Sunday, March 30, 2008

March Madness Part 6

I've realized something. I don't like Memphis basketball. I've nothing against the university, or Coach John Calipari, or really any of the players (except Dozier, since he beat his girlfriend up, I guess), but I just don't like the way that they play. I frequently see them on television, since they're one of the best teams in the land, and I'm always rooting for them to lose, and I never gave it much thought until I started writing frequently about March Madness for an English project I'm doing (that's why all of them are on here, and also why they don't contain my usual amount of unneccessary curse words). I did some psychoanalysis and soul searching, and have finally gotten to the bottom of it.

I don't like Memphis basketball because I can't relate to them. They're the most insanely athletic team I've probably ever seen play, and I've never had any experience with that distinct advantage. Sure, I'm not athletic by any means--especially not in my college days--and I can't relate to most Division I basketball players, since I couldn't even make it through a season of Division III competition, but the athleticism of Memphis just seems so amplified to me, since they're above and beyond any other team out there.

When I played basketball, I couldn't run fast or jump high at all. I basically stood in the corner and threw up 3-pointers, and sometimes I was lucky enough to be playing a terribly slow defender, at which point I would drive to the hoop and usually get swatted by some tall dude with a seven foot wingspan. So, I love teams that have to use their heads to play and find ways to win without being so physically talented. I think that's why I liked Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick so much, because I could relate to their struggle and could really admire them for it. It sucked that year, though, since they were the best players in the college game, because my whole "unathletic" excuse lost a lot of its credibility.

Anyway, I'd like to see Memphis lose next weekend, preferably to a team that starts some really slow dudes that pride themselves on being able to touch the glass when they shoot a lay-up, even though they can't dunk.

March Madness Part 5

Well, I'm screwed. Just as I anticipated, my bracket is totally done, and had the nails put into its proverbial coffin on Thursday night when Tennessee, my pick for national champion, lost to Louisville in their Sweet 16 matchup.

I will not win any money this year, and furthermore, I probably won't even see any really good basketball games. The tournament snuffed out the last of my interest this afternoon when Davidson was finally knocked out of competition by Kansas, one of the four number one seeds that are still in the tournament, and will probably advance to the Final Four. It's frustrating, because nobody really wants to see that. People love a surprise, you know? When George Mason went on their little run a couple of years back, i saw so much green and yellow when I walked into school that I thought I was at a John Deere convention.

But no, there's nothing like that this year. Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas, and UCLA are all still in the tournament, and will probably win their first games next weekend. This is what's supposed to be expected, obviously, because if you're granted a number one seed you're supposed to be one of the best teams in the land, but it's pretty boring.

It's supposed to be March Madness, and there is absolutely no "madness" involved in any entertaining or surprising sense, but I am indeed mad.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March Madness Part 4

I saw a segment on SportsCenter today about West Virginia University and there newly founded hate for former football coach Richard Rodriguez, who left the team a few months ago for an unarguably better and more prominent job at Michigan University.

To be totally honest, it made me laugh. Not because what Rodriguez did was right--not that it was wrong either though--but because of the angle ESPN took on the story. They portrayed the whole thing as a backstabbing by Rodriguez that left the university absolutely in shambles, lamenting the loss of a coach that will probably destroy their entire football program for years to come. The Mountaineers had become (gasp!) nothing.

Until, of course, Bob Huggins came to the rescue. A Morgantown native that played his college baketball for the Mountaineers, a prodigal son, came home to lead the basketball team to a final four or even a national championship after form Mountaineers,John Beilein, left the team for...yes, Michigan.

They make Huggins seem like an absolute saint, which is what made me laugh and even get angry about the story.

A few years ago, Huggins was the coach of Cincinnati, but then he was dumped after being convicted of a DUI. (This was not your run-of-the-mill DUI, either. Rumor has it that the police report stated that night had puked all over the inside of his car door.)

Then, he was hired by Kansas State, and his name attracted a number of the nation's top high school recruits to come to Manhattan for their year or two of college ball. He coached one season for the Wildcats, persuaded Bill Walker to come play there and received commitments from O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley, two of the best college freshmen in the land. (Actually, Beasley is the best college player. Period.)

Then, what did Huggins do to the team that gave him a second chance? He left them for the mountains of Morgantown.

So, my question is, how can you rip on someone like Rodriguez, and wax poetic about Huggins as a savior, when Huggins did the exact same thing?

Monday, March 24, 2008

March Madness Part 3

I'd have to say that one of the biggest surprises of the tournament so far is unarguably the success of Davidson, and that success is due largely to the performance of their standout shooting guard, Stephen Curry. He's put on an exhibition thus far in the tournament that aren't paralleled by anything I've ever seen in the tournament. (This may be because LeBron James and Kobe Bryant didn't go to college, but we'll call that irrelevant.)

Curry is barely six feet high, and probably weighs somewhere around 160-170 pounds, but scores at will, and I mean it. I know that this phrase is used rather liberally--usually by Bill Walton--but in this case it's actually true. I sat down with my brother yesterday to watch the game, and Curry did whatever he wanted to them on the offensive side of the court.

In the last three minutes of the game, he would jog slowly down the court, as if he hadn't a care in the world, and would wait for the Wildcats to start their half court offense. It wasn't a very complicated offense, and it went basically like this: pass or hand the ball off to Curry, and get the hell out of the way unless you were going to set a pick. Possession after possession, Curry made Jeremiah Rivers, Georgetown's defensive specialist, look like a complete idiot.

It got so bad that Rivers was eventually yanked from the game, while Curry remained on the court to make the rest of the team look totally bewildered and lost.

There were two consecutive possessions during which Curry especially impressed me. The game was tied at 70 when Curry got the ball and drove to make an absolutely ridiculous double-pump lay-up that you don't even see in video games, and especially not on the Hoyas' better-than-average big men.

On the ensuing posession, Curry got the ball just past halfcourt, took a few dribbles and shook Rivers out of his shorts with a behind the back before he pulled up in Patrick Ewing Jr.'s face to hit a three-pointer.

It was right around this time that I realized something. Stephen Curry is my age. He's a sophomore in college, and he's definitely smaller than I am; but he's out there doing these amazing things and is now the center of attention nationally.

And I'm writing a blog entry.

March Madness Part 2

Tennessee is going to win the National Championship.

That's right, I said it, and that's what my brackets indicate.

Do I really mean it? Absolutely not. I would be totally surprised if Tennessee won the Natty C, even though they're my favorite team in the tournament (since Gonzaga is gone and Florida didn't make it) next to upstart Davidson.

Now, you might ask why I picked the Volunteers if I don't think they're going to win it, and believe that North Carolina or Memphis will come out on top. It's because I don't really know anyone else that has picked them, and think that if they do win, I'll be the dark horse in the bracket, thus finally capturing the elusive monetary gain that is everyone's goal during March Madness.

Now that I actually wrote that and have looked at it, I realize how stupid that sounds. Why would I not pick the team that I feel is the best and will most likely win it all, thus giving me the most points possible?

I have no choice but to conclude that my logic is terribly flawed and I'm an idiot.

I will defend the Vols, though, and act like they do have a chance to win this. They're very athletic, with a number of great shooters from the outside. The most notable player on their team is Chris Lofton, who is undeniably one of the best players in the country. Their coach, Bruce Pearl, is also a genius that got Wisconsin-Milwaukee to the Sweet 16 (I think) a couple of years ago, which got him the job offer at UT. He's put together a team that actually beat Memphis earlier in the season, and I feel that if they play their best game of the season, they'll be able to take out North Carolina, who would be their strongest opposition. I sincerely feel that UNC is overrated, and that the ACC was weaker than usual this year. (Just look at how Duke faired in the tournament).

Really, though, my bracket is already so screwed up that I don't care who wins. Go Davidson.

March Madness Part 1

Every single year it's the same sequence of events. I get extremely excited for March Madness, to the point that I'm close to rabid by the time the conference tournaments are over. I sit down in front of the television to watch the Selection Sunday specials, and immediately begin filling out my ill-fated brackets and shelling out dough to numerous poll-runners in hopes of hitting it big with my picks.

Then, Thursday afternoon comes, and I'm totally convinced that my bracket is the best of anyone that I'm associated with, and probably in the nation. I tell myself that those five dollars I gave to my roommate to get into his points poll is going to come back to me in the form of one of those gigantic cardboard checks you always see Tiger Woods walking around with. The clock strikes noon, and the first round of games begins.

This is usually where it begins to go downhill. I can never seem to find the right formula for my brackets. I'll pick way too many upsets on a year when there aren't very many in the first round (i.e. last weekend), or vice-versa. Then, on Friday I'll lose more games. Somewhere in the second or third rounds, the team I pick to win it all will lose to a team like George Mason or The University of Buffalo Not New York But New Mexico State Community College.

Every year by the time the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight weekend come around, I'm saying the same thing: "Oh well, I don't care who wins anymore. I'm just looking for some upsets."

In all of the years that I've filled out brackets, I have never won a cent. I've never even gotten my entry money back. It forces me to ask myself why I keep doing it. I could say I'm a devoted college basketball fan, or that I'm just competitive, but I think it might be nurturing a deep-down addiction to gambling.

What if that's the case, and as I grow older, I begin to bet on everything? I'm studying journalism, which means I'll most likely make less than $50,000 a year. I can't exactly afford the high-stakes Blackjack table.

Of course, everything that I wrote is a joke. March Madness is something to look forward to during the dead of an Erie winter. It symbolizes the coming of spring, the days when you can actually take the roundball--gasp--outdoors! March Madness improves morale and gives kids nation-wide a reason to skip school and to get excited about kids that are our age ceasing the national spotlight.

Most importantly, betting on March Madness gives me a reason to get excited about the tournament when my Florida Gators didn't even make the cut.

Unfortunately, I'm excited no more, because I'm as inept at filling out a bracket as I am at doing a math problem.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hunter S. Thompson project

If there's one thing I know about Hunter S. Thompson, it's that he always pushed the envelope. The man had a big mouth and would say whatever he felt and believed in an eloquent way, and I loved him for it. I still do.

There are very few people left in the world today that will disregard their own safety and the comfort of general society to expose some sort of truth, and on Feb. 25, 2005, Thompson allegedly shot himself in the head and shut up forever.

It didn't take long for theories about a conspiracy to begin swirling, though, which brings up the question:

Did he finally push the envelope too far?

Reportedly, Thompson was working on a story at the time of his death that would expose the United States Government's involvement in the 911 Attacks; he apparently bought into an admittedly off-the-wall conspiracy theory that was beginning to emerge in the annals of underground journalism, and he spoke openly about his wariness of the government's motives.

Thompson apparently told his friend, fellow journalist Paul William Roberts, in a telephone conversation the night before his death that he'd come across hard evidence that the government had brought down the twin towers. He said that he was scared of the repercussions, and also said, "They're gonna make it look like suicide...I know how these bastards think."

There have been numerous stories concerning Thompson's death, many of them coming from his wife, Anita, who said she was on the phone with him at the time of his death, and that he'd just asked her to leave the gym she was at to come home and help him work on his weekly column for ESPN. She didn't believe that Thompson would commit suicide, and said that he'd been very happy. She also said that she heard no bang from a gun, and no click of the hammer, either, which a newspaper reported her having said soon after the death.

This is a delicate situation, one that may never truly be solved. I'm sure that there's evidence somewhere, someway to figure it out, but I also think that there's some way to figure out who killed JFK, but it'll never see the light of day.
On one hand, this is extremely scary. What if Thompson was killed by the government and didn't take his own life because he had actually found out that the government was involved in 9/11? I can think of few things that would frighten me more deeply than that scenario, and as much as I'd like to believe that my childhood hero did not kill himself, I'd also like to be wrong if I assume that my own government killed thousands of its own citizens so that they could start a war in foreign lands.

At the same time, though, one must look at the other side of the spectrum. What if people are just too ashamed to admit that one of the greatest writers of this or any other generation grew too tired and ashamed of the world that he'd so extensively evaluated through the years that he couldn't take it anymore and decided to off himself?

I've asked myself how often something like this happens, and I guess a lot. I know tons of Kurt Cobain fans that refuse to admit that he shot himself, and I myself will go kicking and screaming to the grave before I say that Elliott Smith actually took his own life. This kind of thing happens with icons, because I imagine open admittance that one of your idols was awesome and then killed themselves can make you sound sort of pitiful. It's hard to have a hero that has done something like that.

I've thought about this and investigated it extensively and wish that I had some sort of proof to go off of. I wish I could talk to Bill Murray or Johnny Depp and see what they think, I'd like to see what his friends and family think. The more I think about it, the less I feel as though he really did kill himself. That's honestly how I've begun to feel, which is disconcerting since I don't consider myself a conspiracy theorist, and I actually take any chance I have to poke fun at them.

I tell myself that maybe the government didn't really have anything to do with 9/11, but wouldn't hesitate to wipe out a false whistle-blower like Thompson that could bring up a lot of skepticism, especially with the amount of disapproval they were already dealing with.

Maybe I'm just telling myself that.

Maybe this is just my view of a best scenario, which is the scariest thing of all for one reason: I know I didn't know Hunter S. Thompson, and I know I never will, but I feel strongly that he wouldn't want me to settle for the best scenario, but for the true scenario.

I think sometimes we lose sight of that, but with so many questions unanswered, how will we ever know?

I guess someone else is going to have to push the envelope now.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

It's Not Goodbye, Dear Brett, It's See Ya Later

It came out of nowhere. It really did.

At about 10:15 this morning I was sitting in my first class of the day, dozing off and minding my own business, when my phone started vibrating. Naturally, I was expecting it to let out two quick shakes--which signals a text message, which is how I usually communicate since...well I don't know why, really--but it kept on vibrating, which obviously means I was getting a phone call.

Since the teacher I have has big issues with cellular phone use in class, I stealthily removed my phone from the front pocket of my cordurouys (fuck off, I don't know why I was wearing them either) and looked at the screen. It read "Sexy Buesink," which is how my roommate programmed himself into my phone two years ago, and I found that odd. He usually only calls me for sex.

I let it ring and figured it was something trivial, like that he'd misplaced his bobby tassles and thought I'd have some knowledge on their whereabouts, but then I got a text message. It said, "Scott, pick up your phone right now. I have something very important to tell you."

I sent a message back that said I was in class, and he said to leave and call him, because it was that important. I was extremely worried after he said this, because it's a surefire rarity for anything good in our lives to happen that warrants urgency such as he was displaying, but I wasn't going to leave class to call him.

Some things were going through my head, worst-case-scenario type things, like one of our friends was in some kind of trouble or something.

That turned out not to be the case, but it was pretty bad. Moments later I received a message that read, "Well I guess I can just text it to you. BREAKING NEWS: Packer's QB Brett Favre has retired."

I involuntarily muttered the word "fuck" kind of loudly, and people looked at me. I quickly turned red and glanced down at my notebook so that my colleagues would not see the tears welling up in my eyes. I looked down at my backpack and grabbed my package of kleenex, only to find them gone. (Yes, it was one of those days.) I sniffled a little bit, and watched two of my tears drop from my eyes onto my paper, forever distorting the heart I'd drawn with block letters on the inside that said "SCOTT + FRANK 4-EVA."

Somehow, with the help of friends and loved ones, I gathered the strength to carry on after the initial shock, but I'm not sure how. This hit me out of nowhere, on a morning when I was already reeling from the angst I'd felt the previous day upon hearing that the Steelers had signed that Ben guy for $102 million and I'd have to put up with him for at least eight more years.

But now, I see what my man Brett is doing. He's leaving behind his cannon arm and on-field prowess to take our nation's capital by storm.

He's leaving Wrangler for custom-made suits, press conferences after games for debates with politicians. Superbowls for Super Tuesdays. Prilosec OTC for caffeine pills to help campaign fatigue.

Brett Favre is leaving behind little whit pain pills for the White House, ladies and gentlemen.

He's seen what's happening to this country, and he's heeded the call of his people. I don't imagine that Brett, like myself, really likes anybody that's up for commander in chief at present, and though it's too late for him to get in on the fun for 2008, I think he's going to start building his political resume for the election in 2012.

He'll probably jump into a senatorial, or even gobernatorial (I don't know how to fucking spell that and I'm not going to look it up) race like Lynn Swann did. Obviously Swann lost, but he would've never even been given a thought if he wasn't a famous NFL player. Obviously though, that's not why Favre would win.

He'd win because he is the man.

I predict that he'll run in his home state of Mississippi, though I wouldn't rule out Wisconsin, because he could probably take complete control of that state right now if he wanted to, all he'd have to do is ask the Cheeseheads to stage a military coup.

I guess he'll run as a Republican...I mean, he's endorsed by Wrangler and he chews snuff. He's not exactly Nancy Pelosi. I don't know, though, the whole tobacco thing doesn't seem to be such a big deal now, since Barack Obama smoked cigarettes and weed, and also apparently did his fair share of blow (depending of course on what you deem a fair share).

Fuck it, Brett Favre is going to revolutionize politics and eliminate the need for parties. He'll actually unite this country. It just sucks that we're gonna have to wait at least four more years.

This is all just a dream of mine, and it probably won't happen.

I never thought one man retiring from a sport would turn me into such a pessimist.