Hello, and welcome to the first installment of the "Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap" column. A pretty eventful few days on the December sports scene. You had the SEC title game Saturday afternoon, where John Parker Wilson would try and squash the long-standing belief that it's never a good thing to have a 3-named quarterback for a big game. Big fight on Saturday night, where Oscar De La Hoya would take on Manny Pacquiao and try to beat his first real opponent since Seinfeld went off the air. Usual Sunday bit of the Lions trying to somehow secure a W, with me in attendance for the first time this season. The Pistons had a couple of very winnable games on the schedule, which could mean anything with this group right now. And a very big tilt at Crisler Arena Saturday afternoon with the Fightin' Krzyzewski's in town. Without further ado...
I Always Thought Tim Tebow Was a Great Player...I Just Didn't Realize That He Was Also The Messiah
Can't take anything away from Tim Tebow. Completed another exceptional year at Florida with a 31-20 win over #1 ranked Alabama to win the SEC Championship. His numbers are truly eye-popping. Over the last 6 games of the year, Tebow threw for 16 touchdowns, ran for 7 more, without throwing a single interception. He seems to play every down as if it's his last, and above all, the guy is a winner. But listening to the various commentators yesterday, it was as if Tebow were the only guy on the field for the Gators as well as the only quarterback in college football history to display emotions after a big play. Gary Danielson might as well have broadcast the game wearing a "Florida #15" jersey, doing the Gator Chomp after every big play. Brandon Spikes and the Gator D shut out Saban's boys in both the 2nd and 4th quarters, but during and after the game, it was TebowMania. Not saying the guy isn't an unbelievable player. Just that I haven't witnessed a love-fest quite like that since Cris Carter caught his 1,000th career pass in a Sunday nighter against Detroit in 2000 and Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, and Paul Maguire spent the entire night doing everything short of collectively proposing marriage to the Hall-of-Fame receiver.
Really cannot say enough about Urban Meyer. Might be the best coach in all of sports right now. Took over a bumbling Bowling Green program in 2001, and won MAC Coach of the Year in his first season there. Meyer then moved on to guide Utah to an undefeated season in '04, culminating with a thrashing of "BCS School" Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Quarterback Alex Smith was able to parlay that season into the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, despite proving since that his talent is more on-par with Jim Druckenmiller than Jim Kelly. Two years later, at Florida, he took the solid but unspectacular Chris Leak and made him a National Championship quarterback. Just a caution to NFL general managers: I'm not saying that Tebow is going to be the top pick like Alex Smith, nor am I saying Leak's game is equal to Tebow's. Just that Urban Meyer has a track record of turning semi-marginal quarterbacks into title-winning leaders...so despite Danielson and many other's undying affection for "Tim Terrific," I think the jury is still out on our boy's NFL future.
The Legacy Continues
Somewhere, yesterday Billy Joe Hobert and Billy Joe Tolliver were smiling like proud papas. The legacy that they so carefully crafted as unmemorable 3-named quarterbacks was clearly embraced by Alabama's forgettable tri-namer, John Parker Wilson. Wilson finished the SEC title game with a pedestrian 12 of 25 for 187 yards with 1 pick. Just the kind of day you'd expect from a triple-naming QB. If you are an up-and-coming passer entering the college or pro ranks, think twice before you make that middle name a permanent part of your title...a world of mediocrity awaits you.
Pistons...A Weekend to Forget
Tuesday night, the Pistons played their best 4th quarter of the season at San Antonio on their way to an impressive 12-point win. Rasheed was on fire from downtown, Iverson did a little bit of everything, and it seemed like maybe, just maybe, the post-Chauncey Pistons were turning the corner. With two very winnable games on the horizon over the weekend following a few days of rest, a winning streak seemed to be in the cards for the 'Stones. Not to be.
The 76ers came into the Palace Friday night with an underwhelming 8-11 record and proceeded to sleepwalk through the first three quarters. The 2008-09 version of the Pistons, however, can sleepwalk with the best of 'em. They essentially took the 4th quarter off, giving up an embarrassing 38 points to a 76ers team that has lacked much explosiveness this year. (26th out of 30 in the NBA in scoring) Obviously, it's one loss in a long NBA season full of ups and downs. But it's a disturbing loss, nonetheless. A 15-point lead late in the 3rd quarter at home to a sub-.500 team is not a game the old Pistons would give up. Nor would the old Pistons allow a guy who many believed to be dead, Donyell Marshall, to beat em' with a late game 3-ball. (No matter how knowledgeable you think you are about the NBA, there is a zero percent chance you could recite, in order, all of the teams Mr. Marshall has suited up for. And if you can, then you have real problems...as well as my full respect)
The Sunday loss to the Knicks was one of those unusual noon NBA starts where there is a good chance one team will come out flatter than Lori Petty and be down 25 points before the first NFL games kick off at 1:00. That team was the Pistons, finding themselves in a 29 point 2nd quarter hole, en route to a 2nd straight sad loss. Some disturbing numbers from the loss.
-The Pistons are now 0 and 5 on Sundays. Who do they think they are, the Lions? Ba-zing!!
-David Lee hauled in 19 rebounds. Our starting frontcourt (Tayshaun, Rasheed, Kwame) had 18
-Chris Duhon scored 25 points to go with 9 assists, while playing the full 48 minutes. In other news, he is in fact still Chris Duhon...not Clyde Frazier, as his numbers might indicate.
-Rasheed Wallace hit 4 of 6 treys in the San Antonio win Tuesday night. The two losses since, he connected on 1 of 9. As Pistons fans, we know a hot night from downtown for Sheed will usually lead to too many 3's launched in the subsequent games. As the legendary Doug Heffernan once said after using two packets of icing on one toaster strudel, "Happy now...Sad later."
The hometown boys have a very friendly schedule leading up to the New Year. Despite these most recent lackluster efforts, I still think there is too much talent here for it to continue too much longer. Rip is starting to break out of his funk for the first time since the trade and Antonio McDyess should be back with the club this week. With 11 games left on the 2008 calendar, I say the Pistons bag 9 wins and head into the New Year all smiles.
You Don't Just Walk Into Crisler Arena and Pick Up a Win...
The Michigan basketball program has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1998. In the time since, Wolverine fans have endured Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker. They've endured exciting, new "recruits" like Avery Queen, Lester Abram and Josh Asselin. I was matriculating there during an especially depressing time. It was so bad that a home win against a mediocre N.C. State team consisting of Julius Hodge and a side of rice pilaf was cause for a riot down State Street. You ended up trying to talk yourself into Bernard Robinson, Jr. as an NBA prospect, saying things like, "The jump shot, ball handling, and court awareness will come in time...the important thing is that he's very muscular." It was not a fun decade of Michigan hoops...until now.
The basketball team in Ann Arbor is finally relevant again. With John Beilein making all the right moves, Michigan took down #4 Duke Saturday afternoon, giving the Maize and Blue their 2nd win over a top-5 team in the young season (Also beat #4 UCLA). Beilein's boys were the aggressors throughout the game, getting to the line 22 times to Duke's 6. The 1-3-1 zone employed by Michigan forced Duke into hoisting up a staggering 33 shots from beyond the arc. Junior DeShawn Sims was the best player on the floor. Pulling down offensive rebounds, getting to the line, hitting 3's...Sims displayed the full skill set on the way to 28 points. Manny Harris played the perfect second fiddle, remaining under control and shooting a high percentage. It was a big win for a program that is almost trying to reinvent itself after a decade of gawd awful basketball. The win over a semi-fraudulent #4 team in UCLA on a neutral court was a nice win. But slaying previously undefeated Duke, after the Blue Devils just wiped the court with this year's Big Ten darling, Purdue; different animal entirely.
Crisler Arena seemed to be rocking for the first time in a long time on Saturday. Not too long ago, it was so quiet that you could clearly hear Tommy Amaker instruct LaVell Blanchard during an offensive possession, "Vell! You are top side, Vell! My turtle neck is too tight, Vell! Vell, I cannot breathe!!" Thankfully, things are much different now in Ann Arbor.
Oscar...You are Played....Sooooo Played
Oscar De La Hoya was dominated by the undersized Manny Pacquiao Saturday night. This should not have been breaking news. "The Golden Boy" last beat a good fighter about six years ago when he knocked out Fernando Vargas. Pacquiao beat De La Hoya to the punch all night long, and eventually Oscar decided he'd taken enough punishment after 8 rounds. Apparently De La Hoya thought that his height/reach advantage would somehow just magically win the fight for him...didn't happen. I've been an anti-Oscar guy ever since he lost the welterweight title to Felix Trinidad in a highly controversial decision, a fight in which Oscar threw exactly ZERO punches in the 12th and final round. He was the Champion, in a hotly contested fight. A real Champion takes the fight from you in the closing rounds. Our "Golden Boy" decided to run and hide in those "Championship Rounds," giving Trinidad the win and title. He was never the same fighter. 31 and 0 going into the Trinidad fight. 8 and 6 since. Hang em' up, Oscar...even if it is about five years too late.
(Sidenote: my older brother Gabe, despite being the most knowledgeable boxing guy you will ever come across, is also the most biased when it comes to his favorite fighters. De La Hoya is one of them. Leading up to the Pacquiao fight, Gabe claimed his boy had only lost twice in his career, despite the five red marks on his record. The Trinidad loss...he got robbed by the judges. The two losses to Mosley...only cause Sugar Shane was on the juice. He concedes the Hopkins and Mayweather losses. It'll be interesting to see which category he puts this Pacquiao beatdown in. I'm thinking it'll wind up in the "conspiracy" bin, leaving De La Hoya's make-believe record at 43-2. Maybe he shouldn't retire after all.)
Tell The World My Story
That was the slogan I scribbled in big capital letters on a brown, paper bag minutes before I was picked up for the Lions game by my boy BK. I have always been oddly jealous of the guys who donned the "paper bag over the head" look as a fan of a crummy sports team. I thought the above quote, taken from Newman in a Seinfeld episode, was the perfect fit for this historic season. I folded it 12 different times and stuffed it into one of my front jeans pockets. Survived the bizarre patting down by the Ford Field security where they basically make you extend your arms outward so they can check under your armpits to make sure there are no weapons there. My left front pocket was practically about to burst with my clever paper bag, but that was no big deal. I was all ready for my big moment. Except that the Lions actually played a competitive ballgame. The sign would not work in a Lions win. The game wasn't totally "in the bag" until under a minute remained, with the Vikings finally securing victory. By then, my dreams of national TV exposure and bursts of laughter from adoring fans in our section were long gone. Maybe I just don't have it in me to wear a bag on my head at a live sporting event. Or maybe being the Paper Bag guy was never really the fantasy I'd built it up as. Either way, the Lions lost and the only thing I regret is not getting a chance to "tell the world my story."
As always, feel free to drop a comment or your thoughts below in the "comments" section...or just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org