It’s Been A While

After a whopping 51 years in England’s lower football (soccer) division, Cardiff City has finally been promoted to England’s Premier League. Cardiff was a team that had deep financial issues not too long ago.

It is a remarkable accomplishment because the club was nearly bankrupt more than a year ago. In three of the last four seasons, Cardiff got tantalizingly close to promotion from the League Championship, only to fall short in the promotion playoffs. Those failures were called “doing the Cardiff.” With Tuesday’s result, a point from a scoreless draw with Charlton Athletic, the club can bury the phrase and look forward to resuming the fierce Welsh derby with Swansea, which was promoted two years ago.

They are kind of like the Red Sox of the EPL.

via NYTimes.

Louisville Saved Their Asses

ncaasI love how all these talking heads at ESPN or “insert network sports department here” fashion themselves as experts on who is going to cut down the nets every year at the NCAA tournament. Let’s take a look at this graphic from ESPN that detailed all the picks from 13 of their “experts” who cover College Basketball regularly. And we’re talking big name College Hoops names – Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, and on and on.

A total of 13 “experts” each selected their picks for the Final Four – so that’s 52 total slots (13 x 4) across all of them. Eleven of the 13 picked Louisville to make the Final Four, which really didn’t take much hoops knowledge to pick. However, if we removed that pretty obvious Louisville region/pick from the equation, a grand total of one Final Four slot across the remaining 39 was accurately predicted by these ‘experts’ – Dickie V picking Michigan. That’s a 2.5% accuracy rate for those of your scoring at home (or for those of you who are alone).

Yeah, yeah…it’s parody in college basketball. The talent is distributed to all the different teams out there. I know, I know…that’s the cover. But really, these guys are supposed to be experts and cover this sport daily so I would expect them to have a better take on who is really going to go deep into the Tournament and make the Final Four. But the reality is that I could have showed up in Bristol and sat in front of a camera and predicted the Final Four just as well as they could.

Wait, I did…I had Syracuse AND Louisville in my Final Four bracket.

The SI Cover Curse And the Final Four

Through the course of the sports year, and ahead of big sports events like the Super Bowl or the World Series or the NCAA Tournament, I sometimes take a cursory glance at the recent covers of Sports Illustrated and specifically those that feature said upcoming sporting event, mostly to see if the “SI Cover Jinx” still has it’s mojo intact. This is made exceedingly easier via their iPad app since there is a library of past issues that go back a few years to when they started offering digital versions of the magazine.

For those of you who don’t know, the “SI Cover Curse” is an urban legend where those athletes or teams featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated are cursed and/or jinxed to suffer loss, injury or both within a reasonable time frame after the cover story/feature. As you will see in examples listed at the above linked Wikipedia page, this is not a passing fad and it goes back years.

With Final Four weekend upon us, I thought it would be interesting to look at the SI covers and see if the “SI Cover Curse” could be a pseudo predictor of who may cut down the nets this weekend at the Final Four down in Atlanta.

Cody Zeller and Indiana - gone.And I want to be crystal clear here. I am the biggest Syracuse homer that you will find. My support and belief that my Orange(men) will win it all this year (and every year) is, and will forever be, unquestioned. That is, until the finality of a game’s result sets in. And to that end, sometimes you realize that there are forces (or Coaching ineptitude) at play that are beyond your or my control.

To start, let’s go to the SI College Hoops Preview back in November. Cody Zeller and Indiana are on the cover. As we know, they were sent home in the Sweet 16 round by my Syracuse Orange. And wow, did Zeller look really really bad in that loss.

Next, let’s look at the SI issue from March 25. They had a regional split of covers that included Indiana (Victor Oladipo), Gonzaga (Kelly Olynyk), Kansas (Ben McLemore) and Syracuse (Michael Carter-Williams). Indiana fell in the Round of 16. Gonzaga lost to Wichita State in the round of 32. Kansas choked lost to Michigan in the Elite 8. Only Syracuse is still standing.

Indiana - GoneKansas - Gone Gonzaga - GoneSyracuse - Still Alive.

And this week, SI has another regional cover split that includes Wichita State and Louisville (along with Tiger Woods and we won’t get into his, ahem, transgressions).

Louisville - Still alive
Louisville – Still alive

Wichita St. - Still alive
Wichita St. – Still alive

So if we cross reference all of these recent College Basketball focused covers this against the Final Four teams of Syracuse, Michigan, Wichita State, and Louisville, we see that the only team which has not been featured on the cover is Michigan.

And in this case, I fear that the Michigan Wolverines may have the advantage of the “SI Cover Curse” in their favor, since they have NOT been featured to date on the magazine’s cover.

Now, another factor to be considered here is the fact that “magazines” as we have known them are not nearly as influential in the media world as they once were. However, for some strange, outer body reason, the influence of the “SI Cover Curse” seems to be pretty alive and well.

Based on the above details, and I want to be clear that this is not my prediction or how I want things to play out, it appears that the “covers” are telling us that Louisville will beat Wichita State, Michigan will beat Syracuse, and Michigan will beat Louisville in the Finals on Monday night.

Damn, it hurts to write that.

Ebbets Field Should Be 100 Today

ebbets_field_12
For the Brooklyn generation who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, Ebbets Field was the centerpiece of the borough. It was the baseball shrine that their fathers took them to so they could see “Dem Bums”. It was where they headed when they played hooky from school on an early summer afternoon, maybe even sneaking into the stadium to catch a game.

In 2012, Fenway Park celebrated it’s 100th birthday and this year, Wrigley Field is doing the same – the last two baseball shrines standing from that era of baseball. And if Mr. O’Malley did not move the Dodgers to Los Angeles, we may have been celebrating the same birthday for Ebetts Field in Brooklyn today.

On April 9, 1913, a cold, windy afternoon limited the attendance to about 10,000 as the Dodgers lost their season opener to the Philadelphia Phillies, 1-0, the run scoring when outfielder Benny Meyer dropped a fly ball in the first inning.

Four days earlier, in the stadium’s initial game, an exhibition against the Yankees in warmer weather, about 25,000 enjoyed a 3-2 victory as Casey Stengel, a young outfielder who later managed the Dodgers and the Yankees, hit the first home run in Ebbets Field. On March 4, 1912, when Charles Ebbets dug a shovel into frosty dirt to break ground in a Flatbush neighborhood known as Pigtown, the plan was to name it Washington Park, after the team’s old wooden home closer to downtown. But a reporter for one of the Brooklyn newspapers spoke up.

“Call it Ebbets Field, Charlie,” he said. “You put yourself in hock to build it, and it’s your monument.

But alas, all we can do today is stare at a vapid apartment building on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and wonder ‘what if’?

Besides the article linked above, here is a nice gallery of pictures from Ebetts Field Then and now via the NY Times.

via NY Times

Syracuse Final Four Desktop Background

For all your Syracuse fans out there, I thought I’d whip up a quick Syracuse Final Four desktop background to use on your computer this week. Pretty straight forward – SU logo plus the 4 logos from the Final Fours we have been to.

Click through the image above to see and download the full size image.

Lets Go Orange!

PS – I have created many more “dekstop wallpapers” for your viewing pleasure if you want to check them out and/or download them.

Syracuse Is Final Four Bound

finalfour_splash

For the fourth time, my Syracuse Orange(men) are heading to the Final Four. Syracuse has actually been remarkably consistent in it’s runs to the Final Four, going roughly once every nine years (1987, 1996, 2003, 2013) and once in each of the past four decades.

No matter what happens next weekend down in Atlanta, I’m still proud of the team. Now go out and bring back another championship to the Dome!!

Death Becomes The Big East

With all the crazy movement and conference re-alignment going on in college athletics over the past few years, it appears that a major casualty of all of this will be the Big East Conference.

Over the past few months, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame have bolted for the ACC, Rutgers to the Big 10 (or 14 but who’s counting), West Virginia to the Big 12 and on and on. Then this past week, the “Catholic Seven” of the league (those schools that are primarily basketball only) – Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence, DePaul, Marquette, Villanova, and Seton Hall – announced their departure from the conference, which has pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of the Big East.

Say what you want about the Big “East” adding teams to the league like Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, University of Houston, and that it will sustain itself for the near future until things settle down. But let’s be real…the heart and soul of the Big East Conference is gone and what is left is a vapid conglomeration of schools from all over the country. Rumor has it they will break the Big East into two divisions – the West and the East division…so you will have the Big East West and Big East East divisions. If they could only add Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Northeastern University to the conference, all corners of the compass would be accounted for. Schools from San Diego, CA, Texas, and Boise, ID in the Big East Conference makes as much sense as Chris Brown making a movie about relationships.

The history of the Big East was driven by basketball yet it’s demise was driven by football. For those, like me, who grew up watching Big East basketball in the years of Chris Mullen, Pearl Washington, Sherman Douglas, Derrick Coleman, and others, this is a sad sad time. The irony is that about 10 former Big East teams will now be part of the ACC when you also count Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech. Where is the sense in that?

So to commemorate this sad occasion, the fine folks over at Bleacher Report have put together a top 20 best moments from Big East history and I’m proud to say Syracuse had quite a number of spots in the top 20, including the following:


#2 – Six Overtime win vs UConn – 2009 Big East Tournament


#5 – Crazy unexpected run in 2006 Big East tournament as a #9 seed

#8 – Georgetown vs SU in Manley Field House, where the Hoyas snapped SU’s 57 game winning streak and thus started one of the great rivalries in College Hoops.

#9 – The 1981 Big East Tournament in the Carrier Dome, where Leo Rautins led the Orangemen to their first Big East crown.

#16 – Jim Boeheim’s 900th win (last week)

So yes, this is a sad time for long time Big East fans. The long rivalry of Georgetown – Syracuse or Pitt – West Virginia will be replaced by Florida State and Clemson. At least the “Duke Sucks” chant won’t need to change.

The Illustrated Man

Hollywood movies like Crash or Babel or Watergate/All the President’s Men center on stories where one seemingly random event triggers a litany of unfortunate yet intertwined events. Could the path to Lance Armstrong’s recent fall from grace have taken a similarly random twist? Today’s NY Times tells the story of Kayle Leogrande, a tattooed world class cyclist whose seemingly innocent confession to using performance enhancing drugs in a race led super FDA drug investigator Jeff Novitzky (aka the guy who brought down Barry Bonds, Marion Jones and Roger Clemens) to his doorstep:

“He would ask, ‘Do you think Lance is doing this?’ ” Leogrande said. “I would tell him: ‘He’s racing in these barbaric cycling races in Europe. If you were a rider at that level, what would you do?’ ”

More than a year later, in spring 2010, Floyd Landis, one of Armstrong’s former teammates, had come clean about his own doping, telling officials from the antidoping agency that he and other top riders, including Armstrong, had doped while on the Postal Service team. Landis also said he had information that Michael Ball, the team owner of Rock Racing, was involved in doping.

Even when it was happening, can anyone truly, honestly say that Lance Armstrong winning seven straight Tour De France’s wasn’t just a teeny weeny bit suspicious? As Lewis Black noted on the Daily Show, “I don’t care that Lance Armstrong was doping, I care that he didn’t admit it.”

via NY Times.com

Panoramics of Camden Yards

I was down in Baltimore earlier this week to catch the Red Sox play (and lose 2 of 3 to) the Orioles at Camden Yards. While there I took a tour of the ballpark and had the opportunity to take a ton of photos. I stitched together several from different angles to create the above panoramics.

Camden Yards From Field Level
Camden Yards From Field Level

Camden Yards From Left Field
Camden Yards From Left Field Club Level

Camden Yards Center Field
Camden Yards From Center Field

Toys In the Attic

A collection of around 700 baseball cards dating back to 1910 were recently found in an attic in Ohio. The cards included a perfect set of E98 (the name of the card series) from around 1910 and a Honus Wagner card that was graded mint. The unique element of this find was the near pristine condition of all of the cards.

The best of the bunch was sold in three lots — one, which sold for $286,800, was a nearly complete E98 set, the name of the the series the cards were issued under, and another was a Honus Wagner card that was judged to be in perfect condition by Professional Sports Authenticator, a company that grades cards on a 1-to-10 scale based of their condition. It brought $239,000.

Karl Kissner, who unearthed the cards in February in the town of Defiance with [Karla} Hench, his cousin, said they belonged to their grandfather, Carl Hench, who died in the 1940s. They think he gave away the cards at his meat market and stashed the extras in his attic and forgot about them. One of Hench’s daughters kept the house until she died last October, leaving everything inside to her 20 nieces and nephews.

The cards were auctioned off Thursday evening during the National Sports Collectors Convention being held in Baltimore, MD.

via ESPN.