I want to make a bold statement today, but first, let's have some fun and check out the highlights from what I'm calling "Seth Curry's Wonder-Half." In the first 20 minutes against North Carolina on Saturday night, he went 8-for-10 from the field, scored 18 points, and propelled the Blue Devils to a 42-24 halftime lead that became a blowout 69-53 win over North Carolina.
Confession time: I have a bad relationship with GIFs. I'm 100 percent alone on this one, I know, especially among young Internet sports types. But to me, GIFs are like "Harlem Shake" videos — hilarious visual gag at first, until you become so inundated that you go numb and begin to hate the person who bought you your first computer and sent you on this horrible, soul-killing journey into the heart of the Internet. (Important note: This is for comedy GIFs only it doesn't go for the ones that are just meant to show a sweet dunk, a great goal, or any of the other sincere uses of the form.)
Watching a GIF, I get the weird sense that I'm being manipulated, as though I'm laughing begrudgingly at a stand-up comedian whose only bit is to hit himself in the face with a baking pan. The endless repetition is supposed to be what gives the image its humor, but something about it drives me crazy. It's like we're making snark-commodities out of human moments. (Actually, pretend I just said something along the same lines, but less pretentious.)
This is my only soapbox. I only care about destroying the GIF culture. But after all that big talk, I have to admit that I still laugh at the really good ones that transcend the medium, like Ben McLemore dancing. And the reason I'm mentioning it now is that I violated my own principles and yeah, made a GIF. I couldn't help it:
I know I should have stuck to my guns, but the way the cameraman went into soft focus on Kelly and readjusted to the fan doing the White Raven arms — it's like he was begging me to make a GIF. He was my serpent, and his comic shot was the forbidden apple. I hope this isn't the start of a slippery slope, but in three months you'll probably find me lying face down in a dark Internet cafe, dead from a GIF overdose.
The football rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State, nicknamed the "Civil War,” has always had something of an image problem. Take the name, for starters: Though quite common, it’s not as deliciously ironic as the BYU-Utah “Holy War,” or as geographically appropriate as the West Virginia–Pittsburgh “Backyard Brawl.” But for decades, that name was all they had. Neither school was even remotely on the national radar before the mid-'90s. And if they were, it was because of their Disneyfied color schemes and innocuous mascots.
But now, the “Civil War” sounds entirely quaint seeing as how the Beavers have taken after the Ducks’ Decepticon rebranding and the two schools will appear to be reenacting Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen this December, right in time for Christmas. By this point, I don’t think I have to preface you on why it’s major news when Oregon State’s Nike-sponsored gear is dropping jaws. My lord, have you seen these new Oregon State unis? Being that Phil Knight is a UO alum, I’m unsure if OSU has much pull in Beaverton (oddly enough), but it appears as if the school took a gander at Nike’s Pro Combat line and said, “We’re trying to win football games, not look like we’re going to church.” Those Neopolitan face masks!
The lesson was important: The Beavers already had one of the most recognizable color schemes and logos in college football, but as coach Mike Riley tweeted, it’s all about luring 18-year-old kids who might base the next four years of their lives on the possibility of wearing socks that are inscribed with “hip hop hooray.” Oregon State can serve as an example for many other second bananas across the college football landscape that are seeking to gain ground on their more respected rivals through some kind of radical and ridiculous rebranding. Sure, it looks a little desperate and they might always be no. 2 compared to their wealthier, more successful elders, but there’s nothing wrong with being Solange these days. Here are some more glaring opportunities:
In case you were out learning that what you thought was Oscar Fever is actually just an untreated strep infection, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
In their first game since the death of longtime team owner Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics, 113-99, at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant, who led a ceremony in Buss's honor before the game, was somber afterward, saying, "He's not gone, man. You can't just get rid of a guy like him. He's still here, with us, in this locker room. In fact, he's in my locker right now, waiting to scare me, like I'm a fool. But I'm not a fool. He's the fool, and he's way out of line." Dwight Howard then emerged sheepishly from Bryant's locker holding a blonde wig and a Jerry Buss mask.
James Harden had a career night against his former team, scoring 46 points as the Houston Rockets edged the Oklahoma City Thunder, 122-119. After the game, Kevin Durant was distraught in the locker room, telling coach Scott Brooks, "He was my best friend. Now he moves away, and he acts like he doesn't even know me. This is your fault! We never should've let him move! It's not fair!" Brooks nodded gently, before saying, "Do I feel guilty, Kevin? A little. Honestly, I do. I didn't want you two to have to be apart. But sometimes decisions are made, and while they hurt, they're right decisions in the long run. Plus, you like hanging out with Kevin [Martin], don't you?" Durant shook his head, fighting back the tears. "I hate Kevin! I hate everyone!" Brooks scowled at his forward, "You don't mean that, Kevin. Tell Kevin you're sorry." Durant looked at his teammate, as his lower lip started to quiver. "I'm sorry, Kevin. I like you. It's another Kevin that I don't like right now: me." Martin patted his teammate on the back, "I get it, man. The trade wasn't easy for me either. And, hey, [Thunder Assistant Coach] Mo Cheeks is gonna take me out for ice cream later. You wanna come?" Durant couldn't help but let himself smile. "Ice cream with Mo? Yeah, man. I'll be there."
The Big Ten Road Trip, with all its local comforts, is over, and now it's time to plunge back into the chaos of the national scene. A huge part of college basketball analysis is projecting what will happen in the postseason. It makes sense, because the sport is defined by a few crazy days in March, but I always get a fleeting sense of regret around this time of year. I wish conference tournaments meant more, and I especially wish regular-season conference championships meant more.
I love March Madness as much as anyone, but the truth is it's one of the worst postseasons in terms of crowning the actual best team. That's why it's great; you have to win on a given day, and the small sample size allows for the upsets and anomalies that give the tournament its character. In fact, of the six major American professional and college sports, I'd argue that college hoops is at the bottom of the postseason reliability spectrum. Here are my rankings, from most to least reliable:
In case you were busy watching the test signal on the NFL RedZone channel and holding back the tears, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
Notre Dame outlasted Louisville, 104-101, in a five-overtime thriller in South Bend. Now, I just looked at the box score for this game, and I saw something a bit suspicious. The score was the same at the end of regulation, the first overtime, the second overtime, the third overtime, and the fourth overtime? Isn't that a little fishy? A little too fishy? See, both teams had 60 points at the end of regulation. Then they both scored eight points in the first overtime. Then seven in the second. OK, that's weird enough, but get this: In the third overtime, they both scored eight again. Too much, right? But it gets worse. In the fourth overtime, they both score 10. Perfect 10. Then, just to throw me off the trail, Louisville scores eight again, but Notre Dame, the Irish, I kid you not, scores 11. Lucky number 11. Now I don't want to accuse the good people of Notre Dame of any misconduct without proof, but it seems as if they were trying to get the same score at the end of every period, doesn't it? Until, quite naturally, they scored two different numbers. Very clever, guys. A little too clever. I'm keeping my eye on you, Notre Dame.
Wisconsin upset Michigan, 65-62, in overtime, after Badgers junior Ben Brust made an improbable half-court shot to tie the game at the end of regulation. "That's the sort of shot that needs to be immortalized with a song parody," overexcited Wisconsin junior Walker Nelson said after the game. "How does Brustified sound? Like, Justin Timberlake? But like, with Brust. We could do a whole suite of parody songs, like, 'Bringing Devin Back' in reference to [former Badgers point guard] Devin Harris. I'm totally going to get on this right away." Nelson then went back to his fraternity house, where he watched his ill-conceived ’N Sync parody from freshman year, "J.J. Watt You Back," and thought long and hard about his life choices.
When my wife read Friday's post, she asked me why I cared who was the beefiest or bulkiest player in the country. And I have to tell you guys I didn't have a good answer. Let's move on to this week's epiphanies and observations.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
A last-minute drive came up short when no. 3 Georgia opted not to spike the football inside the 10 and instead mistakenly completed a pass to the 5-yard line, allowing the clock to run out and giving no. 2 Alabama a 32-28 win in the SEC championship game and a spot in the BCS title game opposite Notre Dame. Georgia coach Mark Richt insisted that he kept trying to yell at his team to spike the ball, but that his vocal cords felt painfully constricted, while video footage of the Alabama sideline shows Nick Saban reaching across the field with one hand at that exact moment.
It's Rivalry slash Thanksgiving Week, when teams who have historically aggravated one another by virtue of shared geography, but who may not even be in the same conference in 2012, meet up for an annual gathering of bad feelings. This is the week for Florida–Florida State, Georgia Tech–Georgia, South Carolina–Clemson, and more. But before we get to the top 10 games, let's take a quick look at the perfect scenario for the final few weeks of college football, and let's do it in stream-of-consciousness form. For the ultimate comedic and poetic payoff, here's what has to happen:
Oregon loses to Oregon State, Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, Florida loses to Florida State, Alabama loses to Georgia in SEC title game, Georgia Tech beats Florida State in ACC title game, Kansas State loses to Texas, Stanford beats UCLA then loses to UCLA in Pac-12 title game, Louisville beats Rutgers but loses in a bowl game, Wisconsin beats Nebraska in Big Ten title game, Notre Dame loses to USC, Oklahoma wins out, Kent State and Northern Illinois both lose in bowls.
First, none of those outcomes are unlikely. All of them put together? Highly unlikely. But humor me for a second, because these are the teams that would earn automatic BCS berths if that scenario plays out: Georgia Tech, Georgia, Louisville, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Oklahoma. And the national title game would probably be Notre Dame vs. Georgia. Now, let's say Notre Dame, at 11-1, loses to 11-2 Georgia. Also, Ohio State beats Michigan this week.
The result? Zero bowl-eligible teams with even a one-loss record, and a BCS champion in Georgia that lost 35-7 to South Carolina, and suffered a hypothetical loss to Georgia Tech. The whole college landscape is a dusty wasteland. And then, rising amid the destruction, like a glorious phoenix, is Urban Meyer with his 12-0 Ohio State team. So riddle me this — could the AP poll, which is independent of the BCS, really put the Buckeyes anywhere but no. 1? I say no, and that means Ohio State would win a split national championship. The same Ohio State that's banned from postseason play because some kid got a free tattoo, and the same Ohio State that barely beat Cal at home, escaped from Indiana, and needed a miracle to beat Purdue in overtime.
And when all that happens, I'm going to phone up the BCS and just start laughing in their faces. A dude can dream.
The most interesting part of the Puerto Rico Tipoff championship game, which ended with a 76-56 Oklahoma State upset over no. 6 NC State, was always going to be the point guard duel: Wolfpack junior Lorenzo Brown vs. Cowboy freshman Marcus Smart. Brown emerged as one of the most exciting point guards at the end of last season, and was a first-team All-ACC preseason pick. Smart has earned some recognition as one of the top freshmen in his class, but has routinely been overshadowed by players at high-profile programs like Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad. But after Sunday's game, when Smart spent 40 minutes embarrassing one of the best point guards in the country on his way to earning a tournament MVP, that should no longer be a problem.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
No. 13 Stanford stymied no. 2 Oregon's vaunted offense and all but ended the Ducks' national title hopes with a 17-14 overtime upset. In what can only be called a copycat crime, an enraged Oregon fan used pesticide in an attempt to poison the famous Stanford tree, and was undeterred when the tree kept yelling "I'm a person! I'm a mascot!"
The Cleveland Browns had an interesting first day of the 2012 NFL draft. On the one hand, Cleveland got two of the draft's most productive players: Brandon Weeden, quarterback from Oklahoma State, who threw 71 touchdowns over the past two seasons, and Trent Richardson, an absolutely ferocious running back who rushed for more than 1,600 yards as the offensive centerpiece for Alabama's championship squad.
And yet, we’re starting to see that drafting a running back so high — the Browns traded up to get Richardson — is typically not a great idea. And Weeden? Well, let's just say that picking a rookie quarterback who is 28 years old is not exactly without risk.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Lakers used 12 fourth quarter points from Kobe Bryant to rally for a 96-91 win over the Clippers. After the final whistle, scuffles broke out on the floor when Pau Gasol patted Chris Paul on the head. "I don't know if Pau's got kids, but don't touch my head like I'm one of your kids," said an angry Paul. "I don't have kids," responded Gasol. "Yet." Then he winked at the camera, and held up a placard with his phone number and a picture of a rose.
Rafael Nadal continued his Grand Slam dominance over Roger Federer, winning in four sets to advance to the Australian Open final. Rafa is now 8-2 over his rival in the Grand Slams, and 18-9 overall, leading to the odd situation where Federer is the greatest player of all-time, and yet only the second-greatest of his own era. "It's a historian's nightmare!" shouted a frantic historian, fumbling with his glasses and tripping over a pile of history books.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday
Flu-like symptoms didn't stop LeBron James from scoring 31 points and leading the Heat to a 98-87 win over the Lakers. "It was just like Jordan in Game 5 of the '97 Finals!" yelled a sweaty, 6'8" reporter wearing a fake mustache and beard, as everyone in the press area waited for LeBron to come out.
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal both advanced to the round of 16 in straight sets at the Australian Open, where they're on a collision course to meet in the semifinals. The last time they met in Australia, Rafa made Roger cry by beating him in the finals. This time, Roger vowed to stew moodily in the background, flick wisps of hair off his forehead, and daydream about fire-bombing the whole island of Mallorca.
“I will say this: I bet you there'll be a lot of people wish they'd given us a shot to see a different kind of game. We'd have thrown it 50 times. You like to think Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon could have put together some touchdowns. Get the ball thrown down the field and open some things up. Try to make it exciting, and see what happens.” — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy
It got so bad that when the Crimson Tide dumped the Gatorade on Alabama coach Nick Saban, I half expected the Gatorade to be tackled for a loss. It got so bad that the 50-yard line died of sadness after the third quarter, and nobody noticed. It got so bad that the bespectacled marine biologist Allstate trotted out to try a 40-yard field goal at halftime had a legitimate shot to outscore the entire LSU offense. In the end, his zero-field goal performance only tied the entire LSU offense. He will be ranked no. 4 in the preseason coaches’ poll.
It got so bad that I spent about 15 minutes trying to plot what would happen if the bespectacled marine biologist were a team in the SEC West. Assume he’d lose in, say, six overtimes at Baton Rouge. That would make him the favorite against Auburn and the Mississippis, right? Even playing every position on both sides of the ball simultaneously and not being in shape or having a helmet or pads, he couldn’t produce a worse game plan than Les Miles and Greg Studrawa did Monday night in Alabama's 21-0 win over LSU. Honestly, I think he’d have a shot at the conference title game if he could squeak out the win over Arkansas.
So yeah, it got bad. Somewhere, on one of those winding forest roads that are always showing up in Michelin commercials, a deer frozen in the headlights of an onrushing Subaru Outback devoted the final second of its short life on earth to the thought: You know what, I’m still running the speed option better than Jordan Jefferson is right now.
And so, as an Oklahoma State fan, I say to you: What in the hell, people? I bring you many earnest what in the hells. That was it? That was the immovable wall of Technicolor fearsome that Oklahoma State and Stanford had no chance of competing against? That was your big reveal? We are now in the position of crowning a national champion that couldn’t convert the extra point after its solitary touchdown of the game. You’re seriously telling me that our poor little old Big 12/Pac-12 selves didn’t deserve a glance at this business?