Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Mizzou Experience in a Nutshell

On second thought, maybe CBS should have just ran wall-to-wall coverage of people looking at a big wooden box containing a deceased head of state. It would have been more enjoyable as a whole than watching Mizzou's linebackers and secondary look at their lead dissentigrate.

Yesterday's expected meltdown basically sums up the experiences I've had as a Tiger fan thus far, as well as my collegiate experience in Columbia, in a well-wrapped, shiny, corporate-sponsored box. Yesterday started out promising enough - a lead built on a well-executed game plan and superior personnel. Oregon State had absolutely no answer for ginormous tight ends Coffman and Rucker, were getting torched by the not-really-light-speed-fast Tony Temple, and Chase Daniel was his smart, efficient self.

Suddenly, most of the second quarter is blacked out so that Katie Couric can claim some sort of victory by broadcasting the local funeral procession for Gerald Ford. Not much was missed though - just the sloppiest football of the game, in which no points were scored but each team managed to turn the ball over.

Individual performances, isolated in nature, shimmered throughout the second half, and victory seems imminent for the visibly trashed Tiger fans in El Paso, Mizzou alumni, and the lonely fan watching the game by himself, hundreds of miles from anyone else who gave a shit about this game's outcome. That's me, by the way.

Then, Gary Pinkel and company remember that they are, in fact, Gary Pinkel and company. Oregon State methodically gnaws away at the Tiger lead, make a gutsy, smart call to decide the outcome (2-point conversion) and Mizzou leaves the field, defeated. Many Tiger fans at the game are undoubtedly so drunk they don't realize they lost, and continue their binge alcohol consumption until January 17.

Allow me to paint the parallels to my experience here at Mizzou. The pedigree for a great overall experience is there - big school, seemingly lively nightlife, THE journalism school for undergrads, Big XII sports, etc. Looking at the roster, many individual performances shine, too - whether it be faculty or friends. Like the second quarter, some of the time here has been blacked out and replaced by malted hops and brief summaries of poor decision-making, as dictated by peers with equally fuzzy memories. I look like I've built a nice lead in my first few semesters, putting together a good GPA, accumulating a solid circle of friends, and getting closer to what seems to be an ideal experience.

But something is always missing. Like the football team, the experience never seems cohesive and doesn't quite click. Maybe it's the overall apathy towards society that seems evident on campus, the disconnect between most people I've encountered and the rest of the planet, or something else I can't pinpoint. We look good on paper, but it just doesn't feel right.

Eventually, the major you thought was cutting edge and ahead of the curve seems wandering and creates perpetual confusion. Your outcome grows more and more in doubt, and eventually Oregon State has figured out how to stop the only two running plays in your glossy, 600-page playbook you spent three years slaving over and are getting the ball back with enough time to beat you.

Needless to say, yesterday's loss sucked, but it wasn't totally unexpected. I go to a school that gave a football coach a contract extension despite the fact that he didn't win one game in which the players on the field weren't clearly more talented than their opponents. Tiger football, from my three years of analysis, has been built on average recruiting classes, with records and middle-tier bowl appearances made possible by scheduling arsenals of cream-puff out-of-conference teams. Brad Smith carried the offense in the past few years, now Chase Daniel will do the same for the next two. We'll win 7-9 games a year, never beat Texas, OU or a revived Nebraska, and go to the Meineke Car Care bowl or Texas Bowl or some other student/alumni-robbing experience for the immediate future.

Meanwhile, their fanbase is delusional. Hardcore fans think they should be in the Big 12 championship every year, when in reality, they're already years behind a Nebraska program that has crumbled and re-built itself SINCE Pinkel took over. The rest of the student body sees the mediocre football program as a social experience, which is why many are back to tailgating in the second half, and much of the student body that surrounds me and my friends is shouting annoying nonsense during the game, thoroughly inebriated. It's hard to become a big fan (I had no Mizzou ties before I came here) when the gameday experience is hampered by idiocy and/or apathy.

Kansas State will probably be better than Mizzou next year, too, and this is just in the weak side of a now-soft Big XII conference. My preliminary, realistic prediction for 2007 is another 8-5 campaign, 3rd in the Big 12 North.

But maybe I'll feel differently tomorrow.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Gerry Ford Would Have Wanted Them to Put the Damn Game On

Needless to say, I'm a little upset. My Mizzou Tigers have had their Sun Bowl appearance displaced by the funeral of former President Gerald Ford. I'm 22, not really into politics or history, and a sports nut, so what I remember about Gerald Ford was that he was an All-American center and won two national titles at the University of Michigan. He has his friggin' number retired, for God's sake. Ford is undoubtedly looking from the heavens at El Paso, cold beer and nachos in tow, watching Chase Daniel pick apart the Beaver secondary.

More fury to come.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

It's the near-cataract Eye of the Tiger

I feel somewhat obligated to go see almost every sports movie made. Chief exceptions include the dreaded chick-flick-in-disguise sports movie - and I'm usually pretty good at sniffing these out beforehand - in which men are decieved into seeing sappy love stories that are cast in a faux sports backdrop.

A recent, near-vomit inducing example of this was "Fever Pitch," in which the rarely funny and incredibly forgettable Jimmy Fallon was teamed with Drew "Why do Hollywood people think men think I'm still hot" Barrymore to create a steaming bowl of elephant piss. I never even saw the movie itself, because the sight of them running onto the Busch Stadium diamond at the end of the Red Sox enjoying one of the most incredible moments in sports history warranted my permanent boycott of the film.

Yet, as non-entertaining as I find Fallon, I can in no way blame him for seizing the opportunity to enjoy that moment, since he is apparently a big Sox fan. "You're paying my untalented ass how many million to make out with Barrymore for a few months, play myself, AND I get to potentially enjoy the biggest moment in my favorite team's history?" Add that to the fact that he now will be linked to the Red Sox in many people's minds for as long as he's relevant, and this adds up to a decision that even Grady Little wouldn't hesitate to make.

Anyway, this is all just a rambling preface to my actual post of the moment - the two sports movies I saw this week, Rocky Balboa, and We Are Marshall. We'll start with the one I, surprisingly, enjoyed.

When I saw the trailer for Rocky 6, I threw a WTF look at the screen and wondered if Sly Stallone was being indicted by the IRS or something. But then, after thinking about it, I thought about some parallels that could potentially exist between the Balboa character in the movie, and Stallone himself. Neither have done anything newsworthy for a while - I can't remember the last time I said, "Let's go see that new Stallone pic" with roaring enthusiasm (though he has launched a supplement company, InStone, who creates a horrendous pre-workout thermogenic drink). Both probably also know that, in the back of their mind, they can still whoop these new kids asses in their respective fields. Balboa knew boxing was in a soft, dying era in which Ultimate Fighting is currently urinating all over in terms of popularity among young people (this is not mentioned in the movie, by the way). And, you've gotta believe that Sly looks at that beanpole who plays Spiderman, or Ice Cube in XXX and shakes his head at the severe lack of badassism in action movies these days. It's a travesty, if you ask me, Sly.

Anyway, Balboa is ultimately re-watchable. The fight scenes are well done, the plot line is kind of believable - though I can't see his old ass lasting THAT many rounds - and it's easily better than Rocky 5 (which, to quote Bill Simmons, "DID NOT HAPPEN."). I give it a solid B.

Now for Marshall. This movie killed me, because the storyline is riveting, true and actually captured pretty well in the movie. Matthew McLonghorn, however, ruins this movie. My boy Ricky pointed this out within 90 seconds of this toolbox's dialogue - his entire character is, essentially, an impersonation of Jon Stewart's impersonation of W. Bush. He talks in ..short...halted...phrases, smirks, talks out of the side of his mouth, and even does the shoulder-shrug thing from time to time. It's a blatant, terrible rip-off and amazingly distracting throughout the movie. Couple that with crappily shot football action scenes, and you have 127 minutes of 'what the hell am I watching.' Which, once again, is frustrating to leather-head football maniacs like myself who WANTED this to be another Remember the Titans. It was cross-promoted pretty heavily on The Worldwide Leader, so I went into the thing saturated with movie-trailer hype and was roughly 4 McLonghorn interviews under my belt. A labored D+ for Marshall.

The Famed Mike Hampton Deal, Part Deux

The Zito sweepstakes have ended with the eccentric lefty hopping the Bay to the SF Giants. The deal makes the Giants look pretty ridiculous, as they've managed to give $18M a year to a guy who isn't that great - over the past four seasons his record is 55-46. His ERA will probably drop by a run with a move into the national league, but still, if this guy is worth 18 mill, what is Oswalt worth, 23? Santana, 25? If I'm Chris Carpenter, I'm firing my agent right now, because I just got a horseshit 5-year extension that nets me all of 12.3M a season, and all I did was carry a mediocre pitching staff for 5 months in a championship year.

Bowl Pick 'Em has not gone well for the J-Ray, as my mark currently stands at 4-5. The Big XII is in full effect and prepared to redeem me today, though - Okie State plays Alabama, Texas A&M plays Cal, and Rutgers plays K-State. It's the last career game for my boy Brandon Leone of the Ags, and along with the requisite, obligatory "pull-for-the-conference" mentality that bowl season bestows on me and those of my ilk, this fact gives the game more significance here at the Mask. Take Oklahoma State over the coachless, delusional Alabamians, the Aggies in a thriller in the Holiday Bowl, and Rutgers to win in the conglomerate, concrete cathedral that is Reliant.

This picture has no relevance to anything in the post, yet I felt compelled to share it with you all.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Stocking Full of Tie-Breaker Scenarios

I got my Christmas gift a few hours early this year. The Houston Texans beat the phenomenally vulnerable Colts on Christmas Eve for the first time in franchise history. Ron Dayne essentially did what every other running back in the NFL has to the Colts this year - make them look like a glorified D-1 front seven. With a win against the hapless Browns at home on NYE, the Texans will finish 6-10, a 4-win improvement from last season. The Texans are still bad, but this is a marked improvement from laughably horrendous. Coach Kubes, I'm on board with your program now, sir.

My God, the NFL is fantastic. The races to get the last playoff spots make the last week of the season compelling, even if every team in contention is amazingly flawed, and for the most part reeling in some form or another. In the NFC, somehow, the Giants kind of control their own destiny; they need to beat the Redskins Saturday night and clinch something called "strength of victory." And, holy double coverage, Batman, Brett Favre can sneak into the playoffs with a win at Chicago on Sunday, a Giants loss, and like 4 other things happening. Meanwhile, the Rams are in if they beat the Vikings, the Dodgers beat the Braves, the Philadelphia Flyers score 6 or more goals Thursday night and if congress passes new wild-card tie-breaking legislation. In the AFC, the Jets are the 6-seed with a win over Oakland, who will actually suit up a local community college team in their place in hopes of jump-starting their offense.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Well, that was a fun couple of weeks

In an utterly predictable turn of events for a sports team I follow closely and care deeply about, Yao Ming is out for "at least six weeks" with a fracture in his leg. The Great Wall was dropping 27 and 9 and had seemingly hit a new gear since T-Back re-established himself at his most comfortable position, the injured list. Excuse me while I swish with paint thinner.

In a western conference that's insanely deep once again, this kills any shot the Rockets have of being competitive. If Yao is back in six weeks, and McGrady plays sometime this season, a late Astro-like run towards an 8-seed seems to have a shot, but not a great one. Utah is for serious, Denver got astronomically better in the AI deal, Kobe is Kobe, and the top of the conference are the usual suspects (other TX teams, PHX). Bonzi Wells and Luther Head turn into the key scorers on the team, and if we find a time machine for Deke Mutombo, we become average.

This also marks the third rehab for Yao in 12 months, something that worries me. The guy is looking injury-prone, but most big guys tend to be. I would think being 7' 6" merely exacerbates the issue.

But hey, only 4 months until mediocre NL Central action! Oh, you say Wandy Rodriguez is still in the starting rotation and our everyday catcher is going to hit .185 again? I think I see some more paint thinner.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Welcome to God's Country, Brandon

The White Sox shipped out the starting pitcher that was to replace Freddy Garcia in their starting rotation. The Rangers picked up Brandon McCarthy, and if they win the Zito sweepstakes, they'll have 4 pretty soild horses to compete with Oakland and Anaheim: Zito, Padilla, Millwood and McCarthy. The Sox got the Rangers' no. 1 pick of a couple years ago, which I'm garnering is a player extremely high on their radar. Either that, or they know something about McCarthy that the rest of us don't. Personally, I think he could be a very good no. 2 starter for some time. Kenny Williams has been lauded in recent years for his offseason moves, and this year, he looks to be gearing towards the next 5 years instead of 2007. That being said, I think the division hinges on the health of Francisco Liriano and how big an impact Gary Sheffield will make in Detroit.

A Rice win would have been enjoyable last night, but I still maintain pride in the Owls' resurgence this year. Shane Graham and company put together a year to be proud of.

Short post for now, I'll get you back later. Seriously, get the new Nas album.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Brett Favre's 7-Year Farewell Tour Continues

I was without my beloved DirecTV / Sunday Ticket / NFL network orgy that I'm privied to back in Columbia, so I missed the 9-7 barnburner at Lambeau last night. But, from most accounts, the game was as ugly as the score and about as entertaining. That being said, SportsCenter and NFL N sold it as Brett's last lap at Lambeau, which is Kool-Aid I refuse to sip, friends.
First of all, no one is banging down the door right behind Brett to take his throne. The Packers have many other glaring holes on their roster, and really can't afford to take a QB with a high first rounder in this draft, especially since the class coming out isn't near the market it was last year - when the Pack passed on both Leinart and Young.
I feel bad for the kids who didn't get to see Favre when he was Mr. Ridiculous, gunslinging cross-bodied passes through traffic to Sterling Sharpe, Antonio Freeman and the like. Now, the guy looks like an aging power pitcher at the end of the road who didn't learn to locate his off-speed stuff - too old to change, too stubborn to know better, and consistently getting letter-high 91 mph fastballs turned on. Sure, Favre will mow down a batter (or weak secondary) from time to time, but the zip is gone, the allure is faded, and only nostalgic Pack fans want him to stay.

-I'm 2-0 in bowl selections out of the gate. Tonight, I've got Rice knocking off Troy - no way in Hell I could not pull for the hometown team here. Owls by 6. Tomorrow, take ECU, Tulsa and New Mexico at home. Principle to live by - anytime a bowl that nobody REALLY cares about is being played in one of the team's home stadiums, take the home team. Mizzou handled the Lobos pretty nicely early this year, but niether NM or San Jose State are very good, so - advantage homeboys.

-D-Nice got a DUI! Is it just me, or is this a new epidemic sweeping sports nation? Probably not, but it is a good representation of those ads where apparently, "Cops are cracking down on drunk driving all across the country." I won't throw stones at Willis, he seems like a good guy and I'm sure he's pissed at himself for getting caught, I mean, remorseful.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cologne from Wal-Mart Presents: Mediocre College Football!

Alternative responsibilities have severely hampered my ability and willpower to update the blog so far. A month away from the obligations of the J-school, coupled with ample sports viewing time, should definitely alter that. I got big plans for this guy - the first of which will be the live blogging of the Sun Bowl. In all likelihood, this will consist of me bitching about the Tigers' two running plays. By the way, Mike Riley, they're the shotgun draw, and the shotgun counter.

I'll also be blogging during the Fiesta Bowl, during Christmas day NBA / NFL action, and whenever else I feel like it. That being said, on to a rant or several:

-WHY did A.I. have to come to the Western Conference? Answer - because God hates the Rockets. That, and A.I., by most accounts, fits seamlessly into Denver's offense. They have bigs that don't need the rock (Camby, etc.), and stole Mr. Answer when you look at some of the deals that were being thrown Philly's way last summer. The deal gives the Sixers flexibility in how they want to build for the future. They pick up two first round draft picks, Joe Smith's expiring contract, and have positioned themselves for a freefall smack into the Greg Oden sweepstakes.

-The coverage of the Knicks-Nuggets brawl has been less obsessive than I thought it would be. I don't even bother watching the idiotic banter on Around the Horn, or First and 10, so I can't comment on how or who they have attacked. SC though, and other major sports outlets, seem to have given it less airtime. My guess is that they reached the point of ad nauseam during the Malice at the Palace coverage, and, by coupling that with the trading of one of the NBA's best 10 players of the past decade, oversaturation wasn't given the chance to flourish.

-I drove through Dallas on Monday, and for an hour and a half, the SOLE topic of conversation was T.O. spitting on D'Angelo Hall, and three peoples' moral evaluations of 81 as a human being. You could have listened to 90 seconds of this horse shit and hit repeat, and got the same product. It was horrendous. I fail to understand the world's consistent fascination with this idiot. It was painful to listen to, and I officially don't give a baker's fuck about Terrell Owens at this point. That is all.

-Since I last posted, the Astros shipped out the beloved Willy T in the Jason Jennings deal. I haven't watched Jennings pitch enough in his career to give him a great evaluation, but this is because he was a Rocky, and no one gives a shit about the Rockies. I'm not sold on the deal, because 1) Jennings is a free agent next year, and 2) Jason Hirsh is still a project, and was obviously the key to Colorado making the trade. Willy's speed and hustle will be missed, but his inability to take pitches won't. However, Astros fans should prepare for an outfield reminiscent of pre-Beltran 2004, when the displaced Craig Biggio couldn't run down anything, and costed at least 2 runs a week.
Word is that Jason Lane is playing CF in winterball. Shoot me now if this is the Astros' plan. Chris Burke should be option 1 going into camp, and Charlton Jimerson needs to be option 2.

That's all for now. Go get the new Nas album. Clipse, too.