Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Talking About the Winter Classic and the Last Post of 2008!

Traveling around Christmas and New Year's Day are problematic. I spent four full days trying to get to Portland, OR from Manchester, NH from December 20-23 and now, on New Year's Eve, I'm sitting in a Las Vegas airport hoping to get home in time for...midnight to celebrate the New Year with friends and family? Nope; that one's not possible. I want to be home for the Winter Classic.

It's the best team known to man, the Detroit Red Wings, versus their resurgent little rivals in the Central: the Chicago Blackhawks. Hmm....on any other day this might just end in a 4-0 blowout and the 'Hawks would be sent home with the spanking they deserve (say...like maybe yesterday?). But this game is at Wrigley Field. This game is outdoors. This game is on national television. This game has been hyped up and talked about by Blackhawks fans and Chicagoans for months. "Chicago hockey is back!" and "Kane and Toews are leading the best team in the NHL!" are only some of the false utterances I have heard regarding the subject. Has everyone forgotten that the defending champion Detroit Red Wings are also playing in this game? That they have better skill players, better defensemen, and a better coach than Chicago? That the Wings have four Stanley Cups in the past 11 years while Chicago hasn't managed even one in almost 50 years?

Fine, I get it. The Blackhawks' return to above-mediocrity is a feel-good story. They haven't made the playoffs in six years but they will this season. Awesome. Good for Chicago and the Original Six. But don't leave out the Champs. That's all I'm sayin'.

As for my thoughts on how the actual game will play out...I do think it will be closer than the game last night, where Detroit steamrolled 'em. I'll say it right now: I won't be surprised if the Blackhawks win. I just won't. Now, don't get that confused with "I won't be pissed as hell if the Blackhawks win" because I most certainly will be. But I won't be surprised. Nope. Much to my chagrin, the 'Hawks are a good team and it's always hard to beat a team two consecutive times. Let alone when the second game is in front of a full Wrigley Field of Red-Wings-haters (thanks Gary Bettman for selling 90% of the tickets to Chicago fans, ass). But I'll go ahead and predict something like a 4-3 win for the Wings anyway, since I'm a homer. It'll come down to the third period though, I'm almost sure of that.

I'm going to leave now, since sitting against a pole on the floor of Gate C12 is getting rather uncomfortable and I'm just so excited to sit on a bench ten feet away for another hour before my plane finally leaves. It's scheduled to land in Manchester at 4am and that would put me home by 6am, which is fine with me (despite that meaning that I've undergone another full 24 hours of travel since I got up at 6am this morning) as long as I'm in front of my HD TV in the basement for the Winter Classic at 1pm tomorrow. If I don't make it home in time, check the news. You might see my picture being plastered around as the main suspect for an insane felonious crime spree that will surely happen if I miss this game.

Until 2009....Happy New Year Everybody! And GO WINGS!

First, and Last, Bueller Results

As I sit here spending my sixth hour in the Las Vegas International Airport, I decided to cut off the deadline for the Bueller Awards that I introduced a few weeks ago and retire the charade as a gimmick that didn't go as planned. I came up with some good categories and some bad ones and I doubt I'll do it again next year. I was satisfied with the number of votes, some as high as seven for one category, but just feel like it was a pointless endeavor. It was mostly just moving away from the overall goal of my blog, which is to write about what I enjoy and write it the way I want. So, without furter ado, here are your victors:

The Best Team of 2008 Bueller Award goes to...the Detroit Red Wings by a wide margin!The Best Performance of 2008 Bueller Award goes to....Michael Phelps by a close 3-2 vote over Henrik Zetterberg!The Best Album of 2008 Bueller Award goes to....the Counting Crows!The Best Blogger of 2008 Bueller Award goes to....Abel to Yzerman!The Best Movie of 2008 Bueller Award goes to....the Dark Knight!The Best Columnist of 2008 Bueller Award goes to....Rick Reilly and John Buccigross in a tie!
The Biggest Bonehead of 2008 Bueller Award goes to....Sean Avery in a landslide!So there ya have it. The Bueller Awards. Fun fun. I'm done with this post because I want to start talking about the Winter Classic.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stuck in Chicago...

A canceled flight is not as bad as you might think when it's -30 degrees outside! We took this here fun photo inside the Chicago Museum of Art in an effort to replicate the famous photo from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

I'll be back later once we finally get to Portland, Oregon like we originally planned!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Worth a 1,000 Words...

I wanted to update the blog but I was drawing a blank in every way possible in trying to find a topic. So, I decided to make a fun video slideshow of my fall semester at UNH. It includes pictures from the Weezer and Vampire Weekend concerts, various good times with friends, Halloween, and Barack Obama's incredible run to the presidency. Enjoy!

video

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Much to Discuss...

Vote in the Bueller Awards...if you've taken the time to visit the site I'm sure you have time to assess your options and click your favorite nominee in each category (in the polls on the left).
Now that you've done that (or simply ignored me and kept reading as I probably would have done were I in your position) there are plenty of things I'd like to write about.

First up, the BCS breakdown now that the college football season is over and all the bowl games have been laid out.

I'm happy to see that there are plenty of great match-ups in store for the holiday season but the realization that Michigan's not playing is depressing me by the minute. I know for a fact that I will not be able to take this kind of pain two years in a row so...get it in gear RichRod.

Anyway, I like the Texas-Ohio State match-up in the Fiesta Bowl for two reasons. One, because Ohio State will get their asses kicked (I think/hope) and two, because a strong Texas victory might put them at #1 in some of the polls and give them reason to be co-national champions with whoever wins the BCS National Title Game (especially if the winner is Oklahoma). The Alabama-Utah game is also very enticing and although I think the Rose Bowl will be lopsided in USC's favor, I'd like to see JoePa and Penn State give the Trojans a close game. Some other interesting bowl games include Michigan State vs. Georgia in the Capital One Bowl, Missouri vs. Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl, Oklahoma State vs. Oregon in the Holiday Bowl, and Iowa vs. South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. On New Year's Day I will most certainly be watching the Red Wings play the Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in the Winter Classic but I'm sure I'll be flipping through the bowls during commercials and intermissions. I feel bad for Boise State though, since they had an impressive 12-0 record given their schedule and were left out of the BCS while undeserving teams like Cincinnati and Virginia Tech get to duke it out in the Orange Bowl. Especially after the program's victory over Oklahoma a couple years ago, the blue-turfed Broncoes deserved better than a San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl berth against TCU. (And yes, that's the full name of the bowl...how ridiculous is that?)

Turning towards hockey now, I figured it was time to check in on those Red Wings.
  • Could Chris Osgood be playing any worse right now? I mean yeah...the Wings are still racking up wins but Ozzie is posting a blimp-sized 3.17 GAA and an abysmal .876 SV%. Are you freaking kidding me? His hefty goals against average ranks 38th out of 43 goalies in the entire league and his save percentage is tied for absolute worst in the league at 43rd. Jeeeeez Ozzie, you better find whatever it is you're missing come playoff time because otherwise, the Wings will be out in the first round.
  • How good is Marian Hossa? Whipped cream out of the can good. Soft, fuzzy, warm, new socks good. Pairing him with Pavel Datsyuk is simply unfair.
  • Is Nicklas Lidstrom giving all other defensemen a chance to catch up in the Norris trophy race? He's played quite mediocre so far this year (for him...so still best in the league but by a slimmer margin) and I'm wondering if guys like Phanuef or Chara can step up and snatch away his birthright at the Awards show next June. I wouldn't bet against Captain Nick though, he'll step things up a notch as the season goes along.
  • The Wings are 18-4-4 and as far as I'm concerned, they don't even look like they've played that well all year. That's crazy. Watch out, rest of the league.
And my final sports topic of the night...the atrocious, the barbaric, the winless Detroit Lions ladies and gentlemen!

Seriously? A professional football team playing with a squad full of players that get paid to do nothing but play a sport every day of every year is going to win a total of ZERO games this season? I predicted it early in the year after they started the season with some dreadful games (including a 48-25 loss to the Packers when they were winning 25-24 with five and half minutes left in the fourth quarter) but I never thought it would actually happen. With three games left (at Indy, vs. New Orleans, and at Green Bay), I hiiiighly doubt the Lions will even come close to stopping history. They're going to be the first-ever 0-16 team; the worst team in professional-sports history. Wow...that's staggering. I mean...I can't reeeally call myself a fan because my mood has never been lifted or brought down by the result of a Lions game but since I root for the rest of Detroit's teams, I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon. Baaaaaad decision.

I'm done. This was basically just a few quickwrites thrown together since I haven't written anything just for myself in a little while. I did attend an awesome concert Sunday night in Boston at the Orpheum Theater though. I saw Vampire Weekend and they were so much fun. Their songs just make me smile and enjoy life because of their upbeat melodies but seeing them in concert increased that feeling tenfold. I took a bunch of videos and they're all on YouTube, and linked throughout this paragraph, including one embedded below.



I'm going to bed now. Hope you enjoyed the reading...I'll be back, back, back, gone sometime soon.

Vote for the First Annual Bueller Awards!

...Bueller?

....Bueller?

Yes, I'm referencing one of my all-time favorite movies once again (for which this blog is named) to call out to the reader(s) of this blog to help vote for the winners of the first annual Bueller Awards.

First off, what are they? Well, these awards are to recognize the best teams, players, people, and events of the year in completely arbitrary categories decided by me. In this post, I will announce the categories, the nominees for each category, and give a short description of each nominee. And sometime in early January, I will take into account the votes from the polls (located on the left side of the blog) and award a shiny new Bueller to each victor. And if you don't like any of the nominees, just pick your favorite one of the choices I give you. Hey, it's what happens when I'm bored at college How exciting! So without further ado, here are your categories and nominees for the 2008 Bueller Awards!

Best Team of 2008, Nominees:
Detroit Red Wings (won Cup in June, great start to 08-09 season)
Boston Celtics (won NBA championship with dominating playoff run)
Philadelphia Phillies (won World Series on a diet of pureed cheese steaks)

Best Performance of 2008, Nominees:
Tiger Woods wins U.S. Open on bum knee
Henrik Zetterberg stops Sid the Kid from tying the game in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals
Michael Phelps wins 8 Gold Medals in Beijing

Best Album of 2008, Nominees:
The Killers - Day & Age
Coldplay - Viva la Vida
Counting Crows - Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
Kings of Leon - Only By the Night
Weezer - Weezer (Red Album)

Best Blogger I Constantly Read of 2008, Nominees:
Abel to Yzerman
Maize n Brew
Michigan Against the World
The Triple Deke

Best Movie of 2008, Nominees:
The Dark Knight
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Quantum of Solace
Tropic Thunder

Best Columnist of 2008, Nominees:
Mitch Albom
Rick Reilly
John Buccigross

Biggest Bonehead Athlete of 2008, Nominees:
Plaxico Burress (Accidentally shoots himself at nightclub with concealed weapon)
Sean Avery (Calls out ex-girlfriend, refers to her as "sloppy seconds")
Daunte Culpepper (Comes out of retirement to play for the soon-to-be 0-16 Lions)

That's all I can really come up with at the moment...and I've made the executive decision of being able to make up the categories each year so they might not be the same next December. I'm going to follow up this post (which I wrote mostly last week) with another very shortly afterward so I bid you adieu and I hope you all vote in the Bueller's!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Let's play a little Guess Who...

I said I'd be back for the weekend but man oh man...this was too good to pass up. So, see if you can guess who this person is:

He once dated the hottest woman on the planet. He once showed signs of promise and looked like he might be a great hockey player in the future with both skill and toughness. He once played for the might Detroit Red Wings dynastic Cup-winning team in 2002.

In the 2008 playoffs, he turned around and waved his arms in front of Martin Brodeur while his team was on a 5-on-3 power play, paying no attention to the game but only trying to draw Brodeur's attention (something so unsportsmanlike that the NHL made a new rule about it the very next day). And today, he made comments about his ex-girlfriend, still one of the hottest women on the planet, and her relationship with Calgary Flames star defenseman Dion Phaneuf. For the comments, he has received an indefinite suspension from the NHL, which has created plenty of controversy across the many blogs and news networks reporting the story. Still can't figure out who it is? Oh, well here you go then...



His name is Sean Avery, and he plays with dolls and can "certainly admire a nice purse."

There are many people who have said that it's ridiculous for Avery to be suspended indefinitely while a player is only suspended three games for a blatant hit to an opposing player's head. I would agree with them had Avery simply said this after having asked a question, but he didn't. He called over all of the reporters in the room, made sure they had a camera, and then embarrassed the National Hockey League. It is entertaining because Avery is such a complete tool but there is no denying that his comments are completely disrespectful to all players, fans, and administrators of the league. He brought this on entirely by himself and I don't blame the league for suspending him: it's probably for his own safety, since tonight they play the Calgary Flames (Phaneuf's team, if you remember) and I can guarantee you Dion would have given him a concussion something to wipe that smirk off his face.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Time to Address the BCS Mess

I've tried to avoid it. I tried to use Michigan's eye-gouging season as an excuse for not writing about it. I've even closed my eyes, scrunched up my face, and hoped for that perfect season. The perfect season where everything works out and there are no legitimate arguments for teams left on the outside looking in. When will I learn? It's only happened once: 2005-06, when Texas and USC met for the National Title and no one else had any reason to argue. But every other season since its inauguration in 1998, the BCS has carried controversy. This year is no different, and it's about time to address it.

First, let's assess the BCS rankings as far down as I care to list, leaving out #10 Ohio State of course:

#1 Alabama (12-0), #2 Oklahoma (11-1), #3 Texas (11-1), #4 Florida (11-1), #5 USC (10-1), #6 Utah (12-0), #7 Texas Tech (11-1), #8 Penn State (11-1), #9 Boise State (12-0).

Everything appears to be fine. Some big-time schools with great records at the top and a couple undefeated small schools (Utah and Boise) a bit further down. What these rankings don't tell you, is the chaos that can ensue with one week left in the regular season.

Spinach in the teeth: No big upsets. Alabama wins against Florida in the SEC Championship and Oklahoma wins against Missouri to clinch the Big 12. That would create a good title game (Alabama vs. Oklahoma) and still leave plenty of exciting bowl games. Only one problem: Texas. So...Oklahoma wins this weekend and goes to the title game while Texas is left out even though the Longhorns beat the Sooners by 10 points this year at a neutral site? Doesn't sound fair to me. And that's the best possible scenario for the BCS? Yikes...wait 'til you see what's cooking down below.

Red wine on a brand-new white shirt: Florida knocks off #1 Alabama and wins the SEC while Oklahoma still bests Missouri in the Big 12 Championship. Now, it will probably be Florida vs. Oklahoma in the title game (still a good match-up) and we're left with the same Texas problem. BUT, if Florida doesn't impress voters enough in their victory, it's possible Texas could keep their spot above Florida and play Oklahoma for the title in a Red River Rematch. If that scenario were to play out with the amount of good teams in the SEC this year, I think the South might secede again.

A shaving-cream pie to the face: Florida and Oklahoma both win but USC loses and creates a three-way tie atop the Pac 10. Now, we have the Texas problem, the possibility of the Oklahoma-Texas rematch title game problem, annnd the 20-something ranked team playing in a BCS game problem. If USC loses and either Oregon or Oregon State goes to the Rose Bowl to play Penn State (keep in mind Oregon State already lost to the Nittany Lions earlier this year 45-14), there will be a feel-good story in Corvallis or Eugene but uproar everywhere else. That would definitely leave Boise State out of the BCS games altogether and might even exclude Utah if the voters still want USC to take an at-large bid. Two undefeateds being left out of the biggest five bowls compounded with the two aforementioned problems? Storm's abrewin...

Eating wet dog food with your hands behind your back: Missouri wins the Big 12. If that happens, it doesn't matter who wins the SEC because they'll be in the title game against Texas, in all likelihood. Then, you'd have people pissed about Texas being in the title game without having won their conference championship, you'd have people pissed about Missouri being in the BCS at all (another 20-something ranked team playing in a BCS game), and you'd still have people pissed about Utah and Boise State not getting a chance to play the big boys. I can't even imagine the repurcussions of Oklahoma losing the Big 12 Championship this weekend: since the BCS rules say that only two teams from any given conference can be in the BCS bowls, if Missouri wins, then it's Missouri and either Texas, Oklahoma, or Texas Tech. How do you even begin to sort that out?

Biting a cactus while Tanya Harding creeps up behind you with a TaylorMade: Where in the world am I coming up with these images and disturbing references? No idea...they just keep coming to me. Anyway, this particular insane scenario happens if all hell breaks loose: Missouri upsets Oklahoma, UCLA upsets USC, even Virginia Tech beats BC in the ACC title game. The world erupts with animosity and although the title game would still be good to watch (Alabama/Florida vs. Texas), all the other BCS games would be lopsided matchups. Penn State would play either Oregon or Oregon State in the Rose Bowl, Missouri would probably play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, and Virginia Tech would play Cincinnati in the Orange-you-glad-you're-not-required-to-watch-this-game Bowl. Oy vey.

So...where does this leave us?
Nowhere, really. It's purely speculation and rambling thoughts from my innermost objective college football mind (now that Michigan's out of the picture of course). The system's been an issue for ten years now and if we're lucky, it will only be a problem for ten more. ESPN just signed a contract for the TV rights to the BCS bowls from 2011 to 2015. We're stuck. Then again...maybe good ol' Barack will enact some Presidential mandates to force a playoff. Wouldn't that be sweet?

Alright, well I just wanted to make some bad jokes, ramble about college football, and update my blog. Now that I've done that, it's about time I did some reading and went to bed. So farewell, I'll be back again once I find something to write about for the weekend.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

M-barrassing Season Comes to An End

It's never felt this bad to be a Michigan fan.

Rich Rodriguez's first season as head coach of the Wolverines is finished, with a 3-9 record. Worst in Michigan's 129 year history and two more losses than ever previously recorded for a Michigan football team.

There is hope for the future and I still think Rodriguez is the right guy for the job but right now, all I want to do is sit in a dark corner and sulk. Here's a compilation I made to sum up the season, enjoy.

*EDIT* - I don't know how I messed this up but the score for the Utah game says Utah 25, Michigan 17 when they actually lost 25-23. I'm an idiot, but don't let that mistake take away from the slideshow. That is all.

video

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Game

Ugly. Putrid. Tough. Stomach-wrenching. Maddening. Sick. Horrible. Beyond comprehension. Learning experience. Difficult. Down and up and down and up and down and down and down and down and down and up and down again. Michigan's football season can be described in any of these ways, and it has come to this: The Game, the University of Michigan (3-8) vs. Ohio State University (9-2) at 12 p.m. on Saturday.

I have watched many rivalry games in my day, but none of them ever compares to Michigan-Ohio State. It literally sickens my stomach, grinds my teeth, slacks my jack to say the words 'Ohio' and 'State' together. There is nothing like it in all of sports.

But this year, everyone is saying that The Game lacks luster; it lacks competition. "This will just be a blowout, Michigan doesn't stand a chance," they say. And you know who 'they' is. It's everyone. It's Ohio State fans, experts, and anyone who takes a simple look at the numbers. Might as well not even play The Game right? Wrong.

Gun to my head, I'd admit that yes, if I was a betting man I'd put money on the assholes in devil-red playing in Satan's Horseshoe. But there is no such weapon; I'm free to hope and cling to any irrational ideas of Michigan's chances at victory.

The Wolverines have shown signs of promise: their comeback against Wisconsin early in the season was incredible to watch and their domination of a superior Minnesota team on the road a couple games ago was also surprising. They definitely have talent and they know how to play football, it all depends on if they can string four solid quarters together, stay in the game, and take the victory at the end. I think they can do it, and I hope they will.

I didn't put as much time into this post as I would have liked, since this Game always exemplifies the best rivalry in college football every year, but you can safely bet that I will be on that couch watching Michigan today. I still feel somewhat sickened by the fact that the only game that Michigan has won in this rivalry in recent memory was one I was unable to watch, in 2003, when I was flying back from California for Thanksgiving. Maybe that's my karma; maybe that's why they keep losing. But there's nothing I can do other than hope that streak ends today.

So, root for Hope, root for Change, root for Michigan. Go. Blue.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Na nana na na....Barry's Singin' the Blues

Poor, poor Barry Melrose. The Magnificent Mullet was fired on Friday afternoon by the Tampa Bay Lightning after only 16 games as their head coach. The move was wrong, the move was unjustified, and Barry deserves better.

Most people know Barry from his work on ESPN as the only lead hockey analyst on Sportscenter. He is funny, charismatic, and one of the most enjoyable people to watch on the show. His hockey knowledge stretches far and wide and stems from his short stints as a player in the NHL, for the Maple Leafs and Red Wings. He is quite literally a guru of the sport and cares about every aspect of the game.

So, when he appeared on ESPN's popular show, Pardon the Interruption (PTI), in early June and said he would entertain any coaching offers, I was excited for him. A short while later, the Tampa Bay Lightning hired Barry and let him bring in a whole new coaching staff.

Tampa Bay was the worst team in the NHL last season, so everything appeared to be on its way up in the organization. They hired Melrose. They got the #1 pick in the draft and chose Steven Stamkos (a star in the making). They had a ridiculous offseason, picking up Olaf Kolzig, Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Andrej Meszaros, Radim Vrbata, Matt Pettinger, Vaclav Prospal, and Mark Recchi. The Lightning roster went through more changes than a house on Extreme Home Makeover.

But as the season began, the results didn't follow suit. Tampa Bay was 5-7-4 through those 16 Mullet-coached games and sat in 12th place in the Eastern Conference (out of 15 teams). Keep in mind though that 5-7-4 means the team has lost four games by an overtime goal or shootout loss, so they could just as easily be 9-7-0 if a few bounces go their way. But that's not my point.

I don't care if the team is 0-16 and has lost every game by ten goals. If you hire a coach in the offseason, he deserves at least one full year to let his system work, with the exception of any legal scandals. Barry wasn't doing a bad job with these guys. Like he said in an interview on the NHL Network yesterday, if the Bolts' two star forwards, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, have a normal start to the season, this team might be off to a great start instead of a mediocre one. (In 2006-07, Lecavalier had 108 points, St. Louis had 102. In 2007-08, Lecavalier had 92 points, St. Louis had 83. The two have only 23 points combined so far this season).

And Barry's not a bad coach. He didn't get fired for a lack of coaching ability. He's got good credentials. He even led the 1993 Los Angeles Gretzkys Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Montreal Canadiens, thanks to complete and total asshole goalie Patrick Roy.

So maybe he's past his time? The game has changed a lot since then.

Nope. Erroneous. Melrose preaches passion. He wants fiery guys and he wants to play defense. His team did just that; they just didn't score enough. Tampa Bay is dead-last in the NHL in goals per game, with only 2.06. I don't care if you have Terry Sawchuk in his prime as your goaltender, 2.06 goals per game just isn't going to get it done.

And sure, some of the blame for their offensive futility falls on Barry. But not all of it. And surely not enough of it to warrant his firing when they're only 16 games into an 82-game season.

Barry was fired because some of the Lightning players talked to upper management and told them that they didn't like what was happening, that they weren't being properly motivated.

Can Barry motivate today's NHL player? I don't know the answer to that question. What I do know, however, it that is it not right to have a group of players undermine their coach and it's even worse to see the general manager and team officials succumb to those complaints. The whole situation screams of injustice.

But maybe I'm only pissed because I like Melrose. If this happened to Mike Milbury or Marc Crawford, I might actually smile a little. Maybe I don't have all my facts straight or don't know everything behind the story. It's certainly a possibility, with all that gets lost in today's media.

But the fact is that Barry Melrose, one of the classiest guys hockey has seen in my lifetime, was fired. And when a coach is inexplicitly fired this early into his first season, that's saying something. That doesn't mean management thinks it made a mistake or that he was the wrong guy for the job, that means management didn't even want to give the guy a chance.

So, I'm sorry Barry. You're still a great guy with more integrity in your hair than all the Lightning GMs have in their whole bodies. I missed seeing you on TV anyway. I hope to see you back on ESPN soon.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gimme that jug!

Pencil another one in for Michigan there, sir.

Big win. Biiig win. The Wolverines' 29-6 victory today over Minnesota was huge because not only does it stop their five-game losing streak but it takes out the possibility of a double-digit number in the loss column. And they did it against 7-2 Minnesota, on the road, without their starting quarterback! Crazy. It was nice to see Michigan actually play all 60 minutes consistently. The defense was great and even though the offense had trouble in the red zone, they continued to sustain drives and get the ball moving. I know Minnesota isn't considered a tough rival for Michigan every year but whenever the second-oldest trophy in college football is on the line (the little brown jug you see above), the game carries some importance.

A 3-7 record isn't impressive by any means and still makes me cringe occasionally, but I can see success in the near future. RichRod has brought in some talented offensive players already (Odoms, McGuffie, Shaw) and I think that when they get some more experience and Rodriguez actually starts to get all of his recruits through the system, this Michigan squad will turn heads. Next week they play Northwestern at home in the Big House before heading to the Horseshoe in hopes of upsetting the Hairless Nuts in their final game. With the way the team played today, they certainly are capable of beating Northwestern and maybe giving OSU a game. It will be interesting, at any rate. But anyway, good win today. Makes me happy to see those players keep some of their dignity and raise that little brown jug over their heads. They've played hard this year; they deserve it.

Checkin' In on the Cup Defense...

In other news, the Red Wings are off to a good start to their season, holding an 8-2-2 record at the moment. They've had a few tough losses to some good teams but overall, they've played solidly. Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk are absolutely melting the ice beneath their feet as they have started to develop an incredible chemistry together. I feel sort of bad for Zetterberg, who's been sitting on the second line with less talented guys like Samuelsson and Cleary because of Franzen's injury, but the Mule will be back in action again this Tuesday so that should give him something to smile about.

I thought I'd mention the Wings because they have had a full week off now, after finishing their five-game road trip out West last week, and will take the ice again at home against the Devils. With the new schedule implemented this season by commissioner Gary Bettman, every team plays every other at least once and because of that, the Wings play the Devils, Penguins, Lightning, and Panthers in their next four games. They hardly ever play any Eastern Conference teams in the regular season so that'll be an exciting stretch to watch. It's always good to see new players and jerseys instead of playing a division opponent every other game. Good ol' 1995 Finals rematch tonight...although Brodeur is out with an injury so it will be slightly less exciting. I say 4-1 Wings.

A.I. to Motown and Chauncey B-B-B-B-Billups going back to Mile High

I'm a general fan of professional sports and that includes basketball, so naturally the huge trade involving the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons caught my eye: Allen Iverson was traded to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and a draft pick this week. When I first heard about the trade, I was pretty shocked and shook up. Chauncey has always been my favorite player for the Pistons. He was pretty much the reason why I started rooting for them in 2002-03 when the team actually started to piece things together and win games. So, to see him leave was a major disappointment from a fan's standpoint. But in terms of basketball, this is a positive move for Detroit. Not only does it open up plenty of cap space for the coming years when free agents like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh go on sale, but the trade also opens up a new dynamic for the team. They now have a player, in Iverson, who can take over a game and create his own shot. He's a bonafide superstar, even if he is aging a bit (at 33). They've never had that before; they've just had a complete team. Iverson might mess with the chemistry the Pistons have built for years but after six straight conference finals appearances and only one championship, a change is necessary. I wasn't convinced of this when I first heard about the trade but I think in the long run, this could make the Pistons very difficult to beat in the playoffs this year. And, since the trade happened this early in the season, it gives A.I. some time to acclimate to the Pistons' playing style compared to if the Pistons had made this deal much later in the season around the trade deadline.

But yeah, I know a lot of you don't care about the Pistons so I'm done writing about them. I just wanted to voice my opinions on what might be the biggest trade in the team's history. Pretty interesting move by GM Joe Dumars. We'll see how it pans out.

Hope you've all had a good week. Enjoy the weekend! Go Wings!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes. We. Did.

Goosebumps. Little dimples on the skin that accompany a tingling feeling that rushes quickly throughout the body. I'd felt them before, but never in a situation like this.

Barack Obama addressed the nation only moments ago after being announced as the first African-American man elected to be the President of the United States. His words were eloquent and commanding. They sent chills through my veins for what seemed like unending minutes. "I met the President of the United States almost a year ago; I even shook his hand," I thought as he waved to the Chicago crowd and hugged his wife, Michelle.

I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.

From the night when I first heard Barack Obama speak, two years ago at the University of New Hampshire shortly after announcing his decision to run for president, I was in awe of him. I loved his charisma and the feeling that he would actually try his hardest to better our country, regardless of who stepped in his way. I never thought he could actually become president; he was too hopeful, too slime-free. I saw John Edwards weeks later at UNH and as unimpressed as I was, he seemed like a candidate more likely to be elected. Edwards didn't seem real; he couldn't relate to the middle class or the everyday worker of America (his $1000 haircuts can attest to that). But Obama was, and that's why I liked him.

I never thought he could get this far.

I later met Obama when he came to my old high school, A. Crosby Kennett in Conway, NH. I volunteered and got a front-row seat to another one of his rousing speeches as he vied for the presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton. I felt so lucky to get that chance, to see him up close. He's a man of the people. He doesn't sling mud at his opponents unless it affects the country. He never stooped to the levels of Clinton's campaign managers (emphasizing Obama's race) or McCain and Palin (his association with Bill Ayers) because it had no bearing on what was happening in the country. For the first time in my life, I watched a politican concentrate entirely on what he can do to help solve our nation's problems instead of getting caught up in asking for votes just to garner the title of "President of the United States." Obama wanted that title, sure he did. But he wanted it in the best interest of the country, not for himself.

To all you McCain supporters out there, I say shame on you for not seeing the truth. McCain would have botched this presidency just as he botched his campaign. He was a great candidate in 2000 but now, he's just a crazy old man who will stop at nothing to be president. I thank God that he did not win this election because despite his war heroics and despite what he would tell you, he does not have the country's best interests at heart. He is a great politican and a good man, but he is not fit to run our nation. It doesn't matter how much you may disagree with Obama's beliefs, you simply can't argue against the fact that he is undoubtedly the best choice for this job and the best that our country has seen in generations.

I've never felt more strongly about an election in my life. Yes, I greatly despised George W. Bush's eight years in office but without his struggles, without his victories over Al Gore and John Kerry, Barack Obama never would have had this opportunity. And no matter what happens in his years as president, he is "the change we need." He is a reason to get up and cheer for our country. He gives me goosebumps. He is Barack Obama. For the first time in my life, I can't wait for what the political future will bring.

Thank you America, we did it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Extra! Extra! Bonus Column from TNH

I'm back with an actual piece of intelligent writing, since the last post sickens me as I read it days later. I know I get angry when my teams lose but the bitterness sometimes surprises even me. I would delete the post but hey, it's part of my life; it's gonna stay.

The main reason I return so soon is because I spent a lot of time this weekend writing my first edition of the "From the Bullpen" column that is often featured in the college newspaper I work for, The New Hampshire. So, as a bit of a bonus, here's what I feel is one of my better pieces of the year (it can also be found online at the paper's website, www.tnhonline.com).

From the Bullpen: the NHL is back, and you should all take notice

Noise wrapped itself around me with the force of a freight train. My voice screamed to be heard but was lost in the ceaseless clamor. I sat deep in the crowd at game five of the Stanley Cup Finals last June when my ears stopped working and my heart pounded with excitement.

It was early last summer when I booked a flight to Detroit and paid $500 for a ticket to watch the Detroit Red Wings play the Pittsburgh Penguins for hockey's greatest prize. The experience was unforgettable, but I bet some of you are already skeptical at the ridiculous cost I paid to see a hockey game.

It wasn't a rational price; I can't argue that it was. But when you combine my obsession for the Detroit Red Wings, which has had a firm hold on me since I was a seven-year-old kid living in Canton, Mich., and the chance to see the pinnacle of professional playoff hockey, the decision to drain my bank account and take a day trip halfway across the country was an easy one. Why? Because hockey is finally up off the mat from its lockout knockout and there are plenty of reasons why the students at UNH should all be paying attention.

During the cancellation of a full season in 2004-2005, the NHL was kicked to the curb by ESPN, replaced in the four major sports by NASCAR, and virtually forgotten by all but their most loyal fans. Despite the gag reflex brought on by that realization, I find solace in the fact that changes have since been made to make the game more entertaining for even the most casual hockey fan.

To create more scoring and more excitement, two-line passes are now allowed, the blue lines have been moved back to create a larger offensive zone, and goalie equipment size limits have been decreased. Electrifying shootouts are used to break ties after a single five-minute overtime period and can produce plenty of highlight-reel goals from some of the league's best players.

The league has also introduced the annual Winter Classic game, held on New Year's Day and played outdoors in the bitter cold. Last season, the inaugural game featured the Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres, who played an overtime thriller in snowy conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home to the Buffalo Bills of the NFL. This year's classic will renew the rivalry between the Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks, who play at Wrigley Field on the first of 2009. A couple years down the road, who knows, maybe it'll be the Boston Bruins doing the same against the Montreal Canadiens at Fenway Park. Can you imagine?

Speaking of the Bruins, they have a great young team. The Celtics aren't the only cure for a Red Sox hang over and they won't be the only Boston team winning this winter. Their captain, Zdeno Chara, is a 6'9" giant with a cannon for a shot, winning last year's fastest shot competition with a 103.1 mph blast. Their playoff appearance last April is only the beginning of a bright future for the B's, who have great young players in Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel to complement veterans like Chara and Marc Savard.

Even if I can't convince you to flip to NESN and catch a regular season game, there's nothing that should stop you from watching the playoffs. The NHL postseason is the toughest exhibition of athletic competition in all of sports. Players grow playoff bears for months; heck, even Penguins' 21-year-old golden boy Sidney Crosby managed some peach fuzz by the Finals last June. Every game redefines intensity and fights can break out at any moment. And even though the fights aren't up to pre-lockout standards quite yet (the 1997 brawl between the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche made 300 look like The Notebook), those battles are coming back. Since the lockout, the average number of fights per game has almost doubled, rising from 0.38 to 0.74 per game.

You can also throw out the excuse of not being able to watch games on TV, since the new lineup of television channels for on-campus UNH students, installed this September, now provides both Versus and the NHL Network to go along with NESN's coverage of the resurgent Bruins. Hockey games usually last a half an hour less than NFL or MLB games as well, not including their two 20-minute intermissions, which saves you time in front of the tube.

The list goes on and on. Fresh faces like 19-year-old Patrick Kane and 18-year-old Steven Stamkos vitalize the league with youth. Flashy stick handlers like Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk bring a new level of skill that hasn't been seen in decades. Concussion-causing hits are dished out by bruisers like Dion Phaneuf and Niklas Kronwall on a nightly basis.

The Red Wings lost that game back in June. They were only a win away from clinching the Stanley Cup on home ice and held a 3-2 lead in the third until Maxime Talbot broke my heart and scored the game-tying goal with 34.3 seconds left. Petr Sykora furthered my misery with a game-ending blast in triple overtime. But even the loss of $800 and a frequent flyer ticket couldn't keep me from thinking: "This is the best game in the world."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spartans are not green.

Frustration is at an all-time high with Michigan football, but here are some statistics for all of you to remember before you go judging the University of Michigan after their recent loss to Michigan State this weekend.
  • The University of Michigan was ranked as the 18th best institution of learning in the entire world this year and that places them 1st among all public universities in the United States.
  • Only 54% of graduates from Michigan State University are employed within six months of graduation. Translation: Would you like fries with that?
  • Only 30% of graduates from Michigan State University pursue further study. Translation: lazy slackers.
  • Not a single person who attends or has attended Michigan State University has a full-sized brain, and that's a fact.
That is all. I don't often rant so blatantly in this blog because I know that it is not a clever or accomplished form of writing, but when my team loses to a bitter rival like the Spartans, it becomes necessary. Something similar will likely happen in a few weeks when the Wolverines travel to the Horseshoe for the finale of a massacred season. To reach a bowl now, Michigan must win their final four games, three of which are on the road against ranked teams. Translation: Naaaaht gonna happen...bye-bye bowl eligibility.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Twinkle, twinkle, little Starr, how I wonder what a jerk you are!

Quick! Stop addressing that envelope. Don't waste the 42 cents, just throw it in the trash. You can't buy this love with letters and praise.

Richard Starkey, famously known as Ringo Starr, was once the famed drummer for the biggest musical sensation in history, the Beatles. Since the band's break up in 1970, Ringo has put out 14 different solo albums and has been widely considered one of the most underrated drummers of all-time. Evidently, all the success has finally gone to his head.

Just this week, Starr uploaded a video onto his website where he spoke to his fans and told them he will no longer be signing any autographs or reading any of the fan mail he receives after October 20th.

"It's going to be tossed," he said sternly. "I'm warning you with peace and love, I have too much to do. So no more fan mail. Thank you, thank you. And no objects to be signed. Nothing. Anyway, peace and love, peace and love."

Too much to do!? You're a 68-year-old musician! What in the hell do you actually have to do? You have dozens of successful albums. You are admired by almost every young drummer in England. You have houses in England, Los Angeles, Monte Carlo, and Switzerland. You have enough money to pay someone to wipe yourself with $100 bills! And, in all likelihood, you haven't been answering your fan mail personally for decades! So my question is, why are you acting like such a prima donna and turning back on the easiest way to connect with your fans?

I remember buying two different books when I was a kid that listed some of the contact addresses and information for famous athletes. Andre Agassi, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey Junior, among others. I wrote letters to all the players I admired. I remember the day I received a letter back from Dan Marino with an autographed picture included. It was one of the happiest moments of my young life; I still have the signed photo. The letter wasn't actually written by Dan Marino, I know that now. But as a young kid with a dream of someday becoming a professional athlete, it meant the world to me.

Fan mail is one of the perks of being a star. You hear from thousands, if not millions, of people around the world who take their personal time to write you a letter telling you how great you are. It's the kind of thing that would boost even Donald Trump's ego! And most of the time, they're not written by some con-artist adult hoping to score an autographed picture to sell on eBay, they're written by kids. Pre-teens, teenagers, or even young adults. They want to hear inspiring words about how you became famous, about how you can help them achieve their dreams.

So, please, please me Ringo. If you actually wished "peace and love" to all your fans, you'd keep that tea-and-crumpets-fetching assistant on staff so he can continue to print off generic responses with your signature at the bottom and send them out in the mail. So, even if you need a little help from your friends, get back online, and post an apology video. Don't let me down. Oh, and have a shave while you're at it...you're beginning to look like a walrus.

P.S. Happy Birthday Mom!! :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

2-4, The Miserable Michigan Season Continues..

Sorry for the lack of posting everybody...it was Homecoming weekend here at UNH and I never got around to writing a preview nor a recap of the Michigan game but I'll try to make up for it.

So, as you might have read or seen elsewhere, Michigan lost to a team from Ohio this weekend and it wasn't the Columbus Oxygen Wasters. It was Toledo. Yeah, Toledo. I didn't even realize there was anything in Toledo except that awesome zoo and since I didn't even bother to watch any of the game highlights, I can only assume Michigan got beat by a bunch of trained monkeys that were enrolled in some sort of Throw Footballs, Not Feces program. But in all seriousness, Michigan lost their first game to a MAC opponent in 25 tries by losing to 13-10 at home on Saturday. I can't really comment sufficiently on the game because it wasn't on network TV and I haven't wanted to look up any of the highlights (can you blame me?). This one stings. I mean seriously, it's Toledo. They were 1-4 in the Mid American Conference. They were playing in a hostile environment. This was Michigan's cupcake game to give them a breather in between tough Big Ten contests. And they LOST?! I honestly couldn't believe it. Michigan lost to Toledo to drop to 2-4 on the season and virtually end any hopes of bowl eligibility. Dear God, what is the world coming to?

So, just so everyone knows, I'm officially washing my hands of the Wolverines for this season. That means I will no longer be living on pins and needles for every game or previewing each of their weekend match-ups. I will still watch the games, or however much of them I can stomach. I've never done this before so it will be an interesting experience but I've come to the horrifying but realistic conclusion that Michigan will not win more than 5 games this year at the very best and could very well finish the season 2-10. Their schedule is just too difficult and they are simply an awful team. As disappointed as I am to be writing this, I'm still excited for the Rich Rodriguez era and the championships that are sure to come in the future. But, it is a process. It takes time to completely renovate and rebuild a program. And it is in these dark times that all Michigan players and fans need to remember Bo Schembechler and his incredible words that will live on in the Wolverine clubhouse forever.
So, that is all I have to say about the rest of the Michigan Wolverines 2008 football season. I will still give short recaps of the games in my weekend updates but unless a giant upset happens (say, for example, this weekend at #3 Penn State), you won't hear too much in depth about the Maize and Blue. I like writing about things that make me happy or keep me upbeat; that's why I started this blog, so I could write about the things I want to write about. And frankly, it is too depressing for me to continue to rehash the disappointments of Michigan's season. Instead, I will focus on the rising NHL and any other stories that interest me. Starting...now.

The Red Wings are back to normal after a come-from-behind victory at Ottawa on Saturday where the Senators got kicked by Johan "Mule" Franzen twice in the third period. The Wings play again tonight against Carolina and I'll be watching on the new NHL.com, which is incredibly well done as they made some huge improvements and completely redesigned the site for the beginning of the season. Check it out for a few seconds if you got the time.

Another edition of the Camolumn is in the works...so stay tuned for that this week. It could be posted as soon as tonight and as late as Thursday. Wish you all well, hope you had a good weekend!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Red Wings Leave their Skates at Home for Season Opener

What an incredible disappointment. I've been waiting to watch my favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings, take the ice for the first time since lifting hockey's holy grail in June for months now and I cannot say enough about how awful they made me feel as a fan. Even though I know anyone who didn't watch the game will say "Oh but it's only the first game of an 82 game season. Who cares?" Well, I CARE. This team was supposed to be unstoppable, clicking on all cylinders, ready to take on any challenge. They were opening up at home, raising the Stanley Cup Championship banner from last year's amazing season and giving their fans a chance to appreciate it since all four playoff clinching victories came on the road last year. And for chrissakes they were playing the Maple Leafs! Toronto was awful last year. AWFUL. And the Wings came out flat and lost a 3-2 game where they showed absolutely no heart and were outworked for all sixty minutes. Unbelievable. I know I'll get over this pretty soon because the Red Wings are going to have another great season but I was hyped up for this game. I almost couldn't sleep last night because I was so excited about watching them play again. Simply put, it was heart-wrenching to watch the players I love skate around like they didn't care. The talent of this team is almost unfathomable but if they keep playing without any fight, without any determination, they have no chance of repeating as Cup Champs.

So, I'm going to go cool down and try to forget what I watched tonight but in sum, I did not like what I saw. I'm about ready to draft up a petition to get Datsyuk and Zetterberg back on a line together. Why break up the best chemistry in all of hockey?

My brain hurts. Did we seriously just lose to the freakin' Leafs? Ugh.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

2-3

This will ultimately be a very half-assed blog post because I've been sick all weekend with the worst day being today. So, in summary, Michigan lost yesterday 45-20 against Illinois. They played very well in the first quarter and went to sleep for the rest of the game. Everyone wants to talk about how this was a blowout and how Michigan gave up the most points at home since 1991 but in reality, this was a pretty tightly contested game until two Michigan fumbles in the second half blew it wide open. If Michael Shaw had held onto the ball near the end of the third quarter when Michigan was still only down 10 points, the Wolverines might have sustained that drive for a score and cut the lead to 3. But, Shaw dropped the handoff and the game with it. I don't want to be too hard on the rookie though, since ESPN got a good shot of Coach Rodriguez giving him an earful of what I can only assume was bad language as he walked toward the sideline. I think Michigan could have won this game because they are just about as talented as Illinois overall, but the Fighting Illini have three great skill players at the QB, RB, and WR positions that helped them to victory on Saturday. Gaining bowl eligibility will be tough for Michigan after losing for the third time in five games, but I still have confidence that with the tradition of the program, if they can get six wins they will be in a bowl. And six wins is still a promising possibility with games against Toledo, Purdue, Northwestern, and Minnesota left.

Anyway, I've got a busy week ahead of me so I doubt I'll have anything posted before Saturday but I will try and get something done after the Red Wings opening game on Thursday night. Hope you all had good and healthy weekends!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

2008-09 NHL Season Preview!

Before I get started on an in-depth look at the upcoming NHL season, which starts in mere hours with the two games overseas in Prague and Stockholm, I just thought I'd give you a little reminder of how last season ended with that lovely picture up above. Pretty nice wasn't it? Four cups in eleven years. It has a nice ring to it. So does five in twelve.

The Red Wings fly into this season with a heavy weight on their shoulders: everyone expects them to win. And I mean everyone. Experts, fans, opposing fans even though they probably won't admit it. I mean really, after such a dominating performance from start to finish last year, how could anyone expect anything less after adding the best free agent on the market, Marian Hossa, and boosting their only supposed weakness (goaltending) with the addition of Ty Conklin. So, don't think I'm alone in thinking that the Wings will win it all again. They're the safe pick. Kinda like the '07 Patriots over the Giants in the Super Bowl. Makes complete logical sense to pick the absolute best team on paper and possibly the best team assembled in decades (yup, read it and weep 80's Oilers fans). But we all know that what makes sense and looks to be an easy decision doesn't always turn out that way. So, let's not get ahead of ourselves. And on that note, here's a look at what I think will unfold in the 2008-09 NHL season.
  • I see the Red Wings having their way with the regular season and winning another President's Trophy without anyone really in reach to make it a close contest. I know that winning the Stanley Cup is extremely hard, regardless of how many great players you have, but in the regular season, the best team on paper usually ends up at the top.
  • With that in mind, my Western Conference playoff teams are as follows (division winners automatically get one of the top three spots, so I don't actually think that the Wild are better than some of the other teams but they will win the Northwest division):
  1. Detroit Red Wings
  2. Dallas Stars
  3. Minnesota Wild
  4. San Jose Sharks
  5. Chicago Blackhawks
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. Calgary Flames
  8. Edmonton Oilers
  • Annnd then of course I have to give you my Eastern Conference pecking order:
  1. Pittsburgh Penguins
  2. Washington Capitals
  3. Montreal Canadiens
  4. Philadelphia Flyers
  5. Boston Bruins
  6. New York Rangers
  7. New Jersey Devils
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning
  • There's a lot to digest in those lists, so let's start with my explanations of the West. I think the Stars showed how good they are in the playoffs last year and with a full year of Brad Richards (a free agent they brought in at the deadline last spring), they should barely win their division over San Jose and Anaheim. I think the Blackhawks are going to be very good with all of their new additions and so I have them finishing fifth. I picked Calgary and Edmonton to finish off the playoff spots but they will surely be fighting with Nashville, Vancouver, and maybe even Phoenix for a chance to play either Dallas or Detroit. Personally, I'd like to see the Avalanche make it into the playoffs so I can watch and enjoy another slaughter, courtesy of the Wings, just like last year's playoffs but I would just be kidding myself. Colorado simply isn't any good this year. They won't even sniff the playoffs and will finish last in their division.
  • As for the Eastern Conference, there's plenty to look at there too. You might notice I left Ottawa, Buffalo, and Carolina out of the playoff mix when there are plenty of people who would disagree. I definitely think those three teams will be fighting with Tampa Bay to get that last spot but with the ridiculous amount of positive changes in the offseason, I think that the Lightning will snag the eighth spot and be granted the opportunity to lose to Pittsburgh in the playoffs. What fun. Because despite losing plenty of good players, the Penguins picked up a couple good forwards (Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan) that will help Crosby and Malkin out immensely. Expect Pittsburgh to reign at the top of the East for years to come. Crosby's just so freakin' good and in case you didn't know, he just turned 21 in August. Can you imagine how good he'll be when he's in his late twenties? Unbelievable. Following the Pens, I have the Capitals edging out Montreal for the 2nd seed, and the Flyers, Bruins, Rangers, and Devils in a dogfight for the remaining spots.
Since I've never tried to do it before and I'm still trying to kill some time before the Rangers-Lightning game in Prague kicks off to start the season, I might as well tell you how I see the playoffs working out as I picked them as well as the winners of the NHL awards.

Hart Trophy (best player): Sidney Crosby. After an injury-plagued season last year, I think Crosby will restore his dominance on the league and win his 2nd Hart Trophy.
Vezina Trophy (best goaltender): Marty Turco. Marty is such a great goalie (and Michigan boy) and never gets enough credit for it. This is a bit of a dark horse pick with the usual cast and safe choices being Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, or Miika Kiprusoff but I think Turco is set up to have a stellar season.
Norris Trophy (best defenseman): Nicklas Lidstrom. Do they give it to anyone else? Liddy might as well just change his name to Norris Nicklas. I do think Dion Phaneuf, who finished 2nd in the Norris voting last year, will make it a close one this year but the league almost owes Lidstrom the award after they jobbed him on his first three nominations.
Calder Trophy (best rookie): Steve Stamkos. The top pick in last year's draft will impress everyone in Tampa Bay and is a star in the making.
Lady Byng Trophy (most gentlemanly player): Pavel Datsyuk. What sounds like a pansy award in a tough, gritty sport like hockey, the Lady Byng is given to the player who has the most sportsmanship combined with a high standard of playing ability. Datsyuk has won three consecutive Lady Byngs. Look for him to make it four in a row.
Selke Trophy (best defensive forward): Henrik Zetterberg. Z lost out on last year's Selke to Datsyuk but I think he'll win it this year just because the league will want to keep it even. But it will come down to Zetterberg and Datsyuk, almost undoubtedly.
Jack Adams Award (best coach): Barry Melrose. If the Mullet can actually bring the Lightning out of last place in the league and turn them into a playoff team, how could he not be deserving of this award?

As for my playoff predictions, I have Detroit over San Jose in the West Finals and Pittsburgh over Philadelphia in the East Finals. Then Detroit breaks Crosby's heart again in six games. The Red Wings' forward lines are simply ridiculous (Datsyuk/Holmstrom/Hossa and Zetterberg/Franzen/Hudler for example) not to mention they have Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, and Stuart as their top four defensemen. I can't see the season ending without them winning it all.

So knock out some teeth, grab a cold one, and throw on the ol' sweater of your favorite team because it's hockey season-eh, and its not just the Canadians who should be excited!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Week 5: Illinois at Michigan

Stop. Hammertime. That seems to be exactly what Brandon Minor is saying to Illinois defenders during Michigan's road win at Champagne last year. Not that MC Hammer's song has any relevance whatsoever to the game this week, it popped up in my mind when I saw the picture. Anyway, back to business. Minor and Carlos Brown gave Michigan a lift in their victory last year and I hope they can provide another boost in this weekend's game. Although coming off of a disappointing loss to Penn State last week, the Fighting Illini are a potent team with many of their starters returning from their run to the Rose Bowl last season. They won't be underestimated by RichRod and the Wolverines but after an emotional comeback win last week, Michigan will have to calm down and keep their minds focused on another important Big Ten home game.

I don't know what to think about this game after the win against Wisconsin. I'd love to stay completely on the upside and think about how brilliant the comeback was and how they knocked off a ranked team in only their fourth game of the season but with the shockingly awful performance in the first half of that game, I'm just left wondering which Michigan team will show up this weekend. Will QB Steven Threet be the guy overthrowing receivers and tossing interceptions left and right or will he be the guy scampering for 60 yard runs and hurling touchdown passes? Who knows. Will special teams continue to fumble the ball away on a regular basis or can they manage a respectable return? The only confidence I have is in the defense, who I think should be able to contain Illinois QB Juice Williams and keep the Illinois offense from producing too many points. But will Michigan's offense return to its dormant state? I can certainly hope that they build off of a great second half against Wisconsin but at this point, only time will tell.

I do think Michigan will win this game, despite my questions about the offense. I just think to do so, they need to keep their momentum from the Wisconsin game in control and get the home crowd into the game early on. Illinois will be hungry to come into the Big House and win their first conference game but Michigan can't let that happen. The Wolverines have a chance to string together a few wins in a row (last week, this week, and next week at home against Toledo) before the schedule gets tough with games at Penn State, vs. Michigan State, and three more road games against Purdue, Minnesota, and Ohio State. If they can manage to get past Illinois this week, I think their bowl chances are secured. So...get it done Rodriguez! Prediction: Michigan 23, Illinois 21.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2-2...!

Well, would ya look at that. Rich Rodriguez gets doused with the bucket of Gatorade and Michigan pulled off the impossible comeback against a very talented Wisconsin team, winning in historic fashion 27-25. Season salvaged.

The 500th game at Michigan Stadium was a tale of two halves with what seemed to be two different sets of Michigan teams. If I didn't know any better, I would have guessed that before the game, the coaches told the Wolverines that Crisco was a great substitute for stick-em and told Steven Threet that the secret to a perfect spiral was to throw it with your eyes closed. I mean wow, the offense was beyond horrendous in the first 30 minutes. Five turnovers, 21 total yards, and a 19 point deficit that was only 19 points because the defense played admirably. To be honest, I was ready to throw in the towel on the whole season at halftime. After Wisconsin went up 16-0 and Threet threw another interception, I fell asleep. When I woke up at the half, I didn't want to move. This was embarassing. The Wolverines were staring a 1-3 record right in the face and I only kept the TV on because after so many years of watching, I've learned that Michigan football is its own type of masochism.

Dating back to 1927, when the first game of football was played at Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines had never come back from more than 17 points down while playing at home. 81 freakin' years. Then came Michigan's first real offensive drive and Threet's long pass on 3rd down to Kevin Koger for a score. 19-7. Big deal. But wait, then Brandon Minor blasted through a Grand Canyon sized hole and capped off an 85-yard drive with another score. 19-14. Huh? Then, before I could blink, Wisconsin threw a wobbling pass that was tipped up and returned for a touchdown on the very next play. 20-19. And you know the rest...McGuffs takes it in for an extra cushion and the Michigan defense bends to the breaking point before boomeranging Wisconsin back to the loser's circle. Season salvaged.

2-2. Not 1-3, but 2-2. Doesn't seem like much of a difference, does it? They're still unranked. They still have a bumbling offense with 11 turnovers in the past two games. There are still questions in the secondary and on the offensive line. So, what's different? Confidence, pure and simple. Yeah, they lost to unranked Utah and girl-quarterbacked Notre Dame but they completed the biggest comeback in Michigan Stadium history and knocked off a top ten team only four games into a season with a new system and new personnel. Sounds like salvation to me.

(Next week I'll be back with a preview of the Michigan-Illinois game and hopefully another installment of column writing...or Camolumn for short).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weezer!

"We're the coolest band ever. Yeah, I said it," declared Rivers Cuomo, the lead guitarist and singer for Weezer, during the opening show for their U.S. Tour in Lowell, Mass. on Tuesday night. Weezer has been one of my favorite bands for years, as far back as elementary school, and at least two of their albums would rank in my personal top ten. This was the second time I've seen the group in concert, the first was back in 2005 when they played with the Foo Fighters and were promoting their fifth studio album, Make Believe. This tour could potentially be their last, since the band split up after the tour in 2005 and then rejoined to make a sixth album early last year. The newest addition to the Weezer discography, Weezer (The Red Album), is the focus of their tour and is something I blogged about months ago because it is clearly their best album since the mid 90's and far surpasses anything they've produced in years.

So, when a generous friend allowed me to borrow a car, I drove to St. Anselm College to pick up my friend from home and then we made our way down to Lowell for the show. The place was completely sold out and it was pretty exciting to be seeing a band that I've admired for most of my music-listening life. It's usually pretty special when you get to see a band perform where you know almost every word to every song they play, and this was no exception.

Angels and Airwaves was the opening band and they were surprisingly better than I'd hoped. I knew of them because Tom DeLonge, former blink-182 guitarist and singer, is their frontman. After listening to some of their music when it first came out, I wasn't exactly enthralled. As much as I loved Tom in blink, he wasn't nearly the same and wasn't producing the same kind of music in Angels and Airwaves. So, I didn't expect much. But, some of their songs were more enjoyable live than on the album so it was a pretty solid opening for the amazing band to come.

When Weezer took the stage, the packed house erupted. Everybody went nuts. The classic band didn't do anything flashy or technically advanced when they walked on stage (like I've seen many newer bands try to do) but instead calmly walked to the center, looked up at the crowd, and started strumming the chords to one of their old favorites, "Dope Nose." They played for almost two hours! and had the crowd completely in the palm of their hand from start to finish. Here's the set list:
  • Dope Nose
  • Hashpipe
  • Dreamin'
  • Undone (The Sweater Song)
  • Automatic
  • Say It Ain't So
  • Suzanne
  • Troublemaker
  • King
  • My Name Is Jonas
  • Pink Triangle
  • Pork and Beans
  • Keep Fishin'
  • Perfect Situation
  • El Scorcho
  • The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)
  • Cover of "Morning Glory" originally by Oasis
  • Island in the Sun
  • Beverly Hills
  • Cover of "Sliver" originally by Nirvana
  • Buddy Holly
To sum up these 21 songs, I would say that they played everything I would have wanted them to. The only thing they could have played to make it better was "The Good Life" from their second album, Pinkerton, because it is one of my all-time favorites but since they played many of my other favorites (El Scorcho, Perfect Situation, Say It Ain't So, and The Greatest Man That Ever Lived), I was blown away. I will say it was disappointing to hear them play two covers because they have such a wide variety of their own songs to perform, but as musicians I'm sure it's fun for them to experiment with things they don't usually play. And, as you can see above, Tom DeLonge came on stage to sing along with the band as they played "Undone (The Sweater Song)" off of their first record, Weezer (The Blue Album). Tom sang the first verse and when he finished, Rivers chimed in with "That was pretty good...you mind if I give it a try?" and jumped right into the next verse. So, the show not only succeeded as a fantastic musical experience but as a general entertaining performance as well.

I know I will be listening to Weezer and singing their praises for many years to come; they've had too much of an influence on me to have it any other way. It was awesome to see them again and I hope that someday, they will be as appreciated in the modern rock world as they are by their loyal fans. I'll be back later this weekend with the recap of the Michigan game...have a good one!

Week 4: Wisconsin at Michigan

Here's another nice picture of Michigan celebrating against the team they play this week. Hopefully, this picture of Tom Brady and Anthony Thomas bumpin' chests in the 1998 season when they beat Wisconsin 27-10 will get the Wolverines to pull an upset but, in all reality, it isn't likely to happen. Wisconsin is ranked 9th in the AP Poll and 8th in the Coaches Poll and Michigan isn't even in consideration for a single vote in either. But, the Maize and Blue will have the home crowd on their side and after a bye week, they should come out firing. Here are some expectations for Saturday's game at 3:30 p.m.
  • Michigan's offense will continue to improve. Yes, their last game against Notre Dame featured some of the most horrific ball-protection I have seen in my many years watching UM but, they were still able to move the ball effectively when they could hold onto it and Sam McGuffie was insane. He should be a bright spot on the team and with Carlos Brown coming back to full health for the first time in a long time, I think Michigan could put some points on the board.
  • Michigan's defense will continue to be an enigma. Sometimes they resemble an NFL-caliber defense that can stop anybody and other times they look so inept that they might as well go back to Pop Warner football. I have every hope that the D will step up and let the offense relax and try to manage the game but I think the inconsistency will remain and the Wolverines might be behind early.
I think that even though Wisconsin is ranked much higher than Michigan and has more talent and experience overall this season, Michigan could surprise experts and take this game. Think about it: it's the Big Ten opener, RichRod will have used the bye week to his advantage, the fans will be hungry to pull off an upset, and as I saw last night with Oregon State beating USC, anything can happen. With that said, Wisconsin is also coming off of a bye week and will want to come into the Big House and keep their hopes of an undefeated season intact so...it should be a tight game. Prediction: Michigan 17, Wisconsin 14.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

1-2

Ugh. Well, I was half right about my prediction for the Michigan-Notre Dame football game. It was ugly, but only for Michigan. Seven fumbles, four of them lost, and two interceptions. How can any team possibly expect to win when they can't take care of the ball? The only positive thing about the loss today was that Steven Threet showed that he can be accurate with his passes and that Sam McGuffie is an amazing runner with breakaway speed. But costly penalties, some of which were blatently bad calls, and terrible ball handling gave Notre Dame way too many chances and took Michigan right out of the game this afternoon.

The second half of the game was incredibly ugly, like I predicted, because the rain picked up and both teams were turning the ball over like it was a hot potato (Michigan had 4 turnovers and ND had 2). Other than one of the fumbles that was returned for a touchdown, there were no other points scored in the half and it was very hard to watch. Neither team could move the ball effectively on offense. It was a grudge match. That's the exact game I was expecting to watch. Only problem was, the first half featured fairly decent weather in which ND quarterback Jimmy Clausen showed that he can beat you with his arm and went deep a couple times to his speedy receiever Golden Tate (who in the hell names their kid Golden, by the way?). Even though Notre Dame led 28-17 at the half, the first two quarters were fairly even. If not for two early Michigan turnovers that Notre Dame turned into touchdowns, Michigan would have been up 17-14 at the half. But, that's life and Michigan couldn't keep their hands on the ball.

In closing, I really hate Notre Dame and their fight song and their stupid golden helmets. If Jimmy Clausen really wants to sport that haircut, he might as well just do everyone else a favor and get a sex change. He looks like a girl. An ugly girl. Unfortunately, his haircut didn't influence his passing abilities and he was able to throw to his favorite target, Golden Taint, sorry...I mean Golden Tate, who was too fast for the Michigan's cornerbacks and was seemingly running circles around them whenever he got the ball.

So, Michigan's 1-2 and they have a bye week next weekend. They should use this time off to regroup and figure out how to fix the turnover problems. Oh, and I don't want Nick Sheridan to ever be quarterback again. Threet's the guy Michigan needs if they want to get to a bowl game this year. The Wolverines' next game is in two weeks, at home against Wisconsin. I will know more about the Badgers after their tough game tonight against Fresno State but in reality, they are 10th in the country and Michigan will have to play extremely well to beat them.

Week 3: Michigan at Notre Dame

This image, taken from the 2006 Michigan-Notre Dame game, is an image that I hope will sum up today's game between the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish. Unlike the 2006 matchup though, the two teams facing off today are both unranked in the polls and being overlooked by everyone in college football. There's good reason for that, seeing as how Michigan is 1-1 after a tough loss to Utah and a less-than-stellar win against Miami (OH) and Notre Dame barely escaped their home opener against San Diego State with a win. But, even though this contest will lack some of the luster from the usual Michigan-Notre Dame game, these two teams are still the top two winningest programs in the history of the sport (Michigan's #1, as they should be). Here are some things to keep in mind when the maize and blue take the field in the third week of the season:
  • Michigan is ranked 36th and Notre Dame is ranked 45th, in the CBS Sports Top 120.
  • There is a 90% chance of rain in South Bend, Indiana today, where the game will be played.
  • There is a 100% chance of this game being the ugliest game you will see in all of college football this season. Both quarterbacks are pretty bad, although ND's Jimmy Clausen can throw the deep ball pretty well. Neither offensive line will do much to help the quarterbacks out and the defenses will both dominant their sides of the game. All of this, combined with crappy weather, will make it a smashmouth run-first pass-second style game, which will give Michigan a slight advantage because their defensive line is so strong. If Notre Dame is going to win this game, Jimmy Clausen is going to have to beat the Wolverines with his arm.
Overall, I think both of these teams are pretty bad. Both of them will be trying hard to get this victory to get their team one step closer to bowl eligibility. I don't have much confidence that Michigan will win, but I definitely think that they can. It's their first road game, so it will be interesting to see how they react to a hostile atmosphere. But, in the end, I always want my team to win and I don't believe in picking against them so...I think that the rain will help Michigan and hinder Clausen's chances of beating the Wolverine secondary with the deep ball. Prediction: Michigan 13, Notre Dame 9. Like I said, it's gonna be an ugly one.

Why Bulgarian Women Shouldn't Play Hockey

Defeated. Lopsided. Blown out. Beaten down. Crushed beyond recognition. None of these terms can fully explain the loss that the Bulgarian women's hockey team suffered to Slovakia in the European Olympic pre-qualifying tournament. Let's just consider what a completely one-sided score in a sixty minute hockey game really is. At the highest level of professional men's hockey, in the NHL, the record for the most lopsided score was a 16-3 victory by the Montreal Canadiens over the Quebec Bulldogs in 1920. So, from that statistic, it's safe to assume that a margin of 13 goals would normally be considered the worst loss that a capable team could suffer in the sport of hockey. And, this matchup between Slovakia and Bulgaria was in the European Olympic pre-qualifying tournament so, the teams must be at least capable right? I mean, these are the best players that the country could find to represent their country, right? Wrong. Unequivacally wrong. See if you can wrap you head around this box score.

Goals: Slovakia 82, Bulgaria 0. Shots on goal: Slovakia 139, Bulgaria 0. For you math geeks out there, that's one goal every 44 seconds. That's one shot every 26 seconds. Fourteen different Slovaks netted a goal and the leading goal scorer had 10 by herself. What's even more ridiculous is that two of their other losses in the tournament, a 30-1 defeat to Croatia and a 41-0 slaughter at the hands of Italy, didn't even make any headlines. In the entire tournament, Bulgaria scored one goal and allowed 192.

There are approximately 7.4 million people in Bulgaria and 37 of them tried out for the country's national hockey team. A team can only carry 25 players on a roster. That means 12 of these women didn't even make the cut. How would it feel to get the axe from a team that was outscored 192-1 in a single tournament? That's real pain, knowing that you weren't good enough to compete on a team that couldn't stay within 80 goals of Slovakia. Ouch.

Now, when I used to play hockey in pee-wees and squirts and other ridiculously named sections of young kids, our coach would tell us to lay off the other team and work on passing or skating techniques when we were winning by a wide margin. That wide margin was usually 7 or 8 to nothing. Not 82-0. Can you imagine what kind of person this Slovakian coach must be to keep the pressure on when they were winning by 80 freakin' goals? I mean really, how good could it have felt to score the 81st or 82nd goal of that game. Isn't there a point where the coach calls the dogs off? Bulgaria didn't even get a shot on goal in this game. Not a single shot.

"We took it as training," said Slovakin coach Miroslav Karafiat. Oh really? How exactly do you train a team during an 82-0 victory? Explain that to me. Hockey training usually consists of passing, skating drills and offensive and defensive strategies. How do you have time to do any of that when you're scoring a goal every 44 seconds and getting a shot on net every 26 seconds?

A win is a win. Whether the Slovakian team won 1-0 or by their actual score of 82-0, they still were going to move forward in the tournament. Would it be embarrassing for the Bulgarians to watch the Slovaks simply stop trying and just pass the puck back and forth on the ice? Probably. But that kind of embarrassment can fade away with time. An 82-0 defeat is recorded, written in the International Ice Hockey Federation history books. That kind of embarrassment lasts forever.