Archive for June, 2009


Our punter is like the Ferrari, no no, the MAYBACH of punters

Writing about football in June is like starting the Christmas shopping season on November 1…but until people buy more Thanksgiving crap, you leave the poor retailers little choice. After all, what would you have the Hallmark store do? If you don’t want to see Xmas ornaments in the summer, buy more Kewpie snow globes and Administrative Professionals Day centerpieces. Or else, stare down the maw of a world lacking these products. It would be just like that video game.

The same goes for sports media. There are no offseasons. The beast must be fed.  The machine must be oiled and luby at all times. That’s why I’m doing a story about a punter right now. Punters are the Santa Clause mouse pad of the Shell Games offseason. Well, that, and the fact that the Maryland football team stinks.

Yeah, that’s right.  Wrapped up in the offseason analysis and optimism, like a ball of dog crap inside a warm fluffy layer of mashed potatoes, is the simple reality that the team is likely headed for more mediocrity. At best.  The Terps lost four guys on the O-line and three on the D-line. Only 10 starters total are returning. Perhaps that’s why a lot of different places, including this outstanding if depressing preview from the New York Times college sports blog, basically have the Terps squeaking into a bowl, any bowl, as the best-case scenario. (Perhaps the EagleBank Bowl?!?! Fingers crossed!)   Recruiting problems — yes, more recruiting problems! — are also  to blame here, according to the Testudo Times.

So with 7-5 or thereabouts on the horizon again, on to what do we hang our rationalizations when the leaves begin to assume their autumnal splendor?   The punter.  That is what. Travis Baltz, baby.  Also known as the team’s only All-America prospect.  I gotta say, he has legs for miles.  Last year he made all-ACC first team with a 41.1 ypk average. And mind you, he was just a sophomore.  Can you believe it?  My head spins when I ponder the upside.  With a weapon like that in your field-position-battle arsenal?  Forget about it.  Thanks for coming, guys.  Because when our possession’s over, that’s when it’s game over for you.   So just keep inciting us into those false starts, you oblivious fools.  Travis Baltz will be our Grond.

Field position battle count: Opponents, jack squat. Maryland, eleventy thousand. That’s the only scoreboard I need.

So yes, big things expected from our punter. BIG THINGS. Here’s hoping he can block for himself as well.  With the upside of Baltz, anything is possible.  See you between the white lines, buddy.   Santa mousepads?  I’ll take three cases.


My favorite Terp of all time hitting my favorite shot of all time

Well, it’s just a laaaaazy summer day here at Shell Games. Nothing really interesting to talk about right now. No games, no nothin. But I pulled up the straw hat long enough to check in at the Washington Times’ excellent D1scourse blog, which is counting down the top 20 Maryland ballers of all time. Number 11, I was happy to see, is the underrated Laron Profit.

Profit was a team stalwart during my college years, 1995-1999. He never really developed a consistent jumper, but man, could he throw down a lob. Him and Terrell Stokes were one mind on those. It was pretty stuff. Profit played with the Wizards and Kobe’s Lakers for a while before a ruptured achilles put him out the league. Most recently, however, he was playing for a champion Argentinean team. It’s a shame that Terps team never got past the Sweet 16. Whatever…at least they went dancing all four years he was there.

Anyhoo, the blog post revealed the existence of a magical piece of archival footage: Laron draining a three on the road to upset Tim Duncan’s Wake Forest squad. We went nuts in the dorms after he hit that…kicking Beast Ice cans down the hallway and what not. And we thought we’d live forever.


New Byrd luxury suites: Hope you like laminate particle board!


Hey, great news! Perfectly timed with the current economic boom, the University of Maryland wants to give YOU a preview of the 64 new Byrd Stadium luxury suites set to open this season. Are you excited to take advantage of this exciting opportunity? I’ve got both my hands in the air.

Suites start at $275 “per guest per game.” What do you get for this money? Well, sir, according to the release, these suites provide you with “all the comforts of home.” Just take a look at that photo up there, eh? Take yourself a gander. Have you ever seen more homely homey digs? I know I haven’t. Each suite’s got, like, cabinets and shit. I think I see a sink. In addition, do I spy some papers on the counter there? For a small upcharge, they’ll scatter those papers on the floor for you. Now we’re talking homestyle. But wait, there’s more! Each suite also comes with in-seat food service. I hope that means they’ll bring me some of those famous dining hall/Comcast Center hamburgers that taste like toilet miasma. Here’s hoping. I could intensify the dining experience by taking the hamburger into my own private restroom area. Private restroom areas? Hell yeah, fool. Boom.

To be fair, $275 per person doesn’t seem like a terrible price for a luxury suite (Nats, Verizon, and FedEx don’t even post their prices online). But judging by that photo, and harkening back to my days on campus, it seems that the university isn’t overly interested in providing a whole lot of, shall we say, bells and whistles. Charging you for them, yes. Providing them for you, no. The release even says that the seats are “vital to the growth of the Maryland football program.” Oh, okay. So buy them because you want to help the team…not because they’re actually, you know, worth the cost. Duly noted. But I think I’ll stick with my nosebleeds, thank you so much.

(Photo credit:


thank goodness for greivis

“I love him,” Williams said yesterday as he sat at the conference table in his office at Maryland.

“I love Coach,” Vasquez says often.

Mike Wise, Washington Post, 6/17/09

And I love both of those guys.

All I have to say is thank goodness for Greivis.  For all his trash talking and middle fingering, Vasquez is the heart and soul of the Terrapins, not to mention that he’s also most of their offense.  I breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when Vasquez withdrew his name from the NBA Draft.  It would have been a shame for him to go undrafted and lose his eligibility, stranding the Terps without a leader and with a big hole in the back court.

In his column, Wise alluded to the fact that Vasquez will use this draft snub as motivation to run faster and jump higher.  I disagree with that assessment.  Greivis is the one guy that doesn’t have room for more motivation.  Whether you love or hate him, you can’t question this guy’s drive.  He literally willed the team into the tournament last year.

As for the reports that the Terps have given up on Lance Stephenson, I say good riddance.  I’m sure he’s as talented as everyone says he is, and I admit that I’ve written in the past that he could have been the missing link for a deep tournament run this year.  But let’s face it, the kid would have brought the circus to town.  The last time I wrote about Stephenson I hadn’t realized that he stood accused of sexual assault.  Maryland is first and foremost a respected academic institution.  Would the school want to bring in a kid that stands accused of sexual assault to be the face of the program?  No.  Leave that to the Memphises and Floridas of the world.  It seemed clear that Williams and Stephenson would have been oil and water.  No matter how talented he is, one year with Stephenson could have done more damage than good.

Like last year, the Terps will be coming into this season with front court auditions and holes in the rotation.  Unlike last year, the Terps will come into this year knowing they have a guy that can lead the team to the tournament.  If the rest of the team works as hard as Greivis does, then there’s hope they can make a legitimate run at the ACC.


One more ride on the Vaz-Tastic Voyage

So if you haven’t heard, Greivis Vasquez is coming back to the CP for his senior season. This is what I figured would happen. Vasquez can act a little bit insane in the old membrane from time to time, but with a focused and motivated Vasquez back for one last ride along with Hayes and Milbourne (and with potential superdy-duper head case Lance Stephenson apparently no longer a target for the Terps), this could be the most stable and consistent Maryland team in quite some time. They could be a contender in a diluted ACC next year.

Of course, that all comes with a big if. And here it is. Brace yourself…it will probably all come down to the bigs. And not to destroy your whole world or anything, but the sky is also blue, and the sun also rises in the east. Don’t shoot the messenger, man. Just let the reality sink in. With the craptacular Braxton Dupree fleeing for the girls’ school up the road, and Steve Goins and Jerome Burney underwhelming thus far, two freshmen could be expected to carry the load down low.

But these problems, they are for another day. Who wants another round of offseason cockeyed optimism?!?!? FINAL FOUR, BABY! Let’s do another one to Vasquez!


stephenson may fall to terps yet

Lance climbs up the ladder, then down it.

Lance climbs up the ladder, then down it.

Talented?  Undoubtedly.  Head case?  It appears so.  Enigma?  Too many rhetorical questions.

In a rare sign that college coaches may actually have a conscience about the character of the players they recruit, Arizona has announced that their roster is full and they are not interested in Lance Stephenson.  Kansas and Kentucky have reportedly filled their starting back courts with players that have come back to school.  That basically leaves Maryland and St. John’s as the front runners.  Although St. John’s might have a local edge on the NY player, Maryland has a much bigger program of late and would provide the blue chip with a much larger stage to showcase his pro talent.

Stephenson’s coachability is still a major question.  I don’t think he’s a fit for the combustible Gary Williams.  The only thing that works is that he is clearly a one-and-done player, and with Vasquez likely to come back to school the Terps would have one of the top back courts in the nation for next year.  If Williams lands Stephenson he would permanently get the media off his back regarding blue chip recruits, although this might be a “for better or for worse” scenario.

For now, it appears as though the Terps might actually be in the driver’s seat to win the Lance Stephenson sweepstakes.  Let’s recognize that it would be a circus with Lance in town, but a circus can be very entertaining.  Stephenson would make Maryland an instant contender for 2009.  It’s just one year baby.  One year.

Just one thing Lance: Please take your own SATs.


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June 2009