2017 NCAA Tournament: A retrospective

Well, as expected, the NCAA tournament came to an abrupt end yesterday afternoon when the South Dakota State Jackrabbits were defeated by Gonzaga 66-46 in the only game of any interest to me.

South Dakota State, who entered the game after winning the Summit League tournament by sweeping conference rivals Nebraska-Omaha, the St. Aloysius Parish Children’s Choir, and the Swanson Family Reunion, accidentally led for the first 17 minutes of the game before remembering that they were a #16 seed. The coach attributed the oversight to lack of sleep due to the uncomfortable seats on the bus. Fortunately, the Jackrabbits were able to bounce back in the second half in order to avert having to stay and play a second game, as the team did not pack additional socks and underwear for the trip.

With the NCAA tournament effectively over, the other 63 teams are apparently going to fritter away the next few weeks playing basketball in God-forsaken places like Utah. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits will be enjoying the buffet at Golden Corral before the prices change, and then heading back to wherever they came from.

Interesting side note: The South Dakota state university system has about 32,000 students, which comprises about 4% of the state’s population. (The corresponding numbers for North Carolina and Pennsylvania are 1.8% and 0.77%, respectively.)

Disclaimer: The interestingness of the previous side note was calculated relative to my interest in any remaining NCAA tournament games. The results were a landslide.

And for the record, my bracket prediction remains on track. Go two #1s, a #2, and a #4 or #6!

2017 NCAA Tournament Preview

As the NCAA tournament begins, my Final 4 prediction is that it will be two #1 seeds, a #2 seed, and one team seeded either #4 or #6. I don’t care which teams or who wins.

My interest in this year’s tournament begins and ends with South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits (18-16) play in the Summit League, which is apparently a Division 1 shirts-vs.-skins pickup conference that includes such legendary basketball programs as North Dakota State, Oral Roberts University, the indecisively named Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (which calls itself IUPUI, apparently on purpose), and the Bismark Kiwanis Club.

South Dakota State finished 6th in the Summit League regular season before accidentally winning their conference tournament and earning themselves an overnight bus trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to be crushed by Gonzaga (31-1), followed by an overnight bus ride back to South Dakota.

The Penn State Nittany Lions have been named this year’s designated survivor for the NCAA tournament, and will sit in the bowling alley under the student basketball arena until the tournament is over.

Go Jackrabbits. (An exclamation point seems excessive here.)

Making a name for oneself (or others)

Earlier today I was at Barnes and Noble.  As I was leaving, I passed the maternity/baby section, and one title caught my eye: 100,001 Best Baby Names. I didn’t have time to stop and check,* but I’m really hoping the last name on the list was “Irrelevant”.**

Actually, I did have time to check, but the names were listed in alphabetical order, not rank order.  The last name in the book was “Zygmunt”, which while being a bad name for a baby, is certainly not worse then “Dweezil”.

** For those who don’t follow football, the last person selected in the NFL draft each year is given the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant”.  He is always cut during training camp, but as a consolation prize, his mother gets a nice picture of him in his NFL uniform.

Trigger warning: “Trigger” did not make the list of the 100,001 best baby names.  It came in at 100,003, right behind “Cruella“.

By “football”, I of course mean football.  The kind played in the United States and Canada (and London in weeks 4, 7, and 8).  You’re thinking of “fútbol” (pronounced “SOCK-er”), which is an endurance match in which a dozen men see how long they can run around a field in shorts without scoring any points or doing anything interesting.  The current record is 60 minutes, plus two 15-minute overtime periods, held by every soccer game that ever went into double overtime.

Notice of Total Justification Anecdote:  One time at the gym, I was on the treadmill, and the TV in front of me was showing a World Cup semifinal match between a European team and a Latin American team.  (I believe it was Germany vs. Argentina, but it could have been the Holy Roman Empire vs. the Incas for all it matters.)  There was about 5 minutes left in the game, and the score was tied 0-0.  I walked away as fast as I could, but as I was on a treadmill, I didn’t get far.

So I watched the rest of the game, rooting for a final score of 0-0, so that the semifinal game of the world’s most inexplicably popular competition would have to be decided on penalty kicks.  (For Americans, this would be the equivalent of having the NFC Championship game end 0-0 and be decided by a punt, pass and kick contest, or the NBA semifinals end 0-0 and be decided by a game of Horse.)  I knew little about soccer, so when they announced at the end of regulation time that there would be an overtime to break the tie, I was very disappointed, but I was still on the treadmill, so I kept on rooting.  Eventually (15 minutes later chronologically, 7 weeks later subjectively), the overtime ended at 0-0.  I was devastated to find out that there was another 15 minute overtime period, but at least it would be the last.  To my great dismay, one of the teams (either the Toltecs or Austria-Hungary, I don’t remember) scored with less than 2 minutes (subjective time: 3 months) remaining.

I remember two things that reinforced my preconceived notions of soccer (the best kind of notions):

  1. Since the purpose of soccer is to avoid scoring points, one of the important statistics they maintain is “shots on goal”, the number of times a player accidentally kicks the ball toward the goalie.  In this game, at the end of regulation time, the Mayans had 0 goals on 12 attempts, and the Merovingians had 0 goals on 13 attempts, for a combined Futility quotient of 0-25.
  2. At one point, the color commentary guy (who was British, or possibly English), made the following statement after a missed shot on goal:

That would have been a splendid goal had it occurred.

When you have been reduced to subjunctive commentary, it’s time to go watch cricket.  At least it’s confusing enough to hold one’s attention.

Public service announcement: While searching for a baby wearing Carolina Panthers gear, I stumbled upon this picture of a baby wearing a Cleveland Browns helmet:

baby browns helmet

The child is clearly waiting for the Browns to make the playoffs, or possibly got confused and is watching fútbol.  Child Protective Services has been made aware of this abuse in either case.

Author’s note: This post was written in the style of Edgar Allen Poe, who apparently didn’t like soccer either.

Johnny Manziel, Von Miller become roommates

On March 11th, Johnny Manziel was asked to remove himself from his current NFL franchise.  That request came from the Cleveland Browns.
Deep down he knew they were right, but he also knew that someday he would return to the NFL.
With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his friend Von Miller.  Several years earlier, Miller had been suspended by his team, requesting that he stop violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Can two complete idiots share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

Author’s Note: The reference for those of you young enough to think that Matthew Perry makes a good Oscar Madison.

Getting drummed out of the NFL

Last weekend, I went to the Colts-Seahawks game in Indianapolis with my best friend and his girlfriend.  It was a good game, and we had a great time, but I kept getting distracted by the stadium music.

One song in particular got me thinking.  Whenever the Colts scored, the stadium would reverberate to the dulcet tones of Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day”.  In particular, they would play the refrain, which goes like this:

 I don’t want to work; I want to bang on the drum all day.

 I don’t want to play; I just want to bang on the drum all day.

It seems to me that this is the wrong message to be sending to players and coaches whose livelihoods depend on, well, working and playing.  (Disclaimer: I’m also worried about the effect of this song on the sanity of professional drummers.)

Competitive spirit

I was talking to one of the girls at Starbucks earlier, and she was telling me she is in her college’s marching band.  She was quick to clarify two points: they do not actually march at football games, and they do not compete like in high school.

From there the conversation degenerated.  There is a term we used to use for marching bands that don’t march.  We called them bands.  And as we only had one, it really had no one to compete with.  When the football team traveled for away games, our band stayed home, and vice versa for our home games.

Apparently nowadays there is some sort of secret competitive organization of college bands.  Nobody knows about this because the first rule of Band Club is that nobody talks about Band Club.  I think if they did, they would describe giant cages in smoke-filled basements, where people hit each other with oboes.  Or possibly mixed matches, with the cellist facing off against a bassoon player.  I can understand why no one talks about this.

But it got me thinking about competitive cheerleading.  Not Cheerleader Club, where teenage girls hit each other with oboes.  Nobody wants to talk about that.  I’m talking about whatever that was that Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku went to in “Bring It On”.  I was very disappointed with this (obviously fictional) depiction of a cheerleading competition.  Mostly because there was no actual cheerleading.  It was basically a choreographed dance recital featuring cheerleader costumes.  Certainly the performers were very talented, and I could never do any of the stuff they do, with the possible exception of walking onto the stage.  But it’s got about as much to do with cheerleading as Putt-Putt has to do with golf.  There are some incidental resemblances, but it’s all stylized and devoid of meaning.

In that vein, here are a couple improvements I would suggest to make competitive cheerleading both more competitive and more cheerleading-y: Continue reading


Reposted from Facebook:
The other day at B&N, the sports shelf prominently displayed the books Alive and 127 Hours.  My first thought was, “Cannibalism and self-amputation are not sports.”  (I’ve read Alive, and there’s no soccer in it.)  But then I figured it out.  What better way to subtly convey the message, “It’s dangerous outside!  Stay home and read a book!”  Brilliant marketing, Barnes and Noble!