Of Missed Calls, Missed Jumpers and Multiple Home-run games (An emotional roller coaster from the past weekend in sports)

2013-04-07T033912Z_01_ATL167_RTRMDNP_3_BASKETBALL-NCAAI promise I’m not bitter (not much anyways).  Saturday night Syracuse came within a few missed calls and missed jump shots from playing for the national championship.  It’s hard to say what would have happened if they made it to Monday nights game.  Many feel Louisville was a team of destiny, particularly after the horrific injury to Kevin Ware.  But, they are also a team that lost to Syracuse earlier this season when they held the number one ranking (and with Syracuse missing key player James Southerland).  If the two teams had played on Monday it would have been the fourth meeting between the two this season, (with Louisville holding a 2-1 edge in the series) and it is a well documented fact that it is extremely difficult to beat a team three times in one season (just ask Georgetown).  Personally I liked our chances in the title game, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.  I won’t blame the refs, even though they certainly didn’t help.  Outside of a great performance by CJ Fair, and a late surge by Brandon Triche, the offense was fairly anemic the entire game.  Carter-Williams, who had played brilliantly up to this point in the tournament disappeared, (he and Burke essentially cancelled each other out and were non-factors) scoring just 2 points on 1-6 shooting and dishing only 2 assists in comparison to 5 turnovers.  Southerland also picked the wrong time to cool off, going just 2-9 from the field and 1-5 from 3 point range after being red-hot coming into the tourney (granted his one three was a huge shot that brought the deficit to 1 with 42 seconds remaining).  Following Southerland’s made three, Trey Burke hit one of two from the line making the score 58-56 with 28 seconds to go, that’s when the refs decided it was their time to impact the game.  The scene pictured above unfolded.  Triche drove to the basket, and collided with Michigan’s Jordan Morgan, the refs called a charge, Triche fouled out, and with the DQ of Carter Williams roughly a minute earlier, the game was essentially over.  Upon review, all but a few commentators (I’m looking at you Dickie V.) agreed the refs got the call wrong, this was a block, not a charge.  Michigan again went only 1 of 2 from the line and left the door opened for Syracuse to tie it up, but things looked bleak.  With Triche and Carter-Williams both on the bench, the game was left up to seldom used freshmen Trevor Cooney.  The play was supposed to go to Southerland, but when Cooney couldn’t get him the ball, he instead drove to the basket and threw up a shot that missed rather badly.  Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. rebounded the ball,and in classic Michigan fashion committed a travel that wasn’t called  (I’m looking at you Chris Webber).  Hardaway heaved the ball ahead to Jordan Morgan for a dunk as time expired.  Game over, 61-56 Michigan.  Honestly, for a team that few if any expected to get this far, it’s hard to be too heart broken over this loss.  It did, however, feel like there was some justice in the world when Michigan was the victim of some bad officiating in the title game (a clear goal-tend by Gorgui Dieng in the first half, and the much talked about Trey Burke block late in the game).

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Until your bracket is busted, your favorite team has lost and all your hopes and dreams have been shattered)

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We’re roughly two hours from the start of the first game of this years NCAA tournament, (#3 Michigan St. vs. #14 Valparaiso) and my excitement level is almost at its peak.  (Side note, don’t pick Valpo just because of this shot in 1998, I know it’s tempting).  The NCAA tournament is by far my favorite sporting event of the year, and I happen to be blessed with a sort of shitty job, with the one perk of that job being that I can easily get the first two weekends of the tourney off.  So, while many are stuck at work trying to figure out how to watch the games and check the scores without their bosses notices, I’m just trying to figure out how to burn the next 2 hours of time before the games start.  I’ve got my brackets filled out, all 17 of them (I have absolutely no integrity).  So I have to come up with some other ways to burn time (and to try to distract myself from the fact that this is the second year in a row a major scandal has been broken on the eve of the tourney for my team, Syracuse.)  I’ll probably just do what I always do while I wait for the games to start, watch One Shining Moment videos while trying not to tear up, and get a jump start on my drinking.  (Here’s a few One Shining Moments in case you want to do the same.  Also does anyone know what happened to that horrible Jennifer Hudson One Shining Moment from a couple of years ago.  I feel like CBS is trying to pretend it never happened by destroying all copies of the video, and bringing back the Luther Vandross version).

(A compilation from the 27 seasons on CBS set to One Shining Moment)

(And the most shining moment of all, the 2003 version, following the Syracuse win)

For anyone who still has some time to burn, here’s a collection of the best buzzer beaters from the tourney.

For anyone still looking for help on filling out their brackets, here are all 68 teams ranked by the coolest person who went there.  (Link)

Or here’s some advice from ESPN on which teams are set to be this years Cinderella (Link)

Or you could just except that your bracket is probably screwed, (especially this year) and just pick whoever you want, or be super lame and let ESPN auto-fill your bracket.  (In 2011 I won Kevin Durant’s group on ESPN and got a pair of sneakers, I’ve kind of accepted this is the best I’ll ever do, but it never hurts to dream).

Well, it looks like the time just ticked over to beer o’clock.  Good luck to everyone with their brackets. I’ll be checking in on twitter throughout the weekend, and will probably update on here sometime early next week.

I’m leaving you with a video of Gus Johnson’s greatest calls, we miss you Gus, come back home to the tourney where you belong.

An Apology for a Season of Half-Hearted Support

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I generally consider myself a pretty devoted fan of all my sports teams.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been a Syracuse basketball fan since I was 10 years old, and for most of the past (almost) 21 years I would consider myself very devoted.  I watch all the games, frequently in my team apparel during the regular season, and when March rolls around I start with the superstitions.  I can’t prove it, but I’m fairly certain that by eating the same food and wearing the same clothes every game day, I willed the team to the 2003 title.  But this year something just didn’t click with me.  Even when we were winning, and looked like we might be headed for a number one ranking, I didn’t feel the connection with this team like I have with those prior.  As the losses started coming more frequently towards the end of the season,  I felt myself drifting further and further from the team, culminating with the extremely disappointing drubbing at the hands of Georgetown last weekend.  I was feeling negative going into this final Big East tournament.  I saw us winning one or two games in the Big East tournament, and ending up in the NCAA tourney with a dreaded #5 seed.  But then, just as I was ready to write this years team off, some hope emerged.  We started hitting some shots again, and had the look of a team with some life and heart, (a team that left the building during the second half of last weekends Georgetown game).  Following last nights overtime victory over Georgetown, I’m all the way back.  I finally saw the heart of this years team, and found our connection.  Triche and Southerland have stepped up mightily, leading the team, and finding their shooting strokes (Southerland tied assistant coach Gerry McNamara’s tourney record for 3 point field goals last night with 16).  They also look like two guys who might finally understand that best case scenario they have 7 games left in their respective basketball careers, and they look like they want to make the most of them.  The team also looked like a group that just finds a way to win, a look they had earlier in the season when Southerland was out with academic issues.  If you had told me prior to last nights game that we would have been carried by Keita going 7-7 from the free throw line, and that Cooney would out score CJ Fair, I would have said you were crazy.  But that’s what happened.  In interviews following last nights game the players said Boeheim explained the significance of the Big East tournament, and what it means to him.  It seems like the players took it to heart.  I don’t think Boeheim cares more about winning this last Big East tournament than he does about winning another NCAA title, but I think it’s a close second.  Personally, while it would certainly be nice to go out on top, I’ll feel ok if we loss to Louisville tonight.  We’ve certainly improved our seed for the NCAA tournament, and more importantly we’ve regained our confidence that we can win, and the desire to want to win.  And most importantly, (not really) I’m fully back on board with this team.  So I’ll be tuned in tonight, eating the same food, (and during last nights game I ate a popsicle (yeah I know, shut up) and somehow it was too cold and stuck to my lip and ripped the skin off, and I’m doing that again tonight, that’s dedication) and wearing the same clothes, and willing the team to victory. Let’s go Cuse, WHOO! (that’s for my mother, for those who think I’ve lost it).

My 10 Favorite Moments From the Last 20 Years of NBA All-Star Weekend

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I’ve decided to celebrate the upcoming NBA All-Star weekend by looking back at my 10 favorite moments from previous All-Star weekends (in no particular order).

1. Chris “Birdman” Anderson misses the same dunk 15 times in 2005 slam dunk contest (this video greatly abbreviates how long he was actually up there trying to complete this dunk).

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Remember When Dwight Howard Used to Be Fun

Remember when Dwight Howard used to do fun stuff like this, (or any of the other slam dunk contests against Nate Robinson, even if that battle did get old after a while) or stuff like this:

What has happened to the Dwight we used to know and love (kinda).  Earlier this week Howard complained about touches following a loss to the Chicago Bulls, and then took the statement back two days later calling his earlier statement “immature.” (source)  This is just the latest in a string of incidents in the last few years.  Many felt Howard gave up on the Orlando Magic last season after expressing a desire to be traded.  Former Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, who had a notoriously shaky relationship with Howard, accused the star of pushing to get the coach dismissed from the team. (source) Howard’s production in Los Angeles, and his relationship with Kobe Bryant have been so bad that many have been forced to say that Howard may just not fit with the Lakers.  Kobe Bryant has been trying to teach Howard to have more of the edge he feels all great players need (the following is a quote from Bryant during an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today).

“He wants to be one of the greats of all time, and to do that you have to learn from the greats of all time – be it Bill Russell, be it Shaq. I mean Shaq was a moody, temperamental dude. So if you watch all the big men who have come before, you start to see a common denominator.

“Wilt (Chamberlain), God bless him, was phenomenal, but he didn’t have (the same edge). Russell and (those) guys win repetitive – (Michael) Jordan, Magic (Johnson), myself. You’ve got a little (expletive) in you. I want (Howard) to be great, so I’m trying to push him.”

In the article (link) Amick refers to Howard’s personality as passive aggressive, and say’s Bryant may be trying to teach the big man a lesson he doesn’t want to learn.  Time (and probably not a lot of it since Howard is currently on the trading block) will tell if Bryant can bring Howard around to his way of thinking.  Maybe Howard just doesn’t have that edge in him, as Kobe said not everyone has it, and I’m sure Howard would settle for being as good as Wilt.  Instead of trying to find an edge I wish Howard would focus on finding himself, and go back to being the fun, goofy guy of old.  I think going back to his old self would make Howard more fun to watch, and get his production back on track, a fact that would cheer up fantasy owners around the country.

The Good, The Bad, and The Really Really Weird (a recap of the past week in college sports)

The past week has been remarkable in a lot of ways for college athletics.  College basketball is in the meat of its conference schedule, and those who contended there was no dominant team this year have been proven correct as the underdog has taken almost as many games as the favored team (The Good).  In the midst of a great college basketball season the NCAA finds itself in trouble (again) this week with a scandal emerging around its investigation of the University of Miami (The Bad).  And finally the Manti Te’o story continues to be the gift that just keeps on giving as new details have emerged this week (The Really, Really Weird).  All these topics deserve some attention so I’ll start with The Good.

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The Weekend Sports Recap…yes I know it’s Wednesday

 

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jones catches a pass behind Denver Broncos free safety Moore and then scores a touchdown late in the fourth quarter in their NFL AFC Divisional playoff football game in Denver

It’s Wednesday again! which means it must be time to talk about stuff that everyone else stopped talking about like yesterday morning! The divisional round of the NFL playoffs more than made up for the sad display from wild card weekend, and we saw the two remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball go down.

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When Good Sports Go Bad (a recap of the weekend that wasn’t in sports)

So to start off, I just want to say I am aware it’s currently Wednesday, and that most people got their weekend sports recaps in somewhere in the sunday night/monday area, but I was busy doing other important things (like watching The Bachelor and writing a recap of that) so give me a break.

On paper it seemed like this past weekend should have been at least a good, if not great time to be sitting in front of the television for any sports fan.  The NFL playoffs were starting with wildcard weekend, and if you are willing to tag Monday onto the weekend, than you also got the BCS National Championship game between Alabama and every white guy over 50’s favorite team, Notre Dame.  Unfortunately for football fans, Saturdays games featured a field goal kicking contest between the Texans and Bengals, and the equivalent of a third string QB starting for the Vikings.  The early game on Sunday didn’t give fans much more to cheer for, unless you’re a huge fan of Ray Lewis dancing, in that case you were totally in luck.

The most anticipated game of the weekend, between the Seahawks and Redskins turned out to be the best offering (not saying much).  But after Robert Griffin III tore his ACL and LCL on a fumbled bad snap half way through the fourth quarter, the Seahawks were able to take the lead and put the game away.  So not only were we given a slew of shitty games to watch to start the NFL playoffs, we also lost one of the brightest young stars in the game.  RG3 underwent surgery today by Dr. James Andrew’s, who estimated the recovery time at 6-8 months, which would mean a return in time for the start of next season.

The highlight of Monday’s BCS title game, for all none Alabama fans in any case, was Brent Musburger’s enthusiastic reaction when Alabama QB AJ McCarron’s girlfriend appeared on the screen.  Notre Dame’s defense could do nothing to stop an experienced Alabama offense, and their offense couldn’t do much either, not managing their first score until just over 4 minutes remained in the 3rd quarter, and with the team trailing 35-0 at the time.  I would however like to thank both teams, I was struggling over whether to watch the game and just DVR The Bachelor or skip most of the game, they made the decision fairly easy.

College basketball was the one bright spot from the sports calendar this past weekend.  Marquette and St. John’s both scored 1 point upsets over ranked opponents (#15 Georgetown and #14 Cincinnati respectively).  #25 Kansas St. scored a small upset over #22 Oklahoma St. 73-67, and Rutger’s upset #24 Pitt 67-62 (note all rankings are from time of contest, not current).  However, what on paper seemed to be the game of the weekend, #8 Ohio St. vs. #11 Illinois ended up being another huge disappointment with Illinois dominating from the start and winning easily 74-55.

The good news is, since it took me so long to get this post out, it’s already Wednesday, which means we’re halfway towards another seemingly good weekend of sports.  The college basketball slate is packed with good games Saturday, #1 Duke vs. #20 NC State and #8 Minnesota vs. #5 Indiana both tip at noon (or if you’re a Syracuse fan like me, they also tip at noon vs. Villanova).  And some other good games later in the day such as #14 Butler vs. Dayton at 2 and #16 San Diego St. vs. Colorado St. at 8 for people looking to get a look at west coast teams before march madness.  Saturday also features two NFL divisional games, Baltimore vs. Denver at 4:30 and Green Bay vs. San Francisco at 8 pm.  Sunday features a classic rivalry game in college basketball with #2 (and undefeated) Michigan vs. #15 Ohio St. at 1:30, and two more NFL playoff games, Seattle vs. Atlanta at 1 pm and Houston vs. New England at 4:30.  I’ll be back next Wednesday-ish, hopefully with a lot more action to recap.

Just remembered I forgot the most exciting story from the weekend in sports, Kevin Garnett said Carmelo Anthony’s wife Lala tasted like honey nut Cheerios, and Carmelo did not appreciate it.  They were both ejected from the game following double technicals, and according to this grainy video from TMZ Carmelo waited at the Celtics team bus to confront Garnett. (This is like basketball wives, except it would be basketball husbands and good players are involved).

Jim Boeheim Celebrates 900th Victory with Call for Gun Control

Jim Boeheim has never been great at endearing himself to outsiders.  The public persona attributed to him is generally one of a cranky, whiny nerd who plays with his nose too much.  Fans of Syracuse and Boeheim know however that this view of him is not accurate.  While he can be slightly crabby, fans know Boeheim as a man who has raised over four million dollars for cancer research, a man he has continuously given back to his community, and a man who through consistency and loyalty has won 900 basketball games at his alma mater.  Last night after Boeheim somewhat begrudgingly spoke with reporters about his accomplishment, he went on to talk about a different topic in his post game press conference.  Boeheim stepped up to call for a ban on assault rifles following the school shooting in Newtown Connecticut this past Friday.  This makes Boeheim one of the few public figures brave enough to directly call for action following the events of last week.  His call was met both with applause and criticism, some in the comments section of ESPN.com stated they had now lost all respect for the coach following his post game comments.   Luckily for Boeheim and his fans, public opinion doesn’t seem to have much effect on his personality or his coaching style.  So while some will judge that he’s not a big game coach, or that he should play less zone,  or that he whines too much, or that he should keep his feelings on the issues to himself, Boeheim will keep on doing what he’s always done, and keep on winning.

The Original Hater: My Long Relationship with Michael Jordan

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Last week Michael Jordan was banned from Miami’s La Gorce Country Club for refusing to change out of the cargo shorts he was wearing, which were against club dress code. (Not the first time Jordan has been in trouble on the golf course).  While one could argue the club was being a little ridiculous, since Bermuda shorts are fine by club policy but cargo are enough to ban someone permanently, for me this was just another reminder that I hate Michael Jordan.

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