Saturday, December 31, 2011

goodbye to 2011, and good riddance

Apologies for my absence the past few weeks (I'm assuming you care, and if you're reading, guessing you do). It's been a busy holiday season, and really, not much has happened that inspired me to blog here during that time frame.

In any case, I feel like we should give 2011 its just due before the new year happens and we can start talking about the BCS and our up-and-down basketball squad that might be good, only we're not sure how good just yet.
Frankly, 2011 was a lousy year. I'm not here to complain, really, about Auburn winning the national championship — maybe it wasn't the greatest moment of my life, but members of my family were really happy about it, and I can be happy for them (even if I'm grinding my teeth in the process).
But the Auburn-Alabama rivalry — specifically, its ongoing disintegration — is part of the thing that made this year so bad. Instead of celebrating, we let the lunatic fringe take over (on both sides). It was an embarrassing moment, and things didn't get much better.
We spent all offseason hearing about scandals, either related to agents or boosters or the head coach himself. I briefly contemplated fleeing to Indochina like Bruce Wayne after his parents died, but people don't really speak English there, and I probably wouldn't really get to meet Liam Neeson. Basketball season provided some distraction, but it ultimately left us cold and we lost in the NIT final, anyway. Maybe we laid the foundation for something special. Maybe it was a flash in the pan. Whatever — it wasn't enough to make us forget the giant black cloud around our favorite sport.

And, of course, there was the weather. When you think about the year 2011, the first and last thing I'll think about is April 27. The recovery is now 8 months old, but no amount of rebuilt structures will replace the lives we lost, or fix the way everyone around here jumps when they hear the words "severe" and "weather" on TV or the radio. I can't drive through Tuscaloosa anymore without choking up at least once, and Shoal Creek Valley right here at home will never be the same, either. It's pretty much hung over everything else that's happened since.
There were other tears, of course. My wife lost the horse and the dog she's owned since she was in middle school, and all year we dealt with my granddad's cancer (he died the day before Thanksgiving). And there was the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, just for good measure.
I sort of thought the actual start of football season would be a bit of a balm for everybody. It was not. Much as I've enjoyed this excellent and mostly unremarkable Alabama team — and further, much as I've enjoyed the trips to Pennsylvania and Florida — it's been a pretty dull season, aside from the conference realignment sideshow, which is seemingly never-ending. Even the team's berth in the championship game has mostly been something that's required us to defend ourselves, rather than celebrate. And if football season isn't fun, then what's the point, right?

Not that it's been all bad, obviously. The famous Redhead did finish her grad school program and got a job — strangely, so did I, though the high-paying job has yet to materialize — and my brother has moved to Panama City, where he's working as a youth minister. Dad enjoyed a year as a retired person.
On the football side, we did thump Tennessee and Auburn, and had yet another bonafide Heisman finalist in Trent Richardson. And we're in line to win at least a share of a championship, no matter how ridiculous.

Nevertheless, I'm not longing for 2011 to hang around forever. Here's to better times in 2012. Even if it's the end of times.

As a programming note, my resolution is to get up earlier and work harder this coming year. Meaning it's time to get back to regular blogging. Starting next week. Roll Tide.

Friday, December 9, 2011

anticipating the BCS: a crowd-sourcing exercise

Editor's Note: In an attempt to maintain this blog's profile without actually trying very hard, I sent an email to various friends and family members asking for their thoughts about the current BCS situation, and how they would care to change it. A handful of them — an Auburn fan, two of my college and friends and my brother — responded, and those responses are included below. Please note, 3 of the 4 respondents in this exercise are "ministers." Should tell you something about my friend group.
me: Way too many thoughts swirling around in my head right now: Happy though I am to see my team playing for a national championship, a part of me knows a) It would be something of a crime if anyone other than LSU claims a national title this season; b) There's at least the possibility someone was more worthy of getting a shot at LSU than we are.
(As an aside, there's a part of me that derives enjoyment out of watching these teams crawl back into the MNC picture by doing absolutely nothing. If the kid from Oregon makes the field goal vs. USC, the Ducks are the team that pleads the loudest about getting left out, and everybody completely forgets about Okie State. But since that didn't happen, the Cowboys are being jobbed. Whatever.)
Pretend you have carte blanche from every college football president to remake the postseason in your image, irrespective of money or tradition. 4 teams? 8 teams? 16 teams? Leave it the way it is?
Jamie: The best thing to me about college football is that it was always a 20-40 team/14 week playoff. Bama fans were glued to the tube on an obscure Friday night watching OK St vs Iowa St for crying out loud. In 2004 I watched every play of at least 4 USC and Oklahoma games for obvious reasons. It makes every game count. 
That said, I do think there needs to be something done. Here goes: 
No more BCS formulas. Computers can't watch football, and most coaches have their secretaries vote anyway. Have 20-30 representatives from each section of the country (SE, NE, MW, SW, W) and form a committee to vote, only after the reg season ends much like NCAA BB. That would mean all reg season games must end on the same Saturday. 
I would like to consider a rule where you cannot vote for anyone on your own region. Reduces the potential for biased voting. Not sure if that would work, but just a thought. 
Two weeks after conference championship games, play your semifinal games. #1 hosts #4 and #2 hosts #3. This would keep teams somewhat sharp until the title game. Nothing like seeing the 2 best teams in the nation flat because they haven't played in 6 weeks. Rotate the title game venues just like they do now, and have the winners play for it all. 
The one issue is the teams who play in championship games vs ones who do not. One thing you could consider, is IF a team participating in conference championship games goes into the game ranked in the top 4 after the reg season, they are locked in win or lose. That could take some luster out of the conference championship games, so I doubt that would fly, but you said irrespective of money or tradition.  That's what I have.

Peter: I'm fine with things the way they are.  There's always going to be whining, and the BCS is as good of a way as any to mix human subjectivity and mathematical "objectivity" (which is total BS - the computers are programmed subjectively valuing certain measures more than others). 

Bart: Postseason in my image? Four teams enter thunder dome. One team leaves. Based on a better, more refined flawed system, the top four teams are identified. One verses four in the Sugar. Two verses three in the Orange. Fiesta gets their pick of any other teams for a meaningless, money-based matchup. Winner of Sugar and Orange play each other in the Rose Bowl. The BCS matchups rotate each year, moving the big games around. And since it is in my image, foreigners are ineligible to perform at halftime. 

Whit: I like the idea of taking the final 8 teams in the BCS and using the Saturdays in December to play the games and finish the season at the same time as they do now. I realize that you could ask "Why 8?" or "Why not 16?" To be quite honest, I think any more than 8 would draw out the season further than its term is right now which would ruffle a lot of feathers in the recruiting process and what not.  
What about the idea that LSU should win the AP national title no matter what happens in New Orleans? Agree? Disagree?
(Note: We will NOT accept "Gary Danielson should swallow a gallon lighter fluid" as an answer.)
Bart: Unless I missed something, we no longer have troops on the ground in Vietnam, butterfly collars are out and thus, we decide the national championship AFTER the consensus two top teams play at the end of the year.

Whit: LSU should be crowned the winner if and only if they beat Alabama in the NC. period. 

Peter: Winner of the game in New Orleans should be National Champions.  Period.  If the winners of the different divisions of the SEC have played already and meet again in the SEC championship game, the winner is the league champion.  We've gotten used to somebody who wasn't all that great in the regular season being NCAA Basketball champions because they "got hot at the right time," they were good when it matters.  Whoever wins — Alabama or LSU — will be good when it matters, and should be national champions.  And Gary Danielson should be muzzled when calling an SEC championship game and ranting about how the SEC shouldn't have two teams playing in the BCS championship game.

Jamie: If Bama wins a close game then yeah, split the thing. It's only fair. If Bama rolls up LSU, it's their title. I don't remember trying to convince everyone for the last 15 years that FSU deserves a share of the '96 title.  
Suppose we (Alabama, for the non-Tide fans on this) win in New Orleans. How do we feel next year when Tony Giles inevitably says "... 14 national championships!!!" over the PA? I feel like I'll be slightly self-conscious, don't you?
Peter: Based on my previous arguments, I really wouldn't feel that awkward or self-conscious, cause we won in the system as it is.  First time it's played out like this, but just like with a one loss team who wins and the team they beat always being able to say "we beat the national champions!," early losses don't matter once you get into the championship game.
Also, anyone who would feel awkward can gladly donate their tickets to the "support a methodist minister UA graduate" fund.

Bart: I've installed special panels on my roof that catch hate and envy waves. When "fourteen national championships!" is exclaimed, I expect to receive energy to power my house for the next year. And I do believe my heart will be warmed as well. The Chicago Cubs are beloved. I prefer to be hated like the New York Yankees.
(Note: I am confused by the host of this blog's Crimson-guilt posture.)

Jamie: Not to sound like a smart ass, but if you don't already feel a little self conscious about 13 national championships, then you shouldn't for 14 either.

Whit: I'll just smile and record it for all of my Auburn friends.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

postseason thoughts: doing it all again

I read somewhere once that boxing experts are fond of saying that "styles make fights." Meaning, of course, that not every fight is entertaining to watch, because certain fighters don't complement one another, stylistically. This is something that manifests itself often in basketball: throw together two teams that are superior defensively — like, say, the San Antonio-Detroit NBA Finals in 2005 — and it's just not all that compelling to watch. That's just the way it is.

Ultimately, I think this is why there is so much public outcry over an Alabama-LSU rematch: beyond the ongoing absurdity that is the BCS, it's just tough to sell a game like that to the general populace. It's basically the same two teams — two great defenses, hard-hitting, physical offenses that don't make many mistakes, two teams that basically grind away their opponent's will to resist them over the course of four quarters. When you put two teams that basically do the same things like Alabama and LSU, they constantly get in one another's way, the score drops like a rock and people who aren't diehard football fans — that means me, and (I hope) you — start changing the channel. Nothing can really help that.

This doesn't absolve the BCS, an annually embarrassing system that we're all forced to live with, like a drunk cousin who crashes Christmas dinner every year and makes us feel uncomfortable (only nobody can tell him to leave because he's our lawyer or something). It's patently ridiculous that we all had to crowd around our television sets Sunday like we were waiting on election returns, waiting to see if we'd carried enough votes to have a national championship shot. I'm happy we're in, but being a part of this annual absurdity makes me feel like a shower.

Some other thoughts ...
— I hate typing this because it makes me sound like I don't want to win the game, but the shame of this postseason is that it may take away from the 2011 LSU season, which may be the best season in SEC history. To reach this point, LSU beat Oregon (Pac-12 champs) at a neutral site, West Virginia (Big East champs) on the road, No. 2 Alabama on the road, then wrapped the season by whipping No. 3 Arkansas and SEC East champ Georgia (also a neutral site and a de facto road game).  Other than Bama, the closest anyone came to beating them was Mississippi State (19-6). And they've done all this without one player on offense who would be considered terribly memorable — a bunch of very good players, yes, but no one horse like Trent Richardson or Justin Blackmon. Just a well-coached group of guys who take care of business every night.
(And by the way, I hate LSU. Their fans and the constant media fawning over the completely insane Les Miles makes me sick on a weekly basis. So it's painful for me to type this. But they're great. There's nothing I can say that will minimize it.)
— The biggest wild card every year with this game (and one of the biggest parts of the absurdity): the 6-week layoff. Last year, Auburn and Oregon spent most of the night looking like 2 teams playing pickup flag football — it's a testament to both squads that they were able to pull it together by the 4th quarter. Combine the inevitable rust with the thousands of hours of defensive practice and you're almost guaranteed to see another game like the 9-6 bruiser in Tuscaloosa. Sorry, guys.
— One group that is definitely not upset about Alabama and LSU in the big game: New Orleans. In fact, they're probably already counting their cash, just to save time.
— Nick Saban drew a lot of criticism — of course he did — for voting Oklahoma State fourth in his ballot for the USA Today poll. Interestingly, Deadspin criticized him yesterday ... for not being selfish enough.
Push a little, and every aspect of conventional balloting logic begins to wobble a little. Let's go back to Saban: As you know, he ranked his team behind LSU. In other words, he stated that he believed LSU was the best team in the country and that Alabama was not—yet he maintains Alabama ought to have the opportunity to show they are better than LSU. If he thinks his team will beat LSU, then he must believe his team is better than LSU—but his ballot suggests otherwise. If a coach doesn't think his team will win, why are they even allowed to play? And what will Saban say if the Crimson Tide win the championship? "I guess we're better than I thought we were"?
— As an aside, how angry must Boise be that they're not part of this mess? Boise's game plan every year is exactly the same: Win a couple big games early; dominate the conference; hope for chaos. So this year the Broncos handle the first part, get the 3rd part as a gift ... and get tripped up at home in conference play. Unbelievable. If ever there was a year for an undefeated Boise to get a shot, this would be it. But no dice.

— Finally, since I spend so much time complaining about what I dislike about this whole thing, allow me to say something positive: This Alabama team has been, frankly, outstanding in 2011. Even if this year's schedule didn't turn out to be terribly imposing — the best win we claimed all year was vs. Arkansas, way back in September — this Crimson Tide team was a special kind of dominant all year, and deserves to be appreciated for it. Digging a little deeper, this level of success is one that hasn't been seen in Tuscaloosa since the 1970s: four straight seasons with double-digit wins, consistent ranking in the top-10 (most of that in the top-5), an SEC Championship, a possibility at a second national title. I'd say that's pretty successful.
So don't pay attention to jerks like me, boys. Go get 'em one more round. Roll Tide.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday tube: we've got history

Strange times to be an Alabama fan — or, really, a fan of college football in general. Not only do we get a rematch of a regular season game against a division rival for the championship ... the game is in New Orleans, a traditional bowl destination for both fan bases (note: that sound you heard was the New Orleans business establishment shouting in jubilation). Lots of different angles to approach this game, and I'm sure we'll hear about all of them in the next 6 weeks or so. For now, enjoy Alabama's last great triumph in the Superdome. It needs no further explanation.

Monday, December 5, 2011

gameday texts: championship week edition

Planning to have a few thoughts up later about the ongoing nightmare that is the BCS. For now, enjoy some of the text messages that kept me entertained through "Championship Weekend." As always, some language is less than savory and may possibly be offensive. You've been warned.

Whit (9:34 a.m.) Herbstreit laughs like a small girl

Halcombe (10:03 a.m.) If your name was Dabo would you embrace it? Or would you get to the courthouse by 9 a.m. Monday and switch it to Derek or Dave?
me (10:45 a.m.) His actual given name is William Christopher. The name "Dabo" apparently comes from his brother, who was attempting to say "That boy."
Halcombe (11:06 a.m.) We call our youngest Cub because he had chubby cheeks when born. I sincerely hope when he's making six figures people will say "Simon."

Halcombe (11:10 a.m.) ESPN had a "What's at stake" infographic for Cincy-Conn. game. Answer: Some crappy matchup in the Sugar or Orange Bowl.

Rob (11:49 a.m.) Atlanta smells like corn dogs
me (11:50 a.m.) What does it normally smell like?
Rob (11:50 a.m.) Ludacris

me (1:35 p.m.) Sirius' idea to kill 3 hours at Ga Dome: Have Finebaum troll UGA fans by asking them if they really want to win today (since it means they'll keep Richt).
Rob (1:36 p.m.) Uga fans are fickle they think richt is the second coming again
Rob (1:37p.m.) Considering they didn't play the big three they won't be so happy next year

me (2:14 p.m.) As a UAB alum, I do not approve of USM's performance today. Could've used that BCS payout in C-USA.
Rob (2:15 p.m.) Yeah case Houston would have been embarrassed in a bcs game
Jamie (2:16 p.m.) Too much money and uab will be just be ub.
Halcombe (2:18 p.m.) It figures something associated with Brett Favre would screw up an otherwise good BCS storyline.

Halcombe (3:04 p.m.) They should have flown the cast of Swamp People into Atlanta and sat them beside the cast of Wives of Atlanta. Imagine those cutaways? Back to you, Verne.

Whit (3:14 p.m.) Is it weird that I hope jordan jefferson gets hurt?
Whit (3:15 p.m.) Make me a terrible person?

Halcombe (3:57 p.m.) If UGA wins I may just take you up on the job offer in ALA. No one will be able to put up with UGA fans if they win. "Yeah, we should be in the BCS title game."
me (4:07 p.m.) Don't sweat it just yet. Remember Arkansas was up 14-0 last week.
Halcombe (4:11 p.m.) Whew! I'm almost done with our 15-year fixed refi and wasn't in the mood to list the house. I got 3.5 percent! What were we talking about?

me (4:28 p.m.) Verne thinks every handoff is a draw play.
me (4:31 p.m.) I counted 5 knockout shots on that return.
Whit (4:32 p.m.) Two uga players hit in back on that return. and yeah, they're hitting hard
Jonathan Page (4:33 p.m.) Yeah, are we sure Mathieu didn't flip the ball into the end zone before hitting the plane?

me (4:37 p.m.) Verne: "I looked up Honey Badger." Translation: "I had our interns look it up."
Rob (4:38 p.m.) I learned how to use the interweb
Whit (4:38 p.m.) Wikipedia, verne? You're better than that
Jonathan Page (4:38 p.m.) And now Wikipedia had a CBS citation

me (4:48 p.m.) Stand by for killer UGA turnover.
Whit (4:48 p.m.) Ohhhhhh yeah it's coming
Jonathan Page (4:50 p.m.) I knew it!!
Halcombe (4:50 p.m.) Conspiracy theorists commence "They want LSU to win" blogging following Mathieu TD toss in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

Jamie (5:01 p.m.) What was the line on the tuition toss?
Halcombe (5:01 p.m.) I have no suitable joke for the Dr. Pepper contest. The wife said she's pulling for the Pre-Nursing student who's playing it like a FT contest.

Halcombe (5:26 p.m.) The back of Verne's hair reminds me of the dude who "chose poorly" in Indy and the Last Crusade.

Halcombe (5:28 p.m.) Little ahead of yourself on that heartbreak turnover ... but good call nonetheless.

Whit (5:30 p.m.) Draw play?
me (5:30 p.m.) A counter-trap. Not a draw. You dick.
Jamie (5:31 p.m.) At least they weren't running from the shotgun aka spread.

Jonathan Page (5:31 p.m.) "we didn't have this footage of Mathieu flipping the ball til later" just say it Gary, we f---ed up


me (5:41 p.m.) "This guy deserves to be in the Heisman race!" — Every a-hole with a microphone

me (5:53 p.m.) Let us all think back fondly to last year's SECCG, when Tracy Wolfson decided to sample "Cammy Cam Juice."
Whit (5:54 p.m.) Yeah. Good times. Roll tide
Rob (5:54 p.m.) Haha yeah she did!! I think she is pregnant now
Jamie (5:54 p.m.) I'd be willing to bet she wasn't the only female who gargled cammy cam juice last year.

Maguire (5:47 p.m.) I just finished changing the glow plugs in the Suburban. Is there a football game on?

Dad (5:47 p.m.) Tell Ga nice try ... maybe next year.

Jonathan Page (5:52 p.m.) Just accused a guy of being a fair-weather fan after pronouncing #7's name as ma-thay-u. He turned into a 10 yr old girl fast.

me (5:59 p.m.) Nobody in college football makes a better "What the fck was that?" face than Aaron Murray.
Halcombe (6:12 p.m.) Murray cupping hands to signal a "back to the womb" approach for the remaining 18:06.

me (6:16 p.m.) Game has played out like an old-school wrestling match. With UGA playing the role of jobber.

Jonathan Page (6:24 p.m.) Verne, Gary ... Pay attention to the damn field, that's how you tell the difference between a horse collar and a face mask

me (6:30 p.m.) Yes, Gary, Mark Richt did a great job beating 10 teams that weren't worth a damn. Inspiring.

Travis P (6:33 p.m.) Hey Gary. Fuxk you — Celo green

Jamie (6:35 p.m.) My sports book had lsu alabama already on the board at noon today. What does that tell you?

Pedro (6:47 p.m.) Nice draw play

Jamie (6:57 p.m.) these guys have done this to every team except 1. No other way to have it than what it will be. One of the best teams in the bcs era will not win the title this year.

Jamie (7:42 p.m.) Justin Blackmon says "f the knee pads"

Halcombe (8:00 p.m.) The wife asked what the VT bird
a) is? and
b) called?
I don't have the answer.
me (8:17 p.m.) You won't believe me, but the answer to both questions is "Fighting Gobbler."

Rob (8:05 p.m.) The Clemson tiger looks like it is on meth