Friday, February 29, 2008

I'm off to Vegas. Again.

Here's me making nice with a local last time I was there. A local who happens to be the only man to ever win world titles in five different weight classes. Why the hell can't I ever take a normal picture?
"Hey Champ. Loved you in L.A. Heat."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

G:TB Hearts Salvador Dali

You may be tempted to dismiss the images you're about to see as hideously out of focus, poorly balanced, and lacking compositional quality. Beauty, my friends, is in the eye of the beholder. For example, many viewers of last night's William & Mary/George Mason contest beheld a grinding, uneven, at times sloppy ballgame. G:TB, on the other hand, saw a spirited back and forth between two squads who approach the game from decidedly divergent perspectives.

(And if none of that contrived prose works for you, just pretend you're viewing the scene through Teejay's Coors Light and Vodka/Red Bull-fueled prism. I think the photos will make a great deal of sense in that context.)

Two for the price of one in this photo, which captures not only Mason's bandleader, but AD and former NCAA Basketball Selection Committee Chairman Tom O'Connor (he's the white-haired gentleman about to get punched by the righteous fist of blurry justice at left).

This is probably our best photo. I was definitely trying to capture the spirit of the Mason students. That's totally my story.

Arrrrrrrrrgh. Run away! Snow angels!

Our seats were pretty decent, eh? Many thanks to our newfound Mason-backer friends for the generous accomodations. Not sure if you can make it out in the photo, but that's one of them walking off the court at halftime.

As for the game itself, it was clear from the jump that Mason had significantly more athletic talent than did the Tribe, and when the Patriots sped out to a 10-3 lead, things seemed bleak. As was the case throughout the game, though, W&M never panicked against a superior opponent. David Schneider (a game high 19 points) calmly drilled a funky rotationless triple to stem the Mason run, and the Tribe dug in once again.

The rest of the game followed a similar pattern: Mason would spurt to a lead and seem to lose focus on both ends of the court. Will Thomas was pretty much unstoppable, but the Patriots would forget about him for long stretches - he only wound up with 10 points. Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, W&M took care of the basketball, played physical defense, and invariably made a couple of shots to keep things interesting. On the night, W&M turned the ball over 13 times while forcing 17 miscues, and was only outrebounded 30-28. The Tribe even opened up a 27-23 lead just before halftime, enough of an edge to wake Mason from one of its slumbers and post a quick 5-0 run heading into the break.

With a bit more than 6 minutes left, Nathan Mann hit a three from the corner to give W&M a 50-49 lead and send more than a little bit of worry through the home crowd. There may have been a man hug between me and Teejay then. Not exactly sure. He was pretty drunk (Rob drank water the whole night. And ate a salad at a sports bar).

On cue, though, Mason scored the next 8 points, holding the Tribe scoreless for almost 5 minutes. John (the Dentist) Vaughn hit a dagger trey to make the count 55-50 and when Folarin Campbell followed with a beautiful driving two-handed jam, the script was essentially written. Mason's talent overcame W&M's determination and discipline, but only just.

Couple more makes, handful of bounces here and there, and the Tribe pulls a big upset on Senior Night in Fairfax. Tony Shaver's boys acquitted themselves well, and made these aging alums fairly proud. If nothing else, the team's collective effort and poise gives us a lot of reason for hope. And that, lady and gentlemen, is a rare and precious commodity 'round Williamsburg way, at least during hoops season.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"No, it's too perilous"

Cowboy fans enter Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field with trepidation and unease. Bronco backers pass near Oakland’s Black Hole with their eyes down and their hands on their women and their wallets. Red Sox fans wear their grungiest clothes to Yankee Stadium, secure in the knowledge that they’ll get beer tossed on them. Or will at least have to powerwash their togs to remove the lingering stench of Yankee Nation.

Those are walks in the park compared to the foul gauntlet Teejay and I contemplate. Beginning at sundown this evening, we’ll fortify our stomachs and steel our resolve before making the short walk from Brion’s Grill (don’t ask about the spelling – I don’t get it, either) to the Patriot Center, where the William & Mary Tribe will face all manner of malodorous perils in the persons of the George Mason Patriots and their fans.

Consider the following:
Not only do we have to sit courtside, significantly increasing our risk of exposure to flying sweat and Tony Shaver’s moustache, we’ll be asked…nay, forced, to amble 30 yards or so in to the Patriot Club to nosh on free crudite and domestic lagers before the game and at halftime. And believe me when I tell you that these people don’t think twice about drinking Budweiser straight from a bottle. Shiver.

If that’s not bad enough, there’s this:

Seriously, that walking petri dish makes Youppi look hygenic. And we’ll be mere yards from it.

Finally, feast your eyes upon the coup de grace, Mason’s fearsome band director/student body “talent wrangler”. This at a publicly-funded institute of higher learning. Oh, and as my wife reminds me, today's my youngest daughter's 4th birthday, so I'm neglecting my fatherly duties in some considerable fashion (at least according to my wife - I'll be at the birthday party with bells on, for Chrissakes). Honestly, kids, the things we at G:TB do so you don’t have to. We’ll be back tomorrow with the gory details. If we make it.

It is a far, far better thing we do today than we've ever done. Think well of us in this time of quiet contemplation and mental preparation. And root against ODU, 'cause the Tribe's gonna need all the help they can get. Litos has it 66-59, Mason, and I like his optimism.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Where's the Hate for Merril Hoge?

Merril Hoge just plain sucks. As the incessant coverage of the NFL 2008 Draft kicks off, we'll see Hoge's redneck face and faux pimp wardrobe plastered all over the ESPNs, making me vomit in my mouth time and time again. I hate M-Ho for various reasons:

1) I hate the way he dresses. It's not close to matching. No way. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I don't even think Andre 3000 could pull off the ridiculous ensembles that Hoge sports. Hoge is a dimwit. He knows football, concussions and group-think comments. I'm not sure why he feels that entitles him to wear pinstriped pumpkin-orange suits, striped shirts and loud ties. Maybe he's going for "a look." If that look is "I shop at Michael Irvin's garage sale," I guess he's pulling off that look just fine.

2) I hate that M-Ho's presence diminishes the time Ron Jaworski is on the air. G:TB is a big fan of Jaws. It may be because Jaws is slowly morphing into Martin Mull, the most under-appreciated 1980's comedic movie performer this side of Dabney Coleman. We're not quite sure. But we know we love to see Jaws break down plays and relay prescient insight from league executives. M-Ho brings none of that. It's all redneck sizzle and no country-fried steak with the bum. And Jaws hates M-Ho as well, as evidenced by the photo below where he shows how he will shoot himself in the head if he has to keep working with M-Ho.
3) I hate that a man from Idaho who played ball in Pittsburgh has an accent like that. I can't figure it out. It confuses my feeble mind. Damn him for that.

4) I hate that he is the poster child of a league with more has-beens with diarrhea-of-the-mouth posing as "experts" than any other sport. Why do we need to see M-Ho, Mark Schlereth and Sean Salisbury talking about teams' draft needs? They're not going to combines. They don't talk to scouts or managers. They don't intimately know any team well. They feebly borrow the thoughts hidden under Kiper's rug and Clayton's balloon-head and regurgitate them as their own thoughts. We have no interest in seeing Tommy Herr, Garth Iorg and Cecil Cooper talk baseball*, so why are we stuck with watching three dull ex-footballers talk football? Wouldn't it be about a million times more interesting to get a trio of beat reporters to talk?

(*That said, G:TB would pay an inordinate amount of money to see Dave Stewart, Oscar Gamble and Amos Otis talk about baseball. Or talk about pretty much anything.)

5) I hate M-Ho because he offers zero insight into the game. Here he is babbling about the 2006 Draft. I believe these comments were the start of the anti-Vince Young vendetta he fights to this day. His comments are not memorable, but his suit is. I think John Wallace wore this 4-button creme special when the Knicks drafted him in 1996.

And, to close, here's another fine clip of M-Ho in an interesting ensemble he seemed to willingly choose. He must've been concussed more than Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine combined to think this looks good.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tilting at the Last Few Windmills

Bracketbuster Weekend didn't treat the Wrens all that well, as they fell short against a mediocre Loyola (IL) squad in Williamsburg. At least their next opponent should be nice and pissed off: George Mason got pantsed on national television, giving up 50 second-half points and turning a 13-point lead at the break into a 12-point loss to Ohio. Teejay and I will be in attendance at the Patriot Center Wednesday night, root, root, rooting for the road team, but I'm quite afraid that it'll be in serious vain.

W&M enters the regular season's final week tied for 4th place in the CAA with Old Dominion. A top 4 seed ensures a bye in the first round of the conference tournament. Let's dispense with the what-ifs here and now: our guys will be playing in the first round. ODU holds the tiebreak by virtue of their win over VCU, and in order to leapfrog the Monarchs, the Wrens would have to beat either Mason or VCU while ODU loses to both Northeastern and UNCW. Those odds, not so much.

Barring something odd (theoretically, Delaware and/or Northeastern could nip the Wrens, but they'd both have to win out), it looks like a 2:30 tip on Friday, March 7 in Richmond as the #5 seed. As FOG:TB Michael Litos points out, that could very well be a rematch of last year's first-rounder against Georgia State. Where the Panthers and their goofy-ass mascot ended the Wrens' season on a 35-foot buzzer-beater. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pic of the Week

Many thanks to Agent Steinz for directing us to this picture hidden in Andrew Rosen's All-Star Game post on the Wizards blog:

"But just remember, my name is ROGER MURDOCK. I'm an airline pilot. "

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dan Dakich '08 = Steve Fisher '89

I am fully aware Kelvin Sampson has yet to be fired, with "yet" being the operative word. Despite huge wins for his team over conference rivals Michigan State and Purdue in the last week, the Indiana University administration is days away from suspending Sampson (allegedly), with most believing that is simply the intermediate step to firing Sampson (without getting sued like the Ohio State/Jim O'Brien situation). The likely successor for Sampson - current assistant and former Hoosier Dan Dakich. Which got me to thinking...when was the last time a big time program with national title aspirations switched coaches this late in the season?
[And for those reading this and saying, "What an asshat. Sampson isn't getting fired. Go back to posting YouTubes" all I can say is "Can I interest you in some prime ocean front property in Las Cruces?"]

As the title indicates, I immediately thought of one fantastic, if not 100% perfect, parallel:
Steve Fisher taking over the Michigan Wolverines as they entered the 1989 NCAA Tournament.

Chew on these similarities:
  • Dakich would have 4 or 5 games to finish the regular season (and maybe 2 more in Big Ten tourney), and after getting his feet wet he can go 6-0 to win the title (Fisher of course just decided to start his career going 6-0 and winning a warm ups needed for Steve-O)
  • The '89 Wolverines were an offensive juggernaut, with five players averaging at least 11ppg. They also led the nation in field-goal percentage, hitting 56.6 percent of their attempts. The '08 Hoosiers have basically four guys averaging 10ppg (Jordan Crawford is at 9.9) and they aren't too shabby in the shooting department, making 47.5% of their field goals on the season.
  • Fisher's team had Glen Rice, a second-team All-American, and Rumeal Robinson to lead the club. Dakich has D.J. White and super frosh Eric Gordon leading the club.
  • Current IU record: 22-4, 11-2 in conference. According to bracket nerd Joe Lunardi, they are projected to be a #5 seed entering the dance but that seed could easily bump up a line or two in the coming weeks. The '89 Michigan club? 30-7, 12-6 in conference...and a #3 seed entering the tourney.
Just remember a month from now when you're filling out your brackets who told you the Dan Dakich-led Indiana Hoosiers were winning the 2008 title. In return, I simply ask for a small percentage of your profits for this prescient prediction.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gheorghe, Part Deux

We don't spend much time on puck-related stuff here at G:TB, so we're beyond remiss in celebrating DC's emerging Gheorghey superstar. Not only is Alex Ovechkin facially reminiscent of our hero, but he's got the goofy verve we live to celebrate. That, and he's freaking awesome at his job. Much like Gheorghe: The Legend. We're only months away from the first Ovechkin SportsCenter commercial. Or at least an Eastern Motors cameo.

(h/t to The Big Lead for the photo, and the endearingly silly story about how Ovechkin stalked, er, met his girlfriend)

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Path of Least Resistance

Dick Vitale's honeymoon here at G:TB was certainly short-lived. By my count, it took 3 exposures to trigger my scream reflex, sending me ranting out loud at a defenseless broadcaster of mass media. The cause: Dickie V's unhinged and unsolicited defense of Bobby Knight in the context of Kelvin Sampson's brazen chicanery. Thankfully, My Teams are Cursed did all the exposition, saving me the time and trouble. Money quote:
Instead of talking basketball, he literally spent two hours opining on his soapbox about how Kelvin Sampson disrespected the University and should be fired while subconsciously lobbying for his friend to somehow, some way, get back to Bloomington and be the coach again.
He did the same thing on Mike and Mike this morning, to my irrational and ever-lovin' annoyance. The G:TB moral of the story: Bob Knight bad. Kelvin Sampson bad. Vitale insane and embarrassingly myopic in his single-minded defense of Knight. Welcome back, Dickie V - we hardly knew you were gone.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I've been dying to use an Ogie Oglethorpe tag

How can a headline like this disappoint?
"Vikings Go On Rampage At Lodge"

Yep, in a scene probably only found on the Slap Shot cutting room floor, several members of a small town's minor league hockey team completely trashed the historic Vikings Lodge because The Mid-Atantic Hockey League actually closed up shop in the middle of the season.
2/15/2008 - Presumedly seeking revenge against the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League for calling it quits in the middle of the season, several players with the Jamestown Vikings trashed the historic Vikings Lodge on the corner of Washington and West Fourth Street early Thursday, leaving most of the building in shambles.

Trash and debris were everywhere, especially on the second and third floors where the stench of beer and rotting food was almost overpowering. Bar stools were smashed through doors, and virtually every piece of glass in the building had been shattered, the broken shards unavoidable underfoot.
I mean, this is terrific stuff. Mid-Atlantic Hockey League officials apparently announced Wednesday they were canceling the rest of the season so they could "start fresh in 2008-09." The league owed players thousands of bucks, and not surprisingly, the players hated guys like Andrew Haines, league president and Vikings owner. Sooooooooo, I guess the next logical step was for these guys to get shitfaced and fuck up a 100-year old Vikings Lodge?
‘‘They were on a drunken rampage,’’ said Greg Moran, a building inspector with the city Department of Development, who was called to the scene once police learned of the destruction. ‘‘I was absolutely appalled. ... Some of this stuff is probably irreplaceable.’’

For police, the first sign of trouble was a chair that had been thrown through the storefront window facing Washington Street. When police arrived to investigate, they found the place a wreck and more than a dozen people — players as well as their friends — passed out drunk throughout the building.
Anyone know where I can get a Jamestown Vikings jersey (I'll settle for the Valley Forge Freedom)?

(For the longest time after reading this article this morning, I was sure it was fake. I mean, a "minor league hockey team destroys the local Lodge" story? Too good to be true. But it seems to me The Post-Journal of Jamestown, NY is indeed a real newspaper. Which I guess makes me laugh even more at this tale of modern day Charleston Chiefs)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Check Your Local Listings

Here's what you should spend tomorrow doing:

Hofstra/JMU at Noon, Drexel/Delaware at 2, W&M/Towson at 4, UNCW/Mason at 6 and VCU/ODU at 8.

All games televised. Hunker down, lads. Hunker down.

(h/t to Mr. Litos for the cut-and-paste assist)

And, finally, on this Friday afternoon: Thabeet!

Rob really wants to make sure everyone has seen this

For those that missed it Wednesday night, Hasheem Thabeet had an absolutely ridiculous block of a Notre Dame three point attempt in UConn's big 84-78 win. This clip is Zapruder-esque in its quality, but I think you'll see why Rob was so excited:

(And in other news, we're going global this morning, with a rant on W&M basketball over at Storming the Floor. Thanks to Marco and Eric for the opportunity to spread our misery. Even if you don't go there to read our palaver, you should check out the great work they do on college hoops.)

Dirk, Get Out of the Way

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is This Man the Best Coach in America?

In the words of the great Jack Nicholson as the Joker, this town needs an enema. Or at least a palate cleanser after yesterday’s deep, deep inside edition. And since Teejay seems slow to the deliver the YouTubes, I’ve got a little hoops-flavored sorbet for you this morning.

In 7 years as the coach of a Division I program in one of the nation’s power conferences, Coach X has compiled a 162-59 (.740) record despite being geographically limited in his ability to recruit the bluest of chips. He’s won 2 conference regular season championships and 1 conference tournament title and made the NCAA tournament every year he’s been on the bench. His teams have racked up a 50-3 conference mark at home during his tenure (with a 103-7 overall home record), again in one of the nation’s preeminent leagues. That’s John Wooden good, Coach K good. Most coaches can only dream of that in-conference home record. (Though John Calipari says hello. Right before he goes out and tramples Lenoir-Rhyne in yet another conference walkover.) Before he got to his current destination, our guy won 4 Division III National Championships in 16 seasons and turned around a dreadful D-I program in 2 years. Before this season began, his .769 career winning percentage was second only to the aforementioned Roy Williams among coaches with more than 500 wins. For good measure, he looks just like his school’s mascot.

Why, then, does Bo Ryan not get more love as one of the nation’s very best leaders? If Wisconsin grew tobacco, he’d be a household name.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Disturbance in the Force

Editor's Note: the following commentary is extremely narrowly focused and highly, highly geeky. Oh, and way, way, too long. Get out now, while you still can.

Okay. You can't say you weren't warned.

The community of the Gheorghey suffered a grevious wound this week. The forces of stolid rectitude, self-righteousness and inflexible conservatism struck a resounding blow against freedom of expression, the abiding and brilliant creativity of youth, and diversity of thought, action, and being. The College of William and Mary's Board of Visitors declined to renew the contract of Gene Nichol, the President of the university.

We don't know Gene Nichol from Adam. He looks like Meat Loaf, which is, y'know, cool. He carries himself like a man living Rudyard Kipling's adage, "Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves." To my knowledge, none of us has ever spoken to him, or if we have, we were so under the influence that we don't recall the conversation. Our loss, likely.

Though his tenure began in July 2005, Nichol first came to our attention in a meaningful way in May 2006 when he took on the NCAA over their asinine decision to censure William and Mary for having feathers in its athletic logo.

While the vast majority of college presidents would have taken the conservative route, quietly acquiescing, Nichol chose to stand for his beliefs, writing publicly, "An interpretation that penalizes the College of William & Mary while embracing the depiction of a brave on horseback, in war paint, plunging a flaming spear into the turf at midfield, to the delight of 85,000 chanting, tomahawking fans, is, at best, enigmatic."

A college is about many things, but it is foremost about the students that imbue it with its color, texture, and vitality. Administrators (read: adults) tend to lose their sense of whimsy and wonder, ground down by time and the inexorable demands of the grown-up world. They "know better", imposing a paternalist worldview in the name of decorum and almighty endowment rather than striving to maintain an atmosphere where youth can test limits in the one place in our society where it is safe to do so. A place that teaches, and not only in the classroom.

Gene Nichol was not without fault - he admits himself in his eloquent farewell that he "...sometimes moved too swiftly, and perhaps paid insufficient attention to the processes and practices of a strong and complex university. A wiser leader would likely have done otherwise."

But whatever his failings, Nichol never, ever put the student community anywhere other than first - in fact, he erred on the side of the student without fail, and it became his undoing. I don't claim to know the inside baseball that led to the Board's ultimate decision, but I know the wellspring from which it began as a trickle before surging into an inevitable and damaging flood.

I love my alma mater deeply, but my personal worldview - this Gheorghian knee-jerk aversion to self-seriousness - was forged in many ways as a reaction to my time in Williamsburg. Or at the very least, reinforced by the College's staunch southern conservatism. As the Virginian-Pilot's Donald Luzzato, a W&M alum, notes today, "The trick is to get older without getting old, to become an adult without becoming a scold. I’d like to think that my own college behavior (and I have more to regret than many), along with the judicious application of a family I don’t deserve and the passing of plenty of years, molded me into the man I am now, a far better person than the kid I was 24 years ago." So very many of my fellow alums fail miserably the test implied by those wise words and did so even during their time as undergraduates.

My school is diminished today because of the actions of a handful of self-important regents. I deeply regret that I didn't speak up earlier - Gheorghe would have.

Oh, and if you're still reading this, the W&M hoops squad faces a hellish final stretch, going on the road to Wilmington and Towson this week before finishing with Drexel and VCU at home and Gheorghe Mason on the road. Win one for Nichol, boys.

Go Tribe. Hark upon the gale.

I think Rob articulated the Gheorghe stance extraordinarily well. I'll try not to sully it with redundancy or verbosity. And I'll fail.

"Disappointing" is a term that's a bit heavy-handed for us skylarkers at G:TB, but it's exactly how I would characterize this unfortunate episode. You've only had to darken our blog's doorstep once or twice to see how we feel about The College of William & Mary. We appreciate its lofty academic reputation, lament its hard-knocks education, champion its sports teams, revel in the glorious memories of the years we spent on campus, and mostly wince at what has passed for recent updates from the 'Burg.

Perhaps it's the fact that somehow, against all chrono-logic, we identify more with the current students than with many of our fellow alums, but we've always been a fan of Gene Nichol. He's a presence on campus, not merely for his beefy frame, moptop haircut, and ill-chosen wardrobe. When we've seen him, he's been the eye of a small storm of students, parents, and alums. A linebacker in president's knickers, tackling injustices like they were ballcarriers. Bit of a bull in a china shop at times, but the healthiest dose of reality in a town that thrives on facade in some time.

By most accounts Gene Nichol's legacy should center around his movement to diversify the College. And what a backhand to his predecessors that is. It's eye-opening that we're in the 21st century and our public university was far whiter and richer in its enrollment and faculty than other such institutions when he took over. Even the presiding Rector acknowledged the tremendous strides the College owes to Gene Nichol in this regard. How ironic it would be if said Rector were to benefit from his progress in this area and become W&M's first African-American president when, according to a few in the know, he has undermined Gene Nichol repeatedly. In the meantime, everyone from Thomas Jefferson to George Jefferson should be pleased with what this president accomplished in an abbreviated tenure.

Instead, we're talking about a cross and a sex show (two great tastes that don't go great together). We at G:TB snidely joked whether they had enough real issues to worry about in the William & Mary community if these were the matters that had folks up in arms. Now it's not so hilarious, at least to one guy. Taking the cross out of a public college's chapel except during Christian ceremonies? I dunno, seems fair to me. Allowing the students to host some X-rated art show? Couldn't care less, and I have two daughters. These aren't pressing issues, people -- unless, I guess, you're trying to impose your extreme religious or partisan political views on this state school. And if you are . . . uh, can you . . . like . . . please not do that?

There's been a lot of talk about who the stakeholders in William & Mary should be, and whose opinion should sway the think tank known as the Board of Visitors. Certainly we alumni like to weigh in on the direction of the College (Exhibit A), with those who've stroked large checks using decidedly larger megaphones to do so. At least they've cared enough in the school's well-being to invest in it. Meanwhile, the Virginia General Assembly seems to enjoy using purse-strings as puppet-strings, manipulating the Board with preposterous threats bordering on misguided abuses of power. That brain trust doesn't seem to appreciate the irony of how they've wilted our alma mater's budget with the economic policy equivalent of falling down stairs (see Tax, Car) to the point where we approach privatization, then somehow they want more say in the direction of the College. The "How dare you, sir" blowhard bravado that emanates from 32-year-old ignorants like Delegate Frederick and his ilk just might be the nadir of the anti-Gheorghey vortex that swallowed up Gene Nichol. Somewhere in it all, the students' thoroughly ringing endorsements of President Nichol were cast aside as the triflings of children, as if anyone but the student body could be the greatest stakeholder in the school.

I think most of us will concede that Gene Nichol was not an ideal fit for The College of William & Mary, and in retrospect, he shouldn't have been tapped for the job and thrown to the wolves. He's a hard-charging defender of human and civil rights. W&M is a place for soft-spoken defenders of tradition. Presidents here quell controversies, they don't initiate or fuel them. We'll see a Pat Robertson protégé in that post before we see another guy like Gene Nichol. (Much to the delight of the bastion of Regent University grads in the General Assembly.) Give the people what they want, Ray sang, and it's time to let the outspoken other side have their guy.

The school will hire someone with less zeal for righting wrongs, less of a connection with the kids that attend class, and, because of how Gene Nichol was treated, less of a pedigree. (Rumor has it the Board is interviewing Jim Zorn.) A calm will be restored after a fiery few years. Rob and I will resume fixating on the quest for an NCAA tourney appearance for the woeful men's hoops team. And Gheorghe: The Blog will continue tilting at other windmills, taking up for the little guy, and cracking itself up with inside jokes about airline beverages and nicknames for co-eds.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Quick, Dirty

Since you apparently hate Steve Miller, we're moving on to a topic with more mass appeal. The Tribe heads to Boston (technically, they're already there) for a 1:00 tip today against Northeastern. The Huskies have been up and down this season, but they come into the game sporting a 3-game winning streak - a run that matches the Tribe's current 3-game upswing. W&M beat NU in Williamsburg earlier in the season but has their work cut out for them. The game is the first of 3 tough roadies for the Tribe - they play at Wilmington and Towson next week before getting Drexel at home. Says here they've gotta split the next 4 to have any chance of getting a first-round bye for the conference tourney, because it'll be tough for our boys to win their final 2 against VCU and Gheorghe Mason.

Bracketology is beginning to heat up around the interweb, with a group of 20 media types participating in a mock selection committee last week. As I was scouring the results, I wondered absently if I might see William and Mary in the mix, even as a wild-card CAA Tourney winner. I sat bolt upright at the thought - I can't remember ever once even looking for the Tribe's name in a mock bracket. The real thing is too much to contemplate.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Pompatus (or Puppetutes) of Love

Alternate title: I finally figured out what the fuck Steve Miller was singing about, thanks to Bob Dylan.

Even more alternate: Greetings to the Deadspinners here to learn about William & Mary's basketball futility. Today we're talking obscure musical trivia - it's our blog, dammit, and you will listen to every word we say. Tribe hoops stuff is here, here, and here, and will be back at the top of this page by tomorrow morning.

I don't claim Whitneypedic knowledge of all things musical; that particular savantic trait will forever be the domain of my compadre. Nonetheless, I love music almost as much as I do sports. And Muppets.

While my musical tastes generally run to the progressive/alternative, I dig all kinds of tunes. As it relates to today's efforts in advanced time and space wasting, the Steve Miller Band has always been one of my favorite classic rock outfits. That makes them the tallest midgets, to be sure, but there's a certain wink-and-a-nod humor to their music that I like.

In some ways, that insouciance is captured neatly in 'The Joker', as Miller sings, "Some people call me Maurice/'Cause I speak of the pompatus of love". (Don't forget the catchy whaaamp, whaaaa guitar riff between the lines - it's a killer.) For years, in fact until two days ago, I just assumed that I was mishearing the line, and that the 'pompatus' my ears translated was actually another word. An actual word. (Brief digression here for a moment: yes, I am in fact aware of the "internet" and its power to solve mysteries and give information. I guess the mystery of 'pompatus' never burrowed deeply enough into my conscious mind to elicit any interest in knowing more.)

And so I found myself listening to the Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour earlier this week as I gripped the wheel and stared alone into the distance during the evening rush hour. Dylan introduced a 1954 song by the Medallions, entitled 'The Letter', by extolling singer/songwriter Vernon Green's use of the invented words 'pizmotality' and 'puppetudes'. The song contains the lyric "Oh my darling, let me whisper/sweet words of pizmotality/and discuss the puppetutes of love". My little brain sizzled and snapped trying to put 2 and 2 together, and then I did remember that internet thingy.

As it turns out, Steve Miller's a student of musical history. In his song 'Enter Maurice', he turns the following phrase: "My dearest darling, come closer to Maurice/ so I can whisper sweet words of epistimology/in your ear and speak to you of the pompatus of love". 'Enter Maurice' (whaamp, whaaa) informed 'The Joker' (as did 'Space Cowboy' - seems Mr. Miller has a bit of a self-plagiarism issue. We've got that in common.)

Sure as the salmon flock to Capistrano, 'puppetutes' becomes 'pompatus' begets generations of confused music fans. And if I've saved even one of you from another day of feeling dumb when you hear 'The Joker', my humble pompatus to you. If you already knew everything I just typed, well, I never liked you all that much, anyway.

(All educational content gleaned from Wikipedia. Duh.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Forgotten Gaylord?

G:TB loves movies. And G:TB really loves bad movies, the kinds that are so bad they'e eternally re-watchable. Classics like Tango and Cash, Roadhouse, Stone Cold, Big Trouble in Little China and Cobra. We know the lines, we know the stars and we enjoy laughing at everything and everyone in the movie.

These movies are great on cold winter days. You're brutally hung-over, yet you've turned the corner because you popped 3 Advils, drank a quart of Gatorade and threw down a heaping plate of greasy breakfast foods big enough to stagger an elephant. You drag yourself out to the couch, scan through a list of bad basketball games, and then settle into some classic Hollywood schlock, with periodic breaks where you grab the Sunday Sports section and adjourn to the toilet for 20 minutes.

Amongst the favorites in Casa de Rhymenocerous are the sports movies of my youth. Classics like Younglood, North Shore and Over the Top are always entertaining. These movies will bubble up in popular culture on occasion, mentioned by friends, or in widely read blogs. But one classic sports movie always seems to get swept under the rug.

I'm talking, of course, about American Anthem. Perhaps you've forgotten about the tension, the action, and the rise and fall of the protagonist. Or perhaps you've forgotten what Wayne Gretzky's wife looked like in tights twenty years ago. Either way, I hope you enjoy this refresher course on the movie.

The title: American Anthem

The players:
Star: Olympic Gold medalist Mitch Gaylord as mercurial gymnast Steve Tevere
Love interest: Famous 1980's hottie and Gretzky wife Janet Jones as Julie Lloyd.
Little brother: R.J. Williams as Mikey Tevere

The plot: Bad boy athlete broods over family tension and lost dreams and tries to look like he knows how to smoke a cigarette. Sexy female gymnast with the body of a supermodel inspires him. Sexy gymnast and bad boy try out for Olympics. Bad boy makes squad because he does an extra rotation on the horizontal bar. Sexy female gymnast makes squad because she does her floor routine to an unorthodox synth-fueled tune composed by her wheelchair-bound friend with a curly mullet. Little brother high-fives his biker friends who have accompanied him to the Olympic trials. Wheelchair-bound friend fist pumps the air because he is also there, but there alone because he looks generally creepy. Spunky little female gymnast does not make squad, but impresses the event's emcee so much that he says her name in a slow and over-annunciated fashion every chance he gets. We'll see you in Barcelona, Becky Cameron!

Anger management coping mechanisms of the characters:

Steve: He copes with his anger by looking angry, yelling at his father and working out on the makeshift gymnastics equipment he has wisely set up in the middle of a leafy forest. While working out, he often tries the most reckless move that a gymnast can ever attempt: Spinning a fourth time on the horizontal bar before dismounting. We know this to be the case because the film score gives us omenous tones during Tevere's rotations when he practices in the forest.

Julie: She copes with her anger towards her strict Bela Karolyi-esque coach by changing the music to her floor routine. To accomplish this feat, she enlists the help of Danny Squire, a wheelchair-bound friend who bears a disturbing resemblance to Eric Stoltz' Rocky Dennis character from the movie Mask. Danny is a superb mixmaster who compiles a hot track of fresh 1980's synth beats for Julie. It sounds like what you'd hear if you played Herbie Hancock's 1980's hit Rockit from a tape recorder...while that tape recorder was in a dryer running at full speed.

Mikey: He deals with his anger in two ways. First, he storms off from arguments, hops on a bike, rides through trails in his own yard, and heads towards a cliff that he doesn't realize is on his own back yard. Second, he seeks solace in the company of his friends. These friends, naturally, are adult male bikers that seem to enjoy the company of a young boy.

Things American Anthem teaches about The US Olympic Gymnastics Trials:
- You don't have to possess any visible upper body
strength to be an elite female gymast. Janet Jones showed that she and her adult figure could hang in there with the muscular, pre-pubescent girls, despite looking she just left the video shoot for David Lee Roth's "California Girls" video.
- The promoters of the US Olympic gymnastics trials like to make their events as exciting and visually entertaining as possible. To do this, they turn the lights low at the event, crank music and have spectacular light shows going off at all times.
- Bikers like to watch the US Olympic Gymanastics trials with 10 year old boys.

Life Lessons Learned from American Anthem:
- Never ever ride dirt bikes in your back yard unless you're absolutely sure there are no cliffs on your property.
- Bring your earplugs to the Olympic trials. And get there early because it will be packed.
- You don't have to be a Gaylord to be a champion! But if you are a Gaylord, and you are a champion, you can get a second wife like Valentina Agius in real life:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Swedish Chef Chronicles

In honor of my favorite Muppets character (and that's saying something – so many great fuzzy folks from which to choose: Gonzo, Fozzie, Statler & Waldorf, Animal, Beaker, Rolf, Snuffleupagus…I digress), this week’s Hoops Wednesday will be served smorgasbord-style.

The sporting public welcomes Dick Vitale back to the broadcast booth tonight, and where better than Tobacco Road to ease him quietly and innocuously back into the limelight. Should be a reserved affair in Chapel Hill, replete with dignified, understated honoraria. G:TB, for one, is glad to have him back, even as we'll now return to mocking the clown prince. In a tangentially related note, my oldest daughter has to undergo a medical procedure tomorrow (minor, not to worry) that requires us to deprive her of sleep. I'll be introducing her to the Duke/Carolina rivalry and fielding questions about why that man is screaming so much.

In our second item, we ponder the recently retired Bob Knight. It should come as no surprise that G:TB isn't in the habit of making contributions to Knight's legal fund. He's everything we despise: a bullying, self-aggrandizing dick. His supporters will claim that he was successful on balance and instilled discipline and a sense of right and wrong in his players. As Marge Schott is wont to recall, Hitler did some good things, too. And Mussolini made the trains run on time. Sometimes, the ends don't justify the means. Good riddance.

Moving on to a subject we know absolutely nothing about, G:TB is scratching its collective head today about the Shaq-to-Phoenix deal. The poster boy for immovable objects meets the standard-bearer for movement, pace, and spacing. That seems...odd.

Finally, and far more importantly, the surging William and Mary Tribe hosts the Flying Dutchmen (okay, Pride - called and told us that Dutchmen is derogatory) of Hofstra this evening. W&M's looking to go 9-3 in conference play, while Hofstra's struggling at 4-7. The Pride does have the CAA's top scorer and arguably best player in Antoine Agudio, but they're young and/or inexperienced just about everywhere else. Even at home, this one has trap written all over it. Fingernail biting to commence at 7:00

And with that, furpdemoergen, borpoogloergen, put the piggy in the ooven.

Bilas Comes in Peace

Anyone who tells you 1990's "I Come in Peace" was a Dolph Lundgren vehicle obviously didn't pay attention to the dynamic performance submitted by ex-Dookie and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas**. Enjoy his work as alien cop Azeck - the fun starts at the 0:45 mark of the clip (or, since YouTube is messing with me, the -0:50 mark):

**G:TB realizes we're not breaking new ground here mentioning Jay's role in the movie. However, we're not sure people have actually seen him in action, and even though it's just a few seconds out of a trailer we thought it warranted viewing. It's a damn shame the loons on YouTube won't allow me to embed Jay's full dramatic scene.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Art Headed to the Museum

Art Monk was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday, and I heard about it last night, third-hand from a friend over some hurricanes and Abita Purple Hazes (Mardi Gras party.) After years of remaining attuned to Monk's plight as he was repeatedly passed over, how his happy news reached my ears was telling. I guess I'd given up hope that the folks with ballots would ever see Art Monk the way we Skins fans do.

The roundabout way I heard about it was also perfect for Art Monk -- quietly, without much fuss; a quick exchange of fives, an "awesome," a "hell yeah," and a "'bout friggin' time"; then it was back to the huddle around the crabcakes and beer. The conversational equivalent of the workmanlike 7-yard slant for a first down. Monk to a tee.

The Peter Kings of the world almost had me doubting myself and, in turn, Art Monk; with years of explanations why he wasn't premier enough for Canton, why he lacked the numbers that matter or elite status, their stance was prevailing among voters. As much as I rejected the notion that the guy who once held the all-time and single-season receptions titles -- in a run-first, run-second, pass-if-you-must offense -- wasn't worthy of such accolades, the simple fact that he wasn't getting in began to undermine my arguments to the contrary.

Art Monk wasn't flashy, and that worked against him -- even as it endeared him to the most loyal and longtime fans of the burgundy and gold. When we'd play football at recess (intermittently touch and tackle, depending upon the prior day's injuries and punishments), we'd pick players to be as we called plays like "everybody go deep." When a top selection was Ricky Thompson, Charlie Brown, or Alvin Garrett, knowing glances and grins would be exchanged between a few of us; Art Monk was always the pick, duh. Even as Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders stole headlines and highlights from him, Monk was central to the Redskins' success and an enormous fan favorite. He was a quiet guy, and that never helps a guy get votes from writers, either. You simply had to pay closer attention to see how integral a guy, how much of a leader he was. And we did.

It's been a tough case to make against those who didn't see every Washington game in the 80's and early 90's (back when we got Madden and Summerall almost every week). Monk missed the Super Bowl against Miami, didn't do much against the Broncos, and might be most famous in the win over the Bills for being the first-ever guy to have a Super Bowl TD called back because of replay. Doesn't change our opinion of him in the least. The Skins don't get to any of those title games without guys like Art Monk. He's diametrically opposed to Riggo in flair and sense of the spotlight, but he's right alongside him in on-field consistency, toughness, and performance down the stretch. Same goes for Darrell Green. These guys got it done. (I won't delve further into new HoFer Darrell Green's greatness here. This post is for Mr. Monk.)

Art Monk might not seem like a Fun Bunch kind of player, but the loved & hated touchdown celebration was actually conceived in the 1982-3 postseason as a tribute to him as he sat out with a broken ankle. (He wouldn't miss time after that for eons.) The plan was for the group to assemble after a caught TD and make a unified high-five in the playoff game against the Lions. Alvin Garrett got too excited after his first two touchdowns and simply forgot; when he scored his third, however, they finally got it right and saluted Monk. The Hall of Fame seems to have followed the pattern all the way, and I now give them credit.

3rd-and-9. 11-yard catch. Take a hit, hop up, back to the huddle.

The way it should be, and I'm not the only Redskins fan who's extremely fired up to see him finally get the call from the Hall. Congrats to Art Monk.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Nothing fancy today - just creating a place for futile superfans to weigh in on this evening's William and Mary/UNC Wilmington matchup. The two enter the game tied for second in the CAA with 7-3 marks. The Seahawks have won 5 straight, including consecutive wins over Gheorghe Mason and Old Dominion. The Tribe shook off a tough loss to ODU, going on the road to beat James Madison and clinch a regular season sweep of the Dukes. That doesn't play real well at my house.

Wilmington's got some inside presence that will cause the Tribe some trouble, with the imposing 6'10" 265-lb Vlad Kuljanin coming off a 26-point, 25-board week and 6'9" Todd Hendley averaging 12.5 ppg. Freshman point Chad Tomko teams with stud T.J. Carter to give the 'Hawks a tough backcourt. As has been the case all season, the Tribe will go as far as their outside shooting takes them. W&M's made double-digit triples in three consecutive games, and six times this season - both school records. Nathan Mann dropped 19 on JMU and leads W&M with a .417 mark from outside, making 24 of his last 49. Laimis Kiselius is the reigning CAA Player of the Week.

UNCW has a top-flight offense, but struggles on defense, especially on the perimeter. W&M scores a lot less and defends a lot better. One of these unlikely squads remain no worse than one game out of first place in the conference after tonight's game. Litos says it'll be UNCW, and we like the way he thinks.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lawrence Frank Must Go

It’s been over four years since Lawrence Frank took over the reins of a feisty and overachieving New Jersey Nets squad. A relative unknown, Frank’s strength was his educational pedigree in basketball. He worked under the legendary Bobby Knight at Indiana, and the (much less) legendary Brian Hill in Orlando. He was also a famed alumnus of New Jersey’s Teaneck High School, which features a disturbingly large amount of celebrity alumni. Among its graduates, the public school can note NBA Commish David Stern, Fed Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, film critic Leonard Maltin, fashion designer Marc Jacobs and major leaguer Doug “I once had 200 hits in a season without using steroids” Glanville. It also graduated a Hungarian Pi Lam attorney from William & Mary with large nipples and a lot of armpit hair, but that may not be relevant to our story.

Most of the 6,000 Nets fans across the nation were unsure about the move. The challenge facing him was significant. And he looked like a little boy wearing his father’s suits. He was replacing the mediocre Byron Scott, who lost control of the team after leading them to back-to-back appearances in the NBA finals. There were some large egos to manage on the team. And Frank worked in the midst of the New York City media spotlight despite playing five miles outside of New York in the swamps of Jersey.

Amid these gloomy clouds overhead, the fans and media took to Frank quite quickly, as he led the team to a 13 game winning streak to start his tenure. They also loved his scrappy look. Positioned as a more photogenic version of Jeff Van Gundy (small, white, pasty, very energetic), he talked a good game to the media and displayed a passion on the sideline. The team bought into his philosophy, embracing a high-paced offensive style. However, Frank didn’t get much done that postseason. The Nets lost in the second round of the 2004 playoffs. After that season, Nets management let Kenyon Martin and his bad tattoos walk, deciding instead to focus on re-signing Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins and Jason Kidd.

Over the next two seasons, the Nets teams repeated similar patterns, despite the mid-season addition of Vince Carter in late 2004. They played slightly above average in the weak Eastern Conference and failed to make the conference finals either year. Frank never got a dependable rotation going for the team, leaning on the Big Three of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson. And he seemed wedded to the idea of Jason Collins as a starting big man in the NBA. He praised Collins’ ability to do the “little things” to earn minutes. However, these “little things” came at the expense of the “big things,” such as scoring, rebounding and blocking shots, things a reasonable person might find important in a starting center.

In fact, the (lack of a) rotation throughout Frank’s tenure has remained a mish-mash of has-beens and never-will-bes playing in irregular intervals. His rotation has occasionally featured such luminaries as Lamond Murray, Eddie House, Scott Padgett, Zoran Planinic, Brian Scalabrine, Brandon Armstrong, Darrell Armstrong, Jamaal Magloire, Tamar Slay and/or Antoine Wright. Fans wait with baited breath every time Kidd goes to the bench because the team has never learned to function without him.

The Nenad Krstic debacle further cements Frank’s cluelessness as a coach. Krstic was hurt last year, came back too soon this year, lost his starting job, flailed on the bench for a while, and then was finally shut down by the team. Frank seems intent on making Krstic into Jamie Feick v. 2.0 by playing him when there was clearly something wrong other than “rustiness.” Here’s the Jamie Feick recipe: Take one talented big man. Misjudge the severity of his injury. Mislead the media about the player’s recovery prospects. Let fester. The only thing missing in the parallel is the rebounding ability that Feick had and the disturbing molestation incident(s) that Feick faced as a youngster. Thankfully, the internet seems to be blocking that incident from coming back to light since Sports Illustrated did a story on it a few years ago.

But back to the topic. Frank doesn’t grasp the concept of a set rotation, even though two of his big dogs are well into their 30’s. He FINALLY gave up on the prospect of Jason Collins starting for the team this year. With no other options besides Malik Allen and the ghost of Jamaal Magloire, he inserted the young and talented tandem of Sean Williams and Josh Boone into the 4/5 slots. They have been putting up very good numbers since then. Also, much to the apparent surprise of Frank, more athletic big men have complimented Kidd’s fast-break game better than Collins and his large caboose.

The team has been mired in mediocrity all year. They are saddled with an overpaid Vince Carter (who will likely clamor to leave soon because Jefferson is stealing some of his shots), and an unhappy Jason Kidd (who is probably clamoring to leave because he’s had sex with every woman in a 25 mile radius of East Rutherford). They will still have Krstic, a mysteriously injured and still untested power forward that can score (but not rebound). And they will have some talented youngsters who, much like the Pi Lambda Phi pledge class of 1993, liked to steal and smoke pot in college .

Frank has lost this team; much like Byron Scott lost them over four years ago. They suffered through a couple terrible losing streaks already this year. They lost six straight in November after starting the year 4-1. They lost six of seven in December, and they lost nine in a row in January. Imbedded in the most recent nine-game losing streak were losses to the Knicks, Clippers, Kings and T-Wolves. Ouch. The team brought Kiki Vandeweghe in to run the basketball side of things this season, but the trade rumors circulating today are not inspiring. They may move Collins for Stromile Swift. Hard to get excited about that. And they may move Kidd and get a crap sandwich in return that consists of Jerry Stackhouse, Channing Frye, Jarrett Jack, draft picks and/or financial considerations. The Stackhouse move makes less sense than the measurements made by Frank’s tailor. The Nets are loaded at the 2/3 position. Bringing in another guy to take shots away from VC and make him sulk even more won’t help anything.

This team has gone from being a contender to being a sham under the watch of Little Lawrence Frank. They are about to blow the team up and start anew. They should continue the purge by axing the little man in the oversized suit.

A Gift to all our Redskins Readers

Kudos to BradyFan83, who continues to produce epic YouTubes. As a non-Skins fan living in this town, I got a real kick out of this clip:

[Kevin Mench-sized Cap Nod to The Big Lead on this]