Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wait...Who's Tiger Woods Again?

So this is what it has come to.  As I'm watching the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago, G sits next to me.  Presuming that he wants to change the station to Jesse or to Victorious, I brace for the inevitable questions about changing the station.  But he surprised me today.  He wants to watch golf with me!  Come on over.

We're watching the afternoon Best Ball format on Saturday afternoon, paying particular attention to the match between Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker for the USA and Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia for the Europeans.  Although the US is ahead 10-4 as we start to watch, I'm most interested in this Woods' match.  Down by 4 shots at the turn, the Americans are storming back just as G sits next to me. 

"Who are we rooting for Dad?"  G asks me as he jumps on the couch.

"The Americans."  I answer as I pick up my drink right before he spills it on me.

"Are they the ones with the ugly pick shirts?" G asks me.

"No those are the Europeans.  They always wear terrible clothing.  I think they are either color blind, or fashion in Milan and Paris is all out of whack."  I explain to him.  I'm a true definition of a homer, I guess.   And on top of that, he doesn't really get my poor excuse for a joke.

"Well I'm rooting for who ever you are rooting for."  Sounds good.  Go USA!

So we start watching together.  Just as Tiger Woods does his patented point and walk toward a putt that he knows is going in, G asks me a startling question.

"Who's that guy?"

"You mean Tiger Woods?" I look at him with a weird look on my face (I'm sure).  He's playing really well and the Americans might pull this game out."

"Wait...who's Tiger Woods again?  I mean, is he making a come back?  Didn't you say his career was over and that he was never going to golf again?"  Jeez, it's been a long three years since that fateful Thanksgiving night back in 2009 when Tiger Woods life changed forever.

Yeah, it's been a long time and I've forgiven him.  I think we all have.  That's just the nature of our society.  And now as he's growing a little older, he is not as dominant as he once was.  In fact some of us might consider his an underdog.  Flashes of brilliance from Woods are few and far between.  He's won some tournaments in the last three years, but in the Majors, except for one amazing front Nine performance at the 2011 Masters, Woods is no longer the most dominant golfer on the PGA.  And that's OK with me.  It's more fun this way.

I keep this in mind as we watch that point and walk this afternoon from Woods.  He's sticking his approaches, his drives are long and mostly straight and he has that look in his eye that we haven't seen in 4 years.  Although they came up short (as did Johnson and Dufner in the last match of the afternoon against Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter), I'm optimistic about the Singles matches tomorrow morning.  And with a 10-6 lead, I don't even think NBC can jinx the US team into images of the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline Country Club.

Maybe G won't know Tiger Woods as well as we do.  And maybe Woods will never win another Major again.  But watching this match makes me remember why watching Woods is so fascinating.  The Ryder Cup brings this out in everyone.

Oh yeah.  I can't stand Ian Poulter either.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Really Want the UFL to Succeed

Who doesn't love professional football in Las Vegas?  I know, we have to endure professional football in the middle of Virginia, Sacramento and Omaha to see Las Vegas Football, but who cares?  Who doesn't love cringing when you think about the referees who are covering these games when all of the good low level officials are in the NFL right now (or at least they were yesterday)?  Who doesn't love the fact that the biggest name in this league is Jim Fassel, the former Giants head coach and the Las Vegas Locos head coach?  Welcome to the United Football League.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now you may think that I gave up on this developmental football league after the Hartford Colonials and Jerry Glanville were taken from us die hard fans in New England with the disbanding of the Hartford Colonials for the 2011-2012 season.  But as I'm watching the Mountain Lions' "to do" checklist for the 2012-13 season during their season opener vs the Locos, I can't help but get sucked back in.  This little league that could may actually make it.  And I see that one of their top players to watch is Josh Johnson - I mean we are steps away from a Doug Flutie sighting for Christ's sake!  Bring on more UFL has beens and never-will-bes!

Back to the game.  Adam Archeleta and Brent Stover are calling the action for the CBS Sports Network (I didn't event know that this television station existed!!) and Lauren Gardner is the sideline reporter, just like NFL Football.  That's where the on-field similarities with the NFL ends, but I cant help but wonder though, if this is really a chance at big time football.  They are excited, and so am I.  So really who cares if the brand of football is mediocre and that the Crimson Tide could easily handle any one of these four teams?  I say, what can we do to help.  Well, if you're asking me, my suggestions can be boiled down to about three suggestions.

1.  Bring on the XFL.  While the fake story lines don't cut the mustard, some of the personalities are memorable and should be implemented here.  I mean who doesn't remember "He Hate Me?"  If we include more personality in this game, more people would turn in and watch Omaha vs Sacramento.

2.  Amp up the sex and violence appeal.  Similar to some of the wrestling associations that came up to fight it out with the WWE, increasing the sex and violence appeal would go a long way into keeping eyes glued to the screen.

3.  Open up the scoring.  I love flea flickers, long passes, reverses and gadget plays.  If the scoring were to increase then the eyes would start looking at the screen.  Call pass interference tightly and crack down on defensive schemes.  Open up the holding penalties and interference calls to exploit a greater passer attack.  When this gets opened up, the the gadget plays will work.

And if the referees come back?  The UFL will be hiring new officials left and right.  And I doubt any of them have a UFL team down on Facebook as their favorite team.  But maybe they will.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Flashback: Calhoun's 1988 UCONN NIT Team

With Jim Calhoun announcing his retirement from the UCONN Huskies (just before the hammer comes down on the program - even harder than the lack of post season play would suggest), what better way to celebrate the Coach who brought three National Championships to central Connecticut in 12 years than to celebrate where it really all began.  That fateful season in 1987-88 where the Huskies started its post season 25 year run with an NIT Championship.

1987-88 was Jim Calhoun's second season at the helm, after several seasons as Northeastern head basketball coach.  The 1986-87 team was a disaster for Calhoun, as Dom Perno left the team in shambles.  There was no Corny Thompson helping this team.  Calhoun could only lead the Huskies to 9 wins all season.  Not really the way to set the stage from a championship the next season...

1987 began quietly enough.  As with every UCONN season under Calhoun's reign, the early season schedule in 1987-88 was filled with patsies and cream puffs.  The likes of Morgan State, Hartford (who gave UCONN a close game as it turns out), Yale and Central Connecticut, sandwiched two ignominious losses to Virginia and Villanova.  Nothing really special had started happening.  Even wins against Pepperdine and Princeton later in the season were nothing special.  The only thing that really stood out was the play of the team's two stars at the time Tate George and Clifford Robinson.

Despite big wins at Syracuse (which was ranked in the Top 10 at the time) and against Georgetown, the season was marked by fits and starts and the team could not manage to string more than a couple of wins in a row (and never cracked the AP Top 20).  In fact, as the season wore on, the Huskies could only manage a handful of wins in the Big East and ended the season in last place with a conference record of 4-12.  Despite a 20-14 season overall, the Huskies did not join Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Georgetown and Villanova in the Big Dance and instead was relegated to the little bastard championship tournament, the NIT.  The NIT also featured Boston College, who was second to last in the Big East and Ohio State that had finished its year off with a 20-13 season.

Connecticut would need to win 5 games in a row to win the NIT, even though it couldn't string more than two wins together more than once (and that 5 game streak was against the creampuffs above).  But wins against, West Virginia, Louisiana Tech and VCU brought UCONN to the brink of the NIT Championship.  The only thing standing in the way was the tough Boston College team that had split the season series with the Huskies.  Boston College was focused itself as it had defeated three strong teams to face Connecticut.  Undaunted, UCONN, led by Clifford Robinson and standourt guard Phil Gamble, the Huskies defeated the Eagles 73-67 to reach the Championship game.

The improbable win against Boston College then set up the interesting NIT Championship final with the Ohio State Buckeyes.  After defeating Colorado State, the Buckeyes were determined to bring the title home thmselves back to Columbus.  After trailing most of the game, UCONN behind Tate George and Phil Gamble, stormed back to beat Ohio State 72-67.  Phil Gamble is named the tournament MVP and Jim Calhoun is annointed the next up and coming star of the Big East to follow John Thompson, Lou Carnesecca and Rollie Massiminio.  Calhoun's ascension to the top of the Big East really began on this night at Madison Square Garden.

Which brings us back to today, 25 years later.  Calhoun has endured coaching challenges, players stealing computers, an iffy bar in downtown Hartford, broken bones, cancer and an academic scandal that has saddled the team going forward.  Despite all of this, Calhoun is a beloved figure in Connecticut and beyond.  And now he has retired with the legacy - beginning on that cold night in March - squarely in tact.  Good luck with your future, Mr. Calhoun.

Monday, September 3, 2012

JMR's 2012 Fantasy Football Extravaganza!

It took three years of begging and pleading.  It took three years of talking Mom into creating a team.  It took three years of the boys watching the NFL Network and ESPN SportsCenter to convince me that they were ready.  And after all of that, we have finally created the JMR 2012 Fantasy Football League Extravaganza.  Four teams - Camalama, Mommy Fearest, the Sharks and Pass Play Gray will vie for the first annual JMR Football Championship.  Sponsors appreciated.

The negotiations started early.  To talk Mom and DLG into joining the league, the three of us boys had to agree to an autopick draft instead of a live draft.  I suppose that was the best thing, since the boys would probably just go with the player that would have been auto-picked anyway, and then they would have been upset at getting the same player that the autodraft would have given them anyway.  Got all of that?

We play 14 weeks, with Weeks 15 and 16 being the playoffs.  Head-to-Head format with fractional points that this league website is known for.  So the kids will learn a little bit of math along the way?  This is educational!  So here are the teams with my expected Win-Loss record.

Camalama (6-8)

Camalama has a very strong team at WR and RB.  Players include Jimmy Graham, LeSean McCoy, Andre Johnson, DeMarco Murray, Ahmad Bradshaw and Jordy Nelson.  A lot of points will be put up by the skill positions.  Camalama is anchored by the Chicago Bears defense.  A good pick by the computer.  The big weakness I can see in the team...QB.  Michael Vick and Peyton Manning as the two starters?  If points were awarded for games missed, the points would be stacking up.  In our league, it may be a long season at that position.
The MF'ers are psyched!

Mommy Fearest (9-5)

When you have the best QB (Aaron Rodgers), best Tight End (Rob Gronkowski), best defense (San Francisco 49ers) and the best Wide Receiver (Calvin Johnson) on your team, you are expected to win a lot more games than you lose.  I was debating whether to go to 10-4 or 11-3, but every team has a bye week, so we all have a chance against this powerful team.  This is a cautionary tale of how being last in the draft is not a death knell in a snake draft.  While the individual defense positions are weak, the MF'ers are the early season candidate to take home the first championship.  I wish we could have done a real live draft just to try to bore her into bad roster decisions.  Instead, this way, the girls get the best team.  Of course!

Pass Play Gray (8-6)

Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Patrick Peterson, and stud Arian Foster lead the charge for the Grays.  Although not made up of anyone at the top of the any one position, the Grays are strong in every position.  They even picked up Maurice Jones Drew right after he agreed to report to the Jaguars.  They seem like a lock to play in the Championship Game against the MF'ers.  A big weak spot would definitely be individual defense.  The computer didn't even bother picking a second cornerback for the Grays apparently in a move to create controversy since JMR set the draft up.  Wink, wink.

Sharks (5-9)

Ugh.  This team does not look any good.  When you are relying on Trent Richardson and Adrian Peterson to do something for your team, you are in definite trouble.  I do have Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Wes Welker, so I have that going for me.  I hope that they can score 200 points a game, because that is what I'm going to need to win half the time.  Anyone want to trade?

One thing I noticed is that the computer seemed to have forgotten how to draft defensive players.  It's like there was a fifth team that drafted all defensive players.  Half of our defenses are on the IR or unavailable to play.  The first games start on Thursday.  Football season is finally upon us.  Thank God.

Go Sharks!