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.