Archive for March, 2009

31
Mar
09

The one time I watch a game

So I finally realize my very real Bucket List dream of watching a women’s basketball game from wire to wire, and this is what I get. The Maryland women’s season comes to a screeching and unceremonious halt against Louisville, 77-60. Toliver and Coleman combined to shoot 11-27, with a lot of the makes coming in garbage time. Whatever spark they had for most of the season just wasn’t there. And they were sloppy — even for women’s ball. And that’s saying something. That’s like saying someone was really drunk — even for the infield at the Preakness.

It was still an incredible run for Toliver, Coleman, and the rest of the team. They made the Elite Eight and finished 31-5. The two senior leaders won a championship their freshman year. And they wanted to bookend with another — or at least a return to the big game. No one would have faulted them if they lost to UConn and that insufferable prick Gino Auriemma. But to not reach the game was probably a bit disappointing, for the players, for Maryland fans, and for all those legions of women’s hoop fans. Maryland-UConn was THE game. And now we won’t get it.

Oh well. With Dee Liles and Lynnetta Kizer underneath (and, for this game, underused), the Lady Terps have a solid foundation to build on. Here’s hoping they come back strong next year. Best of luck to Kristi and the attractive Marissa Coleman, who I would like to meet in person, because she is attractive. Go Terps!

27
Mar
09

maryland baseball: the tradition continues

And what tradition is that you might ask?  A tradition of mediocrity, my friend.  Mediocrity.

Midway through their 55-game season, the Terps are 11-12 (3-6 in ACC).  Eight of their eleven wins came against Coppin State, Quinnipiac, JMU, Delaware, Maryland Eastern Shore, and ODU.  In short, they haven’t really beaten anyone good, and they still have the brunt of their ACC schedule ahead of them.  The team has a three game home stand against Florida State this weekend, and if they loose all three games they can pretty much forget about the post-season.

There was a glimmer of hope for Terps baseball coming into this season.  Last year, head coach Terry Rupp got the team to 30 wins for the second time in school history.  The team has been around since 1893.  1893!  106 years of Maryland baseball and we’ve had two passable seasons!  Their record was 30-26 last season.  Otherwise, the Terps have had a .450 record under Rupp in the past eight years, and they don’t look to improve that mark much this year.

Personally, I love baseball.  I remember my disappointment the first time I saw action at Shipley Field.  I was walking from Elkton across campus on a relatively nice day in March.  There were players on the field but nobody in the stands.  At first I thought it was practice, but lo and behold it was a live action baseball game.  I sat in the stands and watched a few innings, but I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable that I was the lone fan.  I thought that maybe some of the parents should be there.  Maybe the team should have increased its on-campus advertising or given something away.  I stayed for a couple innings, but I wasn’t into it so I left.  The players were visibly not into it either.

Since then, I’ve always wondered, “Why?”  Maryland seems like the perfect place to have a good baseball program.  The school is in a great baseball conference.  The state of Maryland is crazy about baseball.  There are now two MLB teams within 30min of campus, and a number of minor league in the region.  The school is located closer to major markets for talent than the Florida schools.  Don’t tell me that, “Maryland isn’t a year round baseball state.”  I came from the northeast and there was plenty of good baseball going on there.  We’re not talking about golf.

So what gives with Maryland baseball?  Can’t we get Maryland alum Ron Swoboda to come into town and show off his World Series ring to prospects?  I want Maryland to be good at everything.  When are we going to take baseball seriously?  This is America’s pastime we’re talking about.  Athletic Director Debbie Yow gets all the hype for our successes in womens’ basketball, soccer, and field hockey, but we have continually failed at the third biggest college sport and there is no mention of it.  I just don’t get it.

26
Mar
09

“We eat kids,” huh? We’ll just see about this.

Perhaps you saw it on the D.C. Sports Bog yesterday. Or, perhaps you caught it on Rome is Burning or PTI. In any event, you may be aware by now that the Maryland women’s basketball team has a little motivational slogan for themselves this year. But not just any slogan. A very special slogan. It’s like Ubuntu, except not. Inspired by the ramblings of Mike Tyson (and who isn’t), the Lady Terps created the motto: “We Eat Kids.”

Some people have reacted rather “voraciously” to this revelation, and you know what? I don’t blame them. After all, do the Lady Terps really espouse this behavior?  How can we know?

I’ll tell you how. Because I recently sat down to dinner with them. Guess what was on the menu.

We started out with some basic small talk — you know, their great season, their championship prospects, the weather, Obama, recently released films that we had enjoyed.  Chips and salsa were available to whet our appetites.  Those of us of legal age partook in a delightful “adult beverage” or two.  But before too long, we were ready for the main course. Now I admit it; I was something of a babe in the woods (sorry) on this thing. I must have missed the “Kids” episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. What’s the proper etiquette here? What parts are good to eat?  But never fear. The ladies were with me every step of the way.

Now before I go any further, I just want to make one thing clear to all you letter writers out there. Our chef (can’t remember now where he said he trained) informed me that these kids were terminated in as humane a way as possible. And I can attest to that.  When the kids came out, they wore peaceful, almost angelic expressions on their faces.  As a new father, that gave me a lot of comfort.

You don’t actually eat the head, though. It’s just for presentation. They removed it before the carving.

I ended up with a thigh. Let’s give it a go, huh? Down the hatch, right? Nothing ventured nothing gained, no? You never know until you try, know what I mean?  Are you with me?

The meat had a tender, almost buttery texture. Not too bad! Think veal, except more, I don’t know, human-y. The Lady Terps hungrily tucked in to their big team meal. They sure can pack the kids away! The chef was going to go back to the school for more, but everyone decided against it for some reason. I didn’t really follow the explanation. What am I, a lawyer?

You know what else I had while I was there? Roasted tomatillos.  Fantastic!

So please. Everyone out there can just rest easy. Because the Lady Terps? They walk the walk. I found that “We Eat Kids” is not only a motto for these women. It’s a credo. My guess is they’ll be looking pretty well-fortified this Saturday when they take on Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16! Three cheers, ladies! And thanks again for dinner.

25
Mar
09

I may have to watch an entire women’s basketball game

There are some things I’ve had on my Bucket List for some time now.   Read Infinite Jest cover to cover.   The running of the bulls in Pamplona.  Drink an entire one of those Heineken mini kegs without using a glass.  Watch an entire women’s basketball game on television.   I know these are big dreams.  And I hope I haven’t alienated you.  I’m just a regular guy, albeit with some formidably big dreams. But I put my pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.  Trust me on that.

And now, I’m joyful to say, an opportunity is nigh.  Truth be told, perhaps this entire basketball season — men’s and women’s — has been leading up to this one Herculean effort on my part.  I’m not saying it will be easy.  But what it will be, is maybe potentially entertaining, is what it will be. So suck on that.  Because I’ve gotta catch these Lady Terps for the full 40 minutes.  I caught the final minutes of their second-round dismantling of Utah last night in the final home game for Kristi Tolliver and Marissa Coleman, and they were totally dominant.   (It was gratifying to see the home crowd acknowledge this, too.)   Maryland is now on a collision course with Connecticut for alllll the marbles.

Mike Wise was right in his column today, which said that Tolliver and Coleman were now THE all-time stars of Maryland women’s hoops. Hard to argue with that. In fact, I’ll go him one better and claim, without hesitation, that they are the Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter of the Lady Terps. In fact, I’ll go him two better and say that, if they beat the Huskies in the final to win their second title in four years, they might challenge UConn, Tennessee, and Lisa Leslie for a spot on that tiny shelf of the national consciousness reserved for women’s basketball.

But you know what? I’m not going to stop there, either. Because I’m crazy. I’m not doing Mike just one better. I’m not going to stop there. And I’m not stopping at two better either. I’m going to do him THREE better, right here and now, right in this blog post, and commit to watching an entire women’s basketball game on television. What’s the next game? March 28 at 2 p.m. against Vanderbilt. Damn it all! I think that’s my afternoon to polish my shoes. But I could try to shuffle it around. That’s my solemn promise. These ladies are a can’t miss. Go Terps.

24
Mar
09

Beeramids and chicken salad: The Maryland basketball 2008-2009 year in review

Here’s a funny story. I was at a friend’s house in Baltimore County over the weekend, a few hours before the Memphis game, and there was another guy there who was wearing a Maryland sweatshirt. We had the following exchange:

— Guy: Terps playing today?
— Me: Yes.
— Guy: But wait a second. I thought you could only lose once.
— Me: Yeah, that’s right. Maryland won their first game.
— Guy: Naw, man. They lost to Duke, remember?
— Me: That was the ACC tournament.
— Guy: Huh.
(Guy pauses for a few seconds)
— Guy: The ACC tournament, though, is the big one.
— Me:  Well.  How do you mean?
— Guy: That one’s got Duke AND North Carolina in it. So that’s the biggest tournament.
— Me: Well, this one has both those teams in it, too. And it’s for the national championship. The ACC tournament is only for the ACC championship.
— Guy: So then, the ACC one is more important, right?
— Me: (Looking around for ejector seat button)

That’s really not appropos of anything, except maybe a reminder that some fans, probably including me, just take all this way too seriously. There’s always the guy out there who just likes to wear the sweatshirts. So good for you, Guy.  If you’re reading…..you’re not reading.

Anyway, so as you may be aware here a full four days after the fact, the Terps did lose to Memphis 89-70 in the second round of what is, in my humble opinion, the most important of the college basketball tournaments. So now, it is only natural to ponder the season that was. Allow me to stroke my chin ponderously while gazing at an indeterminant point on the wall of my office.

Here’s my bottom line on the season: the 2008-2009 Terps made chicken salad out of some serious chicken shit. Really, think about all the chicken shit that got shoveled their way this season — bad losses, more bad losses, one historically bad loss, one Washington Post expose on their coach, a steady torrent of recruiting questions, and a public catfight with the athletic department. Oh, and let’s not forget the walking triple-double-slash-smackdown-episode-slash-reporter’s-wet-dream that is Mister Greivis Vasquez.

When it’s all listed out like that, you can see how much chicken shit it really is. That’s enough chicken shit to warm your house for seven winters. But that’s what makes this season so great. Gary circled the wagons, dug the bunker, and whatever other cliche you want to use to get them into his patented underdog mentality. It wasn’t what I would call a magnificent stretch run, but they slew just enough giants to reach the tournament and the 20-win plateau, and even won a game in the postseason.

But at the same time, I feel like we weren’t far away from eating a bunch of chicken shit sandwiches. If we could go back in a time machine and redo this season 10 more times, they probably would miss the tournament seven or eight of the times. And that is discomfiting.  I am discomfitted by that.  It’s like back in college when you finally get that Beeramid to stand on its own in all its magnifience, but it’s two in the morning, and everyone’s all hammered and stumbly wumbly, and that is one shaky Beeramid, so everyone just snaps a quick cellphone picture and slowly backs away before it all comes tumbling down.

But you know what?  That’s okay, to a point.  Drama is part of the fun of sports.  But on the other hand, I think we can stand to take another look at the Beeramid in the sober light of the morning. I think that bad boy could use a little buttressing. Some fair questions need to be asked. One of those questions is about the questions themselves. When did being a fan and being a critic become mutually exclusive? I’m tired of anyone who questions or criticizes the Terps getting torn down for not being “a true fan,” or being “a Gary hater,” or having some kind of hidden agenda, as if there’s a bunch of archvillains out there who went through four years of journalism school just so they could finally have their chance at tearing down the University of Maryland basketball team. Come on. The Terps have to address their recruiting problems. If they get tired of hearing that, they should do something to address the issue…and the good news is, it seems like maybe they are, so that’s good. And sorry all you lockstep Gary jingoists, but his coaching has been uneven these past few years.  It just has.  Please consult the records.  Players have come and gone, but the roller coaster ride continues. Wild underachievement, followed by wild overachievement, lather, rinse, repeat. His teams often seem too high-strung, especially in crunch time. Lately, he hasn’t always gotten the most out of his players, especially the bigger guys (Caner-Medley, Garrison, Holden, Gist, Ibekwe, Osby, Bowers, Mardesich, Fofana, Dupree, Burney). He’s a great in-game coach, especially against the Carolinas of the world, but where is that great in-game coaching against the Morgan States and Clemsons of the world? How good is it in March if you can’t also bring it in January? How good are your motivational skills if your team’s back has to apparently be against the wall in order for your messages to be effective?

These are all fair questions. And just to be clear, I love Gary. He’s my coach. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. But you know what? It’s fair to ask these questions of a program and coach that want so badly to be considered among the sport’s perennial elite. With high achievement comes high expectations and high standards. I don’t think people should object to fair questions like these. That said, I really liked what East Coast Bias had to say about Gary recently. Gary is Maryland and Maryland is Gary. When he pumps his fist toward the student section, that is nothing but good, old-fashioned solidarity. It’s downright freaking inspiring. It’s the effortless leadership that shows through in the way he coaxed and prodded this group to a successful season. Imagine what can be done if the team is suddenly willing and able to apply his lessons consistently.

Next season could be big. It looks like vaunted recruit Lance Stephenson is leaning toward Kansas, but they’ve still got bigs Jordan Williams and James Padgett all saddled up and ready to (hopefully) ride to the rescue in the frontcourt. Vasquez is testing the NBA waters, but honestly my gut says he’ll be back. Hayes and Milbourne will be senior leaders. Bowie, Mosely, Tucker, Burney, Goins and, of course, the intriguing Jin Soon Kim will all be a year older. Suddenly, a fairly young and shallow squad could be fairly experienced and deep. If we can put it all together, we could go a long way.

It just sucks that I have to wait seven months to see. In the meantime, I’ll savor this basketball season for a while. Questions abound, as they always do, but in the end, it was actually a pretty special year. I’ll remember this group for being scrappy and for never doing things the easy way, always insisting on snatching something from the jaws of something else. But no matter. They got it done, and congrats to them.  Pass the chicken salad.

19
Mar
09

NCAA first round: Vasquez and Maryland upset Cal, 84-71

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YEAH TERPS! What a game! This reminded me of the Michigan State win from earlier this year. Diving after loose balls, everything going in the basket. Everything was clicking.

This was a pretty evenly contest game until a HUGE swing at around the 10:30 mark of the second half. With the Terps nursing a two-point lead, Vasquez finds a wide-open Eric Hayes in the corner for a three. Cal didn’t convert on its possession, Hayes tracked down a rebound, and Dino Gregory (who played a great game) sent a touch pass to Landon Milbourne for another three. In the span of about 25 seconds, the lead went from two to eight. In total, it was a 9-0 run over 1:54.

In the last 10 minutes, Cal just couldn’t get anything consistent going. Interesting that they didn’t foul in the closing minutes. They just knew it was Maryland’s day. The Terps were unquestionably the better team today.

Play of the game came at the seven minute mark after Bowie missed a free throw and a scrum ensued. Bowie picked it up and, using the eyes in the back of his head, found Vasquez alone under the basket for an And-1. That was when everyone — both teams, both coaches, everyone — seemed to realize that it was all coming up Maryland. Vasquez was clearly the MVP, with a 27-6-2. Jesus. He has grown a ton over the last month or so.

The whole Terps team is peaking. Right now. What can they do against Memphis? Memphis looks to be tough right now as well, although they struggled a little against Cal Northridge in the first round.

First half recap of Terps win is below and here, if you’re interested.

Memphis up next on Saturday. We’ll be out of town, though, and won’t be blogging right after. Sorry, Mom.

GO TERPS!

(photo credit: Reinhold Matay — Associated Press)

19
Mar
09

NCAA Tournament first round: Maryland vs. Cal

Kind of a nip-and-tuck first half, but by and large a good one for Maryland. They’re leading at halftime, 34-31, although it seems like they should be leading by more.

Vasquez leads the way for the Terps with 11…no surprise there. Was it just me, or were there a lot of fouls in the first half? Nope, there were a lot of fouls in the first half…10 for Cal and 9 for Maryland.

The best thing I saw was how calm Gary and the players seemed. They were just executing a game plan…no noticeable jitters, which is a great sign. I think they realize they’re playing with house money now, to an extent.

They were clearly interested in pushing the tempo on Cal both on offense and defense, and they were successful with it. Bigs played well against what seems to be a fairly overrated Cal frontcourt. Did I actually see Dave Neal out-jump one of them for a rebound?

I didn’t realize what an itty bitty little guy Jerome Randle was. Hey sparky! He’s a smooth player, though…he juked Mosely out of his shoes on one play. Vasquez was on him at times and did a good job of using his size to bother Randle.

Dino Gregory did some good yeoman’s work on defense. If drawing a charge can ever be called pretty, he had a really pretty charge-drawing on Jorge Guitierrez at like the 4:30 mark.

Come on Terps….




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