Monday, May 25, 2009

early week youtube, inspired by true events

So it's Clemson, is it? Of course it is. They can't seem to get away from Alabama.

(Note: if you're bored, read the post here from the immediate aftermath of this game. Even better if you scroll down the commentary section and read my friend Kurt's fleeting attempt to tell us how stupid we were for being excited about the win at the time. Well done, sir. You've certainly proven your worth.)

For the entire NCAA field, check here. See you sometime later this week.

Friday, May 22, 2009

kill the bowls, and hang them out to dry

As an Alabama fan growing up and a graduate of the university, I have always naturally been a big believer in tradition. I don't like the designated hitter or interleague play; I favor starting school closer to September than July; and I always supported WCW over the NWO.

My life as a Tide fan is, naturally, steeped in tradition. Going to the Bryant Museum moves me to the point of distraction, just about every time, and a simple visit to Denny Chimes can keep me entertained for hours (but it's important not to bother on game weekends, when large crowds make it less than fun by volume and stupidity).

That's how I've always approached the college football postseason. I've never been comfortable with the idea of a playoff system, and here's why: I like college football tradition, which includes a completely inane bowl system. My New Year's memories as a child always included tons of football and my parents' annual New Year's Day party, which featured enough food to gorge ourselves for several hours.

And a playoff system would absolutely slaughter that, wouldn't it?

Actually, no. No it won't.

That's right, folks. After arguing on behalf of tradition for most of my young life, I finally came over to the side of a full-fledged playoff last year. It's the only way to do it — straddling the fence with a plus-one or 8-team thing won't work (though I'm not quite ready to come over to Mike Leach with his 64-team idea).

I've posted about this before, although I can't find the original post at the moment. Here's a list of reasons the "playoffs will kill the bowls!" argument is a complete crock:

-- First, at least half the bowls need to go away. I enjoyed the pageantry of the old New Year's Day bowl games as much as anybody, but the "tradition" of those games went out the door a long time ago when bowl games started adding ".com" to their titles and they started playing games in places like Boise and Birmingham.
(The Birmingham thing continues to slay me. Look, I love it here and wouldn't want to live any place else. But as a vacation destination? Really? The only reasons any non-native would want to travel here include: for school; for work; to visit family; to get shot. That's really it. I can't see how in the world a bowl game in Birmingham makes any sense.)
Furthermore, three of the four main reasons for going to a terrible bowl game — exposure (recruiting), an extra paycheck and a reward for the players — are barely valid anymore. Did spending New Year's in Shreveport in 2007 after finishing 6-6 really do anybody any good? At all? I say no — in fact, stories are now surfacing that various football programs are actually losing money by participating in some of these bowls. Really, the only reason to participate in these things now is for the extra month's worth of practice, and even that can be accomplished without the bowl trips by coaches who know what they're doing.

-- Second, many of the people who say these things have no idea of the history of bowl games. The truth is, when bowl games were first conceived back in the 1920s, no concept of a "national champion" really existed in college football. Bowl games were conceived as an exhibition, much like the Super Bowl was in 1967. It was an excuse to give players who rarely traveled outside their region a chance to do so, and to make a little extra coin on previously unheard o inter-sectional matchups. But those matchups happen all the time now — travel is much easier now, and you can witness all sorts of intersectional non-conference games (LSU at Washington and so forth).

-- Third, and most important: the BCS has already effectively accomplished the death of the bowls. Once upon a time -- and really, it was just 12 years ago -- real college football fans had to watch more than one bowl game to see the potential contenders for a national championship. In 1997, for example, undefeated Nebraska faced Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, while undefeated Michigan played Washington St. in the Rose (they wound up splitting the title). In '94, undefeated Penn St. faced Oregon in the Rose, while undefeated Nebraska played Miami in the Orange Bowl (Nebraska won both shares). In 1993, multiple teams -- Nebraska, Florida St., West Virginia, Notre Dame, even Auburn (undefeated and on probation) -- had a chance to claim the crown with an impressive enough showing. In those days, 1-2 matchups were rare, ultimately leaving us with an unsatisfying conclusion to the season in which at least one team (sometimes two) walked away claiming they should own at least a share of the national title. It's because of this system -- we called it absurd -- that we pressed the dissolution of those old bowl ties in favor of a system that would give us a 1-2 matchup to close out the season.
And that's fine: it's what we have now. Trouble is, those old bowl games now mean nothing beyond just an excuse to party (and as we've already discussed, who parties in Birmingham?). All that matters is that national championship date -- only once in the BCS era (in 2003) has more than one team claimed a share of the title at season's end.

So, if we're going to a playoff, let's jump in with both feet: 16 teams, figure out the logistics at your own leisure.
Discuss, please.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tuesday tubage: a quick look back

Today's video: the best plays from the SEC in 2008. Enjoy.

Is it taunting to show this video, particularly given the weather right now? Yes. Yes it is.

Monday afternoon links

Before I begin, I must share a quote from a co-worker of mine. The context: we were discussing those abominable empire waists that have inexplicably become fashionable among women, despite the fact that the untrained observer (me) often mistakes them for maternity wear clothes. My co-worker, Meredith, responded that it has to do with the way the material is "gathered," and that it is possible for it not to look that way and so forth.
Then she gave me this gem:
"I think it's because all designers secretly hate women."
Please feel free to discuss at your leisure. For now, some links:
— We begin in the BlAUgusphere, where Jerry at the JCCW is pretty dry on positive things to write about in regards to Auburn football. So what else is an Aub to do except ... wait, I know: accuse Alabama of cheating (kind of).
Wait, though, Jerry: you didn't mention anything about the Bear being dead! Or Alabama fans gloating over a recruiting national championship! Or how everyone at Alabama is a trust-fund fraternity boy! I feel cheated.
— UGA-related links: Georgia is apparently weighing the possibility of moving its signature rivalry game to the Georgia Dome(?). You figure it out. Dr. Saturday says it's a bad idea. On a semi-related subject, Tony Barnhart argues (correctly) that Erk Russell should be in the College HoF. I lived in south Georgia for two years, and trust me — the man is an institution down there. Also, the Orlando Sentinel has the third-best team in the SEC in 2009 ... and it's not Ole Miss.
— In baseball, Alabama forgot its bats for the first two games in Auburn and dropped the series as a result. Here's the bracket for this week's SEC Tournament, and if you're a Tide fan, you'll be up very late Wednesday trying to catch the final out.
— Note to SEC coaches: Mike Slive hears you, and he wants to hear you no more. Good luck with that one, partner.
— Other Alabama stuff: is asking you for the best all-time tight end; they're also profiling the newcomers, with Kenny Bell today's entry. Meanwhile, RBR gives us a look at a stadium he's seen up close. And Cecil takes a minute to catch up with Anthony Grant. Which isn't easy.
— Who has a real chance to take the BCS title this fall? Mark Schlabach has 6.
— Finally, two general interest links: Olbermann has the story of Vin Scully and the Yankees, and gives us diary entries from "Lost."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday: faith my eyes

Today for the Friday link-fest, we begin with one of my favorite songs in any genre: Derek Webb's Faith My Eyes. I still have a difficult time listening to it sans emotion.
(Apologies because the vid picks up a little late.)

And just like that, we're off for the weekend. After this, I mean.
— First, of course, I have to plug myself and my own column, which dwells on baseball and its continued effort to antagonize its fans.
— We'll begin on the baseball diamond, where Auburn outlasted 'Bama last night at 3-name stadium ("HitchcockFieldatSamfordStadiumatPlainsmanPark"). The loss snaps the Tide's eight-game win streak, and probably torpedoes any hopes of winning the SEC title in the regular season. Not that anybody will really care once the tournaments start, obviously. In the current TCBB regional projections, 'Bama would go to Clemson as a #2.
— Your Way Too Premature Preview Links: Dr. Saturday talks about 'Bama football in 2009; Tony Barnhart gives us an early Top 25. Meanwhile, Chris Low tells us what work there is to do this summer for three SEC squads.
— Nick Saban, of course, spoke to the press yesterday at the Bruno's Classic (or whatever it is). Among the topics: Prince Hall, who's "off the team." Word.
— Jerry at the JCCW gives us more on the no-huddle and whether it gives David an advantage against Goliath.
— A possible coaching war of words lurking in the shadows: Spurrier v. Meyer. Also, Tubs found himself a job for this fall.
— Your required link to Braves baseball: Chop Talk attempts to reinvent bullpen statistics.
— Finally, one link that has little to do with anything: TBL gives us the best ring entrances of all-time. Not surprisingly ... the greatest of all-time is right at the top.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

lost-blogging: the incident (now with more SPOILERS!!!!)

Welcome back to my dad's least favorite running gimmick here at The Party, "Lost-blogging," where the editor of this blog tries in vain to comprehend all the meanings of ABC's "Lost." Tonight is the season finale, tentatively titled "The Incident." Preview is located here. As always, STAY AWAY ... SPOILERSPOILERSPOILERS.

Before we begin tonight's episode, I should note that I missed Monday's "24" because I was at a ridiculous council meeting that lasted until 9 p.m. (I'll just guess: Tony took his plot one step further, Jack yelled a lot and pretended to convulse. The president made a lot of scared-looking faces. But nothing really happened otherwise.) I also missed Derek Lowe beating Johan Santana and Lebron finishing off Atlanta. I'm thinking of investing in TiVo. Is that the best option for DVR or can you do better?
Some other questions for tonight ...
-- Who's the winner: fate or free will?
-- Who exactly is Jacob?
-- What's the meaning of the term "pusshead?" (Whoops -- that's about something else entirely.)
-- And finally, what exactly lies in the shadow of the statue?
To sum it all up ...

(All times CDT, as always)
-- 8:00: A man using what appears to be a very old loom opens the show, and then goes and plays in the ocean, presumably on the Island. He's grilling fish on a rock. Fantastic.
-- 8:01: What's apparently about to happen is the crash of the ship on Black Rock, which is where our friends were when poor Arzt blew into smithereens.
-- 8:02: "It only ends once." What does that mean, exactly?
-- 8:03: So we know the fisherman is Jacob. Not sure about the other guy ... And there's the statue! W00t!
(Commercial note: Dig Kenny Smith's jacket tonight on TNT during the next commercial.)

-- 8:06: Young Kate appears to be shoplifting. An NKoTB lunchbox, too. Hilarious.
-- 8:07: Is that Jacob? It IS Jacob! Hot damn!
-- 8:08: There's absolutely no chance this sub's actually leaving the Island, is there? Also note the creepy tension between Kate, Sawyer, Jack and Juliet. Awesome.
-- 8:09: How does Sayid know about Faraday's time table?
-- 8:11: Anytime a scientist in a movie or TV show compares himself to a scientist in real life, you know he's lost his mind. And he's probably going to die.
(Flash forward 30 years)
-- 8:12: Either Ben is lying or he just revealed something kind of kooky. Also note the similarities between just-crashed Locke (Season 1) and Resurrected Locke.
-- 8:13: Locke just lied to Richard.
-- 8:13: I have no idea what Locke means.
-- 8:14: Hey, it's the Ajira folk! Haven't seen them in several weeks.
-- 8:15: In the word of Brad Pitt, what's in the box?
-- 8:15: Is this the same as the briefcase from "Pulp Fiction?"

-- 8:19: Apparently Jacob is a benevolent, time-traveling god.
-- 8:20: "What's done is done." Apparently this guy falls on the side of fate. Worth noting: the kid in this flashback don't know a thing in the world about how Southern kids actually talk. Bad grammar quite purposeful.
-- 8:22: A classic Sawyer moment there. "You ain't home." Fantastic.
-- 8:24: It seems Jack's opinion of Locke has changed a good bit.
(Flash forward)
-- 8:25: Locke has flipped the script on Ben: assigning him the task of killing Jacob, just as Ben forced Locke to kill his own father back in Season 3.
(Commercial note: "We're all scared!")

-- 8:29: Wait a minute ... did Jacob kill Nadia? How uncool is that? Does this entire Island conspire to ruin Sayid's life? Sheesh.
-- 8:31: A guess: the steps lead to Ben's old house, and the place where they're currently standing is where Ben went to summon the Monster last season.
-- 8:33: Wait ... no one recognizes the Iraqi who shot Ben Linus? Really? I can see not recognizing Jack, but c'mon.
-- 8:34: Jack just killed at least two people. Cripes.

-- 8:39: Poor Juliet. Even the Nixon administration wasn't this doomed.
-- 8:40: There's a good chance they traveled through time on the sub. Either that or they just found Rose and Bernard. Awesome.
-- 8:42: Is that Jacob's cabin? Bernard and Rose are living in Jacob's cabin?
-- 8:42: "We traveled back 30 years in time and you're still trying to find ways to shoot each other?" That's fantastic. It's awesome that Rose and Bernard got to be the voices of reason on this show. Totally didn't see that coming. Also, do you think those two got paid for this appearance? Maybe $40? $50?
(Flash forward)
-- 8:44: "We're the good guys," again? Frank Lapidus appears to be as confused as the rest of us.
-- 8:44: Tell me this isn't the same cabin we just saw.
(Flash ... I dunno. To somewhere else.)
-- 8:45: Is that French?
-- 8:45: And there's Jacob again! Visiting ... the bounty hunter, I guess. Ilyana, sure. Still no word on whether he's actually a good guy. And why does he look like one of the Baldwins?
-- 8:47: That parchment is a drawing of the statue, of course. We still don't know a) who these people are; b) why they're here; c) what they're carrying.

-- 8:52: Jacob was apparently present when Locke got paralyzed. Is he responsible, though?
-- 8:54: Is it worth wondering whether Ben is still lying? Is he being truthful at all right now?
-- 8:55: Methinks Ben may have met Jacob when he was young. Maybe in one of these benevolent flashbacks.
(Flashback to Jin & Sun's wedding)
-- 8:57: "Like the sky being apart from the earth." Is that what's happening now? Are these two really the key to the whole thing? They're really the only two who are true in this deal, and they're the ones who are split up.
-- 8:58: Of course Jacob is there. Sheesh. How many languages does the dude speak?
-- 8:59: "You can't stop the bleeding." Of course you can't.
(Commercial note: I can't tell you how many times in my life I've thought to myself, "You know what my life is missing? People knocking themselves silly on giant rubber balls. If I could see that, I'd be set for life.")

-- 9:03: So what lies in the shadow of the statue, apparently, is Jacob.
-- 9:04: Are Jack and Sawyer about to fight?
(Flash ... I dunno. Again. To an operating room somewhere.)
-- 9:05: A daunting challenge laid down by Christian: fix her, or I'll have to fix her for you. Wild guess: the girl in the surgery is Jack's eventual wife -- "he fixed me!"
-- 9:07: Jack needs his people to believe in him, just like he needs the survivors to believe in him.
-- 9:07: Jacob shows up again. "The machine stuck." ... "I guess it just needed a little push." Fantastic.
-- 9:08: Is this conversation going like Jack's and Sawyer's at the end of Season 1? The one where Sawyer admits he met Jack's dad?
-- 9:09: Sawyer is now pretty sanguine about fate. Jack is now speaking destiny. We've come a long way here.
-- 9:10: Is now the time to bring up "The Butterfly Effect," starring Ashton Kutcher? Also about time travel, also about a guy trying to control his relationship with a girl (Amy Smart, in this case, or Jonathan Moxon's girlfriend in "Varsity Blues"). In the end (SPOILER) Ashton decides it's better for them to have never met. And so he arranges it that way.
-- 9:11: Of course, Juliet is now on Jack's side. That's the way it had to be.

-- 9:15: The girls in this scene look disturbingly like Kate and Juliet. "What if you ARE supposed to be together?"
-- 9:16: "Would that have stopped you?"
-- 9:17: Is it possible Jacob is changing things in people's history as all this is happening? Like a change in their genetic programming that makes them respond differently to different situations?
-- 9:18: Someone start playing "The Dance" by Garth Brooks.
-- 9:19: Dammit. Kate stole my symmetrical observation. Kate is probably about try to seduce Jack into not detonating the bomb.
-- 9:21: Of course, now Kate wants to help, too. Of course she does.
(Commercial note: Is it worth insulting our intelligence with that Kelly Ripa ad where she cooks breakfast for her 25 children? Does anybody really believe Kelly Ripa has ever even seen a kitchen appliance? Ever?)
(Promo note: Apparently they're solving the 2012 mystery tonight on the ABC 33/40 news. That's good to know.)

-- 9:26: Now we know who got Hurley to go back to the Island. And also where he got Charlie's guitar.
-- 9:27: Hurley freak-out coming in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
-- 9:28: "It's your choice, Hugo. You don't have to do anything you don't want to."
-- 9:29: Sayid may have the saddest life of any character on this show. "Nothing can save me."
-- 9:30: Could Juliet and Kate possibly solve their dispute with a Jello fight? No?
-- 9:31: I have no idea what's about to happen here. No idea.
(Flash forward)
-- 9:32: Ben and Richard are about to do something nefarious. To his credit, Locke is a man of his own rules. I guess when you've already died once, you're not really afraid of much.
-- 9:33: Now Locke is the man promising things will change. Freaky.

-- 9:38: Miles addresses the elephant in the room -- the one about Jack being the one who causes the Incident, not not preventing it.
-- 9:39: "Live together, die alone." Or die together.
-- 9:40: Jack can kind of go for broke here, right? I mean, it's basically a kamikaze mission.
-- 9:41: It's like a scene from A-Team! Awesome. Except people actually get shot here. Nobody ever got shot in A-Team.
-- 9:41: Dollars to pesos either Kate or Juliet shoots Jack.
-- 9:42: Too late.
-- 9:42: Are we absolutely sure the bomb will detonate? Because that would totally suck if we went through all this and nothing happens.
-- 9:44: Have we officially hit 88 mph again?
-- 9:45: This is the wrong time to say anything about this, but ... I mean do you know how hard it is to hold somebody with one arm like that? A full-grown person? It's really hard. Like, really hard.
-- 9:46: Will Juliet set off the bomb from down there?

-- 9:50: Hey, we're back at The Foot! And the Ajira folk are here! Maybe they have some alcohol.
-- 9:51: What the hell was that? French? Egyptian? Korean? What?
-- 9:52: Wait ... so Locke's body was in the box the whole time? Kind of a disappointment, no?
-- 9:53: Now we know what the point of the loom at the beginning of this was.
-- 9:54: So wait ... was Locke the guy from the opening scene?
-- 9:54: It seems Jacob is a big believer in choice.
-- 9:55: It seems Ben isn't a huge fan of Jacob's, either.
-- 9:56: Interesting Moses comparison. We'll talk of that later.
(Flash back to '77)
-- 9:57: Jack comes to consciousness, kind of like he did at the outset of Season 1.
-- 9:58: Juliet is alive, after all. And she is going to detonate the big boom. Way to go, Blondie.
-- 10:00: The season goes white. A temporal shift? A nuclear holocaust? A flashback? Flash forward? Is your head aching? Nose bleeding? Do you see dead people? Are you carrying one?
(end of episode)

As always, I'm very confused. Please discuss.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday links: afternoon delight

No witty opening today — little busy at the moment. Links!

— Melick rightly wonders if Mike Slive shouldn't muzzle his coaches, for the good of the league. One thing we can all be proud of: Nick Saban and Gene Chizik are NOT on the list of coaches who opened their mouths. At least not directly. It's important for the coaches to avoid the news in May as much as the players.
— Follow the leader: says UK basketball should follow Nick Saban's success model; Knoxville columnist wonders if UT football shouldn't follow Florida's model.
— Former and future: 'Bama picked up an OL commitment last week; and here's your obligatory "John Parker Wilson's gonna make the team!" story, before he gets cut in July.
— List of fit football coaches. Saban and Kiffin are on the list. Let's hope this is the last time those two are on the same list.
— The BCS hired JC Watts to lobby for its cause. Why? EDSBS has the story.
— Why the spread = the full-court press, per JCCW.
— Tidefan breaks down NCAA 2010.
— Finally, diamond-shaped things: 'Bama softball is hosting a regional; and baseball is lurking in the SEC title race with one series left (give you a hint: AWBS!) this weekend.

Friday, May 8, 2009

weekend links: now with less Favre, Manny, A-Rod

Before I start with this weekend's links, I promise not to mention the former Packers QB, the Yankees' 3B or the Dodgers' LF. Although it's worth noting how hard sports tries to make us dislike it, and yet we keep coming back.

As always, we start the weekend with a little Webb — this one is also a singles masterpiece, and is called "Can't Lose You." Definitely listen for the bridge when the bald one stretches his voice to its highest limits.

And we're off.
— Senor CFB discusses the SEC schedule, and whether balance is more favorable to tradition. The conference has attempted to straddle that line since it broke up into divisions in 1992 by allowing each team to keep a "traditional" rival from the opposing division (originally it was two — and the "" exists because not everyone's permanent opponent is actually a tradition, like Arkansas-South Carolina). This approach comes in opposition to the Big XII, which dissolved year-to-year rivalries like Oklahoma-Nebraska with its division format (no permanent opponents).
Obviously, as a 'Bama fan, I don't want to lose Tennessee as a yearly opponent. But I do enjoy seeing UGA and Florida more often in the rotating format, as well. So what if we compromise: add an extra conference game to the schedule and give back the two permanent opponents PLUS the two rotating dates. The NCAA has already given us the chance by adding the extra game to the schedule, and it allows you to see your inter-division opponents more often (because a fewer number of teams are rotating through your schedule). The PAC-10 already took this approach by using the extra regular-season game as an opportunity to add an extra conference date.
The biggest problem is obvious: it's another week that allows the conference to beat up on itself, which ultimately harms the overall record of the conference and thus any potential MNC contenders from the SEC (remember: the PAC-10 doesn't play a conference title game). And frankly, I don't know if there's any getting around that sticking point, at least until we rid ourselves of the abominable BCS.

— 8Box tackles one of the growing problems in college football and sports today: internet defamation between rival fan bases. This may be the most hateful aspect of the rise of blogs: for all the flaws of the mass media industry, there's a certain accountability people demand from their media outlets that they simply don't request from blogs (because most people like me regard blogs as being "just for fun," even though many of them are becoming increasingly legitimate — this obviously isn't one of them).
If I write defamatory things about Gene Chizik in the newspaper, he can sue me. I have a desk and a phone number and a face and an identity (and an attorney). If I write defamatory things about Chizik on this blog ... well, what do you do then? Just ignore it? Think about all the blogs you read on a daily basis — do you know any of the people who author those posts? I certainly do not. In fact, I was walking out of the St. Clair County Courthouse the other day and saw a guy wearing a H.A.B.O.T.N. t-shirt, and wondered momentarily if that was Jay Tate (it wasn't ... I don't think).
You get my point. If I had one.
(One other note from that link: if you ever doubted the insanity of David Housel, read that thing. He actually said those things, folks. And he means it. Good Lord.)

— Good news for UA fans: the APR scores are in! And they're good! And they made Nick Saban smile (kinda)! Much like what we wrote here Wednesday about boring, disciplined football, this is part of that package: good guys who go to class, make grades, stay out of trouble and ... aw, hell. Well, nothing's perfect, I guess.

— Speaking of those little things, two that make a successful football team: the kicking game, at which Alabama wasn't necessarily great in 2008; and, of course, offensive line, which this story says is a great indicator of future success, even more so than the QB position. I'm telling you: the tackle positions are the most important positions on this offense in 2009. Greg McElroy or no.

— 'Bamasphere notes: RBR is engaging in a twitter war with some guys from Colorado; and AG added another reason to hate the SEC to its award-winning list.

— Big weekend for Tide baseball: Arkansas comes to town for a three-gamer. TCBB has a preview of the weekend in conference play. While you're there, check out their regional projections, which currently have our boys playing in Austin in the NCAA Regionals. And this link is reg-required, but it's a good read: the life and times of Ross Wilson.

— Finally, breaking the rules I set at the beginning of my own entry: Manny Ramirez and Jordan Schafer. Damn it all.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

lost-blogging: follow the leader

Welcome back to "Lost-blogging," my stupid running segment where I waste an entire blog entry and most of your time with an entire entry of running thoughts throughout an episode of ABC's most confusing show. As always, stay away if you haven't watched the episode ... SPOILER ALERT.
(All times CDT.)
8:02: Does the horse-rider who just came out of the vegetation look a lot like Sawyer? Also, that's definitely Widmore with the gun on Jack right now.
8:03: Crap -- I missed the diary entry. What did it say?
8:04: Bingo on the Charles thing. Also, young Eloise knows an awful lot about what's going on.
(Flash forward)
8:05: Locke brings a boar out of the jungle, just like he did back in Season 1.
8:06: "I have a purpose now."
8:07: As per the course this season, it appears we're headed for another head-scratching episode about time control.
(intr0, break)
(Note during the break: Multiple potential distractions during tonight's episode. For one thing, the Celtics are playing, although they're winning comfortably because that's the way the NBA wants it to be, and it's the same for LA. Also, the Braves have actually scored a few runs, a welcome change after the two-game suckfest at home against the Mets. Worse, Josey Wales is currently showing. My all-time favorite Eastwood movie is going head-to-head with the best show on TV right now. No idea what's going to happen.)

8:10: The resurrected John Locke is head-strong and cock-sure ... or is it the other way around?
8:11: Dr. Jensen enjoyed discussing how this season has mirrored Season 2 ... and here Jack and Kate are in captivity, just like they were at the end of ... well, Season 2.
8:12: The logic of controlling fate is so thick here: if Eloise knows all this is going to happen, how could she set her son on such a suicidal path?
8:14: Classic exchange here: "Does he know what he's talking about?" ... "He thinks he does."
8:15: Sawyer's in captivity too ... just like at the end of Season 2. And he's staring at the same monitors, watching Kate ... just like Jack in Season 3.

8:21: Sawyer's bleeding: eerily reminiscent of Linus' captivity in Season 2.
8:22: Cut to Hurley stealing food from a pantry that looks an awful lot like the hatch from Season 2, and being chased by an Asian dude.
8:23: Miles is the master of inevitability. "There's nothing we can do."
8:24: Dr. Chang is apparently intrigued by the time-travel idea. And also that Miles is his son. Lots of daddy issues floating around here.
8:25: 'Nother classic "Lost" cutaway: "Let's hope he knows what he's doing" ... followed by a shot of dead Daniel.
8:25: Recall what Locke said earlier this season -- how all the pain he's endured made him what he is today. Now compare that with Jack and Kate's conversation about their lives together in this episode. "Not all of it was misery" ... "But enough of it was."
8:27: "The plane," in this case, might be Mr. Eko's drug plane.
8:27: And it is.
8:28: Now we know how Richard knew where Locke was earlier this season, and how Richard knew Locke would have to die. Fantastic.
Still don't know how LOCKE knew all this yet, though.
(Note during the break: Jeff Francoeur, as the first batter of the 7th inning against a new pitcher, saw four pitches, swung at all of them and bounced out. He isn't one iota better as a baseball player than he was when he came up in 2005. Inexplicable.)

8:33: Ben asks the question we wanted to know. "The Island told me," is the apparent answer.
8:34: This is the first time in the show's history when Richard was afraid of anything.
8:36: Not sure what just happened there.
8:36: Kate can't swim, can she?
8:37: It's Sayid! Word!

8:43: Jack just used the word "destiny."
8:45: "Sawyer always has a plan, right?"
8:46: Interesting moment here for Sawyer. He's happy to be off the Island now?
8:47: This appears to be the basement of the Temple, where Ben was judged by the Monster. Which reminds me: are we about to find out what the Monster is?
8:49: Is Richard the same as John Locke?
8:51: Very bold move by Locke here. He's much more of a Populist leader. "I'm startin' to think John Locke is gonna be trouble."

8:56: Does anybody think these two are really leaving? Somehow I don't.
8:57: In walks the Other Woman. And right after they'd made a declaration of love and everything. Dude.
8:58: Cheesy computer animation on the sub as it leaves. Kind of lame.
8:59: Completely racist thought: do you think the Iraqi soldier knows how to detonate the H-bomb?
9:00: John Locke appears very Moses-like leading these folks, doesn't he?
9:01: Wait ... what?
(Note: "Wait ... what?" is the only proper response to every episode of this show at this point.)
(end of episode)

of Saban and boredom

Like most 'Bama fans longing for a taste of football in May, I've wasted a great deal of time this offseason watching youtube videos from the 2008 season (I've posted a good many of them here — I highly recommend subscriptions to Tiderolls67 if you're into that kind of thing).

Hang on — here's one:

What struck me the most about this Alabama team: it was relatively boring.

Obviously, for Alabama fans like myself, the 2008 season was a revelation in every sense of the word — I spent a great deal of time on this blog gushing about this team and what it meant to us as Tide fans in November and December.
For non-Bama fans — people that want to watch an entertaining game — this version of Alabama didn't really oblige. They were solid. They were well-drilled. They rarely made mistakes.
And they weren't that much fun. There's a simple reason for that, and it's Nick Saban.

Think back to Saban's best teams at LSU, in 2003 and 2004. What typified them — even more than their boisterous fan base — was their business-like approach to everything. Unlike the high-wire act Les Miles took the LSU fan base through in 2007 — that team won the title almost in spite of itself — Saban's LSU title team was a picture of mundane execution.
I wrote about this after that '07 LSU team survived in Tuscaloosa, but it's worth repeating: in 2003, Saban's LSU team came to Bryant-Denny to play a similarly undermanned Tide team on its way to a BCS title game. Alabama had a night game on ESPN, a crowd that wanted desperately for a reason to believe.
Of course, Saban's team barely let Alabama breathe. Alabama couldn't do squat on offense, LSU didn't commit any turnovers and the Tigers left town with an easy 27-3 win. The game was simple, easy and cold-blooded.
Thinking back to that 2003 LSU team, only two games really jump off the page as "memorable" moments — a Week 4 win vs. Georgia (itself a national-title contender in '03) and a late-season nailbiter against Eli Manning and Ole Miss (17-14). Other than that, the Tigers cruised for the most part. In their two biggest tests of the late season, LSU crushed Georgia in the SEC title game, then drilled Oklahoma (exposed as a national fraud that season) in the Sugar Bowl (the final was 21-14, but the game was never really that close).
Of all its other games during that two-season period, the only other games that stand out are losses to Auburn and Iowa in '04, and only because LSU showed a curious inability to close out either of those teams (that Auburn game is particularly frustrating to watch for LSU fans — the Tigers dominated, dominated that game and still lost somehow).

What does this have to do with the here and now? Maybe nothing, except that Alabama in 2008 showed an ability to be similarly unremarkable. Nothing typifies that more than John Parker Wilson, who actually rushed for five touchdowns, including the game-winner at LSU in overtime.
Why is this significant? Because it typifies Saban's substance-over-style approach. Lots of coaches say that; Saban really means it.
You think the head coach gives a damn who scores the touchdown in that situation? You think he cares who gets how many touches or whether Glen Coffee feels disrespected because he didn't get the ball right there? Of course he doesn't. He just wanted to win the game and go home.

There's a precedent for this kind of football: the Gene Stallings era at Alabama, which lasted from 1990-1996 and accounted for 70 wins. That's right: 70 wins in 7 seasons, or 10 wins per season. Maybe they only won the conference once — in 1992, the same as the national-title season — but they were in the title game every season except '95 and lost only because Steve Spurrier's Florida teams were just wayy too good.
The Stallings way was considered the way of the obsolete: they played punishing physical football and overwhelmed other teams on defense. They didn't turn the ball over on offense and had solid special teams. Eventually, the other teams would crack.
It wasn't great TV, but it was winning football.

Looking back at the list of coaches since Stallings, their primary failures were in little things. I watched all of the big games of the Mike Dubose era at Alabama and have most of them on tape. Know what's weird? Even in its biggest moments, Dubose's teams suffered lapses in concentration. Watch the '99 Alabama-Florida game in Gainesville the next time it comes on ESPN Classic (which is often). Alabama does so many little things wrong in that game, it's amazing — a punt snapped into an up-back's leg, a variety of dumb penalties, repeatedly getting to the line with less than 10 seconds left on the play clock and, of course, that ending sequence that's so incredible it bears watching again.

In that season's big wins against Auburn and Florida again, the team repeated the following routine: score the last big TD, earn a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, miss the ensuing extra point. Neither of them mattered to the end result, obviously ... but, I mean, can you see Nick Saban's teams doing that? Of course you can't. That's why Nick Saban is Nick Saban. And that's why Mike Dubose is Mike Dubose.
The same was true of the Franchione era. Do Saban's teams ever surrender two-touchdown leads in the fourth quarter? Or get beat on the same shovel pass three times for 80 yards? Or inexplicably drop the ball on a drive for a potential field goal attempt?

You get the idea. These are all the little things Alabama hasn't done for much of the last decade, and it's why Mal Moore was willing to break the bank to get Saban to Tuscaloosa in the first place. It's also why Alabama fans should expect this program to continue functioning at a championship level — championship teams always do those things and do them correctly.
It's not great TV, but it wins football games.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

'tube on Tuesday: out in the west Texas town of El Paso

Briefly: 'Bama went to the Sun Bowl in 1983 and 1988, and since I couldn't think of anything more apropos for Cinco de Mayo, here's the vid.

Back with more later.

Monday, May 4, 2009

links — May is the cruellest month

Forget what T.S. Eliot said — this is the cruelest month for a football fan. Spring practice is gone; fall feels like a long ways off. The balance of college baseball will keep us (sort of) entertained through the rest of this month, and we'll have baseball all summer, of course ... still, those of us who love football will have to get by on youtube, DVDs and little tidbits, hopefully not about some of our team's best players getting into fights or dealing cocaine (shudder).

Anyway, while I have a moment, here are some links.
— Speaking of arrests, Scarbo has a column either intended to give UA a back-handed compliment, or jinx the rest of the offseason for us. The next two months are easily the most terrifying for a head coach: spring is over, and training for the fall doesn't start in earnest until July, so basically most of your guys are either a) working out in Tuscaloosa with little else to do or b) hanging out in their hometowns with little else to do. This is how we get stories of 3 a.m. club brawls, or Kenny Stabler racing back to Tuscaloosa at 5 a.m. and driving roughly 175 mph. It's genuily frightening.
— Two funny bits of offseason news: first, in an effort to promote Julio Jones as a top-tier athlete, Athlon accidentally pulled a photo of Chris Rogers. Heard they already corrected that one.
The second isn't so funny: kleph from RBR tackles the wide range of reactions around the nation following Saban's assessment of the Sugar Bowl at A-Day. Like most lazy national columnists and bloggers who don't bother to actually read the stories to which they're reacting, the national folks who chose to comment on this story took one of two routes:
• OMG, Saban's a real jerk!
• ZOMG, 'Bama fans are crazy!
And both of those things may be true, but this story is hardly an example of such. Give me a break.
— That leads us to a fantastic blog post by Jerry at JCCW, about Bill Simmons, ESPN, the culture of the blogosphere and the frustrated fans among us who just want to watch games.
This is where good blogs come in: they can help us watch sports, in a way that neither ESPN nor newspapers nor any other style of media currently can. When they're about something, when they genuinely care about their subject, when they help us understand the sports and the teams we all love so much, when they forge communities based around something other than one-liners ... they can be invaluable. But that's not what I see at the big mainstream sports blogs: how much insight is there, really, at The Big Lead? How much substance at With Leather? Is there anything approaching actual, you know, human emotion from the nihilists at KSK?
Look, I'm not saying every blogger out there has to, say, be capable of redefining the way we think about Joe Paterno, like Orson, or hold the emotional center for an entire country of mid-major dreamers, like Kyle, or x-ray the inner workings of our team like Brian or build a community strong enough to legitimately earn the "Such-and-Such Nation" tag like Peter or open up our sport the same way a good professor opens up a classic novel like Matt or B. Shoals. (Or, to use an example a little bit closer to the heart of this blog's principal audience, to bring the incredible shared history of our alma mater to vivid life like Jeremy.) But dammit, they'd better care about something more than celebrity gossip, pageviews, and the best way to work some sort of reference to bodily functions into as many posts as possible. It's not the only way for a blog to get popular, but it's the only way to answer the Bissingers of the world, the only way for it to matter.
— With that, stuff that's actually about sports: the Tide baseball team swept State over the weekend, with more offense than Mike Shula ever engineered during his tenure on campus. Also, coach Grant is already hard at work, signing a point guard, something the team has lacked ever since Ronald Steele had two healthy legs.
— One other thing that may be possibly about sports: Urban Meyer thinks Auburn's limo warrants an investigation. I think it warrants mild guffawing and pity. And that's about it.
— Christopher Walsh takes the BCS to task in the wake of last week's Senate hearings, joining the parade of columnists who pile on something nobody liked in the first place (it's like taking the cigarette companies to task — who's on the side of the cigarettes, really?).
— Our Braves (my grandmother's term) have a tough stretch upcoming. Is it possible to be out of the race in May? Maybe not mathematically.
— Finally, Spencer has an epilogue from the Kentucky Derby, and Norman Chad gives us his typical negative post-mortem.

Friday, May 1, 2009

round the world in one blog

It's been a week since my last post, and I have no valid reasons for it other than it's been really busy around here. It's been a remarkable week of sports, beginning and ending with the Bulls-Celtics first-round playoff series, something very few people saw coming. I won't even try to describe what's happened — that's for the better writers like Mike Wilbon and Bill Simmons to do. But it's pretty incredible. I can't wait to see what happens in Game 7 — I grew up a Celtics fan, but part of me doesn't even really care who wins, only that we see one more transcendent game.

Anyway, here's a few links to get you through the weekend. Beginning, of course, with more Derek Webb — this one is actually my favorite of all his work, a song called "Lover."

— The biggest in-state story of the week has been the "Tiger Prowl," either the greatest or the lamest effort for in-state recruiting since Ed Orgeron inexplicably snatched off his shirt. Coach Saban, predictably, has ducked the matter thus far. Jerry Hinton at the JCCW offers up a half-hearted defense of the concept, and Gump 4 Heisman outdoes itself with its own take on the matter.
What was that Bammer? You are adding onto your stadium again? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you. The windows in my magnetic limo were rolled up.
Do your hear that bammer? That's the sound of us renting limos.
When my kid turns 16, he ain't getting no Jeep. He's getting a ... limo. ... Why? Cause he's an Auburn Tiger.

— One story that slipped mostly under the radar this week; Woodrow Lowe was named an inductee to the College Football Hall of Fame. My dad once told me he'd played against Woodrow while he was in high school at Enterprise — later on, he admitted he hadn't actually played in the game because of a bout with mono. But still ... he was a contemporary.
While Woodrow's induction is definitely in the "win" column, a number are still left out, according to Christopher Walsh. And as Dr. Saturday points out, if they're serious about Geno Torretta, then there's one rather large name that needs to go in as well.

— RBR gives us its summer reading list. I can claim about half those.
— Your requisite preview of the weekend in SEC baseball. The tournament is right around the corner.
— Mike Hampton is coming back to Atlanta this weekend ... thankfully, it's not because the Braves owe him any money. Do you think he collected paychecks with a straight face the last two seasons? I would have a hard time, wouldn't you?
— Finally, Joe Posnanski has a fantastic time lambasting the Snuggie. God bless you, Joe.