Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The woman in this picture is not only hotter than you; she's smarter, too.


I've been listening, the last few days, to Radiolab's podcast called "Games" (available here), and while the entire hour-plus is worth listening to (not least for the part where a study shows that people love underdogs so much they will root for geometric shapes they perceive as being likely to lose), the part that really got me thinking was a segment about "the man who ruined chess," Frederic Friedel.

I'm going somewhere sportsy with this, so even if you (like me) consider chess "not a sport" (disagreeing with Bobby Fischer, who said you have to be an athlete to play chess) I'll get to some sports stuff.

Anyway, Frederic Friedel ruined chess by, as I understand it, putting online a searchable database of every single chess game ever recorded.

That's what they said on the podcast, anyway -- that since the 16th century (which is when everyone invented everything) people have been recording chess games and now they're all available on a database and so chess has, for the highest level of players, turned into more or less a memory game: they play out the moves of games over and over.

Which actually was then kind of fascinating, as Radiolab took a look at a live (?) chess match and followed along with Friedel, who ran each configuration of the board through his database to tell exactly how many times that particular set up had occurred in the history of chess, and as the count got lower, dropping from over 1,500,000 to 500,000 to 25,000 to 10 to 5, I was finding myself sort of holding my breath as I listened, and then they got to a point in that match where that configuration of the board had never occurred before.

It was weirdly thrilling, listening to two people on a podcast talk about this moment in a chess match in the past where that had happened: an entirely new chess set up, a positioning of the pieces that had never been seen before by any human being.

It doesn't seem, actually, that unlikely that a new configuration of a chess board would occur, if you know the math. On the podcast, Friedel says there are more chess configurations than there are atoms in the universe. Universe Today estimates that there are 1,000,000,000,000
,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in the universe. But "Every Chess Configuration" says that it would take ... well, I don't know how long to count all the legal chess configurations; greater than 58 years, at least. (I don't know what e means in an equation.)

So if there's that many configurations, and it would take that long to get through them all and we've only been keeping track for 500 years, there must be lots of configurations that haven't occurred yet, making it more likely that every game would see one, but, of course, strategy means that you won't use some weird configurations and what your opponent does dictates in part what you do, which finally brings me to the more directly-related sports point for this post, which is that one of the reasons given by Radiolab for why people love sports is because of that Off The Book moment -- that thing in sports that we see that seems never to have happened and might never happen again.

That makes a lot of sense to me -- that's why we love records, for example: A world record has never been done before and may never be done again. (And that's why it was so disappointing to find out McGuire and Sosa and Bonds were using steroids -- it's like having computers play chess. Sure, you see the moves, but the thrill isn't there and the records shouldn't count.)

And that's why we love underdogs, like Butler in the NCAA last year -- the rarity of a Hoosiers or Marlins coming and winning the championship makes it an off the book moment.

And that's why we love weird plays and grand slams and no hitters-- no hitters are extremely rare-- and holes in one and the like.

That, I think, is why some sports, like baseball and NASCAR, are not as thrilling to watch: NASCAR, to me, suffers from being the same thing every single time. Golf, too -- almost every shot is similar to almost every other shot. Strange things don't happen, off the book moments are rare.

I've mentioned at times that I'd like to see the extremely improbable happen; I used to root for a team to go 0-for-Everything, 0-16 in football, because no team had ever done that. Now, it's happened once, so if it happens again it won't be as exciting. My new sports quest is that I'd like to see a 16-seed beat a number 1 in the NCAA Tournament -- a configuration that hasn't happened in the history of college basketball. 27 years of 64-team games, so there have been 108 16-vs-1 games, and no 16s have won. When one does, I hope I'm watching (but since I rarely watch college basketball, I doubt I will have been.)

Other off-the-book moments that I could recall off the top of my head included Tebow throwing that game-winner in overtime against the Steelers, the first Giants-Patriots* Super Bowl, the Bills' fourth trip in a row to the Super Bowl, and the Red Sox's first run to a modern-era World Series win.

That, the podcast by Radiolab, is the kind of sports reporting I like. I'm not really interested in passer ratings or records over the years or whether Jeremy Lin double-dribbled. I'm interested in thinking about sports in a different way -- and now, when I watch or listen to a game, I'll be thinking about those off the book moments and paying more attention to them.

The picture on this post, by the way, is of "Regina Pokorna," woman's Slovak chess champion in 2009. She's got a 2400+ rating in chess. That's one step below grandmaster.

Monday, March 26, 2012

As you act in sports, so you act in life. (Quotent Quotables)


"That tells you that you’ve got someone here who can relate to the voters in Wisconsin, just like those of us in western Pennsylvania who grew up in the bowling lanes."

-- Rick Santorum, making an apparently serious suggestion that voters in Wisconsin should ignore the fact that he was paid $500,000+ to ignore child rape, murder, and unauthorized exorcisms at a hospital he ran and instead vote for him because bowled three strikes in a row.

Rick Santorum knows how to get to the hearts of Wisconsin voters, as cheese-clogged as they might be: suck up to the sportsman in them. Over the weekend, Santorum did everything he could to get people to forget that as president he would institute Inquisition 2012 and instead focus on how folksy he is -- visiting Lambeau Field and drinking a beer while playing shuffleboard at a Green Bay bar.

Leaving aside that Rick Santorum is a horrible human being who recently tried to blame his handicapped daughter for his lack of charitable giving even though Santorum's net worth may be as high as $2,600,000, and leaving aside that this former frat boy millionaire graduated from high school in Illinois and had his first job at a giant law firm where salaries begin at $80,000 a year and so Rick Santorum has about as much in common with the blue collar workers he's sucking up to as an bowl of slime has in common with a homo sapiens...

(Rick Santorum is the bowl of slime in that simile)

...leaving all that aside, did you notice that nowhere in the press coverage did Santorum say what score he got?

Claiming that an unusual result midway through a contest somehow equates to a good outcome, when the real outcome is unknown or hasn't happened yet, seems to be symbolic of Santorum's candidacy.


This post appears on both Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! and Publicus Proventus.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Snitches get stitches... and Super Bowl rings.


As the world reels from the "incredibly harsh" (the quotes are used to denote sarcasm) punishment the NFL handed down this week -- Sean Payton banned for one year! From coaching the Saints! -- there are, as you might guess, a few points slipping through the cracks of this story as the world looks for the snitch because snitches get stitches.

I was going to put a clip of the Happy Endings episode where they say that, but turns out you can't get that clip. So I settled for that picture of a scantily-clad Elisha Cuthbert.

On that note: Jeremy Shockey is totally the snitch. But that's not one of the points that need. to be made about the the "shocking" "story" that NFL players were paid to hurt other players. There are other points that are not being picked up on.

Points such as the NFL knew about this and didn't do nothin' for three years.

Here's where I get that from: Commissioner Goodell's statement supporting the "harsh" punishment:

"A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game.”

Hmmm? Say that again? Who were the Saints denying this to... for three years?

It was the league, in case I need to spell it out for you; they say as much in their official statement, noting that the league made "repeated inquiries" about the bounty program over three years.

The league, in fact, had closed the investigation earlier. Because knocking two legendary quarterbacks out of the league was not enough evidence that something was amiss.

But remember! The league takes very seriously the safety of its players.

Which brings up point number two: The goal of intentionally hurting other players was not against league rules and was not why the suspensions were issued.

From that same article I linked to above:

The Saints’ bounty pool violates an NFL rule prohibiting non-contract bonuses.

Wait, what now? While the NFL made a lot of noise about player safety (a lot of noise it's not making about, say, requiring anticoncussion helmets), the collective bargaining agreement (apparently?) does not prohibit trying to injure another player. There's lots of talk about violating the "bounty rule" (including this article about how the Packers might have violated it by trying to hold opposing runners under certain yardage) a Google search for the actual text of this "bounty rule" turned up nothing.

So I went to the actual text of the collective bargaining agreement. Which does not contain the word "bounty." In fact, I was unable to find any specific clause of the CBA that actually prohibits trying to injure another player. Under "Player Security" (Article 49), the teams are allowed to mandate how players groom themselves. That was it.

If there IS a "bounty rule" out there, I can't find the text of it.

Point Three: Saints ownership knew about the bounty program that may or may not have been intended to avoid injury, and did not do much if anything to stop it.

The obviously-misnomered Saints ownership emailed this statement:

We offer our sincere apology and take full responsibility for these serious violations... It has always been the goal of the New Orleans Saints to create a model franchise and to impact our league in a positive manner. There is no place for bounties in our league and we reiterate our pledge that this will never happen again.

But the NFL official statement released said that

The NFL’s extensive investigation established the existence of an active bounty program on the Saints during the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons in violation of league rules, a deliberate effort to conceal the program’s existence from league investigators, and a clear determination to maintain the program despite express direction from Saints ownership that it stop as well as ongoing inquiries from the league office.

Raise your hand if you are picturing a Saints' front-office guy leaning into Payton and Williams' offices and saying "Hey! Stop that bounty! Wink! Wink! Nudge! Nudge! Also, here's your bonuses for making the Super Bowl after you crippled Brett Favre!"

In fact, Sean Payton specifically assigned a coach to monitor Gregg Williams, who the NFL said Payton didn't have much confidence in. And as for the Saints' efforts to end the program?

Saints owner Tom Benson notified [General Manger] Loomis in January 2012 prior to the team’s participation in the playoffs that the league’s investigation had been reopened. Mr. Benson reiterated his position that a bounty program was unacceptable and instructed Mr. Loomis to ensure that if a bounty program existed at the Saints it would stop immediately. By his own admission, Mr. Loomis responded to this direction by making only cursory inquiries of Coaches Payton and Williams. He never issued instructions to end the bounty program to either the coaching staff or the players.

The league found specifically there was no evidence to suggest Benson knew about the program, a finding that is easy to understand if you completely ignore the fact that the NFL told Benson it was investigating such a program. "Hiding your head in the sand" is an effective way to avoid punishment, if you are an ostrich or NFL team owner.

Not that it matters anyway, because

Point Four: Fines and on-the-field penalties don't stop the behavior.

The league report notes that

In each of the 2009-2011 seasons, the Saints were one of the top five teams in the league in roughing the passer penalties. In 2009 and 2011, the Saints were also in the top five teams in unnecessary roughness penalties; in 2010, the Saints ranked sixth in the category. In the January 16, 2010 divisional playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saints defensive players were assessed $15,000 in fines for fouls committed against opposing players. The following week, in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saints defensive players were assessed $30,000 in fines for four separate illegal hits, several of which were directed against quarterback Brett Favre.

Here's a shot from a 2010 Cardinals-Saints game:




The 6 penalties for 44 yards, as well as some player fines, the Saints were assessed against the Cardinals did not dissuade the Saints from targeting Brett Favre the next week:



Of COURSE they don't stop the behavior. The median NFL player salary is $770,000, which means that 1/2 of all players make more than that. A $30,000 fine -- that was actually several players' fines -- is 3% of that salary. Players get 17 paychecks in a season. If you make $770,000, you get $45,294 per check. A $30,000 fine is less than one week's pay. Players get in excess of $20,000 per game in the playoffs. A $5,000 fine per player is 1/4 of that week's pay.

In college football, when teams misbehave, past players and coaches are rewarded with NFL contracts (Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Pete Carroll at the Seahawks) while the present students are punished for stuff they didn't do by, say, being banned from postseason play.

In the NFL, even that level of punishment does not exist. Players are fined a nominal sum of money and teams have two draft picks taken away from them. Sean Payton will not be paid his $6,000,000 salary this year? He'll obviously have to struggle to live off any savings he has from his prior years of salary in excess of $4,000,000 per year. The Saint lose two second-round draft picks in each of the next two years? That might make an impact, if they couldn't trade for more and/or sign free agents. The Saints were fined $500,000? The Saints had revenues of $261,000,000 last year alone. They were fined 0.1% of their 1-year revenues and no, I didn't misplace that decimal point.

What would make an impact is to ban coaches and offending players for life (and require that contracting partners, like ESPN and Sports Illustrated refuse to hire them), but even Gregg Williams, who orchestrated similar programs at Buffalo and Washington and who is the primary reason Tim Tebow is now a New York Jet:




isn't out for life. And what would make an impact is to ban the team from postseason play -- because then the players and coaches would have something real to lose, and the fans would care.

As it is, nothing's going to change, and the penalties are neither severe nor shocking.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We should all be thankful St. Peyton bestows his spare change on us. (Football)


Peyton Manning! Savior of the Rocky Mountains!

The actual patron saint of mountain people is St. Bernard of Montjoux, who refused to marry and snuck away from the church on the day of his wedding and became a monk, then founded two hospices at a dangerous pass used by pilgrims heading to Rome:

In 1913 these hospices were renowned for the generous hospitality extended to all travelers over the Great and Little St. Bernard, so called in honor of the founder of these charitable institutions. At all seasons of the year, but especially during heavy snow-storms, the heroic monks accompanied by their well-trained dogs, the common herding dogs of the Valais ("St Bernards" are attested from the 17th century), went out in search of victims who might have succumbed to the severity of the weather.

That is where we get "St. Bernard" dogs and all those old 1930s cartoons of dogs with barrels of booze around their neck.

Will we one day have "St. Peyton Dogs" famed for their ability to find people with pinpoint accuracy, legendary for the way they never so much as go for a walk without three days' preparation, and renowned for how their own personal greed leaves their household in a shambles after they leave?

Wait, what?

Probably, we will never have a dog breed named after Peyton Manning, although I see no reason our society should not begin to specialty-breed animals to name after celebrities; once the Pope has his own perfume , that celebrity-product category is played out, so what's left? Canis Celebritus is where we're headed, and I for one, cannot wait to own a Clooney. (Known for their ability to both playfully romp and be completely serious, the Clooney is a loner dog, very hard to breed.)

Last July, I pointed out that Peyton Manning's taking a completely unnecessary amount of money would cripple the Colts and made him a horrible person, both individually (because he doesn't need that much money) and professionally. I mentioned that while Peyton Manning was being lauded -- praised for taking "only" $90,000,000 (including $28,000,000 up front) -- a homeless man in Indianapolis had been beaten to death by teenagers, and that $100,000 per year from Peyton would have provided that man an excellent lifestyle while making not a dent in Peyton's pocketbook, because the difference between $90,000,000 and $86,100,000 is not a difference a human being can register.

Peyton is not completely devoid of charity, and I didn't mean to suggest that. He did, for example, give $500,000 in grants from his foundation, according to this article. (And got a hospital named after him for part of his giving, making him have more in common with St. Bernard than I originally realized.)(That $500,000 figure comes from several sources, and is apparently what Manning's foundation gave away in 2005.)

To put that $500,000 in perspective, though, let's compare some numbers. Peyton Manning's net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth, is $115,000,000. $500,000 is 0.4% of his net worth.

To compare that level of charitable giving, consider that the median household income in America is $49,000. If those people gave at the level Peyton does, they would contribute $196 per year.

$500,000, in other words, is pocket change to Peyton Manning, whose charity does not exist solely on his money; some of the events it hosts are fundraisers, so Peyton Manning (whose net worth equals 2,036 times the median household income for Colorado) had a hospital named after him because he (metaphorically) dropped a few coins in the red bucket.

Nobody needs to earn that much money. It's selfish and greedy and his taking more money from Colorado is an insult to humanity -- and will now begin to hurt the Broncos the way Peyton's greed decimated the Colts.

The Colts devoted 20% of their cap space to Peyton Manning last year; his absence showed as the Colts became the worst team in football due to a lack of depth at every single position. That meant that the Colts got the 1st pick in the draft, which meant that Jim Irsay was required to take Andrew Luck, just as that NBA executive had to draft Greg Oden, despite the fact that all NBA execs knew he was a bust. It doesn't matter if someone is good or not; if the fans want him, you have to draft him or you'll go the way of that Texans executive who skipped over Reggie Bush.

Which meant that when Peyton tearfully said goodbye to Indianapolis, he was finishing the last act of an especially ironic Greek play; had there been a chorus singing

He laid the seeds of his own tragedy
And reaped the path he now must walk
Among the wheat of sorrow
Grown high with buckets of gold

It couldn't have been more fitting. (I wrote that myself; it rhymes in the original ancient Greek. Go ahead and translate it if you don't believe me.)

Gone but not forgotten: Peyton's legacy lives in on Indianapolis because he will still count $10,600,000 against Indy's cap this year, 1/12 of the entire salary cap the team will have (the cap being $120,000,000 or so.) That's going to make it harder for the team to sign quality help to give Luck a boost in his first year or two, and doesn't bode well for the season. (Moving into a previously-great team with a new coach and no talent and cap problems, Andrew Luck? Call Alex Smith for advice, and start thinking about what team you want to play for next.)

But Manning will also be hurting the Broncos-- he's a team player, and while his loyalties and cap hit may still linger in Indy, he's looking ahead to bringing down his new team for years, too.

On March 11, the Broncos had $44,000,000 in cap space going into 2012 -- about 1/3 of the cap was available for free agents. Nobody has yet looked at the cap hit from Manning's $96,000,000 contract, but sources report he's guaranteed $18,000,000 for the first two seasons each, provided he passes a physical at the beginning of each season. If Manning counts $18,000,000 against the 2012 cap, he will take up 15% of Denver's cap space this year alone -- and will have used up nearly 50% of their free agency money.

Maybe they need free agents. Maybe they don't. Denver was a playoff team last year, after all, with the much-maligned Tim Tebow. Maybe having Peyton throwing to receivers will be all it takes to move the team from first-round winner to the Super Bowl. Maybe. Pro Football Focus graded Denver's offensive line at 30th at the end of last season. I didn't see where they'd signed one this offseason -- who had time, what with chasing Peyton around the country? -- and while the Mile High Report said there were bright days ahead for the Broncos offensive line, it may be that the offensive line has a harder time defending an immobile pocket passer than it did defending a guy who is essentially a second running back.

Maybe.

My own prediction? Peyton Manning's next two years look a lot more like the last two years of Brett Favre's career, or the last two years of Donovan McNabb's career, than they do the last two years of Aaron Rodgers' or Drew Brees' career. Manning will make the playoffs in 2012-2013 -- that's virtually a guarantee, given how terrible the rest of his division is, and that no doubt accounted for his decision on where to go; a guy who has benefited from playing in the Colts' division all his career knows the importance of being a division winner in achieving success. But he's not going to make anyone forget John Elway.

Still, one thing is for sure: Whatever Manning does, his impact will continue to linger over the Broncos, the way his shadow is still falling on the Colts. But considering that Manning has, since 2004, signed 3 contracts all worth more than $90,000,000, it's disappointing that his legacy as a football player is to leave teams in ruin, and it's even more disappointing that his legacy as a beloved rich man is to sprinkle his pocket change around.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What would you ask God, and 63 other things you REALLY WANT to know about the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament! (WHODATHUNKIT?!)


Whodathunkit!? leaves the analysis of sports to so-called experts. You won't get stats or team breakdowns here. Instead, you'll get the facts you REALLY WANT to steer you through March Madness!

Thanks to quantum mechanics,
WHODATHUNKIT!? exists simultaneously on both Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! and The Best Of Everything.

It's time again for that huge men's college basketball event that I call "Mr Toad's Wild Ride" but which everybody else calls "March Madness" because everybody besides me apparently doesn't worry about things like "lawsuits" or "the fact that the NCAA Tournament is routinely held up as being the greatest of all sports playoffs and contrasted with the BCS which is only possible if you ignore the fact that the Mr Toad's Wild Ride is actually even more secretive and less fair, overall, than the BCS Football Standings."

Yep: It's going to be one of those posts where I complain about how much people love the NCAA Tournament, with all its Madness that takes place mostly in March, while people hate the BCS, even though the BCS at least has the courage to tell people how and why it screwed your team over, whereas the NCAA Tournament makes inexplicable decisions like "We're going to say there are technically TWO 12-seeds in the Midwest Bracket but only one of them gets to actually be in the Tournament itself, so, much like the Academy Awards which expanded their roster only to find that they couldn't always find 10 good movies to recognize, we're going to claim that there are now 68 teams in the 'playoff' but only 64 have any real shot of qualifying... still, two different teams will get to claim to have been seeded 12th in this year's Midwest bracket, so it's win-win unless you are a fan of truth in advertising."

Or, to put it more simply, as Aaron Rodgers, NFL MVP (and winner of exactly as many Super Bowls as Trent Dilfer) did on his Twitter account:


"Cal in a play-in game in the NCAA Tourney? Hmmmm"

"Hmmmmm" indeed, Aaron Rodgers! "Hmmmm" indeed.

Cal (24-9, located on the West Coast) faces off against South Florida (20-13, located on the East Coast) in the Midwest play-in game, while UNC-Asheville (24-9) and LIU Brooklyn (25-8), both ranked 16th, get to play for sure this weekend. That is an example of the inexplicable, backroom decision making done by a small cadre of people behind closed doors which is routinely held up as the pinnacle of sports playoffs, while things like the BCS (where 1-2 is based on a predetermined formula and all other postseason matchups are made publicly by disparate, noncoordinating representatives of colleges) is routinely dragged through the mud and investigated by Congress which, all right, being investigated by Congress is no big deal these days and it would give you a chance to get one of those tobacco-lobby checks John Boehner is prone to handing out on the Capitol floor, but still... why is the NCAA Tournament given all that respectability and taken home to meet Mom and Dad when the BCS is the one you stared at all night in the bar and will secretly drunk-dial next Friday?

Wait, I think I mixed my metaphors, there.

Anyway, there are three big problems, as usual, with Mr Toad's Wild Ride, those problems being:

A. If you use the phrase "March Madness," you're in danger of getting sued.

B. Those play-in games represent all that is evil about sports and you don't even know how they're decided, and

C. The conference tournaments this year had the effect of keeping other, potentially-meritorious teams, out of Mr Toad's Wild Ride, and yet I hear nothing from the sports establishment (a/k/a "Big Sport") about how playoffs can sometimes mess up the odds of seemingly-deserving teams and also nothing from Big Sport about how the whole "this team was deserving even though they didn't win" is actually a knock against playoffs and in favor of simply letting the teams fans love the most play in the championship.

Those themes and MORE will be explored as we go through the 64-or-so things you REALLY want to know about this year's NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament, the annual exercise in futility... that is, interestingness... that constitutes my contribution to this hallowed institution. I don't get into offense and defense and ... whatever else it is happens in basketball for the simple reasons that (1) other people do that really well and (2) I don't really understand basketball, since I rarely play it, can only dribble with one hand, and only watch about 1 game per year.

No, what I give you is something BETTER than a would-be jock examining how the 11th player on the 15th seed "really gives Xavier a chance at out-rebounding their competition in the final two minutes of the first half which is critical when you blah blah blah whatever." I give you that crucial element needed for any basketball get-together: ONE INTERESTING FACT about EACH TEAM in the Tournament, so that no matter who it is that comes up on the screen or advances to the second round or draws the ire of The Anointed One Who Now Has His Own Holiday by having to play in a play-in-game against South Florida, you will be able to say something about that team.

Not something intelligent. But still: something.

Here we go! In no particular order (other than the order I put them in!)

South Bracket:

(1) Kentucky: One of the lawyers who works for me is from Kentucky, and he likes to comment on how John Calipari, who I'm 78% sure has something to do with Kentucky basketball, views recruits: "Calipari likes to say it's a stupid rule to have to play a year in college before going to the NBA, but if you have to do your year, do it at Kentucky," which I am not saying is an accurate representation of Calipari's views or quotes. I'm just saying a guy here in Wisconsin says it about Calipari, which gives you a chance to take the NONSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT COLLEGE ATHLETICS IQ/HYPOCRISY QUIZ: It's only 2 questions long:

1. True or False: A person with a phenomenal amount of athletic ability in the game of basketball should, at age 17, be encouraged with all your might to go directly into the pros as soon as possible because he or she could make millions.

2. Answer this hypothetical question: Tom is a law student. On the first day of his law school career, all 9 Supreme Court justices come to him and say "
Tom, we'd like you to come work for us as an intern for a year. We'll pay you $10,000,000 and you'll get first-hand experience working with the brightest legal minds on the nation's highest court. After you finish that year, you can always come back and finish law school, but if you do not come with us right now, this opportunity may never present itself again because who knows if we'll like you in three years?"

Should Tom go?


Scoring: If you didn't get the point of that, give yourself a zero. If you spent any time trying to justify why Tom should go and the basketball player should not, give yourself a minus-13 and vow never to say anything to children or teenagers about how to run their lives.

Kentucky finished second in the SECT Tournament, falling to Vanderbilt in the championship game and ending a 24-game winning streak. The article on the Wildcats' website summed up how Kentucky teaches its adults -- college players are not kids!-- that every game counts, so always play your hardest:

Calipari has repeatedly told anyone who will listen that he doesn't care about conference tournaments, viewing them as a nuisance before the NCAA tournament because of the three-games-in-three-days grind. "I wish this would have happened yesterday so we got home a day earlier," Calipari said.
That is so inspirational, and yet in a way, you can actually ignore my sarcasm and take inspiration from it, because Kentucky lost in the final tournament game and still was seeded number 1 in the South Bracket, getting to play against the winner of a 16-seed play-in game, a double-victory in that a 1-seed can face no higher seeding than a 5-seed until the fourth round, and also in that Kentucky's 16th-seeded opponent will have to prepare first for its play-in game and thus have a shortened schedule to prepare for Kentucky. In that way, the play-in games are a both a boon to TV and a punishment to your team if you end up in one, making sure that your own particular favorite probably doesn't survive the first weekend because in many cases, your team played 2 or 3 games in a conference championship then a play-in game and then the Tournament game, all in about 8 days. Even if the players weren't exhausted by that, the coaches (who have only a vague idea who they might be playing) can't keep preparing their players adequately for all those new opponents.

In other words: Pick Kentucky in your office pool.

Or, DON'T, because if you're a reader of these things from the past, then you know that while I frown on picking number ones, I don't frown on picking number ones for the same stupid reason everyone in your pool does.

Everyone says, if you fill in an Office Bracket and pick all number 1s to win, that you're not fair and that you should "pick some upsets" and otherwise... how to put this nicely... be dumb like them and also make it less likely you'll win. People get really upset if you pick all 1 seeds to win, which is a strange way to react because:

(A) They'll say "that's stupid to pick all 1 seeds because there's always upsets and so you won't win" and

(B) They'll say "But it's not fair to pick all 1 seeds, you shouldn't do that" because they feel it makes you more likely to win.


Which overall just proves why you should never ever talk to other people, period, let alone about sports. I recommend that when someone approaches you, you either go into a violent coughing fit causing them to fear germs, or you try to talk to them about your favorite non-vampire-related book you read recently, thereby marking yourself as the kind of weirdo who reads books that aren't about vampires and who should be shunned by society.

NOTE: If you choose that latter route, do NOT under any circumstances mention The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, because everyone in the world claims to have read that book and will want to talk to you about it. They are lying: NOBODY in America read that book beyond the first deadly-boring 70 pages that were mostly about a flower in a frame, but they all want to claim they did and will insist that if you "work through" those pages "it's really worth it." They are, remember, lying: they bought the book, gave it up after 50 pages, and waited for the movie. But they'll still try to talk to you about it. The giveaway is that they keep calling the main character "James Bond."

We'll get back to that strategy. Time to move on to

(16) Western Kentucky University, which beat some other school nobody cares about to "play in" to the Tournament in a match-up of 16-seeds designed solely to let more schools say they made" the Tournament even though they didn't at all. You know how sometimes leagues have teams flip a coin to see who makes the playoffs (as happened here?) That's what the play-in game is, only they figure they can televise a game more easily than a coin-flip. Either way, only the winner makes the tournament, but in the NCAA's version, advertisers pay money to talk about beer during the game and you watch it even though it doesn't matter.

About Western Kentucky, I think you should know this: They're helping our Future Chinese Overlords prepare for taking over our country. WKU has something they call the "Confucius Institute," which has as its innocuous-sounding-but-don't-be-fooled goals:

Promoting understanding of Chinese language and culture through children's programming, training courses, cultural workshops, and events Introducing fully articulated K-16 instruction in Modern Standard Chinese

But here's why you should not be fooled. There are three other goals, carefully hidden just below those two earlier goals: WKU knows that it's a rare person (me) who reads more than two sentences on a web page before looking for the cute dog video. Here are the OTHER three goals WKU has:

Serving as a regional center for Chinese teacher training and Chinese curriculum development Helping address the needs of the business community and the general public Building connections and partnerships between Kentucky and China

Did you get that? They're actively developing Chinese teachers and curricula... in Kentucky! Where they're also partnering with China! That settles it for me: the new Axis of Evil is China, Kentucky, and... let's say... Seattle. It rains a lot there, so they're probably pretty angry at people.

(8) Iowa State: Remember, any school with "State" in the name is a lower-tier school, as are schools with directions in their name. Sorry, "Iowa" "State" "students." Real states are secure enough not to have to tell people they're a state.

As if you didn't have enough to worry about with Kentucky's Red Menace, Iowa State is creating a generation of hyperaggressive mean violent co-eds. They recently did a study to determine whether watching aggression on screen made people more aggressive in real life, and, surprise! it did:

In the study, the researchers evaluated the cognitive patterns of the college women after they viewed one of three fictional video clips. One clip depicted physical aggression, including a gun and knife fight that ended in murder. A second clip portrayed relational aggression, where girls steal boyfriends, spread malicious gossip and kick someone out of their social circle. The third clip was simply a scary scene, one that would raise the heartbeat. Researchers assessed physiological arousal, finding that all three films produced similar levels of excitement. They then measured reaction times when aggressive or neutral words flashed on a screen. Participants who had watched either aggressive film clip ascribed more meaning to words connected with aggression.
Which actually, to me, simply sounds like the women weren't necessarily more aggressive but rather were simply more primed to see aggression around them, which is a different kind of thing, but saying "Showing people clips of aggression attuned them to aggression in their environment the way buying a red car attunes people to red cars around them" is not likely to get headlines/research grants, now, is it? So why don't you just shut up before I shut you up! (Sorry: I just watched several seconds of a Ray Liotta movie.)



(9) UConn: UConn's website asks the provocative question "What would Alexey von Schlippe have thought?" which led me to the provocative question "Who is Alexey von Schlippe and why do I, or UConn, care what he... or she... thought?"

So I clicked that link. Oh, I clicked the bejeezus out of it. Well, once. I clicked it once. And got this:

Former UConn art professor Alexey von Schlippe observed the world around him and transformed it into portraits, landscapes, and still lifes of a unique and unmistakable style. His classical European training and Russian and German roots were evident. But more prominent was a fascination for experimentation with color, perspective, scale, and detail. He seemed to be constantly striving for the “correct” combination of elements in his paintings.
That is the intro to an explanation of the theory behind the art gallery at UConn, an art gallery that recently exhibited
the installations ... “The Question” by Pamela Pike Gordinier, which begged of the public: “What one question would you ask?” Thousands of responses poured in and became the basis for Pamela’s incredibly beautiful and powerful labyrinth exhibit.

That actually sounds more deserving of television time than a game between two 16-seeds. So I went to the site of "The Question," and got this:


“T H E Q U E S T I O N”

Found, abandoned at the labyrinth’s center - one gold wedding band.

Transfixed, I asked, “Why was this cherished symbol left behind? Thus, was sown the seed for this exhibition, the acknowledgement that questions stir the imagination and can take us on undiscovered paths.

So I asked friends, neighbors and strangers, If God exists what one question would you ask?

This exhibit is a visual representation of those myriad questions - the hopes, fears and ideas that connect and divide us. It is my hope that by becoming aware of each other’s viewpoint, we can begin a dialogue for understanding and change.

As I collected and read the questions that had been sent, I cried, laughed, and was awed by how personal and profound they were. I am indebted to the people who have participated in this project.

For me, the “art” is first what happened as people contemplated the question and then discussed it with others. And next, it is the visual response to these life questions that you will see in this exhibit.

To present these ideas, I have adapted a labyrinth as a metaphor for questioning one’s life journey, and hung illuminated books of questions. I also created a vessel to receive a “feast of ideas”, and an urn.

You are welcome to participate in this experience by filling out your own question to deposit in the vessel. Your name will not be attached to your question, they will however be documented for a potential book. The questions that are collected during this exhibit will be burned and placed into the urn.

In the end, do our questions not tell us more about ourselves than our answers?

Imagine if you met God and could ask only one question. What would you ask? I'd probably ask "How can I do it right?"

(5) Wichita State: Whereas someone else would ask "How can I avoid awkward segues from philosophical art institutes back to basketball?"

Wichita State are the "Shockers." "Shocker" has a highbrow legacy in pop culture:






But the Wichita It's-Not-Really-A-State Shockers' name comes from back in the Olden Days, when people used comical terms to refer to work to avoid confronting the fact that they all slaved through 22-hour workdays and lived on barley before voting for Grover Cleveland and then dying of typhoid at age 7. In this case, the term "shock" was used to refer to picking wheat: "I'm shocking this wheat," Wichitans would say before they went home to their sod house, which is why even today we think Wichita is boring.

Earlier, the Wichitanners were not the "Shockers," but were the Wheaties, and it seems to me that they missed a great branding opportunity in this team, because if Wichita wins the NCAA they could be on the Wheaties box, and they would be the Wheaties. Don't you see how great that is? Is it just that it's very early and I'm tired? I would love that! Just let it sink into your psyche for a while.

They don't just put anyone on a Wheaties' box, you know. It's tough to get on there. As evidenced by the fact that only six soccer players have ever made it.

(12) VCU: Speaking of which, it's about time I mentioned some famous alumni, and nobody has more famous alumni than VCU, which has these top 4 alumni listed on the College Prowler website:

Baruj Benacerraf, M.D. – Nobel Prize winner for medicine and immunology in 1980.

David Baldacci – Author of 10 consecutive New York Times bestsellers.

Nancy C. Everett – CEO of General Motors Asset Management Corp. and its U.S. subsidiaries.

Stephen Furst – American actor, best known as “Flounder” in the National Lampoon classic Animal House (1978).

That's right, VCU Students! Going to that school will someday prime you to win a Nobel Prize! Or have a relatively small role in a vastly overrated movie! Or have those two accomplishments ranked almost equally!



(4) Indiana: The big news over at Indy U is that they're going to take part in a tornado drill on March 21. Seriously. That's headline number two on their website as I write this.


(13) New Mexico State: Remember, if you're secure in your statehood, you don't have to broadcast it. New Mexico State is among the national leaders in trying to grow a better organic corn, hoping to, and I quote:

"make some really good really good blue corn tortillas."

You gotta reach for the stars, I always say. It's true: I always say that. People get sick of hearing it, and say "Why do you always say that?" and I don't answer them because I'm trying to cultivate an air of mystery.

If New Mexico State wanted to be in the forefront of agrifrankenscience, they'd start growing some of those Dorito plants that Taco Bell recently began using to make what I believe are its own organic-based shells.

(6) UNLV: So you're thinking about attending here, and you ask yourself, "What kind of options will you, as a brand new UNLV grad have?" Well, first, why do you refer to yourself in the second person? Isn't that kind of weird? And second, UNLV, right on its front page, has an answer for you:


For the nearsighted among you, that says:

Career Day Casino Public Relations Talk: Jackpot, Showgirls, and Twitter.
Which, frankly, sounds better than law school. I spend my day reading mortgages, and there's hardly a showgirl in sight.

(11) Colorado: To help ensure success in the PAC-12 Tournament, Colorado gave free trips to LA to 50 student boosters.

"Our environment at home is the heartbeat of our program and that starts with the students," CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn said. "It was fitting to invite them and bring spirit, energy and pride to the tournament and they delivered an incredible amount of energy and passion. It's brought great national recognition to what they stand for and our program stands for and what a wonderful institution the University of Colorado is."
The excitement over getting to Mr Toad's Wild Ride will probably help people forget that in 2010 Colorado voted to phase out college scholarships for low-income students.

You know what's sad? When I started typing this entry, I had no idea whether Colorado had actually cut scholarships. I just assumed they had, and googled "Colorado U cuts scholarships" to find that story. In America, in the past two years, it is a given that major universities and states cut funding for low income students.

But, hey... let's focus on the important thing here: 50 kids who were already so well off they could afford to attend every home basketball game got a free trip to LA courtesy of the college! USA USA USA!

(3) Baylor: Baylor, like many schools, boasts of being "nationally ranked" without ever being very specific as to what it's ranking is, but every school, really, is nationally ranked. That's the nature of rankings. If you were to rank bloggers, say, from best (me) to worst (also me; I have a lot of blogs), then no matter where I fell on the list, I could say I'm a nationally-ranked blogger.

Baylor's US News ranking -- rankings that don't actually tell you much about anything and don't really matter in the real world -- is 75th, which is probably why you don't see it on the front page of their college website. What's even more amazing about that low ranking for such a prestigious school is that Baylor isn't cracking the top 50 even though back in 2008 they tried to rig the system by paying students to retake the SAT to improve their scores.

(14) South Dakota State U: The NCAA Tournament isn't the only thing SDSU students have to look forward to this weekend. Michael Roe, a senior music major, will be giving his percussion recital on March 19. SDSU Percussion has a Facebook page, but a major identity problem; try to find any of the SDSU Senior Recitals on Facebook and all you get are Wichita State percussionist videos. Those stupid Shocking Wheaties! They hog all the glamor.

Since I can't find any SDSU stuff, I'll just insert my favorite percussion video ever at this point: The Ferny Grove Percussion Ensemble's version of Music For A Found Harmonium:



I could listen to that all day, and watching those kids play it makes it even better. They seem to enjoy it so much! When was the last time you enjoyed something as much as they enjoyed that?

(That might be a good question to ask God.)

(7) Notre Dame: Speaking of asking God things, here's a school with God's private line on speed dial. Or at least I assume that's how it works.

I wondered, as I saw Notre Dame was next on the list, what the basketball equivalent of Touchdown Jesus might be. Is there a Slamdunk John The Apostle? (Considering that he got his head cut off, that joke was probably in poor taste, but now I'm chuckling to myself.)

There is not. In fact, Googling What's the basketball equivalent of touchdown Jesus gets you nowhere other than it buries your searches for Christina Hendricks a little lower in your history.



That then led me to look for the World's Weirdest Jesus Statues, but I got sidetracked by this:



Which I am 82% sure is not Jesus. It is, instead, a statue called "Man Attacked By Babies" and it is part of a terrifying sculpture garden in Oslo, Norway, the "Vigeland Sculpture Park."

This is Oslo's number one attraction, a huge park with ponds, trees and lawns. The park covers an area of 80 acres and features 212 bronze and granite sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland. Vigeland personally sculpted every figure out of clay and individual craftsmen were contracted to fabricate the pieces into what they are today. These works of art reside along an axis divided into six sections: The Main Gate, The Bridge, The Children’s Playground, The Fountain, The Monolith Plateau and the Wheel of Life.
The sculpture park features a monolith that appears to be an orgy, and a sculpture of babies riding a nude woman with rope for a rein. Not even kind of making that up. I really really wish my browser history had stopped at Christina Hendricks.

But Notre Dame definitely should buy Man Attacked By Babies as a complement to Touchdown Jesus.

(10) Xavier: Hey, I never finished up that tip on how you should bet in your office pool, did I? Let me resolve that hanging plot thread for you: bet like a hedge fund manager.

Here's how that works: First, have people give you, like, a billion dollars of their money. Then, invest it and skim a bit off the top for your own profits as a commission, then get indicted.

Or, better yet, don't pick the obvious ones to win in your office pool. Most basketball fans will pick a few obvious upsets and a couple of obvious winners and the end result is that most people in the pool will be within a point or two of each other at the end of the Tournament. But for office pools, losing by 1 is the same as losing by 1,000,000 -- either way, you don't win.

So what do you do? Pick against the grain. Pick upsets all along the way. Have 16s beating 1s and 5s beating 12s. The odds are, you won't win the pool, and you'll lose by a jillion. But, remember: lose by 1, lose by a jillion, you still lose.

But that one year that a 16 beats a 1? That one year that VCU pairs up against Belmont in the Final Four? You will crush your opponents and look like a genius.

Black Swan your office pool. And your life. Finishing just out of the running isn't where the money's at.

Oh, and Xavier? Wednesday, March 14, they're celebrating "International Coffee Hour" from 3-4 p.m. By the time you read this, you missed it. Here's how that probably went:



Heh heh! Please, no more questions! I had no idea that being a 'family man' would be so hard!

If being a family man is tough for you, apparently the way to deal with that, by the way, is through Ashley Madison. Ashley Madison, a company dedicated to destroying monogamy for profit, has in our market recently begun running radio ads that suggest that the way to save a marriage is to have an affair. This is not a new strategy.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



Here's what I think about that. Guys like Dan Savage, who I have a great deal of respect for, proclaim loudly that humans are not meant to be monogamous, and many people suggest that "open" marriages and the occasional cheating on a wife can save a marriage.

I myself have been disappointed -- greatly disappointed-- by athletes I admired who cheated on their wives or tried to, including Brett Favre.

Whether or not people are supposed to be or biologically can be monogamous is beyond my ability to answer... although I am monogamous and have not been genetically inspired to cheat on my wife, who I've been married to for 12 years now.

But to me, what separates marriage from a commitment, what makes marriage different than all other relationships, is monogamy.

I think any two consenting adults should be allowed to marry. I support 'gay marriage,' which should just be 'marriage.'

I also think that people should have sex with anyone they want to anytime they want to (provided the other person/people consent.)

I just think that the two don't go together.

You want to be married, I think you should be monogamous. You want to sleep with anyone who's willing including your 'significant other'? I think you should not be married.

Marriage has to mean something. People aren't fighting for the right to marry just to have marriage be equivalent to every other status. To me, what separates marriage from a relationship is the level of commitment you are agreeing to. Marriage is at the top -- but it's not there because you promise to spend your life with that person (you can do that without a ring), it's not there because it takes a court to separate property (palimony and corporate dissolutions do the same thing), it's not there because you can have kids (anyone can do that, even the kids on MTV)... so what separates marriage? I say the promise that you will only have sex with that other person, all of your life.

I'm not trying to tell you how to run your marriage. I'm just saying that if your marriage includes "I get to sleep with other people who I'm not married to," then I think you're not taking marriage seriously.

(2) Duke: America's new military policy, as outlined in an address by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Duke University back in January:

"We'll figure it out."
That was the gist of General Martin E. Dempsey's remarks to Duke University. Dempsey was talking about how budget cuts are actually a good thing for the military because they will be... I don't know, more efficient or something.

Dempsey got a Master's in English from Duke in 1984, finally answering the question "What do you do with a Master's Degree in English?" with a resounding "You prepare to bomb the crap out of Iran." Martin also apparently has a Master's in Military Art & Science, because he presented a thesis back in 1988 entitled Link"Duty: Understanding The Most Sublime Military Value." In that one, Dempsey argued that the then-existing definition of "duty" the Army was using was inadequate, and proposed a more Hemingway-esque definition be adopted.

No, seriously:At page 101, he wrote:

Hemingway would understand the power and dignity of a word like Duty. This study ends with the hope that the authors of a new Army Ethic also understand.
As for me, whenever I hear "duty," all I think of is this.

(15) Lehigh: It occurs to me that even with the ethos of this blog, I should probably mention basketball once or twice in a Mr Toad's Wild Ride preview. I mean, yes, the point of the WHODATHUNKIT!? is to give you things to talk about that other sports authorities don't provide, but still, there's a limit, isn't there?

So: Lehigh University is going to the Tournament for the 5th time in school history. Lehigh is coached by Dr. Brett Reed, whose official position is the "Murray H. Goodman Head Men's Basketball Team Coach." So now, apparently, alums can sponsor a coaching position.

Reed's doctorate, which he is obviously very proud of because he puts doctor before his name, is in Instructional Technology, from Eckerd College. Judging by the Eckerd College website, this means that Reed is "Doctor of Knowing Kids Need More Computers In The Classroom So They Can Look Things Up On Wikipedia."

Reed's bio notes that he was given "a number" of awards "during his academic career," but names only one: the Thomas C. Rumbell Fellowship, a fellowship given by Wayne State; the Wayne State site doesn't say what the qualifications for getting that stipend are.

Oh, and the basketball note? Lehigh opens against Duke, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke got his first career win ever as a basketball coach against Lehigh, back when the humorless Coach K coached Army.

West Bracket

(1) Michigan State: It's not basketball related, per se (per se is Latin for "I hope you think I'm smart for using Latin") but it's still pretty cool: The blog "TheArtTheArtTheArt.com" is by a graphic artist who wanted to have a game schedule for the Michigan State Whatevers but wanted it to be interesting, so he created a different wallpaper for each game of each season going back to Game 1, 2010. Here are just three of my favorites:






Go check them all out. That last one is particularly cool, don't you think?

(16) LIU Brooklyn: The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds have a golf team, which I thought was unusual for a team located in New York City; how many golf courses, I wondered, are there within New York City limits?

The world may never know, as when I googled that question, I came across this story noting that the City of New York is going to spend $184,000,000 to build a golf course that it will then let Donald Trump run. The course will charge $100 to $125 for a round. Trump's contribution is to build a $10,000,000 clubhouse and pay a licensing fee beginning in year five.

I'm always ranting about how we're cutting government services even though there's more than enough money to go around; we just have our priorities mixed up. Why on God's green Earth would the City of New York build a golf course? And if the City is going to build a golf course, shouldn't it be free to taxpayers, the way (most?) parks are? And isn't building a golf course and charging money to get into it just a regressive tax, transferring city tax dollars from poor to rich? Everyone pays the same tax rate, but people who can afford $125-per-round golf just got a huge $(##&%^#$ subsidy from New York City...

...a city that voted, just 3 weeks after approving the "Let's Give Trump Some Money to Subsidize the 1% Deal", to lay off teachers, close fire stations, and eliminate day care subsidies because there wasn't enough money.

I want you to compare and contrast these two paragraphs from two stories:

In another attack on the poor, $192 million is being eliminated from the Advantage rent subsidy program, one of Bloomberg’s signature programs designed to help homeless families leave public shelters.


And this one

On January 18, New York City officially approved a deal for Trump to manage the course, which will be located at Ferry Point Park and open in 2014. Under the agreement, the city (in other words, taxpayers) will be responsible for the estimated $184 million construction of the course.
I mean, Jesus Christ, America.

(8) Memphis: Back in 2009, the Memphis Grizzlies made a big announcement that the Memphis Tigers (the college team) would have their coaches take part in the "First Annual Coaches Clinic." I tried to find out what was taught at that clinic, which charged $69 to coaches for a day of tips from legendary coaches like Josh Pastner, the Tigers' coach, but it appears that the "First Annual" clinic was the last annual clinic, too -- I wasn't able to find evidence that the Grizzlies ever did it again.

But Josh Pastner really is a legend. It says so right on GOAZCATS.com, in an article titled

How the legend of Josh Pastner was born

In that article, we learn that Pastner's legendary brashness wasn't just a product of his being a freshman on the Arizona team that won the 1997 National Championship, but was also the product of good ol' fashioned book learnin':

Josh has been focused and driven to succeed in the game of basketball since he was in elementary school," Hal Pastner said. "He immersed himself throughout his school years reading every book about the game and studying all aspects of basketball. He was never fast, quick, or could jump but he worked very hard and many days throughout high school would stay in the gym even after the lights were out until the maintenance crew kicked him out since they had to go home.

Josh Pastner could play basketball in the dark! The article goes on to argue that Pastner's apparent hamming it up shouldn't be his legacy -- and maybe it shouldn't; by many accounts, Pastner was an excellent coach from early on. His dad was so impressed with Josh that he turned over the coaching duties of a team called the "Houston Hoops" to Josh at 16; Josh's dad continues to be involved with the Hoops, an AAU program from which Josh has recruited players, and whiel at least one article suggested that maybe the Josh-Dad connection was a little tricksy given limits on coaches' ability to talk with AAU programs, nobody's saying anything much about that. He also by all accounts is a pretty charitable guy, and earned his degree at Arizona in 2 1/2 years -- the fastest anybody's ever done that.

So while I can make fun of him playing basketball in the dark, I'm actually pretty impressed by Paster. When I was 31, I had to close my first business and joined my present firm and had no money to my name. Kudos to him.

(9) St. Louis: One thing you probably wouldn't want to ask God if you had just the one question is "How am I supposed to tell which school it is that's in the Mr Toad's Wild Ride?" The bracket that I follow doesn't say anything like "St. Louis University" so when it's a school I'm not familiar with, which happens like 98% of the time, I have to Google something like "St. Louis NCAA" and see what comes up.

Which in this case is a story about St. Louis hosting the NCAA wrestling championships. Not every conference includes wrestling as a sport, the story notes -- the SEC doesn't, so when Missouri moves to the SEC next year, apparently they won't have wrestling anymore as a sport?

The wrestling championships will be on ESPNU and ESPN3.



St. Louis' basketball team -- the Billikens -- is, I'm told, rebuilding under Rick Majerus, who, this ESPN story notes, likes to sit as he coaches his team. ("There's a stool in every corner of the Saint Louis gym so Rick Majerus can roam the building and do his scrutinizing comfortably.") Majerus has players from Australia and New Zealand on his team. The NCAA Tournament is increasingly international; last year, 88 players came from outside the US, representing 32 different countries.

New Zealand, which you don't think of as a hotbed of basketball, has it's own National Basketball League, featuring teams like the "Pirates," the "Sharks," and the "Moutainairs." The NBL in New Zealand is not to be confused with the New Zealand national basketball team, the "Tall Blacks,"



Which, no it's not racist: The "Tall Blacks" take their name as a play on the New Zealand national rugby team, the "All Blacks."

The New Zealand women's national basketball team is the "Tall Ferns," and features four women currently on US college basketball teams.

(5) New Mexico: Seems weird that there's both New Mexico and New Mexico State in the tournament, doesn't it?

The UNM Lobos used to have a live wolf as their mascot; the cheerleaders were in charge of the wolf. But the school had to stop that when a kid teased the wolf and was bitten and the UNM officials decided to get rid of the wolf because -- I love this --

as one historian put it, "for fear other ill-bred brats might become tempted to play with the wolf and bring a damage suit."

That's off the official UNM website, and the biting took place back in the late 1920s, so it's not modern day lawyers who are wrecking society. It's old-fashioned ill-bred brats.

The story behind the Lobo also includes this reference to Bruno Dieckmann, the alum who brought the first live wolf in as a mascot:

Elsie Ruth Chant, class of 1923, recalled, "All of the girls on campus wanted to be seen with him. He was an accomplished concert violinist as well as being a successful businessman, and he was rich. He drove a Stutz Bearcat convertible around town and all of the girls would compete to get rides with him. Sometimes he had five or six girls in the car, and when he finally got married, he left broken hearts all over campus.

Things sure have changed. These days, all the Stutz Bearcats in the world can't make a violinist seem cool to the girls.



(12) Long Beach State: With California schools, I always like to check and see if there are some weird California majors to be had. California State University, Long Beach (as the school is officially called) offers courses in consumer studies (one suggestion for careers based on that course is "consumer advocate on television and radio stations") and even will give you a bachelor of the arts in consumer affairs.

Even better though is the Recreation and Leisure Studies Program:
The Department exists to promote a broader and deeper understanding of the role of leisure and recreation in the lives of all people and to enhance the quality of experiences available to each person.

So you can get a college degree in relaxation!

(4) Louisville: Games in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of Mr Toad's Wild Ride this year will be played in Louisville at the "KFC YUM! Center." Tickets for basketball are sold out, but you can still get seats for "Thunder Over Louisville," which will be held at the YUM! center, too, the "largest annual pyrotechnic display in America."

The day-long event kicks off the two exciting weeks of events that are part of the annual Kentucky Derby Festival. The Thunder Air Show dazzles the crowd with more than 100 planes, aerobatics teams, daring sky diving teams and breathtaking stunts.

When it gets dark, the Thunder rolls. The fireworks will feature the latest in pyrotechnic power from Zambelli Internationale, America's "first family of fireworks". Six barges that are 100-foot open top each assemble on both sides of the 2nd Street Bridge to form the stage from which the fireworks spectacular ignites.

The breathtaking and mind-numbing 28-minute show includes Thunder's signature one-mile "waterfall" effect off the bridge, making the fireworks seem to rain down forever. And in the crowd's memory of the show, it does!

But why read about blowing stuff up when you can watch it?




(13) Davidson: Davidson made the "Elite 8" a few years back, in 2008, and that prompted the reminiscence from Kelsey on the Explore Davidson student and faculty blog. Kelsey had just been admitted to Davidson in the 2008 run, and is now at school and tells how she learned about Davidson's ticket to the tournament:

Most recently, we won the Southern Conference championship against Western Carolina, in a nail-biting game that went to double overtime. In a funny turn of events, I was on a cruise with other avid basketball fans, and we spent four stressful hours watching score and time updates on the ESPN ticker at the bottom of the screen, because the cruise ship wasn’t broadcasting our game live.

That is a funny turn of events! Or, it's not. I often wonder about people who plan vacations around football games or basketball games. I would not go to Southern California and spend time watching the Rose Bowl even if they put real badgers into uniforms and had them play.

Well, maybe then.

But I suppose if that's your thing, okay, you like to go to games and why not go to one in a nice location?

But I'm not sure I'd waste time on a cruise watching a ticker for any game involving any team. Kelsey is amazingly devoted, and also wasted a vacation.

(6) Murray State: "Murray" is not a state, I am 75% sure, unless we already got the Moon admitted to the union and renamed it "Murray." Wouldn't it be kind of nice if our moon had a name? Instead of just moon? I mean, our planet is almost literally named planet -- that's what Earth means, dirt. It's like we named our kids "kid".

Murray State suffers from an almost-as-generic nickname, the "Racers." That's only been their nickname since 1961; before that, the official nickname was "Thoroughbreds," which I like, and it was often shortened to things like "T-Breds." "Racers" was chosen because "Thoroughbreds" was deemed to clunky for the modern 1961 sports fan:

The baseball team, though, kept Thoroughbreds, which is fitting because baseball, too, is mostly appealing to people in the 1950s. Here's their logo:





(11) Colorado State: CSU's heading to the Finals! Not in basketball, stupid: In theater! Which I didn't even know could be competitive. I wonder if they do hurdles?

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival is a national theater program with more than 18,000 participants annually. Students ...convened in Fort Collins to participate in workshops; attend symposia and colloquies and professional presentation; and work with resident artists. For the fourth year in a row, CSU students will travel to Washington, D.C., April 16 – 21, 2012, to compete at the prestigious Kennedy Center national conference.

The students did "The Kafka Project,"

a collectively-created sampling of Kafka’s bizarre world of works. The project features staging of six major works along with entries from his diaries and letters; all centered around his most famous work, The Metamorphosis.

...

A Hunger Artist is a first-person monologue by a man who, as a side-show act, is starving himself to death. In A Report to an Academy, an ape tells a group of scientists why he chose to become a man. The story In the Penal Colony describes the last use of an elaborate torture and execution device that carves the sentence of the condemned prisoner on his skin in a script before letting him die, all in the course of twelve hours.

The centerpiece of this haunting evening, presented in five installments throughout the piece, The Metamorphosis, follows the six-legged nightmare of traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, who awakens one morning to discover he has been transformed into a giant bug.

But why just read about a man turning into a bug when you can watch it dramatically re-enacted?

(3) Marquette: Just so you know, I've picked Marquette to win; I have Marquette over Gonzaga, 78-72. That's how I roll.

Marquette's slogan is "Be The Difference". Over on the Marquette Tumblr which WHY is TUMBLR so big a deal? I don't get it they've got this:





For lawyers, the motto I assume would be "Sue The Difference." For bloggers, it would be "Ignorantly Mock The Difference With At Least Seven Tpyos plus a picture of your baby holding your cat." (OMG! CUTE!)

(
14) BYU: I always like to mention BYU's Museum of Paleontology, one of the top 5 dinosaur museums in the world. They've got "Devonian fish," fossils that are 380,000,000 years old/tricks of the devil (depending on whether you're voting for Rick Santorum or not.) The Devonian period was "The Age Of Fish," the time when Europe and America had collided, forming the Appalachian Mountains and causing American fossils to accuse European fossils of wanting to turn us all socialist. Scientists believe the lingering effects of that collision is what accounts for East Coast Liberalism today, and suggest that in 350,000,000 years the effect will have worn off.

The earliest fish were "Ostracoderms," a name that means "Shell-skin", and which was given because those fish had no bones; they used harder outer skins and cartilage to hold themselves up.



The next time you run into someone who's too sensitive, tell them "Man, you've got to ostracoderm up!"

(7) Florida As the national Republican primary either bores you (when Romney's winning) or horrifies you with visions of a New Inquisition under Santorum's Theocracy, consider Florida's primary, where they're mentioning Charlie Sheen a lot:

Republican Senate candidate George LeMieux is invoking Sheen in a new 60-second statewide radio spot that likens GOP primary rival Connie Mack to the troubled actor. “Connie Mack IV, the Half-Mack, is also known as the Charlie Sheen of Florida politics,” the ad’s narrator says, repeating a line LeMieux used in a recent news conference blasting Mack for bar brawls, financial woes and other problems in his past. “Maybe he owes Charlie Sheen an apology,” says the narrator, calling U.S. Rep. Mack “everything that’s wrong with Washington.”

Salon.com posted a history of Connie Mack's violence. This Connie Mack (real name: Cornelius McGillicuddy) is a descendant of the winningest baseball coach ever Connie Mack,but I think the coach Mack never did stuff like this:
...Mack’s girlfriend was driving his car when a driver forced her off the road. Both cars stopped and Mack got out. The other driver tried to punch Mack, so Mack punched him. The driver went back to his car, grabbed a baseball bat and chased Mack around the car and smashed its windows.
Still, it is baseball-related, right? So it's just part of the family tradition.

(10) Virginia: Time again for "Who's famous from this school?" Getting top billing on the school's website even as I type this? Tina Fey:




You know her! She imitates Sarah Palin and pimped out her daughter to sell books. That guy next to her, half-hidden by her bio and overlapping Katie Couric?

Woodrow Wilson.

(2) Missouri: Over on Ask.com, somebody wanted to know why Missouri was called Mizzou when there were no z's in Missouri. Knowing how to spell Missouri is actually a pretty high level of sophistication for most Ask.com users, so give that person credit.

Luckily, the University of Missouri, as is befitting an institution of higher education, has the answers for us all:

No one is sure who first used the word Mizzou, but it was used in the Missouri Alumni Quarterly as early as December 1905.


(15) Norfolk State: Like Ohio State, Norfolk refers to itself as "The Norfolk State University," in case there was any confusion about which State U. really represents Norfolk. Every year, THE NSU gives an "Eminent Scholar" award to a professor. Last year's winner was Dr. Mikhail A. Noginov, a Professor of Physics. Noginov

is known for his work on random lasers, metamaterials and plasmonics, having made pioneering contributions on active metamaterials and plasmonics with gain, and transformative experimental studies of hyperbolic metamaterials.

Random lasers? Does Homeland Security know about this? I have to take off my shoes in an airport and I can still be hit by a random laser coming from some place in Virginia?




NOTE: For the first time in the history of the NCAA Tournament, I am not going to be able to finish up with this post the way I want to; I could blame lots of things for this, but I think it's best if we all agree that "global warming" is the culprit.

Still, it's 10:04 a.m. my time as I type this, the Tournament -- the real Tournament, not the Fake Four Made For TV -- starts soon, and I'm in a bind: I promised you 64 facts, but I've delivered only on 32 teams.

So here's what I've decided: I'm going to hope that in place of quantity, you accept "less quantity," and also, I'm going to make a fun game of it! Because I won't have time to individually get to the other 32 teams I haven't covered, but I want to give you your 64 facts, I have listed below thirty-two random facts I picked up from clicking around Wikipedia. I've listed each next to a team's name as that team's fact. Accordingly, I would not use these "facts" to impress your friends until after the third round of shots.

(1) Syracuse: Liverpool Football Club is an English Premier League football club based in Liverpool. It has played at its home ground, Anfield, since its founding in 1892.

(16) UNC-Asheville: Star Track Express, formerly Multigroup Distribution Services and Discount Freight Express is a national Australian transport and logistics company.

(8) Kansas State: The Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army, shortly abbreviated as COAS, is the highest staff post in the Pakistan Army, held by the senior 4-star rank officer.

(9) Southern Miss: The Ugly Swans (Russian: Гадкие лебеди) is a 2006 Russian science fiction film directed by Konstantin Lopushansky, based on the novel of the same name by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.)

(5) Vanderbilt: "Kaplan" means "tiger" in Turkish.

(12) Harvard: Taylor Nicolle Kalupa



was born on October 14, 1990 in Upland, California[1] She began dancing at the age of 3 and became involved with competitive dancing at the age of 7

(4) Wisconsin: Le Syndicat is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.

(13) Montana: Hankyu Railway (阪急電鉄 Hankyū Dentetsu?) is a Japanese private railway that provides commuter and interurban service to the northern Kansai region and is one of major businesses operated by Hankyu Hanshin Holdings, Inc. The railway's main terminal is at Umeda Station in Osaka. The signature color of Hankyu cars is maroon

(6) Cincinnati: Frederick Goodall was an English artist was born in London, England in 1822, the second son of steel line engraver Edward Goodall (1795-1870). He received his education at the Wellington Road Academy.

(11) Texas: Lundring Church is a parish church in the municipality of Nærøy in Nord-Trøndelag county, Norway. It is located in the village of Nærøy. The church is part of the Nærøy parish in the Nærøy deanery in the Diocese of Nidaros. The white wooden church building was constructed in 1885 and seats about 600 people. The church was designed by architect Jacob Wilhelm Nordan.

(3) Florida State: The Cristo de La Laguna (Christ of La Laguna in english) is a Catholic figure of great historical, artistic and cultural image that represents the crucified Jesus of Nazareth. Situated in the Real Santuario del Santísimo Cristo de La Laguna (Royal Sanctuary of the Christ), in city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain).


(14) St. Bonaventure: Lester B. Pearson C.I (LBP) is a public high school in Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; which teaches grades 9 through 12 and has a multicultural group of students coming from 56 different countries, speaking 42 languages, and practicing 17 different religions.

(7) Gonzaga: Wendy Froud is an internationally exhibted sculptor and doll artist, and the designer of puppets for films such as The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, The Muppet Movie, and The Empire Strikes Back.

(10) West Virginia: The Jungle Twins was an American comic book series published by Gold Key Comics in the 1970s. The series was one of several new titles Gold Key created when they lost the rights to Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan characters.




(2) Ohio State: Sebastian Leszczak (born January 20, 1992 in Kraków) is a Polish professional footballer who plays as a forward for Garbarnia Kraków on loan from Górnik Zabrze.

(15) Loyola MD: The women's tournament in ice hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from 13 to 25 February. Eight teams competed, seeded into two groups. Canada won the gold medal game by a score of 2–0 over the United States

(1) North Carolina: Raymond Vahan Damadian (born March 16, 1936, NY USA) is an Armenian-American medical practitioner and inventor of the first MR (Magnetic Resonance) Scanning Machine.

(16) Some team that played in and doesn't matter: Two ships of the United States Navy have been named Balch, for Rear Admiral George Balch.

*heh heh: rear admiral.*

(8) Creighton: The River Wallington is a small river in south Hampshire. Rising close to Waterlooville the river flows westerly around Portsdown Hill through the village of Southwick (where the river has been dammed to form the ornamental lake in the grounds of Southwick House), past Fareham, before entering Portsmouth Harbour at Wallington.

(9) Alabama: Alek Wek is a Sudanese supermodel:



(5) Temple: zbV is an abbreviation for the German term "zur besonderen Verwendung" meaning "Special Purpose". It is usually translated "For Special Employment".

(12) California? Let's hope A-Rodg was not disappointed: Steve Carlip is an American professor of physics at the University of California, Davis. He is known for his work on (2+1)-dimensional quantum gravity, the quantum gravitational basis of black hole thermodynamics, and causal dynamical triangulations.
*That's weird how that worked out -- entirely random, and yet somewhat related to California!*

(4) Michigan:

"I Don't Like Mondays" is a song by the Boomtown Rats that was a UK number one single for four weeks during the summer of 1979.



(13) Ohio: Cult of the Charkha is an essay by Rabindranath Tagore which first appeared in September, 1925 in the Modern Review. In the essay Tagore offered critique on the Gandhian ethic of ‘Charkha-spinning’ as an activity which could rejuvenate the Indian masses during the Indian independence movement.

(6) San Diego State:

Muti is a term for traditional medicine in Southern Africa as far north as Lake Tanganyika. The word muti is derived from the Zulu word for tree, of which the root is -thi. In Southern Africa, the word muti is in widespread use in most indigenous African languages, as well as in South African English and Afrikaans where it is sometimes used as a slang word for medicine in general.


(11) NC State: Ashton James Hayward III (born April 15, 1969) is the mayor of Pensacola, Florida, having taken office on January 10, 2011.[1] He is the first mayor elected under the new "strong mayor" form of government adopted in 2009

(3) Georgetown: Orrin Anthony Barton is a retired American high jumper. His personal best jump is 2.32 metres, achieved in June 1992 in New Orleans.

(14) Belmont:
In geology, a rock's fabric describes the spatial and geometric configuration of all the elements that make it up.

(7) St. Mary's: The complex Bowman Flag with its swallow-tail fly was designed by John and Honor Bowman of Richmond NSW in 1806. The shield on the design shows the rose of England, thistle of Scotland and shamrock of Ireland. It commemorates (by the motto England expects that every man will do his duty) the Royal Navy’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) a landmark event for Britain’s Australasian colonies.




(10) Purdue: The Column of the Goths (Turkish: Gotlar Sütunu) is Roman victory column dating to the 3rd or 4th century AD in Gülhane Park, Istanbul, Turkey.

(2) Kansas: Sir Roger Cholmeley (born 1490s — died 21 June 1565) was Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench from 1552 to 1553. He was the illegitimate son of Sir Richard Cholmeley of Yorkshire (1472 – 1521), who served as Lieutenant of the Tower of London from 1513 to 1520.

(15) Detroit:

Earl Gilbert "Butch" Graves, Jr. (born January 5, 1962, in Brooklyn, New York, US) is an American businessman and retired basketball player. He is a Scarsdale High School graduate.

Graves, the son of Black Enterprise founder Earl G. Graves, Sr., attended Yale University and earned an MBA from Harvard University. While at Yale he was a member of Skull and Bones[1] and captained the college basketball team. He currently is the all-time leading scorer in Yale men's basketball history and third all-time in Ivy League. He was drafted into the NBA by the Philadelphia 76ers and later played briefly for the Cleveland Cavaliers (1984-85).


ME again: which means Graves was Jeremy Lin before Jeremy Lin was Jeremy Lin.





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