March 17, 2009

The "leaders" are in control here, pending the return of logic

It's the way this nation was populated with Anglos. It's the way sports teams were created and expanded. It all started in the east, then moved west. For sports, so many of the "leaders" are still in the east. So when a prime time game begins out here in the west, the "leaders" are already dozing in their armchair...Steak-Ums grease on the paper plate. It's the 13th time you've heard that NBA promo, so it'll lull you right to sleep.

College basketball is played all over this land, but it is a truth that there are simply more schools in the east. This doesn't mean the "leaders" don't acknowledge good teams out west. They'd simply have to play earlier, such as when UCLA played some Saturday games beginning at 10AM. The "leaders" would never dream of forcing anyone near them to do that, but how else can they try to watch west coast schools? By the late afternoon in the east, they're in the kitchen trying to figure out how to wrap bacon around the burger. So, the "leaders" include western schools in their tournament, but only because they have to. What they don't have to do is place them all in the west. Sure, UCLA was left in California last year on the road to another Final Four. But these sites were already chosen in advance. And, according to the "leaders," Anaheim is in Los Angeles.

This year, the "leaders" righted themselves and made sure the only home court love for the tournament came from the east. To wit:

#8 Ohio State, playing first and possibly second round games in Dayton. 70 miles from campus.

This would mean something more if OSU was a solid home team. Despite the Dayton Arena being smaller than OSU's home, it shouldn't be a surprise if their fans urge on a victory over a better team. It also shouldn't be a surprise that we're playing in Dayton - the "leaders" put games here 3 times this decade, and the intellectually challenged play-in game is here every year.

#2 Duke, #1 North Carolina, playing first and certainly second round games in Greensboro. 55 miles from campus.

Hoo wee, do the leaders love the ACC! And they love them so much, they make sure there's always a venue right by a majority of the schools. Sure, the conference has expanded up and down the eastern seaboard, but who cares? Most of the schools are still in the Carolinas, and they'll get in (no matter what, they'll let them in). The state of North Carolina hosted games nine out of the 10 years...of course, some states did 10 times but NOT every year. (Remember, the city of Los Angeles scares the shit out of the "leaders"). Ironically, the last time the University of Minnesota made it to the tournament, they were placed in East Region in Charlotte. Wow, who was the top seed in the region? NORTH CAROLINA. And how about that "pod system" the "leaders" discovered? It placed Duke, in the South region, in Charlotte for their first two games.

And now, the bullshit winner...
#3 Villanova, playing first and second round games in Philadelphia, 16 MILES FROM CAMPUS.
There used to be a rule that a campus had to be a certain amount of miles away from the site. Erase that rule, since the "leaders" could give a shit about what other schools think.

Let's make a new rule:
There are much more serious crimes that the NCAA and its "leaders" have committed over the years. (And to suggest giving one school home games when to have a rule which states they can't and then they do it anyway...well, that is smaller potatoes and more how the NBA works. And that's a whole different ball of poo.) Whether it was their TV contracts for football (forcing schools to go court to show how it broke anti-trust laws, which was true), or not overseeing college football playoffs or placing "sanctions" on schools for violations and yet letting them field competitive teams. Hell, last year's national champion, Kansas, is still under probation!

  • As long as a school makes the NCAA a lot of money, they will adjust penalties accordingly.
  • The NCAA will accord said schools an easier shot at more money, and politely ignore others.
  • My favorite example - Florida International has 13 sports on probation. Shouldn't the athletic department be shut down for a few years?!

Therefore, the rule is

The NCAA and its "leaders" are pretty much bullshit.

March 12, 2009

I'm Looking In My Mirror So I Can See Who Can See Me

In basketball, especially in the NCAA, the unexpected is usually to be expected. It's the reason the tournament is so magnetic - that idea that anything can happen and usually does. Look at last year in particular. Did the Jayhawks deserve to win the title? Absolutely not. They should've lost twice in the Final Four. If Memphis spent as much time practicing free throws and how to close out a game as they did alley-ooping to each other and not going to class, they would've walked.

So it's with that understanding that I'm pulling for the Gophers almost as much as I am with any team in my life, and it makes no goddamn sense at all.

Let's do a little run-down. I invest a certain amount of energy and time into each team I follow hoping to profit either by:

1. Running to the refrigerator and beating it senseless when AJ jacks a 3 run dong in the 8th inning in Oakland (this would be filed under "emotional profit")

2. Making money on Niagra, because I ran both the Plats AND the Lats.

So, that being said, I invest an inordinate amount of energy in the Twins. I know this isn't the space to go into that, but it's true. I listen to or watch nearly every game during the summer, constantly keep tabs on stats and movements. That, in turn, keeps me very knowledgeable about MLB in general, and I sometimes (it's rare) get invested in other teams and am happy to see them succeed (I was particularly happy about Philadelphia, because I thought they were the best team for most of the season, and because, hey, it's Philly). THE POINT, JACK, is that when Denard Span hit that fucking triple down the line against the Sox in the Dome, and Gomez flew around the bases (scoring from first before the ball was in the infield), I about popped my ass through my britches. Loud screams were heard throughout my neighborhood. I live for these moments. They are the only reason I put in this much time. And when the time comes, and they hoist that banner, and Joe and Justin stand up front with Gardy to accept that trophy and Pat Neshek rides in a fucking parade, I will be happier than I would if I were ever to have a child. Truth hurts.

The Pack have a special place in my heart, for sure, and rooting for them in this environment just constantly reminds me how much better my life has turned out than those around me. "Oh, you've got that house in Wright County? Interesting, hey how are the Purple this year?" The thing about the Pack is that I am the biggest fair-weather fan out there though... when they are going good I'm up on them every week, listening to every interview and digging in on Sunday. This year? I sometimes just sat and listened to Neil Diamond records rather than watch their games. Often, I didn't even know if they were playing or not. I am able to turn it off extremely quickly. If only Vikings fans could share that ability. Maybe "mouths closed" would be a good policy.

(there is no professional basketball team that plays in this state, so I won't be talking about that)

That brings us to Gopher Basketball. You have to understand something... I have been on an absolute rollercoaster with this team over the past 15 years. The year before I was starting at the U was 1996-97. HEY NOW. Does anyone like cheating? I always knew I wanted to go to here, so when they got that 1 seed and went to the Final Four, well shit, I was very, very happy. When it all came tumbling down and we were left with Horse's Ass Munson, and the best player on the team was Joel Przybilla, and he hated class just as much as he hated life, it was very hard at first. But that's what losing does to you. It starts out really hard, and then it becomes routine. Just ask Wolves fans in 2 years (shit, ask them now, if you can find them). You get used to it. Memories of success fade. But it's always lurking there, you know the program has the tools to turn it around (step 1: fire Munson's fuckin ass because a loser is a loser), and so while the losing is acceptable, and you don't kid yourself into thinking they'll be any good, you keep tabs on the team... just in case.

Well, that was me earlier this decade... pretty much didn't care about the team but wanted the best for them, of course. Not like the Wolves, who I actively root against and think should move somewhere else. Or Gopher football, who I root against for gambling purposes (Thanks Mangino!). No, I always want the basketball squad to do well... they deserve it. And when Vince Grier came along in 2005 and was having himself donuts all season, SHIT! It was a marvelous experience. Even though you knew 1) that it was a complete aberration, and 2) they would never, ever, ever be able to compete against better teams, it was still damn fun to watch. Vince went off so many times during the season... just the old "Fuck this, it's all me from now on" attitude, and he was hooking them in from 20 feet, because why not? You're a JuCo transfer bound for Tel Aviv, better jit your buckets now, when people are watching. After that year, predictably, it was back to the basement.

I don't know if we'll ever be able to put into words or context just what the Tubby hiring meant, but I'll give it a shot. It was a coup of the highest order, the kind of thing that 1) DOESN'T HAPPEN in the Big 10 and 2) DOESN'T HAPPEN to the Gophers, ever. Big names don't come to the Big 10 (unless you count Kelvin Sampson, and he could count, on never coaching again). So when Tubby rolls into Minneapolis, you think guys like Izzo and Ryan aren't shitting their pants, thinking "Christ, in 3 years we're going to have a fucking game on our hands"? You think the Big 10 as a unit doesn't just pop one in their undies? This is big time... national championship coaches don't grow on trees. When's the last time Bobby Knight took one home? 1987? And if he came to the Gophs, it would've been just as big as Tubby. Anyway, it was one of those moments that define rooting for the underdog... that moment that you know you've now got the upper hand (hang on, I'll tie this to today's game soon enough, you watch). Even though it was going to take time to come around, and his recruiting hadn't even begun, you just knew it was building. We were in the first quarter of a dog fight, and the Gophers, predictably, were going to start slow. But by the 4th quarter, grab your fuckin sack.

Here's a question: if opposing Big 10 coaches are so smart, how long is it going to take them to realize that Lawrence Westbrook is more Sam Cassell than Sam Fucking Cassell? Here's a guy who can't play in the first 3 quarters to save his ass, constantly takes bonehead shots at the wrong times, and then the 4th quarter comes around and you better just get a wheelbarrow, because those nuts are going to start jugglin. He's a guy who just has that swagger, that deep muscle knowledge of how to make shots when it counts. Let's not forget... the Gophs WIN that game against Michigan if Tubby doesn't call that timeout. We're not even on the bubble. I'm not saying it's a bad call by Tubby, far from it, but still. That ball was going down as sure as Bo Ryan makes a stupid face to a ref but doesn't do anything as his team pisses away another lead because they DON'T KNOW HOW TO BREAK THE PRESS. This is a guy who will come in handy in the tournament. He's a match, just waiting to rake across the sandpaper. And when it happens, he's seriously one of the top 20 most dangerous scorers in the NCAA.

Now then,

Why in god's name am I so pumped by this team? They play clown-ball, which is the opposite of ghetto ball. They muck up the games to the point where the first 50 points takes it, they play lock-down defense but can't shoot for shit (seriously, "Bulls-eye Blake"? Yeah, nice shot from your ass, but what, does he average 20% on 3s? 15%?) The way they play the game is ugly, and when you combine it with the rest of the Big 10, it's almost unwatchable. Or, I should say, it would be unwatchable. If I wasn't so goddamned invested in it. To me, it's like watching Eddie G on the mound.... it looks as awful as you can imagine, but somehow, he pulls it out, and nothing matters after that final out.

But there's always that moment. That time when, no matter what came before, or what the logic dictates SHOULD be happening, you know beyond any doubt that WE'VE. GOT. THE. UPPER. HAND. It takes a certain kind of team, and more specifically, a certain type of player. The Twins get it when they play the White Sox in September. The Pack got it quite a bit when Number Four was tossing. And the Wolves used to get it almost every game when Sammy Big Balls touched the rock in the 4th quarter. Well, it's happening now with Westbrook. No matter what happens, no matter how far they're down, no matter who missed practice or was duck-walking back on defense, when LW gets that ball, the unexpected is about to happen.

So, this win today likely gets them to next Thursday. And that's a good thing. Even though nobody but me enjoys the way they play the game, hell, then that's how it is. We're still early in this game, folks. The Gophs just punched their ticket for the first time in 4 years. Next year will be a 5 seed. The year after that we might be talking about Izzo licking the under-thunder. It's a trajectory. And from here, it's only up.

They'll finish strong. But you wouldn't expect it any other way.