Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let's Reach & Teach Will Leitch ('Cuz Buzz Is Pissed!)

If this were a (more-)perfect world, Buzz Bissinger would spend today reviewing his shallow-and-amateurish performance during last night's quasi-"debate" vs. Will Leitch (a segment of HBO's town-hall meeting on something called "Costas Now") and begin his apology e-mail to Will with: "God, I was an asshole ..."

But, that's not likely to occur for three reasons:

1) The only way to watch that HBO feature one day later is to access something that The Biss knows only as "the IntraWeb."

2) An "e-mail" is something that's as foreign to Buzzy as "the IntraWeb."

3) Buzz Bissinger is old school -- which means that he ain't fixin' to complicate his life with IntraWebs or electronic in-boxes or any admissions that, yep ... he was bein' a dick just for the sake of bein' a dick.

So, there it is, America ... the collateral damage from the Costas-hosted slapfight between the author of "Friday Night Lights" and the founder/editor of Deadspin.

Frankly, it wasn't much different than a Stone Circle Death Match between Glondoor and the auto dealership salesman who steps out of the stone circle before a match is actually initiated by Glondoor following the shirtless warrior's primal scream.

What was clear is that very little was solved in bridging the gap between dinosaurs (like Bissinger) and those (like Leitch) who realize that dinosaurs one day will make excellent fossil fuels and useful petroleum-based products.

Truth be told, a lot of Americans today are one another (Buzz is still trying to figure out the teletype machine ... after he learns how to use the mimeograph machine) and asking, "Was that an act -- or is The Biss really THAT clueless and THAT out of touch?"

If it was his intent to come off looking as cartoonish as his comic-book name (c'mon ... "Buzz Bissinger"??? what ever happened to distinguished literary pen names such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Dashiell Hammett?), The Biss shoulda made last night's mission statement something more along the lines of, "Back in my day, we had Sinatra and John Wayne kickin' Commie ass ... you kids today with your do-rags and your i-Pods and your Fruity Pebbles and your Glocks which you carry with you everywhere ..."

For a self-proclaimed "craftsman," The Biss struggled to construct ideas which weren't sophomoric or misguided -- beginning with his stern opening remark to Will ("I really think you're full of shit") to a final statement seconds after referring to Will as "Jimmy Olsen on Percocet."

"The future in the hands of guys like you is really, really gonna dumb us down to a degree I don't know that we can recover from."

With every challenge that this planet has before it, The Biss is worried about our shared "recovery" from Matt Leinart party photos?

Unless he's crusading for Leinart to STOP feeding booze to underage chicks or to STOP hosting parties on nights when he should be at home changing the poopy diaper of his (born out of wedlock) bastard son, then Bissinger should mind his own Buzz-ness and leave the IntraWeb to those of us who not only appreciate it, but also know how to use it.

In the final analysis, it's probably not worth investigating the genesis of Bissinger's bitterness and scorn -- and his campaign against Deadspin which, as he put it, is "glib, profane and quick" and "dedicated to cruelty and journalistic dishonesty."

Not surprisingly, Costas chimed in by baiting Will with disinformation that "a large percentage of (blogs) are poor" and "the tone is abusive."

Makes ya wonder where Bob came up with those (wink wink) "percentages."
Was it on the back of that Miss Clairol box?

To Will's credit, he took it all in stride -- holding his ground with responses (when he wasn't cut off) which were cogent and articulate (note: usage of the term "meritocracy" was dandy).

Still, Costas and Bissinger represent Exhibits A and B of the narrow-minded hypocrites who believe that the blogsphere is too anti-Establishment -- and it'll one day lead to the fall of an America which once gathered around the radio on a Saturday night to listen to the theatrical suspense from an episode of "The Shadow" or the riveting action from a Dempsey-Tunney prizefight.

Buzz did nothing to help his own cause in the "dumbing down" factor when he remarked that "it pisses the shit outta me ..." -- a statement which seemed to be in conflict with the profanity and cruelty which the author decried.

Maybe Bob n' Buzz are frightened that blogs and "traditional" media avenues are inching closer toward the prophecy which George Costanza foresaw when he barked, "If Relationship George walks through that door right now, he will KILL Independent George!"

It's our greatest fear -- "when worlds collide."

Now, if Bob n' The Biss are lookin' for dishonesty in sports reporting, they need look no further than any "traditional" sports section in what remains of Newspaper America wherein the reportage is unfocused, unbalanced and either kiss-ass or flimsy with theoretical rhetoric and/or a mere regurgitation of stats (read that paragraph again, Buzz ... it's a compound sentence).

And while Bob's hairdo is caught in a Miss Clairol time-warp, someone needs to remind him that Garagiola and Kubek will NOT be broadcasting a "Game of the Week" this Saturday on NBC and, oh, by the way, some of us who reside on the La-Z-Boy in Blogarama actually earned a degree in Journalism & Mass Communications w/ a Concentration in Reporting & Editing from a major university.

For those of us (with a brain) who don't want to read a book authored by a pissed-off Bissinger re: one of the most-boring asswipes alive (LaRussa), we're thankful that YouTube exists so that we can access LaLoser when he's reciting the alphabet for the nice police officer.

Does Q still follow X -- or is it after R?

Drunk driving isn't nearly as dangerous as reading Deadspin -- but, that was a complete cheap shot by Bob n' Biz to ambush Will with the Deadspin comment-board remarks, rather than the material which Will and associate editor Rick Chandler (with others) have churned out since launching in Sept. '05.

It's like this: Deadspin's is to sports as "The Soup" (hosted by Joel McHale on E!)is to whacked-out TV shows.

The mocking and taunting is, for the most part, a victimless crime.

Buzz is not likely to ever grasp that the IntraWeb serves merely as "an alternative" to print media (newspapers, books and -- gulp! -- periodicals) ... that the electronic medium provides an outlet or avenue for more viewpoints.

The reason that we visit the IntraWeb is so we're more informed when we're talkin' to our barber, be that barber Floyd in Mayberry or Cedric The Entertainer on the other side of town.

For every vicious and vulgar item which Buzz dredges up wherein a fan drops an F-bomb, perhaps Buzz should spend equal time with the occasions when Will solicits Deadspin's fans to author the pre-season previews for the NFL, NBA and MLB teams (a reader-participation exercise which almost always is a quality read --or so sez Deadspin's correspondent for Puppy Bowl III and Puppy Bowl IV).

Unless this "Costas Now" episode was workin' the ratings meter by providing some rehearsed acting and mock anger, it's probably a safe bet that Buzz and Will didn't do much bonding during the "Costas Now" after-party -- especially not after Buzzy-Bizz got all literal and tried to bodyslam Will with Deadspin's slogan of "sports news without access, favor or discretion."

Easy does it, big fella (or, as was the tenor of the HBO set, "Settle the fuck down, numbnuts!") -- lest we feel the need to leap into our time machine and zip back to 1931 New York City and shiver in a bread line on a 25-degree day as we read the front page of a New York Times with "all the news that's fit to print."

The Biz tried to make himself relevant by acting indignant and condescending before a TV audience ... and obscure references (W.C. Heinz?) didn't help.

Will took the high road and didn't deliver a pre-emptive strike with something along the lines of: "How is Deadspin any different than the gossip columns which 'prestigious' newspapers have been publishing forever?" (even if that newspaper is the one which took forever to discover that 'reporter' Jayson Blair was fabricating story after story)

As is commonplace in these debates, Buzz forgot one of the most iron-clad rules that we learn in J-school: "What you exclude from the story is just as important as what you include."

Some of that learned that first-hand when we, instead of reading "Friday Night Lights" when it was first published, were on America's sidelines under the Friday-night lights covering the gridiron glory in neighborhoods such as Cupertino and Mountain View.

Unless, of course, it was a Saturday afternoon game featuring Coach Brown vs. Coach Sugar in the always-breathtaking, final-score: 16-6 barnburner which was affectionately called "the Brown-Sugar Bowl."

Speaking of misplaced heroism, some of us will never pin a medal of valour on either Mark Fainaru-Wada or Lance Williams for that so-called reporting which led to "Game of Shadows."

What some people viewed as "intrepid" and "ground-breaking" was, in the eyes of many of us, nuthin' more than two guys who made the centerpiece of their "news gathering" the confidential grand jury testimony which was leaked to them by Troy Ellerman, who later admitted to having a bit of a chemical dependency problem at the time of his indiscretion.

In the holy sanctuary which is Buzz's temple of journalism, two rats (Fainaru-Wada and Williams) got off the hook when they committed a felony and allowed their wheel man to serve their prison sentence.

Buzz n' Bob ought to leave Will Leitch alone and go crawl up the asses of those clowns who shat all over "journalism."

That is, if Bob can put down that L'Oreal product for five minutes.

In the meantime, some of us have some notes to review for Puppy Bowl V ...


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Draft Dodging, Part II

This is one of the saddest days of the year.

That's because when it's over, Todd McShay of the Moto X Games Channel won't be around to blah blah blah blah about a sport (football) he never played (above the one-alligator, two-alligator, three-alligator level) and yakkety-yak ad nausem about people (football players) he's never spent more than five minutes with.

It's almost as depressing as the end of Selection Sunday for the NCAA basketball playoffs when we realize that roley-poley Joe Lunardi and his bad hair won't be available for mocking and taunting.

At least we still have Mel Kiper's Bouffant for another day or two (and, say, hasn't anybody else noticed that Mel has the exact same hairstyle as those ladies in the major polygamy scandal that's made the news lately?).

The NFL played on the field, as we've come to learn, isn't nearly as enjoyable as the NFL which takes place in gaming parlors and fantasy leagues, oftentimes fueled by the war of specious reasoning and circular logic in those vintage babble-offs featuring McShay vs. Mel Kiper's Bouffant (has anyone noticed that Mel has the same hairstyle as the females in the Utah polygamy circus?).

In this spirit, it's always a bargain to peek at the thumbnail sketches provided by something called "ESPN Scouts Inc."

"Chris Long doesn't have elite size or as much upside as the aforementioned Gholston, but he's a tough run defender and a relentless pass-rusher, who has good but not great speed. He also does an excellent job of using his hands to control blockers. He's capable of stepping in and making an immediate impact because he's so fundamentally sound, as you would expect from the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long."

And thus continues THE most over-used analytical connection in sports ... "bloodlines" (i.e. "Player X is the son of a coach, so ...").

Which is why Jarrett Payton set all of those NFL records, as you would expect from the son of Hall of Famer Walter Payton (actually, he was impressive in leading the Amsteredam Admirals to the World Bowl XIII title three years ago ... which makes us sad that we don't own an "AMSTERDAM ADMIRALS World Champs" t-shirt).

Wait a sec ... what about the first two LBs drafted: Keith Rivers and Jerod Mayo?

"Rivers doesn't have as much potential as some of the other linebackers in this class, but he's clearly the most complete player in this year's outside linebacker class. Also, he is the kind of player a team wants in its locker room representing the organization ... "

Yummy ... the ol' "locker-room presence" angle -- in the '50s, we'd say that "he's a real gent; quite a chap, not a scoundrel."

"Mayo isn't quite as instinctive as Rivers, and he has to improve his cover skills. But Mayo has more upside than Rivers. He has very good top-end speed for his size, and although he lacks ideal strength, he explodes into hits."

Perfect ... the ol' "upside" cop-out, sprinkled nicely with buzzwords such as "top-end speed" and "explosion" (whatever that means ... maybe it's the difference between getting hit by an 18-wheeler or a locomotive).

What about second-rounder Brandon Flowers of Va. Tech?

"Flowers doesn't have elite size or (buzzword alert! buzzword alert!) top-end speed. Occasionally, he gets caught out of position trying to make a big play. However, he plays far bigger than his size indicates (what?) and faster than his 40 time suggest (whatever that means). He opens his hips very well (thanks to a well-developed pelvis and hindquarters) and has the upper-body strength to deliver a violent punch (to the head? to the crotch? after the whistle?). There's also a lot to like about his willingness to play the run." (ohhhhh-kayyyy)

Notre Dame tight end John Carlson's mini-profile was an interesting read:

"Carlson had a disappointing showing at the combine and his 4.88 40 time shows that he's going to have problems working the seam. There are also concerns about the number of passes he dropped last year. However, he has the frame to bulk up and develop into an effective in-line blocker. He also has the wide frame and body control to develop into an effective short-to-intermediate receiver and productive red zone target."

Working the seam? Is John a seamstress? And, that "wide frame" tag seems like the buzzword of this millennium. Not only was it used for Carlson, the 38th player selected, but also for WR Jordy Nelson (the 36th pick) and WR James Hardy (the 41st pick).

Will Leitch was correct when he stated (inside the left inside flap of the dust jacket for "God Save The Fan"), "ESPN thinks its viewers are stupid." (That is, unless Will didn't write that ... and that an editor put words in Will's mouth, either way ... he/they are correct ...)

Actually, it's more like, "ESPN's pencilnecks don't know any more about the NFL than you or your 4-year-old niece, Madison (unless her name is Abigail) -- now, watch 'em prove it."

ESPN Scouts Inc.'s director of pro scouting -- so we're told -- is Jeremy Green, who -- so we're told -- has been an NFL scout for 11 years, including two as director of pro personnel for the Cleveland Browns. He is the son of Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green.

America needs it updated to read: "...son of that sorry sack-of-dogsquat who formerly coached the Cards."
Now we're good ...

Something else: If Jeremy Green is the director of pro scouting and Todd McShay is the director of college scouting, then does that make Herb Kirkstreit the Director of All Things Neckties & Hair Product?

Maybe what Todd & Jeremy need to do is channel their inner-Schrute in order to establish which one is the assistant regional manager and which one is the assistant TO the regional manager.

This is why Disneyland Sports needs to get Dr. Jerry Punch and Adriana Monsalves onto the set to give America knowledge and beauty -- and not an endless stream of frickin' B.S.

"McShay has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998. During that time, numerous NFL teams have relied on his reports to supplement their draft scouting." (wink, wink)

And you and I have been watching NFL football since 1971 or 1972 and NFL teams have depended on our allegiance and expertise (because if they F it up, we're sure as hell gonna let 'em know about it).

What McLame forgot to tell America is THE quintessential John Carlson Moment occurred in the third game of his junior year (2006) ... the #2-ranked Irish were hosting the #11-ranked Wolverines ... and in the game's first minute, Carlson reached up for a VERY catchable pass from Brady Quinn ... only the ball doinked off of Carlson's iron-skillets-for-hands and LB Prescott Burgess gobbled up the rebound and returned it 31 yards for a TD.

Then, with less than five minutes remaining in the game -- and Michigan up, 40-21 -- Quinn lost the handle on the football while attempting to pass. The ball got knocked around until Lamarr Woodley scooped it up and chuggged down the sideline, shedding a feeble tackle attempt by Carlson, and eventually crossing the goal line for a 54-yard TD.

ESPN ScoutsWeak can't print that because somebody's breakin' down game films and pullin' cliches from the Big List of Cliches ("Matt Ryan is a very accurate passer ... " -- whatever the F that means ... jeez Louise, unless his completion percentage is 27 percent or he's throwing 10 or 11 INTs a game, isn't he, by definition, "accurate"?)

Everybody knows that the quintessential Matt Ryan Moment was during that Thurs. nite ESPN game in which he played like a sack of crap for 3 1/2 quarters against Brandon Flowers' D and ... in the rain ... the Disneyland Sports TV cameras captured not only Matt vom-Matt-ing (barfing/upchucking/puking) on the sideline, but also that fan in the stands holding up that "RYAN FOR HEISMANN" sign.

Yup ... we "guess" that was a typo on "Heismann" (even though the sign was hand-printed, not typed).

One day, the Doyle Brunson Poker Week In Review Network is going to get it together and give us expert analysis which pertains to something those clowns actually know something about.

Such as the pot roast entree at Houlihan's.

"Nice explosion from the beef ... the bed of mashed potatoes has plenty of upside ... avoiding the addition of pepperoni and mozzarella cheese helped dish maintain its pot roast focus and resist temptation of becoming a pizza ... if the potatoes and brown sauce had been replaced by noodles and a creamy sauce, this would be stroganoff and not pot roast, so, ya gotta like the way the chefs remained within the framework of the pot roast concept ... very accurate, but maybe not the same potential as a veggie wrap ..."

Or last night's softball game.

"Comebacker to the pitcher with bases loaded didn't gain approval of teammates ... ditto with the dropped flyball ... why does Paul always bat me 10th?"

Or bedroom dysfunction.

"Struggled with bra clasp ... inner-thigh was available, but mismanagement of play clock hampered game flow ... sloppy, over-aggressive mouthwork left both parties dissatisfied ... pleasured self in the shower while thinkin' 'bout Matt Ryan's upside... "

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Draft Dodging I

It's not always easy to remember which the NFL Draft reminds us of most.

It's gotta be one of the following, though:

A) The DirecTV commercial wherein the honchos at Cable Corp Inc. are seated in the conference room and that one knucklehead says, "This is what I learned at business school ... when I read about business school ... in a book."

B) The "Seinfeld" episode wherein Jerry is visiting his parents in Florida and, while talking on the phone with Elaine, comes to learn that George is completely dismayed that Jerry chose Elaine to pick up Jerry's mail ... which prompts Jerry to entrust George with a special (but made-up) project -- flushing the toilet in Jerry's apartment every few hours so that the gaskets don't dry out. "You MUST exercise the gaskets, George!"

C) The occasion when Dunder Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott spends his lunch hour defeating the company's assistant to the regional manager Dwight Schrute (who insists that he's the assistant regional manager) in a super-sissy version of karate -- and then offering some fake-tough-guy/De Niro-in-"Taxi Driver" macho B.S. to the TV camera: "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to ME?" before smiling and telling us: "Pacino ... 'Raging Bull.' "

God bless those shit-for-brains, exercising-the-gaskets, learned-about-football-while-holding-a-Wilson-football-and-watching-Pacino-in-"Raging Bull" knuckleheads at the EspyTime Fun Channel who will try to edd-jee-kate America about which rookie's gonna be a Fantasy League pick-to-click come September.

Don't be confused: The most time Todd F-ing McShay ever spent being hands-on when it came to football was when he was an honorary waterboy and had to Cruex the starting fullback's crotch.

Either that, or the times in the library in 5th grade when he was playin' with a folded-flat, triangle-shaped, paper football which he finger-flicked across the table and -- of course! -- over the edge, leading to him holding up the finger-shaped goalposts ("the kick is good!") ... and now McShay's losin', 52-10.

It's pretty simple: Listening to one word re: football out of McShay's mouth is a little like lettin' yer dog tune your car's engine.

"Rex! Where'd you put that timing belt?!"

(Sidebar: Just for fun sometime, go talk to a real, live NFL player -- as some of us have -- and ask what they think of Kiper and McShay's over-analysis of a sport which those two pencilnecks have never played ... Kiper and McShay are more qualified to talk about Sri Lankan politics ... or proprioceptive neuromuscular rehabilitation, but, hey ... "This is what I learned about gasket exercises when I attended the Gasket Academy and read about gasket exercization in a book ..." +++ It's the same as listening to Herb Kirkstreit when he offers that slight squint and acts all serious as he speaks authoratatively about Team X's keys for success in an important college game -- odd, considering that the Ohio State Blackeye teams that he stood on the sideline for went 0-4-1 vs. Michigan and 0-4 in bowl games).

So, rather than read from EspyTime's "Big Book of Cliches" (good explosion ... plays the run well ... great instincts ... catches the ball with his hands rather than with his feet ... plenty of upside ... excellent footwork ... fine top-end speed ... his motor never stops ... quick learner ... great instincts, great speed, makes plays in space, great speed, big ups, great instincts, never quits, well-spoken, great speed, ability to close, great top-end speed, good make-up speed, incredible quickness, great length, well-spoken, his dad's a coach, smart kid, he's certainly black enough, good fit, meets a need, great speed, great hitter, excellent physicalityness, god it never stops, "you must exercise the gaskets, George!") ...

Instead of tuning in to these Fred Edelstein Reincarnates, some of us are going to ponder the Steelers' first two picks today -- RASHARD MENDENHALL and LIMAS SWEED -- and openly admit, "How the flock should I know if they'll be any good? They've never played in the NFL."

Exhibit A to end all Exhibit A's = Willie Parker.

He wasn't good enough or motivated enough or smart enough or fast enough or physical enough to ever gain more than 500 yds. in a season at UNC, so who the hell would bother drafting that stiff?

Can Willie "run downhill" (with enough north and south, not east and west) now, America?

Anyway, that's all water under the Monongahela.

What's of concern to Steelers' mascot Dirk McGirder (who some people keep saying is "Steely McBeam") is what jersey numbers Rashard Mendenhall (not to be confused with Izzy Mandelbaum) and Limas Sweed (not to be confused with the person who the closed-captioned typist I.D.ed as "Lie Muss Weed" in late-Dec. '06 ... check these archives, dammit) will wear for the black-n'-gold.

Mendenhall wore #5 at U. of Ill.-Champaign; Illinois; Sweed was #4 at UT-Austin -- and the NFL ruined it for a lot of us when they banned single-digit jerseys for everybody except QBs and PKs/P's.

NOTE: Remember what a delight it was back in the '70s -- before Kiper's Bouffant and McShay's Pencilneck & Bedwetting -- when we had RB Mike Adamle wearin' #1 for the Jets and teammate WR Eddie Bell wearin' #7 ... and RB Warren McVea wearin' #6 for the Chiefs ... and Ken Burrough wearin' #00 for the Oilers ... of course, the Raiders had Jim Otto wearing #00, but LB Villapiano was wearing #41 and receiver Cliff Branch was #21 and Mike Siani was #49 ... and Bullet Bob Hayes was the ungodly-fast #22 at wideout for the Cowboys before Emmitt got that number and ... oh sure, everybody remembers Willie Lanier patrolling the K.C. defense in his #63 ... but, alas, LBs gotta wear numbers 50-59 or 90-99 nowadays, so Andy Russell in his #34 in Three Rivers ... (sigh) ...

This STILL doesn't get us any closer to Kiper's Bouffant and McShame putting down their books about business school and gasket exercisation and predicting what jersey numbers Mendenhall and Sweed will wear.

Santonio Holmes can relate to what Limas is going through, considering that when he was drafted, he had to leave behind the #4 that he wore at Ohio State ("hey! that's the same number that Herb Kirkstreit wore for the Buckeyes!").

Holmes ended up choosing the #10 which Slash and the leader of Gerela's Gorillas wore with such distinction and honour in the Steel City (although, for some strange reason, Santonio Holmes is wearing a Steelers #75 jersey on this football card).

And, Mendenhall?

Well, he's in the same boat that Reggie Bush was (ditto for two-time Heisman runner-up Darren McFadden now) when he had to transition from his college #5 -- a choice that Paul Hornung never had to make when he swapped his Notre Dame #5 for a Green Bay #5.

Those were the days, indeed ... not long after Hall of Famers such as Otto Graham and Charley Connerly were QBs wearin' #60 and #42, respectively, before Kiper's Bouffant and McShame were comparing a 4.43 to a 4.38 (as if anyone gives a flying fig) ...

All those pencilnecks care about is 40 times and vertical leaps, etc ...

Which they read about on a chart ... which contained 40 times and vertical leaps ...

Really makes ya wonder if when Mel drops trow and bends at the waist if he "crunches the numbers" re: length, diameter, 4.43 vs. 4.38, upside, footwork, etc ...

Here's a more-pleasant thought: Limas Sweed might select #12 ... a number which is, after all, "available" considering that the only number that the Steelers have officially retired is Ernie Stautner's #70 (even though he's wearing #84 on this football card).

It's settled: Limas Sweed will be the new #12 in Pittsburgh!

Mendenhall? Give him #32 ...


Monday, April 07, 2008

Dinner's On Mangino!

Setting the record straight: Any time y'hear that dinner's on Mangino, clarification should be swift and unwavering.

No ... the Kansas Jaywalks football coach Mark Mangino has no intention of TREATING anybody to dinner (with two dinners for himself).

Y'see, once we notice the the two mustard stains on Mangino's 7 XL shirt and the three ranch-dressing splotches on the front of his 8 XL windbreaker, the conclusion is abundantly clear.

Mangino is WEARING dinner.


Careless table manners aside, what transpired tonight on the b/ball hardwood of nat'l championship import HAS to be almost as exciting for the kids in Lawrence, KS as that time during the first week of 2008 when that Jaywalk QB whose name America can't remember led KU to that victory in that bowl game that nobody was paying attention to.

Alas ... such is life when you're the only quality basketball program in a football conference.

Either way, Mangino's probably so jacked right now that he might've just rolled up the sleeves on that aformentioned 8 XL windbreaker (unless he wears an XXXXXXXXXL) in preparation to chow down a platter (or four) of victory beef ribs with a few (or five) helpings of victory mashed potatoes (with championship gravy!).

Coach will conclude his evening of celebration with several rounds of hardcore sleep apnea.

That is ... unless Coach Mangino is actually pissed that the Jaywalk b-ball program is grabbin' the spotlight away from his football program.

After all, there are people in Kansas (as well as some of us outside the Jaywalk State) who'll never rank tonight's 75-68 OT win over Memphis ahead of the KU football team pulverizing Nebraska, 76-39, last autumn.

And here's why:

Against the 'Huskers, the Jaywalks had 76 points with 11:12 to play in the game and, if Mangino wanted, he could've ordered QB Todd Reesing (30 of 41, 354 yds., 6 TDs) to push the needle to the 90-point mark -- which, on that day, would've required 4:04 of elapsed playing time, thus giving KU a 90-45 lead with 7:08 to play in the game ... more than enough time for the Jaywalks to return an INT for a TD and maybe score a garbage-time TD in the final minute for a 104-51 victory ... ).

STOP IT! Although every day of the year is better for talking about coll. FB than coll. b-ball (not that either sport is any less corrupt than the other), the law of the jungle sez that we're 'sposed to be riveted to the coll. b-ball title game so that we can zero in on that One ShoeShining Moment.

Some of us, though, weren't transfixed to the ODTV (ordinary-definition television transmitting ordinary-resolution images of ordinary players doing ordinary things) during the final few minutes of regulation because, well ... after one-and-done freshman Derrick Rose took over during that 8-minute stretch wherein he went 6-for-6 and scored 14 pts., well ... it looked pretty much over and Coach Cal was gonna be king of the universe and he woulda bored the shit outta us all about how nobody gave his program any respect and nobody believed in us, blah blah blah, but we believed in ourselves and people root against us because we're the villians and blah blah blah blah blah ...

And, so what if some of us didn't see it live when Mario Chalmers drained the big 3 at the end of regulation ... (undetermined: whether it was a sandwich break or a smoke break which had us wandering away and not really caring).

Some of us are more brokenhearted about the fact that we never got to see Gail Goodrich bustin' loose for 40 in the 100-76 win over BYU ... or Goodrich rippin' USF for 30 in a 101-93 victory ... or the lefty star slicing up Wichita State for 28 in the Bruins' 108-89 Final Four triumph ... or Goodrich outshining Cazzie Russell in the title game by outscoring the Michigan standout, 42-28 -- only Gail was not the tourney's MOP in '65 because Princeton's Bill Bradley put on a b-ball clinic in the Final Four, scoring 29 against Michigan and then 58 (with 17 rebounds) against Wichita State in the national third-place game -- and, sure (wink, wink) today's players are so much better and stronger and faster and quicker than Gail Goodrich or Bill Bradley ... and, because they are, that's why Memphis' Joey Dorsey can gobble up 15 rebounds (as he did the other night against UCLA) and score zero points against the Bruins.

Because, if you emptied everyone out of the gym, Joey Dorsey MIGHT score a basket in the next 15-20 minutes.

Because he's better, faster, stronger than players from 43 years ago.

Keep tellin' yourself that ... maybe one day you'll believe it ... after all, this was the tournament when, after Stephen Curry missed 8 of 12 threes against Kansas, America's favorite hair-gel disaster -- and ex-UCLA coach -- Steve Lavin was ready to pin a medal of valour on the Davidson gunner.

Stephen (spelled like 'STEE-VIN") wants you to pronounce it "STEF-FON."
But, some of us don't feel like it -- although we're willing to split the difference and call him "Steffin" from this point forward (wait ... doesn't Steffin play shooting guard and NOT point forward?)

It probably doesn't matter -- 'cuz Lavin's hair gel wants to invent a cool catch-phrase such as "You can't spell 'courageous' without 'c-u-r-r-y.' "

Let's face it: "Steffon Courageous" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the north and general of the Felix Legions ... and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius."

Oh, and just for the heck of it: Some of us will NOT rank Mario Chalmers' J as some sort of miracle shot.

It was a fallaway J ... so, it's safe to assume that Mario shoots one of those in practice every day (and misses 59 percent of them, ha ha ... ).

Anyway, if it helped that some of us weren't watching when Calipari was "this close" (this close!) to b-ball's top of the mountain, well ... kudos to us for creating the necessary good vibe and positive energy.

Same thing happened during the Super Bowl when we couldn't stand the thought of Belichick and Brady gettting all bear-huggy and Caucasian and awkward.

Although, then, like now, we were there for the Plaxico TD ... and OT tonight.

Watching the shift in the body language of the Patriots (then) and Memphis (tonight), well ... that's classic stuff.

OT offered the most-priceless of the shining moments which ya hear so much about.

In this case, it was as KU's Brandon Rush was preparing to gak a layup -- as Robert Dozier overran the play.

Rush tracked down the rebound (following the gakked layup) and avoided Chris Douglas-Roberts (and CDR's "Judy"-on-the-neck tatt), who was overrunning the play.

Which led to Rush eventually scoring (after the two bodies had already flown past him) ... and, as he was pivoting to run back upcourt, he bumped into Shawn Taggart -- who DIDN'T overrun the play because, ummmm ... he bumped into Rush before he had a chance to overrun the play (which he would've done ... if he hadn't run into Rush) ...

That's how it went down, Officer (close enough, anyway, without accessing TiVo) -- it was just fun to watch Memphis guys running around in such an athletic fashion (the way that Coach Cal teaches athleticism when he athletically draws up athleticism on the chalkboard)

Remember: Today's Memphis players are better/faster/stronger/quicker than the Memphis players of the 1973 Tiger team which lost to UCLA in the title game -- and Joey Dorsey (6 pts., 2 rebs. tonight) is going to be five times the pro player that Larry Kenon was (because today's players are better/faster/stronger/quicker/dumber than yesteryear's bad asses).

Also ... we're going to hear (ad nauseum) about how missed FTs doomed Memphis, but, in truth, that was only a sliver of what cost the Tigers.

For one thing, other than the 8 minutes down the stretch when Rose was takin' over (6 of 6, 14 pts.), the kid didn't do a thing.

Oh, and Calipari still gives every player on the team the green light to shoot the 3-ball (because, if you're shootin' 27 percent "from distance" you WILL get to 30 percent by missing five of your next eight treys).

Another thing: Memphis gave up too many baskets inside -- a point which could've been driven home emphatically by the Disneyland Sports Network called ESPN ("c'mon ... somebody use the word 'physicality' ") if only the cartoon sports channel hadn't axed the younger black ex-player (Hubert Davis) in favor of the dinosaur white ex-coach (Bob Knight) for the postseason studio lineup.

Seriously ... if that's the "smart ratings move" then shouldn't Bobby Dinosaur be allowed the latitude to to use his gynasium practice vocabulary instead of lobotomizing us with vanilla studio/coach-speak?

Instead of "Memphis could have played better defensively in the paint," Bob & His Sweater could've used his everyday, informal dialect such as, "Memphis did a goddamn horseshit job defending the low post and that's why they lost the fucking game."

Alas, since ESPN is the TV equivalent of Memphis b-ball, that "worldwide leader" tagline is about as powerful as the Tigers' boasts of being a Conference-USA superpower.

For good measure: There's no coaching or organization ... just do whatever the fuck you want out there ...

Seriously, the Worldwide Loser could've substituted Kansas-Memphis highlights for Berman's flabby body playin' golf in the nude at a local muni course -- and, really, what is America going to do?

NOT watch ... ?

A lot of us, however, tuned out EXPM years ago ... kinda like the way that Knight's players usually tuned him out 1 1/2 weeks into each season -- something which isn't scheduled to change in Lubbock during the '08-'09 season because it'll be Bob's words coming out of the mouth of that puppet whose expression never changes and whose voice is a dull, monotone ... say "hello" everybody to Pat The Puppet (architect of that 58-point loss to Kansas down the stretch ... the game in which KU players' grandmas and neighbors came out of the stands and drilled threes during a ceremonial micturation and defecation into the Texas Tech basketball casket which A.D. Gerald Myers left wide open the day Bobby quit with 10 games to go and no adequate replacement was contacted).

College basketball coaching staffs are almost as amusing as college football coaching staffs -- only the personnel is not as effectual as the "bench coach" in the MLB (at least the crossing guard in most neighborhoods has the power to prompt the braking of motor vehicles simply by raising a hand-held STOP sign ... which is approx. 17 to 36 times more influence than a college coach has over ANYTHING).

That's why it was kinda cute tonight to see Kurtis Townsend on the KU bench and Rod Strickland on the Memphis bench as they sat there ... waiting ... waiting ... waiting for that one shining moment when one of them would win a national championship ring and the other would be left with the "National Finalist" bling.

Shhhhhhh ... we're not supposed to talk about Kurtis' "possible" involvement with guys named Sharif, Tremaine and Jelani which got the Cal Bears in very hot water more than 15 yrs. ago (although most of us are going to remember Kurtis' CCS Division III champion Leigh Longhorns of '89 or '90 ... whichever year it was when they blew us away with some amazing 77-80 percent FT shooting in the postseason ... truly amazing ... ).

Rod Strickland? Classic hire by Calipari. Because, goddammit, it's about giving opportunities to people with baggage, goddammit.

This much is certain: No amount of nitpicking can take away from this moment, which ranks right up there with those occasions when you walk into the pantry, pull out a box of brown sugar and savor each golden tablespoon after wonderful tablespoon.

Mangino ain't there yet.

Y'see, he's on a mission to get through these next three plates of fettucini alfredo (with extra creamy sauce) before embarking on the mission to put a national championship trophy next to Bill Self's in the trophy case.

Grog ... jog ... Jayhog ...


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Playin' Like Gangbusters (A Dynamite Final 4!)

Ask yourself this:

"Wasn't Calipari a lot more fun when he was the UMess head coach and his press conference was crashed by a completely-deranged, partially-restrained John Chaney screaming, 'I'll kill you! I'll kill you!' ?"

Those were the days ...

Good times, indeed ...

Nowadays, all we get at the Calipari presser is one of his star players who goes by "CDR" slouchin' at the mike as his script-lettered Judy tattoo on his neck wiggles while he talks (although we STILL can't read which items are on that grocery-list tattoo on CDR's right shoulder and bicep).

Hot Pockets?
Progresso Lentil?

Anyway, for those of us who refused the unsolicited aid of Lumpy Lunardi -- or the so-called wisdom of Stylin' Sweater Bobby (don't worry, Joe ... when it comes to wetting the bed, you're still the "go-to" guy ... and, Bobby? We'll still root hard for that Knight tradition of taking eighth-place talent and turning it into a seventh-place finish every time we see Pat) -- we aren't exactly "blown away" that the NCAA playoff championship game is how our very own bracket had it planned all along.

Kansas vs. Memphis.

It'll be the 'Zis vs. the 'Fis (as our b-ball posse calls it ... that is, if we actually had enough homeboys to form a b-ball posse) ...

The 'Zis vs. the 'Fis should come as a surprise to no one (well, maybe it is if you're somebody who believes Lumpy Lunardi when he says that Old Dominion is a bubble team ... or if you're somebody who takes seriously anything "analytical" offered by ESPN's "Old Fart Forum" as those out-of-touch white dudes play judge n' jury w/ young, black men playin' hoops).

Deep down, they might be a little rankled/peeved/irked that America will NOT see the Biblical showdown Mon. nite featuring a Caucasian named "Hansbrough" vs. a Caucasian named "Love" slugging it out in Caucasian fashion in the low post, but, hey ... Joey Dorsey will try to do the best he can vs. Brandon Rush performing to the best of his capabilities.

Make no mistake about Calipari, though. He's resistant to ever recruit/start a white dude, but, nevertheless, his African-American squad played like gangbusters today vs. FUCLA.

(Note: "Gangbusters" is an old-school term ... from an era before gangstas did lotsa gang-banging and/or executed executions, gangland-style ... nowadays, some of us old-schoolers will remove the negativity associated with gangs by remarking that a classic contest was "a real humdinger" or "a whale of a game" or that it was "outta sight," etc ... )

We don't have the time or the resources to conduct informal polls as to whether a majority of America actually was jonesin' for Carolina Blue vs. Westwood Blue in the title game in order to restore fond images of the old geezer Wooden or the legend which America has steadfastly refused to remember (his name is "Dean Smith," Americans -- and the next time ESPN is tellin' ya that Frickin' Bobby Knight invented college b-ball, remember that Knight had eight 25-win seasons at IU; Dean Smith had twenty 25-win seasons at UNC) ...

Good gravy ... where were we again (before ESPN pissed us off for the 78th time with unending Digger/Knight/Vitale rhetoric and hyperbole ...)?

Oh, right ... we were pondering that fine kettle of fish ... Roy Williams' former team goin' to the title game by, ummm ... beating Roy Williams' current team (to be specific: that's the white Roy Williams, not the black Roy Williams who used to play for the Sooners and the other Roy Williams who was a Longhorns receiver in those few Red River Shootouts which featured Roy Williams vs. Roy Williams ... ).

Anyhow, because Roy Williams' former school beat Roy Williams' current school, we'll see if the big bucks that Roy Williams earns is justified.

That's because it is in defeat where all good Tar Heels learn valuable life lessons, such as what it means to let down the families of Jason Ray (the student who used to dress up in the UNC ram costume and jump around at games ... that is, until he was struck by a motorist and killed at last year's regional finals) and Eve Carson (the UNC student body president who was gunned down for no reason last month).

It's about "Coach" offering more than home visits and X's and O's.

It's about providing a coping mechanism in order to best manage grief and despair.

Wait a sec! Hold the phone! U

Let's all huddle up and acknowledge that while the Jaywalks scored 40 points in the game's first 13-plus minutes tonight vs. UNC, it was scarcely less than one week ago -- in the regional-final victory which got 'em here (vs. Davidson) -- that those high-flyin' Jaywalks scored a whopping 6 points in the game's first 9-plus minutes (in a delightful and joyous demonstration of exactly how NOT to put the pumpkin into the peach basket).

***(And then God spoke by stealing the voice of John Facenda and He bellowed: "Great teams aren't always great. They're just great when they have to be.")

Maybe it's a tad cliche -- and, is it our imagination, or do Roy Williams-coached teams run that axiom in reverse?

In case Digger hasn't told ya yet, Roy Williams is runnin' neck-n'-neck with Bob Stoops as the Master of the Big-Game Meltdown.

Roy Williams and Bob Stoops are the same in the sense that they guide "apparently" outstanding teams to a very high level -- and then watch (along with the rest of America) as those teams crash-land in the final game of the season.

Or implode.

Or get their doors blown off (or whatever the kids are callin' beatdowns nowadays).

For Stoops, it began with that epic, Big XII title-game baffler in '03 -- the 35-7 loss to K-State one month after the 77-0 win over A&M.

A year later, it was the horrific, 55-19 demolition in the BCS title game vs. USC (a score which would've been 85-7 if Pete Carroll hadn't shown some compassion and taken his foot off the gas pedal) before the Boise State/Fiesta Bowl fiasco to begin '07 and the West Virginia/Fiesta Bowl fiasco to ring in '08 ...

Roy Williams is cut from the exact same cloth (and, we're guessing that the cloth in question here is everbody's fave: "valour").

Williams, like Stoops, doesn't merely end his season with a hard-fought, "they-outplayed-us" showcase.

Roy, like Bob, prefers gettin' spanked for bein' oh-so-naughty.

His most-famous Kansas Kollapse was that decomposition before our very eyes five years ago -- when his Jaywalks reached the title game against the b-ball anti-Christ (Boeheim) and watched as his team hit only 4 of 20 threes and only 12 of 30 FT.

And the Jaywalks STILL only lost by 3.

Like Stoops, Roy Williams has that one national championship ring which he can wear at backyard barbecues or happy-hour engagements (remembering, of course, that Stoops won in '00 with many of John Blake's recruits while Roy won in '05 with many of Matt Doherty's recruits).

Anyway, it's up to every one of Roy Williams's gang of true believers to determine if falling into a 40-12 hole tonight was any worse than last year when, after Marcus Ginyard sank those two free throws to put UNC up, 75-65, with 7:19 to play in the regional final vs. the Hoyas, Danny Green missed a 3 with 6:31 remaining ...

Just before Wayne Ellington missed a 3 with 5:18 to play (UNC up, 75-68) ...
And then Ty Lawson missed a 3 with 4:43 to play (UNC up, 75-70) ...
Which preceded Reyshawn Terry missing a 3 with 3:03 to play (UNC up, 77-74) ... and Ellington missing a 3 with 0:05 to play (UNC tied, 81-81) ...

All of that before OT when UNC missed three 2-pointers in the first minute ... before Terry missed a 3 with 2:29 to play in OT (UNC down, 87-81) ... and Ellington missed a 3 with 1:27 to play in OT (UNC down, 89-81) ... and Green missing a 3 with 0:49 to play in OT (UNC down, 91-81) ... and Terry missing a 3 with 0:36 to play in OT (UNC down, 93-81) ... and Lawson missing a 3 with 0:26 to play in OT (UNC down, 93-81) ... and Ellington missing a 3 with 0:12 to play in OT (UNC down, 95-81) ... before Lawson MADE a 3 with 0:08 to play in OT (UNC trimming its deficit to 95-84).

Before Terry missed a 3 with 0:01 to play in OT, blah blah blah ...

Recapping the blow-by-blow "clank"-ness of that implosion remains a real treat.

A team which had been judicious and prudent with its 3-point selection (4 of 7 from "beyond the arc" through the first 32 minutes) suddenly decided to visit Dickie V.'s Brick City, USA, bayyyy-beeee.

And, it happened because, like with a lot of b-ball programs which can't shoot straight, there wasn't a coach to use his Huckleberry Hound voice to guide the children with, "The next person who takes another 3 is going to win a very special prize -- and that reward will be me busting open your skull and re-decorating this arena with your brains."

Hence, that 12-plus minutes of last year's season-ender matches up nicely with tonight's 13-plus minutes of foolishness (only, this time, the guy in the UNC ram mascot didn't pay the ultimate price).

What we continue to learn (or forget) about Roy Williams, the more we watch him (or ignore him), is that he's nearly as clumsy a game manager as His Holiness, ShuhSheffSkee ("shhhhhh ... don't tell Dickie V. or Digger or Bobby & His Sweater ...").

Tar Heels, like Blue Devils, are wired to follow "a format" or a directive prescribed by "Coach" -- which is why they look confused and disoriented (as if they've been huffing floor wax or insect spray) when it's time to make something called "adjustments."

The body language is almost always the same.
It's known as "NowWhaddaWeGonnaDo, Coach?"

This is why the Florida Gators provided some genuine enjoyment during their runs to the national championships in '06 and '07.
We saw some team chemistry (and swagger) to go along with all of that talent.

A (real) coach can help nuture that.

Some might argue that Billy Donovan could've taken a siesta in his chair and still won with the NBA-ready skills of Noah, Horford, Green and Brewer, although others might beg to differ.

With UNC (and Duke), it's a completely different look when, in the Tar Heels' case, Ol' Psycho Soft-T isn't bustin' loose for 38 points on 21-of-23 shooting from the foul line.

For those of us not into that scene, it was fun to watch -- UNC going w/o a basket from the 13:34 mark until 4:32.
It was fun in the sense that it was one of life's little guilty pleasures ... y'know, like when you're playing Spider Solitaire on company time just before ya stretch an hour lunch to 78 minutes.

Seriously, though ... when it's the No. 1-ranked team in the nation (in theory) -- which has won its four NCAA playoff games by an average of 25 points -- gettin' thumped by 28, it's a powerful statement about what kind of a nation this is (and our pussycat No. 1's).

All that was missing was Simon Cowell saying, "That was an absolute trayyyy-nnnn wreck. Dreadful ... just bloody awful."

Nine minutes w/o a basket ...

Enough with the revisionist history and genius coaches who can't get their X's to beat the other team's O's.

What made tonight's KU-UNC ballgame epic (and Biblical) was that some of us viewed it on one of those 106-inch projection TVs w/ hi-def which ya hear about all the time.

What magnificence.

It marked only the second time we'd ever seen anything on a screen the size of an aircraft carrier (the other occasion occuring in Jan. '05 ... Jets @ Steelers in the AFC playoffs).

Kinda makes ya wish that the boss-lady you're sleepin' with would OK a pay hike so that we could augment our love nest.

Of course, once ya start talkin' 'bout 106-inch TV screens, ya start thinkin' 'bout equiping it with one of those Wii systems.

With the Wii apparatus, the game gets interesting (and interactive) when the Jaywalks' Cole Aldrich slashes down the lane and then throws that dunk off the back rim -- yet, there "we" are with Wii ... grabbing the rebound of that missed dunk, spotting up near the free-throw line and then swishing the straightaway, 15-footer ... before offering a cool-and-confident look and maybe giving Billy Packer a quick wink as we hustle back on D.

Then, while the SurroundSound is providing a deafening roar from the fans, Wii would allow us to walk to the front porch (instead of to the bench) during the TV timeout, plopping down to enjoy a smoke (instead of listening to Coach rambling on and on about how we gotta stay focused, yadda-yadda-yadda ... ).

FOR THE RECORD, "yes" ... Hansborough looks so vivid and lifelike in hi-def when he's performing in his usual state of awkwardness and spasticity.

Unfortunately, the record states that, "no" ... there's simply no place to put Clumsy T on our All-Time UNC All-Star roster which exists in here (pointing to head) and in here (pointing to chest).

No, seriously ... does anyone in his right mind (by "right mind," we mean anyone whose brain hasn't been polluted by the several hundred PR fluff pieces re: Clumsy T) believe that Hansbrough should start on the front line ahead of Worthy, Perkins or Brad Daugherty? (definitely ahead of Doherty, but not ahead of Daugherty, no way ...)

How's he gonna get playing time off the bench occupied by George Lynch, J.R. Reid, Stack n' 'Sheed, not to mention swingman Walter Davis? (don't forget the Greyhound, people)

Hansbrough is a nice player -- but, a "special" player? C'mon ...

We don't know if he's better than Kupchak, for chrissakes. For one thing, there ain't a player in the ACC with Hansbrough's size who has skillz any better than a juco player from yesteryear. If Joe Wolf faced opponents this feeble, he'd've averaged 27 and 15, no lie.

So, while Hansbrough already got his #50 retired before UNC officials came to their senses and retired Pete Chilcutt's #32 or Serge Zwikker's #45, the fact remains that Clumsy T can't make the All-UNC Heroes roster.

No country for old men, so it seems ...

Oh, and for the record, "no" ... we didn't waste 106 inches of big-screen magnificence watching Coach Cal impose his anti-Love ways.

The freshman Love Child -- who seems destined to be "One And Done" rather than "Two And Through" -- had five shots in the second half, his only basket of the final 20 minutes occurring on a putback with 15:15 to play in the game.

It's a fact: Collison, Westbrook, Shipp and Mbah a Moute were all a little "iffy" and unreliable this season (as that nailbiter against an EXTREMELY ordinary Texas A&M demonstrated).

For those who watched Joey Dorsey of the 'Fis doin' his damage inside, it was mighty obvious that FUCLA needed a powerful (or violent) answer from Nikola Dragovic.

NO! ... not from Nikola Dragovic, the 6-foot-8, 215-lb., pre-business/econ. sophomore who was born on Dec. 20, 1987 in Podgarica, Serbia-Montenegro to Vitomar & Svetlana Dragovic and who wears #41 for the Bruin baksetball team -- but rather from Nikola Dragovic, the 6-foot-3, 256-lb., political science senior who was born on June 9, 1985 in Vista, Calif. to Zeljko & Adriana Dragovic and who wore #96 for the Bruin football team during his final season last autumn.

No offense to Vitomar & Svetlana Dragovic's 6-8/215-lb. bundle of joy, but Love needed somebody with the bulk and the fury of Zeljko & Adriana Dragovic's 6-3/256-lb. skull-smashing offspring.

Alas ... this is not the story of FUCLA's "Dragovictory" because, ummm ... holy crap! Joey Dorsey had 15 rebounds and zero (0) points???

That's always a difficult concept to grasp ... crashing the boards and not scoring on a putback or a follow-jam.

Because of such soft play inside by Mbah a Moute and Aboya -- his fellow Cameroonian -- those two Bruins probably cost themselves any chance of being selected to any unsanctioned, NCAA-based/Africa-oriented, 3-on-3 tournament ... which is OK, given that Texas' Alexis Wangmene, Western Kentucky's Boris Siakam and Villanova's Frank Tchuisi are probably CAMEROON's best bet to collect a third-place ribbon against MALI's trio of Mohamed Tangara (Arizona), Cheick Diakate (Va. Tech) and Konimba Diarra (Charleston Southern).

(** The title game figures to be a blockbuster pitting NIGERIA's Idong Ibok of Michigan St,. Churchill Odia of Oregon and Kenechukwu Obi of DePaul against SENEGAL's Ousmanne Barro of Marquette, Samba Fall of Gardner-Webb and Papa Dia of SMU -- that is, unless Senegal opts for it's big lineup of the two 7-footers, Bamba Fall of SMU and Mamadou Diene-Yeumbeul of Baylor teamed up with 6-11 Ibrahima Thomas of Okie State).

That's the tricky thing about college b-ball in '08 -- Samba Fall or Bamba Fall?

Nobody knows for sure.

Well, if nothing else, at least Hansbrough can wear his "2008 NCAA Playoffs National Semifinalist" T 'round Chapel Hill.

And, for the members of FUCLA's '95 national champs with the funky names -- guys such as omm'A Givens and J.R. Sakuragi (who was "J.R. Henderson" in '95 until changing it last year when he was granted Japanese citizenship) -- they can shake their heads and wonder if dumping Lavin and his 54 lbs. of hair gel was worth it.

For the rest of America, we've got #00 (Darrell Arthur) goin' against #0 (Shawn Taggart) on Mon. nite.

Yippee-kiy-yay ...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Live Blog From (Or Re:) The NCAA B-Ball Semis

THIS IS THE MAGICAL TIME OF THE SPORTS YEAR when the Disneyland Sports enterprise known as ESPN slaps America upside the head with it's mission statement:

"We could provide more basketball highlights and offer more profiles of actual basketball players, but wouldn't you rather see Digger's necktie/highlighter-pen combo or Bobby's sweater/polo-shirt combo or Dickie V.'s egghead informing you that Team A has to shoot better, Team B needs to rebound better, Team X needs to D up, Team Y needs to stop turning the ball over (as Jay Bilas warms up, off-camera, with the newsflash that Team Z has 'great length')?"

Yup ... it's a mindset which reinforces the ideal that ESPN enjoys talking about the abstract concept of basketball inside a vacuum as opposed to real-world tangibles such as the people involved in the outcomes of that sport (which is why -- "shhhhhhhhh!" -- nobody is allowed to ask His Majesty, Bobby, about Indiana's new head coach hire or how a program such as O'Reilly Auto Parts-Lubbock Division will bounce back from a crushing, 44-point, ass-kicking against Texas A&M followed shortly thereafter by a colossal, 58-point, evisceration-and-emasculation at the hands of Kansas).

Let's face it: Bobby was a lot more fun wayyyy back in Jan. 2008 when he brought that baby out as a prop for a press conference (America STILL doesn't know if that was Pat's toddler, Tim's infant or maybe a tot which was borrowed from a booster).

Now that ya mention it ... how the hell does Bilas know about a certain team's "length" -- usually that's the type of intel that a reporter can obtain only if he/she lingers a little too long in the locker-room shower area and begins cataloging "length, width and depth."

On the other hand, what didja expect from Digger's necktie/highlighter pen combo -- that he'd actually talk to an modern-day athlete such as a Kevin Love or a Psycho T or a Derrick Rose?

It's so much easier to edit these pre- and post-game pressers into a 15-second byte and push those opinions/thoughts in front of a convoy of six or seven 18-wheelers (let's mix it up today and table the sooo overplayed "thrown under the bus" colloquialism).

Anyway, we're not allowed to hear from Brandon Rush because Bobby's sweater/polo-shirt needs to debate Digger's necktie/highlighter pen combo re: Team A's shooting ability, Team B's rebounding ability, Team X's defensive strategy (zone or man?) and Team Y's penchant for turnovers.

Bilas, who we've been led to believe that because of his law degree, he's somehow higher on the food chain than Lavin's 100 lbs. of hair gel (but is he? IS HE?) will be here in a minute to discuss "length."

It was bad enough when America was gettin' too much Joe Lunardi in its diet, yet, here we are again, learning as little about playoff basketball from these knucklehead as we would be if we were relying on the inside scoop from either "Good Housekeeping" and/ore Reynolds Wolf, the guy who does the weather on Headline News.

The problem with stirring up a magical elixir of "infotainment" nowadays is that those doin' the mixin' are forgettin' that the formula calls for equal parts "information" and "entertainment" -- which is what we'd have if only they'd listened to us and opted for the knowledgable Dr. Jerry Punch and THE drop-deadliest-beautiful of the lovelies in sports broadcasting, Adriana Monsalves.

(Listen to her say "Zaragosa" sometime ... it's to die for ...")

It makes ya scratch yer head -- especially when ya do a double-take and see that the Moto X Games Channel actually sent TWO Game-Day-type hosts to San Antonio.

Apparently, making innocuous statements and lobbing softball questions to Bobby's sweater, Digger's tie and Dickie's egghead is too strenuous for Rece Davis, therefore, John Anderson was brought in.

This waste of America's taxpayer dollars is egregious.

The irony, though, is that when packaging the NCAA women's playoffs, ESPN actually has a clue.

The on-site host is Trey Wingo and the opinion-givers are NOT a group of dinosaurs who wish to discuss Army's 1967 squad or the Davidson team from 1968.

Instead, our experts are Kara Lawson and Stacey Dales -- one black and one white and, together, a duo which played at the highest level of that sport.

They're not perfect, nor bias-free, but it's a strong mix with commentary which is cogent and relevant (even if the women's game equation remains: Five or six excellent programs and an Arizona State/Georgia Tech non-conference matchup in any December which would make any fan cringe, thanks to the exceptionally high level of subpar skills combined with inferior aptitude ... it's a nice intramural matchup, but a scholarship sport? Doin' a bang-up job, Title IX!) .

As long as we're paying our respects to guys who died years ago (Knight, Phelps, Vitale), maybe this is the time to eulogize the more-recent death of Hubert Davis.

Hubert Davis was a regular on the GameDay set for the entire season -- until his job was handed to the white-haired, loudmouthed myth (thankfully, Karen finally clipped/trimmed Bobby's eyebrows ... it was so discouraging/disturbing to see Bobby's face being not camera-friendly simply because his eyebrows were a mishmash of unorganization in which some of the hairs were playing zone while the others were playing man D during another 19-13 or 17-14 or 20-16 season which didn't amount to anything and which nobody cared about ... ).

It stands to reason that Hubert Davis received his postseason ban, presumably, because he's a black man who was NOT a member of Army's 1966 team or Army's 1970 squad -- and, therefore, all he can talk about is his personal stake in the most-recent times in which UNC played Kansas in the national semifinals ... in 1991 and 1993.

Most of us remember how Hubert Davis busted his ass in that '91 UNC-KU national semi, scoring 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting (5-5 FT), but it was his teammates -- Rick Fox (5 of 22), Pete Chilcutt (2 of 8) and King Rice (1 of 6) -- who succumbed to the Jaywalks' incredible shooting from the floor (40%) and from the line (21 of 36).

Two years later, we all remember where we were an what we were doing when we forgot to watch UNC avenge that loss, as Donald Williams (25 points) and Eric Montross (23 points) sank the Jaywalks and Roy Williams.

If only Henrik Rodl could've done more for UNC.

[Editor's note: UNC's George Lynch and KU's Adonis Jordan squared off against each other in those '91 and '93 semifinal games ... and they each scored in double figures in those contests ... only thing is, America is always going to remember them for their work one year later, in '94, in the motion-picture blockbuster "Blue Chips" -- Lynch teaming with "Mr. 5-of-22" Rick Fox and KU's Rex Walters on the Texas Western team while Jordan collaborated with Rocky Top legend Allan Houston and Wake's Rodney Rogers for the Coast team which proved most formidable for Pete Bell and his Western University blue chippers.]

However, Hubert Davis is forbidden from talking about those memories from '91 or non-memories from '93 because ESPN wants to maintain the Caucasian integrity of its studio -- and this is the postseason, which is the time for over-analysis.

Although it's never meaty stuff such as: Was Henrik Rodl the first player with an umlat over the "O" in his last name to appear in a national semifinal?

We all know that the only player to perform during a Final Four weekend with TWO umlats in his name was when Utah's Hanno Mottola did so exactly 10 years ago (for that Majerus-led Utes team which didn't have Keith Van Horn, but received quality efforts from Andre Miller, Michael Doleac and the doubly-umlatted Mottola).

[Footnote: Remember how, not long after Dean Smith won that national championship in '93, when we learned that he'd signed the two top recruits in the nation -- Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace -- we figured he'd win at least two of the next three national championships? Then, when Coach Smith signed Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison, we thought that it was curtains for the rest of the basketball world ... but maybe Stackhouse and Wallace didn't mesh with Serge Zwikker and Dante Calabria the way we all assumed they would ... and maybe Ed Cota, Shammond Williams, Mahktar Ndiaye and Ademola Okulaja weren't the right supporting cast for Carter and Jamison, it's hard to say ... anyway, thank goodness for the new-school, "One-And-Done" formula, wherein star freshmen can treat the college game like their own NBA minor-league system ... ]

As long as this sector of the blogsphere -- the region known as "La-Z-Boy Junction" -- deems it necessary to address umlats over "O's," it seems like it might be worth exploring the numeral which most-closely resembles an "O."

We believe that this numeral to be a zero (0).

Now, exactly how nutty is this Zero Factor in this national semifinal twinbill?

It's UCLA's Russell Westbrook (#0) vs. Memphis' Shawn Taggart (#0) -- and, if Kansas' Darrell Arthur (#00) survives, we'll have a #00 vs. a #0 in the title game (although we don't know if the reason that #00 Arthur won't be mixing it up with a #00 for UNC is because nobody's explained to us if the #00 which Montross wore was unofficially retired in Chapel Hill -- sorta like the way that every time we see Brandon Rush wearing #25 for the Jaywalks, we wonder if KU assistant coach Danny Manning actually gave Rush his blessing to wear the same #25 that he wore while leading KU to the title over OU (it still sticks in our craw that two schools which are the "University of ..." go by KU and OU) back in 1988.

Sorting out the player names n' numbers is very important -- particularly for those who walk around the campus in Westwood, CA wearing their #41 DRAGOVIC basketball jerseys, lookin' to rumble with those who walk around campus wearing their #96 DRAGOVIC football jerseys.

One day, there will be peace between those who worship Nikola Dragovic (the 6-foot-8, 215-lb. Bruin sophomore pre-business/econ. major who was born on Dec. 20, 1987 in Podgarica, Serbia-Montenegro to Vitomar & Svetlana) and those who idolize Nikola Dragovic (the 6-foot-3, 256-lb. Bruin senior political science major who was born on June 9, 1985 in Vista, Calif. to Zeljko & Adriana).

Creating greater awareness and understanding between these factions of Nikola Dragovic followers and Nikola Dragovic admirers (understandably, neither Nikola Dragovic nor Nikola Dragovic is willing to go down in history as "the other Nikola Dragovic") is our primary mission.

After all, it wasn't so long before the football Nikola Dragovic/b-ball Nikola Dragovic mix-up that the Westwood campus was engulfed in controversy and confusion re: Karim Abdul-Jabbar and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Seems as though Kareem, who spent his entire UCLA career known as Lew Alcindor, was bothered by the fact that the football player named Sharmon Shah who arrived at UCLA, chose to change his name to "Karim Abdul-Jabbar" -- which might mean something bold, prolific and spiritual in Muslim such as "peaceful warrior" while the name "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar" means something entirely different, such as "warrior of peace" or something like that.

Nikola Dragovic and Nikola Dragovic find this very confusing.

Some of us have chosen to abide by the name which appears on our birth certificate: "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

Unfortunately, most of us are forced to get our Nikola Dragovic/Nikola Dragovic and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Karim Abdul Jabbar intel on the black market, mostly because ESPN's college basketball coverage is a lot like its college football coverage -- adhering to a mission statement of: "Let's talk ABOUT the players without actually talking TO the players."

Thank you, blogsphere, for providing options and open-mindedness.

This might be a fun national semifinals/championship weekend after all.

As long as nobody points out that THREE Adidas teams reached the Final Four with only one Nike team qualifying and causes us to wonder if Adidas would bother to rebutt those super-lame Nike TV ads.

"Our better is better than your better, although your $100 weak-ass sneaker is louder than our $50 quality shoe -- and your sweaty and dirty Indonesian sweatshops in which 12-year-old kids work for 27 cents a day are sweatier and dirtier than our air-conditioned Chinese manufacturing centers which don't exploit underaged workers ..."