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.
One of the unfortunate realities of sportswriting is that you're often compelled to make bold predictions, only to suffer all the indignities that follow. Only a true masochist makes predictions, because when you're wrong — and you're always going to be wrong — it becomes a feeding frenzy for the bottom-feeders of the homer ecosystem. Here's what I wrote about the Villanova-Syracuse game on Friday:
As the box score shows, ’Nova shot lights out and got to the line at an incredible rate. These are not repeatable skills for a mediocre offensive team, so I fully expect Syracuse to come in and dominate.
Here's what happened:
Bolstered by the heroics of freshman guard Ryan "Archie" Arcidiacono, ’Nova went on to win by four in overtime. Along the way, they repeated the unrepeatable skills of shooting very well and getting to the line, and threw in a lot of offensive rebounds for good measure. I knew retribution was coming. When I checked my Twitter feed a few hours after the game, it was full of "barbs" from the Wildcats partisans. And the tone — my God, the tone! Brotherly love, my ass. One gentleman from the "Nova Basketball Report" even went back to the article itself and left this gem: "You couldn't be more wrong about nova... good call jackass." Three others liked it.
Today we're playing Ben Howland ball. No stalls, go go go! Let's get right to the countdown …
10. No. 5 Louisville at Georgetown, Saturday, Noon, ESPN
One revelation for me this season is that teams that play very slow, physical styles with a focus on defense — and a less worthy offense — tend to be very unpredictable. KenPom has the Hoyas as a top-10 defense, but a distant 145th on offense, and their results have been all over the place. There's an OT loss to Indiana, a win over UCLA, a blowout loss against Pittsburgh, a blowout win against Notre Dame, and grinding losses to Marquette and South Florida. When you look at Virginia's profile — 9th on defense, 131st on offense — you see the same apparent randomness. Which means that this game is actually pretty tough to predict. You'd expect Louisville to bounce back in a big way after dropping two straight to Syracuse and Villanova, and you'd expect that the excellent Pitino defense would hold Georgetown to somewhere around 50 points, but there's the nagging possibility that the Hoyas could return the favor and steal one at home.
Wednesday, January 9, will go down in infamy as the Night of Two Dunks. It started with Illinois' Brandon Paul trying his luck against Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe:
On any other night, that would easily be the top jam. It was so good that if you had to nominate 10 dunks for some kind of Dunk of the Year award, it would be an automatic entry. There's no way there will be nine better in the entire season. The idea of topping it that same night was ludicrous; at most, you might have a dunk that looked exactly the same, but it wouldn't be quite as cool because it came second.
And then San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin did this:
Remember that period in college basketball history when the last two weeks of December were the worst of the season? When exam time and cupcake schedules made for a miserable, dormant period leading up to the excitement of conference play? That epoch lasted from 1891, when James Naismith invented basketball, to 2011, when Kansas beat Toledo A&M 145-6 on December 31.* But it all came to an end in 2012, because, holy sweet Moses, we were treated to some spectacular action in the last two weeks of 2012. (I want you all to know how hard it was for me not to swear in that sentence. Right now, looking back, I can spot nine different places where an f-bomb would've felt really good.) It started with three exciting games on Saturday the 22nd, when Temple upset Syracuse, Kansas beat Ohio State, and Missouri out-gunned Illinois, and continued all the way to New Year's Eve and Gonzaga's road win over Oklahoma State. Hardly a day passed without a great game, or at least an interesting one. Our fan cups ranneth over.**
*Some liberty is taken with historical facts.
**My fan cup has a magazine photo of Coach K steam-pressed onto the side.
It felt like I should've been there for you guys, writing something smart, but instead I just gorged on cookies and pie at my mom's house for two weeks. In the end, I think I made the right choice. (You don't know heaven until you've dipped a snickerdoodle into pumpkin pie and then poured milk all over yourself just because it's not your furniture and you've always wondered what that would be like.) But to atone for my absence during that solid stretch of hoops, I've put together a few videos of the most amusing/heartbreaking/theatrical moments of the year-end frenzy, and I'll include them along with the top 10 games of the weekend.
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.
The Redskins rallied to beat the Ravens, 31-28, in overtime, and dodged a bullet when Robert Griffin III's knee injury was diagnosed a sprain, and not an ACL tear. They dodged another bullet when they discovered it wasn't a sprained knee at all, just a swollen fat face, and dodged a final bullet when they realized they were actually looking at a large photo of team owner Dan Snyder.
Philadelphia native John Chaney led the Temple Owls to 17 NCAA tournaments in 18 years. During his Hall of Fame career, the Owls played an unorthodox and physical matchup zone that no other team could replicate, forcing far more talented teams to leave contests against Temple both bruised and befuddled. Temple’s offense was often equally as brutal, but they hit just enough shots for Chaney to win 516 games in his tenure on North Broad Street. At their best, the Owls were a team that suffocated the will out of their opponents, routinely leading the nation in scoring defense and turnover margin. You had to beat Temple — they would not beat themselves — and opposing coaches would openly complain when they drew the Owls in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
He was not a saint, and there were parts of him that was pure South Philly. But you always knew where he stood. Chaney retired at the end of the 2006 campaign, but at the age of 80, he still closely follows the game. Earlier this week, we caught up with the legendary coach to discuss Temple’s impending move to the Big East, his former nemesis, John Calipari, and scouting tips on some of the nation’s top teams.
You’ve seen the recent upheaval with Temple finally making the move to the Big East. Would you have liked to coach in the Big East?
I’m kind of ambivalent about it. Years ago, the Big East had a vote as to whether or not to take us into the league. And at that time, they took us in football, but not in basketball. And at that time, we were playing as good or better than most of the teams in the Big East. It didn’t make sense, but I really didn’t give a damn about the Big East.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Multiple sources reported that at least 12 of 32 NFL teams contacted Peyton Manning's representatives after he was released by the Colts. Two were misdials meant for Andrew Luck, three were pranks, and six were condolence calls from people who seemed to think that Manning had actually died. Rex Ryan was the twelfth caller, but he just kept repeating the words "chicken wannggggs" in a throaty whisper.
After the Lakers blew a 21-point lead to the Wizards, reports surfaced that players are concerned over head coach Mike Brown's x-and-o ability to design an offense. "He doesn't seem to understand that the X's and O's are supposed to be on different teams," said a Laker player who asked not to be identified. "And I wish he wouldn't waste every timeout drawing pictures of mascots having sex."
Derrick Rose's long jumper at the buzzer gave the Bulls a 106-104 win over the Bucks. After the game, Rose was ecstatic. "Coach Thibodeau called a timeout just before," he said, "but he basically spent the whole time drawing penises on the clipboard to try to make us laugh. So I decided I better hit a shot."
Three more schools punched their tickets to the Dance by winning conference tournaments: Lehigh, LIU Brooklyn, and Montana. Unfortunately, nobody in Montana has been allowed to dance since the governor made it a "communist activity" during the Red Scare, so the team is barred from participating.
Tournament committee chairman Jeff Hathaway held a teleconference during which he told reporters that Syracuse and Kentucky have the edge as the top two teams in the country. "Thanks, captain obvious," I said to myself, just now, since nobody invited me to the teleconference. In my imagination, all the other reporters laughed and said, "Hey, you're pretty cool, want to hang out at the journalism bar and tell stories?"
After a decade in exile, Temple is returning to the Big East for the 2012 season. When a school representative swung by to check out the Big East and say hey, he was all like, "whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa where did all the cool people go?" And UCF was all like, "Hey, you into pogs?" and Temple was like, "Kinda, but still, fuck."
Lionel Messi became the first player in Champions League history to score five goals in a match as Barcelona crushed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 in the round of 16. Unfortunately, he has a really long way to go before he can think about breaking Wilt Chamberlain's record of 100 points in a game.
Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, a much-hyped Japanese prospect, pitched his first two innings of spring training ball yesterday, giving up two doubles and striking out three in a decent outing. He used every weapon in his seven-pitch repertoire, including the pitch where he throws the ball over the batter's head and then rushes in to tackle him before he can get up, a classic Japanese intimidation move.
According to Mexican League Baseball officials, Jose Canseco admitted to taking a banned substance and won't play in the league as planned this season. The move was a huge disappointment to Mexican fans, who were hoping to enjoy Canseco's old-school antics before he inevitably said something stupid and was murdered by a cartel.
It seems odd to call Philadelphia a basketball town. Despite their success early this season, the Sixers are a distant fourth in fan interest as far the city’s professional teams go. The Eagles and Phillies dominate the headlines, and the Flyers have an avid, raucous following. But with five Division I basketball programs (actually six, but no one cares about Drexel) clustered together within miles of each other, the city every year morphs into one of the true havens of college hoops as soon as the Eagles are eliminated.
The Big 5 started in 1955 when the athletic directors at La Salle, Penn, St. Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova decided they would all play the vast majority of home games at the Palestra on Penn’s campus in doubleheader formats. Out of this arrangement, the city series was born, an annual round-robin tournament between the five schools. Several major cities have multiple major programs, but none of them play each other with any regularity. Yet for all but an eight-year stretch in the '90s, the Big 5 schools have dutifully faced each other, playing for a largely mythic city championship and bragging rights at Sonny Hill League summer games.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
West Virginia broke the record for most points scored in a bowl game with a 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. It was an ignominious end to the season for ACC football, but at least the conference can count on great basketball teams like Duke to restore its reputation against non-conference opponents.
After waiting for what has felt like an eternity, the most unnecessary, absurd, and laughable day of the year in sports has finally arrived and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Based on that last sentence, most of you are probably confused as to why I’m excited about the WNBA draft or why the WNBA is holding its draft on a Friday in October. Well, this might come as a bit of a surprise, but I’m actually not referring to the WNBA at all. No, I’m talking about today being the first day of official practice for college basketball teams, which means tonight is when many teams around the country take part in a little something called Midnight Madness.
It was a fine, solid, decent week in college football. Not great, because that would imply the promise of high drama was realized, and that didn't happen very often Saturday. It was a bit of a day-long tease, in fact, with game after game ending one or two plays short of delirium. But as a table-setter, which is all we can really ask, Week 3 delivered.
First, let's begin with some
That no. 1 ranking next to Oklahoma's name didn't feel quite right. As I mentioned in the preview post, the Sooners are 1-5 in their past six BCS bowl games, and they've had some trouble beating Texas over that same stretch. I didn't trust them, and maybe I got a little too swept up in the narrative of Florida State's resurgence.
Ty Hildenbrandt and Dan Rubenstein return to the Grantland Network to wrap college football's third week, review their favorite Road Test Weekend memories, and attempt to figure out screwy conference realignment storylines.
Ty also briefly exhales after an impressive Notre Dame win and discusses his experience at the Temple-Penn State "game" in Philadelphia (his obsession with minimally-armed QBs continues). And finally, your Week 3 Reverbs (listener reaction voicemails) are unleashed onto the world.