Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: We're not last!

No time for chit-chat, right onto the bag!

Today in the bag, I'm talking Pac-12 media polls, Frank Thomas in Cooperstown, and a little site news.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs picked to finish 11th in Pac-12 - 

Good news, everyone! After a 2013 campaign that showed the first signs of program growth in years, the Pac-12 media has rewarded the Colorado Buffaloes by picking them to NOT finish last in 2014!  Huzzah!

While CU received, by far, the fewest votes in the Pac-12 South, they still received relatively more than the lowly Cal Bears to stay out of worst-in-conference status.  Of course, as the Bears are, again, expected to be one of the worst teams in all of the FBS, the distinction isn't all that notable, but I've committed to passive optimism, damnit, so I'm all-in on grasping at this straw.

What really gets my imagination flowing, however, is the in-division numbers. As the Buffs received 43 points from 39 potential voters in the Pac-12 South, we can extrapolate that as many as four voters (~10%) believe that CU could escape the South's basement.  Colorado hasn't finished out of last place in the South since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, and such a run would clearly be a sign of improving football in Boulder.

Look, hoping for 5th in a league may not seem monumental, but it's another step in the process.  That string of last place finishes is an ugly mark, almost as ugly as the since-disposed-of road losing record, and the carcass of that albatross is starting to stink up the joint.  This program is not going to magically wake up one morning as one of the best in the West, they're going to have to earn it, and avoiding the cellar in 2014 is just the next step in the long road of recovery from the Lost Years.

Frank Thomas enters Hall of Fame - 

In a teary moment on Sunday afternoon, I saw my childhood hero, Frank Thomas, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  He spoke for far longer than expected, broke down repeatedly, and somehow managed to thank everyone ever associated with the Chicago White Sox, but it was 100% Frank, and 100% awesome.

Standing as a stark contrast to the finesse pitchers and mercurial managers he was going in with, Frank, still an imposing hulk of a man, commanded attention on the stage.  He loomed over the podium when the moment finally came, making the stage feel small.  But as commanding as he looked approaching the dais, once at the mic the Big Hurt suddenly appeared vulnerable.  The tears flowed early and often from Thomas, in a touching moment of introspection from a man who had so often been portrayed by the media as a gruff introvert during his playing days.  Through nearly 20 minutes of speech he touched on his family, friends, and perseverance to succeed in a game without taking any shortcuts. In the end, he showed the baseball world that he was just a big man with a big heart.
Well done, Hurt.
Anyone watching could tell how much this meant to Thomas.  The other five honorees had been relatively cool in accepting their place amongst the all-time greats of the sport.  It was up to Frank, the man who had always seemed so other-worldly with his combination of size and skill at the plate, to bring humanity to the proceedings.  Just sitting at home, I teared up when he spoke of his late father. "Thanks for pushing me and always preaching to me, 'You could be someone special, if you really work at it.' I took that heart, pops, and look at us today. We're a long way from Columbus, GA."  At that moment I thought back to the photos of Thomas celebrating with his father after receiving his MVP trophies in 1993 and '94, and suddenly it was a little dusty...

After an era of shortcuts and unbelievable numbers, the Big Hurt seems to finally be getting the recognition he deserved all those years ago.  Any White Sox fan worth his salt had been waiting for this day for years, firmly knowing that our hero was worthy.  On Sunday, the rest of the baseball world got to share in that joy. You are worthy Frank, welcome to the Hall!

Site News - 

I can confirm, after months of planning, that I will be traveling to Hawai'i this December to watch the basketball team take on all comers at the Diamond Head Classic.  What does that mean for this site?  Well, for the first time ever, I will be providing commentary from the site of the holiday tournament, possibly even including some form of audio/visual content!
I won't be alone in my travels.  Friend of the blog, and frequent contributor to the Ralphie Report, @Phyltopia will also be in Honolulu, and the plan is to somehow collaborate to cover the tournament like nowhere else on the web.  Take that, @RyanKoenigsberg!

However, this is not an exclusionary event.  If you, fellow BasketBuff, are also traveling to the Aloha State for the Classic, I'd love to hear from you.  Give me a shout, and we can work together to give Christmas in Hawai'i a distinctly CU flavor.

... Also, if any of you have a line on some Buffs-themed Hawai'ian shirts, Phil and I would be grateful.

Happy Monday!

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