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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Public Information

The folks at Sports Illustrated saw fit to use the Freedom of Information Act to their advantage and compel coaches poll ballots from coaches at public schools. Jim Leavitt was one of the first to come forth with his, and it was met with its fair share of disdain.

First of all, it's a preseason poll, so any references to the validity or lack thereof is asinine. Everyone's undefeated right now, and unless you've got Western Kentucky as #1, there's not too far off base you can possibly be. But it brings forth an interesting dichotomy in the poll that I hadn't yet considered.

For starters, I thought for a while the ballots should be public, so as to prevent, or at least expose, any "hanky-panky", as Steve Spurrier so eloquently put it. I don't exactly agree with how it was done--I think SI's inquiry is more self-serving than it is strictly the pursuit of truth--but I think transparency is something that's needed for some accountability and, at the risk of entitlement, I feel the right to know as a fan. But one piece that I didn't consider came forth when Coach Leavitt revealed his ballot. It's not just us the public who see his ballot. He's got a locker room full of young men who want little more than to know their coach is going to bat for them each and every day. This puts a coach in a clearly unenviable position of trying to be truly objective while still having to face the men whose lives you're helping shape on Monday morning.

For better or worse, if public ballots become the norm, it's just one more thing that the coaches who vote and the young men who play will have to learn to deal with. But it certainly adds a whole new wrinkle to what I thought was an easy answer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Living Color

Colleges across the country are getting in an uproar about Budweiser's Fan Cans. A new initiative by Bud Light, you can now get cans in one of 27 color combinations--one is sure to approximate your favorite team. Colleges tend to think that selling them in stores on or near campus--which, of course, is exactly where Budweiser wants them--will promote irresponsible drinking and give the false impression that the beer is somehow affiliated with the school.

Issues with schools notwithstanding, this idea is brilliant. Consider this: It's gameday. You're gearing up to head to the stadium and tailgate for the game. You're looking to pickup some cheap beer. Are you going to grab the Miller Lite, the Coors Light, or the Bud Light? Wait... the Bud Light cans are in your team's colors! You shout Go [Team], grab a case, and you're on your way. It's simple, visceral no-brainer. You're programmed. You're in game mode. And you're snatching up your teams colors.

All Bets are Off

Sports betting in Delaware, the constant story that kept at least some eyes on the First State for the better part of the year, has been given all but the coup de grace by an appeals court. What killed it? From where I sit, haters.

First, the wrong end of the Delaware Memorial Bridge started whining. "It's not fair!" quoth New Jersey, because Delaware stood to take a portion of their precious gambling dollars. Are you serious? You have full service casinos. We'd have slots, horses, and with the addition, sports.

Then all the sports leagues weighed in. How dare someone else plot to make money off of THEIR enterprise?! Never mind that we're talking about a state that houses only two Division I (and IAA at that) universities and no professional franchises. The NCAA stated that if sports betting went through, they would ban Delaware from hosting any post-season events. Damn, there goes my dream of the Final Four in Wilmington.

But what really gets me is the "integrity of the game" arguments. To quote a recent article from "The leagues argue that single-game betting could lead fans to question the integrity of the games. A missed field goal could cause a fan to think the game was fixed for someone with money riding on it." Are you serious? Each league is certainly not without its perception problems, but this seems one of the most asinine of the bunch. Consider this: If a game truly were fixed, it would be because some illegal activity took place to make it so. People have money riding on games already, legally in Vegas and likely other countries, and--the part that likely makes up the bulk of the industry--illegally all over the place. Are you telling me the addition of LEGAL betting is going to have a tangible effect on attempts to fix games? Do you think there are criminals sitting out there, right now, thinking, "Man. I've got a great 'in' to shave some points. Won't do me any good though--gambling's not legal." If that's your rationale, I've got a national park in Delaware to sell you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In Between Time

Preseason NFL notwithstanding, we're currently in one of the two breaks in my sports/activity calendar. As I'm sure I've mentioned, my four seasons are football, basketball, lacrosse, and drum corps. On either side of drum corps season are where the two breaks lie, and we currently sit in the most painful of all--the break before football season begins.

Oh sure, I speak of preseason NFL as though we've got a relationship, but it really just happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Let's talk DCI. Megan and I ended up heading to Big Loud & Live to see quarterfinals in theaters while were up in Delaware. I'm an extremely proud Crown fan because the home team pulled down a silver medal, as well as a brass trophy. Highest score and placement for the corps, and they were the first new medal winner in 20 years! Change is coming, and it's wearing a cream uniform.

And I'd be absolutely remiss if I didn't mention the Blue Devils' feat. After both the A and B corps rode high in 2008 to lose in finals, they both went undefeated this entire season and brought home championships. Congratulations to the only Blue Devils I don't mind rooting for.

Troopers' return to Finals also made for a momentous occasion this year. I don't know what it is about America's Corps, but they've got that je ne sais quoi that had me pulling for them despite not being a drum corps fan for long enough to have a nostalgic attachment.

One final note on electronics. Yes, I spent over a year bitching about them. But after having seen them for the first season of their use, I can say: They're not entirely abhorrent. I still believe that they fall into the category of things that I wouldn't miss if they were to go away tomorrow, and I long for the day that a corps goes "retro" and does an "unplugged" show. But they're here to stay and judging from the first season, in most cases I can live with them.

On to football! Preseason football is a strange beast to me. On the one hand, I recognize that any football is good football, and after a long drought, I always think that I'll find interest in the preseason because it's all that's there. But every year rolls around and I find I still couldn't care less. The Eagles have played twice already and I haven't watched either game, though that could bode well for my sanity, if I were foolish enough to extrapolate chances of success during the season from their preseason performance.

Speaking of which, I'm involved in a wager with two of my co-workers and fellow football fans--a Panthers fan and a Cowboys fan. I won't go into details (it's a little bit Fight Club) but let's just say the stakes are high, could conceivably land me in a compromising position, and I hope that both teams lose every single game. I know they play each other, but they've got plenty of time to figure out how they can both lose (insert joke about teams who tie here). And I will actually be in the house when the Eagles play the Panthers down in Charlotte--got my tickets a few weeks ago via StubHub.

I'm quite excited for the coming college football season, even though it looks like a regular season Bulls game isn't in the cards for me. I'm going to take this opportunity to make an extremely bold prediction: USF will win the Big East and play in a BCS bowl. Where do I come to this conclusion, you may ask? Is it because it's Grothe and Selvie's senior season? Do I think Leavitt's got the boys prepared amazingly this year? Do I think the Big East is down as a whole? Actually, the justification for this conclusion comes down to this: Murphy's Law. See, I'm getting married in June of 2010, and as such, every penny of my disposable income is going to the wedding fund. Making it to the game would be a serious hardship on me, moreso than it would be in other years. And that's precisely why I think it's going to happen. Still, I'd gladly take a conference championship even if I can't go, and I'd more than likely try my damndest to make my way down there.

Finally, Major League Lacrosse. It's not televised enough for me to follow it seriously, but several UMBC alums--most notably Mundorf and Westervelt--have been kicking ass and taking names. I'm at work today for Welcome Week here at UNCG, but I'm about to turn on the MLL semifinals featuring them both with the Denver Outlaws in just a minute.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Vick Pick

My beloved Philadelphia Eagles have signed Public Enemy #1, Michael Vick. I'll admit that until I heard tell of this, I don't think I had really examined my feelings towards Vick, what he did, or what I thought about the concept of him being reinstated. I had remained relatively uninvolved primarily because I was pretty certain that it wouldn't have any direct bearing on my team. Hell, I even joked with my friend the Cowboys fan that with his felony, he was a prime candidate for Dallas.

Now Vick's headed to Philly and I realize I had a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude towards Michael Vick. My overarching soft thoughts (Because again, I didn't think about it too particularly hard) were that his dog fighting was despicable, but now that he's done his time, he should be able to be employed by whatever suckers would hire him. How was I to know we'd be those suckers?

Beyond that, what exactly do we have in mind for him? I'm interested to know how McNabb feels about the continuous disrespect, if the plan is for him to be a QB. After all, we've drafted a QB and now signed another with McNabb at the helm--what kind of a vote of confidence is that?

Perhaps it's a good fit. The hard-nosed fans in Philly probably don't have too big a soft spot for dogs. Or if they do, the boos he draws from his recent actions will be indistinguishable from the ones they sling anyway.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Down the Stretch: Championship Eve

With all due respect to the Open Class competitors, who began their championship series today, tonight is the eve of DCI's championship series in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. This time last year, Megan and I were in Bloomington taking it all in; this year, we'll be keeping tabs from home, or more accurately, from the road, as we're in Maryland and Delaware visiting family this week.

I went on a mini-drum corps bender about a week and a half ago and got to see some great shows. While two friends of mine got the jump on me by traveling down to Atlanta for the Southeastern Championship, I joined the fray in Rock Hill, SC, the new home of Carolina Crown's NightBEAT. We had a sizable crowd for the pre-show tailgate (or TailGATE, as I cleverly called it, mimicking the style of CrownEVENTS)--eight of us, including me, Megan, the aforementioned two friends, and another colleague of mine's family of four met beforehand and set up the grill, canopy, and drinks for some lot action. Once inside the show, we found that Rock Hill District 3 Stadium is a good deal smaller than American Legion Memorial Stadium, the show's previous Charlotte home. It meant a sellout, which was good news for the corps, and it gave Crown a chance to give back to their York County, SC home, but I really loved that show in Charlotte. Stadium construction kept it away this year, but the way folks were talking gave me the impression that they are looking to make Rock Hill a little more permanent. I'll support it either way, but I will note that this means there's no longer a competition within the friendly confines of the Old North State.

After heading about two hours down the road for NightBEAT, I headed about 2 hours up the road for the Summer Music Games of Southwest VA in Salem. Despite thinking about it for several years, I had never made it to this show, nestled in the mountains of SW VA near Roanoke. It gave me a chance to catch a few corps I hadn't seen at either FirstBEAT or NightBEAT as well, namely Spirit, the Madison Scouts, and the Cavaliers.

Salem also brought forth a new seating experience for me. Usually when selecting show tickets, I like to sit up high, to see drill unfold. This, of course, makes the instrumentalists work a little harder to reach me, but clearly they have no problem with that. For Salem, we were about three rows from the front at about the 40 yard line. It's a whole new show, even for the corps I had seen before. While it's harder to see drill formations, there's a new level of the passion of performance you can see up close that I hadn't experienced. And of course, musically you're right in the blast zone! I think I'll have to make it a point to get both up high and down low for at least one show each year.

On to championships! A change in plans (basically, a threat of rain in what might otherwise have been a day at the amusement park) means I'll be seeing Big, Loud, & Live! - DCI's theatre broadcast of championship quarterfinals - in a theatre near me tomorrow evening. So who's got the competitive edge going into quarterfinals? It depends on who you ask. While the undefeatd Blue Devils are the consensus number one, who comes next is up for debate. The rankings at - which the league stresses are for entertainment value only - have Carolina Crown, Holy Name Cadets, The Cavaliers, and Santa Clara Vanguard rounding out positions 2-5, respectively. The folks are tell a different story, slating, in order, the Cadets, Vanguard, Crown, and the Cavaliers as the runners-up. It's like major college football, although all of these corps will settle it on the field on Saturday night. As competition continues to heat up, the Blue Devils, who are vying for their 13th world championship, would do well to remember the plight of the 2007 New England Patriots.
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