Friday, February 29, 2008

Fanaticism Gone Too Far

Our televisions capture the foreign images of European soccer hooligans, and the fires and flares of South America. At home, we watch tape of a drunken father and son attacking an MLB first base coach. In the NBA, we see a brawl erupt in Detroit, because a fool decides to toss a cup. But a step down from your professional leagues, we see something growing more large and ugly. It’s fanaticism at the extreme.

In college sports, your home surface represents a point of dominance. Its make up, aura, and student body can allow even the most average hosts to compete with the greater visitors. But more and more, the stories and images of fan hostility are taking precedence over the actual games played. This again stands true, as I recently watched USC mopping up a road victory in Tempe, and in the waning seconds, a full water bottle crashes at the feet of a Trojan player. But even with the danger posed by that incident, and the potential to spark a melee, the action of that one disgruntled fan is minor to the incidents already reported this past year.

The most recent incident to be publicized is that of UCLA’s Freshman Kevin Love. Love is a native Oregonian that snubbed his area to play in the basketball tradition of UCLA. Last month marked his first trip back to Oregon, as his Bruins faced the Ducks. He was greeted with hostilities, for which the University of Oregon made an official apology. But more has surfaced about his Oregon road trip, and it makes you question the mentality of the fans and how they’ve forgotten that it’s just a game. It was reported that Love received death threats, and screaming fans called his grandmother and 13 year old sister “whores”. I am unable to grasp that type of mentality, because though I have a love of team, and love of sport, I can still understand that it’s just a four year decision to play a child’s game elsewhere. Florida quarterback, Tim Tebow, received death threats during the 2007 season, and for no other reason than being “great” at what he does.

The University of Illinois also had to apologize for the hostile reception given to another freshman sensation, Eric Gordon of Indiana, when he made his first appearance in Champaign, after not staying true to a promise to play for the Illini.

Another publicized incident was the occurrence at the end of an amazing contest played between No. 1 Memphis and unranked Alabama Birmingham. The one point, down to the wire, victory by Memphis was quickly forgotten, and fan violence took center stage. As you can see in the following clip, as the officials were checking the monitor to determine if a last second game winning shot should count, the Memphis players are getting pelted by any trash the UAB fans could find.

Death threats aren’t exclusive to players, as a teary eyed Michigan coach alerted the nation last week. Rich Rodgriguez spoke of the threats against his family in West Virginia, and against his young niece, simply because her uncle “took a job”. Before the Mountaineer football team even suffers any ill effects of the Rodriguez departure, some West Virginia fans have taken it upon themselves to make his family suffer in fear. It shouldn’t be surprising or unexpected, considering WVU’s place kicker received death threats after the Pittsburgh game, being blamed for the loss that cost the team a spot in the National Championship game.

In Indiana, security has been increased, following the resignation of basketball coach Kelvin Sampson. The University’s action is a precautionary measure, hoping to prevent a repeat of campus disturbance that followed the school’s firing of Bobby Knight. In that incident, police in riot gear were needed to disburse the angry crowds.

The college football season also featured outrageous acts, when Rutgers fans welcomed Navy to the field with chants of “Navy Sucks”. Entering the field for the second half only allowed an encore performance of the chant, and the Scarlet Knights’ fans weren’t done. As an injured Midshipman limped from the field, the crowd chanted “You got f*cked up! You got f*cked up!” And in the direction of the uniformed section of Navy fans in attendance, the chant was “F*ck you, Navy! F*ck you, Navy!" In the aftermath, Rutgers’ President made a formal apology to the Naval Academy, but again I’m confused about what would not only bring a person to begin such chants, but for others to also tag along. The boys from the Naval Academy are not only serving as Saturday opponents, but are also serving their country. Following graduation, some will find themselves on battlefields, defending our right to chant. I think that alone deserves respect, regardless the depth of your fanaticism.

Chants are a thing of old, as I can remember former St. Joe’s basketball player, Delonte West, who has a birth mark on his face receiving chants of “Herpes! Herpes!” I also remember Duke’s J.J Reddick being so hated by ACC foes that their chant of choice was “F*ck U Reddick!”. There is no enforcement, so it continues. A fan can be removed from the building for tossing items on the court, and the home team can be penalized, giving the visitor technical free throws, but how do you enforce the harsh chanting and profanity that potentially comes with it? For the NCAA to clean up the language, they will have to penalize students by suspending home games, forcing their teams to play only on the road. For severe offenses, they can wipe out the home games for an entire season. That would be the simple plan, but it’s more difficult when you look at the financial loss. How many school presidents, who already can’t control their student bodies, are going to agree to a punishment that hits them in the wallet?

As a player, it only took one road game for me to realize how hateful some fans can be towards a program. It’s more apparent in basketball, when venues shrink in size, and the gap between yourself and the fans decrease. As a player, you stand on the hardwood, and you know that a handful of officers could never hold back an entire student section and any intentions to cause harm to their visitors. The road can be a scary place, but it’s only because of a few enticing idiots, and greedy NCAA executives that allow it to be.

Fanaticism has already gone too far, and year after year, the bomb continues to tick. When, and if, there is that great explosion, we will see the “powers that be” addressing the media of the seriousness, as if they never saw it coming. I see it now. Don’t you?

Trojan Dismount

The New England Patriots released Oscar Lua this week. After being picked in the seventh round of last year’s draft, Oscar’s hopes were to eventually fill needs for an aging Patriots linebacking corps. Winning a spot on the roster last summer, a knee injury restricted Lua from performing and making any additional impressions in any way.

Eagles’ Mike Patterson was arrested last week on possession charges. When police approached what they believed to be an abandoned vehicle, they found both Mike and his brother inside, along with marijuana and a joint still burning in the ashtray. Patterson’s brother also had numerous arrest warrants. We’ll have to wait for the disciplinary action to be handed down by the NFL, which is almost certain to come.

Taming the Kitty

NCAA tournament hopes remain alive for the Men of Troy. In a period where every game is now of the utmost importance, the Trojans are making it count. Thursday’s trip to the desert showed USC withstanding the Wildcat’s roar, and eventually cruising to a 70-58 victory.

This game also marked the return of Daniel Hackett, who I believed to be done for the season with a spinal injury. Hackett played 24 minutes and contributed 5 points in his return. O.J Mayo continues to impress, dropping 20 points and 6 assists, supported by Davon Jefferson’s double-double of 15 points and 14 boards.

The Trojans now travel cross state to face the Scum Devils of Arizona state, who were beaten soundly by UCLA last night. It represents another important contest in the NCAA tournament run.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- Isaiah's Trade Winds

Isaiah Thomas was one of the more skilled basketball players at the collegiate and professional levels, achieving greatness, and winning championships at both the University of Indiana and with the Detroit Pistons. But sometimes you have to know and understand your limits, because when you cross that line between playing and managing, you may find your feet are more suited for sneakers than wing tips.

Isaiah took over as President of basketball operations for the New York knicks, a position his former Detroit teammate, Joe Dumars, took with the Pistons. Well, Dumars’ Pistons have won a title, while Thomas’ Knicks are receiving your annual “class clown” awards. And just when you think his knicks have hit rock bottom, and their jokes have become boring and expired, this week’s DOH-mer will find a way to liven things up again.

The Knicks currently stand at 17-39 on the season, which isn’t even funny anymore. But what’s funny is the excuse given by Isaiah last week, for his squad suffering a humiliating 40 point loss to the Sixers. According to Thomas, the NBA trade deadline served as a huge distraction to the team. Really? I can’t recall any of the other franchises losing by 40 on that night. I guess they weren’t distracted, and that would include the teams that were actually involved in last minute trades or those that traded earlier and still didn’t have key players in their new uniforms.

Thomas either formed his reasoning in the time between the final horn and the circling of the media hyenas around the dead carcass, or he took a full 24 minutes to create his post game blabber. 24 minutes accounts for the game’s second half, where he sat motionless and staring off into space. What else was there to think about, when you’re down 46, besides questions, flash bulbs and what Stephen A. Smith will say about you on Sportscenter?...HOWEVA, I’ve tried to latch on to the DOH-mer excuse, but my mind keeps drawing comedic images of an entire Knicks team placed on hold.

Isn’t it just awful when players run up and down the court, wearing their Bluetooth earpieces, nervously awaiting a call to say they’ve been traded? And what about the coaching staff, sitting there for 48 minutes, calling every NBA team to offer a package? That would definitely throw me off my game! But the game of blame turned out to be even worse than the one against the Sixers, because I think Vegas would give better odds of the Knicks overcoming a 46 point second half deficit than they would give the public believing the Knicks were routed because of trade distractions.

Since Isaiah has been restructuring the Knicks, he’s brought Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford, Eddie Curry, Quentin Richardson, and Jalen Rose to the Big Apple. He’s drafted Channing Frye, Nate Robinson, and others. Now he’s sitting around waiting for phone calls? Face it, putting balls in the hoop was his forte, but making pieces fit is not. His Knicks rebuilding project is equal to a preschool student trying to complete a colonial puzzle, by trying desperately to fit Paul Revere’s head in his horse’s a$$.

And finally, I’ll end this with a post game quote from the DOH-mer himself:

“We’ve had our good moments, and we’ve had our bad moments.”

When you’re 17-39 on the season, and you lose by 40 points to a team that isn’t much better than you, good moments are known as the “NBA Lottery”. He should have given the correct answer to all the questions and said, “Something stinks in New York, and it’s either the coach, the president of basketball operations, or both.”

He still needs to find one player to blame for any anticipated trades that never occurred. But hey, I’m sure Devean George is still an available scapegoat.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Knoxville First, and Another in Newark

The Memphis Tigers didn’t have to travel as far as the New England Patriots to feel the pain of imperfection, because it came sooner than later. Not that it numbs the pain to finally lose before you reach the postseason, and to do it on your home floor. But In this case, the throbbing could be more severe, because you not only gave an instate rival bragging rights and the honor of ending your perfect season, but you also allowed them to replace you at the top.

For the first time in history, Tennessee Men’s basketball is the No. 1 team in the nation. And the volunteers didn’t just creep to the top spot, they actually did it in style. The top poll position had several occupants over the course of the year, but how many of those mountain climbers achieved the position by defeating the No. 1 team in the nation? To get to that unfamiliar place, the Vols didn’t quietly wait for the Tigers to lose to someone else, they put in the work themselves.

A conference cast in a dim light by voters now has a team on top. Surprised? I’m not. The SEC’s Florida Gators have finished atop the college basketball world for the past two seasons, but we all know how the media suffers with short term memory.

And the state of Tennessee isn’t done with the dramatics, because just one day after receiving the No. 1 crown, the Vols get another instate rivalry road game, against a Vanderbilt squad that has won 6 straight, and have yet to lose in their own house this season.

AP Top 25
1. Tennessee (69) 25-2
2. Memphis 26-1
3. North Carolina (2) 26-2
4. UCLA (1) 24-3
5. Texas 23-4
6. Kansas 24-3
7. Duke 23-3
8. Stanford 22-4
9. Xavier 24-4
10. Wisconsin 23-4
11. Georgetown 22-4
12. Indiana 23-4
13. Louisville 22-6
14. Butler 25-3
15. Connecticut 21-6
16. Purdue 21-6
17. Notre Dame 21-5
18. Vanderbilt 23-4
19. Michigan State 22-5
20. Drake 24-3
21. Marquette 20-6
22. Washington State 21-6
23. Kent State 23-5
24. Gonzaga 21-6
25. Saint Mary's 23-4


In the Northeast, another team was achieving a first that was far less glamourous. On Saturday, the New Jersey Institute of technology set a new NCAA record, by finishing their season with a record of 0-29. Their overall losing streak now stands at 33, and with a loss in next year’s season opener, they can tie the NCAA mark of 34. Hell, they’ve come this far, it would be a shame to actually see them win that game and deprive America of another record setting performance.

The Highlanders reached this mark of futility by accounting for more season turnovers than field goals. But with all said, I can't help but think, if NJIT played in the Big East next year, and posted the exact same record, they would still make the Big East Conference tournament. The Big E will invite all members to participate in next year's postseason.

Little Hands On This Booty

John David Booty continues to take his hits at the Combine. With Quarterbacks such as Joe Flacco, Josh Johnson, and Kevin O' Connel continue to express scouts with either size, athleticism or both, statistically Booty isn't what the NFL wants to see in a quarterback.

JD's measurements weren't a big concern, until they measured his hands. He measured a size 8, which is considered extremely small for a quarterback. Maybe that explains the many fumbles on the exchange from center or the fact that the ball often got away from him on passes. Booty ran a 4.82 forty, which is faster than Brian Brohm and Kyle Wright, but a lot slower than Josh Johnson's 4.55.

Keith Rivers is skipping combine events because of an ankle injury he sustained in combine preparation. He's hoping to heal in time to display his talents at the USC pro day. Scouts are high on Rivers, and he's projected as a top 10 pick, possibly reuniting with Reggie Bush on the Saints. Ellis continues to gather the attention, as his combine performance has been nothing less than brilliant.

Cal's Desean Jackson shocked scouts when he measured shorter and lighter than listed. No shocker to the people here in Southern Cal, because we've always known he was a runt. But Jackson made up for the jaw dropping measurements by posting an impressive 4.35 forty, tops at the combine.

Friday, February 22, 2008

To Vacate Victories Is To Call Us Stupid

The NCAA Gods have many methods of punishing programs for rules violations. Some of the more sensible methods would include allowing fewer scholarships, postseason bans, probation, television bans, and in extreme cases, the death penalty. The death penalty would be a complete restriction of football activities for the required number of years, as given to Southern Methodist University from ’86 to 88, but I doubt we’d ever see this handed down to NCAA cash crop programs like USC, Alabama, Notre Dame, and some others.

In most cases, those punishments are understandable and can go without debate. But what I view as complete idiocy is the NCAA’s “vacating” of victories, as a form of punishment. This method of punishment isn’t exclusive to the NCAA, because I’ve seen in implemented at the high school level, for something as petty as a player living “outside” the district and being ineligible to participate. The penalty erases past victories, and will either reflect as losses or games never played. This means the opponents will either receive victories for games they lost or have a game completely scratched from the books, as if it were never occurred.

In recent developments, the University of Oklahoma will have 8 victories reinstated for the 2005 season. The NCAA actually got it right, but not on purpose. Their reasoning is an overturning of a ruling on infractions, but my reasoning is that you can’t suddenly tell me that OU didn’t play or lost those 8 games in 2005. You can scratch them from the books, but I’ll go to my grave knowing who they played and defeated.

It’s similar to a courtroom, where a witness may blurt something out that is factual, but because of improper judicial procedure, the judge orders the jury to “disregard the statement”. How do you disregard what was just heard, as if it was never said? When it comes down to deliberation, though the statement may not technically be used to form a conclusion of guilt or innocence, we’re all human, and it will be.

With the ongoing investigation into illegal benefits possibly received by Reggie Bush, and any knowledge of the action by USC, there is already talk of vacating Southern Cal victories and possibly the 2004 championship. The NCAA would not only be willing to wipe out an entire season of games on a schedule, but they would give the conference championship to Cal (who was beaten by USC), and Oklahoma would receive a National Championship after being soundly beaten by a score of 55-19.

Maybe it would make sense, 20 to 30 years from now, when people either open the books and don’t know or can’t remember. But anything before that is laughable, because people aren’t as stupid as the NCAA rules committee implies. It’s easy to strip a Heisman trophy, but suddenly there was no great game against Notre Dame, and no Bush push? It never happened, so don’t even talk about it, right? There was no near victory over Fresno State. There was no leap into the endzone over a UCLA Bruin. It never happened, so stop posting the photographs and rolling the tape. Or maybe the intention is for it to stick in memory, justifying the punishment with "USC didn't play those games, because Reggie Bush played in those games." Huh?

Now I’ve heard outraged fans calling for the New England Patriots’ victories to be vacated, for known spygate infractions and what we may come to know about past years. The professional levels are least likely to vacate anything, but instead add an asterisk in their books. Maybe the Pros view their fanbases as intelligent, where the amateurs see us as idiots. The NFL is likely to scratch victories from the Pats, as much as MLB is willing to reduce the homeruns and win counts from Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Can you imagine the Yankees vacating victories and championships for years Roger Clemens appeared on the roster? All hell would break loose!

Take the scholarships, postseason, monetary fines and what not. But don’t insult my intelligence by attempting remove something already completed, because barring mental illness, head trauma or marijuana smoke, my memory does not vacate.

Left For Dead Cagers Reveal A Pulse

First came the news of Daniel Hackett being gone for the remainder of the season. Then came the 4 point and 10 turnover performance by O.J Mayo, in their loss to the hated crosstown rival Bruins. And tonight it was a 13 point second half deficit to the Oregon Ducks that had me believing the Trojans' postseason tournament hopes were dim, and the season was dead.

It didn't look good for the Men of Troy, and the Galen Center was hushed by O.J Mayo picking up his 3rd foul before the first half even ended. Oregon had pulled out to a 15 point lead, and the lowering of the casket began. But Mayo pumped new life in the second half, scoring 18 of USC's last 24 points to finish with 32 for the game.

USC's 20-6 second half run brought the noise back to the building, returned the pep in their steps, gave the Trojans the lead, and a check in the win column. I'll admit that I had them written off from everything but the NIT, but tonight's victory leaves them in great shape. With a strength of schedule rank of 9, and a strong RPI, if the madness began today, the Trojans would be in. But there's still work to do, so let's not get too far ahead. They need to complete their schedule and have a strong showing in the Pac 10 tournament, and then we can all exhale.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ellis Has Opportunity To Vault Dorsey At Combine

The 2007 college football season saw LSU's Glenn Dorsey capturing all the defensive tackle headlines. He was said to be the anchor for the nation's top defense, though the Trojans finished statistically better, and his season was capped with a national title. All the hype down in Baton Rouge made Sedrick Ellis the best kept secret out west. But the truth is, there isn't much of a gap in talent between the two men, and the offseason has allowed Ellis to show it.

Under the advice of his agent, Ellis skipped the Senior Bowl in Mobile Alabama. In his absence, Ellis was the shining star, propelling himself up draft boards and possibly among the top 5 prospects. Now we enter the NFL scout combine in Indianapolis, where NFL bigwigs will fill seats and NFL talent is on display. With the recent death of his grandmother, Glenn Dorsey announced that he will not be able to participate in the combine, meaning we still can't grade his performance or compare his skills to Ellis.

What this does is open the door a little wider for USC's All American defensive tackle. It's a second opportunity to make an impression, with USC's pro day still down the road. In all, he will give the NFL 3 good looks to Dorsey's one, and have the opportunity to vault a player originally projected to go No. 1 overall. Since that early projection, the speculation is that the Dolphins won't draft a DT, especially if they plan to run a 3-4 defense. But picks 2 through 5 can easily land a stud on the defensive line, and those teams have only seen Ellis.

Trojans were the majority at the Senior bowl, and with 12 invites to the NFL combine, USC has one player more than Virginia Tech, giving them another majority.

Hazelton Goes Under The Knife

Trojan receiver, Vidal Hazelton underwent surgery to repair torn abdominal muscles. He played with the nagging injury all season, believing it was a groin, but X-rays revealed that surgery was necessary for repair. At the request of his parents, the procedure was performed in Philadelphia by an expert from Drexel University in abdominal repair.

Despite the injury, Hazelton led the receiving corps with 50 receptions for 540 yards. He's expected to recover in time for spring practice, and with one season under his belt should be more of an impact in the Trojan offense for 2008.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Croyle Ranks Booty 79th On Top Prospects List

Nationally known NFL scout, Frank Croyle, has listed John David Booty as the 79th overall prospect in the 2008 draft class. I'm not exactly sure how Booty managed to fall without giving us anything to look at since the senior bowl. After the week in Mobile, Croyle ranked JD as the 5th best passer in the class, one above Deleware's Joe Flacco. But looking at his new figures today, he has Flacco as the 61st best prospect overall, which is 18 spots above Booty.

It's been a while since I've seen a Trojan signal caller so low on a talent chart. I guess you get spoiled by Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, like Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. But maybe this will finally end all uncalled for comparisons that seemed to immediately greet Booty behind center. J.D. Booty was never in the same class as the 2 quarterbacks before him, regardless of the media hype that surrounded his every move. A better comparison would be Matt Cassell, and JD may be following that same path, since I don't see him ever being an NFL franchise QB, but more of a lifelong backup on an NFL roster.

Sedrick Ellis and Keith Rivers are two Trojans that appear in Croyle's top 10, with a total of 7 appearing in his top 100. Rivers and Ellis also represent the only Pac players in the top ten, with Oregon's Jonathan Stewart ranking 11th. 3 of the top 10 prospects, Chris Long, Matt Ryan, and Kenny Phillips, represent the ACC, which may appear as a shocker to SEC superiority snobs who only find McFadden and Dorsey representing their conference in the first ten. But when you realize the majority of current players on NFL rosters represent the ACC, it just proves the consistency of NFL talent in that conference.

Monday, February 18, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- The Rocket Misremembers

As much as I'd love to have someone from Notre Dame displayed here each week, there are 52 weeks in a year, and the Fighting Irish are only good for 12 weeks of humor. But there are others outside of South Bend that are ripping off brain farts, so why not give them their due and acknowledge them appropriately?

In this inaugural DOH-Mer spotlight, no one was more suitable than Roger Clemens. He was miles ahead of the competition, that easily included Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, the Fans of UAB, and the Bills' Roscoe Parrish. Roger soared to new heights, taking it all the way to Capitol Hill. We thought Clemens only took our money at the ballparks, until we got a glimpse of this publicized hearing at the expense of the tax payers. Besides for the State, Federal, SSI, and other categories that eat my paycheck, they should have also added the RCBF as a direction for my earnings. That would be the "Roger Clemens Bull$h!t Fund".

This is a hearing that Clemens wanted. This was the week to clear his name and remove "cheater" from any conversations about him. This was cleaning dust off the path to the hall of fame and designing the bronze bust which would read "Greatest pitcher of all time". I sat there, waiting for the Rocket to say it aint so. But the more the Rocket fired off at the lips, the more I believed it was so. It wasn't a good job of convincing anyone that he was never injected in the a$$ with anything but B-12, especially when you go on to say your best friend and best character witness "misremembered" a conversation.

Andy Pettitte came clean. After saying Pettitte is a great guy, honest, and believable, your answer to the contradiction of your statements with Andy's deposition was that he "misremembered"? Your answer was that he misheard, and that you were talking about your wife getting a$$ injections? What a waste! The Rocket let me down, because obviously his attorney let him down. He could have been more convincing if he had O.J Simpson speak for him. Even better, he shouldn't have spoken at all.

Clemens was buried by his own ego. But shouldn't it be expected, since HGH can cause the cranium to grow larger? Barry Bonds is also carrying around a large dome full of ego, but he wasn't stupid enough to call for a gathering "to be heard and clear his name". Well, I heard you Roger, and I choose you as my DOH-mer of the week. 7 Cy Young awards and 1 DOH-mer makes for a pretty good career.

Black Out Leaves Trojans In The Dark

Even before The Trojans clad themselves in the black uniforms, and fans sported black T-shirts and hoodies, a dark cloud had already come over Southern California. Word of Daniel Hackett possibly missing the remainder of the season with back surgery already dimmed the lights on a team that had the potential to make a great March run.

Hosting the Bruins on Sunday night, USC went hobbling in with a missing star, and the Bruins came running out, with a healthy Mbah A Moute taking the court for the first time in a week. The Bruins controlled the game from beginning to end, as the Trojans racked up 22 turnovers, with O.J Mayo committing 10 alone, while scoring only 4 points. And though the game was close, you can only wonder what could have been.

UCLA was superior for 40 minutes, but the gap between the two programs has definitely decreased. Under Floyd, USC is no longer the walk over game. Floyd has a legitimate Pac 10 contender, and despite the loss of Hackett, the Trojans should make a lot of noise in the Pac 10 tournament.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rick Neuheisel Gives USC The Keys To The House

Pete Carroll and the new shot caller in Westwood, Rick Neuheisel, have agreed on both teams wearing their home jerseys for the next crosstown rivalry game. It's not surprising that they would want a throwback game, considering Carroll has always requested it, and Neuheisel played on those UCLA squads that shared the coliseum with USC.

But though it has good intention, and is a long time coming, they still don't have it right. The original purpose for both programs wearing home attire was because both shared the same home field. When the Bruins and Trojans both called the coliseum home, it wasn't much of an oddity to see each uniform representing the home team. But the game these coaches agreed on will be played in December, and in the Rose Bowl. What's the significance of both teams wearing home jerseys in the Rose Bowl? The historic venue has always been USC's home away from home for postseason games, but it was never the official home of the Trojans. If you want a throwback game, with both teams wearing home uniforms, then that game should be played in the coliseum, where it holds the significance.

And why are the Bruins submissive enough to allow any opponent to claim the Rose Bowl as their home, if even for just a day? Defending their house was the only thing the Bruins had left, with the popularity of the football program dwindling in recent years. Now they don't have anything to call their own. In December, it won't be "your house", because it becomes "our house".

Let's thank Rick Neuheisel for telling the rest of the nation what people in L.A have known for a long time. The Bruins lease the Rose Bowl, but the Trojans own the joint.

Fight On!

Unlimited Night and Weekend Minutes-The Kelvin Sampson Calling Plan

Indiana and coach Kelvin Sampson are the newest targets of the NCAA governing bodies. And of all the possible violations that can lead a program and their fanbase to have their hearts skip beats with fear, this is about exceeding the number of calls allowed to recruits.

Let me first begin by saying anyone who believes Sampson and Indiana are the only persons violating this rule, are the same ignorant people believing Reggie Bush is the only college football player to receive illegal benefits, the New England Patriots are the only NFL team to steal defensive signals, and steroid use in baseball is exclusive to Barry Bonds. The link between the aforementioned is not that they stand alone, but that they all got caught. But being one of many doesn’t make an infraction lesser or petty, since the NCAA does have this “calling rule” set in stone, and anyone in violation will gain an unfair advantage over those in compliance.

Fewer dropped calls than any other network

In case you’re wondering how a simple phone call can make a difference, you have to remember that we’re talking about the egos of high school kids. These are celebrities on campus, in their hometowns, and in many cases nationwide. Nothing strokes the ego more than feeling wanted by a college basketball power program. Coaches and recruiters set out to create a relationship between themselves and their possible future stars, which eventually includes a campus visit and a trip to the player’s home. But it’s the personal phone conversation that may keep them dangling on the hook, feeling that the head man of a big program is taking the time to call.

Eventually you reach your limit, and phone recruiting comes to an end. But what happens when another coach ignores the limitations, and continues to call? As a recruit, you feel the others have lost interest or the lone caller is the one caring the most, giving your ego the greatest stroke. He cares so much that he’s bending the rules, just to punch your digits.Exceeding the limit doesn't automatically give one program a player's ink on a letter of intent, seeing that the majority of the nation’s top recruits aren’t exactly flocking to Indiana or Oklahoma. But i may keep those schools on a player's short list, which is better than not being on their list at all. Maybe Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, and Ben Howland have better reception than Sampson. Who knows?

Usage Charges

Kelvin Sampson is a repeat offender. The alleged wrongdoing in Indiana was factual in Oklahoma. This speed dialer has already sacrificed a $500,000 raise in pay and one scholarship, simply because he couldn’t stay off the damn phone. And with this infraction, the Hoosiers themselves may be facing possible postseason bans, loss of scholarships, etc, etc. And for what? A phone call? You’ve gotta be kidding me!

This resembles a parent withholding a child’s allowance for excessive texting that ran the bill sky high. It looks like a parent grounding a child because they continually go over their monthly cell phone minutes, and you’re trying to teach them responsibility. But at least those are examples of fairness. If the NCAA comes down hard on Indiana over phone calls by a coach, let’s just categorize this under “cruel and unusual punishment”. The punishment should fit the crime, and anything harsh from the NCAA would not.

Go directly to the source. Impose a coaching ban on Sampson for a season. Force him to sit out or find work in South America. Habla espanol, Kelvin? You can even extend the punishment to the individuals that did the hiring, already knowing the man’s past. But to punish the University and it’s basketball program over phone usage is laughable, and would make the NCAA the joke of the sporting world.

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I’ll end this by saying the rule itself is ridiculous. Why is there a limit on phone calls made to recruits? Who has an overall advantage in this? If there’s a school out there that would drop out of the recruiting race because they ran out of change for the pay phone, they were never really in the hunt to begin with.After being bombarded by calls about the Dish Network, local paper subscriptions, auto and home refinancing, and winning those supposedly free vacations, I doubt a parent would complain about someone calling everyday to offer their child a free education. And I hardly doubt you would get complaints from the egotistic recruit, who happily walks his high school campus saying, “Georgetown called again last night. They’re all up on my sac right now”.

Is Kelvin Sampson a violator? Yes. Is the rule necessary? No. Well, unless there's someone out there that can tell me why we need this rule in place.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pete Carroll Receives An Extra Large Package Of Trojans

The 2008 recruiting war has finally come to an end for USC. Terrell Pryor doesn't have the Trojans on his list, so there's no one left to pursue. With the smoke now clearing, we won't see Southern Cal finishing at the top of recruiting, but we will see that Pete Carroll got exactly what he wanted.

Under Carroll's watch at USC, size always matters. Both the Trojan offensive and defensive lines took big hits with players lost to graduation or early entry into the NFL draft. But no fretting, let's just put another box of extra large Trojans on the counter for future use. No five star running backs and quarterbacks in this year's class, but they bring the weight to continue to push around and bully their opponents in the Pac 10.

At 6'5, 360, Abilene's Daniel Campbell is probably the largest Trojan in the box. But the additions of Armond Amstead, Jurell Casey, Tyron Smith, Khaled Holmes, Wes Horton, Malik Jackson, Matt Kalil, Matt Meyer and Nick Perry represents a good supply of beef. Outside of the size, Carroll also got a steal in DB T.J Bryant from Tallahassee Florida. In anyone appeared to be a lock for Florida State, that player would have been Bryant. Instead, the Noles were snubbed and the Trojans were rewarded.

2008 will have some inexperience in the trenches, but it's another quality class that has great potential to make an immediate impact.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Knights Tale-What the media should be saying, but won't

The biggest story of the college hoops year has been the resignation of Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight. The media covered the story heavily, but still gave no apparent reason for Knight stepping down. If you listen to the words of the now former Tech coach, it doesn’t even sound like something permanent, leaving the door open for coaching positions in the future. But unlike your national news services, I’m not going to celebrate his “retirement” by focusing on his 902 victories, most winning coach in men’s basketball, and blah blah blah. I’m just going to say it as it is. Bobby Knight is an a$$hole.

The sudden retirement marks another chapter in the life of the most overgrown kid in sports. Outside of the wins and his 3 national titles, his actions on and off the court have been childlike. As a parent, your child is punished for the temper tantrums and unnecessary outbursts. But as a coach, the NCAA allowed it to continue for years, if your name is “Bobby Knight”.

Temple’s John Chaney was slammed by the media in ‘94, for his postgame explosion and threats to kill former UMass coach John Calipari. The NCAA and Temple University demanded and received an apology. Put that man in a red sweater, with either an “IU” or “TT” embroidered on the front, and suddenly there is no pressure for apologies. If the man’s name is Bobby Knight, suddenly it’s not a terrible act, but the terrible twos or terrible 52’s, etc.

The Indiana Hoosiers finally had enough of Knight and sent him packing in 2000. But seriously, how much of his $h!t did they put up with, and for how long? This is a person designated to assist young boys in becoming men, yet he’s never showed any signs of being a man himself. In fact, the sniveling baby showed more signs of needing a pacifier than anything else.

This is the man you want assisting in your child’s steps to adulthood:

I’ll admit the man has done more with less talent than Dean Smith, John Wooden, Joe B. Hall, and some others. But the overachievement of his teams can’t make me ignore the wild man that paces the sidelines. How far did Woody Hayes get at Ohio State? Did anyone cut him some slack, because he was fielding a winner on the football field?

Here are some of the news worthy events in the life of Bobby Knight:

- In 1979, Knight was arrested for assaulting a police officer during the Pan American Games in Puerto Rico. Knight was angry that a practice gymnasium was not opened to his team, which went on to a 9-0 record in the tournament. Knight was later convicted in absentia in a Puerto Rican court. However, the charges were later dropped when Indiana Governor Otis R. Bowen refused to cooperate in extraditing Knight to the island commonwealth.

-In 1985, Knight threw a chair across the court to protest a referee's call during a game against the rival Purdue Boilermakers. Knight was suspended for one game and received two years' probation from the Big Ten Conference.

-Women's groups nationwide were outraged by Knight's comments during an April, 1988 interview with Connie Chung in which he said, "I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it." Knight's comment was in reference to an Indiana basketball game in which he felt the referees were making poor calls against the Hoosiers.

-Knight allegedly kicked his own son, Patrick Knight, during a 1993 game (Knight claims he actually kicked a chair).-Knight was shown berating an NCAA volunteer at a 1995 post-game press conference following a 65-60 loss to Missouri in the first round of the NCAA tournament held in Boise, Idaho. The volunteer, Rance Pugmire, informed the press that Knight would not be attending the press conference, when in reality, Knight was running a few minutes late and had planned on attending per NCAA rules. Knight was shown saying: "You've only got two people that are going to tell you I'm not going to be here. One is our SID (sports information director), and the other is me. Who the hell told you I wasn't going to be here? I'd like to know. Do you have any idea who it was?...Who?...They were from Indiana, right?...No, they weren't from Indiana, and you didn't get it from anybody from Indiana, did you?...No, I—I'll handle this the way I want to handle it now that I'm here. You (EXPLETIVE) it up to begin with. Now just sit there or leave. I don't give (EXPLETIVE) what you do. Now back to the game."

-On March 14, 2000, just before Indiana was to begin play in the NCAA tournament, the CNN/SI network ran a piece on Knight in which former player Neil Reed claimed he was choked by Knight in a 1997 practice. Knight denied the claims in the story.

-On April 11, 2000 CNN/SI aired a tape of an IU practice from 1997 that showed Knight with his hand around the neck of Neil Reed.

-In February 2004, Knight made national headlines when he had an argument with then Texas Tech University Chancellor David Smith at a Lubbock supermarket.-In March 2006, a student's heckling at Baylor University resulted in Knight having to be restrained by a police officer. The incident was not severe enough to warrant any action from the Big 12 Conference.

-On November 13, 2006, Knight was shown allegedly hitting player Michael Prince under the chin to get him to make eye contact. Although Knight didn't comment on the incident afterwards and as of yet hasn't done so, Prince, his parents, and Texas Tech Athletic Director Gerald Myers insisted that Knight did nothing wrong and that he merely lifted Prince's chin and told him "Hold your head up and don't worry about mistakes. Just play the game." Prince commented, "He was trying to teach me and I had my head down so he raised my chin up. He was telling me to go out there and don't be afraid to make mistakes. He said I was being too hard on myself."

-On October 21, 2007, James Simpson of Lubbock, Texas, accused Knight of firing a shotgun in his direction after he yelled at Knight and another man for hunting too close to his home. Knight denied the allegations. An argument between the two men was recorded via camera phone and aired later on television.

*source: Wikpedia

Now Bobby has temporarily retired from coaching college basketball, and his son takes over at Texas Tech. Go ahead ESPN, Fox, and whoever else, and celebrate the achievements of this “great” man. Go ahead and celebrate that he just quit on his team. The same media outlets that threw Bobby Petrino under the bus for quitting on the Atlanta Falcons won’t even take a stab at this Bobby in Texas. Sure, Petrino left a group a guys to go coach another group, but does it make it any worse than what Knight has done?

Unlike the professional level, college players are not drafted. They choose the programs and coach they want to be with for the next 4 years of their life. If Petrino is a snake for running away from multimillionaires that were mostly there before him, and didn’t make Petrino’s hire a deciding factor to play for the Falcons, why is Knight’s stepping down so gracious? He QUIT on all those recruits, and in the middle of the season. He can walk away, but they are locked in for 4 years or will have to sacrifice a year of eligibility to transfer.

One thing Knight mentions in this clip of ESPN’s “top 10 Bobby Knight soundbites” is that when he dies all his critics can kiss his ass. Well, he didn’t have to die, but just retire, because all I’m seeing from the media is a lot of a$$ kissing. But as for myself, I won’t pucker my lips. I’ll just righteously put my foot in his a$$, as it still seems the proper thing to do.

Resignation does not delete files and erase the past. It’s supposed to put an entire career in perspective, but some of us have chosen to skip over the negatives.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The 2008 NFL Fashion Show

It’s time for that annual gathering of NFL stars in Hawaii again. As usual, it’s supposed to act as the climax to a long season. But as usual, it won’t. If you can find an all star game in any league that’s packed full of expectation and excitement, let me know, because maybe I’m missing out on something. The last time I found myself intrigued by any of those all star affairs, I still hadn’t sprouted a single pubic hair.

Baseball tried to give something to play for. The winning league receives home field advantage in the world series. And just as quickly as they added this new incentive, is a quickly as no one cared. It’s a popularity contest, and I don’t care which league it is, someone deserving always gets snubbed for someone less deserving with more national recognition.

The theme for this year’s fashion show is "South Western wear". You know the saying, “that everything is bigger in Texas”, and this includes the number of cowboys on the Pro Bowl roster. I can certainly say that many of the Boys are deserving, but can anyone tell me how Roy Williams got there? Besides for a recognizable face and name, what were his achievements of 2007? All I’ve managed to see him achieving is a lot of resentment by his own Dallas following, wondering why he’s on the field and who they can possibly trade for him in the offseason.

One Texas Star is noticeably missing, and he doesn’t play in Dallas. I guess it’s going to take a long time before the league and fans give Houston’s Mario Williams any respect. The Texans were criticized for drafting him first, and analysts were critical of his first year play. But in 2007, Mario emerged as everything he was expected to be. He leads the AFC in sacks, yet he’s not on the AFC pro bowl roster. He’s hit and hurried QBs all season, and plugged running backs for short yardage. In other words, he did his job to the point where he was demanding double teams. But doing your job, and being the best at it, isn’t enough. This Texan parades the fashion show in Winter wear, left out in the cold with a face hidden beneath a hood, still a virtual unknown in the football world.

And what about Wes Welker? You don’t have to like the Patriots, but how could you not make a case for Welker’s snub in Hawaii. Sure he plays opposite Randy Moss, which is supposed to add to his production, but T.J. Houshmandzadeh plays opposite Chad Johnson, and T.J’s going to Hawaii. Welker has more receiving yardage than T.J, and was detrimental to his team’s success. With each having 112 receptions, Houshmandzadeh and Welker tied for the league lead. Welker was also the leading receiver for the Pats in the postseason.

I know Pro Bowl selections are made before the playoffs begin, but substitutions can come at any time. Randy Moss pulled out, and the AFC had the perfect opportunity to display both receptions leaders on the Pro Bowl roster, but again skipped over Welker, choosing Braylon Edwards instead. Again it comes down to which is more fashionable for wearing, and which garment will most impress your friends. You have Edwards, the 3rd pick in the first round of the 2005 draft (first receiver taken overall), and you have Welker that you managed to pick up at a Miami Dolphins yard sale. Which of the two would you wear to an NFL formal gathering?

Is the Pro Bowl a display of the NFL’s best talents? No. It’s a fashion statement, and the recognition of the brand is more important than the quality of the fabric. Is there any wonder to why it’s slowly falling apart?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cats and Dogs

The Kitty is purring, the dog is barking, and just that quickly the rankings are flipped. You have a Washington State team that quietly began the year in the top 10, silently maintained that ranking for weeks, and now comes crashing with a thunderous thud. The Cougars spent the week hosting their Pac 10 brethren from Northern California, and were swept on their home court by Cal and Stanford. It's now the stretch run of college hoops, and Wazzu finds themselves bounced from the upper tier of the polls. At a time when programs will battle for tournament seedings, these Cats no longer roar, managing a less frightening purr instead.

But the dogs are barking, as the UConn Huskies are rolling. They've reeled off 5 straight victories, which found them ripping through Marquette, Cincinnati, Indiana, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. Calhoun's team is peaking at the right time, and they have a favorable schedule to close out the season. Can we call the Huskies a dark horse? No. Not quite yet.

Those other Cats in Memphis were supposed to walk through the bulk of their remaining schedule, with a possibility of finishing the regular season undefeated. But it seems there was a "Miner" interuption in the "breezing" part, as UTEP gave the Tigers all they could handle, coming ever so close to pulling the upset. It's not easy being No. 1, and for the first time this season the Tigers appeared vulnerable. After the close call with UTEP, it appears more likely that someone can knock Memphis from their perch. Any Volunteers?

AP Top 25

1. Memphis (31) 21-0
2. Duke 19-1
3. North Carolina 21-1
4. UCLA 20-2
5. Kansas 21-1
6. Georgetown 18-2
7. Tennessee 19-2
8. Wisconsin 18-3
9. Stanford 18-3
10. Michigan State 19-3
11. Butler 19-2
12. Texas 17-4
13. Indiana 18-3
14. Xavier 18-4
15. Drake 20-1
16. Marquette 16-4
17. Washington State 17-4
18. Texas A&M 18-4
19. Connecticut 16-5
20. Vanderbilt 18-4
21. Notre Dame 16-4
22. Florida 18-4
23. St. Marys 18-3
24. Kansas State 15-5
25. Pittsburgh 17-5

ESPN/USA Today Poll

1. Memphis (31) 21-0
2. Duke 19-1
3. North Carolina 21-1
4. UCLA 20-2
5. Kansas 21-1
6. Georgetown 18-2
7. Tennessee 19-2
8. Wisconsin 18-3
9. Stanford 18-3
10. Michigan State 19-3
11. Butler 19-2
12. Texas 17-4
13. Indiana 18-3
14. Xavier 18-4
15. Drake 20-1
16. Marquette 16-4
17. Washington State 17-4
18. Texas A&M 18-4
19. Connecticut 16-5
20. Vanderbilt 18-4
21. Notre Dame 16-4
22. Florida 18-4
23. Saint Mary's 18-3
24. Kansas State 15-5
25. Pittsburgh 17-5

Sunday, February 3, 2008

18 Wins....So What?

Let’s hear it for the underdogs!...What? You can’t find it in yourself to temporarily embrace an enemy in their moment of victory? You know, being a Chargers fan, I would probably feel the same way, if someone was trying to tell me to give the Raiders a hug. But this was more than just a game, and more than just a Superbowl. It resembled the biblical tale of David versus Goliath. It was the hard hat wearing man versus the greater powers in society. It was the bad news bears, little giants, mighty ducks, etc. It was the 12 point underdog in a championship game. Strip them of their enemy blues, and what do you have left? You have the most unlikely of champions and a feel good story.

The season ends, as if scripted by Hollywood. It ends with the identifiable message about life’s great obstacles, and how the underdog, with determination and set goals can overcome any and everything. Is there someone that cannot embrace that concept? We all can. I believe the majority of viewers tuned in not to see history made by an undefeated Patriots team, but to see the Giants, the Buster Douglas of the NFL, deliver a knock out punch that would shock the world.

And of course, let’s not forget the old saying, “cheaters never prosper”. Spygate has been one of the great storylines of the 2007 NFL season, and most believed the Patriots received a slap on the wrist, and were indeed prospering. A $500,000 fine for Billicheck and a loss of a draft pick was hardly punishing in most eyes, but the pain of losing the biggest game in franchise history and entering the record books in the wrong category is pretty damn severe.

18 wins? So what? Sound familiar? It’s equal to what echoed throughout Major League Baseball, when the Seattle Mariners finished their record 116 win season, just to be followed up by a “so what” in the postseason. That’s the lone achievement I remember from that Mariners season, and will probably be a lasting memory of the 2007 Patriots, and a topic of future discussions, when any team is in pursuit of perfection. After all, it’s not how many you win in the regular season, it’s all about going undefeated in the postseason. The Giants only needed 14 wins to get a parade.

So, What Happened?

The AFC playoff scouting report obviously stressed 2 things, take away Randy Moss, and pressure Tom Brady. Jacksonville couldn’t do it consistently for 60 minutes, and San Diego rode the report to pick off Brady 4 times, but couldn’t convert 6’s in the red zone.

Enter the New York Giants, a team that pressured NFL quarterbacks better than anyone, and followed the same report. 53 sacks on the season is no fluke, and the underdogs came out of the box woofing, nipping, and biting. The top scoring team in the NFL managed to find the end zone just twice. The greatest offense in the history of the NFL? Let that one fly out the same window as “perfection” and “greatest team ever”.

I’ve said so often that the key to New England’s success has been their overshadowed defensive unit, and they nearly secured the victory. While many were predicting high scoring affairs, both defenses gave a tremendous effort. Just as the Giants took away Moss, the Patriots eliminated Burress. The difference was a New York offensive line that managed to hold up, and a Patriots O-line that continually collapsed. The final drive of dinks and dunks was all that was needed to give the Lombardi trophy to New York, because the defensive pressure left them in striking distance.

First To The Finish Line

Besides for becoming the crowned champs of the NFL, the Giants also solidified their trade with San Diego to get Eli Manning. Though Philip Rivers gave a courageous performance against the Pats in the AFC Championship game, he was left on the Superbowl doorstep. Eli Manning had near perfection in his title run, and though there was nothing spectacular in the final drive, he got the job done. In fact, to show how perfect little Manning was, he threw just a single postseason interception, and it wasn’t his fault. The pass to Steve Smith should have been caught, but it was tipped in the air and intercepted instead.

What the fu$#? Did I just say that about Eli friggin Manning? No Worries. I’ll go back to bashing in August. It’s one of my NFL enjoyments.

Third Time Is a Charm

Speaking of Steve Smith, the NFL rookie has won his third team championship in the past 5 years. He won 2 national championships with Pete Carroll at USC, catching passes from Matt Leinart, and now he adds a Superbowl ring. Counting the loss to Texas in the Rose Bowl, Smith has appeared on 4 rosters with championship implications on the line.

As a Trojan homer, I have joy for Smith, but my heart is also filled with sorrow for Junior Seau. His career was filled with great accomplishments, but his fingers still lack a championship ring.

My Game MVP

This one is a no brainer, and it isn’t even someone that actually participated on the field. Giants’ defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, was the key to victory. Not only was he a key to the Superbowl win, but it was his scheming and game planning that got the Gmen through the entire playoffs. The defense played to near perfection, but it all starts with scouting, game film, and strategy.

I’ll also be man enough to take back every bad thing I’ve said about Coughlin. If my memory serves me right, I recall saying something along the line of “idiots”, when New York extended his contract. Now he’s a Superbowl champion coach. What the hell do I know? Stop listening to me!

Congratulations to the Superbowl Champion New York Giants.

Now let’s get back to work and rebuild our teams. If this dog can do it, why can’t we?