More Oz Bloggin' It
March 292:06 p.m.
– Just got off the train at Sydney Central, so I can catch my train to the Blue Mountains and Sara can head to the airport to head back to Melbourne. It’s the Leaving of Sydney, so let’s recap the amazing last four days.
Arriving in Sydney on March 26, I was working on being totally exhausted and semi-hungover. I had managed to be a trooper the first two days, with a little sightseeing and drinking, but it definitely caught up with me.
I had ALWAYS wanted to visit Australia and given my current employment situation, there was no better time that now. And given said same employment situation, I needed to go somewhere far, far away from New Rochelle to get my head straight. I’ve been getting dealt 2’s and 3’s while the other folks at the table are seemingly getting all the face cards and the dealer keeps pulling out aces and jacks.
And seeing Sara has been nothing short of terrific – catching up with her is definitely one of the main reasons to visit Oz. The first two days in Melbourne reminded me, in a not-so-subtle manner, the high regard I hold for her. Always have. Hey, if there’s another story out there like ours, then call the agents for Hugh Grant and Elisabeth Shue and get them a script, stat.
Since 1998, we've consistently stayed in touch, emailed, etc... At times, we've met; once for lunch in the nation’s capital and another for a drink in NYC or Hoboken. Six years later, it’s a Carlton Draught on Swanson Street in Melbourne CBD.
Throughout said story, the dates, months, and years …the phone numbers and addresses – both electronic and postal - have changed. But my high regard for her has not. Why is that? It seems improbable.
I digress…back to the Sydney stuff…after dropping the bags and dodging the raindrops at a pub (hey, it never rains in the pub), we set out around Sydney Harbour. What an amazing view with the bridge and the opera house. Just amazing. I kept needing someone to pinch me. And Sara – as beautiful as I remembered, as pretty as I wished, and as wonderful as I could have imagined – well, she was my traveling companion throughout the whole thing.
That first night in Sydney, I think we were both so tired that we just crashed. Day two in Sydney began early with “Breakfast with Kevin Pittsnogle” before we headed out to the Botanical Gardens and the zoo. It was just a great day, not a cloud in the sky, not a lull in the conversation, not a bad view or lackluster sight. Wow factor was high…repeat…wow factor was high.
At dinner on Sunday night, the wow factor continued. We were at the Waterfront restaurant, which was right there overlooking Sydney Harbour. At this one point near the end of dinner, I looked up from my plate into her blue eyes, catching the light in the right way. She smiled and it floored me. If this were Van Morrison’s notebook, it would’ve “stoned him.” It was one of “those moments,” when quotation marks are overused as a literary “wink-wink,” “nudge-nudge” “device.”
After dinner, we continued to Wildfire, shared a nice bottle of J.J. Hahn 2001 shiraz, and got comfy on one of the couches they have outside, overlooking all the beauty of Sydney Harbour. The conversation ranged from the goofy and improbable, the serious and intellectual, to the sentimental and introspective. We never missed a beat.
Two other young ladies were sitting on the couch next to us. When Sara got up to use the loo, we kinda of smiled at each other politely. I asked them if it looked like I was doing OK. They thought we were a long-time couple. I gave them the very abridged version of our story and they beamed, as if they wished that she could be with someone as wonderful as me on a night like that. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of conjecture on my part, but regardless, the feedback was definitely positive.
After the wine and on the stroll back to the hotel, we kissed by the Harbour. It set off fireworks inside me 10 times greater than the millennium celebration - just five years earlier on that very spot. It was another one of those "wow" moments.
The next morning, we watched some hoops and then set out for a busy day of climbing the bridge and going to a show at the opera house. The whole day was great.
But now, I head to the Blue Mountains and she goes back to Melbourne and to work. Time to explore this wonderful country.3:41 p.m.
– All the Australian train stops are different and quite nice, unlike the concrete cookie cutters of the Metro-North. Interesting, I suppose.6:43 p.m.
– Checked into the Flying Fox – nice hostel, seems like they’re good people. No concierge service, though. Made the walk down to where the major sights are in Katoomba and the Sir Issac Newton’s scientific findings have come into action. The walk from the Fox was mostly downhill. The walk back to the Fox was mostly…uphill. And up…sucks.7:10 p.m.
– Back to the hostel. The Three Sisters had that wow effect. Ought to be a great day of walking and exploring tomorrow.
If Sydney is a major world city, like New York, then Katoomba is similar to Burlington, VT or ever Boulder, CO. A sleepy little mountain town, plenty of young people, probably lots of dope-smokin’, tree-huggin’ folk.9:11 p.m.
– Ventured over to the Carrington Hotel for a few select beverages with two British couples – Lucy and Elliott & Stu and Tracy. Nice kids. Good times.March 30
– What a delightful day to be working on a hangover! It’s not too bad, actually.11:23 a.m.
–Just finished The Great Staircase – 900 uneven, not fun steps down. Whose great idea was this? Very tired, my legs are rubber and literally shaking. I think I may have blown a meniscus or two. But hey, like Simon & Garfunkel are singing on the iPod, “I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.” Ah… Carry on.12:52 p.m.
– Done…and done. Phew! What a ramble. Jeez, I’m wrecked. The Blue Mountains National Park is just an amazing natural preserve.6:45 p.m.
– Wrapping up today…lots of walking, climbing, and sweating. The Blue Mountains are amazing, though. Simply amazing. One of the finest nature-sorta thing I’ve ever seen or experienced.
After starting by the Three Sisters and down the 900 steps of the Grand Staircase, the total walk was terrific. Lots of wonderful sights, sounds, and smells. Katoomba might seem like it’s no more than a day or day-and-a-half kind of place, but I like it a lot. Why traverse back to Sydney where it’s more expensive, you have to find a new place, etc etc etc? Just hang here, goof around, go for walks and get lost and then figure out how to ge home, etc. It’s also a safe and clean spot. Off to Brisbane on Friday, which should be nice…I think. 7:49 p.m.
– I flew 12,000 miles to watch American Idol? Crap-tastic.8:50 p.m.
– Still watching the Idol. Dunno why, but I just thought of Sydney and I now have this goofy grin on my face. Uh-oh.
Well, in real life, I'm off on a plane to Manhattan for the NIT Championship.
Wait, let me clarify...that's Manhattan, KANSAS and it's the W
Swell. Four days till Opening Day. I'll be at Miller Park, but have no fear...I will have my Captain Varitek shirt, my gamer, and my World Series 2004 sweatshirt.
This might be a Brewers/National League town, but it's located in Red Sox Universe. And these slow, Midwestern folk need to recognize.
To the next step...One.
Oz Blog - Weekend Update
March 2611:50 a.m.
–The flight attendant on Qantas asking me if I was “going for a pee” as I walked toward the back of the Boeing 737-800. Wow. How touching and, dare I say, classy. 2:24 p.m.
- My brain hurts. Tired. Can’t even think. Can’t string even two thoughts together, at least, none that make any sense. But the view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge coming out of the train tunnel towards Circular Quay…wow. Chills. Goosebumps. Gasp. It’s unreal.
No, actually, it’s very real. Very real now. I’m in Australia. Someone pinch me.March 276:29 a.m.
– Happy Easter. I’m here in Sydney and it’s unbelievable. Staying right here by the Harbour was a very good idea. I can look out the window and see the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. I could sit on the ledge of the window and look at it all day long.
We did dinner at Jourdon’s last night – pretty good meal – and delved into the dark side: exes and weddings. The night did end with a nice hand-in-hand stroll back to the hotel. Holding hands is a guilty pleasure of mine, people just don’t do it enough these days. All the kids, with Al Gore’s internet and their Playstation Two’s, they just don’t get it. You can’t cyber-handhold.6:40 p.m.
– What a day! Gorgeous weather abound. Not a cloud in the sky. We took a stroll around the Harbour, into the Botanic Gardens, and I took about 10,000 photos of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. We went over to the Taronga Zoo, pet a kangaroo, took a photo with a koala, got a roasting sunburn on my face…good times.
On the way home, we walked across the Harbour Bridge and then went down by Luna Park underneath the bridge – kind of a smaller Coney Island.March 2812:45 p.m.
– Prue might just have to cut my cord and carry my ass back to BridgeClimb headquarters. The two foot wide iron grillwork, 250 feet above Sydney Harbour is making my legs not work so good.1:30 p.m.
– I can see my apartment from up here. I’m high – in every sense of the word, sans narcotics.6:59 p.m.
– Made the play with seconds to spare…
To the next step...which George Mason took tonight. Good on the Patriots and Coach Larranaga - win one for all the mids!
Today's installment of the Oz Blog
It's a relatively short one, as most of the day - 365 days ago - involved walking around Melbourne CBD, the Victorian Botanical Gardens, checking out the Shrine of Remembrance, and various other spots that Sara and I encountered.
She's a history major and made for a terrific tour guide.
–I was abso-freaking-loutely exhausted by the end of the night. It was a long 48-hour day. Met her roommate Trina and another friend Wenona, both nice girls. It’s morning in Australia – Good Friday to be exact. We’re hitting the town for a little stroll.11:45 a.m.
– Oops, I guess I must have gone back to bed. Wake up, little Susie.6:24 p.m.
– I tried to nap after our wonderful day touring Melbourne, but crazy brain syndrome took over. I didn’t think I packed that in my carry-on. Ugh. I wonder what it is. Great seeing Sara, though. It’s been a considerable amount of time since we’ve hung out and it’s been fun catching up on stuff.
Did the Royal Botanical Gardens today and it was lovely. I like the quiet, peaceful, nice walks. Should make a point to get to the one in NY, it’s only close by. Also saw the Shrine of Remembrance – which is similar to our Tomb of the Unknowns. It was closed, though, due to the Good Friday holiday.
Also toured around the site of the Australian Open – Rod Laver Arena – and then continued up to UMelbourne. Translation: my feet are killing me, that’s a lot of walking. My legs are still a bit shot and my ankles are still swollen from the flight. Tonight, we’re going to a Vietnamese restaurant. Yeah, I’m leery of it but I guess trying new food isn’t a bad thing.8:57 p.m.
– Me, joined by four attractive women at dinner…something that happens every single day of my life. How boring is this? (can you sense the sarcasm, because I’m laying it on pretty thick)9:36 p.m.
– The Harp, Boston, MA, circa 1998, just came up at dinner…it really is a good story. I’m probably blushing. 11:56 p.m.
–At a place called PJ’s – shocker, another paddy pub – and I’m starting to fade. Damn you, jet lag, damn you straight to hell.
To the next step...one.
Before you mock and criticize, remember...
We enjoy the NCAA Tournament, we "live and die" by it, some folks make (and lose) a big chunk of change during it...But it's a GAME and it's played by KIDS.
More from the Oz Blog
Around the time to leave work tonight, I realized that it was a year ago - almost to the minute - that I finished leg two of United 839, with connecting service from New York's Kennedy Airport to Melbourne, Australia.
This leg involved about two hours of layover in Sydney, but oddly no Customs. I did have to go through a security checkpoint an additional time - coming off the plane - and then proceeded to the food court/shopping concourse of the airport before the final, hour-long leg to Melbourne.
Here's some more from the Oz blog.
March 24 (whilst I was sleeping)4:00 a.m. Oz Time
– Now I’m sleeping for 45 minutes at a time, then waking up, then going back to sleep for 45 minutes again. It’s erratic, but it’s passing the time.5:02 a.m.
– Wow, 1:02 on that last nap. Need a glass of water. They put the movie “Insomnia” on now. Is this supposed to be funny? Ironical? Drole? 5:07 a.m.
- On a side note, this movie also blew. Not in the category, phylum, family or even universe as Fat Albert, but when it comes down to it all, there are three Academy Award winners and several other nominees in the cast of Insomnia and it still sucked.
And to add another kick to the groin, it’s subtitled. In Chinese. This is a cruel, cruel joke, United Airlines.5:45 a.m.
– Morning Has Broken out the window of seat 48K. Only two hours to go, and then…I get to go on another fucking plane.6:58 a.m.
– Prior to embarking on this trip, I bought a book in the bookstore in JFK Airport. I am not a big book reader, never have been. Can’t honestly remember the last time I read a book cover-to-cover, but it’s been a while. Maybe six years? Well, I just polished one off from NY to Sydney – remarkable for me.7:50 a.m.
– First glance at Australia out of the window of the plane. Very green countryside. Can’t wait to get off this rig.10:04 a.m.
– Adrenaline is an amazing drug. Why don’t I feel more wrecked? I guess I got some sleep and the large diet coke I just bought might have something to do with it. Just bought a power adapter in the Sydney airport so that the trusty sidekick that is my iPod will never be without juice.
When I get to Melbourne, I need to find an internet connection and check my email. Not because I want to see what’s going on at work, but because I forgot to print the directions to Sara’s house. Ordinarily I’d wing it, but not this time. Noon
– Woo-hoo! Through customs, waited forever for my bags, then another forever while half of Saigon were going through a new element into my airport experiences: quarantine. I remember Sara mentioning that she got docked 200 bucks for an apple, so I made sure I didn’t have any food in my bags. But I think the Nguyen family just cleared out its fifth box of fruit. And they stuck it in the kids’ carry-ons. Nice try, noble attempts, Charlie.
Found my way to the Skybus, which will take me to Melbourne, where according to the directions, go to Spencer Street Station, catch the Epping or Hurstbridge line to Clifton Hill, walk between two tennis courts, and then down to her place. Easy enough. I think.
First order of business – a shower and new boxers. If I smell half as bad as I look, I’m in trouble.2:06 p.m.
– I’m here. Whew, happy to be done with the traveling. Just took a shower and feel invigorated – it’s easily one of the top five showers I’ve ever taken. Also got to glance at the photos on Sara’s corkboard. Good way to refresh the memory, as I have not seen her in six years or so. She’s still pretty.
Also noticed the license plates that list the state (Victoria, for example) also have slogans. The newer plates have a slogan of “The Place to Be” and I find it hard to argue with that. But there was an older one that read “The Garden State” and well, I have to put my foot down. The Garden State is New Jersey. I know New Jersey. And Senator, this is not New Jersey.2:37 p.m.
– First official meal in Australia? A beer and a pizza. What, did you expect me to jump right in to the koala kebobs? Doubtful. And I’m sure as hell not rocking McDonald’s or Hungry Jack’s, which is they’re version of Burger King. Why not “The King?” – is it something about the fact that this is some sort of constitutional monarchy? Can’t be, Holland has a king AND the King. Will update on the Hawaiian pizza and the bottle of Victoria Bitter.2:51 p.m.
– Neither one had a chance and neither disappointed. Yummy.3:31 p.m
. – Enter the Oxford Scholar – a fine drinking establishment located on Swanson Street. The friendly barkeep was educating me on a very interesting and extremely important topic: Australian beer.
I knew coming in that Foster’s was piss and I wholeheartedly agree. But, there’s a VB (Victoria Bitter), Carlton Draught (commonly known as “the draft”), and Toohey’s New. I liked the first two. I could manage Toohey’s. But there’s also a Boag’s and a Cooper and something else. Pour me what’s on special, mate (use of Australian phrase #2). Oh, and you don’t have to tip the barbacks. The Oxford Scholar could make a ton serving as the official orientation into Australian social customs.5:19 p.m.
– Boy, things are heating up awful quick thanks to a few schooners of Carlton. Got a bit of a burn cooking, but screw it. I was on a plane for an entire day and I’m meeting Sara in a few minutes. The beer was for two sets of nerves.5:25 p.m.
- I’m in a country that speaks English, for crying out loud, and I can’t order a cup of coffee. I even went to Gloria Jean’s. What the fuck is a flat white? How am I still awake right now? I’m nervous.7:19 p.m.
– Back to the Oxford, having a few pints (again) and playing catch-up with Sara. Is this real? I think so. 10:42 p.m.
– I fly across the world for a day and where do I end up? At a paddy bar in Clifton Hill with a fella playing Dirty Old Town on the guitar. Some things are just universal, I suppose.
To the next step...one.
365 days later
A year ago, right around this time even, I got off of United flight 839, from New York-Kennedy to LAX...the first leg of a three-part trip that took me to Melbourne, Australia for a three-week tour.
It was a trip of a lifetime. Then again, being just 30 years old, any trip that takes over 24 hours from start to finish, is a milestone one. But it encompassed quite a bit more.
Australia was a place I had always wanted to visit. I made it happen. You see it in the pictures, in the movies, on television shows and the such. Sydney Harbour Bridge, kangaroos, koalas, the MCG, the Great Barrier Reef, Steve Irwin (ok, maybe that one's a stretch).
My mother gave me a leather-bound pocket journal book and suggested that I take it with me to jot down some of my thoughts along the way. At the time, I pooh-poohed it. But that small book - it reminded me of something that Hemingway or Salinger would have kept with them at all times - became my co-pilot. It started out with some small thoughts, which led to coherent (and semi incoherent) streams of words. Eventually, it became my eyes.
And most importantly, it became my voice. Now, that same voice - the one that has pretty much continually yelled, screamed, begged, pleaded, cajoled, encouraged, laughed, cried, explained, debated, and screamed some more in my head over the last 30 years or so - that voice has a vehicle. The voice has an audience. (the audience includes all you good, good people, and me.)
And the voice gave me a work that takes up 25 pages in a Word document, single-spaced with wide margins. It is my best work of my lifetime. But, again, being just 30 years old, that's a small sample size.
On occasion, when I feel I've hit a rut, when the roadblocks seem too high to clear, too wide to get around, I double-click on my "Oz Blog" to return to my happy place. I take in the words, it paints a picture, and I marvel at the experience and the words I used to capture it. It's the ultimate reset button on the Nintendo that is my head.
The Oz blog was the precursor to TLBR. So, as a sort of tribute to it, the trip, and all that has come to pass over the last year - and will continue to pass in the days, weeks and months to come - I'm going to drop in excerpts of the Oz blog.
Some of you loyal, royal readers out there already have a copy of it. Some of you will be reading it for the first time. It went onto "paper" unedited and uncensored, so it will come to you the same way. Apologies ahead of time for the f-bombs.
As always, comments are welcome. But most of all, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed living it, writing it, and revisiting it.
March 223:45 p.m., EST; JFK Airport
- What is the deal with duty free? I love not paying taxes on stuff and am in full favor of tax-free goods, but I’m baffled by the selection of stuff they sell in airports.
Hard booze I get. Cigarettes I get. Beer and wine I get. But why perfume, cologne, and big-assed oversized packages of Toblerone candy? Are people really clamouring for cheaper Toblerone? What is Toberlone? Do they even sell it outside of airports? And watches. You might not be able to get Toblerone anywhere else, but I think cheap Timex’ are rather prevalent.
In the duty free shop at the moment is a younger English woman and her mom and they’re playing with a doll that farts. Kids love flatulence. Farts = funny.4:31 p.m.
– Officially just clogged my first toilet. More to come, I’m sure.
I’m also intrigued by another airport anomaly – Hudson News. They have the absolute monopoly on airport and train station newskiosks. So I’m strolling through the kiosk (my favorite word of the day) and see W Magazine. No, not about the President of the United States, but rather, a monthly with a large photo of Lindsay Lohan.
“Fake or real?” was one of the questions posed to her in the interview. I answer that question with yet another question: “Does it matter?”5:15 p.m.
– United flight 839 is boarding for the first leg of one hell of a journey. I thought I saw Elisabeth Rohm – the old blonde DA on Law & Order – getting on the plane. It wasn’t her, though.
Also, kudos to United Airlines for keeping up the separation of the classes. Memo to the airline industry: feudalism – that whole class denomination thing in England - didn’t work. Might be why you’re hemorrhaging cash by the billions. Of course, I’d love the bigger seat, free champagne, hot towel, and cold shrimp salad, but don’t feel like ponying up the extra 7 G’s.5:51 p.m.
– I’m a firm believer in something called “iPod karma,” at least with my own personal 20 GB technological marvel. Whenever I take off on an airplane, when the jets begin to open it up down the runway, I always pick a new song no matter if I’m in the middle of another one or not. And my iPod never disappoints. This trip’s selection: Ian Brown’s “My Star.” Quite apropos for the beginning of a 25 hour, 12,000 mile journey.7:52 p.m.
– Roughly two hours into the trip and we’re being served dinner. Airplane food gets a bad rap. Is it haute cuisine? Nope. Do I turn it down? Nope. Tonight’s choice is chicken or pasta. I chose the pasta. It was lovely and served by a flight attendant who fielded the first of my many dumb questions.
I asked the nice flight attendant if the pilots on the next leg of the trip – the 15.5 hour trek from LA to Sydney – sleep. She said yes, they do. (of course they sleep, you idiot, they’re human beings…just like they have a Fourth of July in England…). This flight attendant was very nice, unlike some of the other unfriendly ones I’ve encountered recently. But in light of my theory about flight attendants, I’ll move on.
Back to the ziti. It was good, but not like Mom’s. The salad was good too, but it’s not Frankie & Johnny’s. There was even this cold shrimp and celery thing, which was also good but certainly not 22 Bowen’s. And for dessert, there was carrot cake, which was also good but not Lloyd’s over by Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. On the iPod, The Jam’s “Pink Carnation” was playing, which is a good song, but it’s not the Beatles’ “Let it Be.”
Catching on to a trend here? I’m a finicky little bitch. Back to my Diet 7-Up.7:58 p.m.
– Chilling with the iPod, but I can’t help but notice that the monitors on this Boeing 757 are playing something from the Food Network, starring the lovely Rachael Ray.8:02 p.m.
– Chewing on the ice from my empty Diet 7-Up, watching Rachael Ray mouth the words about some breakfast place in Aspen, CO. Love. Her. Issues? Yep, boatloads. Yay, it’s movie time – The Incredibles. Will check in later.8:20 p.m.
– Ok if it’s 8:20 in NY, then it’s 5:20 in LA, and it’s 12:20 pm tomorrow in Australia. And that means…holy shit, there’s almost 23 hours to go. Fuck.10:32 p.m.
– The Incredibles was good. Now get me off this fucking plane. It’s starting to get “bumpy,” as the pilot called it. I hate “bumpy.” “Bumpy” sucks. And this is the third or fourth time it’s gotten “bumpy.” But on channel nine on the in-flight entertainment network, one can tune into the control tower chat. There’s nothing more confusing that air traffic control jargon.11:20 p.m.
– More iPod karma – Frank Sinatra’s “A long night.” No shit, Frankie. No shit.11:45 p.m.
– We’re landing soon, so the seatback and tray table have to be in their upright and locked position, and all carry-on stowed safely under the seat in front of me. All I can say about getting off this plane is “yay.”
People complain about the trip from NY to LA. Screw that. I’m losing an entire Wednesday. Not like in college if I went out on a Tuesday night and was hungover and didn’t want to leave my couch and wasted a whole day. No, there is no time during my day that it will be Wednesday.12:27 a.m. EST
– How am I still awake? How am I still on point? Feels good to just walk around a bit and get the blood moving. Saw the first bizarro person in the LAX terminal. A bizarro person is someone that bears an uncanny resemblance to another person that either I know or is famous. The first one: Bizarro Kurt Vonnegut.
This still doesn’t seen real. Been to LA a few times, twice as the final destination and couple times as a stopover. In about a friggin’ day, it’ll be really real.1:00 a.m.
– This 747 is dumb big, yo.1:40 a.m.
– They’re going through the whole safety presentation and I just couldn’t be bothered. They could be telling me the winning numbers for Powerball or Charlize Theron’s cell number, but I’m just not listening. Can’t focus, exhausted. Hey, wait, my watch says 1:41 a.m., WEDNESDAY…I have a Wednesday! Oh wait, that’s in NY. Alas, still no Wednesday for me. It’s quarter to 11 and by the time it might be 12:00 a.m. in LA, we’ll have passed into another time zone. No Wednesday for you, my friend. The safety speech finally finished. It took damn near 20 minutes. Just 14 hours and 40 minutes remain. Bollocks.2:10 a.m. EST; 11:10 p.m. PST
– They have those nifty little progress screens which show the temperature outside the plane, the altitude, distance to and from destination, and time remaining on the trip. I like those.
But not as we taxi down the runway. A nice kick in the pants to see that once we pull back from the gate, there’s just 15 hours and 7,500 miles to go.
Oh, and the first feature film will be Fat Albert? Great, make sure you use the steel toed boots for that second swift kick to the groin.3:05 a.m. EST; 12:05 a.m. PST…but 11:05 p.m. AST…
- Just finished dinner. It was beef. It didn’t suck. Time to introduce some red wine and dextromorthapan into the diet. Dexy is the active ingredient in the popular cold medicine Ny-Quil that makes you go sleep-sleep.
Oh, by the way, Fat Albert is the worst movie I think I’ve even attempted to watch in 15 years. People should lose their job for this and be exiled to some random Elba-like island for this crap. Is Bill Cosby that hard-up for cash? Too many paternity suits? Damn, Bill, “Kids Say The Darndest Things” is easy money, like going to the ATM. Why do this to us?3:10 a.m. EST
– I’m so done with this movie. Back to the trusty sidekick iPod.9:21 a.m. EST
– Told you red wine and two ny-quil tablets work… So I have some good news and bad news for you. Because I’m a newly baptized optimist, I’ll give you the good stuff first : We’re traveled eight hours! Awesome!
Now, the inate pessimism is going to check in for a little point/counterpoint: that’s just slightly over half the way.
Ok, from here on out, I’m switching the blog to Australian time. So if you’re so wrapped up in the words that you’ve already lost track of time, well, you’re ahead of the game.
As I’ve been sitting for quite sometime today, I decide to get up and walkabout (first use of an Australian phrase) the plane. Feels good to have blood flow through your legs. How the hell do people make this trip regularly?
To the next step...one.
Ooh-Ahh, up the RA; Say Ooh-Aah up the RA!
Happy St. Paddy's Day to you all! Hope you enjoy the high holy day, wherever you may be.
Well, the NCAA has a major disdain for sports betting. Even if they didn't , I don't particularly care for it. Why? Well, you didn't see my bracket. There are more words blacked out on it than a declassified CIA memo.
So, we'll recap the first day of Madness, and then embark on my day two picks. They can't be any worse than day one.
Thursday's recap10 Seton Hall vs. 7 Wichita State TLBR's pick: WSU; Winner: WSU
Wichita State blew Seton Hall out. Wasn't close. You could say they didn't have a prayer, but you obviously don't know much about Louis Orr.15 Winthrop vs. 2. TennesseeTLBR's pick: Winthrop; Winner: Tennessee
In one of the great games of the day, and definately one of the more memorable 15-2 matchups, Winthrop came oh-so-close to pulling off the upset. UT's Chris Lofton hit a game-winning deep two in the deep corner to give the Vols a 63-61 win. The desperation play that ensued for Winthrop almost had a storybook ending, even though Craig Bradshaw's shot at the basket - had it gone in - would have been waved off. Oh well.16 Southern vs. 1 DukeTLBR's pick: Duke; Winner: Winner: Duke
This one was no walk in the park for Duke, as a pesky Souther squad kept it within three point (40-37) with just under 16:00 left to play. But Duke eventually pulled away. No shame in Southern's game, they represented well.9 UNC Wilmington vs. 8. George WashingtonTLBR's pick: UNCW; Winner: GW
Another of yesterday's wild and exciting finishes. There were 18 lead changed and 10 ties. UNCW hit a big shot to go ahead with 20 ticks in regulation before GW hit two FT to force OT. The Seahawks had a few chances down the stretch, but GW's defense came up big. Great game.11 Wis.-Milwaukee vs. 6 OklahomaTLBR's pick: Oklahoma; Winner: UWM
Way off. Not even close. Good for UWM (even though I could get drawn and quartered around these parts for saying such a thing).14 South Alabama vs. FloridaTLBR's pick: Florida; Winner: Florida
Florida is, in my opinion, too talented this year. I love the athletic fire of Joakhim Noah and the shooting of Taurean Green. That being said, I probably just jinxed them.13 Iona vs. 4 LSUTLBR's pick: Iona; Winner: LSU
I'll have more words for this game, and for obvious reasons.
I sat on my couch for about 10 minutes after the game had ended with LSU winning, 80-64. I thought a lot about the last four or five years of my life, and how four of those seniors, four of those coaches, and the handful of admins sitting behind the bench, getting random facetime, affected me.
I thought about the good and bad times. The ups and downs. All the things that, to use my mother's favorite line, did not kill me, but made me stronger. Was it just a basketball game? Sure, if you live in Dubuque, Iowa and don't know any better. But to me, it meant a lot more. It was the final chapter completed. Time to turn the page, close the book, and move onto a new one.
Sitting there in silence for 10 minutes. I welled up a little. Then I shook my head. I smiled. A few text messages, IM's, and emails came across my cellphone and laptop. And after the 10 minute cooling off period, I got up, poured a glass of wine, and saluted it all. That era in my life, the connect from the past to the present, had just walked off the court for the last time.
It's not just basketball you're watching, folks, trust me. In the midst of my sadness at seeing those kids wear the gold unis for the last time, I was overtaken with almost a crippling emotion. And in light of today's worldwide Irish fest, it was fitting.
I felt lucky. Still do. Probably always will.12 Texas A&M vs. 5 SyracuseTLBR's pick: Syracuse; Winner: Texas A&M
I had a hunch that Syracuse would lose this, on account of my theory about BIG EAST Tourney winners. But I made this pick knowing that the winner would lose in the round of 32. Congrats to Gerry McNamara on a great career.13 Pacific vs. 4 Boston CollegeTLBR's pick: BC; Winner: BC
Well, God loves the Jesuits. Pacific played tough, BC pulled away with the better athletes. If there was going to be a premature exit/closecall for the Screamin' Eagles, this was going to be the one. But I think this may have shaken the cobwebs from Coach Skinner's ballclub.12 Montana vs. 5 NevadaTLBR's pick: Nevada; Winner: Montana
I thought this was going to be a good one. I was wrong. It wasn't. The 12-seeded Grizz outplayed Nevada on both ends of the court, in the pregame warmups, at the pregame meal, and pretty much every other facet of this game. Good for Larry Krystowiak.14 Xavier vs. 3 GonzagaTLBR's pick: Gonzaga; Winner: Gonzaga
God loves the Jesuits. He loved the 3rd seed Jezzy's more. A surprisingly good game, and congrats to both squads. Xavier fought hard, the Zags showed the kind of grit they're going to need to win more games in this tourney. Sean Miller is a rising star in coaching.11 San Diego State vs. 6 IndianaTLBR's pick: Indiana; Winner: Indiana
The "this could be Mike Davis' last game at Indiana" fest continues. Please, we all know it could be his last game. Could you just focus on the shampooing game itself, please? The Hoosier beat a pesky and talented SDSU squad, which you could say outplayed IU for 39 minutes. But Indiana and Robert Vaden (also in his last few games at Indiana, as he sez...GOD STOP!) hit the go-ahead three with 3.3 ticks left.10 Alabama vs. 7 MarquetteTLBR's pick: Marquette; Winner: Alabama
I didn't touch the preview, I'm barely going to touch the post-game. All I know is that Steve Novak is the best pure shooter I've ever seen. He hits that shot 99 times out of 100.15. Belmont vs. 2 UCLATLBR's pick: UCLA; Winner: UCLA
The Bruins played the Bruins. How cute. Whatever.13 Air Force vs. 4 IllinoisTLBR's pick: Illinois; Winner: Illinois; Loser: Craig Littlepage
This game probably led Billy Packer to let out a guffaw. And what a pig-headed, ignorant, buffoonish guffaw it would have been. AFA made it close, on account of their Princeton-slow-it-down offense, but Illinois was the better team.12 Utah State. vs. 5 WashingtonTLBR's pick: Utah State; Winner: Washington
Not really close. I was mildly surprised. Not as much as hearing the story about the convicted rapist in the Utah State backcourt. Not trying to slight the guy, just surprised. He's 29 and is seemingly reformed. He paid his dues to society, so fair play to him. But he's 29 and is a felon. But the NCAA denies a sixth year of eligibility for Dawan Robinson... I digress.
Onto today's picks...No. 15 Davidson at No. 2 Ohio State
Bob McKillop is a great coach, he's never going to leave Davidson. And neither would I. It's gorgeous down there. I love Charlotte, the cost of living down there is cheap, the restaurants are good, and... Oh, yeah, the game? Ohio State big.TLBR's pick: Ohio StateNo. 14 Northwestern St. at No. 3 Iowa
I've seen Northwestern St. play, because I stay up late and I watch random channels. They're talented and a veteran team. They might not play in the Big Ten (oooh, the big bad Big Ten...what am I saying, the BIG EAST is 0-3...), but I like them to keep the game close for 40 minutes but Alford's coaching Iowa for at least one more game.TLBR's pick: Iowa
(author's note: in the effort of full disclosure, the Northwestern St./Iowa game is on as I'm typing this, and the Demons are on a 13-0 run. I have not changed my tune, even though the best color man in the biz, Bill Raftery, wants the "Fat Man to get a little din-din." The Big fella!)No. 9 Bucknell at No. 8 Arkansas
Bucknell is a nine-seed and it's nice to see the mid-majors represented with such respect. Besides, Bucknell deserves it. I must admit, I don't know a whole lot about Arkansas other than (cue up my Rick Pitino accent), Scottie Thurman's not walking through that door. Corliss Williamson's not walking through that door. Alex Dillard's not walking through that door. And all the negativity in this town sucks.TLBR's pick: BucknellNo. 9 Wisconsin at No. 8 Arizona
With respect to Bone, Kuyps, Big O, Tex, Newt and Lynch, I'll pick the Badgers. But it doesn't mean I like it. Besides, they're the better team. Arizona just seems too discombobulated, confused, kinda like the alphabet backwards (low blow, I know, but at least it blows less than .08).TLBR's pick: Wisconsin
No. 10 Northern Iowa at No. 7 Georgetown
NIU is another one of those Missouri Valley that Nantz and Packer are so against. Well, they're playing a big-conference team. And it's going to be one of TLBR's don't-miss games of the day. I like the Hoyas in the end. They can go big, they can go small, they defend, and they damn sure make you defend.TLBR's pick: Georgetown
No. 11 Southern Illinois at No. 6 West Virginia
Missouri Valley vs. BIG EAST! Oh no, not again! Southern Illinois won this conference and got the automatic bid. West Virginia, down the stretch, has disappointed a bit. But John Beilein is a tremendous coach and has too many weapons. Let's go....Mountaineers.TLBR's pick: West VirginiaNo. 16 Oral Roberts at No. 1 Memphis
Thanks for playing, we have lovely parting gifts. Beware of the 900 foot Jesus. Give your Dad my best, I hope he gets well soon.TLBR's pick: MemphisNo. 16 Monmouth (N.J.) at No. 1 Villanova
Monmouth, in a way, got lucky by playing in the play-in game. That way, the mid-major school from West Long Branch, NJ got to shake the rust off, and get the full attention of the country in their blowout win over Hampton. For a reward, they get to travel down the Pike a few exits to Philly, so their fans can travel along. But Nova wins it. (p.s. Dave Calloway would be a great choice for you AD's looking for a new coach)TLBR's pick: VillanovaNo. 12 Kent State at No. 5 Pittsburgh
We like Jim Christian because he went to the University of Rhode Island. We like the Golden Flashes. We like Maggie Dixon's Army squad, and assistant coach Colonel Magarty. I like Iron City beer, Primanti Bros., and my friend Steve and his wife live out there in the Pittsburgh area Um, I'm stalling, right?TLBR's pick: PittsburghNo. 11 George Mason at No. 6 Michigan State
Michigan State and Tom Izzo ALWAYS step it up around tournament time. I remember seeing this team play in Maui and thinking, "man, if they put it all together, they..." Let's see if they can. GMU is playing without Tony Skinn, who punched Hofstra's Loren Stokes in the skinn flute. MSU pulls away late.TLBR's pick: Michigan State
No. 10 N.C. State at No. 7 California
Leon Powe is a man. It's the give-Leon-the-ball-and-get-out-of-the-way. To me, Cal is one of those teams that, if they get a little hot right now, will be riding the pumpkin to the ball. NC State is an enigma. Lose big to Seton Hall, lose twice in two games to Wake.TLBR's pick: California
No. 16 Albany at No. 1 Connecticut
Albany's Javar Wilson is the cousin of Dyree Wilson, former Iona great. UConn is the best college team in the country. That concludes this game preview, but not before the almost-compulsory mention of former three-time America East Champion Vermont, their former coach Tom Brennan, and standouts Taylor Coppenrath and (Pawtucket's finest) TJ Sorrentine. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Germain Mopa Njila, David Hehn, and Martin Klimes, who will return to Patrick Gym next season, with the hopes of making it four America East titles in five years - and three in his career.TLBR's pick: Connecticut
No. 13 Bradley at No. 4 Kansas
Hersey Hawkins isn't walking through that door, Anthony Parker isn't walking through that door, Jim Les isn't walking through that door...wait, he is. But he's coaching. Pulling for Bradley, but know it's gonna be the Rock, Chalk Jayhawks...KU.TLBR's pick: Kansas.No. 14 Murray State at No. 3 North Carolina
Popeye Jones isn't walking through that door...ok, enough. UNC is scary good. Good enough to repeat, even. But they're also freshmen, which could mean they go from scary to scared. As much as I may not be a big fan of his, Roy Williams has done a great job with this team. Tyler Hansbrough is tough and talented.TLBR's pick: North CarolinaNo. 15 Pennsylvania at No. 2 Texas
I have Texas going to the Final Four. I have Penn coach Fran Dunphy going to Temple.TLBR's pick: TexasNo. 9 UAB at No. 8 Kentucky
Kentucky has been up-and-down all year and UAB has upset-experience from a season ago. They play that tough, trapping pressure defense. But Rajon Rondo is a talent, the kind of talent that you ride to win in the postseason. The Wildcats get on his back and beat the Blazers in another soon-to-be classic.TLBR's pick: Kentucky
Hear that sound???
...it's the sound of the Gross Domestic Product
crashing when the ball is tipped (and there you are...you're running for your life...you're a shooting star...) 12:20 p.m. EST, 11:20 a.m. in Milwaukee.
Folks in offices around the country are scrambling to fill out their brackets, cough up the finn, and get ready for 63 games of sheer bliss. Those same folks are making their plans for the 3-4 hour lunches at the local establishment, or logging onto CBS's "March Madness on Demand," which allows viewers to watch the games from their computers.
School kids around the country are staying home sick, all of a sudden, with the Syracuse Flu or the Boston College fever (which is different than that other BC fever known as chylamdia...)
It's NCAA Tournament time! It's beer and wings time! It's getting a dispensation from your local Archdiocese for meat on Friday time!
So without further ado, here are TLBR's Thursday game picks:Greensboro10 Seton Hall vs. 7 Wichita St.
We're rooting for the BIG EAST, but WSU is a very solid mid-major with a coach (Mark Turgeon) that has two choices at the end of the tourney: take a high-major job, or make the Shockers
the Gonzaga of the Midwest.TLBR's pick: Wichita State15 Winthrop vs. 2 Tennessee
Winthrop's good. They're 23-7. They beat my current employer. Bruce Pearl, welcome to the next Bruce Pearl. His name's Gregg Marshall. He'd also like to introduce you to Craig Bradshaw.TLBR's pick: Winthrop in the upset16 Southern vs. 1 Duke
Southern has endured quite a bit this past year. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the gym at the Baton Rouge, La. school became a shelter for the many who were displaced by the storm in New Orleans. It would be GREAT if they could win. But, it's Duke in Greensboro.TLBR's pick: Duke9 UNC Wilmington vs. 8 George Washington
This is going to be a great game. GW loves to run and open it up. UNCW loves to lock you up. The Colonials' dominant and wholly likable center Pops Mensah-Bonsu is expected to play, after suffering a knee injury that has kept him out of the GW lineup since Feb. 22. (four games). How much he has recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery remains to be seen.TLBR's pick: UNC WilmingtonJacksonville11 Wis.-Milwaukee vs. 6 Oklahoma
UWM is a very good team, tourney-tested with veteran guards. That's usually a recipe for success for mid-major teams looking to score the upset. But Oklahoma's athleticism is high-major. I'm going Boomer Sooner, but it'll be close.TLBR's pick: Oklahoma14 South Alabama vs. 3 Florida
USA's head coach John Pelphrey used to play at Kentucky when Florida's head coach Billy Donovan was an assistant. After that, Pelphrey was Donovan's top lieutenant with the Gators. That's the only thing close about this game - the relationship between the coaches. Florida's been prone to the first-round upset, but I think this team is too good to get caught up in a tourney burp in '06.TLBR's pick: Florida13 Iona vs. 3 LSU
You expect me to be objective with this pick, right? Well, you're right. And I'm still picking Iona. Why? Because, without getting into the first-person narrative, or having Wilford Brimeey tell you a story about four terrific seniors from New York City that beat North Carolina as freshmen, I think they'll be playing with zero pressure. And when they just play, they're damn good. Glen "Big Baby" Davis is good, but so was Justin Reed and Rahim Lockhart for Ole Miss in '01. Sure, the Gaels had Blood and Big G, but still. Gaels in the upset. (the other sound you just heard, other than the GDP crashing, was my objectivity)TLBR's pick: Iona12 Texas A&M vs. 5 Syracuse
Interesting. I always had a theory that teams which win the BIG EAST tournament are at a disadvantage, because those are the toughest three games you'd have to play all season. Well, Syracuse had to win four games, beating the likes of Cincinnati, #1 UConn, Georgetown, and Pitt. All four teams are tough, hard-nosed teams. But luckily they did, so we can enjoy Gerry McNamara one more time.TLBR's pick: SyracuseSalt Lake City13 Pacific vs. 4 Boston College
We here at TLBR like Al Skinner. We, also here at TLBR, feel bad for kids that go to Boston College. They didn't get into Fairfield. Pacific has put together a nice little program out there in the Big West. Aside from the potential for a bad trip West, I don't see BC running into any roadblocks in this or the next round in SLC punk.TLBR's pick: Boston College12 Montana vs. 5 Nevada
We here at TLBR like mid-majors coached by 6'10" alums who used to play in the NBA. But in this case, we're not picking Montana. I do like the Grizz and think this will be a good game to watch, but we're going with the Fox and the Wolfpack.TLBR's pick: Nevada14 Xavier vs. 3 Gonzaga
This game is the first round of the St. Ignatius Loyola Classic. God loves the Jesuits, but he might shine His light more favorably on Morrison and Batista tonight.TLBR's pick: Gonzaga11 San Diego State vs. 6 Indiana
Simple...if Marco Killingsworth shows up with focus and fire, Mike Davis gets to coach the Hoosiers at least one more game and San Diego State gets to focus on Coach Tony Gwynn's baseball squad. If IU is not ready to play, then Marcus Slaughter and Mohammed Akubar get their chance at trying on the Glass Slipper. This game was the biggest toss-up of the 63 game tourney for me. But I'm breaking the tie after watching the Providence Friars beat the Aztecs, 80-65.TLBR's pick: IndianaWhale's Vagina (German for "San Diego)10 Alabama vs. 7 Marquette
You expect me to break this down for you and be objective, right? Wrong.TLBR's pick: Marquette15 Belmont vs. 2 UCLA
It doesn't suck to be a Belmont basketball player. You go to college in Nash-vegas. You get to take a nice trip out to San Diego for Spring Break, which is the greatest city in the history of mankind. Discovered by the Germans in in 1904...I digress.TLBR's pick: UCLA13 Air Force vs. 4 Illinois
Air Force has caught a lot of guff for making the field of 65. Now they're going to catch Dee Brown and James Augustine and a team that still remembers what it's like to win 30+ games and go to the Final Four.TLBR's pick: Illinois
12 Utah St. vs. 5 Washington
Every year, the pundits look to the 12-5 matchups as upset central. I agree with this one. Washington is a good team, not a great one, and Utah State plays the kind of defense that can really take a team out of its element. Although, with their deliberate offense, if Washington breaks out early, USU is SOL. Another soon-too-be NCAA first round classic.TLBR's pick: Utah State
That's about it from here. Check back later to see if the brackets were accurate (TLBR's pick: no chance
March Madness Preview Tonight...
...but first, an announcement:
Adam Morrison earns the First-Ever TLBR National Player of the Year Award
Congrats on a great senior season, another West Coast Conference title, and your choice of baseball teams.
Even though it's a "big-market" team, Karl Marx would be proud.
Some Quick Friday Stuff
- Gerry McNamara does it again. I'll tell you what, this kid (and that's what he is, for all you jackasses out there who want to get dirty and negative, he's a shampooing kid...) has done EVERYTHING that Syracuse needed.
For crying out loud, it was the modern day Hoosiers
in the huddle yesterday, with Boeheim drawing up a play for Devendorf and Gerry saying "I'll make the shot."
Terrific. (author's note: other than Providence, Syracuse is my most favoritist charter Big East school. UConn's third. Georgetown's fourth. But Marquette's #1 these days.)
- I used to like Pitt alot. But that was in the late 1980's-early 1990's. Paul Evans was the coach, Sean Miller the point guard (now coaching Xavier), Darelle Porter the shooting guard (no longer coaching Duquesne), send-it-in-Jerome Lane, Brian Shorter, Bobby Martin...even earlier with Charles Smith (the big guy who missed 1,000 layups in the playoffs for the Knicks).
- Villanova's a class program, too. And Jay Wright's the epitome of class. His seniors have been through a lot and I hope they have success. If Marquette and Iona and Villanova were to make the Final Four, I'd be a happy kid. So would God. And, as we all know too well, God loves the Jesuits.
- Hmmm...other stuff...I basically stole some haute couture from the mall tonight. No, I didn't actually steal it. It was just on a ridiculous sale rack. So I continue the trend of me being the best-dressed person on the planet making minimum wage.
Ok, that's about it. I'm enjoying the sweet taste of a glass of Penfield's Thomas Hyland Shiraz (2003). Delish.
Here's to the was
, which makes the is
possible. Here's to the is
, which makes the now
possible. And here's to the was
and the is
, for without them, hope
would be impossible.
To the next step,
I Can See Clearly Now, Despite the Fog
Yeah, it's foggy out in the MKE now. Foggy and in the low 50's.
And it's Thursday, which means not only am I gearing up for the Maroon & Gold media crush, but I'm also prepping for the #4 seeded Golden Eagles are playing the #5 seeded Hoyas at 2 EST, 1 CST. I'm not there, but I am here in the 12th Street office soon to make a move to a 10th Avenue Freezeout (more on that song later) down at the Water Street Offices.
(which reminds me of the good old days of Iona's Northern Campus, on the shores of Narragansett Bay...but that's a different story for a different day.)
Ok, onto the stuff that's just dying to get out:
*** I'm sure, unless you live under a rock, you've heard Jim Boeheim's post-game rant about his senior guard Gerry McNamara.
Even if you live under a rock, and you can understand conversational worm-speak, you'd have heard about it.
Boeheim blasted his local and student newspapers for calling the career of McNamara "overrated." He took special exception with a few anonymous league assistant coaches who uttered the dreaded O-word.
I'm torn with my feelings about it. But here goes, in no particular order.
1. Jim Boeheim loves his kids. He may not always like them, but he for damn sure loves them and will damn sure defend them if he thinks they are being wronged in any way. That is the kind of coach I'd like to play for or have my son play for.
2. Jim Boeheim is one of the best coaches in the history of the game. That's from Naismith's peachbucket to the alternate possession rule to the 2006 NCAA Tournament. One of the best ever. No doubt.
3. Gerry McNamara has had a nice career. He was won a national championship. He has won a lot of ballgames. He has completed his degree requirements at a terrific school. He has set himself up for the rest of his life, hopefully.
4. Gerry McNamara began his career as an 18-year old kid. He ends it as a 22-year old kid.
5. Syracuse is one of the best college basketball towns in the Northeast, perhaps the country. The Post-Standard does a great job, year-in and year-out, in covering the Orange(men). The Daily Orange is a terrific student-run newspaper (seeing as Syracuse has given us many of the best sports journalists in the country, it's not a surprise there).
6. Jim Boeheim has spent more than half his life dealing with Syracuse basketball, as a player and as a coach.
That being said...
7. College basketball fans, media, pundits, experts and the so-called experts and douchebag fans on the message boards always seem to forget that these are 18, 19, 20-year old kids playing a game. It's not life or death. For guys like JJ Redick to see signs reading "Hey JJ, I did your mom" with Mom Redick sitting within eyeshot...for fans to chant to Randy Foye "Hey Randy, where's you mom?"...or back in the day with the "Ewing Can't Read" or the taunting of Steve Kerr after his father was killed in Lebanon. Stuff like that has no place in college basketball, or anywhere for that matter.
8. Back to the newspapers...the Post-Standard, in an explanation/defense of its coverage
which had the "Gerry McNamara is overrated" statement, said that they've been running the same sort of poll for the last seven years. In the explanation, they said in order to get the true opinion and pulse of the coaches, they have to guarantee anonymity. It guarantees honest answers and insightful reading. I can understand and respect that. On the other hand, it's a double-edged sword if the comments go negative. Not one of those assistants would want to hear, hypothetically of course, that Donnie McGrath or Carl Krauser is overrated.
9. Back to Boeheim...this is the first time someone wrote something bad or said something negative about your players. This isn't your first press conference. This isn't, as TLBR is fond of saying, "your first clambake, coach." Save the profanity for Eddie Murphy "Raw." We know you know it would get attention, we know you know you don't care and would say it again, we know you know that you're Jim Boeheim. But having dealt with individuals in similar positions, in similar set-ups, with similar gripes, who answered in more-than-similar fashions... (Example:
Q: How do you stop Team X's duo of hot-shot guard and dominant post-player? A: With an uzi.) ... it's pointless. You set yourself up - and the player up, as well - for failure and give the pundits more ammo.
10. To the anonymous assistant coaches who said McNamara is overrated...why do I get the feeling that Boeheim knows who you are. Hell, I think I have a very good idea. You can't hide, it'll get out. Own up to it. Like Muhammad Ali once said, "If you dream you beat me, you'd better wake up and apologize."
* Count me in as a fan of the World Baseball Classic. I might not have been able to watch every game, but it is nice to read all the coverage. Nice to hear the crack of the bat and smack of the catcher's glove. It's also nice to see Papi and Tek hitting bombs and Adam Stern, the Sox' 4th or 5th outfielder, getting a chance to show his wares.
Overall, even though I'm neck deep in the hoops, thinking April and thinking baseball is still pretty sweet.
And with baseball in mind, here is a mini-top five list, with a decided hot stove, cool tunes
feel to it:Top 5 Rap Albums of All-time
1. Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions
2. NWA - Straight outta Compton
3. A Tribe Called Quest - Peoples Instinctive Paths...
4. Run DMC - Raising Hell
5. Eric B. and Rakim - Paid in FullTop 5 Uncommon Songs That, if I were a closer, I'd like to hear on the PA as I trotted out to mound to get the final three outs
1. Ohio - Neil Young
2. Boy with the Arab Strap - Belle & Sebastian
3. Timebomb - Old 97's
4. Fat-Bottomed Girls - Queen
5. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out - Bruce SpringsteenTop 5 Songs I would not have playing as I trotted to the mound to get the final 3 outs
1. Enter Sandman - Metallica
2. Anything by Bright Eyes
3. Sk8er Boi - Avril Lavigne
4. The Best of John Sterling's Home Run Calls
5. Oh Well, Okay - Elliott SmithTop 5 Bad Songs to Listen to on a bumpy airplane
1. At the Bottom of Everything - Bright Eyes
2. I'm Going Down - Bruce Springsteen
3. Plane Crash in C - Rilo Kiley
4. Freebird - Skynard
5a. La Bamba - Richie Valens
5b. The Sky is Crying - Stevie Ray Vaughn
Ok, that's about all from here. Enjoy your Thursday, take it into your Friday, and then cruise through the weekend.
And I would be remiss if I didn't recognize the 50k mark in terms of hits on TLBR. Staggering, it is. Thanks so much for tuning in everyday or whenever you get time. It is greatly appreciated.I couldn't have gotten there without you readers. I couldn't have gotten 10 (expletive-deleted) hits without you.
To the next step...one.
Iona 80, St. Peter's 61
Steve Burtt, 28 points.
Kiril Wachsmann, 11 points & 12 boards.
Justin Marshall (left), smiling.
The Iona Gaels, dancing.
Me (in Milwaukee), Crying.
Congrats fellas, I love you guys.
To the next step.
First Half Notes - Milwaukee's nervous stats idiot savant chimes in
A few quick first half notes from the Midwest Airlines suite of the Pepsi Arena...
- Justin Marshall's three-point field goal at the end of the half reminded me of Alex Dillard's range..."When he steps in the gym." Ok, maybe it's hyperbole, but when Marshall is on, he's on. Ok, maybe that's more hyperbole, it was only his third three of the season. But I do remember a weekend in Omaha last year when Justin was doing his best Scottie Pippen imitation.
- Steve Burtt loves playing against St. Peter's. He just flat-out scores against them. 6-for-11 from the floor, 3-of-5 from the outside, 21 points. For his career, he averages just a hair under 23 tallies per game against the 'Cocks.
- His counterpart on the visitor's bench, Kee-Kee Clark, has 13 points and is shooting 4-of-11. But don't sleep on Kee-Kee, as the kids are fond of saying. He has the ability to drop 25 in this half and if this were a mid-January winter intercession game, I'd be worried. But this is game four in as many days for the Peacocks. Kee-Kee's gonna have some dead legs soon.
- Marvin McCullough...4 assists, 1 turnover...kept them honest with an open three. He's not going to win MVP, but he is on TLBR's All-MAAC Tourney team. Big time.
- In his last five games (including tonight), Kiril Wachsmann is 28 for his last 31 from the charity stripe (.903). Of course, this is coming from the jinx...CRANK CALLER, CRANK CALLER...forget I said any of that about Big Kiril's FT shooting.
- Nobody does a better job in this business than Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas, and Bill Raftery. No one. Not a single one.
Onto the 2nd frame. 20:00 to play.
Stories About Scoring Guards
Need a good story or two? Need a reason to watch mid-major basketball?
Tonight's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference final, featuring St. Peter's and Iona tonight at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN2, has several.(It also bears noting that four Jesuit schools - Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount in the WCC and St. Peter's tonight, as well as Holy Cross on Friday - will be playing in the finals of their conference tournaments this week...and Marquette could face Georgetown on Thursday in the quarters of the BIG EAST Championship. That tidbit brought to you by St. Ignatius Loyola.)
Keydren "Kee-Kee" Clark just recently became the seventh player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points and passed Bradley's Hersey Hawkins for sixth on the all-time list with his 3,033 points.
And for all the talk about how great J.J. Redick is, Kee-Kee's 433 trifectas ranks him five ahead of J.J. for the all-time NCAA Division I lead. Funny, I didn't hear Dick Vitale mention that in the UNC-Duke infomercial on the ESPN family of networks on Saturday night. But I digress.
Kee-Kee's been the national scoring champ the three previous seasons, averaging 24.9 points as a frosh, 26.7 as a sophomore, and 25.8 last season. So far this year, he's scoring at a 26.3 clip - good for third nationally.
In reality, he's been the best player in the MAAC for the three previous seasons, but there always seemed to be an upperclassman on a team in the upper crust that earned the big trophy the first week of March. Luis Flores of Manhattan and Niagara's Juan Mendez were no slouches, but Kee-Kee was always (in my extremely skewed opinion) a tick better.
In other news, Kee-Kee graduated from college early, tried out for and was inexplicably passed over for the USA World University Games team, and even mulled over declaring early for the NBA draft, just to get out there and show his wares against the best in the country.
All of this is a nice preface to the final chapter in the story of a tremendous student-athlete (there's that word again...nice to use it and actually have it mean something) that will be written tonight. But nothing on the court can compare to what Kee-Kee Clark has had to deal with since June, when he discovered his best friend, teammate and roommate George Jefferson dead just a day or two before he was set to travel with the NIT All-Stars to London. (an earlier TLBR post, scroll down to the "pinky."
Kee-Kee has dedicated his season to his fallen friend, wearing a t-shirt under his jersey with the words "Until We Meet Again," while all the SPC Peacocks have George's #23 on their jerseys.
On the other side of the court, Iona College has a nice standout guard of its own in Steve Burtt.
Coming into this season, Burtt had had a nice career. Despite averaging 9.2 points per game in 29 contests - fourth best among all MAAC newcomers - while setting a new Iona freshman three-pointers record (38), the 6-0 guard from Harlem did not receive a spot on the league's All-Rookie team. Those honors went to fellow teammates Ricky Soliver and Marvin McCullough.
Never lacking confidence, Burtt improved his scoring the next season to 13.5 points per game - an increase of over four points per game - while connecting on 49 three-pointers. His efforts earned him Third Team All-MAAC honors and honorable mention All-Metropolitan accolades.
As a junior, Burtt began to shine. His 19.3 scoring average - again, another increase, this time by almost six points per game - ranked him third in the conference, behind the national leader Clark and eventual conference player of the year Mendez. His 80 trifectas that season set a new single-season Iona mark, en route to also making him the Gaels' all-time best long-distance shooter, with 124 treys. His career-high 38 points against Marist on Feb. 21, 2005 gave him 1,247 points.
The number itself shouldn't stand out, but when you add it to the 2,534 points his father Steve scored during his Iona career, the two Steve Burtt's became the top scoring father-son duo in NCAA Division I history. That's right, his dad is Iona's all-time leading scorer. He also wore #15. Like Kent Dorfman, Steve Burtt the younger (not "Jr." though, he has a different middle name) is a legacy.
Fast forward to this year. Burtt has tallied 729 points in Iona's 29 contests, including 17 games of 25 points or more. He has connected on another 90 trifectas, giving him 257 for his career. The scoring total and average stand to be the best single-season marks in Iona basketball history. His 25.1 points per game ranks sixth in the country in scoring. His 1,983 total points ranks him second on Iona's all-time scoring list behind, yep, his pops.
In his nine-game career against St. Peter's, Burtt has averaged 22.4 points per game - his highest scoring average against any MAAC team. This season, Burtt put up 37 and 20 against SPC in two regular-season meeting.
So tonight, on the Deuce, it's mano-y-mano between the two senior guards from Harlem, both trying to cement their outstanding careers as student-athletes (gosh, it's nice to say that...especially since both guys graduated early and are pursuing their master's degrees).
Kee-Kee Clark and his 26.3 points per game and 3,033 career points going up against Stevie Burtt's 25.1 points per game and his knock-knock-knocking on 2000's door total of 1,983.
That's 5,016 points and 690 threes - combined.
Pretty nice stories, huh? But it gets better.
They were high school teammates. Yeah, same backcourt.
To the next step. (and for the Gaels, may it be the next step-after-step, up a ladder, with a pair of scissors ready to cut down those nets)
For more official information on the MAAC Tournament, log onto www.maacsports.com
For the best MAAC Tourney coverage around, check out Sean Brennan from the New York Daily News.
And for the best MAAC Tourney blogging, go no further than Scott's Shots
Mush, get in the closet...
Eddie Mush. He's the guy in "A Bronx Tale" that was eternal bad luck.
Worse than a black cat walking under a ladder on a sidewalk, stepping on every crack, and picking up every penny that was tails-side-up, en route to breaking 20 mirrors before seeing its bride on the day of the wedding.
If you were playing blackjack and were pulling aces and kings, and he showed up, you'd pull 4's and 5's and bust every time.
If you were playing craps and winning, he'd appear and you'd bust out everytime.
If you were having a great season - at 20-5 overall and atop your one-bid, mid-major conference - and he showed up for, oh, say Senior Night 2006, you'd lose that night...and then next night, even though he wasn't in the building but merely watched it on television.
I am Iona College's Eddie Mush.
For the last three years, in the postseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament, Iona College has lost three excrutiating games to Niagara University. In each of those three instances, I was right there.
In 2003, freshman phenom Ricky Soliver went 1-for-6 from the charity stripe down the stretch, as the Gaels dropped an 81-75 decision to the Purple Eagles.
In 2004, after racing out to a big lead that evaporated in the second half, Iona went below a screen and then-freshman Lorenzo Miles hit a three for NU that put the game into overtime, where the Purps would eventually dominate, 106-92.
And last year - 2005 - my final season with the Gaels, it was the worst one of the three. Down 67-66, head coach Jeff Ruland called a play that yielded a victory in a similar situation during the regular season.
At home - and down one - to the first-place Manhattan Jaspers, he put the ball in the capable hands of Steve Burtt the Younger (he's not a junior, he's got a different middle name than the head coach of the And1 ballaz). The play was to go right, around a screen from Greg Jenkins. Jenkins would then be screened (in a play the kids like to call "screen the screener") and cut for the basket at the same time that Burtt drove the lane. In this case, Burtt went to the rack, missed, but had a 6-9, 240 lb. guy going full tilt in for the tip-in and the W.
But in the MAAC's...against the Purple Nemesis...and with bad-luck sitting courtside...Burtt drove right, around the screen from Jenkins, then toward the basket...would luck finally bounce in favor of the Gaels?
Oh, there was a bounce. A bad one. An unlucky one. The ball bounced right off the Niagara defender's knee, then into his hands, and then he dribbled the ball down the court en route to a 69-66 victory.
It's a situation you practice hundreds of times. It's a situation that you plan for. It's a play that you run. It's just pure dumb, stupid luck that it doesn't work.
Or is it?
Here's 2006. Tonight, the Gaels are once again facing the Purple Eagles in the MAAC Tournament. Only thing is, I'm an hour and a half away in Hartford.
This morning, I make a call to Hertz and reserve a car. I make another call and reserve a credential for the game.
I'm going. I want to see a Gael victory. Actually, I NEED to see one (but that's a different story for a different time).
It's 5:30 p.m. and I make an executive decision (I was a sleepy kid). I'm not going to the Capital/Adirondeck region. I'm going to stay here in the Rising Star of New England, maybe find the game on a television, polish off some tasty buffalo wings and a few equally as tasty Miller products.
Only problem is, the game is not being shown on television. Not on the MSG Network (yet another shampoo-up for the Dolans), not on Fox Sports NY, not on NESN, not on YES, not on Al-Jazeera, not even on Oxygen, Lifetime, or We (which is what I seem to be living everyday of my life know but, again, that's a different story for a different time).
It is being shown on msgnetwork.com. I have to watch it on my laptop. And I now officially really hate the Dolans.
So I ate my tasty buffalo wings at Houney's joint on Allyn Street, purchased six cans of Miller product at a bodega (don't have those in the MKE), and retreated to my plush Hilton pad for a little 21st century hoopin'.
I don't get motion sickness, morning sickness or generally dizzy. And I've never taken mescaline or peyote.
But after watching five minutes of this soon-to-be-epic via my broadband connection, I had kinda wished I ingested a narcotic. Because at least then I'd have an excuse for feeling how I felt.
The Gaels raced out to an 11-0 lead., thanks to three-pointers from Burtt, lay-ins from big Kiril Wachsmann (who got abso-shampooing-loutely hosed with a snub from the 2006 All-MAAC team), and dunks from Anthony Bruin.
Of course, each one of those three exciting plays was pixelated and skipped like "my lou" or a DVD that you decided to play on a belt sander via my "telecast" on my MPC TransPort T2300.
But thankfully, by the second half, it became evident that the Gaels were going to win.
My cell phone rang. It was an old pal from the arena, who was sitting courtside. She informed me that my credential had been pulled and that I was barred from the building.
I'm the jinx. I'm the Billy Goat, Pesky-who-held-the-ball-too-long, Denny Galehouse, Steamer, Billy Buck, Bartman, and Grady Little.
With me not there, Iona cruised to an 80-54 win. And so it was.
I got banished to the broom closet, just like when Mush got sent away from Sonny in the basement of the Club in "A Bronx Tale."
I want this Iona team to win more than any other team that's had my heart. More than the 1986, 2001, 2003, and 2004 Patriots. More than every Red Sox team in the last 30 years.
This squad of seniors - Ricky Soliver, Steve Burtt, Marvin McCullough, Kiril Wachsmann, and Kenny Dagostino have seen their fair share of ups and downs the last four years. More downs than ups, unfortunately.
This time of year, everyone becomes a college basketball fan. You're dazzled with stories of small-school kids with big-time dreams on the biggest stage possible - the Big Dance. The NCAA Tournament.
Those five kids are my African-American, Dominican and Italian brothers. They're my sons. They're my friends. They're what this whole thing is all about.
The NCAA make us write, speak, and say the phrase "student-athlete" when referring to the 400 or so individuals that make up the squad lists at our respective employers. In some cases, it's a farce. Not with these guys.
It's the truth.
Tomorrow, they'll tip off at 8:15 p.m. EST. I'll be in the air then, begrudingly flying back to the Midwest from New England (once again, that's a different story for a different time).
For Jeff Ruland and the Iona Gaels, that might be the best news of all. The jinx is not in the building - or within ear or eyeshot of the game.
Should be a breeze now.
Go get yours and, without beleaguering the point, take it to the next step.
One. (but two more to go for you, Gaels).
For more official information on the MAAC Tournament, log onto www.maacsports.com.For the best MAAC Tourney coverage around, check out Sean Brennan from the New York Daily News.And for the best MAAC Tourney blogging, go no further than Scott's Shots.
Poppin' & Lockin'
Over on Sheriff Sully's site, you'll find one of the best blogging endeavors since Al Gore gave us this wonderful here internet.
Sully (a link on the side, so go ahead and click it, y'all) blogged a viewing of the immortal cinematic breakthrough "Breakin' 2: Electric Bugaloo."
Compelling & rich.
I'd also like to point out that for a 10 year span, almost without fail, the four movies that were always on HBO when I was home sick from school were: Breakin' 2 , Wind (the sailing movie with Private Joker and Jeanne Bueller), Red Dawn (still tied with "The Day After" as the Cold War movie that scared the shit out of me when I was 8), and Side Out (C. Thomas Howell did for beach volleyball what Jake Gyllenhaal is doing for cowboy hats.)
So click over to Sully and read through the blog - and stop trying to convince yourself that you didn't see and enjoy Breakin' 2 back in the day. You did.
And I urge you to not break out that sheet of linoleum - Blue Cross might have a hard time paying for your back surgery because you were trying to do "the worm."
Natalie Portman's Looking at You
(missed her, haven't ya?)
Off to the New England's Rising Star tomorrow. For the second time in a week.
Admit it, you secretly want to be me.
Enjoy all that it is that you do.
To the next step.
Beware the Ides of March
Sorry for the lengthy delay in posting. March Madness starts in mid-February around these parts...
Much has been done and seen over the last 10 days or so, let's recap:
- Went back to the old place for senior night. I was there for their first game. I wanted to be there for the last one at home.
Unfortunately, they weren't up to snuff on the court and lost. But like a loyal reader (and equally loyal fan of the old place) will attest to: it's not enough to win the game. You must win the post-game too. By last count, said loyal reader and assistant coach compadre in the City with a Lotta, lotta Culture...they're undefeated in the post-game.
As for me, well, I consider it a good day when the last bit from the Beechmont and the first bite from the Avenue Deli come just hours apart.
Of course, the old place also had its regular season championship in its own hands on Sunday night and blew it, which led to a 2002 Red Sox playoff-like outburst which claimed a picture frame and a pintglass. They enter the 2006 MAAC Tournament as the #2 seed, beginning play on Saturday night. I love 'em and they're still my pick to win it, but the confidence level is waning.
- I dunno when the trend of quitting, resigning under pressure, or getting fired (aren't they all the same thing with different semantics?) in the middle of a college basketball season started. Was it Mike Jarvis? Did that get this ugly trend going?
Quin Snyder. Mike Davis. Now, Gary Waters.
I mean, I can understand - especially in this business when the outside, mitigating factors contribute greatly to success, W's and L's. Rumors of ones demise, even rumors of ones imminent departure can hurt recruiting. It can alienate your fan base. It can force administrators against the wall, with big-pocketed alums and boosters, flexing the muscles they simply should not have.
But c'mon. What is the true mission of the whole business? In the end, it was all going to turn out the same way. But isn't there a better way, or tact, to doing it? And who is the most important constituency involved in these issues? Sometimes I fear the student-athlete takes up the part of the totem pole that you can't see visibly.
I'm opening a can of worms here. But it bears discussion.
- As if you needed any more evidence as to why Rhode Island is the best state in the Union, check out this article
about last night's marina expansion hearing on Block Island...and the B.I.,R.I. resident standing - arms folded - in the back of the room.
- Tell you what... I just looked at the photo album of Manny reporting to Red Sox Spring Training
and holy schnieckies... My man has been doing Pilates or some shit.
Physique-wise, he looks like David Givens. Demeanor-wise, he looks just like a big kid (with orange dreads) that sees a shiny red bike under the Christmas tree...everywhere he looks!
Granted, Manny isn't a book you can judge by the cover. He might not even be a book, even one with lots of pictures or one of those pop-up books from back in the day. Somedays, he's not even a pamphlet. Somedays, he's a pdf file.
Either way, he's in camp and he's going to play baseball, seemingly for the Red Sox. I've taken to him the same way i did when I felt the Pedro era was coming to an end - ignore all the off-field stuff, both the stuff created by the player and the stuff created for him thanks to the media. Ignore all that and just focus on the fact that Red Sox fans are getting to watch one of the best players of our time.
The few things you can never knock Manny for are his preparation and his numbers. We've been lucky to see it, and everyday we get to see it from here on out is our benefit. (author's note: I am what you may call a Manny sympathist, almost blindly.)
- I found a new site which has helped the iPod and the work day go by quicker: emusic.com. It features a lot of the indie or small-label bands I like and, the great thing is, you get 50 free downloads just for signing up. Check it out - you can take your 50 free songs and then cancel with no obligation! It's real! No scams!
Not yet at least.
- ESPN.com lets you pick 12 guys who you'd like to see on the next Team USA
I picked mine, you pick yours.
My roster would include:
Chauncey Billups (the SI article on his a few weeks back was terrific, really sold me on him);
Elton Brand (even though, by this point, the story has Beyrer blocking his shot, going the length of the floor to hit the gamewinner, and taking Brand's girlfriend to the prom);
Dwight Howard (best young post player in the NBA);
LeBron James (I heard he was pretty good);
Rashard Lewis (dunno, there's just something about versatile 7-footers);
Brad Miller (you're going to need some rebounders to get dirty inside...as you'll see with the rest of my picks);
Adam Morrison (he can shoot it);
Chris Paul (can get the ball to Morrison so he can shoot it);
Paul Pierce (can score it);
Michael Redd (need to pick someone in my own likeness: lefty, can shoot the shampoo out of the ball, lives in Milwaukee);
Amare Stoudemire (this guy I used to know didn't think he'd be a good player...a wasted draft pick...told Jerry Colangelo so...consequently, is not working for the Suns...);
Dwyane Wade (heard he went to school out this way)
My team would run a motion offense, akin to a West Virginia in that all five players on the floor would be able to shoot from the outside, if need be, or cut to the basket and score that way.
My offense would utilize the shot clock, as patience and precision with the ball can lead to a broken defensive play, and net an open/high percentage shot. If my team misses its shot, I have rebounders. I have shooters. I have athletes. I have point guards.
And with this team, I'd have a gold medal.
Ok that's about it out in this neck of the woods. Will hopefully be coming up with some top fives soon.
All the best. And take it to that next step, wouldja?