I understand that I usually fall more on the idealist side of the "Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism." It does a lot to color my world view and expectations. I feel it is a much healthier way for the world to work and we'd all be a good bit happier if everybody worked that way.
Unfortunately, at least in practice, I believe I'm in the minority. And it's things like the Pujols signing yesterday that shows me this. Now, before I write this out, let me preface it a bit. Pujols did nothing wrong. Was it the decision I would make? Well, I guess I don't know. I don't think I'll ever be in that sort of position, but I would like to think that I would have signed with St. Louis had I been in his shoes. Does that mean that's the only right decision? No, not at all. It's just a different way to live and look at life. It wouldn't be a debate if one side was unequivocally right.
All that said, business and sports make strange bedfellows. Sports is about celebrating the unexpected and reveling in the resultant emotions, whether they be of joy of victory or, as the saying goes, the agony of defeat. Business is almost the exact opposite. I believe that's why it feels so absolutely wrong when players, especially the blue chip guys, move because of money. It feels so against everything sport should be. And that is why Pujols leaving feels so absolutely wrong. It's slightly different, but LeBron's leaving Cleveland felt similar. Those reasons had more to do with sport than Pujols' decision, but they still went against what we expect from sport and the athletes that make it up. We want to believe our athletes, especially the great ones, are true sportsmen, not just gifted mercenaries. Albert has unfortunately joined that category.
There are times when players leave their teams and, while it is still a shame, nobody blames them for it. Kevin Garnett springs to mind. He had played his whole career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and had some success with them, but nothing too huge. From 1995 to 2007 (the Garnett Era), T-Wolves made the playoffs eight straight years. The team had never gone to the playoffs before Garnett got there, and haven't made it back since he left. But, for all those years in the playoffs, the team only got out of the first round once, which was a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 where they lost to the Lakers. The team started falling apart from there, and it was clear Garnett was never going to win in Minnesota. So, nobody really blinked when he jumped at the chance to play in Boston with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen through a bit of a sweetheart trade. It also was rewarding to see the trade work out and he finally got his ring.
Pujols was not leaving a Cardinal team in disarray. Yes, La Russa retired, but they just won the World Series, and if he signed, the core of the team would be back and quite possibly in better position than they were this year (which is kind of a scary thought). There was all sorts of goodwill around St. Louis with such an improbable run to a championship, it seemed impossible that the Cardinals wouldn't get a deal done. And by all accounts, they gave it as much as they possibly could. And here we are. I understand wanting the money, but you would think, as a sportsman, there would be some loyalty keeping you in St. Louis as long as it was at all feasible. Clearly, I am not Albert Pujols.
Like I said, Pujols did nothing wrong, but I'm not sure he did anything right. It seems very hard to believe Stan Musial would have made this decision, if you can remember the story about asking for a $20,000 pay cut because he didn't feel he played well enough to live up to his $100,000 contract, one of (if not the) richest at the time in baseball. Hell, even a journeyman like Gil Meche gave up $12,000,000 because he didn't feel he pitched well enough to deserve it.
Pujols really did it. Signed a ten year deal with the Angels. It's sickening and sad. I know the reserve clause is dead, and I don't think anybody really wants to see it come back. If athletes can generate that sort of money, of course they should get a fair chunk of it. But St. Louis seems like it did everything it could to keep Pujols, and Pujols did not return the favor. And, unlike LeBron, he couldn't use the excuse of he wanted a chance to win a title. He's won two in St. Louis, and they look to be poised to make some return runs if some breaks go right. No, this smacks of being all about money. When you're talking about deals over $200,000,000,* it seems like the actual dollar amount is somewhat irrelevant. You should be set for life whoever you sign with. Show some pride in who brought you up and allowed you to become the legend that has been Albert Pujols' career to this point. I'm not a Cardinal fan, but most of my family is. And further more, I'm upset as a baseball fan. Obviously I don't quite have all my thoughts quite together yet, so maybe I'll write more about this tomorrow and be a bit more polished about it. This is just raw reaction.
*I wanted to write that out so you could see all the zeros.
Now that college football is essentially over, that means I can now turn my attention to college basketball and hockey. And on that front, things look promising. Purdue is not going to be the team they were the past couple years. That happens when you lose two NBA draftees. But, they still look like a very solid team. Wabash looks like they are going to transition very smoothly into the Carpenter era, starting off 7-0. They've managed to scrape their way back into the rankings, entering this week at number 25. But, even with Purdue's choke job against Xavier, they're not what's frustrating me, so today's post is about hockey.
On the surface, there's not too much to complain about. The Blackhawks are leading their division, which would guarantee a top three seed if the playoffs started today. They're sitting at the very good record of 16-8-3, which is good for 36 points and second place in the Western Conference. They'd also be tied for second in the NHL with Pittsburgh if you want to look at it that way. So, take all this with a grain of salt, I suppose is what I'm getting at. Still, this has not been the same team since the circus trip. They were dominating the league until they hit that extended road trip.
It all started off promising enough. They avenged a pretty bad loss by taking care of Vancouver in Canada. That's when the trouble started. They lost on back to back nights to Calgary and Edmonton, neither of which would be playoff teams if the season ended today. They beat a woeful Anaheim team in a goalfest, 6-5, and then eked out a win against a solid L.A. team, 2-1. That led to a 4-1 beating by the Coyotes, a shootout win over the woeful Islanders, a surprisingly good win against St. Louis, and then a shoot out loss again to Phoenix.
So, was the record that bad? No, not really. Was it a lot harder to get to than it should have been? God yes. Did they play good teams? No, not really. The Kings would be the last team into the playoffs, Phoenix is currently leading their division, but I don't expect that to last. The Ducks and Islanders are, as indicated earlier, not doing well at all. The Blues have been very hot since switching coaches. They're easily the most quality team the Blackhawks beat over this stretch.
The last game against the Coyotes is a good example of what I'm getting at. Corey Crawford did not have his best stuff, giving up three quick goals in the first period. The Blackhawks had nothing going offensively. In comes Ray Emory, and Chicago flips the script in the second period, scoring three of their own goals. They had the puck on the Coyotes end most of the third period, including what really should have Marian Hossa's 400th career goal. I still can't believe he didn't score this.
The Blackhawks did nothing from there. Nothing afterwards, nothing in overtime, and especially nothing in a shootout where it looked like the Coyotes were taking potshots on a youth team. Just frustrating all around.
Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday. I spent the whole day in Lafayette and didn't get a chance to write anything. The good news is I think I might have a good lead, so keep your fingers crossed on that one.
On the sporting front, Wabash's football season has come to end after coming up short to Mt. Union, 20-8. That's not a terrible score to begin with, and the game felt even closer than that in the second half. If that sounds familiar, well, there's good reason for that.
Again Tyler Burke came out to start the game, and the offense was completely impotent. The defense was totally on their game, though. That actually didn't change in either half. All but one (possibly two, I'm going off memory here) of Mt. Union's scoring drives started on our side of the field, and two extremely short fields (from an interception and a muffed punt) ended in field goals rather than touchdowns. Their only "sustained" drive came as a result of a 40-yard run up the middle on a drive they started from their own 2. That one did hurt. But, yeah, our defense proved it was as good as anybody in the nation.
In the second half, Chase Belton came back in to quarterback, and the offense sprung to life. They only manage to punch the ball into the endzone once, but the team was finally moving the ball. We did get a touchdown taken away from us, which would have been huge. I was listening to the radio, so obviously I didn't see it for myself, but according to the radio guys, Chase ran into the endzone, and the announcers were celebrating because of course it was a touchdown. But then, the officials had him marked down at the 1. According to the announcers view of the replay, this was inexplicable. Of course, this was also fourth down, so Mt. Union took over and intentionally took a safety, getting us to 20-2. We then took the next kick off and drove down for a touchdown.
This led to a sequence which did leave me scratching my head. We had a complete pass, but ended up short on the two point conversion. You hear people complain that you should never throw a pass shorter than you need on third down, and I agree with that sentiment. I agree even more wholeheartedly when it comes to a two point conversion. If you're going to put the ball in the air, your receiver had darned well better be in the endzone. He wasn't in this case, though, and we were stopped short. 20-8. I suppose you can get an idea of how things went from here.
We attempted an onside kick, and the picture above shows you just how close we came to recovering it. Unfortunatley, Wes Chanblee couldn't fully wrangle it in and Mt. Union ended up with it. We had burned all our time outs in the third quarter, because clearly Chase was not on the same page as the sideline. Mt. Union was able to run out the clock after picking up a couple first downs.
Still, the Little Giants acquitted themselves very well. They showed they could hang with the big boys, which is a lot more than we could say for the last two times we played Mt. Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater (a pair of 30+ point losses). If Chase had played the entire game, who knows how it might have gone. It would have been nice to see what some sustained offensive pressure would have done to their defense. As it was, they weren't the first bit worn down for the second half. Ah well. A wonderful season, Wabash. You showed again this week that, yes, Wabash Always Fights.
Because I've had such a wonderful time lately, it seems now my body is betraying me. I was sick in the dream I had last night, and sure enough, I woke up feeling just downright awful. I'm still feeling pretty awful, in fact. But, I'm going to soldier on for a little bit, mostly because I have precious little else to do.
As you may have read, Wabash had a monumental comeback in a game for the ages against North Central last weekend. North Central that has to have a separate column on their roster page for "Previous School" they have so many higher level transfers, mind you. For your convenience, here is the game from Hometown Sports Indiana. It's broken up into halves, and the second half is a little easier to watch for Wabash fans, but I would recommend watching the whole game so you really get a feeling for how amazing the second half was.
Awesome, awesome game. Now the reward for that is to play Mount Union. Now, I desperately want to win this game. It has been the better part of a decade since they last lost at home. They've made essentially every title game for the last twenty years, winning 10 of them. They've fallen behind Wisconsin-Whitewater (the other big deal in D3) in recent years, but that is the only team that could touch them. So am I expecting a win? Well, no, that would just be foolhardy. Is it the biggest stretch of imagination? Well, no, actually. I actually like our chances better than when we played Whitewater my senior year in the regional final.
The only other time we played Mount Union was at their place, and we got crushed. It was in 2002, though, so I don't know much about either team at that point. I do know that Mount Union hasn't been quite as dominant as usual this year (though still pretty dominant, granted), and I believe their starting quarterback is hurt. Ours is also banged up, but Burke has looked good in the past, and seemed to find his groove in the second half last week against a North Central team that many thought had a very good shot at beating Mount Union.
And, really, that right there is my biggest point. If North Central was supposed to be good enough to beat Mount Union, and our defense kept them in check and our offense (in the second half) made their defense look kind of foolish.* Can you be considered an elite defense and give up that many long fourth down conversions? Well, that's what happened last Saturday.
*I know 28 points isn't stellar, but when you're putting your defense in short yard situation after short yard situation, you're going to give up points. They only had a couple scoring drives of over 50 yards.
Unfortunately, and maddeningly, I might add, there is no live stream from the game this Saturday, if you're interested and don't live in the immediate vicinity of Alliance, Ohio, you will have to settle for the game on the radio. That's 91.3 FM if you're in the Crawfordsville area, or you can find the stream on the Wabash website. See you at noon tomorrow!
Boy, was November ever an eventful month, and not necessarily heavy on the good events. First off, I was fired by Watchfire a few weeks ago. No real reason given. I have my suspicions, which I've written here before. All I know is I was getting nothing but good reviews, and then after getting a job interview (for a job I had all but decided I wouldn't take if offered), suddenly I was suspended and subsequently let go. If that doesn't scream unfair, I don't know what does.
On top of that, my car finally broke down for real just two days ago. It is currently in a shop, I'm still waiting word on just how bad the damage is. I'm guessing it will be pretty bad, though. I don't know how repairs are going to be paid for, and even less of an idea how I'm going to get a new car without a job. Thankfully Kristine is in an excellent place, otherwise I'd probably be going down to bankruptcy or something.
Oh, and did I mention that Watchfire apparently has the balls to challenge my unemployment claim? Yeah, they do. After giving no reasoning in the meeting where I was fired and handed the brochure about how to apply for unemployment, now they're claiming there's an issue. The unemployment office is calling me tomorrow to get my side of the story. I don't know how I wouldn't win my case if it came to that, but just the idea there would be an objection just astounds me.
So, well, with all that, the novel didn't get finished. Got just a shade under 30,000 words before my entire professional life came crashing down, which sapped my writing motivation to less than zero. Even if I hadn't taken a break for novel writing, I'm sure I'd be taking a hiatus now to figure out what on Earth I'm going to do.
On the sporting front, I'll keep it really simple here. I plan on writing more in depth about it in the coming days. But, Wabash football had an amazing second half come back to win their Sweet 16 game against North Central, final score 29-28. The wining points came on a two-point conversion with less than a minute on the clock. The play was a pass, which was tipped by the intended receiver. Thankfully, Brady Young was standing behind the play ready to mop up the mess. Truly, one of the best football games I've ever watched. Now they get one of the two Division III behemoths in Mount Union. The road most likely ends here, but, you know, there were whispers that North Central could take out Mount Union, and we managed to take out North Central (with our back up quarterback, no less). Anything is possible.
Purdue football also managed to get themselves bowl eligible by winning the Old Oaken Bucket back from Indiana. Probably enough to save Danny Hope's job, but I haven't heard an official word on that. My guess is Purdue will get to face a MAC team (Probably Northern Illinois or Toledo, both of which are very good teams that honestly scare me a bit) in the Little Caesar's Bowl (nee Motor City Bowl).
On the basketball front, it looks like I'll be able to watch the Pacers after all, but we'll see how much that actually happens. Purdue basketball stubbed its toe against a good Alabama team, but I think they will be just fine. The score wasn't as lopsided as I had hoped, but they pretty well handled Miami in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, which was nice to see. Wabash basketball looks like its going to make a very smooth transition from the Petty Era to the Carpenter Era. They're 5-0 and on the verge of being ranked again, even after losing Wes Smith. Good times.
Well, that'll do it for today. Nowhere to go but up from here, right?