Wednesday, June 30, 2010

of supernovas and college football

I suppose it's long overdue that this blog offer some thoughts regarding the recent tectonic shifting of the conferences, which looked like a major overhaul in the landscape and wound up being sort of a hiccup ... though we're almost certainly not through just yet.

And this is part of the problem — as described aptly in this post by Braves and Birds. Quite simply, no one can truly offer definitive thoughts on the conference shifting — I've seen multiple columns touting "winners" and "losers" — because the situation is a fluid one. It's a dance college football has been doing, to some extent, since the early 1990s, when the old Southwest Conference fell apart and other "power" conferences started scrambling like mad to snatch them up (which ultimately led to the formation of the Big XII and Arkansas in the SEC, an unbelievable circumstance in, say, 1980).

The biggest issue throughout the entire firestorm is, of course, money. I got a huge kick out of the righteous indignation that spewed from multiple columnists and bloggers in the last two months, most of it centering around this argument:
It's like it's not even about tradition anymore, man. It's, like, all about money!!

Ummmm ... well, yeah. Of course it is. It always has been. Why else does my grandmother — an Auburn season ticket holder since before the stadium even bore Ralph Jordan's name — have to pay a ridiculous sum of money every year ... not for game tickets, mind you, but the right to buy the tickets. I doubt seriously Auburn would care very much if we, "But, like, you gotta let us buy tickets, man! It's tradition!" They'd just assume we didn't want them and sell them to the next person on the waiting list.
Conference expansion is no different. Is there anyone out there who believes Alabama or Florida or Georgia wouldn't bail on the SEC immediately if there were a few extra bucks involved? Please. These universities are in business to turn a profit, and their greatest source of profit, for better or worse, is their football programs. It's in their best interest to make those programs as profitable as possible.

Besides, it's not as though the Big XII was a conference built on great tradition anyway, unless "sucking up to Texas" counts as a tradition. Read this post-mortem from Joe Posnanski for a better understanding: these schools never did anything more than co-exist uneasily for money's sake. And, if you believe Tommy Tuberville, that's still all they're doing.
I just don't think this conference will last long because there's just too much disparity between all the teams here. I've just noticed that – in the SEC, for instance, Vanderbilt makes as much money in the TV contract as Florida. Everyone is good with it, everybody's on the same page, gets the same amount of votes.
That doesn't happen in the Big 12. You've got some teams that get a little bit more money, have a little more stroke than other teams. And when that happens, you're going to have teams looking for better avenues to leave and reasons to leave. And so we have a 10-team league now, but I just don't know how long that's going to last, to be honest with you.
Being here for six months, I've just kind of noticed there's just not a lot of camaraderie in this league like you have in the SEC. ... It starts with the commissioner. And I think (SEC commissioner) Mike Slive has done a good job. (Former SEC commissioner) Roy Kramer did a good job of building a base where everybody was on the same page. And that just has not happened here in the Big 12. It's just a matter of time, to be honest with you, unless they get everybody on the same page.

"Get everybody on the same page," for those who might not have figured it out, is code for "everybody gets paid the same amount of money." If you believe Tuberville, as soon as Texas Tech can find a better path, it's taking it.

Of course, the question then becomes, what's to prevent this from happening in the SEC? And the answer (for now) appears to be that, for whatever warts it has as a conference, the SEC appears to be the best deal for all its members.
To be honest, sports are (is?) a strange business model. In most businesses, the goal — however indirect — is to be so much better than your competition that either a) your competition goes out of business entirely or b) your competition does such little business that it becomes meaningless. My newspaper, the St. Clair Times, currently shares a relatively small county (just over 81,000 people) with two other newspapers: the St. Clair News-Aegis (the paper of record) and the St. Clair County News (a new paper that appears to have been started for purposes of political up-sucking). That's three papers dividing up a relatively small amount of advertising revenue. It's tempting to think what our paper could accomplish if it were the lone competitor in the market. So it's not our explicit goal to run the other guys out of business ... but if we do our jobs well, we would effectively render them meaningless, right? That's capitalism.
The sports business isn't like that. Maybe Alabama fans hate Auburn and Tennessee — and, in fact, it is the goal of our program to be better than them every single season — but it would benefit us in no way if they were to go out of business or become marginal programs. In fact the opposite is true: it's in Alabama's best interest for Auburn and Tennessee to excel at the highest level of competition, both to increase the revenue (because a game between two good teams is more likely to draw better than if one or both of us is terrible) and to increase our credibility.
It's true. Why was Auburn denied a shot at the BCS championship in 2004, robbing the program of national exposure and the potential revenue of a national championship? There were a number of reasons, of course, but the biggest reason was a perceived lack of credibility on Auburn's schedule: yes, Auburn dismantled Tennessee, Alabama and the rest of the SEC ... but the SEC wasn't perceived as being all that good. Conversely, in 2007, an LSU team with TWO losses qualified for a shot at a title, primarily because of the perceived credibility of its conference schedule. It's better for everybody when your opponents are good. And right now, the SEC has raised itself to a level where its champion has to be taken seriously on a national level.
(Note: Thinking about this post actually made me think about 2000-2001, when sanctions were swirling over Tuscaloosa and a good chunk of the Alabama fan base was convinced that a) our conference rivals were conspiring against us — and they kinda were — and b) the SEC front office wasn't lending too much of a hand. Some of the more radical among the message board posters — seriously, these people wear tin foil hats and are the reason I don't go to message boards anymore — attempted to start a movement for Alabama to leave the SEC and either go independent or join a smaller conference like C-USA or the Sun Belt. It never made any sense, but it was out there.)

Obviously, nothing is certain on the landscape at this point. OTS' fantastic post about the possibility of Arkansas leaving hammers that point home well. Everyone — everyone — is a free agent, pretty much all the time. And it's fun to dream about an SEC that included Miami, Florida State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Memphis (who's apparently willing to pay handsomely).
For now, I guess we should just be happy with things the way they are. If we've learned anything, we've learned they probably won't stay that way very long.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: a different viewpoint

In the past few days, I've discovered a different source for my love of highlights from the 2009 season: a mysterious youtube user named shooterk, who has in his possession multiple videos that appear to be a) shot from the stands and yet still have b) the faint sound of Eli Gold's radio voice. I post them now in an effort to spread the word.

Hope you enjoyed as much as I did. Roll Tide. See you tomorrow.

Monday morning links: back in the saddle

Don't call it a comeback.

Actually, don't call it anything: I've been backlogged at work and owe you a healthy dose of links for Monday, before vacation calls me away for a week starting this weekend. So ... yeah. Enjoy it for now.
Important note: today's links will focus (almost) solely on Alabama and Alabama-related things. We're ignoring the World Cup, the endless tennis match, conference realignment and so forth. You'll just have to bear with me.

On with the show, then.
— My favorite recent story was this revealing interview with Nick Saban, in which he says he's "mellowed a lot" (really?) and that he regrets much of what happened in the days before he left Miami.
SN: Being branded a liar after you left the Dolphins in 2007 - such a harsh word, but it was used widely - how did that affect you? And does it continue to in any way?
SABAN: ... I had a responsibility and an obligation to the players on that team, the coaches on the staff, and I didn't want that to be the focus of attention. So would I manage it differently? Absolutely. I would still have the same integrity for our team, but I just would not answer any questions relative to Alabama.

This, of course, went into the predictable cycle of sports analysis, with speculation about Saban laying the foundation to return to the NFL and the guys at RBR telling Miami people to shove it. Your typical offseason fare, really.
— Speaking of Saban and RBR, OTS also had a fantastic post about his coaching tree, which is beginning to spread out in college football. Not sure if Jimbo Fisher counts on that list, since Fisher was already an established assistant before he joined Saban at LSU, but it's still a pretty good list. Of course, because coaching is kind of an incestuous fraternity anyway, it's worth noting that a) the Saban tree sprouted from the Belichick tree and b) the Belichick tree sprouted from Bill Parcells. Beyond that, I don't know.
— Rounding out our list of "really good RBR posts we couldn't let slide," here's one about what to expect in our September visit to Arkansas.
That team will be thinking, "Beat Alabama... win the SEC West, then what? BCS game? SEC Championship? National championship contention?" Bank on it. Perhaps that is all wishful thinking on their part, and perhaps Arkansas is not ready for the limelight. Admittedly that may be the case, but nevertheless that will be the mindset that the Hogs will have on that day, and you can bet the proverbial farm that they will play with the appropriate level of energy and intensity given that mindset. We'll have to match that accordingly if we want to survive in the Ozarks. Be prepared for a slobberknocker.

— Preseason expectations: Football Outsiders has us ranked No. 1 in the preseason; we received three different ESPY nominations; and multiple players are already on preseason watch lists.
— If you're curious about the status of Bryant-Denny Stadium, you can click here. As an aside, apparently our season ticket connection came through after all, so ... ya know ...
— Was the 2009 Sugar Bowl (that pasting we took on New Year's from Utah that nearly caused me to get divorced) a defining moment in college football? Tommy Deas thinks so, and here's why.
— Assorted stuff: basketball picked up a commitment from a 7-1 dude from Sweden — let's hope he can walk and chew gum simultaneously — and the 2011 recruiting class is already looking tough.

— Finally, our lone non-Alabama topic for the day: Brian Cook had a great post about Gus Malzahn's offense at Auburn, complete with this outstanding video (warning: not for people who don't like football mechanics):

Brian adds the point after the post about Auburn's offense — and really, the spread offense in general — representing the modern incarnation of the old single wing, shown here.

My knowledge of football being medium at best, I've always seen the spread option as an updated single wing, particularly since Dennis Franchione ran a version of it with Tyler Watts during his two seasons in Tuscaloosa. Of course, the people at Smart Football have disputed this notion, making for an interesting debate.
Modern fans, including Brian, have understandably mapped their understanding of the offenses they see on a weekly basis onto the past and see a direct correlation, but it’s not quite that straightforward. Certainly, the coaches who developed today’s modern offenses, like Rodriguez and Malzahn, did not spend their time meticulously studying the single-wing tapes of yesteryear. Instead, if there are similarities it’s because those coaches stumbled onto the same ideas through trial and error.

One of the interesting things — to me, at least — about the evolution of college football over the last few years has been the way offense and defense have adjusted to counter one another. Just a few things I can name off the top of my head:
In the mid-1990s, Bill Oliver popularized the "press man" style of defense, which emphasized stacking the line of scrimmage and daring quarterbacks to beat them deep (watch a tape of Alabama from 1996 and you'll see what I mean). Offenses countered by spreading the field more, with more short passing and the "West Coast offense." Defenses eventually adjusted to that with the "zone blitz," which involved a variety of fake blitzes and linemen dropping into coverage. In part, that inspired the advent of the "spread option," which forced defenses to be more honest with their assignments. And defenses — Saban, specifically — have responded by playing more odd-man fronts, more defensive backs and more shifting at the line of scrimmage, to obfuscate where the strength of the defense actually is (since the spread places so much emphasis on the quarterback checking at the line).
The point, of course, is that college football is mostly a cyclical business. So it's not a huge stretch to say the spread offense is inspired by the single wing. Pretty much everything is, anyway.
UPDATE: Meant to have this up earlier: Jerry at warblogeagle has an impassioned argument for why the SEC should play a ninth game every year. And I gotta say, I'm down.

See you tomorrow. Roll Tide.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

more shameless career promotion: this week's SCT column

Editor's Note: In an effort to shamelessly promote my own career, I'm posting this week's column from the St. Clair Times on the blog. Also worth noting: the column was finished before Wednesday's dramatic U.S. victory over Algeria. Thanks in advance for your feigning of interest.
Confessions of an occasional Cup fan

A few burning questions I’ve already heard concerning the first week (plus) of World Cup 2010:

“What does PRK stand for?”

“Wait … why is the clock counting up?”

“How much do these guys run in a regular game?”

“What in (expletive) is that (expletive) noise? Is the stadium being attacked by bees?”

And finally, my favorite …

“Who in their right mind would care so much about this stupid game?”

You have to love the climate in America these days, where something so simple as soccer — the world’s favorite sport and a unifying game in many places — somehow sparks heated debate that often falls somewhere along the political aisle.

Goes the (somehow completely serious) rhetoric, liberals love soccer because soccer is a sport that values the collective over the individual. More to the point, liberals love soccer because the rest of the world loves soccer and is way better at it (for the most part) than the U.S. Liberals, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, hate patriotism, nationalism and America’s smug sense of world domination.

Nonsensical though this argument may be, America’s hardened band of “soccer poets” makes it difficult for people like me to truly embrace the game. Where they see poetry, I see background noise. Sorry, guys.

Still, it’s hard for a fan of sports to not enjoy the World Cup. It’s a competition in which nations go after one another: tons of intensity, passion and — because it only happens once every four years — memories that will last a long, long time.

(Note: my favorite thing about the Cup is its matching up of quirky nations who ordinarily would have nothing to do with one another. On Sunday I watched two players from Slovakia and Paraguay locked in a trash-talking match. What could they have possibly been discussing? And in what language? I have no idea, and somehow it’s better that way.)

And I have no idea if soccer really is the sport of the future in America, as has been endlessly predicted since sometime in the 1970s. I can’t envision a scenario where I drive hundreds of miles to grill and slap hands with strangers for hours before and after a soccer match, national pride or no.

Does that really matter, though? Can’t we just enjoy a great sporting event for what it is, without postulating about the political or social implications, just for a few minutes?

They will, of course, have to put those gawd-awful horns away.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: immovable objects

Here's today's Tuesday youtube: status updates from Bryant-Denny Stadium. And yes, these are roughly 2 months old, but still fun.

Should be fun. See you tomorrow. Roll Tide Roll.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Finals wrap: no more ball until ... um, next week (warning: long post about pro basketball)

At 12 minutes past 6 p.m. last Thursday, my wife (@staceyheath13) tweeted the following:
NBA finals tonight... Lakers or Celtics? Whatever! Basketball season ends- I WIN!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

It's good to know one of us went to bed happy.

Actually, that's not fair: I barely slept at all after the Celtics — my favorite team for most of my life — squandered Game 7 in Los Angeles. I made the cardinal mistake of attempting to go straight to bed as soon as the game ended, and was unable to turn off my brain (note: never attempt to do this unless you're drunk, in which case it's still probably a bad idea). The text message battle with my friend Zach — someone who would absolutely bear Kobe Bryant's children given the opportunity — probably didn't help (I suggested Pau Gasol receive the series MVP trophy; he suggested I was a hater; it got ugly from there).
Anyway, here are some other (admittedly quite late) thoughts on the series, from my perspective:
• Most important, at least to me: this series absolutely ruined my ability to watch any other sporting event, because of the power of TiVo. Through a little self-discipline and planning ahead, I was able to wait until 9 p.m. to start each broadcast, zoom through the commercials and be in bed by 11:30 (except Game 7 because, I mean, come on). It remains to be seen if this will work during football season.
• My case for Gasol as MVP: I'm a racist and I hate KobeI didn't think the Lakers would've won without him (and still don't). To be fair, Game 7 was an ugly and disjointed representation of American basketball; both sides seemed nervous and keyed up on defense (personified by Kobe and Ray Allen, who hounded one another into awful shooting nights). And Gasol made two of the biggest baskets down the stretch, controlled the boards and even stopped Kevin Garnett on a big drive. Without him, the Lakers would've absolutely lost. Just saying.
Delving a little deeper, it's worth mentioning that Gasol has absolutely been the key to this Lakers run the last three seasons, because of his big body and — and this is huge — his willingness to take a complete backseat to Kobe Bryant. Don't forget: Gasol was considered the best player on that putrid Memphis Grizzlies team and most people thought of him as either the best or second-best foreign player in the league (along with Dirk Nowitzki). In L.A., he's basically faded into the background without complaint because of No. 24. Here's what Simmons wrote about him after last year's title victory over Orlando:
Gasol ... shot 62 percent from the field in the last two rounds. You know how many shots he attempted in those 11 games? 120. You know how many big guys would have been happy with a situation in which their coach said, "I know you score six out of every 10 times we get you the ball, but you're going to have to live with 11 shots a game because we can't win a title unless Kobe's happy?" Not many. Shaq didn't like the arrangement and got shipped out of town. Gasol came from NBA Hell (Memphis), and he was willing to sacrifice to make the Lakers better. He's a big reason they won. He crashed the boards, killed himself on defense and reinvented himself as a complementary sidekick of the highest order.

It was the same Thursday night. Gasol played over 41 minutes, grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out 9 assists and scored 17 points. Not huge numbers ... except he took only 14 shots. His counterpart who finished 6-of-24 in just over 39 minutes won the MVP award.
I'll bet Gasol didn't complain a bit.
• It would, naturally, be criminal to ignore Kobe's greatness as a player. From an endurance standpoint, he's utterly amazing: in the last three seasons, he's played all the way into June, incredible considering he's spent the last 2 offseasons playing for the U.S. on an international level. This season he played with a broken finger and legs that — despite his relatively young age — simply don't have the hops they used to (Kobe rarely drives to the basket and has virtually no explosion). And yet he perseveres. HIs performance in a Game 5 loss was one of the best I've ever seen: he very nearly willed the Lakers to a win despite a Boston's defense running him ragged and zero help from anyone in purple (to the point that he was visibly angry on the court and lit into his teammates in the locker room). If the MVP award goes to the best player on the team that wins the title ... OK, sure. I'd give it to No. 24. Fine.
• Dealing with the Celtics, in perspective, is difficult. On the one hand, they played so poorly in the regular season, it seemed like a longshot they'd even get out of the first round, much less be one quarter away from a championship. In the playoffs, Rajon Rondo established himself as a legitimate star, Ray Allen proved his Hall of Fame credentials yet again (though he disappeared in the Finals after Game 2) and Paul Pierce and Garnett proved they still have something in the tank. So from that standpoint, it was a positive for Boston.
• The Celtics' offense is a curious thing. At one point in the second half, it became obvious that a) Garnett was blowing by Gasol on the block and b) Rondo needed to trigger the offense. And yet, on multiple occasions the Celtics cleared out for Paul Pierce, even though Pierce was under lockdown from Ron Artest (most of Boston's success vs. Artest had come in screen-and-roll plays). And why did Pierce insist that he take every last shot for the Celtics at the end of every period, sometimes waiting until there were fewer than 5 seconds on the clock before even making a move? Boston's offense seemed to have been coordinated by Dave Rader.
• The performance of each team's bench away from home is so hilariously bad, I'm not even certain it deserves mention. Big Baby, Nate Robinson and Tony Allen were all ineffective in L.A., and the Jordan Farmer/Sasha Vujacic combo was so bad in Boston that more than one person joked they should've just stayed home. Maybe that was the real key to L.A. having homecourt advantage in Game 7: their bench guys showed up because it was at their place.
• Since I'm out of other things to say about this series, I'll leave you with my enduring image for the 2010 NBA playoffs: Glen Davis drooling.

Back to regular programming tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

baseball post-mortem, a few days too late

So many things have happened and keep happening in the world of sports, that are worthy of this blog's attention, what with conference expansion, USC's ongoing NCAA soap opera, the World Cup, the Braves and the impeding seventh game of the NBA Finals.

All of these are important, and we will get to them, I promise.

But first, let's talk about Alabama baseball, if only for a few brief moments.

The Tide — as I'm sure you followed, however nominally — had its fan base buzzing for a solid month, ultimately closing out a bizarre season with a difficult-to-stomach series loss at Clemson. The series itself was weird enough: Alabama scratched out a Game 1 victory, was blown out in Game 2 and most of Game 3, before improbably rallying for 5 runs in the final inning ... and ultimately leaving the tying runs on base. It was, as I said before, difficult to stomach.
On the other hand, Alabama pulled off a pretty improbable stretch of baseball to be there: on the outside looking in at the SEC Tournament, the Tide won 5 straight games (and 6 of its final 8) to make it to Hoover; they then defeated Auburn, Ole Miss and Florida (all NCAA Tournament teams) to reach the conference championship game.
And that conference championship ... I mean, wow. The game featured two of the SEC's baseball mainstays — us and LSU — and a great atmosphere, which was dulled by separate rain delays, but still (ultimately, 'Bama fell in 11, and if you want to see what the game looked like, click here).
'Bama advanced to a regional berth in Atlanta against powerful Georgia Tech and immediately fell into the loser's bracket, needing to win three straight to advance. They did so by riding Nathan Kilcrease on Monday in a gargantuan effort that earned a 10-8 victory over the Teckities.
(An aside: that Monday I was at an endless Springville city council meeting where the council and citizens were arguing about budget cuts; I was dying, DYING for updates. I walked back into the house just in time to see the final out. And that was it.)

As for this past weekend's series, I had a whole rant prepared about Mitch Gaspard's inept performance in the super regional, and how he seems to have no idea how to manage a pitching staff (just like his old boss, Jim Wells, who had no problem leaving pitchers in until they passed out on the mound) and how our players still seem to go brain-dead at the worst possible times (particularly rightfielder Andrew Miller, who had a terrible game in the field Monday).
Then I realized I have very little reason to complain. After all, no one truly believed they'd be where they were.

Some other thoughts.
— As great as Kilcrease was down the stretch — and really, there's no way we make it that far without him — my favorite player on the team remained No. 1 starter Jimmy Nelson, if only because a) he looks a little like the Joker, b) he's big and pumps his fist a lot, c) having him on the mound allows me to make jokes inspired by The Jimmy, of Seinfeld fame.
"Jimmy's shaking off the sign. Jimmy wants to throw the heat."
"Jimmy's tired of this umpire yanking him around. Jimmy's thinking about beaning this next batter."
"Jimmy crossed you up with a slider. Jimmy just caught you lookin."

— While it would be easy to say Alabama choked in the Super Regional, what about Clemson's offensive performance? That Saturday loss was about as frustrating as it gets — twice Clemson was poised to take the lead and hit into rally-killing double plays — and the Tigers bounced back by scoring 27 runs in two days.
Delving into things a little deeper, it was actually the second time Clemson had bounced back from a crushing regional defeat, the first coming the night after Auburn's Creede Simpson played the role of Carlton Fisk.

For them to bounce back from that emotional low was pretty big. And now they're in Omaha; frankly, they deserve it.
— Alabama's ninth-inning comeback was so potentially heart-wrenching for the Clemson faithful, they almost didn't celebrate after the final out. In fact, on the video of the final out, it appears both CU outfielders were arguing over who would catch the ball while it was still in the air; the LF caught it, and the CF reacted like he was almost disappointed. Very strange.
— That reminds me: my friend The Warblogler asked me moments after the final out if I would've rather Alabama gone 1-2-3 in the ninth, or leave the tying runs on base. In that instance, I say it's probably better to lose that way. Because the team didn't quit and made Clemson earn every bit of its trip to the regional. So at least we can say that.
(Of course, I'd rather win.)
— Finally, and I realize there's a great deal of Auburn in this post, but this post from Jerry pretty much encapsulated where we, as SEC fans, expect our programs to be in terms of competitiveness. Just substitute Alabama for Auburn and ... yeah, I agree wholeheartedly.
It’s not all right for Auburn to stay uncompetitive, in whatever sport. There’s too much joy, too much thrill, too much memory, too much of everything encapsulated in that home run to just forsake them. It shouldn’t be just the guys in shoulder pads who have an opportunity to earn handshakes and congratulations for a lifetime, a chance to be 67 and have a stranger tell you “I was there.”

And with that, Roll Tide, guys. Back with something more timely a little later.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: the mountain they can't climb

Your typical Tuesday here on the blog: a little extra youtube to get you through my deadline day. Today's entry: "Mountain Man: The Terrence Cody Story."

(Note: I have no idea what they're talking about for most of this video. I have, however, derived a great deal of joy from the haircut of the woman who's apparently Terrence's mom. I'd adopt her if I could, although it seems more likely I'd ask her to adopt me.)

(Extra note: Just for fun, let's post this again.)

Back with more later. Roll Tide.

Monday, June 14, 2010

programming note: the offseason won't begin until ... later?

Just a note: Monday links are on hold until (at least) after today's decisive Game 3 at Clemson, which begins in roughly 45 minutes. For now, I'm leaving you with this video that has very little to do with anything.

Friday, June 11, 2010

weekend tube: the best of times

So then, it's come to this. With Nebraska on its way to the Big 10, and Colorado bound for the PAC (and some of its mates southward likely to join them), the Death Watch for the Big XII is officially on (for a bit of hilarity, check out this thread on twitter).

And yes, the Big XII never really made sense in the first place: the geography was messy, there was a ton of animosity between North and South and very little in the way of tradition binding them together (like, say, what we have in the SEC).

Other blogs and news outlets will handle the ramifications of all this conference shifting far more capably than I ever could. One thing I can handle, though: a historical retrospective of the Big XII Championship Game, which gave us more great moments than anyone realizes.

For example:

Oh well. Fare thee well, Big XII. We hardly knew ye.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

so tell me who are you

Does any here know me? [Why] This is not Lear:
Does Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied -- Ha! [sleeping or] waking? {Sure] 'tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?

I had a weird thought recently, while I was cutting the grass. I do most of my deep thinking then; either then or right before bed, and I usually forget whatever brilliant idea I came up with before blissful sleep.
Anyway, I began thinking about a Nike ad starring Harold Miner, an NBA star of almost zero consequence in the 1990s. The ad was from early in his career, when Miner was tabbed as the Next Big Thing in American sports.
The commercial — which I could not find anywhere on the Web, and I looked — features Miner, practicing basketball in a gym by himself. At some point he turns to the camera and says something to this effect:
"Starting my career, I didn't know who I wanted to be. Didn't know if I wanted to be the next Michael Jordan, or the next Magic, or the next Dr. J. ... So I decided to become the first Harold Miner."

Writing for a living is a bizarre business. One of the things we learn in journalism school very early on is that a writer's personal feelings are not supposed to be involved in a story. What matters is telling a story through the eyes of the people who lived it. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more.
The end result, weirdly, is that writers often lack a sense of self. Every conversation we share, every social anecdote, either has to do with someone else's story, or someone else's reaction to a story we wrote (that was, of course, about someone else). Recently I was at a County Commission work session and one of the Commissioners turned to me and asked, "What do you think?"
I shook my head. "I'm here to write down what y'all think. What I think doesn't matter."
In essence, that's what happens when you write for a living.

Does this explain why I've been away from this blog for such a long time? Partially. Look, a lot has happened this year, and it's not even half over yet. My favorite team (and alma mater) won a national championship in my favorite sport. One of the regular commenters on this blog — and, going back, one of the regular commenters on any blog I ever had — suffered an untimely death. The two people who hired me to my current company quit with little to no explanation, casting an everyday shadow over our office (is today the day? Tomorrow? How much longer do we get to keep working here?).
So maybe I reached a point with the Party where it felt less like a party, and more like an obligation. And even though I do feel an obligation to anyone who might read me on a regular basis, this isn't work, and it shouldn't feel like it.

All that to say: here goes nothing. Again. With Alabama's baseball team now 2 wins away from the College World Series, the Celtics and Lakers hooking up in the NBA Finals and football season still 3 full months away, I'm ready to make a less-than-triumphant entry. We'll continue to do what we do here: air our thoughts on the world as we see fit, in the process (hopefully) speaking for the rational, level-headed, non-reactionary fan of sports and life in general.

And, now that we've got our teary-eyed reunion out of the way, here's a video of two guys from "Glee" singing a song from "The Wizard of Oz."