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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dignified Dawg?

I never followed up on the story of the potential change to UMBC's mascot--in fact, I didn't know what had become of it until I went looking a bit earlier tonight. Despite my pleas to the contrary, UMBC seems poised to adopt the image to the left as the new athletic logo. While one source hinted back in December that it was pending adoption by the President's Council, the UMBC site leads me to believe that it is now a done deal. Say hello to your new dawg.

For the reasons that I mentioned in my original post on the matter, I think this is unfortunate. That said, this was my favorite of the choices set before us, so if it's got to change, I guess I'm glad it's this one. It looks dignified, which is probably the best look for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, as fierce isn't the most credible option.

In related news, I really want a UMBC lacrosse jersey, and not just the lame (or lamé, if you prefer) one I already have. Now that they're produced by Under Armour, you'd think they'd be available for purchase in some form, but alas, it seems that is not to be.

All a Matter of Perspective

First of all, it's great to be able to spend a Saturday afternoon in front of lacrosse on ESPNU again. Right now, I'm watching Maryland at Georgetown. As the announce team for the previous Princeton-Hofstra game pointed out, this is now an ACC-Big East matchup. This brings one more dynamic into the "who to root for?" decision.

I'm a USF alum, so I'm inclined to lean to the Big East. But I follow the Terps to some degree. On the other hand, I enjoy rooting against the conference [sic] that is ACC lacrosse. But I'd love to see the Terps come riding high into their game against UMBC so they can lose to little brother for the fourth year in a row. So when it comes right down to it, I'm rooting for the Terps, for UMBC's sake. And while I'd like to see Big East lacrosse take off, I'll be rooting against them again tomorrow as the Dawgs take on the Scarlet Knights.

On the marching half of this blog, I'm going later this afternoon to my first WGI show. A friend and coworker of mine teaches a local guard, so I'm going to check them out, but I'll also get to see some of the percussion groups as well as the guard folks. 

I also just learned that Carolina Gold, a DCA (all-age) corps that used to be based in Rocky Mount, NC, has moved right here to Greensboro! It's actually a bit of a tease, since schedule-wise I still can't march (though if they stay here, I may try to see what can be done in the future) but it's nice to have a corps in town. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My kingdom for a...

OK, I'm not getting all woe-is-me one game into the season. UMBC's men's lacrosse season began today with a 3OT loss to Delaware at home. UMBC mounted an excellent comeback to send the game into OT after leading for all of 49 seconds all game, and in the end it was a deflection off of a UMBC player that sealed our fate. It was a good game, at least from what I could hear on the internet broadcast.

Still, the problem we've had in the past continues to rear its ugly head: Faceoffs. UD won 16 of 25, and the differential was more severe in the first half of the game. It's no coincidence that as our faceoff acuity improved, so did our scoring. You can't score if you don't have the ball, and constantly allowing the other team to control faceoffs and time of possession is to our detriment. Still, it's been the case over the past several years that even when trailing in faceoffs, we win quite a bit, and our losses are close. This is perhaps even more frustrating--if not for our troubles at the X, we could be dominating. Finding and/or coaching a faceoff specialist needs to be a priority!

At any rate, what's done is done. Glad to have lacrosse back. Up next: Fist Pump U.

Meet Grover

I just caught wind that down at Ole Miss, they are seeking a new mascot. Colonel Reb, the archetypal southern gentleman and probable plantation owner and slavemaster (ironically patterned after a black man), was retired (or at least tucked out of sight) back in 2003 as the University of Mississippi continued to strive to distance themselves from their antebellum path. Now, after a seven year void, the University seeks to put a mascot back on the field. While I haven't seen any official suggestions as to what the choices that will be offered to students will be, I've seen a few internet suggestions, from the folks over at Ole Miss blog Red Cup Rebellion and an internet sensation suggesting the adoption of a different type of Rebel.

I'll be completely up front when I say that I know very little about Ole Miss or even the state of Mississippi, except that as a native damnyankee and a black man, I have little desire to head that way. Still, if there's one thing I do know, it's that one of the things the Rebel faithful pride themselves on is the tailgating scene on The Grove. Grove denizens will tell you it's the best scene on the planet; critics will tell you there's no way a scene that high-falutin' is real tailgating. Outsiders range anywhere between the two. But there's no arguing: Ole Miss is The Grove and The Grove is Ole Miss.

Some have tongue-in-cheek suggested that one of the "frat boy" denizens of The Grove should be the new mascot. I'll take it a step further. Enter Grover, an aptly named nouveau southern gentleman, a humanoid mascot clad in a stark white Oxford shirt (pun totally intended), a red and blue striped tie, blazer, and khakis. He could very well embody the spirit of Ole Miss and still embrace the culture that many may feel is left behind with Colonel Reb. Grover, in fact, could be an only name, a first name (for some reason I was thinking Grover Beauregard, a name that seems fitting for an area not far off the Mississippi Delta. Incidentally, this would make his name a combination of two muppets) or a last name (Perhaps Todd Grover, where Todd is short for Hotty-Toddy-Gosh-Almighty).  For all we know, Grover could be Colonel Reb's great-great-great-great (check my math on that one) grandson. Grover: New Look. Distinctly Southern.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Raise High the Black and Gold

I've mentioned before that my love of heraldry and vexillology has drawn me to truly appreciate the University of Maryland, College Park's commitment to representing their home state and its flag, from having four official school colors (red, white, black, and gold, the colors of the state flag) to the use of the flag in the end zone. But on one very small detail, they missed the opportunity to capitalize.

You can't see it particularly well on the photo to the right (which, by the way, is courtesy of Replay Photos, from whom I just recently ordered a fine USF print) but along the back collar of the Terps' home alternates, there is a pattern of five alternating color blocks, black-gold-black-gold-black. The same feature, in the same colors, is present on the red road jerseys. This is one block away from some added significance to the uniforms. You see, had they gone with six blocks, this feature could have been a representation of the palisade pattern found on the Calvert portion (the upper left and lower right quadrants) of the Maryland flag.

That said, I really like the feature. I've long said that I'd love to see UMBC incorporate some of the flag into their uniforms, and this would be a great way to do it--it would keep with UMBC's black and gold color scheme, and have added significance in that the Calvert colors are actually from the Baltimore portion of the heraldry, and are replicated in the Baltimore flag. It would be great if UMBC could pick up and capitalize on what big brother just missed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Talking Lacrosse on the College Football Podcast

As I’ve mentioned previously, one of my favorite podcasts is the ESPNU College Football Podcast. An unfortunate harbinger of the end of the football season is when the podcast switches from three times a week to once every two weeks. Still, it is a pleasure, even in the offseason, to hear updates from Ivan Maisel and Beano Cook on a weekly basis.

If you have any experience with the podcast, you’re well aware that Beano Cook is no fan of baseball. Since I know what my preferred spring sport is, I wrote in to pose the following question to Beano: Beano, your disdain for baseball once football ends is well noted. Do you ever take a look at college lacrosse? I asked this, of course, because lacrosse has a whole lot more in common with football than baseball does.

I was pleased that when they next took to the air this past week on the 2/9 episode, they did address my question. While Beano is not a lacrosse fan, I was thrilled, though by no means surprised, with the degree to which they were able to talk about the sport. They mentioned this past year’s crowd in Foxborough for the Final Four, and how it is often a top draw in college athletics. Ivan even mentioned his wife’s reaction to the championship game—she is a Syracuse native and a Cornell alumna.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stand Up and Get Crunk

First of all, congratulations and Who Dat to the Saints fans out there. While I'm not one, nor do I claim to be, I've got New Orleanian heritage and wish the city the best (and all of the ills of the world to the Colts, for the record) so I was pleased with Sunday night's results.

As we bid adieu to football season--with nary a lingering presence from a post-Super Bowl Pro Bowl--I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the World [sic] Champion New Orleans Saints.

When I've daydreamed about every NFL franchise having its own marching band, New Orleans was always one of the ones that seemed to be a no-brainer to me. They have marching bands at funerals (no mention intended of most of the rest of the Saints history) and of course When the Saints Go Marching In and all that jazz (literally!) make for an excellent fit for a pro football marching band in the Big Easy.

While such isn't (yet) the case, they have embraced and interesting, if not unlikely, band-esque tradition. This season, the Ying Yang Twins' Halftime (often known by its refrain, "Stand Up and Get Crunk") became a jock rock favorite in the Superdome. As its football-intermission moniker may suggest, Halftime is punctuated by a (synthesized) low brass bassline and has a distinctly HBCU marching band feel to it. I don't know why this song was put back into rotation five years after its 2004 release, but it sparked new life in Who Dat Nation and maybe, just maybe, its high-stepping appeal helped the Saints march into a championship.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mojo DoJo

Strange things are happening with the USF basketball team; namely: winning. USF is currently .500 in conference at 5-5, after a four game winning streak, including recent wins vs. #17 Pitt and @ # 7 Georgetown. There's a lot of excitement in Bull Nation, particularly from the denizens of The BullsPen and I'll be honest, it's pretty cool, given that usually any and all excitement at this time of the year would be reserved for National Signing Day. People are even whispering (nay, shouting) thoughts about a postseason for USF! Crazy, right?

Well, I brought an honest question over to the management at Big Blue Homer. Sure, it's a Kentucky Wildcats blog, but quiet as it's kept, the proprietor over there is a USF alum and a good friend of mine. My question: Might we see a postseason for USF? His thoughts and mine are in sync: If there is a postseason in store for the Bulls, it will come in the form of the NIT. While many schools, including his own Cats, would scoff at this opportunity, we in Bull Nation would jump for joy, as we've been the Big East's whipping boy since we joined in 2005 and any modicum of success is a significant step up. Any sign of being on the way up is cause to start speaking of contract extensions for Coach Heath and lifting Dominique  Jones' #20 into the rafters of the Sun Dome.

Should we end up in the NIT, I have a not-so-secret desire that Carolina, who is having a worse-than-usual year and is currently sitting at 10th in the ACC, lands there too and our first game is at Carolina. Right now, it's a perfectly reasonable possibility. In the off-chance that USF should make the Tourney, Jacksonville is the only reasonable travel for me. So while I want the best for my Bulls, I wouldn't be mad if this year's building led to the NIT and next year, where there are first and second rounds played in Charlotte, we landed within an easy trip of Greensboro.

More on Dawgs Lax

LAX United also has their preview of our beloved Dawgs up. Coach Zim sounds optimistic, but then, coaches often do. One thing I didn't realize about our defense: Despite potential woes of losing Blevins in goal, we're actually returning five of seven starters--potentially 5/6 of our first two defenses--this year. Our other loss is Steve Settembrino, but we also regain Bobby Atwell. As long as we can get a quality goalie to step up both in goal and as a signal caller, I think at least that end of the field should be in great shape.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Season Preview - #14/11 UMBC Retrievers

InsideLacrosse has been counting down to the season by counting down their top teams of the preseason. Today they posted the preview of the #14 (Coaches' #11) UMBC Retrievers. I'll probably go into it more fully later (probably a good deal later, it's a busy week) but a few quick observations:

-We lost a lot of talent, but we've got some impressive looking folks in the pipeline. Here's hoping they step up.
-I'm VERY excited for the return of Bobby Atwell on defense.
-I'm somewhat trepidatious about the loss of Jeremy Blevins in goal.
-With just Kyle Wimer remaining from the "50" midfield, we may actually start creating offensive opportunities in the attack--crazy talk!

Equal Time

Sometimes it's tough having loyalties to multiple schools. I have two alma maters and work for a third, but there is a definite pecking order in play. UMBC, my undergraduate alma mater, where I spent four years and was involved in athletics through the pep band always comes first. Then it's USF, who also granted me a degree and where I fell in love with college football. Last, but certainly not least, it's UNCG, where I currently work and hold season tickets for men's basketball.

I'm fortunate in that it's fairly rare that any two of my teams play one another. Rather, this hierarchy comes into focus when an opportunity arises for one of my teams. For example, USF's photo store recently sent out a coupon for money off of an order. It was a compelling offer--get a USF print to have framed, perhaps for the man cave I hope one day to have. I checked out the offerings and have a pretty good idea of the print I'll get getting. My next step? Check out the photo store at UMBC. Because if I'm picking up USF merch, I need to give equal time to UMBC. This unfortunately makes my discount worth a little less, as I'm ultimately spending more money, but hey, I gotta represent.

A similar situation: I was approached by UNCG's Spartan Club, who I work closely with in my job, about becoming a member. Like most booster clubs, they have different financial levels at which they join. I've got much love for the Spartans, but I respectfully declined. Why? The way I see it, joining Spartan Club with an $X donation would also compel me to join both the Bulls Club and Retriever Club at equal or higher levels. What started as a $X proposition is now a $3X proposition. I briefly considered if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with, and admittedly, the season tickets reflect that. But when it comes to support, which I could do from near or far, it was all or none.

Here's a tangent, but not too far of one: I made a suggestion to myself--not nearly as binding as a resolution, commitment, or promise--that I'd like to make it to at least one game of both of my alma maters each year. I've actually been pretty good at making at least something the past couple years, be it football, basketball, soccer, or lacrosse. But many of those have been games of convenience, right here in North Carolina. I'd love to up my commitment and do a bit of traveling. USF gets a bit of an advantage in this department in that football is my favorite sport, which of course UMBC doesn't have. On the flip side, however, I'm in the Baltimore area far more than I'm down in Tampa. I may catch a UMBC lacrosse game this season--I haven't been to a home game since I graduated. And as for USF? I just might make the road trip to the Swamp to catch USF at Florida. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chili when it's Chilly

I'll be honest. This has relatively little reason being in a blog about sports and marching, but I wanted to share it and there's a logical tie-in, so I'm going for it.

While I'll concede that chili is sports food, it never really has been for me. I know it's a tailgating staple for those in colder climates, but most of my tailgating days were spent in Tampa rooting on the Bulls, so I can't say the chili has come out. For that matter, it hasn't been a particularly big deal when watching games either, although a friend of mine, a WVU alum, put together a pretty mean pot when we got together this year for the USF-WVU football game. Even band kids I know have chili stories, of band or corps parents cooking up big old pots for those cold football games, but that wasn't even on my radar.

So when I decided to try my hand--this past weekend while snowed in--I sought guidance. I had bookmarked this post from Tailgating Ideas some time ago for when occasion came to pull it back up. Since I knew I was going to be using black beans, I found this recipe from Food Network's Rachael Ray online. I also incorporated a variation on the "secret ingredient" from One Great Season's recipe (but I'll let you watch for yourself to figure out what that was). From there, it was look at each, pick and choose what I liked and what I didn't, add my own touches and get to work. It turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. Here's how I did it:

1 pkg ground turkey
2 sweet Italian sausages, removed from their casings
1 15 ¼ oz.* can black beans, drained
1 16 oz.* can chick peas, drained
1 14 ½ oz.* can diced tomatoes
1 cup crushed tomatoes/tomato paste
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp Old Bay
¼ package taco seasoning
A couple of generous shakes crushed red pepper
A couple of generous shakes Lawry’s season salt
¾ cup  lager (I used Yuengling)
¼ cup Southern Comfort
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp beef broth
A couple splashes of Texas Pete hot sauce
1 heaping tbsp ricotta cheese

*different companies package their canned beans and vegetables differently, so get the size closest to that size--"Campbell's Soup Can" size, roughly.

Before beginning: Combine seasonings. Combine beer, SoCo, worcestershire sauce, beef broth, and hot sauce.

Brown turkey and sausage in the bottom of a large pot on medium heat. Once browned, add liquid mixture and chopped vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add tomato paste and stir until well incorporated. Add diced tomatoes, black beans, and chick peas; mix thoroughly. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Finally, add ricotta cheese and seasonings and mix thoroughly. Continue to cook for an additional half hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve. 

I don't claim to have mapped the chili genome here, but I'd say it turned out pretty damn good. If it gives you one more option for your Super Bowl party, I've done my job.
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