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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back To School Shopping

That's what Will Yeatman of Notre Dame's football and lacrosse teams is up to these days. And I'm not talking a new outfit. I'm talking a new school. Yeatman is transferring out of Notre Dame after a few alcohol related incidents in the past few years at Notre Dame. At this point it's unclear where he is headed; it's looking like College Park right now, and it's been made clear that he wants to be somewhere where he can compete both in lacrosse (immediately) and football (after having to sit a year, if he seeks another IA program).

While the transfer has made significant headlines now in the lacrosse offseason, it is the alcohol issues that lead me to this post. Allow me to step into a world only tangentially related to the sports and marching about which I claim to blog.

*Cue "A Very Special '80 Minutes of Regulation'" music*

Many who follow the news or are currently involved in higher education are familiar with the Amethyst Initiative, a consortium of college and university chancellors/presidents who urge for a reexamination of the current US drinking age. The obvious alternative, of course, would be lowering it back to the previous age of 18.

Back in late August, on my way into the office (I work at a university) early for some Welcome Week programming, I was listening to the local hip-hop station I usually tune in, and in their early-morning weekend show, they were talking about the Amethyst Initiative. There were two parties, a man and a woman, carrying the conversation, with callers adding to the discussion, but the general gist was that it was a travesty that such a thing would even be discussed. The conversation went as far as to condemn a certain HBCU president (I had remembered it being the chancellor of NC A&T, but as I look at the undersigned, I think it may have been Beverly Daniel Tatum of Spelman College) for signing on.

At this point, I wanted to, and would have if time would have allowed, call in and note to the decriers that the Initiative states that one of its purposes is "To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age." (emphasis mine). How can one blame a president of an institution of higher education for a call to public discourse? There are presidents who have signed not necessarily out of agreement with the lowering of the drinking age, but out of a desire to have the tough conversations--this much can be seen at the site in these presidents' own words.

Personally? It's not an issue on which I have too much of an opinion. I tend to agree with the camp that says "if you're old enough to vote and die for your country at 18, you should be able to have a beer". On the other hand, 18-20 year olds are by and large slightly post-pubescent assholes, and are moreso with something to drink in them. The rub? Nothing magic happens when they hit the age of 21.

Still, this Initiative being spearheaded by college presidents seems to me to be quite self-serving. The obvious is this: The demands on campus security and resources related to underage drinking change drastically if a relative handful of your charges are under legal drinking age, vs. roughly 3/4 of traditional college-age students, as it currently stands with the drinking age at 21.

Hmm... college presidents? Self serving? Sounds like a big part of the reason there's no playoff in Division I-A football.

And with that, I've brought it all back around to the sports with which it began.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BCS Games: Not Just for Football Anymore

So I've posed this question to the college football community on LJ the past few years, and thought I'd get it some burn over here (if anyone's paying attention):

What BCS Bowl game marching band matchup are you most looking forward to?
Rose Bowl: Penn State's Blue Band vs. USC's Spirit of Troy
Orange Bowl: Cincinnati's Bearcat Band vs. VT's Marching Virginians
Sugar Bowl: Alabama's Million Dollar Band vs. Utah's Marching Utes
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State's The Best Damn Band in the Land vs. Texas' Longhorn Band
National Championship: Florida's Fighting Gator Band vs. Oklahoma's Pride of Oklahoma

Among those who have taken it so far, the Orange Bowl matchup seems to be the least desirable, not unlike the football game.

In related news, I must once again leap to the defense of the BCS. I was listening to the AP College Football podcast, as I often do, and one of the hosts went on at length about how the "boring" matchup between Cincy and VT and why the BCS was to blame. Sorry, wrong again. Are there more exciting matchups? Certainly. But consider that the BCS exists for the purpose of pairing the #1 and #2 teams with one another to determine a national champion. Then, why is the BCS to blame for matching Cincy and VT? Following the 1/2 pairing, what teams go to which bowls (barring tie-ins), INCLUDING BCS bowls, is at the discretion of the bowls, often with input from conferences and other bowls. Plus, the alternative to the BCS is a playoff. With the exception of a plus-one model, all of the playoff proposals that people kick around include at LEAST the champions of all six BCS conferences. Want to know who that would include? Big East champion Cincinnati and ACC champion Virginia Tech. You could quite possibly end up with this same "boring" matchup in a playoff!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Movin' On Up

Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of attending the press conference at which UNCG announced its intentions to raise the profile of its men's basketball program, starting with a move from the on-campus Fleming Gym to the Greensboro Coliseum and the aggressive scheduling of high-caliber opponents from the ACC and other conferences who share our state, including the A-10, C-USA, and CAA. This is part of a plan from the new chancellor, who believes that raising the University's athletic profile goes hand in hand with raising its profile overall.

Regarding this move, I feel both cautiously optimistic and proud that UNCG dares to be great.
Interestingly enough, I recall a similar feeling about four years ago, as I attended a pep rally in the Marshall Center's ballroom at USF at which it was announced that USF would be making the move to the Big East sarting with the Fall 2005 semester. In the 3 1/2 years that followed, USF is the proud owner of 3 conference championships and has been in contention for others. While we're admittedly drowning in the depth of the conference basketball-wise, by and large we're holding our own, and the amount of times you'll hear from and see us in national sports media have increased quite a bit from our Conference USA days.

So what does this move mean for UNCG? For starters, we'll move from the pit that is Fleming Gym into one of the premier sports entertainment complexes in the Southeastern US. Believe it or not, however, my referring to Fleming as a pit is actually a term of endearment. Fleming seats just shy of 2,500, and with its steep seating and below-grade playing surface, that place can get rocking when packed out. In contrast, the Coliseum, in the manner it will be arranged for UNCG home games, will seat about 7,500, meaning that for larger games it could be at best a neutral court and at worst a hostile environment for the home team. In fact, the Coliseum won't be a strange land to some more prominent teams and their fans; it has served as a regular host for NCAA Tournament action and the ACC Tournament. And, of course, since the ACC is the primary basketball currency here in NC, you can expect plenty of fans present when we play them.

The Coliseum sits about 8/10 mile from Fleming Gym (driving--less if you're on foot and cut across campus) and about half that distance from the closest UNCG residences. It's worth noting that this is less than the distance to the Dean Dome from parts of Carolina's campus, and less than that to the RBC Center from parts of NC State's. The Coliseum, which will have its first viable home tenant since the ECHL's Greensboro Generals left in 2004, is committed to truly making this the Spartans' home court, with a UNCG hardwood court, navy blue seating, and state-of-the-art locker rooms, all of which were also unveiled at the press conference. There's been a visibly increased presence of billboard and television advertising here in Greensboro, which will be crucial in ensuring perhaps the most important part of this equation: community support. With that, there'll be no question that Spartan basketball is on the rise.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How the BCS Screwed Texas

Answer: They didn't. I'm no BCS apologist, but I give credit where credit is due, and this one's not on them. If you feel Texas was wronged (for the record, I do, but I can clearly see both sides) it was NOT the BCS that did it. It was the rules of the Big XII Conference. For once, the BCS is innocent.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One more reason to look forward to 1/20/2009

The Inauguration Parade is shaping up to be a band dork's dream. Among the marching units I've heard so far are FAMU's Marching 100, Grambling's World Famed Marching Band, Howard's Showtime, Hampton's Marching Force, DelState's Approaching Storm, UD's Fightin' Blue Hen Marching Band, TBDBITL from The Ohio State, The Cadets, The Colts, and Punahou High School from Hawaii.

And of course, the icing on the cake, my dear alma mater, The Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band!

It's worth noting, also, that bandfans (especially ones located in NC, roughly equidistant from ATL and DC) can attend the Inaugural parade and then four days later head to Atlanta for Honda.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'd like to thank the little guys

Thanks to USF Football, I know who to see to get my car serviced, order a pizza online, smell good, or get free local and long distance.

The past four football seasons, USF has attended the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Bowl, the Brut Sun Bowl, and will soon be playing in the Magic Jack St. Petersburg Bowl.

Far be it for me to look a gift horse in the mouth, but damn there's alot of bowls.

In other postseason news, I went to see USF face defending champion Wake Forest in men's soccer. We got blown out, 5-0, on Wake's home pitch. We were clearly outmatched and it was cold, but it did feel good to be able to be there and support my team.

USF's first bowl game, Meineke Car Care in 2005, was the first in a string opportunities to support one of my teams in the postseason. Since then, I've had the opportunity to attend:

UMBC vs. Delaware-Men's Lacrosse quarterfinals, 2007
Delaware vs. Delaware State-Football first round, 2007
UMBC vs. Georgetown-Men's basketball first round, 2008
USF vs. Wake Forest-Men's soccer quarterfinals, 2008

I also missed a few USF bowl games, a few UMBC lacrosse tourney appearances, and a few UNCG soccer tourney appearances. Sadly, each of the games I attended featuring an alma mater of mind ended in a loss. UD/Del State I attended just as a fan of football, history, and the state of Delaware. They've also all been games of convenience--the bowl game, the basketball game, and the soccer game, were all here in NC, while UMBC-UD happened to be in MD while I was up there for for my cousin's graduation, and UD/Del State was over Thanksgiving break when I was back home in the First State. I need to step my game up and make the postseason road trip a reality!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

College Football Season (in the worldwide sense)

It's tournament time for college football (ok, soccer to us Americans) and oddly enough, I care.

Part of it may be that my USF football (in the American sense) Bulls are currently working below potential. Add to that the fact that the soccer Bulls are Big East champs and UNCG cinderellaed through the SoCon tourney to make the NCAAs, most recently beating Duke in their first round matchup, and there's actually something to be excited about this soccer season.

This leads to the intersection of two truths: The first is that I will root for my schools regardless of sport, activity, or endeavor. The second is that I ain't so crazy about soccer. That said my cable sports package (God bless it) allowed me to see USF vs. St. Johns in the Big East championship game last weekend, and it was a truly exciting game. It's possible the excitement came from the fact that my team was competing for its first Big East title in a men's sport, but I actually believe it's because the Bulls put an exciting brand of soccer on the field.

Here on campus at UNCG, there's not too much buzz (perhaps because all the games will be played on the road) but at least some awareness that our men are playing in the tournament.

It's not beyond my recognition that should the Bulls win their first tournament game (vs. the UMass/Harvard winner) and the Spartans get past Loyola, my alma mater and my employer are on a collision course and will meet in Tampa. What's further, should last year's champion Wake Forest continue their winning ways, then either USF or UNCG could be playing over in Winston-Salem at Wake in an Elite 8 matchup, a trip I will almost certainly make.

In other college news, it's hoops season, which means most folks here in NC are in their element. UMBC's off to a 2-1 start, losing across town at Morgan and defeating Stevenson (formerly Villa Julie) and our old NEC foe Quinnipiac. USF's started 1-1 on the regular season, beating SMU and losing narrowly to UVA. And UNCG's at 1-1, dropping the opener to Charlotte but winning the home opener vs. Webber International. Here at UNCG, there's huge focus on making a big deal out of our game in the Coliseum in February vs. 2008 regional finalist Davidson.

Finally, I'm in the office killing some time (I have an event tonight) and ESPN360 is allowing me to watch the Florida Classic. There's been some sloppy play here in the first half, but I guarantee you there will be nothing of the sort come halftime.

Look good, play good... right?

Last baseball offseason, the team formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays unveiled a major overhaul: they dropped the Devil, becoming simply the Tampa Bay Rays, and changed their logo and colors. The result (correlation, not causation, mind you) was going from worst to first in the AL East and playing in the World Series.

Eager to make a similar change, the Baltimore Orioles recently unveiled their new uniforms.

The changes the O's made weren't nearly as drastic. They're still Orioles, still in Baltimore, and still wearing orange and black. The logo, while tweaked a bit, is still an ornithologically correct oriole bird. Perhaps the most notworthy change is adding "Baltimore" back onto the road uniforms; both road and home uniforms have stated "Orioles" for decades as the O's were embracing both the Baltimore and DC markets in the absence of baseball in the nation's capital.

What I thought was another cool addition was the sleeve patch incorporating the Maryland flag. Maryland's flag, with its complex design and nod to heraldry, is a pretty neat one, and it's no surprise that it's incorporated into the apparel and logos of numerous sports teams, including those at the University of Maryland College Park and the Baltimore Ravens. Again, a nice little nod to the area they call home.

My one beef? The new bird is nearly the same as the old bird, but it's got feet shaped as though it were gripping something. Great when it's perched, as in the logo, but kinda dumb as a standalone on the hats.

But all in all? Upgrade. Let's just hope, for the sake of friends, family, and the city that loves them, they can make a Rays-like rise with the new look.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Honda Battle of the Bands

This lets me know that I'm pushing 1 year with this thing--when I decided to start this blog, I was fairly fresh back from Honda 2008, though interestingly enough, I never really got around to writing about it in here. Now it's that time of year again--the field for 2009 has been set. The participating bands are:

Virginia State University and Fayetteville State University, representing the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA);

Florida A&M University and North Carolina A&T State University, representing the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC);

Tuskegee University and Kentucky State University, representing the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC); and

Jackson State University and Texas Southern University, representing the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC);

North Carolina Central University and Edward Waters College, both independents.

A few thoughts. First of all NC is representing wel once again, with 30% of the field. Last year it was Central, WSSU, and Shaw; this year it's Central, A&T, and Fayetteville State. A special shout-out to the Aggies from right across town from me for making their way there through a pretty tough conference in the MEAC.

I say that, of course, recognizing that Honda isn't always a meritocracy. Voting, by fans and coaches, is part of the equation, and other factors, including schools declining invitations come into play. Still, it's an honor to showcase and, not unlike going to a bowl game, it does signify at least some level of achievement and recognition.

I'm glad to see the Marching 100 return to Honda after a 3 year hiatus. I'm sure Honda is as well, as they likely provide the biggest draw of all the bands present (at least to Atlanta; a Battle further west may favor a SWAC powerhouse). It may be a much needed pop too, since, as someone pointed out to me, this year Honda does not feature any bands from Atlanta or even Georgia. Regardless, there's no doub Honda will draw well--in its seventh year of existence, it has shown it is a mainstay and one of the most anticipated events annually on the landscape of black college bands.

I fixed the BCS!

No, not really. Likely far from it. But a random idea for a patch on the BCS popped into my head today while driving and I wanted to at least share it with someone who wouldn't respond with a glassy-eyed stare. My girlfriend would not be that person. My new model incorporates a plus one, but in a way I don't think I've seen it suggested before. I doubt it's flawless, it's a fairly loose framework, and I'm sure you all can poke plenty of holes in it, but again, I'm just bouncing here.

First of all, this operates under the belief that the entire regular season is a playoff.

If you accept that the entire regular season of college football is a playoff, it follows that:
a) Any team that loses a "playoff" game does NOT have an unalienable right to compete in the National Championship game (though sometimes they may still get the opportunity)
b) Any team from a BCS auto-qualifying conference who goes undefeated DOES have the right to compete for a national championship game.

Let's say you've got three teams remaining at the end of the regular season who are undefeated. Condition B above states that all of these teams have a right to compete for the national championship. The solution? Hand one of 'em a loss. Enter the Conditional Play-in game. We'll call it the CPI, since we love acronyms in college sports.

The CPI would be invoked if and only if the season ends with more than two undefeated teams. I'll talk briefly about variations below, but at its root, that is the sole purpose of the CPI. The way it works is this: Let's say three teams from auto-qualifying conferences go undefeated. We'll use this year's Bama, Texas Tech, and Penn State as the example, although it's since been busted. If these three teams allfinished the season undefeated at 1) Alabama, 2) Texas Tech, and 3) Penn State. At this point the CPI would be invoked.

Alabama, being the BCS #1, gets a bye to the National Championship Game. Texas Tech and Penn State would then play one another. Texas Tech gets home field as the higher ranked team, and Penn State travels to Lubbock for the CPI. This game would be held a week after the conference championships; this year we'd be looking at Saturday, December 13. Winner goes to the National Championship, loser still gets to hang out in the BCS.

This, of course, would require a placeholder, since bowl selections are done the weekend before. It could be done on a rotating basis like the championship game itself, where the location hosting the NCG also gets the CPI loser--everyone would know where they were traveling, just not necessarily when. Or it could be that the BCS bowls picks the pairing (and thus the CPI loser) in the same manner they would other teams. This could get interesting: In this year's scenario, the Rose Bowl would likely go after that bid to preserve the possibility of the Big 10/Pac 10 matchup, but if Penn State should win, the end up with Texas Tech.

Possible variations include invoking a CPI if teams #2 and #3 are both one-loss teams that are fairly evenly matched, or going for a 4 team (#1 and #2 both get home field) if you've got a bevy of one-lossers. But again, the initial postulates state that only undefeateds have an unalienable right to a chance to compete.

If there are a clear-cut #1 and #2, by virtue of there just being 2 undefeated teams (or all teams having at least one loss)? No need to invoke a CPI, the system plays out as it always has, and you get a free Saturday. But this plan guarantees all undefeateds access, a feature the current system does not have. And it preserves the bowls as they stand, doesn't cause undue travel (no team makes an extra trip, save for fans of the #3 team who choose to attend the road game) and in most years, doesn't change the current system one bit. And if a CPI takes place, both teams get a little more live-game action in before their respective games, which would still be several weeks down the road.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Memorial Day Plans? In November?

Interesting note: When I first began this blog, I had no idea it would become largely lacrosse based.

My sources tell me (and by "sources," I mean "") that four stadiums have submitted bids to host the 2010-2012 (I don't know if they get all three years or a portion thereof) NCAA Lacrosse Championships: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, The Meadowlands outside New York, Gillette Stadium, and Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Put another way, you've got two stadiums in close proximity to lacrosse hotbeds, a third that hosted this past year and will again in 2009, and a city that seems to be the Western answer to all things lacrosse, putting up record numbers in the pro franchises and all in all making a helluva showing. Let's look at the choices:

Baltimore is the easy answer. Arguably the capital of lacrosse, M&T Bank Stadium's location also provides easy access and plenty to do. But with all the quality lacrosse taking place there already, not the least of which is the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic and the Day of Rivals, might Baltimore get a little... stale?

The Meadowlands seems a promising choice. The new Giants/Jets Stadium will be ready in time for the 2011 and 2012 installments of the NCAA Championships, and it's a prime location geographically. In fact, it's actually surprising that Final Four weekend has not been held there before.

Gillette will have just had the previous two years before this stretch begins, and from what I've heard, the first year of that wasn't all that great.

Denver is an interesting proposition. As I mentioned, the area has recently been lacrosse-mad, showing the MLL's Outlaws much love specifically. As far as being deserving, the city and the stadium most certainly are. Logistics are the only pitfall--all but two Division I lacrosse teams are east of the Mississippi (though the two to the west--Air Force and Denver--are both in Colorado), as are a critical mass of lacrosse fans. Still, it could make an excellent step for expansion of the sport overall, and I'd be willing to give out west a try.

Personally, I would have loved to have seen a slightly more gradual shift--a team outside of the traditional hotbed zones but not clear across the country. Charlotte comes to mind (for purely selfish reasons, I admit) as do Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, or Nashville.

In other news, Eagles fan, Delawarean and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden was at the Linc for last night's Giants-Eagles game. When he was shown in his luxury box on the jumbotron, he was booed mightily by the Philadelphia crowd. Since his opponent Sarah Palin got the same treatment weeks ago by the Flyers fans, I think it's safe to say it's not political... Philly fans just like to boo.

I wrote not long ago about how basketball is the sport that I follow that I'm least likely to keep up with in the off-season. While that may be true, the season is here! I've been doing work in basketball related programming here at UNCG, but I'm certianly keeping a watchful eye on my America East Champion UMBC Retrievers, and I remain hopeful for USF in Heath's 2nd year. More than anything, the good ol' state of North Carolina is aglow with the buzz that only comes with college hoops around here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Cheesesteak Shall Suffer No More

On the dashboard on my Mac, I had this widget entitled the Cheesesteak of Suffering.
Admittedly a masochistic tool, this widget counted up the amount of time that had passed since the last major sports champion in Philadelphia, the '83 Sixers. On the evening of Wednesday, October 29, at approximately 10pm, it came to a halt.


This past week, I got to see the second major championshipless streak in which I was emotionally invested break. The first was in 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Series. Despite being a fan of the actual team (not just the city, as was the case with the Phillies) this recent victory meant more to me for a few reasons. One is that it broke a drought for a city, a city and metro area I love, that has been suffering since before I ever lived in its environs.
But perhaps more so is that this was a championship which I got to share with many. In 2004, my good friend Danielle was the biggest Sox fan I knew, and there were a few more scattered here and there. But with Philly winning, pretty much everyone I had grown up with was rejoicing. Shortly after the final out, I called my brother in his apartment in Philly. I called my mom, at work in Philly. And Facebook exploded with support from all throughout the Delaware Valley and beyond. This one truly felt like "our" championship. I even kept the parade on in the background at work on Friday.

Other tidbits from teams, cities, and topics I care about:

The Baltimore Orioles have an upcoming fan event where it seems the new uniforms will be unveiled. Maybe they can go from worst to almost-first a la the Rays after their Extreme Team Makeover?

UMBC lax had a good showing in Fall Ball, playing both locally in the Lax for Leukemia tournament and out in Utah at BYU, defeating all comers. I know Fall Ball isn't necessarily generalizable to the season as a whole, but here's hoping it is.

My USF Bulls are in their midseason slump, having lost 3 of the past 4 and starting conference play 1-3. Perhaps we need to start packing in the non-conference games at midseason so that at least when we go through this we can still have a shot at winning the conference? Yeesh. And my Bull brethren over at are insufferable, with good reason.

And finally, after having been in all black as a vampire this halloween, I realized I may have missed a prime opportunity: a Phantom Regiment drum major. Particularly since this year I could have gone with the bloody side after being speared in Spartacus!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nuttin' but Brotherly Love

The Philadelphia Phillies are currently one win away from a World Series championship, the first major-sport championship that the city of Philadelphia has seen in 25 years. I choose to make no speculations as to whether or not they will get that final win (Lord knows I've been disappointed before) but merely to set up the premise for this post: A Philadelphia team is deep in the postseason and there are widespread reports (not even new stuff mind you, just historical perspective) that the fans of Philadelphia are a bunch of assholes. Often led by stories of Santa Claus, snowballs, and D-cell batteries, the general gist is that the Philadelphia phanbase is a vile bunch of barely evolved neanderthals who will turn on the ugly against your team or even their own.

My question is this: To what aim? Is this hard-hitting journalism? Would you like a story that would astonish and inform more people? Try starting with: "Philadelphia is a city located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania..." It's pretty much that basic. Philly fans boo. Santa got it. Destiny's Child got it. Sarah Palin got it.

It seems there are only a handful of possible reasons that these stories could still be being written.
-To inform the greater populace: *buzz* see above and try again.
-To let fans traveling to Philly to see their team play know about the class of people they're up against: Perhaps, but I expect that you're enough of a fan to travel to see your team, you're familiar enough with the sporting landscape to already be well aware.
-To shame and ridicule the heathens that consider themselves Philly fans: If this is the purpose, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Some--I'd wager many--rather like it. We wear each article about unruly behavior like a badge of honor. And to be honest, why shouldn't we? OK, sure, if you bring into play those rules of common decency that apply in the real world it looks bad, but this is sports. Is it a bad thing to be known as a tough place to play? Is it a crime to expect excellence of your team? Is it taboo to be known for passionate, fanatical support of your team and the city and region they represent? If you answer no to any or all of these questions, then perhaps Philly ain't that bad after all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grohawk > Rayhawk

The Tampa Bay Rays, in their first-ever postseason bid, have embraced a new team tradition: The Rayhawk. In a show of team unity, many of the players have shaved, moussed, or otherwise acquired the iconic strip of hair down the middle of their heads most know as a Mohawk. Fans have followed suit, and there's even talk of Rayhawk bikini waxes. The Tampa Bay Area is being swept with Rayhawk madness.

Is anyone else feeling a bit of deja vu?

Rewind just about a year, on the other side of the Bay. The USF Bulls were the #2 team in the nation, and the college football world was abuzz with the Grohawk, named for QB Matt Grothe, which could be found on the heads of most Bulls, many Bulls faithful, and even Rocky, the mascot. I say this not necessarily to discredit the Rays, but let's not pretend as if it's new, or even new in recent history or new to the area.

It's October, which means I'm actually paying attention to baseball. If you read this regularly or know me personally, you know that I consider a 162 game regular season to be at least a hundred games too long. I've paid a little more attention the past year or two because one of my co-workers is a big enough Sox fan to pull it back out of me, but even at that, I'm hard-pressed to care about any single baseball game or even a single series before at least September. That said, now that we're down to the final four, things get interesting, considering I've got legitimate geographic ties to three of the four teams remaining. Let's talk about them, shall we?

Boston Red Sox: My team, forever and ever, Amen. Who knows how they ended up sticking--all of my other sports allegiances switched to Philly after I moved to Wilmington--but I expect that since I began following baseball and collecting cards at a time when I had lived in Boston more of my life than anywhere else.

Philadelphia Phillies: Having grown up in Wilmington, the Phillies were the home team, and though I never latched onto them, I still typically like to see them do well.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: I never had any particular affinity towards them, despite living in Tampa for two years while attending grad school at USF. Still, I can certainly appreciate an upstart program from the Tampa Bay area doing the damn thing.

So that said, what about matchups? It's clear that the LA Dodgers hold the least weight in all of this, both because I never lived specifically in LA and because EAST COAST WHAT!! In a perfect world, the Phillies will defeat them in the NLCS. But here's my thought for the potential matchups:

Boston vs. LA - Boston. Duh.
Tampa Bay vs. LA - Tampa Bay, although I will admit the fans and even players are getting plenty damn annoying. Still, much as I would have had Hillary gotten the Democratic nod (whoa, did I just take it political?) I'll still likely hold my nose and root for them, for the sake of history, an area to which I have ties, and EAST COAST WHAT!!
Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia - Philly. This one is particularly significant because in the minds of some I've encountered, the cities of Philly and Tampa blood rivals locked in an epic battle for superiority. Don't know where that came from--a better characterization is that Tampa Bay has kicked Philly's ass every chance it's gotten in contests that matter: the Bucs went through the Eagles in the NFC Championship en route to their Super Bowl (not to mention shat upon the Eagles in the inaugural game at Lincoln Financial Field), and the Lightning took out the Flyers in the Eastern Conference finals on their way to the Stanley Cup. This one would be crucial for the city of Philly, if for that reason alone.
Boston vs. Philadelphia - This would be a tough one--based on who I'm rooting for in each series, I want it to happen, but it could divide my very soul in two. Based on what I've said earlier, the Red Sox should be the no-brainer, and I'd agree with that. I'm a Sox fan, not a Phils fan. Why the conflict? Because not unlike the 86 years I endured (yes, I didn't come into this world until year 63, but the Sox fans here will back me up when I say you inherit it all) prior to 2004 without a Sox championship, I'm sitting on 100 consecutive seasons without a championship in ANY of the major sports in Philadelphia. So while the Phils are the only one of those teams who isn't my primary in its respective sport (actually, I think I pay little enough attention to the Flyers to have an opinion there, but when the chips are down I root for them because the jersey says Philadelphia) I still don't know if I could bring myself to root against the possibility of a championship coming to the City of Brotherly Love. Rational thought also tells me that the Sox won twice in the past 4 years anyway, not to mention a few Super Bowls in the past few years and a NBA championship this year, so it's time to let someone else play too, but that said, I don't think I could bring myself to root against my team either.

So if it comes down to it, expect me to be a namby-pamby fence-sitter, front-runner, homer, guy who wears one team's jersey and another team's hat come World Series time. If my (non-)allegiances shift, I'll keep you posted, but if the circumstance should arise, I'm likely to both be very pleased and very disappointed when it all plays out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Ball

In the NCAA's 2 big revenue sports (3 if you count women's hoops), fans get a glimpse of their team well before the season begins--many basketball programs hold Midnight Madness when practice is allowed to begin a month or so before the season, and football programs put on a spring game to get our mouths watering before school lets out for summer. With lacrosse's fall ball heating up, I got to thinking: Why not put some preview hype on it? I understand there are relatively few schools where lax is one of the major players (my alma mater is one of them) but since they're playing it anyway, no reason why you couldn't hold a skills exhibition (like some Midnight Madnesses), a scrimmage (like other Midnight Madnesses and spring football games) or even an honest-to-goodness game against another team, hype it up as you would the others, and get the fans drooling over lacrosse well before the season starts.

Surf's Up

Drum Corps International's Jersey Surf got called up to the big leagues--it was announced not long ago that Surf, a perennial power in Division II/Open Class, will be making the change this coming summer to World Class competition. I've gotten to see them relatively little since becoming a drum corps fan, but I've been entertained when I have seen them. Plus, a friend of mine used to march Surf back in the day, and they add another mid-Atlantic corps to the mix. Welcome to the big time!

Quotable Quotes-Cowboys Style

A conversation in which I was involved yesterday:

Calvin: I mean really. Who fights in bathrooms?
Curtis: Prisoners.

This took place shortly after hearing the news that Adam "Don't call me Pac Man" Jones got into an altercation with a team-assigned bodyguard yesterday prior to a meeting with league commissioner Roger Goodell. Knowing he's already on thin ice, this doesn't bode well for the Cowboys defensive back. But wait. I'm an outsider here, and admittedly, one with an anti-Cowboys bias. Let's see what someone closer tot he situation can discern?

It's not that big a deal. -Tank Johnson

So there you have i--wait, what? You asked Tank? Asking Tank about a player in trouble is like asking Marion Barry about drugs and their influence on the inner-city. At this point the Dallas Cowboys, who historically love their troublemakers, have said that they won't levy any consequences on Jones. The league itself has yet to chime in. I say send him home--I hear there's a talented young corner from South Florida who could use some more playing time.


(Writer's note: I've taken a physical/mental health day from work today after a marathon stretch, so you're going to get a few blogs from me rapid-fire.)

So the Yardbarker sidebar has informed me that Sarah Palin will drop the puck at the Philadelphia Flyers home opener. Let's hope that the Flyers faithful give her the proper welcome as only sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love know how.

I honestly don't understand this move. It's true she's a hockey mom, and likely a hockey fan, but why Philly? She's from Alaska. Wouldn't the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, or Vancouver Canucks be closer? Oh that's right, they don't vote in US elections. But having grown up in the Phillysphere, I've got several problem with this decision. One, politically I'm a Democrat, so I don't like Sarah Palin. Intellectually, I've got a brain, so I don't like Sarah Palin. As a shameless homer, I fail to see her ties to the Flyers. But guess who does have legitimate ties to the area? That's right, her vice presidential opponent, Scranton-born, Claymont-raised, Delaware senator Joe Biden. I haven't heard him say if, but if I were a betting man, I'd wager that Joe, like many northern Delawareans, pulls for the Philly sports teams. Why not have him drop the puck?

Pennsylvania is a battleground state for a reason, and as such, I honestly don't know, politically, which way the hockey fans in Philly lean. But let's hope it's the right--or rather left--way, and she gets a Santa Claus-like greeting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

TV Wars

My local cable operator just added the Big Ten Network. This now means that I've got (either normally or through the added sports package): ESPN regular, 2, News, Classic, and U; Fox Sports Network; Fox Soccer Channel; Fox College Sports Atlantic, Central, and Pacific; NBATV; NHLTV; Speed; Tennis; Versus; A channel all about the Braves; Big Ten Network, and it's entirely possible I'm forgetting some.

My immediate thought was if I could just get MASN, I'd be set. Apparently MASN heard. Having signed an online petition (and thus gotten myself onto a mailing list) some time back, I got an e-mail the other day with the subject, "Minnesota Golden Gophers?" Having learned that Time Warner had added BTN, they were compelled to cry, "What about me? What about Ravens?" (oh, the pun! I hurts so good!)

MASN and Time Warner have been in a blood feud here in North Carolina since MASN's inception a few years ago. My understanding of the story is this: MASN wants for TWC to carry it as a basic cable channel. TWC has refused--I'm not sure if they've offered it as a premium channel as well. The two are at an impasse, which means we get no MASN.

Truth be told, it largely makes sense--they are the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and we are in the South. The one reason that makes MASN make sense here is the Baltimore Orioles. Believe it or not, most of the state of North Carolina is designatd by MLB as Orioles (and now Nationals) territory. It certainly makes sense--from here in Greensboro, in central NC, we are only slightly closer to Atlanta than Baltimore, and now with the Nats in the mix, we are roughly equidistant from the two closest baseball teams. If you're farther east and closer to I-95, that balance tips in Washington's favor. Us not having MASN now puts us in a bind: By this MLB policy, games get blacked out if they're on "local TV"; O's games that should be and once were televised in NC are now only on MASN which means we get to see them nowhere. This is an issue not only for O's fans but for fans of other teams who may be playing the O's (my team and O's divisionmate Boston Red Sox come to mind). As for me, I'd welcome a new sports channel in general, but MASN is particularly appealing to me as a native mid-Atlanticker for mroe "local" (at one time) coverage, especially my alma mater UMBC.

But MASN's latest ad campaign is intentionally misleading: First they leverage the inclusion of the Big Ten Network as reasoning why TWC hates MASN. However, BTN was added as part of Time Warner's premium sports package, while MASN insists it be included on a basic cable package. Secondly, the "shock and awe" campaign the waged by stating "Minnesota Golden Gophers?" was intentional both becuase Minnesota is the farthest Big Ten school from NC, and because, c'mon, a name like "golden gophers" is easy to make fun of. But in reality, I know for a fact there are a ludicrous amount of folks from Big Ten country--Ohio specifically--residing here in North Carolina. And considering that a Big Ten member school--Penn State--is actually (arguably) in the mid-Atlantic, is that really who they should be poopooing?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's actually pretty ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome.

My local cable operator just added the Big Ten Metwork. This now means that I've got (either normally or through the added sports package): ESPN regular, 2, News, Classic, and U; Fox Sports Network; Fox Soccer Channel; Fox College Sports Atlantic, Central, and Pacific; NBATV; NHLTV; Speed; Tennis; Versus; A channel all about the Braves; Big Ten Network, and it's entirely possible I'm forgetting some.

If I could just get some MASN in this piece I'd be in real good shape.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Logo Fail

So it's no secret at this point to most who follow sports that the Team Formerly Known As The Seattle Supersonics is now the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not only did it leak weeks before it was announced, but it's been public for some time now as well. Not too long ago, I went the the website of the team, thinking I could check out if they had picked their colors or logo or uniforms or anything of the sort yet. I see this: I think, ok, the NBA assigned a temporary logo until they get one made. Cool. I read on:

"The team's primary color will be the same sky-blue shade that appears on the state flag... The red-orange trim is meant to reflect the Oklahoma sunset; yellow represents the sun."

Wait. 'dahell? Are you telling me this thing is on purpose?! I could make that logo with word art and clip art of a basketball. I can understand and respect the fact that "thunder" is not something you can draw, but seriously? You couldn't come up with something better than that? I mean, in a thunderstorm, the sky darkens. You don't see blue skies, yellow sun, or a red-orange (which, I'll admit, was cleverly picked so as not to be distinctly Sooner red or Cowboy orange) sunset. Give us something dark and ominous. Draw some lightning (I know it's not thunder, but I hear they're BFF). Something that's not a basketball in a shield with some word art going on.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Conference Pride

Conference pride makes for strange bedfellows. Particularly in College Football, where the perception of one's conference can have a direct effect on the altitude to which one's team can rise, the occasion often presents itself where you can find yourself rooting for a conference foe. As a fan of a team from the Big East--typically regarded near or at the bottom of the BCS auto-qualifying conferences--I root for other conference teams in nearly all OOC contests for the sake of the conference and, by extension, USF itself. At the opposite end of the spectrum, fans of SEC teams have taken to chanting "SEC!" as their team asserts its dominance in OOC matchups.

In the pros, I rather enjoy being a fan of an NFC East team and in the shootout between the Eagles and Cowboys this past Monday night, i took pride in being associated with our division, even providing a glimmer of solace in the fact that the Eagles lost. The difference? Rarely will you catch me rooting for division foes in the NFL. For all I'm concerned, those other jokers can lose all the rest of their games.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Off-season in the on-season

Interesting epiphany I just had: Of all the sports/activities I follow (for those keeping score at home, my calendar goes football season, basketball season, lacrosse season, DCI seaosn) basketball is the one I'm least likely to follow outside of the season. I keep an eye on lacrosse (mostly college lacrosse) news in its off-season, I keep an eye on football (mostly college football) news in its off-season, and of course I'm a full-time band dork, but despite having more teams in the sport than any other (I follow or partially follow USF, UMBC, UNCG, and Maryland), living in ACC country, having a Big East alma mater, and another alma mater who was a conference champion this past year, I'm hard-pressed to put thought to it outside of the season.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Spirit, Rivalry, and Mass Bands

At some point late this workweek, I was hit by a surge of spirit for both of my alma maters. I remember it starting with the announcement of talented newcomers to the UMBC Retrievers lacrosse program for the 2009 season, including an honorable mention All-American transfer from Ohio State. And at my other alma mater, the University of South Florida, it's a big game week as we prepare to take on the UCF Knights in Orlando in the final game of a 4-game series.

So the eternal question: Is USF-UCF a rivalry? This answer varies depending on who you ask, and even with me, it honestly depends on when you ask me. i think my stock answer now is that it is (and after tonight, "was" for the foreseeable future) a rivalry, but by no means an arch rivalry. I'll admit that they get my blood boiling like no one else out of conference, and losing is clearly not an option. However, it's still an unbalanced game in that the Big East's USF, who has won the last 3 games, dominating in the last 64-12 really has little to gain and everything to lose by playing Conference USA's UCF. Still, it's a game full of emotion for the two schools of similar size and stature located just 90 miles apart.

A corollary of this contest is that for the past couple of years, USF's Herd Of Thunder and UCF's Marching Knights have done some sort of a combined performance. Many of the staff of the two bands have either worked at the other or have close friends working with the other school, and certainly many of the students in the two programs know one another. It's a great gesture of friendship at face value, but as both a USF fan and a band dork myself, i'd prefer it not happen. My reasoning is this: All friendships and relationships aside, for the time of that football game and the time immediately surrounding, USF and UCF--and by extension the HOT and MK--are enemies. True enough, an enemy band isn't the same as an enemy football team, and while I may vehemently boo the team across the sidelines, I'll at least clap politely for the band in the same position. but to me, a mass band is appropriate only for an exhibition or a special occasion (See: Auburn's Tiger Marching Band and Alabama's Million Dollar Band shortly after 9/11). Beyond that? It's just a little too lovey-dovey for my taste.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Go Bulls!

I've got two alma maters--UMBC and USF. While checking out the athletic site for UMBC, I saw something that had me do a double take--it spoke of how "...Bulls shine in Men's Soccer's 4-2 opening victory" Turns out we've got a freshman on the soccer team named Andrew Bulls. So no matter which team I'm following, Go Bulls!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Showdown in B-Town

I came to the following epiphany not long ago: The difference between serious bloggers and hobby guys like me is that the serious guys will capture an event while it's still current, while the rest of us will miss the opportunity to catch the real news of it. That said, a week later, here's my final post on the DCI World Championships.

The journey began for Megan and I on Tuesday night, when we began our drive from Greensboro, NC to Bloomington. Our trip included a stop at Cumberland Gap National Park (we're national park fans and Passport Stamp collectors) on the way there, as well as a stop in Lexington, KY to catch up with some friends on the way back. We traveled through Louisville, KY, which seemed to be a neat city (despite being the natural habitat of toothed birds) and through southern Indiana, which we discovered was a real hole, en route to our final destination. We packed a grill and a cooler with the intent of tailgating at the venue; we would soon come to realize, both with the insane stadium prices and the sizable gap between the open class corps and world class corps on the days where they shared the field, that this decision was not only fundamentally sound, but financially sound as well. On Thursday we poked around IU's campus for a bit (I work in higher ed and can't help myself) before the show began, and late at night, when we finally made it back to Indianapolis, where we were staying, we checked out the surrounding downtown as well.

On with the show! My earlier notes dump said probably about all I will say about the corps who missed Finals night. And to the open class fans out there--I'm sorry. While we had the FANtastic 5 ticket package and the ability to attend open class semis and finals, a planned sleepin after travel on Friday and an alarm clock malfunction on Saturday meant that we missed all but the top of the order each day. Congratulations to the Vanguard Cadets, part of one of my favorite organizations, the 2008 Open Class Champions. And to Jersey Surf--much love to the mid-Atlantic. Be seeing you real soon in world class.

There were a few exhibition we saw over the weekend that were stellar in their own right. The Cavaliers Anniversary Corps performed on Friday night after semifinal competition concluded to commemorate the organization's 60th anniversary. They had Cavies alumni from each decade of their existence and truly paid tribute to their longstanding organization. Also in exhibition, on finals night, was The Commandant's Own Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. I had seen them before (they did NightBEAT last year) but I was no less impressed.

Finals night competition began with the Madison Scouts. As I mentioned before, I'm not in love with their new uniforms, but that's neither here nor there. Their show, La Noche de la Iguana, was Latin based, and musically, they cooked it pretty well. I was half expecting a welcome intrusion of the hits from MalagueƱa (from the corps that brought you A Drum Corps Fan's Dream/Part Dos). The men of Madison certainly had their swagger, but they weren't nearly as clean as they needed to be.

The Glassmen's Kar-ne-vel (no points for spelling) was one of many storytelling shows this year - this one was a young girl at the carnival. It was pretty well done, largely guard and prop driven (cabinets-on-wheels were part of the scenery/props). This was the first show I saw four times, as I has seen them at NightBEAT as well. I'm still not much of a fan of the hundreds of balloons they must have released into the atmosphere over their entire tour this summer.

We made acquaintance of a few of the folks sitting around us. To our right were two women who we saw each day (also Fan5 ticketholders, it seems). On finals night, we had a gentleman sitting behind us who was a 1948 Cadets alum. We struck up many a conversation over the evening, and his prevailing themes were how things have changed and "my kingdom for a melody!" I told him to hold on tight when Crown came around if it was melody he sought. I didn't have the heart to ask him outright what he thought of the current direction of his former corps, but he did give praise where praise was due: "Garfield's always done a mean company front."

The Boston Crusaders had the unenviable position of having their Neocosmos program, largely a space theme, juxtaposed--usually quite closely--with Crossmen's Planet X all season. BAC pulled away in the end, landing a 10th billing on finals night while the XMen sat just outside the top 12. The Crusaders also took the "Neo" portion of Neocosmos to heart, borrowing from The Matrix. And the way they presented and remixed Also Sprach Zarathustra was pretty facemelting. Speaking of which, I enjoy how some corps--and I don't know if it's their doing, Brandt Crocker's, or a combination thereof, have started their performances early just so they can salute as the corps plays and hit the first big hit right after the corps announcement.

I wasn't impressed at all by the Blue Knights' finals performance, if I may be frank. Megan and I were both convinced that Knight Reign was going to fall after that performance, possibly to the 12th place spot. Again with melody (because while it wasn't the only thing on my radar, I agree with the man about what I appreciate) however, BK really did crank Amazing Grace.

We bought the souvenir yearbook program while there. Megan raiseda n interesting point:Each of the photos of thecorps in it come from last season. By the end of the season, couldn't they have photographed earlier shows in the season for inclusion?

No doping allegations here, but Le Tour: Every Second Counts certainly propelled the Blue Stars into the top 12 with a bullet! It was based on the Tour de France and featured bicycle wheels as guard equipment, bike imagery in the drill, a mural of bikers on the let's-hide-our-guard-equipment shields, and an actual biker, complete with yellow jersey, to cap the entire performance. I also failed to notice before (I'll give them more points in my mental GE score) that they also did work all by French composers. I had earlier dismissed it as a bicycle answer to Crown's Triple Crown, but it was still well done.

Santa Clara Vanguard's show was 3hree (Mind-Body-Soul), which I mentally pronounce "Three-hree", not unlike pop group 5ive. I have to be honest, Vanguard is one of my favorite corps, but I find it quite hard to watch the entirety of their show because I can never take my eyes off of the cymbal line. Luckily watching for 3hree consecutive nights gives me the opportunity take it all in, and as always, it was extremely well executed. While I may otherwise be baffled at their placement, this year's field was so strong that I've really got no complaints.

Bluecoats put the Bloo in Bloomington and overtook SCV on the final night of competition, and again, I can't be mad because the Coats' show, The Knockout, was one of the night's big crowd--and Curtis--pleasers. The boxing themed show borrowed heavily from Rocky, and I was most intrigued by their brass rendition of Going the Distance, which hip hop heads will recognize as the piece sampled for Notorious B.I.G. et al.'s Victory, as well as the bare-naked brass soli that launched into the singing of Simon and Garfunkel's "...but the boxer still remains" lyric from The Boxer.

The Cadets--what is it Jay-Z said on one of the tracks of he and Linkin Park's Collision Course? "You're wasting your talent, Randy!" The Cadets are an extremely talented group of performers, and for that matter their skipper George Hopkins is extremely talented in putting a show together. It's just that these shows, in my humble opinion, are not something I'd like to see performed on a football field. The premise of ...And the Pursuit of Happiness was a PBS radio interview on WCDT, and in my opinion it would have been perfect for such. But this show seemed even more contrived than last year's This I Believe, which at least had a clear logical drum corps tie-in and told a more complete story. Still, I can't fault the corps, who marched and played their asses off. Here's hoping that the return to Holy Name next year brings something I can appreciate more.

In related news, I noticed that The Cadets' logo is kind of a marching version of the Heisman trophy. Check 'em both out. You'll see what I mean.

And thus completes the also-rans. This isn't meant as a slight to any of the other corps, but from the moment in Orlando when Crown first surpassed Cadets, it became clear that the four remaining corps really had something special, and I truly believe that in the right year, any of the following corps could have challenged for the #1 spot.

Carolina Crown's Finis was an eargasm the likes of which I still can't let go. In fact, I went so far as to purchase the audio performance download of the semifinal performance for about 500% what I typically pay for mp3s just to feed the demon. The show, to me, was genius, full of recognizable pieces expertly played, particularly by Crown's brassline and incorporating endings both musically and with the drill, which paid tribute to the activity as a whole by incorporating endings used throughout history. I realized I'm biased as a Crown fan, but I loved that show, and it was clear the audience did too. Still, again, in this field, I don't begrudge its 4th place finish, which, might I add, was the highest score a 4th place corps had ever achieved.

The Cavaliers unleashed with their show Samurai which featured an on-field killing (although far from the only one) and some intricacies in drill and guard that were just badass. One of my favorite moments was a Matrixesque dodge executed by a horn avoiding the swipe of the samurai at the end of the show.

Blue Devils' Constantly Risking Absurdity was exactly that. This show suffered only two defeats all season, one at the East regional in Allentown and the other on Finals night. After having taken in each of the top shows at least three times, however, I'm convinced that if each were firing on all cylinders each night, there's no way they would not have constantly beaten up on one another. BD's concept was based upon a poem and was quite well done, as one would expect from the Devs.

And last but far from least, Phantom Regiment's Spartacus--wow. This one I can actually summarize because it truly told a story. The action begins from the moment the first corps member takes the field. There is a clear delineation between the Empire, portrayed by the instrumentalists and drum majors, and the slaves, portrayed by the guard. The coming of the emperor (head drum major) is announced by herald trumpets, and slaves push him out on the drum major podium. He is followed by his army (hornline) goosestepping onto the field. Lines are clearly drawn as we see the mistreatment of the slaves. The emperor heartily grips one of his generals (assistant drum majors) and turns to greet the other, only to be snubbed.

Mind you, this all has taken place before the first note is ever played.

A gladiator battle ensues in which the slave Spartacus is forced to kill another. During the ballad, Spartacus dances sweetly with his love, Phrygia (insert modal joke here). A general, angered by this expression, marches from the back of the field and slits the throat of Spartacus' love before tossing her violently to the turf. A slave uprising ensues, with the guard forming a phalanx with their shields and spears. There is more bloodshed and eventually Spartacus is defeated by the hornline. Martyred, a shrine is erected midfield in his honor, honored even by the anguished assistant drum major (remember the snub earlier?) He announces, "I AM SPARTACUS!", a theme repeated by segments of the guard several times before the assistant drum major grabs a spear, leaps over guard equipment, and after a tutti "I AM SPARTACUS!" violently spears the emperor on the podium, climbs to the top, triumphantly rips the baton from the back of his jacket, and conducts the final measures of the show, the vanquished emperor at his feet. And merely telling the story says nothing to the excellence in music,drill and design. Because of how close everything was, I was watching the top 3 corps very closely and with bated breath. Their finals night performance was essentially flawless. It was a clear, overwhelming crowd favorite, and as we learned to an uproarious reaction when BD were announced as the second place corps, the judges agreed.

There was no way I could have asked for more in competition. The three days of quarters, semis, and finals yielded 2 different winners and 3 different second-place corps. The world champion Phantom Regiment entered Bloomington in 4th, and rose each night to 3rd, 2nd, and eventually champion. They bested BD by a mere 25 thousandths of a point.

I went all in and purchased the tickets for championships weekend with the belief it would be in Lucas Oil Stadium. Regardless of what the lure was though, I'm extremely glad I made it this year. Early on, Megan and I had discussed trying to make a regional each year, with the understanding that obviously we won't make it to championships each year. After finals night, however, even she, who mind you is only a band dork by association but is now a true corps fan, was asking "can we come back next year?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Notes Dump: DCI Quarterfinals

Part 2 of my who-knows-how-many-part recap of DCI Championship weekend. Out of responsibility to the blogosphere (and most of all, myself) I took the opportunity during DCI quarterfinals to take some notes with the intent of sharing. This was also when I allowed myself to take pictures, with the expectation that I'd get that out of my system so that I may give all the remaining corps my undivided attention during semis and finals. At this point I'll attempt to put into longerhand the notes I jotted down. If I don't have notes on a particular corps, that's the only thing it means--no disrespect is intended or implied.

The Academy, from Arizona, was one of only a handful of World Class corps I had not seen live before. While they didn't make it out of the first day, I was impressed with their sound output.

Pacific Crest was another corps I hadn't seen live before. Their 2008 program, Primality:The Rituals of Passion, featured a guard member as a drummer. Or was that a drummer as a guardie?

The Troopers were clearly the people's champ of the 1st set. People were to their feet at the mere sighting of America's Corps. Their showwas strong with a lot of the marching basics--gate and pinwheel turns reigned supreme.

I'm not 100% in love with Madison Scouts' new uniforms. That takes nothing away from their play, however. I noted them as the first hornline to truly scorch when facing away from the audience.

I got to see the Glassmen for the second time at quarters, the first having been in Charlotte at NightBEAT. Solid show, but they continued to anger the environmentalist in me by letting balloons go.

The Blue Stars' cycling themed "Le Tour" was another crowd pleaser. I enjoyed the show, but call me cynical, it read to me much as a bike version of Triple Crown, Carolina Crown's program from last year.

The Bluecoats' hornline really impressed me with a horn riff during which they left themselves completely naked and exposed and came out clean. This was immediately followed by... singing?

Ah, The Cadets... Narration be damned, their saving grace has always been that when it comes down to it, they really are that damn good at what they do. But this year, were they, even at their finest, demonstrably better than some of the other corps?

My notes for Phantom Regiment, the eventual champion who put on a "Spartacus" show, simply read "Bad ass!" There was much hype leading up to the show because I had been hearing about their program, and trust me when I say it lived up to every bit of it. I'll gush about it in full in the next post.

I was also seeing Carolina Crown for the second time in Bloomington. It seems to me their staging was constantly designed to say, "Look how many contras we have!" It's 16, for the record.

Some "clever" group of younglings shouted out "Go Shaniqua!" prior to the Cavaliers' performance. The Cavs are an all-male corps, which would make this mildly amusing, if not overdone.

A margin of my little notepad also has a list entitled "Plate Club". Several corps were marching cymbals this year, including The Colts, Spirit, The Academy, Pioneer, Pacific Crest, Madison Scouts, Crossmen, and of course, Santa Clara Vanguard.

Up next, I'll really break it down for y'all.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Drum Corps International: A Primer

I made the trip this past weekend to Bloomington, Indiana for the Drum Corps International World Championships. This will be the first of several posts attempting to put that amazing experience into words, and I thought a good place to begin would be describing exactly what DCI is for the few of you who read this and even fewer who may not be familiar beyond "that thing Curtis won't shut up about each summer". A shirt seen this past weekend read "For those who know, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't, no explanation will suffice." But i'm going to can the arrogance and try to explain as best I can what this whole thing is about. Since my blog is simulcast over at the Yard Barker Network, I'll be including sports analogies so as to hopefully be speaking some folks' language.

For starters, DCI, which has dubbed itself "Marching Music's Major League," is the governing body (as with NFL or MLB) for junior drum and bugle corps throughout North America.
The term junior corps may be misleading and suggest to some that these groups are inferior to a "senior corps" circuit; rather, it simply denotes that DCI is a youth activity, with all participants being 22 years of age or younger. In the top corps, most participants are college students, many of whom also march with their college's marching band. DCI has taken to using the term "musician-athletes" to refer to its participants, and while I would not classify DCI as a sport, I think this designation is absolutely spot-on due to the peak physical performance they demonstrate each and every day of the Summer Music Games, the annual tour that criss-crosses the country each summer where these corps are showcased.

Each corps contains up to 150 musician-athletes, and while at first glance a corps may look like marching bands with which you are familiar, there are key differences. First of all, drum corps are all brass and percussion, meaning you won't find flutes, clarinets, saxophones, or other woodwinds on the field. Instead, instrumentation includes trumpets, mellophones, baritones, euphoniums, and tubas, all bell front models; a drumline consisting of basses, snares, tenors, and sometimes cymbals; a front ensemble (or "pit") which includes concert percussion such as chimes, marimbas, xylophones, tympani, rack toms, and often additional bells and whistles (sometimes quite literally!). In addition to these musicians, each corps also features a colorguard, a group of performers who also paint the entire color of the corps and their performance through use of equipment--flags, sabres, and rifles are standard, but so many other implements are used--as well as dance and theatrics. For each summer's tour, a corps puts together a 12-minute show which they will spend countless hours fine-tuning and perfecting as they tour the country on buses and sleeping on gym floors, performing nearly every day during the season in every corner of the US, a tour which culminates in the World Championships, which I just attended this weekend.

Competition in DCI, while unique, can be related to several sports. Steve Young (yes, that Steve Young) described drum corps as the ultimate team activity at the 2007 finals, and with 150 participants, plus a sizable support staff, that's certainly an accurate depiction. In addition to that, DCI competition bears resemblance to olympic gymnastics, golf, and NASCAR. As with NASCAR, each competition features a lineup of several competitors, with DCI's large regional events featuring all corps. While the main focus of NASCAR is the driver and his car, a team is necessary for success, relying on specialization and excellence in a particular area. DCI's two major levels, World Class and Open Class, can be compared to the differentiation between the Sprint Cup series and the Busch series. And whether it's pit row or the lot, fan accessibility in both activities is paramount. The golf comparison is that while many events are hosted by the Association itself, there are also those hosted by the individual players/corps. And as in gymnastics, scoring is determined by a panel of judges, who assign a numerical score to various aspects of competition.

So there you have it--my DCI primer. Next step I'll be breaking down this year's Championship weekend. Till then (and the fans will get this one): I AM SPARTACUS!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Playing Commish

At the youth, collegiate, and professional levels, it's clear that the sport of lacrosse has expanded beyond its normal comfort zone in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States. Lacrosse is booming at the youth and high school levels nationwide. Major League Lacrosse formalized the Western Conference in 2006. Three GWLL teams made the NCAA tournament this past year. Jacksonville U. is adding a D-I team in the coming years. With all these stars aligning, I did some playing commissioner with a mythical expansion of MLL. Actually, I put this together almost a year ago, before such occurrences as the Philadelphia [sic] Barrage's home-away-from-home season revealed a) potential expansion target cities and b) the harsh reality that they are likely goners from the City of Brotherly Love. I'll address that in the post. But for now. My quite-generous expansion (to 16 teams) and explanations behind the teams I've added.

Northern Conference
• Boston Cannons
• Chicago Machine
• Long Island Lizards
• Rochester Rattlers

Southern Conference
• Carolina Crosshairs*
• Dallas Barons*
• Virginia Militia*
• Washington Bayhawks

Eastern Conference
• Cincinnati Copperheads*
• Delaware Riders*
• New Jersey Pride
• Philadelphia Barrage

Western Conference
• Denver Outlaws
• Los Angeles Riptide
• San Francisco Dragons
• St. Louis Archers*

So my expansion teams:

-Carolina Crosshairs:
Why Carolina: OK, so a little is because I'm a shameless homer, but it's a spot that MLL has identified, playing a game this year in Cary. The collegiate success of UNC and Duke only adds to the appeal in the area.
Why the Crosshairs: Carolina's got a rich military history, ranging from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg. Plus the US Marines are a sponsor of MLL.

-Dallas Barons:
Why Dallas: Another location identified by MLL, who played a gamein Texas Stadium this year.
Why the Barons:The obvious tie-in is oil barons, but it works from a nobility standpoint as well.

-Virginia Militia:
Why Virginia: Specifically Richmond, where my mythical team resides. It's far enough from the Bayhawks in Washington, a growing lacrosse-rich zone, and not far removed from UVA. That said, MLL's match in VA Beach makes the Hampton Roads area an option as well.
Why the Militia: A similar military tradition, specifically with militia organization.

-Cincinnati Copperheads:
Why Cincinnati: Lacrosse is growing in Ohio in general, and a franchise in Cincy could capitalize not only on the home state, but also on Kentucky, which features D-I Bellarmine in the college ranks.
Why the Copperheads: Historically, copperheads were northern--including just over the Ohio River--anti-war symathizers to the confederate cause. More appropriately howerver, a copperhead is a bad-ass venomous snake indigenous to the Eastern United States.

-Delaware Riders:
Why Delaware: I told you I'm a homer! But statriotic motives aside, Delaware is a lacrosse-heavy zone in a state that doesn't currently have any major league teams of its own. Further, with the Bayhawks moving to DC, those in northeastern Maryland were left without a team to call their own--home games in UD's Delaware Stadium could serve this population as well. And with the Barrage on their way out, this team could be the mid-Atlantic's golden boy. In addition to naming the First State, Delaware could double as a reference to the Delaware Valley.
Why the Riders: Commemorating Caesar Rodney's famous ride from Dover to Philadelphia to cast the deciding vote that would lead Delaware to vote for American Independence in July of 1776.

-St. Louis Archers
Why St. Louis: It's a major midwestern metropolis, and another one of the spots identified by MLL.
Why the Archers: C'mon. St. Louis. The Arch. Admit it. You love it.

As I mentioned, Philly leaving gums up the works a bit with the teams I have slated. No matter--let's bring in the Portland Rippers, repping Rip City, for the northwestern crowd. It'll shake up the division a little, but that can be fixed. Besides. It's all in good fun.

DCI needs a TV deal

Thesis: DCI's Summer Music Games should be regularly televised, preferably on a college sports network.

Disclaimer: While I'm a band dork to the gills, I am not now, nor have I ever been or do I ever plan to be, in the camp that believes that marching band or drum corps are sports. True enough, I post marching content on a sports site but that's because I talk about both in my blog. And the fact is, several sports networks (I'm looking in your direction, worldwide leader) play non-sports content on a regular basis. That said, some facts to support my statement:

-With the addition of Fan Network, DCI and its member corps are used to providing content throughout the summer and broadcasting entire shows.
-College sports channels, by their very nature, are starved for new content throughout the summer months.
-72% of DCI corps members are full-time college students (so says DCI)

Seem like a natural pairing to anyone else? Because it sure does to me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Cream Rises to the Top

Last weekend, in Orlando, FL, Carolina Crown accomplished something they had never done before: They defeated the 9-time World Champion Cadets in head-to-head competition, resulting in a gold medal. Later in the week, in Mississippi, they did it once more to prove it wasn't a fluke. The victory in Orlando, combined with a stellar summer record and a little luck of the draw, made them the headliners of tonight's DCI San Antonio, where they will face off against all of the activity's finest. This summer--and particularly this past week--has shown that judges are starting to catch onto what fans have seemingly known for years: Carolina Crown is legit and here to stay.

Crown has long been a fan favorite--formalized last year with the Spirit of Disney Fan Favorite award--and a favorite of mine. I remember falling in love with them and their 2005 show at DCI Orlando, and I don't remember if it was directly related to me being a shameless homer (I knew by that point that I was moving to NC) or because they are that damn good. Chances are it was a combination of both. They've been one of my favorite corps (along with Santa Clara Vanguard) ever since. The last two off-seasons have included moves that I believe are strong steps in the right direction: Already a hornline powerhouse, Crown brought in Lee Beddis as percussion caption head prior to the 2007 season to beef up the drumline. Beddis joined a team that ultimately put forth Triple Crown, the Fan Favorite, Classic Countdown, and ultimately 6th place--Crown's highest ever placement in Finals--show. This past off-season, when DCI rules expanded corps sizes from 135 to 150, Crown used the opportunity to add power to their already stellar hornline, including the much lauded and unprecedented 16 tubas. Part of the result is that this year's show "Finis", at least so far, has been kicking ass, taking names, and perhaps more importantly, pleasing fans all summer long. Because I'm a fan of DCI and Carolina Crown, I'm going to STRONGLY recommend that you check out your local live show or join the DCI Fan Network to get a full glimpse of the show, but for those that care to get their faces rocked off on the cheap, rumor has it that the show is available on a popular video sharing site whose name rhymes with Moo Boob.

This summer I intended to get my drum corps fix early and, at the urging (and they REALLY had to twist my arm) of some fellow drum corps fans and friends of mine, headed down to Columbia for FirstBEAT. Because I was traveling with band directors and other staff members, I actually got the pleasure of attending a clinic series that Crown put on prior to the event. If I didn't love them already, this certainly would have turned me. All of the clinics were led by Crown staff and moderated by their director, Kevin Smith (with whom I had the pleasure of having dinner while trying not to be Stan). The part that really got me is that the corps is focused, starting from the very top, on providing an unmatched experience for their students and for the fans of the activity. Their COO even so much as said that winning the fan favorite award meant more to them than a gold medal. And with that attitude, I see both in their future. Give 'em hell, Crown!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Just Let Your Soul Glo...

So as is absolutely no surprise to anyone who reads this, I'm a Philly sports fan. As such, I'm pleased, essentially in a reflexive manner, that the Soul are headed to Arena Bowl XXII.

Now, do I follow arena football? Not a lick. Do I even watch arena football? I may pause for a few minutes on my way to something else. But will i be riding hard with the Soul on their way to the championship? YOU'RE GOT DAMN RIGHT.

And I sense--no, I KNOW--that I'm not alone. Such is in the DNA of a Philly Sports Fan. While primary allegiances are likely to any or all of the 4 major sports, if it's stamped Philly, it becomes something into which to pour your heart and, as it were, soul. It makes just some guy into a diehard Phantoms fan. It makes Joe Average a Barrage aficionado. (both of the previous have multiple championships in their respective sports, I'm required to mention) Hell, it turned some of us into rabid supporter of Smarty Jones, before he too fell shy of the glory as we've watched so many do before and since. It doesn't matter--sheer love of the city (or in of our cases, the Delaware Valley as a whole) puts these teams near and dear to the heart.

So give 'em hell, Soul. Warm up the championship parade route for October. And February. And June. And... ah, hell, you get it. And if you don't, you never will.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Warning: Independent thought

So apparently, on the ESPN Family of Networks it's a huge deal that Pat Riley *might* not select Beasley with the #2 pick of tomorrow's NBA draft. True enough, he's a helluva ballplayer and a consensus top 2 pick. But must there be a reason or an uproar that Riles is considering not picking him? That he dare disagree with the mighty media? Last I checked, isn't that why it's a pick?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Opening Weekend

The Boys (and Girls) of Summer are back--this weekend, the 2008 edition of Drum Corps International's Summer Music Games, and by weekend's end, nearly every World Class corps will have at least one show under their belt. With this in mind, I offer an early season primer on things that excite me (and a few that don't) about this coming season.

1. World Championships - I took the plunge and went all in--I'm headed to Indiana in early August for the 2008 DCI World Championships. Championships was supposed to have been the inaugural event in the Indianapolis Colts' new home, Lucas Oil Stadium. Unfortunately, the stadium won't be done in time and they moved down the road a piece to Indiana University's Memorial Stadium. While it won't be nearly as apropos to flick off the home team by wearing a Baltimore Colts Marching Band shirt, it still promises to be a great event.

2. New Corps Limits - During the winter meetings of 2007, the DCI directors voted into existence an increase in corps limits, from 135 members to 150. Those new limits go into effect this summer, and I look forward to seeing how each corps uses their new manpower. Some will beef up their hornlines. Others will add to the colorguard. Still others will kick the battery up a notch, either bringing in more drums or bringing back cymbal lines. Either way, expect each corps to take this opportunity to accentuate the positive.

3. Information Overload - This will be the year of those of us at home being up close and personal with what's going on on tour, even if we're not at shows or don't have another direct link. Enter the DCI Fan Network, which both corps and the League will use to keep fans briefed on what's going on on the road, including rehearsals, shows, and vignettes with members and directors. For a small fee--$69 for the year--one can get access to all of the exclusive content on the network. I've got no plans to subscribe just yet, but who knows, as the summer wears on, the bug may get to me yet. Regardless, all of this content out there means more information available for fans all over.

4. Monday Morning Drum Majoring - I've got a friend and fairly new (since last summer) coworker of mine who is a Cavaliers alum and DCI fan, with whom I'll no doubt spend the summer chatting about the latest happenings in DCI. I'm also now a member of the forums over at Drum Corps Planet which gives me a new crowd to talk the latest and greatest with.

5. Tailgating - This was in the plans for my usual most local show this past year, Carolina Crown's NightBEAT. It seems a natural fit, down here in the south, where NASCAR and college football reign supreme, and I've even seen a hockey tailgate, why not fire it up for some drum corps? Especially since fans love being "in the lot" anyway. The weather didn't hold up last year to allow it, but I expect to be back this year with a vengeance.

And now, a few things I'm less thrilled about:

1. The End of an Era - Starting with the summer of 2009, electronics will become the law of the land. It's not a change that I'm thrilled with. I remain optimistic that the majority of corps will be responsible stewards of their new found powers, but I don't look forward to the shows of those who are not, nor the defense that those who may otherwise keep their heads on straight will feel they have to play to keep up with the Joneses.

2. Indy to Infinity - Drum Corps International, who calls Indianapolis home as of this past offseason, has signed a 10 year deal putting the World Championships in Indy through 2018 (with the exceptionof 2014, when it was already booked). I understand DCI's relationship with their new city and how this makes sense, but as a fan, I'd love to see it continue to rotate. That, and what if, once it's held in Indy (which now won't be until 2009) it ends up a bust? Take NCAA lacrosse, for example. There's currently dissension in the ranks because some fans felt that Foxboro wasn't a positive experience and they've already committed to hold it there next year. Imagine the issues with Indy as this is a 10 year deal?

3. Lack of Major Network Coverage - 2005 through 2007 saw a broadcast of the World Championships on ESPN2. This broadcast showed highlights of each of the top shows of each year, but more importantly to me, it put DCI at the forefront, right in front of sports fans, nestled in between Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter. Sometime this past offseason, DCI announced that it wasn't a relationship that was going to continue. From a viewing standpoint, this is no sweat off my back, as I'll be there live, but I loved what the ESPN relationship because of what it did to advance the activity. As of now, I don't think there are any plans to pull down a major network deal before championships, and I don't even know if they'll go back to their long standing relationship with PBS.

Baseball be damned, now it's summertime! Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sports Roundup: The Pros

2008 First Round Draft Picks

It's been a good year for Bulls and Dawgs headed to the bigs. Mike Jenkins came out as USF's first ever first round draft pick back in the NFL draft. Unfortunately, he went to the Cowboys, but we can't all be winners all the time. The other half of our cornerback tandem, Trae Williams, went to the Jags in the draft. Ben Moffitt and Amarri Jackson signed with the Texans and Bucs, respectively, as undrafted free agents. The Retrievers made a first round showing as well, with midfielder Terry Kimener going #8 overall in the MLL draft to the Chicago Machine.

But this season could impact a fellow USF alum in another way: Travis Henry, running back for the Denver Broncos, has been released. Waiting in the wings is Andre Hall, USF class of 2006. This could be his time to shine. Add to the Drew Westervelt and Brendan Mundorf playing lacrosse for the Outlaws, and Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium may just be the place to be!

An aside: OK, so I recognize that -3 people read this and even fewer read it for marching coverage. But somewhere, the heavens are asking, "Hey! 80 Minutes of Regulation is supposed to be sports AND marching! Where's the marching content?" Well obviously it's been a little bit since marching band season. But with DCI starting in less than three weeks and, of course football/marching season immediately following, expect that to ramp up quite a bit in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When the Dust Settled

And then there were four. Four familiar faces have made their way to NCAA Div. I lacrosse Championship Weekend: Virginia, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, and Duke. The four have 21 championships and an additional 19 championship appearances between them, with the Blue Devils being the lone team remaing to have never hoisted the trophy. In fact, one of these four has won the championship each year since 2002 and at least one has competed for it each year since 1999. There is a lot of history in these four squads.

So who am I pulling for? Let's start with who i'm not. If you've been reading this blog for more than 5 seconds, you've likely inferred that I'm no Duke fan, so let's get that out of the way. In addition to the normal dislike however, this team is still not too far removed from the yeah-the-rape-was-a-lie-but-some-BS-still-went-down team of 2006. So I certainly can't wish any success on them.

The next team I'd eliminate is Hopkins. Call it hateration, call it what you will, but I've really got no ill will towards the Blue Jays. However, this year showed them to be vastly overrated, in terms of rankings and ultimately seeding, given their 5 game skid at mid-season. If they were in this very same position after having clawed their way up from an unseeded position, I'd wish them all the luck in the world, but after having been handed their seeding on a silver platter, I can't root for them.

Which leads me to Syracuse. I've got no problem seeing the Orange take it all. As a Big East (South Florida) alum who's anxious about the prospect of Big East lacrosse (which goes to vote this month), I'd love to see a victory for the yet-to-be-established conference.

And then there's UVA. As a UMBC fan, I'm inclined to root for them, because then we will have at least lost in the first round to the eventual national champion.

Regardless, this holiday weekend shapes up to be full of great lacrosse action in Foxborough and on the ESPN family of networks!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Methods to the May-hem

So on the eve of the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament, before the first face off, before any of my told-you-sos can be rendered invalid and any of my out-in-left-field thoughts can be disproven, I wanted to take a moment to weigh in on what I feel are the injustices of this year's tournament field.

First and foremost, not necessarily because it's the most egregious, but because I'm a UMBC alum and a shameless homer, the Dawgs got hosed. The polls currently have UMBC as #5 in the nation. They are currently in the midst of an 11 game winning streak, and have been 12-1 after dropping the first two to Delaware and Rutgers. They hold quality wins over College Park, Ohios State and Denver, and yet not only do they miss a seeded position, but they get what is the logical equivalent of a 15 seed by being matched up against #2 UVA. Not only is this unfair to UMBC, but it's no walk in the park for UVA either, who get "rewarded" for their #2 seeding by a matchup with a quite tough team. Perhaps one poster on Inside Lacrosse got the lack of outrage captured properly with the following statement: "No one'll say anything--it's just UMBC."

What I feel is THE most egregious injustice is the fact that Georgetown was left out in the cold. They dropped the season closer to Penn State, and as college football has oft taught us, it's just as much when you lose as it is that you lose and to whom you lose. Unfortunately, G'town's loss was the perfect storm--last game of the season, to a Penn State squad who was already planning their summer vacation. The result is the Hoyas watching the tournament on TV, but I still believe they should be in. Of course, to be fair, if I'm going to pull someone in, I've got to take someone out as well. More on that later.

Notre Dame is underrated.

Thought you'd never hear that about the Domers, huh? Well while it may never be true in football, is surely is this year in lacrosse. The pundits will tell you that the decisions made above (G'town being left out, UMBC being unseeded) were based on RPI. How then, do you justify a 2-loss, #4 RPI Fighting Irish squad as a six seed? I'd love someone to break that one down for me.

Johns Hopkins is overrated. The sins did no occur in the seeding of this tournament, but rather throughout the season that led up to it. Based on where Hopkins is in the rankings, their 5 seed is entirely warranted. The problem? They probably realistically shouldn't be where they are. The disconnect came at about mid-season, in the heels of a 5 game losing streak, when the Blue Jays were 3-5 and still #15 in the rankings. There's no way that should have been the case. "Ooh, but look at their strength of schedule! Look at the elite teams they played!" Perhaps, but the game doesn't stop at scheduling tough. The onus is then upon you to win them. I mean, hell, if Hopkins is that tough because of who they didn't beat, that should knock UMBC up another peg or two, right? I mean we played (but didn't beat) Hopkins!

And finally, you remember how I said earlier that for Georgetown to be in, someone else had to be out. Well, we drew straws, and Denver, it looks like you're it. Seriously, no slight to Denver, but I don't think they stack up favorably to Georgetown or the rest of the field (save some AQs, but they're in anyway). And honestly, three teams from the Great Western Lacrosse League? Psst... NCAA: your alterior motives are showing.

And now, for some constructive criticism. What would I like to see become of the tournament? First of all, I'd like a legitimately seeded tournament, not seed the first 8 and use the buddy system. In doing so, it would be necessary to get rid of the two-flight rule (which they bent this year anyway) and send teams where their seeds indicate, but honestly, I don't think the NCAA's hurting for money--a packed house in Foxborough in two weekends'll hammer that one home. An expansion of the field, may be in order. Perhaps to 20 or 24, with a portion of the field getting a bye. I wouldn't double the field to 32, which would give bids to over half of the schools playing NCAA lacrosse, but I think it needs to go up from 16: Consider this: There are currently 7 autobids from the AQs. This will become 8 in the next few years when the Big East starts fielding lacrosse. Add to this total all 4 ACC teams and Johns Hopkins, all of whom are likely to get in, and there are realistically only 3 at-large sports available. As the sport continues to grow, so must the field.

Now that I've put forth all this griping let it be known that I will be faithfully in front of my television this weekend and each of the next two until a champion is crowned. Happy May!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May Madness

It's May. The NBA and NHL are in playoff mode. Many of the country's sports fans are trying to correlate success or failure at this point to their teams' fate 5 months and 130 games down the line in America's Pastime. For me, it's the pinnacle of college lacrosse season.

As I sit and type this in Greensboro, NC, I am well aware that that's far from the norm, at least here. ESPNU just started televising lacrosse nationwide when they began a few years ago, but this is my first year actually having it at home. This time last year, I had to head to Buffalo Wild Wings to see UMBC defeat the Terps in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This season, I've been able to spend my Saturdays in front of a pretty full slate of college lacrosse, not unlike football season.

I've gotten to catch a few UMBC games on TV this season, and had to rely on internet radio or score/stat updates for a few more. In case you've missed it, the Dawgs are in the midst of an 11 game winning streak and just captured the America East championship. Tonight, on ESPNU's selection show, each team will learn its placement in the NCAA Tournament. Based on this season's performance, ranking, and a healthy dose of bias, I think that UMBC deserves to be one of the seeded teams in this year's tournament, getting a home match in the first round. I'm secretly wishing however, that in lieu of a seeded position, we get matched up with either Carolina or Duke for a Saturday night game to which I could travel.

As a native mid-Atlanticker (Delaware, plus school at UMBC) I'd love for lax to have more of a presence both here in the Southeast and nationwide. Perennially ranked teams at UNC and Duke help, as well as the expansion on the MCLA level and a NCAA Div. I team being added at Jacksonville U. Hopefully soon, my Monday morning "did you see that game?" will be met with more than blank stares.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fiedler on the Roof?

(admittedly, someone quicker and more clever than I uttered that title line first)

So Jeff Fiedler, former director of the Cavaliers (of DCI, not the NBA) is now going to be the CEO of Santa Clara Vanguard.

If there wasn't just an audible gasp, either you already heard the news of you have no clue what/who I'm talking about.

To my fellow corps fans, it needs no explanation. To those who aren't, an explanation may be impossible, but I'm going to try:

Bear Bryant, legendary Hall of Fame coach of the University of Alabama, is virtually synonymous with Crimson Tide football. While he had a few other coaching stops along the way, Bryant both played at Bama and coached there for the bulk of his notable career up until his retirement in 1982. Imagine that, following the 1982 Liberty Bowl, Bryant announced his retirement. Imagine then that, summer of 1983 (I know he had passed on at this point, but bear with me) Bryant announced that he was taking the position of athletic director of the University of Georgia.

My disclaimer here is that I am neither trying to put Fiedler on a pedestal nor knock him off of one with the Bear Bryant comparison--time will make that distinction. But there are quite a few similarities between his situation and the hypothetical example above. Jeff Fiedler spent his marching career in the Cavaliers organization, beginning in their cadet ranks. Fiedler would eventually return to serve as the corps director, putting forth a storied program that would win six world championships and finish in the top 3 five additional times during his 17 year tenure. At the end of the 2007 corps season, Fiedler announced his retirement from the Green Machine. Months later, it was announced that he would be in the central office of a corps that, while not necessarily a rival, is certainly a strong competitor.

What prompted this move? It's anyone's guess. I've seen various speculations and conspiracy theories on message boards, and admittedly thought up a few of my own. I'll leave those be, but considerably less speculative is this prediction: Fiedler + Vanguard will be a force to be reckoned with.
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