In case you were busy cheering Matt Schaub's ankle injury because that's the only way to fill the pit of sadness that lives in your chest, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
New England handed New Orleans its first loss of the season as Tom Brady's last-minute heroics gave the Patriots a stunning 30-27 comeback victory. "Well, that's the best comeback this city will see for a long time," Brady said after the game. "I mean, I hate to use the word untoppable, because I don't think it's a real word, but I'm positive this win will prove to be the most untoppable win this city has ever seen. Everyone might as well just take the rest of the day off from caring about Boston sports, because it cannot possibly get better than this — hold on, let me just flip over to the Sox game, and yeah, see? They're down four in the eighth inning. As I was saying, untop— whoa "
David Ortiz's eighth-inning grand slam set the table for another miraculous Sunday night comeback in Boston as the Red Sox evened up the ALCS at a game apiece with a 6-5 walk-off win over the Detroit Tigers. Ortiz's fifth go-ahead or game-tying hit in the final two innings of a playoff game tied him for third all time on the list with former teammate Manny Ramirez Jason Varitek Johnny Damon Kevin Millar Dave Roberts Kevin Youkilis? Who is it? Um Trot Nixon? No? Gosh. Dustin Pedroia is still on the team, so it can't be him. Oh, duh, Nomar. No? OK, long-shot guess: Curt Schilling? Obviously not. Well it can't be J.D. Oh, you have to be kidding me. Really? J.D.? No, I won't do it. I won't type his whole name. The only people ahead of him on this list are Bernie Williams and Pete Rose? It's too weird, though I guess he has an unfairly bad reputation given his contributions to the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Red Sox. Plus, it was such a big weekend for all three of those teams you know what, fine: J.D. Drew. Ortiz and J.D. Drew are now statistical equals when it comes to clutch postseason performances.
In case you were busy watching Senator Ted Cruz do his best Eli Manning impression, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The New Orleans Saints outclassed the previously unbeaten Miami Dolphins in a 38-17 win, sending a message to the rest of the NFL that they are prepared, after a down year, to return to the ranks of the league's elite. Fortunately we here at ALN got an exclusive leaked copy of the text of that message; here it is in its entirety:
Dear Denver, Seattle, New England, and San Francisco, um, Kansas City? Sure, why not. Kansas City,
Hey, guys, it's the Saints. How are you? We feel like we really lost touch with ya'll last year. And that's our fault. We hate to lay blame or make excuses, but in this case we really feel we must. So much was going on with us, and our coach, and Roger. It's always hard when you get hurt by the ones you love, especially when they aren't being paid to hurt you. But we've moved on, and we'd like to think you guys have too. I heard some of you are even still friends with Roger. That's fine. Seriously, it's fine. That's fine. It's all just fine. Fine. Whatever. You are the company you keep, is what we say down in New Orleans, but do what you must.
In case you were busy revamping your intimidation-based game plan, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Houston Texans stormed back from 21 points down to beat the San Diego Chargers, 31-28. "I'm in Cleveland now," yelled former San Diego head coach Norv Turner preemptively when picking up a phone call from a restricted number after the game. "God-forsaken Cleveland, OK? I used to be the head coach in San Diego, and now I'm here. Maybe it wasn't all my fault, huh? Are you happy? 'Cause I'm not," before profusely apologizing to his new pastor when he realized the mistake he had made.
In case you were busy recording your sophomore album, It's Hard Out There (On the Road), here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Chicago Bulls used their strength and rebounding advantage to beat Miami, 101-97, snapping the Heat's 27-game winning streak. After the game, LeBron James complained about the Bulls' physicality and hard fouls: "I believe and I know that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays." Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau responded, saying, "I'm soooooo sorry. Reeeeeeallly. I would never tell my guys to be physical in a big game. Especially a brute like Kirk Hinrich. My deeeeeepest apologies."
Despite the absence of Metta World Peace, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 22nd straight time, 120-117. The game was not without controversy, however, as Ricky Rubio appeared to be fouled by Kobe Bryant on a game-tying 3-point attempt. After the game, Bryant was defiant when asked about the non-call, saying nothing as he pulled down a large map of the world from above his locker and blacked out Spain with a magic marker.
There’s no shame in transferring from one college to another. There is, however, usually lots of shame behind that decision. You know how this typically goes down. There’s the guy blindsided by classes that require more academic effort than half-heartedly slapping together dioramas based on the exploits of George Washington Carver. Or, there’s the guy who went to the same university as his high school girlfriend and later had to deal with the indignity of her hooking up with the RA. Or, that same RA lied to the dude after he downed a bottle of Goldschläger to drown his sorrows and said, “Everyone’s gonna forget about you singing 'Fake Plastic Trees' at the top of your lungs while crying naked in the hallway.”
Obviously, it’s bad enough when you gotta break the news to your parents, after they bought a bunch of sweatshirts and put that decal on their car and everything. Now just imagine you’re a top quarterback recruit; your decision to enroll in a certain school was met with months-long national scrutiny and you probably screwed some people over in the process. No one wants to see you succeed, especially if you’re a dude like Gunner Kiel, who I’m assuming is a total dick because his name is Gunner Kiel. Also, because he was last year’s no. 1 QB recruit, who eventually chose Notre Dame after spurning LSU and getting his manhood questioned by Les Miles. And, even more notoriously, he bypassed the chance to be Indiana’s answer to Tim Couch, the homegrown hero leading a beleaguered, basketball-mad program to the dizzying heights of an Outback Bowl bid.
Seriously, we wish Kiel all the success in the world. But if we’re looking at the recent trend of blue-chip QB transfers, the odds aren’t in his favor. Here are the most recent examples, and they don’t appear as if they’re individual pitfalls to avoid so much as a supermassive black hole.
In case you were busy trying to pass off a quiche as an acceptable offering at a Pi Day party, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the New York Knicks their third straight defeat, winning at home, 105-90. Lillard, the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, has already established himself as a fan favorite in Portland, where he's respected both for his efficient offensive play and his ability to remind people how much they liked Matthew Lillard in SLC Punk.
In case you were busy celebrating National Croissant Day by gorging yourself on refrigerated crescent rolls to spite the French, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans raised some eyebrows before his team's game against the Miami Heat by saying he was "unimpressed" with Miami forward LeBron James. "He's no different than Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche," said Evans, who suffers from a rare illness where he mixes up names and faces within professional organizations. Evans went on to say, "I saw that white kid play at Florida, and he's a good shooter, but people talk about him like he's the best in the world, when obviously their real superstar is small forward Joel Anthony. That guy's a triple-double threat every night, like the reincarnation of Byron Scott and Toni Kukoc in a single body. Where's the Joel Anthony MVP talk? That's what I, Mikhail Prokhorov, want to know." The Heat went on to blow out the Nets, 105-85, in Brooklyn, as Evans missed every last one of his defensive assignments.
Before we get going, I want to announce that I'm taking nom-nom-inations for the 2012-13 All-BeefyBulky Team. I was inspired to do this after watching Nebraska's Andre Almeida do battle in a losing effort against Creighton last night. At 6-foot-11, 314 pounds, the Brazilian Almeida is a man of some size, and the eye is immediately drawn in his direction when he's on the floor. Like the elderly couple entranced by the painting of Kramer, we cannot look away.
I was going to put together my own All-BeefyBulky team, but frankly, I haven't done the legwork. The country's elite teams are stocked with perfect physical specimens of varying height at every position, and my mental Rolodex couldn't produce five worthy BeefyBulksters. And this is not something you want to rush. The BBs represent the real America, and we can't risk choosing the wrong men. So far, my All-BB team has just two members:
If you watch college football on TV, you find yourself watching commercials for Aflac, Home Depot, and colleges. Ads for the University of Texas say, “What starts here changes the world.” Ads for Texas Tech say, “From here, it’s possible.” The former is a boast, while the latter is more of a timid suggestion. I can’t think of a better way to explain the difference between Texas and Texas Tech.
Before we dive into the aesthetics of college ads, which are called “institutionals,” we should note that these things are weird for a couple reasons. First, what’s the point? They’re plopped in the middle of a game — as mandated by the conference TV deal — to prove that there’s a university attached to the football program. “It’s coeds, cellos, and sports,” an ad executive told the Wall Street Journal’s Darren Everson. Essentially, the school is reminding us, “We put the ‘student’ in student-athlete,” and it makes that label look like even more of a crock.
The other weird thing is that the football game is often a better ad for a college than the actual ad. Alabama’s CBS telecasts have slick graphics, “honey shots” of the cheerleaders, and Verne Lundquist. Alabama’s TV ad has a bunch of robotic, smiling students and looks like it was cut together in the basement of the communications building. Which one makes you want to go to Tuscaloosa?
I’ve gone through the latest BCS standings and reviewed each school’s attempt to market itself. I’ve mixed past ads with present ads, because college commercials don’t seem to have aesthetic “periods.” I’ve also skipped schools like Kansas State, which have boring ads. (You could argue this is a perfect reflection of the Kansas State football team, which is seemingly boring but beats Oklahoma on the road.) Here are the best commercials from the Top 25 (click the team name to view the ad):
I'm not sure the world is ready to handle too much serious discussion about Duke football, so I'll make this quick. All I ask is that you look at these rankings. OK, not at the rankings themselves; look a little lower, the "also receiving votes" section. Where the real teams hang. See that team with three votes in the AP poll, and 10 votes in the USA Today poll? Ranked 36th and 34th, respectively? That, my friends, is the pride of Durham, going places where they're not known or expected or wanted. Or invited.
How can I communicate the strangeness of seeing them on that list? How incredibly weird this feels for Duke football fans? Imagine if Paul Ryan showed up at tonight's debate wearing a Phish bandanna and a Grateful Dead poncho, and insisted on coming out to the sunshine part from that "Age of Aquarius" song. (I'm not even sure they make Grateful Dead ponchos anymore, and the ESPN research people get mad when you make that kind of request, so you'll just have to picture it.) That's how unlikely this feels. Everything is clicking with a backup quarterback named Anthony Boone, and if they beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg this weekend, there's even a chance they could be ranked for the first time since 1994. At that point, I would start buying canned goods and digging some kind of apocalypse tunnel that would almost certainly collapse on itself within an hour or two.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Matt Kenseth managed to avoid a 25-car pileup on his way to earning a Sprint Cup victory at Talladega Superspeedway. Kyle Busch, car No. 25 in the pileup, later admitted that he drove in mostly because he "wanted to see what it was like." The only non-car in the pileup, Rex Ryan, said he heard there were free pastries.
Manassas Junction, Virginia, 1861 — It's July 21, and the Civil War is about to begin for real. Union soldiers march south from Washington, D.C., to meet the Confederates, and the feeling throughout the north is that the rebels will hightail it back south after they get massacred on day one. The high muckety-mucks from D.C. — congressmen, business owners, and various other rich people — come down to picnic and watch the rout. Instead, after a long day of fighting, Stonewall Jackson and the Confederates send their enemies into a headlong retreat for Washington. As they flee north, the soldiers find the roads blocked by the panicked civilians who had come to watch the end of the pesky rebellion. And that's how the Battle of Bull Run ended.
I was a Civil War nerd as a kid, so it probably figures that while watching the Pac-12 shock the world last Saturday, I thought of Bull Run. It was the conference's best day in years, and it completely transformed their image around the country. The three ranked teams did their job, and that was expected — USC beat Syracuse, Oregon beat Fresno State, Stanford beat Duke. But the little guys did their part, too. Arizona dominated no. 18 Oklahoma State at home, Oregon State stunned no. 13 Wisconsin, UCLA outgunned no. 16. Nebraska in one of the best games of the weekend, and Arizona State destroyed Illinois. (Only Washington disappointed in the high-profile games, failing to make a dent against the Baton Rouge Tigers of the NFL's Second Division.)
There are now five Pac-12 teams in the AP top 25, and two more within sniffing distance. It's a revolution! The games were mostly at home, sure, but even under those circumstances the odds were long. Yet the mighty programs of the Big 10 and Big 12 left with their tails between their legs, fans in tow, realizing they'd underestimated the enemy. Week 2 was the Pac-12's Bull Run, and now everyone has to take them seriously.
So I'm calling it: This is the year of the Pac-12. Here are three more semi-ignorant reasons to love the rejuvenated conference.
A couple of years back, I had a revelatory moment on a college-football message board. We must have gotten tired of posting police booking photos of Texas A&M players, because someone asked the board: Who here has been to the most University of Texas games?
The revelation happened when I got a little way down the thread. A few posters announced they’d been to every single Texas game, home and away, over a period of 30-plus years. Provo, Utah, 1988; Piscataway, New Jersey, 1999; Manhattan, Kansas, 2002 Moreover, they had no intention of ending their streaks. Thirty years from now, we’d find them face-down at Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater, with their iPhones logged onto the message board and unused tickets in their cold, dead hands.
My own road-trip inventory is comparatively light. I got to hear the Colorado fight song back in 1996, before the Buffaloes program got fully Neuheiseled. I squeezed in a fantastic, Saturday-to-Sunday road trip to Columbus, Ohio, in 2005, when Texas beat the Buckeyes. It was there, with my pal Daniel, that I began to think there was an art to attending a college-football game on the road.
Earlier this week, I laid out the Rules of College Football Fandom. I had two goals. My first goal was to salute everyone who is exercising a legitimate claim to a college football team. My second was to tell the rest of you that you are despicable.
A bunch of readers wrote in with their own fan dilemmas. You wanted to know if you were legitimate or despicable. I’m happy to help. See which one of these quotes describes you (I’ve put them in my own words):
Part of my job here at Grantland is to solve moral dilemmas. For example: Are you a real college football fan? Or are you rooting for Alabama or Michigan in a manner that I might find offensive?
The Sports Guy has already laid out a set of rules for pro-sports fandom. College football deserves the same thing: a guide to picking a school, keeping a school, and, in extremely rare cases, changing schools.
I’m not interested in small-time rules. Like: Can you refer to your college team as “we”? (Yes.) Or: Can you watch a game plastered? (Of course.) Like an NCAA enforcement officer, I’m looking at your eligibility. Anyone can watch College GameDay or buy a T-shirt, but there are only a few circumstances in which you have a bona fide claim to a particular team.