Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cutch's Cut

I knew the day was coming; but for real I was hoping it wouldn't come for a couple more years or so. I knew it was coming because he said it was coming, hinting in the past that he wasn't going to keep his dreads forever. But even the advance warning wasn't enough to lessen the disappointment I had when I found out the day indeed has come. Watching baseball won't be as much fun for me in 2015, and my guess is that never again will it be as enjoyable as it has been watching telecasts of Pittsburgh Pirates games these last 6 years.

It is with deep sadness and regret that I have to announce that the house has lost one of its most prestigious residents, as earlier this week - Wednesday, March 25, to be exact - Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen cut off the dreads he had been growing for the last 8 years and that he has had for every game in the first 6 seasons of his sensational MLB career. With the college basketball season reaching its climax, I have been paying little attention to baseball this month. But there it was, hitting me like a ton of bricks and impossible to ignore, in the bottom right corner of the last page of Thursday's Chicago Tribune sports section -  literally the very last thing in the section - a paragraph reporting that Cutch's dreads were gone and would be auctioned off for charity.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2014 College Football All-America with dreads

You may argue I did so incomplete a job of covering the 2014 season that I'm not qualified to pick the season's best players with dreads. And you would be correct. But I'm not going to let a minor detail like that stop me. So here we go with my 7th annual All-America with dreads team. The 2014 team includes many of the 133 players with dreads who earned all-conference honors in their respective leagues. That total of 133 is 16 less than last season's 149; but the number of 1st team honorees remained the same - 50 - and the number making the Associated Press' (AP) All-America teams (FBS and FCS) actually increased from 10 to 16.

I was hoping to be able to include a photo of Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon holding the Heisman Trophy at the beginning of this post. But despite having one of the best seasons a running back has ever had, he finished 2nd in the voting for the Heisman; so you'll have to settle for a pre-game photo (above) of him from the Badgers' Week 4 game against Bowling Green instead.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

College BB '15 - First Look

From the moment in late November 2010 that I saw them pictured as part of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's preview of the 2010-11 Milwaukee area high school basketball season, I have been looking forward to the day I would be writing about Elgin Cook and Jameel McKay in this blog. Little did I expect that day wouldn't come until more than 4 years later. Although the preview was the first I had ever heard of McKay, I was a little bit familiar with Cook from the previous season, when he was named City Conference player of the year while playing for Hamilton HS. Led by the 6-foot-6 Cook (top two photos on right from March 2010) and 6-8 Darnell Harris (lower left photo on right from the same game), both juniors, Hamilton was pretty much an all-star team in 2009-10, winning the conference championship and making a rare (for Hamilton) appearance in the state tournament. But neither of them was around a year later, when Hamilton made a repeat trip to the tournament; and neither they nor McKay, the 6-7 forward from Pulaski HS (lower right photo from a February 2011 game) would begin their college careers at Division 1 schools in the fall of 2011, as they (and I) had hoped.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Where there's a will, there's a .... Williams

As I went through the recaps of the Division 1 College Football games every week this season (actually it was more like every other week), it was impossible not to notice it - there sure seemed to be a lot of teams with a player with dreads named Williams on their rosters. Heck, there were 8 such teams in the SEC alone. So, out of curiosity, just as I did near the end of the 2010 season after noticing a lot of players with dreads named Harris, I went through my entire notebook to find out just how many Williamses with dreads there actually were. The result was almost astonishing.

When I did my "Harris Family Reunion" post in 2010, I was really impressed that there were at least 16 Harrises with dreads on D-1 teams. But that number is completely dwarfed by the three dozen players with dreads named Williams this season.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

College FB '14 Dread News - Week 15

It looked like it was going to be a storybook finish for East Carolina on senior night in the first game of the week on Thursday night (Dec. 4). But that was only until the Pirates made a complete mess of the final 2 minutes of their game against UCF. Indeed the Pirates have nobody to blame but themselves that they and their fans were in stunned silence after the final play of the game, and that the Knights were celebrating wildly after pulling out a miraculous 32-30 victory at Greenville, NC, that clinched a share of their 2nd straight AAC championship. UCF's victories this season have come with a lot less drama than they did during their 12-1 season in 2013; but this victory surely tops any of the several great escapes the Knights made last season. It was fitting that QB Justin Holman and junior WR Breshad Perriman were posing with the trophy in the locker room after the game (photo below), since they were two main participants in the play that won the trophy.
After watching a little bit of the 3rd quarter, I decided to turn to another channel, even though ESPN had just displayed a graphic that showed that throughout this season the 4th quarter was East Carolina's strongest quarter.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

College FB '14 Dread News - Week 12

For the most part it was an enjoyable Saturday (Nov. 15) of watching football for me ..... right up until there were about 5 minutes remaining in the Auburn-Georgia game, when Todd Gurley didn't get up after his 29th carry of the night. In his first game back in action after serving a 4-game suspension, Gurley - the star junior RB and arguably the best RB to ever wear a Georgia uniform - turned in his usual outstanding performance. But when he stayed down and grabbed his knee after gaining 6 yards to the Auburn 11-yard line on 2nd and 5, you knew something had gone wrong. And then when they showed the replay - Gurley wincing as he planted his left leg while making a cut then falling to the ground, unable to take his next stride on the leg - it looked exactly the way it does all too often in sports when a player tears the ACL in his knee. A day later the worst fears of a lot of people (including me) were realized with the official announcement that Gurley indeed had torn his ACL and was done for the season. And with the injury occurring so late in the season, you wonder and worry that he won't recover in time to have a rookie season in the NFL in 2015.
The injury put a bit of a damper on Georgia's 34-7 victory, as the Bulldogs finished SEC play at 6-2 and needing Missouri to lose at least one of their remaining 2 games in order to finish first in the SEC East and play in the conference championship game.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

College FB '14 Dread News - Week 9

There were less than 2 minutes to play in the game, and with Marshall's victory already in the bag, I kept waiting for QB Rakeem Cato to take the snap and kneel down to kill the remaining time. But instead he kept handing the ball off. Then I remembered ..... right, this is college football - not only is running up the score not frowned on, it's necessary. Marshall simply was thinking, "Why beat FAU 28-16 when you can beat them 35-16?" The BCS era may be over, but the truth is that college football remains a beauty contest. Winning isn't the only thing, winning as impressively as possible is. So it's no surprise that the Thundering Herd added a TD with 51 seconds to go, when just taking a knee would have been the sportsmanlike thing to do.
With the teams in the Little 5 conferences (CUSA, MAC, SBC, MWC, and AAC) being allotted just one of the 12 spots in the big 6 bowl games to be played on New Year's Eve and Day, Marshall, now 8-0 and seemingly breezing toward the Conference USA championship, needs their wins to come with as many style points as they can get, because their schedule hasn't been all that difficult.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

College FB '14 Dread News - Week 7

Hey, is the TCU-Baylor game over yet?

Forget the Iron Bowl, it's looking more and more like the big end-of-the-season showdown to decide the SEC West might be the Egg Bowl - in the state immediately to the west of Alabama. Halfway through the 2014 season Mississippi and Mississippi State are both 6-0. That's not a misprint - 6 wins, zero defeats. Who woulda thunk it? But before you decide to get rich by scalping your tickets to the Egg Bowl, Rebel and Bulldog fans, remember it's still early, And with teams as talented as Arkansas and LSU bringing up the rear, the West Division of the SEC is an absolute minefield this season. Every game is a difficult game. But really, wouldn't it be something if CBS was televising Hail State vs. Ole Miss on the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of Auburn-Alabama?
You kind of of expected Mississippi to get good because they had been signing some very highly-ranked recruits the last couple of years. But who saw Mississippi State coming?

Monday, October 6, 2014

College FB '14 Dread News - Week 5

The voting for the 2014 Heisman Trophy will take place, as usual, at the end of the regular season in December, with all players eligible for consideration. But let's pretend that the voting were done now, after only the first month of the season, and it wasn't vote as you please - you had to vote for either Georgia RB Todd Gurley or Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon, a couple of juniors who hope to be playing in the NFL at this time next year and a couple of players I'm a very huge fan of. Remarkably, through the first 5 weeks (4 games for both) the two are separated by only 2 yards rushing - with Gordon having rushed for 612 yards and 8 TD to 610 yards and 6 TD for Gurley. But I believe the separation would be much greater at the voting booth ..... with Gurley winning in a landslide. It's not that Gordon hasn't been outstanding, only that Gurley has been more outstanding.

His Heisman campaign already smeared by an ugly 38 yards on 17 carries game against FCS team Western Illinois, Gordon saw his hopes diminishing even further on Saturday, Sept. 27, during the 1st half of the Badgers' home game against South Florida, as he gained only 50 yards on 17 carries.

Friday, September 26, 2014

College FB '14 Dread News - Week 3

It wasn't that long ago (was it?) that a star HS wide receiver who wanted to play in college for a team in Florida instead ended up wearing the green and white of the Marshall Thundering Herd. Two years and 55 TD later (including at least 1 TD in every game he played), Randy Moss left Marshall following his sophomore season and began a career in the NFL that certainly will result in him being elected to the Hall of Fame. Some of the Marshall fans in attendance as the Herd whipped Ohio U 44-14 on Sept. 13 this year might have been thinking about Moss and thinking that history was about to repeat itself after enjoying the breakout performance by another WR who wasn't originally slated to suit up for the Herd.
Let's get one thing straight: I'm not saying that freshman WR Angelo Jean-Louis is or will ever be anywhere near as good as Moss, who arguably was the most talented WR to ever play. But after the first three games of this season, it's not that much of a reach to say he has a chance to enjoy the same team success during his stay at Marshall as Moss did.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

College FB '14 Dread News - Week 2

As you may remember, the 2013 season ended with a TD catch by WR Kelvin Benjamin to give Florida State a BCS title game victory over Auburn. The same Kelvin Benjamin scored his 1st NFL TD last Sunday, helping the Carolina Panthers pick up a road victory over the offensively challenged Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the same field 24 hours earlier Tampa Bay's offensively challenged college team - the South Florida Bulls - put on their typical display of futility, costing them their chance to get off to a 2-0 start. While pretty much ignoring the marquee matchups involving Big 10 teams Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan, the game I spent the most time watching last Saturday had Big 10 newbie Maryland doing almost everything possible to give away the game to South Florida - and the Bulls absolutely refusing to accept the gift. Despite turning the ball over 6 times, the Terrapins escaped with a 24-17 victory that no doubt had fans of both teams cringing throughout the afternoon.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

You really wanna go there?

..... That was the question I put to my crystal ball (CB) a couple of days ago immediately after finding out who it was predicting to win Super Bowl 49 at the conclusion of the 2014 NFL season. I continued: "You do know that the last 9 teams that won the Super Bowl failed to win it again the following year, don't you?" To which CB replied: "L.O.B." Well, I guess that settles it then. The Seattle Seahawks, who took 38 years to win their first championship in franchise history, will need only 12 months to win their second. If CB is correct , it'll be Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch (photo) and friends raising the Lombardi Trophy - and doing it on the home field of their NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals - when the season ends in February.

As for who the Seahawks will defeat in the Super Bowl, again - more emphatically this time - I asked CB, "You really want to go THERE!?