies get laughed out of the NCAA's before the sweet 16 for the third straight year. Who knows, maybe 2nd seeded Duke will lose in the second round again, this time to an upstart, 10th seeded A10 school from New England (and ideally that wouldn't be URI). Anyway, here are a dozen names worth watching this year from teams other than UNC:
1 - Stephen Curry, SG, Davidson. We all got to know him last March, and thankfully he elected to stay at Davidson for at least another year. They lost their point guard, so hopefully someone else can step into that role so that Steph doesn't have to create his own shot all year, though he's more than capable.
2 - Antonio Anderson, SF, Memphis. A huge bulk of last year's scoring is gone from the Tigers. Anderson, who was more of a Josh Pace type on that team, could step into a starring role this year.
3 - Tyler Smith, SF, Tennessee. Smith overtook Chris Lofton (who we later found out had been diagnosed with cancer - a fairly legitimate excuse I'd say) as the go-to player for the Vols last year. That team lost a lot of talent, but Smith is back and should keep UT in the top 25 all year.
4 - Darren Collison, PG, UCLA. The Bruins are going to try to start two point guards this year in Collison and hyped freshman Jrue Holiday. If Holiday can basically be Russell Westbrook 2.0, they should be fine and Collison could end up being an All-American.
5 - Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut.

For three years, 7'2 Roy Hibbert manned the middle for Georgetown, daring Big East foes to attack the basket. When he first arrived, he was raw, but had potential. You know how much he improved from his first game to his last? About 0.3% according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 7'3 Thabeet, on the other hand, went to UConn with even less prior basketball experience, but by the end of last season (his second in Storrs), Thabeet was more feared than Hibbert. If he continues to improve at that pace, the Huskies are going to be scary, because this kid is an absolute matchup nightmare.
6 - Jeff Pendergraph, C, Arizona State. Pendergraph almost tip-slammed ASU into the tournament last year before a whack call saved UCLA's ass (where have I heard that before?) This year he and guard James Harden (also a stud) will have ASU probably as the only challengers to UCLA in the Pac 10. And yes, I just called out USC, Arizona and WaSU.
7 - Jeff Adrien, PF, Connecticut. You know how guys like Paul Millsap, Leon Powe, Carl Landry and Ryan Gomes always seem to have great college careers, but for one reason or another get overlooked on draft day and then turn out to be great role players that make their teams way better? Yeah. This is one of those guys.
8 - Chris Lowe, PG, Massacusetts.

A four year starter at point guard is rare, but C-Lowe has been well worth it. In the first year of the Travis Ford era, Lowe had to play over 30 minutes a game as a freshman due to the dismissal of Maurice Maxwell. He's been a stud ever since. Reading some of the previews on CBS sportsline, I noticed that Lowe wasn't listed as one of the top 40 point/combo guards in the country. However, Tyrese Rice is up there, and is also "under serious consideration" to be an All American according to their expert, Gary Parrish. Hmmm, Lowe is a pass-first point guard (crazy thought, isn't it?) who averaged 12 and 6 last year for a team that went 25-11 (and is 50-20 since the start of 06-07). Rice averaged 21 a game last year shooting 43% (mmm... LOTS of shots) for a team that went 14-17. Good standards, Gary.
9 - Terrence Williams, SF, Louisville. Williams will benefit from the presence of Earl Clark, who Andy Katz aptly calls a "matchup nightmare", to get some freedom on the wing. Williams does most of his damage slashing and in transition, which makes sense because the kid is an absolute athletic freak of nature. Louisville vs. UConn at Freedom Hall, February 2nd. Mark those calendars.
10 - Dionte Christmas, G/F, Temple. This guy and Derrick Brown of Xavier will be the two stallions of the Atlantic 10 this year. Christmas was born to score points, and that's what he does. He actually had a better sophomore season than junior year, but that may only mean that he's going to be more motivated this time around. Temple should be able to compete with Xavier and UMass for the A10 crown again this year.
11 - Eric Maynor, G, Virginia Commonwealth.

The man who sunk the Duke ship in the 2007 Tournament is back for his senior year, and while I'm not suggesting he's anywhere near as talented, I see some similarities between him and Stephen Curry. He's basically a natural two guard who is undersized but can create his own shot off the dribble and is a scoring fiend. Without question my pick (and pretty much everyone else's) to win CAA player of the year.
12 - Sharron Collins, PG, Kansas.

With Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers all gone from the Jayhawks, Collins and Center Cole Aldrich are the only two players back from last year's 8-man rotation (and Aldrich... not really). If Kansas is going to be any good this year, Collins may have to shoulder the load for a while. Oh, and if you're like me and saying, "Jesus, how did Kansas have so many studs on one team last year?!" Keep this in mind: JR Giddens and David Padget were both seniors last year, playing for New Mexico and Louisville, respectively, having transferred from Kansas (probably because Giddens is a poor man's Rush and Padget was tired of Jackson dunking on him in practice). That Bill Self sure can recruit.
So that's more or less my outlook for the season. I didn't bother putting a 25 together because, having seen the polls already, I probably would have used those way too heavily and not been very original.
As always, Go UMass.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sorry Bozemanites

I feel it is my journalistic duty to amend my list of the premier stadiums in the championship subdivision. Since posting said list, I have educated myself a bit more and found out about an expansion project for Bobcat Stadium at Montana State University. Currently, it is a fairly ordinary stadium for this level of football, seen here:
However, the expansion project looks absolutely awesome. Dear UMass: Follow the leader! Check out the video showing the entire project step-by-step.

And the finished product:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Top Stadiums in the Championship Subdivision

This past weekend UMass went down to URI and absolutely knocked the slop out of Rhody. It's always nice to see my alma mater stick it to the only school it faces annually in both football and basketball (Richmond is also in the same conference in both, but the Spiders compete in the CAA South for football so we only see them every couple of years). The game was at the Rams' Meade Stadium (right), a nice little facility that sits adjacent to their new basketball arena. While it's a perfectly suitable place to see a football game, Meade Stadium joined some of the other facilities I've seen UMass play at that just weren't particularly impressive. UNH and Northeastern suffer from a similar affliction. Especially Northeastern, who basically plays at a high school field. So I decided to compile a list of the premier stadiums in the championship subdivision. Admittedly, I have only been to a few of these, but based on tradition, television coverage and a few other factors, I think I can make a fairly educated list.

Honorable Mention:
McGuirk Stadium, University of Massachusetts.I don't actually feel this way. In fact, I hate McGuirk. I wish Jack Welch would just step up and offer 50 million dollars to help the school build a new stadium. Maybe that's what I'm putting here: The stadium that would exist if UMass elected to throw tens of millions of dollars into a new facility. Sure. That's it.

Finley Stadium, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.The site of the Division 1 Football Championship since 1997, Finley Stadium is a nice, average sized FCS facility. About 22,000 spectators can attend the biggest game of the year at the 1-AA level, which UMass has participated in twice (1998, 2006).

Top 10:
10 - Harvard Stadium, Harvard University.This place was built 105 years ago. That would explain the mass of concrete. However, it's still one of the most aesthetically pleasing stadiums at this level. At points, including when it was home to the Boston Patriots in 1970, the stadium went all the way around and seated up to 57,000. Today, it holds about 32,000. Of course, it doesn't come anywhere close to that number against anyone except Yale.

9 - Paulson Stadium, Georgia Southern University.Georgia Southern was the Appalachian State of FCS not so long ago, with guys like Adrian Peterson trampling people en route to multiple championship game appearances. Today, the Eagles are more of a middle-of-the-pack team in the Southern Conference, but their stadium still holds up to its billing as "The Prettiest Little Stadium in America".

8 - Delaware Stadium (Raymond Field), University of Delaware.UD has one of the more passionate fan bases in FCS, and they regularly pack this place. Now if they would just man up and play those pesky cross-state rivals on a regular basis.

7 - Princeton Stadium, Princeton University.This place is awesome. It's one of a small number of multi-tiered stadiums at this level, and is done beautifully. This is what UMass needs to have in mind when they get that 50 mil from Jack Welch.

6 - Bridgeforth Stadium, James Madison University.This place is pretty awesome. I hadn't really seen it before UMass played the Dukes this year, but I'm sure most people became familiar with it during the JMU-App State game, when in the midst of Madison's enormous comeback, the fans got so fired up that the stadium was literally shaking.JMU has also announced some expansion plans for Bridgeforth (above), which look absolutely awesome.

5 - Franklin Field, University of Pennsylvania.For not playing particularly good football, the Ivy League has some awesome old stadiums. The Philadelphia Eagles actually called this place home for a while, and it is where the film "Incredible" was shot (probably because The Vet had been demolished).

4 - Fargodome, North Dakota State University.
Generally speaking, I hate dome stadiums. That being said, when your school is in Fargo I'd say you have a fairly legitimate excuse. In addition to that, it's actually a pretty nice place, and NDSU is building a monster program.

3 - Yale Bowl, Yale University.
Much like Franklin Field and Harvard Stadium, this place also was home to an NFL franchise (New York Football Giants). It is enormous by FCS standards, though much like Harvard Stadium, it doesn't get all that many spectators except for "The Game".

2 - Kidd Brewer Stadium, Appalachian State University.
App State clearly has become the beast of this level of football. Appropriately, they have expanded Kidd Brewer Stadium to hold over 20,000 fans. However, because they have a "hill" on one open end of the stadium (much like Virginia's Scott Stadium, Missouri's Faurot Field or Colorado State's Hughes Stadium), many more fans than that can attend games. And they do. On multiple occasions this season, App State has broken 30,000 in attendance.

1 - Washington Grizzly Stadium, University of Montana.
Still the most impressive facility in the championship subdivision, and with its new expansion, it will be even better. The fact is, the Grizz never lose at home, and while many factors go into that, a great stadium is a big part of any home field advantage.Of course, they aren't quite invincible in this place: While they haven't lost a home game in the regular season since October 15th, 2005, they've bowed out in the playoffs the past few years in dramatic fashion. Nonetheless, Montana continues to be an elite program at this level with a stadium to match.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The home stretch

People, the biggest election in this country in a long time is in two days. If you didn't register to vote: You suck. If you did but aren't going to vote: You suck. If you did but plan on voting for Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, Woody Hayes, Susan B. Anthony, Geraldo Rivera, Keith Olberman, Tony Kornheiser, Nick Saban, or Stephen Colbert as a write-in: You suck. If you're going to vote for John McCain... well... you know.
In all seriousness, I think that John Cleese has hit the nail on the head here. Some would argue that it's none of his business as a Brit to endorse one candidate or the other, but I disagree. After all, if the republicans piss off Britain, who do they have left to alienate?
Mr. Cleese?

Guy knows what he's talking about. Plus, I mean, come on. He's John Cleese.
So I guess it's fairly evident where I stand here. But politics aren't my thing, so moving on to the weekend.
Michael Crabtree officially became the front runner for my Heisman Vote last night. Of course, I don't have a Heisman vote, but if I did, he'd be up there, even ahead of his quarterback, who reminds me way too much of Colt Brennan, only he has a great offensive line and can throw to Michael Crabtree. While Tech did impress me in their win, I don't agree with the AP voters putting them ahead of Penn State. The best team Tech has beaten on the road is Kansas. The best team Penn State has beaten on the road is Ohio State. That's a big difference. Winning at home in the biggest game in school history is impressive, but let's be honest, the 'Horns almost definitely win that game at a neutral site. Fortunately, we get another month to sort this thing out (or create an even bigger mess).
Other awesome, crooked scores from the weekend:
#2 Appalachian State 70 #3 Wofford 24
#15 Massachusetts 49 Rhode Island 0
FBS #4 Oklahoma 62 Nebraska 21
Also, a quick note on non-BCS conference teams trying to crash the party: Assuming Boise State wins out, I have no beef with them getting to a BCS game. I certainly imagine that they'll be able to play with whoever wins the ACC. And assuming that the winner of the Utah-TCU game also wins out, I'm also fine with that team getting in, and I'm sure they'll be able to compete with the champions of the Big East, even though TCU already has a loss (at Oklahoma). Meanwhile, there is still one other unbeaten school out there: Ball State. Ball State cannot join the party, because Ball State plays in the MAC. This means that they play nobody in their conference schedule, and let's just look at their nonconference wins: Navy, Indiana (Big Ten doormat), Northeastern (FCS) and Western Kentucky (transitioning from FCS to FBS). Sorry, Ball State, but even though ESPN is carrying your next four games on the family of networks, the fact that those games are on two Tuesdays and two Wednesdays says everything that needs to be said.
Lastly, congrats to James Ihedigbo - known largely in UMass circles as J Diggs - for being activated to the New York Jets' active roster this week. When was Diggs' first game action? Opening kickoff, as he played special teams throughout, but hopefully gets some time at safety in the near future. Making Amherst proud.