This may or may not be the last post for a little bit. We’re leaving for a week on some lakes in northern Wisconsin tomorrow night. I don’t believe I’ll have WiFi in the cabin up there, and I’ll be a little busy doing vacation things anyway. I might get a post out tomorrow, though. We’ll see how motivated I’m feeling.
It’s about that time where NFL training camps start up, so this seems like as good a time as any to see what to expect out of the Colts this year. Last year was a complete surprise. Yeah, there was some talent on the team, and having Reggie Wayne is an awfully good security blanket for a rookie quarterback trying to become a star. But most of that talent was either awfully young or awfully old. It sure didn’t feel like hardly any of that team was in its prime, and because of the terrible season in 2011,* the Colts were handed statistically the easiest schedule in football. And, yes, it seems that schedule has universally held to be exactly that.
*I’m sorry, Curtis Painter. I wanted it to work out on the NFL level, but the sad truth is you never were a big game player in college, and, well, that usually doesn’t bode well for the pros.
So, yes, while last season was an unqualified success, and a surprising one at that, I don’t really necessarily expect to duplicate that this year. Last year’s team was outscored by 30 points on the season, even while winning eleven games. That means a lot of close games, which I think we all can remember that no problem. Lots of late comebacks. The games against the Lions and Packers in particular stand out. The Colts had no business winning either of those games, and yet, somehow found a way. That’s great, but certainly nothing you can count on.
My gut told me expect nine wins out of this team. That just feels right. Which, you know, if you take away those two previously mentioned games, and you would get a 9-7 season last year.* Then I actually looked at the schedule for the first time. And, well, you can never really tell before the season starts, but it looks like the NFL might have gone a bit easy on the Colts again this year. It’s tougher than last year, to be sure, but nothing too bad. The teams with winning records on the Colts schedule are the Texans, 49ers, Seahawks, Broncos, Bengals. The Texans are good, but I don’t think anybody is too scared of them or thinks we can’t win the game in Indy. The Bengals also don’t strike me as a juggernaut, though that game is on the road.
*Of course, by that logic, you should probably put a win back on the board for finding a way to lose that game against the Jaguars at home.
Going through week by week, I came up with ten wins, but I think I my official prediction will still be nine wins. I gave the Colts both wins over the Titans on first glance, and I don’t think you can count on that. I also gave them a win over the Chargers in California, which might be rough. I think the Colts can probably do one of those things, but not both. That puts the Colts at a 9-7 season, which as I said before, just feels about right for this team at this point. The problem is it took ten wins to get into the playoffs last year, I don’t really see that changing too much. I don’t think the Ravens will be as good this year, so that’s one ten win team off the board, but I have a feeling the Steelers won’t be 8-8 this year. The hope is they’ll be worse because Father Time has officially caught up with them. If not, they’ll probably take that other playoff spot.
But, you know, football is in some ways a bit harder to predict than other sports. It’s a very short season, so every game has a huge effect. Injuries also drastically change teams, and it has been noted quite a bit as of late, football is a pretty violent game. People are going to get hurt. But, I do have one other mini-prediction before I sign off for the day. Pay attention to the NFC West. That division is going to be the most interesting (and maybe toughest) division in football. The 49ers are poised to be awfully good again this year, as are the Seahawks. The Rams were a tie away from pulling a .500 season, and I expect them to keep improving with another full season of Jeff Fisher at the helm. The Cardinals, especially, are a team to keep an eye on. When they had a good quarterback in Kurt Warner down there, they made the Super Bowl. True, Anquan Boldin is no longer in the desert, but Larry Fitzgerald still is. But with Alex Smith . . . oh, right, that was just the ideal spot for him in my head, not what actually happened. With Carson Palmer, they’ll be better, but probably still in the basement.
In happier news, I see that former Boilermaker quaterback Caleb TerBush is currently on the roster. Good for him. I liked TerBush just fine, though he did lose a year to academic stuff, and he clearly lost his spot once Robert Marve landed on campus. Funnily enough, Marve doesn’t appear to have latched on anywhere in the NFL. He had a tryout for Tampa Bay, but it doesn’t appear that went anywhere. My guess is his knee and his attitude was more the problem than his arm. He has an NFL arm, no doubt, but he was never well-liked around here, got himself kicked off the Miami Hurricanes* team, and spent forever in college thanks to a knee made out of glass. I do with TerBush the best, but I don’t think he was even as good as Curtis Painter, and, well, we saw how that worked out.
*You know, the “convicts” part of the Catholics vs. Convicts games?
I have a bit of a problem. On the one hand, I love listening to sports talk radio, especially the Grady & Big Joe Show. I’m pretty sure I could listen to them for the entire day and not get tired of it, though I’m sure they would get tired of hosting it. Why? Because callers to sports talk radio are the worst. At least for listeners. I would imagine many of them are also true for the hosts.
Here’s an example. Today, somebody called in claiming to be a “local writer.” I’m sure he’s a local writer for Indianapolis in much the same way I’m a local writer for Lafayette. Anyway, he mumbled his way through his assertion that the Pacers haven’t done anything to improve themselves to beat the Heat. Grady apparently couldn’t understand if he said could or could not (or maybe just couldn’t believe this “local writer” was quite this dumb) and simply asked if he watched this team and if he knew what the Pacers had done. To the caller’s credit, he did know who the Pacers had added, but didn’t have any other evidence for why the Pacers still don’t measure up to Miami.
This is not the first time we’ve heard this sort of argument, like how the Pacers will never win until they find a point guard, even though apparently our point guard was good enough to draw the attention of the national team. And, you know, totally ignores how the Pacers starting lineup outscored the Heat starters by about a million in that series. Or how the Heat won that first game thanks to an inexplicable defensive breakdown at the rim with two seconds to go in overtime. I would like to think that, given any NBA team, you win that game nine times out of ten, especially with one as defensive minded as the Pacers. Yeah, game seven was not particularly close, but don’t forget just how hard fought this series was. This team didn’t really have to do much improving to get over that particular hump.
And, you know, nobody even threw out the Pacers biggest addition. Assuming he’s healthy, adding Danny Granger to this team sure seems like it would have been more than enough to close what little gap remained between these two teams. The biggest gap in this past series was a totally incompetent bench, especially when it came to scoring. Yeah, Tyler Hansbrough provided a nice burst of energy off the bench, but he was hopeless defending in the post. Will Chris Copeland be any better defending the post? Not at all, but I know he will provide a much better scoring punch. Especially paired with a Lance Stephenson who is quickly learning how to be a legitimate NBA player. I don’t know too much about CJ Watson, but I’m pretty sure he’s an upgrade over DJ Augustin. Solomon Hill, besides making this team an even bigger nightmare for announcers, seems like he will be a very good fit for this team. And, well, this is the year where we find out if Miles Plumlee can play at this level. Larry Bird thinks he can, and, well, as I and many others have said over the years, Larry Bird knows a lot more about basketball than me. And, you know, he’s been overwhelmingly right over the last several years.
Speaking of Larry Bird, I have a theory about why he’s back in the fold. I don’t have any special knowledge here, so this is my “crazy caller speculation,” I suppose. If Granger is healthy, he will take the starting spot away from Stephenson. There’s no question about that. The one thing we don’t really know is if Lance can accept going back to the bench after the big taste of starting he had this year. It’s true he’s a talented player and a great piece for the future, but he’s nowhere near consistent enough to start yet. Still, he has a history with his ego. We also know he has all the respect in the world for Larry Bird. It seems at least plausible, if not downright logical, that Larry Legend was brought back to soothe Lance over this demotion of sorts. Now, clearly, it’s not really a demotion. He was the placeholder while the Pacer’s leading scorer and all around top player over the past several seasons was out. But he could take it as a slap in the face. He wouldn’t be the first player to take it that way.
It would seem pretty smart to me to bring back, in an official role, the guy who drafted Lance and somebody who Lance trusts and understands has given him a few chances that not everybody would have. I’m sure he can feel more secure about his future with this team and that his time will come when that guy is the one pulling the strings. Plus, you know, for the team as a whole, I think everybody feels good with Larry Bird back at the helm of building this team. You have to admit, it might have been a little slower than many would have liked, but he did a pretty darned good job.
The idea has been floated once again for the “big boys” of NCAA football should strike it out on their own. This, of course, is framed in a larger argument that college athletes should be getting some sort of payment for their services to their school. The idea that seems to be getting the most traction right now is to pay a (relatively) small stipend to athletes, which I’m sure would be loads cheaper than what a court could potentially order the NCAA to pay out if they were to lose their lawsuit against Ed O’Bannon and company.
Let’s take this one idea at at time. First, the idea of yet another football division. Now, granted, football is the sport that generally sees the bigger schools have far and away the biggest advantages. You don’t get the same sort of Cinderella stories in football as you do in basketball. It seems almost every March somebody like a Florida Gulf Coast University (total enrollment 12,683) makes a run, and schools like Duke (total enrollment 14,591) and Butler (total enrollment 4,667) can become powers. In football? The biggest underdog over the decade would have to be Boise State (total enrollment 22,678), which is almost double of FGCU. My favored big school, Purdue, as a total enrollment of 39,256. Some other big names: Ohio State (56,867), Alabama (33,602), LSU (30,000), Texas (51,145), Oklahoma (30,303), USC (38,010). So, yeah, size matters in football. It makes sense that there should be more divisions there than in basketball or other sports.
Right now, of course, things are split up into four divisions. There’s the FBS, your “big boy” football spoken about by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. There’s the FCS, which is generally your smaller Division I schools, yet the ones that actually play for an NCAA title and get their banner hung in Indianapolis. Then there’s Division II, which can offer athletic scholarships, but the limits are much more strict than Division I. And then there’s Division III, where Wabash hangs out, and are not allowed any athletic scholarships.* This setup, I think, has generally worked well, but there have been a few challenges. There has been a proposed Division IV, which would (predictably) split Division III further, but that idea has sputtered out without much support. An idea that is gaining traction anew (and has had more support in the past) is further splitting Division I football, or at least tightening who is in FBS.
*While there are certainly some perks to being an athlete at these schools (such as easier admittance), these schools do generally take the no extra scholarships for being an athlete seriously. While I’m sure there are some improprieties here and there, I think generally you would find that those athletes with the scholarships at this level deserve them. That was my experience with athletes, anyway.
I don’t know if I like the idea of further splitting Division I, but I do think there needs to be a good hard look at who is actually competing in Division I. It seems that so many schools want so badly to make the jump to the top division because they think it will bring in so many additional dollars by way of athletics. These schools don’t seem to take into consideration that to bring in that additional money will take quite a bit of additional money spent. And that’s just to compete at that level, not to mention spending the money to advertise your school to the community and generate publicity and interest in your school at that level. Because these schools have totally different concerns than “true” D1 schools, it clogs the legislation process of the NCAA and, well, gets us to the state it is today, with an overly complex and seemingly contradictory rulebook with seemingly different ideas from paragraph to paragraph about just how amateur it’s athletes are.
I don’t think athletes needs additional money outside their scholarships. I think that’s just ludicrous. You’re getting at least a partially free education, as well as access to the best facilities and academic help your chosen university can offer. Also, if you care about your school, you’re helping bring in millions of dollars into the school that lets it support other athletes in sports that don’t draw in the same sort of revenue as football and basketball. That ought to be worth something to you. And, you know, if that’s not enough, I don’t believe there’s anything that prevents players from getting jobs in the offseason, as long as they don’t get that job directly from being an athlete (ie being pitchmen for products). But I do think a lot of the rules that get in the way of these schools in “power conferences” are silly. A good example would be the Ohio St. guys that got in trouble for selling their awards for beating Michigan. Yes, I can certainly see where that could be abused, but I have a hard time believing that would really be that big an issue. It certainly wouldn’t be an issue at schools with less boosters. Moving some of those schools down to Division II or making a bigger split in Division I would seem to take care of silly rules like that.
It might be a little bit cynical of me, but it’s one of those things were if everybody is cheating, then nobody is cheating. Let the huge schools play by their own rules afforded to them by their size. Then you don’t have to worry about how, say, Tulsa* can’t seem to keep up. It’s not a bad thing to play in a division other than the top one. To the players and students of those smaller schools, believe me, it means every bit as much.
*I picked them by virtue of being the smallest FBS school I can find. I’m sure you can find other examples.
I’m sure everybody had odd things they did as a kid. Or, at least, I’m really hopeful I’m not in the minority here. I had a few good ones. One of the best things I did that I’m still proud of (even if it might be a bit odd) is running a little newspaper all on my own, starting in about the third grade and lasting over a couple years. I charged a dime for it, and I delivered it on Saturday mornings. It started with some close family and spread into a good part of the older population south of Covington. There’s a certain segment of the population that is probably still familiar with The Weekly Lane, though I’m fairly certain a good number of the subscribers are now dead.
I do remember this story pretty well. It’s another one I’m not sure I’ve ever told my parents, though I’m sure they remember my (solo) newspapering days well.* It all started with a snub. There was some kind of workshop or something for young writers in Indianapolis, I think. Something along those lines. Some people got the invite. I did not. I thought I was a pretty darned good writer.** I didn’t understand why I wasn’t going. I’ll show them, I thought in my young rage. But instead of just the usual temper tantrum, I was going to write my own paper. Armed with nothing more but some markers and some Crayola stamps, I made up a couple flyers and dropped them off as secretly as I could at my grandma’s house and my uncle John’s house.
*Well, they probably have an inkling of my college paper days, too, but it’s probably not as clear. Hell, I’m not sure if it’s all that clear to me. I sank an awful lot of time into the Bachelor.
**Some things don’t change, I guess.
Before I go any further, I suppose I should probably explain where I grew up a little bit. To this day, my grandma’s house is still Bushue headquarters. Surrounding this could probably be explained as a Bushue compound. That might be a little extreme, but I don’t think it’s entirely wrong. Going down our lane, you come to a bit of a split. Either go straight, or turn right. If you turned right, you went to Grandma’s. Later on, this would also be the way to my uncle Bill’s house, but that didn’t last too long. That’s another story entirely, and his time living back in Covington was long after the demise of The Weekly Lane. Anyway, back on topic. If you went straight, you hit my uncle John’s place. There was a gully with a homemade wooden bridge to link the two places. If you kept going past John’s, you got to our place. I believe by that time, my uncle Mark had moved into a house that you could get to by going through some woods and hopping the gate between his property and my grandma’s. Or ours, but I usually went through grandma’s.
So, that was my big advertising push. I dropped off those flyers, and then in the next day or two, I delivered my hand-written, hand-stapled papers. I don’t remember everything I put in there, but I remember the general layout. The first page was always “Sunrise,” which was my editorial. I didn’t know what an editorial was at the time, but in hindsight, that’s what I was writing. Next was the news. For the first couple papers, this was ripped almost directly from what I’d read in another newspaper or heard on TV. Next was sports, which again were a few stories I’d overheard on TV. After that were comics. I had three or four strips I drew and wrote. I honestly don’t remember any of them, and I’m sure I’d be pretty embarrassed by them now. I think I might have had a few games on that page, too. At one point, I tried to work out a sort of “Wheel of Fortune” game, but I think that only lasted a couple issues. A bit later on, there were trivia questions, which would net you a free copy if you were the first to get it right. I think those questions were generally provided by my dad. Then there was weather, which was usually taken from TV or the Star. For the first issue, that was it.
It took on a life of it’s own from there. My more extended family start wanting it, as well as a lot of their friends, and many of my grandma’s friends. The news quickly became less nationally oriented and more of me calling almost all my relatives and asking them if they had anything to put in the paper. The sports section is probably not a bad archive for my cousin John’s basketball career at Covington, or that team as a whole. Those were some of the better high school basketball teams I’ve been around, and I was there for four consecutive sectional championships and a run to the state final four. Unfortunately for those guys, class basketball hadn’t been introduced to Indiana yet, which usually meant they couldn’t get past the bigger schools of South Newton and Benton Central. Ads were introduced at the cost of two cents a word. I didn’t want to do them at first,* but I eventually relented with some persuading by my mom. Besides, my great grandpa Summers really wanted to place that ad for a dog that could hunt mushrooms. There was also the evolution of typing the thing out instead of writing it. I’m sure everybody who wanted to read it now can be thankful for that.
*See, Howard? Not wanting ads in the Bachelor has been a larger part of a lifelong philosophy, not just something I came up with sitting in your office with either Nelson or Patrick.
It was a nice little enterprise for a while. Plus, it was back during the age of dollar gas, so getting driven around to deliver the thing didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I’m sure my parents didn’t mind it, either. Sure, the whole writing development and personal growth and all that stuff was nice. But I’m sure they didn’t mind that I would have my own money to spend at concession stands at games, either. Eventually, I got older and didn’t want to put the time into doing it any more. I would go through periods where I missed doing it through middle school, but never seriously enough to actually follow through. Besides, it probably wouldn’t have done so well then. The young journalist gig had been played out by that point.
My parents have said that all the issues still survive somewhere. I don’t know if they have them or if my grandma has them filed away somewhere. I’m a bit mixed at looking back at them now. There’s a little bit of me that I think would just die of embarrassment to look back at it now. But, mostly, I’m curious. I really wonder if some of the writing would surprise me in how good it was, considering my age. I wonder if some of the comics might have actually been funny. One of these days, if the papers are still floating around somewhere, I’ll have to take a look.
What’s really funny is I hadn’t even really planned to write about this today. That was just supposed to be my lede. Sometimes these things just take a life of their own, you know?
Apparently I'm the only one who thinks this way, but I thought that was a pretty good All-Star Game. Sure, the NL hitters were pretty well dominated, but it was an enjoyable enough game. My problems had more to do with MLB itself. Do you really need a sponsor for everything? The idea to bring out all these wounded vets was great, but did you need People's logo splashed everywhere when you did it? Is there any reason you couldn't have done that just out of the decency of your hearts? And can we please, please stop playing "God Bless America" during the 7th inning of every big game? I understand that singing the anthem before games started as a WWII-era patriotic gesture. This last Iraq war? Not WWII. We don't need any more patriotism in baseball, thank you. You can bury these hats while you're at it, too. It's just too damn much. And if you feel you just can't live without it (and you can), did you really have to settle on "God Bless America?" It's a terrible, boring, drug out song. And then, what's this? In a similar vein, here's Neil Diamond to butcher his own song in some sort of tribute to Boston! While you play in New York! Golly gee, how did that work out, MLB? What, you had to fake it to get the reaction you wanted? I never would have guessed! There was just so much ball-dropping on the logistics end here. Simple is not bad, guys. For real. The only nice thing was Mariano Rivera's moment right after that Neil Diamond abomination, which MLB really had nothing to do with. Nor did FOX, though Joe Buck & Tim McCarver had the good sense to stay out of the way. Still, despite MLB's best efforts, the game itself was nice. Here was my attempt to keep track of it.
You're not going to win too many games by getting 7 total bases. Plus, you can definitely see the black ink in my printer was starting to fail. Got to remember to pick some more up.
The second half of the season starts tonight, and the Pirates and Reds are the free game. I would try to watch the Pittsburgh feed, but I'm sure I'll be blacked out. Looks like I'm watching the Reds feed on regular TV tonight.
I had a piece written up for the Home Run Derby last night, but I plain forgot to post it. No big loss, though. It wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch. What is more regrettable is that I managed to miss but all the last round last night because I just plumb forgot it was on. I really can’t believe I did that, because I had been pretty excited to watch it all day. I honestly can’t remember the last time I missed it.
That is not going to happen tonight. My schedule is set. I’m posting this eating a little dinner,* doing my workout, and then settling in for the game.
*For those who don’t know (which is probably about everybody), I’m getting serious about dropping weight again. I was down almost six pounds before having a bad day yesterday. I’m shooting for losing about 25 or 30 pounds. So, yeah, dinner will be literally small.
Now, as for a preview, I do expect it to be close. These things typically are, and they should be. There shouldn’t be that much difference between the cream of the crop from both leagues. Now, granted, there are exceptions. This is still baseball,* anything can happen on any given day. Look at the NL’s 8-0 win last year. More often than not, it’s close, and many times in recent years going into extras. Lots of extras, in some cases, like 2008’s 15 inning affair. I don’t necessarily expect that, but I do expect it to be a one or two run game.
*Or sport in general.
I also expect the National League to win this. I know, the crappy DH is being used in all All-Star Games now. I get that, and I actually respect the thinking behind this one. I don’t like the DH on principle, but I actually don’t mind it in this one specific instance. Still, history since the 60’s suggests that leagues tend to go on pretty long runs of winning this thing at a time. If you remember a few years ago, you heard so much about the demise of the National League because of their interleague record and decade-plus losing streak in this game. Now the National League has won the last three games (as well as the last three World Series [Giants, Cardinals, Giants] for what it’s worth). Not sure about the interleague record, but I’m sure that’s mostly because I would really rather we just pretend it doesn’t happen.
I might break it down player by player, but that seems like a pointless task in a game like this where nobody is going to play the whole game and the starting pitchers are going to go, what, three innings max? Probably more like two? Which is a bit of a shame. Max Scherzer has been on an absolute tear this season, which of course comes after many seasons of me having him on my fantasy team but not playing this year. Matt Harvey has apparently been putting together quite a rookie season, but I couldn’t prove it. I haven’t watched him pitch yet. Or the Mets in general for that matter. But I’ve heard quite a bit about him* and I’m pretty pumped to get a look at him first hand.
*I’ve also heard a lot about this video Harvey did for Jimmy Fallon last night. I’m told it’s a riot, but I haven’t been able to watch it yet, either.
And, really, that’s supposed to be the fun of these All-Star games. You get to see the best in the game, and ideally, the best that you don’t normally get to see. I wouldn’t be able to watch the Mets all but a handful of times all year. In fact, outside of their home territory, I would probably get to see them more often than most, thanks to this area being shared by two National League teams.* That still comes out to, what, maybe ten games a year? Throw in a couple more if they happen to be on Sunday Night Baseball or something like that? That’s not a lot to go off of in a season as long as baseball. And, you know, there’s a very good chance you won’t get to see a top pitcher like Harvey if the pitching rotation fell just right. This is the one night a year you can pretty well guarantee you’re going to get to see the players that are most interesting,** and that’s still pretty cool, even in this age of MLB.TV and near-universal ESPN.
*And the White Sox, but that’s not so helpful in this case.
**Except for Yasiel Puig, because, well, I never really understood why. The All-Star game is about rewarding great first halves, and he has absolutely torn it up this half. I don’t understand why being a late rookie call up means he’s not worthy. I’m sure he would have been with the big team from day one if he had the choice. Also, I don’t really understand why Cespedes wasn’t worthy of a spot with the way the A’s are going (again), but I think he made his point pretty clear last night.
In any case, I’ll be watching tonight, scorecard in hand. I’m sure you can look for that scan tomorrow. I suppose this is as good a place as any to ask. Does anybody else find my scorecards interesting at all, or is it a vanity project of the highest order? Not saying I’m going to stop posting them, because I still find them interesting, but I’m just curious. Just how dead is the art and appreciation of keeping score?
I might have written this article before, but it was one that just occurred to me today, so I thought I’d write a bit about it. Here is a complete list, in no particular order, of my fandoms and how they came to be.
Wabash Little Giants: Went to school there. Wore Wabash jersey for ultimate disc and captained the team for two years. Would definitely go to any national championship celebrations.
Purdue Boilermakers: The family school. My mom and most of her family went there. My wife and almost her entire family on both sides went there. Grew up watching them since birth. Would definitely go to any national championship celebrations.
Chicago Cubs: It was all because of TV and Ryne Sandberg. My dad has made the observation that baseball has been spun through the Parrish family for quite a few generations. Most of that family is from Missouri and still lives in Missouri. As you might expect, especially from where in Missouri they are, they are die hard Cardinal fans. This is certainly true of my dad and younger brother as well. How did it not pass down to me? Well, we got WGN, which meant the Cubs were always on. They had Harry Carey doing Harry Carey things, especially singing the stretch every day. They had Wrigley Field. They had Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace. I was powerless to resist. They overpowered by pre-K mind. While it might have happened pretty much by accident,* it certainly stuck. I’ve been a die-hard Cubs fan ever since. I would go to that World Series parade, no doubt.
*And to the chagrin of my dad, apparently, judging by some of the pictures they had done of us as kids. They also aren’t online, it seems.
Indiana Pacers: I really don’t care about the NBA very much. I went through a period where I didn’t care about the Pacers that much. I do care that much now, though. I didn’t watch a second of the finals after the Pacers had been eliminated, though I’m sure Miami and San Antonio put on quite a show. Some of my earliest memories were of watching the Pacers play and usually coming up short in the most heart-wrenching, dramatic ways possible. Poor Reggie Miller. Then came the brawl, and the entire state wanted to forget about the team for a few years. It was probably in everybody’s best interest. The fans are starting flock back now, though, after trickling back to start. I’m sure a whole lot of people have their story of how they rediscovered the Pacers. Here’s mine. I was a senior at Wabash and trying to figure out what I was going to do when I graduated. There was a job fair at the Fieldhouse that cost $30, and you got a ticket as part of the price to watch them play LeBron James’ Cavaliers that night. I thought, hey, I would love to work in sports, and at the very least, I’ll get to see a game. After watching the Pacers lose a surprisingly close one,* I remembered how much I used to love watching this team and how nice an area Indianapolis had built for them. They still weren’t all that good, Danny Granger is the only player left from that team, I’m fairly sure. But they won me back that night in 2008. I like to think I was a fairly early returner. The crowd sizes at the Fieldhouse would certainly suggest that. Since then, though, I’ve made it a point to make it to at least one game every year. I did miss one year, and I wasn’t really happy about it. For as little as I care about the league as a whole, my heart is behind this team. I would be at that victory parade in a heartbeat.
*LeBron didn’t do much that game. Oh well. So it goes. It’s like how I missed Albert Pujols hit a home run almost right in front of where we were sitting because the line to get my mom nachos took too long. Yadi Molina picking a guy off first in the top half of that inning helped. I was literally giving my order to the girl working the concession stand when I heard the crack of the bat. It sounded awfully solid, and the crowd’s response confirmed the inevitable. That was about the most deflated nacho order ever put in. On the plus side, Pujols hit another one later that game into the bullpen that I did get to see, so no harm done, I suppose.
Indianapolis Colts: I do care, but they’re probably the bottom of my totem pole of teams.* I was a Dolphin fan for years because I really like Dan Marino. After he left, though, there was no reason to keep rooting for Miami. So, I came back to my hometown team. Luckily enough, there was Peyton Manning making the team watchable for probably the first time (other than the out-of-nowhere 1995-96 team with Jim Harbaugh) since they came to Indy. I found when they lost to the Saints that I cared more than I realized, but I’m still pretty blase about it. I didn’t go to that victory parade, nor did I bother to go see the Lombardi Trophy when it came through either Lafayette or Danville. I’m sure it’s my ongoing vendetta of sorts against the NFL that keeps me from caring that much.
*I said it was in no particular order.
Chicago Blackhawks: I didn’t go to either victory parade, but this team does have it’s hooks in me. This is probably the most interesting story, and one I’m sure I’ve told before. But here it goes again. Hockey is a hard sport to follow in Indiana. I came to it through video games and the local (though now former) USHL team, the Danville Wings. When it came to the NHL, it was pretty well impossible to find growing up outside of a weekly FOX game, and that’s no way to follow a particular team. I gravitated towards the Avalanche because I liked Patrick Roy on Genesis. I can’t speak for him necessarily, but I’m guessing that’s pretty similar to how Andrew came to be a Penguins fan. Like Marino, Roy retired and Colorado is a hard follow in this part of the country, and I again found myself without a team to root for. I also finally had my own DirecTV, so I had more control over what I was watching. Living in Lafayette (though this is also true in Crawfordsville and Covington), you can get both St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks games. Being a bit of a free agent fan, I checked out both games pretty hard back in my Ironwood apartment. This would have been 2009. I was leaning towards the Blues for a long time, I think a bit out of guilt that I didn’t become a Cardinal fan. I felt like I ought to have something in Missouri to root for. As it happened, Chicago and St. Louis made the playoffs that year. Chicago played before St. Louis did, I think on a weekend. I was home not doing anything, so I pretty well had the game on in the background just waiting for Chicago and Calgary to start playing. The build up to the game (at the United Center) was amazing, and the passionate cheers during the anthem gave me goosebumps. I’m not one to typically get goosebumps at songs and moments like that, but I sure as hell did then. The Blackhawks went out and won that game behind such a spirited crowd, and I was hooked. I’ll still watch the Blues and I like to see them do well, but I am a Blackhawks fan now. I’m sure to people who have watched the team their whole lives, I’m the dreaded bandwagon jumper who likes them because they’re trendy. I assure you I’m not. Well, I might be a bandwagon jumper, but I’ll be sticking around. Thank God the games are on TV now. I might’ve been one of those lifers if they had been to start. In any case, I think knowing I came to the team pretty recently has me feeling a little self-conscious about it, at least around other Chicago fans. That’s why, at least at this point, I don’t think I could go to a victory parade. I guess I don’t feel like I’ve earned it yet.
There it is. A complete guide to my sports loyalties. Maybe that will give some insight as to how I feel about teams and how deeply I care when I write about them.
Apparently I'm not the only one who felt this way about last year's Hoosier team. It's not just the Purdue blood in me. No less than the Wall Street Journal had a write up last week about how last year's Hoosiers were the more underachieving team in NCAA history.
I wish I could say I knew about that article before I wrote my own piece, what, Monday? I didn't, though. I only became aware of it today when I heard about it on the radio. Michael Grady also made a good point. I was ready to concede that this year was universally considered a weak draft class, but Grady pointed out that, well, who were these "weak class" guys playing against? Oh, just the rest of that group of college players. So, no, that point goes out the window. Regardless of the year, if you have two of the top five players, you absolutely have to make it further than the Sweet Sixteen. And that's not even talking about how close Temple was to pulling the upset in the round of 32.
I did have something else to write about, but I'll be damned if I can remember what it was. Oh well. I guess this is all you're getting today!
First off, read this about Andy Murray and Scotland. Wonderful (and short) piece that is worth your time. Now, on to my thoughts of the day.
You know what argument gets tiresome? This whole back and forth on how the All-Star Game decides home field advantage. Is it dumb? Yes, absolutely. The only people that don’t seem to think so happen to be the commissioner and FOX. Unfortunately, those are the people with the votes. But it still gets brought up year after year. Mike Golic this morning seemed be okay with it, though, mostly because it was better than just alternating. He still would rather see it based on record, though.
And you know what? I can’t argue with him at this point. I think I’ve made my opinion known on how bad an idea I think moving towards the conference model as baseball has been doing* for the past several seasons. Sure, at one point, it absolutely made more sense to simply alternate the games. The teams never faced each other in any capacity outside exhibition All-Star games, which truly counted for nothing more than pride. So it was impossible to determine who should get home field advantage. You couldn’t compare records because it came against totally different competition. And it truly was different competition, as it was pretty rare to see players cross leagues in those days.
*And probably ultimately done, at this point.
These days? Well, we have daily interleague play at this point. I fear the day is coming very soon because of that where we’re forced with the DH in both leagues. That may be the day I stop watching baseball, but that’s not the point here. Playoffs have expanded to include a second wild card, which also runs counter to everything baseball has meant and stood for over the last hundred-plus years. One game playoffs are not the baseball model. At this point, the only sensible thing baseball could do would be to start basing home field advantage in the World Series on the regular season record. Which, given the recent track record I’ve just laid out, is precisely why that will likely never happen.
I understand why the decision was made to make the All-Star Game “matter.” The tie in Milwaukee, in Bud Selig’s back yard, no less, was an embarrassment for all involved and was awful timing with all the steroid stuff coming out. Ratings were waning. The NFL’s dominance was truly starting to become understood. Baseball panicked. FOX panicked. This was the plan to save ratings and try to give baseball the gravitas it had always enjoyed prior to this point. It was a bad decision, and, unfortunately, it set the tone for almost all of baseball’s decisions afterwards.
I don’t understand why baseball has decided that it has to beat the NFL at every turn. I don’t understand how it can look at itself and the decisions that have been made and feel good about what has transpired. Baseball is still no closer to the NFL in ratings or interest. And that’s okay. I don’t like it any better than Bud Selig does, I’m sure, but I also understand these things go in cycles. Besides, the NFL has problems of it’s own right now, and their problems are much more deadly in scope. With patience, baseball’s time will come again. Embrace your history, don’t spurn and outright destroy it. The history is your charm. The quirks of the game is your charm. You don’t have to emulate the scheduling of basketball and hockey. It’s okay. I feel like I’ve written this column again and again, but baseball just keeps making decisions that push me back here. Don’t be like some insecure middle schooler, or Mitch Hedberg’s turkey. Just be yourself. Everybody will be much happier with you that way.
The individual teams are doing good things, building these wonderful new stadiums to replace the cookie-cutter stadiums of yesterday. They’re building up the neighborhoods and ballpark offerings to match as well. It also seems like ticket sales are not a problem for baseball as they have been for football in recent years. Why? Because you really do lose a lot going from TV to stadium with the NFL. That’s another big problem for football, and one that might bite even harder than the concussion stuff. Baseball? There is nothing to replicate the experience at the stadium. The sun-drenched afternoons (or impossibly nice nights) of summer can’t be beat. The pace of the game better accommodates taking in the stadium and what it has to offer. Plays are not usually down to the inch, making it better appreciated from any seat in the house. You have a lot going for you baseball, if you’d only just embrace it. Quit all these desperate gimmicks and appreciate what you have.
And for the love of god, can’t we go back to wearing and showing real stirrups again? How can you not appreciate looks like these?
Okay, we’re back for a little bit. First we were off in Florida, and then last week was a bit of a mess, both from catching up from vacation and a crazy schedule here thanks to the plant shutdown. You might think that would have made for an easier week here. And, in some ways, I suppose it did. But having everything out (sometimes expected, sometimes not) meant I spent a lot of time just staring at the wall, which was no good for anybody. And that wasted time meant almost every moment when things were up were frantically busy. Not exactly what I signed up for, you know?
Now, while I was gone, the NBA had their draft. The Pacers added Solomon Hill. I don’t have any memory of him at Arizona, but the team seems awfully high on him, and it seems he’ll be a very good backup for the time being. Which is exactly what this team needs. No, that wasn’t what I found interesting about this draft. In fact, I found exactly nothing interesting about this draft. But, I did have a minor annoyance, and that was good enough.
If you remember, Indiana* had two players go in the top five draft picks in Victor Olidipo (2nd, Magic) and Cody Zeller (4th, Bobcats**). A lot of Indiana fans here went a bit nuts. Which, actually, I don’t have a philosophical problem with. It’s just annoying because it’s IU. My bigger problem was with how it was celebrated. It came off as such a huge accomplishment for the program,*** and that just simply isn’t true. It’s great for those two guys. But what did they really do for Indiana?
*The bad Hoosier kind, not the good Pacer kind.
**Rumor is Charlotte is going to return to the Hornets nickname soon, since New Orleans has become the Pelicans. This could create some pretty interesting record keeping. It’s confusing me just to try and write about it, so I’ll keep it brief for now. You’ll now have to be very specific about certain Hornets records. Sure, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson surely have some Charlotte Hornets records, but those records actually belong to the New Orleans Pelicans, not the Charlotte Hornets. Today’s Hornets will be competing with the likes of, um. Byron Mullins? Emaka Okafor? I don’t know who qualifies as a Bobcats legend.
***I very specifically did not say school there. One of my biggest gripes (probably the biggest gripe) about IU fans are their sheer bandwagon nature. It seems the vast majority of Indiana fans have no connection to the school whatsoever and probably could not tell you anything about the school outside of the men’s basketball team. And yet, they argue with the passion of somebody who has had three generations of family go there. Oh, and they root for Notre Dame in the fall. You don’t typically get this sort of fan with Purdue. Usually, if you have a diehard Purdue fan on your hands, they can tell you about their time there or start rattling off family members who have gone there.
A lot of this was because this was an extraordinarily weak draft. That was all we heard about coming into this draft, about how there was really nobody to get too excited about. Still, if you have two top five NBA draft picks on your college team, shouldn’t you at least make it past the Sweet Sixteen? I mean, you probably ought to win the whole thing or at least get to the Final Four,* but you were a one seed and could only beat the two pasties you got as basically a freebie. I mean, I’m so disappointed that the Hummel-era Boilers couldn’t get past the Sweet Sixteen, and we at least have some mitigating factors to blame (mostly Hummel’s body rejecting him). And none of those players were highly drafted. How can you be so excited to do so little with apparently so much?
*Even though I told everybody who would listen this Hoosier team had no chance of doing that. I wasn’t alone in that, but it felt that way in this part of the country at times.
Heck, that’s just looking at the tournament. With that kind of high-placed talent, you should be running away with your conference title, no matter how tough the league is. Indiana did eventually win it, but it took a Michigan bunny rolling the wrong way off the rim to do it. And the conference tournament saw Indiana losing fairly handily to a Wisconsin team that I’m pretty sure didn’t have anybody drafted at all, or really was on anybody’s radar.
What did all that talent really get you, Indiana fans? What are you all that excited about? Be excited for those players, sure. But recognize that your talent underachieved. Or, you know, act a bit more like a Purdue fan. We have plenty of doom and gloom over here!