Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Took a little blog break, but let's go ahead and pick up right where we left off, with some American Idol.

First of all, Gwen Stefani should be a huge step up from Lulu and Peter Noone (it took me a week, but I did learn his name). I might actually pay attention to her performance tonight although most of her advice to the contestants consisted of some variation on, "This is a good song, you idiot. Just sing the notes."

So, on Gwen Stefani night, singers get to choose Gwen Stefani songs, of songs Gwen Stefani likes, or songs she might have heard in the elevator, the grocery store, or her parents' car, which is why the selections ranged from Donna Summer to The Cure to Cyndi Lauper to The Police. And, in what could be a AI first for me, I had heard all of them before.

LaKisha chooses to sing a Donna Summer tune. Wow, I'm shocked! And I was so sure she would try Eddie Murphy's rendition of Roxanne from 48 Hours. Ah, Last Dance. You always knew it was going to be the last song of the junior high dance, so you worked all night just for the chance to cop a feel during the slow part at the beginning of the song. In a similar vein, LaKisha's performance has its thrilling moments, but I didn't find myself reliving them later.

Chris S.
First his attempt at humor falls flat and then his song, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, is even worse. He is less rhythmic than Barney Clark's original heart and surprisingly nasal. I liked him at the start, but his dwindling confidence is giving off a strong Rex Grossman vibe.

In a inspired bit of choreography, Gina stands at the microphone and sings, I'll Stand By You, a great rocker chick power ballad. If they remade Say Anything with a gender-reversal twist, this is the song the female version of John Cusack would blast from the boombox underneath his ex's window.

He is on faya! He will not retaya! Bet against him and he will make you a laya!

Way, way too much clothing for Haley this week. True Colours was one of her better songs, but really, no one's listening.

He has always looked and sounded a little creepy to me, so his choice of the stalker classic Every Breath You Take ratcheted that up another notch. But he sang it well, and I think he has gathered some momentum.

And it's Donna Summertime again. Heaven Knows done well, but like well done meat, Melinda's performances are, safe, predictable and boring.

Taking Gwen's advice, Blake shelves the beatbox on Lovesong. Even more surprising, he manages a pretty competent cover of The Cure without any eyeliner whatsoever.

Hey Baby is the best Gwen Stefani song of the night, but considering the competition, that's like being the best of the Soviet republics.

Chris R.
Bad times continue for Idol contestants named Chris. When I got a crewcut in college, my friends remarked that the proofs for my yearbook photo looked like a progression of the Wolfman morphing from man into beast. Chris appears to be entering the later stages of that transformation; by tonight, he will be howling his rage at the moon.

A doubleshot of Chris in the bottom two and the Wolfman takes a silver bullet to the heart.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A lulu of an Idol

Ahh, yes another two hours of American Idol, somehow made almost tolerable by the presence of Lulu as this week's guest instructor for British Invasion Week. Also some producer who is even more obscure than Lulu helped the guys. Don't know Lulu? Here she is in "To Sir With Love" with Sidney Poitier. I am a big fan of his, but do you think Sir Sidney ever got tired of coming to the rescue of clueless white folks in his movies? If he did, it never showed. And now, we move from the supremely to marginally gifted.

Last week, Haley wore a tiny little dress. This week, she wore hot pants and a backless top. What did she sing? It really doesn't matter. If this were Miss America, she would do great in the evening gown and swimsuit but fall short in the talent competition.

The contestant responsible for my kids' increased saliva output sang The Zombies' "Time of the Season." Is this song the first recorded use of the phrase, "Who's your Daddy?" Suddenly, I hate The Zombies.

Chris R.
Sang "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying." And don't let the door hit you on your way out, please, either. Who has a larger head, Chris or Melinda? With that crew cut, he looks like one of the stick figures appearing in those antidrug ads.

Pursued a shaky strategy by taking on Melinda and LaKisha with "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." Lulu said she reminded her of Beyonce, which is nice, but I think she is going to get beyounced this week.

Sang "Diamonds are Forever." Fine, boring, but fine. She is so good, they should just give her a bye into the finals, sort of like the way they used to seed the professional tennis and bowling tournaments (FitzFact!).

Chose the right band with the Stones, but the wrong song with the morbid "Paint it Black." Too much sitar and dangerously similar to Sundance's fatal pick of "Jeremy." If she had any guts, she would've laid it on the line with "Let's Spend the Night Together." Still, America likes to rock, or at least we like to think we do, so she is safe tonight.

Another Shirley Bassey song, "I (Who Have Nothing)." Did you know Shirley Bassey is Welsh? Here is a link to the Wikipedia page listing other famous Welsh female singers. Other than Bonnie Tyler and Charlotte Church, let me know if you recognize any of these names.

The great thing about The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" is that you don't have to be able to sing a single note to get through it. Having his sister continue to wear lowcut tops in the obligatory family shot will only add to the irresistible force that is the Sanjaya voting bloc.

Was "Tobacco Road" his shoutout to the North Carolina Tarheels, who take on USC this week in the NCAA Tournament? In his nonsinging moments on camera, he seem to realize that he is teetering on the edge. If he stays a few more weeks, I am really looking forward to a Sally Fields, "You like me! You really like me!" outburst.

Chris S.
Another Zombies tune, "She's Not There." Perfect choice for him. Now comes the news that Chris attended Bob Jones University, but dropped out after seven semesters. Hmmm ...

Sang "As Long As He Needs Me," which is British because it's from the Broadway musical "Oliver," which is based on the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. Sort of like not eating french fries to protest France's position on the Iraq war.

So, Stephanie, Phil and Sanjaya in the bottom three and Stephanie singing as the credits roll.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Abundance of The Riches?

So, I'm watching TV last night when suddenly onscreen, to the shock of all those around her, a woman's prosthetic limb falls off and hits the ground. No, it wasn't Heather Mills on Dancing With the Stars. I wouldn't watch Dancing With the Stars if Pacman Jones made it rain in my family room. If I want to hate myself for watching amateurs of middling artistic talent prostrate themselves, I'll watch American Idol (tonight at 8:00 Eastern on FOX). No, this was a show called The Riches on the F/X Network, starring Minnie Driver and yet another rakish Brit, Eddie Izzard, as the parents in a family of "travelers" trying to go straight (sort of) in upper middle class America.

Oh, yes, this is modern television descended directly from Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. Driver, forgettable in every role she's had since Good Will Hunting, plays the fiercely devoted, heroin-addicted mother who violates her parole at least three times every episode. Izzard is her Prince Deceptively Charming, a raffish rogue who is also remarkably accurate with a pistol and a three wood (oddly, in this show, golf clubs are actually used to smash golf balls, not crania). A pair of street-smart teens and a cross-dressing little boy round out the cozy nuclear family, and it's one laugh after another for these wacky misfits.

The premise is set in motion when the family refuses to acknowledge the authority of the violent but not quite smart enough leader of the larger traveler clan, who has arranged a marriage for their daughter. After a sequence of absurd coincidences, they find themselves in a gated community McMansion recently purchased by a recently deceased couple who were unknown to their new community and apparently completely disconnected from the rest of the world ... or so it seems at first.

We're supposed to like this family because they really care about one another, exemplified by their greatest fear: that the parents will end up in jail and the kids in foster homes (I know that's the one that keeps the Doc and me up nights). The bad guys are people like the uptight, feckless lawyers and the perky, blonde head of the homeowners association (she has the fake arm). Like other F/X dramas (Rescue Me, The Shield), The Riches tries to refract societal mores in order to convince us that what we perceive as extremely unusual circumstances happen all the time to people just like us or someone we know.

Pretty preposterous, but probably no more so than police procedurals that wrap up impossible cases every hour. Besides, what were my other options? NBC showed The Black Donnellys. I watched the first five minutes of this "Irish brothers in the New York underworld" saga; we open in a bar, at the wake of the patriarch, and a fight breaks out. Did I mention the skirling bagpipe soundtrack? And they say The Sopranos demeans Italian-Americans with unflattering stereotypes.

CBS had CSI:Miami, but I vowed a few years ago to live a CSI-free life. What About Brian was on ABC, but didn't Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss mine all the creative energy out of this title in What About Bob back in the 1990's? For suspense, I suppose I could've tuned in Kansas State-DePaul in the NIT, just to see if K-State coach Bob Huggins would have a heart attack, but I'll get enough basketball this weekend. The free movie channels had An American in Paris, which I might watch but not admit it, and Hero (with Dustin Hoffman, not Jet Li).

So, until Studio 60 returns, I think I am stuck with The Riches on Monday nights. Or, horror of horrors, I could read a book.

Monday, March 19, 2007


So, how's your bracket working out? I am in about five or six pools and loitering around the top quartile of the standings in all of them. I lost Texas in the Final Four and of course GW in the Elite Eight, so I have no shot to win, but respectability certainly hangs within my reach. However, the only standings that really matter are those that are kept within my own home. The Doc wisely declines to participate, but after Round One, my youngest son was dominating the house with a 29-3 record. And it's not like he just picked the favorites. He had Winthrop and VCU, and his three losses were in the 8-9 games, which are always the toughest game to pick. He's going to need that big lead down the stretch though, as he had Wisconsin and Washington State in the Final Four.

My hopes of continuing my hoops-watching marathon on Friday were dashed by an early school closing due to some winter weather in the morning. I convinced the boys to watch for awhile, but then they insisted on doing silly things like eating dinner and asking for help with their homework, which can really cut into your screen time. I'm hoping they will get their priorities straightened out as they mature. Just like I have.

A few observations from the weekend, starting locally. GW fans should be disappointed in the way their team played against Vanderbilt, but not in their season. The Colonials lost four starters from arguably the best team in school history and still got back to the NCAA Tournament. Maryland fans should not be disappointed in their team's performance at all. I thought the offensive foul on Strawberry at the end of the game was a bad call and I don't know why Mike Jones was on the bench for such a long stretch during the second half when he is the best shooter on a team that struggles to score. I am sure Gary Williams has a very good answer to that question, and I would love to hear it. The Terps return a solid nucleus and should be in contention for the ACC title again next year.

Georgetown looks very strong to me, although I did not see much of UNC or Kansas. The Hoyas' defense is very quick when Roy Hibbert is not in the game, but it is a tsunami of shotblockers when he is. And Patrick Ewing, Jr., played like a guy who is capable of much more than four points per game. Having said that, Vanderbilt will be a real test for them this weekend, and it won't get any easier against Carolina, who might be able to beat them down the floor in transition with their superspeedy point guard Ty Lawson.

As far as the other "locals" that I've been watching all year, it was great fun to watch VCU knock off Duke and I was sorry to see them go against Pitt. The Rams' coach, Anthony Grant, is the ultimate antithesis of Gary Williams, the way he calmly stalks the sideline and never breaks a sweat, but at the same time, he has a look on his face that makes me think I'd better try to do what he tells me. Coming from Florida where he was an assistant to Billy Donovan, Grant is not going to be at VCU much longer (sorry, Norwood).

And, speaking of Duke, I keep hearing how much better the Blue Devils are going to be next year, but I am not ready to buy into that just yet. Not that I think they'll miss the two quality minutes played by lone senior Joe Pagliuca this year (that's two minutes total, not per game), but I don't see much benefit to another year of experience for McRoberts, Paulus, Nelson, et. al., all of whom have gotten as far as they can go in the college game with their physical talents. Look, lots of very good basketball schools miss the NCAA Tournament now and then. Syracuse and UConn this year and Maryland for two year before this one. But it's going to be culture shock for some face-painters next March when Cameron Indoor hosts an NIT game. ("What do you mean I can't pick the Devils in my bracket? Where's Dickie V, I want to file a complaint?"). If memory serves, Duke doesn't hang NCAA banners from the rafters in Cameron, only Final Four banners. Where do they put NIT banners- a broom closet? What if they win the NIT Championship?

Duke winning an NIT Championship. That seems like a nice thought on which to end.

Friday, March 16, 2007

March Madness Marathon

I had a mission yesterday, and I thought I was ready to go the distance. I sat down on the couch and clicked on CBS a few minutes after noon, just in time to hear Seth Davis make one more eminently forgettable comment that would have no impact on any of the 16 games being played that day. I knew the games would go until some time after midnight, but I thought I was in good shape to make it to the finish.

The marathon started fast with a very enjoyable game between Maryland and Davidson (see below). Just enough excitement to get the blood pumping, but as the Terps took control in the second half, I felt I was establishing a nice rhythm that would serve me well into the evening. As the first of many, many, CBS promotions for The Masters flashed onto the screen, I drank it in like it was pure oxygen. The second feature game of Georgetown-Belmont kept the pace, with the lower seed getting out fast to an 11-4 lead before the Hoyas awakened, first annoyed, then angered. By the time the kids made it home from school, this one was also in the books, and it was time to get out of the house because the GW-Vanderbilt game was not being shown by the local Baltimore affiliate.

So I tore my sons away from their homework, and we set out for a local fine dining establishment with four televisions, each of them wider than Roy Hibbert's wingspan. We missed the tipoff, and GW trailed 13-5 by the time we sat down. Sometimes, it's fun to watch games on a big screen. This was not one of those times. Vanderbilt crushed the Colonials in just about every way you can imagine. When it was 45-20 at the half, I said to myself, "Well, at least it's not as bad as Stanford," who had trailed Louisville by more than 30 earlier in the day. Then Vandy opened the second half with a 13-4 run.

The reason no one should ever complain about winning ugly is because losing ugly is so much worse. I've actually seen GW play worse, including a 103-73 loss at Duke in 1994 and a 54-34 loss to Temple in the Atlantic 10 semifinals. The Colonials led that one 24-16 at the half and didn't score a point for 15 minutes. Fortunately, there are plenty of wonderful wins to go with the woeful losses, and in time, this team will be remembered for winning the school's second Atlantic 10 Championship and a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The ride home was like that charter flight back from an all-inclusive trip to Cancun. On the flight to Mexico, there are complimentary margaritas and hot towels from cheery flight attendants, but the return trip is one long, sunburnt hangover. I was a little queasy at the thought of watching more games, but I tried to chalk it up to the bleu cheese dressing that came with the wings at the restaurant. Luckily for me, VCU provided the perfect remedy. The Rams pressed, trapped and battered Duke until the Blue Devils were left looking for a Laettneresque miracle that was nowhere to be found. The first upset of the day was as dramatic as you (and the CBS executives) could have hoped for.

But the Rams' celebration turned out to be the end of the line for me. I took the dog out for a few minutes, and when I returned, the Doc had steered the remote towards Grey's Anatomy. I rallied for a few mintes of Wright State-Pitt, but my attention wandered and as I switched over to the Daily Show during a commercial break, I fought to stay awake, but it was all over.

Maybe it was all the excitement of so many local teams playing, the emotional highs and lows. Maybe it's the fact that I turned 40 a few weeks ago, and the sports TV marathon, like pickup basketball, is a young man's game. Or maybe, call me crazy, but just maybe, we aren't supposed to try to watch 12 hours of basketball in one day. Could be, I guess. I'm about two hours from giving it another shot though, so I'll let you know.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Who is Stephen Curry?

That's the question every Division I major conference basketball coach whose team is not in the NCAA Tournament is asking right now after watching the freshman torch the Maryland Terrapins for 30 points in a valiant losing effort this afternon. Unfortunately for the assistant coaches, their bosses are also asking the inevitable followup, "Why is he at Davidson University?"

And it's a pretty good question. Every March, America learns the name of a very good player who escaped its notice all year because he doesn't play in one of the power conferences. Usually, he is a senior who was overlooked by the big names because he wasn't a high school star or he was injured or he was an academic or discipline risk. But Curry is a freshman and was a two-time All-State player at Charlotte Christian in North Carolina, where they do pay attention to basketball. And I don't think too many players with academic issues slip past the admissions office at Davidson.

Here's the best part though. His dad is Dell Curry, one of the best players in Virginia Tech history who had a solid career in the NBA. And yet none of the traditional powers could find a spot for this kid who did a pretty good Mike Bibby impression today. So, all you assistant coaches, in the words of Ricky Ricardo, "You got some 'splainin' to do."

Maryland, to its credit, took care of business in the second half today. Curry had five quick points to start the period, but D.J. Strawberry, with assists from Hayes and Vasquez, kept him in check as the Terps asserted themselves at both ends of the floor. Vasquez did a great job running the offensive show and Bambale Osby had several and-one opportunities in relief of Ibekwe, who was in foul trouble. The Wildcats had little offense other than three-point shots and the pace of the game took the legs out from under their long-range attempts.

Bottom line: excellent adjustment by Gary Willliams and his defense, and good leadership from Strawberry, Vasquez and Osby, but the Terps need to take better care of the ball (22 turnovers) to get to the Sweet 16.

Terps in Trouble

Halftime, Maryland leads 44-43, and you would think this game is being played at the pace the Terps prefer, but Davidson seems very comfortable as well. The Wildcats are beating Maryland's press and have at least three guys on the floor who can shoot the three; they are 7-19. DJ Strawberry is carrying too much of the load on offense. Jones has two threes, but he took a long time to get going. Strawberry needs to find Stephen Curry, and guard him from end-to-end on every possession. Curry has the conscience and range of Gilbert Arenas. All five Maryland starters have two fouls. Will Gary Williams back off the press or will Maryland be able to wear out Davidson? Great start to the tourney, more later.


For all of you in disbelief over Sanjaya's survival on Idol last night, I believe I told you last week that Diana Ross would be his salvation. As far as the rest of the show, the big stage and the big diva songs were a bit too much for almost all the contestants. I know everyone likes Melinda and Lakisha, but I think this competition is more wide open than that. Neither of the two female favorites has shown an ability to get outside a certain comfort zone of songs, which could really hurt them down the stretch. Melinda needs to sing a song that people under the age of 40 would recognize and Lakisha needs to do more Gladys Knight and less Whitney Houston.

That's all for today. The NCAA Tournament beckons, and it's a sweet siren's song that I cannot resist. Maybe I'll do some pop-ins throughout the day. My picks today are Maryland, ODU, VCU, UCLA, UNC, MArquette, GW, Wright State, Texas Tech, Georgetown, Ohio State, Xavier, Louisivlle, and Texas A&M.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

[ ] Post

Okay, here's how I pick a bracket. First, I print out the form and fill it out with GW winning the National Championship. Next, I tear that one up and print out another one. This time, I am irrational, but not completely insane, about GW's prospects. I start by studying all the matchups in one region and meticulously pick the games down to the Final Four representative from that region. I move on to the next region, begin to study the next set of matchups, get bored and just scribble in names until the bracket is finished. I tend to favor the teams that I know, and the automatic bid teams over the bottom of the at-large pool, and you'll probably see a lot of names from the Local Poll moving through the bracket. I also go with teams that have good backcourts or a great player. Most of the time. I have never won a pool. I have never been close. I am pretty sure both of my children beat me last year. So here we go.

In the Midwest, I'll take Florida right up to the regional final where they will lose to Oregon, led by Bryce Taylor, the mightiest Duck since Donald and Daffy. Other upsets in this region include ODU over Butler and UNLV knocking out Wisconsin. Even though everyone wants to anoint Butler as this year's George Mason, ODU is a Local Poll team and I needed a couple upsets here. I'll make up for this rough treatment of the heartland teams in the West, where Kansas cruises to the Final Four over UCLA, despite some excitement provided by VCU and Wright State as they win their first round games and the Rams get the full George Mason treatment in advancing to the Sweet 16. Mostly favorites in the South except for one win for Xavier and Texas A&M dismissing my least favorite NCAA coach, John Calipari, and his Memphis Tigers. This pleases me so much that A&M also beats Ohio State in the regional final. Saving the most ridiculous for last, I have GW beating Georgetown to get to the Elite 8, where I regain my senses and have them losing to Texas, which beats UNC. Also Texas Tech over BC in the first round.

So that leaves a #1 (Kansas), a #2 (UCLA), a #3 (Texas A&M) and a #4 (Texas). I like a high-scoring but close final of Kansas over A&M, 86-83. Will it happen? Not a chance.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Poll First, Brackets Later

First of all, a big shout out to Karl Hobbs and the George Washington University Colonials. Back in October, I interviewed Karl for some articles I was writing in the GW game program. I asked him if he was aware that the Colonials had never made three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

"Is that right?" he asked. "I did not know that. But it's a great goal."

The Colonials played ferocious defense in beating St. Joe, St. Louis and Rhode Island to win the A-10 tournament. Critics will note that St. Louis knocked out UMass, and URI took care of Xavier, but after a four-game losing streak a month ago, the Colonials have been on a tear, winning eight in a row. This one is especially sweet for senior point guard Carl Elliott, the only starter to return from last season's historic team, and fellow senior Dokun Akingbade, who came to GW as a walk-on and redshirted last season. Akingbade started 30 games this season and had 15 points and nine rebounds in the A-10 Championship game.

In bracket news, I have no sympathy for Syracuse. The Orange played exactly one nonconference road game this season, courageously venturing 150 miles west to play that notorious hoops powerhouse Canisius. Drexel, by comparison, went 6-2 in their noncon road games including wins at Villanova, Creighton and, yes, Syracuse. So, I don't care that 'Cuse went 10-6 in the Big East, they have to get in line behind Drexel to file a complaint. The guy I feel bad for is my friend Mike Tuberosa, who went to Syracuse and is now the Assistant AD at Drexel. But he did his graduate work at Niagara and worked at GW and Georgetown, so he's got a few horses in the race.

I'll have more bracket observations later in the week. After years of not picking brackets for no good reason, I did fill one out last year, and this year, it looks like I'll be in at least five pools. I will win none of them. I have trouble picking against my sentimental favorites and eventually I make my picks strictly for entertainment purposes, mostly my own. Speaking of my own entertianment, here is this week's Local Poll (Big Stein should have the full results up this afternoon):

1. Georgetown
I’d feel better about their title chances if they also had Michael Graham, Jr.
2. Maryland
Once again, the Terps get screwed because they have to play the conference tournament in a traditional ACC hotbed.
3. VCU
If the Rams beat Duke, the only person happier than head coach Anthony Grant might be his boss, VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Class of 1987.
4. GW
I got your overachievers right here, pal!
5. Virginia Tech
Could not stop the NC State Wolfpack's determined march to the NIT.
6. Virginia
See Virginia Tech, above.
7. Old Dominion
Better not sit Blaine Taylor and Bruiser Flint next to each other at next year’s CAA Preseason Media Day Breakfast.
8. George Mason
Note to the GMU pep band: It’s been nearly a week now, it’s time to stop playing “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
9. Loyola
If it’s March on North Charles Street, that can mean only one thing … lacrosse season.
10. American
They come into your town, they’re gonna party down, they’re an American University.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Fill 'Er Up Regular, Please

Oh, where to begin ...

Okay let's start with Idol, hit some college hoops and see what else we have time for.

Big shocker on the elimination show last night and no one was more outraged than Paula Abdul, who was reduced to spluttering incoherence, as opposed to her usual fawning incoherence. Sundance was sent off into the sunset a little earlier than I expected, as were Sabrina and Jared, but none of them were going to win this thing anyway. Neither was Antonella, who also went home last night. As for the huge announcement that American Idol is going to help fight poverty in Africa and in the U.S., well, good for American Idol. My favorite part of the video they showed was when the little boy ran away from Ryan Seacreast; that boy is clearly wise beyond his years. Of course, if you are a sick and twisted individual like I am, when the village children's choir was singing for Simon, you were waiting for him to tell them how "ghaastly" their singing was. "And your outfits are harrible; they look like some sort of dreadful, ill-fitting school uniforms."

But enough of that. Tune in next week, as American Idol voters continue to befuddle the judges and rational people everywhere. By the way, if you think Sanjaya is gone next week, think again. It's Diana Ross Week. Hello, Fabulous!

This is the real March Madness. So few teams have a real shot at winning the national championship, there is so much hype about just getting into the tournament, and when you add in the conference rivalries, you get some real drama. Yesterday, I watched the Terps fall flat on their faces against Miami (again) and after dinner, I saw an overtime ending in the A-10, a double-OT in the Big East, Duke losing in OT, and there were Pac-10 and Big 12 games as well.

And I watched a very ugly 58-48 GW win over St. Joe's. How ugly was it? 41 combined turnovers ugly. 34% combined shooting percentage ugly. St. Joe's got its 11th and final field goal of the game with two minutes to play in the game ugly. Now, that's a great defensive effort by the Colonials, but they almost didn't get enough from their offense to offset such a pathetic total by the Hawks. The Colonials led 33-21 at the start of the second half, scored four points in the next nine minutes and still led by six. It didn't get much better as the half went on. At one point, GW committed four straight turnovers, the last when Damien Hollis swung the ball around the perimeter with a crisply delivered chest pass right to the referee. The Hawks capitalized on this error with a brilliant bounce pass through a teammate's legs and out of bounds. And this wasn't one of those boring, Wisconsin-type games where the teams slow it down and grind it out; the ball was flying up and down the court, just not into the basket, which is still the object of the game.

So tonight the Colonials get St. Louis, whom they lost to on the road in the beginning of February. Like St. Joe, St. Louis likes to pound the ball inside. Last night, GW was able to put enough pressure on the perimeter to keep the Hawks from getting in the lane, and they need to replicate that performance, but they also need a better offensive output.

So here's the ACC question of the week: if Florida State gets to the final, does the ACC get eight bids? I hope not, so I guess Georgia Tech gets bounced. I would love to see Duke get left out, but who's kidding whom?

I mentioned earlier in the week that I took the kids to the movies. We saw Bridge to Terabithia, which was fine for them, so-so for me (salvaged mainly by the delightfully deliquescent Zooey Deschanel who plays the uberhip, Steve Earle-singing music teacher. The school employs her but has no art program at all? Okay, I guess I am nitpicking). I never read the book, so I can't compare - I think it's in that Madeline L'Engle, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey sort of canon that never quite appealled to me like the Lord of the Rings or Conan or Piers Anthony did. Anyway, as the movie began, my younger son informed me that his friend told him that one of the female characters dies during the film. As the plot unfolded, we met several female characters, and as each one spoke, he turned to me and said, "I think she dies." Eventually, he was right.

What I really want to do here is provide a public service warning to all parents and tell you about the previews for all the movies that your kids will want to see in the coming months. First, we saw a very brief trailer for Underdog. This looks terrible, but wasn't the original cartoon pretty bad? I get it confused with Hong-Kong Phooey, which I think was much better. If you want Underdog-based entertianlment, take a look at
this. Also, there is an animated Disney-Pixar joint called Meet the Robinsons which you'll be seeing whether you want to or not because the hype machine will be cranking up to DEFCON 1 over the next few weeks. Usually Disney kills off one of its young protagonist's parents, but they are upping the ante on this one and making him an orphan. Ice Cube returns to the screen for Are We Done Yet?, a sequel to Are We There Yet? "Did we see that one?" I asked my sons. "Yeah, it was hilarious." I remain skeptical. In the Cute Widdle Animal category, we have Firehouse Dog, about a superstar Hollywood pooch who is found by a young boy badly in need of some self-esteem. Piece of cake for this canine, who also saves people from burning buildings and solves the global warming crisis. I'm sure there were others, but I may have missed them in the aftermath of a tragic nachos incident.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Double Idol

It's going to be a tough day for Brian here at FitzFacts because I'll be reviewing both American Idol shows before settling in for all the college basketball I can stand this afternoon and evening. No post yesterday because, of course, we had a major, major winter event as Baltimore County got absolutely buried under 2-3 inches of snow, forcing the schools to close. Amazingly, the movie theater stayed open, so did the dentist, and the university where the boys swim. So we ended up with a pretty busy day.

And now let's get to the Idols, false and legitimate.

The guys opened and closed strong, but the rest of the program was pretty much a waste. For the results tonight, expect to see the two Chrisses and Blake in good shape and probably Sanjaya, and just pick two others at random because they'll be going home faster than 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament anyway.

Blake: Strutted 311's "All Mixed Up," one of those songs I know I've heard but am too old to actually know the name of. Jamiroquai last week, now 311, this is how you stand out in this competition. And he's very comfortable on stage, which allows him to be entertaining, even in a sideways hat. Now, if you taped the show, just fast forward to Chris Sligh; you'll be happy you did.

Sanjaya: Remember that stretch of Michael Jackson's career where he seemed to want to become Diana Ross? Judging by the new hairdo, Sanjaya wants to become Paula Abdul. Next week I expect to see him singing with a cartoon character (which would mean at least one of the performers was animated). So why do I think he'll be around next week? Because while he is bad, there are other guys who are as bad or worse, but he is memorable, while they are forgettable. And his name rhymes with jambalaya and papaya.

Sundance: Took a Southern-fried shot at a Jeremy by the original Messrs. Happy, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. Nothing like a song about high school bullies and violence to get the crowd rocking. This angle worked for Chris Daughtry because he smiled about once a month but Sundance has way too much "Aw, shucks" in him for it too work. ("Ah'm tellin' y'all, Ah am dark.") He'll go farther once he realizes he should be copying Taylor Hicks.

Chris Richardson: Weak performance by a strong contestant. After two weeks of crowd-pleasing dance moves, Chris pulls up a stool and draws us in close for Keith Urban's Tonight I Wanna Cry. I couldn't agree more, and they're not tears of joy.

Jared: Switches from Marvin Gaye last week to Stevie Wonder this week but comes up way short this time. Needs to get an agent and bang out a couple Subway commercials with that other Jared before he fades into oblivion.

Brandon: Sings I Just Want to Celebrate by Rare Earth, but the important part is the next line in the chorus - "another day of livin'." Those days are numbered.

Phil: Very creepy look and even creepier sound at the start of LeAnn Rimes' "I Need You." It got better in the middle, but not enough to make it worth waiting for. Desperate performance, and with good reason.

Chris Sligh: Continued to broaden my musical horizons with Wanna Be Loved by d.C. Talk, a band whose album Jesus Freak changed the genre of Christian hip-hop (according to Wikipedia), anyway. Christian hip-hop. Who knew?

And now we move to the much, much more entertaining episode. To quote one of my favorite reverends, it's like going from black-and-white television to color. If you've had enough FitzFacts already, though, here's the short version. Six of the ladies are good singers and two are easy on the eyes. So, I guess we'll see what America votes for.

Jordin: Belted out Heartbreaker by Pat Benatar, a song that was released more than 10 years before she was born and is not exactly in the canon of great rock songs. Where did she hear this one? I guess from her mother. Anyway, she did fine, but I still say she's too young to really sell a line like "You're the right kind of sinner to release my inner fantasy." I'm sure her Pops would agree with me.

Sabrina: Another performance that was ten times better than most of what we heard from the guys last night, but nowhere near what we are about to hear from the rest of the ladies. She chose Don't Let Go by En Vogue, whom I always associate with close harmony and precise choreography. Sabrina has copied them too well; she seems overly choreographed and has to bust out of that a little to stay with the leaders.

Antonella: I'm still trying to get some play for my coining of the term "nudoriety" to describe Antonella's success, so do me a favor and try to work it into your conversations this week. She sang a song I don't know, and she was terrible, but let's face it, she could sing Who Let the Dogs Out and the people who were going to vote for her are going to vote for her. She should go, but it's a sucker's bet.

Haley: Pretty girl, pretty voice, pretty weak. First of all, she seems to lack the stamina to get though an entire song, even the abridged versions they sing on this show. It's like watching me try to finish a marathon. Okay, a half-marathon. Okay, okay, okay a 10K, now back off! She sang something about wings, thankfully not The Wind Beneath My Wings. Now get her out of here.

Stephanie: And now back to the contestants who can actually sing. Stephanie was good on Chaka Khan's Sweet Thing, but she could get lost (like last week when I accidently omitted her from my writeup), much like Sabrina if she doesn't do something to stand out.

Lakisha: Went against conventional Idol wisdom and did Whitney Houston's I Have Nothing, but not only does she have the requisite pipes, she also doesn't try to sing it exactly like Mrs. Bobby Brown. Watch Gina's jaw drop in the background when they show the highlights and phone numbers at the end of the show. The leader in the clubhouse, but Melinda is making a charge on the back nine.

Gina: No prom dress this week, Gina was in full pierced-tongue rocker chicknasty voice. With Evanescence's Call Me When You're Sober, she locked in the Daughtry vote Sundance was wooing last night. Look for even more eyeliner and maybe a new tattoo next week.

Melinda: Melinda onstage = house down. I'm A Woman (W-O-M-A-N), and one who knows how to sing for her supper and a lot more. I don't know if she can win because she has an oldfashioned quality that may not appeal to the younger voters. Except that the last two winners, Taylor Hicks and Carrie Underwood, have not exactly been contemporary, edgy choices.

So, here's my prediction for the outs tonight: Phil, Antonella, Brandon, Haley.

FitzFacts, Out!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Power Hungry

Did you see that VCU-George Mason game Monday night? What a great finish. With the CAA Championship on the line, the sixth-seeded Patriots were trying to reignite the glory of last year's run to the Final Four. Trailing by five points with less than two minutes to play, Rams guard Eric Maynor got two steals and scored seven points to give Virginia Commonwealth a two-point lead with 40 seconds to play. Jim Larranaga called George Mason's last timeout to plot his endgame strategy. And then the power went out. Not at the arena. In my house. After a couple seconds, we got that brief flicker of lights and hope, and then, darkness again.

Ah, the old power outage. When I was a kid, these happened now and then during a thunderstorm and immediately sent us scrambling for candles and flashlights. There were plenty of the former because my mother insisted on dining by candlelight - every night. The latter were a little tougher to come by because with eight kids in the house, somebody was always using a flashlight to search for a marble that had rolled under a dresser, or to explore unlit crawl spaces, or to make spooky faces. Once we found adequate illumination, the next concern for my parents was the perishable food. I don't remember heat being an issue because it wasn't ever very cold when we lost power, I guess, but the Doc recalls her father heating bricks by the fireplace, wrapping them in towels and putting them in the beds to keep warm.

As an adult homeowner, the drill has changed a little bit. Because we are on a well and septic system, no electricity means no well pump, which means you've got what's left in the tank in the basement, or about two toilet flushes. Usually, I remember this very important fact right after I instinctively flush.

Our first power loss in the house we now live in was quite memorable because it lasted several days and because my mother-in-law was staying with us. We had moved in about a month before so this was her first visit to see our "grownup" home. She arrived at about the same time we caught the fringe of a hurricane that knocked the whole region for a loop. Needless to say, she was quite impressed, what with our having no water and no air conditioning for almost a week in late August. She remarked that maybe we should look into getting a whole-house generator system installed as a backup, so that we would not be as inconvenienced the next time this happened. She also asked about replacing the homemade steps from the garage into the house, which were a tad steep. We agreed with her 100% and now, eight years later, we still have no generator and the same steps.

It fascinates me how a lack of power can leave you feeling so, well, powerless. One second, I have 100 channels at my fingertips, as much information as my high-speed internet cable can handle, and the next second, silent darkness, and the next second, screaming kids. Actually, the kids were fine. They have learned to adjust to this scenario much better than when they used to open the freezer every few minutes, saying, "The fridge is working! It's still cold in here!"

Still, in an instant, the entire premise of the evening has changed. There should be a flashlight in the drawer next to the fridge, but there should also be well-planned escape routes in the event of a fire and I should floss every day, but I know there are matches above the fireplace, and, hey, what's this, a flashlight in the drawer by the fridge, and it works. Wow, big Boy Scout points for that one. Okay, next mission, get kids to bed. Since it was close to 9:00, this process was already well underway, and once I convinced my nine-year old that the electric candle was not a fire hazard and my seven-year old that he still had to brush his teeth because the toothbrushes run on batteries, we were pretty much done.

Normally this is the point in the evening where the Doc passes out on the coach as I idly flip from college to professional basketball games, occasionally skipping around the movie channels and various Law and Order options (but never any of the CSI's). Instead, after I try to make sure all the lights are switched off, we retire to bed. Two-and-a-half hours later, I am awakened by a few lights that I missed as the power comes back on.

The next day, we are all well rested, and if I missed a couple basketball games and other breathlessly reported local news stories, I don't feel like I suffered much. Don't get me wrong, I like my conveniences and obviously if you are reading this, you enjoy them, too. But it was a nice break.

By the way, VCU won the game.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Big Red Break

Brian "don't call me Da" Vinci wants to see less American Idol and more Cornell sports here on FitzFacts. The best I can do is say that there will be no AI until at least Wednesday. As far as Cornell, any mention at all would be more, I suppose, so let's see ... the Big Red men's hoops team finished 16-12, 9-5 in the Ivy League, a nice mark but not enough to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since I sported some seriously hideous facial hair. Cornell basketball was best summed up by then Coach Mike Dement, who, after losing to Syracuse, was quoted as saying, "They've got a 6-9 guy who next year will be in the NBA, and we're trying to guard him with a 6-3 guy, who next year will be getting his MBA." Tougher times for the women's basketball team who went 12-15, 8-6. Kudos to the underpublicized wrestling team, which will send eight grapplers to the NCAA Championships, and of course, watch out for the hockey team, which hosts a quarterfinal round of the ECAC Tournament next weekend. For more information, call the Big Red hotline at 255-2385!

Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled Monday, which, as it almost always does, features the local college basketball poll. But first, congrats to Big Stein and the lovely Mrs. Big Stein, who became parents last week. The Bog Poll continues during his paternity leave, but will appear sans pithy comments, but you can always get plenty of those right here. My votes are below, but let me beat you to the punch and say that these rankings are ridiculous and utterly indefensible. The results of the last two weeks have made it nearly impossible to place these teams in any sort of rational order. So, I would be more surprised to see learn that you agree, rather than disagree with them.

Maryland regains the top spot, just barely, over Georgetown. I know the Hoyas won 11 in a row and lost to a desperate team at Syracuse, but Maryland has been a beast lately and I'm sure Duke was every bit as motivated as Cuse. Either way, it's very close but then a big drop to the mess that begins at #3 and ends at #8. VCU moves ahead of Old Dominion and the puzzling UVA Cavaliers and the baffling Va. Tech Hokies. GW is close behind them, and George Mason is probably going to get a lot more credit than they deserve (unless they win tonight, in which case, they do deserve it). Anyway, before I change my mind again, here they are:
1. Maryland
Terps win seventh in a row, Gary Williams reportedly recruiting sons of Keith Hernandez, Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra.
2. Georgetown
When asked about Georgetown’s chances for an NCAA berth, radio announcer Rich Chvotkin repilies, “Hoyas in! Hoyas in! Hoyas In! Hoyas in! Hoyas in!”
3. VCU
Billy Packer gives Rams kiss of death, picks them to win against George Mason tonight.
4. Old Dominion
After losing to George Mason, Monarchs’ Coach Blaine Taylor said he hoped this would finally get his colleague Jim Larranaga some well-earned recognition.
5. Virginia
Apparently, much like Miami, Winston Salem has a strong Puerto Rico vibe.
6. Virginia Tech
This is the part of the roller coaster ride where Seth Greenberg gets off and throws up, and then he and his friends run and get in line to go on it again.
7. GW
Colonials now travel to the A-10 Tournament in Atlantic City, where, if they’re smart, they’ll buy a bag of lemons and try to find Susan Sarandon.
8. George Mason
If they win tonight … dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.
9. Loyola
The bad news is the Greyhounds lost. The good news is they don’t have rabies, so Travis doesn’t have to go out back and shoot them.
10. American
I almost gave this spot to the Harlem Globetrotters, whom I saw at the Towson Center yesterday. They’ve got the record but their strength of schedule is very weak, and frankly, could use some variety.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Fumblings

Okay, let's take a quick spin around the FitzFacts' realm to see what's happening today.

American Idol
I don't like watching the results shows because all I care about are the actual results, not all the other fluff they cram in there. I hate the annoying dramatic lighting and music almost as much as I hate Ryan Seacrest, although I do think he has a difficult task. I don't want to watch any of the performances, neither the former Idol stars nor the rejects' reprises. I mean, if the song was bad enough to get them voted off, why do I want to hear it again? Besides, GW was playing Charlotte on ESPN2, so switched over during timeouts and got updates from the rest of the family, who were watching AI upstairs.

I had A.J., Nick and Phil as endangered, and the first two went. Obviously, Antonella's nudoriety kept her alive, but no surprise that Alaina took the hook. Slight upset that Haley stayed over Leslie, but it's not like she should start looking for an apartment in Los Angeles. I wrote yesterday about the "don't sing Whitney" admonishment from the judges, but I think it's even more clear that you should never sing Feelin' Good because it took down both Leslie and A.J. I did see just enough of Kellie Pickler's appearance to note that she certainly has enhanced her profile, at least from the neck down. And that's more than enough Idol for me for the next several days.

Carl Elliott did it to Charlotte again. His fadeaway jumper with 18 seconds on the clock gave GW the winning 62-60 margin last night.The Colonials charged back from a 10-point deficit in the first half to take a 13-point lead of their own, only to have Charlotte heat up again and make for a dramatic finish. The Colonials are now 19-8 and wrap up the regular season tomorrow at home against Duquesne. They lost to the league leaders, UMass and Xavier, but it's not out of the question for them to make a run at the A-10 title next weekend. If not, they are looking at an NIT bid. That would be a step down from the last two years (GW has never made the NCAA three years in a row), but I have always felt that winning a few games in the NIT is an excellent building opportunity for a team. And, before I forget, a quick shoutout to Mike Hall, who signed a 10-day contract with the Wizards this week. Two GW players in the NBA at the same time hasn't happened probably since Corky Devlin and Joe Holup. How long ago was that? Holup was taken three picks after Bill Russell and one before Tom Heinsohn.

Watching a team exert its will on an opponent is one of the most enjoyable aspects of sports for me. The Terps have grown into a defensive monster in the second half of the season and they absolutely throttled Duke and UNC. They still don't shoot the ball very well, but they put tremendous pressure on their opponents and force them to maintain a high level of concentration and execution if they want to be successful. When Maryland was winning early, I saw Final Four capabilities, and while that would be a surprise, I still see it as a possibility, given how they have dominated their recent opponents. But don't give me this garbage about the ACC getting seven or eight bids. No, no, no. I'll give you UNC, UVA, Virginia Tech, BC, Maryland and Duke and that's it, send a nice NIT invite to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State. I know the Yellowjackets beat UNC last night, but if you can't do better than .500 in your league, you have to have an incredible out of conference record to get in. And with all these conferences that have 12 or more teams, the league schedules are unbalanced, so one team's 9-7 is the same as another's 11-5. Give me the second best team in the Mountain West, the CAA, and the Missouri Valley before the seventh-best in the ACC or Big East.

For those of you who are not regular readers of the Baltimore Sun, my man Kevin Cowherd skewered a water-tasting contest in his column yesterday. Tasty, with a nice bite in the finish.

Black Snake Moan? Who comes up with these titles? I predict it will be the second-best movie starring Samuel L. Jackson that has the word snake or snakes in the title.

Zodiac? David Fincher, the director of the very creepy and gruesome Se7en bring us a new film about a serial killer. What a refreshing change for him. In between these two, he directed noted chucklefests The Game, Fight Club and Panic Room. Somebody needs a hug.

Wild Hogs? Man, I hope they paid William H. Macy a lot of money to be in this one.

The Beer Launching Fridge
Well, if you made it this far, you might as well take a look at the beer launching fridge. So many questions about this one.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Oh yes, it's Ladies' Night

Wizards lose, Terps win (at Duke!), and I am neither smarter than a fifth grader on TV nor the fourth grader who calls me Dad, but what you really want to know is, what about American Idol last night? Before we get into individual reviews, I think it's obvious that if this were Survivor, and the tribes were divided by race, it wouldn't be much of a contest. Let me be clear, I am not making a general statement about race, I am only talking about these 10 people, but I haven't seen white chicks this bad since Shawn and Marlon Wayans. Now, before I lose my balance on this fine line I am trying to walk, let's take a look:

Gina Glocksen: The Red Stripe girl (Hooray Beer!) wore a dress that matched the tint in her hair and opened strong with Heart's "Alone." I hope the singing thing works out for her because in real life, she's a dental hygienist. Hey, Tuff Goth Girl look probably works really well in an afterhours club, but not when you are getting ready to poke sharp objects into my mouth as I go under the anesthesia.
Status: Glocksen locks in another week

Alaina Alexander: "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks was also not ready to be in tune. The Daily Racing Form always includes a history of past performances by a horse. Good ones get words like "driving," bad ones "outclassed." Alaina was not driving.
Status: Adios, Alaina

Lakisha Jones: Moving from excruciating to enjoyable, Simon's favorite turned in a melodic "Midnight Train to Georgia." A musician thoroughly in control of her instrument, Lakisha appeared and sounded very comfortable. Some of the contestants on this show are overreaching, others are just having a good time.
Status: Lakisha lakicks labutt.

Melinda Doolittle: Dedicating her performance with an Oprah reference that was lost on me and every other man watching, Melinda maeda strong bid to overtake Lakisha with a "My Funny Valentine" that you might actually pay money to hear. Nothing fancy, just professional quality vocals. Back to the horseracing for a moment, I'm going to box Melinda and Lakisha for the exacta.
Status: The Doctor is definitely in the house.

Antonella Barba: Google's Miss February sang a badly off-key Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion. Allow me to summarize with the email I sent to Tony Kornheiser this morning, which he read on the air. Dear Mr. Tony, Antonella Barba stinks worse than your show. Last night while she was singing, my dog hid her head under the sofa cushions. No, wait a second, that was me. As they would say in your old neighborhood," Antonella, ohmigawd, I hate huh!"
Status: Farewella, Antonella

Jordin Sparks: Another player in my favorite AI game, Dwarfing Ryan, Jordin threw a solid punch with Christina Aguilera's Reflection. I think it was Bill Simmons who recently mused, "Five years ago, who would have predicted that Britney would go crazy and Christina would be the normal one?" Anyway, Jordin may not have what it takes to win the whole thing, but her dad played in the NFL, and we wouldn't want to make him angry, now, would we?
Status: Sparks plugs onwards.

Leslie Hunt: Seems like a nice person with a nice voice whom I could imagine making a decent living singing in a blues club in her hometown of Chicago. And I have learned since yesterday, that the song she (and A.J.) did, Feeling Good, is a well-known Broadway tune covered by such notables as Nina Simone, Sammy Davis Jr., and Traffic. In baseball parlance, she would probably be a late-season addition to the forty-man roster.
Status: Still in the Hunt

Haley Scarnato: Queen of the Night? More like Queen of the Damned. Okay, not that bad, maybe Queen of the Darned or Dratted. And I already used my Jackie Earle Haley line this week ... wait a sec, I got another one. Jackie Earle Haley, Haley Joel Osment, obviously she needs to start using a middle name if she really want to make it.
Status: Scram, Scarnato

Sabrina Sloan: Is it just me, or does the phrase "Girl Detective" just tumble off the tongue after you say her name? Like Haley, she went against conventional Idol wisdom and chose a Whitney Houston song, All the Man I Need. Unlike Haley, she brought it off pretty well right up to the last note, which I thought she missed. Still, in the words of Clint Eastwood, "There's two kinds of people in this world: those who have guns, and those who dig."
Status: No need for Sabrina to pick up a shovel just yet.