Archive for the ‘NCAA’ Category

Laces out!

College football opening week normally is set with boring match ups between powerhouse schools and Division 2/NAIA cup cakes.  Most teams are looking for those easy wins to get their team off to a nice start all the while hoping to find some consistency in their teams starters.  2012 brought us a few interesting match ups but mostly it was much of the same boring crap.  If you woke up early enough you might have caught Notre Dame making a joke out of Navy.  Or maybe you decided you’d wait to catch the most hated program Penn State taking on the mighty University of Ohio.  Sadly that’s what a tuned into, I thought Bill O’Brien did a great job preparing the kids from Penn State only to fall flat on their faces in the second half.  I’m sure most of the nation was happy about this, I know I didn’t mind it, but really at this point I hold no ill will to this new administration or the players who decided to stick it out.

If you were smart you would have started with the Northwestern/Syracuse game.  Not because either of these teams are in the upper echelon of college football, but they put on a great show.  Syracuse did a great job of battling back only to watch a second string QB come in and save the day.  Speaking of which, what an odd coaching decision by Pat Fitzgerald.  Who brings in a back up to lead the team to victory?  Talk about taking a huge risk!

At this point you were left with watching a few ranked teams that should (key word here is should) take care of their opponents with much ease.  That however was not the case for both Wisconsin and Florida.  Both would eventually win their first games but neither looked very good in doing so.  I decided to take in the Iowa/Northern Illinois game.  Yes, that same Husky team who owned the longest winning streak in the nation.  I was surprised at how Northern took it to Iowa, but after playing 3 ½ quarters of football they gave way to the Big 10 conference.  The bigger story in this game might have been the turf at Soldier Field.  Sounds as if the city of Chicago may need to invested in an artificial turf of some sorts.  Sad to think that the legendary Soldier Field, in all its upgrade glory, forgot to worry about the most important part of the stadium, the field.  Paging the Sod Father!!

The rest of the day was largely uneventful with most teams doing exactly what they should do.  So I waited for the big time matchup between Michigan and Alabama.  This was the game that had bowl implications resting on both teams.  After watching the first quarter you could totally tell that Michigan was well overmatched.  Alabama on the other hand is a team to be reckoned with and should be odds on favorite to win the SEC this year.

Best Performances:

Le’Veon Bell MSU:  Maybe the best game of the week was between Michigan State and Boise State.  Michigan State had to really battle for this opening day victory and who better to lead the way then Bell.   Bell shouldered the load by touching the ball 50 times (44 rushing attempts) racking up 210 rushing yards and 2 rushing TD’s.  Maybe Montee Bell will have a little competition in the Big 10 this year.

Austin Franklin WR NMST:  This will most likely be the only time you will see me mention New Mexico State.  Franklin had one of the best games in the past week hauling in 8 catches while totaling 236 yards and 2 touchdowns.  What’s most surprising is that last year the sophomore had a total of 524 yards.  Talk about having a career day.  I’ll keep an eye on this kid, but when you’re playing Sacramento State I’d hope you’d have a chance to run up the score.

Gino Smith QB West Virginia:  Nobody should be really shocked that senior Gino Smith put up good numbers against Marshall.  Throwing for 323 yards while completing an impressive 32 for 36 should be something to pay attention to.  Smith last year finished 4th in total yards last year and I would not be surprised if he challenges for the top spot this year.

Bjoern Werner DE FSU:  Picking up 4 sacks against anyone is pretty special.  Sure Murray State is not Alabama, but you can only play who’s on your schedule.  We may never hear another thing about the German Werner, but he still should be proud of getting to the QB as many times as he did.

What to watch for this week:

 #24 Florida vs. Texas A&M:  Texas A&M comes into the 2012 season with a lot of question marks.  New coach, new conference and a freshman quarterback trying to lead the way.  Florida came off a win against Bowling Green which was not really impressive.  The Gators had to work for their season opening victory, coming up with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter to hold off a feisty MAC team.  Florida should win the game, but if A&M can keep Johnny Manziel he will have many senior targets to throw to.  Manziel threw for over 3500 yards and 44 td’s his senior year at Tivy Antlers in Texas.

Vanderbilt vs. Northwestern:  It’s kind of a boring week of college football matchups when I put up a game between these two teams.  I’m trying to get excited for an Illinois team and I guess this will be the one I focus on for a while.  Vanderbilt comes in to Ryan Field after losing 17-13 to a very talented South Carolina team.  Northwestern, as mentioned earlier, just survived against a poor Syracuse team.  Vegas has Vanderbilt favored by 3.5 points, but don’t count the Wildcats out.  Fitzgerald clearly has a good read on his team and will have them ready for their home opener.

In other news:

– Savannah State  might not care about taking a 84-0 drubbing by Oklahoma State last week.  The Tigers will take away a hefty 385 thousand dollar check.  But what does this say to the student-athletes?  Sure you made some easy money, but nothing can make a team feel much worse than knowing they were whored out for money.

– Who is Sam Durley?  I know I asked myself that same question.  The Senior quarterback for Eureka College in Illinois broke the single game passing record last week.  Durley threw for 736 yards while leading the Red Devils in a come from behind 62-55 finish.  Durley is not new to holding records as he holds his high school record for passing yards with 375 passing yards, but this one has a little more meaning to it.

Gambling notes:

Last week 1-0-1    Season 1-0-1

This week

If I were you I’d save my money this week, most of the spreads are not worth staking your hard earn money on.  But knowing myself I’ll probably wait till half time on a few of these games.  So if you’re following my bets check out my twitter feed as I’ll post some of my plays there.

aw@99sportsproblems.com   twitter: spike1057

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Laces out!

by: Andrew Welebir
twitter: @Spike1057

As summer fades into fall and students make their way back into the swing of school, it only means one thing. Another season of college football is upon us. However, this offseason seemed more like a bad dream. With the constant stories surrounding Penn State University and the mishandling of child rapist Jerry Sandusky, it seemed like last season never really ended. Normally I’m really excited for a new college football season to begin, not so much this year.

I won’t lie to you Chicago is not really a college sports town. When local media shoves Notre Dame down your throat, located 90 miles away from the city, it’s hard to really get excited. Sure Northwestern, a member of the Big 10, is much closer but for some reason they never garnered the excitement of University of Illinois. One team who we should be talking about is University of Northern Illinois. Here’s a team that will go into the season with the longest running winning streak (9) in college football. You read that right, but again the only people who care about these stories are alumni. This is probably why you won’t be hearing much college talk this year. Nobody really cares in Chicago.

So let’s just talk about 5 teams you should pay attention to this season.

  • 1.USC – Matt Barkley is back to finish off a very solid career at USC and make a run at a National Championship. The senior had an outstanding season last year throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 Touch downs and is a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year. USC just finished off a two-year ban from post season play, and once again find themselves on top of the AP poll. This season has two big road blocks ahead, Sept. 15 against Stanford and Nov. 3 against Oregon. The game against Stanford has the chance to be a trap game with in state rival California Golden Bears waiting in the wings the following week. If Barkley and his talented group of WR can maintain the hype they will be receiving all season long then this might be their march back to dominance.
  • 2.Alabama – Nick Saban has proven he knows what he’s doing as a College football coach. After a tough first year at Alabama, Saban has led the Crimson Tide to a 44-4 record and won 2 national titles. So why not another national championship? Trenton Richardson has left for the NFL and with that he takes away a huge weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Taking his place is Eddie Lacy, who has been a solid back up the last two seasons. Two years ago he finished with a thousand yard season and last year he averaged over seven yards a carry. A.J. McCarron will once again be under center, but his core of wide receivers have since left and he will have to adjust.

    The defense has many questions this season after losing two of the best linebackers in college football. However, under Saban this team has continued to find players to make it work and I have a hard time thinking they won’t again. The SEC is always full with tough matchups and will challenge Alabama all season long. Make sure to check out the opening week matchup between Alabama and Michigan, this should let us know what type of team we’re going to see this season.

  • 3.Florida State – Finally there is something to cheer about in Tallahassee, Florida, after being one of the greatest college football teams through the better part of two decades. Last season was a huge disappointment for the Seminoles. Injuries plagued the team costing their players 40 games, more than any other team in college football. What should have been an awful season saw the Seminoles finish at 9-4 losing to Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.

    So why am I so optimistic for this Florida State team? Let’s start with the Defensive side of the ball. The team is one of the nastiest teams around. Last season they finished ranked as the 4th best defensive team and they only got stronger. The defensive line is stacked with many reserves that could be starters but the depth is such that they will rotate in. The offense should see improvements all around the field.

    The offensive line which was hit hard with injuries and bad play should bounce back nicely. The running game is nothing special but will help to take some of the load off talented EJ Manuel. Manuel has so many options at wide out that the sky is the limit for this kid. I think this team has an inside track at pulling off an undefeated season and taking on USC for the National Championship.

  • 4.Wisconsin – It’s not the team I’ll be watching this season. The only reason I care to watch a Big 10 team is because they have one of the most electric backs in all of college football. Montee Bell was about as good as possible last season. He only racked up over 2,200 total yards from scrimmage. Oh yeah he had 39 touch downs!! For some reason he felt he needed to return to Madison, Wisconsin for another season. Maybe he shouldn’t have seeing how he had a run in with three guys who bashed his head in. Hopefully he can take what he’s learned and do with it that others from Wisconsin could not do in the NFL. Time will tell.
  • 5.Texas – Truth be told I’m a huge Texas Longhorn fan, started with my love of Ricky Williams and Major Applewhite. By the way, I hate Chris Simms with a passion. I’ll never understand how that overrated trash could steal Applewhite’s starting position. Just because daddy was a NFL quarterback you deserve the starting nod over a guy who at the time owned every Texas football record. Screw you Simms!! Glad I got that off my chest.

    I’ll be honest I would love to see this team win another National Championship but I’m not stupid. The defensive side of the ball is solid, in fact they are the best in the Big 12 this year. Sure the loss of Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson at linebacker will hurt but the depth up front should help to overcome the inexperience at linebacker. Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat are two of the very best defensive ends in all of college football and should make for some great pass rushing.

    Running back Malcolm Brown shined last season as a freshman and should be the lead back again this season. If he can help shoulder the load and take pressure off a passing game which is very poor then this can be a Big 12 champion. However, if Brown struggles all eyes will move to David Ash and Case McCoy (brother of Colt McCoy) who will need to become more consistent than they were last year.

Notes:

-If you are looking for the next RG3 then look no further than Denard Robinson. Robinson will be working on his third straight season of 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing. He’s proven he has the ability to move around the pocket but does he have what it takes to sit back and light up the field with his arm? If the Wolverines plan to take that next step one would think that’s a must.

-If Northern Illinois plans on keeping that 9 game winning streak intact then the Defense will have to step up and lead the way. With quarterback Chandler Harnish gone all eyes will be on Junior QB Jordan Lynch. Lynch helped lead NIU to the Go Daddy Bowl title last year when he took over at the end leading NIU to a come from behind victory. NIU opens up against Iowa who they have never beat. (0-4)

-If LSU plans to get back on top they will have to do it without DB Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu was kicked off the team for failing a drug test. Mathieu aka The Honey Bear will be missed he was one of the most exciting football players on the field last year.

-Surely there are plenty of talented players I did not mention. Hell I didn’t want to rewrite the book just let you know what I’m watching for. So sadly I did not include a long piece on Marcus Lattimore. Look for something on this kid next time.

Gamblers note:
I love to gamble so each week I’m going to include a few games my money will be on.
Alabama -14
Michigan St -7
If you have anything you’re betting on send me a message or post it on the Facebook page.

He probably didn’t even say it. He wouldn’t dare. Would he?

This is not even a conversation. The fact that all this time is being wasted on a fruitless endeavor is sort o pissing me off. Basketball fans: it should piss you off, too. I don’t care if you’re the biggest Kobe fan in the world. Your only excuse to be on board with any of this is if you are under the age of…no, there is no excuse.

The beautiful thing about Kobe Bryant opening up his big mouth to say that 2012’s USA Basketball team could beat the original Dream Team is that there is actually no way to prove him right or wrong. It’s all speculation and competitive banter, but the part I don’t like is the disregard for the sanctity of the Dream Team. Up until this point, everyone has had the common courtesy and decency to concede to the Dream Team as the undisputed greatest basketball, no greatest period, team ever assembled.

As the anointed leader of the current Dream Teamers, this is another case of Kobe being Kobe.  I like that he’s reverting back to his former, 18 year old self-talking shit, allowing his ego to get the best of him, claiming supremacy in an area that no one can actually discredit him. He’s really just stirring up shit. What are his motives though?

Ed. Note – Oh you bet your ass Kobe is kicking it old school:
[youtube http://youtu.be/4uG8ubgvSSQ]

Uniquely American in every regard, only here in the States would you have a younger generation team showing up such a national treasure. Around the world, respect for one’s elders is considered a given, but not here. This is our sport. Basketball is ours, but show some respect. In the timeless and elegant words of  Westside Connection: bow down.

My initial reaction to Kobe’s proclamation was that of disgust mixed with a bit of shock. He said what? And LeBron backed him up, saying what about athleticism? Ate these jokesters for real? Maybe they thought the question was, “Can you beat the original Dream Team now, as in not them in their prime back in ’92 but now as middle aged men?” I think the ’92 squad would still give them a run…

Then I dug a little deeper, and I wanted to know more about not what Kobe said, but rather, why he would say it. Many of today’s top NBA talent doesn’t even make up their roster. The Dream Team consisted of the greatest players to ever play the game. Ever. Forever. For-ever-ever. For-ever-ever! Kobe needs to play the role of motivator, and that’s cool. But come on. Ignite the competitive fire at practice the way MJ would. Don’t make ridiculous claims like this. Lead by example on the court.

Th problem with this debate is that the rest of the world has caught up to us on the basketball stage, proven by our Athenian Bronze medal in 2004. When the 2012 squad blows teams out by an average of 40+ points, then a real debate can begin. Granted, they whooped the Dominican Republic last night by 50+, but their star is a 16 year old who’ll be a sophomore next year…in high school. So, they’re on pace after one game. We’ll see. Records are made to be broken, but legacies last a lifetime.

WWMJS? What would Michael Jordan say? He’s the most competitive person ever to walk the earth and soar its skies, so I’m sure he’s got something to say. The only competition the Dream Team faced was that of its own scrimmages, so it’s sort of fitting that its only competition twenty years later remains kept in the American family. By the way, Jordan just laughed off Kobe’s comments. Sounds about right. It is a laughable argument.

Bottom line: the Dream Team is and always will be superior. They’re the only team in the Hall of Fame for a reason.

If you somehow insanely disagree, chew on this:

Tyson Chandler looks to be the starting center. The Dream Team had Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, for crying out loud. Jordan is better than Kobe. Magic is better than LeBron. Scottie is better than LeBron. Stockton is better than Chris Paul. Barkley is better than any power forward on 2012’s team. Same goes for Karl Malone. And Bird is better than Durant and Carmelo Anthony, although Bird wasn’t Bird when sandman entered and The Dream Team dominated. I’d also like to point out the number of championships won, collectively, by both teams. OG Dream Team: Jordan’s 6, Scottie’s 6, Magic’s 5, Bird’s 3, The Admiral’s 2. That’s 22.

2012: Kobe’s 5, Chandler’s 1 from last year, and LeBron’s current 1. That’s a paltry total of 7, just 1 more than Jordan alone. NCAA Championships? Anthony’s got the only one for 2012. Jordan, Magic, Ewing, and Laettner (twice) all won it at the college level. But these accomplishments mean nothing to Kobe. He just thinks that if they played for 48 minutes, that his squad could win. Forget about the accomplishments, but they’re impossible to ignore.

Future Hall of Famers? Dream Team has 11 enshrined in The Hall. ’12 has future inductees in Kobe, LeBron, probably Durant and Paul when it’s all said and done. ‘Melo? No. Chandler? LOLz. 4 future HOFers by my count. Sorry Kobe, but you sound like Skip Bayless on this one. You’re just spouting bullshit to start a conversation. Well, there’s no conversation to be had here. This is a closed case, Mamba. But I’ll be more than happy when they get the technology ready for all 24 of you knuckleheads to hit the hardwood as holograms to settle the (non)debate once and for all. Then all sports conversations cease to exist, something I don’t totally welcome. Having opinions, disagreeing, proving yourself with memorized statistics and facts; these are a few of my favorite sports things. So let’s hear what you’ve got to say about USA Basketball, because we’ve regained supremacy. And that makes me happy as a fan of basketball and the Olympics. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Something I’ve wondered since I was like 10 years old though: why wasn’t Shaq on the squad instead of Christian Laettner? I mean, I’m sure his historic college career as arguably the best college baller ever (and Coach K) had something to do with it, but can you retrospectively imagine that now? A team filled to the brim with 12 Hall of Famers instead of only 11…

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

A Leader is Born

As much as I’ve loved what I’ve seen from young Anthony Rizzo both with the bat and with his glove, he really showed me something I didn’t expect from a player of his age and experience.  During a game against the Braves on July 2nd, a ground ball was hit to shortstop Starlin Castro by Dan Uggla.  After fielding the ball, Castro hesitated before throwing over to first base.  Uggla beat the late throw and many, me included, assumed it was just another brain fart/concentration issue for Starlin.  After the Braves were retired, Castro was immediately called over by manager Dale Sveum, presumably for a “keep your head out of your ass” lecture.  He’s gotten them before and I applaud Sveum for doing so.  But this time, there was a wrinkle.

The Riz went right up to Sveum and said it was his fault, that he took too long to get back to the bag.  Uggla is a right-handed hitter and an extreme pull hitter.  The Cubs infielders were swung around in a shift, leaving The Riz playing far off the bag near the hole.  When the grounder was hit, Rizzo was late to break to first, causing the hesitation on Castro’s part.  Now, many young players who made a mistake like that would see that their manager was ready to lay the blame on another.  He could have slipped into the dugout unnoticed, let Castro take the blame from Sveum and the fans who want to blame him for everything, and nobody would have been the wiser.

But The Riz isn’t just any young player.

He did what a leader does….immediately owned the blame.  He didn’t look to pass the buck.  At age 22, The Riz was ready, willing and able to step up like a veteran player, own up to a mistake and accept any consequences that came of it.  Sveum accepted the explanation and I’m sure was impressed at the maturity level of a young rookie, only 22 years old, already looking out for a teammate. You don’t see that in a whole lot of youngsters.  A leadership role is something some need to grow into.  You need a certain level of confidence in yourself to be able to take charge of others in a team sport.  Some are born with it and have always done it.  Jonathan Toews is a perfect example.  The Riz seems to be another.

When the Cubs were winning divisions in 2007 and 08, they didn’t really have a take-charge guy.  The closest they got was a guy like Derrek Lee, who never seemed like a strong personality or someone the other players took their cues from.  Building a winning team involves more than getting good hitters and pitchers.  You need players who can lead and impose a winning attitude upon the entire clubhouse or locker room.  Taking the blame like The Riz did is the type of thing that others notice and admire.  Players with this type of attitude and makeup are what TheoCo are trying to acquire along with talent.  I think they can mark this one in the positive side of the ledger.

The PSU Investigation Report

I’m not going to hammer on this topic.  There is plenty out there online about the release of the Freeh report and the ensuing reactions and emotions.  You can’t escape it.   I’ll therefore try to be brief….

What the Freeh investigation proved was that coach Joe Paterno, PSU president Graham Spanier, PSU vice-president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley all actively engaged in a massive cover-up of the activities of Jerry Sandusky.  Four insanely powerful and influential men did nothing to stop a serial rapist from perpetuating his vile activities, even allowing him unrestricted access to on-campus buildings and facilities, accompanied by numerous children (read: victims) for years even after they knew he had been under investigation for abusing children.  This had been suspected, but it’s now been proven.

The PSU program, termed “The Grand Experiment” was built by Paterno was built on a foundation of integrity, honesty and honor.  Paterno preached all of that and the PSU power-that-be embraced it.  It turned out to be a house of cards, built on a foundation of lies.  Integrity?  Please spare me.  Honesty?  Paterno lied to the grand jury about what he knew and when he knew it.  Honor?  Not a chance.  The entirety of PSU has been dishonored by the actions of those four and others like Mike McQueary, who saw Sandusky raping a kid on campus in the showers of the athletic building and did nothing to stop it.

There is no more defending any of those involved.   There is no more trying to justify Paterno’s reporting of the shower incident to his superiors.  There are no more questions about who knew what or when they knew it.  I do have one question though….who fits this definition?

sociopath, noun….a person with a psychopathic personality  whose behavior is anti-social,  often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

There are at least four acceptable answers I can think of here.  I’m sure you can figure them out because they fit them to a T.

Lying Thievery is Alive and Well

I’m not bitching about the recent dispute with Viacom that resulted in DTV dropping the Viacom network’s channels….MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and all their attendant channels, Comedy Central and a bunch of others.  That’s just a couple of fat kids holding their breath over who gets the bigger slice of the 16″ pizza in front of them.  There’s more than enough for both, yet they’re acting like spoiled little assholes.  But I digress….

No, what I’m bitching about is that DTV lied to or misled me from the beginning about what channels they offered, what their DVR capabilities were and the functionality of those DVRs.  I’ve burned thru more anytime minutes on my phone (good thing I have an unlimited plan) with these clowns than Keith Richards blew thru coke in the 70’s.  Well, maybe not.  But the point remains….DTV sucks a big fat hairy cock and my opinion won’t change until they make their service call Sunday and try to set this shit straight.

My money says they still fuck it up.

Andy Staples…Naw

Posted: July 3, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Football, NCAA, Sports
Tags: , , , ,

I’m sure Andy Staples is a nice guy. I hope he is rather. What he decided to write on the Penn State situation is rather…unfortunate. Original version can be found here.

Let’s just get into this thing:

(more…)

ALL THE KIDS WITH THEIR PUMPED UP KICKS

While watching the championship game between Kentucky and Kansas the other night, I had several revelations. Kentucky was sporting 4 or 5 future Lottery Picks. Kansas probably 1. Kentucky won the game before halftime started. Bill Self is annoying. Coach Cal knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it well.

Another revelation: with all four teams in the Final Four being from our neck of the woods, the Midwest truly is the place to be for basketball. All four teams in this year’s Final Four were from the Midwest. I know I probably won’t get much push back from most folks reading this, considering our location and our love for our hometown, not to mention the Midwest as a whole. Seriously though, Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas, and the net-cutting, champion Kentucky Wildcats and South Side Perspectives product Anthony Davis represented the Mighty Midwest to the fullest. Coach Cal finally got his title, and he’s catapulted dozens of one and dones to NBA stardom. Good for him. Good for his kids.  
 
When it comes to the Midwest basketball-wise, Indiana alone is sort of a roundball Mecca for Youth hoopers. New York’s Rucker Park for street ball yes, but the state of Indiana for true hoop dreams. The Hick From French Lick says enough for the Hoosier State. Larry Bird may have become Larry Legend in Boston, but his roots are firmly planted in the Midwest. Michigan is not short on talent either starring Magic Johnson, George Gervin, Chet Walker, The Fab Five, Michigan State, The Bad Boys, and Dave Debusschere. Chicago has also produced some of the best basketball talent the world has ever known. Starting with reigning MVP Derrick Rose (HE’S FROM CHICAGO, in best Stacey King voice), the list grows and grows with the likes of George Mikan, Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Maurice Cheeks, Michael Finley, Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers, and Mark Aguirre all hailing from Chicago(land area). The Bulls’ ridiculous run in the ’90s solidified Chicago as one of the greatest basketball cities, and we’ve become synonymous with the game’s greatest player ever, one Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

So what does mean more in the great debate over what is the best sports town? Is it how many legends hail from the area or does it depend on professional success? Seriously, I’m asking you. We take a certain sense of pride in our pros in every sport who hail from here, but we certainly don’t root for them when they face off against our teams. If our seasons are over and we have nothing left but local products to cheer on, we’ll take it. But seriously, Midwest is Best.

Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan. What other region of the country can boast that type of pedigree? 
KIDS IN THE HALL
As Chicagoans, we’ll always have our rivalry with New York. If they had the opportunity to burn down the city and start over the way we did, maybe they’d have installed alleys in every borough to store their fucking garbage instead of piling it up on the streets for all to enjoy. We suffer from the Second City Syndrome, but why? We think our food is better than theirs. We have two baseball teams just like them, albeit 25 championships less. Our neighborhoods are cool. Our art scene is emerging. We love our Bulls. We hate the Knicks. This is one of the few things we shared with Reggie Miller over the course of his career. Now he’s a Hall of Famer representing the Midwest on the professional level. Love him or hate him, he’s arguably one of the best three point shooters to ever hit the hardwood. That 30 for 30 on him is classic as hell. I’m surprised Spike Lee hasn’t hit the Twitterverse to express his opinion on Reggie’s upcoming induction. He obviously thinks it’s fine and dandy to do so to advertise what he thought was George Zimmerman’s address. Twitter, Facebook, all the social networking sites are for just that, networking and being social. Not to call a fucking lynch mob to some 70something couple’s house by mistake. A Chicagoan would never to that (through Twitter, that is). We’re gangsters here in The Chi. We handle our biz the old fashioned way. Seriously though, how did that old couple not go completely ape shit over the ordeal Mr. Lee caused them? Who does he think he is?! Besides being a sub-par film director, what has he really done other than provoke visiting superstars while patrolling courtside of Madison Square Garden? 
And who do we Midwesterners think we are? Well, politely of course, I think we’re the best pool of basketball talent in the country. Alright, New York. We’re ready to hear your argument…

The tournament’s just not that into you. It’s not you, it’s it. The tournament does not care about your crazy Cinderella stories and upset specials. Early on, yes, it was exciting. That’s when unsuspecting top seeds are supposed to get upended by upstarts trying, no dying, to make a splash and instantly put a new program on the map. Lehigh became only the fifth #15 seed to beat a #2 when they beat Duke this year. When that happened, you guys were still in that “can’t keep your hands off of each other, hot and heavy” phase. The tournament was expectedly exhilarating. It had you tuning in to games on three or four channels. You were bending over backwards to make sure you didn’t miss any of the action.

But you guys settled into sort of an annual, predictable rut. Turns out that the exciting tournament you fell in love with for its craziness and spontaneity was just a regular, boring ole tournamental showcase for the NCAA’s elite programs again. These elite programs continue to trump all the initial madness, triumphing over all the smaller conferences, mid-majors, and majorly unequipped programs to claim championship after championship. Once you get past the Sweet 16, the shocks dissipate, and what we’re left with is another notch on the belt for a top ranked program.

The most recent surprise to win it all? That would be Villanova as a #8 seed back in 1985. Since then, there have been 26 champions-16 of them were #1 seeds in their respective region. 4 were #2 seeds. 4 were #3 seeds. One was a #4 seed: Mike Bibby and Miles Simon’s (yes, THEE Miles Simon) Arizona Wildcats from 1997. The other was Danny Manning and Larry Brown’s Kansas Jayhawks from 1988, who won it all under the moniker Danny and The Miracles as a #6 seed.

For anyone who thinks the gap is anywhere near being bridged between major powerhouse programs and the wannabe up and comers, look around. Hi, I’m reality. Have we met? Baylor had a nice little regular season, but Brittney Griner and the Lady Bears might give them a run if it ever came down to it. Butler almost beat Duke a couple years ago in the Final, but come on. It’s Duke. They’re always susceptible to a loss in March. VCU made the Final Four last year, but they lost to Indiana in the second round this year. The aforementioned Butler actually had consecutive Final Four appearances leading up to this year, and this year ended up in the College Basketball Invitational. These two budding programs (Butler and VCU) are actually getting more attention this time of year for their coaches, baby faced Brad Stephens and frenetic Shaka Smart, deciding not to fill the head coaching vacancy at Illinois. The lack of a sustained effort over the course of time for these, and I use the term loosely, underprivileged schools makes for nice symbolism for their inability to break through the rigamaro of the tourney to win a national title. It’s a lot like the real life scenario when trying to get a job in your chosen industry: “Well, your resume looks good, but you don’t have any experience.” Bitch, how am I supposed to get any experience in the industry if you won’t give me the experience? How are these schools supposed to recruit without any credibility as national champions? They’re fighting a losing battle. Some high school graduates choose Purdue for engineering, Harvard to become President, West Point to take over the military, or Oxford to hone their scholarly crafts. Other high school graduates go to Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, or UCLA to play basketball (Disclaimer: the author is well-aware of every mentioned university’s academic achievements in addition to their sports accolades; this is a sports site though, after all).

The real madness lies in the fact that these student athletes are not allowed to reap any of the financial benefits until after leaving school and turning pro. Enter John Calipari. Those aforementioned high school seniors deciding where to attend college? If they desire to cash checks signed by David Stern and the NBA, they go wherever John Calipari is strolling the sidelines. He’s done it at UMass, Memphis, and now Kentucky. Rick Pitino has done it in four different decades. Bill Self has done it at Illinois and Kansas, and Thad Matta has done it twice now with Ohio State. Getting to the Final Four is one thing. Being the Final One is what it’s all about, but once again it’s going to be a well-known, already reputable school who will be the beat the bracket

This year, the teams that were supposed to be here are here. It’s not quite a 2008 situation when all four #1 seeds advanced to the Final Four, but Kentucky at #1, Ohio State and Kansas at #2, and Louisville at #4 is relatively…sane. These four powerhouse programs have a combined 20 Final Four appearances. Insane.

Looking back on your relationship with the NCAA Tournament though, it never was all that mad. The initial rounds provide some spark, but the top seeds who inevitably fizzle out are somewhat usual suspects to begin with (ahem, Duke, ahem). The Final Four is, and should be, reserved for the upper-echelon basketball programs who were ranked in the top ten all year for a reason. The SaniTERRYum is reserved for some semblance of madness, but March’s spark is fizzling fast.

That’s the beauty of March Madness: anything can happen. Only when reality sinks in do people realize that it usually doesn’t.

“The only difference between myself and a madman is that I AM NOT MAD!” -Salvador Dali

That magical time of year is upon us once again, hoop heads: the most wonderful time of the sports year when everyone becomes a college basketball “fan,” and the bracket racket gets un-drownoutably loud.

This is the best time of year to visit Cad T. Wasp’s The SaniTERRYum. Madness comes into full bloom by the end of March, and sports’ true unpredictable nature is on full display. You go to New England in the fall for the foliage. You leave Chicago in winter for the beaches of California and Florida. You come to The SaniTERRYum in March for the madness. And you stay for the…wait, why are you still here?

Oh of course, The Madness of March! By the time you read this, your bracket could very well be abundantly busted to smithereens. Or you could be on pace for a handsome payout. Here lies the heartbreaking beauty of March’s madness. How many brackets are you filling out? Who’s going to upset who? Yadda, yadda, yadda. Just enjoy the fact that we get a tournament at the end of the basketball season and not some ridiculous math equation that is the bullshit BCS. This is why  they should always play the games. Anything can happen, and you can’t put anything past anyone. I may submit brackets to several sources, but it is usually the same bracket. None of this, “I’ve got so and so in this bracket and so and so in that bracket.” One bracket. One prediction. Why would you get to make multiple predictions? Kind of takes away from the integrity of your selections, no?

I probably get my good sports gambling acumen from my dad. Growing up, he and I would rip out our brackets from the Sun-Times’ sports section and take our picks on every game, down to the NCAA Champion. I have picked North Carolina to win it all every year for as long as I can remember, and the nice thing about that is I end up being right every six to twelve years. Anyway, we’d fill out our brackets, and then we’d determine the stakes. No matter how well you predicted the Sweet 16, the Elite 8 or the Final 4, the only way you won was if your pick as champion withstood the test of the tournament of tournaments to be crowned champ. My prize was always something along the lines of a pullover Starter jacket or a new pair of shoes or a Georgetown Hoyas hat. He’d always end up getting me what I desired as winner of our bet regardless of win or lose, but it was always so much more rewarding when I actually won the whole thing on my own accord.

That’s how March Madness began for me. Father/son bonding over light sports gambling. I was probably eight or nine years old, already a full-blown basketball nerd. I don’t know if my dad ever beat me in those pools, because I definitely don’t recollect him collecting any winnings from me-his only son. To this day though, I still recall fondly visiting on weekends with Dad, catching the Tar Heels with Dick “Yea Bay-Bee” Vitale. They’ll always be my team, and I’m picking Harrison, Roy and The Tar Heels this year to cut down the nets in New Orleans.

And the tournament has its teams, its usual suspects year after year. There’s a reason for that, and it’s called recruiting. There’s a reason Freshman/Player of the Year Anthony Davis spurned hometown Chicago and Illinois schools for Calipari and Kentucky. Same goes for Derrick Rose and all other Chicago prep phenoms. Recruiting is the reason the top seeds go to the Kentuckys, North Carolinas, Syracuses and Michigan States of the college basketball world. There’s a reason Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, and Coach K perennially attract the top recruiting classes and remain the elite programs of the NCAA

The recruiting process only gets you so far though. Just ask Bill (and his choking) Self. You can practically pencil Kansas in for an early exit every year, no matter how good their regular seasons look. The beauty of a tournament at the end of the season lies in the opportunity for schools like VCU, George Mason, and Butler. The opportunity for the upper echelon schools to prove themselves is a beautiful thing, too. It’s still very survival of the fittest, very only the strong survive.

In The SaniTERRYum, anything is possible and interpretation is open for business. Just like the rigors and excitement of the NCAA Tournament.

Let the madness begin…

Rivalries are one of the greatest things about sports. Well, they used to be. Nowadays, the friendliness and fist bumping tends to override the competitive spirit that fuels a classic rivalry. Super teams are being formed by friends. Free agents are signing with teams that should forever hate each other. Sadly, it comes down to loyalty and pride being thrown out the window. This will ultimately be the downfall of sports, and I’ll be forced to explain all this to my grand kids someday. I can hear my future self now: “…Kids, back in my day there was this fellow named Michael Jordan…”

We, as fans, pledge allegiance to our teams’ flags, but the problem seems to be that the players don’t feel the same hometown connection to the cities and its inhabitants that root them on day in and night out.

Ever since the anticlimactic conclusion of Super Bowl XLVI between the Patriots and Giants, there has been some speculation swirling as to who are the greatest sports rivalries of the here and now. There are, of course, certain prerequisites for a matchup of two teams to be allowed to consider itself an actual rivalry. Both teams must establish a certain level of success. They must have regularly scheduled matchups as well as postseason series spliced in to spice it up a bit, because rivalries become such in the playoffs. There must be some level of legitimate hatred in their somewhere, too. At the collegiate level, the rivalry is somewhat easier to establish, but in the professional realm with ever-prevalent free agency always just lingering there and friends plotting fucking super teams with each other, rivalries come and go, no real chance for lasting effect and historical significance.

Since we just exited the midst of rivalry week in college hoops, let’s talk Duke/North Carolina. No matchup in NCAA Basketball has the tradition and folklore of the Duke Blue Devils versus the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tobacco Road geographical proximity adds to the intrigue. The NBA has seen more impactful alumni from these two schools than any other. First and foremost, the G.O.A.T, the best player in the history of the game, the one and only, Mr. Michael Jordan. Then you’ve got two of the greatest coaches ever to assemble Xs and Os, Dean Smith and Coach K Mike Krzyzewski. James Worthy. Grant Hill. Larry Brown. Luol Deng. Rasheed Wallace. Elton Brand. Sam Perkins. Carlos Boozer. Vince Carter. Shane Battier. Antawn Jamison. Johnny Dawkins. Tyler Hansbrough. Kenny “The Jet” Smith. Mitch Kupchak. Jerry Stackhouse. Kyrie Irving. Ty Lawson. Stuart Scott, even. “Holla at a playa when you see him in the street!” What? You thought this all started with a buzzer beater from freshman sensation, diaper dandy, Doc’s kid, Austin Rivers?

Without a solid understanding of rivalries from the past and those which have withstood the test of time, we can’t speculate on our teams’ current and future nemeses. With that in mind, let’s look at our city’s teams and the foes they’ll face in significant situations over the next few seasons.

Bulls/Heat and Bulls/Pacers: Outside of my man, Jeremy Lin, the Knicks suck really bad, so that’s why they failed to make this list. The Pacers truly believe they could’ve and should’ve beaten the Bulls in last year’s playoff series. Bulls fans definitely believe we should’ve represented the Eastern Conference in last year’s NBA Finals. The Bulls might have to beat both of these teams come April to make The Finals for the next decade or so. The Pacers are sort of built the same way as us: reliant on team defense, not a lot of flash on offense outside of their leading scorer, a free agent power forward in the twilight of his career, and knowledgeable Midwestern basketball fans filling the seats. The Heat are sort of the anti-Bulls team. They play hard D…when they feel compelled to kick it into high gear. So, so, so much flash on offense…for crying out loud, DWade’s nickname is Flash. As much as I hate the guy and hate to admit it (because I actually preferred Booze to Bosh when this South Beach Superteam nonsense went down), Chris Bosh is a better power forward than Booze right now. As for the fans: I’m not sure most of them even knew Miami had a basketball team before LeBron came to town. Chi Town stand up!

White Sox/Twins: I was raised a Chicago sports fan, so you’re not going to hear any Cubs/Sox-as-an-actual-rivalry-gobbledygook from me. Instead, the South Siders’ main rival resides in their own division. You know them as The Twinkies, and they’ve been a thorn in our side with their little farm system, which is a respectable way to build a team, if you ask me. The Minnesota Twins are the closest thing we’ve got to a true rivalry. C’mon, Sox. Not much to lose this year. Go start some shit with a club, and get a real rival.

Cubs/Cardinals: The Cubs have just sucked for the better part of the last century with glimpses of greatness peppered in once every ten to twelve years, so why would the pattern stop now? With the departure of the best player in baseball to DisneyLand and the American League, the Cardinals don’t look to defend their World Series with much confidence this year, either. With Prince Fielder also swapping Centrals, the Cubs’ division actually seems wide open in 2012. I mean, when the Pirates have a chance, anyone’s got just as good a shot. This one could be on the list of all-timers with the two teams separated by Illinois/Missouri state lines, the rights to Harry Caray’s immortality and Central Illinois at stake, and inspiration to spawn books about their intense rivalry whenever they take the field.

Bears/Packers: This one doesn’t even need a description. Only thing I’m going to say is this: if you hated Brett Favre growing up for beating up on the Bears, prepare your suicide notes from what Aaron Rodgers will inflict on your football psyche.

Blackhawks/Canucks: These guys have legitimate hatred for each other, reducing the rest of these rivalries to mere matchups of friends who play the games as a matter of happenstance. Shit talking. Goalie mind games (LOLuongo). Fights. Like, real fights. I’ll put it this way. Actually, I’ll let Hawks Center Dave Bolland, who referred to Canucks stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin as “sisters” he wouldn’t want on his team and saying there are “weirdos” in the city of Vancouver, put it his way. Let’s have a chant, shall we: USA! USA!

These rivalries have become embedded into the national psyche, but on a world stage, shit gets waaaaaaaay out of control with soccer riots, national pride-filled cricket matches, sports with not only in-game rivalries but religious implications as well. Let’s realize that we live in a country where sports do not dictate what happens politically, socially or religiously. We live in a country where freedom of choice still exists, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I, for one, cling to the old school rivalries of yesteryear, the ones with real history, so here are my Top 5 American Sports Rivalries of All-Time.

Honorable Mention: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Michael Jordan vs. The Bad Boys, Hulk Hogan vs. Macho Man Randy Savage, Michigan Wolverines vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Football

5. Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball

4. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

3. Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

1. Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York/San Francisco Giants

Sportsmanship, yes. But, seriously, leave the peace loving, hand shaking, friend making and hugging for the real world. Lord knows it needs it.

Dictum Meum Pactum…

“Joe Paterno, who racked up more wins than anyone else in major college football but was fired from Penn State amid a child sex abuse scandal has died.”

-AP

Architect of the “Grand Experiment,” coach with the most wins in FBS history, figurehead at Penn State University, an inspiration to many, and forever an enabler to arguably the most horrific figure in sports history. Joe Paterno died sometime between Jan. 21-22 after being diagnosed with lung cancer, he was surrounded by his family, he was allowed to say goodbye to his loved ones. He more than likely died in peace, a silent goodbye to those closest to him.

This is unfortunate not because I mourn his passing, it is unfortunate because he will never face any real justice for what he allowed to happen under his watch at Penn State. There are many fans and PSU alumni who wanted to see Joe Paterno reinstated and honored at the disgraced university as a measure of justice to the man that they claim was a noble man.

This notion is silly. A noble man does more than what’s expected of him, a noble man goes above ad beyond what is asked of him in dire situations. Valor is not defined by simply doing what the rulebook dictates you do. Valor is having the courage to stand up for those who cannot. To have honor is to seek out injustice when it’s close to you and weed it out. To be a noble man is to act nobly, and to act nobly is to ensure the safety of those that need it most.

Joe Paterno did what was legally required of him by law, and that’s it. The noble man did not kick out a sexual predator from his institution. He did not ensure the safety of young boys that were being preyed upon by a despicable man. He did not bring Sandusky to justice, he did not pursue any other actions besides those which were legally required of him, and for someone who has been called “Noble,” that is simply not enough. It’s not even enough for a decent man.

Paterno held the power at PSU, he was the face of the college. His word was law there. He could have done more, he should have done more, and while I will not celebrate his passing, I will not mourn it either. Paterno fell victim to an illness, but it does not make him the victim. I am well prepared for what’s to follow, the demands for another Joe Paterno memorial, a Joe Paterno remembrance day, things like that.

He doesn’t deserve that. What he deserved was to face the victims of what he enabled to truly see the damage he helped happen.

He didn’t get that either.