Tuesday, December 29, 2009

College Football's Favorite Son

It’s no secret that religion and sports are inextricably intertwined. God has received more thanks for athletic achievement than mothers, fathers, coaches and teammates combined. Such declarations are rarely admonished—perhaps due to myriad stories of athletes turning their life around after finding salvation in faith. Some people raise valid questions about how God could possibly think, as Heinz Ward once said, “God [is] on our side” (and not the other side). However, on the whole, religion taking a prominent role in sports is widely accepted and even revered in many circumstances; and never has it been more revered as with the infallible Tim Tebow.

Tim Tebow has taken on a larger than life status because “he does everything right.” He is praised by mothers and grandmothers because of the way he conducts himself off the field and the leadership he shows on the field. These are fine qualities in an athlete and a young man. However, the Heisman award show has morphed into an annual tribute to Tim Tebow’s ministry off the field. There is a sense that Tebow embodies what it means to be a student athlete because his strong faith allows him to lead a truly righteous path and forego the sins and temptations that plague the faithless and less disciplined.

His faith has allowed him to become America’s idealized version of a student athlete. Moreover, America’s love affair with Tebow has gone into hyper drive while “As the Tiger Turns” has gone into syndication on every network. Tim Tebow’s faith is his choice, and his dedication to it—coupled with the ministry he provides for the less fortunate—should be respected. However, not only is his faith publicly respected it has cast him as college football’s super Jesus and anointed him as the model to which every student athlete should conform.

I am not so sure Tim Tebow should be the idealized version of the student athlete. Shouldn’t the idealized version of the student athlete be the student that excels in the classroom and on the field? I’m not suggesting that Tim Tebow doesn’t excel at his family studies major—he probably does. The problem I have, is that Tim Tebow is college football’s favorite son because he wears John 3:16 on his eye black and tells inmates that finding Christ will set them free.

Meanwhile Toby Gerhart, another Heisman candidate, is majoring in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford while starting for the Cardinal baseball team. Moreover, he is currently hauling in a 3.25 GPA and taking 21 credits this quarter--the average is 15 and you must petition to take more than 20 units. Here is a kid who is busting his tail at one of the most competitive institutions in the country--in one of the institution's most rigorous majors--and no one had heard of him until Jim Harbaugh’s national “Gerhart is Great Campaign.” Toby Gerhart embodies the definition of student athlete. It is a shame that an athlete of such skill and stature did not receive notoriety enough to remind us what collegiate athletics are really about: there are thousands of students who pursue success in the classroom and represent their schools on fields and courts without the slightest aspiration for grand accollades or riches.

Tim Tebow is a great leader and so is Toby Gerhart. I don’t want to diminish Tebow’s accomplishments but I do want to step back and ask what Tebow’s story would be without the religious subtext. Has anyone asked if it is strange that a 22 year old is writing bible verses on his body during game day and congregations are praying for him? Do you think Florida, ESPN, and CBS make money of Tebow’s religious odyssey? Is exceptional athletic and academic success anything other than the only model to which every student athlete should aspire? Or are they only worth something when they are also faithful, chaste, ministering saints? Maybe it’s best to ask Charlie Wise and the 96% graduation rate he maintained at his former job.

Something Special for the Holidays

Usually, when the game winner falls, you'll think to yourself, "Wow. Something special is going on with this team." On the surface, that is not the case here. The U of A Men's Basketball Team - once again - nearly snatched a loss away from the jaws of victory last week. Leading 69-61 with under a minute to play, fans started heading for the exits. Had they not seen the Colorado game? What about UNLV? Lipscomb? The entire Maui Invitational? Appropriately, fans left during the forgettable (save Jimmer Fredette’s 49 points) lesson in execution from the BYU Cougars.

No. Nothing about Nic Wise's game winner(s) - and particularly the process by which it became necessary - suggests something magical, something unique, is happening at McKale this season. Too much is yet to be learned and taught. This team is average at best, young and developing.

But before you think I'm a complete Debbie Downer, before you accuse me of hopping off the bandwagon, allow me this: this is fun. This is not Sports Illustrated covers and 38-point victories. It's not All-Americans and it's not lottery picks. But it is fun.

There hasn't been eager anticipation surrounding Arizona Basketball since 2006, Chase Budinger's freshman year. Since then, it's been a steady decline to "what can go wrong next?" Four coaches in four years; an heir to the Olson throne announced and fired; Olson returns, then retires. Seemingly nothing has gone right for this program lately, but things are changing. Now, with a suited man named Stability at the helm, a crop of five projects, and a new logo, we have something special to look forward to.

This is fun because we get to watch a program be (re)built. You want wins now? Take short cuts for victories? How’d that work out at USC? Kansas State? (UMass, Memphis, Kentucky, yeah!) I’m not naïve, college sports are tainted, but the numbers don’t lie. Of the past 43 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions only three champs are not ranked in the Top 50 of ESPNs All-Time programs. Two of the three programs (UConn and Florida) have won multiple championships. To win in March—when it matters—you need a program, not a season.

Listen to Stability speak; he oozes reality and reeks of process. He sees this program growing. He speaks a foreign tongue to most fans: big picture. Fans speak in rightnow-ese. “We’re not a very good team right now,” Stability says. Gasp! Blasphemous in rightnow-ese. In big picture that means, “Revel in this mediocrity because it will not last long.”

On the eve of the Pac-10 season and New Year we are faced with possibility and hope. The conference tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the tournament and that would appear to be every Pac-10 team’s best shot at the Dance. The Wildcats – and the rest of the league – will improve; but the basketball will be poor and not worthy of national attention. Ultimately – and I’ll say it again – you’re remembered for what you do in March. Anything’s possible. I hope.

Stability knows that a twenty-sixth NCAA Tournament birth is a long shot and likely not going to happen. Accept it. Grieve some on Selection Sunday and - for the first time in 25 years - have a shot at your office pool (that is if you’re like me and Arizona has won each of the last 25 titles).

When Stability left Xavier, he held a press conference to explain his decision and thank everyone he cared about at the school. He cried. It was genuine and demonstrated how passionate he is about his program. Stability stated one reason as to why he would leave that community to build another: a National Championship. There's your something special.

(Sean Miller press conference leaving Xavier)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homers on the West Side

It was unclear if it was an omen or just poor management, but the Circle K where the trip began did not have a restroom. One mile from I-10 and no bathroom? Luckily the adjacent alley was empty (actually had a convenient light) and they still carried beverages. We made the necessary purchases and hit the road. 3:38 pm, MST.

The drive from Tucson to San Diego is pretty much a straight shot from the desert to the coast: up the 10, left at the 8, gas at Yuma, tight rope walk the border, slow through several racial profiling stations (er, border patrol), and role into casual town USA (San Diego). On a good day, the drive is 6.5 hours; but when you’re on a mission to catch a buddy’s CD release show you make it in less than six – stops included.

Yuma: home to Lou Dobbs and not much else was rest stop one-and-only. The objective: Chevron and Jack-in-the-Crack in under twenty minutes. Outcome: twenty-eight minutes because Brad had to get curly fries which were unfortunately not yet ready to be served. Also worth noting: the telling size of Yuman urinals (see right).

At 9:33 pm, MST (8:33 pm, PST) we arrived in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. We met up with the Helen Earth Band fan brigade and immediately began the requisite “to fit in” boozing. There was a consensus among the brigade that we must go downtown for some pre-function-consumption. Upon arriving on the 14 floor of a swank Gaslamp district apartment, the Homer consensus was, “Wow.” But then our host informed us that we could “only party in my room because my parents were sick and didn’t go out” and it was a high school run back. No bother. Following a disgusting rum shot, bounce down the moving trampoline at Ralph’s, and a jaunt across San Diego County to El Cajon we were at the Beauty Bar celebrating the release of Helen Earth Band’s “Our Own Ghost City.”

The show was great and had all the right ingredients: PBR tall boys, a sketchy bar chocked full of hipsters, hair salon chairs with perm helmets, a few good friends, a drunk girl openly searching for anti-horny pills, and the band killed; they played their entire 13 song set.

The after party was in Encinitas, a mere 30 miles back home. Adam slept on the car ride and nearly froze to death at the party. He was content to eat a burrito – carne asada – alone in the corner.

Adam awoke too early Saturday morning and was pleasantly greeted by a hangover. He showered and decided coffee would be good and Pipes’ coffee would be perfect (if you're so inclined, Pipes also serves delicious gigantic breakfast). Drawn to the three block-long aroma of VG Donuts, he added a glazed and chocolate glazed to the haul and the day began. Brunch at St. Tropez was next. The company was exquisite, the food necessary, and if you’re ever in the mood for delightful French toast made from croissants, this is your joint.

The rest of the day – despite Adam’s cry to “conquer something” (presumably his hangover) – was a celebration of San Diego sensibility. The weather was unseasonably warm (possible in SD?) and we spent the day at a beach house with a view of the sky that is only obstructed by the Pacific Ocean. We dined on over sized (understatement) subs at the Sub Palace; and while it is no palace, they do serve subs fit for royalty. We bid adieu to the daylight hours while sitting on the beach, drinking a heavenly red, and watching surfers share the last sets of the day with dolphins and the setting sun.

Like every good beach/sunset date, we followed that up with two outrageously priced pitchers at Besta-Wan and lots of sports talk. A phone call and rushed check later, we were downtown, on our way to the Nixon Watches holiday party. WHAT?? Yes. We found ourselves in a converted warehouse (The Old Wonder Bread Factory), full of overpriced modern art, unique facial hair, refinished concrete, velvet ropes, equal parts blazers/tennis shoes/awesomeness.

Underdressed and out of place we were entertained by a Roger Federer look-alike, an ex-cousin, and an open bar before we found our calling: the dance floor. As the newly coronated Kings of the dancing empire we closed down the place with the whitest dance moves the world has always known; dice were rolled, several running men spotted, a sprinkler sighting, and a general disregard for any rhythm the music provided. Additionally, photos were taken in the company provided photo booth that will undoubtedly stunt our political careers should the photos ever re-emerge (the were sadly lost).

A hungover wake up, coffee, brief retracing of footsteps, and brunch at the unreal Beach Grass Café rounded out the trip. Please note: the Beach Grass Café should be a breakfast staple for anyone conscious at the brunch hour in San Diego.

The trip was strictly by the seats of our pants and a Western winter tribute; visit while it's 72 degrees on the west side and 8 over there on the east side. Go to brunch with your favorites. Listen to Helen Earth Band. Be a wee bit irresponsible. Catch a sunset.

READER AND DRIVER WARNING: there is a coyolina (half coyote, half javelina) parousing somewhere along I-8. He is not afraid of Nissan Frontiers traveling 90 MPH and is terrifying. Beware.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Homer Goes East

My plane was canceled. Then delayed. Then un-delayed. They said it was a “snow event in Houston.” Snow Event? No. A snow event is what they call Winter Formal in LA. A snow event is a ski trip. In our world of PC this and that, I was looking for some straight talk (not you Sarah). It’s a storm. StormStormStorm.
Central Park

Upon arrival, New York’s moniker, The City That Never Sleeps, was immediately validated. People were in the street, bars, and pizza joints. Also, question: is “Empire State of Mind” streaming though little speakers in every manhole in New York? I think so. Jay-Z gets a cut.

In New York I saw six comedians, one play, two ‘Cats games, a big park, and one celebrity. In Boston I saw 17 championship banners, zero ‘Cats games, Paul Revere’s house, Sam Adams’ grave, and stood alone in storied Fenway Park as the security guard proclaimed, "I didn't see nothing!" In DC I relaxed. Went ice-skating and drank more often than I should have. Celebrated Hanukkah and caught a movie. Slept in. Who can blame a Homer when the weather report says, “Feels like 25”? And then it was over. Quicker than it began. No return flights were delayed.


Ultimately, I loved my trip. It was fun and relaxing and inspiring and busy. I loved the people I stayed with and admire the lives they lead. They’re some of my favorites. But $2 PBR is not a deal and I’ll never get used to “Feels like 25.” This Homer still loves home. It’s where my heart is.

My travels were brief and for that I eagerly anticipate a return. Thank you to those who tolerated, housed, directed, and entertained me. You’re the best.

(Note: These are my own photos. Shyeah!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A.B. Homer Bowl Picks

Homer picks take two. Boom, posted.

Capital One Bowl: Penn State Nitanny Lions v. Louisiana State Tigers
Yawn. Here’s how this one plays out: it’s 3-2 mid way through the fourth quarter, a DB misses an outside tackle on a 5 yd pass play (pick the team, doesn’t matter), takes it house, something desperate happens at the end of the game when the teams are forced into two-minute offenses, someone scores or doesn’t, whole game’s decided on a broken play and the final minute. We’ll
say Lions ‘cause I like JoePa.

Nittany Lions: 10-9

Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas Tech Red Raiders v. Michigan State Spartans
In a match up I would hesitate to call a match up, Texas Tech takes its gimmick offense against traditional Big 10 brawn. Mike Leach and his trickeration have the 9th ranked offense in the country, blow out victories over Oklahoma and Nebraska (vaunted defenses anyone?), and will win this game handily. Not to mention the game is being played on turf. AHH! Too fast for the Spartans.

Red Raiders: 36-10

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Texas Christian Horned Frogs v. Boise State Broncos
Perhaps the most intriguing BCS game that has ever been played; but this is like playing for who gets to be DD: no one’s going to win a national title, no one’s going to respect either program any more (or less), and in the end everyone’s still going to say: they haven’t played or beaten anyone. In a day and age when the talent pool is spread so thin, college football is won by the best coaches; Patterson and Petersen are clearly two of the best. Frogs-Broncos is sexy because it’ll be a helluva game and that’s what I care about. Anyone who survives LeGarrette is tough enough.

Broncos: 37-30

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon State Beavers v. Brigham Young Cougars
Let me get this off my chest: MIKE RILEY IS ONE OF THE TOP 5 COACHES IN AMERICA. Phew, that felt good. Another thing: how has BYU been invited to the Vegas Bowl five straight years? Vegas CANNOT be making money on that fan base. Anyhow, this should be a good game. I love the shifty Rodgers brothers and a senior Max Hall is certainly tough. But, the PAC-10 was talented this year and it has a battle-tested crop of bowl contenders.

Beavers: 31-24

Citi National Championship: Texas Longhorns v Alabama Crimson Tide
In a season that had five undefeateds and Florida this is our title game? Dammit. There’s really no Homer allegiance in this game other than to say: (get the tiny violin out) there should be a playoff (that’ll be a different talk). There’s no drama to this game, no intrigue other than its name, and – let’s be honest – everyone was expecting Tim Tebow. While the appeal of a senior Colt McCoy to win this game is tempting, he just doesn’t do it for me. Alabama’s tough and Saban teams just win.
Crimson Tide: 21-13

Friday, December 11, 2009

B.H. Homer Bowl Picks

Bowl season is upon us, and us Homers are looking forward to another year of Pac-10 bowl domination across this great nation of ours. To get things started lets get a few predictions from a homer...

Brut Sun Bowl: Stanford Cardinal v. Oklahoma Sooners

There is no doubt the Sooner faithful will travel in force to ol' El Paso, but a Bradfordless bunch will run right into a tough Stanford team. Look for Toby Gerhart to have a big game for the Cardinal coming off a Heisman snub, and ready to strut his stuff before the combine. Although Andrew Luck may be watching; I'm sure Jim Harbaugh can find someone to hand the ball off to a kid averaging 125 yards and 3 touchdowns a game.

Cardinal: 25-16

Pacific Life Holiday B
owl: Arizona Wildcats v. Nebraska Cornhuskers

How many ears of corn do you think Ndamukong Suh could shuck in a minute? We may never know, but I bet it is fewer than the number of linemen he burned in the Big 12 Title game. This is a tough one to call, Nebraska's defense looks stingy, but Arizona's offense has been near the top of most offensive categories all year, despite numerous injuries. But hey, I'm a homer: look for a healthy Sonny Dykes Wildcat offense to pull away late behind Nick "Sunshine" Foles.

Wildcats: 33-16

The Rose Bowl:
Oregon Ducks v. Ohio State Buckeyes

Ducks scoring early and often as they set the tone for a national championship run next season. Chip Kelly's offense has a lot of fire power, and he has a month to get it ready for Jim Tressel--who has changed his play calls less than his sweater vest over the past decade. Watch out for Duck's red shirt freshman LaMichael James; he has not rushed for less than 100 yards since October 3--when he was pulled at half time against the hapless Washington St. Cougars. Ohio State will be wondering why there was not a Duck representative at the Heisman ceremony when this game is over.

Ducks: 44-14

Citi BCS National
Championship: Texas Longhorns v. Alabama Crimson Tide

Hey, even a Homer has to throw his hat in the ring for the big one. By the time this game roles around we'll have forgotten how the BCS backed us into another questionable title game, and we'll tune in. Colt won't have to worry about Ndamukong, but Big Terrence Cody and Co. will be anything but a cake walk. It will be a war of attrition when these two square off--Saban gets his second BCS championship in a snoozer.

Crimson Tide: 16-13

Old School, Smash Mouth, Rhetorical Bull Crap

In the final week before bowl selections, bowl season and individual awards I found myself watching the game of the weak: the Big East showdown between the "revived" Pittsburgh Panthers and the now Brian Kellyless Cincinnati Bearcats. It was a very exciting game--no way around it.

But there was also no way to avoid the battle cry of all beleaguered East Coast/Midwest teams: "We're not some new aged offense, we just play old school football" (or some variation thereof), referring to an interview with Dave Wannstedt taken before the game.

At any rate that set me off...

There is nothing that gets older than listening to squeaky wheels drone on about how they're playing football the way it was meant to be played: old school, running, smash mouth, simple, field position. You know, none of this new aged, Pac 10, double option, athlete at quarterback crap. Who would want speed on offense when we could have corn fed white boys pushing up the field and eating the clock. 'Did you see that 7-6 ball game the other day? What a dandy, I love that old school brand of football.' Give. Me. A. Damned. Break!

You know what I take? I take athletes at every position and speed, speed, speed. I don't care how may field goals Jim Tressel teams kick, Jeremiah Masoli is going to eat his team alive and Terrelle Pryor will be left to wonder what could have been in this years installment of the Big 10's Woes Bowl. Every year people get excited about Big 10 defenses matching up with Pac-10 offenses. Enough! Every team that played in the Big 10 would put up great defensive numbers and so would any college team that played high school teams (except Washington State--sorry Cougs).

I don't care how old school you are, even old schoolers play to win: Since 2002/2003 the Pac-10 has gone 22-11 in bowl games and the Big 10 has gone 15-28. Ohio State has been invited to the BCS National Championship twice in the past 5 years and lost by a combined 41 points. Put your "old school brand" back in the closet with your wooden golf clubs. Even Florida got a quarterback who can run!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why W.C. Homer

We are sports fans, outdoors enthusiasts, liberal supporters, competition junkies, ASU haters, and proponents of the left side of the country (pun intended).

A Homer is a supporter of his roots. We have roots in the West Coast. We support it. We are West Coast Homers.

We love Arizona Basketball, 10pm E.T. kickoffs, afternoon Super Bowls, shorts in November and sandals year round. We love the National League and playoffs at the lunch hour. We take our sunsets over the ocean, our highways without out tolls, and our horizons without ends. We play in National Parks, ski in the spring, and surf in the winter. We love Highway 1, Hood-to-Coast, high peaks, and hacky-sack. We love San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. We love the Rockies, the Rose Bowl, road trips, and Rodeo Break. We love the PAC-10, west coast offenses, NCAA Softball, and Mexican food at 2am. We watch College Game Day before the sun rises, we didn't play lacrosse, and our long boards have wheels. The southwest is our home, our street names are in Spanish, and we're W.C. Homers born and bred.

The authors of this blog are Homers (A.B. Homer and B.H. Homer). Followers of this blog are Homies (you). Comment on our posts. We'll thrive off of feedback. Share this blog with Homies, haters, and friends. Become a Homie for some chuckles, to be irritated, to be inspired, moved, shocked, informed, or entertained. But most of all, become a Homie because you know greatness resides on the West side and you're a W.C. Homer too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The first

This marks WC's first post. This will not be a particularly exciting post. Rather, I will use this to explain what the proceeding posts will entail. Our opening posts will be post-dated as they have been written regarding some events in the past. There's some real quality nuggets in there and they're worth sharing with Homies.

Moving forward, we will soon be posting about the purpose of this blog and what you can expect when you read it. The Cliff Notes of such: you'll be entertained, riled up, moved, pissed, inspired, and humored. We'll focus on the West Coast because we're invested in it and we tend to like it. WE DO NOT HATE THE EAST COAST; just bad weather, angry people, undeserved attention, and Arizona State University.

Stay tuned for more. We're gonna have some fun.