Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

96 team tournament would be a mistake

America loves brackets. This is a mantra I repeat often; mostly because I love the NCAA Tournament.... as currently constituted. There has been increased rumblings this year that the tournament will expand to 96, and I've touched on my thoughts earlier this year. But today brings the news that Big 10(11) commissioner Jim Delany, one of the most powerful individuals in collegiate athletics, used the word probable when discussing the possible expansion. If he's talking "probable," then it's probably coming.

It's easy to see why he would view expansion as probable. The NCAA will make more money; CBS, who I'm assuming will re-up their contract, will be able to show more games, over a longer period of time (making more money); Universities will have an easier time making the dance, and its lucrative exposure, thereby making more money; coaches get to keep their jobs (and make more money). Everybody wins in this equation... except people who care about regular season basketball.

As it is, the importance of the regular season is being diminished. Conference tournaments, combined with the tournament itself, kill the excitement of the college basketball regular season. Wins and losses only set you up for the two March tournaments. Relatively speaking, a big win (or loss) in January means nothing; as long as the rest of your "body of work" is acceptable, and you can always make up for lost time in your conference tournament. This concerns Delany too. In the linked article he is quoted as saying "I'm not looking to see the basketball season made less relevant because we do an expansion without knowing a lot about this." He knows, as well as anybody else who follows basketball, that this idea will be ruinous to the regular season.

For an example of what an expanded field would look like, you can simply add 31 of the 32 teams from the NIT to the Tourney. Expand the tournament to 96 games, and the diluted regular season issue is intensified. Suddenly anybody with an above .500 record (in a major conference) is "on the bubble." As much as I love the CU basketball team, there is no way they should've been in any sort of NCAA tournament discussion this season. Same goes for UNC, UCONN, Seton Hall, Texas Tech, Northwestern, South Florida, NC St., Cincinnati, Illinois, St. John's, or most of the other teams in the NIT that failed to make the current 65 team Tourney field. Who of this group really needs to be represented in the dance? If you're expecting some sizable amount of small schools to get tossed in, you've just fooling yourself; it's gonna be big schools, from big conferences, with 17-15 records.

("You're fooling yourself" if you don't think that this is just a cash grab)

Yes, only 19% of the 347 Div 1 basketball teams make the tournament, but that number is just eye candy. I doubt the true div 1 credentials of many of those teams, and that stat just leads me to believe that div 1 basketball needs to be split up in much the same way that football is.

(That's a lot of teams. link for full view)

At the end of the day, I just don't believe that there are 96 teams in division 1 on a yearly basis that deserve a chance to compete for a national championship. The Tournament should be exclusive. Yes, it is a shame that some deserving teams miss out. But you don't need to include 31 more teams to ensure that one or two deserving teams don't get jobbed. That'd be like performing surgery with a chainsaw: you'll probably do more damage than good. Expand the Tourney to 68 teams (4 play-in games) if there must be expansion. It's a much more sensible solution to an almost non-existent problem.

Quick Post: Star Wars state of mind

I post this without comment...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quick Post: CU-CSU game will be shown on the mtn. (Read: Not shown on television)

I have long been an opponent of the CU-CSU "rivalry." It's crap, and CU has to lower itself to CSU's level to compete. Not necessarily that CU is "better" on the field, but that the disparity off the field (conference, alumni base, research grants, reading level, etc.) makes it foolish to stay tethered to them. So I noted with a sigh this morning that the "Rocky Mountain Showdown" (Dismissive wanking motion) will be "televised" on the mtn. network this year. Televised is in quotations because you cannot really be televised if only 8 people get the channel. Seriously, I know that CSU has the media rights for the game, and that the mtn. is desperate to get anyone, anywhere to watch their channel, but fuck them. At least simulcast it on my20 or some shit.

(The mtn. and this blog are neck and neck in total viewers)

A couple of things:
  1. The Big XII doesn't count the mtn. network (or for that matter any other cable access channels) as national broadcasts, so CU will lose money on the deal. (The Big XII compensates the individual schools for all nationally televised games they participate in. Not gonna lie, we could really use that money.) I bet no one factored that in when they were pushing to suck CSU's cock for the next decade.
  2. The mtn. is hoping that the large CU fan base will push their TV providers to provide the network on lower channel tiers. This wont work. Fans who don't get it will just go to a bar, or just forget to care. (Two 3-9 teams square off.... WHOPEEE) Seriously, 5 minutes after the game is over, the entirety of Buff Nation will go back to forgetting that the mtn. exists. 850 KOA just got a boost in ad revenue.
  3. This deal continues to be corporate welfare of the lowest order. What does CU gain in this deal. We're tied to a rivalry with diminishing interest (both CU's fault and CSU's), and should one, or both, Utah schools leave the Mountain West Conference, the Mountain West becomes an utter wasteland football-wise. What a joke.

Kyle Ringo pees his pants over Cody denying him an interview

Beginning with the "It's the Big XII!" talk he gave with reporters, which got leaked to the internet (ahem), and continuing with the "10 wins, no excuses" meme that grew from the media's coverage of the '08 Senior banquet, Dan Hawkins has continually been stunned by the play that his more outlandish statements got in the press. This led to a more standoffish Hawk, who, according to this August '09 article from Ringo, "... began answering more and more questions with short and occasionally terse responses, during spring practices. He eventually closed those practices to the public claiming he was being scouted through Internet practice reports." (link) While coaches close practice all the time, the jarring lack of effusive answers, which had been a hallmark of post-practice Hawk up to that point, was noticeable. (It was even more noticeable when after a 2-5 start, Hawk strolled into the press room to defend his position for over an hour, showing he still had that club in his bag. Ringo mockingly referred to it as a soliloquy.) About the noticeable change in attitude towards the media Hawk said, "There is no change. I've done this before. I mean, you know how it goes. Just the ebb and flow of it. Just the ebb and the flow of life." (link) As the season approached, I passed the changing nature of the Hawk-Press relationship off as more likely the result of his changing health (he had a scare with kidney stones). Whatever the reasoning, the mood around practices had changed, and reporters (Ringo specifically) began throwing snarky comments into their pieces.
(Not for nothing, but Ringo is a Cub fan.)

Before last year, this had mostly gone under the radar. When Hawk showed up on campus he appeared to be jovial and affable. Appearing in commercials and taking interviews, the image of a coach willing to take chances to win football games appealed to both the CU community and the media who covers the team. Then '06 happened. Ever since then, there has been a slight, but noticeable trend toward hostility between the two groups.

It certainly didn't help when last year, following the dissolution of the Rocky Mountain News, CU hired long-time News beat reporter B.G. Brooks to post content for At a time when media outlets were being shut out of practices, and getting reduced access to players and coaches alike, B.G.'s exclusive access was probably off-setting to the assembled media. B.G.'s hire was part of a broader effort by the Athletic Department to control access points, and push their brand through (At a meeting last fall, A.D. Mike Bohn told the assembled crowd, myself included, that you can forget the Daily Camera or the Denver Post, if you want information on the Buffs, go to our website.) More than likely the result of bad timing, it just didn't seem right to close off access to some beat reporters, while welcoming into the fold others.

While it is not Hawk's job to be constantly inviting to the press, I can see where the Kyle Ringo's of the world are coming from. They have to do a job, and the most direct way of doing that job is to talk to both the players and coaches of the program. There's only so much analysis a reader, like myself, will accept without direct responses to put it into context. Hawk's abrupt change in demeanor was jarring and had changed the symbiotic relationship between coaches and reporters. Hawk needs to put a good public face on his program while maintaining gamesmanship, and reporters need the coaches to provide information to the public that they are willing to pay for. The situation had soured the well. Ringo and the other beat writers were no longer giving Hawk an easy microphone for his cheery spin on the program, and Hawk was closing the doors.

("What is this spread offense you speak of?")

Difficulties are to be expected when promises of National Championships, Heisman Winners, and Big XII Titles turn out to be losing seasons, talent transfers, and coaches bailing. However, what's not expected is for people to start pissing contests, and stop talking to one another. That's childish shit that I pull, not what I expect from grown-ass men who depend on each other for a living. It annoys me to no end when Hawk gives short, pissy answers to questions. It's just as annoying when Ringo snarks at him from columns. It's even worse when Ringo snarks about the actions of a college age kid.

This morning I read Ringo's complaint about the lack of access to Cody Hawkins. It seems that Cody is not talking to the local beat reporters because of critical comments written about his dad. While it may be juvenile to not talk to someone cause they said mean things about your daddy, Ringo shouldn't be throwing Cody under the bus (no matter what national outlet he runs to). Yes, Cody should be a little more understanding about the situation his father is in, but with emotions running high, Ringo shouldn't be holding him to such a lofty standard.

To be fair, Ringo has been harsh to the Hawkins clan over the past year and a half (ESPN throwing CU in the Bottom 10 is certainly nothing compared to the semi-constant snark coming from the BDC.) It's only natural to want to defend your father from attack, and it's not Cody's responsibility to be the go-to quote in the locker room. If he doesn't want to talk to the press its his business. Are we really missing anything with Silent-Cody anyway? Ringo shouldn't be taking his problem's with Hawk out on Cody, that just aint fair.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Grab Bag: Hey, look! It's almost baseball season!

Just 1 week to go before the start of the regular baseball season. Woo Hoo! On with the bag...

Brackets: Wow, did Kentucky suck, or what? I have never seen a #1 play that bad of offense for 2 straight games. Had they been playing anyone but Cornell, they would've gotten their ass kicked before the weekend even started. As it is, I am relatively happy with the Final Four. Duke swept through their easy region, West Virginia showed why everyone feared them this year, Butler makes for a nice story, and Michigan St. wins the "we're not Kansas" derby. I actually had WVU and Duke, along with Michigan St. making the Elite 8; If only Kansas had not choked, I'd be looking real well in my office pool.... WAIT A SECOND! I still have a chance to win! If Duke makes it to the championship, but loses to Michigan St., I'll win the cash! C'mon Sparty!

(Don't cry yet Tom, you've got a title to win! -link)

New Bball Practice Facility: Thursday afternoon, CU's athletic department (finally) broke ground on the new combination basketball and volleyball practice facility. It's being built as an attachment to the CEC, and looks frickin' awesome. As Neil Woelk pointed out in his column in the BDC, it's the largest facility upgrade for the basketball program since the CEC itself was built in 1979. It's been long overdue. Prior to Coach Bz's arrival, CU had basketball facilities that would've been antiquated in the late 80's, let alone the middle-aughts. Since he stepped foot on campus CU has continually upgraded their facilities; first with new operations centers actually at the arena the teams play in, then with new locker rooms and weight centers, and culminating with the new practice facility. This facility will be $11 million well spent, and I can't wait to get a look inside.

(Seriously, it's gonna be awesome. Congrats to the entire athletic department for getting the funding together.)

K-Mac is not a referendum on Bohn: Notably absent from the practice facility festivities was Women's coach Kathy McConnell-Miller. Apparently, she is about to be released from her coaching duties; it's about time. What Mike Bohn couldn't do with Dan Hawkins, he is about to do with K-Mac: get rid of a coach who can't get the job done. After 5 years of little results, and even less fanfare, K-Mac has had more than ample opportunity to show weather or not she could win in the Big XII, and she can't. It's almost the same story as Hawk, just with a different result. Now there's rumors that K-Mac may try to sue the school to keep her job. WTF?! Talk about not keeping you dignity in a rough situation. Obviously, no one wants to lose their job, but when you've had 5 straight years of losing in-conference records (and 4 years overall... wow that really is just like Hawk), you really have no leg to stand on. Combine that with the lawsuit that K-Mac got the school involved in when she revoked a verbally proffered scholarship, and her tenure has nothing good to show. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, K-Mac.

Many people, since K-Mac was Bohn's first hire, are taking this opportunity to whack Mike for being a "poor athletic director," or something. Mike can't force coaches to coach well. When he hired Hawk and K-Mac, most everybody applauded the deals as good hires. Hind-sight is a cruel mistress, but unfairly applied in this instance. Yes, Bohn can be held ultimately responsible for on-field performance, but in his position, all you can do is hire the right coach and hope. Mike's number 1 job is to fund raise and do everything he can to keep the department financially viable (an extension of which is selling the brand). He does an exemplary job at this. (Former AD)Dick Tharp (who some people liked for some reason) can't hold a candle to Bohn's fund-raising ability (or affable personality), and in Bohn's tenure CU has drastically changed (for the better) its marketing operatus. Because of this, I still believe that Bohn is the right man for the job, and roll my eyes whenever anyone tries to convince me otherwise.

(Great form Mike! I never saw Tharp toss a ball into the stands, or even smile for that matter. From: The BDC)

Spring Practice Returns: After 10 days off, the football team is back on the practice fields to finish off spring ball. Just to make myself clear: I don't care, and I'm not going to the spring game. Seeing Cody Hawkins slowly get forced into the starting QB role will only make my stomach upset. I don't necessarily find spring practice all that exciting anyways, and I usually find myself nodding off during the spring game, so I don't I'm going to regret missing it.

OH NO, WE SUCK AGAIN: The Blackhawks continue to stumble out of the Olympics Break.
This is beginning to become worrisome. "Suck" is obviously too strong a word, but when you lose 7 of 10, it does cause a prickling sensation at the base of the skull. In the last two games, they've looked terrible against lowly Columbus! The Hawks have only 12 pts after the break, and are slowly losing their grip on the division. The Hawks have guaranteed themselves a playoff spot, but momentum may be key. They need to find their 2nd gear, and do it quickly... it'd be terrible to waste a team this good. (see the early '90s Hawks)
(Commit to the Indian-head boys! From: the Trib)

Unlucky 13: There have been rumblings in Sox camp that the South-Siders may roll north with 13 pitchers. Sergio Santos has locked up the 12th spot in the bullpen mostly because he is out of options (the mechanism by which teams send players to the minors), and would most likely get picked up by another team if the Sox tried to send him to Charlotte. Greg Aquino, however, has proven to be the real deal, and probably earned a spot on the roster that he's not going to get. Shame for Aquino, but a 13th pitcher is not the answer. In the linked article, Jim Margalus talks about the relative benefit of keeping platoon expert Jayson Nix (Thanks Rockies!) on the ball club as opposed to an extra pitcher. In addition, pitching is the kind of commodity that is not necessairly improved with volume. That Santos will "head north" over Aquino is a shame; Aquino is a former closer prospect with the D-Backs, and has stellar stuff (when accurate). But, Aquino should stick in the minors until realistic room is found at the major league level (Linebrink gets "lost" on a road trip perhaps?). With the starting rotation that the Sox posses, its stupid to bring along an extra-extra reliever.

Mark Buehrle is an iron horse: I play trivia games on often. They're quick, fun, and you can find one for almost any topic you can imagine; plus they update often. One I found to my liking last week was the players with the most pitching starts for each team during the past decade; basically a who's who of pitching during the aughts. I was surprised to find out that the South Side's own Mark Buehrle leads all of baseball for starts during the period for one team (with 300). While he doesn't have the most overall during that period, the stat does show that Mark is like Novocaine for the Sox fans soul. As a Sox fan, I know that every 5th day, Mark will be there, without fail; he's done it for a damn decade. Mark may never reach 300 wins, or any of the other Hall-of-Fame benchmarks, but his career has been impressive non-the-less; he's just another case of the individual being more than the sum of his parts.

Happy Monday!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Beer Post: Beer Festival at the Fox

Considering my love of beer variety and trying out new flavors, it should come as no surprise that I love beer festivals. Obviously, the big one in Denver (Great American Beer Festival) is king, but others (The Big Beer festival in Vail) have great things to offer. They're always wondrous fun, and I look forward to them every year, which is why I noted with great interest that a new one is springing up on my doorstep.

Jay Kriner of the Beer Clothing Company in Boulder is organizing the inaugural Boulder Brew and Music Festival. A combination brew fest and rock concert, the event will take place at the Fox Theater in Downtown Boulder on May 1st. Some 25 different breweries are slated to be there, and tickets for the beer portion are only $35. Mr Kriner (Who's company I have been meaning to visit on The Hill for some time now) was quoted in the BDC as saying "We want this to be something where you can bring out the lawn chair and hang out." That's certainly a noble mission.

I really like the sound of this one. Boulder, as I touched on last week, is at the forefront of the Colorado craft brewing industry. The Brewer's Association (with craft brew god Charlie Papazian) is located here, some of the best craft beer in the state is brewed here (and the surrounding areas), and now we have a beer festival to call our own. While the festival is not exclusively Boulder, or even Colorado, all of the local breweries are going to be there. It's interesting to me that the concert and beer festival are going to take place at separate times, with the beer festival first. Don't know if sticking around to take part in the concert series is up my alley, but I'm defiantly down with any sort of beer festival in BOCO.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The "new" Michael Jordan

Let me qualify this by saying I am a massive MJ homer. Growing up in Chicago during the early-to-mid nineties, Michael defined winning in my eyes. I shouldn't just say winning, he defined everything. Before working for the corporate reptile, I wore Nike's because of MJ. I drank Gatorade instead of soda because of MJ. I still wear Hanes T-shirts because of MJ. I was a part of the generation who worshiped at MJ's feet, and I have no regrets. I even watched, bought the album for, and liked (and will defend) "Space Jam."

(Great movie.... stop laughing!)

I still believe that MJ retired for good in 1998, died in a car crash that was covered up by the government, and that the various incarnations of MJ that have sprung up over the years are much like the multiple versions of superman that sprung up after his "death"... imposters; In fact, the version of "Jordan" that played for the Wizards in 2001, was just a robot designed to fail in order to pump up the egos of his opponents. (I don't really believe this... or do I?) MJ never traveled, never committed a foul, and Byron Russell fell over of his own accord. MJ certainly never had a gambling problem. He was actually good at baseball, he just needed more "seasoning." Basically, I'm always in MJ's corner. So take the folowing with whatever sized grain of salt you must.

(I see nothing... clean as a whistle)

The back page article in Sports Illustrated this week was on the "new" MJ, and written by Selena Roberts. See, Michael was recently approved as the new majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, and apparently this returns him to being "himself." She sets up her point by talking about the string of bad publicity MJ has endured over the past decade. The poor performance with the Wizards, and his resultant firing, his quiet brooding years, and his recent induction into the basketball hall of fame. She even points to his take down of Jerry Krause during his induction speech as proof that MJ was off-kilter. (Krause, the former Bulls GM, was a caustic, fat louse who deserves whatever gruff epithet MJ deem spit at him. Fuck Jerry Krause.)

Sure, maybe MJ needs the competition, but competition certainly wasn't the problem in Washington. The worlds greatest competitor was playing, running a team, and still heavily involved in basketball. And it blew up in his face. In the interim years, he gambled incessantly, played golf for large sums of money, and joined another franchise. It wasn't "living off the radar" that made him grumpy. The man stops any room he walks into; he ain't living "off the radar" just because he doesn't talk to ESPN every 5 seconds. He certainly was back in basketball, as part of the Bobcats ownership group, when he gave his poorly received speech in Springfield, Mass. last year.

What made him "grumpy" was two things. First, for the last decade, and even longer, fans, the media, and the NBA itself have been searching for "the next Jordan." There will never be another MJ. There just wont be. Sure LeBron will probably end up with better final stats, and Kobe may finish with as many titles, but neither will have the international impact to go along with their on-court accomplishments that MJ had. MJ defined and created the new marketing possibilities that characterized his career.

The constant "Next Jordan" search must be massively insulting to the man, and he has no physical outlet to shut people up. His induction speech was all about forcing people to remember him, and to make a pass at shutting up all pretenders to his throne. It was his team, his titles, and his league... and don't you forget it! That diatribe was directed more at LeBron, Kobe and ESPN than it was at anyone he shot down. Note the part of the article where Selena refers to the cold shoulder MJ gives 'Bron 'Bron. He hates the comparisons, and it pisses him off. In all honesty, I don't expect him to ever come to terms with his own legacy.

Secondly, once he quit active basketball, and settled into retired life, he had to spend more time with his wife. I'm honestly surprised their marriage lasted as long as it did after his career ended. One of the best examples is the story Bill Simmons tells of MJ in Vegas (it's in his "Book of Basketball.") MJ's yucking it up with his posse, and then Juanita shows up. The evening is over, and the fire dies in his eyes. MJ just needed some "strange." If he's more like the old Jordan now, it's partly because he doesn't have her disapproving albatross hanging around his neck anymore.

(That's not just a smile, it's a sigh of relief)

Will MJ be a good owner.... sure? It sure won't make him "happy." That MJ was a myth anyways. Jordan wasn't the smiling corporate pitch-man White America thought he was anyways; he was the intense work-a-holic that showed on the basketball court and ruined Kwame Brown. That's the real MJ, and no amount of new challenges will change that.

PS3 game reviews

Yesterday I was running a fever, so work was a no go. I can't think of a better day to stay inside and recuperate. After getting over a foot of snow dumped on BOCO over night, I certainly wasn't going to face a long (and, considering the condition of my vehicle, potentially perilous) commute while feeling like shit. On the plus side, after sleeping in til Noon-30 (MWAAAHAA), I was able to spend some extra time with my new toys.

As I mentioned Tuesday, I got 3 games with my system (God of War III, Uncharted 2, and Heavy Rain). Interestingly enough, with the ever-increasing trend of making open-world games, the three are all linear (and I wouldn't have them any other way). Over the past week, with extended sessions Sunday and yesterday, I have had a chance to play them all, and here are my impressions:

Heavy Rain: Maybe the most unusual gaming experience of my life, Heavy Rain harkens back to Film Noir style mysteries. Under constant pouring rain, you take the part of 4 characters tracking the "Origami Killer." But unlike previous takes on the mystery genre (notably pint-and-click adventures) you are more active in the game. Through a series of button presses, stick swirls, and controller tilts (taking advantage of the 6-axis nature of the PS3 Controller) you guide the characters through the story, performing actions from the mundane (setting the table) to the vital (dodging a knife, or breaking through a wall to escape a fire). I don't use the word performing lightly; the game feels as if you are performing the actions themselves, as in a movie, rather than just button mashing.
(Hit the button (Represented by the circle on the screen) correctly, and you defend yourself, fail, and get hit)

Additionally, as opposed to other games with puzzles (like the other two I'm about to cover) the in-game puzzles don't drastically jerk your senses out of the games immersive world. Often times puzzles become contemplative moments, points where your thinking happens "outside the game world" (if that makes any sense). Because the world of Heavy Rain is so well crafted, tense moments with puzzle solving make you think on your feet "in the game." I felt genuine tension as I tried to save my characters at different points from certain death.
(While a tad bit gloomy, the game provides a great game-play experience)

The story is incredible (minus some retrospective plot holes), and the graphics are top notch (I almost think they didn't decide on a killer til later on in development). While there are a few moments of glitch, for the most part quality motion-capture ensures a quasi-realistic feel. One complaint I have is the voice acting. The game was made in France using mostly European actors. However, the game is set in Pennsylvania. All I know is no Pennsylvanians have the accents that the actors used. The children voice actors are especially jarring. This is the only real drawback to the game, as I wish they had used American voices to portray Americans.

There is a surprisingly high level of re-playability for a game that is so dependent on story and set-pieces. Whith multiple endings and ways to play out scenes, along with multiple difficulty levels which change required inputs, the game stays fresh through a few play-through. Heavy Rain is an excellent experience, and I highly recommend it, specifically because of its unique way of handling the genre.

God of War III: The God of War series has long been one of my favorites. Building on the Action-adventure genre, the series is well known amongst PS2 owners for its non-stop action, hard core violence, outrageous story, and great controls. The series, in its 3rd and potentially final main console installment, focuses on Kratos, a fallen solder in the Spartan army, and his ceaseless search for revenge against essentially the entirety of existence (mortals, gods, titans: you name it, he'll try to kill it). Tricked by Aries into killing your wife and children, the 1st game involves killing the Greek God of War and installing yourself as his replacement. Betrayed by Zeus, the 2nd is all about finding a way to destroy Olympus itself. The 3rd game is all about putting that plan into action.

I can't stress the violence portion enough. Within an hour of game play, I had ripped the head off of a Greek God (Poseidon), disemboweled a centaur, and burned a helpless captive alive. Kratos is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a nice man. Game play focuses on multiple ways to brutalize your even increasing number of enemies. The controls are well engineered (if not a little over engineered), and allow you to flow easily between moves. The resultant game play is a mix between traditional adventure games (like Zelda) and fighting games (like Street Fighter). Power-ups and new weapons abound as you attempt to stunt the entirety of the forces of Olympus, and you can learn numerous tricks and combos to keep the hordes at bay.

(Look away children)

I had been waiting for this game for a while, dreading my potential inability to purchase it because of my previous lack of a PS3. I must say it looks stunning. Attacks look smooth, and the surroundings are awe-inspiring. Played on an HD television, GoW3 blows you away in terms of graphics, taking the brutal nature of Kratos up a notch. Entire levels take place on large, moving, creatures, adding in a sense of the massive scale of battle.

There are a number of drawbacks, however. After two titanic games, the novelty of the experience is starting to wear thin. There's only so many ways to skin a cat (literally in this case), and the ceaseless blood-letting is honestly getting a little tiresome. I'm just looking for a more fulfilling adventure. At this point, I'm not even sure if I'm on Kratos' side of the whole thing (maybe that's the point?). Don't get me wrong, I love the game, and the series as a whole, but I'm really hoping that this is the final installment on the major console. If you haven't played a GoW game before, I would recommend playing the original. The original, not without its own faults (lack of major bosses), provides an inventive experience, setting the tone for the next generation of video game advancements. The resultant follow-ups have basically been the same, plus more graphics and blood. The series is essentially a Michael Bay movie franchise at this point, and needs to end (sorry).

(Don't be mad Kratos, it was still fun)

Uncharted 2: Wow is this game awesome! Playing as Nathan Drake, you trek across the globe as some mix of Indiana Jones and John McClane. Drake takes the role of Indy as he consults his notebook and wits to solve archeological puzzles and traps (there's even the stereotypical spiked ceiling coming down on you scene). All he's missing is a hat. He then takes on the role of McClane as he shoots down baddies and is constantly getting himself into worsening states of injury. Essentially, this is what Indiana Jones 4 should've been, packaged in video game form.

The adventure is based on an epic search for the mythical lost city of Shambala, which houses your typical set of treasures and ancient artifacts. Along the way, the game plays out like a movie. The cut scenes are dramatic, and the voice acting pitch perfect. The story sucks you in, keeping you glued to your controller. More than that, the lush surrounding visuals and setting drop you into a perfectly crafted world. Believable in almost every sense, the visuals are a crowning achievement, besting either of the two previously discussed games.

(There is almost no difference between game play and cut scene graphics)

Game play combines 3rd-person shooter action (like, say, Gears of War) with platforming adventure (Assassins Creed-ish), and does both near flawlessly. I'm not typically a fan of shooter games, but the action in this game is more than accessible, and kept me engaged. The platforming and puzzles, while not the best I've ever seen, are well executed, and there were few moments of frustration. Add to that a good multi-player system to maintain re-playability, this game hits all the spots.

(Blowing up tanks is cool, especially when half the trick is finding ammunition)

If I could only have one PS3 game, this would be the one I'd pick; I can't recommend this game enough. While not necessarily revolutionary in any one aspect, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and Uncharted 2 is top rate. Even people sitting on the couch next to you will get a kick out of this one, as the story is more than entertaining enough to suck passer-byes in. Developer Naughty Dog deserves high praise for this one.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quick-Post: Paul Konerko wins at life

Paul Konerko on Oney Guillen Twittergate:
“As a rule of thumb, twice a month something is going to come up,’’ team captain Paul Konerko said Monday, when asked about possible distractions that have come in the wake of “TwitterGate.’’ “Sometimes it’s back-to-back in a week, sometimes every other week, but if you’re a White Sox player you just kind of prepare that it’s not boring around here and things kind of pop up. That’s just the way it is. There’s always some controversies that pop up here that are a little different than most teams, but that’s the way we roll here.’’ -link
Thanks, Paulie. In one paragraph, you've summed up my entire view of everything that goes on extraneous to baseball with my beloved Sox. Shit happens, it don't matter, and no one but the media cares. A damn rock, that man is.


Recently I was able to purchase a PS3 and a shiny new LCD television. Go me! I've always been of two minds about the PS3. I've always believed that Sony overshot the market (Sony... overshooting the market.... no way!) when they designed the followup to possibly the greatest gaming system in history (Seriously, the PS2 will still hold up as a great system a decade from now). While I knew the technology was there, and that leads to high potential for the system, the market just wasn't ready for it. Overpowered, overpriced, and a tad ostentatious; I got the feeling that the PS3 was just a vehicle to push blue-ray on the market (Even blue-ray was a solution without a market when it was released in 2003).

I simply figured that the Xbox 360 was a better machine for the market at the time. Prices were only slightly higher than the previous generation of consoles and the Xbox technology fit into the current level of game design technology. Designers loaded more appealing launch, and close post-launch, titles on the the 360. Games even looked better, as designers had trouble adapting to the PS3 hardware leading to frame rate issues (see especially the Madden '08 PS3 disaster). Sales figures have backed this up as the 360 has outsold the PS3. (The Wii has almost has out-sold the two, combined. But that system has little 3rd party game support, and is mostly for little children and 30 year old wannabe hipsters who just want something for parties.... in an ironic sort of way. If you want to "game", you need a "real" system)

But then an interesting change occurred: Sony lowered the price of the PS3. The system had always been produced at a loss. Estimated cost of production was over $800, and Sony had been selling the system at $600 or less. But new developments in technology, along with the scrapping of backwards compatibility, lowered production costs to around $250. This allowed them to change the overall design of the system, lower the cost, and slip into direct price competition with the 360 by Christmas-time of '09. Also, as the last 4 years have gone by, game developers have caught up with the PS3. Frame rate issues are fewer, and there are more enticing PS3 exclusive titles.

Which brings me to last week. The great corporate reptile that I work for decided to hand out bonuses (YES!), and I decided the time was right to delve into the PS3. Funny thing was, now that the price has been lowered, production of the PS3 can't meet demand. I literally couldn't find one to purchase online. I tried all the big box stores, even the super big box stores. No one had a new PS3 (many gaming stores were glad to offer me a used system, fuck that). You would think that with system moving games like Heavy Rain, MLB: The Show, and (especially) God of War 3 coming out that Sony would've ramped up production. Guess not. Finally, after a week and a half of hardcore web-searching, I found one on my 3rd check of (They get a plug 'cause they actually had one. Kudos, Target).

It arrived on Friday. Ooooooo is it pretty. The new slim design certainly makes for a good look, and thankfully they have done away with that stupid "Spiderman" font (Seriously, those movies sucked). Upon powering the bad-boy up, the sounds of a symphony warming up greet you, as if a veritable performance of gaming awesome is about to begin. Sleek and smooth, the system connects to the interwebs for free (are you paying attention Microsoft?). Games look wonderful. So far I have played Uncharted 2, God of War 3, and Heavy Rain (All PS3 exclusives, mind you). On my shiny new HD tv (1/2 off through newegg!) everything looks great, and the experiences are immersive. Also, I realized yesterday afternoon that the blue-ray player inside every PS3 will enable me to upgrade my Netflix account!

Coming up later this week, I'll have a review of the 3 games purchased (Hint: They're all spectacular)

I haven't given up on my Xbox 360. It's still a great system. But for now, my shiny new PS3 will demand my attention, and I'm more than willing to oblige.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Grab Bag: Thanks, Kansas

Happy Monday.... or it would've been happy if Kansas had bothered to show up. On with the bag...

Brackets, and teh suck: So last week I postulated that, even though the college basketball landscape was seriously messed up this year, the selection committee was better than it was a decade ago, and was therefore better able to protect it's higher seeds, so don't expect the crazy numbers of upsets that seemed inevitable. Yah huh, that was dumb. After a weekend where nearly half of all brackets in America didn't survive to see the dawn of Sunday, I feel pretty foolish. While I did correctly peg the Sweet Sixteen runs of Washington and Michigan St, I missed almost everywhere else. Even Cornell, who I called a "fools folly" of an upset pick, came through. My Midwest region looks like a bomb was dropped on it (Georgetown and I have stopped talking), and I only have 10 of 16 Sweet Sixteen teams correct.

In retrospect, my flaws were apparent. I have a few personal rules that I failed to follow. Always bet against Bill Self (He is a fatally flawed coach in many ways, and, aside from his national championship, usually finds a way to fuck it up) and Bob Huggins, always send a WCC team to the 2nd round (For whatever reason, I picked against Gonzaga), and the Big East is overrated (I'M LOOKING AT YOU GEORGETOWN, VILLANOVA, AND PITTSBURGH!). Had I followed my own rules, maybe I still would have a chance to win some money.... you know, if Kansas hadn't brought teh suck and all.

(This is what the 91% of America who picked Kansas to advance to the Sweet Sixteen looked like Saturday afternoon)

The sports world waits, with bated breath, to listen to Tiger: I didn't learn much from the 5 minute interview ESPN did with Tiger on Sunday, but I did learn that he is officially bigger than the sport he plays. Sometimes, the people who play sports do things that make us forget that actual sport is being played. When I was a young lad, the rumor that Michael Jordan was retiring from basketball nearly shut down the ALCS between the White Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. Who could care about baseball, when the greatest athlete ever was quitting after only 9 years? Tiger, and his 5 minute pre-taped interview, reminded me of this phenomenon when coverage of his interview interrupted coverage of actual golf being played. While the Transitions Championship was being won by Jim Furyk on Sunday, no one cared, as seemingly everyone turned their attention to Tiger and his stately columns. Even the Golf Channel, who was actually covering the event, preempted coverage to show Tiger. It's incredible the amount of attention paid to a short, pre-taped interview. I fully expect a full-out media blitz come Masters weekend, but this caught me rather off guard.

Cody and Tyler, neck and neck: This weekend brought Buffs Nation the news that Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen not only were in a QB battle, but that they were "neck and neck." While I have repeatedly said over the past 3 years that Cody looks like the best QB option in practice, his continuous bad reads and lack of mobility shown last year forced me to concede that he is 2nd choice. That he is back in the running is remarkable. I hope for Cody's sake that this is just a ploy to keep Tyler working hard, because, if Cody is actually named starter, things could get ugly come September in Folsom Field. While I don't believe Tyler is a viable Big XII QB, I don't think that Buff fans would stand for another year of Hawkins under center. Unfortunately for Cody, he has become a physical and metaphorical manifestation of his father's failure to win ballgames, and needs to ride the pine. Eventually, one of the freshmen will have to see the field for CU to be competitive. But, until Moten or Hirschman proves ready, Tyler better lead the team onto the field.

Hey Joe Mauer, can I borrow 5 bucks?: Minnesota hometown hero Joe Mauer inked a 8 year, $184 million deal yesterday, to ensure that he plays the majority of his career in Minneapolis. On the surface, this is a great deal for both sides. Mauer gets paid what he's worth, and the Twins get their rock to build a franchise around. However, that rock may quickly turn into an anchor. Catchers are notoriously injury prone, as the position doesn't lend itself to good health. White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who catches near 150 every year, is the exception that proves the rule that catchers can't be everyday players. The only reason A.J. gets to play all the time is that he growls every time anyone even mentions the phrase "off-day." Mauer, who has already struggled with injuries, and is generally regarded as "large" for a catcher, will probably have to move out from behind the plate to save his knees. You just don't dump $23 million a year on a guy and not expect him to play over 150 games a year. Realistically, only the most durable of catchers even reach 120 games a year, and that's even an anomaly sometimes. Which brings me to this: don't expect super-star firstbasemenJustin Morneau to stick around in the near future. The easiest transition for a catcher is to move him to 1st, and with $184 million being spent on Mauer, the Twins probably won't be able to afford Morneau anyway when he becomes a free agent. Just saying, but my Sox will soon need a replacement for Paul Konerko.....

($184 million buys a lot of ice bags for your knees)

Jake Peavy says he doesn't like the Cubs: Jake, you and I are going to get along just fine...
(Yep, just fine... link.)

Twitter trouble for the Guillen family: Over the weekend, the news broke that Ozzie Guillen's son Oney quit his job with the White Sox over some censoring of his comments via twitter. Aaaaaaaand, I don't care. Does this show the volatility of Ozzie's perch within the Sox organization? Will Kenny Williams start tearing his hair out? How will Ozzie balance his desire to create a brand for himself with his responsibilities to the White Sox? I just don't care. This honestly has nothing to do with whether or not the Sox win ballgames. Ozzie will take care of his family's business, and the Sox will move on with theirs. Meanwhile, the players get another week without having to answer questions about their performance and expectations (I'm looking at you, Mark Teahen.)

Just play some damn music: Completely off topic.... coming into work this morning, the local radio station I listen to was playing some sort of call-in game during their morning show. The game was "Guess what's in my pocket," and involved a riddle-esque clue being thrown out to entice callers to guess what object the DJ was talking about. Talk about having nothing prepared to go on-air with. Seriously, just play some fucking music, that's all I want in the morning. I don't want to guess what's in your pocket, or hear you talk about your bikini calendar, or sit as you blather about topics you know nothing about. JUST PLAY MUSIC! If you want to be on AM radio, then go to AM radio.

Have a great week!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Beer Post: My first trip to Upslope Brewing

Being a dedicated beer lover and Boulder-ite has its advantages. There are plenty of outstanding breweries on my doorstep, just waiting to tickle my fancy with their latest concoctions. Boulder Beer, the elder statesmen of the Boulder brewing community, has been dishing up some great brews since 1979. Avery (a strong favorite of mine) has been pushing palette limits with their "big beers" since the early '90s. Just up the road in Longmont, Lefthand Brewery holds its own with their Boulder County brethren. It seems as if there is an endless supply of great local brews and breweries to keep my attention.

Considering this, it is no small feat when a newcomer makes me sit-up and applause. For over a year now, Upslope Brewing Company has been been making quite a name for itself. Proud to be "Boulder's newest brewery," Upslope is tucked into a small shopping center/office park in No-Bo (North Boulder). Currently they only produce 2 beer varieties for market (an IPA, and the magnificent Pale Ale, which I'll discuss in a bit), but if you swing into their tap room, they typically have other varieties on tap.

Breaking with the craft brewing industry standard, they can all of their beers. While I find this weird, just for comparative reasons, it fits with their stated goal of taping into, and catering to, Boulder's active lifestyles. Canned beers are easier (and lighter) to pack in and pack out on hiking and camping trips. While I am usually never seen on any hiking or camping trips, I do appreciate their catering to this massive section of the local market.


This past weekend, on a beer-induced whim, a friend and I ventured over to Upslope's rather unassuming taproom. Wonderfully simple, the tap room has about enough space for 25 standing people, with a nice collection of beer magazines and books. There's even a corn-hole game outside, to help you pass the time.

While there, I sampled their stout, which as of yet is only available at the brewery. It was wonderful. I usually avoid stouts, because I find they can either taste watered down, or become overblown by the roasted malt flavor. That was not the case with Upslope's version. There's a wondrous full character to the beer. A pleasant floral hop character dances in the background of the excellent roasted malt flavor. Not too strong, or too weak, this beer gets it right. I found it to be a stellar brew.

Before I left, I also purchased a 6-pack of Upslope's signature pale ale. I really love this beer; it's so well crafted. There is a nice "twang" to the hops up top, and then the beer settles in on the palette, delivering a smooth malty finish. Pale ales are what I consider "staple beers." It's like a smooth jumper in basketball; if you can do that well, you find playing time, regardless of your other abilities. In brewing, if you can make a good version of a pale ale, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on everything going forward.

Really, Upslope is everything I want in a brewery. They're small, unobtrusive, intelligent, and they don't forget who they're brewing for. Sometimes, I feel that breweries get caught up in the process, in the engineering challenge of beer, rather than focusing on why people drink beer in the first place: flavor and fun. Outlandish brewing is fun, sure, but I'll come back if the beer tastes good. I love the concepts of brews that test the boundaries of a brewers ability (see the bottle of Sink the Bismarck! that's making its way to my doorstep), and I love to sample them, but I will come back to buy 6-packs of basic pale ales. It's no small point. I highly expect Upslope to do well, because of that.

I highly suggest, if you haven't already, that you take a trip up to No-Bo to visit Upslope. It's worth your time.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's Tourney Time: Bring out the chalk (Updated)

(Update) Seriously, fuck Georgetown

My favorite two days of the year are here. I vehemently believe that the first two days of the NCAA Tournament are the best two days that the sports world has to offer. Football bores me, so January 1st and Superbowl Sunday are out. The World Series goes on forever (Seriously 2 off days between home games?). I guess the only other competition would be baseball's Opening Day. But instead of one afternoon (that's ruined because of the ESPN game that goes on the previous night) we get two days of non-stop games. Whoever came up with this concept should get a Nobel Prize. I'm not sure for what category.... maybe chemistry? (Why not)

(I award you the Nobel Prize in the field of Awesomeness)

This year, I've finally given in. With the selection committee focusing more and more on seeding and match-ups (not to mention protecting higher seeds), I've "chalked" up my brackets. My official bracket has essentially only 2 surprises in the Sweet Sixteen, and none in the Elite Eight. Outside of Washington and UTEP, I don't see any high-seeds really challenging the "chalk." Gone are the days where I will have a 14 beating a 3 with a straight face. I just can't base my bracket on upsets when there are fewer and fewer real "upsets" every year.

While many people have, correctly, pointed out that the college basketball landscape is topsy-turvey this year, I don't think that it necessarily correlates to a crazy tournament. Sure, a "Hampton" or a "Valparaiso" could happen, but even in those particular circumstances, the teams were under-rated because the tournament selection committee hadn't really seen them over the year. With the influx of viewing options, and a strict mandate to get out and watch teams play, the committee is much better at doing its job then it was ten years ago. Subsequently, teams are better seeded, and higher-seeds are better protected to survive the early rounds. In other words, if you're a #3, not only do you probably deserve that seed, but you'll be protected against strong 14's and 6's.

Obviously, you have to gamble a bit when crafting your bracket (which is where UTEP and Washington come in) but for the most part, if you aren't going with the chalk, you're doing it wrong.

Of course, by the time 9pm rolls around this evening, that whole theory will have been torn to shreds, and my brackets will have been crumpled up and trashed. So, as always, the bracket is a cruel mistress, and I have no idea what I'm doing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let's all give a round of applause to Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Alllllllllllllll the way back in November of last year, a funny little team, with messed up uniforms and a long name, showed up to the Coors Events (and Conference) Center to have a game with the Buffs. They were awful. Just plain awful. CU led 43-22 at half, and cruised over the 2nd to grab a 88-72 victory. That team was the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

They played the role of the early-season fodder they were supposed to be perfectly. They took their loss, and left, without much fanfare. I remember particularly laughing at the fact that their uniforms looked like they were falling apart. I also remember thinking that, being a senior laden team from a small conference, regardless of the outcome that day, they probably had a better chance of making the NCAA Tournament then CU did.

(You can kind of see the uniform issues on #'s 23, 14, and 34. Seriously, who's their equipment guy? From

And so, I was not surprised to watch the Golden Lions win last night in the (don't say play-in game) opening game of the NCAA Tournament. With impeccable looking uniforms, UAPB beat Winthrop to earn the right to get bitch-slapped by Duke. It's funny the way things work out. UAPB was an afterthought minutes after that November game. They were for a lot of other teams as well, as they toured the west; playing 14 road dates before having their first home game in the middle of January. It must of been hard to be a Golden Lion at that point. Long bus rides to far off arenas, only to be the chum in the early season shark tank for major conference opponents. In all this season, UAPB played only 9 games in Pine Bluff, compared to 25 games "out-and-about." It must have been hard just to go to practice every day. How did they attend classes? I've taken tests on bus rides before, and it sucks. If anyone deserves the chance to have their name in lights, and their score mentioned on SportsCenter, its those guys.

I usually take a dim view of the (let's face it) play-in game. The teams are usually terrible, from conferences I don't care about, and from places I've never been. But maybe that's the point that I've been skipping over. These guys should have their moment in the sun. Their chance to play on a neutral court versus one of the best teams in the country.

Of course, come Friday night, Duke will beat them with typical Coach K efficiency. Coach K will wrangle the refs, and wear his opponent down, like he always does. But at least UAPB will have earned the right to say that they belong, even if it's just for 48 hours; that the trips to Boulder, CO, El Paso, Texas, Stillwater, OK, and Ann Arbor, MI were all worth it. Maybe the play-in game is a good idea, if stories like UAPB's are what come out of it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Derrick Jackson is fooling himself

It seems like every year, around Tournament time, someone comes along to write an article about graduation rates in the scope of the Tournament. It's always some blather in the realm of, "Where has the "student" in student athlete gone?" Specifically, this article in the Boston Globe caught my eye this year. Columnist Derrick Jackson makes some very good points, in a very good article. Kentucky Coach John Calipari does recruit some questionable "students", and Kentucky's graduation rate for it's black players is truly abysmal. However, just because an argument is well written and justly made doesn't mean it isn't stupid.

(Would you buy Snake Oil from this man? Good coach though...)

Realistically, the idea of the "student athlete" in the two major collegiate sports is antiquated. College Football and Men's Basketball are big money entities now (and will be for the foreseeable future), and where there is money the rules get thrown out the window. The NBA and the NFL need their player factory, and the NCAA is more than happy to oblige, damn the implications. Any expectation to the contrary, and you're just fooling yourself.

("You're fooling yourself....)

Does that mean that I'm happy with the system? Hell no! But that doesn't mean that I get in a huff when I see results that I've come to expect from the NCAA and its member institutions. Going back to Jackson's article, he notes that there is no penalty when a player turns pro early while still in good academic standing.
"This is particularly outrageous as the NCAA no longer penalizes schools in graduation-rate reports for players who leave early for the pros, as long as they were in good academic standing. Between that statistical adjustment and the schools that on their own elevated their game in the classroom, renegade programs are more exposed than ever."
What does he expect? I'm just happy they went to class in the first place. (Such as it is... I don't think that Michael Beasley was exactly taking advanced trig during his semester and a half at JuCo St. Same goes for every one and done prospect.)

("Student" Athlete..... nope, not buying it)

I firmly believe that every player has the right to leave school early. If the money's there, I can't honestly expect a kid to put it on hold, and possibly risk his stock falling in the mean time. And if the kid expects to leave school early, its naive to think that he will take his collegiate experience at face value... where's the incentive? Talking to a 19 year old kid, who's been told he's the next LeBron James since he was 9 years old, about what he'll be doing after his playing days are over, is like trying to convince a brick wall that it needs to move to the right by about 3 feet. It's a waste of time.

Of course the system is broken, you just noticed this? But it's not the fault of Kentucky, Maryland, UNLV or Texas for playing within the system presented to them. It's been well established that the Sun will set every late afternoon. Running around complaining that you would rather it just stay up is just as idiotic as running around bemoaning the state of the "student athlete" concept.

I, personally, am far more concerned with the exploitation of the athletes for financial gain. The NCAA makes billions off of these guys, and they essentially get vastly underpaid. Their likenesses and performances are used for marketing purposes with no residuals returned, and they work their asses off on and off the field (sometimes... I'm looking at you Beasley...) for relatively little pay. As Ed O'Bannon has said, performers are entitled to fair compensation; and, no, an "educational opportunity" is not priceless.

In the end, the NCAA needs to do one of three things:
  1. Crack down on the system. Make it legitimately academic focused, take the marketing out of the game, and essentially throw away that giant pile of money they've been making for themselves. (Knowing old white men, I highly doubt this will happen)
  2. Rework the system. Give up on the notion of "Student athletes" that everyone one outside of the NCAA knows is a joke, and turn it into a mega-hype machine. Start sharing revenues with the players (man do collegiate athletes need a strong player's union) and embrace the business side of things (Knowing old white men, I highly doubt this will happen)
  3. Continue as is. Keep counting that cash and exploiting and selling the lie that these guys are amateur student athletes. (Yep, that's the one the old white men will go for)
Expecting anything other than #3, and the current standard of results, is just fooling yourself.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Your What Hurts?: James Lipton wrote the Thundercats theme song

If you watch Sox games long enough, you get to know Sox announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson. Love him or leave him, "Hawk," and his numerous "Hawkisms," are as known to Sox fans as balls and strikes and the dreamy-ness of Gordon Beckham. One of my favorite Hawkisms is "Your What Hurts?" If you say something that makes no sense, hawk will respond with "Your What Hurts?" to both mock you and state his confusion. In that vein, I'm going to start a new series on my blog. This will be a randomly occurring series where I document things that make your brain stop functioning because of their randomness and unbelievability.

For example: the first one is the fact that James Lipton (The "Inside the Actors Studio" Guy) wrote the theme song to the "Thundercats" cartoon show. Really.
(Yep, that guy wrote the Thundercats theme)

Your What Hurts?

Lipton's IMDB page.

Link from Warming Glow.

Monday Grab Bag: Brady Quinn Update

Regretably, I forgot to include my thoughts on Brady Quinn going to the Broncos in the grab bag. Let me get this out of the way: Kyle Orton is a better NFL QB than Quinn. Orton may not have the measurables, but til the day that Kyle retires, I will defend his ability to play to the hilt. He wins. And, yes Herm Edwards, YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. Brady Quinn, much like Jimmy Clausen in this years draft, is less than the sum of his parts. For one reason or another, Quinn just isn't "the one." Sure he'll throw some great looking balls, with a nice spiral. But, he isn't going to lead the 'cos to where they want to be. Kyle Orton may not be that guy, but Brady Quinn sure as hell isn't either. Not convinced Broncos fans? Let's put this in simple terms: The Browns would rather have Seneca Wallace and Jake Dellhome than Brady Quinn. That's good enough reason to doubt the kid for me.

(The one on the right is your new Denver Broncos QB.)

But, yet again, the Bears look dumb. The Broncos gave up almost nothing to get an over-hyped "face-of-the-franchise" QB. They Bears gave up almost everything. (I'm sorry, but just because Peyton Hillis does "everything" and plays "hard" doesn't equal the bajillion draft picks the Bears gave up for Le Sulk.) Still the dumbest trade ever, the Cutler trade just got worse today. I may never get a handle on player valuation in the NFL, but I sure as hell know that when you can get Brady Quinn (Who Bears fans would've loved just as much as Le Sulk. Being from Notre Dame and all...) for peanuts, then giving up a year and a half's worth of draft picks for his SEC equivalent is moronic. Nice work Bears, keep fucking that chicken.

Monday Grab Bag: Bracket Day!

What does America understand? Brackets! Much like Nudie Magazine Day was for Billy Madison, Bracket Day is a day of celebration for me.... until I look at my completed sheet and sigh.

The NCAA Tournament Field: In an upset, CU had its bubble burst, and got left out of The Tournament (*chortle*). With them out of the field, I'm gonna have to go with Kansas. Seriously, who worries them? Maryland, Michigan St, Georgetown, or Ohio State don't. Same with Duke. Those two teams have a pretty easy road-a-hoe'n ahead of them. Look for KU vs Duke in the final. And, as always, I am completely wrong about everything related to the Tourney. Since I actually follow basketball, I have no chance of winning any pool I am entered in.

(Even Cory and Marcus think my bracket is a joke)

Upset Picks: Like everyone else, I like UTEP (even as far as the Sweet Sixteen!). I also like Washington, St Mary's, and Utah State. Siena and Cornell are fool's follys and are just a waste of time to pick them. My internal jury is still out on Old Dominion vs Notre Dame. The Irish are closing the season strong, so I'll probably stick with them.

Leave the Tournament Alone: Over the past few months, and especially this morning, I have been bombarded with calls to tweak the Tourney. Notions to include more teams or change the selection committee continue to pop up every now and then. Let's get this straight: The Tournament is fine, leave it alone. Coaches just want to expand the dance to save their friends jobs. The media wants to tweak the selection committee because.... well I don't know (It's probably because they can't stand to let a good thing be good). The field, as currently situated is perfectly fine; a good number of BCS schools get in, and there are still enough at-large bids left over to include some "mid-majors." If you expand the field, there there is no more meaning to being a "tournament" team (forgetting for a moment, that the regular season would mean nothing). The selection committee does an exemplary job in a small amount of time. What's the problem with the field? Who got left out? Illinois? I love the Orange and Blue, but if they wanted to dance, they should've beaten Bradley, or won an extra Big 11 tournament game. The point is, more mediocre teams would not necessarily make for a better tournament.

(Villanova coach Jay Wright would just love to mess with the Tournament. Leave it alone, Jay!)

David Beckham is out, and it doesn't necessarily hurt the U.S.: English Right-Midfielder David Beckham tore his Achilles Tendon over the weekend, and will miss the World Cup. With England being the U.S.A.'s opening opponent in the WC, I looked at how this will affect the match-up. Initially, when you look at his probable replacements (Aaron Lennon, Ashley Young, Theo Walcott) you should notice the massive change in pace. Becks superstar 30+ year old legs can't come close to the speed that his replacements can bring to the table. The interesting thing is that it shouldn't matter much against the U.S. In recent match-ups against speedier wing players (Netherlands and Spain) the U.S. has simply let the speed wings do their thing, while locking down on midfield. Obviously, Becks talent lies with his free kick. Add to that his ability to quickly shift the field of play (through long crosses) and he would probably have caused more trouble for the U.S. than his theoretical replacements. Still, U.S. wing backs will have to be sure to eat their Wheaties before the suddenly speedier England team takes the field.

(Essentially, his international career is over. Buck up, David: the MLS will still have you! From: The BBC)

Rex Ryan and his soon to be less Flabby Gut: Rex Ryan, awesome guy and coach of the New York Jets, has opted for lap band surgery. Another dude falls from the noble "fat man" club. We'll miss you Rex.

Jared Mitchell out for season: The top Sox prospect, CF Jared Mitchell, is probably out for the season with a torn ankle tendon suffered while making a sweet grab against the hated Cubs. While he is just a prospect, and still probably a year or two away from leading off for the South Sider's before the injury, he was very exciting to watch in Spring Training. The Sox sure have done well for themselves, taking championship level college players over "high-ceiling" high school question marks in recent drafts (See: Beckham, Gordon). Hopefully, Mitchell will make a full recovery, and not have his outstanding athleticism diminished because of this.

(Get well soon, Jared! From:

Have a happy Monday!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quick Post: Graphical contemplation of esoteric and physical power

I Found this funny.... yes I'm a dork.

(Updated) Friday Beer Post: Despite the Great Recession, Craft Beer grows

A short article in the Daily Camera caught my eye this week. It seems that, despite the sluggishness of the overall economy, the craft brewing industry continues to grow.

Based on a report from the Brewers Association, the article describes an uptick last year in not only craft beer sales, but growth in market share and number of craft breweries. In 2009, craft breweries reported an overall increase in sales by dollar (10.3%) and by volume (7.2%). Market share increased to 6.9% by dollar amount of the whole beer industry.

(Oskar Blues, who opened this new facility in Longmont, reported a sales increase of 145% last year)

This is welcome news. That craft brewing, which can be considered a premium product, can expand its economic heft during a time of wallet tightening is impressive. Besides the raw numeric growth, 49 extra breweries jumped into the market over the past year. This shows that investors and entrepreneurs see continued potential in the craft brewing market, and are willing, despite the economic downturn, to jump in feet first.

Going further, specialty brews, like seasonals, grew 25% last year. People want interesting new, and sometimes challenging, options. Craft brewing is providing those options. We haven't hit any sort of market saturation point yet. There are still opportunities out there for new brewers with new ideas.

(Update: You can find a further writeup of the uptick in craft brewing at the Denver Craft Beer Examiner Blog)

Have a Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Soccer: commercial free, relegation, and the free market

I'd like to take a small detour from my normal discussion points (Baseball, Basketball, and Beer) and focus on soccer. Specifically the English Premier League.

I find English Soccer fascinating because of a couple of intriguing aspects. Initially, I was drawn in by the lack of commercials and constant pace. Recent studies by the Wall Street Journal have found that there is only about 11 minutes of actual game action in a typical NFL game. You get 67 minutes of players just standing around, and almost an hour of commercials. (Short aside: it's because of this, that I find football particularly boring. I cannot watch a football game that I don't have a horse in, it just bores me to tears. Football, as a sport, is by far, my least favorite of the "big 4" 'Murikan sports) Soccer, on the other hand, has no commercial breaks during the games. It's just 45 minutes of game, followed by a break for halftime, followed by another 45 minutes of game. All-in-all, from kickoff to conclusion, a soccer match finishes in under 2 hours, every time. It's very easy to get wrapped up in a soccer match.

I find commercial breaks to be abhorrent. Obviously, the T.V. networks need to have a revenue stream to re-coop the broadcast rights cash that they dole out, but the over-commercialization of sports kills the flow of the game. Did you like that Olympic hockey? It possibly has to do with the lack of media timeouts during the periods. NBC had to cram commercials in between normal whistles on the ice. The flow of the game, when uninterrupted by artificial media breaks, in massively enhanced. Who hasn't been stuck in football commercial hell? Interception, 3 minute media time-out for the possession switch, score on the next play, extra point, 4 minute media time-out for the possession switch, kick-off, 3 minute media time-out for the possession switch. It makes me want to rip (what's left of) my damn hair out. Don't even get me started on the 2 1/2 minute breaks between half-innings in baseball. What I don't get is why we sit for this shit.

A further aspect is the free wheeling nature of player transfers. Because of the large number of clubs and leagues around the world, there is plenty of competition and options on the player market. You are not forced to deal with your primary competitors in order to improve your team . If an NFL team want to improve their roster, they almost have to talk to another NFL team, which can create an inflated value system.

International soccer leagues are also devoid of a draft system. If you want new talent, it won't come to you, you have to beat other teams to get it. Teams also have youth systems, creating an in-house talent pool that, hopefully, will create the next generation of on field talent. Baseball has started down this path as many teams have youth organizations in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations, specifically to cultivate talent that isn't covered by the draft system.

A final intriguing aspect is the concept of relegation. Relegation is the manner by which soccer clubs are pressured to constantly produce a winner. For example: in the 20 team EPL, the bottom 3 teams in the standings, each year, are relegated (sent down) to a lower league (In this case the Coca-Cola Championship League). This system is in place throughout the English soccer system, down to the smallest recreational club teams. Since higher revenues (and glory) come from playing in higher level leagues, it constantly puts pressure on teams to perform if they want to stay financially viable. Even this past year, traditional power Newcastle United was sent to the equivalent of AAA baseball because they had such a shitty season. No one is safe, there are no free rides. You have to constantly be improving you club and your investment if you want to stay at the top.

In 'Murikan sports, teams (and owners) are protected from such a reality. A prime example are the Florida Marlins. About every 6 or 7 years they spit out a championship level group of talent, then sell it off for scraps. For the next 5 years, the team is typically awful and an embarrassment to baseball. They are enabled in this by the system of revenue sharing. This system, set up with good intentions, essentially rewards a team for repeatedly fielding young, cheap talent, and selling them off before they attain a truly competitive level. The Marlins, and other teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals, have repeatedly taken advantage of this system, throwing their young, cheap talent the the wolves, pocketing the revenue sharing payments, and starting over the next year (To the extent that recently Commissioner Bud Selig has told the Marlins ownership group that they have to start actually spending the money they receive on players, or they will receive less.). No matter how bad a team they field, the clubs are rewarded, rather than punished for failure and excess. Isn't the nature of relegation a little harsh? Sure. But isn't the free market supposed to be harsh? American sports, as currently constituted, make up little more than corporate welfare for the rich backed by tax-payer dollars (Free stadiums, tax breaks, etc...).

While the EPL isn't a perfect league (One of their teams, Portsmouth F.C. is about to essentially cease to exist following this season), it does offer a bunch of different aspects that I feel contrast favorably with the traditional American sports model. With the World Cup coming up, this is the perfect time to give international soccer a chance. I bet you might find something that you enjoy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This ones for you Rico...

Live Blogging the CU vs Texas Tech game

Ok, so here's how this is going to work. I'll make this initial post, and then I'll repeatedly update it throughout the game. I'll include time-stamps with game time and score along with my comments.

(Final 82-67 Tech) Well, it's a shame that this is how it ends. I'm not sure how the CBI tournament goes, but the NIT is definitely out the window. Turnovers were the key. If CU had kept them down, it's probably a different story. Tech goes on a 74-49 run from the 11 minute mark in the 1st half. Burks plays well in his first Tourney Game, grabbing a double-double and 24 pts. Cory adds 18, but where was Relphorde after the 1st 5 minutes? Great adjustments by the 8 Tech coaches to quiet him, and get their guys to turn up the pressure to get the 19 turnovers CU was willing to offer them. CU finished with (only) 42% shooting. Tech ended up out shooting CU. CU was out rebounded 36-26.

Next year will, hopefully, be a great opportunity to watch winning CU basketball. Hopefully we'll be hearing about an incoming big man in the next few months. Cross your fingers.

(2nd Half 1:50 77-63 Tech) CU not getting calls in the lane that I'm sure they'd like (Personally, I'd rather no one get them, but I'm partial so, in this instance, they're terrible no calls). Roberson gets ESPN's player of the game.... sure, why not. CU has quieted him to an extent in the 2nd half, but that's fair. It really is over now as the lead is 14.

(2nd Half 2:50 73-63 Tech) Well, they're still trying. Al Burks has a double-double. OK, so when I said the season was over.... maybeee I was a little hasty. CU out working Tech right now. Tech has taken the foot off the peddle. It was down to 8 but Tech hits 2 free throws.

(2nd Half 4:40 71-58 Tech) Yep, the season's over. No coming back now. Press starting to get to Tech a little bit, though.

(2nd Half 5:50 67-52 Tech) Tech, wisely, just attacking the rim at this point after taking time. They have this game, as long as they don't get crazy. CU full-court-pressing in desperation mode. Hoping to cause a turnover... which they do! CU, also, trying to attack the rim on every possession

(2nd Half 6:50 65-49 Tech) Tech now in the bonus. We have a Keegan Hornbuckle sighting! Al Burks, much like the KU road game, seems to be the only one playing hard for 40 minutes. Shame that senior Dwight Thorne has had limited minutes today.

(2nd Half 8:00 61-46 Tech) 2nd chance points.... Tech just got 3 separate looks to get a bucket. That's been the story this year. It could be mitigated if CU didn't have 17 turnovers... oh, well.

(2nd Half 9:30 59-46 Tech) I'm still not convinced that Levi Knutson consistently provides anything on the court other than a warm body in Big XII play. ESPN running a nice package of CU's turnover's right now. Cory starting to wake up? Kind of?

(2nd Half 11:00 56-42 Tech) Tech is expanding it's rebounding lead (27-19), while CU continues to turn the ball over.

(2nd Half 12:50 52-37 Tech) Relphorde picks up his 3rd foul. He's really cooled off as the game has progressed. 8 quick points to start. Only 2 pts since. Al Burks starting to really show himself in whats essentially his home town. Where is Cory Higgins? CU jumps to a 1-3-1 matchup zone to try and change things up... and gives up 5 quick points. It's getting away from the Buffs. I doubt CU will be able to come back from the 15 point lead Tech has opened up.

(2nd Half 15:00 45-35 Tech) Of the 11 times CU trailed at the half in Big 12 games this year, CU only came back to win 2. CU finally scores in the 2nd half. Al Burks gets his 500th point on the season. Congrats Al!

(2nd Half 16:15 41-31 Tech ) CU yet to score in the 2nd half... turnovers, turnovers.... starting to look bad. Remember when I questioned if they'd panic? They are on defense, and they're starting to take weird shots.

(2nd Half 17:30 37-31 Tech) Mark Johnson rightly points out that there has been no interior presence so far. The 3's haven't been falling from Dufault and Crawford. CU really scrambling on D, Tech's speed is causing problems.

(Halftime) It really is a shame CU started turning the ball over. With 10 minutes to go, this game was a replay of Saturday. Focus drifted, Tech got some confidence, and the run was on. CU needs to turn the switch back to on in the 2nd half if they want to taste the NIT. Shooting slowed, dropping below 50%, as Tech's shots started falling. Foul troubles are almost non-existent (Nate has 2), which is nice to see. It'd be nice to see some lock-down-d on Roberson as he has 12, and is hitting every open shot. Lapses in D are a carbon copy from the 2nd half of Saturday. Relphorde and Al Burks are in double figures in points.

(Halftime 35-31 Tech) Big 3 from Burks, big stop on d, and CU releases. Foul on the break, and Burks goes to the line. Burks hits both free throws. He's really turned it on over the last few minutes. Tech hits a 3 right before the end of the half.

(1st Half 1:40 32-26 Tech) Really sloppy play from the Buffs. Missing easy shots, throwing passes away. Tech extending their lead... where has the energy gone? CU in bad need of a spark. CU losing turnover battle 11-7... just awful. Also being out rebounded 14-11. CU will not win anything with numbers like that. Tech has gone on a 24-6 run.... sigh.

(1st Half 4:00 28-24 Tech) Tech takes the lead... will CU panic? Man-Man D really causing difficulties for CU, TO's and lethargy really killing CU right now. CU again leaving Roberson open from deep. He has 3 3's. Just like Saturday, perimeter D letting the Buffs down.

(1st Half 6:00 22-22) TO's really starting to stunt CU's game. They're the only reason Tech is close. Relphorde continues to be big, as he gets a steal which leads to a slam. Tech starts to hit their 3's and ties up the game. Charles Johnson notes that CU is playing slower.

(1st Half 8:00 20-16 CU) CU defense is really aggressive early. Force Tech to call a timeout on an inbounds play. Tech is having to take tough shots. CU really trying to kick out on rebounds to jump-start offense. Tech goes on a mini-run, starts to close gap as CU starts to turn the ball over.

(1st Half 11:20 18-8 CU) An offensive rebound! That's 2! CU is out rebounding Tech 8-5. CU also spreading the ball around. Have 5 assists early compared to 2 TO's. Tech is only shooting 2-11. Good defense, too.

(1st Half 13:15 16-8 CU) Much like Saturday, Tech is getting in foul trouble with grabbing cutters. CU is shooting over 50% right now (5-9) as Dwight Thorne hits a 3. Good stuff.

(1st Half 15:30 11-5 CU) Relphorde is really showing himself today. Hoop and harm here just symbolic of his aggression. Good to see. As much as I like his shooting, he needs to attack the rim. Has 8 pts in the early going.

(1st Half 17:00 8-3 CU) If you're stuck at work like me, you can watch the game at (Thanks, Trev!)

(1st Half 18:30, 3-0 CU) CU came out quick, winning the tip and converting on a back-cut. Relphorde is attacking the basket early, which is nice to see. Mark Johnson mentions that Tech is a little sloppy early

(Pregame) For what it's worth, ESPN Insider has CU as having 63% probability to win the game.

(Pregame) Coach Bz talked in the Daily Camera about the concept of better vs better. Both teams will, theoretically, play "better" than they did on Saturday (Certainly, if either team repeats effort or scheme, they will get killed). It's all an issue of who's "better" will be better today.

Things to watch for:
  • Foul Trouble - Thankfully, CU has generally stayed out of this over the past few weeks. But, if the 8 coaches of Tech are smart, they'll try to get CU's two bigs (Dufault and Crawford) into trouble quickly. When a team wants to get fouls called on the Buffs, Dufault especially is usually willing to oblige them early in games.
  • Shooting - Throughout the season, the story has been the disparity between home and road shooting. Watch CU's shooting early. If shots are falling, the Buffs have a great shot to win.
  • Rebounding vs Turnovers - It's been noted that over the recent 3 game win streak CU hasn't rebounded well. But the key, rather than the glaring rebounding deficiencies, has been not only causing turnovers, but limiting those CU commits. Rebounding is almost inconsequential if CU cuts down on TO's, causes some of their own, and shoots the ball the way they are capable of doing.
I'm wary of the whole rematch factor. It's difficult to beat a team twice in less than a week's time. Hopefully Coach Bz has something extra up his sleeve.