Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Fandango

No 3,000-word screeds today, people. Today we're going to blog it old school, kick it USA Today Larry King style, minus the ellipses.

Has everybody had enough George Mason coverage yet? Yesterday, I heard his two grown sons being interviewed on NPR's "Talk of the Nation." Reminds me of the time I heard Lakshmi Singh report that the Rams would have to beat the Seahawks for the third time in order to advance in the playoffs. When did Lakshmi Singh become Michele Tafoya? Have they changed the name to ESPNPR? Excuse me, but on NPR the only report I should hear about competition between Seahawks and Rams should reference the environment and Charles Darwin, not a football game.

I'm rooting for George Mason and LSU tomorrow, and if both win, I just hope the floor has been specially reinforced to accommodate Jai Lewis and Big Baby together on the same court Monday.

LSU's Tyrus Thomas has gone from off the board before the tournament to the top of some NBA draft projections. He is a thrilling athlete to watch, especially with his Kellen Winslowesque getting off the deck performance against Duke, but I don't know why you take him over Adam Morrison. Then again Morrison might just be the next Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy signed a five-year $44 million contract extension last fall and has really earned it by averaging 11 points this season. Thomas reminds me most of Antonio McDyess, who had a similar run in the 1995 NCAA's with Alabama. McDyess was taken second overall in the draft that spring, but after a promising start to his career, knee injuries have reduced him to a journeyman reserve, now with the Pistons.

Wizards with the big gutcheck win Tuesday night at Sacramento to guarantee at least a .500 on their West Coast road trip. The Wiz hadn't won there in 10 years and Gilbert Arenas was out with the flu, but Caron Butler stepped up and scored 23 points. Butler left the game after a flagrant foul from the Kings' Kenny Thomas opened a cut in his head that needed six stitches to close. Lots of Thomases figured in this game as Etan Thomas chipped in 12 and Billy Thomas celebrated his second week with Washington by matching his career high with 14. Billy Thomas is 30 years old and just played his 30th game in the NBA. That is dedication.

I don't care what Major League Baseball finds when they investigate steroids. I agree with Keith Olbermann, who said that this is happening because several sponsors have threatened not to participate in the Barry Bonds home run record promotions. Nor should they. Bonds' pursuit of the record is a travesty, and I will repeat what I said earlier about Bonds. Just don't pitch to him. Ever. Maybe he will go away.

Opening Day is Monday in Baltimore. Real sportswriters will cover the game in person. Good for them. I will bring you the riveting perspective of the game as seen from my couch.

Speaking of which, that wailing and gnashing of teeth you hear coming from Baltimore is the sound of local sportswriters learning that nude model Anna Benson is filing for divorce from her husband Kris, who signed with the Orioles in the offseason.

As opposed to the reaction of the movie critics clamoring for the "Basic Instinct 2" assignment, not because they want to see the movie, but because they can't wait to rip it to shreds in their review.

I guess Sharon Stone's career turned out to more than a flash in the pan (pun definitely and gleefully intended, as always).

Can "Ice Age 2" beat "Basic Instinct 2" in a battle of the sequels for box office supremacy this weekend? In what may become a regular Friday feature, let's play "Guess the Gross." This has nothing to do with my friend Daniel Gross, the noted
business writer and blogger, who recently made Al Franken laugh on the air with a Nixon joke. Quick breakdown: "Ice Age" has been hyped relentessly for months, beaten into our skulls everytime we turn on the TV to watch the Super Bowl, American Idol or the NCAA Tournament, but for some reason my kids, who are dead center in the target market zone, are not clamoring to see it. Also, the weather is finally getting nice, and the last place I want to go is the movie theater. "Basic Instinct 2" will do better on DVD than in the theater because it's one of those movies that nobody will admit they want to see, but I'll go ahead and predict a mild upset: $35 million for BI2 to $30 million for IA2.

That's it for me, rack me, I'm out.

I Blog Therefore I Am

Today is the birthday of Rene Descartes. In recognition of this momentous occasion, I would like to share my favorite Descartes joke.

Rene Descartes is sitting in his seat on an airplane. The flight attendant approaches him and asks, "Coffee or tea?" Descartes replies, "I think not," and he disappears.

You will likely be relieved, but not necessarily surprised, to learn that this is the only Descartes joke I know. Also, should you ever find yourself unable to answer an essay question on a Philosophy 101 final exam, I do not recommend writing down this joke in lieu of an actual answer. Philosophy professors are notorious for their lousy sense of humor.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Terrible Tuesday

Tough to say who had a worse night on Tuesday, Andre Braugher's character, Nick Atwater, in "Thief," or the contestants on "American Idol." If you taped or TiVOed "Thief" and haven't watched it yet and, like Frank Costanza, you like to go in fresh, then I suggest you stop reading (yes, this means you, Greg).

"Thief" began as you would expect, with Atwater leading his gang in a bank heist. Like all the protagonists of F/X dramas, he is exceptionally proficient in his chosen vocation and lives by a certain moral code, but his personal life and his job keep colliding until they combust. So, while he seemed relatively content and unruffled by little blips on the radar screen for the first fifteen minutes of the show, his life got flushed faster than a junkie's stash after the first commercial break.

Over the course of the one hour episode, Atwater's loving and lovely wife is killed in a car accident (at least we think it's an accident, but don't be surprised if we find out later it was a hit), Atwater shoots and kills a member of his gang (he shot in self-defense, but his teenage stepdaughter saw him do it), and unknown to Atwater, an Asian underworld crime boss has sent an ruthless enforcer halfway across the country to seek vengeance on him for stealing his money, even though Atwater returned it. Oh, and a corrupt local cop played by Michael Rooker will be helping the enforcer do his dirty work. Rooker, who I remember best as Ellen Barkin's homicidally jealous husband in "Sea of Love" and in the title role of "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer," is going to be a lot of fun to watch in this role.

So, I am locked on to "Thief" for the remainder of the season, even if it seems like the writers went a little overboard already. I mean, even Andy Sipowicz got to spend at least a season married to Sharon Lawrence before they whacked her. Then they killed off Jimmy Smits and Andy, Jr. just when father and son were finally getting along, but after that, the "NYPD Blue" writers went soft, gave Sipowicz the hot blonde girlfriend and even let his cute kid survive until the show went off the air.

Speaking of cute kids, the performances on American Idol made me remember why I never watched the show before my offspring made it "must-see-TV" in our house. I found myself nodding in agreement every time the even more dyspeptic than usual Simon Cowell opened his mouth. I wonder at what point, if any, the producers will tell Simon to stop badmouthing every single contestant. Before I get into specific performances, let me say that I think the one-hour format really worked against the contestants. Once you made time for commercials, intros, critiques and Simon-Paula and Simon-Ryan catfights, each singer was left with maybe two minutes to actually sing, not nearly enough time to take a song through any kind of emotional continuum.

Lisa was fine but as usual nothing special, and Simon almost made her cry. Kellie eschewed my suggestons of Faith Hill or Shania Twain and twanged her way through something called "Suds in a Bucket" by someone named Sara Evans. Now, I used to be quite the country music fan - I've got the Farm Aid 3 tape to prove it - but I have never heard of Sara Evans or any of the eight albums she has released. Next, Ace took a shot at Train's "Drops of Jupiter," a song that was so overplayed even the deaf community got sick of it. Ace's limited vocal ability (my younger son asked, "He's not going to do that squeaky voice is he? I hate that." Well said, my boy, well said.) sounded even worse when he pulled his shirt aside to show a scar as he sang a line about, yep, a scar. We can only hope that next week he doesn't choose to sing Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling" (although, Paula might be interested). The Big Three (in my book anyway) Taylor, Mandisa, and Chris, failed to wow me, probably because the dog started barking during Taylor's song and wouldn't let up until I took her out while Chris raged through yet another hard rock number. I've never been a Katharine fan, and her performance didn't change my opinion. She has a nice voice but has obviously been taken to the limit of her ability by her mother the voice coach. Just as people like to say that Duke basketball players don't succeed in the NBA because Coach K maxes out their potential (an erroneous theory, but that is for another day), Katharine cannot get to the next level. Bucky settled hard into his comfort zone with Tim McGraw, but mumbled as if his hat were covering his mouth and not just his eyes. Simon crushed him by saying this would be the point where he would walk out of the concert; or, turn off the television, I said to myself. And while I am sure there are some seventeen-year old girls who could handle Beyonce's "Work it Out," Paris is not one of them. Her cutesy persona and heliumized voice are more than her substantial singing voice can dispel to make this kind of material happen. Maybe I would be more willing to accept her if she started hanging with 50 Cent. Elliott wrapped it up with the second song of the night that I knew, but of course I know the Bo Bice version from last season's American Idol CD, not the original by Gavin DeGraw. So, if you took the under on my over-under of four in the "songs that I would know" bet, go ahead and cash that ticket.

On Wednesday, the surprise was not Lisa's exit, about which she seemed more relieved than upset, but Katharine's presence in the bottom three. At this point, I see Ace, Katharine, Bucky, and Paris going out in order before America has to make some tough choices. Bucky might even beat Paris because America likes country music more than most of us are willing to admit. A few years ago, when Billboard reconfigured its ratings system to reflect radio play and sales, country music artists took a quantum leap up the pop charts. By the way, for those of you who have been wondering exactly what a FitzFact is, go back and read that last sentence. An authoritative statement that sounds plausible in its explanation of some phenomenon and is not easy to disprove unless someone who hears it happens to be an expert in the field and calls the speaker on his complete lack of real knowledge on the topic, yes, that's what we are all about here at

Mailbag Night Football

Tony Kornheiser was back on the air this morning after a trip to Orlando for the NFL winter meetings. He read the following email:

Dear Mr. Tony,

Welcome back. Hope you had a nice time. I have a few questions:

1. Did Art Modell show up, just out of habit? Was he wearing a camel hair coat?

2. Were Dan Snyder and Steve Bisciotti allowed to sit at the grownup table this year?

3. Who has the better plastic surgeon, Jerry Jones or Barry Manilow?

3. At dinner, did you have to stand on a chair and sing the Harper College fight song? Do you know the Harper College fight song?

4. Who went to bed earlier, you or Ralph Wilson?

Phoenix, MD

For the record, Mr. Tony's answers were:
1. (Silence)
2. Yes they were.
3. Jerry Jones. When you get close to him he looks almost lifelike.
4. There is no Harper College fight song.
5. That's a tough call, might have been me.

Another devoted TK fanatic known to me only as Alan in Chattanooga has show archives in MP3 format. If you would like to hear today's mailbag click here. Mine is about a third of the way through the clip. If it doesn't work, it's because I know nothing about technology. If it does, props to Alan.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

After Idol, the Braugher Hour

Because, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, "Life is TV," I'll be watching the debut episode of "Thief" tonight on F/X at 10:00. Over the past few years, I have gotten hooked on the F/X Tuesday night at 10 lineup. "Nip/Tuck," "Rescue Me" and, especially, "The Shield" have become regular stops in my channel surfing. I came to all of these shows midway through their first seasons, almost by accident, but I am tuning in to "Thief" from Day One because of Andre Braugher, who has the title role.

Braugher became a favorite of mine when, as Detective Frank Pembleton, he stalked the streets of Baltimore, searching for murderers in "Homicide, Life on the Street." More accurately, he put suspects in "The Box" and, through the brute force of his personality, interrogated them into submission followed by confession. Late in the run of this series, he even forced a fellow detective to admit to a point-blank assassination of a drug kingpin. Even as he questioned the existence of God, Pembleton embodied righteous justice with an Old Testament attitude minus the vengeful wrath. When they brought him out of retirement in the "Homicide Life Everlasting" TV movie reunion special, he was teaching ethics at a Jesuit college. You know, just like your average retired cop.

I've never found Braugher as captivating since although he was pretty strong in the short-lived "Gideon's Crossing." He was memorable in a bad way in the disastrous 2000 karaoke movie, "Duets," with Paul Giamatti, Gwyneth Paltrow and that master thespian, Huey Lewis. How exactly did this movie get pitched? "Easy Rider" meets "Star Search?" (this was pre-American Idol. Yes, such a time did exist) A middle-aged salesman in a dead-end job throws it all away to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a national karaoke champion? Not exactly Rocky Balboa. I can't fault Giamatti for taking this role on ("American Splendor" and "Sideways" were still a few years off), but Paltrow was coming off an Academy Award in "Shakespeare in Love." Not surprisingly, Lewis delivers a solid performance as a crackerjack karaoke man. And Braugher somehow pulls off a riveting "Free Bird," but Laurence Olivier, Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn could not have salvaged such a flawed premise. If I had paid money to see it in a theater, it might have replaced "Howard the Duck" as my all-time worst movie in that category.

Back to Braugher. His best characters ooze moral authority, so it will be interesting to see how he brings that quality to bear in the role of a career felon. The other dramas in the F/X stable have deconstructed a firefighter who struggles with addiction and the post-9/11 world, a corrupt cop who finds going straight is not going to work either, and a pair of plastic surgeons whose material and personal needs keep obfuscating their noble goals. "Thief" will no doubt try to show duality and generate empathy for Braugher's character. And if the show has the same quality of writers as the others, there will be plenty of dark humor, always the best kind.

If reading this intrigues you but it's too late to tune in, don't worry, F/X will probably show it at least four more times before next Tuesday, so you will have plenty of opportunities to catch "Thief."

21st Century Idol on Fox

Songs from the 21st century tonight on American Idol, so as a 39-year old man, I am setting the over-under on songs performed tonight that I will know at 4. Taylor must be at a complete loss because he has not done a song yet that was written in the last 30 years. I was hoping Chris would cover a Nirvana tune, but then I realized that would be 20th century. Ace will have his choice of former boy-band singers turned solo artists. Kellie will go with either Shania Twain or Faith Hill, not that I'll know the difference. Likewise, Bucky should take a shot - and it may be his last - at either Brad Paisley or Travis Tritt. Paris and Lisa will choose songs that they first heard in elementary school. Whatever Mandisa does will be great and vice-versa for Katharine. When Elliott performs, I'll be too busy checking on the progress of the AI makeover to notice his song.

Reviews tomorrow.

Department of Corrections and Apologies

It has been brought to my attention by "Bayou Bengal" that I erred when I wrote that LSU basketball coach John Brady's wife is a former stripper who danced under the name Misty Champagne. Her name is Misty Champagne, and my recollection is that I heard the stripper information from a guest on the Tony Kornheiser show, but it's quite possible that I did not and the facts spun into falsehood in my conversations with friends and on message boards. I would like to sincerely and deeply apologize to the Brady family as well as to Mrs. Brady's parents. I regret the error, and I am still cheering for LSU to reach the national finals against George Mason.

Patriots Game

No posts yesterday because I spent most of the day writing up my experience attending the George Mason - Connecticut game on Sunday. The short version: The best live sports event I've ever seen. Cal Ripken's record-breaking game used to occupy this spot and while it has greater historic significance, the GMU game moves ahead because my sons were there with me. The long version (Warning: it's a very long version, a veritable FitzFacts War and Peace) is at

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Folderol

Since I don't get much of a chance to blog on the weekends, I am going to try to throw out a few (brief) items that have been bouncing around my empty head this week.

Shiny, Happy Road Trip
The Wizards got off to a good start on their West Coast road trip last night, beating Utah 109-97 on a night when the Jazz unveiled a Karl Malone statue and retired his number. Utah could not deliver a victory for the Mailman, however, as balanced scoring from Arenas, Jamison and Butler (31, 27 and 27 points respectively) and a team-record 16 three-pointers set just the right tone for the trip that includes five games in the next eight days. Currently in the number five slot in the Eastern conference, the Wizards would be well served to wrest the first-round homecourt advantage away from Cleveland, but to do that, they'll need a Western swing that would make George Strait proud.

Hammer Time

"Hi, is this voteforthe"


"Yes, we have a gentleman on the line who would like to speak with you. It's a Mr. Hammer, first name M., middle name C."

After devoting several paragraphs to VFTW the other day, I feel it's pretty safe to say that this is a story that is over. Done like Katie Holmes acting career. The elimination of Kevin Covais, something of a stunner since he was not even in the bottom three the week before, pretty much destroys what little credibility VFTW had. They are jumping over to Kellie Pickler, but I don't see how she is more qualified for the VFTW endorsement than several other contestants. Anyway, that should be the last you hear about VFTW from me.

I was surprised that Kevin was the last man standing on Wednesday because I thought his performance on Tuesday was decent. I did have Bucky and Lisa in the bottom three, though. So the question is, as in presidential primaries, where do Kevin's votes go? To the other teenyboppers, Lisa and Paris? To the other goofy white guys, Taylor and Elliott? Will another contestant suddenly develop a lisp to capture the niche vote? I guess we will have to wait and see.

Brackets, brackets, brackets
I'll give a full rundown of the Fitz family bracket standings on Monday, but I wanted to note that my Sweet 16 Mascot Bracket was looking pretty good for a while last night. Both Tiger teams took care of business (I am fully on board the LSU bandwagon now. And did everybody get a good look at John Brady's wife, Misty, during the game last night?) Unfortunately, it was very close, but no cigarillo in both late games.

Tough losses for J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison, but nobody is sadder than the executives at CBS. Ratingswise this could be worse than Michelle Kwan pulling out of the Olympics.

I went to bed before the UCLA comeback over Gonzaga. I wish I had seen it, but I am really sorry I missed seeing UCLA's Arron Afflalo
pick Morrison up off the floor after it was over. CBS must have missed it, too, because I can't find any video of that moment on their website. That's the kind of clip I want ESPN to run over and over again, instead of showing Morrison lying on the court crying, let the tape roll until we see the guy whose been trying to guard him all night come over and help him to his feet. That would be my Play of the Day nominee.

After walking the dog this morning, I had a few minutes before the "get the kids to school" parade began, so I opened up my Baltimore Sun. The
biggest story on the front page - above the fold, with a large color photo - was a follow-up on a very sad event last December in which two kids who had played together on the Johns Hopkins University lacrosse team went out drinking and ended up in a single-car accident that killed the passenger but left the driver uninjured. The headline, "Family Not Torn Asunder," and the one sentence summary before the article implied that this would be an in-depth look at the impact of this tragedy on the families of the victim and the survivor as well as the team. Instead, we got a poorly written and edited mishmash of an article that did little more than scratch the surface of what could have been an excellent story.

The crucial aspect of the story, the response of the victim's family, is what makes it interesting. That the family "sought to limit the charges" against the driver, that the father came and spoke to the team before this season began, that the driver is now an assistant coach at Princeton (which Hopkins played a few weeks ago), the Sun got these parts right, but there were no quotes from the driver or his family (only his attorney) and nothing from anyone on the team except the coach. Instead, we got a statement from the police report, a dissection of the charges, including quotes from a legal expert and a Mothers Against Drunk Driving advocate, which seemed tangential at best.

Now, those with real journalism experience might say that there wasn't enough time to do all that, or that there wasn't enough space, but this was not a story with a deadline. The accident happened in December, the driver is being sentenced in May, the season started a few weeks ago, I don't see why there wasn't more time to investigate and write this story. And when you run something prominently placed on the front page, there should be plenty of room on the inside to give all the context. It's quite possible that only the defending attorney spoke because the driver and his family did not want to or were advised against it, and maybe the coach told the team that he would be the spokesman, but the article doesn't tell us that either.

Disclosure time. I worked in fundraising for the JHU athletic department from 1997-2002 and consider many of the people still there my friends. I did not really know the guys in this story at all, but I think that the Sun's superficial coverage does a disservice to both of them and to the Sun's readers. There might be a great story here, but the Sun sure didn't tell it.

Initially, after I read the Sun story, I thought maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it, maybe my expectations were too high, like when you go to a movie that everyone has been saying is great, and you walk out wondering what all the fuss was about. Maybe I wasn't really in the mood to read. But then I sat down at the computer and dropped by Erin O'Brien's blog. Erin is a blogger who shares my enthusiasm for the writings of Larry Brown. If you visit her website, you will notice rather quickly that Brown and blogging are the only two things we have in common. She can flat out write a sentence though. Warning, if you are offended by profanity, vulgarity or the sexual musings of a thoroughly unrepressed Irish-American, please do not click

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Big Blog News!

As of today, yours truly will be a regular contributor to the online publication SportsFan Magazine. Joe Bob says, "Check it out!" The following article was posted there this morning. Read on to find out why George Mason is having such a great run.

Battle of the Bracket Mascots: Sweet 16 Edition
So how's your bracket? Blowed up real good, thanks to George Mason and Bradley? Well, don't feel too bad. reports that not one of the more than three million brackets entered in their tourney challenge has a perfect record after the first weekend, and only 12 have 15 out of the 16 correct teams. In the pool, I am currently 150th out of 412 with a 31-11 record; that's good enough for a tie with Associated Press college basketball god Jim O'Connell, but having GW winning it all should drop me pretty far down when it's all over. I am also ahead of my brother and both my sons, but the boys have their Final Fours intact, so I am likely doomed there also.

It's impossible for me to be disappointed, though, because I tend to pick the bracket the way I want it to go, not the way I think it will go. So I picked GW all the way, I picked Iona because I liked their coach, Jeff Ruland, when he played for the Bullets, I picked against Memphis (in the Sweet 16) because I don't like John Calipari, ditto for Florida and Billy Donovan. And then when I sit down to watch the games, I end up cheering for the underdog no matter who I picked. So what if I had UConn in the final, I'm yelling for Albany to hang on to that 12-point second half lead. And when the kid for Tennessee goes up with that last second shot against Winthrop, I'm hoping it rattles out.

I was happy to see Tennessee finally lose in the second round to Wichita State, if only because I'd had enough of the ESPN All-Access coverage of the Volunteers. Speaking of overexposed, what I'd really like access to is a tag-team steel-cage death match between those two guys singing the Gilligan's Island ripoff for Applebees and the idiots from the Verizon commercial, with Bruce Pearl as the special guest referee. My only condition until is that the match not end until all five are really dead. I'd throw Digger Phelps in there too, except that I have already asked Jack Bauer to train me how to kill Digger with his own highlighter. Does that pen come in blood red, Digger?

In more peaceful, less felonious thoughts, my friend AB told me that Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were picking brackets based on team mascots. I've made my feelings about Patrick's
radio show clear, but that doesn't mean I won't steal his ideas. Besides, he probably stole it from someone else and didn't give them any credit.

Now, before we begin, note that the two Husky teams (Connecticut and Washington) are scheduled to meet Friday night, so that is an automatic push. Same goes if LSU has to play Memphis. Somehow, I think that situation will resolve itself. Finally, much like my initial bracket, these pick are for entertainment only, and mostly my own. So, here we go, Battle of the Bracket Mascots:

Starting in the Atlanta region, Duke Blue Devils against LSU Tigers. You might think that the whole tournament would be over right here because, after all, who resist the powerful inducements of the Devil? Certainly not the referees! (Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week, don't forget to tip your waitresses). But the Blue Devils of Durham aren't even remotely related to Satan or any of his lesser minions. No, according to the archives of the Duke Library
website, Blue Devils was a nickname of a certain French army regiment renowned for their skills in the Alps. Okay, French military forces? 'Nuff said. But just for good measure, how many Tigers do you think these guys encountered in the snowy mountain ranges? Pick: Tigers.

Besides, you gotta love LSU. There's the whole Hurricane Katrina hook, and according to Washington Post reporter Mark Schlabach, the Tigers coach is married to a former stripper who danced under the name Misty Champagne. The LSU basketball
website identifies John Brady's wife as Misty, but, alas, there is no photo. Also, 6-9, 310-pound Glen "Big Baby" Davis has the best hoops nickname since Jason Williams got tagged with "White Chocolate." I also like Davis because he is carrying on the tradition of great SEC fat guys established by Arkansas' Oliver Miller and Florida's Dametri Hill. Hill is still one of my all-time favorite college players because he had a shot he called "Da Meat Hook." So the list of guys who have a name for one of their shots is Hill and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Nice.

Okay, moving on, West Virginia Mountaineers against Texas Longhorns. Back when West Virginia was in the Atlantic 10, I went to a few games in Morgantown, and the guy dressed as the Mountaineer carried a gun that he fired at the end of the first and second halves. Longhorns would be scary in a stampede, but the gun could bring down a few and even if it didn't, it would stop or at least redirect the herd. No contest. Pick: Mountaineers.

Now we're getting somewhere. Mountaineers against Tigers in the Atlanta final. Close call. If it were Wildcats, I would definitely go with WVU, but a Tiger is big game. Still, Mountaineers are pretty hardy folk and probably more comfortable in the Atlanta terrain. If this were the Bangladesh region, I'd go with LSU, but I'm afraid this is night-night for Big Baby. Pick: Mountaineers.

Now to the Oakland region. Bradley Braves against Memphis Tigers. While I admire Bradley for sticking to its politically incorrect nickname, this sort of mascot is usually armed with a spear, tomahawk, or bow and arrow, not a firearm, and that's just not enough stopping power. It's a shame Bradley isn't playing the Houston Gamblers of the old USFL because then the Braves could open a reservation casino and clean their opponents out. Pick: Tigers.

In the bottom half of the region, Gonzaga Bulldogs against UCLA Bruins. At first I thought the Gonzaga nickname was the Zags, so I had them going out early. After all, the only team the Zags could beat are the Zigs and then only half the time. But further research revealed that the Gonzaga mascot is a Bulldog. Even so, you might say, a Bruin, which is a brown bear, would tear a Bulldog to shreds. But even further research revealed that Bulldogs were bred for the "sport" of bullbaiting, which reached its peak in 18th century England. (Man, I love Wikipedia!) The dogs were trained to fight a tethered bull, which was worked into a state of rage by blowing pepper up its nose. So what, you might say, the Longhorns are in the other region. But still further research revealed that bearbaiting was a popular variation on bullbaiting. (God, I wish I knew how to quit you, Wikipedia!) Now, the mascot bracket is no different from the regular bracket. The key to winning is picking the right upsets, and I think there is enough data here to go for the underdog (pun absolutely and always intended). Pick: Gonzaga.

In the regional final, Bulldogs come in heavily wounded as do the Tigers. The other key to winning the bracket is knowing when the dream is over. Tigerbaiting was at one time another variation on bullbaiting, but now refers to the controversial practice of setting out food for tigers on wildlife preserves. Pick: Tigers.

In Minneapolis, we have our only all-animal region. Sort of. Wildcats, Eagles, Gators and Hoyas/Bulldogs. First up, Boston College Eagles against Villanova Wildcats. Very surprising that there is only one Wildcat team left in the Sweet 16. That means Kentucky and Arizona are out (also Northwestern, Kansas State and New Hampshire). Now, I know the Bald Eagle is the national bird, and my high school was the Purple Eagles, but you really have to set emotion aside when you make your picks. Four claws beat two talons and fangs beat beak. Just too many weapons. Pick: Wildcats.

The other Minneapolis semifinal pits the Florida Gators against the Georgetown Hoyas. There's a long, self-impressed explanation at about the classical Latin and Greek derivation of the Hoya nickname, blah, blah, blah, I think it means "rock" but they use a bulldog, but the bottom line is if you cut open a Gator, I'll bet you find rocks and dog bones in its stomach. No reference to gatorbaiting in Wikipedia. Pick: Gators.

Now you might think the Gator gobbles up the Wildcat in the final, but here is where you have to do a little extra homework to beat the so-called experts. Switching from Wikipedia to, we note that "Wildcats" is a Goldie Hawn movie about a woman trying to coach a football team while "Gator" is an early Burt Reynolds cult classic. This is pre-Loni Burt, teamed up with Jerry Reed before they got stuck with Sally Field in "Smokey and the Bandit." Seems like an easy pick, Gators all the way, right? But wait a minute, Burt Reynolds was a star quarterback at Florida State, and there's just no way that a Seminole can work in favor of the University of Florida Gators. Pick: Wildcats.

So, three of our Final Four are the West Virginia Mountaineers, the Memphis Tigers and the Villanova Wildcats. Let's head to Washington, D.C., to find the fourth. Huskies is a push, and we know that two of the other Final Four teams have beaten dog teams, so it doesn't look good for either UConn or Washington. The other semifinal is the Wichita State Shockers against the George Mason Patriots. Let me go back to my friend AB, who wondered what sort of shock Wichita State would apply. Electric shock? The shock of surprise? From the Doc, I know that toxic shock can be fatal, so it would seem that the Patriots could be in real trouble here. But the Wichita State mascot actually is a truncated version of the original "Wheatshockers" which has something to do with the harvest. And the mascot we have seen on TV looks like an order or Supersize French Fries. Not so intimidating after all. But it is ultimately more important to determine the true nature of the George Mason nickname. AB, the originator of this laborious exercise, postulated that the Patriot was embodied by Mel Gibson in the movie of the same name. Those guys shouldn't have any problem bringing in the wheat harvest, or fending off a pack of dogs. But I have chosen a somewhat different interpretation of the GMU nickname. Since we are in the Washington, D.C. regional, let's take a quick trip in Marine One across the Potomac to Virginia and land at the Pentagon. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the MIM 104 Patriot surface to air missile system. Forget about the Shockers, we're talking shock and awe! And unless West Virginia, Memphis or Florida has developed nuclear capability, I don't see how George Mason can lose. Nevada I might be worried about, but they went out in the first round.

So here is the winner and champion of the 2006 Battle of the Bracket Mascots, the George Mason University Patriots! They might struggle against the Division III champion Ithaca College Bombers, though.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Voting Rights

In recent conversations with Internet-savvy friends who watch "American Idol," I was surprised to find that they were not familiar with I do not endorse this site or its mission, but I do find it to be a curious outgrowth of the AI phenomenon and digital technology. For the blissfully ignorant, VFTW, as the name states, is a website that encourages people to vote for the worst American Idol contestants rather than the best. In past seasons, VFTW has taken credit for the unexpected survival of John Stevens and Scott Savol. At first this effort struck me as amusing, but the more I looked into it, the more I came back to, "Why bother?"

The official American Idol response to VFTW is indifference. You won't find any reference to VFTW on the Fox network websites, but VFTW claims to get feedback from AI fans that accuse them of being "hateful" and "mean-spirited." VFTW's somewhat convoluted response is that Idol producers bring this on themselves when they exploit the worst of the auditions in the early episodes of the season to boost the ratings but then expect people to disregard this car-crash aspect of entertainment when they vote. I am sure there are far more detailed arguments, but anyone who can wade through the shrill name-calling and conspiracy-laden exchanges to be found on various online forums (not to mention the bewildering acronyms and what passes for spelling and grammar in the digital world) has a lot more time on their hands than I do (and that's saying a great deal).

So, VFTWs want to see more of the "so bad it's good" entertainment and are doing their best to keep those contestants on the show. But what also comes through on the website is a certain amount of chest-thumping and glee about "sticking it to the man!" So now who's being self-righteous and hypocritical? I mean, yeah, I guess its subversive, but you're subverting "American Idol." Whoop-de-do. Not exactly Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand in Mexico City.

The other problem they have is that in such a pool of mediocrity, it's not so easy to identify which contestant is the worst. This year, VFTW picked Kevin Covais and Kellie Pickler before the boys and girls were brought to compete against each other. Now, I am not a big fan of either of those two, but when VFTW congratulates itself for keeping those two out of the bottom three, I think they have misjudged the quality of the performances and the taste of the people who vote. There are plenty of people who will vote for Kellie and Kevin because they actually like them, especially Kellie; if she is the worst, then she has fooled the judges, who regularly praise her performances.

So, enough cyber-controversy already, what about last night's show? In order of my rankings:

Taylor slipped up last night but remains at the top of my list. He always puts on a show, but his "Price is Right" enthusiasm could wear thin if he doesn't start cranking out better performances. I like that he has survived the Final 12 makeover better than some and resisted being cleaned up too much. "Not Fade Away" was the wrong song in the right genre; he is born for rockabilly, but I kept waiting for the song to take off and it never did. "Not Fade Away" strikes me as more of a showcase for the band to jam, not the best choice in a singing competition. My top five choices for songs Taylor should sing are: Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him," Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic," John Hiatt's "Drive South," Randy Newman's "I Love LA," and Bob Seger's "Night Moves."

Chris is hot on Taylor's heels. In the last two shows, he has done compelling twists on well-known songs, but they are not completely his own, as he acknowledged when he did the Red Hot Chili Peppers version of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" last week. His "I Walk the Line" last night was a cover of the cover done by Live, but a lot of people watching, including me, did not know it. It reminded me of Social Distortion singing "Ring of Fire," which I first listened to courtesy of a college roommate whose album collection consisted of artists I had never heard of. Next week, I predict that Chris will come full circle and cover Johnny Cash's Grammy-nominated cover of Trent Reznor's "Hurt."

Mandisa belted out a leadoff home run with Dinah Washington's "I Don't Hurt Anymore." In the last two weeks, she has been one of the few contestants who can handle the big stage and large audience. She may not win this competition, but I can see her leading a national tour and Broadway revival of "Dreamgirls" in the near future.

That's the end of the list of Idol contestants I would pay money to see (if you don't count the extortion that is our monthly cable bill). Elliott did a nice job and is getting the most out of the Hollywood stylists, but he still seems nervous onstage. His teary embrace of Stevie Wonder last week was touching because he seems to be a kindred spirit musically, but if Barry Manilow makes you misty-eyed, now you're just a crybaby. Elliott's vocal talent and style go a long way but he strikes me as more of a very good lounge singer than a pop star.

Speaking of Manilow, the only thing more disturbing than his plastic surgery (more in the Bruce Jenner than the Joan Rivers range) is his professed lack of knowledge about Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight." Not that I had a lot of respect for him before, but, come on, if you're in the music business and you admit to this particular ignorance, you make sure they edit that out of the final cut. Kellie's rendition won't hurt her, but the original is a haunting, plaintive wail, far beyond her abilities. To see it done right, rent "Sweet Dreams" and watch Jessica Lange lip-synch.

Plastic surgery non sequitur: The best comment I have heard about plastic surgery came from Dolly Parton, who explained her attitude to the E! Network as follows, "Honey, if I see something that's saggin', baggin' or draggin', I'm gonna have it nipped, tucked, sucked or whatever I need to do." I couldn't find this exact audio, but this clip says about the same thing.

I guess Katharine would be next. She has gotten rid of the funny faces she used to make while singing and might actually be better than Elliott. Nothing about her performance jumps out, although her dress barely contained her, apparently thanks to some judiciously placed double-stick tape. I don't love her, I don't hate her, and I won't miss her when she goes.

I bet most Idol fans have Paris higher on their list than I do, but she had some real work to do in my book, so her last two performances have gotten her off the hotseat. She stopped mugging and goofing around, but "Fever" is a song for a woman, not a girl dressed up like a woman. Paris needs to go see if Barney the Purple Dinosaur is still hiring cloying kiddies.

Kevin on the other hand, has embraced his inner geek, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I mean what are we going to get next week, "Corner of the Sky?" "Rainbow Connection?" "It's not Easy Being Green?" Final hint: if you have a lisp, try to avoid songs that have the letter S in them.

Ace is the anti-Kevin, all looks with no voice. His drop to the bottom three last week was a reality check, but he doesn't have the talent to change that reality. Last night's song was a decent bounceback, but I still think he peaked a few weeks ago. The Doc once compared his looks to a young John Travolta, and unfortunately for Ace, he has passed through Vinnie Barbarino and Tony Manero territory, but Vincent Vega land is still a few years away.

Lisa might be the best singer in the whole thing, but last night she looked like her close brush with elimination the previous week shattered her confidence. Don't be surprised to see Ryan hand her the microphone tonight.

If this were the Oscars, Bucky would be my "Should win" pick to hedge Lisa as my "Will win" pick. When I heard he would sing, "Oh Boy!" I thought it would be pretty good. It wasn't. He has either lost his nerve or wasn't that good to begin with. Either way, he won't make it out of March.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Morning After the Morning After

Well, it appears I backed the wrong George in the NCAA Tournament. George Mason and Georgetown both pulled the requisite upsets to advance to the Sweet 16, but GW could not overcome #1 Duke to complete the D.C. George trifecta. More on the rest of the tourney later, but first I am afraid I am going to have to bore those of you who don't care about GW for a few more minutes. And then it will be the offseason until October. That's right, no hypetastic recruiting updates, no breathless summer league reports, no coaching carousel conversation. Great season, see you in the fall.

The Blue Devils won the game because they handled and attacked GW' s pressure defense and completely disrupted GW's offense with their own aggressive man-to-man defense in the halfcourt. The Colonials beat the perimeter defense a few times but Duke big men Shelden Williams (7 blocks, 14 rebounds) and Josh McRoberts (2 blocks, 13 rebounds) dominated the paint. Time and again, the Colonials needed to make one extra pass and failed to do so, leading to a turnover or forced shot.

To read long, irrational and profane complaints about the refereeing, head over to; my complaints will just be long. Williams blocked shots with such force, it often looked like a foul to me, but the refs swallowed the whistle for the most part when he was on defense. He came from behind to block one of Pops Mensah-Bonsu's shots after Pops had him sealed in the post. Williams is an All-America center, but Pops goes pretty strong to the hoop, and that's a play that gets a foul call 90% of the time. At a key point in the first half, Omar Williams got a step on Lee Melchionni and drove to the hoop; Melchionni had one hand on Williams' back and wrapped the other hand around him to strip the ball as Williams went up for his shot. If this were a pickup game, Melchionni would have called a foul on himself, and GW would have checked the ball in from the top of the key. If Melchionni is good enough to make that play, he should be starting and playing 40 minutes a night, not coming off the bench. And why does J.J. Redick get to take an extra hop in the lane after a jump stop? The guy is a great player, but he neither needs nor deserves the advantage he gets when he is allowed to do that. There are other examples of calls that went against GW, but these were the most egregious, and I am sure a Duke fan could find some blown calls in favor of GW.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, I don't believe that the refs collaborated with CBS to make sure that Duke won, but I do believe that refs are human beings who make mistakes and hold grudges just like all other human beings. Mike Krzyzewski has been among the top coaches in the game for many years; Karl Hobbs won his first NCAA Tournament game as a head coach this weekend. Coach K says things to officials during the game that are, shall we say, a little coarser than the lines he reads from the script on his omnipresent TV commercials, but Hobbs jumps, screams, and stomps like Rumpelstiltskin on the sideline. Until Hobbs gets to a Final Four, he's going to have to accept that his histrionics may have a negative impact on the officiating. I have never met a coach who thought that referees deserve the money they earn, and I have never met a referee who didn't seem to have an answer to every question. These are two forces who will be in diametrical opposition until the end of time.

Having gotten that off my chest, let me state that GW lost this game not because of the referees or the Greensboro home court advantage for Duke, but because they failed to execute when they had the opportunity. Duke played great defense, but the Colonials had two chances to take the lead in the first half and missed makeable shots: a short jumpshot in the lane by Danilo Pinnock and a three-pointer by Carl Elliott. The next GW possession ended with the no-call on Melchionni that I mentioned earlier. Duke then grabbed control of the game with a 16-4 run and took an 11-point lead into the half. The Colonials fell further behind as the second period began, and despite a few bursts of energy, were never able to get closer than nine.

Playing from behind was one of GW's strengths this year; teams took leads and believed they could run with GW, only to see their advantage dissipate under a barrage of steals and dunks that seemed unthinkable only a few minutes earlier. Duke, however, remained composed and answered the Colonials' quick scores with daggers of their own. GW also failed to capitalize on some potential foul troouble for Redick and Williams. Both players had two fouls at halftime and Redick picked up a third five minutes into the second half, but the Colonials were so desperate to score they didn't have the luxury of targeting a particular playter. Also credit the Duke coaches for putting Redick on Regis Koundjia, who was generally the fifth scoring option in the GW offense whenever he was on the floor.

GW won games all season by imposing its will and superior talent on the opposition, but Duke gained the upper hand and never let GW's fire get enough oxygen to put the Blue Devils on the defensive. UNC-Wilmington played nearly perfectly and lost to the Colonials on Thursday night, so the margin for error is slim for every team in the NCAA Tournament. Just ask Iowa, Kansas or North Carolina. There's no shame in losing to the number one team in the country, but there is no glory either. Still anyone who hadn't seen GW this year got a good look at what the Colonials were all about in their two tourney games. They saw Pops rise to amazing heights to block shots and throw down dunks, they saw Mike Hall stroke three-pointers and will his team to victory against UNC-Wilmington, they saw Williams drive, spin and hang his way to big baskets in the lane, they saw Elliott hit huge threes and free throws, they saw Pinnock grab steals and sky for slams or blocks, they saw Maureece Rice come off the bench to score 20 points while barely breaking a sweat, and they saw Karl Hobbs exerting himself as he exhorted his team.

A month ago, I said GW had to be considered as a potential Final Four team. Then Montrell McDonald got suspended and Pops got hurt, and the Colonials' slight chance at Indianapolis shed a few pounds. Still, they finished 27-3, the best record in school history, were ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in 50 years, and were undefeated at home and in the conference. Thursday's win over UNCW was GW's first NCAA Tournament win since 1994.

For the seniors - Hall, Williams, Mensah-Bonsu, and Kireev - it was the end of a rebuilding process that took the program from 12 wins their freshman year to the school's first Atlantic 10 Tournament championship and back-to-back appearances on the NCAA Tournament. In a few years, when they are eligible for the GW Athletic Hall of Fame, I hope they are considered as a group.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Can GW beat Duke?


Will GW beat Duke?

I have no idea, but if you think I am going to predict against the Colonials, then you just haven't been paying attention.

How can GW beat Duke?

Okay, here's a question that will take more than one or two words or sentences to answer. The most important factor in this game will be tempo. If the score gets into the 80's, the Colonials have a pretty good chance. The two games that GW lost this year, N.C. State and Temple, were slowdown affairs. If Coach K can convince his team to control the pace on every possession, GW will have a hard time gaining an advantage.

Defensively, GW has to trap and press the whole game, paying special attention to Reddick and Williams. If Dockery, McRoberts and Paulus make them pay, so be it, but the Colonials quick feet and long arms will force the Blue Devils to make good decisions and play strong all the way the hoop.

Offense will take care of itself if GW moves the ball and crashes the boards the way they did on Thursday. The commentators noted that they would need a lot more from leading scorer Danilo Pinnock after he was scoreless in the first half, but the Colonials have so many weapons they ended up with five players in double figures, led by Maureece Rice. Rice came off the bench and finished with 20, none of them in overtime. That's balance.

Duke could very well take an early lead as the Colonials gamble on defense, but the Blue Devils have to know by now that no lead is safe against GW. The 19-0 scoring run against UNCW included 13 points in a minute-and-a-half. If the Colonials keep coming after Duke the whole game, it will make for an enjoyable afternoon.

One final note for those who think Duke has a homecourt advantage playing in Greensboro. My brother the UNC-Chapel Hill alum notes that most people in Carolina cheer against Duke. and the Blue Devils would have more fans if they were playing in the Meadowlands.

Friday, March 17, 2006

GW 88 UNCW 85 (OT)

Wow, wow, wow, wow!

I really can't think of anything to type besides that.

I sat down to watch the game with my boys, tape in the VCR, remote in hand (I like to tape the games without the commercials, although I am not sure why because I almost never watch the games again, but I guess it gives me something to do). The first half went okay, Pops looked fine, not hampered by the knee injury, scoring GW's first four points on a dunk and two free throws. UNC-Wilmington looked very sharp though, running their offense without any disruption from GW's trapping pressure. The guards, Goldsberry and Carter, were especially impressive as they consistently found high-percentage shots for themselves and their teammates. The teams traded leads and went in at halftime tied at 36. It looked like a push at this point, sort of like a boxing match in the fifth round where both fighters have landed punches, but neither has hurt the other. I thought that the scoring pace favored GW, but the Seahawks were coping quite ably and GW's leading scorer Danilo Pinnock had three fouls and no points.

Halftime was bathtime for the boys; they got in and out of the tub in record time, and we were back in front of the TV for the second half start. UNCW jumped out quickly as Carter scored five points in the first minute, prompting a GW timeout. My younger son sensed the rising tension in the room and headed down to the basement playroom to watch the World Baseball Classic. The timeout didn't help and the lead grew steadily over the next few minutes. By this time, my older son had taken control of the remote, so I had nothing to do but sit and feel the heat rising to my face and ears as the Colonials slipped further behind.

This felt worse than the Temple game the week before. The stakes were higher. No, this felt like the Super Bowl in 1984, when the Raiders ran roughshod all over the Redskins. I remember being so angry I punched my little brother. He was 10, I was 16. Nice big brother, huh? I hope he has forgiven me. We've never discussed it because we are male and Irish, but I think he'd understand; he's a pretty big Redskins fan, too.

When the lead reached 17, CBS switched us over to the Xavier-Gonzaga game, where the Musketeers were looking to pull the 14-3 upset. As Xavier extended their lead, my son and I watched the time and score update in the upper lefthand corner of the screen. UNCW 64, GW 46, 11:12, it looked like game over. Then the GW point total leapt upward almost faster than the clock ticked down. My son recited each change as it appeared onscreen, "64-49, Dad ... 64-52, Dad ..." his voice rising in volume and pitch until CBS took us back at the eight minute mark with GW trailing 64-61. The Colonials stretched the run to 19-0 and took the lead with seven minutes to play.

It's hard to say if I was angry that CBS switched away from the game. In hindsight, I am furious that I didn't get to see the comeback, but at the time, I didn't feel like I could watch anymore. I suppose if I were like my friend the New York Giants fan, I would believe that GW would have lost if CBS had not switched away, but I just can't calculate the required jinx-reversal matrices. CBS did show a quick highlight package of the GW baskets that comprised the run, which will have to suffice.

Now, I was happy. I didn't care if they won or not, I was just happy that they had fought back. I had seen this happen from the other side in 1996, when GW took a big lead on Iowa, only to watch it melt away as Jess Settles led the Hawkeyes back into the game and on to victory. Even when Carl Elliott missed the third free throw to take the lead in the closing seconds of regulation, I felt okay. And when the cameras caught the GW players smiling and laughing as they came out for the overtime, I felt even better. Overtime was not a cakewalk; GW fell behind by four before Pinnock hit a clutch three and Omar Williams gave the Colonials the lead for good. When the doc called to let me know she was on her way home, I answered the phone, "Overtime! GW up by two, 25 seconds left in overtime!" By the time she walked through the door, the Colonials had put the game away, it was bedtime for the kids, and time for me to take the dog for a nice, long, soothing walk in the cool night air.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I don't know what a meteorologist or a farmer would say, but for me the longest day of the year has to be the 24 hours leading up to the start of the NCAA Tournament. Back when I had a real job, I couldn't get any work done this day; I was either scrambling to finish my bracket, or I was surfing the web for information about the tournament. Now that I work from home, I still don't get anything done. So here are a few quick thoughts as we count the minutes to the first tipoff.

Barry Bonds
Don't pitch to him. Walk him every time he comes to the plate. He is a great baseball player and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but he does not deserve to have the opportunity to try to overtake Ruth and Aaron. You can't erase his home runs because there are too many other players who come under question, but baseball would bebetter off if he went away, so just don't pitch to him. Is it unfair? Maybe, but it's not like he's been playing fair either. Some people I have proposed this idea to said pitchers should take it one step further and hit him every time, but I think that's a little extreme. Plus it sets up a retaliation scenario and could even be legally actionable. So tell him to take his bat and go home.

Is it just me and the Wizards or is does every NBA fan feel like Michael Corleone in the Godfather III? After a great February brought them within sight of division-leading Miami, the Wizards lost five of six with inconsistent efforts and a propensity to give up second -half leads as they quavered before any All-Star they played. So I was done hoping for anything better than last season's second round exit. Fine, I was free and clear of the heightened expectations that almost always bring disappointment and pain. Then, they pull me back in, beating the Pistons and sweeping a home-and-home against Charlotte. Now, Charlotte is not exactly the Jordan's Chicago Bulls, but suddenly Washington has won three straight and is back in the five spot. If they can win two of the next three (Dallas, Chicago, New Jersey) before they head out West, I guess I'll have to call Luca Brasi and go to the mattresses for them again.

Movie Night
If you won't be glued to CBS and ESPN for the next four days and are looking for something to watch other than what you can find on TV, go pick up "In Good Company," starring Dennis Quaid, Scarlett Johansson and Topher Grace. It's a nice comedy, remarkably, but not regrettably, devoid of any jokes involving body functions (not that there's anything wrong with them). It turns the "dating the boss's daughter" plotline inside out when Grace takes over as Quaid's boss and falls for the teenaged Johansson. I also liked that it mostly avoids the pat ending, although some of the plotlines resolve more predictably than your average Brady Bunch episode. Throw in a great cameo by Malcolm McDowell as a global tech age CEO (think Kenneth Branson meets Caligula), and it's a very enjoyable two hours. (Who's creepier, McDowell, Christopher Walken, or Crispin Glover? I go with Glover because I think the other two guys are acting). So put "In Good Company" up there in the Dennis Quaid Top 10, but not Top Five (Breaking Away, The Big Easy, The Rookie, Everybody's All-American and Great Balls of Fire. His roles in Traffic, The Long Riders and The Right Stuff were too small to be considered). My main gripe is one that the filmmakers could not have foreseen, and that is the inclusion of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" in the soundtrack. By now, this song has to be meloda non grata in any movie. If you don't know why, click here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Brackets? We don't need no stinking brackets!

Okay, it's Tournament Time, March Madness, the Big Dance! Who's a Cinderella, who's a pumpkin, whose dance card is full, who's going to get left at the altar. Ow, ow, ow, I think I just hyperextended my anterior metaphor. No problem though, I'll just get it taped up so I can get back in and give this column 110%. This time of year, you have to suck it up and play through the pain.

Now, if you are looking for help filling out your bracket, you have come to the wrong place. Not only have I never won an NCAA Tournament pool, I don't think I have ever finished in the top half. Besides, the only thing more boring than hearing people talk about their NCAA picks is hearing a guy talk about his fantasy league transactions. And I never claimed I was here to inform, just to entertain, and mostly myself. So, without further ado, here is my bracket rundown.

Let's start with the region that has GW. Because they are my favorite team and because they are pretty good this year, I will have a hard time picking against the Colonials. UNC-Wilmington is exactly the kind of team that can give them trouble: patient on offense, don't turn the ball over, plenty of depth to counteract GW's press. (Did you know that Wilmington is not far from Cape Fear? Who did you like better as the villain in that movie, Robert Mitchum in the original or Robert DeNiro in the remake? Me, I'd go with Sideshow Bob from
The Simpsons version). My only hope is that the Seawawks have not seen and cannot handle the kind of athleticism that GW puts on the floor and that Pops Mensah-Bonsu is in fact able to contribute. So, if I think GW might struggle against UNCW, how can I have any hope against Duke? Well, who says that Duke will get by their first round opponent, Southern University? The last time Southern University, George Washington, and an ACC team were all in the same subregional (Tempe, 1993), #13 seed Southern upset #4 Georgia Tech; GW beat New Mexico and then beat Southern to get to the Sweet 16. Also, Southern, being a member of the SWAC, has a fantastic band (if you haven't seen the movie "Drumline," don't bother, just make sure you get to one SWAC football game in your lifetime. If you are late, don't sweat it, because the real show starts at halftime). So, are you starting to understand why I am so bad at picking games?

GW will face Iona in the regional semifinal, because the Gaels are coached by Jeff Ruland who was coached in college by the patron saint of NCAA Cinderella teams, Jim Valvano. You have to love the excitement of teams that don't get to the NCAA's every year; check out the countdown clock on the Iona basketball
website. Syracuse will continue its win streak against Texas A&M, but will fall to Iona because the game is the day after St. Patrick's Day, Syracuse is led by Gerry McNamara, and do I really have to spell it out for you?

In the bottom half of the Atlanta bracket, Texas will get past Penn because it's a basketball game not a
Wonderlic Test, but none of the games really matter because all contenders will be forced to bow to the power of Pittsnogle, West Virginia sweet-shooting center. Besides the great name, Kevin Pittsnogle has enough tattoos to make a Hell's Angel blush, and he can also wear the hell out of a tuxedo. Talk about versatility.

Iona's clock will run out against GW, and then Pops will paralyze Pittsnogle to bring GW to its first ever Final Four.

This is the religious bracket: Oral Roberts, Xavier, Marquette, Gonzaga, and Belmont representing the Judeo-Christian tradition and Indiana, Kansas and UCLA from the Church of Naismith. I had twelve years of Catholic school, four of them Jesuit, but, bless me, Father, for I have sinned, because I am going with the hardwood deities here. I'll give my high school namesake Gonzaga a break with a last second miracle from Adam Morrisson to beat Indiana, but the Zags are going down against UCLA. In the top half, Bucknell will upset Arkansas because the Bison can always beat a tourney team with Kansas in the name. Unfortunately, they struggle with teams that have Memphis in their name, so look for the Tigers to advance, thereby denying CBS the dream rematch of Kansas-Bucknell. I'll take Kansas in this one simply because I have disliked John Calipari since he was at UMass. In the final, look for UCLA to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 1995, also the last time the Bruins won it all.

Pretty tough to pick against Connecticut here until the regional final where I think they will meet North Carolina. The Tarheels looked great in the last month of the season, and they have the advantage of facing a highly suspect #2 seed in Tennessee. Before I start to sound like I know what I am talking about, let me throw out a couple upsets that have no basis in logic, just karma. How about George Mason over Michigan State to shut up all the whining from Hofstra about how they should have gotten in ahead of Mason (right, like you could ever stop Long Islanders from whining). And Air Force over Illinois because no service academy has won a tournament game since David Robinson was at Navy (I think). I'll stick with UConn in the final because I haven't picked a #1 seed yet, because UNC's young guys are going to run out of gas, and because I could not bear the week of hype around Roy Williams if he got back to the Final Four after losing seven players from last year's championship team.

#1 seed Villanova's hopes depend on Allan Ray's recovery from the eye injury he suffered in the Big East Tournament. He has been cleared to play, but I have always felt that in terms of the senses, sight is tied for first with touch when it comes to basketball, followed closely by hearing, with taste and smell a good ways back. So I can't go with the Wildcats, and I think Ohio State will lose to Georgetown because I was a year behind Hoyas head coach John Thompson in high school (he used to be pretty skinny, but didn't we all). Florida has Joakim Noah, the son of former tennis star Yannick Noah, but they also have Billy Donovan, who has to be the highest paid coach never to have won an NCAA Championship. Florida's first game is against the University of South Alabama, coached another Rick Pitino disciple, John Pelphrey. Prediction: the Gators go down in first round flames as the crowd chants, "USA! USA!" What the heck, USA also beats Oklahoma to get to the Sweet 16. That leaves #4 Boston College, which has great inside and outside balance and took Duke to the limit twice during the season. Last year's Cinderella UW-Milwaukee won't get it done this year, but I'll take #12 Montana over #5 Nevada and #9 Wisconsin in a mild, boring, low-scoring upset over #8 Arizona.

GW over UCLA
UConn over BC

Karl Hobbs defeats his mentor Jim Calhoun to bring the National Championship to Foggy Bottom. Come on, did you really think it would end any other way?

Oh, and Hampton over Monmouth tonight. Bet the house!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Idol Worship

"So," my coworker said, leaning across the conference table, "Ruben or Clay?"

"Neither," I replied, "I don't watch American Idol."

She sat back, stunned, "You're kidding."

But it was true. I might have seen a moment or two of the show, and of course I knew who the finalists were because you couldn't avoid them if you lived in America and owned a television or a computer; but I had never sat down and watched "American Idol." It's not like I am one of those people who claims not watch television (except for PBS, the news and presidential debates). Nor do I dismiss all reality shows, just the ones that have proven to be the most popular: Survivor, The Bachelor(ette), Fear Factor, Cops, and anything to do with makeovers for a person, a home, or a child-rearing strategy. I even chided my friends for their discussions about whom they would use as a lifeline on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," although I secretly thought they would be foolish not to pick me.

Now, I will watch the incredibly stupid dating shows. "Blind Date" is the original and all-time best (I don't include older shows like "The Dating Game" and "Studs" because there was no video footage of the dates), but I have watched just about every spinoff and variation: EX-treme Dating, the Fifth Wheel, Dismissed, Elimidate, and more have all provided high comedy via my television set. I am also a fan of "Pimp My Ride" but don't watch "American Chopper." Go figure.

But "American Idol" just didn't do it for me. I have never claimed to have exquisite musical taste, but the brief clips I had seen gave me no reason to watch. Nor did I particularly care to hear what any of the judges had to say. Like most Americans, I had never heard of Randy Jackson or Simon Cowell, and before "Idol," my most recent thought of Paula Abdul was probably 12 years ago when I moved out of my parents' house and into my first apartment. Many weekday mornings, one of my roommates would engage in an odd ritual where he stood in front of the TV, flipping to MTV and VH1, chanting, "Come in Paula..." He would also settle for a Mariah Carey video, but he preferred Paula to set his karma straight for the workday ahead.

So, was my reply to my coworker a little smug, even scornful? Of course it was. My opinion of "American Idol" reflected my belief that if the contestants had any real talent, they would be performing somewhere other than on this television show. And if I wanted to hear live music, I would go to a concert or a club. The humiliation angle held no interest for me either. To me the people who watch to see contestants fall apart and get shredded by the judges are the same people who watch hockey for the fights and NASCAR for the crashes. I didn't care if Simon made someone cry and Paula punched him for doing it. And the less time Ryan Seacrest spent in my life, the better.

However, a little more than a year ago, I walked into our family room and found the Doc and the kids watching "Idol," and it was all over. Popular culture had found the weak point in my snobbish defenses, and blew them up real good. Like most parents, I will take an interest in my children's interests, and "Idol" had set the hook deep. Meals, homework, baths, all had to be scheduled around "Idol." We had to tape the shows that went past their 9:00 bedtime, and, in a major reversal of priorities, watch the tape the next morning before SportsCenter. As the season wore on, and their favorites fell by the wayside, they stuck with it right up to the grand finale. And of course, the American Idol CD is almost always one of the six in the car stereo.

This season, we have watched from the very beginning. I still don't care for the audition shows, partly because I find them less appropriate for the kids than the later stages. I honestly can't fault the judges for their occasionally caustic remarks because if I had to sit and watch and listen to the daylong parade of mediocrity that they do, I might also be less than constructive at times (yes, I know, you are shocked to hear this). So the current stage is when I actually begin to enjoy watching "Idol" with my kids.

People watching this show with their children is one reason "American Idol" is such a dominant force in the ratings. There is very little objectionable content (the commercials are worse than the show), and there is the positive message of working hard to pursue a dream. And, for me anyway, there is the lesson that not everyone can win, not like T-ball where every batter scores a run and gets a trophy, but that everyone can compete, improve, and keep moving forward even after the show is over. These are great messages that my kids would pay no attention to if I recited them over and over, but a little "American Idol" goes a long way.

Given all that, I still sometimes find it hard to embrace the part of me that has become associated with "Idol." These days, when someone asks me if I watch the show, I give what I like to call the Bill Clinton response: "Yeah, I watch it ... but I've never voted." And I still can't stand Ryan Seacrest.

So, if you have waded through all the above, what do I think about the final 12? As some have conjectured, Taylor Hicks is my favorite by a longshot. Not only can he sing, he can perform, and he always gives the impression that he is having a great time doing it. He has his own style and is confident enough that his songs never seem to be a stretch for him. This week's rendition of "Takin' it to the Streets" was an easy choice for him, and he knocked it out of the park. It's only a matter of time before he does a Joe Cocker number, and when you hear the familair piano riff of "Feelin' Alright," it will be game over. I don't know that he will win because the text-messaging demographic might not find him as appealling, but for me, the other contestants are not even close at this point.

Not surprisingly, at 29, Taylor is one of the older contestants. I also like Mandisa, who is also 29. Mandisa, despite her annoying one-nameness, has the stage presence of a polished performer and the pipes to match. She also won Simon over when she embarrassed him by forgiving him with grace and poise after he criticized her weight. Of the teenagers, I'll take Lisa Tucker and Kellie Picklar, but let's get Paris Bennett and Kevin Covais on the next bus out of town. Lisa has a lovely voice and good presence, but seems a little to fragile to make it to the end. Kellie has gotten better each week, and her hard-luck story and obvious resemblance to Carrie Underwood will take her far.

Paris is cute and can sing, but she has been living too long on her bloodlines and the obvious favoritism of the judges. She grinned and mugged her way through "Midnight Train to Georgia," and last week sang "The Wind Beneath My Wings," which along with "The Greatest Love of All" should be grounds for immediate disqualification. If America votes for Paris, it's time to move to Paris. Ditto for Kevin Covais. Nice voice, but every time he goes onstage, I expect to see Eddie Murphy jump out of the audience and start screaming, "Opie Cunningham! Opie Cunningham!" On the other hand, when he goes back home to Levittown, Long Island, I see a lot of ass-kickings in his immediate future.

Of the remaining guys, Elliott Yamin has the best voice, but his face is one only Lyle Lovett's mother could love, so don't count on seeing him in April. On the other end of the spectrum is Ace Young, whose name sounds like the fifth member of KISS, and whose looks will take him further than his voice. Ace is a favorite of the Doc's, and I have to admit, his rendition of George Michael's "Father Figure" a few shows back was very strong, but the last two songs haven't been as good, and he'll need another big hit to stay in. Bucky and Chris have cornered the country and rock vote of the guys who won't admit to watching and voting. Look for Chris to pick up Bucky's votes when Bucky misses the cut, as soon as next week.

That leaves Katharine and Melissa. Which one is which again? No, I know Katharine is the one who can actually sing, but she makes the funny faces, much like Kinnik and Will, who were eliminated this week. They are both tolerable, but when Paris and Kevin's bus comes back, they should have their bags packed.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Deja boo

So, it looks like the Atlantic 10 Conference will get two teams into the NCAA Tournament this year after all. GW lost 68-53 to Temple in the A-10 quarterfinals today. I have seen GW lose many games to Temple, and so many of those losses looked exactly like this one today. There was the early GW lead, built with fast break baskets and Temple turnovers; GW led 23-18 on a three-pointer by Carl Elliott with eight minutes to play in the first half. This high point was followed by 28 minutes of futility. The Colonials' next three possessions ended in turnovers as Temple took a 24-23 lead. Finally, Omar Williams drew a foul as he spun to the basket and hung in the air, but he missed both free throws.

Nothing could go right for the Colonials today. Temple led 25-23 with 4:02 left when Williams drew a charge, the third foul on Temple's starting center, Wayne Marshall. Marshall would not return to the court until late in the second half, but he would haunt GW when he did. Even without the 6-11, 285-pound Marshall clogging the lane, GW could not find the hoop. Instead they gave up four turnovers and missed four shots, not scoring the last eight minutes of the first half.

At this point, I had a flashback to 1994. Yinka Dare was a sophomore, and the Colonials had been in the Top 25 early in the season before inconsistent play had landed them squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble going into the conference tournament. GW had advanced to the Sweet 16 the year before, so expectations were high, and the prospect of not even making the Big Dance was disheartening. After a quarterfinal win over Rhode Island, GW met Temple in the semis. I was the director of marketing, and I sat next to my boss, the assistant athletic director. Our nervous energy turned to excitement as GW built a 24-16 halftime lead over an Owl team that featured Eddie Jones, Aaron McKie and Rick Brunson, all of whom would later play in the NBA. At halftime, I bumped into an A-10 administrator. "You guys are definitely in the tournament now," he said.

GW did not score for the first 15 minutes in the second half. Temple's matchup zone looked like it was being played by six guys. Dare, who could dominate college games, barely saw the ball as Temple drew even and pulled away (two weeks later, Dare left school to turn pro). My boss looked like he was going to be physically ill as he got up from his seat when GW finally scored. Final score, Temple 54, GW 34. Needless to say, the A-10 staffer was not quite so confident after the game as he had been at halftime.

This is the genius of Temple's famous matchup zone. If you have success, it serves only to build up a false sense of confidence. You get a few fastbreaks, make a few threes, maybe even get a lead and think to yourself, "We can beat these guys." So you start taking some chances, ignoring your coaches' orders to run the offense.

Meanwhile, you have been working your butt off on defense while Temple sticks to its game plan, patiently using up time until they get the ball to whatever future NBA player happens to be on the court for them. And they always seem to get it to him right where he wants it. So you redouble your efforts and begin to press, taking chances that Temple makes you pay for every time. The open three pointers aren't open anymore, so you move back until you are beyond NBA range. A passing lane opens up and closes just as you release the ball. And when you finally find a seam and drive the lane, you find yourself hanging in midair, waiting for contact that never comes, and your shot bounces miserably off the iron.

Beating Temple in a close game takes every ounce of physical, mental and emotional strength that you can muster because the Owls are big, athletic, disciplined, and they fear no one except their coach, John Chaney.

In the second half today, GW tried to fight back into the game, attacking the basket and continuing to press the Owls on defense. The Colonials cut the lead to six on two Carl Elliott free throws early in the period, but Temple converted a rally-killing four-point play on the next possessions and GW never got closer than seven points again.

As the half wore on, I struggled to believe that the Colonials had a chance in this one. Yes, they had come back from down 10 at the half against Xavier, and yes, there was the Charlotte miracle last weekend, but this was different. This was Temple. GW almost never wins close games against Temple. The only close win I remember was the 1993 win that broke Temple's 21-game win streak over GW. But I remember Mark Karver missing a potential game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer in 1990, I remember the two-point overtime loss at Smith Center in 1992, and, of course, I remember Pat Ngongba's infamous phantom foul on Lynn Greer in the 2001 A-10 tourney.

Maybe - I hope anyway - maybe Temple doesn't get in the players' heads the way that I described above, but I don't think I am the only GW fan who has a special, uncomfortable place in my subconscious for the Owls. Back in 1993, GW took the lead in the second half of the regional semifinal game against Michigan. One fellow fan pointed out to me that if GW had won that game, they would have had a good shot at getting to the Final Four because the opponent would have been Temple, and "We've already beaten them this year." And it was true. For the first time in 22 games, GW had beaten Temple. By three points. But I still think he was overstating the case.

Wizards Woes

In last night's 118-112 loss to the Miami Heat, the only thing uglier than the Wizards' throwback uniforms was their fourth quarter free throw shooting. After hanging with the division leaders the whole game - the teams traded leads throughout and neither led by more than eight points - Washington choked at the free throw line with the game on the line. To be fair, you can't ask Michael Ruffin to do better than 3-4 (his career FT% is .467), but Gilbert Arenas missed a chance to take the lead from the line with 1:13 left, and Antawn Jamison missed both his free throws with Washington down two with 15 seconds to play.

So, instead of closing the gap on Miami after the All Star game as I had hoped (okay, predicted), the Wizards have lost five of their last six and are in danger of falling below .500 again. Instead of overtaking Cleveland in the fourth playoff spot and setting their sites on the Heat, they slipped back to a tie for sixth with Philadelphia. The talent is there but they just can't seem to put it all together. If Caron Butler has a great game, Arenas is in a slump (at Dallas). Or Arenas and Jamison put up 72, but Butler is hampered by stomach problems (Memphis). Eddie Jordan challenged his "bigs" to play better after the Boston loss, and they did play well last night, but even with balanced scoring from the Big 3, they could not get it done at the end.

It would probably help if Washington stopped putting a huge welcome mat in front of the hoop for every All-Star they face. In recent games against the Wizards, Dwyane Wade had 40 points, Paul Pierce went for 31, Allen Iverson had 47, and Pau Gasol put up 39. How mad is Kobe Bryant that Washington's upcoming West Coast road trip doesn't include the Lakers? Kobe was probably hoping to go for 120.

Yes, these are the times that try Wizards fans' souls, but I blame myself for last night's loss. You may recall that I knew the Wizards would beat Cleveland when I found "The Karate Kid" on another channel while watching the game. Last night, after the game was over, I flipped around and found "Caddyshack." Obviously, if I had found it during the game, instead of an the average "Seinfeld" rerun that filled the game commercials, Jamison makes his free throws, Arenas steals the ball from Wade before he puts up the gamewinner, and the Wizards are on their way to the division title.

Bracket boys

My older son went 4-0 yesterday in his A-10 picks, but he is looking for two upsets today, #6 Fordham over #3 LaSalle and #10 Xavier over #2 Charlotte. His brother was 1-3 but still has his four semifinal teams alive. Both have picked GW to win the whole thing.

The ACC gets underway today. In a switch, the older boy likes all the favorites, while the younger sees upsets by Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

I will be unavailable today begining at noon until the Colonials prevail over the Temple Owls. If they don't win today, I guess I could be unavailable for months or even years.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Colonial Defense

As a person with a strong allegiance to George Washington University Basketball, I think it is appropriate for me to comment on the recent articles (1, 2, 3, 4) in the Washington Post about the questionable practices of a prep school that seems to exist only to provide basketball players assistance in becoming academically eligible to play in college. The articles also deal with this as a larger trend but specifically discuss two significant players on the GW team, senior Omar Williams and sophomore Maureece Rice. The articles are long and somewhat repetitive, but worth reading closely because this is a complex issue.

Let me begin by saying that I worked in the athletic department at GW for seven years, I have worked for GW on a freelance basis in the last two years, and I have some good friends who still work there. I also worked in athletics at Johns Hopkins for five years and played a varsity sport and, as a student, worked in the athletic department at Cornell. At these schools and others, I have met many players, coaches and administrators, and, by and large, they are people committed to winning by competing as hard as they can without compromising their own or their institution's integrity.

Now, I am almost certain I would not say the same thing about Darryl Schofield, the basketball coach and only full-time teacher at Lutheran Christian Academy, the "school" exposed by these articles. He strikes me as the number one bad guy in this story. He has made false statements about Lutheran Christian - which has no connection to any church, Lutheran, Christian or otherwise - and his own educational background. This is a guy who clearly manipulated the system to attract academically deficient basketball players and get them into college. No details have emerged as to how he profited from these shenanigans, but I will not be shocked if and when they do. Based on these articles, I would not believe anything he told me that could not be supported with notarized documents and even then, I would remain skeptical.

The NCAA Clearinghouse also bears some blame in this story. The notion that they would accept handwritten SAT scores as proof of a student meeting eligibility standards is preposterous, and the fact that Lutheran Christian was an approved educational institution is equally unbelievable. Any defense about their inability to properly monitor and evaluate the system is invalid. The NCAA currently has an 11-year, six billion-dollar deal with CBS for the rights to televise the men's basketball tournament. Last year NCAA president Myles Brand was paid $870,000. That leaves about $544,584,585.45 to find out if a school is anything more than a room in a rec center where basketball players hang out between practices and games. I think I could get that done and still have enough money left over for some fresh paint and new carpet for the NCAA offices in Indianapolis.

There is still enough blame left to put some on GW's administration, its coaches and the players who took advantage of a flawed system. The Williams and Rice have managed to progress academically - Williams is scheduled to graduate on time this spring - is a tribute to them and to the academic support unit at GW, which works with all the student-athletes, paying particular attention to the basketball players. University Vice President Bob Chernak has conceded that GW should have examined the details of Williams' high school records more closely, but the University administration remains steadfast in its support of the basketball program and athletic department. Chernak and athletic director Jack Kvancz are well-versed in NCAA policy (GW has self-reported minor violations in the past), and both are too smart and experienced to have knowingly tried to slip one past the NCAA, but there is a bit of a "don't ask, don't tell" aroma to this situation that does not pass the smell test completely.

I have met and spoken with Karl Hobbs and Omar Williams, as well as other members of the basketball team, in the course of writing articles for GW and another publications. Hobbs is convincing when he says that he will only bring kids to GW who he thinks can succeed there academically. In his five years, there have been no questions about the academic performance of any of his players. Many of the players whom he has brought to GW have not been on the lists of other major college basketball programs for a variety of reasons: injuries, late-blooming talent, and, yes, academic uncertainty. In many cases, Hobbs has signed players later in the recruiting process than the big-time programs. Teams like Duke sign their players early because they can; Hobbs waits, not because he wants to, but because he has to. He has to make sure that a player has recovered or will recover from an injury that knocked him off the other schools' recruiting list, he has to go back and see that the kid has grown two inches or developed his defensive skills, or he has to wait until the student has gotten the SAT or ACT score he needs to become eligible.

This is a risky way to go about building a basketball program, but it has worked for GW. In an interview, Omar Williams speaks confidently and with a quiet sense of humor; he expresses great appreciation for the experience he has had at GW. I don't know firsthand what he is like in the classroom, but I have met enough college athletes to say with complete confidence that he belongs there. I am not denying that he may have come to GW under questionable circumstances, but he has received an education and earned his degree, which the last time I checked, was the business of a university.

The NCAA has warned players that they should be careful in choosing prep schools and avoid so-called "diploma mills," but no players who are currently eligible will be affected by the results of the NCAA's investigation. American Collegiate Testing, Inc, which administers the ACT, has already decertified Lutheran Christian as a test center and the Educational Testing Service which oversees the SAT is reconsidering as well. This kind of action will put shady characters like Darryl Schofield out of business.

Competitors will always seek to gain an advantage within the rules and sometimes outside of them. In the past, plenty of schools have engaged in practices that were allowed at the time but are not any more. GW has not been shown to have broken any NCAA regulations, but I would think the University will take a few extra steps in the future to avoid an embarrassing and costly scandal.

For those GW fans who are complaining about unfair or unbalanced reporting or the timing of the article, get used to it. GW is a top 10 team, and this is the scrutiny that comes with that lofty perch. Go ahead and write your letters to the editor and spread the good word about GW, but the vicious name-calling and whiny complaining will only make your enemies sound justified in their criticisms. Besides it's got to be healthier to use your energy in positive support of the team with the best record in college basketball.