Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In God's Country

This is why I miss living in the midwest sometimes. We never get this commercial in Brooklyn.

And yes, those are concerned farm animals talking about their owners' pathetic love lives. You know you're screwed when the cattle are giving you shit for not scoring.

If your interest was piqued by talking animals, check this one out:

No doubt I'm Crazy Carl. I think the lady might be Sally Spa. Which fast-paced, two-faced, game-playing, city slicker are you?

Discovered these while watching the Reds on Extra Innings this week. Can we trade bullpens with somebody?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hand In Glove (Part 2)

Yeah it's not really a preview anymore, but I'm running out of song titles....

The Reds defeated the Cubs Sunday 1-0 at Wrigley. I was able to watch this incredibly boring pitcher's duel on MLB's extra innings package (the Reds offense looked awful, but the Cubs' was worse) which I recently signed up for. Kyle Lohse (above) pitched a great game, striking out 12. The game was called by Chris Welsh, who's been doing Reds games for quite a few years now, and Thom Brennaman, Marty Brennaman's son, who was hired this past season to pair up with his dad in the radio booth and call some TV games as well. Also, as far as I can tell, he was hired to be fucking annoying.

I once spent the better part of a summer break driving an ice cream truck with no tape player or air conditioning around the hinterlands of Clermont County, Ohio (areas like Bethel, New Richmond, Goshen). The highlight of these long shweaty-balls days was, without a doubt, tuning in to listen to Marty and Joe Nuxhall call a Reds game. And that's saying something, because this was back when the heart of the Reds lineup looked like this:

3: Chris Stynes
4: Eduardo Perez
5: Reggie Sanders (who only played half the season)

Needless to say, the games were boring as shit (on a side note, I think it was the next season that the Reds picked up Dmitri Young and started an OF lineup consisting of Young, (Mike) Frank, and (Chris) Stynes. Get it. Young, Frank, and Stynes. I hate myself). But listening to Marty and Joe was awesome. They genuinely enjoyed each other's company, and Joe kinda mellowed Marty out when he got a bug up his ass. Joe was always just a scotch or two away from Harry Carey territory, and I could probably listen to him attempt to pronounce the name "Encarnacion" on a loop for the rest of my life and die a happy man. They'd switch play-by-play up occasionally to give Marty a little break, and Joe would basically chime in every 5 minutes or so to tell what was going on, breaking up the long chunks of uninterrupted silence. Marty was opinionated and generally upset with everything about the team, but I kind of felt like he had earned the right to be a little bit of a dick on the radio. You know, just because he was old and he had called a couple of classic World Series games.

Thom Brennaman is not old. He has not, thank god, ever called a World Series game. He did, however, apparently graduate from the Joe Buck indignant-school-of-condescending-broadcasting, which has gotten him far in the network broadcasting world (he called the BCS Championship game this year). Far as I can tell, he has all of his father's bombast and none of his likable qualities. He desperately needs a Joe Nuxhall. I think I heard Thom defer to Chris Welsh's opinion once the entire broadcast, but it really felt like an empty gesture. Thom, much like Buck, is not happy to just call the action and check in with the color guy for technical details. He's the judge, jury, and courtroom reporter for the entire broadcast. Some samples (approximate) from Sundays broadcast:

"I mean, what's Ryan Freel doing swinging at a 2-0 fastball?"

"I can't believe the Reds aren't stealing more bases against Lilly"
(they had two SBs against him after only getting three baserunners the whole game)

"What in the hell is Jerry Narron thinking not leaving his starter in for the 9th inning"
(after Lohse had thrown 114 pitches, a key fact that was never mentioned during the broadcast, Stanton and Weathers closed the game out)

"How dare Kyle Lohse throw anything on the inner half of the plate to Soriano when the wind is blowing in from right field in Wrigley"
(Lohse had been pitching Soriano away the entire at-bat and used the inside fastball to set up his out pitch, the slider away. Soriano K'd on the next pitch, a slider away).

Leave the preachiness to Joe Buck, Thom. And take that stupid "H" out of your name while you're at it.

On a lighter note, I did find out that Friday night's game against the Phillies is going to be "Ryan Freel Dirty Shirt Night for Adults". And no, I didn't make that up. Ostensibly, it's because Freel always gets his his jersey dirty hustling in the outfield (kinda like Chris Stynes used to), but I think if I still lived in the Nati', I'd roll into GABP on Friday wearing this gem:

or this:

Really, there are lots of options.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


"Dude, this contract rocks! Heh heh."

Yes, that's Sean Miller, coach of the Xavier University Musketeers through the year 2016, and also a huge fan of Skynard. Notice the contrast between Sean (who signed the contract extension today and appears to be serious about remaining X's head coach for a long time) and his predecessor Thad Matta:

Sono douchebaggio!
Me coacha Ohio Stato!
Ho detto niente leavo Xavier-O!
Ma sono come Nick Saban-O!
No Flagrento!
No Flagrento!

Ahem. So yeah, I applaud Miller's loyalty. He was in the running for the Minnesota and Michigan jobs (and it looks like Tubby Smith will coach the Gophers), but he chose X after they offered him a raise. And besides, do you really want Opera Man over here coaching your team, sweating out 2nd round and regional semifinal NCAA wins with the most talented team in the tourney? I'd much rather suffer heartbreaking losses in the 1st and 2nd round with scrappy teams that actually play well together but get no respect from the national media. I mean, wait, uhhhhhhhhh.......

This post would have been a lot cooler if Tennessee had held on and beaten the Buckeyes tonight. I could have ragged on Matta some more (hello, slow your team down in the 1st half!), and I had a great Wayne Chism joke planned. It would have totally blown your mind. It involved the words "Chism" and "Ohio State".

Monday, March 19, 2007

Satan Rejected My Soul

Satan rejected my soul
As low as he goes
He never quite goes this low

Apparently Joey Porter (no, not that Joey Porter) punched Bengals offensive lineman Levi Jones in the face after an altercation in the Palms casino. Wow, what a douche.

On first glance, it would appear that a Bengals player getting punched in the face would be a little bit of a blow to the ole' team ego. Again, I see the positive in this event for a few reasons:

1. Porter has been summoned and will have to go to court.
That's another arrest for a team that's not Cincinnati.

2. Levi said the punch didn't even hurt! (sort of, really the Enquirer said that)

3. Levi Jones lives in Las Vegas during the off season.
That's cool.

The only negative here is that Porter plays in Miami now, so we won't even get a chance to see a rematch as the Bengals don't play them next year. For some reason though, I'll never be able to separate Porter from the Steelers (and hopefully the Bengals won't either). His toxic karma is strong.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sing Your Life

Full disclosure for all seven of my intrepid readers (if you're still out there). I went on vacation. And then the computer locked up. And it's kinda boring to write about the Reds and Bengals during the offseason. Anyway, this entry can only loosely be considered as sports-related. Either way, enjoy the bonanza of posting today, I'm still not getting a MySpace page.

So the lady and I were in Miami a few weeks ago with a good friend of mine (above, pictured and pink shirted) and his wife. We got the shaft as far as weather conditions went (coldest weekend of the year) so decided to make up for the dearth of beach time by taking full advantage of our hotel's happy hour after drinking champagne in our room. After hitting a surprisingly cool club on our first night, Pink and I decided it was time to do up the karaoke bar. A little back story:

Pink was (and is) a huge music fan. When we were in high school he grew his hair out in an attempt (
futile) to look like Jim Morrison. At some point, I'm pretty sure he dyed it. I, on the other hand, was clearly working on my quiff at the time. I turned him into a Smiths fan, and on any given night we were the annoying guys singing The Boy With a Thorn In His Side around a campfire while you were drinking your Ice House trying to score. We also have similarly arranged vocal cords, and the effect of us singing together has prompted comparisons to amplified bullhorns in stereo. At Pink's bachelor party in Vegas, we bribed the KJ (karaoke jockey) to let us sing With or Without You and Blaze of Glory back to back. He responded by turning the mic completely off during both of our renditions. We really didn't need it in his defense.

South Beach isn't exactly known as karaoke central, but I remembered a certain Ufford-penned post that mentioned Paul Rudd singing at a hotel bar during the Super Bowl weekend. After a little research, we were on our way to Studio at the Shelborne Hotel to get our K fix. We walked in the door, and I was shocked to see how serious the place was. Nice big stage, a monitor showing the performance for those too far from the action, and this guy:

The KJ at Studio was a turtle shaped man who hated when people did things like swing the microphones, use the mic stand as a rock prop, or touch any of the guitars (there were many) hanging in the back of the stage that weren't designated as "prop" instruments. Needless to say these rules were broken frequently (Pink really drove the turtle crazy with the mic swinging, he kept muttering "whassa matter with you?"). All in all though, the guy was worth the over in the overpriced drinks. He had a keyboard that he would "riff" on when someone sang a song that he liked. The only time I saw him break it out was during a pretty solid rendition of "Could You Be Loved", complete with steel drum effect. Later during the 2nd night, he chased some guy off the stage for plugging in a guitar. Amazing.

So I know people's definition of sport varies widely (poker?, darts?) but let me be the first to tell you that if karaoke's not a sport, then I don't work for Darlington electronics. How can it not be a sport when so many of sports' most important cliches apply to it? For example:

1. Practice good sportmanship

The KJ's have a rough and pretty thankless job. Don't give em' shit and boo every time they call someone else to the stage because you want to sing. And if you really need to sing, slip him a fiver (in Vegas you need more). Also, don't make out on stage while someone is singing (see pic, top of post).

2: Always give 110%

If it's necessary to sell that last "She!" from Radiohead's Creep by collapsing to your knees, you fucking do it, rugburns be damned. Conversely, if you're gonna stand on stage feeling embarrassed and holding the mic seven feet away from your mouth, you need to spend some more time hustling at practice (singing in the shower) before you ever see the court again. Seriously, just stay on the bench.

3. Have confidence in your teammates

This is kind of a tricky one. Sometimes drunken idiots think it's cool to karaoke-crash when you're singing your song and run onstage with you. These people are not your teammates, they are the opposition. Don't let them upstage you; the second they arrive, start up a faux mosh pit and convince them to do a stage dive. If that doesn't work then completely ignore them. Your real teammate in karaoke is the song you pick. And song selection is key. Always go with what you feel, don't let your drunken friends convince you that it would be hilarious if you sang "Love Shack" at a hipster bar with no backup singer. The wrong song at the wrong time and/or location can lead to karaoke disaster. Trust me. Oh yeah, and that early 90's rap song that you kinda remember the words to is only going to get you in trouble. The most painful karaoke moments (other than the drunken-girls-sharing-one-mic-and-singing I Will Survive) are when someone is a verse and half behind on "Informer" and reading the teleprompter like he's hooked on phonics. If you want to do it right, pick a song that you know the lyrics to and have confidence in. Pink has this nailed. He went with The Doors and the Stones and knew every word.

4. Talent is fine, but hustle is better

The Pete Rose axiom. You can be Whitney Houston and suck at karaoke if your heart's not in it. Never mail it in. And if you can't really sing, give it your all and people will still respect you. And be very, very careful if you're going to attempt to mock the song you are singing. You may come off as a huge douche (see Shack, Love).

5. Always be prepared

Preparation is why the Patriots are in the playoffs every year. In karaoke, preparation=booze. If you aren't three sheets to the wind, you will not be able to compete in a competitive karaoke environment.
No way I attempt Prince sober (even the lady was surprised I pulled it off).
Also, booze and smoking help make your voice sound really cool.

6. Know your opponent (audience)

Already covered some of this but there's more. Never, under any circumstances, pick a song with more than 5 verses. Leave American Pie, November Rain, and Hotel California alone, unless you want everyone to hate you. And be wary of singing anything other than roots-rock or country at a country and western karaoke bar. And don't sing Broadway songs anywhere. And be careful with popular eighties songs (that weren't dance hits) in Miami if the bar isn't carding.

6. Know your limitations

The human body can only take so much. If singing on consecutive nights (and blowing your proverbial karaoke wad the 1st night), do not try a song that requires any vocal talent. Pink held up well on this front, going with Never Tear Us Apart (a true baritone ballad) on night two, while I made the mistake of attempting Beds Are Burning by Midnight Oil. In case you are from Miami (or under the age of 24), this is the song I'm referring to:

Peter Garrett's dance style (the best examples of which you can see at the 2:50 and 4:00 mark) is apparently way easier to mimic than his vocal style. I found this out the hard way and ended up sounding like Carol Channing for the last three minutes of the song. And oh yeah, no one but Pink (it was a mostly teenage crowd at this point) had any idea what the hell I was doing contorting on stage. The whole time I was busy thinking to myself "Wow, I really do a great Peter Garrett." Must be getting old.

So yeah, karaoke's a sport. And I can kick your ass at it.

By the way, still fired.

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

With 9 seconds left in regulation, Xavier led Ohio State 62-59. Justin Cage had just made the front end of a one-and-one. One more free throw, and the game is over. It rims out.

That's about all the reliving of the end of this game I can do right now, other than to say that I have never seen a more intentional foul in my entire life than the hit that Oden put on Cage to send him to the free throw line in the first place. I'll just have to file that one away with the Lewis Billups endzone drop from Super Bowl XXIII in the "memories that are too painful and anger-provoking to ever think of again" section of my brain. At this point, the only silver lining I can find in this cloud is that being a Bengals fan this season did help prepare me for the worst.

Just one more thing about the game. Justin Cage is one of my all-time favorite Xaver players, along with Darnell Williams, Byron Larkin, and Brian Grant. The guy did nothing but hustle his entire career and shot a perfect 8-8 from the field in the biggest game of his life while being defended by someone 6 inches taller than him. He singlehandedly took the game over in the 2nd half to give Xavier its lead. And it kills me to think that he might be remembered for missing a free throw when there were at least five or six other larger mistakes that X made down the stretch that he had nothing to do with. From all accounts, the guy is a complete class act off the court as well, and he will be graduating on time this spring. I will remember his Xavier career fondly.

Also, still fired. Unemployment sucks.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Work Is A Four Letter Word

Getting laid off from your job is usually a pretty sobering event. Especially when your job is that of a bartender/shift manager at burger bar in Brooklyn (we're not exactly talking rocket science here).

On Tuesday of this week, I met with my employer, learned of my transgressions (managerial carelessness), and was told my services wouldn't be needed for this week. Kind of a double secret probation as far as I can tell, since I was scolded for being consistently late to work last month and was told to not mention the reasons for my dismissal to fellow employees. I walked back to my apartment to my waiting girlfriend and felt for the first time what a deadbeat dad might feel like. A strange mixture of self-pity and the sense that I let myself, and possibly others, down. Lucky for me, we don't have any kids.

So in the midst of my preparation for heri-keri, it came to me. I was being laid off during the first week of March Madness. And Xavier was playing BYU on Thursday night, a night I normally work. The stars had aligned.

The game was one of the only two exciting games of the entire day, Duke-VCU of course being the other. For a complete account of the games ebbs and flows, check out the Enquirer's story. BYU played a great game, leading for most of the game's first thirty minutes. XU fought bravely, overtook BYU in the 2nd half, then repelled a late BYU comeback. Drew Lavender was the man down the stretch hitting two huge runners in the lane and sinking the clinching free throws. Josh Duncan, aka "The Gay Rock", also had a huge bucket down the stretch to put X up two.

The result was a huge win for Xavier, mostly because it sets up a second round matchup with the hated Thad Matta, former Muskie and present Buckeye coach (Matta bailed on the team after taking X to its first ever Elite 8 appearance three seasons ago). Also it hopefully annoyed everyone at the Worldwide Leader of Sports who insisted that Xavier had no business being in the tournament over Syracuse (even though they were a nine seed) and fell in line by predicting a BYU win. Seriously, not a single person on that network picked XU to win the game (that I saw at least, and I watched a lot of ESPN this week). Anyway, it was a sweet victory. And I'm sticking to my guns, I've got X beating OSU and moving on to the Elite 8 again: a prediction that has been met with nothing but laughter and condescension all week. Well, Thad and his boys better not be laughing cause from where I'm standing, XU is the most underrated squad in the tourney.

Unemployment is awesome.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hand In Glove (Part 1)

TCF's Reds baseball preview begins with a look at recently signed pitcher Aaron Harang.

A lot has been made of the plight of small market baseball teams over the last 15 years. What with the Yankees and Red Sox locked in an ever escalating cock-fight to see who can spend more money on exotic foreign players and stockpile the most all-stars, times are tough for small market teams. Now I know the Tigers, Cardinals, and A's were 3 0f the final 4 teams in the playoffs last season (and that the Red Sox didn't even make the playoffs) and that baseball is attempting to restructure it's finances by introducing revenue sharing. But when I see the free agents signings from this off season (Gary Matthews Jr., Gil Meche, and Ted Lilly all signed contracts worth around 10 M a year for four or five years), I wonder if a team like the Reds can compete in this market. So far, the answer has been not really.

The Reds finished last season 80-82, 3 games out of first place. For the first time since the 99 season, the Reds couldn't pin their struggles on an atrocious pitching staff. The team's 1 and 2 starters (Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo) combined for 30 wins, almost 400 K's, and over 400 innings pitched. Today the Reds resigned their ace, Harang, to a 4 year-36 million dollar contract (with an option for a 5th year). With Arroyo signed through the next two season at around 7 M a year, the Reds have two solid, durable starters with very reasonable contracts for the next two seasons. With Homer Bailey (who some rate as the best minor league pitching prospect in all of baseball) waiting in the wings, the Reds, potentially, have one of the best starting rotations in the NL, and a foundation to build a winning team around.

Reds GM Wayne Krivsky has been quiet on the free agent front this year, signing Alex Gonzalez from the Red Sox to play SS and a bunch of unexciting utility infielders (Jeff Conine, Juan Castro) and possible #5 starters and relievers (Kirk Saarloos, Brian Meadows, Mike Stanton). All in all, I can't say I blame him for his reluctance to pull the trigger on any of the big name free agents out there. The Reds look pretty mediocre right now, but I'd rather they improve the team through trades during the season (and through the farm system) than through spending a lot of money in the off-season for overpriced free agents. And really the Harang signing is probably the best thing that could happen for this team in the off-season. The guy is clearly their best player (in my mind) and gives them a pretty good shot to win every game he pitches. The fact that he was cheaper to sign than Gil Meche is mind boggling (as any fantasy baseball player can tell you, Meche is nothing but a headache), but I gotta give Krivsky props for it. Now let's see if he can get this team a closer.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Gett Off

Prince is awesome.

Yeah, that was really the coolest part of the night. Prince's gigantic phallus silhouette (with shocker attached!) was pure genius. He hasn't done anything that cool since he was raised out of a trap door in the floor of the stage at Riverfront Coliseum in 1984 (on the Purple Rain tour mind you) to start off the concert. Not that I would know. I mean, it's not like I was the coolest 2nd grader in the world that night or anything.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Behind the Wheel

So I'm a little late on this one (I know I know, you missed me), but another Bengal got arrested and everyone went apeshit. People have been throwing their moral outrage around like Wii controllers with defective velcro. The Enquirer ran an awesome "Bengals rap sheet" sidebar in an article about the arrest that lists the series of infractions the club has racked up since the beginning of 2006. Also Marvin Lewis, dangerously close to taking some of my advice from September, invited a cop to speak to the Bengals about the dangers of driving under the influence before the season ended, and the Bengals have now created a 24 hour hot-line for their presumably hammered employees to call when they need a ride. More recently, Mike Brown even came out from his self-imposed media exile after Chris Henry's sentencing (one of his previous charges ) to talk tough (Henry served two days for being around minors while they were drinking alcohol and received a saucy tongue-lashing from the judge at the hearing to boot).

This is all great stuff really, if you're into the whole athletes are destroying the moral fiber of society thing. I'm not so much. And believe me, that's not to say it isn't very frustrating to root for a team that can't seem to get its shit together (on or off the field). But I'm ready to look at this last incident in a completely different way than the other arrests. I think we actually took a step forward here, and I'll tell why:

1. Joseph had a designated driver.

He assessed the situation and determined that the chick he was with was the number one sober. That's solid work there. Is it really his fault that she can't drive?

2. Dude was carrying his weed in a Super Bowl LX bag, next to a video game system.

You see? These guys are thinking about what it takes to win championships. I see this as kind of like that thing that Riley did with the Heat last year where he had everybody put all this important shit in a bowl or something to motivate the team. Which means that Joseph was probably on his way to pick up one of Henry's guns, Steinbach's boating license, Odell's "peanut butter crank", and AJ Nicholson's lifted stereo to stuff it all into the bag. Then Marvin was gonna put a padlock on the bag, give a motivational speech or two, and the Bengals were gonna fly through next season and win the Super Bowl by two touchdowns. Too bad the cops had to go and fuck up the whole plan.

3. Maybe I'm a glass half-full guy, but isn't this arrest #1?

People like to say that 9 Bengals have been arrested, I guess because that sounds like a big number. But really, it's 2007 people. Let's put those 8 other arrests (from 2006) behind us. And you can't keep counting Henry, okay? It's not fair. That's like calling traveling on your 6 year old cousin in a family pick up game. Just bad form. And for the record, I predict only 5 (non-Henry) arrests for the Bengals this year (a pretty significant decrease). Let me know if you want the over or the under.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson is congratulated by teammates after his 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. At right is the Saints' Josh Bullocks.


Rex Grossman flexes his manliness

I know the title isn't "post" punk, but I couldn't resist.

So it looks like I'll be rooting for the Bears in the Super Bowl now. I lived in Chicago for four years so it's not really a huge stretch. And a close friend of mine from Lake Forest was so excited about the game today that he violated a man law and baked orange and blue butter cookies for the game (if you're gonna violate a man law, I say do it with panache and nothing says panache like orange and blue butter cookies. Those bitches were good too). Also, the Bears do have a "C" on their helmets right? Can't I just pretend?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Talk About The Passion-Part IV

An ongoing (and highly subjective) series highlighting the ten greatest moments in Cincinnati Sports History.

7. Xavier defeats Princeton 65-58 to advance to the 1999 NIT Semifinals.

Yeah, that's what I'm talkin about! A quarterfinal NIT victory is #7 on my top ten Cincinnati sports moments of all time! This should make it clear that (A) Cincinnati sports fans have absolutely nothing else to care about over the winter and (B) I really like Xavier (we'll get back to this later). To the event:

Wednesday, March 19th, 1999, the Cincinnati Gardens. I somehow managed to make it home from Chicago for this game, since I can't remember how I did it I'll just have to assume that I cut some classes and took the Greyhound. The bus ride was always action packed (especially the super-depressing transfer at the Indianapolis bus station) but couldn't be beat for the cost (30 bucks, I believe). And besides I had to watch my boys play one last time.

When I say my "boys", I am of course referring to the seniors of that year's team; Lenny Brown, Gary Lumpkin, and James Posey. This was the team that had knocked off UC and Danny Fortson in 1996 to put the Xavier program on the map nationally. UC was ranked #1 at the time, and Fortson was on the cover of SI's college basketball preview that year. X had had some NCAA success in the past, but this was a shocking road win early in the season that led to X being ranked in or near the top 25 for nearly the next two full seasons. Basically that kind of credibility was unheard of for Xavier, a small private school that had previously played in the now-defunct MCC before joining the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers got bounced by a tough UCLA team in the 2nd round of NCAA tourney in 97, then went on to have a very strong 97-98 season (possibly the best Xavier team ever, Posey came of the bench as a Junior that year) only to fall in a first round matchup against the University of Washington in the 98 NCAAs (that game still haunts me). The following year their key player (and arguably the most talented of the group, including Posey) Darnell Williams suffered a major knee injury playing in an offseason exhibition. Williams' injury, coupled with the loss of X's frontcourt from the previous two seasons (TJ Johnson and Torraye Braggs) to graduation, left the 98-99 season as a huge disappointment for Xavier fans. The team failed to make the NCAA tournament and landed in the dreaded NIT.

The Princeton game was the last game Xavier's seniors would ever play at the Cincinnati Gardens, since they moved into their fancy new (read: sterile and totally boring) on-campus facility, the Cintas Center in the 2000-2001 season. The Gardens was the best place to watch a basketball game in Cincinnati (the Cincinnati Royals played there from 1957 to 1972). It was also a great place to watch hockey games, circuses, roller derbies, monster truck jams, and gun shows. Opposing teams hated playing there as they rarely got a chance to practice before their game because of all the other events taking place. It was a fairly large, poorly lit concrete box that always smelled like a combination of stale popcorn, sweat, and some sort of unidentifiable animal musk (leftover from the circus I hope). When the place got loud (which it often did), the noise level was deafening.

The Princeton game was a fitting end for the Musketeer basketball team that season. X was very talented around the perimeter (Lenny Brown was their leading scorer at the 2), and extremely inexperienced in the frontcourt (they started two Freshmen at the 4 and 5, Kevin Frey and Aaron Turner). When the guards and Posey got hot, the team was unstoppable. When Brown and Lumpkin's shots weren't falling, the team was pedestrian to quite-pedestrian. In the first half of the Princeton game, the latter scenario took place with Princeton running its frighteningly efficient motion offense to perfection and Xavier struggling to find open looks. X's coach at the time, the ever quotable Skip Prosser described it thusly:

The beginning (of that game) was a clinic of dunks and layups for them. They were running their offense around us like we were a bunch of orange cones.

God love him. Anyway, halftime score, Princeton 35 Xavier 23. Doesn't sound bad, but a 12 point deficit against Princeton is a 20 point deficit against any other team. Usually falling behind a team that slows down the tempo of the game like Princeton just plays right into their hands. As the second half started, I was prepared for terrible shot selection and turnovers, but this would not be Xavier's fate on this fine day.

So I think this is where I'm gonna start to get a little cheesy (dial-a-cliche time, if you will). You know how when you're watching a sporting event and you can literally see one team decide that it's going to win the game (Cliche #1). That's what happened to X. They had been pressing full-court the whole game, but in the 2nd half, it finally started to get to Princeton. They comeback was pretty slow at first (Princeton extended its lead to 15 on an early three), but once Princeton started turning the ball over, the pace picked up and the crowd started to smell the blood in the water (#2). Princeton was only able to get off 19 shots in the 2nd half; within ten minutes after the half started, it was clear that by the sheer application of their will, Xavier was going to win the game (#3). Everyone in the Gardens knew what was happening and cheered and screamed accordingly. I had probably been to upwards of 40 games at that gym in my life, and I had never heard it sound quite like that. I was 20 years old at the time, close to the same age as a lot of the players on the court. It's kind of weird looking back on that now because I realize now how young college athletes really are (and conversely, how old I am), but at the time, they were my peers. I felt that once in a lifetime bond with them (#4). They weren't pro athletes that were making tons of money and receiving constant attention. They weren't even pampered jocks at a big time state school with a huge booster network. They were guys that weren't heavily recruited out of high school from some rough neighborhoods (Brown and Lumpkin were both from Wilmington DE) who were taking classes, studying for exams (or at least having some nuns study for them), playing a shitload of mid-major basketball games on regional cable and the occasionaloff-season pickup game at Xavier's gym. I basically lived out all of my sports fantasies through them vicariously. These were guys that most people could never pick out of a lineup, but for me, they were my somewhat secret imaginary friends. Much cooler and blacker than my real friends.

Xavier took the lead for good 50-49, with 6 minutes left in the game. Posey knocked down some huge shots in the 2nd half, including some must-have free throws in the game's waning minutes. He was the most talented of the bunch but still seemed to score all of his baskets via the garbage route. He was a hustle player; the perfect embodiment of that team. When the buzzer sounded and X had won the game 65-58, the PA system started playing New York, New York by Sinatra. My brother (age 26) and I stormed the court. We got out into the middle of the floor, found Posey, and picked him up (my brother did most of the picking up, since he was, and still is, much more dieseled than I). As we were carrying James around the court, we caught a glimpse of Byron Larkin, XU's all time leading scorer, color commentator, and guy who would regularly destroy us in the lunch time pickup games at X's gym seated at the press row. He was in the middle of doing the postgame wrap-up when he saw us and started laughing. We gave him a thumbs up (accompanied by the obligatory shit-eating grin) and laughed right back. After we finally let Posey go, my brother was so wired that we hit up the souvenir stand for some jerseys (we come from very cheap German stock, the thought of buying anything from the overpriced kiosks at the stadium had never occurred to us before). They were out of Poseys so we ended up with a Lloyd Price (which turned out to be a huge mistake) and a Darnell Williams. Guess which one I got?

That would be Darnell Williams. The next Michael Finley (only more clutch) if he hadn't blown out his knee. He was NBA material, no doubt. And yes, I am a huge nerd. By the way, Xavier went on to lose to Clemson in the semis by 3 points, and then destroy Oregon in the consolation game (they have those in the NIT!) by 30. So the Seniors went out on a win in a tournament. Only two other teams get to do that (the NIT and NCAA champ), so they were clearly the 3rd ranked team in the nation that year. In my heart anyway (#5). Darnell came back from his knee surgery the next season without his old explosiveness. He gritted it out anyway and adjusted his game to become a 3-point specialist (and a good one at that). He poured in 18 first half points against UC that next year to help in yet another upset of the #1 team in the nation. And yes, I still wear the jersey. Occasionally.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful

Oh, look at those clothes
Now look at that face, it's so old

This picture was taken approximately 1 second after Bill Belichick throat punched a photographer (who was brazenly standing in front of Eric Mangini, doing his job) and approximately one second before he shoved a different cameraman (who was brazenly standing behind Belichick, also doing his job) out of his way. Apparently I'm the only one who noticed this as the "hug heard round the world" dominated the CBS broadcast. "He hugged him! He hugged him!" Wow, what a warm lovable guy. And his hoodies are soooo cute! Whatever, this guy is a complete asshole, and I'm pretty sure his inner monologue as he walked to shake Mangini's hand went something like this:

I fucking hate you Eric Mangini. How dare you leave my staff to coach for a team in my division. I can't believe you beat us here earlier this year, I am so glad we just crushed your playoff hopes. I am a golden fleece-wearing coaching God. You are a Man-gina. I'm gonna give you a fucking hug, asshole, just to piss you off. GHAAAARG! (insert throat-punch sound effect)

Hugs Mangini

Great game coach."

GHAAAARG! (insert
whimpering photographer sound effect). That's right bitches. I'm a nice fucking guy. Can't wait to bang my mistress.

It Could Be You

But don't worry
If it's not your lucky number
cos tomorrow there's another
Could be you
Could be me

Cowboys fans: Welcome to my world.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I Hate You (But You're Interesting)

I caught some shit when I was home for Christmas from a friend who was pissed about my lack of coverage of the Crosstown Shootout. Since I was unable to actually watch the game, I thought regurgitating other people's accounts of it would be pretty lame. But alas, I can't stand the thought of being accused of not talking about the biggest college game of the year in Cincinnati because my team lost, so here's what I have to say about the Shootout.

What shootout?

That UC-XU game that ESPN deigned not ready for primetime TV (which UC dominated, by the way) wasn't the shootout. The shootout is actually happening tonight. Bob Huggins vs. Xavier is more exciting right now for Cincy (and the rest of the nation apparently, as it will be televised on ESPN2) than UC vs. XU. The game features two possible tournament teams looking for another quality non-conference win before the conference schedule kicks in. K-State has one of the top freshmen in the nation, Bill Walker (from North College Hill in Cincinnati, OJ Mayo's former teammate) and has won six straight, including a big win over a tough USC team. Xavier rebounded from losing 3 of its last 4 (@Creighton, @UC, and Bucknell) by knocking off Illinois 66-59 last Friday. UC followed its big win over Xavier with a humiliating blowout loss to Ohio State and is now making news again for academic problems. Who cares about UC without Huggins anyway?

As a lifelong Xavier fan, I was taught to hate all things Bearcat related. This pretty easy during my formative years as Xavier was always playing the role of the small private Jesuit college with a solid basketball team that does things the "right way" in contrast to UC's "let's punch police horses and not graduate any players" strategy. Huggins, though, is still widely loved in the Nati, even after drunk driving arrest that helped lead to his forced resignation. I've heard a number of stories about run-ins with the Huggy Bear at different bars in the Nati area, one involving him singing Frank Sinatra songs and refusing to accept a ride home after getting completely annihilated. People love that shit. Last year's Shootout was peppered with shots of Huggins drinking in a private box with some cronies. The man is just good television.

Tonight's game should be an exciting one, as Huggins probably knows a lot more about XU than Miller knows about K-State. XU showed it could play physically with Illinois and will need to continue to play that way to win this game. As long as X doesn't rely on it's favorite pastime, chucking up 20 3-point attempts a game, it should be a barn burner. It's also Walker's homecoming, and he'll be looking to make a splash. In the shootouts of old, the hungrier team almost always won, and I expect this game to be no different. And if you're at a bar in the Tri-State area after the game this evening, buy Huggy a drink for me...even though he probably won't need it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Uncertain Smile

a broken soul stares from a pair of watering eyes,
uncertain emotions force an uncertain smile...

Well if you thought last week's loss to the Denver Broncos was painful...

I'd really rather not go into detail about the final game of the Bengals' 2006 season against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. The one thing that really pissed me off as I drunkenly watched another playoff opportunity go down the toilet was the end-of-game clock management by Marvin Lewis. Lewis decided to burn a timeout with a minute left in the 4th quarter before a FG attempt by the Steelers. He did this previously at the end of the FIRST half of the Baltimore game (and it worked), but unfortunately no one informed Marvin that this was a very different situation. It was the 2nd half, the FG was a chip shot, and even if it was good, the Bengals still had a minute to kick a field goal of their own. The Bengals ended up needing that timeout very badly, as they almost immediately moved the ball to the Steelers' 20 with 30 seconds left in the game on 50 yard pass to Chris Henry. Had they still had two timeouts, the Bengals could've used one after the completion, then ran two or more plays to get into better field goal position or even go for the endzone. Instead, a team that had just lost to the Broncos because of its failure to convert a PAT put even more pressure on its special teams. The last four offensive plays of the Bengals' season looked like this:

1st down from the 20: Spike
2nd Down from the 20: Palmer takes a knee
3rd Down from the 22: Spike
4th Down: Graham misses a 39 yard FG attempt.

The spike-timeout sequence was particularly embarrassing. This was the last game of the season, how in the world is this team not prepared to run a two minute drill? The spike stops the clock, then you call any play your little heart desires, because you still have a timeout left. Fucking maddening.

In other news, Marvin Lewis is heading up a NFL group this offseason that will lobby for a new rule implementing a league wide policy that allows each team one "do-over" a game on kicking plays. Shayne Graham, Brad St. Louis, and Kyle Larson however are all terrified by the thought of fucking up twice in a row.