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Monday, May 27, 2013

Was Duke's Win Good for Lacrosse?

(Simulcast over at College Crosse)

The Duke Blue Devils are the 2013 men's lacrosse Division I champions, defeating the Syracuse Orange 16-10 to claim the program's second national championship and second in four years. While I will quickly lay my biases on the table - I tend to root against Duke in everything they do and am still wearing the orange (not Orange, but orange) shirt I put on to support their opponents - I do believe that Duke's championship here is a positive for the sport.

While it would be irresponsible of me to tie the young men who just won it on the field to whatever transgressions may or may not have occurred in 2006, it is worth mentioning that that scandal has been the biggest news in that program's history and perhaps the history of college lacrosse. It should stand to reason, then, that the success of a program whose fame transcends the sport would point the spotlight in lacrosse's direction. But beyond simply that scandal, Duke brings with it to the championship three things that are good for the sport: New(er) blood, name brand recognition, and existence outside the hotbed areas.

It's true that Duke just won a championship in 2010, and has made championship weekend eight of the past nine years, so it's a little hard to think of them as new blood. Still, their last championship made them the first new kid on the block in nearly two decades, the eighth new champion in the sport's history and one of only two schools not named Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Virginia, or Princeton not to hoist the trophy since 1992 - the other being last year's champion, Loyola.

That said, Duke has one thing that Loyola doesn't enjoy: The clout of a national name. Duke's success in basketball and affiliation with a major conference means that while Loyola's championship, even over the major conference Terrapins of College Park, may have caused a slight disturbance in the force, Duke championship will be discussed on SportsCenter and its ilk. Add that to the aforementioned scandal, and this will be more than that requisite cursory glance.

I watched the game from a Buffalo Wild Wings in High Point, NC, ten short miles from the ACC's Greensboro home. Duke University wears one of the two shades of blue that move the needle around these parts, and yet a plurality, not a majority, of TVs in the place were showing the game and the overhead speakers were tuned not to the game feed, but to the house music. As a point of comparison, I've been at that same location, clinging to one small TV in a corner still tuned to lacrosse, as a UNC basketball game of limited importance against who-remembers-who took over the audio and video in the rest of the restaurant. While there are quite a few steps along the gradient between today's experience and Carolina basketball, I think we can all acknowledge that the sport has some growing to do. While waning attendance figures make it clear that the hotbeds aren't saturated, growth in areas beyond them may pay dividends for the sport. Here in North Carolina, where we have a one year old pro team and an ever-growing cache of college teams, both Division I and club, we're in a growth area.

 Finally, it's not insignificant that the victory came over Syracuse. The two schools will be conferencemates starting next season, and I'm fairly confident today's game won't be soon forgotten by the Orange faithful. This may have sparked a rivalry that we come to anticipate year after year in lacrosse's premier league.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Staccato 5/26/2013

-More conference realignment! The Elon Phoenix are headed to the CAA; rumors, currently unfounded, had Albany headed there as well, which would've put a dent in the conferences of both my alma mater and my employer.
-The next two Super Bowls on the table have been awarded. Super Bowl L will be headed to the brand new Levi's Stadium in San(ta Clara) Francisco, while LI will be in Houston.
-PAAWWWLL Finebaum, the longtime Birmingham radio host with his microphone on the passionate pulse of SEC and especially state of Alabama football, is headed to the SEC Network. It makes perfect sense, actually.
-The Troopers have new uniforms. And by new, I mean old.
-Everett Golson is gone from Notre Dame. This should worry Irish faithful, but as EDSBS' Spencer Hall put it:

As a USF alum, I have not-so-fond memories of losing to said ficus.
-And finally, yours truly will head to Buffalo Wild Wings tomorrow afternoon for the men's lacrosse championship game. While Syracuse may be college lacrosse's evil empire, the team on the other sideline is Duke so... Go Orange. Apparently someone was watching the women's championship from B-Dubs, as it took UNC three overtimes to best the Terrapins.

Finally, because it's Memorial Day weekend, two quick notes:
-Chances are good that on this and some of this summer's other patriotic holidays, you'll want to display a flag. If you do so, please do it properly.
-Certainly thank a veteran or an active duty serviceperson tomorrow and every day. But remember, Memorial Day is to honor those who gave the "last full measure of devotion" and died in service to this country.

Nothing Could Be Finer

The farther removed football fans get from the end of last season, the more we lust ravenously for that magical moment when we know the season is with us once again. I'm making plans - less than final, but more than tentative - to break the fast in the best way possible: With a live game. Not just my team's first game, or the first game nearby, but the very first game of the 2013 season.

I remember looking at schedules around the same time I was stating a desire to engage in more Random Acts of Football this coming year. I looked at schools within reasonable ravel time from me, and I remember having seen UNC at South Carolina playing on opening weekend. I hadn't forgotten about it - I even made it a point to make sure I had attire representing the state (but not the University) of North Carolina, since if I go, all things being equal, I'd root for the state in which I reside and the university system in which I work. Still, it also wasn't at the forefront of my radar either, until earlier this week, when I read an article by Mark Schlabach commemorating the 100 days till football mark. It was here that he noted that the summer of our discontent would meet its end at Williams Brice Stadium.

I don't know if this was a change in date or if I simply, when perusing schedules back in November, didn't put two and two together that August 29 is indeed the inaugural Thursday, but I was reemboldened in my belief that this game makes perfect sense for so many reasons, and that, Lord and schedule willing, I will be there. Here's why:

  • It is THE first game.
  • It's likely a Band on the Road game - it's just a 200 mile trip for the Marching Tar Heels. 
  • I've lived in the south for 8-14 years, depending on your metric, and cared deeply about college football for at least 10 of those. And yet, I've never been to a storied SEC FOOTBALL game, much less a home one. Why not get my start with the ol' ball coach and JaDeveon Clowney?
  • My normal football game roll dog, James, is on the way to Columbia, and he also may be down.
  • I work in campus programming, and this should be poised to fall just as our Welcome Week is wrapping up. Just what the doctor ordered.
  • And finally, I've heard some folks lament going to a game opening weekend because they could be binging on action from the comfort of their own couch. A Thursday game means I can still get the Saturday binge going - best of both worlds!
Interesting symmetry note: Last year, I saw the state's two land grant HBCUs play one another as SC State played at NC A&T. Once I go to this game, I may have to attend Clemson and NC State's Textile Bowl to complete the series.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Staccato - It's a Series

After having done it a couple of times before, I'm officially declaring Staccato - a number of short notes from around the sports and marching/athletic music realms - an 80 Minutes of Regulation series.

I've actually been out of town for the better part of a week, vacationing in Kentucky (including a couple of days spent in the home of the toothed birds). I did a few sports-related things (Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby Museum) and sports-adjacent (does bourbon count as a sports-adjacent?) things while I was there, but I share this mostly to point out that due to my absence, some of the topics may not be the freshest, as I made note of them before I left.

-The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, which has been spread between CBS and Turner networks, has announced that the semifinal games will be on TBS, making the championship game the sole Final Four matchup on network television.
-Following a brief stint paired with the Southwestern Regional in San Antonio, DCI's Individual and Ensemble competition will return to championship weekend in Indianapolis.
-Chances are pretty good that the highest paid public employee in your state is a football or basketball coach.
-There's discussion once again on whether or not the Washington Redskins will ever change their racist name. The word from owner Dan Snyder? Never - You can use caps.
-In news that surprises no one after the crumbling of the Big East, the ACC has its sights set on Madison Square Garden for the men's hoops tournament.
-Memorial Day weekend action is set: Denver, Duke, Cornell, and Syracuse advance to the men's Division I lacrosse Final Four.
-The Bobcats have begun the process to bring the Hornets name back to Charlotte.

-And last but certainly not least: Since we ditched cable a month and a half ago, one of the things I've been missing is regular sports coverage, a la SportsCenter. With YouTube as my primary go-to, I've been curating sports (and, because it's me, marching/athletic music, though that's thin at this time of year) news every few days into "shows" I can watch with stuff that interests me. A great side effect is that I'm getting content from not just ESPN, but also Fox, CBS, SBNation, and a host of other sources. With that in mind, would anyone be interested in me sharing the shows I put together? I'm glad to; it you want them, just say the word!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

SoCon, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye...

The Southern Conference has lost better teams than you ever had, son. We've seen the Big East hemorrhage teams during the latest rounds of conference realignment, but it pales in comparison to the SoCon's history.

As the name suggests, the SoCon has at one point or another been home to just about every school of note south of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi. The conference spawned both the ACC and the SEC, but as of late has been a mid-major, one-bid league that is finding itself on the bottom rung of the realignment pecking order.

Now Davidson, collegiate home of NBA star Stephen Curry and two-time reigning conference basketball champ, is the next to get called up to the big leagues, leaving the conference for the Atlantic-10. Davidson will just miss the opportunity for a great conference rivalry with Charlotte, who will depart the same year for Conference USA. Davidson's departure further compounds an already rough realignment season for the SoCon, which also recently learned of the loss of Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and College of Charleston.

The SoCon is left with just eight teams, and only seven playing football in the conference - an interesting wrinkle is that UNCG is the only remaining conference school that doesn't field football. There has been speculation about who may be the newest conference members: East Tennessee State and VMI, both former conference members, have been the names I've heard the most. While there may be other possibilities, SoCon is relatively low in the hierarchy, so they'll have to make quite a case as to why they are an advantageous move for teams in other D-I conferences.

Despite beliefs to the contrary, the realignment wheel continues to roll.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Staccato Notes :||

Once is a post, twice is a reprise, and if I do it three times, it's a series, right? After the last Staccato Notes, I felt it was a good way for quick delivery on a few topics, so here it is again.

-At the top of the sports news cycle this week, Jason Collins, currently an NBA free agent, came out on his own terms to Sports Illustrated, becoming the first active openly gay athlete in one of the four major American sports.
-This is so far-flung that I can't link to anything more credible than a tweet, but the latest realignment rumor mill has USF and Central Florida to the Big 12. Right. And if I entertain it for half a second, I find myself a little conflicted. Moving back into a power conference should be a no-brainer, but there's something to be said for USF regularly appearing in NC, PA, and MD as a member of the American.
-Marching Roundtable spoke with representatives at DCI about the new initiatives SoundSport and Drumline Battle. It was evident both that they're probably on the verge of something cool and that they're making it up as the go along.

-The ACC's looking at taking the gridiron game across the pond. You know, because London's been clamoring for that Georgia Tech-Wake Forest matchup.
-The new stadium in Atlanta, affectionately nicknamed the Stankonia Dome by SBNation's resident ATLiens, is taking shape through concept designs.
-By the time I post this, my own UMBC Retrievers will be facing off against conference-leading Albany for the America East crown and the NCAA Tournament bid up at Stony Brook.
-The Kentucky Derby has a black jockey for the first time in 12 years, and Harlem is celebrating.
-The SEC has released some of the details surrounding their network, and its 100% ESPN ownership is giving Big Ten and Pac-12 fans something at which to look down their nose.

-And last but far, FAR from least: Yale women's lacrosse has selected its team captain for 2013-14. It's my cousin. Congratulations, Adrienne!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A D-League of our Own

The state of Delaware once again has a professional basketball team, this time competing at its highest ever level as a member of the NBA's D-League. The team, a D-League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, will play its games at University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center. Its name? The 87ers.

OK, it could've been worse. We could've gone with the Ratifiers or the Tax-Free Shoppers. It's not as though I don't get the rationale. Delaware ratified the Constitution in 1787, making it the First State. But here's the thing. 1787 isn't unique to Delaware, as both Pennsylvania and New Jersey would also ratify before the year was out. What's more, while the team is a Sixers affiliate, 87ers just sounds like it's trying too hard, especially for a state that constantly lives in the shadow of Philadelphia.

I don't know who they asked, but they didn't ask me. I've been making up names for faux Delaware pro teams nearly all my life. Here's some of those, plus some others that I came up with out of the blue, that I'd offer as alternatives to 87ers.

  • If you want to keep it colonial, you could do just that with the Delaware Colonials, sporting, naturally, the colonial blue of the state flag. You could celebrate our First State heritage simply, as the First Staters, or perhaps as the Pioneers. Or you could commemorate Caesar Rodney's historic ride, immortalized in Rodney Square and on our state quarter (not to mention of direct relation to the 76ers) with the Riders
  • Want to go geographical? You could invoke the river as the River Runners (or Otters, or Boaters, but I think that's my favorite) or if you want to get a little more cerebral (read: nerdy) you could invoke some of the features that make up our borders: the Liners for the Mason-Dixon Line, or the 12 Milers for the 12 Mile Circle. 
  • How about Delaware features and attractions? The Racers could reference either horse racing at Delaware Park or auto racing at Dover International Speedway (another source went with the Monsters for the Monster Mile). The Airmen, long suggested as an alternative for the team in Charlotte owned by His Airness, would work here, given the prominence of Dover Air Force Base (and sadly, its morgue). Horseshoes could be an intentional double entendre both for the aforementioned horse racing and the horseshoe crabs that call the Delaware's brackish tidewater home. The Bridgemen (or Bridgers, if you'd rather) would reference another key feature, the Delaware Memorial Bridge, while doubling to reference the Battle of Cooch's Bridge, the only Revolutionary War battle fought on Delaware soil and the first time the stars and stripes were flown in combat.
  • Want to reference the duPont legacy? Everything else in the state does. If you're one for collective team names, you could go with the Kevlar or the Gunpowder, though I understand why those may not be options in the current climate
  • Historically, you could use another nickname with the Diamonds or Diamondcutters, as Thomas Jefferson referred to Delaware as the Diamond State 
But my personal favorite? The Crossovers. Granted, it takes a slight historic inaccuracy to see the reasoning, but bear with me here. One of the primary historical references with Delaware in it is the General Washington's crossing of the Delaware River, though he crossed between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Beyond that, the D-League is not above using basketball terms to name their teams (looking at you, Los Angeles D-Fenders). But perhaps most poignantly - and this may seem Stannish - the name invokes one of the players known best for his crossover, Allen Iverson. Iverson played for the parent franchise, and like the state of Delaware is small in stature but of great value. 
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