Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Dating Game: Playoffs Edition

Maybe this is just limited to the female perspective (I suspect that it is) but I've always viewed my relationships with sports teams like one might view romantic relationships. 

Most of us start dating at birth--usually because we've been betrothed from day one to a team of our parents' choosing (usually it's Dad's choice). Although we may have our struggles, and may at times question whether or not our parents' choice has been a blessing or a curse, at some point we affirm the relationship with non-verbal vows that are very similar to those that couples exchange at the altar. Though we may never say it out loud, our hearts commit for better or for worse (in good seasons and bad) until death (or a Baltimore Colts-type situation) do us part.

For me, I was betrothed at birth to two teams--the Florida State Seminoles and the Atlanta Braves. To this point, I have been faithful to both in good times (National Championships, World Series) and bad (cheating scandals, playoff heartbreakers). Sometimes we get mad at each other, sometimes we say things we don't mean, but at the end of the day we accept our relationship for what it is.

It's the NFL and the NBA that have been more of a struggle for me. I fell head over heels for the Jaguars when they came on the scene in '95, but we went too far, too fast and they wound up breaking my heart. They chose Mark Brunnell over me, and I took it hard. I rebounded for a short time with the Washington Redskins, but that ended before it really began when they decided to trade Brad Johnson and hire Steve Spurrier. Recently, the Jags and I have gotten back together, but the future of our relationship is still uncertain. 

In Facebook terms, "it's complicated."

The NBA is an entirely different story. I feel like I've been playing the field there for decades. I dated the Bulls in the mid-nineties (really, who didn't?) and showed some interest in the Magic back in the Shaq and Penny Hardaway days. Back then, Orlando was the new kid on the block in Florida sports (I should say north-central Florida sports, the Heat came on the scene then too, but my sleepy town in North Florida might as well be on a different planet than Miami) and I was attracted to them, but then came the lockout. After that, I went through one of those periods where you're convinced that all teams are bad and you're happy to be single and not tied down to any one situation.

I probably would have stayed on the outskirts of the NBA had it not been for my college roommate, Alicia, who happened to be a die-hard Lakers (read: Kobe Bryant) fan. Based on her recommendation, I started a casual relationship with the Lakeshow (as she calls them) and though content, I never felt a spark. Not like I do with the 'Noles, the Braves and even sometimes, the Jags. The Lakers are like that gorgeous guy you date because he's just so damn attractive, even if his personality isn't so great and he's got a sketchy history (at best).

Still, I rode out the Lakers train for a few years and maybe I would still be on it, if the Magic hadn't come along this season and swept me off my feet.

The new kid on the block just showed up at the class reunion with a lot more muscle, a swanky ride, and a lot of class. Suddenly, I'm wondering if fate was at work all along. Maybe the Magic and I were meant to be together and it just took us a while to figure out--we had to go through all those difficult times to reach this moment when their success has stepped in to offer a glowing light during the dark times of my Period of Bitter Unemployment (heretofore known at my PoBU).

Maybe...just maybe...this is love.

Or maybe this was a really elaborate way for me to justify jumping on the Magic bandwagon as they head to the finals for the first time since '95. 

You be the judge.

Later days,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Don't Get Too Discouraged, But...

...that post on a woman's view of women's sports won't be coming this week. I know you're disappointed, but for both our sakes I need you to try and keep it together. My multiple diatribes on different issues within the broader category of women's sports is going to have to wait until I get back from a family vacation to the mountains (and with a nine-hour car trip up there, I'll have plenty of time to get my thoughts together on the subject).

Until then, enjoy the ongoing March Madness (UConn!) while I catch-up on my ESPN the Mag back issues and maybe snag a little time with some baseball preview mags. 

Later days,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving Past Bitter To Baseball...

Enough time has passed since Florida State's OT loss to Wisconsin on Friday that I'm starting to see the vaguely silver (or at this point, gray-ish) lining to this whole season.

Though I am admittedly biased, it's a pretty impressive accomplishment for a non-basketball savvy school in the midst of a major scandal to make it to the championship match in a decidedly basketball-savvy conference. Let alone for that same team to finally break into the NCAA Tournament after what seemed like an almost a permanent pity invite to the NIT.

So for that, I will give my 'Noles a round of applause. Just like I said as we were getting the snot beat out of us by Duke in the aforementioned ACC Championship game, Florida State's slogan this season should have been "Hey, we're just happy to be here!" I'd like to think that we needed this moderate success and its introduction to what it can bring us like a kid needs training wheels.

I have confidence that our young team will return to The Dance next year, and though I am loathe to admit it, I attribute most of that confidence to Coach Ham.

Don't get me wrong, I always liked Coach Hamilton. My interactions with him when I worked at FSU were always pleasant and my respect for him has never been in question. But after so many buzzer-beater losses and so many years of promising athletes who came and went without any team accomplishments to speak of, I became skeptical of Coach Ham and thought that perhaps when the new athletic director came in, he might be on his way out.

Now I realize with a little bit of perspective and understanding of the situation, that Coach Ham has been fighting a tough battle since he came to Florida State. How do you go about recruiting basketball players at a football school? How do you entice recruits to play in the ancient, smelly halls of the Donald L. Tucker Center beneath the half-dozen faded yellow jersies that make up the school's scant roundball history? Especially when the competition in your conference is so fierce. I mean basically the best recruiting package you have to offer includes football season tickets and the chance to be on the court with some of the best teams in basketball a couple times of year (while they kick your ass in your only televised games of the year).

And even when Coach Ham did find the right pitch and the right athlete, it wasn't enough. Whether it was Al Thornton minus a supporting cast, or Von Wafer deserting after one year, things just never quite added up. On top of that, the NCAA became the waffle kings when it came to pulling FSU from the unsteady surface of The Bubble, giving one excuse after another for why the team was relegated to the embarassment of the NIT year after year.

But finally--FINALLY--the pieces have come together for Coach Ham. He's got a young team loaded with talent and although they may not have gotten as far as they wanted to this year, they have laid the building blocks for the future of FSU basketball. Though it will hurt to lose Toney Douglas, if (and that should be a size-72 if) the Seminoles' promising new cast returns, next season will be just as good.

However, while I have moved past the bitterness of the loss as a fan, I have not moved past my overall bitterness toward the ACC and its royal screwing over of my bracket. Big props to Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida State, and Clemson for punking out in the first round. Thanks a lot guys. Way to represent. And don't think that just because those guys are out I'm going to turn my conference support to UNC and Duke. Bump that. I'm sticking by my pick to win the whole shabang, UConn.

Well that's more than enough yammering for tonight! Tune in later this week for a blog on women's sports (it's not what you think, I promise) sparked by the thirty minutes I spent watching my other FSU basketball team lose in the NCAA Tournament last night (like once wasn't enough).

Later days!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Dammit Clemson.

I've only got two losses on my record for 12 match-ups right now and one (Butler) was relatively inconsequential, but dammit Clemson I had you in my Final Four! You were doing so well this year and even though you had a rough go at the ACC Tourney, I thought you'd rally for The Dance!

Whatever. I did call the Maryland over California result so I guess the ACC hasn't totally let me down. Now I just need UNC to follow through against LSU and my bracket won't be a total mess...

Still, if I think my 10-2 record thus far is dismal, my mini magic eight ball is shooting .500. It picked Butler over LSU as well, but it had Maryland over Cal. So essentially the mini magic eight ball is about even with flipping a coin at this point...

At any rate, here's my bracket (click on it to see the full-sized image):

With Clemson out, I'm going to amend my South region and put 2 Oklahoma over 10 Michigan, then 3 Syracuse over 2 Oklahoma, then 1 UNC over 2 Oklahoma. If UNC can squeeze past LSU and get Lawson back, I don't know if there's anyone who can slow them down before the Final Four (not that I really thought Clemson would but you know you have to take a few risks on these things, otherwise it's not exciting...or painfully devastating when bad picks make you look like an idiot).

Also, for those of you keeping up with our other bracket at home, the last of the three spots in the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions Finals will be decided tomorrow night. My two favorites (Ben Bishop and Aaron Schroeder) unfortunately fell into the same semi-final threesome, so only one of the two will take on Larissa and Dan (aka Eyebrows McGee) in the finals.

Ben is the underdog, with just four wins during the regular season, while Aaron and the third contestant Mark Wales have five each. Still, I think he'll be cooler under pressure than the other two, so I'm going to lay my money on the dark horse in this one.

As for the finals next week...I'm giving it to Larissa. She's gutsy but realistic on the wagers, quick on the buzzer, and of course she knows her stuff. She trampled her opponents tonight and even with a commanding lead going into Final Jeopardy she risked a lot and was the only one of the three who knew the answer (Anubis, the Jackal-headed Egyptian God).

Alright sports fans! That's all for tonight! You know where to find me tomorrow--Jeopardy at 7:00 p.m. and 5 FSU vs. 12 Wisconsin at 9:55 p.m.

Later days,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two Foam Fingers Up for the Jaguars

I was relieved to find out that my Jacksonville Jaguars cut ties with WR Matt Jones earlier this week after he was sent to jail for violating his plea deal. They should have cut him last year when he was arrested on cocaine possession charges in the first place, but I'll accept that they gave him a second chance. Clearly, however, that second chance was not appreciated by Jones. 

Sure it seems frivolous to cut one of the most talented wide recievers on your roster for drinking beer with his friends on a golf course, but the situation with Jones is so much bigger than that. He clearly has a substance abuse problem (not a good thing for anyone, let alone a professional athlete) and what's worse, he didn't take the situation seriously enough to obey the orders of the plea deal that kept him out of jail in the first place. 

I understand that athletes are just human beings like us. They make mistakes, especially the young ones with truckloads of money and the aura of power that being a top-notch athlete creates, but the regulations of their job shouldn't be any different than any other job. If Bob the Accountant went to jail for a week because he violated his parole, do you think his company would let him take vacation time and return to work like nothing happened? Hell no. Bob would be on the street with so many other Americans out of the job right now.

Matt Jones needs to show some appreciation for the fact that he has a skill that can provide for him and his family as long as he lives. He'll get a chance with another team, and maybe this time, he'll keep it between the lines. But I'm glad that team won't be the Jaguars. 

Adios Matt. Don't let the door hit ya on the way out.

- Shan

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Have you filled out your bracket yet? 

I'll be honest...I'm having a hard time choosing between Ben and Aaron--they're both so cute and obviously brilliant, but the way Aaron turns and watches the other contestants give their answers kind of drives me a little nuts. It might be the reason I have to give Ben the upperhand.

What? Why do you look so confused? I'm talking about my bracket for the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions--what did you think I was talking about?

Oh! March Madness! Is it that time of year again? Gee, I hardly noticed. I mean, it's not like my alma matter/lifelong favorite sports team is going to The Dance for the first time in over a decade....

YEAH RIGHT! I'm overjoyed that my 'Noles finally broke free of the NIT after finishing second in the ACC Tournament last weekend and claimed a five seed in the east division. Of course, that exuberance does come with a little bit of a bitter aftertaste. I mean, I did spend five years in the stands and on press row at the Civic Center watching my team bumble one loss after another in the waining seconds of several games. I also cheered my little heart out at our NIT home games, rushed the court when we beat Duke (twice) and Wake, and hid under press row when everyone else rushed the court when we beat Florida. And then what happens? They FINALLY get their act together the season AFTER I leave and make it into the Tourney.

But that's for another blog...

This one is about my tournament bracket, which I agonized over for several hours Sunday night. In fact, I was so torn over a few match-ups that I had to turn to my trusted friend and confidante--my mini magic eight ball. Accordingly, my first round picks are below, along with denotations for my agreements and disagreements with said eight ball. 

Although it was a difficult decision, I did not take FSU past the third round of the tournament--but it wasn't difficult for the reasons you  might think. I am, like most FSU basketball fans, quite jaded when it comes to my team. The aforementioned heartbreaks that I experienced over and over again in my five years at FSU are like old wounds that still ache in certain situations. I had to fight the urge to write them out after the first round, still believing in my heart of hearts that given our Seminole luck, we will choke early and hard. 

Actually, my friend Alicia and I were discussing our pessimistic attitudes toward our beloved Noles and we decided that given our history, the most likely outcome of the tournament is that Florida State will beat the odds, win the whole shabang, then have the NCAA declare us ineligable to raise the trophy because of our cheating scandal and therefore decide to award the NCAA Championship trophy to the winner of the NIT, which in this scenario would of course be our arch rivals, the University of Florida Gators. 

(Side note: The Seminoles bid into the tournament is even more enjoyable given Florida's status in the NIT. Guess they should have let Tad Teto channel his super powers on the basketball court...or maybe they shouldn't have elected to incorporate jean shorts into their uniform this year...)

Alright folks. Check out the picks, lock in your final answers, and buckle down for the best sporting event in collegiate sports.

Good luck and GO NOLES!

- Shan



1 Louisville over 16 (Alabama St over Morehead St)
8 Ohio State over 9 Siena
5 Utah over 12 Arizona
4 Wake Forest over 13 Cleveland St
6 West Virginia over 11 Dayton
3 Kansas over 14 North Dakota St
7 Boston College over 10 USC
2 Michigan St over 15 Robert Morris


1 UConn over 16 Chattanooga
9 Texas A&M over 8 BYU
5 Purdue over 12 Northern Iowa
4 Washington over 13 Mississippi St (8-Ball Disagreed)
6 Marquette over 11 Utah St
3 Missouri over 14 Cornell
10 Maryland over 7 California (8-Ball Pick)
2 Memphis over Cal St Northridge


1 Pitt over 16 East Tennessee St
8 Ok St over 9 Tennessee
5 FSU over 12 Wisconsin
4 Xavier over 13 Portland St
6 UCLA over 11 VCU
3 Nova over 14 American
7 Texas over 10 Minnesota
2 Duke over 15 Binghampton


1 UNC over 16 Radford
9 Butler over 8 LSU (8-Ball Pick)
5 Illinois over 12 Western Kentucky
4 Gonzaga over 13 Akron
6 Arizona St over 11 Temple
3 Syracuse over 14 Stephen A. Austin (8-Ball Disagreed)
7 Clemson over 10 Michigan
2 Oklahoma over 15 Morgan St

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Back to Bidness

I could make a lot of excuses as to why I haven't gotten around to updating this blog in eight months, but the truth is...I needed a break.

Not from the busy world of blogging (I'm not *that* lazy) but from sports. I know there are many sports fans who would shake their fingers at me for such a comment, but the truth is--no matter how much you love the sports world, it can become overwhelming. Especially when you're going to school for sports (I just finished my master's in sports management) and working in sports (I was working as a graduate assistant in FSU's media relations department).

I got burned out, but I'm ready to get back in the race.

Spring training is underway, which means I'm gearing up for eight months of heartbreaking disappointment at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. I took last season off from the Braves--I know, I know. You're shaking your head and telling me that real fans don't take breaks, but I think in order to maintain a *healthy* relationship with your sports team of choice, sometimes it's important to have your space.

As soon as I saw the Braves' starting rotation last year with Smoltz and Glavine I knew I would be pulling my hair out of my head by the end of the season if I followed the team with my usual zeal. I just didn't think I could stomach the inevitable collapse that would surely befall a team with two starting pitchers over the age of 40.

A year later, I still think it was a good decision on my part. I'm ready to enter into this season with fresh eyes and without the jaded disappointments of last season still fresh in my mind (though I can't really say the same for the 23 seasons prior to that which I've had to endure).

Okay maybe I'm already rolling my eyes at Derek Lowe, but come on...

I am, in fact, such an advocate of sports relationship breaks, that I've recently advised my friend Alicia to take a year off from her devotion to the Tampa Bay Bucs. Not only did the Bucs ever so rudely snip Chuckie's cord, they also had the nerve to drop longtime Bucs (and more importantly, former Seminoles) Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks. THEN they had to go and pick up Kellen Winslow. As a Florida State fan, I view Kellen Winslow as the poster child for everything I hate about the University of Miami.

Knowing that my fellow alum Alicia feels the same about Winslow (and Brooks and Dunn...haha, not to be confused with the country duo) I listened to her panicked phone call last Friday with patience, then suggested that perhaps she needed to take a break.

Of course, she said no.

But I think that once she sees the full scope of the massive restructuring the Bucs are going to go through over the next few months, she might come around. It's not that you should kick your team to the curb every time they do a little offseason shuffling, but when they suddenly and inexplicably dismiss the coaches and players you love and are most attached to while also picking up one of your known sports enemies, I think maybe it would be in everyone's best interests to take a step back.

Well, that's all the advice this doctor can offer for now. I'm glad to be back and I *promise* you'll be hearing from me more in the future (unless of course you feel the need to take a break from me because of what I just said...hmm...maybe I should reconsider).

Later days,