Archive for February, 2011

February Blues

February 22, 2011

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

Raise your hand if you’re in the midst of the mid-February blues.  You know, that time where you want spring to be here so badly, but you know that winter has some cruel intentions left in her.  This condition becomes even more exasperated for a sports information person (or athletic trainer for that matter) when you consider that the winter sports are entering their most exciting time of year, while the spring sports are excited to get their season underway.  Throw in that most of the professors, student body and off-season coaches are using February break to take a much-needed vacation, and you get the picture of how the February blues come to pass for someone like me.  In more ways than one, winter isn’t quite over and the spring hasn’t quite sprung.

Last week, we saw temperatures rise into the 60-70 degree range while the spring sports were just beginning competition.  And while this had me excited for the better part of three days, reality set in with colder temperatures and gray skies on Sunday.  There was also the further realization that this week will be the busiest of the entire school year and, after today, temperatures are going to go back to the 40-50 degree range.

Let’s define a busy week by taking a closer look at each day.  It’s a week that starts with a fairly easy Monday (when I wrote this), but entails plenty of travel and planning to accomplish everything that needs to happen.

Monday (as I write this):
I began the day by checking my e-mails from the weekend and responding to any inquiries seeking information.  I generally let the e-mails pile up from the weekend so this takes longer on Monday than usual — generally an hour for an average day depending on what people’s requests may be.  After that, I usually handle any reporting to the conference office such as player of the week nominations, etc.  Beyond that, it’s on to any number of projects that pile up.  Since we don’t have a single home game this week, my focus can turn to some projects that don’t get done on a daily basis.  I’m also considering cleaning out my e-mail sent box and trash bin, but I always have the fear that I’ll need to reference some e-mail not long after I trash it (which I fear because it always is the case).  Later today, I’ll receive word on how the golf team is doing on their spring season-opener in Alabama and I’ll write a recap to send out to the masses regarding the Generals’ exploits.  Follow that up with a workout and some time at home and Monday isn’t so bad.  Tuesday’s when the fun begins.

Tuesday (when I posted this):
As usual, the day will begin with the checking of e-mails and the subsequent responses.  After that, I’ll make sure to get house in order so to speak because I’ll be leaving for Salisbury, Md., for the men’s lacrosse game on Wednesday.  Due to Feb break and a myriad factors including my Wednesday absence from the office, we were going to tape the W&L Sports Weekly today instead of its usual Wednesday Noon time slot.  Unfortunately two of our guests could not work it into their schedule so we had to cancel.  Bummer because the Sports Weekly taping is usually followed by an enjoyable lunch in the Commons with producers Laurie Lipscomb (Communications Office) and Michael Todd (Journalism) and, of course the talent, Jeremy Franklin (WLUR).  As Laurie and Michael can attest, Jeremy always gets served first thereby signaling the alarm that he is either becoming a rock star or he is performing “favors” for the dining hall staff.  We’re not sure which is the case.

In place of the show I have decided to continue my preparation for the rest of the week by making sure I have our rosters and information to our opponents, while collecting the same for the teams that will travel here (mostly tennis over the weekend).

Andy shows off his dance moves at my wedding

I’ll leave for Salisbury in my shiny Enterprise rental sometime around 2:00, which means I’ve already begun bargaining with Nate and Rachel to handle such things as writing the golf recap when it comes in between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm.  Around 7:00 pm, I plan to link up with former Sports Information Assistant Andy Krauss for dinner in Bethesda, Md., before hitting the road again for the final 2.5 hours of the journey to the hotel in Fruitland, Md., where it will be lights out when I arrive, but not before checking to see how men’s basketball and baseball fared in their games.

Wednesday:
The morning and early afternoon should be fairly open as I can’t imagine there’s much to do in Salisbury in February.  I mean, if it were June, I could make the short drive to Ocean City for some sun and surf, but clearly I’ve already mentioned that it is February, which is gray and cold.  I’ll probably just sleep in and grab some lunch at a local dive while killing time before the 3:30 pm match-up with the Gulls.  My last two trips to Salisbury for lacrosse games ended badly (2000 and 2004) and I’m hopeful this time will be different, but I’m also realistic.  Salisbury is ranked second and just killed Lynchburg 13-5 on Saturday. Ugh!  As for during the game, I’m planning on getting some video footage (for one of the many projects I’ve got in mind) and then writing the game up after it’s over.  Then, it’s back on the road around 6ish for the 5.5-hour trip back to my home in Waynesboro.

Thursday:
Though I’m sure I’d like to sleep in, I need to get the rental back to the parking deck for the Enterprise pickup so I need to wake up early enough to pack for Friday-Sunday since I won’t see home again until Sunday (Maybe).  Given that my commute to Lexington is 45 minutes, a 6:30 am wake-up isn’t out of the question.

Upon arriving back at the office, I plan to answer some e-mails and take care of anything that needs attention before hitting the road again for Salem, Va., and the ODAC Basketball Tournament.  I’ll be handling the official statistics for the first round of the women’s tournament on Thursday and the championship games on Sunday.  Games occur at 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm.  As you can imagine, I’ll probably be fried at the end of those games and hopefully I’ll get to see a W&L win in the 3:00 pm game.  After the games are done, I’ll be staying with former W&L Track & Field Assistant Coach Garrett Brickner and his roommate, none other than Assistant SID Nate Jervey.  Much easier than driving the additional 45 minutes to Waynesboro after a long day.  I’m sure it will be around 11: 00 pm by the time I get there so it will again be lights out and on to Friday.  Well, maybe after one adult beverage, we’ll see how I feel.

Friday:

Bring on the Dew -- or maybe some Starbucks!

It’s right back to Salem for the Generals’ men’s basketball game against Virginia Wesleyan should W&L win its game tonight.  We would play in the early game at 1:00 pm.  Should we lose to Lynchburg on Tuesday then it’s back to the office for a full day for the first time since Monday.  I’m sure I’ll wonder where the week has gone while I abandon my pledge to cut back on soda and caffeine.  I’m pretty sure I’ll need it. 🙂 So whatever time I have on Friday will be spent preparing for the Centennial Conference Wrestling Championships hosted by the Generals.  I’m not quite sure what to expect since we haven’t hosted this event since 2004 and I’m pretty sure I was traveling and not present for that go-round.  I do know that little fires tend to flare up before events like this and I’ll be prepared to handle what comes along.  There is a coaches meeting scheduled for 6:30 pm and I need to be there to introduce myself and help with the wrestler seedings.  I’m hopeful this will be done by 8:00, but just in case I’m going to crash with Nate and Garrett to avoid the commute home and another very late night.

Saturday:
Another reason for staying in town is that Saturday’s wrestling tournament starts for me at 8:15 am as I wait to see if the prior nights seedings and brackets will hold up through the weigh-ins at 8:00 am.  After that it’s copying the brackets for the program and the tournament begins at 10:00 am.  I’ll be handling the PA and other administrative duties for the event, which should end around 6:00 pm.  In between I also hope to get recaps written for the lacrosse game at Denison and the tennis match at home against Bridgewater.  After things wrap up with the wrestling tournament, there is another coaches meeting to determine postseason awards and to submit the names of the Centennial Championship wrestlers to the NCAA for submission into the national tournament.  I’m hopeful this will end by 8:00 pm, but again I have no idea what to expect so I again booked a room at the Hotel Brickner/Jervey for Saturday evening.

Sunday:
Currently I’m slated to again handle the statistics for the ODAC basketball Tournament Championship games on Sunday.  These games are at 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm.  By this point, I’ll be running on fumes and praying for June to arrive.  That’s if I work the games.  After pondering my week, I’ve reconsidered and asked the conference if they can find someone else to do the stats.  Having Sunday morning/afternoon and evening at home with my lovely wife should definitely be in the cards.  So should some much needed R&R.

So, February blues?  For me, it’s about the overlap of the sports seasons first and the overlap of the spring seasons second.  If the winter sports season shall continue after this weekend, is it too much to ask for warm temps and plenty of sun to go with it?  Or, if the winter sports season ends, I guess three more weeks of winter temps are okay, especially since our fields all have heated press boxes!.

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Enter the Thrisis

February 18, 2011

By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

Clark is in the yellow jersey on the right

My husband, Clark, turned 30 this past weekend and we celebrated in his home state of Indiana.  Just listening to the conversations over this past weekend I quickly realized that things have changed since I entered my 30s a few years back.  There is a whole new word that has been “invented” (or whatever the correct terminology is for creating a new word) to describe entering your thirties and all that comes with that.  It used to be that one was limited to having a mid-life crisis in their 50s which entitled them to buy an expensive car that they wished they had owned in their 20s.  And, sometimes date someone that resembles someone they also wish they had dated in their 20s.  The entire idea of a midlife crisis is one thinks the best years are behind them and go about trying to relive their youth.  Then, the idea of a quarter life crisis popped up – this is the time period following college where you ask yourself – this is the wonderful, promise land that I studied so hard for in college?  As you go to work everyday and get paid very little money compared to your rent and loans, it occurs to you that maybe I should not have sacrificed “insert theme” party to study for my freshman year chemistry test.  Or, worse, you find yourself living back at home after college with parents that seem to have forgotten that it has been 5 years since you were last there and you are now (1) quite capable of waking yourself up and (2) over the age of 21.

All that being said, I learned from a very trusted friend (he’s a doctor, so clearly trustworthy) that there is now a period of time that is officially referred to as a Thrisis.  It’s a catchy term, I’ll give you that.  So, I am thinking that you are having the exact same thought I did this weekend – what the heck is a Thrisis?  Even though the previously-mentioned friend is very trustworthy, I decided to Google the term myself.  And, who knew, it’s apparently a real thing.  I wish this term had been around when I turned 30 – it would have been very helpful to be able to categorize that time in my life with a catchy term.  I feel like a missed out on a major life-crisis opportunity.  Rats.

So, according to Google, the term Thrisis originated when British author, Kasey Edwards, wrote 30 Something and Over It.  It’s the feeling of uneasiness you experience when you hit the big 3-0.  The idea behind a thrisis is you have reached many of the goals you have set for yourself – career, relationships, house or nicer apartment and you wake up and ask yourself – “Is this it?”  and “Is this really what it means to be an adult?”  Apparently, you are dealing well with a Thrisis when you are realize that the feeling of fulfillment you are looking for is not going to come from your job, but from what you spend the rest of your time doing.  My question – where do I find that “rest of the time”?  Hence, the Thrisis.

Other interesting notes from this weekend in Indianapolis.  While not related to a Thrisis, there were some other tidbits to be taken away from the birthday weekend.

I listen to sports talk radio often, probably too often.  As a result, I am very aware and well-versed on the collective bargaining agreement issues going on in the NFL.  However, I was not prepared for how significant a topic this is in Indianapolis.  It makes a lot of sense once you think about it – Indianapolis is set to host the super bowl next February, the city contributed dollars to have additional hotels built in the downtown area and Peyton Manning is not getting any younger and time off would not help him at all.  In fact, while trying to book a meeting for next February in Indianapolis, we found out that all the hotels are keeping all rooms blocked from Feb 1-14th as a contingency plan in case the super bowl gets backed due to an extended lockout by the owners.  Crazy.

Final thing to note on the weekend – when you spend too much time in a soccer bar early in the morning, bad things happen.  And we definitely spent way too much time in our favorite soccer bar in Indianapolis – The Chatham Tap (aka The Tap).  It is an English bar with an amazing beer selection and they open early to show the English Premier League games.  This is great – except when it coincides with a birthday weekend – then it is trouble.  So, Saturday the 12th (Clark’s actual 30th birthday) kicked off at 7:30am with the Manchester Derby – Manchester City v. Manchester United.  We had about 10-12 dedicated friends show up at 7:30am to help kickoff the celebration and about 8 made it through the entire slate of games.  Amazing bicycle kick goal by Rooney ensued – probably the best goal of the year so far.  For the 10am kickoff, we had two games alternating on the many TVs – Arsenal v. Wolves and Liverpool v. Wigan.  Clark is an Arsenal fan, so the victory was definitely celebrated.  Thank you, Willie.  After about a 30 minute intermission, which was a perfect lunch break., we capped off the afternoon with the 12:30 match – Sunderland v. Tottenham.

However, as you may recall I did mention that The Tap has a great beer selection.  And we were there from 7:30am until 3pm.  This is dangerous and resulted in a poor selection of jukebox music choices and signing by our group.  The Tap portion of the day culminated with one of our fiends “borrowing” the replica world cup trophy from Daniel (Tap owner) for picture time.  I definitely feel sorry for the folks that came in just for lunch that day.  But, it was a great way to start Clark’s 30th birthday celebration and wonderful way to jump into his Thrisis with two feet (but not Flamini style).

Connected

February 16, 2011

By: Megan Moore
Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach

I like to think that I am not “plugged in”.  I use my laptop for word processing, listening to music, Googling and the occasional glance at Facebook. Last week I watched my first online episode of television, thanks only to Brooke and one of our players bringing me up to speed on what Hulu is.  I’ve owned an iPod touch for three years and haven’t downloaded a single application. I like to remain rather unplugged and tuned out actually, turning off the TV and closing the laptop at least an hour before bed and sometimes never turning either on when I get home.  I enjoy living in blissful ignorance of the super network. That is, until last Wednesday.

My miniature robot -- the Verizon iPhone

I joined the other 99,999 imbalanced fanatics at three in the morning on February 3rd and pre-ordered the iPhone 4 for Verizon.  I devoted a solid hour and 15 minutes of my precious sleep time to clicking the “sign in” button on Verizon’s homepage until finally, either after those not as determined had given up and gone back to bed or those more savvy had navigated their way around the downed server (whatever that is), I was able to submit my preorder at 4:09AM.  I am still a little confused and disheartened by myself, but what a rush it was.

I received shipment notification on my icon of technological advancement the next week and dashed home to leave a note ensuring FedEx they could leave my package at the door if no one answered. After practice and team dinner that night I tore into the brown unassuming box and marveled at my purchase. Even the packaging inside emanated coolness. You wouldn’t believe me if I said that as I lifted the lid off the sleek casing, the phone itself was actually glowing.

I will admit that this is not my first smart phone, which I know takes away from the fascination.  When I first got to W&L my cute little multicolored flip phone that had stood by me through college and a year after suffered its last drop and powered down forever.  I battled with the smart phone idea for a while, much longer than the average person with any decisiveness would have. Did I want access to email all the time? Did I want to find directions to Starbucks in the midst of any of my travels? Did I want to join in on the new Blackberry messenger phenomenon? Was all this connectivity worth 30 extra dollars a month and did I even want to be so connected? Yes and no.  I bought in though, and sadly soon after couldn’t remember what life was like without the conveniences.  Planning became virtually unnecessary; there were few situations I might find myself in that the Blackberry couldn’t get me out of:  directions to the nearest Panera, a recruit’s flight status, removing a post from my Facebook wall. How had I survived without it?

I realized though in the week span between the death of my Blackberry and the arrival of my miniature robot (what I now call the iPhone), that life was so much more enjoyable, not to mention free of distraction. It meant I actually had to read all new emails at once, rather than opening a new message in between running errands and adding its contents to the information overload that was already my brain. Strangely enough, the inaccessibility made me look forward to sitting down at the computer and organizing the day’s tasks. Without the worldwide web constantly at my fingertips, I was forced to think for myself again. I looked up numbers in the phone book (first I had to find our phone book), wrote down directions and actually picked up the phone to call my mother.

I'm even connected to Hulu now!

But my connectivity has been re-established, and this time it’s more synced than ever. The only things the mini-robot can’t do for me are eat, exercise and breathe.  But it can calculate my calorie-intake, plan and record my grocery list and track how many miles I’ve run, not to mention a whole host of other luxuries I haven’t begun to figure out but are sure to become necessities. Somehow it knows exactly where I have to be and when and can remind me as early and often as I want it to.  I could even use it to read a book but can’t quite bring myself to accept a machine as a stand in for the real thing.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in use for a total of 10 minutes on our most recent bus trip to Baltimore, and it doesn’t have my email set up yet. In my free time I guiltily search the app store for life changing innovations and some not so life-changing, like an application I downloaded that plays sounds like ocean waves crashing or a hair dryer blowing. My new favorite is a game called WordsFree, in which you can play scrabble against everyone and anyone on the network. As you can see, I’ve really chosen to use my technological privileges wisely. Regardless, I am not proud to say that I’m becoming an iPhone junkie. You can even get Hulu on this thing.

Modern Technology and Breaking Down Sports

February 11, 2011

By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

I am sometimes amazed by technology and how it is shaping society, changing the way that we, especially as sports fans, gather information.

Growing up, we didn’t have satellite television at our house until I was almost in high school (go ahead and insert the typical ‘Southern Canadian’ joke here) and high-speed Internet finally arrived three years ago…and our house is only two miles outside the city limits. Instead, we had to rely on local television (which only helped if you were a Packers or Badgers fan, because no other teams really mattered to them), the local newspaper and radio broadcasts to get our sports fix. Sunday mornings, when by no comparison the best sports section of the week arrived, there was always a struggle between me and my dad for whom would get to read the sports page first when we got home from church.

Compare that to today where fans can access information about their favorite teams from almost anywhere, anytime. The advent of the Internet and portable electronics has opened a new world: No matter where you may be your beloved team is never more than a few clicks away.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am entirely guilty of [sometimes] overusing such tools. Nights that Marquette basketball happens to be on national television and the Minnesota Wild are on at the same time I will have hoops on the television and hockey on my laptop. You can often find me watching MU or Brewers games that aren’t televised on my computer, and returning home after women’s basketball games more often than not I have my headphones plugged into my BlackBerry, listening to the Wild radio feed. I follow all my favorite teams on Twitter, finding it a great tool to know what is going on in the game (and off the court) when I can’t watch. Some people may look at that as information overload, but I look at is as a way to stay connected. In any case, it definitely helps aid any separation anxiety suffered by being thousands of miles away from my teams.

The Internet has also created a world where the biggest fans with copious amounts of spare time can chart, dissect and create useless stats and gossip that often times serve as nothing more than interesting bar talk…or a paranoia point for overzealous fantasy team owners and prognosticators who love to talk about their favorite team but have no say in personnel decisions on and off the field. Like this one, where a Marquette alumnus broke down the team’s records in the Dwayne Wade Converse uniform design, which was introduced during the 2007-08 season (I have always said those terrible powder blue uni’s were a pretty good indicator of a loss-hopefully they’re not wearing them Sunday at Georgetown). http://www.gomarquette.com/blog/2011/01/marquette-jersey-records-2007-08-to-present.html

One of my favorite statistical reference sites is baseball-reference.com. Being a huge baseball fan (my second-favorite sport after hockey), this site is dedicated to the total baseball nerd that I tend to be. Team stats, player stats, and awards…everything you need to know about the sport can be found on the site.

Amongst all of the serious black-and-white numbers, I have found one funny thing that connects B-R to the largest social networking tool currently available, Facebook. Fans are able to “like” their favorite teams by season and let me tell you, some of these teams I question who hit the “like” button. Like my personal favorite, the 1995 Milwaukee Brewers. I mean seriously, who are the two people that thought this team was great? Well, unless you had your first baseball crush on Mike Matheny like I did, but even then the uniforms were terrible and the product on the field was worse, leaving no justification to like this team.

I’m sure there are a million different sites dissecting every sport out there, here are some of my personal favorites:

My absolute favorite hockey site is Puck Daddy. Combining sport gossip with random stories and actual player coverage, it has a little bit of everything. I had the privilege of meeting founder Greg Wyshynski when I worked for the Capitals (he is based out of DC) and even had the opportunity to write a few guest entries. Many organizations struggle with whether or not to credential bloggers, but Wysh was one of the first personalities to show that (some) bloggers deserve to be credentialed for the work that they produce in turn.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy

While www.hockeydb.com is where you can go to find statistics and track the journey of players both in the major and minor leagues (and even some collegiate players). The site does offer some fun lists that could bolster any hockey trivia night, including one-game wonders, playoff-only players and the pack your bag club, which highlights the career journeyman.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/players/onegamewonder.html

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/players/playoffonly.html

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/players/pack_your_bag.html

Ever wonder how the birthplace of major league players reflects great social movements in our country? Or how the Baseball Hall of Fame Votes trend? Why your favorite pitcher struggles when pitching at different altitudes? This site is crazy-busy breaking down some significant, and not so significant, factors in one of the most number-driven and superstitious sports.

http://baseballanalysts.com/

This site doesn’t necessarily do anything with statistics, but the fact that this guy collected almost every logo from every sport globally amazes me. Plus it’s always fun to go back and see the progression of a team’s uniforms over the years.  http://www.sportslogos.net/team.php?id=64

I can’t take credit for this one. I was chatting with (W&L play-by-play announcer) Jeremy Franklin on the way home from the women’s basketball game on Saturday at Bridgewater when we started talking about referees. He told me there was a site that broke down referees and their tendencies, year-by-year. Little did I believe it at first, but alas, here it is.

http://statsheet.com/mcb/referees

So there you have it, probably just one-one thousandth of the sites that are out there breaking down teams and mindless stats. Which leaves me wondering…just who are these people that have produced such information? Obviously a lot of research and time had to be poured into compiling the information for 10 seconds worth of fame. Is it just a love of the game? A yearning for a deeper understanding? On an anti-social person sitting in their dark basement at home, lurking away from daylight to slave away at the artificial glow of the computer screen?

And on a personal level, even if I did have copious amounts of spare time, what would I research to make into a useless statistical graphic? The length of an NHL mullet and its correlation to PIM’s? Whether or not players who grow mustaches during November see an increase in their productivity?

Whatever the drive is, I’ll give them a little credit, and I’m sure the weekly trivia master at the local pub also thanks them.

No Football – No Problem

February 8, 2011

By: Bryan Snyder
Head Volleyball Coach/Assistant Athletic Director

One of the buzzwords in the music industry these days is “sampling”, and for this entry of the blog, I am going to sample a couple of things.  The first thing I am sampling is the title – it was TBS’s old slogan for the first couple of Sundays following the conclusion of the NFL season when they would play all day marathons of “guy” flicks.  Think Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, or Vin Diesel for the younger crowd, etc. all day long.

The Super Bowl of Racing

So, now that the NFL season is over with the completion of Sunday’s Super Bowl (great game, and I was very glad to see the Packers win, or more accurately, the Steelers lose), I am going to give everyone an idea of how to spend those Sunday afternoons that have been reserved for the NFL for the past five months.  Here is where the second example of sampling comes in, as I am going to use this blog as a way to promote one of my favorite sports that a lot of others around here don’t appreciate.  (I am sampling Rachel’s love of hockey here for those who don’t read the blog regularly)  Since the NFL’s version of the Super Bowl is over, it is now time to focus on the “Super Bowl of NASCAR”, the Daytona 500!  Daytona is less than two weeks away (Feb. 20), and I have been anxiously awaiting the start of the NASCAR season since New Year’s Day.  In my opinion, the Daytona 500 is a much more fan-friendly sporting event than the Super Bowl, and I am going to give you four very good reasons why.

1. Start Time
I absolutely hate the fact that the Super Bowl starts so late in the day!  It is originally listed as a 6:00 PM start when the TV listings are released, then the NFL designates the kickoff for 6:29 PM, and this year’s game actually kicked off  at 6:34 PM (I checked this as it was happening since I knew this would be a key point in my entry this week).  This game does not end until 10:30 or so at night, and when you have to get up early on Monday to start your week, that alarm comes very early.  Also, because of the late start, we are subjected to something like seven hours of pre-game shows.  The networks only show about 2 hours of pre-game during the regular season when there are 16 games (on non-bye weeks) to talk about, but somehow need seven hours for the Super Bowl?  Most of it is just filler junk.  The Daytona 500 however will drop the green flag sometime just before 2:00 PM, and the race will be over around 6 or so – perfect!  There will be about 40 minutes of pre-race coverage on TV with an additional hour on the radio broadcast (side note:  NASCAR is the BEST sport to listen to on the radio BY FAR!), for 43 participating teams.

2. Season-Opening Event
The Super Bowl builds up a great deal of excitement (especially with the unnecessary week off between the conference championships and the Super Bowl) and media hype, but then what happens after the game is over?  You have to wait until September (or later this year depending on what all the big, whiny, millionaire owners and players decide to do about a labor agreement) to see another game.  It is only two days post Super Bowl, and the most relevant thing NFL fans have to watch is Aaron Rodgers on David Letterman.  The Daytona 500 builds excitement all off-season, and then once the race is over, that excitement builds and carries over into the rest of the season.  Only seven days after competing in the biggest race in NASCAR, all of the drivers and teams will be back on the track in Phoenix for the second race of the Sprint Cup Series.

Jimmie Johnson is the greatest dynasty in sports right now

3. There is Always Someone to Root For
The last time my favorite NFL team, the Miami Dolphins, was in the Super Bowl, I had just turned 12 years old.  It has been a long time since there has actually been a team in the Super Bowl that I wanted to win – usually, I just root against the team I dislike the most, as was the case this year and last year for sure.  No matter who your favorite NASCAR driver is (unless your favorite driver is someone like Boris Said), you will be able to root for that driver in the biggest race of the season.  Jimmie Johnson (5 consecutive titles – greatest dynasty in sports right now … sorry UCONN Women’s hoops), Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, etc. will all be there gunning to win the 2011 Daytona 500 and fans of ALL of the drivers have the hope that their driver will win the race and possibly the Sprint Cup Championship.  The Super Bowl is a great social event, but for passionate fans to have a chance to really root for their favorite, the Daytona 500 is 21 ½ times better – 43 drivers at Daytona vs. 2 teams in the Super Bowl. (sorry, I just had to throw that in there … how many times do you get to use 21 ½ ?)

There's a reason why the Masters is at Augusta National every year. It's awesome and it works.

4. Same Venue Every Year
I know that it is cool for the Super Bowl to be in a different city and at a different stadium every year so that each hosting city can play the “can you top this” game of hyping up the actual event and providing the greatest fan and media experience.  However, by changing venues, I think the Super Bowl loses a little character.  There is just something special about seeing a major sporting event at the same venue every year that lends itself to more drama and history.  I think this is why The Masters is the greatest of the four golf majors, because everyone knows the layout of Augusta National, and contemporary players are always compared to players of the past since they all played the same course.  Granted, a football field has the same dimensions regardless of what stadium it is in, but wouldn’t it have been fun to see if Adam Vinatieri could have made one of his Super Bowl winning kicks through the same goal posts that denied Scott Norwood?  It is great to watch the Daytona 500 and know exactly where the tri-oval, the back straightaway, turns 1 through 4 and the entry and exit to pit road are.  Every time you watch the race you can remember things that happened in those exact same spots in previous races.  The tradition of the race itself continues to build, while the Super Bowl seems to be 45 singular events that lack a common physical connection.

So there you have my argument for why the Daytona 500 is a better sporting event than the Super Bowl.  I know that there will be many who will laugh, or maybe not even read the whole thing, but I encourage you to watch the 2011 Daytona 500 and give it an honest chance.  Pick a driver and follow him (or her) for 500 miles (200 laps around the 2.5 mile speedway) and feel the excitement!  I have been a big NASCAR fan since the early 90’s, and I look forward to many more great races at Daytona.  It all starts with the Shootout this Saturday (Feb. 12) … oh wait, did I forget to mention that with the shootout, the duels (or the twin 125’s to us old school fans) on the 17th, practice and qualifying sessions, the Daytona 500 actually has competition going on for nearly 2 weeks?  Wow, how much better is that than listening to debates about who has the better hair between Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews Jr.?

NBA at the halfway mark

February 1, 2011

By: Adam Hutchinson
Head Men’s Basketball Coach

Over the last several months I have caught bits and pieces of several NBA games.  Once the regular season ends, I literally clear my calendar, and watch the ENTIRE NBA playoffs, but during the regular season I rarely see an entire game.  Many people that watch professional basketball probably agree that you only need to see small parts of regular season games in order to develop a reasonably informed opinion about the postseason.

At this point in time it seems pretty clear that there are five teams that have a legitimate shot at representing their respective conference in the NBA Finals: San Antonio and the LA Lakers in the West, and Miami, Orlando and Boston in the East.  After watching the final eight minutes of last weekend’s Celtic-Laker game (more on that later), it occurred to me that these contenders could be grouped in a way other than conference they play in.  There are two teams that embrace the “star driven” system in the Lakers and the Miami Heat, and three teams that are more “team” oriented in Miami, Orlando and Boston.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers and LeBron James and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat are three of the biggest stars in the game today.  Don’t ask me why that is, or even what it means, because this statement is not measurable, provable, or may not even be definable, but it is nonetheless almost universally accepted.  While watching the Lakers on Sunday, I was not surprised to see the team revolve around Bryant.  He has long dominated the ball in LA, and shows no signs of relinquishing his grip.

In Miami, James and Wade seem to take a co-star approach.  They seem to get along well, but watching them play, there is little evidence of cohesion between the two.  They don’t feed off of each other defensively as much as I thought they would, they rarely pass to each other unless it is for a layup, and they NEVER cut off of one another.  In fact, they rarely occupy the same side of the floor.  Instead they seem to take turns asserting themselves while the other defers until it is his time.

In contrast, the Spurs, Magic and Celtics all demonstrate a much more team oriented style of play.  Which is not to say they lack stars, because they don’t.  Tim Duncan of the Spurs, and Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are all future Hall of Famers (and the Celtics have All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, and the fossilized remains of the Artist Formerly Known as Shaq).  The Orlando Magic have Dwight Howard, a player that many GM’s might pick first if they were starting a team today.  So all three teams have star power in plenty, but they differ from the Lakers and Heat in style of play.

The Boston Three Party

The Celtic-Laker game from Sunday offers a perfect example (or at least the eight minutes that I saw did).  Boston was up two when I turned the game on and Bryant had 37 points for the Lakers.  He finished with 41 points, missed several contested shots and committed costly turnovers down the stretch, and the Lakers deficit ballooned to 12 at one point.  It was disconcerting to watch Bryant repeatedly break plays out of timeouts, demand the ball only to settle for a difficult shot, while on the court with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, and Ron Artest (all players that have been All-Stars at some point, and all far closer to their athletic prime than Bryant).  Meanwhile the Celtics moved the ball, having several possessions in which every player touched the ball, most resulting in scores.  It was striking to watch how much the ball movement contributed to more energetic effort on the boards and on defense for the C’s, two areas in which they outperformed the Lakers down the stretch.

Early in the season, it seems that many prognosticators assumed that star driven teams are stronger, and picked the Lakers and the Heat to meet in the Finals.  As the NBA season approaches the halfway mark, I am not sure that either team will advance that far.  I am not sure the Heat can beat Orlando, and definitely don’t think they will fare well against Boston in a seven game series.  I look for the Celtics to represent the east in June.

The Lakers have a much better chance of winning the West, but experts have been overlooking the Spurs for the past decade, despite several championships won.  The western conference championship series between these two will be an interesting study in contrast, and I can’t predict a winner.  It really does not matter though, because the Celtics will be hoisting the hardware in June.