Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Machine vs. Anti-Machine: 2017 Highland Park Soccer Wrap Up

On several occasions, Zman and TR have referred to their town's travel soccer program as "the machine," and this always makes me chuckle . . . for example, in Zman's masterful post about poopus interruptus, he explained that TR's children-- who are slightly older than Zman's children-- were "thus more entrenched in the machine that is our local travel sports program." I am sure from an outside perspective, especially a parent's outside perspective, that competitive travel sports must seem byzantine, biased, and downright bananas. A giant shiny sorting and crushing machine, that sucks up children, grinds them into their constituent skills, extracts the childish zeal from them, and then spits them out into the proper slot.

I teach (and once coached) in such a town (East Brunswick). The soccer program is large, competitive, and bureaucratic. When I coached middle school soccer there, three travel teams funneled into my tryouts. At least fifty kids would attend. All 8th graders. All skilled, seasoned travel soccer players. I would take twenty out of those fifty kids. They had five days to prove they were one of the top twenty (and I could recognize the top ten in five minutes, so it was really forty kids-- many of them similar-- vying for ten slots). Tryouts ran from Monday through Friday, and on Thursday the varsity coach, a good friend of mine, would come help me assess kids. It was intense. I ran them into the ground the first tryout, to eliminate a few kids that way. This led to the infamous Potato Chip Incident. But most of them stuck it out, despite the running, because they were travel soccer players. They were used to running (many of the kids who didn't make the team became cross country runners).

There was a playground adjacent to the field, in a shady wood. The last day of tryouts, I would sit on a tire swing and call the kids over, one by one, and tell them the deal. I did it face-to-face because I felt like posting a list was cowardly. I tried to keep it positive, but it was rough work. Kids cried. Parents cried. Players whose entire identities were wrapped up in playing soccer were told for the first time in their life that they weren't good enough. East Brunswick is a giant school, a typical grade is close to 800 kids. Most middle school soccer teams are grades 6 - 8, but because of the way that the schools are divided, the East Brunswick team is only 8th graders. Learning you're the 32nd best soccer player in your grade is bitter medicine to swallow.

So I would conference with each kid at the jungle gym, and either give them good news or tell them what to work on for next year: you've got no weak foot, you don't pick your head up, your first touch is abysmal, etc. and then I would encourage them to practice and then go out for the freshman team. I told them I was only one person, and while I did my best, I certainly made mistakes: it was hard to evaluate so many players in such a short time. I told them I hoped they would prove me wrong in a year, and there were certainly kids that did so. There was even a kid who got cut all the way along and didn't make the team until he was a senior, and then won a starting position and scored some significant goals that season. But those stories are rare. I teach senior English, and I've read plenty of college essays from former East Brunswick soccer players about when they learned-- despite what adults had been telling them-- that they weren't special, they weren't good enough, and they weren't going to succeed.

So that was what it was like working in the machine. Hyper-competitive, stressful, and exclusionary.

When I started coaching my younger son's travel team in my hometown, Highland Park, I had to retire from coaching at East Brunswick. I tried to keep this information on the down-low, but the Highland Park athletic director-- a friend of mine-- got wind of this. Actually, his wife got wind of it and insisted that he hire me. I demurred at first, because I was happy to retire from the everyday grind of school practice, and I was excited to coach my son. Plus, the travel commitment seemed light: two travel practices a week and games on Sunday. But somehow, with much flattery, the AD and his wife convinced me to step in and coach at the school as well. If you're a superficial soul like myself, it's hard to resist flattery. The high school team has practice and games six days a week-- Monday through Saturday. Travel practice would be Tuesday and Thursday evening, just after high school practice ended and travel games would be on Sunday. So that added up to seven days a week of coaching (with double practices on Tuesday and Thursday . . . those days I essentially coached from 3 PM to 7.30 PM, with just enough time for a snack). I'm not sure why I agreed to this-- probably because I am susceptible to flattery-- but I did.

When my kids reached middle school, I switched from varsity assistant/JV coach to the middle school coach, for child care reasons. The middle school field is right next to my house, in Donaldson Park. Soccer practice doubled as child care. My older son-- a sixth grader-- was on the middle school team, and his younger brother-- in fifth grade-- was supposed to come home from school and walk the dog down to the field and check in with me, to illustrate that he was home safe and that he was a responsible child. This rarely happened. Ian would go on various adventures around town while I worried about him, but I couldn't go find him because I had to run practice. And he didn't have a cell-phone. The next year was simpler: both my kids were on the middle school team and both would come to middle school practice.

Anyway, the Highland Park middle school team is the anti-machine. We have no cuts. We take all comers. I'm so involved in the travel program that I know what team every player is on, who their coach is, and then we work out a reasonable schedule. Two of our players play out of town on one of the best club teams in the state. They still consistently come to practice, but they often have to leave early. Some kids come to practice for 30 minutes, because they have club or travel practice later in the day. Kids skip when they need to. Some kids attend every practice and then attend their travel practice-- they can't get enough soccer. I had thirty-five kids on my roster this year. I don't think they were ever all at practice on the same day, but I often had to run a practice for twenty-five kids. This was challenging-- running a practice for twenty-plus kids, on a half field-- and a terrible half-field at that on (the girls team uses the other half) tailoring the activities to kids of varying ages and skill levels . . . but it usually worked out.

The older kids learned to play and practice with smaller kids, and this made their game better. They had to be more accurate with their passes, more graceful with their moves,  and less profane with their language. The little kids had to step it up. Occasionally, I'd have to put restrictions on the best players-- three touches, you can't score, etc.-- but mainly I focused on skill work, grids, and very little scrimmaging. I am an intolerant grouch at practice. There is no fucking around. The goal of practice is to do high level soccer stuff so we can crush all the other teams. My rhetoric is simple: we are a tiny school, we are the underdog, we are too small to compete with these teams, we should have no chance but you are a special group of kids and you should only be here if you're totally focused on defying the odds. This is not a social event. There are fifty boys in the 8th grade class, and twenty of them played on the middle school team.

Everyone on the team knows the deal with the games. The 8th graders and a few 7th graders are in the starting rotation. We're playing to win. If we get a lead, then I sub in the other kids. Sometimes we have thirty kids on the sideline. It's nuts. This season, we beat teams so badly and so quickly that all the little kids got in nearly every game. I always controlled the score of the game, so we never beat a team by more than five goals, but in a couple of games we were on headers and full volleys in the first fifteen minutes. Then-- and I feel bad for these teams-- I would release the sixth graders. We'd be up by three goals or so-- and a swarm of very motivated locusts would take the field. They wouldn't score, but they wouldn't get scored on, and they would pressure every every pass, slide tackle, run like maniacs, and make the most of their limited minutes. Then I'd put the starting crew in to end the half and they'd knock another goal in.

In the past two years, the middle school team has only lost one game (New Brunswick). This year we went 13 - 0. We couldn't find a team to beat us. The last game of the season, we picked up South Brunswick, a school seven times our size. In the huddle before the game, I was frank with them. I told them that the AD and I tried to find a team to beat them. They were annoyed, as they wanted to remain the only undefeated middle school team ever in Highland Park history, but I told them that I was going to do my best to prevent that. Highland Park is a very small school-- we're Group I. We have just over one hundred kids per class. We had already beaten Metuchen, a very good group II school, and New Brunswick, a group IV school whose middle school team had never lost a game. Ever. But the final win over South Brunswick was wonderful. They were bigger and faster than us, but we beat them all over the field. They never came close to scoring. My older son, who is small, got carted off the field after putting his body on a giant kid. My other son, who is even smaller, replaced him and hammered the giant kid. Everyone played hard and fast and smart, and even though our star player was having an off day, we won 2 - 0. I was a proud dad and a proud coach.

We've got every athlete in town playing soccer, and this all-feet-on-deck mentality has its costs. Highland Park was once a football town, but now they can barely field a varsity team. The middle school team folded two years ago. Everyone is playing soccer, and we've decided, in a very anti-machine way, to keep everyone in the program and see what happens. In East Brunswick, if you don't make varsity as a sophomore, you're on the chopping block. Juniors on JV become seniors sitting on the varsity bench, and seniors on the varsity bench cause unrest. In Highland Park, we let players hang around forever. The varsity coach even gives them the option: they can sit the varsity bench or get some minutes playing JV, which is generally unheard of . . . but we're a small town. And no one complains because the hierarchy is apparent. Everyone knows who the best kids are because there aren't as many players, and when you don't cut people, they get to play with the same kids every day and figure out just what their role it.

The boys varsity team-- which is comprised of a fairly even mix of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshman-- had a storybook season. They play in the Blue division with the group 2 schools, and they won the division handily. In the county tournament, which is generally a mess for the smaller schools, they beat St. Joes-- a group 4 school and perennial soccer powerhouse-- coming back from a two goal deficit. Then they played South Brunswick, the two seed in the county, a giant school and a soccer powerhouse, and they led them 2 - 0 deep into the second half, but gave up three goals in the last eighteen minutes. They were exhausted, playing without subs, and their star scorer-- Jonah Bieberman-- went down with a pulled hamstring. It was a tough loss, but it was probably better that they got eliminated from the county tournament because the smaller schools focus on the state tournament, where you play schools in your group. The girls varsity team had a fabulous season as well, winning their division, and some big games in the county tournament and the states, before petering out (mainly due to injuries).

In the state bracket, the boys were the number one seed in central Jersey. They won their first game handily, and then faced perennial rival South River, a primarily Portuguese and Hispanic total soccer town. South River knew they were outmatched, so they parked the bus-- brilliantly-- and played for the counter. Highland Park attacked for 90 minutes, then two overtime periods, without any luck. There was a force field around the goal. After two overtimes, the game was still tied and went into penalty kicks. The first set of five ended in a tie. Three kicks into the second set, it appeared Highland Park had won it. The shot was buried in the corner. Two senior players ripped their shirts off and sprinted towards the winning kicker . . . but they missed the fact that the goalie slid out toward the ball, caught it with his toe and it spun just wide. Early celebration . . . very bad juju. The two Highland Park players sheepishly put their shirts back on and returned to the fifty yard line, with the rest of the PK kickers. It took twenty-two penalty kicks to decide the match  . . . Highland Park won, and their star scorer (one of the premature shirt rippers) shot the deciding PK. I never saw anything like it. The moms of the PK shooters were hugging each other, hiding their faces, as they couldn't bear to watch the PKs.  When it was over, one of the South River players fell to the turf, curled into an inconsolable ball, crying at the outcome.

Highland Park then played Bound Brook, a better team than South River-- Hispanic kids with parents hailing mainly from Costa Rica and Ecuador-- and though Bound Brook put on a skillful and deceptive possession clinic in the first half, they only scored once, on a masterful trick corner kick and then-- as predicted by Mickey Landis, the gruff older parent of the star center-back-- Bound Brook folded in the second half, tired and cold, and Highland Park won 2 -1. 

The sectional final was against the defending champions, Asbury Park. Their star striker-- the Haitian sensation Davensky Joinvilmar-- was supposed to be unstoppable. Highland Park soccer had never won a central Jersey sectional title, but they were playing at home and it was very very cold. Very unlike Haiti. Despite the sub-freezing temperature and wind, the stands were packed. Joinvilmar was dangerous ever time he touched the ball-- but he never scored. Highland Park dissected the rest of the Asbury team and won 5 -1 . . . unheard of in a sectional final. They will get a banner in the gym for this. They went on to play in the state semi-finals against the winner of the south Jersey section, but bad luck struck-- three of their best players came down with the flu, and none of them played in the second half. One of them came off the field at halftime puking. Despite this, they took Glassboro into the second half with a zero-zero tie, before finally succumbing 2 to 0.

The whole town was so proud of this team, and the whole town had a hand in coaching them.  Which brings us to the anti-machine. Our varsity coach is a genuinely inspirational figure (he's done an iron-man triathlon and he doesn't have an ironic bone in his body). And all we want to do is send him well-trained players, as many as we can, because Highland Park is tiny and generally has no depth (the varsity team managed their astounding run with two subs).

Which brings us to the travel program. The anti-machine. The ramshackle slipshod contraption that we call Highland Park travel soccer. We don't have enough players to sustain a travel team in every grade, but we manage it (for the boys . . . the girls only have a team for every two years). We hold "try-outs" and a few kids do get cut, but essentially, if you can run and have any kind of athletic ability, you've made the team. It's a glorified rec program with a few stars. This fact pretty much explains everything: I am the try-out coordinator, and I had to make and distribute flyers. Anyone who knows me can imagine how that turned out.

I thought my younger son's team was going to fall apart at the end of last season, but I managed to pick up some younger kids and a miracle named Jesus . . . who saved our souls and our defense. Our travel soccer program costs $225 a season . . . if you can afford it. If you can't, then you can pay whatever you can afford. It's totally inclusive. Somehow-- because we have a guy in the program who works for the MLS-- this includes one day a week of Red Bull training. The Red Bull trainers are fantastic, and I've learned a shitload from them, which I've immediately applied at the middle school level.

Despite this anti-machine methodology, my older son is playing on a flight one team. He is NOT a flight one player, but he's surviving. In any other town, he would be cut, but instead he's getting a chance to play high level soccer, and if he grows next year, he'll be fine. Sometimes, my younger son-- who is much better-- plays as a guest for his team. That's the way it works. They win some and lose some, but they're competing with much bigger towns.

My team plays a couple flights down but the teams are very competitive: Bloomfield, Scotch Plains, some club out in Philipsburg?-- and so I was worried: half my kids are too young and many of them can't accurately pass a ball, but the heart of my team has been with me since they were seven. My younger son and a few of the other "veterans" are damned good. But plenty of kids on my team are green. It's a very different system. The stars of the team know it rests on them to score the goals and do the difficult marking, and the other team members are role players. They hustle, win balls, bang into people, and continue to practice. They don't get cut, and they eventually improve. Sometimes they grow huge and strong and end up on the varsity field as an enforcer.

I thought we might lose every game this season, as we adjusted to the new players, the 11 v 11, and the big field, but we ended up tied for first in the flight. Three of the teams were better than us, but they didn't know how to win. If it wasn't for a missed PK and some terrible officiating, we would have won the flight outright.

Highland Park is a liberal, diverse town. Rutgers professors, Jewish folk of every stripe and denomination, Asian and Indian immigrants, African-Americans, hippies, Hispanics, hipsters, and lesbians. Sports are not our strong point. So the soccer success has really galvanized the town. Everyone has a hand in it. The travel soccer program is run by volunteers. Despite this, we have teams playing in Mid New Jersey Flight 1 and MAPS. There's nothing more fun than beating a team with a paid full-time trainer with a British or Dutch accent (as we did Sunday night). Soccer has been monetized in our area, and many parents want to get their child on the most expensive club team they can afford. Full time trainers, lots of tournaments, many levels of play, plenty of gears and treads in the machine. We're doing the opposite in Highland Park. The very best players will play on clubs out of town, but that's the exception. And they still participate on the middle school team and the high school team, because we're small, informed and flexible. It's nothing like a machine. It's the anti-machine, and it's changed the way I think about sports. We're keeping everyone involved because when you're in a small town and you're playing JV soccer, this happens often: a varsity kid sprints over to the JV field, during the game, and says, "Sebastian got hurt! We need a midfielder" and you get called up and you step in and play fantastic, because you've got no choice, there's no one else on the depth chart behind you. There's no pressure. You just play.

I recognize this post is a long-winded mess, but I wanted to commemorate this fantastic season in Highland Park. I donated an insane amount of time to this project, as did many other coaches, managers, parents, players etc, and it's paying off. The parents are supportive, the town is united, there were no complaints about playing time, no one was cut, and everyone contributed. And next year, we're going to be even better.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Greatest. Wine label. Ever.

Was sent to Total Wine on Saturday, and as I wandered the store for an hour, sampling everything available, I stumbled upon this beauty:

It's the YOLO County that really makes me crack up. Perhaps Drake is somehow involved in this wine operation.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bottoms Up for Professor Truck

I just finished a new song, "Lost Souls." It's somewhere between the romanticised sit-com utopia of the Cheers Theme song and the depressive alcoholism of The Replacements "Here Comes a Regular." Whitney should be singing it, and maybe the next time he comes to New Jersey, he can lend me his larynx.

Also, please note I found the string section of my synth program. Strings! They seem fitting.

Lost Souls

All you lost souls, all you lost souls, come in, come in--
come out of the rain, repent your sins.
All you angels, chained to demons, come in, come in--
it does not matter where you've been.

See the light behind the bottles,
find yourself an empty stool,
make a pile of your dollars,
and then you know what to do.

It's hard to make your way,
in the world today,
when everybody knows your name.
And there's no one left to blame.

A faded photo in your wallet.
You, your ex, and the dog.
Maybe someday soon you'll call her,
maybe when the leaves start to fall.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Please Help Me Make a Christmas Party Playlist for the Christmas Party I'm Regretfully Hosting

My neighborhood holds a progressive Christmas party every year across three houses. The host houses change every year and zwoman (in a moment of great drunken weakness) agreed to host the first leg this year. I am dead serious when I say all of you are invited. If I have to open my doors to a bunch of people I don't know and a handful of people I actively dislike, then you can come too. December 16th, be there or be square. I'll make sure there's enough booze for everyone to get plastered.

This party is a bit of a drag for several reasons, not the least of which is the music situation. The first two houses never have any music, and the third house plays Taylor Swift to make all the drunken fools dance. That's not on tap for this year in zhome. I will have a stunningly dominant playlist for my portion of the party and it will be so because all of you will help me.

I want to include cool takes on classics, like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Jimmy Smith. Along those lines, a few jams from "A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector" will make the cut because everyone recognizes every song on the album and they're great ... and I roomed with Spector for two years so I owe him some spins. I want to include older groovy stuff like "North Pole Rock" by Cathy Sharpe or "Gee Whiz it's Christmas" by Carla Thomas. I am definitely including some punk rock numbers like "Father Christmas" by The Kinks and "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" by The Ramones. "Christmas in Hollis" is a given, as is "Back Door Santa" by Clarence Carter because that's what Run-D.M.C. sampled and it's a damn good song.

I absolutely 100% need to include subversive songs that will make my neighbors go "WTF" but I don't want to cross certain lines. I am not including "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa" by De La Soul because pedophilia is just too inappropriate for a holiday party (Roy Moore is not invited even if he reads this blog). I also am not including "White Palms" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club even though it's one of my favorite songs and it talks about Jesus because it's too off the Christmas mark--it literally dares Jesus to come back. "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" doesn't even deserve a link simply because it's too bad a song.

If you're feeling too lazy to contribute to my playlist, go to hell. I emailed Rex Doane for some subversive suggestions and he replied! A guy who has no idea who I am replied to my request for playlist help so you can too. Rex generally suggested I check out his playlist archive for gems like last year's Christmas Eve show. He also gave me two of his favorite low brow/no brow Christmas songs:

Please suggest some songs and come to my (god-awful) party to see if your picks made the playlist.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cards for Hilarity

Barring some sort of unforeseen inheritance event or lottery fortune, I consider it highly unlikely that I'll ever have fuck you money. I'm okay with this. I'm making a concerted effort to cut back on my 'fuck you' output.

Hantoot, Temkin
If I did somehow fall into that kind of cash, though, I'd really like to believe that I'd use it like Max Temkin and Ben Hantoot are using theirs*.

Hantoot and Temkin are the co-creators of Cards Against Humanity, the very adult-focused 'party game for horrible people'. Each year, they spring for an oddball holiday marketing stunt. Three years ago, for example, they bought an island off the coast of Maine, named it 'Hawaii 2', and gave customers license to visit.

For the 2017 festive season, they've upped the ante, politically, if not financially.

The company has launched a website entitled 'Cards Against Humanity Saves America', which opens with the words, "It’s 2017, and the government is being run by a toilet. We have no choice: Cards Against Humanity is going to save America." And that's just the beginning.

The coup de grace is a bit of cheeky real estate maneuvering targeting the Developer-in-Chief. As the company explains, "Donald Trump is a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans. He is so afraid that he wants to build a twenty-billion dollar wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing. So we’ve purchased a plot of vacant land on the border and retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built."

They know they won't succeed in blocking the wall, but they choose the path of pain in the ass. I think we can all relate to and admire that instinct.

God Bless you, Messrs. Hantoot and Temkin. May your sick senses of humor and willingness to jam a stick in the Man's eye never wane.

* I knew Cards Against Humanity was popular, but I had no idea they were banking fuck you money. Good for those fucking whackdoodles.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fuck You Cancer - Continued

Rob's recent "Fuck You, Cancer" post followed shortly thereafter by a Tweet from Shlara announcing her 7-year anniversary of being free of cancer not to mention Whit's recent push for additional volume from those of us who are, well, under-performing as it pertains to submitting posts, prompted me to contribute to our Q4 content output. (SOD material there, no?)

Over the last twelve months I've become involved with a young charity here in town, the Apryle Showers Foundation. Founded and led by a neighbor, friend, and all around world-class guy has made it an honor to do so. Though not terrible by any means, the website is in the process of being completely revamped so no judging please should you meander that way. And should you, you'll read Bill's story. A year or so into his marriage to Apryle, the second for both of them, and on the same day he was let go from his job, they learned about her death sentence. How they handled it is still awe inspiring to me and every single person that knows either or both.

Anyway, the purpose of the quick post is simply to raise some awareness for a good cause, though I do reserve the right to ask for a few dollars down the road. I'd ask Rob and Mark to share among your friends and family here in North Florida, and for all to remember this should God forbid, a friend or family member becomes someone who might benefit from its offering.

Last year we held our inaugural 10K race. With 476 runners and roughly $40,000 raised, we exceeded the expectations of all including those of us that put on the event. Saturday, April 8th, is the date of next year's run so put on the calendar if you are feeling frisky. In the meantime, Like us on the Facebook please.

That is all - carry on.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

This Week in Wrenball: Let's Get This Over With

Not walking through that door
William & Mary's men's basketball team won 77 games over the past four seasons, the most by any Tribe team over a similar span in 65 years. In the previous 10 seasons, W&M made the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament final four times after never having reached the precipice of the NCAA Tournament before. W&M beat Maryland, Wake Forest, and N.C. State on the road in recent years. Two different Tribe players signed contracts with the Boston Celtics in the past two years.

We're gonna need those memories to keep us warm this season. The Golden Age, as it were, is over.

Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon graduated, taking with them 34.9 points per game. Jack Whitman transferred to Kansas, and then left, oddly. In any case, he was W&M's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder last season. Greg Malinowksi transferred to Georgetown - he made 52 threes on 40.0% shooting and was probably the team's best perimeter defender. Those four represented 64.5% of the Tribe's scoring and 54.6% of the squad's rebounding in 2016-17, while accounting for 60.1% of the team's three pointers.

The cupboard, she is looking bare. With only 10 scholarship players, and only one returning starter, the Tribe is both inexperienced and lacking in depth.

David Cohn is that only returning starter, and while he's poised to become the all-time assist leader in program history, he's limited offensively. Sophomore Nathan Knight showed a ton of promise in his rookie season, and offers W&M the kind of skilled, athletic big man we haven't seen since Tim Rusthoven, but he's prone to foul trouble, and the Tribe has exactly zero post players with even a minute of collegiate experience behind him. Connor Burchfield is a great shooter, if someone can get him a shot. He and Paul Rowley are nice complementary players. The problem this year is that both of them will have to start.

Boston College transfer Matt Milon showed promise in the Tribe's pre-season tour to Jamaica, as did freshmen Luke Loewe and Jihar Williams.

W&M opened its season Friday on the road against a High Point team that was a middling Big South outfit last year. It wasn't pretty. The Wrens made just five of 22 three-pointers, had just four assists on 20 total made field goals (all four by Cohn - nobody else dropped a single dime), were outrebounded by 11, and committed 15 turnovers to the Panthers' nine. High Point built a 12-point halftime lead before burying the overmatched Tribe in the second half on the way to a 100-64 win.

We've begun a season where a number of CAA teams look to take big steps forward, and the green and gold have pretty clearly taken several in the opposite direction. In Tony We Trust, and all that, but if this team is to win even 10 games, it'll take one of his great coaching jobs.

It's not all bleak, if you're willing to expand your parameters. The Tribe's had a strong recruiting year, securing commitments from four highly-regarded prospects, at least by W&M standards. And speaking of W&M standards, three of them are named Thornton, Quinn, and Chase. Those are first names. Those guys can't get here soon enough.

If you came here seeking standard-issue Wrenball optimism, you'll need to give us a few weeks. Or, if we beat Hampton on Wednesday, a few days. Our love for the Wrens remains unconditional, but it might be a tough love this season.