Monthly Archives: October, 2009

Teams That Grind My Gears: The Michigan Wolverines

grinds my gears michigan

Let’s be honest…it is only the presence of Ohio State that keeps Michigan from being the biggest collection of perennially over-rated douchebags in the Big Eleven Ten. Llllloyd Carr got fired at Mi-shit-gan because of his five “Ls” against the Suckeyes. John Cooper got fired from Ohio State a few years back for the same reason; the inability to win this rivalry game.

From an outsider’s perspective, Ohio and Michigan aren’t that different. Both are Midwestern states mired in a dismal economy and weather that can only be worse if you are in Buffalo or Siberia. Both are relatively uninteresting in terms of topography and are populated largely by the dregs of society. Both built enormous stadia to house some of the least-behaved and most idiotic fans in all of college football. In fact, both sides get so wrapped up in their self-absorbed rivalry they forget there are legions of people who despise both of them. There are many people who would love to see an airliner packed with explosives take out the stadium during a Mi-shit-gan/Ohio State game. But since I’ve already made my thoughts on the Ohio State Penitentiary University known, it is time to concentrate on Mi-shit-gan.

Despite the self-defeating nature of suicide, sometimes your only hope is to play for a tie.

Despite the self-defeating nature of suicide, sometimes your only hope is to play for a tie.

First of all, do you know what a Wolverine really is? In reality, it is a cross between a small bear and a large skunk. While known to be strong for its size; a wolverine possesses powerful jaws, sharp claws, and a thick hide; this mustelid is also not known for its intellect. Wolverines have been known to provoke confrontations, and then be killed by much larger predators, such as bears and mountain lions. It is also worth noting Mi-shit-gan selected this obnoxious, glorified rodent as its mascot despite the fact that most biologists agree a wolverine hasn’t been spotted in the state in nearly 200 years.

That sort of intelligence gets mirrored by some of the mental pygmies that have worn Wolvie colors in the past. There’s Desmond Howard and his exceptionally self-serving “Heisman” pose. There’s Charles Woodson, an Ohio native, who not only left the Suckeyes at the altar, then did nothing but get in brawls with Ohio State players (not the least of which was the shit-hammering he got at the hands of David Boston). There’s arguably the greatest Wolvie of them all, offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf who loves to regale tales of his first time playing center in the NFL, forgetting the quarterback was in the “shotgun” formation, then crumpling to the turf after having rocketed the ball into his own testicles.

But to understand how that kind of stupidity can be blended with the arrogance of Mi-shit-gan, all one needs to do is look at a typical Wolvie fan. The university fancies itself as being top-notch, yet it is just another Midwestern land-grant school awash in backwards baseball caps and cheap beer. Of course, it is that delusion that explains the 500-level douche-itude oozing from every pore of its fans.

The Origins of Douchebaggery - The Ostracized Michigan Kid.

The Origins of Douchebaggery - The Ostracized Michigan Kid.

That air of false superiority coming from some mouthy little shithead in a maize and blue sweatshirt is exactly why I hate Mi-shit-gan. The typical Mi-shit-gan fan is some little fucker who thinks he belongs in a GQ catalog, and who has the false belief that his daddy’s money will keep me from leaving the little bastard gurgling in a pool of his own blood after I’ve stomped his face into an unrecognizable pile of low-grade dog food.

This is really why Rich Rodriguez is the perfect head coach for this shitbag team. Here’s a guy that built a reputation for exceptional mediocrity leading to a level of over-rating not seen since Sports Illustrated trumpeted Oregon State as the best team in the nation in 2001. Much like the Wolvies, he has an incredibly undeserved reputation for being a “winner;” really all he has ever accomplished is a history of getting players of questionable backgrounds, and building teams that may occasionally surprise, but usually fall short of their overblown expectations.

So, here’s to you, Mr. Mi-shit-gan fan. I hope you enjoy the next few years of cheering for a 3-9 team.

Is There a New “Golden” Era in North Philadelphia?

The word “temple” can evoke many different visions. Health fanatics love the cliché “the body is a temple.” For the people in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood I which I live, it has another meaning entirely. One thing that Temple hasn’t brought to mind in 20 years is winning football.

Mind you, that wasn’t always the case. Temple University is one of the “old school” members of Division I football; having began playing organized football in 1894. As a demonstration of just how long Temple has been a part of college football, historians commonly agree the modern era of Temple football arrived in the 1920’s, the same decade that brought us a baby Joe Paterno. But as JoePa has been a stalwart fixture on the college football landscape for nearly sixty years, the Temple Owls have been a bit more mercurial.

In 1925, Henry J. “Heinie” Miller was hired as head coach, and under his leadership, the Owls became a regional power. This rise allowed Temple to hire a “big-name” coach in 1933 when Miller departed. In the prior 19 seasons, the legendary Glenn “Pop” Warner had won three national championships at Pittsburgh and Stanford, winning three national championships. He spent his final six seasons as a head coach at Temple, compiling a 31-18-2 record. The height of the Warner era on that sideline in north Philadelphia came in 1934, a season that saw the Owls post a 7-0-2 regular season mark earning an invite to the inaugural Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on New Year’s Day 1935.

But as all things that go up must come down, Warner’s retirement in 1938 served as the peak of the roller coaster. Over the next 25 years, the Owls had only 4 winning seasons. The ebb came in the late 1950s, a time when Temple endured a school record 21-game losing streak.  

The 1960’s saw the beginning of the swing back, as the Philadelphia northsiders became essentially a .500 team; the 1970’s saw Temple enjoy a 14-game winning streak and the school’s second bowl game appearance, a defeat of California in the 1978 Garden State Bowl. Under head coach Wayne Hardin, the Owls of the 1970’s were one of the more stable Eastern football powers and often defeated local rivals West Virginia, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh.

But when Hardin retired in 1982, the pendulum began another regressive swing leading to the dark days as a member of the Big East Conference. This was a 14-year period that saw the Owls win three conference games in a season only once, and go 0-for-the conference schedule six times. Overall, Temple compiled a 14-80 record against Big East foes.

Now for the good news; this might just be the dawn of a Golden era at Temple. Ever since head coach Al Golden took up the Temple sideline near the end of the 2005 campaign, there has been slow, but steady improvement. Even as the Owls lost their first 8 games under Golden, and even though they only managed one win in that first season, it was a Homecoming victory that also halted a 20-game losing streak.

Can Golden turn Temple around?

Can Golden turn Temple around?

Temple quadrupled that win total in 2007, including three consecutive wins. The Owl defense improved its ranking from 118th to 49th; the offense also showed faint signs of life, moving from 118th to 113th. The Owls continued the upward swing in 2008, posting five victories. 2009 already promises to show more progress, as Temple currently has a 4-2 mark, including their best start since 1986, and a 4-game winning streak, their longest in 24 years. At the heart of this resurgence at Temple is a young, but talented defense.

Many great historical battles came down to the defense. The battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. saw 10,000 Athenians repel 50,000 Persian invaders. The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 saw Lord Nelson end Napoleon’s hopes to invade the British Isles. Even the American destruction of the invading Japanese fleet at Midway in 1942 can be considered one of the great defensive struggles of all time.

Perhaps what happened in Philadelphia on Saturday lacks the historic cache of those aforementioned battles, but this battle against the Army Black Knights came down to the Owl defense. In the fourth quarter, Army was marching, albeit deep in its own end.  However, the Owls dug in and stalled the Army drive; eventually forcing a turnover on downs by stonewalling the Black Knights at their own 24-yard line on two first down attempts from less than a yard.

The two pivotal plays of the game saw both sides dug into their trenches much like the Germans and the Allies during the Battle of the Somme. Twice Army tried to bulldoze its way to the 18 inches it needed to keep the football, and twice they were denied.

With third and 18 inches, and two snaps, if you can’t get 18 inches, what makes you think we’re going to win a football game?” Army coach Rich Ellerson told Rivals.com. “What type of magic is going to happen out there that you’re somehow going to manufacture points?”

Of course, it is easy to dismiss Temple’s accomplishment. After all they are the only team to go from a BCS conference to a “small” Division I conference (the Mid-American Conference). Army is currently a 3-win, 4-loss team that is in the midst of its own football doldrums; the Black Knights haven’t been to a bowl game since 1996.

But as the old football cliché goes, you can only beat the teams you play, and you can only win the games on the schedule. Granted, Temple beating Army is no upset, nor will it have the BCS implications that Purdue’s victory over Ohio State or Washington’s toppling of Southern Cal will have. Nevertheless, winning games in the way the Owls did is what teams that are destined for bigger things do.

Dr. Cliff Huxtable when he was still an Owl fullback.

Dr. Cliff Huxtable when he was still an Owl fullback.

Does this mean Al Golden is on his way to a place in Temple history next to “Pop” Warner? Nobody can really know the answer to that, but it is safe to assume Temple would like again to be known for winning football rather than its most famous football alum.

College Football Week 7 – The Week the Big Ten Formed its Annual Train Wreck

train wreck

Fans of this conference are all too familiar with this situation. One upset tosses the standings into a potential collision between at least four teams, leading to the usual punditry about tie-breakers and “if team x beats team y” scenarios. How fitting was it that the catalyst upset for the 2009 Train Wreck was brought to you by the team with a train in it logo? 

purdue logo

Purdue 26, Ohio State 18

Current Boilermaker quarterback Joey Elliot got a text message from the last Purdue signal-caller to beat the ranked Buckeyes. Elliot said Drew Brees had a simple message for him: “Hey, go out there and shock the world, have fun. I’ll be watching.” Apparently, he heeded the words of the Boiler legend, leading Purdue to its biggest upset in years. Elliot welcomed Ohio State to Ross-Ade by tossing 281 yards and two touchdowns as the Boilermakers dominated (yes, I said dominated) No. 7 Ohio State 26-18.

Really, the game was not as close as the score suggested. One could construct an argument that Terrelle Pryor gave the game away with his two interceptions and two lost fumbles; there is no denying this was another ugly Saturday for the Buckeye offense. Last week’s offensive sputter-fest against Wisconsin allowed for Ohio State’s defense and special teams to bail out Pryor. But this week, Purdue capitalized by winning the turnover battle; turning Ohio State miscues into points.

Boiled Alive: Pryor had black and gold houdnig him all day.

Boiled Alive: Pryor had black and gold hounding him all day.

Not only does this game help create the aforementioned logjam in the standings, but it also likely brings about the end of some exceptionally noxious stats held by the Ohio State Penitentiary University.

  • This was the first time tOSUPU was defeated by an unranked team for the first time since Illinois in 2007.
  • The Buckeyes have won at least a share of the last four Big Ten crowns; keeping that streak alive means at least needing back-to-back wins at Penn State and at home against Iowa.
  • Ohio State blew a chance to tie the Big Ten record of 17 straight conference road wins.
  • Ohio State has played in four consecutive BCS games; two losses and counting put an end to that.

“Yeah, it hurts,” said Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor. “Right now, we’ve just got to be worried about the Big Ten because the national championship is gone.”

Juice Williams took that 2007 Illinois team past tOSUPU and on to Pasadena. Even though this Purdue team had lost five straight coming in to this game, and even though they will struggle to make a bowl game, there is still Hope in West Lafayette. Purdue fans had clearly started to give up on this team; half the crowd at Ross-Ade was dressed in Ohio State red. But they may have tossed in the towel too soon.

Coach Hope doing his best Rocky Balboa impersonation.

Coach Hope doing his best Rocky Balboa impersonation.

Even in those five losses, Purdue nearly upset a Top Ten-caliber Oregon, and Notre Dame needed a last-minute touchdown to vanquish the Boilers. But against Ohio State, the Boilermakers pulled off their first win over a ranked team since 2003. In fact, in what may become first-year coach Danny Hope’s first signature win, the Boilermakers scored their first win against a ranked Ohio State squad since 2000.

Penn State 20, Minnesota 0

Nothing says global warming quite like a homecoming game in Happy Valley dressed in six inches of snow. So there was no doubt in your mind about the authenticity of the snow, the geniuses at ESPN thought the 45% of American households slated to view this sloppy muck-fest should get some quality footage of Holly Rowe shoveling snow during her report on College GameDay.

Penn State fans enjoying tailgating under global warming.

Penn State fans enjoying tailgating under global warming.

Frankly, the shovel duty was more interesting than the game; and the vaunted PSU student section must have agreed as vast numbers of them stayed home. But to be fair, who wants to see what may be the worst team in the Big Eleven Ten not currently in Indiana.

Michigan State 24, Northwestern 14

One could have a spirited debate over who is the best team amongst the conference contenders at this point. However, even in the heat of that battle there would be agreement; it ain’t the Spartans. With three straight losses in their first four games, it would have been easy to give Michigan State up for dead. To be honest, it still is.

Beating Northwestern only means that the Spartans are back to the level of beating teams they are supposed beat. Michigan State clearly should have beaten Central Michigan, and had superior talent to Notre Dame, but couldn’t get the job done in either case. This doesn’t bode well for a team that still has to beat Iowa and Penn State if they have dreams of roses.  

Iowa 20, Wisconsin 10

In what could have been dubbed “The Battle of the Surprise Contenders,” The Hawkeyes knocked the Badgers out of the ranks of teams with only one conference loss. In the process, Iowa has somehow moved to 7-0 and continues to look like the front-runner for the conference championship and a BCS bowl berth, especially in light of Ohio State’s gag-job in West Lafayette.

Once again, Iowa found itself behind in the second half on the road against a conference contender.   The Hawkeyes already showed they have brass ones having rallied from a 10-0 deficit at Penn State. Now, they brush the Badgers aside on a 10-yard touchdown run by Adam Robinson early in the fourth quarter, and the Hawkeye defense did the rest, holding the Badgers scoreless in the second half.

Where does this leave the race in the Big Eleven Ten? Well, lets’ examine the contenders at this point in the season.

Iowa: Still undefeated and already beat Penn State; still has road games at Michigan State and Ohio State

Goes to Pasadena If: They only lose once the rest of the way, but not to Michigan State

Doesn’t Go to Pasadena If: They lose twice,  or if they lose once and Michigan State wins out

Michigan State: Has only one conference loss, and has a favorable schedule; the only real test coming when Penn State visits East Lansing.

Goes to Pasadena If: The Spartans win all their remaining games, and Iowa loses

Doesn’t Go to Pasadena If: They lose again or Iowa wins out

Ohio State: Two losses, but only one in conference; has yet to face Iowa or Penn State.

Goes to Pasadena If: The Buckeyes beat Iowa and Penn State, Michigan State loses in-conference again, and Iowa loses twice.

Doesn’t Go to Pasadena If: They lose again or Iowa loses only once (not to Ohio State)

Penn State: Already a loss to Iowa, has yet to face Michigan State or Ohio State

Goes to Pasadena If: The Nittany Lions beat Michigan State and Ohio State, and Iowa loses twice.

Doesn’t Go to Pasadena If: They lose again, Ohio State doesn’t lose again, Michigan State doesn’t lose again or Iowa loses only once to anybody

Of course, this will all change as the back half of the season plays out, but no matter what, Saturday’s events in West Lafayette will play a large role in who goes to Pasadena.

Ten Nobel Prize Injustices and Their Equivalent Sports Injustices

We are suckers for lists. VH-1 always manages to suck people in with those “100 greatest songs of the 80’s” nostalgia-fests. Not to mention we sports fans never met a list over which we didn’t love to drunkenly argue. There’s even a website dedicated to such listery.  I’m no different; I can play moth to the candle flame of lists. Add that to some recent events in the world of famous, yet not really relevant awards, and you have what steered me to a list of 10 writers screwed out of Nobel Prize.
 
Never mind I never heard of half these guys. FlameHorse (whoever you and your three English degrees are…or is it whomever?) did a tremendous job of painting the picture behind just enough of that acrid, yet oh-so-pretentious clove cigarette aroma for me to see this is really an English major’s version of a “Who got screwed out of what award” or “Who should be in what Hall of Fame” list. We sports fans consume lists like that like a poet takes to cheap wine.
 
So, in an effort to promote understanding between those of you who inhabited the liberal arts buildings and those of us who actually graduated and got jobs, I seized the opportunity for a comparison study. Since you bookworms understand this collection of dead guys, and we illiterate knuckle-draggers understand sports, perhaps by laying the two side-by-side might give us all a glimpse into that scary, dark world opposite your own. 
Jorge-Luis-Borges
#10) Jorge Luis Borges 1899-1986
 
Borges had a good twenty years to be considered for a Nobel, and was hot in the running for one for many years, but the Nobel Committee refused to award it to him because of his support for right-wing dictators like Pinochet. Sounds like someone he shouldn’t have supported, but the Committee routinely awarded the prize to writers who supported left-wing dictators like Joseph Stalin. Pinochet was worse than Stalin? Borges wrote the finest surreal literature to date, and won the first International Pulitzer Prize. Politics seems a bad subject on which to argue.

 

Equivalent Sports Injustice :  Curt Schilling (if he doesn’t get into the Baseball Hall of Fame) – Granted, I realize I’m reaching into the future, but I just see this one coming. Please save the stats arguments, he is a viable candidate off the “bloody sock” and winning the first World Series for the Red Sox in 86 years. What will keep him out is his bombastery via his blog

46263-004-A74F04C5#9) Vladimir Nabokov 1899-1977

One of the greatest non-native writers of English. Nabokov’s most famous novel, and his finest, is Lolita. He wrote many more excellent works of fiction and criticism, translations of poetry. He was nominated in 1974, along with Graham Greene (not the actor), and lost to Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, joint winners. The former was Swedish, and both were members of the Nobel Committee at the time.

Equivalent Sports Injustice : Penn State Getting Screwed Out of The 1994 National Championship – In a season that saw the Nittany Lions steamroll Southern Cal, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, and a Rose Bowl flock-shoot of the Oregon Ducks, Nebraska waltzed through a conference schedule facing only one team with a winning record, and bakery-fresh cupcake non-conference foes like a pre-Big 12 Texas Tech, Wyoming, and Pacific.

For those of you too young to remember, once upon a time the Big Eleven Ten rivaled the SEC as the best conference in the land, while the Big 8 in any season only ever had two teams worth anything. But a wave of cronism set in, as Huskers were awarded the title with the feeling that coach Tom Osborne should get a National Championship before he retired. 

6A00E54Fe4158B88330105356E63D7970B-800Wi

#8 ) W. H. Auden 1907-1973

One of the greatest 20th Century poets in history. He won the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and profoundly influenced all poets, especially English-speaking poets, who have come after him. It is believed that the Committee turned him down because he made errors in a translation of a book by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dag Hammarskjold, and because he suggested that Hammarskjold was homosexual, like Auden.

Equivalent Sports Injustice : Auburn Refusing to Hire Turner Gill Because He Had a White Wife – Hypocrisy is a wonderful thing. The same Nobel committee that is historically has preached tolerance while being anti-semitic thumbs it nose at a country that in the same year elected its first black president and showed that inter-racial relationships are still not accepted in all circles.

Robert Frost

#7) Robert Frost 1874-1963

The greatest 20th Century American Poet, by far. The Bard of the Northeast. He won 4 (FOUR!) Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry, was awarded over 40 honorary doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, and Harvard, among others. The only other winner of four Pulitzers for literature is Eugene O’Neill, who did win a Nobel. Frost’s fourth Pulitzer was awarded 20 years before he died. The Nobel Committee managed to ignore him for those 20 years.

Equivalent Sports Injustice : Bert Blyleven Not Being In the Baseball Hall of Fame - To say that Bert Blyleven wasn’t one the great pitchers in the history of baseball is just pure delusion. It doesn’t help that a lot of people who have votes can see past the Hudson River. Small-market bias explains why Bert Blyleven can’t get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sure he didn’t pitch exclusively in Minnesota, but he did spend the entirety of his career in the relative obscurity of what would become known as the “small market team,” meaning Minnesota, Texas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Minnesota again, and the California Angels.  Although it would have given me intestine-shredding nausea to see it, my assertion is that had Blyleven pitched for the Yankees, he would have been a superstar.  Just for fun, consider the following comparison of Blyleven’s career numbers to Yankee legend and Hall-of-Famer Whitey Ford.

  • 287 wins – 25th All-Time (51 more wins than Ford at 236)
  • 3.31 career Earned Run Average (2.75 for Ford, who never pitched in the Designated Hitter era, or after the pitcher’s mound was lowered before the 1969 season)
  • 4,970 innings pitched – 13th on the All-Time list (3,170 for Ford)
  • 3,701 strikeouts – 5th on the All-Time list (1,956 for Ford)
  • 685 career starts – 9th on the All-Time list (438 for Ford)
  • 242 complete games (156 for Ford)
  • 60 shutouts – 9th on the All-Time list (45 for Ford)
  • Two World Series Championships: 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1987 Minnesota Twins (4 for Ford, who pitched the whole of his career with the Yankees)
  • Won 20 games in 1973 (Ford only won 20 games twice, in 1961 and 1963)
  • One of only three pitchers to ever win a Major League game before his 20th birthday and also win a Major League game after his 40th birthday.  

 

256 1161 Image Ap Zola Na237-01376-2#6) Emile Zola 1840-1902
 
The greatest exemplar of the French school of literary naturalism. He wrote over 30 novels, and any one of them could have gotten a Pulitzer today, without competition. His 2 chances to win were spoiled for the same reason as the next entry.

 

Equivalent Sports Injustice : Alex Karras and Hugh Green not winning the 1957 and 1980 Heisman Trophies respectively - Apparently, college football isn’t the only place where eligibility rules ruin the day. Although technically, the Heisman Trophy is given to the “best player in the nation,” we all know that its really the “Sexiest Offensive Stats” award.

Henrik Ibsen#5) Henrik Ibsen 1826-1906
 
Norway’s greatest author, and one of the finest modern dramatic writers in history. He had 6 chances to win, since the award was begun in 1901, but he lost due to arguments over Alfred Nobel’s eligibility requirements, as laid out in his will. He intended the winners to exhibit “lofty and sound idealism.” But from 1901 to 1912, the Committee believed that he meant “ideal direction.” Apparently Ibsen, the father of modern drama, was not leading the literary world in the ideal direction.

Equivalent Sports Injustice : Peyton Manning not winning the 1997 Heisman – The exact inverse of #6. Heisman voters finally let their guilt catch up to them for shafting great defensive players like Alex Karras and Hugh Green by shafting a deserving quarterback in favor of a defensive back.

 
Proust#4 Marcel Proust 1871-1922
 
The author of the most monumental work of 20th-Century fiction, A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, In Search of Lost Time. It’s a 7-volume novel which exhibits one of the first, if not the first, example of stream of consciousness writing. And yet, the Committee award the 1920 prize to Knut Hamsun (Norwegian, which is closer to Swedish than French), for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil. Which one do more people read today? Yep, In Search of Lost Time.
Equivalent Sports Injustice :  Mick Tinglehoff Not Being in the Football Hall of Fame – The  Minnesota Vikings of the 1970’s were arguably the greatest team that just couldn’t get over that Super Bowl hump. Yet the team accomplishment of winning championships seems to be a criteria a mongst voters for individual enshrinement. When Pittsburgh center Mike Webster was inducted, he was called the greatest ever at the position as the Steelers won four Lombardi Trophies.
A big reason Fran Tarkenton is in the Hall is because he was behind Tingelhoff.

A big reason Fran Tarkenton is in the Hall is because he was behind Tingelhoff.

However, in Tingelhoff’s 17 seasons snapping for the Vikings, he played in and started 240 consecutive games, was named All-Pro 7 consecutive years and played in 6 straight Pro Bowls.
 
 
Bernice Abbott James Joyce 1926-1#3) James Joyce 1882-1941
 
The greatest Irish writer besides W. B. Yeats, who did win the prize. Joyce is also the greatest writer of stream of consciousness fiction in history. He practically invented the modern idea of speculative fiction, with his final work, Finnegans Wake, which is almost unreadable. He considered it his finest work, but is more famous for Ulysses, the Dubliners, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
 
Equivalent Sports Injustice :  That Mark Fidrych Didn’t Have a Better Career - Nicknamed “The Bird” for his lanky six-foot-plus frame, Fidrych pitched his way to the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1976. Known for his quirky behavior, he won 19 games in his rookie season and was a two-time All-Star before injuries prematurely ended his career. 
 
 

Tolstoy1#2) Leo Tolstoy 1828-1910

The greatest exemplar of literary realism in history, and possibly the greatest novelist in history. His two most titanic works, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, would have been more than sufficient to secure Knut Hamsun an award. If only Tolstoy had been born a little closer to Sweden, the Committee might have overlooked their arguable translation of Nobel’s will. Apparently, the Committee did not consider Tolstoy to be leading the modern literary world in “the ideal direction.”

Equivalent Sports Injustice :  The Houston Oilers’ Firing of Bum Phillips - The Oilers languished at the mediocre-or-worse level for most of theri existence prior to Phillps’ taking over the team in 1974. After the prototypical Texan hit the Houston sideline, the Oilers entered the “Luv Ya Blue” era, becoming a constant playoff team and main rival to the dynasty of the time, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Despite the early success, Phillps was fired just six years later for failing to do something no one of the time could do; beat Pittsburgh.

Twain3#1) Mark Twain 1835-1910

The inventor of the American Novel, with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and one of the all-time greatest novelists, humorists, essayists, critics, and all-around authors. Like Tolstoy, he had 10 chances to win, and ten times was passed over, in favor of the following eleven authors:

Sully Prudhomme, Theodor Mommsen, Bjornstjern Bjornson, Frederic Mistral and Jose Echeragay (both in 1904), Henryk Sienkiewicz, Giosue Carducci, Rudyard Kipling, Rudolf Christoph Eucken, Selma Lagerlof, Paul Heyse.

I’m willing to bet you’ve only heard of one of those. I have three English degrees, and I’ve only heard of one of them. I have, however, heard of Mark Twain.

Equivalent Sports Injustice :  The 1972 US Men’s Olympics Basketball Team Robbed of the Gold Medal – With three seconds left in the gold medal game, US forward Doug Collins hit two free throws to give the USA the lead 50-49 over the Soviet Union. But for some reason, the buzzer sounded before Collins’ second free throw.  On the Soviets’ next possesion, they inbounded the ball and failed to score. But after hearing the earlier horn and seeing a disturbance near the scorers table, one official had whistled a stop in play with one second remaining . As the Soviets were arguing they had requested a timeout before the free throws, the referees ordered the clock reset to three seconds and the game’s final seconds replayed. However, the clock was in the process of being reset when the referees put the ball in play, with the Soviets again failing to score.  The horn sounded and the US again began celebrating.

But because the clock was still being reset when the ball was put back into play, the Secretary General of FIBA, R. William Jones, ordered the clock to be reset again, giving the Soviets a third shot at the last three seconds. Another full-court pass came from the Soviets, Aleksander Belov caught the long pass and drove to the basket for the winning points as the buzzer sounded.

An Open Letter to Denver Bronco Fans: “Neckbeard and the Beanstalk”

Everybody remembers the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Via a trade, Jack ends up with what is seen as a worthless “bag of magic beans,” a bag that unexpectedly yields tremendous bounty. Let it be said that Denver Bronco fans have the role of Jack nailed down; starring opposite the Neckbeard’s goose that laid golden footballs. While no one man can ever truly know all the powers of the Neckbeard, it has become apparent that one of them is producing the ultimate football gold; victories.

When Kyle Orton first arrived in Denver, Bronco fans were less than hospitable; in fact the Neckbeard was a target of constant cat-calls and blathering calls to the local sports-radio outlet. Bronco fans have been clamoring for a game-winner under center since the departure of John Elway. Somehow, over the last 11 years, the likes of Bubby Brister, Brian Griese, Chris Miller, Gus Frerotte, Steve Beuerlein, Danny Kanell, Jarious Jackson, and Jake “The Snake” Plummer didn’t sate this need.

Then along came Jay Cutler. Blessed with enough pure talent to make even Vanderbilt respectable, Cutler quickly became the Bronco “golden boy,” a veritable gift from Santa Claus, Indiana. Once given the starting job, Cutler filled the skies of Colorado with footballs, garnering at least 3,000 passing yards and 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons; even earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2008.

But then as fairy godmothers are wont to do, somewhere a magic wand got waved and a new coach was visited upon Bronco land. Rumors circulated the new coach Josh McDaniels wanted Matt Cassel to come to Denver. Trade talks abounded, all while Cutler did his best extra-petulant Jeff George impersonation. Eventually, Cutler was sent to Chicago, and in return, the Broncos got the Neckbeard.

Even when it is invisible, the Neckbeard is all-powerful

Even when it is invisible, the Neckbeard is all-powerful

Unfortunately, the majority of Bronco fandom was convinced that they had given up a franchise quarterback for what? You guessed it…a bag of magic beans. It was so bad other bloggers took note of the disapproving howls.

If there’s booing in August, there will surely be booing come September and October if the Broncos get off to a slow start. Orton, in particular, will bear the brunt of that animosity. Heavy is the helmet under center and all that, but Orton will be getting crushed for things that have little to do with him. 

Well, the slow start didn’t happen; quite the opposite. After Sunday’s overtime win against the Patriots, the Broncos are 5-0 and the chorus of Bronco boos have been muted…for now. Bronco fans have so wanted a winner since Elway that they have tended not to wait until the bitter end before turning on their signal-caller (see Bubby Brister, Brian Griese, Chris Miller, Gus Frerotte, Steve Beuerlein, Danny Kanell, Jarious Jackson, and Jake “The Snake” Plummer). So again, Bronco fans, I must tell you this – Orton is not going to be the Cutler/Manning “stat-whore” type of quarterback.  If you are looking for a guy that will put up 350 yards and 3 touchdowns every week, you are missing the moral of the story.

Bronco fans, if you are willing to climb the beanstalk, you also have to be willing to let the goose produce in its own way. If a 5-0 start isn’t enough to convince you to trust in the Neckbeard, maybe you did deserve Jake Plummer.

Favre-Gasm – The Four-Towel, “Sorry It Got On Your Face” Edition

viking fans

 

What is going to happen Tuesday on the sports radio stations in the Twin Cities makes me almost sorry I used the term “full-throated” to describe previous Favre-gasms. Viking fans can’t contain themselves with the excitement over their win Monday night. What is happening right now on the local post-game radio show will continue through the night, building like a tsunami of purple passion until it does what tsunamis do; breaking on the shore in an orgy of writhing, frothy waters; the excitement of the event cloaking the devastation until the day breaks and you realize you are waking up next to the Muppet-Shrew Suzy Kolber. 

Face it, she's only hot if you are in your 50's married to a woman that has an ass like a bag of wet clothes.

Face it, she's only hot if you are in your 50's married to a woman that has an ass like a bag of wet clothes.

With this victory over his former team, King Brett I becomes the only quarterback in NFL history to have notched a “W” over all 32 teams. Never mind that he beat a team from a city that still has a street named after him. Never mind that he did it in a stadium on a street named for a baseball legend. In fact, being a Viking fan lately means to play the “head in the sand” game on a lot of things when it comes to getting your Favre-gasm. 

I will be the first to admit that Favre had a big-time performance against the side that made him a household name. Who can argue with completing 24 of 31 passing attempts for 271 yards and three touchdowns? In a word, me. Why? In a word, history. 

Viking fans are the epitome of frustration; they’ve never gotten to the peak despite more chances than most franchises. The older fans remember the four Super Bowl losses. All their fans recall 1998; the 15-win season that saw the Purple set the single-season scoring record, only to have their ball kicked away by Falcons kicker Morten Andersen in overtime of the NFC Championship game. It is this frustration that brings the Favre-gasm to its now tsunami-like levels. 

Viking fans want more than anything to win. That want is only exacerbated by the fact that their main rival has more NFL Championships than anybody; the new purple-clad hero being the catalyst for Green Bay’s most recent win. That want is so blinding it has completely blinded them to a few important facts, all of which have history behind them. 

Let’s start with history itself. What do John Elway, Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, Tom Brady, Brad Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger and both Manning brothers have in common? They have all won at least one Super Bowl since the last time King Brett I did it. Favre hasn’t taken a team to the promised land in 13 years, and the last time he had a shot at it he gave a performance more reminiscent of Brett Somers than Brett Favre. 

You totally forgot about this guy, but he has as many Super Bowl rings as Favre.

You totally forgot about this guy, but he has as many Super Bowl rings as Favre.

Even more recently, Favre’s season with Jets started with all sorts of promise, capped by a dominating six-touchdown performance in Week 4. But, just as he has been prone to do in each of the last four seasons, he faded down the stretch; more often than not looking like an over-matched high-schooler rather than a first-ballot hall-of-famer. 

In other words, Vike fans, history suggests you’ve just seen the peak, and all the Enzyte and Viagra in the world isn’t likely to get you that February Favre-gasm you really crave.

An Introduction to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association

It is the beginning of October here in Minnesota, which can only mean the beginning of hockey season. Now, for some of you, that means the National Hockey League. But for a few of us lucky ones, it means the tooth-shattering bliss that is college hockey, specifically it’s best league, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). 

The WCHA is to collegiate hockey what the SEC is to football. It has the tradition, the titles, and the best teams. But outside of it’s own territory, the WCHA is largely unknown despite the fact it may be one of the best sports leagues in the country. 

Luckily, the carnage of the college gridiron makes for a superb likening.  So, by comparing the hockey team about which you know nothing to a football program with which you are likely more familiar, you can share in joy that is the WCHA. And, for those of you who don’t have a grounding in either sport, I’ve also included a representative Simpsons’ character. If you aren’t familiar with The Simpsons, then I truly pity you.

Hockey School – University of North Dakota

Comparison Football School – University of Notre Dame

Representative Simpsons Character – Mr. Burns 

montgomeryburns

Both schools have been around in their respective sports since the dawn of time, and due to their extreme amount of historic success, they are almost universally hated.  But they don’t care, since they have more money than any four people you can name. 

Hockey School – University of Minnesota

Comparison Football School – Florida State University

Representative Simpsons Character – Barney Gumble 

The U of M is, like FSU, really the world’s largest junior college full of drunks who somehow end up as helicopter pilots or something else useful. While big money hasn’t permeated hockey like it has football, Minnesota still gets it share of scandal. As long as they win, these indiscretions tend to get overlooked. 

Hockey Program – University of Wisconsin

Comparison Football School – Ohio State University

Representative Simpsons Character – Homer Simpson 

dvg

More proof that bloated land-grant universities are where it’s at when it comes to fans blind on devotion, and/or some shitty, homemade grain alcohol. Seriously, once before a hockey game at the old Dane County Arena in Madison, I saw two Badger tailgaters drinking from their plastic bottle of choice, one a bleach jug, and the other a rubbing alcohol bottle. This ethanol-soaked dysfunction belies the fact that within their respective circles, they are almost universally loved, except by Mr. Burns and Frank Grimes. 

Hockey Program – St. Cloud State University

Comparison Football School – Auburn University

Representative Simpsons Character – Lisa Simpson 

They always seem to have talent, and never seem to win anything with it. If college hockey had an Outback Bowl, St. Cloud State would be in it every goddamn year.

Hockey Program – University of Minnesota-Duluth UMD

Comparison Football School – University of California-Los Angeles UCLA

Representative Simpsons Character – Lenny Leonard 

Their resounding cries of not being referred to as a hyphenated institution ping the eardrum with the same tone as “OW, MY EYE! I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO GET SUCCESS IN IT!” Both fall into that “C-minus” slot below actual respectability, yet just above “lovable loser.”

Hockey Program – Mankato State University Minnesota State University – Mankato

Comparison Football School – Memphis State University University of Memphis

Representative Simpsons Character – Carl Carlson 

Another minor player with an identity crisis; role is really limited to that of Lenny’s best friend and Homer’s drinking buddy.

Hockey Program – Denver University

Comparison Football School – University of Arkansas

Representative Simpsons Character – Frank Grimes 

Under-appreciated for how smart they actually are, since they had to work for everything they’ve got, and could be successful given the right circumstances. Yet, they are owned by Mr. Burns and usually find a way to finish behind the Homers of the world.

Hockey Program – Colorado College

Comparison Football School – Brigham Young University

Representative Simpsons Character – Ned Flanders 

“Charlie Church” types, who while seemingly inoffensive enough, still find a way to be patently annoying. This, of course, leads their kids to grow up to be closet cases.

Hockey Program – Michigan Tech

Comparison Football School – Georgia Tech

Representative Simpsons Character – Comic Book Guy 

cbgcomputer

They’re smarter than you, and they really believe their school is better than yours. They will make sure you know it too, as nothing has the impact of pudgy egotists resplendent in their shorts scrawling their electronic screed from the back room of the Comic Book store.

Hockey Program – University of Alaska-Anchorage

Comparison Football School – Boise State University

Representative Simpsons Character – Nelson Muntz

 nelson muntz

The quintessential schoolyard bully; the one who will never win a championship, but will occasionally kick your ass and laugh about it.

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