Friday, March 31, 2006

The Wrong Sampson

Two months ago – when Indiana University head basketball coach Mike Davis was acting sullen and wounded for the umpteenth time and was seen/heard dejectedly announcing that he would not be returning to coach the Hoosiers in ’06-’07 – I blogged that it wasn’t a big deal because, well … he was only my third-favorite Mike Davis, anyway.
And that’s only because I couldn't think of a fourth or fifth Mike Davis to rank ahead of him.

Now, the university which hired the Wrong Mike Davis slipped up again by using two wrongs to try to make a right by naming the Wrong Sampson as its new head coach.
While you’re thinking, “He’s going to say ‘Ralph Sampson’,” guess again.
Actually, I was hoping that they’d go with the Native American actor Will Sampson.

If you think that Will Sampson doesn’t know basketball, then you definitely didn’t appreciate Will Sampson as the large American Indian "chief" in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Chief appeared to be a quick study under the tutelege of Murphy (Nicholson). I appreciated Mac’s coaching style because he didn’t get himself all caught up in coach-speak/studio-analyst verbiage, such as calling guys who stand taller than 6-foot-5 “bigs” or “length.”
“Chief can cause problems for the bigs … he shoots well over length …"

To this day, every time I watch the patients vs. the orderlies game and when I see McMurphy inbound the ball to Martini (DeVito) who hot-potatoes a one-timer into the chain-link fence. jeez ... to this day, I still lose it.

I can watch that scene sometimes 10 times in a row and when I hear McMurphy with that high-pitched voice yellin’ at Martini, gosh … it takes me back all the way to Feb. 2006 when Gary Willams’ Terrapins would routinely have 20 turnovers in a game.
Martini wasn’t on scholarship, however.
Why did the Terps have to chuck all of those passes off of the chain-link fence inside Coach Gare’s soul?

Wait … suddenly, I’ve shifted to my favorite “Cuckoo’s Nest” b-ball scene and, ummm ... it doesn’t pertain to Will Sampson.
Hey, Will Sampson wasn’t too shabby in “Orca.”

Just as most Americans have a favorite Will Sampson movie, they, too, have a favorite Kelvin Sampson moment.
Atop that list, for most people, is when Kel-Samp “guided” Oklahoma to the Final Four berth in ’02 against Indiana. Kel-Samp had four players in his regular rotation who were 80 percent foul shooters (Hollis Price = 84 percent; Aaron McGhee = 82 percent; Jason Detrick = 81 percent; Ebi Ere = 80 percent), so Kel-Samp ingrained in his players’ minds the value of getting to the line.

The 3-point line.

OU shot 2 of 18 “from distance,” mostly because Oklahoma’s supposedly “better athletes” couldn’t slash and cut to the basket against IU’s household names of Dane Fife, Tom Coverdale and Jarrad Odle and draw some fouls.
For the record, IU finished that game with five offensive rebounds and zero zero zero second-chance points.

So, Kel-Samp is probably the best choice for IU, given the way that he helped get the Hustlin’ Hooters to the ’02 championship game.
It’ll be a preview of coming attractions.
There'll be many more national championship games which go through IU.

Wait … I think I heard Bilas say yesterday that Perry Mason reaching the Final Four is the greatest upset in the history of college basketball, somehow forgetting the scrappy (but untalented) Hooters team which I just mentioned.
Either way, amen, Brother Bilas! Your brain was NOT contaminated one bit by years n’ years of ingesting the cryptosporidium in the Palo Verdes drinking water when you were growing up.

Without a doubt, I’d rank Perry Mason reaching the Final Four right up there with 2006’s greatest upsets of all-time in ’06 – but I’d be remiss to rank it ahead of the Steelers as a No. 6 seed (a SIX seed!) reaching the Super Bowl by beating three AFC teams which had appeared in 10 (TEN!) Super Bowls.

Not to open Pandora’s Box, but the fine print here reads as follows: The Murderers’ Row of opponents which Perry Mason had to defeat was about as murderous as a kitten lapping from a saucer of milk.
Michigan State? Look ... Sparty was going to lose their first-rounder to Perry Mason or the ’73 Montreal Expos or a Pop Warner team.
That’s not to say that Sparty was gutless, well …actually, it is.

And, when Perry Mason rallied from that 16-2 deficit against “defending champion” North Carolina, that was Roy Williams being Roy Williams. He was seen kicking a chair and barking at David Noel for too much posing after making a J.
That, of course, was a precursor to the postgame press conference where he informed America how much he loves his guys, sniff, sob …

What I always love is how Roy Williams' teams spend so much time sharing with America their meltdowns and imploding nature.
UNC staked itself to that 16-2 lead with some delicious passing and real hard work in the frontcourt. Then, it was time to start chucking some 3’s and hoping that Tyler Hansbrough could score 33 or 41 points.
Maybe instead of theatrics, Roy Williams could’ve called timeout after Marcus Ginyard hoisted up that brick of a 3 in the first half and chided Ginyard for A) Being a 25 percent 3-point shooter who is under strict orders not to shoot a 3 unless the team is up by 25 or 30 and B) For being someone named "Ginyard" who is disgracing Phil Ford’s jersey #1.

That’s the thing about Roy Williams’ teams … they don’t always adjust very well and they really don’t always show improvement as the season progresses.
In his defense, Roy Willams is a genius at winning national championships with kids recruited by Matt Doherty.
Against Mason, UNC didn't get to the foul line until 7:47 remained in the game.
That's all about coaching.

Every time I see Roy Willams lettin’ another winnable game slip away, I think to myself, “Cowher would have this one in his hip pocket right about now.”
After all, the man beat three AFC opponents which had appeared in 10 Super Bowls.
As a No. 6 seed!
Triple exclamation-point, baby!

I missed just about all of the Mason-UConn game, but heard some of it on Westwood One Radio. I understand that the game was well-played and might’ve been the greatest NCAA game ever played.
On that day!
Between those teams!
Of all-time!

Look … I’m never gonna discredit Mason because it is the Patriots' defeat of UConn which has me in prime position to rake in unspeakable riches in the coveted PTT pool.
Then again, I don’t really view Mason as “knocking off” UConn … I saw it more as UConn’s bad-ass-icity doing them in.
Nice ‘tude.
Watch out, NBA! Here come Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong to jazz up the Association with their 5.3 PPG!
Of all-time!

To wrap it up, I heard Bob Ryan on Tony Kornhusker’s show two days ago offer this direct, exact quote: “I think every coach in America would trade his roster for Calhoun’s …maybe not the kids involved, but the talent.”
I love that quote.
It’s my all-time favorite quote of all-time ever.
And I have no clue what it means.

Luckily, neither does Bob Ryan.

Ryan, like a lot of Americans, tosses around the word “talent” as if it’s some sort of intangible “thing” just floating around in outer space.
I suppose B-Ry was trying to say that UConn has “ability,” but maybe a bunch of bad attitudes.
That’s only a guess, though.

Well, now I’ve gotta get back to addressing the important issues facing America – such as how a Native American such as Kel-Samp feels about trading in his Oklahoma crimson-and-cream for Indiana cream-and-crimson …

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Cindy Relish Story

If I owned a hatchet or a tomahawk, I'd tell bracketologist Joe Lunardi to kiss my axe.
Since I don't, he can kiss my ass, instead.
Howzat UConn-Duke championship game workin' out for ya, America?

Sure, if you've got Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, definitely ... UConn's a righteous pick.
Josh Boone? Hilton Armstrong? Denham Brown?
Yes, I understand that they were all role players on the '04 UConn champions (who beat a Cindy Relish opponent you already forgot about), but to ask those guys "to lead," ohhhhh-kayyy ... maybe in a rec league.

You remember Cindy Relish ... she's the one who beat the crap outta Cinderella after third-period P.E.
It was all over school.
Cindy Relish is a bitch ... she's a tomboy ... and her foot doesn't fit in a glass slipper because she puts her size 12's into Doc Martens and stomps yer ass.

The bracketologization of the Pitchfork hasFlorida beatin' UCLA in the title game -- and, until Mrs. PF7 (who also -- independently -- picked FLA) notified me of the standings in the only pool that I ever enter (as homage to The Chandelier), I'm lookin' at first-and-goal at the Cindy Relish 8-yard line.
That doesn't mean that I'm liftin' the lifetime ban and watchin' that sheepdip.

In fact, all I saw of the action yesterday was the final 23 seconds of "" vs. Sillynova. Y'see, SuperDawg had a 5-hour play date with a magnificent Leonberger sweetheart and, well ... I was not inclined to pass on that Kodak moment to watch my pal, Nardi, clank up the gym for Villanardi.
The only difference between Nardi and a baggie of warm, soft doggie poop is (you guessed it) ... "the baggie."

Dang! I can't believe that Mempiss and 'Nova exited the tourney with zero post presence and some zesty brick-layin' from 3-ball range.
A combined 6 of 40 "from distance." What a shocker. Mempiss was 0 of 13 'til knockin' down two in the final 17 seconds.

Oddly enough, I didn't see highlights of any of the games until 8 a.m. this morning (on EspyTime's Stooge Scott Theater).
I mean, I guess I could've TiVo'ed Perry Mason's shocker over UConn, but, ummm ... I don't own TiVo and, ummmm ... I don't really care.

Hey, I listened to Westwood One's Dave Sims call the final moments of regulation on the radio as I was scarfing two hot dogs at Checkers (the Leonberger was in the back seat with me, behaving and not slobbering up my food).
The Mrs. and I boycotted OT and I played the oldest trick in the book -- workin' the reverse-psychology angle with, "Jeez, UConn's gonna win. Screw them."

In case you were wondering: The advantage that "Air Con" had over UConn was that at least on that plane filled with convicts, they had Cyrus The Virus ... a real go-to thug.
UConn had Josh Boone and his really really pretty cornrows.
Josh Boone can now wear his '06 Washington D.C. Regional Finalist t-shirt with pride around the Storrs campus.
Good for him.

Naturally, the fallout of yesterday's nonsense was that Perry Mason's upset compares favorably with either "The Miracle on Ice" or Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson.
What? No Jets over the Colts in Super Bowl III?
America, get that UConn-Duke final out of your mind and remove the furniture polish nozzle from your nose.
"Huff" aerosols responsibly!
Or, at the very least ... "more responsibly."

Another great angle of Perry Mason's victory was that the Espy Channel was informing me that this Cindy Relish run has been accomplished against three former national champions (Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut).
I love that angle. I've worked into my lifestyle by saying that the Steelers' three road wins in reaching the Super Bowl was achieved by beating three teams which had appeared in 10 Super Bowls (Bengals = two; Colts = two; Broncos = six).
Note: There exists absolutely no connection between a completely-underachieving Michigan State team of '06 and the quality Michigan State national champions of '00 (except for Izzo), but the analogy is "twistable" and "spinable" ... which makes it "viable."

Perhaps my favorite commentary of yesterday's trangressions was when Stooge Scott asked Egghead Vitale how Perry Mason beat UConn and, of course, Vitale gave us: "Well, they beat Michigan State and North Carolina ... Jim Larranaga, what a great story ... he has a great resume ... he's a cerebral guy, a great communicator, he's 56 years of age ... unbelievable! Unbelievable!"
When Stooge asked, "What did Florida have that Villanova didn't?"
Egghead: "Allan Ray was shut down. We saw what happens when you take away a star ... Billy The Kid ... he has Noah and Horford and they were unbelievable and Green and Brewer, they were unbelievable, too ... some of the stories right now have been unnnn-BEEE-LEEE-vuhhhh-BULLLL!"

Those were the highlights before Stooge thanked Egghead for the love and thanked him for the knowledge ... and one week from now, America will be naming Egghead to the Hall of Fame.
Because he pauses after each syllable in unnn-beeee-leee-vuhhh-bull.
Ya gotta love that.
Amazing insight.
What an ambassador for the game (however, I secretly wished he'd said, "As my good friend Jimmy Vee said, 'Don't give up, don't ever give up.' ")

In case you were wondering, UConn-Duke-America, Florida didn't stop Allan Ray.
Allan Ray stopped Allan Ray.
He's done it before.
Or didja forget last year's tourney when he shot 2 of 22 on 3-balls (3 of 32 overall).
"Hey, hey! Whaddya say? Sink the J, Allan Ray!"
(Note: I use the same cheer for Rudy Gay)
(Another note: Allan Ray sucks "from distance," okay?)

Oh, and in case you missed the meltdownability of UConn-Is-UGone, go back to your TiVo file and watch how Calhoun's lads got WORKED by Sorrycuse in the first round of the Big Least tourney.
So much for "the bigs."
Hey ... I'm all for "the bigs."
In fact, I'm pro-bigs.
The flip side: I'm anti-bigs-which-suck.

Any time there's an upset of this so-called "magnitude," the elements of melodrama always get played up ... y'know, stuff like how Perry Mason was a team of scrubs going up against the unstoppable killing machine.
The thing is, Mason had a few ballers, a coach who seems to get guys to play together and a huge homecourt advantage. UConn had some athletes and a coach who can't always get his players on the same page.

UConn played well enough to lose against Albany, played well enough to lose against Can'tucky and played well enough to lose against U-Dub ... but won all three games.
Finally ... a team didn't get freaked out by "We're playing UConn?"

That's what makes yesterday's outcome a Cindy Relish result, not a Cinderella story.
It's a fascinating scenario ... it's an interesting development ... but it's still bad basketball.

Next week's Hall of Famer, Egghead, said it best:
"He's 56 years of age ..."

Doesn't make a damn bit of sense ...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Yahtzee Week In Review

I received a standing ovation, yet I fought back the tears because it felt like an empty standing O.
It went down like this:
I was on my final three-roll set of the Electronic Hand-Held YAHTZEE that Mrs. PF7 and I keep around the house (y'know, in case of monsoons, tsunamis, restroom timeouts, NCAA b-ball infringement on our personal space, etc ...) and my score was 505 -- well within easy striking distance of the Haystack Headquarters record of 523 held by Mrs. PF7.
All I needed was a 19 in my final category "Chance," of all things -- not a total gimme, considering that Electronic Hand-Held YAHTZEE's micro-chip technology always holds the key (kinda like "Zoltar" in the movie "Big").

Bang! I "rolled" (if pressing a red button constitutes "a roll") four twos right off the bat.
Since I didn't have any timeouts remaining and since a genius like Bill Belichick wasn't available and since Regis wasn't going to let me phone a friend, I was on my own.
It was either disregard the roll entirely and re-roll, hoping for some sixes, some fives and some fours -- or hold the four twos and shoot for an unprecendented fourth Yahtzee which would put me over the 600-point mark and basically make me the Alpha dog of the house.


I don't even remember how I played it or how I mis-engineered the moment, but, when it read "Game Over" and my final score was 519, I crumpled to the floor, a la Adam Morrison.
I was a weepy willow.
"Chagrined" doesn't even begin to describe it.
In retrospect, maybe I should've allowed the nearest autistic team manager to take my final three rolls -- after all, the last time we heard of something like that happening, dude became Mr. Instant Offense and scored 20 points in four minutes.
I only needed 19 points.
Damn you, autism!

Oh, wait ... the ballgames.
Ummmmm ... I wasn't emotionally available and therefore, I kinda blew 'em off. I mean, why watch when ESPN can give me 45 seconds of highlights and 15 minutes of Digger and Egghead and Gottlieb and Majerus and Hubert Davis and Tom Brennan and Andy Katz and Joe Lunardi and Steve Lavin and Jay Bilas and The Ghost of Al McGuire to talk about what we saw, what we will see, what we should believe and when we should believe it?

Hey, cut me some slack ... I watched the final 32 seconds of regulation in the LSU-Texas game and the first 1:13 or 1:14 of OT.
Best rec-league b-ball I've seen in the past 24 hours, that's for damn sure.
Seriously, that's a pretty quality matchup between two quality football schools and, if you give me a time machine, I can triangulate a 1983 showdown between the Tigers' sophomore running back Dalton Hilliard and the Longhorns' seasoned secondary led by Mossy Cade, Jitter Fields and Freddie Acorn.
Ya gotta love Freddie Acorn.
And, it starts with believing in Freddie Acorn.

Wait ... you're talking about a 2006 basketball showdown which connects Austin to Baton Rouge to the Georgia Dome?
No, thanks.
I mean, a "basketball" game between LSU and Texas sounds about as made-up as the name "Freddie Acorn."
The thing is, Freddie Acorn really did exist (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him in the third round in the '84 NFL draft).
The next thing ya know, they'll be asking me about a basketball matchup between USC and Miami (as if those football powerhouses have basketball programs above the intramural level).

Sorry, but this husky lad (me) didn't get around to watching the Husky vs. Husky (UConn/U-Dub) confrontation Fri. night, mostly because there was a Steelers SB XL DVD which was itchin' for me to watch it for the sixth time in the two weeks I've owned it.
I know, I know, I know ... if I had a higher sense of commitment, I'd've watched it 14 times in the past 14 days and memorized most of it.
I'm gettin' there.
And UConn? 27 baskets made, 26 turnovers.
The AP recap referred to it thusly: "Sometimes miserable to watch and occasionally downright laughable."

Thank you for the editorialization, Associated Press.
Riddle me this, though, AP ... is Big Baby the love child of a tryst between Tractor Traylor and Stanley Roberts or what?
He's some serious Atlanta Hawks material, if ya ask me.
Unless the Toronto Raptors trade up.

Who does Big Baby think he is? The "Bus" of college b-ball?
Corliss Williamson would run yer ass ... and run it into the ground.
Let's all settle down on this Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers nonsense, okay?

Nuthin' beats the regional finals, though ... even if the AP attempts to discredit the weekend by calling it miserable and laughable. Maybe the AP doesn't understand that Texas' Brad Buckman is standing around and waiting for a beach volleyball game to break out.
Before Saturday, Buckman was 1 of 12 on 3-pointers in Texas' previous six games. THAT, somehow, earned him the designated 3-point shooter assignment for Saturday.
Hook 'em, 'Horns ... buck 'em, Buck ... whatever ...

Mrs. PF7 and I didn't watch any of UCLA-Memphis. We penciled onto our dance cards: "ABNI."
"Available, but not interested" ... kinda like, "DNP, coach's decision."
Hey, I'm not sayin' that the boxscore reflected something miserable and laughable (that's the AP's job), but ... Ryan Hollins was 6 of 7 from "the field" ... UCLA's other four starters were 3 of 25.
Arron Afflalo was 9 of 10 from the line ... the rest of UCLA's team was 11 of 29.
35 percent from the floor, 51 percent at the line, 17 turnovers ... it makes me want to sit behind the UCLA bench and heckle the Bru Crew with incessant cries of, "No, you DITT-INT! No, you DITT-INT!"
I'll tell ya who's pissed: Lavin (and the 37 ounces of axle grease in his hair). Ben Howland took Lavin's mediocre Bruin b-ball program and made it really really really really mediocre (translation: gettin' the boys to play jussssssst well enough to lose regularly, but somehow able to pick up the W by lettin' the opponent out-ugly his team).

Look ... I don't care if Kenton Paulino and I were born in the same city ... I don't want him shootin' 3-balls for me, okay? He's a 3-point misser, not a 3-point maker, okay? I know he sank the game-winning trey at the buzzer to give the Wronghorns the win over the Meltdowneers, but, he's not a jump-shooter, okay?
I mean, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.

Me? I'm lookin' for Freddie Acorn ...

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Upchuck Regional

That's what Calipari told America yesterday: "I'm vomitting worrying about Bradley." //////// Ohhhhhh-kayyyyyy ... well, if it makes your tummyache less-achey, J-Cal, I'm vomitting worrying about you vomitting worrying about Bradley. And, a lot of my friends are vomitting worrying about me vomitting worrying about you vomitting worrying about Bradley. And, if any strangers out there catch wind of this situation, they'll be vomitting worrying about my friends vomitting worrying about me vomitting worrying about you vomitting worrying about Bradley. ///// Once again, Coach Cal has set off a chain reaction of vomit. ///// Nice job! ////// The one thing that we CANNOT allow to happen: Calipari vomitting when he thinks about vomitting worrying about Bradley, 'cuz then those strangers out there'll start vomitting thinking about vomitting worrying about my friends thinking about vomitting worrying about me thinking about vomitting worrying about vomitting thinking about Coach Cal vomitting thinking about vommiting worrying about Bradley. /////// And then Bradley will complete the chain when its fans start vomitting thinking about the Bradley coaches vomitting worrying about the players vomitting against Calipari, who is vomitting worrying about Bradley's fans vomitting worrying about the Bradley coaches vomitting worrying about the Bradley players vomitting against Coach Cal. ////// (P.S. -- College basketball is puke-tastic, by the way ... )

achieving Michigan State team of '06 and the quality Michigan State national champions of '00 (except for Izzo), but the analogy is "twistable" and "spinable" ... which makes it "viable."Perhaps my favorite commentary of yesterday's trangressions was when Stooge Scott asked Egghead Vitale how Perry Mason beat UConn and, of course, Vitale gave us: "Well, they beat Michigan State and North Carolina ... Jim Larranaga, what a great story ... he has a great resume ... he's a cerebral guy, a great communicator, he's 56 years of age ... unbelievable! Unbelievable!"

Cringing vs. Crying

There's that show on FOX which I never watch ... "24."
Then, there's that show that I WISH I hadn't watched last night ... "27."

TWENTY-SEVEN, as it so happens, was the field goal percentage for America's Duke Blue Devils last night in the Sweet Sixteen loss to LSU. TWENTY-SEVEN points in the nd, TWENTY-SEVEN, as it so happens, is how many field goals UCLA attempted in the first half against Gonzaga.
The Bruins made seven.
Here's the big cover-up, America: Because it's a close game at the end DOES NOT MAKE IT A GREAT GAME -- and that's regardless of whether you're influenced by the on-air orgasm that CBS' Gus Johnson had at the end of UCLA-Gonzaga.
It may be interesting ... the outcome may be up in the air ... but, that does not automatically qualify it as a well-played contest.
And, out-mediocre-ing each other is not interesting TV.

So, yeah ... Adam Morrison can go ahead and cry those crocodile tears because the first 10 minutes of his final game was garrrrrr-bidddggggge (and the final three minutes, for his team, was craptacular).
And, if J.J. Redick gets all weepy, I hope it's because he's realized what a lot of us have known for the past eight or nine years: Coach Shuh-Sheff-Skee as the pope of college coaching is pure mythology.
The litmus test for Coach K: What exactly do his teams accomplish in practice (I mean, aside from looking lost and being clumsy when it comes to making adjustments)? Does Mike need Trajan to take that big shot? Does he need Battier to take his 51st charge of the game? Does he want Cherokee to gobble up that rebound? Would he like Maggette to take it strong to the rack?
Anyone can "recruit" PTP'ers and Diaper Dandies. Mike has a bunch of GNG'ers ... and those genius assistant coaches which we hated as players (Wojo and Doug Collins' kid) can't make 'em any better.
(Note: GNG = "Got No Game")
Another tidbit: Mike had seven players in the rotation Thurs. -- and all seven attempted at least one 3-pointer (nifty, considering only one player on the team is consistent from 20 feet). Sean Dockery and DeMarcus Nelson were a combined 1 of 8 "from distance" and teamed to attempt ONE 2-point basket.

It's not worth cryin' about, America. A more-suitable reaction would be to cringe (before using profanity) and then to clicking the channel to Lifetime or Bravo or Spike or THC or OLN, which is pretty much what I did before cycling back to the final 20 seconds of Zags/Cal-L.A.
As the scenario played out and the clock clicked down, I thought of how I learned a week ago on Deadspin's "Three Tiny Tips" for the Zags how J.P. Batista once bench-pressed 225 lbs. 30 times.
Wouldn't ya know it, Bowflex Batista had a regulation basketball knocked out of his Kung Fu Grip by Jordan Farmar and before Gus Johnson could orgasmate the line "Havlichek stole the ball!" or "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!", Farmar was lobbing the stolen ball to Mbah a Moute for the lay-in.

And, that started the waterworks in motion for Morrison.
Maybe he should pull a Bettis and give it "one more year."

My personal preference would've been for Morrison and his 'stache to get pissed off, ticked off, cheesed off and have him filled with such uncontrollable range that he punted the ball into the seats.
Crying? Jeez, Ad-Man, save your tears for the families of Quadrevion Higgins and Purvis Virginia Parker, those two boys missing near Milwaukee. Save it for the U.S. soldiers or the Iraqi civilians (women, children) who are car-bombed.
You play roundball.
In the World According to Jay Mohr (as pointed out by my personal saviour, Deadspin), Adam Morrison collapsed to the floor in total anguish because he was coddled as a Little Leaguer and he didn't have a role model (like let's say, ohhh ... a Jay Mohr, for example) to teach him the value and the impact of winning and losing.
Or maybe he never had a coach who taught him how to hold his head high and to keep his chin up. That "this-is-how-passionate-this-kid-is" angle is tired.
When he was talking smack to Arron Afflalo in the early going (as the AP story reported ... "Let's go, Afflalo!"), couldn't he have tried harder to be more neighborly and Christian?
From the press conference I saw, Afflalo was sportsmanlike and consoled Morrison as the Zag sat on the floor ... deflated.
I'd've knelt next to him and whispered, "Tough break, little daffodil. Need a tissue?"

Hey! You're not off the hook, WVU Meltdowneers!
If you're gonna shoot the 3-ball ... shoot it!
WVU took 33 threes (sinking 15), but here's the catch: Why not try 50 threes? Or 55?
A coach like Beilein gets slathered with kudos -- and he's one of those types who reasons that shooting 33 percent from 3-point range is the same as shooting 50 percent from 2-point range.
Sure ... if you play games on paper.
Or in a vacuum.
Or in an empty gym.

Y'see, it's like this, Pythagorus: If you shoot a turnaround 3 (as Gansey did in the first half last night) and then Texas scores in transition, you're shooting percentage is unequateable because the 3 which YOU just attempted turned out to be a 2 for the other team.
Howzat fit into your 33% (50%) paradigm?

So, if you had a team of bombers which worked efficiently for a quality, spot-up three (not a half-assed, turnaround three) and then had them hustle back and D up, D up, D up, the chances for victory increase exponentially.
But, since most coaches are bent on "Let's run our so-called 'offense,' " the equation gets trashed to hell.

What I'm saying is this: Morrison had taken only 14 shots until the fateful final three minutes. Pittsnogle had taken only 14 shots until his three with six seconds to play.
Here's an idea: Get your shooters 20 shots. Better yet ... 25.
Well, it doesn't happen because coaches, in their wisdom, have to (repeat after me) "run the offense."
In Duke's case, Dockery and Nelson need their touches so that they can go 1 of 9 from the floor. Frank Young needs to go 1 of 4 beyond the arc (as he does every game) to "provide balance."
Screw that.
Shooters gotta shoot.
And don't gimme that "defenses are so complex nowadays" routine. We're talkin' about popping treys. It's so easy that autistic team managers are making national headlines by poppin' the 3-ball.
Kid drained six in four minutes.
Still, Coach K needs Paulus to dribble, dribble, palm the ball, dribble, change his pivot, dribble, penetrate, get his (stuff) tossed.
And that's your "Duke Offense Replay"!

Friday morning, I'm almost positive that I heard ESPN's Mike Greenberg say that the Thurs. nite action provided the types of outcomes that (let's say it all together) "they'll be talking about for years."
Exactly! At least until midway thru the '06-'07 season.
Here's your proof: 97.8 percent of America is still buzzing about that Final Four game from two years ago when that guy hit that game-tying three with 24 seconds to play and then the game-deciding bucket was provided on a layup with :02 to play.
Unless you won $100 on that game or lost $100 on that game, your memory long ago erased the fact that it was Oklahoma State's John Lucas who hit the trey with 24 seconds to play, tying the game at 65-65 before Georgia Tech's Will Bynum made the layup with two seconds to play.
(RIGHT! You knew that, you lying bastard ... just like you knew that G-Tech's Marvin Lewis -- not THAT "Marvin Lewis"! -- was 4 of 5 on 3-pointers in the first six minutes of that Final Four victory)

Tonight's a new night for more derailments.
GNG'ers providing light comedy ...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

V For Vomit

That's what Calipari told America yesterday.
"I'm vomitting worrying about Bradley."
Well, if it makes your tummyache less-achey, J-Cal, I'm vomitting worrying about you vomitting worrying about Bradley. And, a lot of my friends are vomitting worrying about me vomitting worrying about you vomitting worrying about Bradley.
The thing Calipari needs to monitor closely: What would happen if he should start vomitting worrying about vomitting worrying about Bradley.

Chill, J-Cal ... although I know that you know that I know that you're pimping for press ever since you think that America forgot about your UMass frontline of Camby-Dingle-Bright and the backcourt of Travieso-Padilla.
I'm vomitting worrying why I should remember off the top of my head that Minuteman starting five of 10, 11 years ago.

As I go through WBC withdrawal (by vomitting worrying that there'll be a springtime with no ESPN updates of how Matsunaka is performing for the Seibu Lions or how Matsunaka is doing for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, not to mention Fukudome for the Chunichi Dragons, Ogasawara for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters or, my boy, Iwamura for the Yakult Swallows ... notice how I didn't mention anyone from Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines?), I'm thinking about temporarily lifting the lifetime ban that college b-ball recently received around the PF7 crib.
I MAY actually ("maybe") tune in to see what CBS is servin' up in those four regional semis tonight.

Two nights ago, I needed something in the TV genre as accompaniment while I was wolfin' down a microwaveable dinner, so ... I clicked onto the final five minutes of the Fla.St./So.Carol. NIT mess.
Yup, it had me vomitting up my Stouffer's Swedish meatball entree (I know, I know, I know ... I shoulda pulled out the Lean Cuisine Swedish meatball entree option instead).
However, that final minute of regulation sorta knocked my socks off when 'Noles guard Isaiah Swann made a steal of a lazy pass in front of the USC bench and sprinted downcourt.

It seemed as though Swann would dish off or do some sorta of double-clutch lay-in with the defender cutting over until ... my god, Swann didn't break stride and, all 5-foot-10 of him pogo-sticked to a takeoff outside the key, soaring up and one-handing a tomahawk jam that was about the best I've seen in the past 10 years.

Swann looked like he was playin' SlamBall and elevatin' to the basket as though he'd bounced off a trampoline during a halftime exhibition.
It's the way I used to dunk during study-break, Nerf-ball sessions in my college dorm room (but, not quite like my vanilla dunk-ball dunks on the 8-foot, elementary-school playground baskets ... nowadays, I 'spose non-ballers get their dunking kicks on PlayStation or X-Box by clicking a button equivalent to Ctrl-Alt-Delete).

Either way, Swann's dunk occurred with 56 seconds to play and gave FSU a 58-56 lead, but matters kinda unraveled at the end of regulation.
That was a cool dunk, though (sorry, Alexander Johnson and Al Thornton, Swann's teammates who had three jams apiece ... as The Riddler said to Two-Face, "Your entrance was good, HIS was better.").

I seriously doubt that I'll see any dunks that are quite as insane as Swann's tonight -- and I must confess that I'm vomitting worrying that ESPN, during March Madness, would do what it did on the late night SportsCenter last night by giving me The Largely-Annoying Sean Salisbury on site at Vince Young's workout.
I guess it's still too much to ask to give us quality features instead of Salisbury regurgitation. Yet, it's par for the course on the network which gives us Vitale vomit (and we're at T-minus nine days 'til America will collectively blow chunks when that eggheaded, no-talent puke is announced as an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame).

So, Joe Lunardi, make yourself useful:
Grab your brackets and mop up that upchuck, will ya?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Renaldo Balkman Is Not Rolando Blackman (Ode To Ray Meyer)

The world said goodbye to Ray Meyer on Tuesday – and while I was unable to attend his memorial in the Midwest, I held my own special sacred secret ceremony in the place in my heart where Ray Meyer will live forever.
Smitty sez that Ray Meyer will live on in his memory as someone who exited the Big Dance in the first round.
“You take that back, you bastard!”

Anyway, ever since they told me that Ray Meyer passed away last Friday at the age of 92, I can’t get the 1981 tournament out of my mind. Truth is, the ’81 tourney always springs to my mind any time we see a Big Dance wherein the opening weekend features a No. 3 or No. 4 seed getting knocked off or the requisite No. 12-over-No. 5 upset.
Actually, you could have all No. 4’s losing to No. 13’s and I still wouldn’t rank it ahead of ’81, the greatest (in terms of wacky and zany) opening weekend in NCAA tournament history.
And Ray Meyer was in the thick of it.

Hard to imagine that Ray Meyer’s passing occurred almost exactly 25 years to the day that his No. 1-ranked DePaul Blue Demons were knocked off, 49-48, by St. Joe’s on that wild first weekend.
(Sidebar: It’s interesting to note that the 48-team tourney in ’81 was the last one which was played before CBS declared TV b-ball domination, not to mention the last season played WITHOUT the posession arrow).

For a coach whose career spanned the seasons of 1942-43 thru 1983-84, it’s difficult to gauge the impact that the three-year stretch of first-round tournament collapses in ’80, ’81 and ’82 had on the question of whether Ray Meyer was a great coach or merely a great recruiter.
That ’81 defeat to St. Joe’s – every one of us remembers that photo inside S.I. wherein Mark Aguirre was cradling the basketball as his face was melting with total despair and anguish.
A team which entered the tourney with a 27-1 record had just authored one of the most important chapters of “One And Done.”

Of course, on the cover of that aformentioned S.I. (I probably have it in a box in the basement) was the photo of K-State’s Rolando Blackman shooting that pull-up, baseline 15-footer which sank No. 2-ranked Oregon State, 50-48.
Only moments earlier (or maybe it was slightly later) on that Saturday, many of us looked on in utter disbelief during the final moments of the Louisville-Arkansas game – a game which seemed to be clinched for the Cardinals when Derek Smith hit that off-balance, 10-footer in traffic in the paint with something like three seconds to play, giving the defending national champions a 73-72 lead that all but locked up a berth in the Midwest semis against top-seeded LSU.
That is, until the ball was inbounded to U.S. Reed and he took those two or three dribbles and let fly with that prayer which he launched 10 feet beyond the midcourt stripe.
When that 50-plus-foot prayer found its mark and went in the basket at the buzzer, well … nobody – not the butcher, not the baker, not the candelstick maker – could believe what they’d just seen.
While it was only two years before N.C. State’s Lorenzo Charles scored on his historic putback of an airball and more than 10 years before Christian Laettner sank his near-miracle, 20-foot turnaround at the buzzer, nohhhh-buddddee has banged home a 50-footer at the buzzer.

Sad to say, a reminder of U.S. Reed’s shot came almost 10 years ago when Derek Smith (then a Washington Bullets assistant coach) died of a heart attack in Aug. 96 (doctors later diagnosed that he’d had an enlarged heart).
Derek Smith’s basket should’ve been the one which was the game-winner, alas … ’81 didn’t stick to any script.

I mean, I went into that ’81 tourney believing that the No. 2-ranked Beavers of Oregon State were going to make a statement in the Big Dance, given that center Steve Johnson was a 74-percent shooter (74 percent!) and the supporting cast was formidable (a solid backcourt of Mark Radford and Ray Blume to complement the forward play of swingman Lester Conner and the homely-lookin’ scrapper named Charlie Sitton).
Those Beavers were 26-0 until losing their regular-season finale to No. 3-ranked Arizona State – the other team that I figured would bring home the title if Oregon State didn’t.
With Alton Lister in the low post and a dandy backcourt of Lafayette Lever and Byron Scott, the Sun Devils were going to do some damage, no question.
Oh, there was some damage done, all right.

As Kansas State was ending Oregon State’s dreams of a title, someone named Tony Guy of Kansas was pumping in 36 points in leading Kansas to the 88-71 rout of ASU (which got 32 not-enough points from Scott).
By the way, it was the second round in ’81 when BYU All-American Danny Ainge raced baseline to baseline in the final seconds and put in the layup at the buzzer to knock off Digger and N.D., 51-50 (suck on that, Orlando Woolridge and Kelly Tripucka!).

Our lives have changed a lot in 25 years, except that Digger picks games about as well as he coached 'em ... and the coach who won it all in ’81 just completed his 40th season as a college coach (his fifth as head coach of the O’Reilly Auto Parts team in Lubbock, Tex.).
That coach (who hosts ESPN’s “Knight School”) opened my eyes a lot in ’81, mainly because when I looked at a bracket which featured LSU and Indiana, I envisioned the Tigers trouncing the Hoosiers by 20, no doubt about it.
Maybe by 25 or 30.

IU had beaten Maryland by 35, UAB by 15 and had ended St. Joe’s Cinderella run by clubbing the Hawks by 32. This, though, was LSU … a team with Durand Macklin and a backcourt of Ethan Martin and Howard “Hi C” Carter which had scored 100 points against Lamar and 96 against Wichita State.
The Tigers were going to do some damage.

There was damage, all right. Although LSU led, 30-27, at the half, IU suffocated LSU in the second half – and, after that 67-49 outcome which was LSU’s lowest point total since 1964, I began to realize that there was a lot more to the loudmouth with the plaid sport coat than merely the loud mouth itself and the sport coat with the plaid print.

It was ’81 when I learned that a team can win with a certain “style,” as opposed to five great athletes on the court, which, I suspect, is how Ray Meyer ran the show.
In that loss to St. Joe’s, DePaul did not attempt a shot in the final 6:30 (St. Joe’s was playing stall-ball in the absence of a shot clock) – and the only reason that it came down to an unknown named John Smith at the end was because Skip Dillard missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12 seconds to play.
It was a little later in the ‘80s when we came to learn of Dillard getting’ some prison time for his role in a series of gas-station robberies in which he used a sharpened screwdriver as a weapon.
That won’t convince anyone to put ya on the all-tourney team, Money.

Recently, I blogged about how when DePaul lost to Indiana State in the ’79 Final Four, Ray Meyer did not substitute once.
Not once.
His five starters played the entire game in the 76-74 loss.
The thing is, DePaul teams always seemed to play under some sort of black cloud – so it was not exactly unexpected that when Ray Meyer’s team was ranked No. 2 in the nation going into the ’82 tourney that he would lose, 82-75, to Boston College and see FIVE of his players foul out.

Whether he was losing in the NIT finals in ’83 to Fresno State or bowing to Wake Forest in the SECOND round of the ’84 NCAAs (in his final game), Ray Meyer was – as Mike Krzyzewski said in the AP story from the other day – “a coach’s coach and a man’s man.”
That was Coach K’s way of saying something without saying anything (like he often does) … y’know, adding an empty dignity to an empty existence.
It’s like watching Ray Meyer’s final team at DePaul and remarking that “Dallas Comegys is a Dallas Comegys lover’s Dallas Comegys.”
(Personally, I like any time that I can type “Dallas Comegys” that many times in one sentence)

If nothing else, any thought I have of Ray Meyer has always made me re-connect with 1981. Although he went 79-3 during the regular seasons of ’80 thru ’82, that 0-3 tournament record was real groundbreaking stuff.

Obsessing again with '81, I was taken back there again as I watched the final five minutes of Tuesday’s NIT contest between South Carolina and Florida State. When I saw USC’s Reynaldo Balkman doin’ what he does as ESPN color commentator Tim McCormick performed his color commentatin’, I was flashin' back to the final years of Ray Meyer's career.
First of all, Renaldo Balkman is NOT to be confused with Rolando Blackman, difficult though it may be.

And, as long as we're combining "South Carolina" and "1981," it might be of interest to note that, in '81, the nation's leading scorer (28.9 ppg) was USC's Zam Fredrick, who entered his senior season averaging 8.1 ppg (and who averaged 36 ppg in his final 13 games in '81).
Zam Fredrick is the dad of current Georgia Tech guard, Zambolist "Buck" Fredrick.

Tim McCormick? No doubt he laments that eBay was invented too late, considering that his MVP trophy as MVP of the '84 NIT is probably stashed away in a box somewhere and can no longer fetch top dollar in an on-line auction.

Ray Meyer, though … you’ll always be my NCAA tourney also-ran.
Right there alongside Digger (who helped Tim McCormick win that NIT MVP) …

Kimonos and sake for everybody!

No question, it was disturbing when a b-ball matchup of Michigan vs. Notre Dame (in the NIT, of all places) delayed the beginning of our World Baseball Classic championship showcase.
Now that it's all over -- capped by the title tilt between two island nations -- all most of us can think of to say is, "We'll miss you, Matsuzaka and Matsunaka."
Matsuzaka and Matsunaka ... never has there been a more powerful Japanese merger than when Matsumura Fishworks and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern gave the world MR. SPARKLE Dishwashing Detergent.

In the videotape that was sent to America for Homer to watch in his home or prefecture, Mr. Sparkle's mission statement was clear:
"Join me or die! Can you do any less?"

Anyway, Chipper and Big Papi and Jung Bong and Stubby Clapp were missing from the title-game pageantry, but, so, too, was EspyTime's commentator, Orestes Destrade.
It only seemed natural that a CUBAN who played four years professionally in JAPAN would be in the broadcast booth for a Cuba-Japan championship, but EspyTime opted to go with Joe Morgan to make either fairly-obvious observations or ones which were incomplete.
Destrade (oftentimes called“O”) was outstanding during the previous-round games in Puerto Rico (when Hershisher wasn’t hogging the mike) … but, alas (sigh) ... maybe it makes too much sense for EspyTime to showcase the smooth-sounding Cuban who was an original Florida Marlin after his fence-busting stint with the Seibu Lions.

It's a simple truth: Joe Morgan needs to explain baseball to the viewer, just in case that viewer is watching his/her first baseball game. Joe needs to explain the nuances, lest we allow "O" to mess things up by giving us some cultural background re: Cuba or Japan.

Listen up, America! Joe's explaining something known as "the hit-and-run."

Little Joe was a fine Hall of Famer (who usually sucked in the postseason, by the way -- .182 avg., .182 avg., .182 avg.), but he's so trite.
Destrade, on the other hand, used a moment during the Cuba-Dominicana contest from earlier in the week (the game when Big Papi hit the 500-foot homer and then did one of those bat-flip/twirls wherein the lumber flips/twirls 30 feet) to note that Dominicans should feel empathy for the plight of Cubans, who, unlike the Dominicans, are stuck on their island forever (unless they climb onto a raft with a tattered “USA or Bust” flag as a mast).

Shortly after that mild political observation, Destrade remarked that the catcher made a great stop, a la Grant Fuhr, to save a near-wild pitch.
When Gary Thorne was shocked at Destrade’s name-dropping of NHL goalies (he'd earlier thrown Pete Peeters’ name out there), "O" said,
“This Cuban knows his goalies.”
Quality work by Destrade.

Well, for those of us who were on-board with the WBC right from the get-go, what transpired last night at Pet Shop Stadium in S.D. was fairly epic.

We knew that we were hardcore WBC when Team Japan’s lineup was displayed on the TV screen and the name "Aoki” was at the top of the order and it was “Imae” batting fifth and playing third base.
Immediately we asked, “Where’s Fukudome – and what the hell is Manager Oh thinking by benching Iwamura and his L'Oreal hair?”

Leave it to Sadaharu to pinch-hit Fukudome in the 7th – and leave it to “The Fook” (if that’s what they call him) to clout that 2-run homer (after Nobuhiko Matsunaka rifled that leadoff double into the corner) to snap the 0-0 tie and kick-start the 5-run rally.
In the first 6 games and and 6 innings of the tourney, Korea’s pitching staff allowed eight runs … then, the roof caved in.
No doubt, Hines Ward, who was wearing his “K” cap from that very good seat at Pet Shop Stadium, felt the sting while watching his Koreans struggle.

Without Korea in the title game, it was up to Japan's stars (stereotyped as "mechanical" and "regimented") against the “passionate” and “flamboyant” Cubans.
Both teams have their styles, but, bottom line, they are smart and skilled … and, while Japanese players don’t bear hug each other as those two Cuban pitchers did Saturday during that pitching change (which did look mighty weird, by the way) they're just as pumped, just as intense … as evidenced by Matsunaka when he completed his head-first slide into second by giving the base a solid punch to start the 5-run rally.
And, Fukudome was smiling when he rounded the bases on his homer.

So, Japan kinda dinked some hits and nudged some runs across last night (a 4-spot in the first and a 4-spot in the ninth) ... a style of play which caused some of us to tigthen the sash on our kimonos and pour another glass of sake for the little geisha girl by our side.
Creating a noisemaker by banging a ladle against a wok ... that's simply foolish.

We'll miss those guys ... from Ogasawara's goat-tee to Watanabe's mega-submarine pitching mechanics, but HEY!
Chipper and "America's Team" will be boring the bejeezus out of America somewhere around mid-June ...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

No "I" In Team (And No I-Teams Remaining)

Now that Iowa and Indiana have bowed out of the B-Ball Bonanza, America can now immerse itself in the "Alford Returning To Indiana?" Sweepstakes.
That is, if American can pull itself away from the "Dickie V. Into The Hall of Fame" Countdown (T-minus 14 days 'til that no-talent egghead upchucks on the Stars N' Stripes).
When you toss Illinois in with UI and IU, it's clear that the "I" stands for "implosion" in the conference known 'round this household as "the Big Tank."
(Don't worry, America ... THE Ohio State University is pretending to look busy in order to delay the removal of the '99 Final Four banner from the gymnasium)
"We who are about to die, salute you!"

Iowa ... forever a football school, which is fine by me, considering that Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick is one of the finest Americans that America has ever produced.
Iowa ... so dignified and courageous in accepting its ouster from the '06 playoffs. The stages of "The Hawkeyes' Demise" were distinct and profound.
Bang! A 17-4 lead in the game's first six minutes, furnished by 7 of 9 shooting.
Then ... no baskets in the next 12:21.
With the early lead frittered away, the Hawkeyes' Demise took a breather early in the second half when Greg Brunner scored 11 points within a span of 3:31 ... and when Adam Haluska drained a 3 with 9:14 to play in the game, UI was up, 52-37.
The Hawkeyes' Demise, though, raised its level of play -- and Iowa had one basket in the game's final 9:14 ... which they almost got away with, except that guy for Northwestern State tossed one outta his ass from the left corner with one second to play.
From what I've read/seen/heard, scoring droughts of 12:21 and 9:14 are extremely counter-productive.

The good thing is, bygones will be bygones next season when Coach Alford is coaching at ... Iowa. Look, people ... he's trying to create a legacy which will match that of his predecessors, Lute, Raveling and Dr. Tom.
That cannot be accomplished by bailing on UI in favor of IU.
Another thing: Basketball coaches trying to succeed at football schools ... it rarely works.
There never will be a "Hayden of the Hardwood" in Iowa City.
Simple as that.

As per Alford's alma mater getting rubbed out by Gonzaga, well ... Mike Davis' final game was replete with the characteristics which were emblematic of his 6 years in the Land of You'reNotCoachKnight.
So he let his lads upchuck 36 treys to break up the monotony of the Zags lining up to shoot 41 free throws.
My fave 3-pt. chucker at my wife's alma mater has to be 6-foot-11 freshman Aussie, Ben Allen.
After knocking down two treys against Illinois in mid.-Jan. to give him 13 in 18 attempts, Big Ben went ballistic in the final 17 games, sinking 5 of 27 (18.5 percent).

It's difficult for America to find fault with Coach Davis' handling of Allen. After all, if he tries to coax the 6-11 kid into working on his drop step or catching the ball and finishing in the low post, that does NOTHING to move Allen closer to Pittsnogle-dom of being a 6-11 kid who can drain the three.
In March '09 ... long after Allen's transfer freed up a scholarship for Coach Damon Bailey to win his back-to-back Big Tank titles before back-to-back, first-round NIT defeats, we'll all have a good chuckle about what an idiot Mike Davis was for allowing hi 6-11 kid to shoot 45 treys and attempt only 41 two-pointers.
That is, unless the Hooters job is given to Jamal Meeks.
Think about it, America.

But, don't think for too long because that might take your brain away from a game like Washington-Illinois, which can only be explained as "forever legendary." Luckily, I watched only two, maybe three, minutes of such a tussle (which would've been an intriguing matchup in the early '80s if you'd had these football programs square off at a neutral site ... like, say, the Freedom Bowl in Anaheim, CA).
Rather than watch the game and lose some of the "flow" to announcers attempting to scramble my brain, I spent five minutes with the boxscore.
I mean, that is where I live ... inside the numbers, away from the clutter of unathleticism and so-so court smarts.
And, the new math was funner than the old math:
U-Dub made seven baskets in the second half, including two in the first 10:55 following halftime and none in the final 3:26. I'm told that the kids use a shot clock nowadays, but ...
While The Other UI Which Isn't IU did score 17 points in the final 3:39 of the first half, it's hard to overlook the five baskets that the Illini scored in the game's first 16:31 or the four baskets in the game's final 12:31.
And, raise your hand, America, if you DIDN'T see Dee Brown clanking the game's final shot as The Other UI took that timeout with 6.5 seconds to play to diagram the final shot that Dee Brown would clank which, in fact, Dee Brown DID clank with :01 to play.
Bruce Weber was so adorable with the way that his team's meltdown mirrored the meltdowns of Iowa and Indiana. In the final three games of Jan., freshman Jamar Smith provided perimeter hope for UI when he hit 10 of 16 treys. But, in the next eight games, Smith went 7 of 24 from beyond the arc -- so, even after he hit 6 of 9 against Air Force in the first-rounder, there wasn't any proof that a hot hand against a weak opponent was a slump buster.
Clank! Clang! Poing! Glif! Bwok!
That smells like 0 of 5 "from distance."
(Hint for Coach B-Web: If a person flips a coin 100 times and that coin comes up tails 100 times, the odds of it coming up heads on the 101th flip are STILL 50/50 ... NOT 100,000 to 1 that five more crap-like threes are going to "change someone's luck." Y'see all those pretty, flashing lights in Vegas? Your attitude keeps 'em flashin' and pretty)
B-Web needs to start countin' cards.
That's because the Big Tank is a house of cards ...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Junior Felix is not Felix Jose

This is the long weekend of every year in which we block out -- but only for a moment -- all of that advice heaped on us by Digger, Dickie V. and Joe Lunardi -- and we instead heed the words of that little dynamo, Kit DeLuca, who had the perfect response when, after looking at the bracket was asked, "Who does it really work out for? Did it work out for Skinny Marie or Rachel?"
Kit: "Those were very specific examples of crackheads."

When we press Kit again to name someone we know who it worked out for, Kit says,
"You want a name? Okay, ummm, a name ... oh, the pressure ...

Sure, I know that when it comes to marrying fairy-tale characters (i.e. Cinderella) to sports moments, most of us will lean toward Carl Spackler, the groundskeeper at Bushwood, characterizing himself as "the Cinderella story ..." as he fantasizes about conquering Augusta.

But that would be short-changing Kit DeLuca.
In her spirit, it's somewhat sad to see that there will be no glass-fucking-slipper for Sorrycuse's Gerry McNamagic -- all because he couldn't find an Icy-Fucking-Hot wrap to soothe his faulty groin.
Wait ...did I just type "sad"?
We need to turn that frown upside down, America, because next year when G-Mac is balling it up in in Denmark and averaging 8.3 ppg for his Copenhagen pro team, we'll smile when we recall how, for one weekend in March '06, G-Mac won our hearts by out-mediocre-ing Big East opponents which Kit woulda called "medi-fucking-ocre."
Hey ... her words, not mine.
I woulda gone with "craptacular" or "shittastic," not sure which.

So, as it stands now, still eligible for the glass-fucking-slipper is Alabama's Jean Felix Boussiengue, the dude from Birmingham (by way of the Congo and France) who doesn't use his last name and, who after spending the '05-'06 season averaging 9 PPG went ballistic and drained 8 of 11 treys vs. Marquette.
We, as Americans who relish Cinder-fucking-rellas, brushed away a tear of joy when we watched a ballplayer who was, to quote America's favourite autistic team-manager-turned-3-point-drainer, "hotter than a pistol."

NOTE: My recent Nostra-fucking-damus hotter-than-a-pistol streak of predictions this past week includes:
A) Noting that when Indiana was losing, 19-15, to Wisconsin at halftime of that Big Ten tourney semifinal that the Hooters would rally to beat the Badgered, 57-53 -- and the final score was 61-57 ...
B) Predicting that Ohio State's Jekel Foster would miss nine of 11 three-pointers in the Big Ten title game (he went 2 of 10) ...
C) Elaborately blueprinting the Korea-Japan WBC game, providing a prognosis wherein the game would be tied 0-0 going to the ninth inning and that Nishioka would score Japan's only run on an HBP, SB, SB, PB (the game was 0-0 in the 8th inning ... and Nishioka DID score Japan's only run, albeit on a homer in the 9th) ...

Therefore, the early heads-up to Jean Felix is this: I apologize in advance that you had to go only 3 of 11 "from distance" in your second-round game.
Actually, I see Jean Felix as more of a 2 of 9 brickster.
To be honest, though, I won't be watching Jean Felix because Jean Felix, as a concept, does nothing to clear up the problem I had 15 years ago when I couldn't remember if Junior Felix was Felix Jose or if Felix Jose was Junior Felix.
What I do know is that both are from the D.R., hence, both will be rooting for Team Dominicana on Saturday in the Final Four of the WBC.

Oddly enough, the U.S. won't be participating in the WBC semis after those EIGHT pitchers from Mexico shackled the star-spangled lineup.
Right about the time that the U.S. looked like it might break through in the 9th (after Chipper and A-Rod walked), Vernon Wells saw one pitch, got his bat sawed off and hit into the game-ending DP.
It was some quality drama because pro-U.S. and pro-Mexico fans were gettin' plenty loud.
But, here's the deal: U.S. baseball is U.S. SOFTball. An "all-star" outfield which included Francoeur, Winn and Wells, well ... those are nice players and OK individuals, but, so what.
I'd take an obscure (but memorable) player like Dmitri Young over those guys. And, where's Podsednik? And, better yet, where's Hall of Famer Todd Helton?
Question: Has there EVER been a more invisible Hall of Famer than Todd Helton? In his first full eight seasons, his "big three" stat category averages are 33 HR, 113 RBI, .338 avg.
Does Todd refuse to play sea-level baseball?

Anyway, U.S. baseball is so soffffftttt. I mean, when Chipper and A-Rod walked with one out in the 9th (after Griffey K'ed), wouldn't it have been kinda cool to see a double steal?
WAIT! American baseball players are forbidden from sprinting 90 feet because the name of the game is "Hit the ball 380 feet, drop the bat, pose, jog to first (and continue jogging around the bases if it's a homer or jog back to the dugout if it's a flyout)."
Greg Maddux was right all along, "Chicks dig the long ball."
And, Chipper's gotta save his body for October when he's jogging back to the dugout.

So, without the U.S. Ballpark Joggers Alliance, at least we'll get to see that DR-Cuba rematch on Sat. -- in the rematch from Monday when Big Papi hit that monster 500-foot homer and had THE all-time, most-prolific bat-flip of all-time.
Big Papi looked like he was competing in the hammer throw, so emphatic was his bat-toss.
Almost as dramatic was the way that the Cuban catcher Pestano ripped off his mask and angrily barked at his pitcher for being a numbskull while throwing that pitch to Big Papi.
There's major shit goin' on (although, while I've seen both of Big Papi's most-mammoth blasts live, he is only 3 for 16 in the WBC).

Saturday could be fun, although I would've preferred a Pool 1/Pool 2 crossover ... y'know, Dominicana vs. Japan and Korea vs. Cuba.
Korea vs. Japan, Chapter III ... I dunno.
Even though Sadaharu Oh said, "The third time, the truth will be told," that might just be some rhetoric to keep his ballclub's spirits up.
Chan Ho Park ... he's in Japan's head ...

The bad blood on the Pacific Rim isn't as apparent as the bad blood in the Caribbean only because the Asians are less demonstrative about showcasing anti-opponent feelings.
I, like a lot of Americans, thought that the fix might've been in when Korea and Japan apparently agreed to disagree about brokering a Weds. nite set-up which would have GUARANTEED that the U.S.-Mexico game on Thurs. nite would be rendered meaningless.
On Weds. nite, a Japan win over Korea by a score of 1-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, 4-1, 4-2, 5-3, 4-3, 5-4, 5-0, 5-2, 6-5, 5-1, et cetera, et cetera ... would have eliminated the U.S. from the WBC semis.

On top of that, Japan could have used the game with the "staged" outcome to taunt the U.S. while the game was in progress. In fact, I must've bracketologized at least 50 scenarios of how Japan could have denounced U.S. imperialism via the voice of baseball -- y'know, like having the three Japanese outfielders playing their positions while driving American-made cars.
In an ironic piece of baseball-relatable performance art, a Japanese outfielder driving a Ford pick-up ("built Ford tough!") would collide with a Japanese outfielder driving a Chevy Suburban and, as the vehicles exploded into flames on the warning track in right-center field, a Korean player driving a Suzuki Samurai would circle the bases.
(Of course, tipping over and bursting into flames while rounding third)
Big Stein wouldn't have liked that so much.
But, I would've.
It could've served as the adequate wakeup call.

Instead ... all we get is b-ballers shooting from downtown and baseballers lookin' to go downtown.
To me, the only time that Texas A&M and Sorrycuse should matter is when those football programs are squaring off in an Astro-Blubonnet Bowl which should be a barn-burner.
Let's face it: If a roundball paradigm features Sorrycuse playin' Texas A&M in January, it's simply an unwatchable non-conference game and, s you'd expect ... nobody would bother to watch.
But, once we affix bracketology importance to it, we need a CBS "live look-in" to make sure we didn't miss the next ridiculous McNamara bounce pass off the foot of an Aggie player we've never heard of.

The creation of staged "drama" doesn't make something more "dramatic" (unless Digger or Dickie V tells us it does).
Suiting up your autistic team manager and then discovering that he is, in fact, the best shooter on your team (when he drills six treys in four minutes) doesn't mean you're a brilliant coach if you then bench the kid for the entire postseason.

Most of the time, you don't have to look very far to see the showboating upstaging the showmanship.
When reality hits, Cinder-fucking-rella is back to doin' what she does best.
Sweepin' up cinders ...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Asian Persuasion

Right about now, G-Mac and DevenDork are in their hotel room in Jacksonville and, even though it's not yet noon, Senior Gerry passed the bottle of whiskey to Freshman Eric and explained to his protege how it's going to go down.
"Korea allows Japan to get a 4-0 lead ... Japan allows Korea to score a run in the fifth and a run in the sixth, y'know, just for show ... then, Korea permits Japan to score two runs in the eighth, y'know, just for window-dressing ... and that's your final from The Big A in Anaheim: Japan 6, Korea 2 ... Team USA done! I've got $500 ridin' on it. You want some of the action, dawg?"

See, that's what's wrong with college b-ball ... kids boozin' and bookmakin' before noon.
I have a strict policy about anything other than gin before lunch.
On the other hand, I have great respect for G-Mac making book on an international level, rather than hookwinking his little buddy into a sucker bet.
"Hey, Eric ... if 60-plus buses were filled with my fans for the Scranton-to-Syracuse odyssey, how many jumbo jets does it take for my entourage to make the Scranton-to-Jacksonville pilgrimage? I got a C-note that sez no fewer than six completely-booked flights are filled with my peeps.
"You want in?"

Anyway, G-Mac's Japan-Korea conspiracy is the best safe-money bet on the table. I don't have the Japan-Korea diplomacy worksheet in front of me so that I can handicap alliances formed and then severed between those two Pacific Rim powers during the past 60 years since two hot-button issues which we call "WW II" and "the Korean Conflict."
However, two nations teaming against Team USA looks like the biggest no-brainer of '06.
And, we're at T-minus 12 hours from when they square off in Anaheim (Team USA plays Mexico tomorrow) ... and logic says that an anti-American pact is being orchestrated right now.
Exactly! As if Selig and Steinbrenner and their collective microscopic cajones can stop it.
That's a good one.

As we know, the tiebreaker is such that if Korea should beat Japan today and then Team USA defeats Mexico tomorrow, the Pool 1 standings for this second round would be: 1) Korea 3-0 ... 2) USA 2-1 ... 3) Japan 1-2 ... Mexico 0-3 ...
But, if Japan knocks off Korea (and the U.S. beats Mexico), the three-way tie at 2-1 is broken by the run-differential matrix.
Therefore, if Japan does NOT beat Korea by a margin of 7 runs or more, Korea and Japan will move onto Saturday's semifinals along with Pool 2's finest (Dominicana is already in with the winner of tonight's Puerto Rico/Cuba streetfight gettin' the other berth).

It's quite elementary. Korea is going to allow Japan to win by a score of 6-2 ... or 8-4 ... or 3-1 ... or 4-3 ...
No, I'm stickin' with 6-2, Japan (although when they squared off a little less than two weeks ago in the Tokyo Dome, Korea won, 3-2, thanks to that two-run jack by Seung Yeop Lee and that dandy diving catch by Jin Young Lee to take a 3-run double away from Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
HALT! Now isn't THAT a fine kettle of fish? Nishioka was the baserunner who was called out on Sunday for tagging up and leaving the bag too early (which he didn't) to give Japan a 4-3 lead.
There's an expression about payback being a motherF, but I can't remember how it goes right now.

This is standard human nature. What would motivate Korea to play its tail off tonight?
Pride? TV ratings? The semifinals at Pet Store Park in ShamuLand are set for Saturday ... so, anyone who's into March Madness isn't going to watch baseball anyway.

If Korea and Japan really put their heads together, they can completely bodyslam Team USA with some creative coreography. I envision it going something like:
Play a 0-0 game heading to the bottom of the ninth, then ... when Nishioka leads off the bottom of the ninth, have the Korean pitcher soft-toss a 36-MPH pitch which hits Nishioka on the hip.
Nishioka, who was 41 of 41 in stolen bases last year for the Chiba Lotte Marines, will then steal second (without drawing a throw). Then, Nishioka will steal third (without drawing a throw).
Then, the Korean pitcher will uncork a wild pitch that the Korean catcher Kab Yong Jin won't bother to catch ... and won't bother to retrieve.
Nishioka will trot halfway down the line between third and home, do two cartwheels, stomp on home plate and then gesture to the crowd, "Did I leave third too early THAT time?"
Japan wins, 1-0.
(Then, the Japanese players will congregate in the on-deck circle and take turns tossing Topps trading cards of Al Leiter into the trash-can fire they've started)

Personal note: Kab Yong Jin plays for the Samsung Lions ... and I've watched him play on a Samsung TV ... and I think I became totally anti-American while watching on that Samsung at 3:30 the other morning when Korea was beating the U.S. and, as Seung Yeop Lee was batting, the ESPN mikes clearly caught some voice yelling, "Heeeee! Seee-yoppp! Choyyyy! Let's go, Hee Seop!"
It was a completely-lame (and racist) heckle, given that Lee had already hit his 5th homer of the WBC in the first inning and then Hee Seop Choi put a dagger in the U.S. with that skyscraping fly ball which wrapped around the foul pole for a 3-run dinger.

I mean, if you're gonna be an ugly American while heckling, at least have the consideration to be a Creatively-Ugly American by tossing in some original epithets, such as "Hey, Hop Sing!" or "Let's go, Jet Li!" or "Dat Nguyen woulda hit that pitch!"
And, then, while driving your Daihatsu home to your Ugly American parents' condo in Hacienda Heights, cellphone your bookie and place a bet on Sorrycuse (a lacrosse school) vs. Texas A&M (formerly a football school) in that 5 vs. 12 showdown.

Before I run along, I was thinking about DevenDork's tatts (as I often do) and I wondered how many times white boys or white girls go into into tattoo parlors and request gettin' their bodies inked up with Japanese letters or symbols ... and I pondered how many times a white boy, who cannot speak or read Japanese, goes into the parlor thinking that he's getting branded with the Japanese lettering for "ultimate warrior" and instead gets a lost-in-translation marking on his bod which actual reads "total tool."
I'm just askin'.

See ya at spring training on Friday, Jeter ...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

So NOT Gellin'

When looking at the Bracketology Worksheet which is the NCAA b-ball tournament pairings, many Americans (the intelligent ones, anyway) are reminded of what I said years ago:
“A playoff format, like democracy, simply does not work!”
That’s why God invented bowl games.
The Carquest Bowl doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? The Bowl has real merit, agreed?

Just for fun – and in the interest of science -- I printed out roughly 10 copies of the brackets and I slightly crumpled the sheets of paper and threw them on the floor for the golden retriever nicknamed “SuperDog” (look … “The Bus” simply isn’t an adequate doggie name) to rip up (because, like lesser-super dogs, SuperDog likes the sound/feel of tearing up crumpled paper).
When he neared completion of the exercise, I asked him, “Hey, didja find the Cincinnati Bearcats in there? How ‘bout the Maryland Terrapins?”
SuperDog responded by grabbing his squeaky squirrel.

SuperDog came up empty, kinda like The UC and The Turtle – entities which were initially outraged at being The Snub du Jour.
Now that the outrage and contempt has ebbed during this proverbial “cooling off” period, America can take a step back and realize that, yeah … those teams kinda sucked, anyway, so it’s no big loss in the best-laid plans of bracketeering.

I mean, if you want “unfair,” rewind to a month ago when that tan-and-white bull terrier named Rufus defeated that spectacularly-handsome golden retriever named Andy to take Best in Show honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden (yup, that occurred only a month before two mutts, G-Mac and DevenDORK, and their Sorrycuse kennel crew wooed the MSG audience … Boeheim = “the handler”).

To parallel fairness with real current events, we need to address the continued exclusion of Deep Purple and Van Halen from the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame as another induction ceremony took place (last night).
A ceremony without Deep Purple and Van Halen ...

This isn’t about No. 5 seeds vs. No. 12 seeds and sub-regionals and Sweet Sixteens, people.
We’re talking immortality.
The Sex Pistols? Sure, we all loved “Never Mind The Bollocks,” but that was one album, folks. Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten were P.T.P.’ers (prime-time punkers), but enshrining them is a little like electing Dick Vitale to a Hall of Fame.
(ALERT! T-minus 17 days ‘til the mediocrity that is Vitale’s chrome dome is chiseled into the Mount Rushmore of legendary announcers)

So, yeah, like a lot of Americans, I definitely wish that there was some way that I could personally right the wrong and correct the oversight which kept Cinshitnati out of the tourney.
The aspect of Cinshitnati b-ball which I found so appealing was any time they played on ESPN, the Worldwide Leader saw fit to put the tiny scoreboard in the lower right corner of me screen and refer to the Bearcats as “UC.”
If the Bearcraps were playing Lousyville, my tiny TV scoreboard read: “L’VILLE” … “UC.”

Question: Was that something engineered by Nick Van Exel or Kenyon Martin – or was it a special tribute to The Ghost of Coach Hug?
Or is ESPN actually mocking the Ghost of Coach Hug?
I’m guessing that this is Cinshitnati’s roundball push to be more like MNF with those amusing introductions wherein we meet the players who tell us their names and their colleges.
Only ex-Miami guys threaten me with (wait for it) … “The U.”
For real.

From a standpoint of practicality, you CAN’T have on your tiny TV scoreboard the letters “CIN” for the very simple fact that The Ghost of Coach Hug might think that America would confuse his perennial Final Four team with Cinnabon.
That is, unless The Ghost of Coach Hug had nothing to do with this and if it is actually ESPN mocking the Ghost of Coach Hug and his squeaky-clean, perennial Final Four program.
(Mini-alert: My first college sweetheart was a Cyn who I never shared a Cinnabon with at a Cinshitnati basketball. Yep … back in the days when I was matriculating at a U which wasn’t necessarily The U)

Enough about The ‘Nati fulfilling its needs by logging onto and consulting with Dr. Phil re: a tournament that suits the Bearcraps’ tournament needs.
Maybe something in a round-robin, double-elimination format?
The case of Gary Williams and his UM Turtle squad, well … that’s a heartbreaker.
The NCAA deprived b-ball-loving Americans the chance to see what the Turtle does best: Turn the ball over.
They must’ve had at least 10 games this year with 20 or more turnovers, which is no mean feat.
Twice the Terps won with turnover totals of 26 and 23.
The Turtle committed 29 turnovers in the first loss to Duke.

Now, stuck in the NIT, The UM has no other option but to toss non-crisp passes into traffic and to step on the baseline and to dribble balls off their feet as a means to offsetting the opponent shooting between 23 and 28 percent from beyond the arc.
Some problem, eh?
How will the wolf survive?

It’s like this: If ya want fairness, wave your hand overhead and call for the fair catch.
“Unfair” was what happened on Selection Sunday, all right – that is, what happened to Japan in Round 2 of the WBC at Michael Eisner Stadium.
ESPN’s Buck Martinez had no right playing jingoistic puppeteer and getting that appeal ruling to wipe out Japan’s go-ahead run.

I was watching that scene unfold and, while Sadaharu Oh was beefing with home plate ump Bob Davidson, I was able to read the lips of a few Japanese players in the dugout.
Although my Japanese isn’t what it once was (like when I watched the videotape for Mr. Sparkle dish detergent with Homer and learned about “Join me or die. Can you do any less?”), I determined that one player said to another, “We’re getting dicked worse than the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.”

The odd part about Oh conversing with Davidson was that a translator was intervening. The chap must’ve had his hands full in a situation like that. I guess we can all be thankful that the interpreter didn’t take Davidson’s words and twist ‘em into something like, “Sweet Enola Gay, are you are a poor sport or what?”

Japan’s gonna get the last laugh there … and I’ll explain how (wait a sec, okay?).

Y'see, when it comes to injustices in SoCal, I’ve noticed that USC didn’t get a berth in The Big Dance.
‘SC went 24-2 was ranked No. 5 and its only two losses were to UCLA, winners of six of the past seven national championships.
HOLD THE PHONE! Who passed me the 1971 NCAA bracket when I wasn’t looking?
Oh well, if you grew up with a USC backcourt of Biff Burrell and Don Carfino playing in an arena near you, well … maybe things would be different.

Anyway, that which governs least, governs best ...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Baseball's Zhang Gang

If you're allowing Joe Lunardi to violate you by walkin' ya through his little b-ball jack-off-tology, maybe you can stop the madness in March Madness and explore some real brackets.
Like these:
USA vs. Japan at 4 o’clock and then, look-the-frick-out! -- the Dom.Rep. and P-Rico squarin' off at 8:00.
That’ll get ya amped.

Many Americans, however, will be rooting against Team USA in the WBC for three very distinct reasons:
1) Jeter’s STILL wears that wristband with the logo of a jumping basketball player (Jordan) on it
2) The American-flag patch on the right sleeve of the U.S. players, ummmm … last time we checked, the blue field is supposed to be placed in the upper LEFT quadrant of the American flag, not the upper right ... no matter how some military uniforms might display it
3) Without a quality Soviet opponent or other Eastern bloc foe, what’s the point?
4) Al Leiter.
What … Jimmy Key wasn’t available?

When the Worldwide Leader gives us anything with “world” in the title, yeah … we're there. After all, this is the network which has given us the WORLD Series of Poker (and WSOP reruns), the Met-Rx WORLD’S Strongest Man competition (and Met-Rx World’s Strongest Man reruns starring Mariusz Pudzianowski, Riku Kiri, Raimonds Bergmanis and – everyone’s fave – Magnus ver Magnussen of Iceland) and the Little League WORLD Series (which, in ’05, was the best LLWS ever with the way that those spunky, pesky kids from West Ewa Beach, Oahu, Hawaii rallied for three in the top of the 6th to tie defending-champion Curacao, 6-6, until catcher Michael Memea hit that unforgettable homer leading off the bottom of the 7th … jeez, that team was fun – mainly because they weren’t trying to be all mainland cool – and Vonn Fe’ao’s home run feats and the blonde highlights in his Mana Loa mullet … have we seen a ballplayer THAT engaging?).

The point is: Jeter, you’re a BASEball player, so lose the Jordan b-ball wristband which you’ve been wearing for the past five seasons.
Again … you play BASEball.

Stop messin' with our children's heads.

Jumping back to the kids for a minute: When then-Baseball Tonight suit Larry Bowa had to travel to Williamsport to accept an honorary award during the LLWS, the Worldwide Leader did something original (for a change) and allowed Orestes Destrade to sit in the studio.

Up until that point, all most of us knew about Orestes Destrade was:
A) He was Cuban
B) He was a journeyman MLB’er
C) He was the last Yankee to wear #23 before Donnie Baseball
E) He was an original Florida Marlin from back in the days when they wore the teal-coloured caps n’ batting helmets
F) He put up some formidable numbers for the Seibu Lions.
For the few days that he sat in the Baseball Tonight chair, he did a good job. A smooth delivery and he shared some insightful nuggets.

So, it was no surprise to tune in to the Cuba-Panama game last Weds. and, in the top of the 7th, hear Orestes and Orel (Hershiser) discussing Osmani Urrutia (who, allegedly, batted .400 four times in his Cuban career).
Then, in the bottom of the 7th, it was Orestes and Orel discussing Panama’s Olmedo Saenz.

Orestes and Orel talkin' 'bout Osmani and Olmedo (although Hershiser can turn each AB into a dissertation about mound mentality and neurological components vectoring to a triangulation of the 2-2 slider ... ).
Just throw the damn pitch.

That was a great game, though. Right about the time everybody was second-guessing the decision by Cuba to pinch-hit for Urruttia in a 6-6 game in the top of the 11th, that very pinch-hitter, Yoandy Garlobo, lined the first pitch he saw cleanly into center field for an RBI single which snapped the 6-6 tie.

The Sunday games which ESPN won't bother to broadcast today (because it would take air-time away from Lumpy Rutherford, errrrr …. Joe Lunardi) feature blockbusters between Cuba and Venezuela and Korea and Mexico (wait … don’t say that we've gotta subscribe to ESPN Deportes to lock into “Donde esta mi pelota?”).

Truth be told, there were time when some of us were awake at 4 a.m. on some of those mornings, sticking it out with the boys from Team China … y’know, sort of a ceremonial "Let's Hang With The Zhang Gang."

And, the Zhang Gang was all there -- Yufeng Zhang, Jun Zhang, Li Zhang, Hongbo Zhang and Zhenwang Zhang.
God, it had to suck when Team China manager Jim Lefebvre yelled, “Hey, Zhang!” and five guys glared at him thinking, “Who you talkin’ to, you Yankee bastage?”
Pitching coach Bruce Hurst didn’t look as though he was very helpful.

Team China got blasted, 18-2 by Japan; 10-1 by Korea; and 12-3 by Chinese Taipei (you mainlanders call it “Taiwan”).
You could say that their one shining moment was when catcher Wei Wang (not catcher Zhenwang Zhang) threw out Japan's Tsuyoshi Nishioka attempting to steal -- not bad considering Nishioka was 41 of 41 on SB attempts for the Chiba Lotte Marines last season.

Nishioka got his revenge a few innings later when he clouted a 3-run homer off of Quansheng Zhao to snap a 1-1 tie.

Y'see, that was the problem -- Zhao is not Zhang.

Kosuke Fukudome made it a “back-to-back” moment when he homered off of Quansheng Zhao a few pitches later.
Ya gotta wonder if when Japan played Korea in what amounted to the Pool A championship game if maybe Quansheng Zhao, watching from the stands (or on TV), wasn't giving a little fist-pump when Korean right fielder Jin Young Lee robbed Nishioka of a potential 3-run double when he made a tumbling catch of that sinking liner.

The Korean lineup was almost as much fun as the Chinese roster of Zhang Times Five. The one which was used most-regularly was:
1) Byun Kyu Lee – LF
2) Jong Beom Lee – CF
3) Seung Yeop Lee – 1B
4) Hee Seop Choi – DH
5) Jin Young Lee – RF
6) Bum Ho Lee – 3B

That “All-Lee” outfield is formidable and Seung Yeop Lee has a fluid power stroke, although we didn’t see enough of Dong Joo Kim, Jae Gul Kim, Jong Kook Kim, Min Jae Kim, Tae Kyun Kim and Duk Koo Kim to offer much of a scouting-report workup.

Duk Koo Kim doesn’t actually play for Korea – but the other five do.
Duk Koo Kim was the boxer who died in the ring when knocked out by Ray Mancini back in ’82.

Speaking of the Italians, they sure didn’t show the world very much before they were sent home, did they? With that boot-shaped nation’s contributions to the game during the past 100 years, you’dda thunk they’d’ve done better to honor the memory of all of our Italian faves … y’know, DiMaggio and Campanella and Incaviglia and Graffanino and Giovanola and Simontacchi and Amalfitano and Altobelli and Kluszewski and Boccabella and Cannizzarro and Frascatore and Poncharello and Fonzarelli and … forget Lasorda, OK?
Actually … the names of Giovanola and Simontacchi were tossed in there merely because some of us ssaw them play in high school …

And, Kluszewski? Well, ya’ve gotta toss Klu’s name out there every chance ya get …
And, it is true ... Poncharello is actually “Ponch” from “ChiPs” and Fonzarelli is actually “Fonzie” from “Happy Days” (which brings back some hurtful memories -- whether you're Italian or not -- when you consider how, on ‘70s TV it was okay to have a Latino actor portraying an Italian character or why it wasn’t a big deal to have a Jewish actor portraying an Italian character … at least w/ SNL back then, it was Don Novello, and not Esther Rolle, portraying Father Guido Sarducci. Was Hollywood given carte blanche to portray Italians in stereotypical fashion?)

More to the point: Everybody's wondering if manager Sadahru Oh will cross up the mainlanders and send Shunsuke Watanabe out on the mound for today’s tussle. Watanabe was 15-4 with a 2.17 ERA for the Chibe Lotte Marines last year.
All most of us know from watching Japan in that first round is:
A) Watanabe has THE most exaggerated submarine-style pitching delivery you’ll ever see (his knuckles almost scrape the dirt during his delivery)
B) The Chibe Lotte Marines colour scheme was once black with pink trim, but we haven't seen an updated version of their uniform lately
C) Third baseman Akinori Iwamura has highlights in his hair which are stylish and non-offensive
D) First baseman Michihiro Ogasawara has one of the best Japanese goat-tees ever

Looks as though we’re in for one helluva ballgame.
The nightcap, though … that’s gonna rock.