Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Monday Roast: How it Works

We would like to introduce to you The Monday Roast.

What is the Monday Roast? The Monday Roast is an opportunity to get things off your chest. Does something bother you? Annoy you? Frustrate you? Do you need to get something off your chest? Vent? Can you compile five good humored, witty roasts on one of these frustrations?

If so, tell us about them. Give a brief synopsis of what it is and then roast it, five times. Example:

Kevin, I can’t decide between a fat joke and a dumb joke. Boom Roasted

Yes, that was from The Office, “Stress Relief” episode when Michael Scott gets roasted and roasts everyone. This episode inspired the Monday Roast. Thus, each one-liner you provide must be followed with: boom roasted. (watch this)

So send them our way. Roast your boss, the Yankees, the guy in the V-neck drinking a purple martini, whatever gets your goat. Roast it and we’ll post it.

Email us your Roasts:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Lovely Saturday Night in Tempe

Let me begin by saying, no, let me begin by stating, that maroon and gold are heinous. Hideous. Uch. And it’s certainly not a romantic gold. It’s not gold like Notre Dame. The ASU interpretation of “gold” is equivalent to what my urine looks like after I haven’t had a drop of water in a week and took down eleven multi-vitamins. Heinous I tell you, simply heinous.

That said, I was in Tempe Saturday evening for the Wildcats’ dismantling of the Sun Devils.

The first half was just bad basketball. Arizona shot 23% and was flustered by the vaunted Herb Sendek zone. Arizona State couldn’t buy a bucket but managed to build a 20-10 lead midway through the sloppy half. At that point – down ten with

Wells Fargo Arena uncharacteristically loud – something changed. The rest of the way, the young Wildcats outscored the Scummies 67-38. No typo.

Up in the far reaches of Wells Fargo us Wildcat faithful screamed and cheered and swore and smiled and danced. It was fantastic and it reaffirmed just how much I hate ASU. But now is not a time for hatred, so I’ll speak to love.

It was also reaffirmed for me just how much I love Sean Miller. That. Dude. Can. Coach. A team doesn’t shoot 51% (75% in the second half) on the nation’s top defense by accident. Sean Miller out-coached the ol’ Herb-ivore on Saturday. And I love that.

For quite awhile there has been a “soft” label placed on the Wildcats. No longer the case. When Kevin Parrom fouled Ty Abbot on his dunk attempt, that was hard basketball (and later ruled flagrant, weak). When Ty Abbot got in Kevin Parrom’s face and KP smiled and laughed, that was just hard. KP’s twitter status immediately post-game read, “ASwho?!?!? I’m from Tha Bronx New York .. No Easy Buckets!!!” And I love that.

The ‘Cats broke a five game slide to the Devils. Hadn’t beaten them in two seasons. Before that, Arizona had won 24 of 25 against ASU. We beat them, in their house, by 19. And I love that.

With five minutes remaining and up twenty, we took a lap around the rapidly emptying arena. You know, to make some new friends. It was glorious. And I love that.


As we exited the usually barren Wells Fargo Arena (averages 49% of capacity) we engaged in some banter. The typically brilliant ASU “fan base” went straight to personal attacks. Adorable. But, in the midst of a game of hate ping-pong, our ASU counterpart looked right at our group and provided the line of the night, “Yeah, well our football team.” That’s it. He just stopped and then we began. And I love that.

Our post-game meal was pizza. Wildcat fans had taken over the pizza joint and then three Sun Devils arrived. Each late-twenties and bearded, the dumbest of which decided to start chirping. Well during this round of banter, my brother says, “How smart can you be? You go to ASU!” The ASU response (which I am not fabricating or embellishing in any way), “I went to Columbia.” Wow. This genius was immediately berated with Andy Bernard quotes. The three beard-os walked out with their tails between their legs. And I love that.

Our post-game drinks were at a dueling piano bar. Somehow, our group managed front row, center stage seats. When the playlist called for “Bear Down,” we killed it. For the second time that evening, a group of Wildcats owned the Sun Devils in their house. And I love that.

The ‘Cats are rebuilding, sitting at 10-9 and 4-3. It’s not a great record, but as I’ve said before, perhaps ad nauseam, this program is on track and its Conductor is doing big things. And I love that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Golden Age of Oregon Football

The biggest news in the young college football off season: Pete Carroll is leaving USC and taking his mock turtle necks to the NFL. No debate there, but what does it mean for the Pac-10? To this Homer it means that we are entering what the history books will remember as the "Golden Age of Oregon Football."

Let's start with the known. Pete Carroll was 97-19 during his 9 years at USC which included a record seven straight Pac-10 championships; a record 6 BCS bowl victories; a record 33 straight weeks atop the AP poll; and two national championships. Pete Carroll was the master architect of this success. When he arrived in Los Angeles USC was mired in mediocrity. His recruiting ability and ability to assemble a staff elevated USC to the pinnacle of college football.

No matter the reason you assign to Pete Carroll's departure--jumping ship from a ticking bomb of recruiting violations, or the ability to oversee an entire NFL system--there is no debate that his departure leaves a gaping void in the Pac-10. Anyone who thinks Lane Kiffin is going to fill that void with his 12-21 record as a head coach (and without the help of Norm Chow) needs to have their head checked. Ergo, enter the Golden Age of Oregon Football.

To begin, Oregon is bringing back many of their key players from last year's Rose Bowl team. Quarterback/escape artist extraordinaire Jeremiah Masoli will be back. Plus, Masoli will take snaps from an O-Line that loses no one and have the luxury of handing the ball to Pac-10 Freshman of the Year LaMichael James. The defense returns nine starters including defensive end Kenny Rowe and a healthy secondary that was riddled with injuries last year. Not to mention Oregon returns Chip Kelly, the first coach to win the conference title outright in his first season as head coach.

That said, it takes more than one good team to sustain success similar to that of recent UCS squads. However, before Oregon won the Pac-10 this past year, they had been playing second fiddle to USC for some time. Since 2003 Oregon has finished 2nd or 3rd in the conference three times and was poised to win the conference and play for the National Championship in 2007 before star quarterback Dennis Dixon injured his knee. Furthermore, since Chip Kelly arrived in 2007 as an offensive coordinator with his spread offense, Oregon has led the league in touchdowns scored and total offense.

That high powered spread offense attracts top level recruits and media attention. College Gameday has covered Oregon football games four times in the past three years--which does not go unnoticed by high school football players. Every young, athletic, running minded quarterback in the country knows they will be given the green light to run when they come to play for Oregon. Not to mention Oregon has 160 possible combinations of new age Nike pants, shoes, helmets and jerseys. However, none of these recruiting tools carry more cache than Uncle Phil.

Uncle Phil is the endearing nickname bestowed upon Phil Knight, founder of Nike and U of O alum. Needless to say, Oregon's favorite uncle has not forgotten about his alma mater. Uncle Phil has his own customized locker in the football locker room and buildings named after him, his parents, and his son. He has donated over 230 million dollars to the University including a 100 million dollar donation ear marked almost exclusively for athletics. His finger prints are so evident at the University it is commonly referred to as Nike University--a fact not lost on recruits. One need not suspend reality to imagine a recruit being told that if his football career doesn't work out he has an excellent opportunity to work at Nike.

Not only is Nike a gravy train for Oregon, but that gravy doesn't just sit in the coffers. Nestled beside Autzen Stadium is the 14.6 million dollar Moshofsky Center ("the Mo") which houses the only indoor, full length, artificial turf practice field in the Pac-10. The Mo also houses beer and food vendors during every home football game.

Next door to the Mo is the bran new 14,580-square-foot Athletic Medicine Center. The facility includes physician space for daily clinics and pre-participation physicals, nutritional education areas for student-athletes, vision and dental screening, body composition testing and a pharmacy. The center also features digital x-ray technology which doctors can instantly view. Additional features include three therapeutic pools equipped with underwater treadmills and video systems that aid in rehabilitation and training as well as a hot plunge pool and a cold plunge pool. Not to mention the fact that the architecture and design make the place look like a new age healing center for A-list celebrities (see below).

Although the personnel, facilities, and donors are key elements of any prominent college program, football fans and the University of Oregon are second to none. Though there is no one-hundred-thousand person Coliseum in Eugene there is an Autzen Stadium that boasts 66 straight sell outs dating back to 1999 and is more raucous and boisterous than any football stadium in the country. There is no track so the fans are on top of the field and the stands rise steeply up so the noise pours down on the field. It is an outrageous football environment that makes time stand still on Saturdays in Eugene.

The bottom line is that Oregon has an established program with almost limitless financial support. That combination makes it tough for most schools in the Pac-10 to compete with Oregon year in and year out. One of the only schools that has comparable financial resources is USC, but that ship is now being sailed by a man (Kiffin) who once told a recruit from South Carolina that "if you go to South Carolina you will end up pumping gas for the rest of your life like all the other players who went to South Carolina." Nice.

Enter the Duck.

Monday, January 18, 2010

26.2 Halved

This past Sunday I ran the P.F. Chang’s Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon for the fifth consecutive year. That’s two-and-a-half marathons, total. The weather was perfect. I think I saw a marquee that said 56° around mile two and around mile five there was a heavenly cloud cover that lasted the rest of the race. Conditions were perfect and I set a new PR (personal record), 1:37:22. I was, and still am, very excited.

This event is quite the event. There were 21,460 finishers and everyone was real nice. Myself included – perhaps especially. When I was making my final push (I ran the final 1.1 miles in under seven minutes), I was passing a pair of mid-thirties men. The one closest to me, understandably, had to snot. So he shot his snot-rocket (Runner’s Dictionary: close one nostril and violently evacuate the open nostril) and I got sprayed. Residual spray, nothing too overwhelming, but someone’s snot on me nonetheless. He quickly apologized and I said, “No worries, I got plenty of snot on me as it is.” Well let me tell you, twelve miles into a half-marathon that is a funny joke.

Later, I got to thinking: a run by snotting is no laughing matter. Generally, I should be upset and disgusted. Not on race day. There’s something unique about a race day; it’s different than game day. Game day, I want to kill you, punish you, let you know just how much better I am than you. Race day, we are commiserating and want to finish. Our goals and motivations may be completely opposite but we are here to accomplish. Race day is a “we” thing.

And in the spirit of WE, the highlight of my race day was not my PR (although I remain amped on that). My highlight was seeing the full-marathon finish. After I’d finished and collected all of my SWAG, I meandered over to the full-marathon finish line area. What I saw was remarkable. The race time was approaching three-hours and each of the finishers knew it. At the 2:59:50 mark, the announcer started a countdown: “10…9…8…” In the distance, two runners took off, throwing all of their training and good judgment to the wayside for their sub-three hour marathon. It was an amazing moment of human fortitude. They each crossed before the timer struck 3:00:00. Beaten, exhausted, and likely dehydrated, they each stood in their own seas of euphoria and pride. Then one of them puked – three times.

It is always an incredible site to see people accomplish a goal. I suppose it’s only fitting that I write this on Martin Luther King Day and I did not plan that. But the process of achieving a dream is quite impressive, inspiring, and contagious. Scientifically, the endorphins excreted during and following exercise are addicting and good for you. Yet another reason to set an athletic goal and conquer it.

During my 97+ minutes on the course, I saw a lot of things. I never run these races with my iPod in, there is just too much to absorb. I love high-fiving the little kids holding their hands out. You might think I do this for them. Reality: it makes me feel like I’m a superstar of sorts. The 5-year-olds make me feel cool. I saw Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne in their orange and silver tuxedos with matching top hats. There was a banana running, lots of tutus, a bunny rabbit costume, more LuLu Lemon gear than I knew existed, a dude running w/ a 5’ log on his shoulder, and one tramp stamp (that I saw). I also saw a guy wearing tear away sleeves but no shirt. Perplexing, yes, but he was significantly muscled and wanted us all to know. We know.

Also worth noting is the sign Zack pointed out to me. It read, “The journey of 13.5 miles begins with one step.” No one ran 13.5 miles. Also worth noting, John McCain, who was at the starting line, waves using primarily his shoulders for hand rotation and is an awkward winker.

It’s a great weekend that is made exponentially better with great friends. Thanks to Zack for driving us to the starting line and verbally confirming that he liked my CD. Great job Hayley and, on behalf of Zack and I, thank you for tolerating the guy talk, inappropriate jokes, and immaturity. Thanks for coming out.

As I said, it is a tremendous event and I suggest to anyone in the bottom left corner of the US to try it. The half-marathon distance is easily trained for and Phoenix is a city that knows how to throw an event. Do it, I say. Join us on race day 2011.

*For info on next year's race, follow this link: PF Chang's Rock-n-Roll Arizona

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Juicy Big Mac

With Monday's admission of steroid use, Mark McGwire provided us with the "no duh" moment of the week. So, here it is Mark, "No duh."

Beyond that, we can say that you played this one right. Your steroid use was sparse, experimental, and for recovery purposes. Well-played Mr. McGwire. Well-played. These excuses are easily received and forgiven. You chose the Petite-path and for that you will - eventually - be welcomed back into baseball.
I also believe that you did a good thing for your new position as the Cardinals Hitting Coach. The team doesn't need that season long distraction and the steroids buzz you would bring. Joining the team as an admitted and repentant "user" increases your cred as a coach. Besides, you don't seem to handle media scrutiny particularly well and now you can keep them off your (huge) back.

I'm not sure if it was the right move to not announce this in a book. You could have cashed in and you may still. But no one has ever questioned your classiness and it's been reported that you retired with a two-year, $30 million offer on the table. That's good money. Better than book money no doubt.

But the big question is: how does this affect your Hall chances? Mark (deep breath, look down, sigh, look up) you no longer have a chance at the Hall. That became clear when the voters gave you just 21.9% of the vote. Do you really think admitting what we all knew will jump you to the requisite 75%? I'm sorry, it just won’t.

So your history book has been written. You oohed and ahhed us for a few truly amazing summers. And they were amazing. I remember missing number 62 because my mom was driving me to Hebrew school. Do you know how upset that made me? Not to mention I missed number 62. People dropped what they were doing to watch your at-bats. Your swing was compact and brilliant. Conversely, there was nothing compact about your home runs.

And then the steroids leaked. It started with Caminiti, but no one would believe a cokehead. Then Fainaru-Wada and Williams went after BALCO and Bonds. Out came Canseco's second-grade reading level book and it was a good laugh. Until it wasn’t. Finally, congress and Senator Mitchell (no seriously, the actual US congress) got involved. And you were just there to talk about the future.

Let me be clear Mark, this is not entirely your fault. In fact, we’re all at fault. The fans cheered, the owners turned a blind eye, and – perhaps the most arrogant of all – the baseball writers glorified you. The same men who waxed poetic of your heroics now vehemently refuse to vote you into their Hall. Please, they didn’t know? You were ten times their size and saving baseball, not to mention their jobs. They too built the steroids era and, just like you, wont stand up and say it.

Ultimately, your history should read: prolific home run hitter who admitted steroid use. Whether you used to improve (you still deny) or to recover (your admission), Mark: you were better than the others. Yes, you tainted the numbers, the most sacred thing in baseball. But the Hall of Fame is about talent AND accomplishment. You achieved both and belong.  

Unfortunately, you’ll never have your July afternoon in Cooperstown.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How bad is Pac-10 basketball this year?

I've spent my entire life trumpeting the under appreciated talent of Pac-10 athletics--especially basketball. I can't stand Digger Phelps, Dick Vitale and the rest of the East Coast cronies that go to bed before basketball gets played out west, and wake up the next day to talk it down anyway. However, even a Homer can't totally check reality at the door: this may be the weakest Pac-10 ever.

To be fair, no one thought the Pac-10 would have a great year, but no one thought it would be as weak as it is...

Two Pac-10 teams entered the season in the pre-season top 25: Cal (13) and Washington (14). By week two Cal had fallen out of the top 25 after getting run out of the 2K Sports Classic where they suffered an embarrassing loss to Syracuse (95-73) and dropped another to Ohio State (76-70). As this week began Washington was the only team in the Pac-10 still ranked in the top 25 at number 24, but fell way out after dropping consecutive 17 point losses to the Arizona schools. There was a chance that Washington State might replace Washington in the top 25 this week, but put that notion to rest after getting dropped by Arizona State 71-46.

So here we are in week nine and for the first time since 1987 not a single Pac-10 school is ranked in the top 25. In fact, both Cornell and Harvard got more votes in the AP top 25 than any team in the Pac-10. If that sounds bad, a closer look reveals that the Pac's top 25 absence is just the surface of Pac-10 futility.

Pac-10 teams have had alarmingly poor results against all levels of competition, the worst of which was Oregon State's 99-48 destruction at home to Seattle University (a sub 500 independent league team). To make matters worse, Oregon State had already lost at home to Sacramento State, at Nebraska, and at University Illinois-Chicago.

Oregon State is not the only team being embarrassed--even the perennial power UCLA is getting in on the action. UCLA opened the season with a 68-65 loss at home to Cal State Fullerton of the Big West. UCLA also managed to tick off five straight losses including a 74-47 beat down at the hands of Portland State and a 79-68 loss to Long Beach State University.

Oregon had to get in the mix as well. Not only has Oregon played their traditionally soft non-conference schedule, this year they mixed in some ugly losses: 88-81 loss to Portland; 13 point defeat to Montana; and received a 106-69 shellacking from Missouri.

Arizona was expected by no one to compete for the league title during their transition year and they have responded by getting blown out by Oklahoma (79-62) and San Diego State (63-46) and were handed their worst home loss in history by BYU (99-69)--a game in which Jimmer Fredette dropped 49 points on Arizona (a McKale Center Record).

Stanford has chipped in a loss to Oral Roberts at home, and opened the season with a with a loss to 7-9 University of San Diego team. USC has thrown in losses to Loyola Marymount and Nebraska. Outside of Pac-10 play Arizona State has only lost at Duke, at BYU and at home to a 12-1 Baylor team, but they managed to put up just 37 points against USC.

The two teams that were picked to lead the Pac this year (Cal and Washington) have won the non-conference games they were supposed to, but have dropped every game where they faced real competition. In addition to Syracuse and Ohio State, Cal was blown out by Kansas and lost to New Mexico. Moreover, they lost to a surprisingly bad UCLA team at home. Washington only lost to Gonzaga and a 13-1 Kansas State team, but their wins include Eastern Washington, Alaska Anchorage, Nicholls State, Idaho, San Diego and Air Force. Plus they laid egg in the desert last weekend.

So the Pac-10 is anyone's guess. The two teams considered the best (Cal and Washington) are currently first and last in the Pac-10 standings and almost every team has followed a puzzling loss with a win, or followed a puzzling win with an expected loss. At this rate there will be 10 Pac-10 teams at 9 and 9; probably just one team dancing and two at best*; and no one should be surprised if a sub-500 hundred team sneaks into the winner's circle at the Pac-10 Tournament.

My guess is Cal takes the Pac-10 regular season crown and has an outside shot to lock in an at large berth in the NCAA Tournament. As for the Pac-10 tournament the only team I would bet against winning it is USC, because they won't be participating in it at all.

*A Power 6 conference has never gotten just one team into the NCAA tournament since it expanded.