Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Finale

Well, it's the end of the year, but more importantly it's the end of the week, so let's take a look at some recent events:

First, one of the objects of my subtitular obsession. GW lost, 66-52, to a better team last night, the Air Force Academy. I listened to the first half driving the family home from the Maryland-Mount St. Mary's game (more on that later), and the powerful Washington Post Radio signal (AM 1500) stayed with me almost to my driveway, more than an hour from the Foggy Bottom campus. Nice upgrade there. The Colonials were trailing the sharp-shooting Falcons early, but by the time my sleeping kids had been transferred from Suburban to bed, GW had fought back and taken a 31-30 halftime lead.

Through the magic of the Internet, I watched the second half on a CSTV live video feed, listened to the Post Radio via the website, and checked in on the GWHoops chat room (Hey, I'm obsessed, remember?). Unfortunately, the audio and video were out of synch, so my little digital sports sensory festival was not quite perfect, but still, it's pretty amazing to think that all this is possible. More unfortunately, the Colonials were also off kilter and could not get untracked offensively in the second half.

After surrendering eight first half turnovers - they average just 10 per game - the Falcons settled down and and locked up GW for nearly five minutes as they retook the lead with a 10-0 run. The Colonials rallied to within four after Karl Hobbs called a second timeout, but Air Force applied the clamps for another three minutes, built the lead back to nine, and GW never threatened again. Air Force runs the "Princeton" offense effectively, which usually means that a second half lead becomes a death march of wide open three-pointers and late in the shot clock backdoor layups. GW is a team that you can never give up on, but once the Falcons found their comfort zone, it was all over.

The Colonials should regain their footing tonight against Colgate, but the only remaining non-con opponent is Marshall. Despite Duquesne's shocking OT win against BC last night, the Atlantic 10 looks like a one-bid league this year. That bid could be GW's, but there will be some bumps along the way. Hobbs has to incorporate Cheyenne Moore into the mix without sacrificing the impressive development of Rob Diggs and the potential flashed by Travis King and Damian Hollis. Should be fun to watch.

At 16-12, the Wizards are in first place in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference and could have the second-best record in the conference with a win tonight. Go back and read that sentence again. When I predicted that Washington would get to .500 by the New Year, I never dreamed they would be brushing up against .600. Gilbert Arenas has been simply unbelievable, Caron Butler has been a beast, Antawn Jamison has decided to rebound as well as score, and Brendan Haywood(!) has shaken off the shackles of his detractors and brought legitimate inside game. The only thing more shocking than Washington's record in December (11-3 so far) is Comcast's decision to show the last two games on tape delay while putting the Caps on live. And tomorrow's game against Milwaukee is not televised at all? Looks like it's back to the video feed for me.

I made my first trip to the Comcast Center last night to watch Maryland dismember Mount St. Marys. On the Terps' first possession, Mike Jones got free on the left wing and made a three. The next possession, the Mount defense sagged on an inbounds play and Jones was wide open for another three from the same spot. He did the same thing on the next three possessions, from the exact same spot! Meanwhile, the Mounties had only mustered one free throw. It wasn't ever much of a contest but it's always fun for me to watch my kids enjoy a game. The arena is quite impressive, with some nice tributes to great moments in Maryland history sprinkled around the concourse.

I don't think I'll ever be a Terps fan, but I do enjoy watching them play. This team definitely has the talent to get to the Final Four, but they could just as easily bomb out in the early rounds of the tournament. If Gary Williams can play his freshman point guard combo right, there is no reason they can't challenge UNC for the ACC title.

The Ravens are going to win the Super Bowl. I don't see why anything else needs to be said. Yes, San Diego has a record-breaking tailback, but Baltimore's defense dismantles and demoralizes, and the offense is good enough. And they are getting all kinds of motivation from being overlooked by the national media. Maybe I'll have more on this after the regualr season, but, I'm telling you right now, book it.

Night at the Museum
Four thumbs up from my family for this one. Creative and amusing for adults and kiddies and should be a bonanza for the Museum of Natural History. Obviously, if you are allergic to Ben Stiller's array of double-takes and his three facial displays of shock, surprise, and disbelief, you want to avoid this one, although only one of his usual coconspirators makes an appearance (shocking that Will Ferrell did not get a cameo). Also, I am a little tired of the "let's prove to the preteen kid that his divorced Dad isn't a loser" plotline, but there was enough other distraction to make this one work.
Charlotte's Web
From down south, my brother makes a strong buy recomendation for this classic, despite my earlier trepidations. He is something of an aficionado, with at least two candidates for Ferndom in his clan and multiple out-loud readings. I guess I will reconsider, as I can only hope that it is "radiant," "humble," and "some movie."
Rocky Balboa
Like most people, I lost track of Rocky somewhere between IV and V, but head on over to Bill Simmons to get an authoritative read of this latest installment. As he often does, Simmons captures the mindset of the average American male approaching middle age on matters of sports and pop culture, even if he had the Ravens as only the sixth best team in the NFL going into last weekend.

Noteable Deaths
James Brown
The body of the Godfather of Soul lay in state at the Apollo Theater this week as mourners paid their respects. How cool is that? U.S. politicians get the Capitol, Russians get the Kremlin, and the pope gets St. Peter's, I would take the Apollo every time, given the choice.
Gerald Ford
Here we have a guy who was a great college football player who turned down the NFl for a life of public service. I know the money was nowhere near what it is now, but some reason, this makes me think of Pat Tillman, and the awesome sacrifice he made when he chose armed combat in Afghanistan over professional football.

Ralph Stebbins
Don't recognize the name? In April, 2005, the former well-digger won a $208 million Mega Millions jackpot. He and his wife quit their jobs and bought an RV. He died of a heart attack last Saturday. He was 43. Won't stop me from buying a ticket when the jackpot is more than $50 million.

So have a Happy New Year! We'll be watching the ball drop and a lot of football, but FitzFacts will return sometime next week. Hope you enjoyed reading this year as much as I enjoyed writing.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cavaliers come tumbling down

For my final local college basketball poll of 2006, Virginia falls dramatically from the top spot. With two losses in Puerto Rico, the Hoos have to win several ACC games in the New Year to get a sniff of the Top Five. GW has a huge chance to impress tonight against Air Force. I'll be listening to that one on the way home from a presumed blowout of Mount Saint Mary's by the Terps. I plan to see Towson against VCU next week, and if the Rams look as good in person as they have on paper and in brief highlights, they could stay in the mix with the big guys all season. I thought American looked pretty good for a half against Maryland; the Eagles keep it up and they will move ahead of Navy soon

Big Stein has posted a sans-comments poll, last time I checked. My complete thoughts are below:

1. Maryland
Gary Williams now 1-1 against former employers. Could be tough to win the series with Ohio State as the rubber match.
2. Virginia Tech
Hokies finally get a road win after Seth Greenberg points out the obvious similarities between South Orange, NJ, and Blacksburg, VA.
3. VCU
Boasting the poll’s longest active win streak of seven games, VCU applies to upgrade its status from “Team of Probably” to “Team of Destiny.”
4. GW
All’s quiet at Foggy Bottom as Karl Hobbs tries to work his way back onto the media’s “Nice” list.
5. Georgetown
Hoyas now 5-1 this month. JTIII demands that Sports Information Office reprint schedule to show all games as slated for December.
6. Old Dominion
Monarchs get a win against poll whipping boy UAB; Blazers now 0-3 against poll members including Radford.
7. Virginia
Dave Leitao dismayed to learn that his “All-Inclusive” resort package only includes one win. Gotta read the fine print, coach.
8. Navy
Mids rip another Division III opponent (Washington College) before falling to Hoyas. So when is Feinstein going to write a book about Navy’s domination of its DIII opponents?
9. American
Strong first half against Maryland convinces Jeff Jones that he made the right move leaving Charlottesville for Tenley Circle.
10. George Mason
Patriots reenter poll with win over Holy Cross, but must beat Drexel, the best Dragons not in Eragon, this week to stay

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Denver 117, Washington 108

(To the tune of, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Go ahead, sing it with a friend.)

‘Melo can’t play – Another big break for our side
Nor JR and Nene – Wizards should whip Denver’s hide
The Nuggets’ lineup is thin – This looks like an easy win
That would be nice – In just one week, to beat them twice
I don’t think we should worry – the Wiz should win, scoring a flurry
Caron and Gil will be running the floor - Listen to the crowd roar
But Earl Boykins is playing with fury – Rebounding like Moses Scurry
Maybe this could be a chore – Washington’s shooting is poor

Tonight the Wiz stink - Baby, it's bad out there
Everything’s out of sync - No points to be had out there
I wish I knew how – Boykins is playing like Yao
It’s hard to tell – When just last night, they played so well
Every time they try to go, go, go, sir – The Wiz can’t seem to get any closer
The lead looks three miles wide – They’re just playing for pride
It’s just not their day – Now I have no doubt

The shots just won’t go - Baby, they’re cold from outside
No rhythm, no flow - Can’t seem to get off the schneid
Marcus Camby has been – Fiercer than Rin Tin Tin
Another miss by Antawn – And a foul on DeShawn
More out of tune than Sid Vicious – Tonight the Wiz sleep with the fishes
On D, no one’s minding the store – When Joe Smith cuts backdoor
Taking shots against Eddie’s wishes - Can’t get a break from the officials
Well maybe just one quarter more – If only they could tie the score

They rally like they’re at home – Cut the lead to a pair
My mouth is starting to foam – On my knees in a prayer
But the Birdman crash lands – Tonight he won’t take a bow
I can’t believe what I see – Why do the Wiz do this to me?
I guess there’s always tomorrow – Clips and Suns might only bring sorrow
At least they really tried – Could have rolled over and died
And next time they play – I’ll be on the couch
Cuz, baby, it's cold outside

Monday, December 18, 2006

You Get a Line, I'll Get a Poll

For the third straight week, Monday is Poll Day. Despite a deluge of Gilbert data, Big Stein has posted the poll. As you can see from his intro, he doesn't like the credit I gave to VA Tech and VCU for playing and beating decent teams. I still think 1-2 are very close but a quantum leap from 3-7, which are also very close. It gets pretty ugly near the bottom of the poll, but I refuse to vote for George Mason until they get over .500. Here are my rankings and comments:

1. Virginia
Cavs starting backcourt averages a triple double. It’s a completely meaningless stat, but I expect to hear it on the next Raycom broadcast anyway.
2. Maryland
Terps put up 56 points in first half of 101-50 win over UMKC, much to the dismay of Gary Williams’ tailor and drycleaner.
3. Virginia Tech
Washington Redskins management pressures Comcast to suspend Zabian Dowdell from future Hokie broadcasts because his name sounds a lot like Steve Czaban.
VCU jumps three spots in my ranking because they beat a team that has been to the NCAA Tournament in the last 20 years.
5. GW
Colonials beat UMBC last week after beating UMES earlier this season. Karl Hobbs asks GW Mathematics Department to submit proof that BC + ES = CP.
6. Georgetown
After the Hoyas beat Winston Salem, Roy Hibbert is rushed to the National Aquarium in Baltimore to save two seals from choking to death.
7. Old Dominion
Monarchs’ leading scorer Valdas Vasylius looks like a shoo-in to join Arvydas Sabonis, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Sarunas Jasukevicius, and Darius Songaila on the All-Time All-Lithuania Team, but don’t tell Ramunas “The Lithuanian Scottie Pippen” Siskauskas.
8. Navy
Navy scored 65 points in a win over Division III Delaware Valley College last week. In losses to Moravian, Lebanon Valley, DeSales, Franklin & Marshall, Lincoln University, and Vassar this season, Delaware Valley has given up an average of 98 points. And yet, somehow the Midshipmen moved up a spot in my rankings.
9. American
As part of a dramatic marketing makeover, AU hires John Mellencamp to write a new school fight song.
10. Towson

$30 million to renovate the Towson Center? What, is the University President moving in?

Zero to 60 in 53 minutes

Truth be told, Gilbert Arenas only played 49 minutes in Washington's 147-141 overtime win against the Lakers last night, and while his 60-point outburst was historic and dramatic, it was not surprising. Arenas and the Wizards forced the tempo all night (and into the morning), and his points came from everywhere; he had 15 from three-point range and made 21 free throws. In the five minute OT, he scored 16 points, more than some teams have had in an entire quarter this season. And unlike Kobe Bryant's 81-point game last year, Gilbert took less than half of his team's shots and added eight assists and eight rebounds (Kobe had two and six).

I won't try to summarize the game; Big Stein has all the links you could want over at the
Bog. But I do have a few random thoughts:

On the East Coast, you had to stay up late to watch this one, but it was worth it. Right up there with the Caps four-overtime loss to the Islanders in the 1987 playoffs, except that the Caps lost, of course.

Caron Butler decisively settled the question of who got the best in the Butler for Kwame Brown trade last season.

When Odom is healthy, the Lakers are just a better point guard away from contending for a title. Bynum is becoming a Western Conference Dwight Howard, Walton is the best three-point shooter in the League, Radmanovic and Vujacic can also shoot it, and when you forget that Kwame was the number one pick, he looks like a good body to have coming off the bench. They have a better record than any team in the East, but are looking at a five seed in the West today.

The Comcast announcing team of Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier do a good job, but they are unabashed homers (New Years Resolution: use the word abashed without the "un" in a sentence). Last night, one of them, I can't remember which, said, "Kobe Bryant really has Arenas-like range on his jumper," and the other agreed. I love Gilbert's game, but I think most people would have reversed the roles in that comparison.

Agent Zero is a really cool nickname, the best in the NBA. It's cool because it has nothing to do with his initials or truncating his name, like T-Mac, KG, 'Melo, or D-Wade. It's cool because it's intrinsic to his personality and captures his well-chronicled eccentricity. It's cool because it came from a blogger, and wasn't focus-grouped into existence by a marketing executive. If you think about it, "The Answer" is a clever sobriquet coined by Reebok for Allen Iverson. But that's the problem; you have think about it. Agent Zero makes you smile right away, and then laugh when you think about it. It's cool because Gilbert likes it; I think he enjoys calling himself Agent Zero and laughs when others do the same. Back to Iverson for comparison: I just don't picture him screaming out, "I am the Answer!" after a big shot. It's cool because Gilbert didn't give himself the tag, like Kobe with the ridiculous "Mamba" or Shaq with his millions of monikers. Finally, it's cool because last year, when Gilbert was asked by a Miami police officer if he had any "street names," Gilbert jokingly replied, "Zero Hero."

I can honestly say that I am not nearly as enthused about the black and gold uniforms that the Wizards wore last night. I don't mind the gold jerseys as much as some folks do, but the black shorts are not working for me no matter how many games they win. Basketball uniforms are meant to have the same color shorts and shirts. The two-color combo looks like something Marathon Oil would have worn in the 1990s as they barnstormed around the country playing in college exhibitions. Or a Greek professional team named after its sponsor. Make the shorts tighter and you've got yourself a women's volleyball uni. Give me a gold-and-gold or a black-and-black, but right now the Wizards look like the equipment manager packed the wrong crates.

The Wiz have won eight of their last 10 and are one game over .500, something I hadn't hoped for until the end of the month. It's fair to argue that they beat Miami without Shaq and Wade, Philly without Iverson, and the Lakers without Odom, but they did beat Dallas with Dirk and Denver with Carmelo, and they have now won three in a row on the road. By the way, it looks like 'Melo will be a noshow in tonight's rematch after the "Fight Night in the Garden" over the weekend. I have nothing to say about the brawl, but if anyone has a good "Stop Snitching" joke to pass on, I am all ears.


I had a request recently for something other than sports, and I always tried to accomodate my tiny yet diverse readership, but I have two problems. First, there are tons of sports stories to cover today. Second, outside of sports, right now, I got nothing, creatively speaking. So instead of any snarkoleptic FitzFacts drollery, I offer up the following links to several stories from today's Baltimore Sun, which apparently has a new motto, Christmas Lights for All:

Have you seen the commercial with the little boy and his sister joyfully screaming their heads off after he unwraps a coveted toy on Christmas morning? If you haven't, turn on your television and wait about three minutes. It's an ad for BMW, but the home video is real and only slightly altered. Naturally, the clip took off after it was posted on YouTube and now has its own website. My favorite part of the original video is how quickly the boy shifts from his ecstatic celebration to opening the next gift. Get the full story from the Sun's Joe Burris.

Forget about Red State vs. Blue State, fake tree vs. real, white lights vs. multicolored, my man Kevin Cowherd breaks down the gift card debate. Sorry KC, I'm with your wife on this one. The gift card is one very small step from, as Randy Moss said, "Straight cash, homey," and we know how well that worked out for George and Jerry on Elaine's birthday.

Finally, if you've already had it up to here with the holidays, then let's transition back to sports with a selection from Rick Maese, who gives us a thoroughly modern response to a classic Christmas question.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Web of Whys

Okay, end of the week, nine more shopping days and all that good stuff. So, what have we got .... A movie review of course. Naturally, it's a movie I haven't even seen.

Six months ago I watched a trailer for the new version of Charlotte's Web, which opens in theaters today. The preview featured an acrobatic, animatronic Wilbur, flatulent cows, Dakota Fanning as Fern and Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte. When the trailer voiceover guy introduced it as "the most beloved children's book of all time," I cringed, and my fears were confirmed as it played across the screen. I hated it.

Why does the pig have to do backflips? Isn't the whole theme of the movie that he is not spectacular but still worth saving? Why do the cows have to fart? There's plenty of humor in EB White's book, I think there's even a pretty terrific belch if I remember correctly, but I don't remember farting. Can Fern really be played by a blonde? Dakota Fanning is a winning actress, but Fern is a farm girl, not some gauzy, beautiful, soft-focus angel. Wait a minute, she saves Wilbur's life, so I guess she is an angel, but Fern has brown hair, she has freckles, she has substance. Haley Joel Osment in drag would have been a better choice ("I see dead piglets").

And Julia Roberts gets her own paragraph. I know, I know, she won an Academy Award. And I liked Erin Brockovich, but I never got the whole Pretty Woman thing. Great song, really dumb movie. I can tolerate Richard Gere swooping the incredibly annoying Debra Winger off her feet in An Officer and a Gentleman, but once was enough, really, and at least Lou Gossett, Jr. got to beat the crap out of him in that movie. Now, Roberts married Lyle Lovett, so I respect that. Yes, she dumped him, but still, Charlotte is a role for Meryl Streep or Lily Tomlin. I guess it could have been worse. They could have made her British.

Maybe some other people felt the same way because when I saw another version of the trailer at the end of the summer, the cows had cleaned up their acts, and the pig was no longer a member of Porque du Soleil. And in today's Baltimore Sun, movie reviewer Michael Sragow has high praise for the final product. Sragow also makes an ineffectively broad argument that men enjoy "chick flicks" more than women, using two female directors as examples. I see what he is getting at, but I would argue that those two are the exception, not the rule.

Anway, will I see Charlotte's Web? Tough call. I don't think the boys will be clamoring for this one. John Cleese does one of the voices, which almost cancels out the Roberts factor, but Oprah as one of the cows (insert joke that will enrage women all over the planet here) tips the scales in the other direction (ha!). What I do know is that if we end up seeing the movie, we will all cry when Charlotte dies.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

GW bounces back

Speaking of obsessions, the Colonials cruised to a 72-51 win over UMBC at Smith Center last night. Maureece Rice had 22 points and 10 rebounds as GW jumped the Retrievers from the outset, but the most important news was that the long-awaited Cheyenne Moore finally played more than just a minute. He had 10 points in 10 minutes, including two threes and a swooping reverse layup that left the crowd giddy. Regis Koundjia left the game after getting a hard shot to the jaw, but hopefuly will be ready when GW plays Air Force in two weeks.

The Colonials' record now stands at 7-2, a respectable if unremarkable tally as the nonconference schedule winds down. Air Force might be the best team they play all year, so a record of 9-3 entering league play would be fine. The upper level of the A-10 hold UMass, Xavier and St. Louis as expected, but also a surprising Dayton team. The middle and bottom of the conference has been pretty bad, so this looks like a two-bid year for the league at best. Right now, there's no reason to think the Colonials can't be one of those teams.

Bowled over

So how sports-obsessed is my older son? Yesterday's homework assignment was to write 10 sentences using words from the spelling list, a holiday-themed assortment with entries like holly, menorah, poinsettia, etc. Here is sentence number one:

"Northern Illinois plays against TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl."

Are there five sportswriters in the country who know this? Is it too early to contact the Elias Sports Bureau and tell them I'd like to recommend a new hire? You know, I thought I showed some grasp of trivial sports knowledge by knowing the TCU's nickname is the Horned Frogs, but this takes the Yule Log.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

California Screaming

Saturday night, the Doc and I had some seasonal social events to attend, so I watched the first half of GW-USC before we had to leave, but my older son said he would tape the rest of the game for me.

As I predicted, Southern Cal started slowly, but GW didn't light it up either. The Trojans struggled mightily in the first half, suffering a 10-minute scoring drought, turning the ball over 11 times, and managing only 18 field goal attempts. At the break GW led, 29-16, mainly as a result of eight offensive rebounds. Carl Elliott had outscored his Trojan counterpart Lodrick Stewart 9-2, and USC point guard Daniel Hackett had three personal fouls and Stewart and Dwight Lewis had two each.

By the time we reached our first stop of the night, GW had opened up a 20-point lead with under 18 minutes to play. "Not bad," I thought. This would be a great road win for a team that is very much a work in progress.

After exchanging holiday greetings with some neighbors and new acquaintances, we bid our hosts farewell and climbed into the car to move on to the next soiree. I turned on the radio and heard the announcer say, "The Trojans are really feeling it now! They lead 56-52 and GW calls timeout."

What? How does that happen? But of course it happens all the time. GW was down 18 to UNC Wilmington and 17 to Xavier last season and won both games. And some GW fans still can't talk about the Colonials blowing an 18-point lead against Iowa in the 1996 NCAA Tournament. But, coming in early December instead of early March, this one shouldn't hurt as much.

First, you have to give credit to USC and their coach, Tim Floyd. The Trojans didn't take the lead with a six or eight minute burst, they ground away like a PGA Tour veteran trying to make the cut. For nearly 14 minutes they chipped at the lead and crashed the boards until they went ahead 53-52 on two Taj Gibson free throws. Stewart made up for his lousy first half with 19 points in the second, including three treys. Gibson set up camp in the lane and collected 12 rebounds. And over the last 1:30, USC made 18 of 20 free throws to protect and extend the lead.

Also, the Trojans did a great job short circuiting GW's halfcourt offense by denying the first pass to the wing, a tactic Duke used to great effect in the NCAA Tournament last year and something GW should expect to see a lot more often. The Colonials are going to have to work on their back screens and back door cuts to exploit the defensive overplay.

Not that GW escapes without some blame for this one. It's easy to focus on Elliott, who was 1-8 in the second half and finished with eight turnovers. A 90% free throw shooter this season, he missed the front end of a one-and-one just before USC took the lead for good. But the whole team suffered from miscues throughout the second half. Rob Diggs interefered with a Traivs King layin that was about to fall through the hoop, Regis Koundjia mistimed a fastbreak layup, Maureece Rice missed three free throws (including another one-and-one front end), and Elliott, Rice and King all missed open shots under the four-minute mark.

Surprisingly, Cheyenne Moore appeared only in the last minute when GW had to foul. Noel Wilmore did not play at all and Damien Hollis was only on the court for a minute or two. After such a great first half defensive effort, I think it's fair to say that GW ran out of gas against a deeper and very athletic USC team. Karl Hobbs may not want the aggravation that comes with giving lesser players more minutes, but he might need a few minutes from those guys just to keep Elliott and Rice fresh.

Before the season, I figured this would be a tough game, but it's hard to stomach when you have such a great opportunity. The Colonials face UMBC tonight, and I'll be impressed if they come out stong and focused. If not, they could find themselves in a real struggle.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Polling for Dollars

Despite the title of this post, I'm not getting paid for my opinions regarding the DC/MD/VA Division I hoops hierarchy. In that spirit, Virginia moves to my Number 1 spot without playing a game this week. I had the Cavs a very close second behind Maryland last week, and the Terps loss at BC - after beating Fordham - makes them a very close second behind UVa. Stepping down a bit, teams 3-7 are bunched pretty closely. GW blew a big lead against USC (more on that later), but they don't have a bad loss and they have the best win - over Va. Tech. Yes, ODU winning at Georgetown is nice, but they just lost at Tech. Georgetown slips ahead of ODU, but just barely; the Hoyas still don't have an impressive win. VCU has to get credit for three road wins, but a bad early loss at Toledo hurts. Liberty jumps in with the best winning percentage of all 27 eligible teams. Navy drops a spot after losing at home to Penn, and Towson knocks AU out because the Eagles lost to Yale.

Check Big Stein's Bog to see how my picks compare:

1. Virginia
Cavaliers take 13 days off. Dave Leitao’s hairline suspiciously lower on his forehead when he returns from “recruiting trip.”
2. Maryland
Beat Fordham and lost to BC. Gary Williams withdraws petition for exemption for Terps to join new basketball superconference, The Big Jesuit.
3. GW
Colonials’ loss at Southern Cal eliminates them from BCS consideration.
4. Virginia Tech
Coleman Collins is the Hokies’ best basketball player with two last names since Dell Curry.
5. Georgetown
Beat Oral Roberts who beat Kansas who beat USC who beat GW, which is the alma mater of Alec Baldwin, who was in “She’s Having a Baby” with Kevin Bacon. Yes!
6. Old Dominion
Branding firm recommended changing name to New and Improved Dominion, but University’s legal counsel advised against, citing truth in advertising statutes.
7. VCU
Wins at Albany and Richmond boost their RPI in the all-important “wins at state capitals” category. Better be careful against perennial powers Montpelier and Carson City.
8. Liberty
Larry Blair is the Flames leading scorer, Moe Barry has yet to play a minute this season, but Curly and Shemp were both suspended for a “disciplinary reasons.”
9. Navy
Invokes the oft-used “Penn and Princeton” exemption clause to avoid automatic expulsion from the Top 10 for losing to an Ivy League Team. American University lobbies unsuccessfully to add Yale to the list.
10. Towson
With Temple and Georgetown on the schedule this week, it could be a while before we see Pat’s Cats crack the Top 10 again.


We watched the Rudolph/Frosty doubleheader as planned on Friday night, and the quality of the classics showed through as always, but CBS made a major goof in selecting the awful "Frosty Returns" for the last half hour. Apparently this piece of dreck has been around since 1992, but somebody needs to put it out of its misery before we are subjected to a 20th Anniversary Celebration.

The original Frosty and its eponymous Christmas carol survive and thrive because of the simple story that appeals to children and adults. The small touches, like Frosty wishing himself a happy birthday when he comes to life, the miming talents of Hocus Pocus the rabbit, and of course the unforgettable dialogue of Professor Hinkle the evil magician ("Busy, busy, busy ...), and other touches of wry humor allow you to enjoy yourself while watching your kids fight a tear the first time they see Frosty melted into a puddle inside the greenhouse. The writers wisely choose to have Santa Claus - rather than the army or the President, as Hocus first suggests - save the day. In doing so, Santa explains to Karen, and all of us, that every year the magic of Christmas returns and can make miracles happen. Yes, it's simplistic, and no, it's not subtle, but only minutes after the show reached its satisfying conclusion, I learned how easy it is to mangle such a great premise.

"Frosty Returns" takes us to Beansboro, a small American burg where Frosty comes to life to help a little girl save her town from an evil industrialist who seeks to enrich himself by ridding the world of snow. So, right away, we have a lefty political agenda, featuring those Hollywood favorites, environmentalists against corporate overlords. Frosty, no longer just a happy jolly soul content to run and play before he melts away, is now some sort of superhero, "SnowMan," ready to defend the rights of skiers and snowboarders. The vocal talents of Jonathan Winters, John Goodman, Brian Doyle Murray and Andrea Martin cannot save this excruciatingly bad script compounded by animation from the "Charlie Brown" team that becomes utterly charmless without the writing and music that made those shows great. Worst of all, the "Let There Be Snow" anthem sung by Frosty is still reverbrating in my head. Ugh.

So, a note to the CBS programming department. Bury this garbage in whatever pit you dug it up from and maybe, just maybe, Santa will leave a quality CSI spinoff in your stocking instead of lumps of coal like the already-cancelled "3 lbs."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fa fa fa Friday, fa fa fa Friday

Run run run, run run run run away
Psycho Killer
Qu'est Que C'est?

Today's post title and subtitle come courtesy of the Talking Heads, of course. Don't read anything into it, I just liked the way it sounded with Friday.

So what's on tap for the weekend? Two great choices tonight. You've got the Rudolph/ Frosty doubleheader beginning at 8:00 on CBS, or Wizards-Sixers on ESPN - or Comcast SportsNet for you locals who like the homer announcing. If you're looking for something Xmassy from the new millenium, there's "The Polar Express" on ABC Family. We'll be on the cartoons from our couch, but the commercials required to stretch Rudolph to an hour should leave plenty of time to see if Gilbert and Co. can win their third in a row. And if neither of the above holiday video offerings are putting you in the spirit, then head on over to Big Stein's Bog and check out what YouTube is - or should be - all about.

For tomorrow, we've got the Colonials at Southern Cal; the Trojans are 5-2 coming off a loss at #13 Kansas. The game's marquee matchup pits USC's leading scorer Lodrick Stewart against GW's Carl Elliott. At 6-4, 210, Stewart shoots the three frequently and efficiently (17-39) and has the size to get to the basket. Freshman center Taj Gibson averages nearly 10 rebounds and has 12 blocks this season, but he has also fouled out of three games already. USC also has trouble hanging onto the ball (19.4 TOs/gm) and their lead assist man Daniel Hackett has an assist/turnover ratio lower than 1/1. Coming off an intense battle against the Jayhawks, look for USC to start slowly against GW, recover, and then become another victim of GW coach Karl Hobbs' halftime adjustments. Colonials 82, Trojans 75.

We will also be getting a Christmas tree tomorrow. At least, that's the plan. This particular holiday tradition has generations of family history, giving it a very high bloggability factor. Tune in Monday to see if tomorrow's expedition makes the annals.

Sunday, we've got the Ravens at Kansas City. Baltimore's toughest remaining game comes after a ten-day layoff following the loss at Cincinnati. If the defense scores a touchdown, the Ravens win by at least two TD's. If not, it probably comes down to a field goal. The Chiefs are playing for a wildcard spot, but they won't advance their cause this weekend. The Ravens have shut down top AFC backs LaDanian Tomlinson and Willie Parker, and it will be no different for KC's Larry Johnson.

That's it for me today. As my mother would say when her dog won't stop barking at a guest, "Peace!"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday Threshings

Here's a couple quick hits for all you late in the day blog readers (bleaders?).

First, naturally, the Wizards torched the Knicks 113-102 and tied a team record for three-pointers (14) in the process. Most of the damage was done by Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, who had 38 and 33 points, respectively. It was a remarkable contrast to the last time the Wiz played the Knicks and missed all 14 of their three-point attempts, another record. Perhaps Gilbert was motivated by the unveiling of his new signature shoe from Adidas, the Gil Zero. For more (much, much more) on that event, check out Big Stein's Bog (
Link 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Yep, that's right six links. Big Stein really rocked the keyboard yesterday. One fact that you will not find in all that material about the new Gil Zero shoe is that I will never own a pair, at least not until they come way down from the $90 retail price.

Have you seen the
Lexus commercial where the car parallel parks itself? Would you like to know if this really works? Or if the fine print actually says "Professional Driver, closed course?" The Baltimore Sun assigned its trusty, crusty columnist Kevin Cowherd to the the task, and he penned an amusing review. In finding the link for the commercial I learned that BMW has a car with the same techniology, just no cool commercial. You can also find amateurs' tests on YouTube. And there are lots of other reviews and articles about the Lexus, but I am going with my boy KC.

Not that anyone asked, but, my blogging soundtrack today is a pair of CD's: The White Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan" and "Dreamin' My Dreams" by Patty Loveless. It's a bit of a change from the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy compilations that have been bouncing out of the speakers in my car (quite an education for the kids on those discs), but I am enjoying both.

The Loveless CD is exactly what I expected, an easy listen with charming versions of singles that are not what you would call standards but are generally better known as rendered by other artists. The best cut of these is the duet with Dwight Yoakam on "Never Ending Song of Love," which was written by Delaney Bramlett and originally recorded in 1971 by Bramlett and his wife Bonnie. I've been a fan of both Yoakam and Loveless for 20 years and only today did I learn that they were born less than three months apart in the town of Pikeville, Kentucky, population 6,295 (FitzFact! Well actually Wikipedia, but I'd say it meets the qualifications). That's either a remarkable coincidence or a tribute to the Pikeville School District's musical curriculum for including such unique course offererings as Plaintive, Haunting Ballads 101 and Advanced Infectious Chorus Hollerin'.

The title track is of course a cover of the late, great Waylon Jennings hit, and Loveless also does good work with Steve Earle's "My Old Friend the Blues" and Delbert McClinton's "Same Kind of Crazy." And any singer (or producer) wise enough to include Emmylou Harris on background vocals has earned my vote, or at least enough of my time to give a listen.

"Satan" was my second shot at the White Stripes, after being thoroughly unimpressed with Jack White's production of Loretta Lynn on the critically acclaimed "Van Lear Rose." I like this album much better although there are a few clunkers. The piano riffs, muffled drums and fuzzy guitar licks throughout are engaging. Top song has to go to "My Doorbell," where Jack White's amusingly randy vocal recalls Janis Joplin. The song is more suggestive than explicit (and certainly less so than the Chuck D and Ad-Rock lyrics I had been hearing), but I don't think they would have been allowed to sing it on the Ed Sullivan show. The White Stripes have received a great deal of hype outside of their music, but I don't care if they are brother and sister (they're not), married (they were), or never perform wearing clothes that are not black, white or red. This album sounds like a keeper to me.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday Whatever

No hot topic to blog on today, but I guess I am not alone.'s lead story asks the burning question, "Did Ali invent rap?"

GW won 79-56 over a subpar UMES team last night. Another strong second half by the Colonials put this one away with solid games from Rice (20 pts, 4-6 3FG), Elliott (13 pts, 7 rebounds, 5 steals), and an excellent performance from Rob Diggs (16pts, 7 rebounds, 7 blocks). Most noteworthy for the future was the first appearance of Cheyenne Moore in a GW uniform. Moore, who transferred from Clemson, had been out with a stress fracture and only played two minutes, but he is expected to be a major contributor this season. Also a nice 14 minutes from freshman Damian Hollis who was 4-4 from the field. The 7-1 Colonials get a better test on the road this Saturday at USC.

The Wizards walloped the hottest team in the NBA Monday night, but I was busy coaching my own cagers and didn't see a minute of the action. Big Stein has some all-access Gilbert material in the Bog today, but I'm more interested to see how the Wiz go at the Knicks tonight. They still haven't won on the road and got embarrassed in their last trip to the Garden, so the pieces would seem to be in place, but you just can't tell with this team yet. I'd love to see them get to .500 by the end of the month and then take a closer look.

The Ravens have had plenty of time to recover from last week's loss at Cincinnati. It wasn't a disaster, and the rest of the games this weekend showed how wide open the league is. New England looked shaky in their win, Indianapolis got dumped, and San Diego escaped from a bad Buffalo team. I know Dallas, Seattle and New Orleans are gathering momentum, but the NFC still stands for Nobody Freaking Cares when it comes to this year's Super Bowl race. Indy probably has a lock on home field for the playoffs, but Baltimore shouldn't have to go on the road until then.

Finally, on a nonsports note, I was walking the dog this morning, and as we turned up the hill for home, I noticed an object about the size of a football lying in the road. As we got closer, Sweet Pea did her usual curious, but easily-spooked, investigation (she was once startled by a bag of leaves). The item turned out to be a piece of meat, some sort of large, gristly roast, lying a few feet from the curb. It was quite red, not rotted at all, so I don' t think it had been there very long, and I guess it was too early for discovery by the turkey vultures that often take care of this sort of thing. There was not a shred of packaging nearby; I have no idea how it got there, and really can't come up with a plausible scenario. All I keep thinking is that if my life were a Tarantino or Coen brothers movie, I would have picked up the meat and set in motion a profanely hilarious and astonishingly violent sequence of events involving a multinational cast of grotesquely idiosyncratic characters. But my life, even with its daily moments of drama and comedy, is not a movie, so I kept the dog away from it, and headed home.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Poll Positions

Alright folks, you're in trouble now. As of yesterday I am a voter in the Washington Post's Local Top 11 Poll (insert gleeful cackle at the thought of my new powers of influence and persuasion). The brainchild of Post reporter and blogger Dan Steinberg, the poll ranks the top 10 Division I college basketball teams in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. There are about 60 voters, and even some actual journalists. Here's the link to the poll and another link with more "pithy comments."

My rankings were pretty close to the final results. Here's how I voted:

1. Maryland
Fear the Turnover! McAlarney leads Notre Dame comeback. South Bend area headline writers rejoice. "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" copyright holders contact their attorneys. Gary Williams switches from Verizon DSL to Comcast Digital Cable.
2. Virginia
Cavaliers beat NC State. ACC's regular season now officially longer than NHL's.
3. Old Dominion
Monarchs are 3-0 against poll-eligible teams, and currently in first place for the coveted Steinberg Cup.
4. GW
Colonials get their first win over an opponent not found in the bakery aisle. Carl Elliott is cooler than the other side of a cucumber pillow.
5. Georgetown
Hoyas lead at halftime but lose at Duke. As the Blue Devils go on an 8-0 run to take command, Dick Vitale informs us that Greg Oden likes pancakes.
6. Virginia Tech
Seth Greenberg wants to bring in a specialist to help his team to develop killer instinct, but can't get Marcus Vick to return his calls.
7. VCU
Rams win at Houston 102-84, spoiling the Cougars celebration of Benny Anders Day.
8. Navy
Annapolis hasn't seen this kind of two-sport success since the days of Robinson and McCallum.
9. George Mason
Patriots' bandwagon crashes and burns returning home from Verizon Center, tying up traffic on 95 for two days. In postgame press conference, Jim Larranaga asks, "Hey, where'd everybody go?" To paraphrase the great Zero Mostel, "There's no shame in losing to Bucknell, but there's no great honor either."
10. Coppin State
With losses at Virginia Tech, Hawaii, Tennessee, Kansas State, Missouri, and Iowa, the Golden Eagles are the best, and highest-grossing, 2-6 team in the country

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ice Man Elliott

It wasn't as stunning as his halfcourt shot to beat Dayton or as dramatic as his overtime tip-in to take down Charlotte, but Carl Elliott cemented his reputation as a great clutch player when he sank both ends of a one-and-one to give GW the lead and the win over Virginia Tech.

After falling apart in the second half at Providence last week, the Colonials needed to bounce back against a quality opponent, both for their own confidence and to legitimize their 4-1 record. The Hokies carry just a little more strength-of-schedule weight than previous GW victims BU, Dartmouth, Kennesaw State and Longwood.

Trailing 38-29 after a half marked by turnovers and porous defense, GW abandoned its man-to-man and trapping pressure for a 2-3 zone that clogged the passing lanes and frustrated the Hokies. Karl Hobbs also went with freshman guard Travis King over big man Dokun Akingbade in a three-guard lineup for almost the entire second half. The halftime adjustments clicked as GW opened the period with a 16-2 run that featured baskets from all three guards and a five-minute scoring drought for Tech.

GW got great support for Elliott's heroics from King (9 pts), Maureece Rice (11) and Rob Diggs (13 pts, 5-6 FG), but Regis Koundjia stood out, with 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Koundjia has tested the patience of Colonials fans since he became eligible nearly a year ago, but yesterday he exploited his considerable athletic ability, driving to the basket, keeping rebounds alive, and getting a quick and disruptive hand on the ball on numerous Hokie possessions, including a missed dunk attempt by Coleman Collins after Elliott's late free throws. His first step is nearly unstoppable and watching him sky and cuff an offensive rebound for a putback drew the appreciation of the Verizon Center crowd.

The Colonials get yet one more light and fluffy treat on Tuesday when UMES visits Smith Center, but another tests looms at 5-1 USC on Saturday. Clemson transfer Cheyenne Moore dressed for yesterday's contest and will be a major addition to the lineup when he is fully recovered from his stress fracture injury. Of course, if the game is on the line, put the ball in Elliott's hands and rest easy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Aaand .... Christmas!

So, I guess it's time to drag myself into the Christmas Spirit. Do I have to? I mean it's still November isn't it?

I ignored Black Friday, just as I always do. And Cyber Monday? Please. Not that I don't like Christmas shopping. One of my favorite minitraditions is finishing my shopping and then going to the mall on Christmas Eve just to see if there's a small, inexpensive item that I might have missed and someone might really enjoy. I crank up the Christmas music in the car and blissfully sing along as last minute shoppers screech around the parking garage in search of a spot. I get a latte, smile at the stressed out cashiers and salespeople and take my time, letting the holiday storm swirl around me. Maybe it's a little sadistic, but holiday cheer is holiday cheer.

But that day is nearly a month away. Never mind that stores had Christmas decorations on the shelves when I was looking for my son's Captain Jack Sparrow costume at Halloween. Or that the local radio station launched its "All Christmas music, all the time" format before the World Series was over. Even seeing minivans and SUVs with trees tied on top over the weekend could not move me out of my thoughts of leaf-raking and cider-pressing (not that I did those things, but I thought about them).

I guess the basis for my resistance stems from my Catholic upbringing. This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, and I would feel a bit off-kilter if I put up a tree before lighting an Advent wreath. Of course, I' m conveniently avoiding those years of my younger adulthood when I had neither tree nor wreath. So, I don't dread the holidays. I really enjoy them, especially with the kids, but I do get annoyed with the hype that seems to begin earlier every year.

But, there comes a time to say, "Okay, let's get on with it," or something a little more enthusiastic I suppose, and two events in the last 24 hours have prompted me to make that declaration.

The first was the Charlie Brown Christmas special, which aired last night on ABC. I'm sure it's mostly nostalgia, but something about this show endures. The Vince Guaraldi music always brings a smile, Snoopy remains funny after all these years, and the heaps of merciless abuse suffered by Charlie Brown allow Linus to quote scripture without turning the show into a sappy, preachy, hugs-for-all affair. Until the end of course, but even then the characters simply decorate the sad little tree and sing a carol. Good old Charlie Brown.

The second item that ignited my holiday spirit comes from another sage of the Midwest, Erin O'Brien, who wrote a wonderful piece in the Cleveland Free Times. Read it and weep tears of Christmas joy. If you'd like to read more of Erin's work, check out her blog, but be forewarned, she's not shy about profanity and is very comfortable with topics that are not for the kids and should be labeled "Not Safe For Work." Okay, no more disclaimers, here's the link.

Fog Cutter

Man, was it foggy out this morning when I took the dog for a walk.

How foggy was it?

It was so foggy that when we walked past a clump of trees, the condensation dripping off the branches sounded like an approaching thundershower. I like the fog. It gives the morning some character, adds a little mystery to the banal chore of picking up canine feces with a plastic bag-encased hand. I'm glad I don't have to drive in it, and it makes the school bus late, but I like the fog.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ravens Rumble

Media darlings Indianapolis and New England posted impressive wins on Sunday, but the Ravens slapped Pittsburgh so hard the Penguins dropped two places in the NHL standings. Ray Lewis' return to the Baltimore lineup inspired the defense's second shutout performance of the season, a team effort that included nine sacks, two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown. This defense doesn't just hold teams, it brutalizes them like O-Dog stomping a crackhead in Menace II Society. (Check that, it was Caine who did the stomping; O-Dog just casually and frequently blew people away). Pittsburgh converted only one third down in 12 attempts and Willie Parker, who came in as one of the top rushers in the AFC, was held to 22 yards on 10 carries.

On the other side of the ball, Steve McNair, Jamal Lewis and a suddenly impressive offensive line did exactly what is required of a unit that has to live in the defense's shadow while benefiting from its prowess. McNair picked apart the Pittsburgh secondary, going 18-24 with no interceptions and one touchdown. His longest completion was the 20-yard TD to Todd Heap, but he wasn't sacked or even forced to run, and he played a mistake free game. Lewis' longest gain from scrimmage was only 11 yards, but he scored a touchdown and, for the fourth straight game, did not fumble.

In 2000, after the Ravens edged the division-leading Tennessee Titans 14-13 to push their record to 7-4, Brian Billick threatened to fine anyone in the Baltimore organization who even uttered the word "playoffs." After starting the season 5-1, his team had suffered a three-game losing streak in which the offense had produced a paltry total of 15 points, and the head coach was understandably concerned about getting distracted and overconfident. Of course, the Ravens ripped through the rest of the season undefeated and went on to win Super Bowl XXXV. Now that Baltimore is 9-2, with the opportunity to clinch the division title this Thursday at Cincinnati, no such edict has been issued.

The last time the Ravens played the Bengals, Baltimore scored two quick touchdowns as Cincinnati fumbled away the opening kickoff and Carson Palmer's first pass was picked off and returned all the way. The Bengals fought to get back in the game, and injuries to Ed Reed and Ray Lewis weakened the Ravens on D, but not even some bewildering clock management by Billick in the fourth quarter could make up such a significant early deficit. Both teams will be on short rest this week, but a healthy Ravens' defense should scare Cincinnati.

ESPN's current
power rankings place the Ravens third behind Indianapolis and San Diego (whom the Ravens beat). As usual, offensive pyrotechnics have captured the fancy of writers like Len Pasquarelli, who writes today about an increase in big plays and fails to mention that the Ravens' defense has scored five touchdowns this season and would have at least two more if a few defensive linemen hadn't run out of gas near the goal line on long fumble returns. This is exactly the sort of bulletin board material that will allow Billick to convince his team that they are not being given the respect they deserve. Opposing quarterbacks should double-check their insurance policies, and make sure their chiropractor and massage therapists have their calendars cleared.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Colonials Collapse

Well, the sky is falling on all the Chicken Littles over at this morning. Actually, I haven't logged in over there yet, but I am guessing that there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth after the Colonials lost 86-67 to Providence last night. GW is now 4-1, but 0-1 against opponents whom you have heard of, except Dartmouth, which you know as the birthplace of "Animal House" and "The National Review," not the skip pass and the jump stop.

The Colonials played to their normal breakneck pace and led 41-40 at the half on the strength of 9-12 shooting from three-point range, but Dokun Akingbade and Regis Koundjia each picked up two fouls battling a deep, bulky, Friar frontcourt. Carl Elliott opened the second period with a trey, but picked up his second and third foul in the first two minutes. Rob Diggs missed some minutes due to a hard PC foul and freshman Damian Hollis continued to struggle. Despite getting doubled up on the boards, GW led 57-51 with 12:27 to play, thanks to strong contributions by reserves Noel Wilmore and Travis King. But the Friars front line asserted itself over the next four minutes to take a 68-60 lead, and, after Elliott fouled out at the 7:47 mark, GW never got closer than six.

It's a rare occasion that Karl Hobbs' team gets run off the court, but the combination of foul trouble and the minor injury to Diggs - who would return - left few options. The Colonials cooled off in the second half but still shot 12-24 from three. They forced 19 turnovers but gave up 15 and got outrebounded 48-23. Wilmore and King were superb off the bench (24 points and only two turnovers), but 0-5 from Diggs and Elliott's absence due to second half foul trouble put this one out of reach. GW won't see another team with this kind of size again this year, but they failed to exploit their significant advantage in the backcourt.

The best news of the day, outside the performance of King and Wilmore, was that Cheyenne Moore is expected to return this week and should be ready for the Virginia Tech game. Moore won't solve the problem of frontcourt size, but when he joins King and Wilmore coming off the bench, GW will be able to keep running and scoring without a pause. Keep the faith!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

OJ, Kramer and Captain Jack Sparrow

Just to get everybody in a festive, thankful, holiday mood, I thought I'd touch on a few recent news items concerning race relations in America.

Exhibit A is the decision by News Corporation to cancel the OJ Simpson interview on FOX and the publication of OJ's book by Judith Regan, whose publishing imprint is a subsidiary of Harper Collins, a News Corp division. I wish I could applaud News Corp's moral fiber in making this call, but the move seems to have come more from business than ethical considerations. NPR's David Folkenflik reported this morning that FOX pulled out because of uncertainty that Tribune Co. and Sinclair Broadcasting, two of the largest FOX affiliate owners, would carry the controversial interview. Regan is no stranger to controversy, having brought us Howard Stern's stirring, lyrical epic, "Private Parts," but without the frenzied hype and the powerful crosspromotion from FOX, the OJ book sales were going nowhere. I don't think this is the last we will hear of this story.

Now, this wasn't a story about race per se, but anything involving OJ has to bring up the racial aspects of his murder trial. My own memory of the trial is always tinged with some humor when I recall a friend of mine heckling a minor league baseball player, daring him to steal second base. "You'll never make it pal!" he yelled, "You're slower than the OJ trial."

And, speaking of hecklers, we come to Exhibit B: Michael Richards' ugly, racist rant in response to a heckler during his standup routine the other night. I'm not going to post the link, but you can find video of his tirade and clips of his and Jerry Seinfeld's ensuing appearance on "Letterman" at Warning: the clip is offensive. Frankly, I'm surprised a riot didn't break out at the comedy club where he performed.

I am as big a fan of "Seinfeld" as you are going to find, and the Kramer character is a huge part of that, but my view of Richards is greatly diminished now. In numerous episodes, "Seinfeld" managed to both acknowledge and confront racial stereotypes humorously without lecturing or resorting to treacly refrains of "Kumbaya," but Richards' outburst shows that he needs a script writer, an editor and a director. Hello, Judith Regan?

Exhibit C is a local story that has carried over from Halloween. It seems that a fraternity member at Johns Hopkins University posted a racially insensitive Halloween party invitation that drew the ire of several groups on campus and in the area. The invitation, plus the "Halloween in the Hood" theme, and a dreadlocked pirate skeleton hanging from a noose - a "Pirates of the Caribbean" reference understandably interpreted as a lynching image - resulted in the author of the invitation being expelled from the frat and the frat being placed on probation. Any more keg parties this year and it will be double secret probation I guess.

So what do these stories have to do with each other? What lessons can we learn? I don't know; I was just struck by the common theme, something that is present in so many stories in American society, either on or below the surface. We all make mistakes, we all have our own context in which we act and form our perceptions. I was raised to try to think and act in a way that is not influenced by race, but I don't think that's possible. My family has been in the U.S. for more than 100 years, and I grew up in a pretty solid, lily-white, middle class neighborhood. But my parents occasionally housed missionaries from African countries, and the nearby business district emerged from the economic recession of the 1970s thanks in large part to an influx of labor and capital from Vietnamese refugees. I attended a racially diverse high school and have worked in jobs where I was around people of all different spots and stripes. And still I can't escape my own preconceived notions. I guess the key is to remain open to new and different perspectives and experiences. Okay, everybody hold hands, I feel a little "Kumbaya" coming on.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Fribble

It's been an interesting week in sports and elsewhere. In honor of the announcement that the George Michaels' Sports Machine will come to an end this spring, let's go to the highlights.

Life After Football, Part I
Former Cowboy great and future Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith won
Dancing with the Stars. Some might say this accomplishment pales in comparison to, say, winning three Super Bowls, but I would argue that Mario Lopez and Joey Lawrence put up a better fight than the Buffalo Bills. When contacted for comment, the NFL offices replied that Smith would be flagged for "excessive celebration" and penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff.

Life After Football, Part II
In his neverending quest to find the real killers in the Nicole Brown Simpson-Ron Goldman murders, once and future prime suspect O.J. Simpson is coming out with a book entitled,
"If I Did It." The following is a transcript FitzFacts obtained of the meeting between Simpson and his publisher, Judith Regan.

Judith Regan: OJ, thanks for meeting with me. I've read your manuscript, and I have to say, I am very impressed. This is real cutting-edge writing , very incisive, especially for a first draft.

OJ: Thanks, Judith. I just took a whack at it, but once I got into the guts of the thing, I just kept hacking away until it was dead, I mean, done.

JR: Interesting metaphor choice. Anyway, as I was saying, you really seemed to be able to place yourself at the scene of the crime. Every detail throughout the narrative rings true. I would like to recommend once small change, though.

OJ: Okay. What's that?

JR: It's just one word, really. In your proposed title, what if we changed the word "How" to "If"? I think that gives it a little more suspense, really draws the reader into the mysterious, whodunit aspect of the story.

OJ: I don't know Judith. I really like to make my own cuts.

JR: Indeed, well, just a suggestion. Otherwise, I think we're a go.

OJ: Fantastic, I'll take your suggestion under consideration. Meantime, I need to go sharpen up my interview skills.

Local Hoop I
GW plays Longwood tonight at Smith Center. The Colonials are 2-0 after stomping Dartmouth like a barrel of grapes Tuesday night. GW led 46-18 with less than a minute to play in the first half when Carl Elliott tossed in a three and then fed Noel Wilmore for another trey to beat the buzzer. Elliott outscored Dartmouth 19-18 in the first period and wound up with a career-high 29 points, besting his 25-point effort against BU in the Colonials' opener. GW needs a big year from Elliott to have a successful season, and so far he has delivered. If he keeps this up, expect to see his name surface in All-America and Wooden Award discussions as the season progresses. More important for the team is the continued development of the frontcourt, Regis Koundjia, Rob Diggs and Dokun Akingbade. Their performance has been strong, if a bit inconsistent, against weak competition; BU has little atheticism and less experience and Dartmouth, like all Ivy League basketball teams outside Princeton and Penn, really puts the scholar in scholar-athlete. If the GW big men keep showing improvement against the upcoming two opponents (Longwood and Kennesaw State), this team night not backslide as much as predicted by many. The schedule toughens up after Thanksgiving with games at Providence and against Virginia Tech.

Local Hoops II
I'll never be mistaken for a Maryland fan, but this year's Terrapins are taking shape as a classic Gary Williams success story. After two years of disappointment in the NIT, Williams has the chip on his shoulder and the talent on his roster to make a solid, yet familiar, run in the NCAA. Seniors DJ Strawberry, Mike Jones and Ekene Ibekwe have blended nicely with a pair of freshman guards, Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez, and juco bulkster Bambale Osby (6-8, 250), to rip off a 4-0 start with an average 29-point margin of victory. Vasquez and Hayes' emergence has allowed Strawberry to escape his one-year hell at point guard and the Terps are playing at Williams' preferred breakneck pace. They also seem to have shaken off the bad chemistry and poor leadership that fogged up the John Gilchrist-Chris McCray-Nik Caner Medley period. The Terps play tonight at Madison Square Garden against Michigan State in the 2K SPorts Hoop Classic championship game. Win or lose, expect Maryland to land in the Top 25 next week and Terp fans to come out in droves to hop back on the bandwagon. Warning to College Park residents: hide your couches, mattresses and other flammable furniture items.

Local Hoops III
I've only seen Georgetown for a few minutes, but they looked pretty good coming back to beat Vanderbilt the other night. Still can't get used to the Vandy court, with the benches on the baselines instead of the sideline. Like the Boise State blue Astroturf, it's just different for no good reason, but harmless. Must have been designed by a relative of Gilbert Arenas.

Local Hoops Final
Speaking of Gilbert, the Wizards took one of the NBA's highest scoring offenses into Madision Square Garden to face one of the NBA's worst defenses and promptly got drilled 102-82 by the Knicks, who hadn't won a home game this season. Washington played horrible defense, making New York reserves Nate Robinson and David Lee look like a negative image Stockton and Malone on the pick and roll. I can't be the only fan tired of watching opposing players drive from the wing, around the key, and into the lane for an easy bucket, assist or foul. And the offensive failure can't be laid entirely at Arenas' feet. All of the WIzards big three had awful shooting nights and nobody made a three-pointer on 15 attempts. Eddie Jordan needs to get his team focused, and quickly, because a tough stretch of road games looms, beginning tonight at Detroit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ravens Rev Up, Redskins Recede

Well, it was almost a complete washout for the FitzFan Sunday; the Redskins got thumped like a Republican incumbent, the Wizards lost an overtime game that they led by three with two seconds left in regulation, but the Ravens blocked Tennessee's last second field goal to preserve a comeback win that wasn't supposed to be that close. Last week the Skins got the win by blocking a Dallas field goal, followed by the sketchy personal foul face mask call to get them into range for their own game-winner. I suppose the Wizards will win their next game with a last second block of a field goal attempt.

The football games really put a damper on the day. The weather was lousy outside, but I was well-positioned on the couch with the picture-in-picture going between FOX and CBS to catch all the Ravens and Redskins action. Usually, about 99% of the time, I hate the PIP feature, but this was that rare occasion where it came in handy. My only gripe is that you can't invert the two screens with one click. You have to hit channel return and then push a few more buttons to get the other game in the smaller picture. (At this point, I'd like any five year olds reading this to post a comment or email me on how to do this more quickly. Please enclose diagrams and a 1-800 help line) .

The Doc was at the hospital and the boys also wanted to watch, so everything looked good until the teams kicked off. The Redskins could not have been worse. Clinton Portis broke his hand, but the Eagles let Washington stay in the game until a highly questionable replay challenge was up held to give Philadelphia the ball on the goal line. The Redskins were so desperate for offense, they not only put TJ Duckett in the game, they actually let him carry the ball. By the start of the fourth quarter, even the notoriously sadistic Philly fans had to avert their eyes when Mark Brunell dropped back to pass.

The Ravens, on the other hand, spotted the Titans 26 first half points before putting the clamps on Tennessee's rookie QB Vince Young, and pitched a shutout in the second. Preacherman Ray Lewis sat out the game with an injury and the Titans exploited his absence in the middle of the Ravens' defense, running Travis Henry for 85 first-half yards. So my halftime dogwalk was pretty miserable. But the defensive soft spots were gone in the second half as Tennessee managed only three first downs and never crossed midfield until the final drive.

A few words about Vince Young . Maybe the Ravens' defense is just that good, but he doesn't scare me nearly as much as Michael Vick did when he came into the league. Don't ask me about Young's throwing motion or the positioning of his elbow relative to the release point, all I can tell you is that he really had to work for his 39 rushing yards and one TD, but he did have a nice improvisational lateral to Brent Scaife for a touchdown. Then again maybe he was tentative because he remembered that the Ravens broke Vick's leg a few years ago in a preseason game. Either way, I think the Titans would have been wise to keep Steve McNair at least one more year as a mentor to a guy who has a very similar talent package.

But the Titans loss is a huge gain for the Ravens. McNair had his best day in purple and black which really came in handy on the day of the worst defensive effort of the season. The Ravens now find themselves securely perched atop the AFC North division at 7-2, three games ahead of the 4-5 Bengals, and tied with San Deigo and Denver for the second-best record in the AFC. Once the undefeated Colts burn out under the heat of the national spotlight again, I can't see any reason to pick against Baltimore to get back to the Super Bowl.

The Redskins, on the other hand, have reached yet another crisis point in the ongoing saga of Daniel Snyder's tumultuous reign as owner. The Redskins trail the divison-leading Giants by only three games, but they have one win in the division. The triumphant return of Joe Gibbs has proven oxymoronic and rather expensive. In a division that is clearly there for the taking, Washington today announced that Jason Campbell will make his first NFL start on Sunday. Without Portis in the backfield, Brunell looked like a postgame smorgasbord to opposing defenses. Campbell's strong arm should open up parts of the field unavailable to Brunell, but he had better be mobile, or better yet, durable. Technically, Washington is still alive for a playoff berth, but, technically, I still have a year of NCAA eligibility.

If Campbell pans out - and he has to win at least a couple games, not just survive - then Washington will have found a major piece of the puzzle and will be able to focus on offensive and defensive linemen in the offseason. I don't see Gregg Williams being the hot commodity he was last year, and the offensive problems can't be blamed on Al Saunders, so the hype will be in its usual breathless state of overdrive from January to August in Redskinland. If Campbell is a bust, well, darkness will cover the land, seven plagues will be visited upon the populace for seven years, and, worst of all, we will have to listen to Joe Theismann expound on his theory of the fanchise's demise.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Back to the Future

It was so familiar and yet, so different. There were the Colonials flying all over the court, pressing, trapping, swarming to the ball and soaring to the hoop. Carl Elliott squaring his shoulders to the basket for an easy deuce and Maureece Rice stepping back for a feathery jumpshot that might have grazed the rim before falling through. The ball zipped around the halfcourt offense just as it did last season, stopping only when a good shot opportnity materialized. And there was a blocked shot followed by a slam at the other end, but it wasn't Pops. No, it was Rob Diggs. And there's a quick three from the wing, but it wasn't Mike Hall, it was Noel Wilmore. And a strong drive with a last-second dish wasn't Pinnock to Williams, it was King to Akingbade. And throughout, there was Karl Hobbs screaming, stomping, whistling (I think at one point he was yelling at the strength coach). And most familiar of all, GW beat BU 70-57.

Elliott was everything he has to be this season. Solid from the field (7-11 FG), perfect from the line (11-11), and ferocious on defense. The voters who had him on the A-10 Second Team might want to reconsider. Rice shot well (4-7), if less frequently than expected, and Regis Koundjia made plays that were spectacular, solid, and confounding, sometimes in the space of seconds. The great unveiling was Diggs. Differing box scores credit him with either 16 or 12 points, but either way, this is a major development for GW. Forget about his points, if you had told me Diggs would take more shots than Rice, I would have said GW loses. Throw in a couple blocked shots and seven rebounds and you've got a pretty nice night in your first career start.

Dokun Akingbade fulfilled expectations with some nice cleanup action around the bucket and a smart feed from the high post. Wilmore looked quick and smooth on the release of his two treys. Damien Hollis looked good on his first one, then forced a couple, then passed up some open shots. Both he and fellow frosh Travis King will learn better shot selection. King was also a bit dribble-happy, but looked very comfortable for a freshman in his first college game.

Now, Boston University is not Duke. For a team that relies heavily on the three-point shot, the Terriers took an awfully long time to warm up. Then again, when Koundjia is at the point of a trap, with arms that seem to stretch like a Fantastic Four hero, and Diggs or Hollis is flying out to the wing, you could understand why BU was a little off the mark. And the Terriers have even less bulk down low than the Colonials, which will be a rarity this season.

Still, a win is a win, especially when there were so many questions going into this season. Winning is a feeling GW fans have gotten used to, and there is comfort in the familiar. As Homer Simpson might say, "Mmmmm, winning..."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Colonials Commence

The GW Colonials, who occupy a space in this blog's subtitle, open their season tonight at Boston University. How about a little preview of the game and the season?

GW lost Mike Hall, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Omar Williams and Alexander Kireev to graduation, and Danilo Pinnock left early. Let's see, that's two Atlantic 10 First Teamers (Pops and Pinnock), one Second Teamer (Hall) and a 6-9 forward who started 79 straight games (Williams). On top of the statistical losses, Coach Karl Hobbs has to replace leadership and rebuild team chemistry.

Fortunately, Hobbs still has one of the best backcourts in the country in Carl Elliott and Maureece Rice. Both of these guys are tremendously skilled and experienced and should be ready to step up as much as Hobbs needs them to. The frontcourt is a different story. Regis Koundjia became eligible midway through last season after transferring from LSU and is a superb athlete, but he needs to be much more composed and consistent this year as he moves from the team's seventh scoring option to third and the primary threat up front. Redshirt senior Dokun Akingbade returns after a one-year layoff and has to provide defense and rebounding and the occasional basket while avoiding foul trouble. Sophomore Rob Diggs will be the fifth starter as long as he can do the same. All three frontcourt starters are 6-8 or 6-9 with great quickness and hops but Koundjia is the heaviest at 218, so GW block some shots but will struggle against teams with strong post up players.

For now, the bench is thinner than the frontcourt, with only freshmen Travis King and Damien Hollis likely to get significant time. King looks and plays like Carl Elliott, Jr., so don't be surprised to see three guards on the floor frequently. Hollis won't have the luxury of time to adjust to the college game, but he has an excellent all-around game. Cheyenne Moore, a transfer from Clemson, is out indefinitely with a tibia stress fracture but will be the top contributor off the bench when he gets healthy.

In spite of the short bench, GW will still press and trap the entire game. Hobbs only recruits players who can run and and jump all day and his teams are rarely out of any game. Because I am a fan and an optimist, I think this team will get back to the NCAA Tournament. They'll need about 50 points from Elliott-Rice-Koundjia every night and they'll need Moore to get back by January at the latest. And they'll need Koundjia to settle down and Diggs and Hollis to grow up, and that's asking a lot, but what fan ever asked for a little?

As far as tonight, BU is a team with little experience that, according to Herve on the GWHoops site, relies on physical play and three-point shooting. Last season GW won 75-62. This game would be a double-digit win for GW at home, but since it's away, call it 79-72 Colonials. Rice gets 22, Elliott 18, and BU turns it over 20+ times.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

All Gilbert, All the Time

Okay, this is my last post about Gilbert Arenas this week. Oh, who am I kidding, it's probably my last post of any kind this week. Gil and the Wizards' on again off again season continued last night with 40 points for Arenas and a 26-point win for Zero's Heroes over the Indiana Pacers (sans All Star forward Jermaine O'Neal). The Wiz are now 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road, and 2-0 when Arenas scores 40 or more. These early blowouts are nice because they let the starters rest and give crucial developmental time to guys like Andray Blatche. As of today, the Wizards' 109.5 points per game leads the league and is nearly two points higher than Phoenix, the second-highest scoring team in the league.

Now, back to Gilbert. I like Arenas and I like to read, but there is almost no way to keep up with all the coverage he has been getting. And he provides so much material that each article contains a new nugget for the Arenas archive. In his NBA Week One review, Bill Simmons pointed out this blog entry by Washington Post writer Michael Lee. Be sure to scroll down to the comment from Thor about Gilbert and Kim Jong Il comparing DVD collections. I had to stop reading and laugh at that one. Also, Dan Steinberg rips yet another Arenas profile, this one by Fred Barnes in Washingtonian Magazine. Yes, Freddie "The Beetle" Barnes from "The McLaughlin Group." Maybe next week, he'll write about his forthcoming rap CD with Morton "Young MK" Kondracke. Finally, FreeDarko is selling a must-have item of Gilbertwear. Once I figure out whether I want the white or the blue, I'll be ordering three, one for each of the men in our house.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Electoral insults

I wasn't going to vote yesterday, but then the phone rang. It was Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley, and he told me I needed to go to the polls and cast a vote. Of course he hoped I would vote for him to become the next governor of Maryland but, most of all, he wanted me to get out there and do my civic duty. Governor Bob Ehrlich had called the day before as had former President Bill Clinton, and with all the attention, I was starting to feel like the prettiest girl at the dance.

Honestly, does anyone really think that these phone calls work? I don't like the attack ads, the stupid oversized post cards that showed Ehrlich with a golf club or his arm around George Bush or the ones that attempted to make O'Malley look like the dark overlord of the hellish city of Baltimore, but I find the phone calls laughable. The only thing that would make them more enjoyable would be if the name of the person on the recording showed up on my caller ID screen. "Look, honey, it's the governor calling again."

And it's not just the recorded messages. Last week I got an automated call that claimed to be a poll. It started by asking who I was voting for and followed with a series of extremely slanted questions obviously designed to influence my opinion, not just assess it. The final question asked if what I had learned during the call had changed my vote. Interesting "poll."

My favorite call was not from a celebrity but from a candidate for a state office. I can't remember his name, but, in a very grave voice, he told me that he wanted to correct some misinformation that I might have received from his opponent that claimed he supported gay marriage. He then asked me if I had the notes from social studies class because he thought Mrs. Sauerson would be giving a pop quiz tomorrow. Okay, I made that last part up, and I apologize to all middle-school students for insulting their intelligence.

I guess all the advances in technology allow us to find more information than we could ever process as we make our decisions, but they also allow us to be approached, polled and solicited in ways we could never have imagined. Throughout the election season, I tried to listen to both sides and read divergent viewpoints although the extremists on both sides get tiresome pretty quickly. Most of them might as well be recorded voices for the all rational, informed discussion they fail to engender.

Just once, I wish a real person would call, so I could say, "How stupid do you think I am?"

Friday, November 03, 2006

Getting it right

Back in March, I criticized the Baltimore Sun for an article about the death of a former Johns Hopkins lacrosse player in a car accident where his best friend and former teammate was driving drunk. Today's Washington Post has an excellent story about how the grieving friend and family have come together. Many of the regulars over at Laxpower have recommended this as mandatory reading for teenagers and young men but I think it's worth a read for any age.