In case you were busy spending your EA settlement money as quickly as possible, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Led by running back Frank Gore, the San Francisco 49ers rebounded from two consecutive heavy defeats in style, beating the St. Louis Rams, 35-11. "We couldn't run the ball," said Rams coach Jeff Fisher after the loss. "And they could run the ball." Fisher, a longtime member of the league's competition committee, then added, "That's not fair. At some point it's like, let's at least swap some linemen so that it's a good game. What happened to sportsmanship?"
Mariano Rivera played his final game at Yankee Stadium, throwing 1⅓ perfect innings in New York's 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Rivera, who has spent the season being given gifts on a de facto nationwide farewell tour, was approached by manager Joe Girardi after the game. "I bet you noticed we hadn't given you anything," Girardi told Rivera. "I had, but I don't mind; this organization has given me everything," Rivera said. Girardi smiled, and told his longtime closer, "I saved that third wish for a reason," before yelling, "I wish for Mariano to be free!" Suddenly, a swirl of blue light came from the ground, and the lamp that Rivera had quietly carried with him for his entire Yankees career shattered as if made out of glass. "Now run. No more saving us," Girardi whispered in Rivera's ear. "Now you can save yourself." Rivera then thanked Girardi before awkwardly reminding him that he was still contracted to play the final series of the season at Houston.
Whether it’s the BCS poll, the Oscar nominations, or the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop albums list, year-end lists reduce an array of highs, lows, hints, rumors, allegations, and things left unsaid into a simplified fiction that lies to our children and our children’s children by insinuating, “Hey, everything was great!” when the truth is, the narrative was informed almost as much by the disappointment. For every Johnny Manziel there was a Taylor Martinez. Likewise, for every Japandroids album that reminded us of how invigorating shout-along/drink-along punk rock can be when imbued with undeniable melody and drum solos you can pound out on your steering wheel, Green Day made three proving you better get your kicks in before you turn 35.
The Misery Index has honored the teams throughout the year who have served as a reminder of how fleeting glory can be, how expectations can ultimately lead to resentment, how ambition is the first step to failure, while giving a nod to the artists, movies, and musicians who did the same. And now it’s time to honor a season’s body of work; they started 2012 out as Most Likely To Succeed and ended it as Most Likely To Be Forgotten, though the Misery Index hopes to keep their spirit of futility alive for generations to come.
It's been a very, very slow week in college basketball, so I thought I'd take a break from game analysis to investigate an overlooked and under-researched part of the sport: the postgame handshake between coaches. It's been around as long as anyone can remember, but as far as I know, I'm the first sports scientist to ever study the phenomenon. Please remember that this is an exploration; you must approach the task with an open, inquisitive mind. It could be years before we have a truly definitive sociological understanding of the rules governing this ritual, but the time to start evaluating them is now. So what makes a good CoachShake? What can we do to educate coaches to improve future CoachShakes? Why do some CoachShakes fail? Those are questions I'd like to answer.
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.
I spent about five hours on the highway this weekend, and before we get to the college basketball–related epiphanies for this week, I have three driving-related epiphanies:
1. In my mind, the worst breach of highway etiquette is when a driver in the left lane travels at the exact same (slow) speed as the driver in the right lane, clogging the highway and making it impossible for anyone to pass. It's selfish, stupid, and beyond infuriating. I used to deal with this problem by stewing in anger and shouting a few obscenities inside the safety of my car. Not effective. Eventually, I began tailgating in an effort to show that I hated the driver and would like to pass. More effective, but sometimes they'd become obstinate and refuse to move. But now, my evolution is complete, because I've reached a point in life where I just drive up, wait a few seconds to make sure I'm not being an impatient douche, and then hit the horn at reasonable intervals until they move. And the crazy part? It works, and I'm a lot less angry. I just sail by while the offender glowers at me from the slowpoke lane where he belongs. I'm pretty sure this new Zen-like approach contains the seeds of a great motivational book.
2. Things can get really, really odd when you're alone in a car. I once had a roommate in New York who told me he was looking forward to visiting his family in Kansas City for a holiday so he could "get in the car and just get weird." I knew exactly what he meant. And I'm not talking weird in any kind of perverse way. I'm talking, like, singing freestyle blues songs about highway signs. I'm talking about giving fake interviews in foreign accents. I'm talking about carrying on one-sided conversations with other drivers. Just letting the brain roam where it will, which is always some place bizarre. If there was a TV show that was just footage of people who thought they were alone in a car, it would be a smash hit. And if aliens ever considered invading, but that show was the only thing they watched ahead of time, they'd immediately cancel their plans, since we are clearly a planet of psychopaths.
3. If someone is exhibiting "dickish" behavior on the road, there is a 95 percent chance that he will be driving a pickup truck. Pickup trucks are the new 18-wheelers, and 18-wheelers are the new sports cars. I know a lot of good people who own pickup trucks, including my father, so please don't think I'm stereotyping. This is just a scientific conclusion culled from years of observation; among the thriving group of respectable pickup truckers, there is a group of renegade road terrorists. And if you bike? God help you, because then it goes up to 100 percent. Pickup truck people hate bikers and love to buzz them or scream out the window as they pass. Someday, I'm going to bike past a pickup trucker stopped for speeding, and I'm going to get my revenge by mocking them on the fly. And on that day, the driver will probably be my father. Sorry, Dad.
On to the hoops! Here's what we learned from the past week:
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.
While agonizing over the possibility of a second straight Alabama-LSU title game, I think I came up with the worst thing about their horrible dominance: as a neutral college football fan, you have to pick a favorite.
Well, let me qualify that. A person like me, who is incapable of watching a sporting event of any kind (including youth Frisbee) without vilifying one team and venerating the other, needs to pick a favorite. Believe me, that is a hateful, torturous task in this world of Tigers and Tide. Anyone with a semblance of love for the amateur unpredictability of college football probably despises these two programs. They are the evil empire, magnified by a power of two. While the rest of us stand by and watch, helpless, Les Miles and Nick Saban have created near-professional super-teams in a non-professional sport, slowly sucking the competitive life out of the game.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Quarterback Logan Thomas led no. 16 Virginia Tech back from the brink of defeat with two key drives as the Hokies beat Georgia Tech 17-14 in overtime. Unfortunately, the celebrations on the Blacksburg campus got a little out of hand late Monday night when Virginia Tech students began throwing upholstered hay bales out their dorm windows.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Sources reported that Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis had an electronic device installed in his suite that allowed him to eavesdrop on the headset conversations of opposing coaches. "Listen, I know this looks bad," said Loomis, wearing a wide grin in an attempt to mollify the media, "but the truth is that 10 to 20 percent of the time, I couldn't even relay the plays to Sean in time for us to do anything. So, you know ... chillax, everyone. As my kids say. Non-story. Nothing to see here, move along, as a cop would say. Better get back on this bounty thing, right? That's the real deal. Where there's smoke, there's fire. I won't mention any names, but I've got it on good faith that Gregg Williams put a bounty on sleeping with other player's wives. Wink-wink. Who does that? That's sick, if you ask me. That's front page pornographic material. That's career-making, for a journalist. This electronics stuff belongs in an iPod newsletter, if anything. It's boring, guys. And let's be honest, you're boring enough already. 'Hey, look at me, I'm Dweeby McNewspaper, I play with walkie-talkies because I make no money and wish I was an Army grunt.' Not that I think any of you are dweebs, mind you. And please don't print that about the Army, I love and respect the Army. Big time. Well, don't say 'love,' because, you know, don't ask don't tell and that whole can of worms, but let's just avoid that issue altogether and focus on the heart of the matter, which is that Gregg Williams looks in the windows of other player's wives with binoculars on nights with no moon. Quote that as anonymous, if you would."
"The ACC tournament doesn't start until Friday," is a phrase I heard more than once Thursday, the day on which the ACC tournament actually started.
I was especially prone to hearing that sentiment, considering my penchant for complaining about the lack of quality basketball. Still, all good drama needs a setup; those first two establishing acts that make us care about the climax. Even a joke needs a foundation, and it remains to be seen which path this tournament will take.
Before we take a tour of the notable events from Thursday, here are the basics you need to know.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Comeback Kids have done it again. Trailing by 20 with less than 12 minutes remaining, no. 4 Duke rallied to beat NC State 78-73 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Once again, it's a tale of pluck and resilience befitting a school filled with so many rags-to-riches students — the downtrodden, lowborn souls yearning outside the gates of power — who never stopped believing in themselves and their ability to climb within the system. O, Duke, you beacon of the little man, you shining symbol of mobility! Lady Liberty is your virtuous maiden, Uncle Sam your protecting angel!
Not to be outdone, no. 21 Florida State kept pace at the top of the ACC by coming back from an eight-point deficit with just 1:29 left and beating Virginia Tech 48-47 on Michael Snaer's late 3. The struggling Hokies got more bad news after the game when they found out that their legal status as a basketball team had been revoked by President Obama to save money.
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.
The 12 schools of the Atlantic Coast Conference came into league play in various states of ripening or disrepair. Virginia was riding one of the best starts in team history and had surprised everyone by cracking the Top 25. North Carolina had survived a shaky start and was finally starting to look like the national title hopeful we'd imagined in November. Duke had gone the opposite direction, as the luster of early wins faded in the face of recent humiliations. Florida State spent its first 14 games learning that great defense might not quite be enough this year, while others, such as Maryland and Wake Forest and NC State, made strides that will either prove to be omens of rebirth or ignes fatui, false lights in the dark.
When the first six games had passed, most of the questions still lingered. Here are some quick (and not so quick) thoughts on each.
At the end of the Best-Worst Sugar Bowl since Fordham's 2-0 drubbing of Missouri in 1942, those of us who made it that far witnessed one last inexplicable act: Michigan trotted out a kicker who resembled Nick Nolte in North Dallas Forty, and said kicker stutter-stepped like a bad dancer before the ball was snapped. It was, technically, a false start, but who the hell knew what was real and what was illusory by then? No penalty was called, the kick split the uprights, the Wolverines completed one of the emptiest 11-win seasons in college football history, and the Big Ten somehow found reason to crow about a 4-6 bowl record whose successes were drawn largely from the utter ineptitude of their opponents.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports last night.
Despite being outplayed for most of the game, Michigan took advantage of several Virginia Tech errors to win the Sugar Bowl 23-20 in overtime. Michigan administrators were disappointed to learn that they wouldn't receive an actual bowl of sugar for the win, since they thought it might attract some of the flies away from the lingering stench of Rich Rodriguez.