My Sports Bucket List

I’ve been blessed to see some great sporting events in my life: two Final Fours; a handful of bowl games; and one of the most underrated college basketball rivalries, the Braggin’ Rights game between Illinois and Missouri.  I’ve watched the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs (although, sadly, before the greatest National Anthem singer of all time started performing).  And I was in the stands when Miami beat Florida State in the only overtime matchup of that storied rivalry.

I’ve never been to a Super Bowl, and wouldn’t want to if my Chicago Bears weren’t playing.  You couldn’t pay me to go to an NBA Final (unless maybe Kevin Garnett put on the T’wolves jersey again).  Baseball?  You call it the Great American Pastime, I call it the Great American Nap Time.  And if ANYONE suggests I attend a World Cup soccer game I will hunt them down and kill them.  This is a list of SPORTING events, not a list of reasons 3rd world people decide to riot.

So, with no further ado, here is my bucket list of the 10 sporting events I want to attend before I die.

10.  Louisville-Kentucky Basketball

Perhaps it’s because I grew up with the Illinois-Missouri Braggin’ Rights game, but I love non-conference rivalry games in college basketball.  Conference play is great, the rivalries are special, but there’s something about two teams located relatively close to each other but playing in different leagues, battling for regional pride.  When I lived in San Diego the best game of the year was between lowly San Diego State of the Mountain West and even lowlier University of San Diego of the WCC.  The cross-city matchup of Xavier-Cincinnati is another game that gets the respective fans’ blood boiling.

And Louisville-Kentucky might just be the best of these matchups.  Two historic programs (Kentucky has 14 Final Fours, Louisville has 8) in the same state, a coach (Rick Pitino) that has coached at both schools, what more could you ask for?  I don’t even have a rooting interest in this game (although I’ve never quite forgiven UK for stealing that Regional Final from the Illini in 1984), it’d just be a helluva game and event to witness.

9. Chicago Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings hockey

Two Original Six franchises, winners of two of the last four Stanley Cups, and did I mention the greatest National Anthem singer of all time?  Even if you don’t like hockey this is a classic matchup, great teams with great fans.  Not to mention there’s always the chance you might get hit by an octopus.

I have to admit I would certainly have a rooting interest in this one.  While I’m not a Blackhawks fan per se, I’ve always hated the Red Wings.  I almost cried when the Hawks stupidly traded Chris Chelios to the Wings.  So if I ever get the chance I’ll be wearing my Chelios Blackhawks jersey, bangin’ on the glass and spewing hateful profanities at whatever commie Russian bastard is playing for the Wings that day.

8.  Monaco Grad Prix-

I don’t know anything about auto racing.  And I know even less about Formula-1 racing, which takes place almost exclusively overseas.  But I do know the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo is one of the wealthiest, snobbiest, most elitist events in the entire world.  And it brings girls like this to its week of festivities:

Oh, and the cars go really fast too.  ‘Nuff said!

7. Texas- Texas A&M football

Remember what I said about non-conference rivalries?  In state matchups?  Well, how about a bitter rivalry between teams that used to be in the same conference but now have gone through a nasty divorce and hate each other even more than ever?  If these teams ever start playing again (and it appears 2018 is the earliest possible) I would love to be there.  This was already an intense rivalry in the most football-mad state in the Union.  Now that they’ve parted ways it will be even nastier.

6. Kansas-Missouri basketball

A lot of rivalries like to call themselves the “Border War.”  In this case, it’s actually true.  Dating back to “Bleeding Kansas” and the atrocities committed by both Kansas free-staters and Missouri pro-slavers, these two states just have not seen eye to eye.  And like the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry, these schools are going their separate ways now, meaning if they do meet again it will have to be a non-conference matchup.  Think there will be some added animosity?

5. Florida-Florida State football

For the record, I love everything about Florida State.  I love their racist mascot, Osceola:

I love their ridiculously hot student body:

And Charlie Ward is my favorite football player ever:

So is it any wonder that I’d love to see the ‘Noles play their biggest rival?  (Personally I hate the ‘Canes more than the Gators, but I’ve already been to one of those games.)  It’s true, I suffer from Seminole envy and wish I had gone to school there instead of that school in the Midwest that caved to political correctness and gave away their 80-plus year mascot tradition.

4. Buffalo Sabres-Ottawa Senators hockey

The Sabres and Senators have been each others nemesis ever since the lockout ended in 2005.  The Senators were one of the best teams in the NHL in ’06, but the Sabres crushed their Stanley Cup dreams with a 4-1 throttling in the Conference Semis.  The highlight of the series was this shorthanded series-clincher:

Alas, the next year the tables were turned, as the Sabres were the favorites and were unceremoniously knocked out of the Conference Finals by Ottawa.  Since then both teams have pretty much sucked, but the games have still been passionate affairs, complete with plenty of hard hits.

3. Georgia-Florida football

Besides being a classic SEC rivalry, this game is the quite possibly the greatest sporting event around.  Played in Jacksonville every year (roughly halfway between the two campuses), it’s known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”  It’s a tailgaters dream come true.  Throw in one of the best mascots in sports, Uga, and usually two top-ranked football powers and you’re looking at one of the coolest weekends anyone could ever ask for.

2. Ohio State-Michigan football

You had to know my Midwestern, Big 10 roots would show up eventually.  Buckeyes-Wolverines is the ultimate sporting event.  It doesn’t have the flash of some of the trendier programs.  It doesn’t have the hot girls of southern schools.  It doesn’t even have that big of a tailgate tradition surrounding it (it’s too damn cold!).

Nope, this is just a football game.  No other reason to be there except to watch two of the greatest traditional powers slug it out in an old-fashioned slugfest.  I might even consider giving up drinking for a weekend if I were fortunate enough to attend this one.  Maybe…

1. Army-Navy football

If Ohio State-Michigan is all about the football, Army-Navy is all about most everything but the football.

It’s about “Duty.  Honor.  Country.”

It’s about “Don’t Tread on Me.”

It’s about our nation’s best and brightest, the men that will someday defend our freedom, playing a game they love for no other reason than a passion for competition.  And that’s good enough for me.

I had to leave a lot of great games off the list.  I could probably list a hundred without breaking a sweat.  What games would you put atop your list?

 

And the Winner is….

The winner of this year’s Bowl Game Pick ‘Em Challenge is none other than my dear friend CountryWe won’t speak about how I did in the standings.

Those of you who have read some of Country’s exploits will no doubt already know why I love her.  (I’ve often referred to her as the big-breasted younger sister I never had.)  This is the woman who set me up on a blind date for her wedding with the infamous and amazing Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (who, incidentally, still won’t let me write about her).

But now, knowing that she is also the master of all football knowledge in the universe, how can you not think she’s the perfect woman?  I may hire her as a consultant for my fantasy football team next year.

Sorry guys: alas, she is already married, and to a man that can kick most of your asses.  So you’ll just have to dream of being so lucky.  But don’t worry, I’ll give you just a hint of her beauty to set your fantasies off.  (I had to scour through my old MySpace account to find this pic, so you fuckers better be grateful!)

Last Day to Join the Bowl Pick ‘Em Challenge

First game kicks off at 2pm Eastern tomorrow.  Here’s the link.  Come on, you know you want to…

And on a personal note, I have a new nemesis.  Someone decided to challenge my supremacy by signing up for the challenge under the name “Single Brown Alcoholic.”  Well guess what buddy?  Now it’s a race war!

(I’m only kidding.  SBA is actually the infamous Blackout that’s made so many of my stories.  But I’m still gonna kick his ass!)

Special thanks to Tempe12.com for their outrageously hot pics.  If I ever have a son he’s going to be a Sun Devil!

The SWASS Bowl Pick ‘Em Challenge

I love college football.  And although it’s been a little tough to watch this year (I don’t know what’s worse, the Sandusky scandal or the proliferation of the spread offense), I am still a fanatic.  And I love bowl games.  I know they’re not an ideal system, but rather than whine and moan about how much better a playoff would be, I prefer to just love the bowls the way they are.  Think of them like your not-quite-all-there child, your love has to be unconditional.

But I have a problem with most bowl pools.  Basically, all pick ’em leagues fall into one of two categories: Either all games are weighted the same –so that big FIU-Marshall matchup is worth the same as the National Championship– or you pick your “confidence” and self-rate the importance of the bowls –so you can actually make the National Championship the least important game.

So, after spending the better part of a week scouring the internet high and low, I finally found a site that would allow me to customize my own scoring system.  For the curious, here’s how I broke it down:

-Each unranked non-AQ (automatic qualifier) is worth 1 point.

-Each unranked AQ team is worth 2 points. (Notre Dame counts as an AQ, BYU does not.  Fuck BYU.)

-Each top 25 team is worth 3 points.

-Each top 10 team is worth 4 points.

-Each top 2 team is worth 5 points.

-And just for good measure, the five BCS bowls get a one point bonus.

The link to the pool is here.  What’s at stake?  Well, as you might already know, I actually work for an NCAA athletic department, so it would be illegal for me to be involved in any sort of sports wagering (that’s why I would never ever play fantasy football, or hockey, or basketball…).  But I will honor the winner by lauding them copiously on this here blog, meaning you will be an overnight celebrity to literally dozens of people.  What more could you ask for?

Ok, here we go.  Below I’ve put a list of the bowls along with some useful information like records, locations and point spreads.  And, of course, a little inspiration to help you make your picks!  (*Note: Hottness of co-eds should not be used as a factor in making your picks!*

December 17th

Wyoming

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Temple (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-4)

Albuquerque, NM 2:00 PM

Spread: Temple -6.5

2 POINTS

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Ohio (9-4) vs. Utah State (7-5)

Boise, ID 5:30PM

Spread: USU -3.5

2 POINTS

San Diego State

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

San Diego State (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)

New Orlenas, LA 9:00 PM

Spread: SDSU -5.5

2 POINTS

December 20th

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg

Florida International (8-4) vs. Marshall (6-6)

St. Petersburg, FL 8:00 PM

Spread: FIU -4.5

2 POINTS

December 21st

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

#18 TCU (10-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4)

San Diego, CA 8:00 PM

Spread: TCU -11

4 POINTS

Arizona State

December 22nd

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

Arizona State (6-6) vs. #7 Boise State (11-1)

Las Vegas, NV 8:00 PM

Spread: Boise -14

6 POINTS

Did I mention Arizona State???

Southern Miss

December 24th

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Nevada (7-5) vs. #21 Southern Miss (11-2)

Honolulu, HI 8:00 PM

Spread:  USM -6

4 POINTS

December 26th

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

Missouri (7-5) vs. North Carolina (7-5)

Shreveport, LA 5:00 PM

Spread: Missouri -3.5

4 POINTS

December 27th

Little Caesars Bowl

Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)

Detroit, MI 4:30 PM

Spread: Purdue -2.5

3 POINTS

North Carolina State

Belk Bowl

Lousiville (7-5) vs. North Carolina State (7-5)

Charlotte, NC 8:00 PM

Spread: NCSU -1.5

4 POINTS

December 28th

Military Bowl Pres. By Northrup Grumman

Toledo (8-4) vs. Air Force (7-5)

Washington, DC 4:30 PM

Spread: Toledo -3

2 POINTS

Texas

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

California (7-5) vs. #24 Texas (7-5)

San Diego, CA 8:00 PM

Spread: Texas -3.5

5 POINTS

December 29th

Champs Sports Bowl

Florida State (8-4) vs. Notre Dame (8-4)

Orlando, FL  5:30 PM

Spread: FSU -3

4 POINTS

Florida State

That's right, Florida Fucking State!

Valero Alamo Bowl

Washington (7-5) vs. #12 Baylor (9-3)

San Antonio, TX 9:00 PM

Spread: Baylor -9

5 POINTS

December 30th

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

BYU (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4)

Ft. Worth, TX 12:00 PM

Spread: BYU -3

2 POINTS

Iowa State

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Rutgers (8-4) vs. Iowa State (6-6)

Bronx, NY 3:20 PM

Spread: Rutgers -2

4 POINTS

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Mississippi State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)

Nashville, TN 6:40 PM

Spread: MSU -6.5

4 POINTS

Oklahoma

Insight Bowl

Iowa (7-5) vs. #14 Oklahoma (9-3)

Tempe, AZ 10:00 PM

Spread: OK -14.5

5 POINTS

December 31st

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6)

Houston, TX 12:00 PM

Spread: A&M -11

4 POINTS

Texas A&M (Just for my friend LC Aggie Sith)

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5)

El Paso, TX 2:00 PM

Spead: GT -3

4 POINTS

UCLA

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7)

San Francisco, CA 3:30 PM

Spread: IL -3

4 POINTS

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)

Memphis, TN 3:30 PM

Spread: Vandy -3

4 POINTS

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Virginia (8-4) vs. #25 Auburn (7-5)

Atlanta, GA 7:30 PM

Spread: Auburn -1

5 POINTS

January 2nd

TicketCity Bowl

#19 Houston (12-1) vs. #22 Penn State (9-3)

Dallas, TX 12:00 PM

Spread: UH -6

6 POINTS

Nebraska

Capital One Bowl

#20 Nebraska (9-3) vs. #9 South Carolina (10-2)

Orlando, FL 1:00 PM

Spread: SCar -1

7 POINTS

Outback Bowl

#17 Michigan State (10-3) vs. #16 Georgia (10-3)

Tampa, FL 1:00 PM

Spread: UGA -3.5

6 POINTS

Michigan State

Ohio State

Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl

Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6)

Jacksonville, FL 1:00 PM

Spread: FL -2

4 POINTS

Florida

Oregon

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio

#10 Wisconsin (11-2) vs. #5 Oregon (11-2)

Pasadena, CA 5:00 PM

Spread: Oregon -6.5

9 POINTS

Wisconsin (look at the beer bong technique!)

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

#4 Stanford (11-1) vs. #3 Oklahoma State (11-1)

Glendale, AZ 8:30 PM

Spread: OSU -3.5

9 POINTS

Oklahoma State

Michigan

Allstate Sugar Bowl

#13 Michigan (10-2) vs. #11 Virginia Tech (11-2)

New Orleans, LA 8:30 PM

Spread: Mich -1.5

7 POINTS

January 4th

Discover Orange Bowl

#23 West Virginia (9-3) vs. #15 Clemson (10-3)

Miami, FL 8:30 PM

Spread: Clem -3

7 POINTS

West Virginia

Arkansas

January 6th

AT&T Cotton Bowl

#8 Kansas State (10-2) vs. #6 Arkansas (10-2)

Arlington, TX 8:00 PM

Spread: Ark -7.5

8 POINTS

January 7th

BBVA Compass Bowl

SMU (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)

Birmingham, AL 1:00 PM

Spread: Pitt -5.5

3 POINTS

January 8th

GoDaddy.com Bowl

Arkansas State (10-2) vs. Northern Illinois (10-3)

Mobile, AL 9:00 PM

Spread: ASU -1

2 POINTS

LSU

January 9th

Allstate BCS National Championship

#2 Alabama (11-1) vs. #1 LSU (13-0)

New Orleans, LA 8:30 PM

Spread: LSU -0.5

11 POINTS

Alabama

Once again, here’s the link to the pool.  Good luck!

My Best Frank The Tank Impression

No, not this Frank The Tank...

To all of you who thought this post would be about Frank Ricard of Old School fame, I apologize.  No, this post is an homage to my favorite blogger on the ‘net, Frank The Tank’s Slant.  Frank is the absolute best writer out there on the topic of college football and conference expansion/ realignment.  Finding a new post of his is like Christmas come early.  So, while I certainly could never write on the topic of conference expansion as insightfully as he does, I would like to contribute my own menial thoughts to the discussion.  (Don’t worry, readers, I promise I’ll get back to sex and booze next week!)

Conference realignment is the most exciting thing to happen to college football since the forward pass.  I love every second of it.  Every rumor, every off the wall theory, every mathematically or geographically incorrect conference name (the Big Ten with twelve teams, the Big XII with ten, the Big East with teams in the Central Time Zone, the Pac-12 with teams in the Rocky Mountains, it goes on and on), it provides me endless entertainment.

And while for the most part I have been content to just sit back and watch the chaos unfold, I feel compelled to put my two cents in about one issue: the supposed coming of 4 “SuperConferences” that will forever change the landscape of college football.  While it is entirely possible that something similar will eventually come of this theory, there are quite a few people out there espousing this creation of a new higher-than-FBS conglomerate of 64 teams that will break off and leave everyone else behind.

I’m not buyin’ it.

The end of college football as we know it? Not so fast...

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I currently work for an FBS athletic department.  More specifically, I work for one of the mid-major athletic departments that would be left out in the cold in just about any scenario that separates the haves from the have-nots at the highest level of college football.  However, I am not writing this from that perspective.  I do not have any unique insight because of my position; that is to say, I have no inside information, I make no claims of “insider knowledge.”  This is merely my opinion.  Further, this post is not written with any agenda.  I am not trying to further any cause, either my employer’s or anyone else’s.  This is merely my thoughts on the future direction of major college football.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to it.

I believe very firmly that the popular theory of a creation of four 16-team “SuperConferences” that will either break off from the rest of FBS football or somehow shut the other 60 or so I-A schools out of a national championship is never going to happen.  The main reason I believe this is simple math.  Look at the current six AQ Conferences (Automatic Qualifiers for the Bowl Championship Series) plus the independents.  Add them up.  You get 71 teams.  Here they are, courtesy of  CBSSports.com:

Atlantic Coast
Atlantic Division
Boston College
Clemson
Florida State
Maryland
North Carolina State
Wake Forest
Coastal Division
Duke
Georgia Tech
Miami (Fla.)
North Carolina
Virginia
Virginia Tech
 
Big 12
Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Missouri
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Texas A&M
Texas
Texas Tech
 
 
 
 
 
Big East
Cincinnati
Connecticut
Louisville
Pittsburgh
Rutgers
South Florida
Syracuse
West Virginia
 TCU
 
 
 
 
 
 
Big Ten
Legends Division
Iowa
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Nebraska
Northwestern
Leaders Division
Illinois
Indiana
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Wisconsin
Pacific 12
North Division
California
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
Washington
Washington State
South Division
Arizona
Arizona State
Colorado
UCLA
Southern California
Utah
 
SEC
East Division
Florida
Georgia
Kentucky
South Carolina
Tennessee
Vanderbilt
West Division
Alabama
Arkansas
Auburn
LSU
Mississippi
Mississippi State
 
Independents 
 Army
 Brigham Young
 Navy
 Notre Dame
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Now, go through that list 0f 71 and pick the 7 schools that will be left behind.  But, before you start, bear in mind a couple things:

–This isn’t as simple as preventing schools from climbing the ladder (i.e. keeping the non-AQ schools from joining the ranks of the big boys).  These are schools that are already in the most exclusive club in college athletics.  Even if some of these teams suck so bad they belong in the ranks of high school football (I’m talking to you, Iowa State and Washington State) the fact remains that they are already in the club.  And you’re going to have one helluva hard time kicking them out.

–To further this point, think about all the state politics that have come into play whenever conference realignment occurs. Texas legislators lining up and threatening to cut funding from the University of Texas unless a “soft landing” was found for schools such as Texas Tech and Baylor.  The Virginia legislature completely turning the tables on the 2003 ACC expansion and forcing Virginia Tech on the league.  All these things and more will happen if anyone tries to create a new super league.

As an example, you say you want to leave Iowa State out?  Sure, that makes sense.  They’re probably the worst major-conference program in all of football over the past 25 years.  But the problem is, they’re in the same state as Iowa.  Why would you think for a second that if the Hawkeyes and the Big Ten tried to run away to a new billion-dollar Division 1-plus-plus league that they wouldn’t face the same sort of pressure that UVA faced when they were just talking about adding a few schools to the ACC?

Is this where we're headed? I remain skeptical.

The same theory will hold for almost any program you try to cut off that list of 71 schools. Washington State?  Sorry, no way the state of Washington is going to let the University of Washington leave them behind.  Texas Tech and Baylor?  Yeah, right. Texas couldn’t even get out of the old Southwestern Conference without bringing their little brothers along.  Louisville?  Maybe, but in a state like Kentucky where there’s really only two major schools, how much pressure will UK face to not leave the ‘Ville behind?

On and on down the list, there’s just not very many current BCS schools that could realistically be left behind.  Maybe Kansas and Kansas State could be left out together, as neither one has enough power to be a shoo-in.  Maybe.

What about the independents?  Maybe you could leave BYU behind?  I hate the Cougars more than just about any team in sports, college or pro, and nothing would make me happier than to see those smug, arrogant a-holes left behind to play the likes of Ball State for the rest of eternity.  But it’s just not that likely.  BYU and the Mormon Church have a shocking amount of power.  They could make life miserable for Utah and the Pac-12 in trying to leave them behind, and they have a national fanbase that is as rabid as it is unrealistic.  Hell, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama might finally agree on something if 64 teams tried to leave BYU and the rest of FBS behind.

I have no evidence to back this up, but I’d be willing to wager that the only way Army and Navy would be left out of the new league is if they decide they don’t want to be there.  You really want to deal with the PR nightmare of telling the service academies that they can’t come play?  So

No one will want to be held responsible for leaving out the service academies.

far the federal government has done little more than posture about inserting itself in the BCS process and possible anti-trust issues.  Something tells me Congress would get a lot more active if someone tried  to leave Army, Navy and Air Force behind.

And now, almost by magic, rather than cutting our list down we’ve actually added one: Air Force, from the Mountain West Conference.  Now you’re at 72.  And that opens another can of worms altogether.  I originally made the point that it was one thing to keep the mid-major, non-AQ schools from joining the ranks of the BCS conferences, but it would be quite another to kick existing AQ schools out of the club.  I still stand by that.  But that doesn’t mean that some people won’t try.  What’s to keep Texas legislators that support SMU, Houston, Rice and UTEP from banding together to try and block UT and A&M from completely leaving them behind?  And don’t forget, Texas State and UT-San Antonio are set to join the ranks of FBS next year.  You think their patrons are going to be happy about being left out in the cold before they’ve even gotten started?  The state of Texas could be a total nightmare in any scenario that tries to divide the current Division I-A.

And that same scenario could play out all across America. California doesn’t care about its sports as much as Texas, but there could be serious financial ramifications for San Diego State, Fresno State and San Jose State if they get shafted.  Or what about Florida?  One politician in the right position could make life miserable for UF, FSU, USF and Miami if they don’t bring along Central Florida, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

Clearly, not all the scenarios I’ve presented are going to take place.  In fact, 90% of them probably wouldn’t.  But here’s the thing: only one of those dominoes has to drop to make the whole thing unravel.  Could you really have a new division of the so-called highest level of college football without all the major players?  Could you have a true national championship that left out Texas, or Florida, or USC, or even Michigan State for that matter?  What if the Michigan legislature hamstrung Michigan and Michigan State from joining a new league unless Western and Central Michigan tag along?  Will the rest of the Big Ten leave two prominent members behind?

You see the problem?  It’s great in theory to pick the best schools and pull them off into a new dream league where every team is a true contender.  But this isn’t the NFL, with private ownership of franchises.  These are universities, multi-billion dollar institutions that have a dramatic impact on their local, regional and state economies.  As much as I hate politicians, and as angry as I get every time they try to meddle in something as irrelevant as sports (like congressional hearings on steroids; are you fucking kidding me?) no politician worth a damn would sit by and watch as one of the universities in his or her district got left out of the billions of dollars generated by the highest level of college football.  Nor should they.

So, what happens next?  I honestly don’t know.  I don’t believe SuperConferences are dead, I just don’t believe that you will ever get that magic number of 64 schools breaking off from everyone else and going their own way.  If I had to guess, here’s a rough sketch of what I think will occur:

There will eventually be 5 SuperConferences.  The first four will have between 14-16 teams, and the 5th may be a loose conglomeration of the scraps left behind by the first four SuperConferences (teams from all over the country with absolutely nothing in common other than they need a place to land).  But there’s no way in hell you get below that number of 72.  Most likely you wind up with 5 16-team pairings, which puts you at 80.  Don’t ask me to pick which eight teams will escape the purgatory of non-AQ status, I couldn’t even begin to guess.  I’d like to think it would be the most deserving schools, programs like Boise State and Fresno State and Southern Miss that have shown they can occassionally play with the big boys.  But most likely it will come down to which states have the smartest and most influential politicians, both in Washington and in their own capitols.

But even after that happens, after 72 to 80 schools band together and create a system even more exclusive than the current BCS, I still don’t believe the other 40+ schools are totally left behind.  Maybe some of them will decide to drop down to FCS (the old Division I-AA), but I think most of them will stay pretty much where they are today for one reason: money.

Major college football programs don't want to give up their 7th and 8th home dates.

Even the non-AQ schools still command more money from both TV rights (notice how many Conference USA and MAC games you see on ESPN on Tuesday and Friday nights; does Montana or North Dakota or Richmond from the FCS get that much exposure?) and from those “payday” games they take to play the big schools.  The top programs make literally millions of dollars for every home game, so they don’t want to just play half their schedule at home every year.  Most of the BCS-conference schools play seven or even eight of their 12-game schedule at home.  And they pay lesser schools for those extra home games.

In many ways, the big schools need those lesser schools.  If the gap between the elites and the also-rans becomes too big, who will pay to watch those games?  It’s one thing when Florida pummels poor Troy of the Sun Belt 56-6 like they did in 2009; if they have to start bringing in schools so bad that they’re winning 100-3 how long will they be able to sell that product?  If there are no more mid-majors to play, the big schools will have to start playing low-majors, and there aren’t a whole lot of football programs popular enough to sell out that matchup.

In the end, as exciting as conference realignment is, I don’t see any truly major, life-altering changes to college football.  The system isn’t perfect but it is deeply entrenched in the very fabric of our society.  And at the end of the day that will make it very hard to radically change anything.  Changes will come, many of the traditional conferences and rivalries will be altered, but the core of college football will remain the same.

If you want to know more about conference expansion and what really goes on in determining who goes where, be sure to follow Frank The Tank’s Slant.

Why Do I Play This Game?

I’m a little behind on my posts and for that I apologize.  But the fact is it’s fantasy football season, so my writing output is going to suffer.

Yes, I am a Fantasy Football nerd.  Correction, I’m a fantasy sports nerd.  Last year, in addition to my two fantasy football leagues, I started a fantasy hockey league, played in a fantasy basketball league (and I don’t even watch the NBA), and created my own college bowl game pick ‘em league.

Yeah, I’m a dork.

I don’t know why I love fantasy sports so much.  It’s not like I’m all that good at them.  I won my very first fantasy football league 15 years ago but haven’t sniffed the title since.  Fourteen straight years without a title.  It’s not that I’m bad at fantasy football, it’s just that, despite all the hours I pour into it, I’m decidedly average.  It’s very frustrating.

To give you an idea of  how long I’ve been playing, when we started our league there weren’t online fantasy sites that kept score for you.  Nope, I did it all by hand.  I’d pick up a newspaper on my way to class every Monday morning and use the box scores to score while I was supposed to be paying attention in lecture.  (Which might explain why I have the dead end job I’m in now.  But that’s another story.)

In one of my favorite movies, Rounders, there’s a great quote about poker players:

Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career.

This might be the truest statement I’ve ever read.  Looking back on that championship I won in 1996, I remember almost nothing of my championship team other than a few key players.  I don’t remember a single big win, can’t recall a single detail from that championship game.  What I do remember from that first season of fantasy sports was a devastating loss at the hands of my nemesis, Family Man:

We had battled it out through the weekend, and going into Monday Night Football it was still anybody’s ballgame.  We both had a big gun playing; I had Rod Smith at wide receiver (he would finish the year with 12 TDs and top 5 in WR fantasy points), and Family Man had Terrell Davis, the top running back in the game.

We watched the game together at his place.  Shit talk was flying back and forth with every carry or catch by one of our guys.  I was less than one touchdown down when John Elway hit Rod Smith on a deep crossing pattern and Smith broke away from his defender towards the end zone.  I was up out of my seat screaming and yelling and dancing and swearing as Smith streaked past the 30, the 20, the 10…  Finally, a safety caught up to him and dragged him down at the one yard line.

This is where fantasy football can be so cruel.  Normally, a wide receiver making a 54 yard catch down to the one yard line is a good thing.  But not when your fantasy opponent has the team’s running back.

One play later Terrell Davis ran in the score and sealed the game not just for the Denver Broncos but also for Family Man’s team.  I’ve still never forgotten that empty feeling when Smith got brought down at the goal line and I instantly knew I was finished.

Why do I play this game?

Another heartbreaking moment that many of you can relate to came in 2008, when I had drafted Tom Brady with my first pick.  Brady, coming off a record-setting 50 touchdown season, and never having missed a game due to injury in his career, had his season ended approximately 12 minutes into the year.  What’s worse, by this time I was playing in two fantasy leagues, and I had drafted Brady in both of them.

I remember the excitement of opening day, that optimism I feel every year that my team will lead me back to glory.  And I remember that moment when Bernard Pollard launched himself at Brady’s legs, shredding his ACL and my entire season in a single play.  It is one of the most vivid memories I have in 30+ years of watching football.  Why can’t I remember Florida State’s national championships as vividly as that horrible moment?

What did I do after that?  I immediately grabbed my cell phone and, too impatient to even power it down, ripped out the battery and threw the phone across the room before I could be inundated with texts and calls mocking my misfortune.  Yeah, my friends are assholes.

Why do I play this game?

But possibly my worst fantasy football moment occurred in 2000.  After several piss-poor seasons following my inaugural championship I had finally regained a small measure of self respect by making the playoffs.  I had a loaded backfield with three solid backs that could have started for most any fantasy team.  Unfortunately, you could only start two.

The week of my playoff matchup I poured over box scores and stats trying to determine which two backs to start.  After about three days of getting nothing done at work I thought I had made up my mind.  But, seeking reassurance, I emailed Family Man to get his thoughts.

Now, I will not blame Family Man for what happened to me, because it is my own fault for not trusting my instincts.  But I allowed Family Man to talk me out of starting one of my backs.

That running back’s name was Mike Anderson.  And that weekend he had one of the greatest games in NFL history.  251 yards.  4 touchdowns.  He very nearly outscored my opponent single handedly.  And he was sitting on my bench.

Again I ask, why do I play this game?

But despite all the misery, all the heartache and frustration and things thrown across my apartment, I still love fantasy football and will keep on playing.  Someday I might even win again.

But in the meantime, the frequency of my posts may suffer a bit.  For that I apologize.  Bear with me, by week 8 I should be eliminated from playoff contention and ready to resume my normal writing pace.

If you know of any good sleepers, email me.

The Great Berkeley Road Trip

When I lived in San Diego and still had an alma mater, my old school came out to play Cal in football.  My buddy Manscape and I decided to make the road trip.  It was the fall of 2005…

Rest In Peace, Chief Illiniwek

We hit the road Friday morning and everything was going smooth.  My mother had just been out to visit and she left her rental car a few extra days to make the drive and not put the miles on my own piece of shit car.  More than a few people had questioned our decision not to fly, and the over/under on our drive was 9 hours with a high of 11, but I confidently predicted a 7.5 hour trek.  Traffic in L.A. was light and we cruised through the uninhabited wasteland of central California with ease.

In almost exactly seven and a half hours we were in Berkeley (thank you very much).  45 minutes after that we actually found our hotel (shut up).  Now, I must confess here that I had screwed around and not made reservations in a timely manner for this trip, so the hotel where the San Diego Illini Club and many other fellow fans were staying was filled up.  Fortunately, I had been able to secure accommodations at another venue.  This place was not only cheaper, but walking distance to both the stadium and the alumni’s hotel.  The only problem was that the place was a bed & breakfast and only offered one bed per room.  Although Manscape and I are tight, we aren’t close enough to start spooning yet.  But Manscape brought an aerobed and we were good to go.

Once we checked in we decided to take a tour of the campus and get some food. Berkeley is officially the worst campus I’ve ever seen in my life.  And I’ve seen a few.  This place is a shithole.  Homeless people, hippies who look like homeless people, people living in trees, ugly chicks, fraternity houses that don’t show even a hint of a weekend party (it’s 7 o’clock on a Friday and not a single person passed out on the lawn?  WTF?!?), just all around the worst place ever.  Walking down their main drag is like going through Tijuana.  On the light poles there were signs proclaiming the area to be a “Drug Free Zone.”  I thought that was pretty funny and decided to take a picture of the sign.  Some street vendor, a 250-pound black woman wearing a red cape, a hard hat painted like the flag of Israel and her face painted like a leopard (I am NOT making this up) thought I had taken her picture, so she gets all indignant, and as we’re walking away I hear her say, “That cracker ass white boy need to get his ass kicked!”  Manscape, who’s a pretty big guy, informed me he didn’t think we could take her so we quickened our pace.

After dinner we went back to the room to get ready to go out.  Thanks to my amazing foresight we had with us a cheap styrofoam cooler loaded with a big handle of vodka and enough Red Bull to explode an elephant’s heart.  We pounded drinks while getting ready.  I donned one of my favorite shirts, the one with Che Guevara that says “Commies Aren’t Cool,” and we walked down the street to our alumni’s hotel bar.

It’s always fun to drink with old people because they know they’re going to have to go to bed by 10 so they’re really intent on getting drunk before having to call it a night.  We, of course, get really fucked up and then keep on going.  So after the old folks went to bed a few of us younger alums hit a few more bars.  I got a lot of dirty looks for my shirt.  The bar scene in Berkeley is pretty weak, probably because of the presence of so many other mind-altering substances the kids can indulge in.  But we persevered.  We did a lot of shots, I got royally drunk and started blacking out, nothing too exciting happened and I was in bed by 2:30. 

Saturday morning I was less hung over than expected.  Manscape was hurting pretty bad and wanted to start drinking immediately to rectify the situation.  He still has a hard time accepting the fact that I won’t drink during Illini games, and tried in vain once again to convince me to tailgate with him.  I told him it wasn’t negotiable, I would be drinking nothing but water until postgame.

You guys remember Elizabeth Reid, right?  We’ve stayed more or less in touch as she’s moved about four times around the western United States.  Anyways, she rolled into Berkeley around noon and we met up at the tailgate area outside the stadium.  She was with her boyfriend and a friend who went to Berkeley.  She also knew someone who worked in the Cal athletic department and had all kinds of free food and drink coupons for the tailgate.  I hydrated and got some sustenance while everyone else worked on their pre-game buzz.

Up 17-7 at half, lost 35-20.

I’ll try not to get too lengthy with my game analysis, but to make a long story short, Illinois football sucked pretty bad back in ’05.  They played better than expected, made it competitive for three quarters, but in the end they were no match for a legitimate Division I program.  It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and we certainly didn’t expect much out of this season, so we didn’t take it too hard.  In other words, it was time to forget about football and let the drinking commence!

After the game we all went back to our lovely bed & breakfast.  The place has a sweet rooftop patio that has a view of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz way off in the distance.  There were five of us and we started working on the vodka.  Five mere mortals would normally have trouble killing a handle of vodka, but there were three alcoholics in the group (Manscape, Elizabeth and myself), so we knocked it out in just a couple hours.  We had a riot up on the roof, shootin’ the shit, enjoying a rare nice day in the Bay Area, and generally being drunken idiots.  After we’d killed it we decided to hit the bars.

We were going down the stairs to street level when Manscape, just stupid drunk, took a fall and tumbled down the last flight of stairs, nearly taking me with him and sprawling out in the middle of the lobby with a busted ankle.  He was alternating laughing and moaning in pain.  The girl working the front desk was mortified.  I tried to help him up but he just stayed down right in front of the desk, groaning about his ankle.  I told him to suck it up and pulled him to his feet and we started off for the bars, Manscape limping like a cripple.

The first bar we came to had a patio area that was clearly marked exit only, but since Manscape was hammered and in pain he determined he was going to get in that way no matter what.  Bad idea.  The bouncer stopped him, then radioed to the bouncers at the front to be on the lookout for a belligerent limping idiot.  We got to the front and they informed us Manscape was too intoxicated to enter the bar.  Manscape was seconds away from erupting into an Incredible Hulk-like rage.  I did my best to calm him down, rounded everyone up, and we all headed for another bar.

At the next bar we settled in to drink heavily and wash away the pain of Illinois’ loss and Manscape’s busted ankle. Elizabeth was completely ignoring her boyfriend while she talked to her friend from Cal, and I could see the boyfriend getting angrier and angrier as the night wore on.  Manscape, meanwhile, was trying to drink the pain out of his ankle with vodka on the rocks and bitching non-stop about being denied access to the last bar.  Two angry drunk people, things were bound to get ugly sooner or later.

The three of us were talking football while Elizabeth was talking to the other guy, and this toolbox started lecturing me and Manscape on how little we knew about football.  It all started when I said Denny Green was one of the worst coaches in football.  The jackass actually asked me if I knew anything about football.   I calmly pointed out Denny’s losing record at Northwestern, his losing record at Stanford, and his perennial 8-8 teams at Minnesota before acquiring Randy Moss.  The boyfriend tried to go into a dissertation about how college and pro football have nothing to do with each other, and Denny Green was a masterful coach who had developed Daunte Culpepper into one of the finest QBs in the NFL.  (For the record, see Daunte’s career stats with and without Moss: 18,598 yards, 129 TDs, 74 INTs in five years with Moss; 5,555 yards, 20 TDs, 32 INTs in five years without Moss.  I rest my case.)

At some point Manscape got into the argument and the guy called him a “condescending asshole.”  Manscape just shrugged and said, “Well, I may only have one leg right now, but I’m pretty sure I can still snap you in half.”  He had a quiet, fiery intensity that told me he could explode at any point.  Knowing I had no chance of holding him back once he snapped (like I said, he’s a big dude), and not wanting to spend the night in a Berkeley jail, I did my best to diffuse the situation and was rewarded with the boyfriend not talking to anyone for the rest of the night.  He just sat and sulked.  Which freed Manscape and I to set about drinking even heavier.

The rest of our time at the bar is somewhat of a blur.  Manscape and I were drinking with reckless abandon.  I vaguely remember the lead singer of Counting Crows coming into the bar, walking by our table and acknowledging the Cal guy Elizabeth was with.  And I remember Manscape and I having an in-depth discussion on the relative merits of vodka versus gin.  (A foolish argument, I love them both!)

At last call we all parted ways.  The boyfriend was still sulking like a bitch and not speaking to anyone, so I gave Elizabeth an entirely inappropriate hug as a final parting shot, and Manscape and I stumbled off towards our bed & breakfast.

We took a couple wrong turns but eventually found our way, and we were stumbling up the stairs when we ran into this girl talking on her phone.  She stopped us and made some rude comment about our Illini shirts.  I was about to start some serious shit when Manscape somehow got hold of the girl’s phone and started talking to her friend, leaving me alone with the girl.  (He’s a clever bastard and a great wingman.)  She was in search of a lighter and we of course didn’t have one, so she left to walk down to a coffeehouse to find one.  But before she disappeared Manscape told her to stop by our room later.  She similarly invited us to join her in room 303.  She was not particularly attractive, but at 2 in the morning she seemed acceptable.

Up in our room Manscape was all over me to pay her a visit.  His logic was impeccable.  (“A hole is a hole… Pussy has no face… You’re not going to remember it anyway… I’ll never tell anyone…”)  Eventually I succumbed to his badgering and went down the hall.  Mostly I was just hoping she had some alcohol, since we had killed our handle of vodka earlier.  Alas, she wasn’t there.  I went back to our room.  But then he came up with the ingenious idea of leaving a note on her door.  We had a good laugh about it, I didn’t really think he was serious, but Manscape was once again using his ultra-persuasive arguments, and my will power was too inebriated to fight back.  I grabbed a sheet of paper and started jotting down my phone number.  It seemed like an asinine thing to do, but then Manscape had a brainstorm.  “Hey!” he slurred, “Put ‘For a good time call’ !!”

So I took the note down the hall to her room and left it there.  Went back to the room, crawled onto the inflatable bed and was just about passed out with when she called.  Manscape jerked awake and seemed more sober than he’d been in a day and a half.  “Holy shit!!  Is that her?!?”

It was indeed her.  She was out in the hallway and having trouble getting her key to work.  By this point I was so exhausted from the weekend that I wasn’t even interested, but I figured I had to play it out, so I went back down the hall to her room.  Just as I got there she got her door open and then turned to me and said, “Thanks, have a good night.”  And shut the door in my drunken face.  Guess she didn’t think the note was as funny as we did.  Bitch didn’t even have the courtesy to give me a drink for the road.  So I went back to bed and passed out.

Sunday morning we were both hung over as fuck.  We got on the road right after breakfast, stopped to fill up with gas, got some water to combat the hangover, found an ESPNRadio station for NFL updates, and we were on our way.

And that’s when it all started to fall apart.  About an hour out of Berkeley we got a flat tire.  So much for a 7.5 hour trip back.  We pulled over to the side of the road and assessed the situation.  We were officially in the middle of fucking nowhere, in the three hundred or so mile stretch of road between L.A. and the Bay Area that doesn’t have a town of any significance anywhere along it.  We popped the trunk and found that the spare was one of those worthless donuts.  So I dug out the rental information and called their roadside assistance number.  Of course, we had no idea where we actually were, so as I was calling Manscape started limping down the highway to find a mile marker.  Someone actually stopped to see if he was alright; they thought we had had an accident and he was injured and delusional, limping down the road in search of help!  Yeah, that’s how bad we looked from the weekend.

Roadside assistance was no help.  There wasn’t another rental place for at least 100 miles, so we were going to have to drive all that way on the donut.  She offered to call a tow truck to come change our tire, but it was going to take at least an hour and all they could do was put on the spare that we were more than capable of changing ourselves.  I decided to go to the absolute nearest location, even though it was well out of our way, because I didn’t want to drive 55 mph any longer than absolutely necessary.  We changed the tire and got on the road, set the cruise in the low 60’s (I would rather die in a car wreck than get passed by semi trucks).

We had to get off the interstate and drive through the end of civilization, and almost three hours later we were in Fresno.  Got a new car, hopped on the road, plugged in Manscape’s radar detector, and I started flying well in excess of 90 mph down a busy road that was most definitely not an interstate.  My hangover made me care a whole lot less about my personal safety.

We made good time due to my insanely reckless driving, and we were just hitting the northern edge of L.A. around 5, planning on being home by 7 (a little over 9 hours).  Then Manscape’s phone rang.  It was his girlfriend (the Iowa alum, Squawkeye, as I call her).  She had gone up to L.A. for the weekend, and she had just gotten into an accident as she was leaving for home.

Jesus, what else can go wrong?

We pulled out the map and quickly figured out where she was, changed course and weaved a swath through about four different L.A. highways, all the way to the other side of the valley and to the scene of the accident.

The poor girl had been rear-ended, and the mini-jeep thing she had been driving had been rammed good by an SUV.  The impact had completely shattered her rear window and shaken her up pretty good, but thankfully she was okay.  The cop was wrapping up when we arrived, so we stuck around to lend emotional support.  After half an hour or so Manscape threw his bags into her wreck and told me to take off.  Seeing there was nothing more I could do, I hit the road again, this time alone and without the radar detector.  Just my hangover to keep me company.

I finally got home around 9pm, 11-plus hours after hitting the road.  I watched the last couple minutes of the Sunday Night NFL game and passed out.

If there’s a moral to this story it would be this: