Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shenanigans in the Big XII

Lead story tonight:
Duh. What else would it be?

A few thoughts:
1) Why not televise that game somewhere? I got to see the last few minutes thanks to "bonus coverage" on ESPN, but I wanted to see the whole thing.
2) Michael Beasley, please don't kill my Huskers when you play them. Please? I really love seeing super-hyped players (think Kevin Durant last year, all of KU this year) in person, which is a bit of consolation when they beat up on my Huskers. So in that sense, I'm excited for February 20, when K-State visits The Bob in Lincoln. But I am a Nebraska fan first, so I'd rather see an upset of some sort.
3) I want to know what it felt like to be a K-State fan tonight. That's the first time in my life I've ever said that, I think, and it could be the last. But The Streak came to an end, a streak that would not have been a huge deal if it were against any other team. The Jayhawks saw a somewhat significant streak of their own (a previously unbeaten record, for those of you just joining us) come to an end, and Wildcat fans got to see it happen in their house.

With 35 seconds left, KSU's Bill Walker grabbed the ball away after a KU basket and stormed down the court, capping it off with a powerful dunk that sent the fans to the next level of Nirvana, I think. If I had been there, and if I were a K-State fan, I may have passed out from the sheer ecstasy of that moment, within the already ecstatic context of a historically MASSIVE win in the making.

Elsewhere in the Big XII, another in-state rivalry was an unexpected blowout, as the Aggies of Texas A&M had their way with the UT Longhorns. I didn't see the whole game, just a few minutes at a time while the NU/MU game was in commercials, but the first score I saw of it was A&M's 19-5 lead early on. Texas looked feeble, and all their attempts at making a comeback were quashed as soon as they got started.

And lastly, before I go back to pretending to do homework (hey, those Bill James tables LOOK like they could be some math homework, right?), my Huskers tried their darndest to lose to a shorthanded Missouri, but pulled out a 4-point win, much to my blood pressure's delight. As per my request over the weekend, Aleks Maric did not attempt a single no-look hook shot. Lo and behold, he scored more than his zero-point performance against KU (13 tonight), which is what I suggested might happen if he were to look at the hoop when he pushed the ball towards it. Sek Henry led the Husker bench with 14 points, after losing his starting spot to the still-struggling Ade Dagunduro.

It wasn't the greatest win for the Huskers, but it was a conference win, and that's just what the doctor ordered. (Ha, get it? Doctor? Because our coach's name is Doc--oh, never mind.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Missouri vs. Nebraska

"I've bowled three perfect games...


...on the Nintendo Wii."

Seriously. That pause was long enough for me to think, "Holy crap! Is there anything he can't do?!?" The quote, by the way, is from Luke Hochevar in a little video through I have no idea how to link to it, because MLB is dead serious about having the smallest number of people possible actually see their videos. But if you go to the Royals website, you can find the video among the current featured stories.(Somebody please explain to me how it harms MLB if someone posts highlights of games on YouTube? Why does it hurt their enormously deep pockets if I get to relive some of Mark Teahen's fabulous outfield assists, or take another look at Joey Gathright robbing a homer? What did it harm them when I YouTubed Bob Davis saying David DeJesus was hotter than a July day at KC? And wouldn't it actually help them if their videos were somehow link-able, so that I could share them with all 14 of you fine folks without making you have to hunt? It has never made sense to me, but it's aggravating.)

Anyway, this is actually a tiny bit of a Nebrasketball post, because if it wasn't that, then it would turn into a Minda bitches about how crappy winter is compared to baseball season type of post.

Is this good news for Nebraska? I'm tempted to say it is, because after disastrous losses to Colorado and Baylor, plus two expected losses to Kansas, the Huskers just need a conference win, and they need it now. (Well, technically they need it Wednesday, because the game is Wednesday, not now.) But what is the point of having a conference win under your belt if it comes against a team that's missing its best player? By the way, hat tip to regular commenter Royal8085 for the Hannah story. And I suppose if Nebraska should happen to fall in the game at Columbia on Wednesday night, that would look doubly worse, right? This team needs to win something so that they believe they are capable of winning within the Big XII. I'm not sure what has happened to the team that worked so wonderfully well together in seemingly huge wins over ASU and Oregon earlier in the season. Did Santa bring them all coal? They've only won two games since Christmas, and neither was against anyone too...well, they were against Alcorn State and Maryland Eastern Shore. Not exactly program-defining wins, there.

In any case, you can check out the Huskers vs. Tigers on FSN Midwest at 7:00. Also, today's themed MLB fantasy team is 4-letter last names.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bannister lovin' in the offseason

You good folks already know that I love Brian Bannister a whole lot, and lately folks at a couple of other sites have been falling all over themselves to praise him too. I love this.

Craig Brown at MVN's Royals Authority talked about Bannister's newfound golfing hobby after the Royals forecast luncheon, and MLB Trade Rumors has a fantastic and insightful 2-part interview with him.

I love hearing about baseball players (as human beings, not just as numbers or as trade bait) during the winter. I'll take any random reminder of the season, though, not just stories about players. Today while I was watching the Nebraska/Kansas basketball game*, I had the pleasure of hearing Fred White's voice doing the broadcast. It was a random and happy flashback to every baseball season of my childhood, even though White was calling a wholly different sport today. Some things were consistent with Royals broadcasts from days gone by: White's familiar voice, obviously, and the fact that he had to find ways to gently suggest that the team for which I was rooting had absolutely no chance to succeed.

*Dear Aleks Maric,
Don't you EVER take another one of those stupid no-look hook shots you attempted so much today. Other than one completely unnecessary 3-point attempt, all of your shots were this pathetic thing. You have all the light touch of a cinder block, so when you poke that shot in the general direction of the basket, I want to punch you for wasting a possession in which the ball actually made it inside of Kansas' "no-catch zone." You have to look at the basket before you shoot if you want to score more than zero against a team like KU, so drop this shot from your repertoire before NBA scouts start to notice this nasty habit.

A mildly jaded fan

Friday, January 25, 2008

Happy Friday, y'all

Ahh, what a great day. It was much better than last Friday, when everything was garbage; today it was sunny and warm out (all of 36 degrees!), and the worst thing that happened to me was that I was a little bit late to Spanish class.

If you need to smile about a lot of random little things, read this post by JoePo, and all the comments too.

And, in preparation for the NFL's biggest day, be sure to check out The Ladies...' thoughts on how NOT to throw a Super Bowl party.

I started building a fun fantasy baseball team the other day. It's made up of players about whom bad headline writers would make those puns* which make me groan and immediately discard the publication I'm reading. I'll share the full roster when I'm finished,** but here's a snippet.
My bullpen will include Tony Armas, Jr. (headline: All Armas in Pitt's 'pen come in for the win), Matt Capps, (Bullpen Capps off another Pirate win), and so on. Coming up with headlines for these guys is nauseating.

65 days until Opening Day...

*All puns
**I'm going through the Bill James Handbook alphabetically, and will pare down the players to a 40-man or 25-man when I get through all of them. I'm somewhere in the Cs right now.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Royals caravan, complete with pictures

Some Minda math for y'all on this lovely Tuesday:
Long economics paper + Tomorrow due date = me doing the whole thing yesterday/today.

But I did take the time to head over to Sportscasters Bar & Grille here in Lincoln to catch this stop in the Royals Caravan. John Mayberry, Mark Teahen, and Lincoln homeboy Alex Gordon manned the autograph table. In the time I was in line, I heard about a thousand stories of how everyone "knows" Alex Gordon. Some of them are a little bit pathetic/desperate, and after 1.5 school years of being in Lincoln all the stories start to sound the same. "He was my neighbor's best friend's teammate in middle school," "I babysat his best friend's girlfriend's niece all the time," etc. He must have an insane number of "best friends," because that is the one "connection" to Gordon that I hear more than any other.

Here is my completely non-exaggerated Alex Gordon story: I met him today, for about 30 seconds. But I was kind of distracted by finishing a conversation with Mayberry and Teahen. (To all the ladies out there, I asked Teahen to find a way to get some pictures from his fashion show online. All the handsomest suits?? No fair keeping that from us!) John Mayberry, Mark Teahen, and Alex Gordon kindly sign all kinds of stuff for Lincoln's freezing masses.

What I was really hoping for in going to this event was to talk to Royals broadcaster Ryan LeFebvre, who has been with the organization for a decade now. To be honest, I really disliked him when he was first brought in. I think it was mostly because he was not Fred White; I grew up listening to White along with Denny Matthews my entire life, so anyone different was hard to get used to. But I really enjoy LeFebvre now; I can count on him for a lot of hearty chuckles in every broadcast, similar to the way one can expect two scoops of raisins in every box of Raisin Bran.

He's also a really good person, as far as I know, and a devout Catholic. That earns about 20 billion awesomeness points in my book. I'll bet I was the only person (out of a LOT) in that bar who left feeling more excited about having met anyone but Alex Gordon, but that is the broadcasting nerd in me.

As for Mayberry, he seems like a jolly fellow. When he asked how I was doing, I said, "Great, because there are only 69 days until Opening Day." He chuckled and said something about how I must be a good baseball fan for having the countdown, and so forth. And when I was leaving the autograph area, I heard him happily telling some young boys, "Get excited, guys, there's only 69 days until Opening Day!"

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Quick advertisting thought

It's gameday. I've got a fresh new case of Dr Pepper and a frozen chicken pot pie so I don't have to leave my room come suppertime.

Now here's that Applebee's commercial where an apple with an irritating voice tells us, "You can customize your car, your ringtone, and now...dinner!"

Duh. Customizing your dinner is nothing new; it's called cooking.

Friday, January 18, 2008

One of those days...

Things that did not work for me yesterday:
1) My brain
When I woke up Friday morning, I realized I hadn't done my Spanish homework for the week, and it was due at 11:30. While I was rushing through the (pointless) assignments, I had a sharp craving for Dr Pepper. Which leads us to...

2) The Beacon
The thing I hate about UNL is that it is an exclusively Pepsi campus. There is precisely one Coke machine on the entire campus, but luckily it is right across the street from my building. We Coke-drinkers call it the "Shining Beacon of Hope," and I was looking forward to paying it a visit after I got all my homework done and headed over to class. I had a dollar, and trust me, having a dollar is a rarity, and kind of a big deal; I was ready for that beautiful 23-flavored goodness. So I put the dollar in, and...that was it. The Dr Pepper button did not do anything, nor did any of the buttons for other Coke products. And neither did the Change Return button.

3) The copy machines at the library
In the process of making copies of some magazine articles, I discovered that both of the machines to which I had access were smudging parts of the copied pages. One was smudging the left side of the pages, and the other smudged the print on the right side. So if I really wanted those copies, I had to work doubly; nay, triply hard for them: Make a copy on one machine with the smeared left-hand column, then make one on the other machine, then take both copies home, scan them (another story entirely), splice the readable parts of the page together in Photoshop, then print a third and final copy. I will be scouring other parts of the library for different copiers next time... maybe they're on the fabled half-floors?

4) My (typically wonderful) computer
I love my computer; his name is Eduardo. But yesterday, during the scan/splice/print portion of copy-making, he froze during approximately...every single step of the already convoluted process.

5) My brand new scanner/printer/copier
My motto for technology has always been, "When it works, it's wonderful." When it's functionless, bloated software, it probably came with an HP printer. Dear goodness, I spent so much time just waiting for this thing to DO something; anything to prove to me it wasn't a paperweight with green flashy lights. After about 25 years, it finally worked, but not before my blood pressure skyrocketed. And that was for the scanning part alone...

6) The printer portion of my scanner/printer/copier
The final step of the convoluted copy-making process was to print the spliced-together page, right? That was a simple and wonderful idea, until I had to wait 10 minutes between the time I hit Ctrl+P and the time the 'Print' dialogue box appeared, and even then, nothing printed for a while. I had to unplug and replug it print one page. When it's so great.

And then there was a false fire alarm in my dorm. Oddly enough, it was my new roommate's best friend who accidentally leaned against the alarm in the basement, but the proceedings put everyone out in the bitter winter cold for a while, delayed my dinner with one of my friends (who is an RA, and therefore had to do a bunch of administrative stuff in the wake of the fire alarm).

So yes, yesterday was one of those days. It's over now, and it's time to gear up for a Husker basketball game today, and two of the roughly seven NFL games I've actually been excited for this season tomorrow. (My picks, plus a huge tangent: Packers and Patriots. If I were to call myself a fan of any NFL team, it would be the Packers; it has been the Packers since I was about 8 years old, and Brett Favre is one of my all-time favorite athletes. So by that standard, I want the Packers to win it all. However, I have this generational inferiority complex, because it seems like in this generation, sports teams (or individuals) come really close to historically significant feats, but fall just shy. One huge example is the lack of triple crown-winning horses recently. Back in the '70s, three horses won Triple Crowns, which led both of my parents to believe it was fairly commonplace. But nowadays, lots of horses win two races but never the third. To me, this is a generation of "almosts," and I kind of want the Patriots to go ahead and be "made it all the way" team. I want to tell my kids about sports history that happened while I was young, not sports history that almost happened. So if those teams win tomorrow, I will be torn come Super Bowl Sunday. But mostly, go Packers.)

Have a lovely day, y'all. I hope it's not one of those days.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bummer in Boulder

I have a confession to make: (Mom, cover your eyes for a moment, please.)
I spend a lot of time in class writing potential blog ideas, rather than paying attention to what the teacher is saying. I don't even know why I go to class half the time, because I have taken a total of maybe 20 pages of notes in my entire college career, and filled the rest of my notebooks with ideas for blog posts, and fun with numbers.(OK, Mom, you can look again.)

So I had this wonderful little plan that I was going use class time today to outline exactly how bad the Nebraska-Colorado basketball game last night was; something more substantial and stats-based than my little rant in a comment on another post. Turns out, I actually have to (or kind of want to) participate in all of my MWF classes. (Well, I suppose I could try to use time in Econ to do blog stuff, but my prof in there is...well, strict would be as big of an understatement as I've made in quite a while. Seriously, the guy might will snap me in half with his hands or shoot my face in with mind bullets if he were to catch me doing anything other than paying rapt attention to his lecture.)

The point is, you don't get my in-depth analysis of how sucky the Huskers were last night. But you are smart folks; you don't need me to tell you how awful it was if you saw any of the game. If you missed the game, the box score tells it pretty vividly too.

Nebraska was led in scoring by little Cookie Miller, whom I love dearly but who is not typically any kind of scoring threat. I mean, good for him that he scored 18 points, but most of them came off of stupid shots forced by a complete lack of intelligent ball movement. Nebraska looked like a court full of idiots, meaninglessly meandering around the arc, dumping the ball off in endless succession of pointless passes, none of which ended up inside the paint, or even inside of 30 feet from the hoop. In theory, it's cool that coach Sadler doesn't draw up every little play the Huskers are supposed to run. I like the idea of them being a tight enough team that they can work together to figure out where the ball should go and how to best get it into the hoop. But last night, that was less than an idea; it was a hopeless dream, and there was nothing the six of my friends and I gathered around the TV could do about it.

Furthermore, the more I watch Aleks Maric, the more I am convinced that he hates basketball. I know he prefers soccer, but now it looks like he has zero fire for basketball left in him. It's pretty sad, really, and pretty confusing to consider why he's going to try for the NBA if he hates the game so much.

What might be the most sad thing about last night is that if you look at Colorado's box score in isolation, you would probably bet money that they got their asses handed to them. They had almost as crappy a game as Nebraska did, and still won. Just like the Huskers, only two Buffs scored in double digits, but Colorado's top scorer had 13 compared to Miller's 18. 11 team assists for CU? Pathetic. But Nebraska sucked a little bit more, dishing only 9. Ditto for rebounds, and pretty much anything else in the box score. Yuck.

In the immortal words of Mike Gundy, "That's all I've got to say. Makes me want to puke."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

This is getting over LaRue

All I knew about pitcher Roman Colon when he was traded to the Royals this summer was that he had punched a teammate earlier in the season. That kind of first impression is hard to shake, I suppose, even after I had met Colon and found him not to be a constant face-puncher. He never punched me, or anyone I know, in the face, and yet I still can’t shake the habit of recalling that incident (for which he just pleaded no contest) when his name is mentioned.

For me, the same concept applies to really really nice people in sports. I am aware that I let a lot of bad performances slide if the player producing them is a good person. I will defend players’ value to a ballclub based on personal merits (see Sweeney, Mike), and I had started to wonder where the line was. At what point would I admit that a good guy was a liability to his team; conversely, at what point would I accept someone with a shady past into the Royals family if he was a good enough player?

The answer to the first question became clear this past summer, as Jason LaRue – pretty well-known as a high quality human being – wore my patience to its thinnest whenever he dug in at the plate. I imagine that a solid 2008 campaign from Jose Guillen would provide the answer to the 2nd question. But back to LaRue, for old times’ sake, even though he has long since moved on to St. Louis, where he can battle the pitching staff for the team’s lowest batting average.

10 pitchers with higher BAs than LaRue in 2007 (minimum 60 ABs)

Every time I’d start to think about how much I felt sick when LaRue was up to bat, someone would tell me, “But he calls such a good game!” I don’t know that his bad numbers at the plate can not be completely justified by that fact. Consider that, on average, Royals position players averaged 9.6 Win Shares and regular MLB catchers averaged just over 12.

Anyway, I’ll leave poor Jason alone now, because I know he’s a swell guy. I had to dig at him one last time, because the Husker basketball team has put me in a spectacularly destructive mood. Better to string out someone’s awful batting stats than to punch a hole in my wall, no?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Better late than never: NU vs. KU hoops

Going in to Saturday night's game against Kansas, the only hope I had was that the Huskers would score more than last year's dismal total of 39 points. They did -- the final was 79-58 -- but I still wasn't completely happy.

This year's Jayhawks are scary; I don't think I've ever seen a college basketball team like them. I now have nightmares about KU's Brandon Rush being open for a shot outside the arc. It doesn't matter what type or skill level of defense KU's opponents put on the court; nothing can stop the 'Hawks for very long. They don't make mistakes, they don't waste possessions; this is a team that hands their opponent nothing.

Having said all of that, I still think Nebraska could have made it a better game. It stands to reason that if Nebraska wanted to make a statement with this game, somebody would have to have a career night. We'd need a 30-point performance from Aleks Maric, or double-digit assists from somebody; something like that. Instead, nobody scored more than Maric's 19, and no Husker had more than three assists. Ade Dagunduro was downright disappointing, with zero points, and only one assist in 20 minutes of play. My group of Red Zone (our student section) buddies is particularly attached to Mr. Dagunduro, so it was especially sad for us that he had such a bummer of a game on national TV.

Like I said, my original hope for Saturday's game was for more than 39 Husker points. We got that, but I was still disappointed. To me, that speaks volumes about the level of quality that 2nd-year head coach Doc Sadler expects from his team, and wants the fans to expect as well. For this game to be simply "Not a total embarrassment" is no longer enough for Nebrasketball fans. We're historically* used to expecting quality from many sports: football, volleyball, baseball, wrestling, soccer, and so on. It's high time we get to add men's basketball to that list.

The team had a strong non-conference showing, posting an 11-2 record with zero losses at home. Now that conference play is here, we'll get to see if the Huskers are a true 3-loss team or if their schedule was easier than others (I think they are), and if Kansas is as good as their undefeated record suggests (I think they are).

*Please take special notice of the word "historically." I know all too well that some of the programs had off-years this year, but Husker fans still expect the best. It's the Nebraska way.

Now it is time for an adventure at the library. I heard that the building has half-floors, like the 7-and-a-halfth floor in Being John Malkovich. Fact? Fiction? I don't know. Onward I go, then, to discovery!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Law and Order: Special baseball unit

In the Major League Baseball system, the players are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the Department of Investigations, who investigate crime; and the Players' Association, who don't let any action be taken against their members. These are their stories.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced today that he has created a Department of Investigations to pacify George Mitch---err, to weed out cheaters and scandal-makers in professional baseball. He's also starting a hotline (1-800-WE-GOT-YOU?) so people who work for various teams can call and alert the mighty Department of any malfeasance within the League.

I hope this works well, but part of me thinks it will be as widely ignored by players and clubhouse attendants as the Mitchell investigation was. Maybe one or two people will use it, but won't a great majority be afraid of what happens when they tattle? I'm anxious to see how the Players Union responds; not what press release they offer, but what they actually do about this new venue for narks.

If a player is busted by the Dept. of Investigations, where does he end up? Will any real punishments be laid down, now that baseball can't get away with turning a blind eye as much anymore? Will Jack McCoy be there? Because if it's not like Law & Order, I don't want it.
You're my hero, Jack!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


I just spent a week in lovely Grapevine, Texas for the FOCUS national conference. It was overwhelmingly awesome, and now that I'm home, I am overwhelmed by the task of catching up on the stuff I missed while I was gone. The Royals made a couple of moves, JoePo wrote approximately 7 million words (including the results of the Pozcars!), the Ladies... covered all the bowls of the week in a way that only they could, some great conversations about the Royals' future were opened up over at Royals Authority, and I gained some major ground (and possibly even first place) in my bowl pool, based on my arbitrary picks and as-stupid-as-I-could-muster reasons.

Well, that's the stuff that happened that had nothing to do with me.

For my part, I survived an outlandishly long bus ride to Dallas to start my 2008. You should know that buses and I...we're not friends. But I made it, so 10 points for me! The conference was held at the Gaylord Texan, which was completely wonderful despite having really tacky carpet everywhere:
I think the goal of the Gaylord Texan is to see how many Texas cliches they could cram into one resort. It seems kind of silly to me. I mean, Nebraskan hotels don't have carpet with ears of corn all over it, right?

Part of the carpet in the ballroom featured larger versions of the motifs in the hallway design. Those giant boots, hats, and belt buckles were a crazy-awful distraction during daily Mass.

This being a Catholic conference, there were tons of nuns (Say that a few times out loud, it's fun: Tons of nuns! Tons of nuns!), priests, brothers, deacons, and even bishops everywhere. Some regular hotel guests (ones not associated with the conference) were quite confused by this; people overheard some fun observations like, "There's some nun convention going on here," and "What in the name of hell is this??"

We had a lot of dynamic, hilarious, intelligent, moving speakers address us throughout the week. They talked about everything from birth control to spreading the gospel on our campuses; from baseball to navigating the Bible. My favorites were Mike Sweeney (of course) and Fr. Benedict Groeschel. Sweeney kindly took a few minutes to see how I've been doing since we met up in August, because he's that awesome.(Pictured are me, Sweeney, and my good friend Becky.)

On Sunday night while we were stopped for a needlessly long dinner break in Oklahoma City, I called my dad to check up on football scores, and to pass the time before all 200+ people in my traveling party got their darn food and boarded the buses. I was planning on telling Dad how amazing it had been to be at Mass that morning, because there were four bishops there, and I felt very privileged that they had given us their time. But before I could say that, Dad told me that my brother, who is traveling around Italy, had gone to the Mass given by the Pope that day. I think he wins, but I at least got a picture taken with a cardboard cutout of His Holiness.

Now I'm back at the home of my parents, and I brought back some souvenirs from Texas, like some t-shirts, books, and a sinus infection. Their furnace has gone out, so my fingers are getting a little bit too cold to type any more (lucky you!). That means I have no choice but to snuggle up under like 20 blankets, make a giant mug of hot chocolate, let my dogs curl up at my feet, and watch some movies, right? My, my; what a hard life I lead...

I've got some ideas brewing that were inspired by the Bill James Handbook (which I finally own, hooray!). Those ideas should magically turn into a post or two in the coming week, along with some Nebraska basketball stuff, as the 11-2 team gears up to open conference play against #3 Kansas (gasp!) this weekend.