Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bog Poll - Return of the Hoya

Okay, so college basketball starts this week, and that means it's time for a new Bog Poll. Last year, Georgetown went wire-to-wire as my top-ranked team. The competition was so weak not even a second round NCAA Tournament upset by Davidson could knock the Hoyas off the Number One perch. Yes, five other teams in the Poll made the NCAA and a bunch more went to the NIT and CBI but none were able to win consistently enough to throw a scare into Georgetown. So for now, the men from the Hilltop are still in the top spot.

Lots of questions follow the Hoyas. Can Virginia Tech's youngsters improve enough to offset the loss of Deron Washington? Can the CAA get two or even three teams to the NCAA Tournament, after missing last year's Big Dance? Are American, Mount St. Mary's, and UMBC one-year wonders? Can Virginia and Maryland avoid the ACC basement? Will the MEAC or the Patriot Leaague have more teams in my Top 10? My friends, only time will tell.

1. Georgetown
Obviously, Jeremiah Rivers was the player to be named later in the Patrick Ewing Junior transfer.
2. Virginia Tech
The Hokies basketball team will be better than the football team? Ha! Good one. Next you'll try to convince me that the state voted for a Democrat in the presidential election.
3. VCU
Jamal Schuler is not walking through that door! Will Fameni is not walking through that door! Eric Maynor is not walking ... what? Wait a sec' ... Okay, Eric Maynor is back - apparently his petition for a 15th season of eligibility was approved.
4. George Mason
Patriots' most promising newcomer is a 7-footer- their mascot.
Jay Greene averages fewer turnovers per game than Jason Campbell.
6. American
Can someone please explain to me why American Eagle Outfitters is not the official outfitter of the American Eagles?
7. Maryland
Terps' three and four-guard offenses more effective than their don't-guard defense.
8. Mount St. Marys
Mount St. Mary's hasn't been ranked this high since the Princeton Review published the "Top 10 Colleges Your Parents Don't Know Are Party Schools."
9. ODU
Gerald Lee's signature dunk at the end of a fast break is known as the Finnish finish.
10. Morgan State
It's a Bear market, right?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I don't know who writes the sports headlines at Comcast.net, but somebody should send him (or her) a Webster's Dictionary as an early Christmas gift. Using the word "classic" to describe last night's Monday Night Football clash between the Saints and the Vikings makes about as much sense as kicking to Reggie Bush after he returns two straight punts for touchdowns. Yes, the Vikings won on a last-minute field goal less than two minutes after Saints' kicker Martin Gramatica missed a 46-yarder. And, yes, the oft-criticized Bush had two astounding touchdowns on punt returns and might have had a third if he had not slipped to the turf as he cut back across the field. The Vikings' points came in equally unconventional fashion, as they scored on a blocked field goal and a pass thrown by Chester Taylor, who normally finds himself clearing space for Adrian Peterson.

You want to call it dramatic, that's fine with me. Vikings coach Brad Childress probably saved his job, and Gramatica probably lost his. The thrill of Bush's returns was complemented by several hi-def hits and blocks in the second half. One of those hits knocked Minnesota QB Gus Frerotte out of the game after he completed a pass to Bernard Berrian for 36 yards. Frerotte returned one play later and marched his team to the end zone.

So there were some great plays, some big hits, but I can't think of one reason to call it a classic, something that would stand the test of time. Last week's MNF game pitted hated rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore battling for the top of the AFC North. As the defenses dominated, the result seemed more a question of survival than execution. There were a lot of penalties and punts, but that was more a testament to the strength of the defenses than the offenses' ineptitude. The main question in last night's game was how many plays could make the blooper reel.

New Orleans did not attempt a punt in the first half because three straight possessions ended in turnovers. One of the two fumbles that the Saints did not lose came when Drew Brees wasn't ready for the snap on a shotgun formation; since the ball hit him in the shin, it probably wouldn't have mattered if he was. The Saints best scoring opportunites came as Bush awaited Minnesota's punts; and for some reason, the Vikes kept kicking to him. Minnesota punted a total of seven times, including five in a row in the second half. Neither team rushed for more than 60 yards on the night. Throw in the oddity that referee Ed Hochuli has become and you've got yourself a football game as envisioned by Tim Burton: oddly beautiful and compelling, but eerily unsettling because something is just not quite right.

The only reason I watched to the end was because of a very entertaining Yahoo Sports Live Blog. I'm not a bettor, but I'm guessing most of the others people who stuck it out were waiting to see if New Orleans could cover the three point spread. Better luck next week, for all of us, I hope.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Michael Phelps needs some new vines

Michael Phelps came home to Maryland for a "Parade of Gold" on Saturday, a wonderfully small town moment that got national coverage. The parade also honored his USA Swimming teammate Katie Hoff and Paralympian Jessica Long - both Maryland natives - and included his family (Mom Debbie in Chico's finery, no doubt), the principals of the public elementary, middle and high schools he attended, as many local politicians as they could find cars for, and a number of high school marching bands, flag twirlers and the like.

Like Santa at the end of the Macy's parade, Phelps drew cheers and screams of joy as he waved to the crowd from atop a National Guard Humvee. Some fans travelled across several states and some only several blocks, but all jumped to their feet to catch a glimpse or a picture of America's Olympic hero.

And what did the greatest swimmer of all time choose to wear for this grand occasion? You tell me, because that hoodie up there almost defies description. Why not a Team USA jacket, something in red, white and blue, or even a North Baltimore Aquatic Club Shirt? I can't believe Speedo wants their spokesman looking this bad. Get a queer eye on this guy, call Tim Gunn, whatever, but put some lipstick on this pig, please.

Sadly, we've seen this particular fashion disaster before. Back in Beijing, Phelps popped into the USA Basketball locker room to chat with LeBron, Kobe and Coach K, and was rocking the exact same shirt. Maybe he's been travelling so much, it's the only thing he had clean, maybe it's his lucky shirt, maybe his mom set it out for him. I'm just glad he got rid of the hat.

Parade photo from AP, Beijing photo from Getty Images.