Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oscar Notables & Their Sports Counterparts

Another edition of the Academy Awards is in the books. Like March Madness, you had fans entering pools and celebrating the winners. The Oscar participants also share some similarities to the athletic world. Here are some sports counterparts for all the acting nominees, as well as a few other notables from Sunday’s ceremony.


BEST ACTOR:

Forest Whitaker: Dikembe Mutombo.
Whitaker was quite convincing as an African big man.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Tom Brady. Both have dated Giselle B√ľndchen. Plus, in an early draft of Titanic, Leo’s drowning was reversed by the Tuck Rule.

Ryan Gosling: Bruce Pearl. Gosling played a drug-addicted teacher and basketball coach. Pearl is a basketball coach who acts like he’s on drugs.

Peter O’Toole: Joe Paterno. They came to prominence in the 1960s and are still as feisty as ever.

Will Smith: Roger Federer. Smith rules the box office over the 4th of July weekend, while Federer also collects high-profile titles in July.

BEST ACTRESS:

Helen Mirren: Julio Franco.
Mirren looks great for her age and won for The Queen. Franco looks great for his age and wins in Queens.

Penelope Cruz: Pau Gasol. Like Gasol with the Memphis Grizzlies, Cruz is a native of Spain who was a longshot to win.

Judi Dench: Devin Hester. The Dame won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in just eight minutes on screen. Hester also makes an unforgettable impact in a brief time span.

Meryl Streep: Albert Pujols. You just take it for granted that they’ll be in awards contention every year.

Kate Winslet: Colin Montgomerie. They’re Brits who have been close many times, but haven’t yet won the big prize.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Jennifer Hudson: Eli Manning.
Hudson’s victory was due to her show-stopping singing of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” which is what Eli said about San Diego.

Adriana Barraza: Bill Bidwell. Like Barraza’s character, the Arizona Cardinals owner has had nothing but misery in the desert.

Cate Blanchett: Serena Williams. They’re fashionable, have great range, and have been cheered in Australia.

Abigail Breslin: Michelle Wie. Like Wie at PGA tournaments, Breslin’s character was a girl who entered a competition where many felt she didn’t belong.

Rinko Kikuchi: Daisuke Matsuzaka. They’re young Japan natives who have not been seen by most Americans.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Alan Arkin: Bobby Knight.
On his way to victory, Arkin acted as a foul-mouthed old man.

Jackie Earle Haley: George Foreman. They were in the limelight in the 70s, disappeared for a long time, and came back better than anyone could have expected.

Djimon Hounsou: Mike Krzyzewski. They’re filled with intensity, and most Americans can’t spell their names.

Eddie Murphy: Charles Barkley. They became famous in the 80s, and they’re interesting when they’re serious. But you always want them to be funny.

Mark Wahlberg: Dirk Nowitzki. Wahlberg portrayed a high-scoring Dirk in Boogie Nights.

OTHERS OF NOTE:

Ellen DeGeneres: Alfonso Soriano.
Like the host of the Oscars, the new Chicago Cub will be a daytime star.

Al Gore: Vince Young. They lost out in the voting to a Bush, but respect for them has grown ever since.

Martin Scorsese: Dean Spanos. Like the Chargers president, Scorsese said goodbye to the Marty who couldn’t win the big one.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday For The Tigers - Great In The SEC, Miserable Elsewhere

Of all sports nicknames, “Tigers” is one of the most common. Since we’re in February, the Detroit Tigers are not yet in action. However, the college basketball world offered plenty of Tigers on Saturday. Their success depended entirely on what conference to which they belonged. It was a huge day for Tigers in the SEC, but depressing for all the other Tigers.


The LSU Tigers made the biggest splash with a 66-56 stunner over #3 Florida in Baton Rouge. Although the game matched two of last year’s Final Four, the Bayou Bengals were heavy underdogs as they entered with 9 losses in their previous 10 games. However, they got 18 points from Terry Martin and 17 from Garrett Temple, and they shut down the high-powered Gators on the defensive end. The Tigers even pulled off the shocker without leading scorer and rebounder Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Official reports attributed his absence to a pulled right quadriceps. Reportedly, as a Baby who attracts media attention, Davis was also distracted by rumors that a celebrity would try to adopt him.


Staying in the SEC, the Auburn Tigers finished off a season sweep of #25 Alabama with an 86-77 victory in Tuscaloosa. In 21 of its previous 22 trips to enemy territory, Auburn had gone home as Tusca-Losers. However, Quan Prowell and Korvotney Barber each scored 17 points to put the Crimson Tide’s NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy. Responding to another loss to the hated rival school, Bama fired Mike Shula again.


Unfortunately for other Tigers, such good fortune did not extend outside the SEC. The Clemson Tigers continued their slide with a 59-54 setback at Boston College. On January 13, Clemson was 17-0 as it entered a road contest at Maryland. Things have changed quite a bit from that day, when the San Diego Chargers were the Super Bowl favorites and Britney Spears had hair. Beginning with a loss in College Park, the Tigers have dropped 9 of 11 to slip to the wrong side of the bubble. Exxon once had a slogan, “Put a tiger in your tank.” For Clemson the past six weeks, it’s been “Watch the Tigers as they tank.”


The Missouri Tigers also absorbed a bitter road defeat. Entering Saturday on a three-game winning streak, Missouri fell 82-77 in overtime at Nebraska. The setback dashed the Tigers’ faint NCAA tournament hopes, and not just because they dropped to 6-8 in Big XII play. By rule, any team that gets swept by Nebraska is automatically ineligible for the Big Dance.


All other Division I Tigers in action on Saturday went down to defeat. The Towson Tigers lost to Drexel. The Pacific Tigers did likewise to Cal State Northridge. The Princeton Tigers fell short at Harvard. And the SWAC provided a double-whammy to its Tigers, as Grambling succumbed to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson State could not handle Mississippi Valley State. You could argue that Princeton’s loss to the Crimson was cancelled out by Auburn’s win over the Crimson Tide. Plus, Towson, Grambling, and Jackson State had to deal with Dragons, Golden Lions, and Delta Devils, respectively. Those creatures sound pretty scary, but all Pacific had to do was maul a bunch of Matadors. That should be a breeze for Tigers.


The most high-profile of all Tigers had a disappointing Saturday because he was NOT in action. Tiger Woods was absent from the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship after being eliminated by Nick O’Hern in Friday’s third round. Woods is human, so his winning streak on the PGA Tour was bound to end sometime. However, the real loser was NBC, which will settle for the Geoff Ogilvy-Henrik Stenson final on Sunday. Ogilvy actually has great credentials, having won this event last year before capturing the U.S. Open. However, one NBC Sports executive asked, “Ogilvy??? Isn’t he the brainiac kid in The Bad News Bears?” Then the executive resumed his heavy drinking.


The Memphis Tigers also missed out by not seeing action on Saturday. The Conference USA schedule brings Memphis a guaranteed win every game, so John Calipari’s crew did not get their regular dose of victory this Saturday. Fortunately for the Tigers, they resume action Sunday at home against Houston. Memphis’s 13-0 league start has included 12 double-digit victories. Not that they need an edge, but the Tigers will even get to host the conference tournament at the FedEx Forum. Aware of the lack of suspense the tournament will bring, Conference USA officials are debating whether to market the event as “Bored in the USA” or “Disgraceland.”


As for Saturday, the glory belonged to the Tigers from LSU and Auburn. Last weekend, both schools were represented at NBA All-Star Weekend, as Auburn’s Charles Barkley outran Dick Bavetta, and LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal started for the Eastern Conference. Although Shaq’s team lost the game, both these former Tigers left Vegas as winners. Because neither guy hung out with Pacman Jones.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

An "O.C." View Of The Sports World

After four seasons on the air, The O.C. airs its final episode on Thursday. When the show premiered in 2003, Orange County was home to the defending World Series champions and the reigning NHL Western Conference winners. Neither the Angels nor the Ducks have gotten back to those lofty heights, just as the series’ ratings have plummeted since its opening season. Nevertheless, in honor of the show’s finale, here is an “O.C.” view of today’s sports world.


In the NFL, the Omnipresent Commercial star led the Overjoyed Colts to an Overdue Championship. Since then, the Oddball Chargers hired the 49ers’ Offensive Coordinator to replace their Ousted Coach. Elsewhere, Ocho Cinco is one of the Only Cincinnati players living Outside Cellblocks.


On Campus, Florida’s Outstanding Chris Leak Outlasted Critics to inspire Orgasmic Celebrations in Gainesville. Operation Carroll, aka USC, is the early favorite for next season. The Trojans will be tested on the road by Notre Dame, Oregon, California, and the Ornery Cornhuskers.


As for baseball, the Optimistic Cardinals look to repeat. Yankee fans will call A-Rod an Overpaid Choker until he delivers in the October Clutch. Their rivals hope that Daisuke Matsuzaka is more like an Overpowering Clemens than an Oil Can Boyd. The Angels-A’s rivalry will be as intense as Obama-Clinton, with numerous battles between Orlando Cabrera and Oakland Closer Huston Street. Oriole Cal will Obey Cooperstown’s call, but Ozzie Canseco’s brother did not make the cut.


The NBA held its All-Star Game in the land of Opulent Casinos, Overflowing Cash, and Organized Crime. An Overweight Charles outran an Old Codger, while Gerald Green did more jumping than an Overexposed Cruise on Oprah’s Couch. Oklahoma City won’t win the title, but an Obvious Contender is Dallas, Owned Confidently by the Outspoken Cuban who Outrages Commissioner Stern.


Occupying College basketball’s throne, the top-ranked Gators were stunned by the Overlooked Commodores. Their Oden-Centered Ohio Challengers hope to cut down the nets, like the Orange Carmelo team and Okafor’s Connecticut Huskies. In the Buckeyes’ Own Conference, Alando Tucker is a senior star – what many Observers Considered an Outdated Concept. Offering Contrast, freshman Kevin Durant dominates Big XII Opposition Consistently, to the Ongoing Chagrin of Oklahoma, Colorado, and the rest.


Above the border, Ontario, Canada is Obsessively Crazy about the NHL. The league features great rivalries such as Oilers-Calgary and Ovechkin-Crosby. However, in the U.S., hockey is buried on an Obscure Channel.


As for individual sports, Kevin Harvick was an Opportunistic Chevy driver as he Outraced Crashes to beat the Other Cars to the finish at Daytona. Roger Federer destroyed his Outmanned Competitors on the Australian Open Courts. And Tiger Woods is always eager to Obliterate Courses, as his Overwhelmed Contemporaries Obediently Crumble.


Outfielders, Catchers, and all other players have to face the end sometime. Likewise, the Outgoing Cast of The O.C. is ready for the Official Conclusion. Ultimately, you can’t Overcome Cancellation.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Branson, Missouri To Host 2009 NBA All-Star Game

NBA All-Star Weekend wrapped up Sunday night, as MVP Kobe Bryant and Amare Stoudemire led the Western Conference to a 153-132 rout. Las Vegas was a glamorous locale for the festivities, and New Orleans will be a first-time host next year. Today, the league continued the trend of finding new cities for the event. Commissioner David Stern announced that Branson, Missouri will host the 2009 All-Star Game.


Stern indicated that the decision was a natural extension of holding the event in Las Vegas. The weekend proved that the game and surrounding activities could be held in a non-NBA city. For the next available All-Star Game, the league was determined to go back to a location without an NBA franchise. Therefore, the finalists were Branson and Atlanta.


Branson was a natural fit, since it is often referred to as the “Family-friendly Las Vegas.” Like its Nevada counterpart, it offers plenty of live music shows for visitors. Branson even has a similar slogan: “What happens in Branson? Seriously, does anything happen here?” Unlike Vegas, Branson does not have any casinos. Charles Barkley may be particularly disappointed by the absence of gambling options. However, on the bright side for Sir Charles, there will be plenty of old people around for him to race.


Branson is in a highly conservative area, so the town’s residents will have a different experience during All-Star Weekend. Unless they’re at a Charley Pride concert, they’re not used to seeing black people. Also, the pro-military townspeople will have to endure an event that mocks the importance of a strong defense. However, Branson will lend some Leave It To Beaver-style nostalgia to the event. Players in the All-Star Game will all sport buzz cuts, short shorts, and knee socks. Instead of the NBA’s prevailing hip-hop culture, this All-Star Game will embody the sock hop culture.


With that theme in mind, the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shootout will be replaced by the Bounce Pass Competition and Running Hook Shot Contest. Events will also prominently feature popular Branson entertainers. In honor of singer and Moon River Theater owner Andy Williams, the league will hold a Williams Game consisting entirely of NBA players named Williams. There will also be a tribute to the growing influence of European players, hosted by Yakov Smirnoff. Christina Aguilera will get another opportunity to perform at halftime, but only if she changes her name to Christina Osmond.


The Branson area is no stranger to high-profile basketball events. Since 2000, Keeter Gymnasium at the College of the Ozarks in nearby Point Lookout has hosted the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament each March. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and others will bring their high-scoring ways to the area in 2009. However, none of them can overshadow Northwestern (Iowa) star Brandon Woudstra, who tallied 322 points in the 2000-03 tournaments. Even Kobe can’t score that many in the All-Star Game, unless it goes to overtime.


All-Star Weekend in Branson will be quite a change from the non-stop partying of Las Vegas and New Orleans. Some observers may be skeptical that the Missouri town can attract as many celebrities and fans as those cities. However, Branson is fully aware that with the NBA All-Star Game, it’s all about the show. So there’s no better place for it than the Show-Me State.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Peyton Manning To Compete In Daytona 500

On February 4, Peyton Manning fulfilled a lifelong dream as his Indianapolis Colts finally won the Super Bowl with a 29-17 triumph over the Chicago Bears. Peyton could be excused if he chose to take it easy for a while. However, the taste of victory has only made him hungry for more. With that in mind, Manning will race in Sunday’s Daytona 500.


Peyton will take the place of J.J. Yeley, starting in row 6. Yeley was slotted to drive the #18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. However, based on the Colts’ 36-22 victory over the Washington Redskins in October, Manning had earned the right to bump any driver on Gibbs’s team. Since Peyton is synonymous with the number 18, Yeley had to give up his spot. Now, instead of leading drives for Tony Dungy, Manning will drive with Tony Stewart.


Given his lack of NASCAR experience, many fans were critical of Manning’s inclusion in the race. Considering the city in which he plays, most considered him a better fit for the Indianapolis 500. Also, he cannot compete for the Nextel Cup, since The Chase coincides with the NFL regular season. Skeptics proclaimed that Manning will be left in the dust after falling behind early. Peyton responded by referring to the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl. He came back to win, even after an opponent traveling at high speed immediately put him behind.


Sometimes called The Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing, the Daytona 500 has numerous parallels to the NFL’s showcase event. Sunday’s competition is also known as The Great American Race, and this year’s Super Bowl inspired discussions about race in America. Jimmie Johnson seeks to repeat at Daytona, just like Jimmy Johnson won back-to-back Super Bowls. Chevrolet’s four-year victory streak in the race shows a particularly strong link to football. William Clay Ford owns the Detroit Lions, so you don’t see Fords winning the Super Bowl, either.


Manning felt that he would be completely at home on the NASCAR circuit. He uses sound judgment when passing, and as a high-scoring Colt he wins with horsepower. In the same vein as the Allisons, Pettys, and Earnhardts, his primary sport is a family business. Most notably, like all NASCAR drivers he endorses a huge number of products while competing on Sundays.


During the race, Peyton will have constant reminders of his football experiences. His focus on the checkered flag will remind him of Tennessee, where he focused on the checkerboard end zone. He must periodically make pit stops, whereas last year he was stopped by Pittsburgh. Several crew chiefs have been barred from Sunday’s race, just like Manning’s Colts knocked some Chiefs out of action. As he did two weeks ago, Peyton hopes to win a championship in Florida. He feels confident because Steve Spurrier doesn’t have a car in the race.


Against the Bears, Manning captured the title that had eluded him for so long. His experience was much like Dale Earnhardt in winning the Daytona 500 at long last in 1998. Peyton will get to race Dale, Jr., but he would have gladly taken his chances against the departed legend as well. Once you’ve gotten past Brian Urlacher, no other Intimidator can scare you.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Celtics Hire Schottenheimer As Head Coach

On Monday, San Diego Chargers president Dean Spanos fired Marty Schottenheimer as the team’s head coach. The move resulted primarily due to Scottenheimer’s dysfunctional relationship with general manager A.J. Smith. However, the coach was not out of a job for long. Today, the downtrodden Boston Celtics hired Schottenheimer as their new head coach.


Schottenheimer replaces Doc Rivers, who was demoted to an assistant position rather than fired. Executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge felt that keeping the former coach around would benefit Marty, who is accustomed to being in charge of a guy named Rivers. Schottenheimer jumped at the opportunity to coach the Celtics, since he’s been spent the past month wishing he could have seen a New England team lose. He is hoping that Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson will watch his new team play, since there is no danger that LT will have to witness an excessive victory celebration.


The Boston roster has many familiar elements for the new coach. The Celtics include Delonte West, while San Diego is in the AFC West. Gerald Green will compete in this weekend’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest, while the Chargers also showcase a Jammer (Quentin). San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, a former Kent State hoops player, has something in common with the entire Celtics roster. His days of playing competitive basketball are in the past.


Other elements of the NBA franchise are reminiscent of San Diego. The Celtics have already lost 21 home games at TD Banknorth Garden. Marty habitually associates the number 21 with the letters TD. At times, Boston’s Paul Pierce is a lights-out shooter, while Charger Shawne Merriman is called “Lights Out” and shoots up. As for the Celtics’ familiar leprechaun mascot, Schottenheimer will go from a Merriman to a merry man.


Currently on an 18-game losing streak, Boston’s numerous shortcomings are familiar to the new coach. Last week, Schottenheimer saw defensive coordinator Wade Phillips leave to become the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach. Like the Chargers, the Celtics wish they could have a guy named Wade. In December, Boston failed to land Allen Iverson, who wound up with the Nuggets. Marty knows all about feeling disappointment after losing out to a Denver team. The Celtics’ last championship in 1986 does diverge from the Super Bowl-deprived coach. That Boston team was coached by K.C. Jones and featured Robert “Chief” Parish. With Schottenheimer, the K.C. Chiefs were not able to win a title.


Most NBA observers do not expect Schottenheimer to reverse the Celtics’ fortunes, as “Marty Ball” seemingly will lead to more defeats. Under this strategy, the Boston players will stay on the ground during the fourth quarter, rarely choosing to pass the ball. Skeptics claim that the team is intentionally courting losses in order to maximize its opportunities in the NBA draft lottery, seeking to land Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. However, there is no guarantee that the ping pong balls will go the Celtics’ way. With Marty around, those balls might even be fumbled away by Ernest Byner.


Schottenheimer will make his NBA coaching debut on Wednesday, when the Celtics host the Milwaukee Bucks. It remains to be seen how the Boston fans will receive him, but they do agree with Marty on one thing. They hate that the Lombardi Trophy is in Indy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Today's Look At Pac-10 Hoops

The Pac-10 has often been mocked by college basketball fans outside the region in recent years. That perception has changed this season, even though conference leader UCLA (without starter Darren Collison) lost at West Virginia on Saturday. Here’s how the Pac-10 shapes up after this past weekend’s games.


UCLA: 10-2 Conference, 21-3 Overall: Guard Aaron Afflalo looks to lead the Bruins back to the Final Four. The NBA will ultimately be perfect for him: his initials are AA, and the refs let you take 12 steps.

Washington State: 10-3, 21-4: In coach Tony Bennett’s initial season after taking over for father Dick, the Cougars have won 20 games for the first time since 1993-94. Reached for comment, Tony remarked, “Dad was a real slack-ass.”

USC: 8-4, 18-7: O.J. Mayo will make the Trojans even better next year, but the prized recruit just received a three-game suspension. Reggie Bush must be involved somehow.

Oregon: 8-5, 20-5: Guard Aaron Brooks might win the Pac-10 player of the year award. Still, a confused Randy Moss blasted Brooks for not getting him the ball.

Arizona: 8-5, 17-7: After a win in Eugene, the Wildcats’ 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament bid appears safe. They’re as much of a March fixture as sloppy drunks wearing “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons.

Stanford: 7-5, 15-8: The Cardinal has been boosted by freshman twins Brook and Robin Lopez. Too bad they don’t play for Arizona, where they’d be the Lute Olson Twins.

Washington: 6-7, 16-8: U-Dub still faces an uphill climb to return to the NCAA tournament. But inspiration will come from former Huskie Nate Robinson’s credo at the NBA Slam-Dunk Contest: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again.”

California: 4-8, 12-12: The Bears have lost six in a row. Fans are blaming Rex Grossman.

Oregon State: 2-11, 10-16: The Pac-10 tournament used to exclude the bottom two teams. But could you imagine this event without the Beavers? Yeah, I could too.

Arizona State: 0-13, 6-18: Although coach Herb Sendek left NC State, his current team represents what most ACC fans would love to see: the Devils in last place.


Pac-10 commissioner Thomas Hansen is confident that the league will make him proud in March. If nothing else, he already gets points for accuracy. Unlike the Big Ten and Atlantic 10, the Pac-10 actually has 10 teams.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Heels Keep Duke On Course For Winless February

On January 28, Duke notched an impressive 75-61 victory over Boston College. The win was the fifth in a row for the Blue Devils as they closed out the month. However, the subsequent month has been far less kind to Mike Krzyzewski’s team. Duke appears doomed to endure a winless February.


Last night, the Blue Devils fell to 0-3 during the month with a 79-73 setback to hated rival North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Freshmen carried the day on both sides. Jon Scheyer led Duke with a career-high 26 points, while Brandan Wright paced the Tar Heels with 19. Ty Lawson made the difference for UNC with several key plays down the stretch. These standouts would be the week’s most notable Diaper Dandies, if not for psycho astronaut Lisa Nowak.


The victory was Carolina’s second consecutive in Durham, so DeMarcus Nelson is the only Blue Devil to have played in a win over the Heels in Cameron. Sophomore point guard Greg Paulus has not been so fortunate. Yesterday was also national signing day for college football, so his brother Mike made it official that he will play quarterback down the road in Chapel Hill. Unlike Greg, Mike will never have to worry about winning UNC-Duke matchups.


Duke’s misfortune appeared to spread to its alumni in the NBA Wednesday night. Every player from Duke who saw action wound up with a loss. That group was represented by J.J. Redick, Elton Brand, Daniel Ewing, Mike Dunleavy, and Dahntay Jones. Four other Dukies had “DNP” next to their names in the box scores, including Redick’s Orlando Magic teammate Grant Hill. His missing a game due to injury is equally as surprising as seeing Duke players lose in the NBA.


As for the current Blue Devils, their February miseries began with a 68-66 overtime defeat at Virginia on February 1, as Sean Singletary nailed the game-winner with one second remaining. Their next loss came against Florida State, which notched its first victory in Cameron after 15 defeats. Redick’s number was retired at halftime. In a fitting tribute to his Duke days, the Blue Devils failed to hit a shot with the game on the line.


After last night’s defeat, it is clear that February will bring nothing but pain for Duke. In the post-game press conference, Coach K remarked, “I think the key to the game was OW, MY BACK!!!” If he manages to make the trip to Maryland this Sunday, he will surely want to take a side visit to the White House. It could be the only time all month that Coach K gets to see a W.


Duke’s February struggles are relevant to numerous aspects associated with the month. February is well-known as Black History Month. Blue Devil fans are honoring the occasion by reflecting on heroes such as Johnny Dawkins, Grant Hill, and Shane Battier – desperately wishing they could still suit up for Duke. Also, the birthstone for February is the purple gem amethyst. On exposure to heat, amethyst generally becomes yellow. The same is true of Duke center Josh McRoberts.


Several notable days in February also relate to the Blue Devils. On Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil did not predict six more weeks of winter. However, Phil was reportedly heard whispering, “But Duke has four more weeks of losing.” On Valentine’s Day, the Devils will visit Boston College. In a nod to the Kay Jewelers commercials, the key phrase for Krzyzewski’s poor shooters will be “Every miss begins with K.” Finally, Presidents’ Day will bring a reminder that the only Duke alumnus to serve as U.S. President was Richard Nixon. Like the man who left office more than two years early, Duke’s struggles during crunch time show that they can’t finish the job, either.


The Blue Devils will get another crack at UNC on March 4. They will be decisive underdogs to knock off Roy Williams and his Tar Heels in the Dean Smith Center. But at least they won’t be in February anymore.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl Winners, Besides The Colts

Sunday in Miami, the Colts earned their first Super Bowl title since the franchise moved to Indianapolis in 1984. The 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears will long be remembered for making champions of quarterback Peyton Manning and head coach Tony Dungy. Besides Indy, here were some other big winners from Sunday’s showdown.


1988 Kansas Jayhawks: Sweet memories flooded back as a Manning led a team to a championship.

Auburn Fans: They’ve always been eager to see a Bear lose a big game.

Bakeries: The sloppy contest provided free publicity for places that feature turnovers.

Billy Dee Williams: His favorite drink was within one yard of the game-clinching play, as Kelvin Hayden ran back an interception from the Colt 44.

Donald Rumsfeld: The Colts proved that you can succeed in 2007, even if you were inept on defense throughout 2006.

Johnny Unitas: Since he passed away in 2002, the Baltimore legend did not have to see the Colts win a title in Indianapolis.

Kick Returners: Considering the results of the BCS national championship game and the Super Bowl, every team will want to give up a touchdown on the opening kickoff.

Midwestern State University: The Division II program produced Indy’s Dominic Rhodes, who rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown. The performance was a badly needed boost for the school, which still feels shame from giving us Dr. Phil.

Monkey Moving Services: Numerous monkeys must now relocate, since they no longer can live on the backs of Manning and Dungy. The displaced monkeys hope they can crash with their friends on Alex Rodriguez’s back.

National Hockey League: The frequent Pro Bowl promos reminded viewers that the NHL isn’t the only league with an All-Star Game no one cares about.

Paul Marcarelli: He’s the “Can you hear me now?” man for Verizon. Yesterday proved that a guy who appears in loads of commercials can go on to be the Super Bowl MVP.

Racists: They finally got to see an African-American coach lose a Super Bowl.

Steve Spurrier: Rex Grossman went down to defeat, but Spurrier can still say, “You never saw Peyton beat a Gator when I was around!”

The U: Hurricanes Devin Hester and Reggie Wayne scored the first two touchdowns, one day after Michael Irvin was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Plus, the winning team had a “U” on their helmets.

University of Phoenix Stadium: After Sunday’s rain-soaked event, next year’s Super Bowl host can brag about its retractable roof.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday In College Hoops: A Day For Jimmy V

With Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith about to engage in a historic matchup, coaches have been entrenched in the sports spotlight this weekend. One day before the Super Bowl, one coach’s influence dominated the college basketball world. Surprisingly, he’s a guy who passed away 14 years ago. Saturday in college hoops was the day of Jim Valvano.


Most notably, Jimmy V’s old North Carolina State program scored an 83-79 stunner over #3 North Carolina. Despite Wednesday’s upset at Virginia Tech, the Wolfpack was given little chance to knock off the Tar Heels. Even the home court was not seen as an advantage. NCSU’s arena, the RBC Center, received its name because the Wolfpack “Rarely Beats Carolina.”


However, Valvano always relished the underdog role, and his influence must have rubbed off on one of his most notable players. First-year NC State coach Sidney Lowe was the starting point guard on Jimmy V’s 1983 NCAA championship team. The Wolfpack shot 60% in Saturday’s victory, and that strong performance proved that Lowe has successfully made adjustments this season. His earlier strategy, inspired by the classic title game stunner over Houston, had proven to be less effective. Lowe had encouraged his players to shoot airballs, figuring that Lorenzo Charles would slam them home.


Saturday’s victory was a huge boost for Lowe among the NC State faithful. Ever since Valvano left in 1990, the Wolfpack has lagged well behind UNC and Duke in the local pecking order. However, on Saturday the spirit of Jimmy V may have given the Pack some help from beyond – beyond the arc, that is, as NC State hit 8 of 15 on three-pointers. Watching the game in Tallahassee, former NCSU football coach Chuck Amato was seen screaming to the heavens, “Hey Valvano, where was that help for ME???”


Before going to Raleigh in 1980, Valvano was the head coach at Iona, where the spirit of Jimmy V was also present on Saturday. The Gaels finally notched their first victory of the season after dropping their first 22 contests. The 69-57 win over Rider came two days after Siena needed a buzzer-beater to subdue Iona. Clearly, February has been a hot month for the Gaels.


Like NC State, Iona is led by a coach who played at the school for Valvano. Jeff Ruland has been in charge since 1998, and his tenure has been largely successful. Just last season, the Gaels reached the NCAA tournament, falling to Final Four participant LSU in the first round. Since then, Iona endured the steepest one-year decline since Enron. And unlike the Washington Bullets in 1986, the Gaels could not improve their fortunes by trading Ruland for Moses Malone.


Completing his head coaching resume, Valvano also led the programs at Bucknell and Johns Hopkins. Bucknell was victorious Friday night, downing Navy 78-63. Johns Hopkins, #20 nationally in Division III, got a huge double-overtime road win at Haverford on Saturday. Clearly, Jimmy V was looking out for the visiting Blue Jays during the Centennial Conference showdown. If you leave Gooding Arena with a victory over the Fords, you know you’ve gotten some help from above.


In 1993, Jimmy V delivered a legendary speech at the ESPYs while suffering from cancer. Soon he was off to a better place, and not just because he had gotten away from Dick Vitale. That place had some unexpected entertainment on Saturday: a crazy Italian guy running around and looking for someone to hug.