MediaStrike Banner

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!
discussion by