Tuesday, December 05, 2006

 

Hello Again

Apparently all it took to snap me out of my rather apathetic state was a polarizing staff editorial in the Collegian. Interesting.

The editorial in question deals with the lack of funding for The Lion, a Penn State student-run, student-everything'ed slice of FM radio bandwidth. In the editorial, the staff suggests that maybe it would be a good idea if the College of Communications or UPAC (The allocation committee on campus) doled out some funds to keep the station afloat.

I defended the position of the paper earlier tonight on a radio show, but for the wrong reasons. Basically, I didn't know some things happening behind the scenes that, had I been aware of them, would have changed my viewpoint slightly.

My bad.

Many people within ComRadio, the station I moonlight for, are angry about the editorial. They perceive the passing mention of ComRadio to be some kind of slight by the Collegian. This is not the case. The paper simply stated a fact about ComRadio, though it did so in an unnecessarily sarcastic manner.

The point here is that funding for The Lion should not be determined by its quality as a radio station. I'll be the first to say that if that were the determining factor, The Lion would get a few pennies covered in feces. The College of Communications abandoned The Lion a few years ago when it became unhappy with the direction the station was heading in. So, in that sense, the Collegian might have wanted to do a little more digging into background stories in the interest of fine-tuning their editorial position.

Still, I agree with their core argument; that the station deserves funding because it is a learning tool for students. Having watched ComRadio grow throughout the past few years because of the dedication of a vast number of students, I can say that it isn't easy to break in and get started. It's not impossible, but it takes patience. This speaks to the quality of the programming on ComRadio, a great deal of which is professional grade.

The Lion isn't anything special. In a lot of ways, I'd say they are an embarassment to radio. But the bottom line is, someone over there is learning something. Even if that something is how not to act at a radio station.

So Chris, if the station is so bad, why keep it afloat?

The answer to that question is surprisingly simple. In fact, it is only three letters long.

W-C-W

WCW was the primary competition for the WWF/E in the late 1990s. For a good portion of the 90s, its programming was top notch, it had a huge fan base, storylines were fresh, the writing was good, and the weekly program, Monday Nitro, routinely kicked the crap out of WWF Raw. But the competition and the constant beatings made the WWF try harder. They pushed new stars, polished their craft, dreamt up new ideas, and before too long, they were so dominant that they pushed WCW out of business, acquiring the brand name.

Bad idea.

The WWE has since floundered through a period of creative stagnancy. With no "other game in town" to beat, the writers got complacent, the wrestlers started working more formulaic matches, with less effort to boot, and the product quality took a precipitous dive. The WWE is still trying to pull itself out of this quagmire.

I'm not suggesting that competition between ComRadio and The Lion is the same way. It isn't. The Lion is light years behind ComRadio in every aspect. It speaks to the professionalism, dedication, and creativity of all parties involved with ComRadio that it has made such a positive impression and impact all over campus.

However, part of the motivation for people at ComRadio, whether they admit it or not, is to bury The Lion even further. Students at ComRadio don't like The Lion, and vice versa. The knowledge of another entity there, even a subpar one, keeps many of the students at ComRadio producing the freshest, most original content they're capable of. ComRadio, by all rights, should have taken over the FM bandwidth occupied by The Lion long ago.

What everyone needs to realize, though, is that competition is what drives this excellence. The Lion might not be any good, but it is still there, and it occupies the FM spot that ComRadio feels it deserves. ComRadio has been banging on the door to get that FM slot, and the door might break very soon. But to do away with The Lion now would be a big mistake. Give them their funding, take away their FM slot and give it to ComRadio, and put The Lion on the Internet. Make it work its way back up the ladder.

Misguided at times though they were, the Collegian had the right idea, even if they didn't intend it to be that way. Keep The Lion, keep the competition, and the excellence from ComRadio will continue. Maybe The Lion and the students who man it will attempt to make something of themselves when given a shot in the ass.

No matter what happens, I know one thing for sure. If The Lion stays, ComRadio rolls along, better than ever. If The Lion goes, ComRadio, like the WWE, risks becoming complacent, content to rest on its laurels.

And whenever that happens, you risk sinking into a quagmire.


The Mauler

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

 

Ryan Howard: Chase for History

Ryan Howard has 53 Home Runs. It's September 5th. Over the past few weeks Howard has put the Phillies on his back and taken off at a dead sprint towards the tape in this year's wild card race. That in and of itself is news. However, when can the playoff hopes of a team take a back seat to a different story?

Here's a hint: When that story involves the most hallowed record in a sport that values records more than anything else.

In the 34 games since Bobby Abreu was shipped to the Yankees, Howard is only batting .380, with 18 homers and 47 RBI's. The Phillies are 21-13 in those games and only If he keeps his average (.309) above the .300 mark, gets 16 more RBI's (he has 134) he'll become only the fifth player in history to hit at least .300 while driving in 150 and hitting 50 bombs. The others? Hack Wilson, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, and last and certainly least, Sammy Sosa. That's pretty good company right there.

Forget the MVP race, if the Phillies, who are currently 70-68 and 1.5 games back in the wild card race, rally to make it to the playoffs, the award is his.


But none of that is really important.


Howard has 24 games left in his season. He needs 9 homers to break the record. He is a man who hits bombs in bunches, and by my guess is good for at least 2 more 2-HR games this year. Personally, I think he'll break the record with about 5 games to spare, and I think he'll get to 61 before the 154 game mark (I just threw that in to silence the Babe Ruth apologists, or as I like to call them, "senile old men.")

There are plenty of people out there, the vast majority actually, who, despite all the skepticism surrounding it, see Barry Bonds' 73-homer season as the record. People that don't agree with that point usually point to Mark McGwire's 70-homer season. Others still might say Sammy Sosa's years of 64 and 66 are record holders. They're all wrong. All of those seasons came between 1998 and 2001, a high water mark era for steroid usage if there ever was one.

Mark McGwire was in his mid 30s when he broke Maris' record. Sosa was nearly 30. Bonds, it's been well documented, was 37 when he hit 73. Howard is 26. He's in the best physical shape he'll ever be in. Perhaps more telling is the fact that he's been the same size since he was in the minors. He's a big guy, but by no means is he cut, and, more tellingly, his head seems to fit his body. Not only that, he's also a nice guy and seems like he genuinely cares about the game and its sacred records.

Bonds, when he came into the bigs, was about 175 pounds, if that, and was a speedy leadoff hitter with a little bit of pop in his bat. Sosa was a power hitter, but a wiry one, far more similar to Alfonso Soriano. Both bulked up bigtime before they had their record-setting seasons. McGwire, while a pretty big guy, got noticeably bigger, stronger, faster and better at at time when the inverse should have been the case. Howard is 6-5, 250, and looks as if he sneaks a Krispy Kreme or 3 between at-bats. He came up through the minors when steroid testing was becoming far more stringent, and his career in the majors started when suspicion of steroid usage among players was at its peak. Put simply, he hasn't played in the majors during a time when steroid users could feel safe.

This doesn't mean that Ryan Howard is clean. There's even a good chance that he won't break the record, but instead hit 59 homers or so. There's a chance the Phillies won't make the playoffs and he won't win the MVP. There's a chance all these things might happen.

Me? I'm praying he hits 64, drives in 160, and pushes the Phils to the series.

To hell with Bonds, Sosa, McGwire and the rest of that filthy brigade of cheaters. I'll take Ryan Howard and his clutch, very likely clean play any day of the week.


The Mauler

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

 

Barbershop Bigamy

I made a decision the other day--I think. Before I get to all that though, I feel like I need to update you, my loyal readers, on what I've been doing all summer. I'm working at a Sam's Club that was daintily placed on top of a mountain. This Sam's Club, or the Target right next to it, depending on where your chain store loyalties lie, is the centerpiece of a new shopping center about 5 minutes from my house. Early on, during one of my training days at Sam's, I exited the building and walked to my car. On the window was a post-it type sticker that has complicated my life exponentially.

Sport Clips is a chain. Much like Wal-Mart, Target, and countless other chains, it takes business away from local shops. Among small, family run barbershops, I would imagine that Sport Clips is viewed with a special brand of disdain.

My personal barbershop has been with me since 2000. Our meeting is the stuff of lore: On the morning of a family picture, my parents realized that my hair looked like an unkempt meadow, and decided to do something about it. It was a Saturday, and there wasn't a great selection of places to choose from. Like a beacon of light, in a small plaza near my house, was a strip mall. In that strip mall, there was a storefront. Above the door of one section, a few words said everything: Barber Shop.

That was it; the plainest of names for a pretty low-key place. I stepped inside and was surrounded by the hum of clippers and the faint odor of talcum powder. Stuck crudely to mirrors were the names of each barber. Chuck, Nick, Matt, Mike. No Franco's or Rico's here, just meat and potatoes barbers with quick hands, Pittsburgh accents, and a love of the Steelers, Pirates, and Pens. I honestly couldn't tell you who cut my hair that day. I think it was Matt, but I'm not sure. That doesn't really matter though; my parents liked the look, and surprisingly, so did I. For once, I didn't have hair that screamed "Pocket protector wielding nerd".

With the exception of a few trips to a place at Penn State, the Barber Shop was my place for the next 5 and a half years. I got to know all the guys, I knew what I liked, and I knew that there was nothing better than the hot lather straight razor shave at the end of each cut. I had no problem shelling out the 10 dollars it cost for a fresh cut, and I always felt obligated to leave a healthy tip.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

All of that changed when I looked closer at that post-it on the driver's side window. I noticed that it was a coupon for an 8.95 cut at the Sport Clips right across the parking lot from Sam's. I stuck it in my wallet and didn't think about it for a few days. Then, after a particularly rough day at work, I decided to give it a try. The decision itself wasn't that hard, because after all, if I didn't like it, I could just forget about them from that point on.

I went in and was immediately greeted warmly by a woman in a baseball jersey. Sport Clips' gimmick, if you didn't guess, is that it is a sports themed barbershop. I was introduced to my stylist, Michelle, and taken back to get started. To make a long story short, they took A+ care of me. I got the MVP cut, which included a massage, hot towel on the face, and everything short of a sexual favor. I walked out of the place refreshed, relaxed, and throughly comfortable.


I was torn.


Here now, I sit...mulling over my options for the next cut. Do I go back to my roots (no pun intended)? Or do I keep with the new kid in town, the one with a lot of pizazz, flash, and dash. It's like choosing between women...maybe. I need your help, readers...I need to know what to do. Is it time to stay true to the place that got me out of a jam? Or is it time for a switch to a heartless, albeit very good, national chain?

I could go on and on about the social undertones to this, but I won't. The bottom line is this: Should I stay or should I go?



As for me, well, I just don't know.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

 

Fall From Grace: Barry Bonds

While I'm not 100% sure if this is the truth for every kid, I suspect most little boys, and in many cases, little girls, grow up idolizing baseball players. At the very least, that was the case when I was a kid. Before I grew to have an appreciation for basketball, before I realized that the Steelers were all that mattered, I loved one team above all else: The Pittsburgh Pirates. Furthermore, I idolized none other than Barry Bonds, the greatest player I'd ever seen put on a uniform. I was only six or seven years old when he was in the prime (and twilight) of his career with the Buccos, but I realized even then that he was much better than all the other players.

The fact that my mom seemed to hate Barry Bonds was immaterial to me. Yeah, she thought he was too cocky, too arrogant, but he hit HOMERS, for crying out loud. Who cared what he did off the field? Not me, that's for sure. Without fail, I tried to emulate every aspect of his game. From the way he slapped his glove off his leg while fly balls were still hurtling out towards him, to the way he waggled his bat before unleashing that picture perfect swing, I was convinced I could be Barry Bonds. I didn't bother half-assing it or not running out balls because I thought they were home runs--even I thought that was kind of stupid. My brother, mom, dad, and virtually everyone else I knew respected the player but hated the man. So what? Any minor allegation that sprang up against him in those days was nothing but a bump in the road for me. He was accused of beating his wife and I didn't bat an eyelash, mainly because I think my mom told me that he just "Was mean to his wife." The fact remained that Barry Bonds was the single greatest influence on me, at least from an athletic perspective, for most of my early life.

Now, to anyone that hasn't followed Barry up until now, he's always been cantankerous with the media. Even when he was a not-so-veteran member of the Pirates, he always had a problem with guys that held mics. Maybe he valued his privacy, or maybe he had some demons that manifested themselves in the form of tirades against the media, but he's always been bad with that stuff. The constant bullying of the media that everyone is seeing these days is an old Barry trick that somehow lets him keep his approval ratings in the domain of public opinion high. No matter what he does these days, it seems that Barry is still the bleeding heart of the steriod crisis. Since about 2002, we've seen Barry get bigger and bigger, all the while attributing his gains to a rigorous off-season workout plan and disciplined eating. Everyone seemed to ignore the fact that no natural off-season workout plan could reap the benefits Barry's had. He claimed that he was putting on more weight so as to better handle the rigors of baseball in his increasing age--we just nodded our collective consciousness and marveled at what he was doing. He never mentioned that he intentionally made his head bigger because he was going to be doing promotional work for New Era, but I'm guessing if he'd have said that, we'd have bought it.

Somewhere along the line, we missed something. Or maybe, at a number of junctures, we failed to come to terms with what we were seeing.

Maybe it's easy to lash out at other figures in the steroid crisis. It was really easy to hate Jose Canseco when he started the ball rolling by publishing his book. If you think back, you'll remember that even the wisest scribes in the country were calling the book a shameless money grab and nothing to get excited about. Most were vocal about their intention not to read it. It would seem now that none of them wanted to admit that it was the first bit of unvarnished truth about what was going on in baseball that no one felt needed to be brought to light.

It was easy, very very easy, to hate Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Raffy Palmeiro after their respective star turns in front of a grand jury. If you need a bit of a memory jog, Big Mac came only to talk about what he was doing the next day, and would likely have refused to talk about what he shot on the golf coursoe that morning. He was rather allergic to the past. Slammin' Sammy forgot how to speak English, and Mr. Viagra pointed into that camera and Lied. Right. Through. His. Teeth. But where was Barry? Nowhere to be found, of course.

When everyone else in baseball was being tarred and feathered, there was Barry, using some of that damn charisma of his, deflecting the questions and laughing his way through interviews. Even when it came to light that he had in some way, shape, or form taken steroids, Barry just kept bullying his way through the accusations, blaming it on everyone but himself. Remember flaxseed oil and balm? They were the things Barry thought he was taking. Never mind the fact that everyone kept saying an athlete like Barry would know exactly what he was putting in his body, the denials kept flowing forth, and kept working too.

Maybe some of the blame for what has transpired belongs on us. Sure, Barry apparently was motivated by jealousy to use steroids, according to the new book out on his usage, but what motivated us to believe him when he said he didn't? Was it the fact that he was doing things that no one could possibly imagine? Even when it seemed clearly obvious that he was using, some people, myself included, made the inane excuse that steroids only made him stronger, that they couldn't aid his hand-eye coordination and bat control. Man, we were pretty stupid. Steroids turned by my guess about 50 doubles off the wall into home runs into the McCovey Cove. It seems that we wanted to believe it was possible, that the records that were falling were legit. We're Americans, we need things to be constantly bettered, perpetually improving. Silly us, we certainly had a hand in this.

Finally, we turn to the book. I won't even bother to mention its name or its authors. All that is important about it is the information it presents. Starting in 1998, Barry Bonds began an intensive doping regimen that evidently continued until steroid crackdowns were instituted and the heat began to go up on the whole issue. His reason for this? As I said before, it was jealousy over Mark McGwire's single-season home run record. Jealousy. This from a guy that was clearly recognized as being vastly superior to McGwire in every sense, that would have been a first-ballot HOF'er regardless, and even before all the doping was being considered one of the greatest players of his generation. Now Barry sits, poised to break the most hallowed record in baseball history, and a crowd of 0 people will be happy for him when that time comes. Even Willie Mays, his famous godfather, cannot approve of what he sees when he looks at Barry, no matter how steadfast his public shows of support may be.

Maybe though, Bonds is already paying for his misdeeds. Despite rumors that Major League Baseball might suspend him, he remains largely untouchable, almost mythical. But no one is talking about the fact that he might not only be in the twilight of his career, but the twilight of his life. Everyone knows about the damaging effects steroids have on the liver and heart, and how the lives of many professional wrestlers (read: known steroid abusers) have ended before the age of 50, let alone 60, but Barry doesn't seem to care. He's starting to lose the battle for favorable public opinion, he's being vilified by everyone, and he knows it, even if he doesn't show it. Now, even his HOF status is in jeopardy, as the accusations surrounding him have cast a pall on his career body of work. It's a wonder his kids can look him in the eye, and vice versa. Barry Bonds is going to pay for his crimes, most likely in ways he can't even imagine.


So, now we sit, and we wait. Will fans cheer when he goes yard for the first time? Nobody knows. But one thing I know for sure is this: Barry, after all the denials, the manipulations, the abuses, and the sham of a career you've had for apparently the last 8 years, you're never going to be the same.



The kid that sat in awed silence when you played is gone. You could've been great without cheating. Could've been recognized as one of the five best players ever. But now? Now you're just another asterisk-laden cheat that's going to die an early death.

And you've lost a big, big fan. For good.


The Mauler

Sunday, March 05, 2006

 

The Rules of Life

I'm in Chicago right now, and I have about 45 minutes of time to fill, so all you lucky fans out there (yes, all two of you) are going to be graced with the rules of life:

There's gonna be about....30 of them or so...generally speaking, my life can be broken down into about 30 different microcosms.

Rule #30: Sticky, messy, greasy food products will always, ALWAYS land nasty side down when you drop them. There is no way around this, I hate to say.

Rule #29: If you live any part of your life in State College, the weather will be bad a minimum of five out of seven days of the week. Get used to it and embrace your seasonal depression.

Rule #28: When in doubt, get the hell out. Period.

Rule #27: Any sporting event broadcast by Gus Johnson will always seem about 2o times more exciting than it has any right to be.

Rule #26: It's a bad sign when you're being regularly outwitted by siblings half your age.

Rule #25: Acting disinterested is the best way to get a girl's attention.

Rule #24: If you want to drink and you have the money, by all means, get some good stuff. If not, say hello to White Tavern and Natty Light.

Rule #23: You'll never have money in college: Hello White Tav, Hello Natty Light.

Rule #22: Swallow your pride and mooch as much off of your parents as possible, but don't be a fucking asshole after all they've done for you.

Rule #21: That means don't puke all over them during the summer after particularly rough trip to the bar.

Rule #20: Most things that happen in romantic movies never happen in real life, and most lyrics of sad songs are completely made up and have no basis in real life events.

Rule #19: Any recording artist that uses their own name and nothing else for their band's name is either going to suck or play really odd "mood music".

Rule #18: There are few pleasures in life greater than a good cigar, a good beer, a good book, and a sunset. Indulgence of these pleasures takes precedence over nearly everything else in life.

Rule #17: Most movies starring Tom Green aren't that good. Deal with it.

Rule #16: Reading a good book proves to be more entertaining than 98% of what you'll see on tv. Unbelievable, you say? Trust me, it's true.

Rule #15: Sitting around and just letting your mind wander is one of the single greatest pleasures in life. There's no other way to say it, so I'd recommend doing it frequently.

Rule #14: Be involved, but not so much that you don't have time to just lounge. Lounging is without question the greatest extracurricular activity that every college offers.

Rule #13: Don't do something just because your friends are. Yeah, you've heard that all your life, but it's even more true now than ever before. If you don't feel like doing it, then don't.

Rule #12: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Ever.

Rule #11: Experience a big city once in your life. Immerse yourself in it, do everything you can do, even if it means going broke.

Rule #10: Live with passion, in whatever you do.

Rule #9: No matter how dumb you think they are, your parents know a lot more than you do. Listen to them.

Rule #8: Stand up for yourself, even if it means hurting someone else's feelings.

Rule #7: Have some respect for yourself, because if you don't, no one else will.

Rule #6: Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a problem might have to be solved with your fists. Make sure they don't miss.

Rule #5: Avoid drama at all costs. Some people thrive on it. Chances are, if you're reading this, you're not one of them.

Rule #4: Family above all else. Good, true friends close behind.

Rule #3: No regrets, make the best of what you got.

Rule #2: Keep the people that are important close, and the people that aren't at arms length away.

Rule #1: Life's not so bad. Don't go making it shitty for yourself. Forgive, forget, and move on. Enjoy your spin on this ball, because it's the only one you get.


Too serious of a post? Sorry, they can't all be funny.

College basketball musings will return either late tomorrow or early Tuesday.

The Mauler

Sunday, February 26, 2006

 

NEW NEW NEW POWER RANKINGS ROTFLMAO

Okay, so, I've been informed that it's been quite awhile since I decided to post anything. The reasons for that are two-fold:

1. I go to college and I would prefer my GPA not look like Pedro Martinez's ERA, circa 1999.
2. I'm really, REALLY lazy.

That said, let us all be quiet, whilst we listen to some new power rankings, replete with each team's odds of winning the whole shebangbang (please also note that the odds aren't directly proportional to the ranking, because I'm damn sneaky):

PS: This week's rankings will only be ten teams, as these are the only ten that I think have a shot to win it all.


1. Duke
--Here's the thing that I discounted with them: They've taken each team's best shot every single night out, because they are head and shoulders above the rest of their conference. The only other team you can say that about is Gonzaga, but the teams in their conference generally suck and they're like light-years ahead of the rest, save St. Mary's. Duke can beat anyone because J.J. Redick has morphed into the alpha-dog of college basketball. His mere presence on the court makes all of his teammates worlds better, as evidenced by Shelden Williams, a good but not great player, looking like the Second Coming, and Greg Paulus, an average point guard at best, looking like he actually belongs on the floor.

Odds of Coach K. raising the hardware and thus extending a new deal with AmEx: 6 to 1

2. UConn
--I'm sorry, Jim Calhoun. I didn't mean to make it sound like I was super dissing your team. Obviously, they're pretty freaking good, as evidenced by their second-half dismantling of Villanova, another likely number 1 seed. Your team has the size, strength, talent, and leadership to win it all. It also doesn't hurt that you have the collegiate version of Jason Kidd running your team, even if he shoots even worse than JKidd ever did. You guys deserve a number 1, and you're going to get it. Ladies and gentlemen, your odds on favorite to win it all this year: The UConn Huskies.

Odds of Jim Calhoun telling everyone how great his team is and therefore pissing off everyone around him, while he dances with the trophy: 3 to 1

3. Villanova
--With apologies to John Calipari, I'm not dropping Villanova any further. If Allan Ray is hurt, then we've got a different story, but I'll maintain they might have won earlier today had Ray not gotten his fourth foul. They haven't truly had a shooting night where it all comes together, and if they get one at the right time, and against the right team, they're going to win it all. And remember folks, in the NCAA tourney, great guard play wins. Don't forget that. Please.

Odds of Jay Wright wearing a $10,000 suit while he has a net around his neck: 4 to 1

4. Memphis
--Maybe the most quietly dangerous team in the country. I really like Memphis when they're keeping teams honest with their outside shooting, because they've got the athletes to run anyone this side of UConn out of the gym. Rodney Carney is really, really good, and when Darius Washington Jr. is playing well they're very nearly unbeatable. My only gripe is that they've been ho-humming it through their schedule, which has been fairly weak. Still, they're lethal as a no. 2 or a no. 1.

Odds of Darius Wash. Jr. draining two free throws to win the whole f'ing show: 7 to 1

5. Texas
--Well, they beat Kansas. By a great many points. However, I'm still a bit worried about their little ball of doo-doo that they dropped on center court against the Okie State Alcoholics. The right parts are in place, but I sense something mildly amiss. Obviously, it's not that amiss, or they wouldn't be fifth, but I dunno if we're gonna see what we need to see from this team when they get into a close game. This is an open book, to be sure.

Odds of Vince Young suiting up and running the picket fence for the winner at the horn: 8 to 1

6. Gonzaga
--As noted before, they still play worse defense than most grade school teams, and as noted before, they haven't necessarily found an option behind the flying moustache, so I'm still not sold on these guys. However, His Filthiness did only have 11 points against Saint Diego, and they still won by 16, so maybe I'm just being unnecessarily skeptical right now. Still...make Raivio shoot, get Battista in foul trouble, and all of the sudden, poof, you've got a very, very beatable team, especially outside the Kennel.

Odds that Adam Morrison shaves his moustache on TV after winning it all: 11 to 1

7. George Washington
--They're only up here because of their record, to be fair. Pops is out for the forseeable future, and that makes them very beatable. However, they do have all the athletes, and they have the talent to make a deep run. I don't know if they can win it, but provided Pops is back and healthy in time, they certainly have the better tools than St. Joe's to do it. One thing that scares me is that they still can't shoot, so they'll have to out-athletic teams to win...which hasn't been a problem for them the previous 2 dozen or so times earlier this year.

Odds that Pops will hold the trophy and then give it GrandPops, aka Karl Hobbs: 16 to 1

8. Pittsburgh
--You can call me a homer, I don't really care. They're one of the 8 best teams in the country, and probably more like one of the six best. There isn't a deeper elite team in the country, and they're definitely in an elite class with UConn, Nova, and Duke when Aaron Gray stays out of foul trouble. The shooting is there more than in the past, the toughness never left, and the intangibles are everywhere. This could be the year they make a magic little run to a place called The Final Four.

Odds that Carl Krauser announces he just got granted 2 more years of eligibility while holding the trophy: 9 to 1

9. Ohio State
--The fighting Thad Matta's have emerged from the boiling cauldron of uncertainty that is the Big Ten and have seized control of the proceedings. They're a much better team than the conference's number 2 squad, Illinois, and they possess that magic ingredient, great guard play, that could vault them to the top of the heap. But as I've said before, the best is yet to come with these guys. Greg Oden arrives next year, and they could very well win it all.

Odds that Thad Matta announces he's taking over at Indiana after the season: 15 to 1

10. West Virginia
--If they shoot, they win. If they shoot, they win. If they shoot, they WILL win. Still my darkhorse pick to win it all, and still the most dangerous team in the country when they're making threes. Can lose to anyone and beat anyone on any night, and that, friends, is refreshing. Mike Gansey could end up playing his way near the lottery in the tourney.

Odds Kevin Pittsnogle holds up the trophy then pawns it for improvements to the trailer: 7 to 1


ON THE CUSP: Marquette...Dominic James is filthy good, Steve Novak is too. 20 to 1
Georgetown: Roy Hibbert...well, as they say, you can't teach height. 25 to 1
Tennessee: Bruce Pearl could well sweat them right into the Elite 8 or beyond. 22 to 1
Florida: Only because I like it when they play as a team. 30 to 1

Big Darkhorse: LSU...all the talent is there...can they put it all together? 25 to 1

Even Bigger Darkhorse: Arkansas...just because. 35 to 1


There you have it. I am The Mauler, these are my rankings.

Friday, February 17, 2006

 

A Dark Day

Come closer children, and gather round, as I tell you the sordid story of a group of men, assembled for the noble purpose of representing their country in athletic competition. It was supposed to be a cakewalk. It proved to be a struggle. It was supposed to be no contest when the best athletes in the world took the court. It was, they didn't have a chance. Most of all, it was supposed to be a coronation; a return to dominance for a team whose foundation had been shaken at the 2003 Worlds, on its home turf, no less. It turned into a debacle.

Let's take a look at the cast and crew that made this bloated melodrama on the hardwood possible. For lack of a better term, we'll call them...

THE CULPRITS:
(In alphabetical order)

Carmelo Anthony
Carlos Boozer
Tim Duncan
Allen Iverson
LeBron James
Richard Jefferson
Stephon Marbury
Shawn Marion
Lamar Odom
Emeka Okafor
Amare Stoudemire
Dwayne Wade

Looks like quite the dirty dozen right there, but this group wouldn't be complete without a coach. A guy that could use the talents of the team to their fullest and get the most out of them. A real players coach, someone the troops could rally around. A coach who could mix egos but also not take any BS when it came time to get down to business. They could have had anyone, but they took Larry Brown.

I'd have preferred Pat Summitt.

You take a look at that lineup, and a few things immediately pop out at you. The first thing that stands out is that there is not a true point guard among those men. Steph Marbury is a scorer, nothing else, and Dwayne Wade is the same way. The second thing that forces its way into your consciousness is that there are no pure outside shooters on the squad. The third, and easily most important aspect of the team that announces its presence, however, is the distinct lack of role players anywhere on the roster.

If I'm Larry Brown, here's what I do when I make my lineup: I've got the most unselfish superstar playing the game today in LeBron James. I make him my point guard and tell him to focus on making plays, everyone else will take care of the scoring. I let him share the ballhandling duties with Lamar Odom, to whom I give the same message. Shawn Marion gets tossed on the court as a power forward. Undersized, you say? Nonsense, he was arguably the best defender on that team, and his running the court would have gotten the U.S. numerous easy transition hoops. I'd throw Tim Duncan out there, as he is the best fundamental player in the game and by far the best big man in the world.

But here's the key: Instead of burying him on the bench, which is what actually happened, I tell my proud veterans like A.I. and Marbury to swallow their pride and play reduced minutes, because the only choice for this team at the swing position is Carmelo Anthony, arguably the best pure scorer on the team. A motivated Melo, playing big minutes alongside LeBron and crew, would have lit it up for his country. It doesn't matter that he wasnt a terrific outside shooter--he had then and still has to this day a terrific midrange game. Melo would have lit it up and really stepped his game up, not pouted like he did for Larry B.

The rest of the veterans would have taken their roles in stride. Put A.I. on the court with Marbury and A.I. would have swallowed his pride and deferred to Marbury because there was no way the inverse would have happened. To that end, Marbury shouldn't have been on this team, period. He can blather on and on about how he averages 20 and 8 a game for his career, but the fact is is that he's one of the worst "good" players in league history.

Stoudemire would have done exactly what he was supposed to do, that being grab rebounds and finish easy buckets inside, and he would have done it well. Wade would have been the microwave off the bench if he'd been called upon to perform such a role. Okafor, Boozer, and Jefferson would have played the roles of defender, rebounder, and "athlete" exactly as they should have. This wasn't the most well-thought out assemblage of players representing the country, but they still could have, and probably should have, won the gold easily. Instead, this is what happened, as if you needed to be reminded.

First off, Larry Brown kept with his moronic tradition and tried to play only his "established" veteran guys. No matter that his usual lineup of Marbury, Iverson, Duncan, Jefferson, and Marion never really meshed, the vets were in there, playing the key minutes. I guess Larry couldn't take a hint after they got busted by Puerto Rico (PUERTO RICO) by 19. He buried his two best players on the bench for no other reason but the fact that they were young guys, and he never came close to finding the right blend of chemistry. What he was left with was a bunch of guys that didn't care and wanted to go home. Iverson tried his best, but he was working with the burden of "Starbury" looming near him, wanting top billing for himself.

In its most generic form, a team is described as a group of people assembled to accomplish a certain goal. In sports, anyone can tell you that a team is a cohesive group that likes each other, and is willing to do anything to accomplish the ultimate goal. Not only that, but the team needs a coach that is ready, willing, and able to get the most out of them, not only for their own good, but in this case, for the good of their country. Larry Brown wasn't that man, and he never will be.

The United States never had a team. Their definition never got past "a group of people."



Coming soon: The 2006 team, and what to do with them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

 

College Bball Power Rankings or How I learned to love the four-guard offense.

Pretty simple. After the real rankings come out every week, I'll be putting my own list up. I can nearly guarantee that it won't be the same as theirs. Also, like ESPN's, this will be the top 16 teams in the country. Why, you ask? Because I like it that way, so THERE.

1. Villanova
--You beat number one, you are number one. To anyone out there that complains that Duke isn't in this spot, all I can say is that the Wildcats would win by 15 on their home court, 10 on a neutral court, and 5 at Duke. They're fearless, people.

2. Duke
--I might not like him, but J.J. Redick is indeed a player and he carried them to big wins over both UNC and Maryland. Big players play their best in big games. Just remember that.

3. UConn
--Beaten by the only team in the country playing better basketball than they are right now. When these guys are shooting half decently, they're better than the Knicks.

4. Memphis
--10 point win at Marshall is less than impressive until you consider that Marshall beat West Virginia this year. Nuff said.

5. Texas
--Can still be inconsistent at times, but arguably the most talented team in the nation besides UConn. P.J. Tucker is a monster and LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be a scary good NBA player.

6. Gonzaga
--They're here, and not higher up, because I'm still not sure they can 1. Find a reliable second scoring option behind Larry Bird v2.0 and 2. Play a lick of fucking defense.

7. Florida
--It's a lot more fun playing basketball when the five guys on the court actually want to help each other out and make the extra pass. Taurean Green>Anthony Roberson.

8. Pittsburgh
--While the Georgetown game was a bad loss, the UConn game won them a lot of brownie points nationally, as did their befuddling of West Virginia. A legit threat to get to the Elite 8 and maybe further, as their 10-man rotation is starting to really play well. If Ronald Ramon keeps up his shooting, this team makes a deep run.

9. West Virginia
--If Pittsnogle scores, they beat Pitt. Can't drop them that far for losing by 4 when their best scorer lays a half-snowman. Still my sleeper pick to win it all.

10. George Washington
--They play in the A-1o. They're freakishly athletic at every position, they have the best-named player in the country in Pops Mensa-Bonsu, but it doesn't take a genius to see that this team can still be had by a team that makes them shoot jumpers. Still though, they're a legit 3 seed in the NCAA's.

11. Tennessee
--They should probably be ranked higher, just because Bruce Pearl's brand of insanity is so entertaining to watch in action, but they should have handled Georgia easier than they did. Still though, they'll be interesting to watch come tourney time because of the style they play.

12. Ohio State
--Don't be surprised if they crack the top 10 next week. Dominated Illinois, and they've got the potential to be scary good this year and the next few. Terrific storm brewing in Columbus.

13. Boston College
--Only here because the other options didn't deserve this high of a ranking. Still, a gutty home effort against Duke a few weeks back, and they've been going about their business in a workmanlike manner.

14. Georgetown
--A tale of two second halves. Bottled up Pitt in one, got bamboozled by WVU in the other. Still, Jeff Green was a positive constant in both. Could shoot up the board soon.

15. UCLA
--Washington loss was a bad one, but considering their injury situation, this team has been very impressive all season. Ben Howland has them playing some good defense. They'll win big in the coming years.

16. Illinois
--Thou shalt not lose at home to Penn State. Thou shalt not lose at home to Penn State. Thou shalt not lose at home to Penn State. Thou shalt not lose at home to Penn State.



There you have it. Hit me back with comments, imediamente.

 

Nova vs. UCONN and much more

For anyone that didn't watch Villanova and UConn go at it tonight, you missed quite the treat. I watched the game because I knew that tomorrow I'd be too busy entertaining roughly 22 different ladies, so there'd be no time for college basketball. Lucky for me I caught one of the most entertaining games of the year.

First off, a note about Villanova: Their tallest starter comes in at about 6 foot 8. After him, the height chart goes 6 foot 4, 6 foot 2, 6 foot 1, 6 foot 1. By contrast, UConn goes 6 foot 11, 6 foot 11, 6 foot 9, 6 foot 6, 6 foot 3. Seem like a mismatch to you? Yeah, me too--UConn had no chance. Kyle Lowry, who is one of the two Nova starters listed at 6'1", but is more like 5'11", was absurd throughout the first half. He basically eviscerated the Huskies defense like it wasn't even there. Marcus Williams, for all his laptop-stealing excellence, could do nothing to prevent Lowry from getting into the lane. He dropped 16 in the first half and repeatedly forced turnovers on the defensive end. (And to expound on that, UConn should be ashamed of its ballhandling for the entire game. Apparently, no one told any of their frontcourt players that the Wildcats' guards liked to sneak up from behind for steals. Pathetic.)

The opening minutes of the second half were a testament to why UConn is such a great team. They made the necessary adjustments, bottled up Lowry, and forced the Wildcats out of their comfort zone. During this time, Rudy Gay and crew racked up a few easy buckets, and poof, a 33-32 halftime deficit was very quickly turned into a 45-33 lead. Jay Wright called one timeout in the middle of the run, and when that didn't work, opted to let his guys play until the TV timeout. Uh, nice move Jay. Allan Ray, who in the first half couldn't have hit anything if you'd have given him a gun and called him Dick Cheney, suddenly came alive. Four three-pointers later, Villanova was down by 2 and the capacity crowd at the Wachovia Center, which by the way was the largest crowd to watch a college basketball game in PA history, was very much alive. Cue Mike Nardi, the fourth stooge, who had been felled by tonsillitis for the last two games. Nardi came down in transition off of a steal and spotted up for three. It couldn't go in. No way. Nardi hadn't made a shot all game. He wouldn't make another one. No matter. Bottom of the net. The crowd? They were cheering like they'd been told that Terrell Owens had fallen off of a cliff.

The rest of the way, it was unsung hero Will Sheridan that carried the load for the Wildcats, keeping the Huskies at bay on both ends. As the game progressed, Ray hit more huge shots, Sheridan hit everything else, and the Huskies, with a roster full of NBA first-rounders and big-name superstars, came unglued. Rudy Gay, for all his double-double brilliance (19 points, 10 rips) couldn't hit the big shot down the stretch when it mattered the most. A team with a height advantage so absurd it had to be seen to be believed couldn't handle the heat when Villanova brought it into the kitchen.

Credit the Wildcats for executing their trapping, pressing, turnover-forcing defense to absolute perfection. Credit Jay Wright for going with a 3-guard look for the majority of the game to take some of the Huskies inside advantage away, then going with the 4-guard balls to the wall lineup in the waning minutes. Most of all though, credit Villanova's fearsome 5, the toughest, most talented group this side of, well, UConn, for keeping the pressure constant and never backing down for a second. In this matchup of two teams who could very easily walk away from the Final Four as National Champions, it was the much-ballyhooed Huskies who proved to be shrinking violets.



Random Musings from inside my head:

What is the purpose of noting that every car given away on The Price is Right has as part of its options package "California emissions"? Would it be so bad if one of the cars had "Wyoming emissions"? Would Bob Barker's head fall off of his body if this happened? Would the models even know what to do? This needs to happen, and soon.

Secondly, and in fact, lastly, I just want to say that the Olympics would be a lot more fun if there was one live band that had to play every gold medal winner's national anthem at every single event, logistics be damned. Maybe then the Olympics would be even mildly watchable.


That's pretty much all, Happy Valentine's Day everyone, and on a personal note, you stay classy in Chicago SG.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

 

This post had no purpose



Saturday, February 11, 2006

 

UTB Favored Sports Motion Pictures

So I'm sitting here, doing nothing, as usual, and I thought to myself, "Hey, why not compile a list of my personal favorite sports movies and then claim that it represents the views and beliefs of the entire UTB crew." So, being that I have nothing to do for three and a half hours except get paid and look out the window, you all get (drumroll) THE TOP TEN SPORTS MOVIES EVER:

BEST
SPORTS
MOVIES
EVER
(a list)



Honorable Mention: Cinderella Man, Tin Cup, Rookie of the Year, Any Given Sunday, The Waterboy, The Replacements, The Natural, Bull Durham, Slapshot, Mighty Ducks 2, The Sandlot, Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, The Program, Hoop Dreams, He Got Game, The Longest Yard, Raging Bull, White Men Can't Jump, Little Giants, Cool Runnings



Top Movies Where the Team Loses:
4. Cool Runnings
3. Rocky
2. Tin Cup
1. Friday Night Lights

Top Five Funny Sports Movies:
5. Slapshot
4. Waterboy
3. White Men Can't Jump
2. Happy Gilmore
1. Caddyshack

Special Asterisk Movie That Probably Would Have Made The Top Ten Except Poker Isn't a Sport: Rounders



THE TOP TEN:
10. Blue Chips
9. Angels In the Outfield
8. Happy Gilmore
7. Rocky
6. Mighty Ducks
5. Friday Night Lights
4. Major League
3. Field of Dreams
2. Caddyshack
1. Rocky IV

Friday, February 10, 2006

 

Exciting News

For all you fans of some of ComRadio's finest, I've got some exciting news. Never before in ComRadio history has such a collection of talent been assembled for one show. Prepare yourself to hear not only "The Historian" Joey Gulino, "The Grinder" J.J. Terlecki, and "The Mediator" Ryan Chadwick, but also yours truly, "The Mauler".

"That's great Chris, but what's the format?" You ask. Well, it's going to be a college basketball show. But more importantly than that, it's going to be a show where rye bread and Shelden Williams are mentioned in the same sentence. Where long-winded rants off the established topic will be encouraged and not censored. We plan on going bravely where no talk show hosts have gone before, comparing Adam Morrison to Dirk Diggler and J.J. Redick to a walking pile of feces.

You think you've heard it all on ComRadio, but you ain't heard nothin yet.

For anyone that wants to get in on the fun, you could start by dropping some name suggestions for this towering hour of basketball power.

 

Allow myself to introduce...myself

Alright...I'm rather amazed that I actually did this, but I figured I'd try to add something to the UTB site, but have it be a little bit of a different flavor. Anyway, this site is basically going to consist of me adding bonus content on top of UTB podcasts, and occasionally sounding off on whatever I please...which will almost always be sports. Check back in all the time, I'm sure when I get bored, I'll post something here first.

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