Monday, September 15, 2008

A pizza, a bucket of chicken, and about 700 diet cokes

Towards the end of SportsCenter on Friday night, Neil Everett and Scott Van Pelt were talking about the absurd number of MLB doubleheaders scheduled for Saturday and how hard it was going to be to cover that many games in addition to college football on Saturday's SportsCenter. Van Pelt said to Everett "that's your problem--at this point tomorrow, I'll be a pizza, a bucket of chicken, and about 700 diet cokes into my weekend." I thought, "holy crap, is this guy just going to sit on the couch and watch sports all weekend?" Well guess what I did. Yep, here are my thoughts on the weekend's action.
  • Blackburn Rovers 0-4 Arsenal: Expectations were officially raised for the Gunners' young winger, Theo Walcott, after his hat trick for England in midweek that effectively ended David Beckham's international career. Emmanuel Adebayor kindly took the pressure off of his young teammate by netting a hat trick of his own on Saturday. RVP also looked solid opening the scoring with a neat shot off the outside of his left foot. How can you watch Arsenal and wonder why it's called the beautiful game?
  • As coach of my kids' teams, I get a real kick out of American football coaches who really don't get real football. Case in point, during my nine-year-old daughter's game, our opponents had a free kick from well inside their own half. Most of the opposing team was well inside our half ready to receive the kick. I pushed all my girls up to midfield. When the opponents were called off sides, the coach protested by saying "but it was a direct kick!" So? Later in the game, they were awarded a penalty, and the girl who was fouled (outside the box, though she fell in, by the way) lined up to take the penalty. She clearly had no idea what she was doing, because she touched it once softly before taking a shot. The coach also had no idea that he could have someone else (more capable) take the penalty, and I certainly wasn't going to tell him. Unfortunately, the referee was equally clueless, because after the girl botched the first penalty attempt, he let her have another one.
  • BYU's performance against UCLA was the most perfectly-executed college football game I have ever seen. They did nothing wrong. The play calling was superb--Robert Anai beat Norm Chow at his own game. UCLA was even intimidated when attempting field goals. My only gripe: Max Hall tied the school record with seven touchdown passes early in the second half; why not leave him on one more series to get the record outright?
  • Michigan's performance against Notre Dame was yet another Wolverine game where I was left wanting. I'm all for giving Rich Rodriguez some time to let his system take root. I'm also willing to cut him some slack because Michigan lost all of its offensive weapons this year. But anytime you are throwing into the flats two downs out of three, there is something wrong with either the play calling or the offensive system in its entirety. RichRod's grade so far this year: D+. And every time Steve Threet takes a snap, I am left with that hollow, nervous feeling in my gut like when my one-year-old is standing at the top of a long flight of stairs. The lone bright spot was Sam McGuffie.
  • I can't decide which is better, a Michigan win or seeing Ohio State thoroughly embarrassed. Since Michigan didn't reward me on Saturday, I was at least happy to see the Buckeyes thrashed by USC. This game once again pointed to what a farce the BCS is. Utah beats Michigan, BYU beats Washington and destroys UCLA, then UNLV, a weak MWC team, beats Arizona State. Is there anyone with any degree of objectivity that thinks the BCS conferences are really better than the Mountain West? And this is coming from a Big Ten guy: I went to Michigan and was a season ticket holder while I was there.
  • The Colts' comeback against the Vikings was absolutely superb. Manning was obviously not 100%, and the Indy offensive line was a shadow of what they usually are. And yet they pulled off a brilliant rally in the fourth quarter. And of course, Vinatieri didn't miss with the pressure on.
  • Why on earth anyone at CBS would think that fans in Boise, ID would rather watch the Jets play the Patriots than watch the Broncos play the Chargers is beyond me. Thank goodness for Tivo and afternoon church, otherwise I would have been stuck watching the game live and wouldn't have been able to skip to the end of that snoozer before watching the fourth quarter of the Broncos and Chargers. So the Patriots won without Tom Brady. Big deal. They did that last week, too.
  • I was certainly glad to at least get the fourth quarter of the Broncos and Chargers. After building up an early lead, the Broncos seemed inclined to give it away. But Cutler and Brandon Marshall led a drive to score a touchdown and tie the game. Except Shanahan didn't play for the tie. That's what I love and hate about Shanahan--he's a riverboat gambler. He'll go for it on fourth in his own territory, and he'll go for two to win the game rather than following conventional wisdom when playing at home and take his chances on a coin flip. It was a brilliant finish.
  • Speaking of conventional wisdom, I can't stand it when sports casters say stupid things that are just plain wrong. Actually, I can stand it and kind of enjoy it, because then I make fun of them, even if it's only my wife listening. Case in point: on Sunday, the guys in the booth were talking about how Shanahan was going against the numbers by going for two and the victory rather than playing for the tie. Yes, he was going against conventional wisdom, but the numbers were actually on his side, or at least not against him. In the NFL, the success rate for two point conversions in 2007 was about 49.5%. Which means the expected outcome when going for two is to get 0.99 points. No place kicker is 100% accurate, but let's say just for grins--and because Matt Prater is so new to the league that he only has a handful of PAT attempts and is yet to miss--that he'll hit the PAT 99% of the time. By the numbers, there is no difference between going for two and going for one, it just becomes a judgment call on the coach's part as to whether he likes his chances in overtime or not.
  • The multitude of double-headers notwithstanding, I did not watch a single inning of baseball all weekend. I am glad to see that the Dodgers are looking more and more likely to make the playoffs, and we likely won't have to watch the Yankees in post-season play this year.
  • Speaking of not having to watch something, I really hate injuries and hate to see athletes get hurt. I've been there, I know how awful recovery can be and how in many cases you are never the same again. I would never wish an injury of any kind on anyone. But I have to admit that it was nice not having to watch Tom Brady, Michael Essien, or Shawn Merriman (a doper, by the way) this weekend. Or next, or the one after that, all season long.
  • I did not eat any chicken and had one piece of (frozen) pizza all weekend. I had one 32 oz diet coke on Saturday and a can of diet Dr. Pepper on Sunday. I did make some really great huevos rancheros on Saturday morning and canned 3 1/2 quarts of homemade salsa on Saturday night, though.
  • This weekend marks the first time this season that I have not ridden my bike for two weekends out of three. When I went camping two weeks ago, that was the first weekend I had missed all year (that's one of the things I love about cycling: it's rare that injuries force you to take time off). And now I've done it again. Is it snowing yet?