June 27, 2006

Dancin' with Expansion

Came across this article in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday about a possible NCAA Tournament expansion.

Quick flash poll. Any thoughts on this? I am curious to hear some perspective from ND fans on this one because we are one of the schools that could have benefited from a few extra slots in the Big Dance over the last few years. It puts our fanbase in a unique position to gauge this idea because, unlike UConn and Carolina fans, we have actually been sweating it out on that bubble.

Personally, even as a Notre Dame fan, I’m completely opposed to the idea. And I have my reasons.

1. Expansion would devalue the regular season

Yea, I know this argument gets brought up by college football and basketball “purists” all the time, and people are tired of hearing these doomsday projections about how regular seasons won’t matter anymore if changes are made to the postseason formats. With that said, isn’t there some truth to the argument?

I think so. The best part of the college hoops season is during that late February and early March period when every night there are big games with tournament implications. I love following all the “Bubble Watch” and “Bracketology” stuff on the internet, arguing with friends about mid-majors vs. power teams, and all the other buildup leading to Selection Sunday. It’s one of my two or three favorite sports seasons of the year. I’d be bummed to see that go away. If you expand the tournament, the bubble essentially goes away. Let’s say a mediocre Alabama team beats LSU on the road on a Tuesday night in late February. With the present format, that is a huge statement win for them and means a lot for their NCAA Tournament chances. After expansion? Alabama is probably already dancing, so the game loses a little luster. It’s still a big win for Alabama and their fans, but the regular season suddenly becomes a little less interesting for college hoops fans in general.

2. Tournament Dilution

Let’s say this expansion idea goes down. Who are we really adding here? 17-12 teams with bad strength of schedules and losing conference records? Small conference schools that are already overrepresented as it is? Why on Earth does anyone want to see those teams in the Big Dance?

In the end, that’s the biggest reason I am not in favor of this thing. As it stands now, making the NCAA Tournament is a big deal. The small schools have truly accomplished something, and the big schools have distinguished themselves by getting the invite. If you expand this thing any further, it cheapens the whole thing. I know that ND has been squeezed a few times recently, but did we really “deserve” to be dancing? The 2005 team lost to Rutgers in the first round of the BET and looked like it could care less about continuing the season. The 2004 team was an average team at best. Those teams could have made a case for being in the tournament, but I sure as heck didn’t consider it some sort of injustice that they were left out.

Maybe I’m just a patient type, but I’d rather it mean something when ND gets back to the Big Dance and not just be some charity case. If we get in now, it's a source of pride. It should remain that way in the future.

3. Coaches in favor of this proposal just want a safety net

If you manage to wade through all the rhetoric being bandied about by college basketball coaches championing this idea, you get to the heart of the matter. Coaches want expansion because they are pissing down their leg about missing the NCAA Tournament and want a guaranteed safety net. They want to be able to say that they’ve been to the NCAA Tournament 7 times in the last 9 years. By expanding the tournament, it makes their job a whole lot easier. Coach (Insert mediocre big conference head coach) doesn’t have that “failed to make the NCAAs 3 out of the last 4 years” tag hanging over him anymore because pretty much everyone with a pulse is getting in.

I understand where those guys are coming from, but I still don’t support the idea. Notice how the idea is only getting support from the “bubble” coaches. You don’t see Calhoun, Roy, and Kryskewski jumping on this proposal. They sure as heck don’t want to have to play an additional tournament game against some undeserving run-of-the-mill squad. Adding another round strikes me as unnecessary. It would drag along the tournament, and dilute the field.

The tournament is perfect as it stands. Buildup in the regular season, meaningful conference tournaments, 65 teams, 6 rounds, one champion. It’s the best tournament in the world (yes World Cup fans, read that last sentence again.). Leave it alone.

June 21, 2006

"You're with me, leather"

I know this blurb from Deadspin has already made its way around the internet a million times, but I just couldn't sit and let this thing slide by without it making an appearance on this site.

It just never gets old. Chris freaking Berman. If that story is actually true (and I'm 99.999% convinced that it is), doesn't it completely change your perception of Berman? We're talking about the Swami. The man who loves to say Jake "Daylight comes and I wanna" Delhomme. You're with me, leather? Can you even picture Chris Berman waddling around the local watering hole working the singles scene? Does he bust out the ESPN catchphrases for the ladies as well?

Oh and by the way, there are now shirts commemorating the "You're with me, leather" line from the Swami himself. Pretty sure I'll be hitting "Add to Cart" for that beauty as soon as I finish this post. You gotta love capitalism.

If you're out at the bars this weekend, PLEASE pull out the "You're with me, leather" line. Just once. It worked for Berman, and it might even work for you. For all we know, "You're with me, leather" as a pickup line is batting 1.000.

June 19, 2006

Utley of the Week

Introducing a new award to the We is ND pages, The Utley. This fine distinction has no parameters, qualifications or requirements necessary and carries absolutely no East or West Coast bias. Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of Mike Utley and his thumb-up acknowledgment to Detroit Lions fans, an Utley is conferred upon an individual/team/organization/movement for a deserving bit of sportsmanship, good play, or meritorious acclaim that might not find its way into Stuart Scott's Boo-Yah roll call. Basically, it rewards the unremarkably remarkable, the "stop to smell the roses" stuff that gets lost amidst the bling and hoopla that tends to consume big time sports.

Remember the Jason McElwain story? His accomplishments are certainly worthy of at least a double Utley and would be a fitting first bestowal, but that story's been played out. We gotta start with something fresh and original, something distinct with flavor. That said, the inaugural Utley of the Week is a touch off the wall, but, then again, so is this site.

I came across this article (and it's accompanying gallery) during a recent surf and was smitten. You mean to tell me there's people who care enough to rally public opinion to bring the 'stache back into our culture's good graces? That is Good News.

You may be asking yourself- what possible relevance does facial growth have to sports? Unbeknownst until recently, I discovered a subculture, much like professional eating and the Great Outdoor Games, where the growing gets a little competitive. We all have a friend who beats everyone to the 5 o'clock shadow by noon, but can they do this? And if you need inspiration, here's a celebrity montage of well-coiffed mustachios from some of our most beloved characters.

Believe it or not, there's serious follicle festivities at work at the New York City Beard & Mustache Championships. And if your mane is the main event domestically, you just might be a contender for the World Beard Championships.

If you think you've got what it takes, perhaps you should get in touch with the founder and self-appointed captain of the Beard Team USA, Phil Olsen. I'm awe-struck that a national circuit for this sort of thing even exists. His blog offers as in-depth a look into competitive beard growing as you'll find. And what's more American than growing your God-given hair to the length of your choice and "splitting hairs" over it?

For that, the "Americans For More Mustaches And Beards" movement gets an Utley.

Milligan Minute - Where have you gone Sid Bream?

And we've reached a new low. The Atlanta Braves are now in Last place in the NL East a place they have not seen since the Miracle season in 1991. When they went from worst to first. Where have you gone mister Sid Bream? During their decent into last place the Braves have lost 17 of their last 20. The last time we won a series was Memorial Day weekend when there was a solid sweep of the Chicago Cubs. I think the Braves caught a solid case of suck from the Cub when they made their holiday stop. I am not only one disheartened by the fact that they are 14 game out and got swept by the Florida Marlins. A team that has given away any player that was a part of their World Championship Team in '03.

The thing that is wrong with the Braves is I think are expecting to lose. They have their roster issues like no Bullpen and no lead off hitter. But they have lost their will to win. They need some serious therapy, they also need to look into making some trades. What good is having the best farm system in the game if you never use it for anything? They all need to get together and listen to some rocking tunes by Peter Gammons and grow a set of balls.

Where is the camaraderie that helped them win the last 14 NL East titles? Where is the pitching that has been the staple of the Braves organization? Where is the Wizard John Schuerholz making deals to fix the problems? Where is the owner of the team?

Where are you Jeff Francoeur? Where are you Brian McCann? Where are you Chipper Jones? Where are you Andruw Jones?
Where were you when Sid slid???

June 17, 2006

Gammons comes alive

Get out your credit cards, folks! The long-awaited debut album from the Hall of Famer himself, Peter Gammons! Album is titled "Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old." Wait, this is Peter Gammons we're talking about? The Peter Gammons who can barely walk and allegedly wears an adult diaper?

Album features vocals from Theo Epstein, Bronson Arroyo, Trot Nixon, Tim Wakefield, and the rookie sensation himself, Jonathon Papelbon. I'm just shocked to see Gammons line up some current and former Red Sox for this thing. Shocked I tell you. I mean, when does Gammons ever talk about the Red Sox?

Laugh all you want, but tell me you aren't a little curious to hear what Gammons sounds like. Here's an article about the process of making the album.

Close your eyes and picture these lyrics coming out of the mouth of the man who loves to discuss the Double A prospects of the Milwaukee Brewers:

''She fell from heaven.
She fell from heaven.
She fell from heaven.
And landed . . . on her face."

I'm having a hard time refraining from laughing every time I look at the picture of Gammons on the album cover trying to rock out. At the very least, if the rock star thing doesn't work out, he can always go back to posing for the $20 bill.

June 14, 2006

Playing Catch [up]

Apologies for the brief hiatus. I was sent on assignment to the Galapagos Islands to study the evolution of Fitches in the NBA. In a nutshell, the genus Bill Fitch adapted to its surrounding environment and evolved into the genus Gerald Fitch, and the NBA game became better. A fleshed out thesis is pending.

In my absence, the sporting world certainly kept turning, chock full of compelling stories and developing situations. A quick recap of some highlights to catch up on what's transpired.

-The NFL found a new way to stir the pot this spring, stealing headlines for weeks with Draft coverage. In a bold, and most would agree, stupid move, the Houston Texans passed on the unparalleled Reggie Bush to snatch a DE from a 7-5 NC State team. This reeks of the 1983 Bowie-Jordan NBA draft mulligan. Time always tells, but that is one ginormous silverback gorilla placed on Mario Williams' back.

Always encouraging to see Irish names pop up on draft boards, especially 1st Day draftees Fasano and Mo Sto. The talent cupboard is being replenished. More under the radar, it's quite obvious that Charlie's willing to reach out to his NFL frat brothers in securing jobs for his graduating seniors. All the more reason for players to buy into his system. Charlie will get you to Sunday.

- Barry Bonds "cleared" and "creamed" his way past the Babe, yet only San Franciscans gave a hoot. Meanwhile, Albert Pujols started as hot as Hansel, well ahead of pace to break Bonds' single season home run mark, a fitting parting gift to the sullied slugger. The Cardinals could roll Pujols out in a wheelchair and he'd still knock a few out of the park. Don't call it a conspiracy theory yet, but anyone else perplexed at teams' insistence on pitching to Prince Albert? The guy is the game's best hitter and he hardly gets a free pass. He has two more (12) intentional walks than Raul Ibanez (10) for god's sake. Is there a silent understanding in the league to supplant Bonds' records ASAP? Would anyone be opposed to this?

-Cowboy Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks keep trucking through this snails pace playoffs. It appears Mark Cuban's insanity will pay off with a title. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Cuban fan and think his ownership mentality is great for sports. His blog is quality, too. It's nice to finally see some new blood in the NBA Finals. It's hard to believe only 5 cities have brought home a championship since 1987. Can you name them? Answer at the bottom.

-Rafael Nadal continued his clay court mastery, fending off Roger Federer to defend his French Open crown. His unbeaten streak on the red clay is now a record 60 matches long. There's a rivalry brewing in ATP-land. It appears Federer has finally found a worthy adversary in the 20-year old Nadal, a perfect foil to keep his supremacy in check.

-The World Cup kicked off last week in Deutschland, sending myriads of futbol fans into a frenzy. Nothing really tops the Copa Mundial. Olympian in its four-year intervals, the world's best athletes grab center stage, showcasing their dazzling array of tricks. Critics (read: Americans) cry that there's not enough scoring. Whatever happened to that virtue called patience? Whaa whaa all you want, but the wait is almost always worth it, as the best goals of World Cup 2002 prove. There's a magnetism inherent in every game. Just listening to the omnipresent drone of the crowds chanting and cheering for their country is intoxicating. It's truly pure sport at its finest.

You want to know the origins of the endzone celebration? Look no further than soccer goal celebrations. It's a showman's dream come true for that brief moment before your teammates mob you. Liverpool's Robbie Fowler makes T.O.'s antics look childish as he sniffs a white line after a goal. (Add your own subtitles). England's got a new dance craze- The Crouch- which is a notch above The Sprain. Thankfully, this dumb luck can't happen to you amidst celebration on the gridiron.

-Last but not least, ND Football made plenty of headlines of their own this off-season. The Blue-Gold game affirmed that Charlie Mania is in full bloom. A record number of Weisaholics turned out to watch the ho-hum affair. The game was icing on the cake after the #1 QB in the country committed to Notre Dame earlier that morning. Boy Wonder Jimmy Claussen plans to enroll in January, 2007 to fully immerse himself in Weis’ regimen for success. Top recruits are following his lead, making sure not to be left out of a bumper crop. Charlie has piqued the country's best and so far 7 commitments have fallen like dominos with a predestined goal – dynasty.

One certainty this fall will be the full-blown media overkill hyping Brady Quinn's Heisman campaign. He can try and evade the attention like a blitzing safety, but if he puts up comparable numbers to last year, the Debate for Eight will rage all season.

The player that may have the biggest hand(s) in making Quinn's Heisman hype a reality is creating a mystique onto his own. Jeff Samardzija, 5th round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs, has agreed on a contract and should test the waters of summer ball in Boise, Idaho. Don't be calling him Bo just yet, despite this clever allusion.

The Shark’s not the only one with a high-profile summer job. Roommate Tommy Z stepped into the ring at Madison Square Garden and punished the stiff who dared don a Buckeye jersey (Justin Zwick, of all players!). If those 49 seconds don't strike fear in every wide receiver crossing the middle this fall, I don't know what will. Not a bad gig, paying ~$510 per second.

Trivia Answer: Chicago, Detroit, Houston, LA and San Antonio.