Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nicole's Crystal Ball: NCAA Tourney '10

Another year, another NCAA Bracket filled out by my lovely wife.  She and I both entered a bracket contest on, and this morning I entered her picks in for her.  I would tell her the teams playing and their seeds, and she would follow any one of a number of meandering paths towards which team she would pick.  After one or two games, I quickly realized that this needed to be recorded for posterity, so I took notes on her line of thinking as she picked. 

In previous years, she followed a pretty orderly path towards her picks, as I recorded last year in a blog post.  That system worked pretty well and she actually beat me in 2009.  It seems to have broken down though and is now a pretty dizzying process to be a part of, to be honest.  If you read that post from last March, you will remember a few key points that will help this make more sense: she has an affinity for Cougars as a mascot, private schools, Catholic schools, interesting words in school names, and schools from cities or states she knows people, or knows alumni from.

The greatest hits from Nicole's 2010 Bracket picks (I gave the schools, seeds, mascots, and answered follow up questions; she provided the magic):

First Round
Northern Iowa over UNLV: "I am going to Iowa for work soon and panthers are like cougars.  Plus, Vegas is gross."
Maryland over Houston: "Turtles always win."
Tennessee over SDSU: "SDS Who?  State sucks." (Note: we both went to USD, so we don't like SDSU.)
Oklahoma St. over Georgia Tech: "I have mosquito bites from our ultimate game on Tuesday, so I hate bees."
Ohio St. over UCSB: "UCSB is a party school.  They're not gonna win in basketball."
Gonzaga over Florida St.: "Gonzaga sucks but they're good.  Right?"
Butler over UTEP: "Butler is private.  Texas sucks."
Minnesota over Xavier: "Xavier is Catholic, but I have too many bulldogs, so pick the other one."
Pittsburgh over Oakland: "Panther is close to cougar."
Florida over BYU: "A cougar vs. a gator would be awesome, and I think the cougar would kill the gator, but I need East Coast, so Florida." (Note: she's picked two teams that were panthers because that's "like a cougar" but has now picked against the first cougar she's come accross.)
Texas over Wake Forest: "I have vetoed all the other Texases, and Wendy went there.  One round for Wendy."
Cornell over Temple: "Owls are smart so Temple wins." (I then reminded her that The Office's Andy Bernard went to Cornell and she changed her pick.)
Wisconsin over Wofford: "Anthony Van Asten went to Wisconsin."
Marquette over Washington: "Huskies are fat and Marquette is Catholic."
Notre Dame over Old Dominion: "Irish.  It's St. Patrick's Day!" (Note: It is March 18.)
Baylor over Sam Houston St.: "Baylor makes me think of 'Bears, beets, Battlestar Gallactica.'" (Note: another The Office reference.)
St. Mary's over Richmond: "WCC, dude." (Note: USD is in the WCC.)

Second Round
Maryland over Michigan St.: "Turtles are so cute."
Tennessee over Georgetown: "Volunteering is good, but Georgetown is Catholic.  Which is more important?  I guess you can be called a Catholic but not be a good person.  Volunteers have to volunteer."
Ohio St. over Oklahoma St.: "T.O. is a bitch, so no Cowboys. Plus, Ohio State has a blow-up costume." (Note: T.O. hasn't been a Cowboy in a season and a half and Nicole was a mascot and wore an inflatable costume at USD.)
Syracuse over Gonzaga: "Jeff's school over the Zags." (Note: Jeff, here, is her former coworker Jeff Suss.)
Vanderbilt over Butler: "Jeff went to Vanderbilt.  And I have too many dogs." (Jeff, here, is my brother-in-law, Jeff Donlevy.)
Pittsburgh over Minnesota: "Panthers, dude.  They kill gophers."
Kentucky over Texas: "Wildcats kill bulls. Wildcats equals cougars!"
Cornell over Wisconsin: "Ooh, Andy vs. Anthony.  The Nard Dawg beats Van Asten."
West Virginia over Clemson: "Two." (Note: This was all she said after considering their colors, mascots, states, cities, and conferences.  West Virginia is a 2 seed.)
Baylor over Notre Dame: "Bears, beets, Battlestar Gallactica."
Villanova over St. Mary's: "St. Mary's is Catholic, but 'V' is cool.  Go with the V-one."

Sweet 16
Maryland over Kansas: "Turtles are cute, plus the Dulaneys went there."
Tennessee over Ohio St.: "Volunteers already got two, plus Ohio St. has the blow-up.  But orange is the Mets color." (Note: Nicole, if you're reading this, I love you.")
Syracuse over Vanderbilt: "Jeff vs. Jeff.  Work's been hard for Jeff since I left so he wins.  Syracuse."
Kansas St. over Pittsburgh: "I knocked out Kansas, so maybe keep Kansas St.  Plus Pittsburgh just won the Stanley Cup anyway."
Marquette over West Virginia: "Schools with two names can't be taken seriously."
Villanova over Baylor: "Villanova is Catholic.  Plus...'V'."

Elite 8
Maryland over Tennessee: "Dulaneys and Herbie." (Note: Herbie is the name Nicole gives to basically every wild animal she sees, but in this case she is referring to the green sea turtles we saw in Hawaii, all of which she named Herbie."
Syracuse over Kansas St.: "I don't know.  The Wizard of Oz was in Kansas.  But Kansas St. has two words.  Syracuse."
Marquette over Kentucky: "KFC sucks.  The other one."
Duke over Villanova: "Ooh, they both have cool names...Duke." (Note: This is by far the most she considered picking against Duke thus far.  Until now, once I said, "Number one Duke Blue Devils vs. ..." she said, "Duke.")

Final 4
Maryland over Syracuse: "Dulaneys and turtles, and plus Maryland is Catholic." (Note: Maryland isn't Catholic; it's a public school.  But I suppose the state was the most Catholic of the colonies.)
Duke over Marquette: "Duke."

Championship Game
Duke over Maryland: "Duke hasn't been in a while and he's the Olympic coach, but turtles are really cute.  What are the colors ... hmm ... all American.  Seeds? ... Who won it more recently? ... Would people pick Maryland? ... OK, I don't want to make a dumb pick, so Duke."

Tie-Breaker: Championship Score
Duke 71, Maryland 69: "I was born in 79.  Is that too high? ... What month were you born?  October, so 10.  Too low.  I was July so 7.  Too low.  But I was born on the 17th.  So flip it ...71.  And 69 for the Mets."

I've never been prouder.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Name of the Year

When I first made this list last March and more recently this one last month of some of the funnier and more unusual names I had seen in sports, I suppose I should have assumed that someone else had already taken this pursuit to another level.  The level to which they had, I could not have guessed. 

And apparently, not only was I embarrassingly outdone, but I have been getting outdone for 17 years (though, in my defense, they haven't been publishing it for the whole time). 

Last year's Name of the Year winner was a football player from LSU (Barkevious Mingo), but they're not all sports figures. And where I generally focused on the miserable albatrosses that parents bestowed on their children, many of the most spectacular of these names are last names, or even better: amazing combinations of first and last names.  These guys have done their homework and found some epic names, all of which are apparently verified before publishing (except, of course, for Licentious Beastie [Name of the Year 1999;  invalidated 2006] and Mummenschontz Bitterbeetle [Name of the Year 1994; invalidated 2006]).

Sponteneous Gordon, Nubian Peak and God's Power Offor appear to be early front-runners in this year's tournament (just in time for March, of course), but do not miss the Hall of Fame section.  Assumption Bulltron?  Vanilla Dong?  Tanqueray Beavers?  Tokyo Sexwale?  All your favorites are there.

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Name of the Year.

And don't forget to check in during the coming weeks to vote in this year's tourney.

(Speaking of tourneys, if you would like to join a free Yahoo! NCAA Tourney group, go to Yahoo! Sports and enter the Group ID #5446 and password "march".  There are instructions there if you really want to bet $10 on your picks, but that is optional.  You need a Yahoo! screen name to play but it is free to register.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

These Next 12 Months Are My Favorite Time of Year

As a pretty avid watcher of all sports, this time of year is pretty fantastic for me.  Starting with the run up to the NCAA tournament, then you have baseball Spring training, the Tourney, baseball's opening day, the start* of the NBA season and then postseason, NHL playoffs, the Grand Slams and golf's Majors, Tour de France, this year we had the Winter Olympics and we'll have the World Cup, then the baseball postseason pushes, NFL starts, October, "BCS is unfair" month, the bowls, and then the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl and then the NCAA bubble talk starts up again, and you sprinkle in various drafts, trades, free agency, scandals, other tournaments and events throughout this time.

OK, so as it turns out, it's pretty much the whole year.  But still, February/March always seems to be the start of it all somehow.  Maybe I am just a baseball/college basketball fan first and everything else follows? 

*in my world, the first 50ish games of the NBA are preseason and don't matter.  Then somewhere between the Super Bowl and the Final Four, the NBA gets going.  Ironically, most NBA players and management seem to feel the same way.

Sadly for me, this most magical time of year is overlapping a time when I simply cannot follow any of it very closely.  I've just moved to San Francisco (fun fact: everyone here hates the Lakers and Dodgers, just like me!) and didn't have TV for a couple of weeks (staying with non-sports people - did you know people really watch Jersey Shore?).  We finally got TV in our room, but now that I am moving out of my friends' basement into my new place, I will be without TV or the internet again for a few days...during this weekend of all weekends (though I would probably be this mortified pretty much every weekend). 

All that said, it has made it hard for me to write anything about sports, even though there have been so many things I wanted so badly to write about.  So here's a capsule of what I have watched over the past month or so:

-Canada's hockey fans inspire me to be a better sports fan in general - they collectively know the game at such a detailed level, they applaud the other team, they chanted "USA" at our women as they collected their silver medals.  Very impressive.  That said, I wish we'd broken every single one of their hearts.

-When someone says, "Oh, don't tell me what's happening in the Gold Medal Hockey game.  I am taping it and left it when we were down 2-1 with 9:00 to go."  Your response cannot be, "Oh, well it's in overtime now, so you will love it."  Dammit!

-Derek Anderson said after he was released that Browns fans are "ruthless."  "I will never forget getting cheered when I was injured. ... I know at times I wasn’t great. I hope and pray I’m playing when my team comes to town and (we) roll them."  People are very upset about this and he issued an apology.  What should he have said?  "I will miss the loyal and wonderful Browns fans, especially the ones who cheered when I got injured.  I look forward to coming back here with a new team and I hope the Browns crush us."  Kudos to him for saying what he really meant and really not being all that offensive anyway.  Derek, you can keep the balls dry for Eli Manning anyday...just stay off the field. 

-Mike Dunleavy got canned as Clippers GM and found out about the move because a reported from ESPN asked him what he thought of it.  The Clips then went out and lost by 30 that night.  That pretty much sums up everything you need to know about them.

-The Jets, who have the best corner in football, just got one of the best corners in football to play on the other side.  That pretty much sums up the opposite of everything you thought you knew about them.

-The NFL Combine happened.  People ran and jumped.  Al Davis decided to draft the fastest person there with the Raiders' first pick.

-Speaking of the fastest person there, my mom (Hall of Famer, Kathy Bergen) set two World Records and an American Record at a Masters track meet a few weeks ago.  Incidentally, I really feel that she should now sign her name, "Kathy Bergen, Legend" as though it is a masters degree or a doctorate or something.

-Some race car driver got angry and ran down and crashed into another race car driver repeatedly until he wrecked because he was mad at him.  NASCAR gave the guy a three week probation, so apparently the penalty for attempted murder in the South is no longer jail.  NASCAR has seen it's popularity wane in the last few years, so they decided to allow drivers to police themselves more and let these types of things be handled on the track.  In other words, they feel that having people run into one another at 150 miles an hour will draw in more fans.  This seems a little far-fetched to me because I didn't think demolition derbies were that popular.  Maybe they just haven't been going fast enough.  This will probably be less fun when people start dying.

-The Winter Olympics presented a whole slew of events that made me look again at the Definition of Sport.  The Sport vs. Non-Sport lists grew as well.  Stay tuned.

-A women's college basketball player socked another one.  Also Connecticut's women have just set the record for longest winning streak.  Some folks say these things should make me want to take interest in women's college basketball.  Somehow women fighting means they've reached a certain level of legitimacy and passion.  And UConn's excellence supposedly shows that women can play on a really high level.  Frankly, all this makes me think is that some girl is a thug and the sport is more of a joke than ever since one team can win their games by an average of 30 points all season.  I've said it before, but I don't watch women's basketball because they are not as fast or athletic as men's basketball players.  That's not sexist, it's science (thanks Ron Burgundy).  I don't watch minor league baseball either, because it is not as good a game as major league baseball.  I also don't watch the Raiders for the same reason, and even if Tom Cable punched an assistant coach, I still wouldn't.  Oh, that happened?  Ok, I'll YouTube it.

-Milton Bradley, who signed with the Mariners this offseason, said it wasn't his fault that he kept getting into trouble when he was on the _______ (insert team here).

There are many, many more, but I need to find a job and there's only so much time I can spend on this crap.