Monday, January 29, 2007

Considerably Shorter.

Well, I certainly exhausted myself, and probably a reader or 7 with my Valpo-UMKC recap. I had a lot of fun with it, so screw you if you didn't. (Kidding! Please come back!) So, the moral of the story is, I'm going to keep this short, if not sweet. You deserve it.

ITEM ONE: If you are going to have an All-Star game on Versus, why have it at all? Seriously! NBC plays some hockey games on their network. How hard would it be to take a discount and show the game on a national network? It's not hard, NHL. Take care of some of these marketing tricks, because clearly, you aren't getting any help from the American media. Also, move a couple teams back to Canada. Like, immediately. That's where the money is.

ITEM TWO: Just when I think there couldn't be a worse team than the Gophers, Penn State goes and plays at Williams Arena. The good news now is that the Gophers will be the 10 seed in the Big Ten tournament. Oh boy, Nittany Lions, where is Jan Jagla when you need him?

ITEM THREE: OK, back to hockey. I think the Wild will make the playoffs as a 6 seed. Really, I do. They have all the right parts there, and if they just get healthy, the Wild can put together a good enough streak to move up in the rankings. Also, they need to find another blueliner. But hey, the division is tight, and they've shown they are the streakiest, so here's hoping for a winning streak.

ITEM FOUR: RIP Barbaro. I don't know, I feel kind of silly even writing this. Because, you know, he was a horse.

ITEM FIVE: I noticed while watching the Purdue-Illinois game over the weekend that the Boilermakers repainted their floor. So THATS why they're undefeated at home.

ITEM SIX: Is tennis interesting? How can people watch the same person win every tournament? At least sometimes Tiger Woods doesn't win.

Ok, next week, I'll start up with baseball banter again. Promise.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Valparaiso Crusaders at Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos, a recap

This Thursday at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, the first of my two "annual random sporting events" was held between the Valparaiso Crusaders and the Kangaroos of Missouri-Kansas City. Since I was unable to actually go to Kansas City, I linked up with the Valparaiso webcast so I could still keep up with the game. Before I opened up the link though, I wanted to do some research on the game, with a little perspective from both teams. (The sites were here and here.)
The first thing I found was that the two top players for Valpo, Brandon McPherson and Urule Igbavboa were, well, funny looking. Moustaches are, apparently, encouraged at Valpo. On the other side of the ball, Quinton Day was the player to watch. He won the last meeting between these two teams on a last minute shot. It was the Kangaroos fourth straight win against Valparaiso.
The big storylines heading into the game included the heartbeaking loss the previous season for Valparaiso, but at coming into the game the Crusaders were on a three game win streak, going against the Kangaroos who had dropped their last 3. Also, this was the last time these two Mid-Continent conference foes would do battle in Kansas City, as Valparaiso was leaving for the Horizon league the next season. That's about where the Valparaiso preview article rightfully ended. UMKC decided to fill us with several completely useless facts. For example:
UMKC is 5-0 when it scores more than 80 points this season. However, the team is 0-5 this season when it allows 80 or more points.

UMKC is now 3-5 when its bench outscores the opponent's bench and 4-7 when it has more rebounds. The Kangaroo reserves are averaging 18.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game this season, while the opponent bench players are averaging 25.9 points and 10.0 rebounds.

Junior Tim Blackwell moved into 20th place on the all-time career scoring chart in UMKC history with his eight point performance vs. Central Arkansas on Dec. 16. The Cameron, Mo., native has scored 611 points in his career in Blue and Gold. Blackwell now sits 20 points behind Travis Salmon for 19th place in the record books.

Yeah.. none of that really told us anything except "They have too much time on their hands in Kansas City." Other notes about the Valpo squad, (since they weren't volunteered): They have two Finns on the roster, Samuel Haanpaa, a freshman guard, and, uh, Shawn Huff, a guard/forward in his junior year. Now that I had been primed, I was ready for action.
I flipped the game on early so I could catch some of the pregame analysis from the guys at the Valpo studio at 95, the Source. Immediately, I was greeted by four commercials. One for Domino's, one for Culver's, another for Jimmy John's, and a finale one for a place called Buffalouie's. These were commercials I was well served to get used to. Not another was played for the rest of the game. However, at the beginning of the game, I found out that the broadcast actually had 23 sponsors. Twenty three. This should have been a high quality feed.
One of the pregame guys, who sounded a lot like Dauber from Coach, reminded us of the tough defeat at the hands of UMKC the previous year. They then cut to an interview with Valpo assistent coach Luke Gore, who revealed that the key to stopping Quinton Day was pleying defense. Thanks for the insight. Can we finally tip-off?
Yes we can. The Crusaders start Haanpaa, Igbavboa, Huff, McPherson and Jake Diebler. The Roos start Brent Stephens, Dee Ayuba, Alex Pledger, Day, and Dane Rumagin. That offensively dynamic UMKC squad started the game with what every team wants. A shot clock violation. Back the other way, Haanpaa nails a three and the Roos get a 5 second violation on the inbound. Things weren't going the way of the marsupial. Fortunately for UMKC, Valpo was missing their early, open shots and key player Igbavboa found himself in early foul trouble. Heading into the first break, it was 5-1 Valparaiso. Diebler had bottled Day up, and Ayuba had UMKCs only point.
Right out of the break, Valpo picked up a shot clock violation. The offense in this game has been incredible. It's like a 6th grade girls game. The problem, of course, is that Valparaiso is struggling against the zone. Going the other way, however, Valpo's man defense was suffocating, and going into the second break, the Roos still didn't have a field goal. Fortunately for them, Huff and Igbavboa were already in foul trouble, UMKC was already in the bonus and Valpo wasn't hitting any shots either. It was 10-4 halfway through the first half.
The theme of the night was shot clock violations on coming out of breaks, and sure enough, UMKC showed their offensive prowess, getting the shot clock violation again. Adding injury to insult, going the other way Igbavboa got up for a lay up and kneed Pledger in the ribcage. Pledger, naturally, was called for the blocking foul (pretty much the last of the game). Indeed, within the next couple of minutes, both Huff and McPherson were called for charging fouls. It was Huff's third. Additionally, Igbavboa picked up a technical foul for hanging on the rim after dunking on a fast break. But then something happened. 11:50 into the game, Brumagin scored the first field goal for the Roos, then Igbavboa answered on the other end, and then Blackwell (watchout Travis Salmon!) hit a three. It was offense! If the teams were going to play on both ends of the court, however, it was bad news for Valpo, who were playing a very reckless brand of basketball. At the third break, it was 18-9 Valpo.
Right after we were given this horrifyig stat, UMKC 2/11 from the field and 8/12 from the line, Valpo naturally had a shot clock violation. Naturally. UMKC was the one in control now, scoring the first six points out of the break. Valparaiso was struggling to find an effective offense in the second part of the first half, and Day was beginning to wear Diebler down. Things were looking up for the Roos! Especially since, with about three minutes to go in the first half, they were down by three at 20-17. Dee Ayuba would late make it 20-19.
The thing the Roos didn't count on, however, was the bench of Valpo, who was clearly a deeper entity than that of UMKC. Calum McCleod was strong off the bench. In fact, at this point in the game, McCleod, Moussa Mbaye, and Arden Skoglund, all off the bench, had half of Valpo's points. Two bigger stories at this point in the game though were Shwn Huff, who was confined to the bench due to foul trouble and the ineffectiveness of Day.
Fortunately for Day, the Roos were beginning to figure it out without him, as Jeremiah Hartsock got a bucket to pull the Roos within one. then Diebler got his third foul, which threatened to give Day the opening he needed if Diebler spent a lot of time on the bench. Going into the break, however, UMKC was actually whistled for a foul, as McPherson made the three point play. At halftime, it was 27-22, Valparaiso.
At this point, Valpo's Mbaye and Igbavboa lead their team with 6. Ayuba, at the same total, leads the Roos. Valpo is dominating on the boards and off the bench, but UMKC is holding onto the ball and has comitted half as many fouls.
Starting the second half, momentum immediately swings to the Roos. Diebler quickly picked up his 4th personal foul as the home team went on a 7-0 run to take the lead. Calum McLeod decided this was a situation only a 7 foot reserve from New Zealand could solve, so he scored on the next trip to tie the game. He did it again on the next trip to put Valpo back out front. UMKC called a timeout. It's been a completely different game in the second half. I fully expect Quinton Day to turn it on with Diebler on the bench.
Coming out of the break, McPherson steals it from Hartsock to put the Crusaders back in the lead. It's one of the few flashes we've seen from our moustachioed friend at htis point. Going the other way, Ayuba was whistled for UMKC's first (finally) offensive foul. As if on cue, Mcleod picked up a charge at the other end. But that takes nothing away from the monster game he's had thus far. He becomes the first player to reach double digits for either team before scoring dries up at 37-35.
Coming out of the second break of the half, Rumigen ran over McPherson on the baseline, sending the announcers into a tizzy. Old Todd Ickow is now getting worked up. His Crusaders are taking the wrong end of some lopsided foul calling and now, finally, Ickow is speaking out. Jarryd Lloyd breaks the scoring doldrums for both teams with a three and UMKC calls a timeout as the
Crusaders take a 42-35 lead.
Valparaiso is missing a lot of shots again. There is no reason they shouldn't be running away with this one, as their defense has been wonderful. Oh, wait. Huff fouls out. Foul trouble. That's one of the reasons they aren't up by 73, like they should be. Needless to say, Ickow is furious.
When the Crusaders got the ball back, there was no doubt they were trying to slow the game down and eat some clock. They didn't want to put the ball in Quinton Day's hands. Even though he had only gone 3/11, he's a streaky player, and Valpo was better served by not having the ball in his hands. In the mean time, however, the best starter for either team, Ayuba, scored his 14th point. Momentum is turning, as Lloyd gets whistled for a charge and the UMKC zone is confounding Valparaiso. The momentum almost turned back to the Crusaders as Mbaye made a good defensive play on Day, but Diebler fouled out on the next possession, sending Ickow into a frenzy. Says Ickow: "Put your whistle in your pocket on that one. He was 2 feet away from Quinton Day!" All right then. He also says that the 5th foul calls against the two starters that are now out were "absolute no calls."
Clearly, the Kangaroos are catching all the breaks now, and they have pulled to within two. Blackwell is holding McPherson at bay, while Igbavboa is carrying the team. He tips one in to give himself a double double, but Hartsock quickly scores on the other end. UMKC has all the momentum now at 46-44.
Then, coming out of the break, the game reverts back to the sloppy turnover fest it was earlier, and Brian Gettinger slaps the ball away from Haanpaa. Day gets the break and is fouled by Igbavboa, infuriating Ickow again. At the other end, Lloyd missed the front end of a 1 and 1, but McCleod rebounded and was fouled. With 40 seconds left, he hit both free throws. The Crusaders allowed too much time as the Roos tied it on an Ayuba lay-in. We're going to OT! Kudos if you've made it this far.
Immediately into the overtime period, Calum McCleod hits a three. He's made shots at all the key times in this one. UMKC's offense is stuck again, and they are only scoring free throws. Igbavboa gets a dunk, the Roos turn it over and Haanpaa got a free throw to put the Crusaders up by four, essentially putting the nail in the coffin. The Crusaders win, 56-52. My players of the game were Urule Igbavboa and Calum McCleod, but Dee Ayuba should get special mention.
Hopefully for the next game I'll actually be in Philadelphia for the Temple-St. Bonaventure game, so I will have more impressions of the evening and less play-by-play so the post will be, well, shorter. - Ryan

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What Uncle Ernie Missed

I, like many of you, I imagine, spent Sunday watching the conference championship games. It was a tough decision, though, because I was invited to a 90th birthday party for my mom's Uncle Ernie in Eau Claire. Since I'm not so sure I could pick Ernie out of a very old lineup, so I bid him glad birthday tidings and buckled in for a great day of football.

In Chicago, the Saints looked like the better team early on, marching the ball down the field, and then, almost collectively, they said "Holy crap it's cold out here." They started coughing the ball up, Drew Brees wasn't completing passes. When they would reach the receivers, they weren't holding on. The Bears showed early weakness, and the Saints couldn't capitalize, so Chicago jumped out to an early lead. If you are down by 10+ to the Bears this season, there isn't a chance you are coming back, especially by a team that, for the most part, was groomed by Jim Haslett. Also, this game demonstrated that drafting Reggie Bush may not have been the best choice for the Saints. His lengthy touchdown was thanks in large part to the Bears loading the box for a run by Deuce, then not covering him at all. It was an easy play for Drew Brees. Also, it was nothing Michael Bennett (the Saints 3rd down back at the beginning of the year before he was traded to the Chiefs) couldnt have done. The glaring weakness shown by the Saints was a completely ineffective defense, especially on the defensive line. How do you let the Bears score 20 points? Let alone 30? In any case, if the Saints can put a talented DT in there, they will be greatly improved next year, and may win games on talent, as well as emotion.

Two and a half hours to the southeast, Indianapolis demonstrated that they were the most motivated team playing this weekend. Tony Dungy must be a hell of a motivator, because after the Colts had been raked through the mud so many times, and were getting walloped again, lesser teams would have packed it in. But something happened. The Colts defense started playing like last year's defense. Peyton Manning shook his playoff doldrums and started to resemble the Hall of Fame quarterback we know him to be. The first quarter and a half was really a revisiting of all the things that have gone the way of the Patriots this decade. The pass to Dan Klecko in the second half was the passing of the torch. He was the second Colts lineman to score a touchdown on Sunday, and showed the newfound offensive ingenuity that had been missing for Indy all season. If they keep playing like this in Miami, I don't see how the Bears can stop them.

And I don't think they will. It's a game of strength versus strength in Miami, and frankly, Indy's strength is stronger than Chicago's, and their weakness, at this point in time, is less glaring than the Bears'. I don't even think the Super Bowl will be close this year, and at least it will be a more interesting game to watch than last year's. Colts 37, Bears 14.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Thanks you Tuna!

Currently, my only job is running Victoria Enterprises, which I'm able to do from home. This means a lot of time split between ESPN and the Weather Channel. Most bloggers would be out cultivating sources, but that's not how I roll. In any case, TWC has been plugging their stupid show "It Could Happen Tomorrow" a show in which almost everything could not happen tomorrow. I was getting pretty sick of it. My biggest fear, of course, was that I couldn't turn away from the Weather Channel to ESPN, because I would be inundated by Super Bowl hype. The game is great, but seriously, we can pick out the storylines ourselves, and we don't need them reiterated 154 times a day. The good news, of course, was that Bill Parcells was also not interested in the hype, so he retired, giving us at least two days of Tuna talk. Thank you Bill Parcells! (So, is anyone else intrigued that Jim Halpert and Bill Parcells have developed the same nickname?) Let's review some not football topics, ok?

Saturday, I was all excited because I was going to have a chance to check out both of my favorite college basketball teams, Purdue and Minnesota back to back. Well, Purdue came out strong but remembered they can't win on the road, no matter how feeble the opponent (even though this years Michigan squad is by no means feeble) and choked in the second half. The Boilers would be a legitimate Tournament team if they could work this out. It's the most crisp I have seen a Purdue squad in some time. But you have to win on the road. But, speaking of feeble opponents, Minnesota lost to this kid. They were bad with Spencer Tollackson in the lineup, and they are downright Sun Belt without him.

So, of my teams, the Boilermakers adopted the Wild's problem of being unable to win on the road. Now, we just need to do something about Minnesota's inability to win at Xcel. The four days off will certainly help. When all the major components were working for a brief sunlit moment early this year, the Wild looked unstoppable. Now, if we can keep Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik in the lineup for any length of time, the Wild should be able to lock up a playoff spot. And while we're speaking in hypotheticals, let's pretend everyone is healthy all the time. Why not put the three Czechs/Slovaks on the same line, then put a couple other excellent skaters (Brian Rolston and Mikko Koivu) on another line with one of the stay in front of the net types (I'm thinking Mark Parrish, since he's pretty good with a stick, too), then let Wes Walz, Derek Boogaard and Pascal Dupuis muck up the checking line, leaving the last three forwards, (Todd White, Pierre Marc Bouchard, Miscellaneous other) play together and mix and match in. White and Bouchard are two of the most versatile players on the team, and can really play with anyone, so why not each other? Just my two cents.

Last Wednesday, something kind of fun happened. There was a trade in every league except the NFL, which, of course, is in the midst of the playoff season (in case you hadn't heard). In the NBA, which, as you know, I don't particularly care for, the Indiana Pacers traded away Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington in a bid to get considerably whiter - I mean, shake up the team. Major League Baseball's trade of Adam Laroche from the Braves to the Pirates for Mike Gonzalez was rumored to be in the works for sometime. This was interesting, because it's rare that we actually see rumors come to fruition. In the NHL, Yan Stastny, who was being tortured by the Bruins was dealt to St. Louis for a draft pick. In the past year, he has been traded twice, once in the Sergei Samsonov trade with Edmonton, and now to St. Louis. This season, however, he was called up and sent down a total of seven times, twice within a 2 day window. He knew the drive from Providence to Boston by heart. But it's nice to know that Boston doesn't know the meaning of "healthy scratch".

Lastly this week, I will be unable to get to Kansas City for the Valparaiso-UMKC game, so I will instead be watching the webcast of the game. It's like I'm there! Except not. So you still get a chance to catch my reaction to this game, while I still get to watch it. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Until next week, - Ryan

Friday, January 19, 2007

One last football post this week.

There was disheartening news about the Twins today, after they signed pitcher Ramon Ortiz, owner of an ERA near 6. That makes two questionable pitcher signings this offseason, after Sidney Ponson was picked up last month. It almost makes you long for the days of Kyle Lohse.
But don't worry about me, faithful readers! There are two fantastic games coming up on Sunday, of the football variety, and I plan on writing about them. (By the way, my first ral post ever on this blog was about a year ago on the same topic. Believe it or not, I picked one of the games wrong.)
There's no doubt that there are plenty of storylines, from the Patriots being back in the saddle again, to Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy's inability to win the big one, to the Bears trying to make it back for the first time since Tommy Tutone was cool, to the Saints and their historic ineptitude, and of course, the saga of Hurricane Katrina and it's effect on New Orleans. That doesn't even start to delve into the various stories to be found from the pairings. Indianapolis can look forward to some invented regional rivalry business with Chicago, or some quarterback storylines with New Orleans (Peyton Manning is the sone of Archie Manning, the Saints' only real legend, and Drew Brees went to school in Indiana (Purdue, actually (triple parenthesees!))), and New England gets to rehash their loss 20 years ago at the hands of the Bears, or delve into a stupid "Battle of the New's" ordeal, or look at the rookie running backs (Maroney is better than Bush!). But what will happen Sunday?
In the AFC, much will be made of the Colts inability to win the big one, and the New England Belichek's dominance in the playoffs. Well, this is a different game. The Patriots played a tough game last week in San Diego, and were knocked down a peg by Ladanian Tomlinson for their lack of class. This sounds like a case of a team getting to big for it's britches. The Colts, on the other hand, haven't really shown up for a game yet this playoff season, with their squeaking out wins over the Chiefs and Ravens. The statistic that is most intriguing is that the Patriots have never lost with Brady at the helm in a domed stadium. Of course, they've never played a good team at their home domed stadium. I like the Colts here, and will probably be proven idiotic.
In Chicago, snow is the forecast, which seems like it would help the Bears. But the Saints have the better running game. And they have the mojo. I think this game will be close and gutty, but the Saints are the better team, without question. Of course, the compelling statistic here, is this. When was the last time a dome team won outdoors to go to the Super Bowl? The answer? Never. The only dome team to win the championship game on the road was the Falcons, who won in Minnesota, also indoors. But I'm still taking the Saints. I'm all for bucking the trends.
So that pits the Colts against the Saints, in my little world, the first all-dome team Super Bowl. If you are betting, I would pick the Patriots and Bears. - Ryan

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Saban Saga

While I was away earlier this month, the lovely Beth wrote about money and loyalty and what it means for a team. Recently, Nick Saban jumped ship from the Miami Dolphins to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, bringing both issues to light. He was harassed by the media, by hypocrites saying he was a liar. Naturally, in their haste to jump on a bandwagon, the reporters missed a few things on the whole story.
First off, Saban was insistent that he had no intention of leaving the Dolphins for Alabama, because, at the time, he wasn't going to leave the Dolphins. It's as simple as that. It wasn't until he was bowled over with a phenomenal contract offer for a job he excelled at (college head coach, as opposed to NFL). This is no Larry Brown situation. Saban has always sought to finish out his contracts, unless a very lucrative offer was given to him, AND his bosses gave him the ok. As much as people want to blame him, it's not Saban's fault that the Tide were desperate for a big name coach.
Second, Saban wasn't leaving until he had a meeting with Wayne Huizenga, owner of the Dolphins, who gave Saban his blessing. Saban would not have even met with Alabama officials had it not been for Huizenga. Besides, they both knew that Saban was more comfortable in the college arena. After all, Saban was 15-17 with the Dolphins, while going 91-42-1 at the collegiate level. Everyone involved saw that it would be best for Saban to get back into college coaching while he still had his dignity, unlike, say, Dennis Erickson or Butch Davis.
The lesson here, as always, is not to go wagging your finger at someone for swithching affiliations or jobs until all the facts are straight. - Ryan

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I bet you haven't read enough about this weeks games yet.

Hey! I'm in town for an NFL Recap! And what an exciting week it was! I should stop using exclamation points!

The first game of the weekend was in Baltimore, featuring the Colts and the Ravens, in a game that everyone seemed to be touting the whole "the Colts used to play in Baltimore" thing. In retrospect, did Baltimore really need to experience Jack Trudeau? I say no. And besides, Baltimore stole the Browns from Cleveland and promptly won a Super Bowl, so I feel no compassion. So anyways, the Colts defense showed up again, making Steve McNair look like the type of quarterback the Titans would give up on before the season started. In the end, the Colts kicked five field goals and won by nine in a remarkably boring game. They better be saving their energy for the next two weeks.

In New Orleans, the feel good Saints kept on feeling good, while Jeff Garcia inevitably lost. At least this means the Eagles won't be turning on Donovan McNabb, right? My favorites two plays of the game were the ones where Reggie Bush got lit up. A very sick part of me wants to see Reggie bush incapacitated for the rest of the playoffs to dispell the myth that he is the sole player that has revamped the Saints, rather than a healthy Deuce McCallister and the added Drew Brees and Mark Simoneau and Scott Fujita and Marques Colston. But Bush is a VERY talented third down back.

The Bears played well in the first quarter or so against the Seahawks Sunday, but then both teams just kind of keeled over. Sure touchdowns were thrown and what not, but it was just a poorly played game. Naturally, nobody was surprised. The Bears are this years bumbling team that gets a lot farther than they should, despite themselves. The irony is, it has little to do with Rex Grossman and more to do with the lack of a dominant running game and a defense that opponents are able to gameplan against now. The irony is, of course, that the Seahawks and Bears, two teams in need of SOMETHING in the draft will probably be to low down to get what they really need, or too proud to go after it in the off season.

So, let's review some of the things working against Marty Schottenheimer here. First, if ever there was an epic performance needed, it would come against Marty. Second, he was playing against the Patriots, a team that ALWAYS gets an epic performance when they need it (unless they are in Denver and hand it to Kevin Faulk). Third, there was no way the football gods would let Tony Dungy play a big game against Marty Schottenheimer. So, there you have it, the Chargers had three strikes against them going into the game. But there could be a nice, cross country rivalry brewing here if LT keeps talking.

That was the weekend in football. Only three more games left this season, and that makes me a little sad. - Ryan

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bringing Nothing to the Table

I feel like, since I've been gone for a while, I should do a three weeks in review type thing. But I'm not, because it would mostly consist of me copying everything people have already said and bringing nothing to the table. Of course, what else would be new? In any case, the fall sports season is winding down, and that eliminates some of my content for the weekly reviews, so I'll be brief. I think.

First, let's discuss the current situtation at the University of Minnesota and their respective coaches. First, the basketball team axed Dan Monson, and now they are hunting for a new head, while interim coach Jim Molinari actually isn't doing so bad. There is no hurry to add a head coach, especially in mid-season, but, of course, they want someone to be the face of the team during recruiting. The Gophers hoops team doesn't necessarily need a big name, because generally, the big dopes from in state try to stay home in Minnesota. It's just a matter of finding someone smart enough to say, "being a big ape works in college, but not so much in the pros." This was Monson's problem, losing NBA powerhouses Joel Pryzbilla, Rick Rickert and Kris Humphries early. Actually, it seems as though the right choice may be Molinari.
Now, on the other side of the aisle is the football team, who canned Glen Mason after an embarrassing loss to Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl. It has always been difficult to recruit in Minnesota, or so it seems, because the Gophers have been middling to poor since about the 60s. Of course, with coaches like Jim Wacker it's not hard to see why. In short, the Gophers need a big name if they want the big talent it takes to compete in the Big Ten. AD Joel Maturi had the right idea in going after Tony Dungy right away, but of course, he's not going to take the job, since, as he said, he's a pro coach, not a college coach. In the meantime, Larry Coker has expressed interest in the job, but for whatever reason, Minnesota is ignoring that. It's Larry Coker! Everyone knows Larry Coker! He took his team to the BCS National Title Game. The best part for Coker is that there is no way that the nightlife in Minneapolis is the same as it is in Coral Gables. The man definitely won't have the discipline problems he did with the Canes, and his university will be much more likely to stand behind him within those disciplinary actions. So those are my choices. Molinari and Coker to coach the Gophers. I bet I'm wrong with both though.

Now, elsewhere in the Big Ten, there is a coach who has a regular season record of 67-43, has been to 9 bowl games in 10 seasons, including a Rose Bowl against Washington, but, of course, he seems to be on the outs. I'm talking about Purdue's Joe Tiller, who the student body seems to be turning against, despite his turning of a fetid program and continued success in a challenging conference. Additionally, he has a track record of leading athletes, especially quarterbacks (Drew Brees and to a lesser degree Kyle Orton) to successful professional careers. So, he's a good recruiter, a successful coach and all of this at a rigorous academic program. Tough to do. If Purdue doesn't want him any more, I think Minnesota would be happy to have him.

Hey! The Wild CAN win on the road! Well, they can in Canada, anyways. But that's OK, since 3 of the 4 opponents in conference are Canadian. Having Marian Gaborik back certainly helps. I think it's about time we seal him up in a bubble off ice, just in case, because not only does he play well when he's actually playing, but everyone else picks up their game as well. By the way, it's nice to see that someone found Pavol Demitra. I'd missed him.

The EPL season is just about winding down. I'm just happy that Blackburn wasn't relegated. They had a tough time getting going, but eventually, they played to their potential in league play. They had been stowing that skill and using it for the UEFA Cup, which is noble, I guess, but it's no way to actually get back to UEFA competition somewhere down the line.

Ok, so that's it. I'm done. - Ryan

Thursday, January 11, 2007

How to make the Bowls meaningful.

First off, I'd like to point out that I exposed the EA sports franchise as being poor prognosticators, as of the simulations I did, only 11 were correct. For those scoring at home, that's around 34%. Also, if you're scoring a blog at home, you probably need to get a life.
In any case, the biggest lesson we learned was that the Big Ten wasn't as good at the top as everyone thought. Just below the top, however, your Wisconsins and Penn States of the world weren't so bad. Somehow, this led to Fox prattling on about how this all meant we should have a tournament, which in truth, is exactly the opposite of what it meant, and demonstrated Fox's general broadcasting malfeasance. But that's for a different post.
We had some of the best bowls in years this year, from Boise State's compelling win over Oklahoma to Boston College's last minute victory over Navy, but all the talking heads seem to mention is that we don't have a national champion because we don't have a tournament. But, wouldn't a tournament just mean you are crowning the champion of the tournament? Really, that's all we're doing in March Madness. We're just awarding the winner of this tournament, rather than a rightful national championship to the best team in the land. There is no way that a team that finished third in their own conference should own that title. But I digress.
Despite what media says, a tournament would be less fair, less interesting, and completely unfeasable. First off, let's consider this. The 8 team tournament everyone seems to get behind is inherently flawed, given that there are eleven conferences, meaning at least three conferences will be left out every year. Why would they even play their games if winning the conference wouldn't even net them a spot in the postseason? Furthermore, in cases such as this year, people would be clamoring for teams like Michigan to get thrown into the tournament, leaving out even more conferences. If we took the top 8 teams this year, according to the BCS, 5 conferences would be included. That would be less than half.
So if we're going to include all the conferences, as well as include our Michigans and LSUs, that means we have a minimum of 16 teams for this tournament. This means that, since there are all these spots available, typically for major conference teams, big, late season match-ups are less meaningful and less exciting, since, hey, the teams are already in the tournament. The thing we still have with the Bowls and the national title game, is that we are still crowning a season champion. If you have tournament, the teams don't necessarily even have to play the full season, and they can pull off the national title.
All this means that the regular season will be less interesting. On top of that, the bowls are set out to provide the best matchups to provide the best games. In a tournament, with the seeding, you are going to get a heck of a lot of awful games and maybe three good ones, or, as much as we get currently with the BCS now anyways.
Besides that, everyone talks about how athletes playing college sports aren't really missing out on anything by missing as much school as a tournament would lead to. Sure, I'll accept that assessment, without pointing out that maybe 10 players on the best teams and fewer on the less talented will actually see a future playing professional football, so maybe school is a good idea for those other kids, but I'd also like to point out that college football draws a lot of other fans from the student body. Kids will travel three states to watch their team during the regular season, so one can only imagine the entourage during a playoff. And a college football stadium, which can seat 60,000 fans, leaves much more space to pack in more fans than a basketball arena, such as during the NCAAs which can fit around 15-20,000.
Of course, nobody is going to buy any of what I just said. Nobody cares about the showcase for these teams, and the reward for the kids who put in 4 hard years at Rice or East Carolina. People outside of those schools care only about a "National Champion". So here are two simple ways to fix our current system so we get a more legitimate national champ can be determined.
First, you add a NCAA mandated non-conference game that will be selected at random. This will give us a better assesment later on of which conferences are the best, which conference is most deserving of a team in the national title game. Right now, major teams are so worried about that damning upset, so they schedule cupcake schedules, which leave outsiders confused as to exactly who the best two teams are going into the bowl season.
Second, don't have polls until around 8 weeks into the season. Early season polls bias the voters into thinking some teams are better than they are, and puts schools like Rutgers or Boise State into an unfair, early season hole. later starts to polls mean a more accurate assesment of the quality of a team, and how they rate against each other.
I'm not entirely convinced that the bowls need fixing, but if we're going to tinker to find the supposed national champion, then, in my opinion, those are the first two things that need changing. - Ryan

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hey! I'm Back!

Hey! I'm back! I survived a harrowing trip through America's southeast and a blown tire in Wisconsin, but here I am. After reviewing Beth's posts over the past week, I have decided that she is no longer allowed to post here. She's simply too good. Seriously though, excellent work from Beth. I hope I don't bring a letdown by returning to my own blog.
In any case, I'm back, and I haven't talked about Victoria for a while. This is, of course, the "Victoria Times" and not the "Ryan Talks About Whatever Passes Through His Empty Little Head Daily Bugle". Let's examine some news and notes around town, shall we?
The big news, of course, was the elections that happened two months ago. Wow, have I been that remiss in my making fun of the local news? I apologize profuseley. In any case, the city council remains pretty much the same, but Victoria has a new mayor in Mary Thun, replacing Jerry Bohn, proving that Victorians like their mayoral names short. That whole Meuwisson era was an aberration, clearly.
Speaking of Mary Meuwisson, a local author celebrity spotted her around town and decided to report that to our friend Celine. First, it kind of blows one's mind that a retired mayor still lives in the town she mayored, doesn't it? Anyways, apparently, she's in charge of helping redesign Victoria, which is good, I suppose. She has plenty of experience since they have been trying to remodel downtown Victoria since, well, Meuwisson was mayor.
In more Decembery news, a new building which will be going in next to the Notermann building is going to be thirty five feet tall. That's only 175 feet short of the tallest building in Minnesota! 51 stories short! In any case, apparently there is some sort of law in Victoria that you can't build a building taller than 35 feet. This means that it's illegal to stack more than 5 life size Yao Ming replicas on top of each other. Because I wanted to do that.
It's pretty much messing with my mind that the only website author unable to use hyperlinks is writing about Victoria adopting Wi-Fi. She spends an entire paragraph explaining what some key bits of Wi-Fi technology are, like "hotspots". I think the only person who reads her site are... me. This probably means that she included this just for the dead tree version. It also means that I'm probably the first person to notice that in the next two articles discuss "Sithtown Road" and "Victoria Stree".
That's about it for now. I have to check with some other sources, but there is a scandal brewing with the local fire department. That's what we call a tease. Until next time. - Ryan

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Money, Money, Money

Everything has a price. Some sporting teams will buy championships--sign all the good players one year, win the championship, and then unload them. If you have money, it's a way to get a trophy. Fans watching the salaries of baseball player--pitchers in particular--this off-season are a little shocked. Pitchers that aren't even that good are being paid outrageous salaries. It's even more surprising that teams that really probably can't afford players that expensive are paying the salaries. Earlier in the season, options were picked up and contracts were signed that seemed proposterous at the time. Those salaries are starting to look like bargains.

A team that's performed poorly might need a good player or two. A good player can boost the performance of the other players--which might be what a team needs to boost them from a "joke" to a competitive team. To get a good player or two, they need to be paid. However, teams looking for the one good guy are competing for the good players with teams that were competitive that want a little more edge. It's supply and demand. If every team is looking for someone that's just a little bit better, which they all always are, and the teams are willing to pay a lot of money, you'll see those salaries skyrocket. Players on the free agent market are having a heyday. Players under contract are just hoping that the same outrageous willingness to pay high salaries still exists when their contracts expire. There is only so much money available and teams will someday be too busy paying off their current contracts to worry about new one, particularly the small market teams.

At some point, George Steinbrenner is going to realize it would be a whole lot cheaper to just bribe the umpires and front offices of Major League Baseball than to field a championship team. (See, you thought Steinbrenner was as evil as he could get? Nope. He's not even close. While he might be missing the gene of fair play, he still wants to play by the rulebook.)

This means teams without the large salaries--teams in the smaller markets--need to hold even tighter to their prospects and young players. A player earning minimum wage--baseball minimum wage--is still affordable on a small budget, and some of those players are just as good as their highly-paid counterparts and sometimes better. It's a bargain, if you can search out the gold on this diamonds around the world--but fool's gold is so deceiving, you never know until you bring it home and try to refine it.

Money isn't everything, though. There comes a point when you're spending money just purely for the sake of spending money--because everyone else is. When everyone else is spending money, that's when you evaluate what you have. If what you have is just as good as what you could pay for, there's no use getting something shiny and new, when all you need to do is polish what you have.

The Twins and Phillies stuck with what they had, and both ended up with players who won the MVP. At $385,000, Justin Morneau made more money than Ryan Howard's 355,000. If both men combined their salaries from 2006, they still wouldn't have one million dollars. This is a far cry from 2005, when the Yankees and the Cardinals paid a combined $37,000,000 for the MVP players of Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols in 2005. (It cost the Angels and Giants $29,000,000 in 2004 for Barry Bonds and Vladmir Guerrero. Incidentally, the last MVP to earn less than one million dollars in a season the season he won was Barry Bondsback in 1990. It's interesting to note that he made $850,000--which is still more than Morneau's and Howard's combined $740,000. Kevin Mitchell, in 1989, was the last MVP to earn less than the combined total of the 2006 winners, earning "only" $610,000 in that season. In 1988, the first guy to earn less than either of the 2006 winners was Jose Conseco earned $325,000.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Twins fans around the world have over and over voiced frustrations with management's loyalty to players who aren't very good. I can start naming names--and these are just guys named off the top of my head--that the Twins have been loyal to in spite of their numbers: Luis Rivas, Christian Guzman, J.C. Romero, Kyle Lohse. They're all gone now, of course, but at one time they were highly-prized prospects that never really lived up to the expectations. Some fans complained that these guys were given too many chances. After a couple of years of the same stuff, it was clear to fans that these players were never going to realize their potential, and still the Twins held on for another year or two.

Yet, at the same time, Twins fans have been watching the crazy wild shopping spree that is the 2006-2007 off-season, and realize very quickly that there's no way the Twins will be paying those types of salaries. There simply isn't the money for it. As we try to figure out how the Twins can structure contracts to keep as many of our current favorite players with the team, it's often mentioned, "Well, he might take less money to stay here. Other guys have done that."

We expect guys to be loyal. We expect them to stick with us and love us the way we love them.

Loyalty is a two-way street. You have guys who choose to be loyal to a team. On the other hand, you have teams that are loyal to players. Loyalty has good points, and bad points. I don't like the bad side any more than the rest of you. I'll complain bitterly when the Twins keep pitchers in the rotation in spite of inconsistent performances (I can name two from the Twins in 2006). I don't like misplaced loyalty any more than the next guy. However, I have to grudgingly admit that I want my players to be loyal to me. If I expect some loyalty from them, I have to be willing to be loyal myself.

The complaint might be that the Twins were loyal to some of these guys too long. I wonder, though: How long should a team be loyal to their once-prized prospects? What if the Twins had given up on Micheal Cuddyer after a number of mediocre years? His batting average and home runs were not that much greater than what Guzman or Rivas produced (albeit Cuddyer had more power). How long should anyone be loyal in spite of the statistics? When do you give up and realize things are never going to change? Seven seasons passed before Bradke played for a winning team.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Great Gabby

There's a debate going on in the world of the Minnesota Wild, as right wing Marian Gaborik prepares to rejoin the team. Gaborik was the Wild's first draft pick in 2000 (third overall), and has proved to be an exciting player. Wikipedia says, "Marián is an immense talent, widely regarded as one of the most explosive and electrifying players in hockey..." At the 2003 All-Star game, Gaborik won the speed competition. We're not talking about your average NHL player here.

Gaborik has never played a full season. He hasn't played since October 20th because of a groin injury and initially was expected to be out two weeks. Two weeks turned into over two months, but he should be back soon. That's where things get difficult. This past off-season, the Wild traded for Pavol Demitra to complement Gabby's playing style--giving him a partner on the ice. (There had been questions about whether Gaorik would continue to play for the Wild after this season or if he'd seek a new team. After the trade, Gabby signed a three-year contract with the Wild.) However, with Gabby out, Demitra was put on an offensive line with Mark Parrish (Minnesota native) and Mikko Koivu, whom I know no one has ever heard me mention before, but he's a pretty good player.

Immediately one would think that it's easy: pull Parrish out of the line, and insert Gaborik. But it's not that easy. The line of Demitra-Koivu-Parrish has been doing quite well, and they've been working together well as a unit. You really don't want to break up offensive lines. These guys need to know each other very well to get the puck from one person the next--often without looking. Parrish didn't really start the year playing well, but recently has picked up playing with Mikko Koivu and Demitra. You can't break them up. And have to. They brought Demitra here to help the team by giving Gabby a complementary partner. It spoils the effect of the trade if you don't have them playing together.

I am not sure whether Parrish or Demitra will be removed from the line (i.e., will Parrish be removed from the line and Gabby inserted, or will Demitra be removed to be put on another line with Gabby?). It's my personal, prejudiced opinion that Gabby and Mikko Koivu should play together (my two favorite players would be playing at the same time!). And my prejudiced opinion is that that particular line will highlight strengths of all the players. But where do you put Mark Parrish?

I think Jacque Lemaire will be in for a difficult decision in the next two days. I'm guessing he's very closely watching practice, and probably switching lines up a little bit to see which pairings show the most potential of working together. It will be interesting to see how things shape up.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mikko Koivu!

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a Wild hockey game, where the Wild played the Atlanta Thrashers. The Thrashers managed to score one goal--and with only 22.3 seconds remaining the game, to ruin Manny Fernandez's shut-out bid. He was positively amazing in the net last night, although, in all fairness, he didn't have to be that stellar, since the Thrashers only had 15 shots on goal.

The Wild played a very solid game, for the most part--obviously. They were making some very nice passes. On the other hand, they played croquet last night. Seriously, I've never seen the puck go through the legs of so many players. In fact, at least once, and I believe twice, a Wild player missed the pass, and the puck when through his legs, but there was another Wild player behind him (not directly behind him, but close enough that the Thrashers couldn't get to the puck first), and it went through his legs as well. Fortuantely, for the Wild, when things like this would happen, they'd be in the Thrashers end of the rink, so it would usually mean a re-grouping in their end before coming back. In the defensive zone, they played a little more solidly.

In total, the game was fun to watch. A Thrasher player (Eric "Just Call Me Michael" Boulton) tried to goad Wild player Derek "I like duplicating vowels" Boogaard into a fight, but Derek really had no interest in the ten minute penalty. With this little Thrasher trying to entice Derek, while at the same time backing away from Derek, the Refs had to call some sort of penalty, so both men ended up in the the penalty box. Not for "roughing" or "fighting" or anything like that, but rather for "Delay of game." We laughed a lot over that. It might be my favorite penalty call ever. Some were likely shocked that Boogaard came out in the last two minutes of the game (apparently the coach gets fined $10,000 if there's a fight in the final five minutes), but coach Jacque Lemaire said he trusted Boogaard to do his job--play hockey.

Minnesota native Mark Parrish made a bid for the hat trick, but, alas, could not come through with the third goal. Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the final two goals, but also could not come up with the hat trick. This is slightly significant to me because the Wild have not played the Thrashers for a number of years (since 2003-2004). If you go based solely on Beth's Wild record, you'd think the Wild and the Thrashers met somewhat regularly, since I've seen maybe ten or fifteen games in my life, and I've seen the Wild play the Thrashers twice. The first Wild game I ever attended (excuse me while I wax nostalgic briefly) was back on November 13, 2001, against the Thrashers. Marian Gaborik netted his first every hat trick, which cemented him in my heart as my favoritest hockey player. Sure, you might think it's Mikko Koivu, but it's not. Mikko's the back-up to Gaborik; although to be fair, with Gaborik out so much this year, Mikko is really moving up the ranks quickly.

The Penalty Box really needs to be renamed the Kurtis Foster Box. Sure, two penalties doesn't sound too bad, but when you consider the fact that the Wild as a team only had four, that's suddenly looking not so good. I believe one of the other two penalties was what's known as a good penalty--one that's created directly to stop the other team from scoring (on a break-away or something like that). And I'm not sure Boogaard's penalty really should count, because face it--he just stood there and let the other guy come at him (he did offer one brief shove, likely to get the other guy to throw the first punch, thus Boulton would've been given the instigation penalty. Boulton was smart enough to know better than to fight with Boogaard. Boogaard is not little). Foster's second penalty, late in the game, was also what led to the single goal scored by the Thrashers.

And the Wild may possibly have broken their second leg in as many games--but, to look at the bright side, at least they didn't break their own. Pronger of the Anaheim team had his ankle broken Sunday night, and last night the Thrasher's Steve "You're a Communist!" McCarthy left the game with a "lower body injury." Hockey, sadly, must keep injuries a little bit secret--if you know an opposing player is coming off of an injury, you could use that to your advantage.

What? Oh, of course the Wild won. I was at the game. It's not so much the the Wild win because I was at the game, but more that I told you that the Thrashers only scored one goal, and this years' trend is that the Wild must score five goals when Beth is at the game. No more, no less. And not always in regulation, but always five goals. You'd think the Wild would start paying me to come to games.

(And former Gopher Ryan Potulny scored yet another game-winning goal for the Philedelphia Flyers, according to sources who know these sorts of things. Way to go, Ryan!)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Weekend sporting re-cap

I promised Ryan I would try not to abuse my privilege of posting to this blog to start my campaign for world domination. I guess I’ll have to write about sports.

The Gophers' Men's hockey team won the Dodge Holiday Classic for the 11th time in 16 years. I’d be a mite bit curious to know what the rankings of the other teams in the Classic were, though. St. Cloud State was not there (they captured their own title at some other tournament). Five guys (Mike Carman, Jeff Frazee, Erik Johnson, Kyle Okposo and Ryan Stoa) weren’t playing for Minnesota, as they were off playing in World Junior Championship. It’s kinda sad, as Kyle Okposo is by far my favorite player (since Ryan Potulny went pro--and scored a game-winner for the Philedelphia Flyers in a recent game). Senior Tyler Hirsch was officially dismissed from the team this weekend as well. It’s a shame really, but there have been struggles with him for the past couple of years, so it was surprising, but not shocking to fans. No reason was given, but he sat out last year for “personal reasons”, has been benched repeatedly for performance-related reasons, and has had issues with the coaches.

I attended the Timberwolves game last Friday night. It was fun and exciting, but I’ve never seen a more unenthused crowd at a sporting event since watching minor high school sporting events. My brother’s little league team got more cheers than the Timberwolves did when they took the court. Maybe that’s why Kevin Garnett’s play was so lax that night. He was doing decent on the rebounding, as far as I was concerned, but his shooting skills were…well, I’ve seen him play better. And that was only my third time seeing him play. However, it was a good game: my cousin Scott caught a t-shirt, the Wolves won, Garnett did score in the double digits (he was taken out when he got ten points--with about three minutes left in the game), Ricky Davis was clearly the star of the night, and Randy Foye became my favorite player on the team. That’s what the Wolves get for trading Wally Szczerzbziakz on me.

When I got back to my aunt and uncle’s with my cousin, who attended the Timberwolves game with me , we watched the end of the Inisight Bowl, which Ryan mentioned. All I can say is that I’m very, very glad that I only saw the end of it. Seriously, what team is ahead 38-7 in the third quarter and loses? Oh, right, a Minnesota football team. As my aunt said, “At least they’ll be in the history books.” It’s the first time that a team was ahead by 31 points, and lost--the previous record was 30 points. Part of me wonders what happened, but most of me just doesn’t want to know.

I would tell you about the Wild game on Sunday, except I couldn’t listen or watch it. There was a snow storm in the area, which left me without power. One needs power to run ones radio that has the Wild game. Unless one is bright enough to realize that one owns a battery-operated radio, but I am not bright. Apparently the game was a dramatic win, and I’m sure it was exciting to all who listened/watched/attended but did not listen or watch. On exciting news, Marian Gaborik might be back soon. I might be a little biased because he is my favorite player, but I’m very excited to see him come back. In fact, Wild fans might get a chance to spot the elusive forward in this homestand, but, alas, I will not. Tonight is Marian Gaborik hockey puck night that I am attending, but he won’t be on the ice to show off. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

I’m pretty sure that a team called the Vikings played on Sunday, but I’m pretty sure many Minnesotans really didn’t want to think about that.

Tomorrow shall include more information about the Wild game tonight. Unless something major happens in the sporting world AND I hear about it. Since I get most of my information from Ryan’s blog, well, I wouldn’t count on it.