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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surfing in the Shallow End

DCI corps Jersey Surf is making the move this summer from Open Class to World Class. But I learned something on the Field Pass today that I didn't realize: They are still maintaining a Open-Class-esque schedule of touring only on the weekends and primarily regionally, allowing members to be home during the week. As such, they'll be at major regionals such as Murfreesboro, Atlanta, and Allentown, but they'll miss San Antonio.

What's even more interesting is the fact that despite the change in division, it's been stated that they'll maintain an essentially identical rehearsal schedule to last year's Open Class schedule. Will the same regimen that led them to excellence in in Open Class lead to success at the World Class level?

UMBC Post-Graduate Programs

It would seem the post-graduate program of choice among UMBC lacrosse players is the Denver Outlaws. In last night's MLL draft, the Outlaws drafted middie Alex Hopmann and goalie Jeremy Blevins. These two Dawgs will join attackman Brendan Mundorf and midfielder Drew Westervelt on the team. Looking at it another way, four of the six Retrievers who have been gone to the Outlaws, the exceptions being Terry Kimener in 2008 to the Chicago Machine and Peet Poillon this year to the Boston Cannons.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Zombie Nation

Zombie Nation, in recent years, has etched its place in the coffers of great sports songs. Nowadays, you're as likely to see fans whipped into a frenzy by it as We Will Rock You or Rock and Roll Pt. II. But none of these should be a substitute for the fight song, at least not on the collegiate level.

So why, then, would Syracuse not bring at least a pep band to the national championship game in one of the most important sports your school fields? I'm watching Cornell play Syracuse in the men's lacrosse national championship game. After each Cornell score, we've heard Cornell's pep band play the fight song (which sounds oddly like "Give My Regards to Broadway"). After each Syracuse score? Zombie Nation over the loudspeaker.

I've ranted about this same sort of thing before, but in this case, it's the national championship game. Several of these players will be headed to the pros after this season, where they'll get plenty of canned music. Why not let them end their college career to the sweet sounds of their own athletic bands?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why there won't be lacrosse in the SEC or Big XII

As I'm sure I've said before, I think one of the best things that could happen to the sport of lacrosse is expansion, more specifically to schools in the "Big Six"(read: BCS auto-qualifying) conferences. The Big East being in the mix by name this coming season will certainly help matters to that effect; the ACC, of course, is already there but only fields four teams. But as much as I hate to think about it, I think that the SEC and Big XII may never embrace the sport. And for my rationale, I need look no further than the world's most popular sport.

College soccer has fielded an NCAA championship for 50 years now, and several of those have been held in Big XII country. While it's not as big a sport here in the States as it is elsewhere in the world, it's still likely the fourth or fifth sport on the American sports landscape, battling with hockey and NASCAR for the spots behind football, basketball, and baseball. Youth soccer has been turning out stellar (by American standards) athletes for over a generation. It's the premier fall sport for many schools at which football is absent. And yet two of the most major conferences in the country have yet to embrace it by formally fielding teams in men's soccer. No schools in the Big XII field men's soccer teams at all, while two SEC teams--South Carolina and Kentucky--field teams which compete in Conference USA. While I draw the soccer comparison, however, I will note that lacrosse holds one advantage to advancement in these conferences that soccer does not--it doesn't take place during football season.

We know one of the big obstacles to the expansion of lacrosse is Title IX. In the case of most schools, to add men's lacrosse, they'd also have to pick up an additional women's sport, likely women's lacrosse to remain compliant. This would be a significant burden on most programs, as these would be additional expenses that likely wouldn't make revenue. Interestingly enough, if anyone could afford it, it would be the SEC and, to a lesser extent, the Big XII. But those spoils, of course, will go as much as possible back to football, the undisputed champion in the regions of the country represented by both of these conferences.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


It's one of those times of year that makes a transition in focus for me. As far as the bulk of my attention, I have four major sports seasons a year: (college) football season, (college) basketball season, (college) lacrosse season, and drum corps season. With the final four on this coming Memorial Day weekend, lacrosse is coming to a close, and unfortunately there's several weeks between that end and opening weekend for DCI. Luckily the NBA and NHL playoffs, which have each been pretty exciting up to this point, will tide me over.

The increased awareness of DCI has been due to a few things. Admittedly, one is UMBC's first round exit from the NCAA lacrosse tournament, so while I'm still following that, it's not with nearly the same fervor. The Countdown also helped whet my appetite, as has the fact that the DCI Field Pass podcast has come back for its preseason. I'm already making plans to attend a few shows and I'm toying with the idea of getting the Fan Network to keep me updated. Normally I wouldn't be too keen on paying for content, but there's just so much content and opportunity with fan network, my new laptop, paired with my big screen TV, could make for some prime viewing, and obviously, I can't catch it anywhere else except for a live show. Personally, I think DCI needs a regular TV deal, but I've talked about that already.

But I'm not ready to be done with lacrosse quite yet. Final Four's this weekend and the field looks... well, pretty much like it often has. Cornell, Duke, UVA, and Syracuse have each been in the final four at least once in that last two seasons of play, all but Cornell have advanced to the title game in that span, and UVA and Syracuse hold two of the last three and five of the last seven championships.

I realize I said not long ago I wouldn't mind too terribly if Duke won the national championship. While that may still be true, they are the team I'm rooting for the least ofthe teams remaining. While a Cornell win wouldn't change the landscape of the seven teams who have one all of the NCAA Division I national championships, they at least aren't one of the four who have won each one since 1992. Following them, I'd root for Syracuse out of Big East camaraderie. And although it'd be more of the same, I'd still rather UVA take it than Duke. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Countdown

Yesterday Megan and I made the trip up to Danville, VA for the closest theater showing the DCI Countdown, during which fans selected six shows from the past six DCI seasons to show on the big screen at select theaters across the country. We were treated to shows from six different corps; some I had seen before, some I hadn't, but all were fantastic.

This was my first time seeing The Cavaliers' 2004 show, 007. I went to DCI Orlando that year which was a 2-day event, so I missed the Cavs on the one day I attended. The Cavaliers thrilled as always with a stellar production reminiscent of Bond, James Bond.

I had seen both Blue Devils' Godfather Part Blue and Bluecoats' Criminal in excerpts the two years that ESPN2 broadcast the DCI Finals. Even in parts, Devs' Godfather became one of my favorites, and this further solidified that. The Bluecoats put on a clever show with Criminal that I was glad to see in its entirety.

My friend and coworker Joseph, a former marching member of the Cavaliers and fellow corps fan asked if I had see Santa Clara Vanguard's Attraction: The Music of Scheherezade, and I completely forgot that I had. In fact, it was the first Vanguard show I had seen live, also at DCI Orlando in 2004, and it helped cement SCV as one of my favorites.

In a crowd favorite and my personal homer pick, Carolina Crown's Triple Crown was among the selections. As many have noted, it was surprising that such a crowd favorite only placed 6th that year, but that's only amazing in a vaccuum--2007 was full of strong shows and at the time, it was Crown's highest ever finals placement.

And finally, the 2008 champion, Phantom Regiment's Spartacus. I had the pleasure of seeing this show live four times in three nights at Finals this past year. To save you the redundancy, I gushed about that show ad nauseum here. I was pleased to see that they footage started with all of the pre-show activities (and there were plenty!) instead of when the first notes are played like many shows.

A conspicuous absence in the time frame available, much to my friend Patricia's disappointment, was The Cadets. While I'm not the most please with the current narration-heavy turn they've taken, it's difficult to deny their excellence. For that matter, 2005's The Zone, while certainly true to their current brand of--for lack of a better word--weirdness, was also a crowd favorite and a judge favorite as well, taking the gold that year. For that matter, 2007's This I Believe, among the most controversial in their use of narration, was still an amazing show, and took silver. Sadly, I think Cadets' current antics make folks reluctant to vote for them, even in shows that were great. We'll see if the Holy Name Cadets--giving a nod to the past in an anniversary year--can also return to fan favor. Then again, this is also the year electronics enter the fray. Who knows what direction they'll go?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To Form a More Perfect Union

We've known for some time now that 2010 would see a Philadelphia franchise added to the Major League Soccer palette. The team is now one step closer to being tangible: Philadelphia MLS is now the Philadelphia Union. Philadelphia's newest football team has unveiled its name and logo. While my mind first went to labor unions for the blue-collar city, it actually refers to the union that would become the United States of America. Their logo is pretty sharp, in a true soccer style with nods to colonial America and its once capital, Philadelphia.

I'm excited for the team for several reasons. One is because I'm a Philly sports fan and any addition is welcome. I'm a geek for new stadiums, so this is another one I get to check out. But what's more, this "Philadelphia" team is actually located in Chester, which by my statriotic measures, makes them as much a Delaware team as a Philadelphia team. I know being in Delaware County on the Delaware River doesn't exactly count, but the new stadium is roughly equidistant from my childhood home in Wilmington and the rest of the Philly stadiums and arenas on Broad St. What's more, it's only about 15 minutes up the road from where my parents now live in Claymont. So while I'm not a huge soccer fan, I'm excited for this team, which may win the hearts not only of the City of Brotherly Love, but of the First State as well.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Those Vaunted Halls

In the past couple weeks, both college football and Drum Corps International inducted new members into their respective halls of fame. Two of my favorite podcasts, the ESPNU College Football Podcast and the DCI Field Pass, were each talking about their respective classes.

There was one parallel I realized between the two that I thought was kind of cool. Both selection committees have a mechanism through which some of the more senior members of each community can vote on players whose tenure was before most current voters' memory. For college football, it's the Veteran's Committee, while DCI has Legacy initiates. The podcast's own Beano Cook, at 77 years young, is one of the voters for football's Veteran's Committee.

I think it's amazing and a great nod to history that both committees see fit to honor these cornerstones of the respective activities. It's a shame to think that someday the day will come that the brain trust who elects these men and women will no longer be with us.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It was a nice ride...

Megan and I headed out this afternoon to watch UMBC play--and ultimately lose to--the UNC Tar Heels in the first round of the NCAA lacrosse tournament. I've spent the season hoping we'd be Foxborough-bound and simultaneously knowing that a first-round exit was entirely possible, especially against a squad like Carolina. Still, I was glad I could make it out and support the team.

We made the drive over from Greensboro with enough time to do a bit of tailgating before heading in to the game. We were pleasantly surprised be the amount of Dawgs there--we had pretty much a whole lot that was ours and it was stacked pretty nicely in black and gold. Thanks to a generous loan from my current employer, I had a UMBC flag flying high on a 20 foot flagpole. I figured since I was tailgating a Baltimore team, the shrimp generously seasoned in Old Bay would be a nice touch, and they did not disappoint. When we made the move to the stadium, it might as well have been a Retrievers home game. As the game wore on, we probably ended up with a pretty even split, but upon arrival, black and gold dominated the stands.

Make no mistake, it was a great game; my team just happened to come out on the wrong end of it. The tale of this game was unfortunately one we've heard so many times before--faceoffs were an issue for the Retrievers, and I'm led to believe, as in all of our other games this season, that a few more draws could have been the difference between an L and a W for us. Our disciplined defense also came into play: That is to say, we may be disciplined to a fault. There was no aggression and as a a result, Billy Bitter and the Carolina attack were able to pick us apart. I hate to play the "what if" game, but what if Bobby Atwell were healthy? What if we had some more prowess at the X? And as much as we all love our first midfield, we really need someone to be able to back them up. By the end of the game, it was clear they were tired, and what should have been fast breaks to the goal instead led to pulling up to conserve energy or catch a breath.

If only I had known the plans of the other UMBC faithful, we would have planned to stick around following the game--while some folks were tailgating before the game, it looked like they were breaking out the main event after the game as we were leaving. Instead, we opted to head out and go to Rita's Water Ice--since there aren't any in our immediate area, we make it a point to hit one whenever we're elsewhere that has them.

We met a couple people who were down doing the Tobacco Road two-step--catching UMBC at UNC at 2:30, and then Navy at Duke at 7:30, a game that's wrapping up as we speak with a Duke drubbing of Navy. Anyone who was pulling for Maryland teams in both contests got themselves disappointed. 

I'm going to make a comment that will shock the hell out of anyone that knows me: I would not entirely mind seeing Duke win the national championship. Yeah I said it. More specifically, I would rather see anyone win than the vaunted four (Virginia, Syracuse, Hopkins, Princeton, one of whom has won the championship for over a decade). Duke seems to be among the few teams with a chance at cracking the code, and while you'll never catch me rooting FOR Duke, I wouldn't hate to see them take it. 

So the Dawgs are done, but there's still plenty of good lacrosse to be played. 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We Are the Champions!

Not too long ago, I mentioned the Home Depot gift card giveaway the folks over at Tailgating Ideas were doing. Turns out I won! And here's the proof! They even gave the blog here a nice little plug. And he's calling me Mason because one of my internet noms de plume is Mason Dixon.

Unleash the Dawgs

This weekend, I get to head over to Chapel Hill and see UMBC take on the UNC Tar Heels in the first round NCAA lacrosse tournament. All indications are that it should be a good matchup: While UNC is the better team in the rankings, I'm convinced that when firing on all cylinders, UMBC can play with anyone. It's just a matter of which UMBC team shows up--the one that laid waste to most of the back half of their schedule, or the one that fell to Hartford. The coaching matchup could be telling as well: Zimmerman and Breschi faced off the past few years in a few ways: as UMBC took on Breschi's previous Ohio State squad on the field, and even in competition for the job Breschi now holds.

I'm hoping to break a streak with this game. So far, alma maters of mine are 0-3 in the postseason in North Carolina since I've lived here. USF lost in the Meineke Car Care Bowl to NC State back in 2005, UMBC lost in the first round of the 2008 NCAA basketball tournament to Georgetown, and USF was embarrassed by Wake Forest in the Elite Eight of the NCAA soccer tournament in 2008. Throw in 2007 when I saw UMBC lacrosse in Annapolis fall to Delaware, and my postseason record is pretty abysmal. But damned if I'm letting history keep me away from seeing my team. Expect to see me out early, flying the UMBC flag high and grilling up something with a buncha Old Bay. If I can get someone to bring me down some Natty Boh, I'll definitely get down Baltimore style in Chapel Hill.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Welcome to Chillsville

So at some point this winter, no doubt obsessed with the prospect of an impending grill season, I signed up for online updates from Johnsonville Brats. As such, I got word via e-mail of their ____ville competition, where they invite you to come up with your own ____ville, pairing a picture of yours with a picture of the product and a slogan. Various prizes are being awarded.

My first instinct was to nerd it up and do something drum corps related (which I kind of did and may still do more seriously) since I've been known to tailgate at DCI events. I went with a picture from tailgating at DCI World Championships, but a more generic message/slogan. Check it out and vote for me!

Because I had to mention it.

It's been a busy week, so I haven't updated and won't in full just yet. But it's necessary for me to mention that UMBC is headed to the NCAA tournament for the 4th year in a row, and will be playing at Carolina in the opening round. And yes, I'll be there, if you had to ask.
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