Monday, December 31, 2007

The 2007 Gheorghe List: Top 10 Movies

We're bored, we're broke, and we're back. Like every other Tom, Dick, and Harry, we're celebrating the impending new year with our look back at 2007's best. Without further ado, here are G:TB's Top 10 movies of 2007*, in no particular order:

(* - Important note: we did not actually see any movies that were released in 2007, owing to a combination of laziness, preference for dining and/or drinking out over the cinema, and the rising cost of babysitters. This list is compiled from television advertisements and online trailers.)

I Am Legend. We're suckers for end of times fables. Also, we'd like to be able to hit a golf ball off a building into Manhattan traffic.

No Country for Old Men.
This was a terrific book, so we assume that it was an equally compelling film. Anton Chigurh is a bad mother shutyourmouth.

Ratatouille.
We went to college with Patton Oswalt. Didn't know him, but have friends that did. Additionally, we're huge cartoon rat fans.

Smokin' Aces.
Lots of stuff blowing up and bullets flying everywhere as allegory for the uncertainty of modern living. A neoclassical gem. Has Piven in it, too.

Black Snake Moan. Sam Jackson ties a scantily clad Christina Ricci to a radiator? Sign me up. Um, rather, a deeply felt meditation on the interplay between class, sex and race in the American South. Sign me up.

300
.
Part videogame, part war porn, all shiny and pretty.

Knocked Up
.
Seth Rogen, Everyman Hero.

Ocean's Thirteen.
G:TB loves a good caper. And Clooney and Pitt together again? Mmwah.

The Jane Austen Book Club.
Just kidding.

I Think I Love My Wife.
Don't we all. Also, just kidding. Again.

The Kingdom.
Boom! Bang! Pow!

Next up, G:TB's slighly more serious and better researched look at the 2007's best music.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mele Kalikimaka

...is Gheorghe's way to say Merry Christmas, a very merry Christmas, to you. As the great Bing Crosby sang (in between backhanding his children), Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day. Rob, here's hoping after all these years you finally got that Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Math is Hard

G:TB is generally concerned with the critical topics of our time, like ensuring that TJ gets enough beauty sleep and merrily skewering people far more famous than us. But every once in a while we come across a nugget of real-world import that strikes our fancy. Ruminate on this:

You save more fuel switching from a 15 to 18 mpg car than switching from a 50 to 100 mpg car.

Don't believe it? Check out the math here. This is really reassuring. We don't have to go get that Prius now when our Durango shuffles off this mortal sparkplug. We can get by with another SUV that gets thismuch better mileage and still look Al Gore in the eye.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"Yeah They Come To Snuff The Rooster"

Yeah Here Come The Rooster...
You Know He Ain't Gonna Die...


Sure, I'm in Hawaii so I have nothing to bitch about, but let's just say I have an observation of annoyance. Does that work for you? Does that even make sense? This is the little asshat that wakes me up every morning at 7:25am. I hate him so very very much (even more than James Rome and Skippy Bayless)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Get Well Soon, Baybee

The snarkosphere is in full throat this morning over yesterday’s announcement that Dick Vitale will be sidelined until at least February with a vocal cord ailment. Notwithstanding the irony of his malady, G:TB’s a little bit saddened by the turn of events.

We’re not particularly enamored of Dickie V and his shtick; frankly, we’re Bill Raftery guys. Vitale long ago jumped the shark, morphing from passionate hoops aficionado to shameless coach-stroking caricature. While we love college basketball, we admit that watching Vitale’s telecasts is a bit of a struggle.

Like nearly everything in our popular culture that reaches (and exceeds) the saturation point, backlash is inevitable. See Spears, Britney among many, many others. It’s easy for those of us in the blogosphere to merrily blast away at the icons of our age, and we suppose it makes us all feel just a little bit superior in some small way. But when we see With Leather (one of our favorites, generally speaking) post a headline that reads “I Hope It’s Cancer” in reference to Vitale’s illness, well, y’know, there are some bridges too far.

I don’t particularly like Dick Vitale’s game-calling anymore. I don’t enjoy the larger-than-the-game personality cult nonsense. But I’ll tell you this: I envy the man’s passion. Would that we could all enjoy our jobs as much as he clearly does his. Maybe that enjoyment would temper the knee-jerk need to tear down those that seem to be beating us on the “hey, life is great” scale.

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

Addendum: MGL's got a neat and personal Dickie V. story over at CAA:LAMM that underscores the passion side of the ledger.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Roger, Over

(Formerly entitled "What's Our Vector, Victor?")

So the Mitchell Report, dismissed many moons ago as an impotent, meaningless investigation, has the baseball world turned on its ear today. Good for it.

The fans among us who take baseball a little too seriously -- not as just another channel to flip to between "Deal or No Deal" and "Quilting with the Stars" but as summertime fabric more intrinsic than madras cotton or boardshorts polyblend -- have been bemoaning the steroids skew at various volume levels for quite some time. That MLB finally, at long last, implemented a policy with some teeth was a start. Somewhere in the collective gut of the sport's most avid sentimental stakeholders, however, there continued to be a gnawing feeling every time an extended press conference was held to honor a (seemingly) steroid-addled player who'd just broken an age-old record or reached some lofty milestone.

We all have to blame the Cerberean beast that is baseball's front office, the player's union, and the owners for paving the way for just another concern to become this widespread plague on the game. And only the purest and least grounded among us can honestly condemn any baseball player of the last twenty years for falling prey to the temptation of performance-enhancing drugs. That said, there was still something unsettling about watching athletes accept accolades with big smiles, then fire glowering "How dare you, sir?" retorts to even the faintest suggestion of their use of illegal supplements -- when we all sort of knew deep down that it was probably an enormous, disgusting lie. Now that we know better, it takes every bit of internal strength not to fall into high-horse condescension and hypocritical aspersion casting.

I'm not sure I have enough of that internal strength.

The greatest revelation in the Mitchell Report is inarguably paragraph after paragraph of damning testimony about William Roger Clemens. The Rocket and his reputation, if not his Hall of Fame chances, suffered a serious kick in the ass yesterday, and if you believe the text of the report, that's a spot where he's undoubtedly already sore from syringe stickings.

[As an aside, I should have prefaced this post with one point. Obviously there could be misinformation in the Mitchell Report, but rather than make me follow the ESPN suit of attaching disclaimers at every possible turn ("allegedly he allegedly injected alleged steroids into his alleged buttocks"), I'm going with my opinion that most of what was printed is fact. We at Gheorghe will not be afraid to issue public apologies where they are warranted at a later date -- that's how we do things here.]

So Clemens gets tagged with perhaps the most damaging of the investigation's findings. And if you've followed his career on and off the field even a little bit, you'd have to say that his reflexive rebuttal was utterly predictable. Stern denial, an attempt to cast shadows on the other guy, even using the word "slander" to depict what's happening to him, and a clear portrayal of himself as the victim. At this point, you almost can't blame him. Like Bonds, he's way too far down that road to offer a mea culpa. Only someone of sinewy strong moral character could rebound from this extended misstep, and I'm reasonably sure he's not that guy.

Do yourself a favor: go back and re-read Bill Simmons' worthy piece from 6 or 7 years ago entitled "Is Clemens the Antichrist?" I've busted SportGuy's chops a bit over the years, but this a biased but brilliant article (one that had to have ESPN thinking, "That's precisely why we brought him on board") that offers a whole lot of fan's insight into who Roger Clemens really is. From what I think I know about Roger Clemens -- after rooting against him in October 1986 to watching college buddy Rob urge him on in the '88 and '90 playoffs to following along closely in the Cape summers of '91 and '93 to watching him bean Mike Piazza and the ensuing bat-throwing jackassery to reading the SportsGuy's take on him to just being a baseball fan and following the career of one of its biggest stars -- I simply cannot imagine who outside of Clemens' family and close friends actually believes one word of his denial. If you do, I tend to think you're not paying attention.

Roger, meet Barry. Barry, welcome Roger to the club. You two are peas in a pod from here on out.We're going to find out how much water the accusation of racism behind the public's hammering of Barry Bonds really holds. Roger Clemens deserves no less vilification than Barry; he's an unapologetic, self-serving prick by most accounts, and now he's a fellow cheater by at least one account. That's the thing about controversies like this: when you're an asshole for 20 years, it only takes one strand of purported evidence -- not even the kind that would hold up in any court of law -- for the masses to buy into it.

A lot of folks felt like Mark McGwire was one of the "good guys," the type of fellow that wouldn't betray the institution of baseball and its fans like that. That's why we went along with the preposterous notion that a bit of weight-lifting and some legal GNC supplements morphed him from that beanpole of 1987 into that gargantuan comic book beast of 1998. McGwire did Bonds & Clemens no favors. After his undoing before Congress, we felt burned and stupid, and a real cynicism crept into our heads. Plus, if SuperMac was doing it, instinctively we're sure that less savory characters in the game are doing the same thing, right? If a personality as enjoyable as McGwire was cast aside by Hall voters and general fans of the sport alike, what chance does a player who's largely disliked have?

As Simmons chronicles, Roger Clemens was slipping into an out-of-shape, vague facsimile of his former All-Star self in the early to mid-90's. DL stints were more frequent, his stats were ordinary, and there was reason for concern for the future. Then, after leaving the Sox, like Bonds -- and maybe even to a greater degree -- the Rocket had the parabola that soon became a wave with a serious late-career uptick. His numbers shot through the roof, the awards and acclaim came rushing back, and we're left with two concurrent thoughts:

1. It'd be hard to blame him but so much -- even the most selfless among us has an ego and a desire for increased financial comfort.
2. It seems to fit the pattern for performance-enhancing drug users. He probably did it.

If only there were an injectable form of "crunch time proficiency" or "shining in the clutch," it would've been even more drastic. As it was . . . not so much, Rajah. Oh, he still has his remarkable stats. Of course, another famous Clemens said that the three kinds of lies were "lies, damn lies, and statistics"; for this Clemens, I guess you can now put all three together to conclude his legacy.

It's almost a recipe for a tragic figure, except that as an unsympathetic one, Clemens doesn't qualify. Michael Eisner's best screenwriters could actually build a story around Mark McGwire: he's starting to fade from the stardom of that 49-HR rookie season, getting hurt more, going through a tough divorce, and the deadly combination of intense pressure and the utter availability of the easy way out appears . . . so he sells his soul, never to reclaim it until now, after the bombshell of the Mitchell Report, he comes out, tells all, and tearily begs forgiveness not from baseball's caretakers, they themselves culpable (if not sinister) forces, but by the legions of baseball's truest fans -- people who search, often in vain, for a humanity 'twixt the lines, both of the boxscore and the chalk. Fade to black, that's a wrap.

There's no such script for Clemens. We the writers can't possibly develop that character into one who resonates. As with Bonds, it's partly the fault of genes or upbringing -- he just isn't that likable a guy, which isn't his fault. The adulation of the fans and the millions upon millions of bucks don't help shrink swelled heads, either. But somewhere in everyone is the ability to give back, to offer gestures of gratitude and humility and think about the guy on the other side of things, and Roger Clemens seems incapable or unwilling to go to these lengths. Rajah, if you're wondering why you're getting the same bitter treatment that Barry Bonds got, don't. Just go on denying it and play out the lame string exactly as your harshest critics would have predicted.

All of this -- and it's gone on a bit, I apologize -- is to explain why this one-man jury has already, not 24 hours into post-Mitchell America, come back with a seemingly snap judgment of Guilty On All Charges for Roger Clemens. And done so almost gleefully. We talk about "karma" ad infinitum around here -- hell, we can't get through a VCU-W&M hoops game recap without invoking its use -- but this is a Family Size serving of its retribution. You're gonna starve the lion, you'd better keep the cage locked, and Brian McNamee just opened the cage while Roger wasn't looking. And I'll admit that I can't help feeling satisfied with the result, as inappropriate as it may be at this early juncture.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Better to Burn Out...the Demise of the G:TBCS

G:TB HQ has been inundated with calls and emails wondering what happened last weekend in the first round of the G:TBCS. We'd like to tell you - we really would. But just as we were set to go live with the first round results, we received a phone call from the 860. The voice on the other end of the line was muffled in an attempt to disguise the caller's identity, but we recorded the following exchange:

Caller: Is this G:TB?

G:TB: Yes. Who's this?

Caller: Nevermind who this is. Just consider me a voice of caution. It's not in your best interest to continue with your little playoff.

G:TB: Whatever.

Caller: It'd be a shame if something happened to your website. We know people. Just ask The Big Lead.

G:TB: Cowherd? Is that you, you douchebag?

We heard a few barely audible curses and then the line went dead. Within minutes, the phone rang again and the soft, sexy, and yet completely professional and exceedingly rational voice of Leanne Schreiber offered a rueful apology for anything that theoretically may or may nor have transpired in the preceding 10 minutes. Ms. Schreiber also pointed us to ESPN's College Football Playoff applet, which in addition to being really addictive and perhaps the best thing ESPN.com has ever done (after playing with it for a bit, imagine how much fun that would be on the field), also renders our little playoff absurdly redundant and Luddite.

In the end, the real culprit (in addition to the bullyboys at tWWL) is a complete lack of caring. We went from fully vimmed vigor regarding the stupid system to complete apathy in the space of 3 days. And, that, my friends, is the fault of the BCS. The only remaining game that matters in college football is still 26 days away. College hoops is on hiatus now, the NFL only plays one game on Saturday this weekend, and nobody cares about the NBA and NHL. The next 2 weeks are a sports dead zone. We'd still be talking about last week's games and making plans to spend all day Saturday stuffing our faces and getting grossly inebriated if there was a playoff. Instead, we're chasing Bobby Petrino's slime trail and digging through Les Miles' trash. A pox on all the NCAA's houses.

Colonial-oscopy

It's an utterly predictable turn of events, just like when my alma mater's football program went south just about the time I moved close by and re-dedicated myself to going to games and supporting them. Now that Gheorghe: The Blog has aggressively posited itself as a champion of Colonial Athletic Association basketball, the CAA has, for the moment, ceased to be anything worth following.

Here is the latest iteration of ESPN.com's "Mid-Major Top 10":
1. Xavier
2. Dayton
3. Butler
4. Saint Mary's
5. Rhode Island
6. BYU
7. Sam Houston State
8. Creighton
9. UNLV
10. Kent State

The absence of any CAA programs is eye-catching, especially when you consider what George Mason was doing over Thanksgiving. Eye-catching but not unwarranted.

Rob proclaimed last week that the CAA would only be getting one team into the NCAA tournament. (It's far too early for such a definitive statement, but that's what our little buddy does. Early and definitive. Much more preferable to after the fact and vague.) I, however, maintain that there's still plenty of time for the conference to re-establish itself as a mid-major power. Okay, maybe not "plenty" of time, but there's time.

That said, it has to start now if we're going to be acutely interested in the last few contests of early March and inexplicably hanging on Clark Kellogg's every word around Selection Sunday. The next ten days or so feature a docket of regional match-ups between Colonial clubs and schools either above or below CAA level (Northeastern vs. BC; VCU vs. Longwood). The conference has fared decently thus far against programs of superior stature; its shortcomings, however, have been in the category of "bad losses." For every win over K-State, there have been two or three defeats to the likes of VMI, St. Francis, or Toledo. This week's going to feature many more games that the CAAers should win than should lose; how they squash these lesser squads will tell us whether the January 2 kick-off of full-on intra-conference play is just the commencement of an exhibition or really the making of a case for inclusion.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 10, 2007

That's an Unfortunate Choice of Words

From CNN.com this morning, the following headline:

Scott Baio, Backstreet Boy get married

They've since changed it to read:

Scott Baio gets married, Backstreet Boy, too

But the damage was done, my friends, the damage was done.

I'm not certain which is the most interesting element of the story: the fact that Scott Baio and an unnamed Backstreet Boy are noteworthy enough to rate front-"page" mention on CNN.com, or the recognition that we've got a subversive smarty-pants writing headlines for the news behemoth.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ebirt Dog

The College of William & Mary Tribe has removed the two feathers from its athletic logos in accordance with the ruling from the think tank known as the NCAA. The snipping of the two feathers is uncannily symbolic of the emasculation of the college and its sports insignia. Myles Brand took us to get "tutored," as a Gary Larson dog once mocked, and what's left of the Tribe logo is as docile and sleepy as a fixed pup. Enjoy the results at right.

William & Mary replaces logo to remove feathers

Associated Press
© December 7, 2007

WILLIAMSBURG

The College of William and Mary has a new logo that sheds the two feathers that made the NCAA deem its previous athletic logo offensive because of its stereotypical reference to American Indians.

The logo revealed Thursday updates the college's familiar "W&M" monogram and uses the school's more traditional colors of green and gold instead of the more recent green and yellow. The logo, in four similar designs, will be used not just by the athletic department but on business cards, stationary and other items.

In 2004, the NCAA began reviewing American Indian-themed mascots, nicknames and logos used by more than 30 schools to see if they could be considered "hostile and abusive."

Last year, the NCAA ruled that William and Mary could keep its Tribe nickname but could not display its athletic logo with feathers at NCAA championship events or host NCAA tournament games where the logo would be shown.

After the school lost an appeal, it turned to a committee including faculty, staff, students and alumni to develop a new design.

"The passing months have given us no greater esteem for the NCAA's misguided decision to prohibit the feathers in our past logo," President Gene R. Nichol said in a statement. But he said he was pleased with the new design.

The committee found that in addition to the athletic logo, there were 12 different marks registered as symbols representing the college, said Sam Sadler, vice president for student affairs and committee chairman.

Its goal was to comply with the NCAA ruling and pick a design that could bring consistency to the symbols, Sadler said.

The committee reviewed roughly 600 designs but kept coming back to one already in use: a "W" and "M" separated by an ampersand.

The committee enlisted Phoenix Design Works, a New York company with experience in designing school logos, for help in updating that design. Committee member Connie Desaulniers, a 1975 W&M graduate and noted Williamsburg artist, drew the smaller ampersand that is incorporated in the new design.

Hiring Phoenix cost about $7,000, paid for by private funds, school spokesman Brian Whitson said. He said he did not have an estimate for what it will cost to incorporate the new design across campus."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gheorghe Quotes the Classics, Vol. 3

"Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves." - Rudyard Kipling

Teejay posts YouTubes when he can't think of anything else. Me, I find quotes to justify my laziness. We all know what Whitney does, but everyone seems to be afraid to mention it in public.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Futile and Stupid: The G:TBCS

Like the salmon predictably return to Capistrano, the hue and cry comes from all corners of the blogosphere, no less plaintive for its annual repetition. The powers that be have delivered unto us a “national championship” game featuring the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Louisiana State Tigers, fine teams both. And, as has been the case for the past eight years, the United States of America, the world’s foremost meritocracy, settles the collegiate championship of its most emblematic and favorite sport by... well, hell, you know how they do it. You’re not a moron. Unless you think the BCS is a good way to crown a champion, in which case you’re probably not qualified to operate that computer in front of you. In fact, get the hell out of here. Go read Drudge or play in traffic or something. We don’t want your idiocy rubbing off on us.
We will not be making an argument in favor of a college football playoff system. The argument is self-evident. We’ve made it ad nauseum in weeks, months, and years past. We’re tired of heralding evolution to a bunch of creationists who don’t return our calls.

No, we won’t be making the argument. Instead of beating them, we’ll join them by putting on our own mythical national championship, making travel arrangements, lining the fields, turning on the lights and playing the games ourselves. If a contrived combination of computers, coaches (see Dan Steinberg’s outrageous outing of the asinine element of this portion of the process here), and “experts” is good enough for the NCAA, then a contrived combination of beer-addled, sophomoric, work-avoiding bloggers is also good enough for you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you the G:TBCS – a 16-team, single-elimination tournament beginning this Friday, December 7th and culminating with a New Year’s Eve humdinger in the Big Easy.

We’ll make the selection process simple, so as not to confuse certain people from Indianapolis. The BCS Top 16 qualify, because it’s a whole lot easier and more defensible to keep the Brigham Youngs, Central Floridas, and Directional Michigans of the world out of the tournament than it is to select LSU over Oklahoma over Georgia over USC for a one-game shot at a title. (What, the Cougars are bitter? Cry me a river. Go beat Tulsa and UCLA and give us a call.) Seeding has been slightly modified to keep conference foes from squaring off in the first round, but generally kept intact. We didn’t want to hurt Mike Slive’s feelings.

Opening round games will be contested at the higher seed’s home stadium. The final seven games will be played at the sites of major bowls (Cotton, Gator, Citrus, Fiesta, Orange, Rose, and Sugar). If your bowl is named for a company, you don’t get to play. ESPN won’t televise the games because they’re scared of the NCAA, so we’ve got Kevin Smith producing the telecasts for us on our own podcast network (G:TP).

Without further ado, the committee is pleased to reveal the following matchups for the inaugural G:TBCS tournament:

Round 1 – December 7, 2007

Cotton Bowl Region
#16 Tennessee @ #1 Ohio State, 7:00 EST
Right off the bat, a chance for the Big 10 champions to justify their lofty perch against the SEC’s 4th-best team.

#9 West Virginia @ #8 Kansas, 10:00 EST
Can the upstart Jayhawks shake off their Border War bed-wetting? Has Rich Rodriguez stopped crying?

Round 1 – December 8, 2007

Gator Bowl Region
#14 Boston College @ #5 Georgia, 12:00 EST
Much-touted Bulldogs take on overachieving Eagles between the hedges.

#12 Florida @ #4 Oklahoma, 8:00 EST
On paper, the best game of the first round – a whole shit-ton of ath-a-leets flying around the field. We can’t wait to watch this one.

Fiesta Bowl Region
#13 Illinois @ #3 Virginia Tech, 6:00 EST
Hokies looking for another shot at LSU. Nobody’s really sure why. Meanwhile, America readies for the possibility of one of the greatest back-stories imaginable.

#11 Arizona State @ #6 Missouri, 2:00 EST
Two vastly overrated squads square off for a trip to the final of the tournament’s weakest region. Lest you cite this as an argument against the tourney format, I commend to you the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament first round.

Citrus Bowl Region
#15 Clemson @ #2 LSU, 4:00 EST
Tiger against Tiger, Death Valley against Death Valley, one really good team against Clemson.

#10 Hawaii @ #7 Southern California, 10:00 EST
Cinderella Warriors channeling Harbaugh against heavily favored (and controversially seeded) Trojans.


Quarterfinals – December 14, 2007
Cotton Bowl Region: 16/1 Winner vs. 9/8 Winner @ Dallas, TX 12:00 EST

Quarterfinals – December 15, 2007
Gator Bowl Region: 14/5 Winner vs. 12/4 Winner @ Jacksonville, FL 8:00 EST
Fiesta Bowl Region: 11/6 Winner vs. 13/3 Winner @ Glendale, AZ 4:30 EST
Citrus Bowl Region: 10/7 Winner vs. 15/2 Winner @ Orlando, FL 8:30 EST

Semifinals – December 22, 2007
Cotton Bowl Winner vs. Gator Bowl Winner @ Miami, FL 5:00 EST
Fiesta Bowl Winner vs. Citrus Winner @ Pasadena, CA 8:30 EST

Championship Game – December 31, 2007
Cotton/Gator Winner vs. Fiesta/Citrus Winner @ New Orleans, LA 8:30 EST

Stay tuned for pregame festivities, filmed live on Friday morning from G:TBCS headquarters -- that's G:TBCSHQ to you -- in Leesfolkington, VA. (Have I mentioned that our sponsor is AT&T?) We may not have Erin Andrews, but Teejay looks pretty spiffy in a housecoat.

Finally, a championship of the people, by the people, for the people. Enjoy, people.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Filler for the Filler

Apparently, I have once again managed to post an ancient YouTube clip below, and rather than leave that up all day, I stumbled upon this classic. Well, it's a classic to me at least.

Way to play the hop dummy

Worst goalkeeper ever? Not quite sure. Hell, who knows if this clip is years old or real even. I don't know much about soccer, but I'm pretty sure you need to stop kicks like this to keep your job.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hubris, Arachnid Style

Gheorghe: The Blog's alma mater takes on former arch-rival Richmond tonight in the renewal of a once-bitter rivalry. Once-bitter and no longer because the familiarity that breeds contempt has waned since the Spiders bailed on the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in 2001 for the seemingly greener pastures of the Atlantic 10.

Since 2001, the once-formidable Spider hoops program has stumbled into near-irrelevance (where they've bumped into the Tribe at several cocktail parties), posting three consecutive sub-.500 seasons, including an 8-22 mark in 2006-07. Meanwhile, the A-10 itself has seen its hoops fortunes decline to the point where it ranks neck and neck with the very same CAA Richmond spurned in 2001. Over the past 2 years, the CAA has outpaced the A-10 in the postseason, both in terms of number of teams and overall success.

And we're still just talking about basketball. The CAA was a better overall sports conference even when Richmond left - now it's not even close. For the want of a little bit of money and some exposure, Richmond turned its back on traditional in-state rivals. As G:TB is fond of saying, karma, she's a bitch.

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Whitney-added garbage:

It's worth underscoring the palpable attitude U of R and theirs took when departing the Colonial for the Atlantic 10. The rest of the CAA were left to take the Spiders' exit one of two different ways: "We're better than the rest of you" or "None of you are as good as we are." That's what enacted the karma boomerang. This wasn't a logical geographic or school-size transfer for Richmond, it was an inflated sense of the worth of their program and the conference. Both have plummeted in the last six years, and although we chuckle at their expense now, it's still disappointing to have lost the old edge in the annual "I-64 Showdown."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lord and Taylor

Rest in peace, 21.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Running It Up

Over in recent comments at Jerry's Wheelhouse, a few folks have engaged in a discussion on the merits and demerits of the New England Patriots and their "running up the score" against their 2007 opponents. Read for yourself via the link above, but the general sentiment is that the complaints aren't just nancy-boyish and whiny, they're unfounded. It's a professional sport, the Patriot offense's job is to score touchdowns, respect is earned - not given, and Randall Gay was right when he said that "the Bills’ defense should have the respect not to pick up their paychecks this week."

I'll respectfully take the counter-bait (not the 16-year-old dancing on the bar) in that argument, at least on one small point. It's true, the bitching about it by the opposing victims is fairly pathetic; just don't try to defend overzealous piling-on by painting it something other than what it is. As a coach, you don't take your foot off the gas when it's 50-0 because the other team has "earned" anything, you do it because in this world you don't unnecessarily embarrass someone else. It's a form of bullying, as childish as that sounds, to keep tacking on scores when the game's in hand. There's really no reason for it, and ultimately, it doesn't serve you very well.

There are days -- or in the Pats' case, seasons -- when you've got it and the other guy doesn't. You've been down before, and you certainly will be down again, so rubbing a lesser opponent's face in it seems a bit hubristic. It starts to invoke a word that gets bandied about in this space a whole lot. Yep, karma.

In the Arlington Men's Softball League, when we're routing an inferior squad, we let up after a certain point. Not only do we stop taking the extra base and such, we do it discreetly so as not to announce to all onlookers that we've stopped giving 100%. Then, if the second game of the doubleheader involves our clownish fire drill method of placing players in the field, we tell the other guys beforehand that it's a tradition and for fun, not a slap in the face. We don't have to do these things; we owe those guys nothing. But we've been on the ass end of it when a team of tools that's up big late in the game scores from second on a deep sac fly, and it doesn't seem all that cool. Little things that speak a lot about how you operate.

I get that there's more at stake in the NFL than in beer league softball, but saying it's your job, old hoss, sure don't make it right. Belichick's job is to win games, and he's adept enough at doing it to do so without needlessly torching some bad teams beyond recognition. He can't be overly concerned with preserving his adversaries' images, but it's simply not that hard to send in some scrubs and/or run plays up the gut and/or kick the field goal and/or kneel on it when it's 48-3. In fact, real effort comes in continuing to run trick plays, long bombs, and 4th and 12 passes. Dress it up however you like, it's just being a dick.

On the other side of the coin, however, the other fellas should quit whining about it. At this point, you can see that it's not personal, so don't take it personally. New England is trying to embarrass everyone in their quest for supreme dominance. There's no point in tacking anything up on the bulletin board -- your time is better spent trying to figure out why single coverage on Randy Moss isn't working. Vowing revenge is a little melodramatic; simply pocket it and just know there will be days when the roles are reversed. That's not tremendous solace when your home fans are treated to such a lopsided event, but then again, as Randall Gay might remind you, there were two teams playing out there, and you deserve a goodly portion of the embarrassment you got. With a nod to human reproduction, just because they're being dicks doesn't mean you have to be pussies.

So, you people getting beaten about by the best team we've seen in ages: hush up and take your medicine. But also, Pats and their fans: if you're going to put on Darth Vader's suit, don't bitch about not getting Obi-Wan's love and adulation from the masses. If you're in favor of the NFL's taunting policies, don't insist that the Pats aren't doing anything wrong by rubbing lesser foes' noses in the carpet. Don't act befuddled as to why people have stopped calling you a "classy" organization after the cheating thing and now this. Everyone respects your talent by now -- a ton -- but the public's respect for your character is something earned, too.

Go ahead and keep running it up, but please don't wonder why Joe Average Fan now roots against you, and why we aren't quite as enthralled about the record-setting numbers as we might be. For a few years SportGuy whined that the world was against the Patriots -- when nobody outside the northeast and the tri-state area really gave a damn either way. Now . . . it's like Bill Simmons and his ilk got their wish, and maybe the whole thing is a lot more interesting because of it.

Of course we're now rooting against New England. They're the heavy favorite every week (and damn fun to watch), so underdog-fans will always oppose them. Moreover, they have managed to become the characters his favorite bully actor, Billy Zabka, always played. They are the pompous Johnny Lawrence, and every foe from now until January is Daniel-san. (And Belichick is the douchebag sensei instructing his guys to sweep the leg, and Pats fans are the jackass who says, "Get him a body bag! Yeeeahhh!")

For the rest of us, we should refrain from further barking about the New England Patriots running up the score week in and week out. It's a mesmerizing machine, these Pats, and we should just enjoy the show. If our old friend karma happens to upend the PatCart before they reach the finish line many folks have already conceded, it'll be an even more eye-catching result, but in the meantime, Bill Belichick and his band of dicks is must-see TV.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gheorghe Ponders...The CAA

Fresh from the rousing success of G:TB's tour through Major League Baseball's nicknames (and by rousing success, we mean that we actually made it through 5 of the 6 divisions without getting distracted and/or bored), our staff turns its attention to our favorite NCAA conference. Herewith G:TB's take on the relative snappiness of the Colonial Athletic Association's school mascots:

As always, any factual errors are the product of extreme laziness and not meant to imply that your particular school or that of your son/daughter/niece/nephew/trophy wife is less-than-superawesome. Except for JMU. We totally mean everything we said about JMU.

Delaware Blue Hens

Originality: Exhaustive research (3 minutes of Wikipedia/Google searches) indicates that no other major college athletic program has taken a female chicken as its mascot. The Toledo Mud Hens are the closest comparison. Nice work here, UD.

Geo-cultural Relevance: The Blue Hen is the state bird of Delaware. Not at all to be confused with the city bird of Philadelphia, which isn’t actually a bird at all. High scores in this category, too.

Tradition: YoUDee, Delaware’s mascot, was inducted into the UCA Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006. I have a hunch that said Hall of Fame is located in Ted Giannoulis’ basement, but I can’t confirm it. In any case, the mascot has had more success than the Hens’ athletic programs, with the notable exception of Delaware’s more than solid I-AA football program.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They might stay with Blue Hens, but I sure as heck hope they’d come up with a better name than YoUDee. Youppi and Screech mock him mercilessly at mascot conventions, while G-Wiz takes his meal money.

Overall Impact: Not really intimidating in any way, but Blue Hens is distinctive and memorable. Just like the state of Delaware. Okay, not at all like the state of Delaware.

Drexel Dragons

Originality: There are a handful of mythological creatures in college sports (a Griffon here, a Banana Slug there), but Drexel is home to Division I’s only Dragons. Frankly, that’s a little bit surprising.

Geo-cultural Relevance: Ah, Philly, the City of Brotherly Suck. A scaly, sulfur-spewing, mouth-breathing fire hazard fits right in.

Tradition: Eh. The Dragons’ mascot is named Mario the Magnificent. I guess YoDeeU was taken. Drexel’s had some solid hoops squads over the past several years, but the school is on the outside looking in at Philly’s legendary Big 5 (frankly, the best thing ever to come out of the city other than those delectable soft pretzels), so not much to write home about.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: Drexel’s an underrated academic power, with top-notch undergraduate business and engineering programs, so the Scholars isn’t out of the question. (Note: my boss is a Drexel alum, so I’m required to include that sentence in nearly all correspondence. Not that it isn’t true. As far as you know.) On the other hand, it is right smack in the middle of Philadelphia, so the Go Fuck Yourselves is just as likely.

Overall Impact: High marks for the alliteration. Decent score for the originality. Suffers from the comparison to "Dragon Tales," which seems to be on my television every evening when I come home from work because my wife has been completely drained by my children’s manic energy.

George Mason Patriots

Originality: The NFL’s version is more prominent, but it sure seems like Mason got there first after the school’s founding in 1957. No other major college program loves America enough to take this name. Bunch of freaking pinko commie left-wing ivory tower academics.

Geo-cultural Relevance: George Mason, signer of the Declaration of Independence (actually not, but he was asked to – that magnificent bastard wanted to include individual rights in the document). Patriot. From Fairfax, VA (ish). George Mason, university. Patriots. Located in Fairfax, VA. Niiiiice.

Tradition: Until 2006, little to none, other than having a pretty decent on-campus building. After 2006, the greatest college hoops story ever told. Hoosiers, Rudy, Miracle on Ice, Chariots of Fire, and Little Giants all rolled into one.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: Some seamstress would be trying to figure out how to fit Fighting Larranagas on a basketball jersey. They’d still have that absurd blobby Gunston thing, though. He’s apparently harder to kill than a steel-coated cockroach.

Overall Impact: Top notch nickname, even though the school’s colors are green and gold.

Georgia State Panthers

Originality: There are only 30 other Panthers in college athletics. So, nice work, out-of-the-box thinkers in Atlanta. In GSU’s defense, they do have an awesomely menacing cartoon mascot.

Geo-cultural Relevance: It’s not immediately clear that any panthers or cats of any kind other than tabby are indigenous to the greater Atlanta area.

Tradition: GSU’s hoops squads have been coached by the legendary Lefty Driesell and the not-so-legendary-but-pretty-darn-good Rod Barnes. That’s the good news. The flip side is that the school’s fight song could double as my daughter’s Very First Reader. Witness:

Fight, fight, fight
With all your might
Victory is in our sight
Panthers roar and have no fear
Stand up Georgia State and cheer
The Blue and White are in the den
Rough and tough, we're here to win
We're the Panthers, and we're great
Loyalty for Georgia State
G-E-O-R-G-I-A S-T-A-T-E
Go State, Georgia State
Fight on Georgia State!!

Georgia Tech, they ain’t. Hell, Peachtree Community College, they ain’t.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: Judging by their fight song, they’d go simple and with very few letters, so as not to confuse their student body.

Overall Impact: Lame, bordering on criminally negligent.

Hofstra Pride (née Flying Dutchmen)

Originality: Hofstra shares the Pride moniker with my sister’s alma mater, Springfield (MA) College. Amazingly, they share the Flying Dutchmen nickname with Hope (MI) College and Lebanon Valley (PA) College. I had no idea that either of these names were appropriated by any other school, so I’m gonna pretend they weren’t. If nothing else, no other school has used both Pride and Flying Dutchmen, so kudos to Hofstra on that. They’ve also got a killer logo – no kidding here, G:TB really digs the stylized male/female lions. We’ve perhaps seen too much Lion King.

Geo-cultural Relevance: Judging from the map, Hofstra appears not to be located anywhere near the savannah, but a quick review of the available literature ties the Pride name to a school-saving image makeover. So, grudging acknowledgment.

Tradition: Wayne Chrebet and Gio Carmazzi hail from Hofstra, and the New York Jets call the school’s facilities their training camp home. The Pride appellation dates only back to 1987, so it doesn’t offer much in the way of long-term cred.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: I really kinda like the Flying Dutchmen, but in the same way that Redskins is offensive to Native Americans, I do understand the legacy of tears and shame Hofstra’s former nickname brought to earth-bound natives of the Netherlands. Pride is just fine.

Overall impact: Strong to quite strong. A little bit distinctive (aforementioned and now completely forgotten other schools notwithstanding) and tied nicely to the school’s history. And, speaking as someone whose alma mater goes by the Tribe, I’m not in a real position to besmirch Hofstra’s non-traditional stance.

James Madison Dukes

Originality: We’ll be treading lightly here, as my wife is a proud alumna of Virginia’s best safety school. Duquesne and Pennsylvania State-DuBois share the name with JMU, but since Duquesne’s is an obvious alliterative abbreviation and not all that clever, and PSU-DuBois doesn’t actually exist, JMU’s version is the most unique.

Geo-cultural Relevance: The Dukes are named in honor of Samuel Page Duke, JMU’s second president. Fortunately for the school’s athletic squads (and logo designers throughout history), Mr. Duke narrowly edged rival Armistead Wormworth Butt for the top job. (Easy? Obvious? Oh, for sure. But who ever said G:TB was above the low-brow?)

Tradition: JMU’s got a tough row to hoe in this category, if only because the competition in the Commonwealth is so tough. Nonetheless, the Dukes have done their alma mater proud on the playing fields over time, winning a Division I-AA football championship in 2004 and routinely pacing the CAA in hoops back in the 90s. On the other hand, if you have to resort to listing Sports Junkies’ producer Bret Oliverio as a notable alum, even in Wikipedia, perhaps you’ve got some ground to cover.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: Well, Linwood Rose helms one of the nation’s academic up-and-comers today, so if history is any judge, the JMU Roses smell just as sweet.

Overall Impact: We kid because we love. And because our JMU-alum friends have such a cute inferiority complex. G:TB likes Dukes given the school’s history, and the Duke Dog mascot is terrific.

Northeastern Huskies

Originality: Not so much. Northeastern shares the name with three other D-1 programs (Washington, Northern Illinois, and New England neighbor Connecticut), in addition to St. Cloud State, who play D-1 hockey. We expect a bit more from a school in America’s most literate city.

Geo-cultural Relevance: Lord knows a good, shaggy puppy can help keep a body warm through Boston’s dark, cold winters. Lord also knows that The Shaggy D.A. was not one of Tim Conway’s finest efforts.

Tradition: Northeastern’s been around since 1898, but it’s hard to get noticed when Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and Boston College all share the same address. Jim Calhoun coached the Huskies, and Mike Jarvis is an alum. NU’s hockey squadron annually faces off in the legendary Beanpot with BU, Harvard, and BC.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They’d have to do something spectacular to get noticed. Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo is an alum; maybe they’d go with the Remdawgs in an effort to get the Boston Globe and NESN to notice them. Maybe not.

Overall Impact: Like Northeastern in general, the Huskies is sort of an afterthought.

Old Dominion Monarchs

Originality: Kudos to the ODU higher-ups for being confident enough in their school’s position to use a butterfly as a mascot. That’s an important lesson for the less-tolerant in our society. Though I’m less certain about the color choice, given that the butterfly in question is generally orange or yellow and black. It’s really a striking creature.

Geo-cultural Relevance: As a former native of the Tidewater area, I can vouch for the fact that the occasional butterfly flutters through the region from time to time.

Tradition: ODU’s men’s sports programs have taken a back seat to their women’s historically, but the hoops squad has won more CAA titles than all but one other conference mate. (Bonus points if you can name the all-time leader.) The Big Blue Beast alternate nickname is killer, though, even if it’s hard to figure out how it relates to butterflies. ODU’s Constant Convocation Center is a damn terrific college venue, too.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They might stick with Monarchs, as the Commonwealth of Virginia is noteworthy in its connection to England’s regal line. But they’d probably go away from the whole butterfly thing.

Overall Impact: High marks from the G:TB staff for ODU’s choice – the Big Blue Beast flaps its wings in Norfolk, and a rainstorm brews somewhere in Africa. That’s some serious impact.

Towson Tigers

Originality: Tigers? Really? The players on my kindergarten-age daughter’s rec league soccer team came up with six more original names in 90 seconds this fall. Of course, most of them had some connection to the Power Rangers or Barbie, but they were more original. We went with the SuperWinners.

Geo-cultural Relevance: Shmank.

Tradition: Whit’s gonna love this. According to the never-wrong keepers of the flame at Wikipedia, it turns out that former Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz, a Towson alum, led the drive to change the Towson nickname from the Golden Knights to the Tigers in the early 1960s. Now my colleague’s got a reason to dislike Towson, a school that heretofore inspired nothing so much as indifference.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They’d canvas the local elementary schools in an effort to punch up the mascot, settling finally on the Explorers in an homage to Dora after first rejecting the Wiggles and the Incredibles.

Overall Impact: Yeah. Not so much.

UNC Wilmington Seahawks

Originality: Though it’s not necessarily bracingly original, the Seahawks appellation is unique enough in context that the Dub gets a thumbs-up here.

Geo-cultural Relevance: It’s quite possibly the perfect fit for a school known affectionately as UNC by the Sea.

Tradition: Like a lot of the CAA’s schools, Wilmington’s really not been around all that long. Not their fault, but there’s not a ton to speak of in this department, save for the run of hoops excellence in the early part of this decade. The swim team kicks ass, though.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: I really don’t think they could do any better than Seahawks. And frankly, with the beach right there beckoning, I don’t think they’d be inclined to spend a lot of effort on it.

Overall Impact: Seahawks is the best fit of name to school in the conference. Kudos to Wilmington. And if you’d like to invite the G:TB staff to visit, say in late May or early June, we’re not so stuck on professional protocol that we’d decline the offer.

Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Originality: Better than Tigers and Panthers, I guess, but not groundbreaking.

Geo-cultural Relevance: At some point, when Richmond was but a twinkle in William Byrd’s eye, I’m quite certain that sheep roamed freely along the gentle James River, and the brisk crack of horn-to-horn combat rang out over the countryside. Well played, VCU.

Tradition: Like conference-mate ODU, VCU’s origins can be traced in some manner to William and Mary, which allows the Rams to ride the coattails of the nation’s second-oldest college. Or run screaming from W&M’s hoops legacy, either one.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They’d have a great deal of fun. VCU’s got a strong media/arts program and excellent medical/dental schools. The creative freaky-freakies and the science kids would come up with something spectacular, I’m quite certain, like the Psilocybic Surgeons.

Overall Impact: Middle of the road.

William and Mary Tribe

Originality:
One of a kind. Once the forces of creeping political correctness forced W&M to drop the Indians moniker (despite the fact that the school was originally chartered to educate natives and the leadership of the local tribes didn’t object to the name), the Tribe was a reasonably elegant solution.

Geo-cultural Relevance: As noted above, W&M was founded in 1693 to “educate” the local native population. The Tribe nickname pays fitting homage to the school’s historical origins. The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom and surpassing sense of proportion, has deemed this historical association to be somehow offensive. Tribe chieftain Gene Nichol has penned a supremely fitting response to the NCAA, among the many reasons why this subset of the W&M Alumni Association heartily endorses our embattled leader.

Additionally, the Tribe name serves as a foundation for one of the nation’s dorkiest student body cheers, which is extremely culturally relevant to the W&M student body. Freed from the dank corridors of Swem Library for 15 minutes one weekend, clever W&M undergrads reversed “Go Tribe” to the sublimely geeked out “Ebirt Og”, which continues today as a battle cry. Then, they went back to the library to prepare for their careers as captains of industry and ruiners of fun.

Tradition: W&M bestrides the CAA like a colossus in this area, both in terms of actual history (I mean, let’s be serious, Thomas Jefferson alone is enough to trump the alumni of all the other CAA schools combined) and athletic accomplishment. We’re actually not kidding here – with one minor exception, W&M has fielded the conference’s most successful athletic program since the CAA was founded in 1985. Well, with one very notable exception. Dammit.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: The very same forces of conservatism and ill-considered do-goodery that seek to remove Gene Nichol from office would demand nothing but the blandest, inoffensive, vanilla moniker. Ladies and gentlemen, yourrrr William and Mary Wrens.

Overall Impact: We’re clearly biased, but we like the Tribe. It’s not the best in the conference, but it’s unique and connected to the school’s history. Ebirt Og.

Insert Cliched Vegas Phrase Here

Well, after five long days and longer nights in Las Vegas, I'm back, and I know you all missed me very much. I laid down some cash on a handful of long-odds scenarios while I was out there, but with all due respect to our pals, I would never have bet on returning to find the Wheelhouse braintrust as local celebrities. After all this time who knew the key to blogosphere success was torching a previously untouchable hometown coaching legend? Some quick hits and thoughts from my travels to Sin City...

It appears in the last ten days or so Southwest Airlines has modified their stellar cattle call boarding process (don't ask me why I flew Southwest when it was a business trip...I am a dummy). You still board by Group (A, B or C) but now they've added a Position Number within each Group (1-60). Not terribly hard to comprehend, right? A15 would board before A36, A60 before B12, and so on - they've even got nice signs breaking each Group down in increments of five. Well, I guess a lot of travelers are absolute morons, because you would've thought people were being asked to split the atom before boarding. Heads were exploding, people were crying, wills were being finalized - it was a complete debacle. I suggest this new test to see if people are worthy of flying: if you can't complete the Jumble in your local Courier-Journal or Times Dispatch, head on down to Exxon, fuel up the Family Truckster, and stay the hell away from the airport.

I always love the flight out to Vegas, mainly because of the cross-section of society looking forward to living large and losing large. We had the two forty-year-old sons and their pop looking to blow the family fortune. There were the three loaded sorority chicks obviously on their way to a bachelorette party. Two rows in front of me, six NASCAR fans excited to wager on the upcoming Ford 400 (yeehaw, Jimmie Johnson). And of course me, reading an Entertainment Weekly cover to cover while a 6'2", 230 lb. Bea Arthur look-a-like elbowed me for 4 straight hours. Good times.

It's been mentioned in this space before, but it obviously needs to be said again. People, please, when the plane lands there is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO CLAP. Yes, I know we just landed in Vegas and you can't wait for the chicks and guns and fire trucks, but it is the pilot's job to land the plane. He does not need a round of applause for completing a vital aspect of his job.

The first billboard I see after deplaning: Carrot Top at the Luxor. Somewhere, Amazing Jonathan is drinking a cyanide mojito.

The second billboard: Tony Danza in "The Producers". Let President Skroob know they're letting Tony Miceli defile his work.

No, I did not make it to the final day of the O.J. proceedings Tuesday. And yes, I was honestly bummed out about it. I mean, how many more chances will I get to wear my "Free O.J...Again" t-shirt?

Let's see, as best as I can remember, the rest of the week went something like this: work...slots...work...making it rain...work...Tao...work...crashing the Democratic debate...work...craps...work...Blush...work...details redacted...work.

McCarran Airport might be Hell on Earth. You will never see a greater collection of distraught and despondent individuals in your life. I actually had to step over some guys leg to use the john. And for the love of god, have these people never learned queuing theory? I haven't seen chaos like that since the last 30 minutes of Deep Impact.

All in all, five days in Vegas is two days too many, especially when you're there on business. Frankly, it's good to be back. Anyone know where I can find some random video clips on the internet?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Life in the Colony

Just a quick run through this week's CAA Games to Watch (obviously not on TV):

1. The Upset Special: Look for UVA to have a letdown against a bruising Drexel squad after a big win at Arizona. If Pete Gillen were still manning the Cavalier wheel, it'd be a lock, but Dave Leitao makes the JPJ a more daunting arena for the Dragons to enter. (Tuesday, 8pm)

2. Upset Special 2: Electric Boogaloo: Mason hopes not to get stuffed by a 24th-ranked K-State on Turkey Day in the opening round of the [insert whistle] Old Spice Classic in Orlando. A real chance for some CAA clout, possibly televised. (9pm)

3. Wilmington dropped one to the Redbirds of Illinois State over the weekend; now they get to go to Indiana for a potential thumping. (Unrelated aside: the name Redbirds for a basketball movie is still unprotected and available for use. And will likely remain that way.) (Tuesday, 7pm)

4. The Big Blue Beast of ODU needs to avoid overlooking David before facing Goliath. They're matched up against top-ranked Tar Heels in the Las Vegas Invitational on Friday around midnight EST. (TJ has a few tips for them.) Before they even think about doubling down against Carolina, however, they need to concentrate on bashing the Gaels of Iona on Tuesday night. (7pm)

5. And finally, it's that time again (or possibly for the first time) . . . It's Northeastern Conference week for the CAA!

That's right. When these two conferences get together, you can throw out the records. Which you can probably do anyway, since it's mostly bad losses to ranked teams thus far. CAA-NEC. That's right. These two conferences simply do not like each other. Or dislike each other. They don't even know each other.

It's a classic battle of "our one of the only five (5) teams never to make the NCAA tournament in 59 years is better than your one of the only five (5) teams never to make the NCAA tournament in 59 years." The Northeastern sees the Colonial's "multiple schools named after early American statesmen" and raises them a "multiple schools named after a saint . . . the same saint." That's correct, they have two schools named St. Francis in the NEC, and when those two squads square off, you never know what's going to happen . . . you just know the name of the school that's going to win, plus you can be sure that a boatload of "Assisi" epithets will be hurled from bleacher to bleacher. Trust me, it's not pretty, and it's ultimately just thoroughly confusing.

Here's what's on the docket for the CAA-NEC (rhymes with "chronic") showdown:

Tuesday 11/20: William & Mary @ Wagner , 7pm
Wednesday 11/21: Hofstra @ St. Francis (NY), 7pm
Friday, 11/23: Robert Morris @ Drexel, 2pm
Saturday, 11/24: Mount St. Mary's @ JMU

Unsolicited comments on the CAA-NEC 4-pack (sponsored by Bartles & Jaymes): Consider Robert Morris (the school, not the man) another foe ripe for overlooking; the Colonials blew by the aforementioned Gaels and the Midshipmen before getting taken down by the Pirates at Seton Hall. (Possibly the least macho sentence ever typed at Gheorghe.) . . . And is there a good reason that William & Mary's mascot isn't the Colonial? I've been to Pittsburgh, as well as Washington, DC, and neither RMU nor GWU can possibly reek of tri-cornered hats, knickers, and authentic outhouses quite like W&M in Williamsburg, VA. So long as there's an outrage about the "Tribe" and two feathers, why not abandon an outdated, possibly offensive image for the William & Mary Colonials? . . . Oh, and the Tribe could use a win over Wagner after facing Top 25 opponents (and measuring up better than expected) in their first two contests . . . Lastly, look for Hofstra to knock off St. Francis, if and only if the bus driver gets them to the right campus.

That's all for this week. CAA you later!

(Correction - that was the least macho sentence ever typed at Gheorghe.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Peas in a Pod

The headline "Report: A-Rod plan to go around Boras came from Buffett" has some in the sporting world shaking their heads, but in actuality, this was far from a case of strange bedfellows. The only thing shocking was that it didn't happen earlier.

Consider this:
- A-Rod came of age in Miami; Buffett lives in Key West.
- Long ago, back when he was great, A-Rod played the shortstop position; long ago, back when he was great, Buffett sang, "I rounded first never thought of the worst / As I studied the shortstop's position."
- Buffett wrote "A Pirate Looks at Forty"; many consider A-Rod 's deal, one that will keep him in pinstripes until after he's 40, utter piracy.
- Buffett sang "Something So Feminine About a Mandolin"; 'nuff said.
- A-Rod is a me-first kind of guy who makes teammates bristle; Buffett's overinflated ego irked his bandmates and made longtime Coral Reefers like Fingers Taylor quit the band.
- During Buffett's September 2004 concert at Fenway Park, he paused between songs to try to break the "curse"; A-Rod's 2-for-17 in the last four games of that year's ALCS was similarly helpful to the Sox cause.
- Buffett's die-hard fans are called "Parrot-Heads"; A-Rod's . . . wait, does A-Rod have any?
- We've had some things -- and one more thing -- to say about A-Rod; I penned a lengthy record review of a Buffett album several years back that was just as damning.
- Buffett broke his leg sliding into second in the 70's; A-Rod . . . well, I'll let you watch the 2008 season in suspense.

As you can see, this was clearly a very natural fit. I don't see what all the head-scratching is all about.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shudder to Think


One of G:TB’s internet pals made an offhand comment several days ago about the Washington Redskins’ organizational difficulties, referring to the team’s management as the Snyder Administration. At that instant, my blood ran cold, and chills chased down my spine, as 8+ years of ineptitude, suffering, and negligence crystallized in one searingly clear insight: Dan Snyder and George W. Bush are the same guy.

Consider the following:
  • Both Snyder and Bush ascended to their current positions not on merit, but basically because they both had pantsloads of money.
  • Both Snyder and Bush were the beneficiaries of malfeasance during an initial selection process (Milstein is Gore is Finkel is Einhorn).
  • Both Snyder and Bush lost the approval of the masses long ago, yet each clings to their post in almost mocking fashion.
  • Both Snyder and Bush go to enormous lengths to control media access and religiously adhere to message discipline.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have megalomaniacal tendencies.
  • Both Snyder and Bush are embroiled in long, tedious, poorly planned campaigns marked by frequent claims of incremental success followed by even more frequent evidence of decline into chaos. See Redskins, Champions of the Offseason. See also, Redskins 23, Jets 20 followed by Eagles 33, Redskins 25. Finally, see also, Iraq, War in.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have terrible environmental records. Snyder cut down 50,000 square feet of trees on federally protected land, while Bush gave Alaska to oil companies.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have exhibited terrible judgment in initially hiring and then protecting loyalists in the face of overwhelming evidence of their incompetence. See Cerrato, Vinny, and Gonzalez, Alberto, among others. Brownie’s still doing a heckuva job somewhere.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have turned once-proud entities into pale imitations of their former selves - laughingstocks to outsiders and embarrassing affronts to their most ardent supporters.
  • Both Snyder and Bush deeply damaged the legacies of respected leaders (Joe Gibbs, Colin Powell, and George H.W. Bush).
  • Snyder owns Redskins One. Bush thinks he owns Air Force One.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have subordinates with questionable firearms safety habits. Redskins safety Sean Taylor pointed a handgun at a guy he suspected of stealing his ATV, while Vice President Dick Cheney blew some dude’s face off while grouse hunting. (Note: this item only applies if you actually believe that Cheney is Bush’s subordinate.)
  • Both Snyder and Bush have spent profligately on highly questionable programs despite widespread advice to the contrary. See Lloyd, Brandon; Smith, Bruce; Sanders, Deion and Prescription Benefit, Medicaid.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have soaked the little guy while cozying up to the wealthiest among us.
  • Snyder’s father famously bought him an enormous Redskins belt buckle, while Bush wears enormous belt buckles to make people think he’s a cowboy.

Finally, and most depressingly, both Snyder and Bush think they’re right, and we’re stuck with both of them. And I hate 110-yard fields, so Canada’s just not an option. I need a drink.

The Mike Ness Files

"I was wrong/Self destruction's got me again/I was wrong/I realize now that I was wrong" - Social Distortion from I Was Wrong.

From the grand G:TB tradition of throwing up ideas for recurring features and then letting them die on the vine comes today's episode, inspired by legendary SoCal punks, Social D. In addition to catalyzing this sure to be successful running concept, the band that brought you Ball and Chain, Prison Bound, and Story of My Life (and dozens of other rollicking classics) also triggered the following exchange, which occurred several days after I introduced the 'I Was Wrong' blogpost idea:

Teejay: I know who Social Distortion is.
Rob: Okay, who are they?
Teejay: The seminal punk band.
Rob: You got that from Wikipedia, didn't you?
Teejay (sheepishly): Yes.


I'll stipulate that my brother in blogging is several years younger than Whit and I, and a product of the hip-hop generation, but he's also a connoisseur of 80s cheese metal, so his tastes run at least a little to blazing guitars and insistent percussion. It's almost...almost unforgivable that he didn't know Social Distortion. We'll give him a pass because he's a Jets fan and needs a little tenderness right now. But he was wrong.

I was wrong - way wrong - about how bad the Washington Nationals would be in 2007, though I was hardly alone. I also purchased 12 Inches of Snow because I thought Informer was a catchy little ditty. My bad.

Whitney had a particularly ill-advised flattop-mullet during our freshman year of college, though he did it to protest his mother's admonitions about the length of his hair. Regardless, he was wrong.

The Mike Ness Files will return to this space periodically to catalogue our various ill-conceived prognostications and expectorations. Or not. I could be wrong.

------
Whitney's Addendum: Well, I was even more wrong about the Washington Nationals this year. I'll admit it. I penned a ridiculous piece comparing them to (mostly) terrible sitcoms. I bashed and mocked, then not only felt stupid when there were nine teams as bad or worse than the Nats, but felt a karmic beatdown when the Nationals contributed directly to my team of choice failing to make the playoffs. I was way wrong; I'm not saying Jim Bowden was right, but I was wrong.

I've been dead wrong for several seasons in betting that the Wizards won't make the playoffs; perhaps that's also cosmic backlash for this former season ticket-holder, current turncoat . . . but if TJ wants the bet, I'll make it again for this year.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gheorghe Quotes the Classics, Vol. 2

"Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious." - Brendan Gill

Preach on, Brother Gill. Whoever you are (were).

Teejay is winging his way across the country for a week in Sin City. Whitney claims to be busy with work. So you will listen to every damn word I say today. Nearly all of which will be ill-conceived and poorly framed. We're considering (and most likely dismissing) intellectual discussions of the following topics:
  • An exposition on the relative merits of the coaching stylings of Joe Gibbs v2.0 and Andy Reid. We'll likely leave this one alone because it will, by definition, require profanity and questionable judgment on our part. Let's just say that the level of dumbfoundedness displayed yesterday by highly-paid professional leaders of men may be unprecedented.
  • A discussion of the various proposition bets G:TB will be making while Teejay is in Vegas. If you think we're passing up the opportunity to get the Field (everyone but New England) to win the Super Bowl at 4:1, you're more clueless than Joe Gibbs and Andy Reid.
  • Extended sentimental waxings about the sacrifices my father and his fellow Veterans made to allow the rest of us to freely pursue life, liberty, happiness, and the right to blog snarkily. If anyone actually read this blog, I might actually follow through on that idea. Except for the fact that my Cowboy-lover Dad made fun of the Redskins last night - way to ruin it for everyone, Colonel.
  • Have we mentioned that Joe Gibbs and Andy Reid were singularly putrid yesterday afternoon? Almost Norvelous, in fact.
  • Cautious optimism for the William and Mary men's hoopsters after their closer-than-the-score-indicated 68-53 loss to No. 5 Gheorghetown on Saturday. W&M was within 2 points at 48-46 before the Hoyas wore them down. The CAA's pre-season 9th-place team may surprise some people on their way to another 8-10 conference record.
  • Kudos to our brothers in blogging at Jerry's Wheelhouse for an on-air mention on this morning's First Team on Fox radio program. Jerry's all growns up.
  • Bonus "Bite Me Randy Newman' programming when Dustin Pedroia gets announced as the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year.
  • Bitter rantings about the heightist conspiracy in this country when Dustin Pedroia gets bypassed for 2007 AL Rookie of the Year.
Please join me in the Comments section for a rousing discussion of the scope and scale of the trouble Teejay will get into during a week in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Calling the Karma Police

How much did you pay for the new Radiohead album?

As you might've heard, established British purveyors of modern alternative smooth music Radiohead elected to make their latest effort, In Rainbows, available for download from their website for a sum to be determined by each consumer. As the BBC now tells us, however, 62% of downloaders are deciding they'll give no cash back for the opportunity to grab these ten songs:
Fans were invited to put their own price on the 10 mp3 files that made up In Rainbows, from nothing to £100. But internet monitoring company Comscore found that only 38% of downloaders willingly paid to do so. The average price paid for the album was $6 (£2.90), the study found. American fans were the most generous, paying on average $8.05 (£3.85), compared to the $4.64 (£2.22) paid by those outside the US. [Of course, some might suggest the American geniuses are confused by the whole "pounds sterling" thing and intended to pay less.] Of those who were willing to pay, the largest percentage (17%) paid less than $4 (£1.90). However 12% were willing to pay between $8-$12, (£3.80 - £5.71).
Shocking, of course.

To their credit, the band hasn't pulled the plug on this unique method of releasing a record even as this news arrives. I mean, they sort of had to figure there'd be a lot of freeloaders, right? The cynical side of me marvels that 38% of people are actually forking over money for what could be a free album. But then again, I paid for the album . . . and I'm still irritated at myself and the record industry for the ill-afforded thousands of dollars I handed it in the 1990's. But pay for the mp3's I did, and so did one in three.

What is it that wills people to give semi-anonymously to a band that doesn't need the revenue?

Is it a deep-rooted sense of doing the right thing?
A Pavlovian effect wherein you know you just never get something for nothing and therefore open up the wallet involuntarily?
Or is it more paranoid, a peering-over-your-shoulder sense that some authority is judging you by your donation -- either the Lord in heaven, or the band itself looking at your credit card receipt?
Is it a combination of guilt, duty, and vanity, so you fill the box with numbers that correspond to your perceived socio-economic strata?

Not really sure.

For me, some of these may have played a factor, but the Visa charge was basically my tiny gesture of applause for one band's circumvention of convention in a manner that rewards the only people that matter -- the fans -- while cutting out the necessary, often evil middleman -- the record company. We could get into a larger discussion of Radiohead as Robin Hood, the tilted economics of the music industry, and pros and cons of the major label, and Warner Music & Ticketmaster as the Scylla and Charybdis of rock and roll (forgive me, I also saw The Police the other night) . . . but nobody comes to Gheorghe: The Blog for such heavy-handed analyses and debates.

(They come, I assume, for TJ's YouTube clips and O.J. jokes, my made-up nicknames and self-righteous blathering, and Rob's superlative insight from his vantage point below sea level. But I digress.)

In this case, let's just say that one group has issued a novel, even enlightened take on getting their music to the masses in a way that doesn't squeeze the listeners for every cent, not to mention a way that helps the environment. They aren't the first band to try to tackle an industry behemoth (Pearl Jam battled Goliath Ticketmaster in vain a decade ago); they aren't even the first to give away their tunes in a method that's equal parts of-the-people democracy and very savvy marketing. Just like those artists who scoffed at Metallica for their short-sightedness and embraced the Internet age as a way of delivering their sound to countless new listeners, Radiohead now draws headlines, raises eyebrows, makes a few new fans, and returns plenty of revenues in a way that just another CD on the shelves of Sam Goody for $18.99 never, ever could. It's shrewd, make no mistake, but it's also a pretty cool way to go about the business side of the art form.

But is it Gheorghe-y?

The Radiohead approach isn't entirely altruistic; it's gimmicky, pseudo-anarchic, and ultimately deceptively capitalistic (which is why it just might work). It's innovative, though, and it certainly takes steps towards easing the public's investment risk in rock and roll. A check mark for cleverness, a check mark for freezing out the stereotypical record company "fat cats," and oh yeah, one more for delivering an album whose merit goes above and beyond the style-over-substance, overhyped dud that it could have been. It's slower than I usually enjoy, but there are more actual "songs" than musical meanderings this time around, and it's worth the £4 I plunked down.

As for this phenomenon's level of Gheorghitude, it lacks the requisite silliness of G:TB-endorsed efforts, which is fairly unsurprising for Radiohead (and most Britpop, excepting perhaps the occasional Blur or Pulp). You know, silliness like this.

If Ween or They Might Be Giants end up following suit, it's unparalleled Gheorgheness for the music world. We can only hope.

What about against-the-grain economic system shakers in sports?

Right now in baseball all the chatter is whether Alex Rodriguez will "earn" 300 or 350 million dollars over the next stretch of years. As difficult as it is to justify a baseball player making $30+M a year -- and dear lord, that's difficult -- a Smithian, purely capitalistic approach can make a case for it. Those who think that ARod won't grab every cent he can because he has some sort of conscience about wrecking the Rangers or because he needs an extra fifty mill like I need that 26th cold one at 4 AM are deluding themselves in almost cartoonish fashion. Alas, those sinister villains Boras and Natasha (ARod makes a nice Natasha, no?) are two steps ahead of simple Bullwinkle (me) and little Rocky (Rob). (TJ, I guess you're Peabody the encyclopedic dog.)

Of course he's going for it all. He won't quit until he's reached the GNP of half the UN. What's to stop him? The expected public backlash from Windfall #1 didn't slow him one iota. His peers are just as determined to maximize their bankrolls, so why should he be the guy to make a sacrifice? And just who would be benefiting, the old boys club of Caucasian Codgers we call owners?? Guys like Big Stein and Nap Angelos? Please. Even if ARod wanted to settle for less, he has two very big thugs shoving him into the biggest payload possible: Scott Boras and the Players' Union, two entities of great influence, highly exaggerated self-worth and deeply misguided principles.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

We're talking about a business where even an otherwise respectable participant like Ivan Rodriguez notifies his previous ownership at the start of free agency that "there will be no hometown discount," gets stymied by the rest of the league, then bemoans the disrespect his club showed him considering the sentimentality of the prior year's success. Hypocrisy, shadiness, and outright lying, all in the name of making the most money. It's the aspect of sport where our "heroes" are revealed to be abundantly human, and the only solace we fans can take comes courtesy of our friend Jimmy Giovanelli, who reminds us that the country gets a little boost every time some young, dumb jock is given millions of dollars to inject rapidly and ruthlessly back into the economy.

An act of personal sacrifice, though?

Not. Gonna. Happen.

But what if it did? What if it could? What if Alex Rodriguez's balls finally dropped (presumably from him yelling "Aaaah!!!" as he ran by them) and he decided that this was about much more than his own greedy satisfaction? What if it no longer mattered to him whether he'd be able to afford yet another friggin' Pomeranian, or yet another condo in South Beach or Chelsea or Key West or San Fran or Provincetown or Fire Island? What if he decided to make an entirely new legend for himself, casting aside all preconceived notions of what we know Alex Rodriguez to be and establishing himself as the man of the people for all times?

How would he go about it? Professional athletes, unlike professional musicians, don't make their livelihood on creative brilliance. Plus, with an industry like Major League Baseball, there's no bucking the system and having fans pay him through the website. But what if ARod, or any other megastar, decided that he could get by (eke out a living on Ramen noodles and mac & cheese) on $10 million a year? He could sign on with just about any team in the league at that point, perhaps setting his sights on some sad sack but good karma small-market team who needs a boost to get over the hump. Fight the Union, fire his agent. Make a mint in endorsements as the baseball's returning hero. Be beloved by every yahoo who clamors for the salary cap. (That's me, standing right behind Bob Costas.)

Meanwhile, he could make the case that the savings he provided the owner needs to be recouped a bit with our help -- we who would get to the ballpark more for less with ticket sales not skyrocketing to pay his salary. We would be able to make donations at the park and online to The [Insert Player Name Here] Foundation, a charity focusing on some needy group of folks in the team's metro area. For every dollar the fans contribute, the owner matches it (perhaps in a tax-deductible fashion). Some set-up like that where the player still gets great money, the team has a better chance to win, the fans are happy, and the charity gets a bonus.

Yep, there are probably a dozen flaws, but I'm thinking off the top of my head. With some time, the right people thinking for him, and a fiscal strategy that makes some sense, it could be done. I'm sure Radiohead's plan began as a cockamamie scheme in somebody's head, but they made it happen. And right up until ARod signs with some foolhardy team (dear God, please not the Mets) for 500 bazillion pounds sterling, I'll keep wondering if practicality or prudence will make an appearance in the Hot Stove sessions. And listening to these mp3's.