Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rolling Through the Bowls

Well well, after my inauspicious start to bowl season, I've come back onto the winning side. Last night, Florida Atlantic capped off a great season to take their first ever bowl victory of what promises to be many. Earlier today, Cincinnati showed a little Big East toughness by knocking off Southern Mississippi. Right now, i'm watching the halftime show of the New Mexico Bowl and, surprisingly enough, New Mexico is leading Nevada 20-0 at their home stadium.

My prediction record: 2-1

December 31
Peach Bowl, Atlanta, GA
Clemson University vs. Auburn University

This could be the best of the non-BCS bowls this postseason. Auburn came oh-so-close to taking out LSU in Baton Rouge earlier in the season, and took some big victories against Alabama and Florida. Clemson is simply fun to watch on offense and they can score a lot of points if the opposing defense isn't paying attention. Having the game be a just-about-equal distance from both Clemson and Auburn means the crowd should be pretty even. My prediction? I like Auburn more than Clemson, personally, so I'll just pick them winning by a field goal.

January 1
Outback Bowl, Tampa, FL
University of Tennessee vs. University of Wisconsin - Madison

Another great matchup that everyone will automatically give to Tennessee because "the SEC is faster and the Big Ten is weak". Obviously, those people haven't seen PJ Hill run the ball because he is fast and strong when he gets the chance to run. Of course, Tennessee is a strong team and I think this will be quite the shootout in Tampa. There will be big plays on offense interspersed with a lot of defense from both teams. Unfortunately, Wisconsin won't quite have what it takes to beat the Vols. Tennessee wins by a touchdown.

January 1
Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX
University of Missouri vs. University of Arkansas

Well, this one would have been a great game except that Arkansas went and fired their head coach and will probably never go to another bowl game after this year. Missouri will be angry because they were snubbed by the Orange Bowl for no reason whatsoever and they'll want to prove their worth to the nation. This game will be a blowout -- Arkansas shouldn't even show up.

January 1
Capital One Bowl, Orlando, FL
University of Florida vs. University of Michigan

This is one that has the potential to be a good game except for one thing: I'm pretty sure Michigan fans stopped caring after the team lost to Appalachian State way back in September. Since then, it seems like Michigan just kind of sleepwalked through the season. Of course, Michigan's sleepwalking can still take down a lot of Big Ten teams, but they could not beat Ohio State at the end of the season. Florida, on the other hand, has Tim Tebow, who Florida fans and members of the media equate to the second coming of Jesus, and they'll have a gigantic crowd packed into the Citrus Bowl to cheer them on. Florida wins huge.

January 1
Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, FL
University of Virginia vs. Texas Teck University

A lot of people might look at the top-25 ranking that UVA is carrying into this game and automatically give them the game. Unfortunately, as they showed us when they played Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers can't really stop a well-oiled offense. Did I mention that Texas Tech has one of the best offenses in the country with the country's best receiver hauling in any ball that comes anywhere near him? Yeah...Michael Crabtree brings in at least three touchdowns and Texas Tech wins this one over Virginia.

January 5
International Bowl, Toronto, ON
Rutgers University vs. Ball State University

Ball State is a very spunky team out of a very spunky Mid-America Conference. Unfortunately for them, Rutgers is just a terribly strong team. Rutgers, who couldn't win on a $5 scratch-off ticket ever since defeating Princeton in the first-ever intercollegiate football game, has made their third straight bowl game and does not look to be slowing down for a long time with Greg Schiano at the helm. Ray Rice will run circles around the Ball State defense and Rutgers will come away with the victory.

January 6
GMAC Bowl, Mobile, AL
Bowling Green University vs. University of Tulsa

A totally fun matchup of non-BCS schools the day before the National Championship game. I'm going to be honest here: I don't know much about either of these teams and no one is going to care about this game outside of Bowling Green and Tulsa, so I'm just going to pick Bowling Green. Their colors are so totally can they lose?

There you have it! All of the games that don't fit into that wonderful BCS system have been picked. I'll be back later with the five BCS games. In the meantime, enjoy the football!

Friday, December 21, 2007


A couple of weeks of practice turn out to be all you need to topple Navy's triple-option offense. Navy went out and jumped to a fast 17-7 lead. But Navy's defense couldn't hold back Utah and, when they were in a hole, their offensive line could not hold the Utes' defense back long enough for some big passes and the game ended on an interception.

As such, my prediction record: 0-1.

December 31
Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, TX
Air Force Academy vs. University of California - Berkley

I really don't know where to go with this game, but I think the Golden Bears' Pac-10 schedule will prove the difference in this game. They picked up some great wins throughout the season (namely at Oregon, still including Dennis Dixon), while picking up some rather embarrassing losses. Air Force has been good, but if the Bears show up to play, they'll come out on top.

December 31
Humanitarian Bowl, Boise, ID
Fresno State University vs. Georgia Tech

The second of our two cold-weather bowl games (though this is the one that's actually outside). Georgia Tech is really a mess this year, and I can't even put up the excuse of strength of schedule for them. Chan Gailey is out as coach and Paul Johnson is in, but Paul Johnson's big-time offense won't be in effect for this one. Fresno State was pretty darn good in the WAC this season and gave Hawai'i their biggest test of the year. Also, going to a stadium in Boise that the Bulldogs will be familiar with is going to help them a lot. Look for Fresno State to take victory.

December 31
Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX
University of South Florida vs. University of Oregon

Both of these teams started out great this season. In fact, this was picked to be a possible BCS matchup by the time we got to this point in the season. Unfortunately, South Florida could not hold up their momentum and rattled off some ugly losses in October and November. Oregon posted some huge wins, including a home victory over USC, and they were #2 in the country when their quarterback, Dennis Dixon, went down with a busted knee. Without Dixon, everything simply fell apart for Oregon. South Florida is healthy and ready to go and their super-strong defense will make Brady Leaf look like a pee wee QB. South Florida wins.

December 31
Music City Bowl, Nashville, TN
Florida State University vs. University of Kentucky

This game was really interesting until the beginning of this week. Then Florida State managed to lose 23 of its players for the bowl game because of an academic cheating scandal. The emotions will be low for Florida State coming into this one. Kentucky, despite some second half losses, still have a Heisman-caliber quarterback, an equally good running back, some good receivers, and an offensive coordinator with one of the coolest names in football (Joker Phillips). Kentucky will roll, just like they did against Clemson last year in Nashville.

December 31
Insight Bowl, Tempe, AZ
Oklahoma State University vs. Indiana University

This game gives us a showcase of two excellent QB-WR combinations. Oklahoma State will be sending out QB Zac Johnson and WR Adarius Bowman, while Indiana will put QB Kellen Lewis and WR James Hardy on the field. Both QBs can run and pass and both WRs can make any defense look silly. That will be interesting because both defenses already look marginally silly, and these offenses are good. This will be a high-scoring game, but I think the added emotion of IU playing in Terry Hoeppner's memory will push them over the edge like it did against Purdue. Indiana (and, most importantly, I myself) will be partying in the desert for New Year's Eve.

Well, there you have it. Another batch of bowls and, hopefully, a few correct picks. See you 'round, folks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Again With The Bowls

Back once again. Let's jump right into the next set of bowls.

December 28
Emerald Bowl, San Francisco, CA
Oregon State University vs. University of Maryland

Maryland is a total underachiever this season and the only reason they're in a bowl game is because there are 32 games. Oregon State, on the other hand, is a mildly impressive 8-4 in a very tough Pac-10. The fact that the game is in San Francisco will not help Maryland at all and the Terrapins will be at a distinct disadvantage thanks to the crowd. Look for Oregon State to walk away fairly easily with this one.

December 29
Meineke Car Care Bowl, Charlotte, NC
University of Connecticut vs. Wake Forest University

Connecticut has been surprisingly strong this season, but I've had a feeling that they're a bit of a fraud. After all, it took some terrible officiating to give them victory over a very poor Louisville team. Wake Forest is nowhere near the level they were last year when they won the ACC, but they are still strong. Since the game is about 100 miles away from Winston Salem, there will be a lot of Black and Gold in the stadium. Look for the Deacons to take care of business.

December 29
Liberty Bowl, Memphis, TN
Mississippi State University vs. University of Central Florida

Mississippi turned a lot of heads this season by winning some huge games. UCF turned heads by having a heck of a lot of talent coached by a great head coach in George O'Leary. The major question in this game will be how a mid-level SEC team will fare against a great C-USA team. I know SEC teams just love to flaunt the speed of their defenses, but the difference in this game will be UCF's running back Kevin Smith. Look for UCF to bring a little love to C-USA.

December 29
Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, TX
Texas A&M University vs. Pennsylvania State University

I'd like to be nice to Texas A&M, but I just can't do it. Dennis Franchione has left the team in disarray after his booster newsletter scandal and he would've needed a miracle to remain coach there. That miracle did not come and the Aggies are left without a leader. The Nittany Lions, on the other hand, have known who their coach is for the past 40 years and will continue to know until Joe Paterno has finally passed on. On top of that, Penn State has been doing quite well this season in spite of themselves. Sure, there will be a lot of A&M fans in the stadium, but they'll be unhappy at the end of the day.

December 30
Independence Bowl, Shreveport, LA
University of Colorado vs. University of Alabama

This is going to be an ugly game, but it will be a close one. Nick Saban's Alabama team is a complete mess by Alabama standards, having lost to Louisiana-Monroe as well as Southern Miss and Auburn. Colorado had to deal with a sudden rise in performance from Big 12 North rivals Kansas and Missouri, but they pulled off a huge victory against Oklahoma early in Big 12 play. Both teams have stumbled down the stretch, but I think Colorado has a mental edge over the disorganized Crimson Tide. The Buffs will take the big victory and avoid their second-straight losing season.

There you have it. Come this (Thursday) evening, we will be watching the first of our 32 bowls. Navy vs. Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl will kick off the big postseason bash. I'll be back around later with yet another batch of bowls.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bowling, Part Deux

More bowl predictions from yours truly, as we come up on the first game of the postseason.

December 23
Hawai'i Bowl, Honolulu, HI
Boise State University vs. Eastern Carolina University

East Carolina is better than you might think this season. However, Boise State, even without Jared Zabransky, is still a terribly dangerous team. Ian Johnson remains one of the best runners in the nation and he will probably run roughshod over ECU's defense. Look for the Broncos to be partying on the beach.

December 26
Motor City Bowl, Detroit, MI
Central Michigan University vs. Purdue University

This is somewhat interesting, because the teams have already played each other this season. Even more interesting is that Purdue knocked the stuffing out of the Chippewas. What makes it interesting is that this game has the potential to be a lot closer. One huge factor will be the crowd in attendance in support of the Chippewas -- Detroit is one of CMU's homes away from home. Of course Purdue will have a decent crowd there, but the atmosphere will be tipped in the Chippewas' favor. That said, I still think the Boilermakers, who play in a substantially tougher conference, will get their act together and find a victory.

December 27
Holiday Bowl, San Diego, CA
Arizona State University vs. University of Texas

The Holiday Bowl people got themselves a huge matchup. Texas is still Texas, perennial Big 12 power and they have a great set of players and a great coach. Arizona State, with Dennis Erickson as their head coach, has stepped up big time into the Pac 10's upper echelon. ASU may not have made it into the upper echelon had Oregon not fallen apart (literally and figuratively), but what happened cannot be undone, and the Sun Devils are for real. This will be a very good, very close game, and I think ASU will have the home field advantage, since this game is relatively close to Tempe, I see Arizona State taking this one.

December 28
Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, FL
Boston College vs. Michigan State University

Boston College was a pick to be in the national championship game at one point in the season, but they then lost some key games at bad times. Michigan State may actually be one of the most underrated teams in the nation, coming through a Big Ten that's considered weak by nearly everyone and playing a lot of strong teams very close. Unfortunately for MSU, BC also has a very potent offense and a pretty darn good defense as well. Michigan State may be good, but I cant see them going into ACC country and beating BC.

December 28
Texas Bowl, Houston, TX
University of Houston vs. Texas Christian University

This bowl will be fun, just because it will be a) sold out, and b) the teams play about 150 miles apart, meaning those people in the crowd will be wild. I honestly don't know much about either of these teams apart from this: TCU has been sniffing around the top 25 all season long. Also, TCU plays in a conference which is slightly stronger than Houston's. I'll take the Horned Frogs in this one.

I'll be back around later for some more bowl predictions. Can't wait until Thursday when the action all begins!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Let's Go Bowling!

As the first real snow of the season is hitting the area, I'm trapped inside with naught but a pot of coffee and a nice, warm fire. But I've still got my internet connection, and since I did such a good job predicting the Men's Basketball Tourney way back in March (at least for one weekend), I thought I'd try my hand at football's postseason. Since there are 32 games, it would be really silly of me to toss all of them into one entry. So I'll space them out nicely so you won't get bored out of your minds.

December 20
Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego, CA
US Naval Academy vs. University of Utah

This is a pretty simple one. Utah's signature win this season is over a terrible UCLA team. Granted, they won 42-0, but it's still not that impressive in the long run. Navy, on the other hand, has shown themselves to be full of that tough spirit that you might expect from a bunch of guys who are going to be defending military bases instead of end zones when they graduate. The running attack of Navy, mixed with the fact that it will amount to a Navy home game with all of the sailors stationed in San Diego, will give Navy the win.

December 21
New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans, LA
Florida Atlantic University vs. University of Memphis

These teams are matched fairly evenly, so picking a definite winner will be tough. If you look at the stats for these guys, the numbers are a lot closer than you might think. The New Orleans Bowl people managed to pick themselves out a heck of a matchup, and it should be quite the shootout. My pick? Florida Atlantic, because they have a little more momentum in this one, given the historic nature of their run this year.

December 22 Bowl, Birmingham, AL
University of Cincinnati vs. University of Southern Mississippi

A matchup of giant-killers -- Cincy has taken down so many great teams over the last couple of years, and Southern Miss put the beatdown on Nick Saban's Alabama squad this year. The key in this game will be the running game of Southern Miss. If they can put down some yards on the ground, this game will be close. Cincinnati has Southern Miss beat in pretty much every other offensive category. I'm going to go with the Big East team in this one -- Cincy has faced a lot more competition this year than Southern Miss has.

December 22
New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, NM
University of New Mexico vs. University of Nevada

This one seems pretty easy to me because it's a home game for New Mexico. They're 5-1 so far this year in University Stadium, and I fully expect them to go 6-1. In fact, I'm not even going to bother with the stats in this one because it just seems so painfully obvious to me.

December 22
Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, NV
Brigham Young University vs. University of California - Los Angeles

This is another really poor matchup. BYU is the 17th-ranked team in the nation, and UCLA just fired its under-achieving coach. UCLA was one of only three teams to put up a losing effort against Notre Dame, and they managed to do it in their home stadium. BYU, because they're in the Mountain West Conference, was not invited to a better bowl and had to settle for this horrible matchup. BYU will be marching victoriously down The Strip after this one.

Well, there you go. Five down, 27 to go. I'll come back tomorrow or something with the next batch of bowls.

Friday, December 14, 2007


So, tell me what's wrong with this picture...

That's right! Johnny High School is wearing what looks like an RFID ankle bracelet! Word on the street is that the Cincinnati Bengals are already talking to his parents and a family lawyer about contract terms...

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Long Weekend...

After something of a long week, thanks to the Sean Taylor situation, the weekend contained more ridiculous drama than should be allowed in a year.

We start with the simple (and happy...for me, at least). Indiana's basketball team did something that it just hasn't been able to do for several years: go on the road, against a ranked opponent, and win. No wonder it's cold outside, Hell must've frozen over. Since I'm feeling lazy right now, I'm not going to bother trying to find out the last time the Hoosiers beat a ranked opponent on the road, but I can tell you it's been a pretty long time. A little execution and a lot of defense made the difference for the Hoosiers, with the Salukis' game being symbolized by Randall Falker's airballed free throw in the first half. This was a great warmup for Big Ten road games and I have a lot more confidence in this team going into Big Ten play.

Also in the happy department, the Football Hoosiers have officially punched their tickets to Tempe, AZ, to play Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl. Now, I really don't know much about Oklahoma State apart from this: they are 6-6, and 4-4 in the Big 12; they have Kellen Lewis' long-lost twin at quarterback, since this fellow has the same throw-and-run abilities as the Hoosier QB; their coach can become very angry when provoked sufficiently. I know I'll be in Tempe come December 31 and I'll be wearing my Cream and Crimson.

In more sour news, the Washington Redskins still stink more than a pound of limberger. I have a sinking feeling that the defining play of this season for the 'Skins will be Joe Gibbs calling an illegal second timeout in an attempt to ice Buffalo's kicker -- a decision which resulted in a fifteen yard penalty which moved the Bills from a 51-yard field goal to a 36-yarder. This will be the play that ends Joe Gibbs' head coaching career, which is something that I ultimately think will benefit the team. Joe Gibbs is more of a personnel guy and a businessman at this point, which makes him a perfect candidate for the general manager position -- a post Dan Snyder has refused to fill up until now. Gregg Williams, whose defense is so utterly brilliant even without Sean Taylor, has proven himself as a decent head coach when he had zero personnel in Buffalo. Al Saunders, who seems to have not gotten a decent chance to put his insane offense on the field because of Gibbs' intervention, needs to get full control of the offense so they can have a set system and a reduction of confusion.

In the more ridiculous, yet entirely obvious, the BCS is still the worst thing that ever happened to the world of collegiate sports. I pretty much entirely agree with the fact that LSU and Ohio State will be playing for the national championship, because those two teams play the best defense in the country. Everyone will say that Ohio State, who has not played in two weeks, doesn't deserve to be #1 because, well, they didn't play. Not playing turned out to be the reason Ohio State got in because you can't lose a game when you're not playing -- every other top-ranked team in the nation fell victim to the post-thanksgiving football game. My one surprise was that Virginia Tech, who came into the weekend ranked higher than LSU and also won their conference championship game, got shafted by the human polls and placed behind LSU.

Now, you may hear a noise coming from I-70 East between St. Louis and Indianapolis. That would be the sound of really, REALLY pissed-off Missouri fans marching on the NCAA headquarters with torches and pitchforks. How in the name of all that is good in this world did Mizzou get beat to the BCS bowls by Illinois and Kansas? Oh, by the way, Mizzou beat BOTH of these teams on neutral fields in very convincing fashion. Now, I can maybe understand Illinois, who have turned their football program around in huge fashion, getting put into the Rose Bowl because the folks in Pasadena absolutely love that annual Big Ten-Pac 10 matchup. But Kansas, who lost in Kansas City to Mizzou just a week ago and is ranked BELOW Mizzou in the final BCS poll, has absolutely no right to be in the Orange Bowl. Instead, while Mark Mangino eats every orange and grapefruit in the state of Florida (along with a few immigrant children or something), Missouri is sitting in Dallas saying, "What the hell?" The worst part of this whole deal for Mizzou is that the Big 12 has two teams in the BCS bowls and wont defend them in the same fashion as the SEC when Auburn was shafted out of the title game in 2004. The other worst part of this deal is that there aren't any computers to blame this time around -- the rankings got it right this time around. This is entirely the fault of the representatives from the Orange Bowl and the folks in the BCS offices who said, (Person A) "Well gee, Missouri lost this week and Kansas didn't." (Person B) "Wait, Kansas didn't play because they lost to Mizzou last week." (Person A) "You're fired."

That's my rant. Stay tuned for a preview of IU vs. Kentucky on the hardwood and the Insight Bowl. Later, folks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Well, the Hoosiers didn't quite knock the Yellow Jackets to pieces as I thought they would last night. While that was a bit discouraging, the fact that IU managed to overcome deficits no less than four times in this one to ultimately take their four-point victory was very nice to see. Instead of folding up under pressure like they did on Saturday against Xavier, the Hoosiers found their stride and, with a little help from the Assembly Hall crowd, managed to overwhelm Georgia Tech in the second half.

One total bright spot for the Hoosiers was the absolutely inspired play of Lance Stemler. Ever since getting kicked in the head during a Fall '06 practice by Xavier Keeling, then spraining his ankle later in the season, Stemler had not been the same person he was early in the '06-'07 season. He did pick up the pace a little bit when IU played UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, but this season started off rather slow. Tuesdaynight, however, everything seemed to change. Playing with the same intensity that he began exhibiting during IU's game with UNC-Wilmington a week prior, Stemler did things like drive the lane for floating layups, tip offensive rebounds for two points and, most importantly of all, knock down a few threes. The fans had been waiting for this from Stemler, and when it happened, the crowd just exploded.

On the other side of things, Eric Gordon still looks a little shaken up after the game against Xavier. I think the problem in this situation was that someone told him he needs to dish the ball a little more and stop trying to make things happen on his own. Now, Eric had the right idea going when he made pretty much all of his passes and he showed that he can certainly dish the assist every now and then, but almost all of his passes sailed over everyone or was deflected out of bounds. When Gordon made his drives to the basket and finished them off, he was unstoppable. He should really keep up with that and only pass out of the drive when he knows the guy on the other end is open and he can make the pass actually happen.

One other note is that Jordan Crawford got suspended for three games for "violating team rules". My guess is that he screwed up somewhere on the Chicago trip last weekend and Kelvin Sampson was less than pleased. Of course, three games may seem a little steep given that we do not know the offense, but it does bring Jordan back off the bench just in time for one of the more interesting story lines of the early season: Jordan vs. Joe on December 8. I think Coach Sampson decided that three games would be perfect because it would still allow Jordan to come off the bench to face his brother, who plays for Kentucky. Unfortunately, the lack of Crawford's presence off the bench and the fact that Brandon McGee is sick forced IU to play a zone defense to avoid foul trouble -- a move that nearly killed the Hoosiers' chances on Tuesday.

Next game is going to be a real doozy when the Hoosiers go to Carbondale, IL to take on a ridiculously good Southern Illinois team. This is the one I picked the Hoosiers to lose in the non-conference when I looked over the schedule, but I was not expecting the loss to Xavier. Maybe the Hoosiers have learned from the Xavier and Georgia Tech games and can pull off the big win on Saturday.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Forgetting the Weekend, and Looking to Tomorrow

I know I didn't write about the bucket game, and here's my opinion: 1) Austin Starr is the greatest thing that ever happened, and 2) Insight Bowl.

Since bowl selection day is a painful six days away, we're going to move on to something that totally matters: BASKETBALL. Okay, I realize that Saturday may not have been the best day ever for the basketball Hoosiers, but let's look on the bright side of things. First of all, this Xavier team is a very similar one to the team that played Gonzaga tough in the '05 Dance, and was just a bit of completely blown officiating away from knocking down eventual runner-up Ohio State last year. The Atlantic 10 conference may not be the Missouri Valley Conference, but it's certainly nothing to laugh at. I expect Xavier to make the NCAA Tournament and maybe get through the first weekend.

As for the Hoosiers, they looked like a total mess, but everyone has to do it at some point in the season (see Michigan State, Kentucky, USC, Louisville, etc.). Luckily, the Hoosiers got this nasty loss out of their way nice and early, instead of putting it in sometime during Big Ten play. Knowing the tenacity of one Kelvin Sampson (which has gotten him in trouble in the not-too-distant past), I would say that practice has been tough and nasty since the Hoosiers returned from Chicago. The boys will be pouring over the tape and understanding that they simply cannot do things like play Mike Davis' old 4-around-1 offense, take shots when they should pass, and pass when they should take shots.

The other bright spot that comes out of this one is that Eric Gordon had a bad game. While one might say, "How on Earth is that a good thing?!" I would respond by saying that this could very well be the low point of his collegiate career. Given the work ethic that Gordon reportedly has, I would imagine he went to the nearest basketball hoop after he got back to Bloomington and just started throwing basketballs at it until he couldn't miss. Also, since he found the breaking point of his ridiculously stoic demeanor on Saturday, he and Coach Sampson will know exactly what to do to keep him cool and collected and doing what he should be doing on the floor.

Honestly, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets should be shaking in their Nikes right about now. First of all, the team will be mad. Second of all, the coaches will be mad. Third of all, there will be 17.456 very scary Hoosier fans looking for someone to take their disappointment over Saturday out upon, and those gold-uniformed Yellow Jackets will provide the perfect target. I'm not saying the atmosphere will be anything like the Duke game in the fall of 2005 (we save that sort of atmosphere for Kentucky and Michigan State this season), but it will certainly be loud in Assembly Hall. I can only hope that the 7 PM start time does not throw off the alumni and the students, who will be somewhat hard-pressed to get away from evening classes or jobs and get to their seats. Having the game on ESPN will help a lot on that front, and it will certainly be fun to attend an ACC/Big Ten game that the Hoosiers are actually picked to win.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mah Bukkit!

In honor of tomorrow's game (which I will cover in greater detail later) and as a shout out to one of my favorite things of all time (The LOLrus), I present you with the following...

For the inspiration behind this magical picture, go here. Come to think of it, Joe Tiller looks an awful lot like a walrus...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Deja Vu

If I had known that I would end up watching the exact same game for two days in a row, I wouldn't have turned on my TV this afternoon. Yesterday, the Indiana Hoosiers played soft defense, inept offense, and put up one score in a blowout road loss against the Wisconsin Badgers. As I type, the Washington Redskins are playing soft defense, inept offense, and have only put on one score in a beyond-blowout road loss to the New England Patriots. While the games are quite similar to each other, what happens down the road will be two entirely different things.

For the Hoosiers, the future is simple: the entire coaching staff should and will be liquidated and athletic director Rick Greenspan will make yet another amazing head coach hire (Bobby Petrino, if he decides to skip on the Atlanta Falcons). The Hoosiers' offense should stay essentially the same for next year, assuming James Hardy doesn't chase the money into the NFL Draft. Kellen Lewis will still be the quarterback, and most of the rest of the supporting cast will remain. The defense will have a slightly different look because Tracy Porter will be heading off to the pro level, but most of the other starters will remain the same.

The key difference for the Redskins is that, while IU has only three games remaining this season, the Redskins have 9 more games. There will be a lot of demoralized people in the Redskins' locker room after their 52-7 loss, but there will also be a lot of angry people. The first one is going to be the unofficial leader of the team, London Fletcher. Whenever this team needs a pep talk, he is the one to deliver it. I also think that, after watching his team throw up all over the field, Joe Gibbs will be angrier than he has ever been his life. It doesn't matter how good the Patriots might be, no NFL team should ever give up 52 points and provide absolutely no answer.

Maybe next week, with the Hoosiers playing Ball State and the Redskins playing the Jets, things will look a little nicer.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Why It's Good To Be A Catholic School

I found this little article from the Indianapolis Star's website mildly amusing, even if the experience might not have been so funny to the people involved:

Storm pummels USC team plane

In short, USC's football team nearly found itself as part of a pile of burning airplane because a thunderstorm hitting northern Indiana provided a huge amount of lightning and turbulence. Sounds like the students at Notre Dame (a Catholic school, if you weren't aware) sent a message to the Dean upstairs to let USC know who's boss tomorrow. Apparently, it's sometimes it's good to have God on your side...

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

We're talking about Indiana University's basketball program, which has gone through one of the most ridiculous weekends since Bob Knight was choking his bench players.

The Good

Friday night's Hoosier Hysteria event was an absolute blast for the fans and players alike. The players on both the men's and women's team were in great spirits and the crowd of 13,000 that showed up was pumped up beyond belief. When the lights died out for the introduction of the men's basketball team, the building shook in a way I haven't felt since the Hoosiers took down the #5 Wisconsin Badgers last season. On top of the amazing atmosphere, we learned some interesting things about the team.

First of all, this team is deep. In fact, it's beyond deep. Even walk-on Brett Finkelmeier showed some promise and he will be useful in the close-out stages of games. One thing that these Hoosiers don't have to worry about this time around is injuries to the front-court players. The list goes as follows: DJ White, Mike White, Lance Stemler, DeAndre Thomas, Eli Holman, Brandon McGee, Jamarcus Ellis, Kyle Taber. All of these guys except maybe Taber could conceivably start. If any of these guys goes down, someone will be there to take his place. The back-court has the same scenario, with Armon Bassett, Jordan Crawford, and Eric Gordon holding down the fort while Ellis, Stemler, and McGee can easily make the plays from the outside. Also, watch out when AJ Ratliff finds his way back onto the court in a couple of months.

Second, the size of that front-court is freakishly good. DJ White is still himself, and he will be backing down defenders and hitting his turnaround jumper all season. Eli Holman, who averaged a quadruple-double during his high school career, has a wingspan of 7'8", which will translate to big blocks and big rebounds. Mike White is still a bowling ball of a forward and he still plays some amazing defense. The highlight is DeAndre Thomas who, even after losing 57 pounds over the summer, still weighs 298. Despite his size, Thomas can dunk the ball and he put up some solid defense on DJ White during the Cream vs. Crimson scrimmage.

Third, "Er-ic Gor-don" (clap clap clapclapclap). I hadn't really gotten a look at Eric Gordon's play before Hoosier Hysteria, but I know now what the big deal was about. Even though his first play in front of an Assembly Hall crowd was a missed dunk, he showed such a great shooting touch and some amazing athleticism while electrifying the crowd. The only downside to all of this is that after this season, he probably won't be wearing an Indiana uniform.

The Bad

Barely a day after they sent his name thundering down from the seats at Assembly Hall, members of the most reactionary fan base this side of Lexington, KY, are calling for Kelvin Sampson's head. Much as it was last summer, the topic du jour is Coach Sampson's telephone. This time around, it was determined that a collection of 10 three-way phone calls between Sampson, one of his assistants, and recruits were made. Sampson has said that he was unaware that nine of the calls were conference calls, but he did know that one of them had two people on the other end of the line. Since three-way calls of this type have been deemed illegal by the NCAA, Sampson got a self-imposed pay cut for next season and an extension of his telephone restrictions by the IU Athletic Department.

The other issue here -- one that doesn't involve Coach Sampson in any way, for the record -- was a collection of 35 phone calls apparently made by assistant coach Rob Senderhoff. Senderhoff was disciplined by the Athletic Department by being put under what is essentially house arrest. He cannot talk to recruits and he cannot go on the road to visit the recruits. If he gets caught breaking these rules again, you would have to expect that he would be fired outright.

What really annoys me about this whole situation is the reaction from the fans and the media around this program. When you look at the evidence, Kelvin Sampson was involved in only a few of the impermissible calls and the Athletic Department reacted properly. Some people around here, under the leadership of The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz (I won't share my opinion of him with you because, in the end, I would like to retain some journalistic integrity), want Sampson and Athletic Director Rick Greenspan fired immediately for these transgressions. These so-called "fans" who just want Bob Knight, who is supposedly a perfect human being, to return to Bloomington cannot accept the fact that there is a different coach in town.

This, of course, is absolutely insane. We went through the same process when Mike Davis, who did better here than Bob Knight would have ever done between 2000 and 2006, was sent packing by fans after two poor seasons. All of these people trumpet the integrity of the program under Knight's stewardship as the reason that we need to return to the good old days (like 1982, a.k.a. the "season on the brink). While there may not have been much in the way of recruiting violations in those days, but I would say that verbally and physically attacking players and coaches on both benches does not do much for the integrity of the program either.

I believe that, despite the fact that there definitely needs to be some better book-keeping in the basketball offices, this is an honest mistake on Sampson's part. Sampson made no outgoing calls on his personal phone during this period, and the conference calls were all set up by the assistant coaches. As for Senderhoff's 35 illegal calls, those fall on his head and his alone. One might say that the head coach should be responsible for the actions of his assistants, but how do we know that Senderhoff may not have been doing this in secret himself. If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you haven't done something against the rules at work while the boss wasn't looking, I would call you a liar anyway. The bottom line is that Sampson, after taking a huge pay cut for next season and having his sanctions extended, will come out of this cleanly.

The Ugly

Apart from all of this bunk about phone calls, the ugly part of the 07-08 basketball season will be the scoreboard at the end of a lot of these games. This team is so incredibly strong that there are only a few opponents that can really give them a run for their money. The Hoosiers will need to watch out for Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Michigan State, but I don't think there is anyone out there beyond those three that can really scare this team.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Indiana in the Top 25...And Not in Basketball

In the two weeks since I last wrote my opinion (somewhat vociferously) on this page, a few things have changed in the 50,000-seat concrete bowl across the street. With the campus and alumni in shock after the thorough drubbing of the Hoosiers by Illinois, grumblings began to come up of how we're looking at the old Indiana football team. That was the one who would beat up on a mediocre non-conference schedule, maybe win one Big Ten game, and cruise through the season until everyone left Memorial Stadium for some basketball. Losing a game to Illinois, a team which regularly muddles around at the bottom of the standings, seemed like the end of the world for the fans that believed this was the year.

Then, that same Illinois team posted huge upsets of Penn State and Wisconsin, who were supposed to be the conference favorites this year. At the same time, Indiana traveled to Iowa and pasted the Hawkeyes to Kinnick Stadium's brick walls, then welcomed Minnesota into The Rock for yesterday's 40-20 drubbing. Instead of a demoralizing loss to the worst team in the conference, the Illinois game was a tough loss to a great team that served as the springboard to greater things. Now, Indiana is sitting on 5-1 for the first time since 1994, which was the last time the football Hoosiers were eligible for a post-season bowl.

Another interesting thing that has come out of the Hoosiers' recent run of success is a collection of top 25 votes in both major polls. After beating Iowa, Indiana picked up its first top 25 vote in years in the Coaches' Poll. After following up the road win with the defeat of Minnesota, the Hoosiers now have 30 votes in the Coaches' Poll and 40 votes in the AP Poll. That puts the Hoosiers in the "Also Receiving Votes" category in both polls, but is equivalent to 29th in the AP Poll and 33rd in the Coaches' Poll. Just for kicks, let's have a look at the teams that are sitting in between the Hoosiers and the magical top 25.

AP #25 Tennessee (3-2): Tennessee found its way into the 25th spot (despite the poor record) after absolutely crushing a tough Georgia team. A trip to Mississippi State should end up in the win column, but a subsequent trip to Alabama will trip Tennessee up.

Coaches' #25 Auburn (4-2): Auburn found its way past Florida for the second straight year to hit the top 25. However, their next two games are at Arkansas, which will be tough, and a trip to the Bayou to take on #1 LSU. Look for a drop from Auburn.

Texas A&M (5-1): The Aggies are only 5-1 because of a terribly weak schedule. Their one loss is to a mediocre Miami team and a trip in two weeks to Nebraska will burn the Aggies.

Purdue (5-1): Purdue may have been exposed as a fraud by Ohio State. The Buckeyes showed that the Boilers big-time offense can be stopped and that Purdue can be beat. Purdue is very much IU's equal and the Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket will be a great game.

Colorado (4-2): The Buffs are a very solid team and could be in the hunt for the Big 12 North this year. Colorado has a huge win over Oklahoma to hang its hat on and they could easily break the top 25.

Virginia (5-1): After a terrible loss at Wyoming, the Cavs have rolled through their schedule for five straight wins. A game at Maryland in two weeks could trip UVA, but they seem to be on the up-and-up.

Texas Tech (5-1): The Rebels don't really have a big win to put on its resumé, and there are three games (Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma) that could easily catch Texas Tech out.

Rutgers (3-2): The Scarlet Knights are nowhere near the level they were last season, but they are still a good team. That said, they have lost two straight, and they have games against South Florida and West Virginia coming. Look for a drop by the Knights.

Boise State (4-1): The Broncos still have one of the nation's best backs and can win a lot of games. However, they did not come through in big games this year the same way they did last year. The weak schedule will hurt the Broncos in the polls.

Connecticut (5-0): Don't look now, but the football Huskies are undefeated. Of course they do have tough games coming up against South Florida, Cincinnati, and West Virginia. Connecticut might make bowl eligibility, but they probably won't find the top 25.

Indiana, while in a similar situation as some of the teams on this list, has an advantage over these teams in several categories. The Hoosiers are sitting 25th in the nation in total offense and 49th in total defense. The most important statistic, though is that Indiana is ranked first in the nation in sacks with 29, three clear of second-place Georgia Tech. Defensive ends Greg Middleton and Jamie Kirlew and Linebacker Will Patterson have been tearing up offenses all season long and don't look to be slowing down anytime soon.

The Hoosiers have some very pivotal games coming up in the next three weeks. The next one is against a Michigan State team that has looked nearly invincible on the field this year. Or, at least, they did until losing at home to a very beatable Northwestern team. The Hoosiers' offensive attack, which is an evolved form of Northwestern's spread could very well give the Spartans trouble. I won't go so far as to say the Hoosiers will win on Saturday, but they have a good chance at taking down the Spartans and holding onto the Old Brass Spittoon.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stupid Pills!

Yes, sir, the stupid pills were flowing big time around my favorite football teams this weekend. The Indiana Hoosiers got their shipment of the wonderful drugs of pure idiocy before their game against Illinois started on Saturday. In the meantime, the Washington Redskins received their shipment a little late, but they were able to down all of their compliment during the halftime break.

I would start with Saturday's debacle, but it's difficult to figure out where to start. The Hoosiers, coming off their second 3-0 start in about 15 years, came out of the gate...well, they didn't really come out of the gate. Illinois, with their amazing running game, exposed IU's defense as an apparent fraud, running rampant all over the place. On the other side of the ball, the 9th-ranked running game in the entire nation looked like they didn't even know how to walk correctly. On top of that, they turned the ball over way too much and blew far too many chances for the team to be competitive.

I thought that was pretty bad, but then I watched the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants. The 'Skins came out for the first half absolutely on fire. Jason Campbell was completing passes, Clinton Portis was making good runs, and the defense was doing everything it could to keep the Giants down to 3 points. Then there was the second half. for about 20 minutes of the second half, the Redskins had a total yardage of 14 yards. There were no first downs until the Redskins' final drive. The defense, though they put up a valiant effort, could not make up for the absolutely ridiculous mistakes that the offense was making. There was a glimmer of hope near the end, when Antwaan Randle El returned a punt to the Giants' 35, but it would've been better if he could have gotten the touchdown. Instead, the offense put up two stupid plays for each good play they came up with and, unfortunately, those last two stupid plays came from the Giants' 2 yard line.

Two unbelievable collapses from two undefeated teams. For a while there, I thought my teams had turned the corner and were ready to take that next step. Instead, they decided to reach back to recent tradition and lay a fat, rotten egg all over their respective home fields.

Friday, September 21, 2007

To Men's Soccer Coaching Staff, University of Alabama-Birmingham...

There's a little thing in this world called class. Class is a set of behaviors that set you apart from everyone as being that person that can take some heat, and continue on with your day with a smile on your face. Case in point: Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods gets a little criticism here and there, pops back up at the next tournament, and kicks everybody's ass.

Now, in the world of intercollegiate athletics, there is an extra element to everything called students. Students, myself included, are loud, boorish idiots when it comes to being spectators at a sporting event. We taunt you, we make fun of you, and we try to make your life as miserable as possible for the time that you are on our field of competition. However, since we're the ones who pay the university thousands of dollars a year, plus whatever the cost of tickets might be, we get cut a little slack. We're trying to defend the turf that we are putting huge amounts of our money into.

However, you the coach, making tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per annum, have no right to turn around to face the students and be a total dick.

So, let's set up the scene. UAB's men's soccer team has come to take on the Indiana Hoosiers and, most importantly, IU Soccer's fans, who are probably some of the toughest fans in the business. UAB's head coach (whose name I don't care to look up because I have no respect for them right now) is complaining about everything all evening. Whenever the referee blows his whistle, coach is right off his seat, saying some stupid thing to any official he can find. On one play, there is some mutual shoving in front of the IU net, a UAB player goes down, and the ref gives IU the ball after a lengthy discussion. Coach is not thrilled, and he gives the business to the assistant ref, who finally gets the coach to sit down and shut up. On a later play, and IU attacker is blatantly tripped up in the box and is awarded a penalty shot. Coach is back on his feet, goes over to the assistant ref (who had absolutely nothing to do with the call, mind you), and starts giving him the business again. The AR is obviously annoyed at this point, forcefully sends the coach back to the bench, and puts his flag up to signal the head official. Head official comes over, chats with the AR, and puts the red card on the coach. Game over, goodbye, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Of course, the student section is going to get on the coach, because he was being ridiculous and he really deserved to be ejected from the game. Unfortunately, the players on the UAB side happen to be really good at getting up, dusting themselves off, and overcoming these kinds of issues. They come back a few minutes later and put the ball in the IU net for the go-ahead goal....and this is where things get stupid.

The IU fans are quiet. Their team is three minutes from getting beat and they know that it'll be a tough battle just to come back and tie the game. The UAB players go mob the goal-scorer, as soccer players would generally do, but there is one man who isn't joining the celebration: UAB's fat piece of shit of an assistant coach. This guy immediately turns around and starts dancing around in front of the bleachers like a fucking retard. Then, he repeatedly pumps his fists up in front of his face and, even though he kept them down, you know he was just dying to throw his middle fingers up at the IU faithful.

I would describe what might have happened to this gentleman had there not been a fence between the stands and the field, but i think your imagination can figure it out. In fact, if this had been in Europe of South America, that gentleman would be damn near dead right about now. As a member of a collegiate coaching staff, it is not your place to go around being a total dick to the opposing fans, just because they had been taunting you. Even your team, which you are in charge of in the head coach's absence, was playing it real and celebrating the goal. They know what it's like to be in an opposing stadium and take the heat from the fans, but apparently you don't. You seem to think that because the students are taunting you, you can turn around and taunt them right back because you seem to be better than everyone. Well guess what, dickwad. You're a terrible role model, a terrible human being, and you're damn lucky that you coach intercollegiate soccer because, if this had been football or basketball, your ass would be out of a job real fucking fast. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the fucking fire.

...Ok, I'm off my soapbox now. Pardon my French.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hail to Monday Night

Tonight around 8 PM, Hank Williams, Jr, will come out on screen and ask Redskins fans the most important question that can be asked on any Monday this time of year: Are you ready for some football?

Of course, everyone who knows anything about Washington, DC, sports fans is that they are always ready for some football. What's important is whether or not the Redskins themselves are ready to go into the Veterans Stadium Light (Lincoln Financial Field on Philly's south end) and take on the boys win green and white. This will be an amazingly difficult test for this Washington team who, for the first time, will throw Jason Campbell into the fire of Philly's raucous crowd. Obviously, the most important thing for this team will be to establish the running game with Ladell Betts, Clinton Portis, and Mike Sellers, so that Campbell can feel a little easier in the pocket.

If the Burgundy and Gold can establish their running game, the job will fall to Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El to find their way past the secondary and make the big plays happen. This game will be vintage Redskins football, with most of the work coming out of the backfield, and the receivers playing the part of the old Fun Bunch to nail down the game.

On the other side of the ball, it will be all about containing Bryan Westbrook and preventing him from making the big run. Donovan McNabb, though still a skilled and intelligent quarterback, has nowhere near the physical ability he once did because of the rash of injuries that he has been through during his career. If he is forced to drop back into the pocket because Philly's run is going nowhere, he can be left to the very tough front seven, who should have a large impact on the game. Look also for a lot of blitzing from the likes of Carlos Rogers, Shawn Springs, and Sean Taylor.

Since I really haven't seen much of either of these teams so far this season, I'm somewhat weary of giving a final score. However, I believe that, if the Readskins do everything I just mentioned, they could take this game by the margin of one touchdown. See you tonight, folks.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"First Dooooown Hooooosiers!"

I'd like to comment on something that has become (gasp) a football tradition for the fans at Indiana University. From an outside perspective, you might look in at an IU football game (since they ARE 3-0 for the first time in who knows when), see the students and a fair number of the alumni doing this:

And then you might say, "What the hell was that?!"

Well, let me describe all this to you, since I've been in the middle of it a few times. For some amount of time now (I can't really give you an exact timeframe...), IU's Marching Hundred has played a strain from the "National Emblem" march every time the Hoosiers picked up a first down. For the first couple of years I was there, nobody really seemed to know what to do with this song, probably because we weren't very adept at getting first downs back then. However, I believe some of the fans started noticing something that the Hundred's drum majors would do during the song, which was pump their fists out into the air, then point in the direction of the first down. People began to catch on and, lo and behold, Hoosier football fans suddenly have their own ridiculous thing that they get to do at games. As with all football traditions, it may look kinda stupid at first, but when 30,000 or 40,000 people are all doing it at the same time, it looks really cool.

Yesterday afternoon against the Zips from the University of Akron, the Hoosier fans got quite a few opportunities to break out their first down celebration, especially in the second half. If you take a gander back a couple of posts, I said that Akron would keep it interesting for a lot of the game, but the Hoosiers would pull away. After the first quarter, that seemed like a stupid statement on my part, but then someone in the Akron coaching staff read the blog and decided to follow what I said. With under ten minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, in fact, it was a four point game with the score reading 27-23. Then, Kellen Lewis took the game on his back and ran it all over the field.

Kellen Lewis was obviously the player of the game because of this stat: 199 yards. You might say, "199 yards, that doesn't seem like a lot for a quarterback," until you realize that those 199 yards were rushing yards. Coming into this season, many fans were drawing comparisons between Lewis and the last big-time Hoosiers QB, Antwaan Randle-El. On Saturday, Lewis showed us the reason for those comparisons, falling ten yards short of Randle-El's school record of rushing yards in a game. Not only did Lewis run the ball well, but he tossed some great passes (as he always does to a number of different receivers. In light of all of this, I'd like to postulate this little gem: Kellen Lewis will be in some Heisman Trophy discussions before he graduates from Indiana University.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What on Earth is a Zip?!

As it turns out, Indiana is not the only school in this world that has an identity crisis. It turns out that the best answer we have here for the question, "What is a Hoosier?" is still, "a person from Indiana." However, as I looked ahead to tomorrows showdown in Memorial Stadium, I looked at the opposing team and said, "What on Earth is a Zip?"

Well, thanks to our good friends at Wikipedia, the most trusted source for any sort of information ever (/sarcasm), we have an answer. Despite the fact that their mascot is a kangaroo (huh?!), the name "Zips" actually comes from "Zippers," which was the old name of Akron's athletic teams. You might think that "Zippers" is some sort of slang for kangaroos and that the kangaroo is actually a cool animal to use, since it's original, it moves fast, and it punches its rivals like a heavyweight boxer -- a perfect image to convey with your team.

Unfortunately, it's not nearly that complicated or cool. The name "Zippers" is, in fact, derived from that useful little thing that's on the front of your jacket or the back of your dress. For today's history lesson, we learn that one of the steps in the invention of the zipper took place in a town called Elyria, Ohio, which sits somewhere between Cleveland and Akron. As such, someone decided that the local university's athletic teams should take the name. Eventually, since "Zips" is easier to say, the teams took on that name

I can't really tell you where the kangaroo comes into all of this, but I actually do like the unique nature of using that animal as a mascot. Also, get this: Zippy the kangaroo is one of six female mascots in college sports.

As for the game, I think the great defense Akron displayed last week will keep the game interesting. However, their total lack of offense will translate to them losing on the Hoosiers' home ground Saturday afternoon. Watch for some fireworks out of Tracy Porter and Mitchell Evans in the Hoosier secondary and Will Patterson in the linebacker corps. Kellen Lewis and the offense will probably put two or three scores on the board and will look pretty solid as we get ready to hit the Big Ten schedule.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Glance Back, and A Look Ahead

Ok, so I didn't blog immediately after the Indiana-Western Michigan game. First of all, I was completely zombie-fied by watching that game for over 4 hours. Then I went and sprained my ankle on Sunday, which has kept me completely distracted for the past couple days. But here I am, finally.

First of all, let's have ourselves a look at the good that came out of this 37-27 victory in front of a wet and wild crowd of over 32,000 at WMU's Waldo Stadium. What is becoming entirely clear is that, even if the offensive line is still rather average, Kellen Lewis can make a something out of nothing with relative ease. When the defense finds Lewis, he runs away from them until he either tucks the ball and runs, or one of his receivers gets into the open. The ability to run away from defenses will be very useful when the tough defenses of the Big Ten come knockin'.

Another thing Lewis did well in this weekend's game was spread the ball around to different receivers. Five different men pooled together to pull in 20 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. The stud of the receiving corps this time around was Ray Fisher, who caught nine of those passes for 77 key yards.

One other big bright spot in this game was the play of the defense, most notably true freshman Mitchell Evans. Evans stepped in front of two Bronco passes, taking away two key Western Michigan drives and becoming the first IU freshman in three years to pick off two passes in a game. The line also played impressively, holding the Broncos to a grand total of 30...yes, 30 yards rushsing. That number comes from WMU's positive yardage of 80 and an incredible negative yardage of 50. 39 of those negative yards are on the stat line of QB Tim Hiller, meaning the defensive line was putting tremendous pressure on passing plays.

Despite all of those positives, there was one glaring negative: Western Michigan outscored the Hoosiers 20-6 in the second half. Luckily, IU had put up 31 points to WMU's 7 in the first half. However, things suddenly felt a little tense as the game progressed through the fourth quarter and WMU closed the gap. A fair part of WMU's rally can be attributed to a less-than-stellar performance by the Hoosier secondary, despite the two interceptions earlier in the game. When all was said and done, the Broncos had managed to pick up 354 yards through the air, which will be something IU's defensive coaches will want to look at in preparation for the Akron Zips.

Speaking of Akron, I am actually a little worried about how they will do against the Hoosiers. The Zips played a very strong first half against Ohio State at the Horseshoe, holding the Buckeyes to 3 first half points while forcing a safety in the first quarter. Even when Ohio State found its groove in the second half, Akron's defense only allowed 17 more points to a team that is supposed to vie for the Big Ten title. Thankfully, IU's spread-out offense differs quite a bit from Ohio State's more traditional run-first mentality. Hopefully that use of the spread will keep the Akron secondary on their heels.

On offense, Akron was completely inept this past Saturday. That bodes well for the Hoosiers who, as previously mentioned, have gotten a lot better at putting pressure on the quarterback and the running game. Look for an interesting game for two or three quarters, but a Hoosier victory when all is said and done and the clock reads 0:00.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Indiana 55, Indiana State 7

No interesting or clever title needed for this one. That score right there says it all. The Indiana Football Hoosiers came out andIn absolutely dominated in front of an official crowd of about 34,000 (it was closer to 40,000 because freshmen got free tickets).

Lets start with what I think is one of the most impressive stat lines I have ever seen: 3 catches, 153 yards, 2 TDs. The name next to that line was James Hardy, who put on a dominating show against ISU's secondary. In fact, this line should have been even bigger because it does not include a long pass on which ISU's Warren English-Malone was forced to put the hammer down on Hardy and pick up a pass interference penalty. That pass, plus another pass interference call in the second quarter, would've put Hardy over 200 yards on 5 catches. Hardy looks good at this point in the season, and his improved speed and footwork will come in handy when it's time to go up against the big defenses in the Big Ten.

The man on the other end of those passes was also quite impressive for the Hoosiers. Kellen Lewis seems to have his mind and concentration in the right place at this point in the year. There were only two or three passes that didn't look all that great, including one toss under pressure into double coverage that became an interception. The rest of his stuff was spot-on, and he would tuck the ball and take to the ground at all the right times.

When combined with a little bit of shutdown defense, the Hoosiers easily knocked over the Sycamores and looked quite impressive in the process. The next test comes in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in what will be the one trap game in IU's non-conference schedule. The Western Michigan Broncos, despite the beatdown they received in West Virginia this weekend, are one of the tougher teams in the Mid-America Conference. Given that it will be a night game on the road in Kalamazoo, the crowd will be there in force and will give IU a tough time. I believe that this game will be the one that shows us exactly what IU will do this season and we will have a much better idea of whether or not Terry Hoeppner's dreams will be fulfilled.

Random, Off-Topic Note:
A stadium-record 7,240 rowdy fans showed up to Jerry Yeagley Field at Armstrong Stadium on Sunday to watch IU Soccer take out #1/#2 UCLA 1-0. Can this soccer team make it back to the College Cup and bring IU it's 8th soccer championship? We'll find out come December.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to School!

Sitting in the food hall at the Herman B. Wells Library at Indiana University and seeing all the folks come through with piles of books and notes in their hands can only mean one thing: school is back in session! As such, here is the short story on my bold predictions for this year in IU sports:

IU Football: 7-5, bowl victory of some sort
IU Basketball: Final Four
IU Soccer: I don't care how they do, I'm still going to love it

So, for the long story of it, we first turn to the wonderful story that is IU Football. Sometimes, you need a very large negative to occur to bring about positives. Of course, the last 14 years of Hoosier Football have been full of negatives (Cam Cameron, anyone?). Still, all of those negatives pale in comparison to the one suffered this summer, as head coach Terry Hoeppner succumbed to complications from a brain tumor. While this is a great tragedy for all involved, it is also a great opportunity to galvanize the fan base, pump up the team, and win games for the man who was just starting to get IU back on the football map. Normally, I would predict a crowd of maybe 25-30,000 at the opening game versus Indiana State, but with the emotion surrounding this season (and new coach Bill Lynch's offer of free tickets for freshmen for the ISU game), I wouldnt be shocked to see 40-45,000. My earlier prediction of 7-5...that too could easily be an underestimation.

As for this campus' favorite sport, things look very promising. Assembly Hall will no doubt be sold out for every game and the Hoosier Hysteria event so that fans will be able to catch a glimpse of a roster that could make up a significant portion of the All-Big Ten list at the end of the season. DJ White will be coming back for his fourth year on the roster and his third year of playing (broken foot in '05-'06), and he looks set t be more dominant than ever. Complimenting him down low will most likely be either Mike White, a powerful and energetic bundle of pure muscle down low, or Lance Stemler, who presents the added threat of a pretty good 3-point shot. The first shooting guard position will be up for grabs during the first half of the season beacuse senior AJ Ratliff was declared academically inelegible, but I predict that his spot will be filled by sophomore Armon Bassett, who showed that he can shoot and distribute the ball pretty well last year. Taking Bassett's spot at the point will be Jordan Crawford, who has impressed just about everyone he can impress during the summer with his hot point guard play. Finally, the crown jewel of the lineup, Kelvin Sampson's dream recruit, and a name that will be echoing through the rafters all season: guard Eric Gordon. As if that weren't enough, the bench is stacked with a great lineup of star recruits and veteran players. Barring a major disaster, this team is definitely Final Four-capable and should bring home at least a share of their 21st Big Ten title.

The other sport I'm excited about? IU Soccer! I don't even care how many games they win or if they make it to the College Cup this year. I just want to go to Armstrong Stadium and act ridiculous for a couple of hours while watching that other form of football.

Well, it's time for me to run off with my own books to class. If you're lucky enough to have the Big Ten Network by the end of this week, be on the lookout for IU vs. Indiana State at 8 PM on Saturday. I'll try to bring a little preview of that on Friday.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

All Hail the King

Contrary to what I predicted earlier today, Barry Bonds' 756th career home run came from the hands of Mike Bacsik. Bacsik admitted to ESPN's Erin Andrews that he made the mistake that led to this record-breaking event. He said that the 3-2 pitch called by catcher Brian Schneider was supposed to be a fastball down and away which would catch Barry out and make him swing at a pitch that would jam him. Bacsik let the ball sail a bit and it ended up sliding right down the pipe and right onto the fat part of Bonds' bat. Obviously, the mistake was punished hard, with the ball sailing over 430 feet to the deepest part of AT&T Park.

As far as the record itself, I do not think it is tainted by anything other than Barry's abrasive personality. Since there is nothing but circumstantial evidence against Bonds, the record is clean for now. While we may not respect the man behind the bat, we should respect the number. 756 home runs is a very big number and, even for the most muscle-bound baseball players out there, it is a very difficult achievement. Congratulations are in order for the time being, and a fine performance it was by Bonds.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bonds vs. The Nats: Night 1

How about that? Despite the fact that John Lannan looked incredibly shaky in the Nationals' 3-2 extra-inning loss to the San Francisco Giants, He still had the wherewithal to give up exactly one run -- none of which came off the bat of Barry Bonds. Even more incredible was the fact that the one run came off of eight hits and five walks. Yes, Lannan let 13 batters reach base and only one of them, Rajai Davis in the first inning, made it to home plate.

When faced four times with the Giants' star slugger, Lannan had a distinct advantage in that Barry Bonds had never seen (and, in fact, probably never heard of) him. Therefore, when Lannan's breaking curveball flew towards him in the first inning, Bonds was not ready for it. Instead of taking a sure home run ball into McCovey Cove, Bonds popped the ball high in the air towards the Giants' dugout, well within the range of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

After a walk in the third (which drew the obligatory chorus of boos), Bonds had a great chance against Lannan in the fifth. A fastball sailing towards the outside corner, which was a similar pitch to the one that became 755 in San Diego, was hit from above and bounced harmlessly to second baseman Ronnie Belliard for a double play.

In the seventh, Lannan finally showed just how much potential he has. After feeding Bonds several pitches around the outside corner to bring the count to 2-1, Lannan fired a killer fastball up and in on Bonds. Usually, such a pitch is an easy homer for Bonds, but he simply swung under it because he wasn't ready for an up-and-in fastball. on the 2-2 pitch, Lannan sent the ball sailing towards the same spot, but just before it hit the plate, the pitch fell like a rock and Bonds swung right over the top of it.

Now, if Bonds had such a difficult time with a pitcher who was decidedly not having their best day, you have to think that more experienced pitchers will have what it takes to knock Bonds down a notch. The main issue is that Bonds has faced both Mike Bacsik and Tim Redding before. However, these two pitchers are throwing the best they ever have, and the Giants will certainly have trouble with them. I'm very much looking forward to the next few nights, and I still stand behind my initial judgement that 756 will not be hit against the Nationals.

Note: Ronnie Belliard and Dimitri Young are still tearing up opposing teams. End statement.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Well, here's something interesting. Everyone had assumed that, by now, Barry Bonds would be long past his milestone 756th career home run and he'd be preparing for a long retirement filled with all sorts of peace and quiet (along with a few pleasant discussions about asterisks).

Well, it's August 5, and Barry has finally hit number 755. The thing that makes this so interesting (to me, at least) is that Barry's next four games are against the Washington Nationals. Normally, since I'm a cynic, I would say that 756 is a sure thing in the next few days. But these are not normal circumstances.

The facts are that Barry has hit one home run in the last week, the Giants are not a particularly strong team, and the Nationals are, to say the least, overachieving at the moment. After taking six straight against the Reds and the Cardinals who, much like the Giants, are poor teams with a big-name slugger, it's hard to see the Nationals losing more than two games to the Giants.

The other thing is that the Nationals' flakiest starter, Matt Chico, pitched Sunday afternoon. That means his next start is on Friday in Phoenix. John Lannan, Mike Bacsik, Tim Redding, and Joel Hanrahan (none of whom were in the Majors -- the Majors -- at the start of the season) have shown very few cracks in the last week. The bullpen for the Nats is still somewhat inconsistent, but they are certainly not bad right now. Chad Cordero has converted 23 of his 30 save chances this season, Jon Rauch has been solid, Ray King has more confidence than he had in April, and Saul Rivera is throwing some serious stuff.

You will hear a lot of people saying that the pitcher that throws 756 at Bonds will be wearing "Washington" on his chest. But you will not hear that from me.

(on the off chance that 756 does come this week, I'm glad it will be happening in San Francisco, where people will actually appreciate it)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Easy Ride

The big news in the world of American motorsport has to be the Indianapolis Motor Speedway essentially giving the finger to the high-price, low-profit world of hosting Formula 1. Instead of bringing the Formula 1's dictatorial ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone and his circus to the Speedway, CEO Tony George is bringing in the much more economically-reasonable MotoGP motorcycle championship for 2008. While the Formula 1 US Grand Prix drew some of the biggest crowds on F1's calendar and brought a lot of money to the city, there are several reasons why MotoGP will be a much better fit for the region.

First of all, MotoGP is a lot more fun for the crowds. While Formula 1 races tend to dissolve into a 90-minute parade punctuated by a few moments of excitement, MotoGP races are an hour-long shootout at 180 mph on motorcycles. There is passing -- sometimes multiple passes in one turn or one straightaway. There is plenty of excitement as riders chase each other down, looking for the right opening at the right time. Finally, the riders are a great mix of characters, with the youthful excitement of Valentino Rossi, or the southern charm of Nicky Hayden.

I just touched upon another reason that MotoGP will work so much better here than Formula 1. Some kid from Kentucky who rides around on a Honda sport bike will immediately identify with Nicky Hayden, who just so happens to be a kid from Kentucky riding a Honda sport bike. Not only that, but Hayden is also one of the best riders in the series right now, coming off of winning a series title and the last two MotoGP races at California's Laguna Seca. That same random kid on his Honda had a very hard time trying to relate with an international driver driving a futuristic, very pricey F1 car.

Now, Hayden isn't even the only American in the series. John Hopkins and Colin Edwards are also very accomplished riders and will garner a lot of support from the fans in the crossroads of their home country. Whereas the majority of the fans at the Formula 1 race had a connection with South America, showing up to cheer for Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello, or Juan Pablo Montoya, I have a feeling that the MotoGP race will be a huge draw for American fans.

One last reason that this race will be a big success is the prevalence of motorcycle culture within America. Every city you go to in this country has dealerships that sell Harleys, Hondas, Yamahas, Suzukis, Ducatis, Aprilias, and Kawasakis -- and people buy them. There are so many motorcycles on the roads of the United States that there has to be someone who says, "You know, I'd like to go see someone take a motorcycle and go 200 miles per hour." It's the same reason that the normal-looking NASCAR stock cars have become such a success in America.

I know that I will be making my way to 16th and Georgetown in Indianapolis in September, '08 to watch these great machines and their extremely talented riders zip around IMS' re-tooled road course. Plus, I'll be doing something that was extremely difficult to do at the Formula 1 race: cheer for an American rider.

Note: The impetus for me writing this article is the fact that MotoGP's US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca is getting underway today. I strongly recommend that you watch the race on Sunday at 5PM on Fox. The Laguna Seca race will be coming back next year and the Indianapolis race will make the United States the second country on MotoGP's schedule along with Spain (which hosts 3 races) to hold multiple races.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Respecting the History of the Game

There are few people within the world of baseball that I care for less than I care for Barry Bonds. He has a terrible personality for a baseball player. Even Alex Rodriguez chats with the media and the fans without causing a huge amount of drama. Sluggers like David Ortiz, Sammy Sosa, and even Mark McGwire were personable and would smile and talk to the media when they had to. Bonds, even before recent controversy, has always lashed out at members of the media and members of his own team. Now he's been brought into this whole steroids controversy in a huge way, despite a lack of solid evidence that he's knowingly and habitually done anything wrong.

That said, one of those few people that I care for less than the Giants' outfielder is the man who is his ultimate boss: Commissioner Bud Selig. Even if Bonds has been habitually using steroids for the past ten years or whatever, the blame ultimately rests with Selig. The reason that guys like Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco were allowed to dip into the steroid market was the fact that Selig never, ever put rules into the game banning the drugs. It took a massive amount of media pressure and the threat of government investigation before Selig introduced his first, rather puny steroid policy.

Of course you can say that Bonds, if he took the drugs, should have gone with the morally correct choice and stayed clean. However, if the door is open for you to take an advantage over your competitors and, ultimately, earn more money, a majority of people would jump at the opportunity. Even in circles such as the Olympics, where the steroid police are among the strictest, people still try to get the advantage. In baseball, there was absolutely no penalty at all for juicing, so players felt free to bulk up.

So, what does this have to do with respecting the game's history? The answer is a very simple, three-digit number: 756. If your grandfather is a baseball fan, ask him about the significance of the number 715, and you will know the importance of 756. When Henry Aaron put his 715th career home run over the left-center field wall in Fulton County Stadium, it was as if the world had exploded. A number from the annals of baseball history that people thought would be impossible to achieve was achieved. Aaron went on to hit 40 more homers for his career and his final number of 755 was yet another that no one thought would be reached.

Now, Barry Bonds is sitting on 750 home runs and, barring a major catastrophe, he will put those last six baseballs over the outfield wall. Now, I am not, never was, and never will be a fan of Barry Bonds. I will watch the TV broadcast, but I'll be damned if I even think about going to AT&T Park (it will happen there; it's the only place where he'll be cheered) for the occasion. However, I am not the commissioner of Major League Baseball who mismanaged the steroid era that allegedly bred this slugging machine. Bud Selig, who has not announced his official intentions regarding number 756, needs to be in the park for this occasion. Even if Bonds has intentionally juiced in the past, there is still no actual proof of it. Therefore, this record is still clean and must be respected by the league and, more importantly, its commissioner.

Side Note: During today's All-Star Game selection show, Cal Ripken Jr., one of the most respected men in baseball (and one whose record will truly never be broken), broke down the actual reason that Barry Bonds is a good home run hitter: his swing. Fast, smooth, and compact is the best way to send a ball out, and that's exactly how Barry does it. Steroids won't give you that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Terry Hoeppner: 1947-2007

Rest In Peace, Hep...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Race Versus Racing

(thanks to for the picture)

Today on the Ile-Notre-Dame, perched within the St. Lawrence river in beautiful Montréal, Quebec, history of the highest caliber has been made: A black man has won a major-league auto race. 22 year-old Lewis Hamilton, whose grandparents came to England from the Caribbean island of Granada, has become one of the most popular athletes in the world because of both his skin color and his amazing ability to get into any car and drive the wheels off of it. Today, he reached a new level on his meteoric rise through the ranks of the world's greatest form of motorsport by winning the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada.

Let's make one thing very clear before I continue. I usually don't give a hoot about the issue of race as it applies to sports. I grow very tired of basketball players complaining about discrimination from refs, baseball writers talking about the lack of African-Americans on MLB diamonds, et cetera. Given the amount of attention given to the subject by ESPN and many other news sources, it has become akin to beating a dead horse. Quite frankly, I'm sick of it.

However, the one form of sport that is decidedly in need of a shot of color: auto racing. Consider, if you will, the United States' most popular form of motorsport, NASCAR. This sport got its start in the southeastern United States, the core of American racism for nearly the entire history of our nation, and one look at the competitors drives that fact home. Forty-two drivers at the start of every NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race are white men and there is one Columbian. In most traditional NASCAR markets, some of the fans have yet to come to grips with the fact that a Californian (Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson) is winning races. The best shot for a black person to make the series fizzled out a couple of years ago when Bill Lester's Truck Series career lost its steam.

International racers have been staples in other US-based racing series, most notably IndyCar and Champ Car. IndyCar has been dominated recently by Brazilians, a Briton, and a Scotsman, while Champ Car has been under the dynasty of Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais for the past three years. Both disciplines have also embraced the presence of women on the track (IndyCar: Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno, and Danica Patrick; Champ Car: Katherine Legge), while NASCAR has not had a female driver for several years. However, it has been a long time since a black man had a chance at American open-wheel racing, with Willy T. Ribbs qualifying for several Indianapolis 500s in the early 90s.

On the international level, there is still not much competition from drivers of African descent. You can look through the lineup for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, which contains about 50 cars, each carrying at least three drivers, and you would be hard-pressed to find a black driver. Formula 1, the pinnacle of international motorsport, had not had a black driver in its history until Lewis Hamilton stepped into his McLaren at this year's Australian Grand Prix.

What makes Hamilton's presence so great for motorsports is that he is not just a publicity stunt. In the way that Tiger Woods was born with a natural ability to play golf, Lewis has a given ability to drive any vehicle to its max. The man could probably take a minivan and pound a great lap time out of it. When he was very young and still driving racing karts, he caught the eye of McLaren Formula 1 boss Ron Dennis, who became Hamilton's sponsor. Dennis' money turned out to be very well-spent, because Hamilton conquered every level of karting that he could before moving to real open-wheel cars. He then set about conquering a number of open-wheel series, culminating in his GP2 championship last year. That convinced Ron Dennis to put Lewis into the car vacated by Juan Pablo Montoya. Hamilton shocked the world by finishing third in his fist F1 race, and second in his next four races. Then, in his sixth Formula 1 outing, with veterans (relative to Lewis, at least) Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, and defending champion Fernando Alonso making key errors behind him, Lewis Hamilton drove a superb race to take the victory.

In his first Formula 1 season, Lewis hasn't finished lower than third, and is currently 8 points clear of teammate Alonso in the championship standings. It is possible that we are currently looking upon the greatest driver to ever step into a race car, and to have that driver be black will have a great effect on the social structure of motor racing. With the F1 circus coming to Indianapolis this Sunday, the United States will be exposed to the wonder that is Lewis Hamilton, and maybe this young man can raise a little interest in the sport amongst America's black community.

Notes: The Canadian Grand Prix was marred by several incidents. However, none of these were nearly as horrific as that involving BMW's Robert Kubica. Video can be found here. The nature of the accident (sweeping left hand turn, car going straight off and making hard contact) was eerily similar to Ayrton Senna's fatal crash at Imola in 1994. However, Kubica made it out with only an ankle sprain and a mild concussion. No details have been released as to whether or not he will be available for Sunday's US Grand Prix. A true testament to the safety that has been put into these racing machines.

In one of the stranger occurrences of the day, a beaver wandered onto the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. After dodging several race cars, the critter met its match in the Super Aguri of Anthony Davidson, who had to pit to get his car cleaned up and running properly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Don Cherry for, Commissioner

Now, being from the United States, I would normally cheer for a US team were it to play against a team from some other locale. The only exception for me, however, is NHL Hockey. Assuming the Washington Capitals are not in the Stanley Cup Finals (and let's face it: they won't get there again for a while), I will cheer for the team from the land that invented the sport.

Why? Why indeed? First of all, Canadians care about their sport even more than we care about sports like baseball or basketball. You can go to any game played on the ice in Montréal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, or Vancouver, and you will see an arena packed with some of the most knowledgeable and intense sports fans on the planet. The United States has only two cities that can come even close to the level of the Canadians: Detroit and Buffalo. Even then, the Ottawa fans knocked the fans in Buffalo dead. There is just such a passion for the game that is hard to find south of the border.

There is one man in the world of professional hockey who best personifies the spirit of Canadian hockey (despite, ironically, playing and coaching for a team called the Rochester Americans). His name is Don Cherry (the one on the left...the other guy is Brett Hull), and he puts even the most ridiculous of American sports commentators to shame. His wardrobe includes everything but the kitchen sink (and if they could find a way to make that into a suit, he'd wear it). He goes on red-faced rants that would make even Rush Limbaugh look like a school librarian. He is the epitome of the "old school" hockey fan -- all about the big hits, the fighting, and, most of all, giving the fans a great show. Ever heard of the Philadelphia Flyers of the late 70s that were known as the "Broad Street Bullies"? Cherry's Boston Bruins took them out of the playoffs. Twice.

Nowadays, as an iconic member of the Canadian Broadcasting Company's "Hockey Night in Canada", Cherry has become one of the most outspoken men on television. Unfortunately, since the NHL's offices are in the US, the rantings of this loud-mouthed, opinionated Canadian fall on the deaf ears of loud-mouthed, opinionated Americans (and commissioner Gary Bettman). According to old Don, fighting is an integral part of NHL hockey and is the part of the sport that brings in the fans. Don't believe him? Go back to the single most publicised event from the NHL's regular season: Ottawa and Buffalo dropping the game for about 10 minutes and beating the snot out of each other. What gets the home fans back into the game when all might seem lost? How about the enforcer from the home team taking the hated bully from the away team by the jersey and tossing him to the ice. Bettman is in the process of trying to take out one of the oldest (and, in my opinion, coolest) institutions in all of sports, and our well-dressed Canadian friend says that is a travesty.

That, my friends, is just one of the many logical and sensible arguments that Don Cherry comes onto Canadian television and yells about. Since, despite his fashion choices, the man makes a ton of sense, why shouldn't he be the commissioner of the NHL?

Let's face it: Gary Bettman is a spineless bum who has overseen one of the worst eras faced by any sport. At the beginning of his tenure, the league took off on the shoulders of guys named Gretzky, Messier, and Lemieux. Then, all of the sudden, those names disappeared and the league fell hard. The owners, backed by Bettman, realized that they were running out of money and took it out on the players. The players, knowing that the man at the other end of the table had no backbone, wouldn't accept his terms, but still wanted to play the game. So when the owners and Bettman locked the doors, the players ran off and kept making money. Bettman, realizing his mistake, caved in to a fair portion of the players' demands, thus shafting the owners that he originally backed.

Don Cherry, being the oh-so-pleasant man that he is, definitely would not have stood for the events leading up to the lockout, had those events even transpired in the first place. If the players had even decided to strike, you can guarantee there would have been replacement players, just like the NFL did in 1987. Also, you can guarantee that the replacement games would've been some of the roughest, toughest games you've ever seen. The man knows what's good for the sport, and he would be perfect in the league's driver's seat. Oh, and one other thing that makes him perfect: he's Canadian.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Free Lou!

The cheap seats would be in Wrigley Field, but I'm too afraid of getting hit by a flying travel mug. Now, let me preface this entry by making sure everyone knows that I don't like the Cubs. Their fans are spoiled, snobby fools who make Alabama NASCAR fans look like a golf gallery. They still give grief about that Sox fan who leapt out of the stands and attacked an umpire, then they turn around and chuck hard plastic travel mugs onto the field, endangering not only the umps, but their OWN PLAYERS AND COACHES. The team itself is a mess of errors and diva-like behavior that even Alex Rodriguez would struggle to match. Their star pitcher sent their top catcher to the hospital after said pitcher threw a ball that makes knuckleballers say "what the hell?" They spend ridiculous amounts of money to bring in star players that underachieve every season, and the media and fans blame it on some curse or another. Plain and simple, the Cubs are terrible.

However, I am about to defend their manager, Lou Piniella. "Why," you might ask? Because the one entity in baseball that is more inept than the Cubs has wrongfully placed Lou on an indefinite suspension for nothing more than kicking dirt on an umpire. If you took the league office's word on the situation, you would think Lou took a baseball bat out of the dugout and hit each ump over the head with it before doing the same to Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. The official language says that Piniella "made contact with umpire Mark Wegner."

Are you kidding me? I've seen the replay a hundred times in the past 24 hours, and Wegner's pant leg doesn't even ruffle at the point where all the officials are saying that Piniella kicked Wegner. In fact, the only direct contact made between an umpire and Piniella (apart from his substantial midsection bumping the umpire's) came when crew chief Bruce Froeomming starts trying to push Piniella away.

Let's get one thing straight. Piniella has had enough tirades directed towards umpires that he knows what's really out of bounds in this situation. He'll kick dirt, he'll throw hats, buckets of baseballs, bases, and anything else he can get his hands on, but you will never, EVER see Lou Piniella make physical contact with the ump. In fact, you will almost never see ANY manager make physical contact with an ump because, despite the rage that they are flying into, they know the rules. Even though some players may not get it (cough...Josh Bard), managers and coaches know the score.

What we're seeing here is a bunch of umpires defending one of their own by trying to knock down the guy who torments them the most (visibly, at least). Because one or two guys think they saw Piniella kick Wegner, the whole fraternity of umps has manipulated the pictures in their head to give them the outcome they want. Sure, they won't say it outwardly, but you know that every umpire who is assigned a Cubs game says to himself, "Crap, i have to deal with Piniella." They don't like him and he doesn't like them. But since they're the ones being backed by the league office, Lou is the one who gets screwed in this situation.

My version of the penalties that should've been given out over the past two days: Carlos Zambrano suspended by the Cubs for one start and Michael Barrett given no penalty, Lou Piniella given a small fine and a one-day suspension for the dirt-kicking, and the entire Cubs organization fined $500,000 for their drunken, moronic fans causing a dangerous situation on the field. The league office needs to get their act together and start making their penalties sensible and fair.