Saturday, February 02, 2008

Super Bowl Pick

Championship Sunday: 1-1
Playoffs: 5-5
Overall: 175-83 (.755 average)

The success of picks on this blog has come way down to earth during the playoffs. In spite of the parity in the National Football League, or thanks to some dominant teams, this blog has correctly picked three-fourths of the games in the National Football League this season. Granted, this is straight up. I won't even pretend to pick against the spread. Nonetheless, it's been a good year for picks.

Sunday is the Really Big Game. If you're a company out there, and you're not an official sponsor, you can't even use the word Super Bowl in your advertising. You simply have to say you're giving away a trip to the Big Game in Glendale, Arizona in February. The Super Bowl is the mother of all American cultural events. It is where sports meets pop culture which meets American capitalism which meets overexposure which meets..well, you get the picture.

This year, the New England Patriots enter Super Bowl XLII with a perfect record. The Pats have won 18 games in a row, and are attempting to become the first perfect team in the era of the 16 game season. They are the most respected, but also the most hated team in America, due to their alleged cheating and the way they have pounded opponents this season. However, not even the FBI can stop the Patriots this season.

The New York Giants are the NFC representative in this year's game. The Giants built on a near-upset of the Patriots in Week 17 to go on a three-game tear through the NFC playoffs, winning at Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Green Bay. The Giants have made a run for the ages.

The Patriots have struggled in the last part of the season, relatively speaking. They aren't drilling teams any longer. Teams are at least staying on the field with them. However, the Pats can smell something special. The bye week will hurt the Giants by killing their momentum. The bye week will, conversely, help the Patriots, as will the controlled environment of University of Phoenix Stadium, where the game will be played indoors.

I'm hoping for a good game. I don't expect one. Patriots win by a score of 38-16.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Other Half Of Division I

Where have I been? I’ve been off on a project for my company, and have been blogging more sparingly of late.

I have been working on the campus of my company’s client, Stony Brook University. Stony Brook is located on the north shore of Long Island, about 50 miles east of midtown Manhattan. It is one of the flagship campuses of the State University of New York. Stony Brook boasts 22,000 students, a medical school, and a dental school. It is a major research institution. The school has come a long way in its relatively short 50 year history.

Wednesday evening, thanks to the complimentary tickets from my hotel, I took some time and went to the Stony Brook Arena to watch the Seawolves take on the University of New Hampshire in men’s basketball. A tough season continued for the Seawolves, as they lost, 68-60, and saw their record fall to 4-16. They find themselves at #335 in one version of the Ratings Percentage Index, out of 341 teams.

What I saw was a team and an athletic program trying to keep up with the growth of its university. The team was spunky and competitive, in spite of its record. The arena was small and clean. It is currently a physical education facility with a running track at the top and a running track at the bottom, with bleachers pulled out on four sides of the court, and a few chairback seats on one side of the floor. The arena holds around 4,000 people, and was about ¼ full. My cell phone camera isn’t very good, so I couldn’t get a good picture. At Stony Brook, if you’re a booster, you get the opportunity to sit at a courtside table, and are served catered dinner in a tent in a corner of an arena beside the bleachers. They are working hard to grow their athletic program, and will begin renovation of their arena at the close of the season. The Seawolves have only been part of Division I since 1999.

It was good to go to a game. They didn’t pretend to be the Big East or the Big 12, but it was Division I basketball. I wish the Seawolves well.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The World Was A Better Place Then...Maybe

CSTV shows some really good classic games in the afternoons on their Retrovision series. Today, they showed an old game from 1990 between Loyola Marymount and LSU. There was greatness all over the court that day. Bo Kimble and the late Hank Gathers suited up for LMU, while Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), Stanley Roberts, and a young Shaquille O’Neal played for LSU. LSU won the game, 148-141 in overtime.

Loyola Marymount played a breakneck style of ball, scoring over 100 points in 27 games that year. They ran up and down the floor, jacking up three-point shots almost at will. The team was best known for their run they made in the NCAA tournament. Star forward Hank Gathers collapsed and died during the middle of their semifinal game in the West Coast Conference post-season tournament. The team was given an undeserved 11 seed in the West regional, but went on an improbable run led by Gathers’ boyhood friend Kimble. Kimble is best remembered for shooting the first free throw of every game in that tournament left-handed, in honor of Gathers. The Lions ran over New Mexico State, Michigan, and Alabama before losing in the West regional final to eventual national champion UNLV (another great team).

Which brings me to an even bigger point: 1) The author of this blog is getting old man’s disease, and 2) college basketball was a better game back then. Quality players were playing at least a couple of years in college, if not three or four. Teams played a more entertaining style of ball, symbolized by teams such as UNLV, Loyola Marymount, and Oklahoma, who specialized in trying to score triple digits and trying to run other teams out of the gym. Getting to the NBA was very important, but so was winning at the college level. Winning at the college level is still important to today’s players, but getting to the Association is the primary goal. Winning at the college level is as important to coaches as ever, probably even more so as salaries have escalated. However, the college game just doesn’t look as fun as it once did.

I don’t know if the world was a better place back then, but the game was better then. The Loyola Marymount teams of the late 80’s were greatness.