Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Beer Post: Victory and Maharaja

Wednesday night was glorious. Smack-dab in the middle of a week that sees me struggling to move out of my house, Wednesday brought an evening of frivolous bliss. The mighty Walker Texas Rangers were in the spring softball championship game, which gave me an excuse to get out of packing/boxing/cleaning for the evening. We, of course, whupped the competition, securing the title that had been rightly ours since the 1st week of the season. Winning, as should be expected, leads to celebration, which found me at the local excuse for a "sports bar." Surprisingly enough, Avery's Maharajah was on tap.

In retrospect, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that Avery's "great king" of Imperial IPA's was on tap; the brewery is just down the street after all. Never-the-less, flushed with post-championship adrenalin, I could barely contain my excitement as I ordered (along with the requisite wings and chili-cheese-fries). I have always enjoyed Maharaja. It's wonderful IIPA, especially because of the balance between the large amounts of hops and malt. Typically, you can only find Maharaja in 22oz bottles, so finding it, at a sports bar no less, on tap was a delightful find.

The first thing I notice when tasting the "great-king" is the light fruity/citrus flavors of the hops. Compared with other IPA offerings from Avery, specifically the impactfull Dugana, the hop flavors are allowed to "sing," rather than "punch." Don't get me wrong, there is bitterness, and acids floating around in there, it's just that the high malt content covers them up so that the higher fruity and floral notes can shine through (I tasted lots of musk-melon along with the typical citrus). The same effect can be said of the high (can be 10%+, depending on year) alcohol content. The balance between the hops and malt is such that you don't notice the alcohol. On the same vein I had Oskar Blues "Gubna" (another Imperial IPA) last night, and the high alcohol content, along with the strong bitter hop flavors was almost too much. Through this, you can really see where balance and craftsmanship comes into play (Although I believe that absurdity was what OB was going for with Gubna, so take that with a grain of salt).

Maharaja made for a great cap to my evening. On tap it is very drinkable, and the pint-sized pour is perfect for session consumption (22oz is almost too much for one go, even over the course of a full evening). In addition, I find that the sharper hop flavors are muted slightly when tapped, making it more enjoyable. If you find it on tap, get it and thank me later.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

That needed doing

Thank God the Bulls lost last night. The season's over, and the real focus of the year can begin. Simply stated, the team, as currently constituted, isn't capable of competing for a championship. So, as I alluded to on Monday, the focus of the season needed to have been positioning the team for a vital off season. The Reindorf-ian mandate to always compete meant that a Bill Simmons-esque tanking for a lottery pick was never an option, but big time Free Agency acquisitions are definitely possible. Along those lines, here is a list of 3 things the Bulls need to do in order to better position themselves for the future:
  • #1) Fire Vinny Del Negro: This essentially can go without saying. He needs to go. After being the only thing between the team and an awesome 1st round upset of the Celtics last year, Vinny only compounded his coaching inadequacies this year. To quote Trib writer Steve Rosenbloom "Now the only question is whether the Bulls let Vinny Del Negro on the team plane." Everyone, including Vinny, knows this is going down, so now all the Bulls have to do is avoid firing him in an unprofessional manner. (Which, apparently, is tough for the organization to do)
  • #2) Find that illusive interior scoring option: The story of the Bulls big-man search is a long and storied one. Not since the days of Elton Brand has there been a truly NBA-level offensive force residing in the "man-in-the-middle" post at the UC. Years of trying to acquire the likes of Kevin Garnett and Amare Stoudemire have achieved nothing. (Don't be confused: the new-age Bill Laimbeer, is awesome and all, but his scoring is on the Rodman-ish level.) Obviously big-man scoring is always at a premium, but at some point the Bulls have to actually have something to show for effort in the category, right?
  • #3) Sign massive free agent: I'll say this now, LeBron isn't coming (The chants of "King James sucks!" at the UC this past week couldn't have helped). Chris Bosh would help with category 2 as well as satisfying this category, but I think it's time to bring native son Dwyane Wade home. The good thing is that GM Paxson has put the Bulls in the position to go after a star-quality scoring option through proper cap-space management. As long as it's not Joe Johnson, I'll probably be satisfied.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Desertion? Not hardly.

When I was watching the NFL draft coverage Saturday afternoon (The Sox and Hawks games were over... nothing else was on) Herm Edwards relayed an interesting tidbit regarding the Myron Rolle situation. Apparently one team had asked Rolle (The former Florida St. linebacker who put the NFL off for a year to take advantage of his Rhodes Scholarship in England) in interviews how he "felt after abandoning his team" to take advantage of the scholarship. (After having completed his degree in only 2.5 years, Rolle applied for, received, and accepted the scholarship. To accept he waived his final year of eligibility) It's a crap question from a shallow human being, whoever he may be. But it got me thinking about the circumstances that lead players to leave their teammates behind.

(Be proud, Myron. You made the right choice. From: this place)

The gears were furthered along last evening when I read about the impending transfer of Buffs reserve forward Keegan Hornbuckle. CU sports, and especially the basketball team, have been hard hit by transfers and drop-outs over the past few years. The basketball list is particularly offensive to the eye. Since the day Jeff Bzdelik was hired (April 4th, 2007), the following players have left the program: Kal Bay, James Inge, Sean Kowal, Marc Van Burck, Xavier Silas, Jeremy Williams, Caleb Patterson, Kyle Wright, Andrew Zehnder, Toby Veal, Ryan Kelley and Keegan Hornbuckle. That's damn close to an entire team! Considering the seemingly desperate search for a big man to eat up the low block, how good would Caleb Patterson, Jeremy Williams, Sean Kowal or Toby Veal be looking in a Buffs uniform right now? Add to this the high profile football cases of Josh Smith, Darrell Scott and Kendrick Celestine, and maybe something in the water gives CU athletes the wanderlust (the taste of losing perhaps?).

(I will not hold a grudge Keegan. From: the BDC)

I do not, in most cases, blame these kids (and at 18 or 19, that's what they are) for transferring. Be it because of a coaching change, or simply a change in attitudes/priorities, these kids are finding that, for whatever reason they no longer want to be with their team. Yes, there is a commitment made between both the University and the athlete to compensate them with a scholarship in exchange for their participation in athletics, but this isn't the military, and sometimes life gets in the way. Certainly it's hard, from a teammate perspective, to watch your friends go, but I don't think of these guys as "abandoning their teammates." Life takes precedent. If you feel you have to go home to take care of your kid (like Kendrick Celestine), then that's what you need to do. If you feel the situation has changed because of a coaching switch (like the RP ex-pats), then that happens. If you need to seek out your burgeoning rap production career (like Josh Smith, lol), then that's what's got to happen (just kidding, his rationalization was lame). It's college, and these guys are not professionals (no matter how much we'd like to think of them as pros).

I wish Keegan well. Hell, I wish all of the ex-pat Buffs well.


Back to Rolle; he felt that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to further his life (and potentially the life of his future progeny)
and further his education by attending school at Oxford was important. Damn straight it was. You have to take care of your own self. For him to have the perspective to take advantage of all of the gifts that God bestowed upon him is impressive, not negative. If some idiot in an NFL front office doesn't understand the need to take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, then fuck him, and fuck the NFL for propagating such a culture. If I was an NFL GM, I'd draft a guy like Myron in a heartbeat. Any organization (be it in the professional or athletic world) would be foolish to pass up men, like Rolle, who bring the full package to the table.

Quick Post: Everyone gets a Trophy!

The Cubs and Sox have announced that, come their 6 games this summer, the two teams will be playing for the BP Crosstown Cup. How frickin lame is that.

They're mid-season baseball games, and while they do hold added importance for the fans, the players couldn't give two shits about the "rivalry." (Well except for A.J. who got punched that one time, and Ozzie who has repeatedly referred to Wrigley as a rat-infested toilet.) Trophies are for champions, not mid-season inter-league series.

(Michael Barrett is a jackass)

Oh look, they even got a sponsor! How completely awful.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Grab Bag: A good weekend

A little late with the bag, but a lot of stuff to touch on...

The Sox always come from behind: I mentioned a few weeks ago that with the awful hitting, and awesome pitching, the Sox will be in a lot of close games this year. Thankfully, they won each of the 3 close ones they played over the weekend. After having been written off by this guy, the Sox get late homers in each game to win. Friday night, it was Andruw Jones (who hit his just as the internet radio feed cut out.... that sucked) hitting a blast in the 9th. Saturday, after a solo shot from Captain Paulie earlier in the inning, Alex Rios slammed a 2-run shot to complete the improbable 3-run 9th inning comeback. Capping it off yesterday, Captain Paulie was back to hit a solo shot in the 8th to give the Sox the lead they'd eventually head home with. 3 cardiac wins certainly makes everyone feel better about themselves.... except for this guy. Yeah they still suck, but let us fans feel good for one frickin' day.... yeesh.

(Andruw Jones is very happy that Alex Rios hit his blast on Saturday. That old man on the right is our "Utility Infielder,"Omar Visquel. From: SouthSide Sox)

Speaking of Captain Paulie: He's definitely hammering the un-holy heck outta the ball right now. Watching his two homers from Saturday and Sunday, I can't shake the feeling that he's getting an extra 15ish feet on his swings this year. Both of those swings would be warning tack (if not worse) outs last year. Now, they're massive confidence building bombs. Before you ask, the dude's not on HgH (While not fat, per se, the dude is definitely not caring around extra muscle). I can only figure that this is the last gasp his bat has before it peters completely out for the rest of his career. I'll take it while I can get it.

(Paulie's game-winning shot from Sunday. From: The Trib)

The Blackhawks also come from behind: That game should've been over. With less than 2 minutes left in the game, and control of the series on the line, the Hawks were not only down but Marian Hossa had committed a stupidly rash 5-minute major penalty to put the Hawks against the wall with a man down. It was such a foregone conclusion, in my mind, that the Hawks would lose that I turned the TV off and went back to listening to the Sox game. Then, out of the blue, fans started cheering at a random moment at Comiskey. The announcers surmised "The Hawks must have won, because the fans in the suites are going bonkers." Nope, they hadn't won, they had just improbably scored. Short handed, the Hawks got a loose puck and raced down the ice. The puck just happened to find Patty Kane in front of the net with 13.4 seconds left. Incredible. Feeling like a dope for leaving the Hawks in such dire straits, I didn't even change the channel during the overtime intermission for fear that the hockey gods would punish me for my wandering thoughts. In overtime, Hossa redeemed himself by screaming out of the penalty box, and straight to the open weak side of the net. After a shot/pass across ice, he gleefully tapped in the easy opportunity to send the UC into pandemonium. Frickin' awesome! The Hawks regain the series lead 3-2, and I learned yet another lesson in playoff hockey. As for Hossa's hit on Predator Dan Hamhuis: while stupid, the NHL deemed it legal.
(Winning is awesome. From: The Trib)

The Bulls also come.... no wait, they suck:
Well, at least the Del Negro era is almost over... couldn't we have at least gotten another lottery pick out of this mess? Also, this just in: LeBron James is good at basketball.

NFL Draft: Outside of the whole "Tebow" thing (giggle), the draft had some interesting surprises. Wow, Carolina got Claussen cheap. Even if he "busts," in previous years he would've gone first easy. Teams really are freaking out about the whole "character" thing. Just look at how far guys like Claussen and Dez Bryant fell... but if the whole league only values "character" and "intelligence," then why did Myron Rolle not get drafted? Because Oxford is scary, i guess... How can you question a guy's passion just because he wanted a once-in-a-lifetime chance to forward his education. That's bullshit.

Buffs draft news: There was none. Not a single Buff got even a flier 7th spent on them. Sure, some players like Pat DeVenny (Seattle), Ben Burney (Browns) and Riar Geer (Broncos) will get a UDFA shot at the NFL, but it's kind of sad to be the only Big XII team without a draft pick (Especially when the league got the first four picks of the draft). Neil Woelk has helpfully put together this list of shitty schools with draft picks to make us Buff fans feel bad. Thanks Neil! At least the Gary Barnett era is officially over, and we can get back to focusing on how terrible Dan Hawkins is.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 23, 2010

And on the 1st day of the NFL draft, he is risen

Let me start off by saying that I am not a Broncos fan. In fact, being inundated with Bronco-fan homer-ism the past 8 years had made me rather loathe the team. But, the topic du jour in Colorado Sports today is the dude that said this:
"To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I’m sorry. I’m extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season, That was my goal, something Florida has never done here. I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God Bless." (-link)
What a ego-maniacal douche! Those are the words of the Jesusback, Tim Tebow after he lost some random game a few years back. (Seriously, if that's how he reacts after 1 loss, what happens when he drops multiple games?) And lo! The faithful took upon themselves these words and did maketh a placard of them; for his is the word, and the word is truth.

(Thank you Tim Tebow for dying for our sins..... wait what?)


At first, I couldn't believe that the Broncos did this. Seriously, after 2 years they have gone from the Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall combo(regardless of my feelings towards Emo Jay, that's one hell of a QB/WR combo) to the the Neckbeard/Quinn/Jesusback-trifecta and not-Dez Bryant combo. WTF?

But then I settled down. As everybody in the main-stream media tried to use some version of "leader" in their description of the circumsizer, I tried to look at it from a different perspective. If any team was going to take a chance on Tebow, the Broncos put themselves in the best position to do it. They obviously felt like grabbing a WR early in the 1st round was a waste of money, so they traded down (multiple times) to get in slot position to grab the guy they wanted. This frugality gave them the pieces to grab another 1st round pick. With this extra pick, they were given the opportunity to be bold. They already got the piece they really wanted from the 1st round (Demaryius Thomas), so this extra pick was, almost, on the house. Obviously, they should've spent that extra 1st rounder on almost anything else, Jimmy Claussen or Sergio Kindle for example, but they didn't; this is certainly a blunder.

But, you have to give Coach McDaniels a little credit; at least they didn't blow their only 1st round choice on him.


All kidding and Bronco skewering aside, Tim Tebow was a waste of a first round pick last night. For a team with a need for either a NFL-ready QB or no QB at all to draft a project QB is ridiculous. If you're going to pay someone 1st round QB money, then they'd better be ready to go. Almost immediately after taking Tebow, McDaniels was in front of a camera saying that Neckbeard was still the starting QB. Why spend the money then? In terms of Tebow's "flex-back" possibilities: this guy is essentially Bradlee Van Pelt with a little more size and speed (and an IQ over 25). He's not going to be able to run past defenders, and he's not going to be able to run them over. Again, why pay him 1st round money?

Many people, including Coach J-Mac, said that Tebow "has all the traits you`re looking for in terms of toughness, competitiveness, he`s intelligent, he`s won a lot of games, he`s a leader, he works hard, he`s got all the intangibles you look for in a player at that position."(-link) O.K., whatever. You draft and play talent in the NFL, not character. I know everyone is afraid of character issues right now, but practicing hard and being nice guy doesn't win games; just ask the Colorado Buffaloes.

Friday Beer Post: Lots of brewing news

A few bits of news and notes from around the beer world....

Last week the Brewers Association released a list of the top brewing companies in America based on 2009 statistics. You can find the list here. When taking a look at the list, I noted a few things. The vast majority (31-19) of the top 50 craft breweries are located west of the Mississippi, while the overall list shows a more even distribution with more breweries situated east of the Mississippi (26-24). Western States (California, Colorado, Oregon) typically have more lax distribution laws which make growth in the craft industry easier; In addition, they have access to large relatively local sources of hops (The cascade and surrounding regions of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho make up essentially all of the U.S. based hop crop).

On the overall list, I was surprised to see that Boston Brewing wasn't the largest American owned brewery. I had always taken for granted that with the foreign purchase of the "big 3" brewers that Jim Koch was the "big man on campus." Not only is Pabst ahead of them, but Yuengling Brewing has jumped ahead as well. Obviously, letting Pabst slip my mind is a massive historical error, but Yuengling surprised me. I guess being situated out west, my exposure to Yuengling is limited...

I was also happy to note that local canned beer specialists Oskar Blues made the top 50 craft brewing list for the first time. Their beer is not the best that you'll find on the shelf, but it's a great fall back in times of choice overload, and, as I mentioned last week, beer in can form opens up increased transportation possibilities. Certainly that new brew-pub in Longmont (which I've still not made a trip to) is paying off with higher viability and sales.

(Their Longmont facility)


Also released last week was this list of the 2010 World Beer Cup winners. Again, I have a few things to note. In the first category, American-Style Cream Ale or Lager, I notice that Lone Star won a medal. Much like fellow medalist Old Style, Lone Star tastes so bad that after completing one you'll swear off drinking ever again. Considering that many of these beers are consumed in this country, it's impressive that our society has lasted this long. The category is crap, obviously, but I still note that these awful beers are awarded anything. Shameful. (I guess every "beer" has a category, further down the list Colt .45 and Mickey's get on the board as well)

Further down the list, I noted 3 beers that I wanted to highlight. Alaskan Brewing's Smoked Porter (which is one of my favorite all time beers) won gold in category #19 (Aged Beer). The brew punks from BrewDog took home gold for their Hardcore IPA in category #83 (Imperial IPA); I tried this the other week, and it was a spectacular beer. And finally, Festus, from the Sandlot, won bronze in category #28 (German-style Marzen); I note this because the Sandlot is the brewery inside Coors Field where the Colorado Rockies play, good on ya guys (Yes I know their by Coors, so what.... BASEBALL)!

(The outside of the Sandlot Brewery on game day. From: This guy's flickr account)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My list of the best Top Gear Episodes

After over 115 episodes, jumping into the Top Gear "canon" could be a little daunting. To give the uninitiated a jumping-off point, I've compiled a seasons worth (8) of my favorite episodes.

Season 7, Episode 5: Jeremy, driving the fastest car in the world (the Bugatti Veyron), is ptited against Hammond and James in a Cessna in a race to see who can get a truffle from the South of France to the top of the Nat West Tower in London the fastest. One of the quintessential TG races, this episode give a great look at the "unique" way that the hosts challenge cars.

Season 8, Episode 3: The boys try to turn ordinary cars into amphibious monstrosities. In a challenge that the show would later reprise, you get a great feel for the presenters personalities.

(It's not looking good for Hammond)

Season 9, Episode 6: In a similar vein to the amphibious car challenge, the crew takes ordinary European cars and turns them into stretch limos. Even for TG, the results are pretty outrageous.

The Polar Special: Of all the big season defining specials (Botswana, Vietnam, South Africa) this is my favorite. You can find a HD version of this one that looks plain magnificent.
(Gin and Tonics for all!)

Season 10, Episode 5: In an extremely practical challenge, TG tries to find the best mode of transportation to get across London.

Season 11, Episode 6: Season ending challenge involving Germans vs. Brits. TG constantly reminds us of "the War" to underscore their quintessentially British narrative. Jay Kay tries to be the fastest Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.
(.... before zee Germans get here)

Season 12, Episode 6: No massive challenges or races in this one (Although there is an interesting look at "Communistical" cars). "Traditional" looks at cars like the Caterham are in store; along with a "complete" test of the new Ford Fiesta. The Mayor of London (Boris Johnson) is the SiaRPC.

(Clarkson turns the little Fiesta into a beach assault craft)

Season 14, Episode 1: There's an awe-inspiring GT trip to Romania, complete with Borat jokes (even thought Borat is from Kazakhstan.) Eric Bana is a great guest in the Reasonably priced car.

Top Gear America

If I had a top 10 list of television shows from the past decade, Top Gear would be somewhere near the top. (If you haven't experienced the brilliance of TG, please do yourself a favor and seek it out.) It has essentially become my favorite show over the past 3 years. Even 4 years ago, I laughed at my roommate for downloading it. Now, Sundays in-season, I pace around my room, waiting for the download to become available (a note on this. Top Gear is, by most accounts, the "most illegally downloaded show on the planet." Normally, I tend to frown on illegal downloads. Artists should be paid for their endeavors, be it through the advertising model or through pay-for-play model. Top Gear is, currently, my only exception. [should I download any other show, I typically Netflix the subsequent DVD release to make up for it.] By my calculation, there is no legal way to obtain the original broadcast version in America. The BBC America version is edited for length and content, which is wholly unacceptable. Should the ability to pay for the original broadcast version of Top Gear become available, I will make amends with my conscience. However, considering the demand for the pirated downloads of the show, shouldn't this be an option?).
(Must download.......)

It has become an obsession, to be honest. The show offers a format that speaks to me. While the cast may "cock-about" and many bits are contrived, there is a base of honesty with the presentation. These guys are plausible allies, doing outrageous things, and sharing their love with the world. To have a show with a world-wide viewer base of 350 million people, about cars no less, and produce this quality without coming off as forced, is a wondrous achievement.

I love the original version so much that I approach the news of an American version (after 2 previous failed attempts) of the show on the History Channel with trepidation. Already, there is much consternation amongst the American TG faithful over what this could mean for the brand. This writer for instance pans the concept, opining that it may lose much of the base audience that the producers are trying to tap. Initially, I agreed with this sentiment. I mean who the hell are these guys:

(That thing on the right, apparently named "Rutledge," looks like a flaming version of my former roommate Jake. From: Warming Glow)

Because of the unique nature of the original cast (read: the towering pile of awesome that is Jeremy Clarkson), I figured it would be hard to replicate the show successfully (Especially considering the way other British TV imports have been bastardized when crossing the Atlantic). Add to that my general disgust at the NASCAR culture, and the American version gave me a case of the facepalms.


I was relieved, however, to read this article. It seems that the producers realize that there is no replacing Clarkson, and that the show is successful around the world without the help of localization. Assuming they're not kidding about the requisite budget and the lack of a corporate master (which I highly doubt; there's always corporate interests in America. Even if the show doesn't have a primary car sponsor, the big 3 do advertise on the History Channel, and would undoubtedly pull ads if the show begins panning their new models with any level of tenacity), the show could avoid sucking. To that end, my jingoistic nature takes over, and I begin agreeing with this guys conclusion. I hope it's good, for the brands sake in this country; just please don't blather about NASCAR constantly. At the very least, I wont have to convert pounds to dollars in my head anymore.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Burks Stays

(1 more year....)



Mass Effect 2 Review

Since I'm on a video games kick...

I recently finished a play-through of the middle act of BioWare and EA's space shooter-RPG epic. BioWare, which has produced such piles of awesome as Knights of the Old Republic and Dragon Age: Origins, has become the go-to name in RPG's on the Xbox platforms. Hundreds of thousands of nerds (including, now, myself) across the country wait with bated breath for their efforts (Their next release will be Star Wars: The Old Republic; a MMORPG which will consume my life... I blame George Lucas). The Mass Effect franchise, which was initially intended to be a trilogy (but EA has been giving hints that they may want to milk the cash cow further) has quickly found an audience through its intriguing story, excellent voice acting, and strong game-play. Up until two weeks ago, however, I never had any interest in seeing what all the fuss was about; on a whim, I decided to ask my roommate if I could borrow his copy.

Jumping into the middle of a story is never recommended, but the series, with it's massive world creation underpinnings allows the uninitiated, who cares enough to delve, to quickly get back up to speed. A cute gimmick where the character "dies" in the 1st 5 minutes of the game allows for a story "reset." After brief fits of confusion, I was easily able to pick up the story and follow along with what was going on. The basic gist of the narrative is that you portray customizable super-soldier "Commander Shepard" as he battles an alien threat to the galaxy. Throughout the game you will go on missions not necessarily to progress the main story, but to collect characters and "build your team." Were this game only about the "main story line" it would probably only last a few hours, but the character missions (which do provide interesting background and story) balloon game play-through time to about 30 hours.
(Shepard and select members of his team)

Game-play reminded me of a cross between a 3rd person RPG (like Fallout 3) and a dedicated space shooter (Like the Halo series). Heath, unfortunately, is automatically re-generated (can't stand that... worst invention in video game history), item-hunting within levels often pays off with extra resources or weapons, and leveling-up is more focused on improving powers (like recent action games). In game action is fast-paced, with many enemies flying at you. You are able to combat your foes with a combination of team tactics (you get 2 computer controlled allies), special powers, and shooting skill. Easy to understand controls (with hot link-able powers on your bumpers) allow for precise combat strategies and execution.

Instead of the tired practice of "leveling-up" (historically in RPGs, you'd have to wander the country-side outside of story missions, fighting easy enemies over and over and over, in order to level up; this in turns gives you the requisite skills to face tougher, end-game enemies. It blows.), this game uses a mining mini-game to allow for upgrades and bonuses; while not a true leveling-up system, it has basically the same effect, wandering the country-side to prepare yourself for the actual game. You have to travel to many (often far-flung) systems to accumulate the necessary resources (most stops take about 10 minutes to mine all the available resources). Maybe I'm just impatient, but there has to be a better way to "level-up" your character. This is essentially dead time in the game, and is, quite frankly, boring. All RPG's are beset with this problem, and many people feel that this "dead-time" is what makes an RPG an RPG. That's crap. You shouldn't have to spend countless hours performing repetitive acts in-order to progress the story. It's like the practice modes in recent iterations of sports games: I don't want to practice, I want to play! If I wanted to practice I would've actually picked up a bat and spent time "outside."

(You'll stare at screens like this for hours.... boring!)

The game is, on the whole, very well designed. The world is beautiful, and attention to character detail is excellent (when you're on a mission you can actually see your multiple weapons housed on the back of your characters armor. This is a little bit of real-world logic that has always been missing from video games. For example: where does Link keep his giant sack filled with 3 different swords, 3 tunics, 3 pairs of boots, a mask, a boomerang, a bow and arrow set with 3 types of arrows, a hook-shot, a power glove, 3 shields, a few bottle of magic potion, etc in Zelda 64? For such a small guy, he sure does seem to be able to carry so much stuff effortlessly. ) When I first stepped foot into what was, for me, the first city traveled to (Omega, ironically), I felt comfortable; as if it made sense that the galaxy (set about 150 years in the future) would have developed this way. Combine the dystopian industrial vision of "Blade Runner" with the pragmatic western vision of "Firefly" and the "end of history" vision of "Star Trek: TNG," and you have some sort of idea what I'm talking about. Cities felt livable, but not not perfect. Characters, both in terms of writing and design, are believable; each have stories that invite you to delve deeper to discover their true motivations.

(The designers drew their inspiration from many sci-fi sources. In this fly over shot of Omega, you can definitely see the Blade Runner.)

One of the immersive world-building details which draw you into the story is the near-perfect voice acting. Much of the story is revealed through conversations with the myriad of characters throughout the "universe." Were it not for the talent behind the characters, these conversations would come off flat. Knowing this, BioWare has assembled an excellent cast capable of pulling the job of convincing voice acting off. Stars like Martin Sheen, Tricia Helfer, Yvonne Strahovski, Carrie-Anne Moss, Seth Green, and Adam Baldwin combine with series and voice acting veterans to form a stellar cast. It really is one of the best jobs of bringing video game characters to life I've seen in a while (All without the over-acting present in the God of War series).
(Some of the voice-acting talent in the game. Plenty of nerd favorites in that bunch.)

Overall, I found the game to be very entertaining. The expansive world creation efforts of the design team allows for quick immersion into the world, and solid controls allow for solid fast-paced action. The overwhelming sense I got while delving into this futuristic vision was that it felt like Halo combined with Star Trek. Halo in the sense of the swarms and aliens trying to take over the galaxy and destroy all humans, and Star Trek in the sense that a Federation of alien races combine efforts in the name of inter-galactic peace. It's an interesting combination; and one that has proved very lucrative for EA and BioWare. While not necessairly an original game, drawing upon countless sci-fi tropes for inspiration, this game does a great job of entertaining. I'd compare it to a summer blockbuster movie. Entertaining, but nothing really new. Regardless, I'm still looking forward to the 3rd installment, and I'm interested to see where EA will push the brand in the future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Damn you George Lucas!!!!

He's found another way to get more of my money.... there really should be 12 step programs for this shit.


(Just because I found it on a random internet search....)

Can Video Games be art?

This past Friday, Roger Ebert (Who I love to read from time to time) sent the video game world into a tizzy by furthering his contention that video games are not art. Being an avid gamer, my mind endlessly processed the debate all weekend. I guess it all depends on your definition of "art." Ebert's post, in response to a video discussion from game designer Kellee Santiago, struggles to find a central definition, at first rejecting Santiago's definition (which was from Wikipedia, so I would tend to disregard as well mostly because of it's simplistic nature) before declining to provide a consensus answer.
"Plato, via Aristotle, believed art should be defined as the imitation of nature. Seneca and Cicero essentially agreed. Wikipedia believes "Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more concerned with the expression of ideas...Key components of games are goals, rules, challenge, and interaction."

But we could play all day with definitions, and find exceptions to every one. For example, I tend to think of art as usually the creation of one artist. Yet a cathedral is the work of many, and is it not art? One could think of it as countless individual works of art unified by a common purpose. Is not a tribal dance an artwork, yet the collaboration of a community? Yes, but it reflects the work of individual choreographers. Everybody didn't start dancing all at once."

Certainly, what can be considered "art" is totally based on the perspective of the individual. I, for one, tend to agree with some notion that art is an expression of ideas. But there is a little more to that. In an episode of "Top Gear," (probably my favorite television show) presenter Jeremy Clarkson (when talking about the essentially pointless Alpha Romero 8c) relayed the opinion, "[...] for something to be art it can have no purpose other than itself... no function." So, ideas expressed for ideas sake.

(You'll find the quote around the 5:45 mark.)

I like that definition a lot. While it doesn't encompass the whole of "art" (the definition shamelessly excluding fields like literature and architecture which certainly have function along with form) the requirement of no purpose, which Clarkson then appropriates to a car that is impossible to drive, gives me a focus on the issue. For a video game to be "art," it would have to take a loose definition of the concept of "game."

Based on this, I think, at least on some level, that Mr. Ebert has confused the playing of video games with video game creation. Check out this paragraph:
"Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care."
But couldn't the stadiums that those players competed in be works of art? Couldn't an ornately carved and delicately designed chess set be art? He's completely missing the point: it's not the playing of the games, or even really the game itself that could be considered "art;" it's the design of the game itself. I think there is a point where the focus on the object of desire (be it a chess set, an old style arena, a movie, a over-wrought piece of literature, or a game) causes that object to abate its original functional purpose, and become "art." In other words, when the artist (or collaborators) quest for the expression of ideas overrides the function for which it was created, art takes its place.

(While not the best example, the old Chicago Stadium where MJ started certainly has some artistic flair.)

The creation of a game certainly is an intense collaborative effort. There are art directors, actors, writers, and producers (much like films). Recently, in fact, I have been equating, in my mind at least, the upper echelon of video games with cinematic story-telling. I would certainly guess that Mr. Ebert would agree that films can be (but not necessarily are) art. And, as in film-art, games designed for one purpose, can be used for another.

One possible recent example of this would be "Heavy Rain." As the gaming world contemplates weather or not it is in fact a game, maybe we should instead be contemplating weather or not it's a work of art. The design of the game, from its intricate attention to detail of the character imaging to it's interactive format, is more conducive to a cinematic setting; As a game, however, it's rather lukewarm. In the creators quest to change the way the world views games, they created something that may not be a game. (In fact, one of the primary concepts behind HR is "interactive drama) So wouldn't that fit my working definition? I believe it could.
(Maybe we finally found a place for Heavy Rain)


Ebert opined, "no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets." Ummmm.... OK? I don't believe that anyone, anywhere, has ever tried to make that contention with a straight face. Food can still be great food even if it comes off of a home-maker's range-top. More to the point, does art need to be "great" for it to be art? I'm not entirely sure it does. "Heavy Rain" is certainly not on a level with Kurosawa's films, but that doesn't necessarily exclude the possibility that within my lifetime that the expressive nature of games couldn't reach that level.

Top-level game designers like David Jaffe, Tim Schafer and Shigeru Miyamoto are infinitely talented. Their games have shaped an entire generation (weather parents like it or not). But it's not the games themselves that makes their pursuit art... it's the design of the games. Playing a game is obviously not artful; but I've experienced somethings through video games, be they thought-provoking, awe-inspiring, or other, that are certainly interesting ideas being expressed by the authors. Sure there is some schlock out there, but just because "Transformers 2" was a pile of worthless tripe, do we necessarily disregard the "artful" possibilities of the cinematic medium? Absolutely not.

(Fallout 3 was more than just some pretty thing to stare at for hours. It was an excellent example of world building and narrative. The world created could surely be seen as "art.")

I'm sure Mr. Ebert would disagree with most of this, but I wish he wouldn't be so dismissive of the medium all together. I certainly get the feeling that he hasn't played many games, so he wouldn't have experienced the stories (read: ideas) that the games express through their design and execution. In much the same way that I couldn't rightly disregard the novels of Tom Hardy as being worthless (they are) before I had read a few examples, Ebert shouldn't disregard video games before he has experienced them.


At one point in the article, Mr. Ebert noted that he was surprised that gamers cared weather or not video games could be considered art. Video game commentators have generally recoiled at this contention; vociferously denying that they care weather their beloved genre is considered art or not. Me thinks they doth protest too much. Of course they care, and I believe they should care.

To love something, and not defend it, is plaintively stupid. Art is seen as the pinnacle of culture. The expression of a societies ideas (and ideals). Video games, being such a large and growing part of western culture, have a place in this, and like any new medium, need to have their place in society defended. More to the point, if games were accepted as art, maybe it would be easier to protect them from the hyper-crazed parental groups who can't seem to understand that not all video games are for kids, and, much like movies and other mediums, that there is a place for games aimed at adults.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tad Boyle is your new CU men's basketball coach

You can read about it here and here. Essentially, I think this is a good hire. But I'd like to start off by saying that Steve McClain deserved the job. Beyond my fascination with the comedic possibilities that a coach who blows his shit on the sidelines can provide, Coach McClain earned the position. Besides a deep-seeded understanding of the area, he knows the program, and it's shortcomings, and was in a position to immediately step in with the respect of every player on the roster. The job should've been his. But, as in all things, it's not always the "right" choice that brings results.

With that out of the way, Tad Boyle makes sense. CU is not the glamorous type of situation where Mike Bohn could go out and poach an established coach to transform the program (the magic wand option). This is not necessarily a destination assignment (for a number of reasons, most of which I agree with... for now). So that leaves the search to current assistants (McClain), assistants at middle level programs (Dunlap), or head coaches of low-level programs (Boyle), with the occasional outside interest from splashy names with no real knowledge of the situation and who want to use the program as a launching pad (Randy Bennett). Of those four types of possibilities, I would lean towards what Bohn ended up with, the up and coming head coach of a low-level program.

(Tad makes sense.... I guess. From: UNC's website)

Everyone, by this point, has read Coach Boyle's resume, and began to get a feel for the turn-around he worked at Norther Colorado. From being the worst team in collegiate basketball 4 years ago, to competing for a tournament berth (while whupping all of your in-state competition, including CU in a now infamous closed door scrimmage) is quite a job. That Boyle was able to accomplish this is basketball talent-starved Colorado is even more impressive. Even more than that, he has the pedigree to match. Playing under Larry Brown, and working under personal fave Mark Turgeon, gives one quite the basketball education. He certainly has the credentials to be on the short list for a major step up, but it's the incidental factors that make him a good fit for the job.

(Boyle at Greeley Central in the '80s. Where'd the hair go, Coach? From: the Denver Post)

CU was looking for a coach who wants to coach in Boulder. The program will never improve if it changes coaches every 3-4 years. As long as there is marked improvement in the program, CU wants a coach who will be comfortable in Colorado for the better part of a decade. Tad, a Colorado native who grew up in Greeley, might just have that sort of mindset. He understands the minutia inherent in coaching CU basketball, and yet he still wanted to be here. He understand the Big 8 (XII) having played at KU, and knows how to recruit the region having been coached in Kansas and Colorado. On paper this hire makes a lot of sense. Add to that the fact that he and Mike Bohn have a friendly relationship, and Lord knows everyone should've seen this coming.

CU is a difficult place to play basketball. The program is starting off from a relatively low position, and to grow, it has to leapfrog traditional powers like Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Ok. State, along with other teams struggling to take their place in the higher echelon of collegiate basketball: Baylor, Texas Tech, Missouri, and Kansas St. At the end of the day, if it's going to grow as a program, CU will have to displace one, if not more, of those teams. In order to do that, CU will need a prolonged effort to improve both it's facilities (check), recruiting (kinda-check), and coaching (work-in-progress). I hope Tad really knows what he's about to get into. If he doesn't, his first trip back to Allen Fieldhouse should inform him.

A little bit of this is trying to convince myself that Boyle is the right hire. I like Mike Bohn on a personal level, but at some point one of his major programs is going to have to take a step forward. At least the hire was handled quickly and professionally (he had candidates in his office about a week after hearing Bz may leave, and a hire a week after Bz left). I want this to work (unlike some CU fans who grouse, loudly, at anyone who passes just so that they can scream, even louder, I told you so when they fail -- this is also a Broncos thing). I hope this will work. I noted earlier today in the grab bag that, should McClain have been retained, that I would spend the next few years wondering "what if" as Boyle continued his climb up the ranks. No more fantasy and "what if"; it's all reality and current events.

Good luck Coach Boyle! I'll see you in the fall.

Monday Grab Bag: Well, I guess it could be worse...

I think Spring has finally set (thank God). Just in time for the bag...

Hawks stumble, then regain their footing: A whole hell of a lot can happen in 48 hours. After the awful, no good, disgusting performance in the 3rd period Friday night, where goalie Antti Niemi gave up 4 (mostly soft) goals in the period, the Hawks rebounded to blank (first playoff shutout since '96!) the Preds 2-0 last night. Whew. A disaster like that garbage that put me to sleep Friday can often trip up a good team. I know now is a little late in the game, but maybe the Hawks shouldn't have rested their playoff hopes on a post-season virgin. Kudos still go to Niemi for shaking off Friday night, and getting his first playoff victory; he needs to have his shit together, and his 23 stops Sunday are a good start.

(Woot. From: The Trib)

CU Basketball Coaching Search: It looks like it's down to the 3 candidates who interviewed over the weekend: Tad Boyle, Mike Dunlap, and Steve McClain. As I said last week, I'd prefer to keep McClain, however I think the much talked about transfer possibilities from the team are minimal and overstated. (Al was only going to stay for one more year regardless, he probably doesn't want to sit that year out. Cory wants to play his final season with his brother regardless of the situation. Marcus has only 1 year of eligibility left. Aside from that, I find it hard to believe Shannon Sharpe would sit out another year, and the Aussies will probably stick together.) Despite the wishes of the players and myself, I'm beginning to believe that Tad Boyle will get the job. Not that he will be a bad choice (in fact if we were to go with McClain, I'd spend the next few years playing "what if" as Boyle vastly improves some other program), but I think that McClain has "earned" the job. Either way, as long as it's not Dunlap, I'll be agreeable to the hire.

(Seriously, I'm gonna be doing photoshops and everything. Yippie-Ki-Yay Motherfucker!)

Sox off to their worst start since '97: Yeesh, they suck. Getting swept by Cleveland? That's low. Just looking at the standings (which I try to never do before Memorial Day) finds the Sox 5 games back of the AL Central lead after only two weeks of play. WTF? Maybe it's time to realize that Mark Kotsay doesn't belong in the middle of a Major League order, and that Omar Visquel doesn't belong on a Major League roster, let alone the lead-off spot. I've seen 3 "bad" Sox teams in my life (The '95, '99, and '07 squads all sucked balls), so I admit I have been relatively lucky. But having watched this team struggle to hit for going on 4 seasons now, it's evident that changes need to be made. It's beyond past the time that both fans and management should've stopped oooo-ing and ahhh-ing over solo home runs and begun to demand legitimate, repeatable, production from a line-up that costs $70-ish million dollars, regardless of the time of year. (a few minor points: why does Juan Pierre need to be bunted over to 2nd all the time; I heard something about that guy being fast. Why say that Andruw Jones needs to play everyday the same day you bench the guy? We can't hit so the solution is a 13th reliever? If Alexi Ramirez can never bat his weight in April, why not keep him in extended spring training till the Kentucky Derby? Why wait til the 3rd week of a season to skip a guy in the rotation; why not do it in the 1st week when there are more off days? Yep, I'm a little frustrated.)
(Come on guys, the Indians are terrible! WTF?! From: The Trib)

Ubalo's No-No: Didn't watch the game, but I checked out the box score Sunday afternoon. 6 walks? That reminds me of a little-league game. The opposing pitcher is just so over powering that the kids have no chance to touch him; so they just sit there as he wings it across the plate, praying for a walk (This happened to me on a few occasions). No-hitters are always impressive, but to still be throwing 97-98 mph after 125 or so pitches is even more so. Too bad the Rox couldn't follow it up by shutting shit down in the 9th the following day (umpire over-eagerness was involved, but you can never blame the umps for a loss) Ubaldo has proven over his career that he can be straight nasty when he's on. Now I'm starting to believe that he can be the horse of a championship-level staff. By-the-way, that No-No was worth 79 pts in my fantasy league.

(Ubaldo!.... Jimenez!)

Ndamukong Suh donates money to some shit school east of here: A lot was made this weekend of Suh's generosity to pledge $2.6 million of his forthcoming lottery-level winnings from the NFL draft to his Alma Mater. Neil Woelk used this opportunity to complain about the lack of similar sifts from former CU athletes. Not-for-nothing, but giving is a personal thing. If someone doesn't want to give (or keep their giving private), it's their right to keep all the money they have earned (It may be unseemly, but its true). I've said many times that collegiate athletes owe decidedly little to their schools (after all, top athletes are so vastly underpaid compared to the value they bring).

The Daily Camera stole my idea: It can't be just coincidence that 2 days after I post an article about craft beer in cans that the BDC comes out with an article about craft beer in cans. That's bush-league BDC, just bush-league.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Beer Post: Alright, fine, you sold me on cans.

I play rec league softball (On the Walker Texas Rangers, the greatest rec-league softball team in the world), or, as I call it, "Beer League." And, as I'm constantly reminded when I arrive at the fields, there are no bottles allowed. Only beer in cans is welcomed. This is a shame because that restriction severely limits what beer I could bring to the field since most, but not all, craft beer is sold in glass bottles. Because of the whole "can thing" my team usually settles with "BL and Heavy" (Budweis style beer from Missouri; I refuse to say their name) and "Pibber" (The one with a blue trophy from the 19th Century on the side).

In the "beer-geek" world, many people (including myself) turn up their noses at beer in aluminum can form. Most will claim it's because beer in cans takes on some weird metallic flavors, but I would contend that it's mostly a subliminal stigmata that derives from the styles of beer that are most associated with canning. Up until a few years ago there was really only one canned beer option that didn't contain "American-style Lager" (piss-in-a-can). Oskar Blues Brewing really caused a stir when, in 2002, they began selling their beer in, of all thing, aluminum cans.

(Dales Pale Ale has long been a personal go-to in situations where bottled beer is inapropriate. From: Westword)

But recently, more and more breweries, especially in Colorado, have been turning to cans. Seeing the environmental benefit of the easy to recycle (and lighter) beer delivery medium, Breweries from Ska Brewing, to Wynkoop, and even New Belgium have begun to can some of their main line brews. (One of my favorite beers of the moment is Ska's Modus Hoperandi, which just happens to be one of their canned beers. It's a definite must try for hop-heads. Wynkoop's Rail Yard Ale is a tasty one as well, and is becoming more and more available.) Canned beers make for the perfect accompaniment for all of those outdoor activities that Colorado is famous for: hiking, climbing, skiing, outdoor team sports, etc. You can "Pack-it-in and Pack-it-out," as they say. While it may take longer to can than to bottle (according to the linked article, New Belgium's can line runs at 60 cans per minute, white their awesome bottle line goes at 700 bottles per min), the portability of cans makes it a viable consumer choice. In addition, canning opens up new markets, such as sporting venues, outdoor concerts and golf courses.
(Modus Hoperandi in cans outsold it's bottled brother 2-1 last year)

So Wednesday night, I bought beer for "Beer League." I swung over to the local liquor store and purchased some Upslope brew (which I discussed last month) which is only available (as far as I can tell) in cans. I'll tell you, it was a welcome respite from the pale yellow swill that I normally get on game nights, and I didn't even notice any off flavors. So fine, I'll accept good beer in cans as legit.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blue Jay fans suck ass

Tuesday I relayed the feisty Ozzie quotes after the opening game of the Blue Jays series. One quote that has stuck in my mind was "How many people are going to show up [for the opener], about 50,000 or 40,000? Tell the fans in Toronto, Alex Rios is in Toronto; all you fans come out and boo him. We need people in the ballpark just to come out and boo Alex the next four days. Please, we haven't seen many fans here the last three or four years. Come out just to boo him." The point that stuck with me is not the rather random hatred devoted to Rios, but the semi-desperation of Ozzie to get fans out to the ballpark in Toronto. Ozzie was essentially daring Blue Jay fans to give a rats ass and show up after the home opener. The BJ (heh-heh) fans have responded with a distinctively Canadian yawn.

(That's a lot of empty blue seats. From the Trib)

Look at that picture from last night's 11-1 White Sox winner! Only 10,610 fans (the fewest in Blue Jay history) braved the 50 degree temps and dome conditions to watch they beloved Jays last night. That's pathetic, even for April baseball against a non-divisional foe. Sure there are some excuses: It was a weeknight, the Jays are down this year, and many fans are mad at the organization for trading Roy Halladay. So what. You're either a fan or you aren't. noted the relative attendance struggles of both the Blue Jays and their AL East rival Baltimore Orioles by remembering that these two franchises used to be the hottest tickets in town. The Blue Jays, specifically, used to draw an obscene 4 million fans a year back in the early 90's. If you were able to score Jays tickets, even in the upper reaches of what was then known as SkyDome, you were living a charmed life. Now, they would probably give a whole section to yourself if you'd ask.

I bring this up mostly because I fear for baseball in Canada. I like the fact that Major League baseball still has a team in "America's Hat." It makes the league seem like more than some jingoistic masturbatory venture (which it mostly is... that they still get away with "World Series" is hilarious). Having seen what happened to the Montreal Expos (Who I had a fond place in my heart for. Don't ask why), I genuinely fear for the Blue Jays. The 'spos floundered when the owners sold off young stars in the making (like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Larry Walker) and became frugal and disinterested in providing quality product on the field. Fans stayed away out of principal (and the fact that Quebecois distrust anything not intrinsically Quebecan, but that's another story), and MLB retaliated by trying to send the team to Puerto Rico (lol) before finally forcing the franchise down the collective throats of the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. I remember towards the end of the franchise, they couldn't even sell radio broadcast rights. While the Jays are certainly a more national team, this could happen in Toronto if the organization is not careful. Yes, one sparsely attended series is not going to sink a franchise, but don't be surprised if attendance in Toronto sags all season long.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Bulls just won't let me not care

The Bulls are a franchise stuck in neutral. I've understood this since the day they traded known quantity Elton Brand to draft Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry (yikes). Rebuilding project after rebuilding project has ensued. The Bulls have always lacked an identity in the post Jordan years, having always stuck with a collection of good (never great) role players. First it's the aforementioned "twin towers", then it's noted motorcycle enthusiast Jay Williams, followed by the Kirk Hinrich/Ben Gordon years, the trade of future star LaMarcus Aldridge for the very average Tyrus Thomas (yawn), and finally the signing of Ben Wallace (wtf?). An entire decade lost to the mediocre.

Essentially, I blame this mess on John Paxson. While the Bulls have largely been in contention for playoff berths the last 7 years, that in-of-itself is not that big of a deal in the Eastern Conference where sub .500 teams routinely reach the post season. Even the drafting of Derrick Rose means nothing since that was essentially a lucky circumstance and Rose was the no-brainer 1st choice. Seriously, what's the high-point of Paxson's tenure with the Bulls? Shafting Isiah Thomas in the Eddie Curry deal? A 5-year old could pull the wool over that guy's eyes. (I'll give him credit for Joakim Noah. I was dead set against that guy amounting to anything in the NBA. Now, he's essentially Bill Laimbeer with skill!) Routinely the Bulls under Paxson's watch have failed to get a real centerpiece to build the team around, and in a league in which your success rests on your best player being spectacular, leaving it up to Ben Gordon is just stupid (at least he didn't re-sign him).

All of that brings me to the events of the past month. It was revealed yesterday that Pax got into a shoving match with coach Vinny Del Negro over Noah's playing time. Everybody knows that these guys have had a contentious relationship (with some good reason. Vinny is a awful coach, and I would've tried to drop him off the back of the bus too if I had the chance), and everyone is using the events to talk about the problems with the Del Negro era. But this should not just be a referendum on Vinny, but one on Pax as well.

(Watch out Vinny! He's right behind you! From: the Trib)

Outside of the fact that this incident was basically criminal assault, Pax's record gives him nothing to fall back on, and he has previously acted un-professionally with his various coaching staffs. He has to go. (Vinny has to go as well) I know Jerry Reinsdorf protects "his guys," but loyalty can't cover up for the fact that two men who suck at their jobs just gained national attention for almost stumbling into a bare-knuckled fight in front of their co-workers and underlings. When is the Bulls organization going to realize that Pax is not cut out for this job, has a uneven managing style, and a lack of professional perspective. Yeesh, the better part of a decade is enough.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quick-Post: Ozzie quote-o-rama

Love Ozzie, especially when he gets feisty. Like last night!
  • On Blue Jay fans booing Alex Rios: "We need people in the ballpark just to come out and boo Alex the next four days. Please, we haven't seen many fans here the last three or four years. Come out just to boo him. Chicago people, start booing Rios, please. They're booing him here, he got three hits. They were clapping for him in Chicago, and he's was hitting (.174). [...] Every time they boo him, we'll be laughing because they're still paying him like $20 million. [...] How many people are going to show up [for the opener], about 50,000 or 40,000? Tell the fans in Toronto, 'Alex Rios is in Toronto; all you fans come out and boo him.' We need people in the ballpark just to come out and boo Alex the next four days. Please, we haven't seen many fans here the last three or four years. Come out just to boo him.'"

  • On the media giving him crap for line-up selection: "I don't give a bleep about talk shows. Those talk shows in Chicago, they're lucky I'm here because they'd be selling cheeseburgers and hot dogs somewhere. I don't care what they think about what I do because it's easy when you're behind the mike and criticize people after things get done."

  • On Complaints that the Sox didn't resign Jim Thome: "Nothing against Jim Thome, but when we got Jim Thome, we finished third three out of four [seasons]. I don't know what the big deal is. ... I think this ballclub is going to play the way we want them to play.''

  • On away fans booing Sox players: "Put it this way, they booed Jim Thome in Cleveland [when he returned with the Sox]. When you boo Jim Thome in Cleveland, then you don't know what you can expect from the fans. People probably didn't know where Cleveland was until Jim Thome got there. [...] They're going to boo me, too. We have the team that everywhere we roll, they boo. They boo A.J. everywhere. They pick someone to boo. We get used to it."

(Laughing Ozzie fully supports this post)

(Updated) Don't blame Bz. CU's fine on it's own.

(Update 4-13-10, 5:06pm) Post has it as official. Press conference tomorrow at 8am Mountain Time.

Preface: I do not believe for one second that this is a done deal. I can imagine that the alumni at Wake might be a little gun-shy about taking on a guy like Coach Bz, and, at the end-of-the-day, the alumni have the power to force decisions at schools not named Colorado. Doug Gottleib talks about some of the concerns (subscription required). Until the press conference, he's still CU's coach. But in preparation for the inevitable...

I often joke that I am the only Colorado basketball fan. Obviously that's not the case, but CU has never been known as a basketball school and I've often spent cold December evenings with less that 2,000 other fans in the CEC. (Because of this, I've always cast sideways glances at the scalpers outside men's games. How do they make any money? Why pay a premium for a commodity that's readily available? Do they just jack up the KU game ticket prices by 400%?) It's hard being a Buffs Basketball fan; I really don't blame anyone for not trying to become one. Prior to the past few years, little attention was paid to the program (even by the athletic department). And then, Jeff Bzdelik showed up.

As soon as he was hired, I got the feeling that Jeff was an unwilling participant. Not that Jeff was sleazy the way a Bob Huggins, Larry Brown or a Billy Gillespie is (essentially waiting for the next big offer to come down the pipe, and not caring what he leaves behind); I just felt that he was always looking for the moment that he could move on. But he also seemed to care about the long term future of the program. He willed the media to pay attention to the program. He hired a veteran head coach (Steve McClain) to help run the team, and essentially set him up as his obvious successor. He damn near forced Mike Bohn to spend money on the program. He consistently recruited not for the now, but for the future.

It's because of this that I have no problem with him leaving to take the Wake Forest job. He will essentially be leaving the program better than he found it. (When's the last time CU could say that about a coach of one of the major sports? Bill McCartney?) Over his tenure, Coach BZ (and his staff) has built recruiting pipelines, overseen the expansion of the facilities at the CEC, and dragged the fan base kicking and screaming into (almost?) caring about men's basketball. All without a winning record. The pending move to Winston-Salem, NC even makes sense for Coach Bz on a personal level; moving to the ACC is a definite step up, his daughter (who has had some health problems) goes there, he is good buddies (as opposed to his apparently rocky relationship with Bohn) with their AD, he owns a house in NC, and he plans to retire there. It's relatively ignorant to be angry with Coach Bz for this move; he made the program better, and he's leaving for the right reasons. While he was here, he did the best he could to improve the program, and that's all I could really ask him to do.

(You've done well, Jeff. Sorry to see you go, but it's been good.)

But where does CU go from here? For possibly the first time in history, the open men's basketball position at the University of Colorado is very attractive to some top level names. With the new practice facility under construction (that thing is going to be awesome when it opens), new basketball operations center, new weight room, and new locker rooms CU is no longer behind in the facility race. Add to that the fact that Cory Higgins, Al Burks, Shannon Sharpe, Nate Tomlinson make up one of the best back-courts in the nation, and you can easily see why any coach would be "interested" in CU.

But that doesn't mean that Mike Bohn's 2nd coaching search in a month will be easy. There is a legitimate concern that that back-court could disappear if they don't like the new coach. In addition, CU desperately needs to avoid hiring the type of coach who would just use the program as a stepping stone to better things in a few years. (Woelk talked about this specifically today.) This will be an interesting test for Bohn; he needs to hire someone with the requisite skill (obviously), but also someone who cares enough to take what Bz has built and take it to the next level over an extended period of time (not an easy find in today's basketball world). I want someone who gives a shit about Colorado. (rumor favorite Mike Dunlap is not that guy.)

Of the many names floating around, there are 3 that I find intriguing:
  1. Randy Bennett - Coach Bennett is currently the head coach of St. Mary's (they of the recent Sweet Sixteen run.) Randy has a massive recruiting pipeline to Australia (which would fit great with Tomlinson and Shane Harris-Tunks), and has earned a major college shot. He also has been with SMC for a decade, which proves to me that he doesn't like to move around. He's built a great program with SMC, and would be a good choice for CU.
  2. Tad Boyle - Coach Boyle currently heads the surprisingly awesome Northern Colorado Bears. Besides being a Coloradan (from Greeley), he also knows the BigXII area, having played at Kansas before coaching in the region. His Bears whupped CU in a closed-door scrimmage prior to the season, and piloted the team to the most wins in school history. UNC has improved every year under Boyle, having joined the program the first year they moved up to Division-1.

  3. Steve McClain - (My personal front-runner) Currently, Coach McClain is CU's Associate Head Coach. Buff players have essentially said that if McClain lands the job, there will be no transfer issues. Having stayed at Wyoming for 7 years, we know Coach McClain is comfortable with the region. In addition, he has been the primary recruiter for much of the past year. As I stated earlier, I feel that he has been essentially groomed for the position by Bz. He also fared rather well as the head coach during the Maui Invitational while Bz was attending to family matters.
Personally, I want McClain. He's already in place, there will be no transfer issues, and the recruiting stays intact. In addition, if McClain is hired, I get to make Die Hard jokes all season.

(Yippie Ki-Yay Motherfucker! My choice for the next head men's basketball coach.)

If, for whatever reason, McClain doesn't work out, either of the other two options would be very acceptable (with Bennett being my second choice). CU's in a great position to take a step forward in the next decade with the men's basketball program. With the upgraded facilities, and a stacked cupboard full of top-level guards, CU could be the next "it" team. Don't screw it up Mike, we need this one...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Your What Hurts?: Conan get a show on a channel not named Fox

I am an admittedly biased Conan fan. (Fuck Jay Leno) I feel I'm allowed since I can actually remember 1990's Conan, and vividly remember being thrilled that a "Simpsons" writer would be getting his own show. So I was very excited when someone told me they announced his new show for the fall. "Oooo, Fox finally got their boy-wonder back. Or maybe even personal dark-horse Comedy Central finally wised up and made him a offer," I thought. But no.
(I got tickets, suck it!)

The station that won Conando's services for the fall is:
(I like how their slogan is exactly like my sarcastic reply upon hearing the news. Somewhere, George Lopez is crying into a tequila.)

Your what hurts?

Monday Grab Bag: Could it have happened any other way?

Tons of stuff happening over the weekend. Early April is never boring. On with the bag...

The Masters: Last week I was predicting (not on this site, just take my word for it) that Tiger would have a Fuck You tournament. Pissed at the world and the media for delving into his personal business, I figured he'd just stomp the floor with everyone in a Jordan-esque onslaught of awesome. Would-a, Could-a, Should-a; the rust proved too great for him. (Emblematic of his slight off-nes was his disastrous short 3-putt on Sunday.) When trying to hold onto some semblence of competition with the leaders, he just couldn't maintain the focus and hit the shots when needed. Sprinkled in amongst his 4 days of golf was a masterpiece; he just couldn't figure out how to fit the pieces together. Seriously, if you figure he was maybe playing at 75% ability (which I think is generous), imagine what he would've shot had he been on his game; -20? Think about it.

("Woof, after this long weekend I'm really gonna need some time with my stripper.... family, I mean family. Yep, that's what I meant." From:

I wanted to care about Phil winning, I really did. It certainly does make for a nice story (his wife having cancer, and all), and he's a nice guy who I'm happy to see win. But the story was, and should've been, Tiger's return to golf. I'll just have to be content with "Lefty" winning his 3rd Green Jacket. Not too bad for a guy previously known as "the best golfer never to win a major." (This was a contrived media phenomenon from earlier this decade, essentially created to give them something to ask Phil at boring tour stops while they waited for something interesting to happen. Phil should'a slapped the asshole who came up with that in the face.)

(Much like Chuck Norris, Phil's tears of joy can cure cancer. Boy, was she lucky she married that guy! From: ESPN)

On a personal note, I love the Masters. It's got a lot to do with the fact that it's always around my birthday, but it's the only golf tournament that can hold my attention. Lack of commercials, a perfect course, and a stellar field; the Masters has it all. If all golf could be like Masters weekend, maybe I'd be able to get into it on a more consistent basis. Oh well, back to not caring for the next 360 days.

Jeff Bzdelik leaving CU for Wake Forest: I'm going to have a more comprehensive post on this tomorrow (When he actually accepts the job), but, in the mean time, I'll jot down my quick thoughts. This is a good move for Jeff, and I wish him well. His daughter goes to school there (and she's had some health issues), he wants to retire there, and he's familiar with the athletic director (Jeff and Bohn have had a rocky relationship here). I have feel no ill will towards Jeff over this move, and, as long as Steve McCalin is the next head coach, CU is in good shape and good hands.

("Peace, I'm outta here." From: The BDC)

Spring Game: Yep, didn't go. Don't hate, I'd just rather not notice the football program until the fall; it'll just give me a hernia if I think about it too much. From all accounts the team looked good (Defensive line aside). Offensive wrinkles added some spice to the festivities, and many of the young players (Quentin Hildreth, Nick Hirschman, Parker Orms, etc.) flashed some playing potential. Fall-ball starts in August. I'd really rather not to have to think about the team till then, thank you very much.

You may run like Mays, but you hit like shit: After the first week of baseball, I think I have a pretty good handle on the '10 Sox. The starter will go 7 innings, probably giving up 3 runs or less each time. The bullpen might even hold the opponent down the rest of the way (which, considering the last few years, is a damn miracle.) But it won't matter cause the offense can't do shit. Every game this year will be close, and I've put a cardiologist on call.

If it wasn't for the Cubs, my Sox would be the worst hitting team in baseball (.203 to .197, and 3rd to last in RBI's.) Yes, it's only a week, but I'm sick and tired of the "it's cold in April" excuse. These are games against AL Central opponents! Both teams are playing in the same stadium! You're professionals, damnit! At least they're walking, and strikeouts are down. But, if all you can muster is a weak pop-fly to center field, it's not much of an improvement. Greg Walker needs to be fired. 5 years of this shit is enough.
(Here's Paulie, straining with the weight of the entire team's offense on his shoulders. From: The Trib)

Hawks stumble with opportunity to clinch Home Ice: With home ice throughout the Western Conference Playoffs on the line, the Blackhawks choked in overtime against the hated RedWings. Even more important, a win would've set up a series with the Avalanche and guaranteed me the ability to see my 'Hawks in the playoffs (for a lot less than if I was still living in Chicago. Oh well, I still like the 'Hawks chances to make the Stanley Cup Finals, and Nashville is probably the easier of the 2 opponents (the 'lanche are young and hungry). Goalie Antti Niemi says he's "almost as ready as I can be," (Almost?) and shouldn't be held up by the OT goal last night. Here's to the 'Hawks, and good luck!
(Thanks a lot dude. I coulda gotten to see my 'Hawks in the playoffs. Good luck this week, though. From: The Trib)

The Bulls chaotically inch towards the playoffs: Despite the recent turmoil surrounding Joakim Noah's playing time, the Bulls have somehow pulled themselves into the 8th playoff spot with their win over Toronto last night. Two games to go, and this chaotic season might have a payoff (albeit a short one, since they'll most certainly be bounced out of the 1st round). Vinny Del Negro may be the worst coach in basketball (Watch the Celtics series from last year. Just awful), and he may have no control of his team, but, assuming the Bulls pull it together and make the playoffs, he will have coached 2 straight playoff teams (not without desperately trying to keep them from making the playoffs.) That and 5 bucks will get you a hamburger. Just saying, I'll do his job for $50 grand (and I'll have just as good a chance of succeeding as he does).

Happy Monday!