Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Saddest Moment in Sports

So last night I sat down and watched the NCAA Women's Tournament. Xavier and Stanford hooked horns in one of the more exciting women's games I've ever seen. After an incredibly exciting back-and-forth second half, Xavier found themselves in the driver's seat: tie game, holding the ball for the final shot. WORST CASE SCENARIO is overtime...

So they dribble the ball up the court and start some ball movement to get a good shot off in the 20 seconds they have left. The point guard passed it to the girl on the right wing, and what happened next was one of the most bizarre, depressing series of events in sports I have ever witnessed:

Click here for "Xavier vs. Stanford - THE FINISH"

Absolutely unbelievable. Xavier's Dee Dee Jernigan didn't just miss one WIDE OPEN lay-up...she missed TWO! She made two great cuts to the hoop, being a coach's dream as she moved well without the ball to find an open spot on the floor. And then it all went to hell...

Now, luckily for her, the attention will be given to the girl on Stanford (Jeanette Pohlen) who pulled a Tyus Edney and ran the length of the floor in 4.3 seconds to score the winning basket. It was certainly an incredible finish, but for the poor girl on Xavier, it is one she will not soon forget. She had two WIDE OPEN LAY-UPS (not jump shots, lay-ups) to send her team to the Final Four...and she blew them.

I felt absolutely sick in the pit of my stomach as I watched her crumble to the floor BEFORE the game was over. You don't see it in the above clip, but she fell to the ground, completely inconsolable, and at that point, they were still tied and needed to play defense for 4.3 seconds to go to overtime. But she was defeated. And I can't help but think some of her teammates expended a lot of energy as they watched her miss a shot that all of them probably learned when they were around 3-4 years old.

Jernigan is going to be haunted by this. Not only did she miss the shot(s) to go to the Final Four...she also missed her last shot of the season, and, worst of all, the last shot of her college career. See, Jernigan is a senior at Xavier, scheduled to graduate this spring. She will now have to cope with this as she continue her life away from basketball.

I feel for the girl. Pohlen came out the hero of the game, but her legacy would have never even been possible if it weren't for the girl on the other end of the court, collapsed on the floor with tears in her eyes. That's one assist Jernigan never wanted to give.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Give

Alright, I give in. My pride is deflated. I admit I have absolutely ZERO forecasting ability when it comes to March Madness. A quick recap of my SECOND round of predictions:

1) Xavier vs. Kansas St. will be the best game of the next round
2) Final Four - Ohio State, Syracuse, Kentucky, Duke
3) National Championship - Kentucky vs. Syracuse
4) Kentucky will win National Championship.
5) I will be avenged!

I was completely right about #1. That was maybe the best basketball games I've seen in the past five years or so. Jordan Crawford hit some crazy shots in his team's double-overtime loss to Kansas State. Point for me.

#2-5 were way off:
-I got one of the Final Four teams (Duke)
-I got neither National Championship team
-Kentucky is out
-I am not avenged


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Surfing, Running & Scales

Life is pretty much kicking ass these days. But there are a few recent developments of note...

I am in full surf-obsession mode. With both of my boards at Julie's in Del Mar, it takes the "chore" out of surfing. Whereas before I had to rack up the boards on my car and trek out to the beach (not to mention cross my fingers and hold my breath when I exceed 40 miles per hour for fear of my board launching off my roof). I've been going out at least once a week, maybe twice. I love my new 9'0" board and my new wetsuit (thing is a heater!) and I have found a new longboard break outside Julie's apartment, so now I can WALK to the break! And to top it all off, Tom has picked up surfing again, so now I can get him back out there and surf more! Water is warming up!

I have also started running again. My sister has decided she is going to run the Rock n Roll Marathon RELAY in June, and I apparently am running the long leg (8-9 miles). I have never ran more than about 5.5 miles, so needless to say, I need some work. But I have NO idea how to properly train for something like this...and it's really too bad that I don't know ANYONE that has ANY knowledge of running or ANY experience running races or anything...

Yep, you guessed it. I have enlisted Miss Julie as my trainer/coach/motivator/ass-kicker. We've worked out a training program, and not only is she laying it out for me...she's running WITH me. No slacking off for me, geez. I still haven't figured out how I'm going to compensate her for this athletic transaction...hmmm.

Some of you have caught wind of the fact that skinny-old Marc has gained a couple pounds. Up until last weekend, I had not weighed myself since late 2008, so I am not sure EXACTLY when the weight gain took place. What I can tell you is that in the past 2 months, I have noticed my pants feeling extremely tight (I thought they shrunk in washing machine) and a bit of a "pouch" in the belly area (I had no explanation for this one). Then Tom flat out noticed it one day, saying I had a "belly". BIGGEST COMPLIMENT EVER!!!

So, now to the numbers. In 2008, I weighed 165 pounds. I weighed myself last Saturday, and I now weight 180 pounds. The weight is partly in my stomach, and part in my chest (you know, cuz I do so much lifting in the weight room). I look like a NORMAL human being now. I've been saying for YEARS that I wanted to gain weight, and now that I have...I'm not nearly as amped as I thought I would be. Especially considering the first two topics of this post.

So yep, I'm surfing, running, and fat. Rock on!

Monday, March 22, 2010

What Do I Know?

There comes a time in every man's life where he has to own up to his mistakes, to admit his sins, and call himself out when he is TOTALLY off base about something. Well people, today is that day.

In my last post, I went out on a limb and made some bold, and some not-so-bold predictions about the NCAA "March Madness" bracket before it came out. Although they are not all proven wrong yet, enough has happened to admit how much this tournament has trashed my predictions...(Joe Lunardi, your resident Bracketologist position with ESPN is safe...for now).

(POST pulled from 3/11/10) - AND I QUOTE:

1) If you're looking for an upset-special, take a look at University of Montana out of the Big Sky conference. If they get a decent matchup, they are my upset pick.
2) Syracuse will NOT make the National Championship
3) The Pac-10 will not get a team past the first round
4) If San Diego State makes the tournament, they will win their opening round game


OK, let us recap the carnage of this year's tournament (and, more importantly, of my attempts at basketball forecasting glory). I will list the prediction, then the outcome, then my defense (or lack thereof):

PREDICTION #1 - University of Montana as an upset pick:
OUTCOME - Montana loses opening round game to New Mexico, 62-57

So this is the only one I feel I have any sort of defense on (albeit somewhat weak). I really believed that this team was a big-time threat, with the one caveat of them needing a good matchup for it to happen. Montana was the type of team that could do some damage to team's that play slow and have a big post-presence down low. NEW MEXICO is not a good matchup for them. It was such a bad matchup that I went against my blog prediction and chose New Mexico. New Mexico is a fast, explosive team, and Montana never had a chance. I would have liked to have seen a different matchup (with, say, Georgetown?) for the Grizzlies, but again, this is about repentance...ugh.

PREDICTION #2 - Syracuse will NOT make the National Championship:
OUTCOME - Syracuse wins first two games by 23 and 22 points, respectively (now in Sweet 16).

Now, this hasn't happened YET, but, I'm gonna be wrong. For two reasons:
a) Syracuse got a GREAT draw in the bracket, and are poised to make a deep run into the tournament. And now that Kansas has lost, they are the favorite on that side of the bracket to make the Championship.
b) They have been running roughshod over everyone. I flat out judged them wrong. They looked SO bad in their conference tournament that I thought it would carry over. Well, they must have heard me, cuz they are now absolutely HOUSING teams in the tourney. Sorry 'Cuse...go get 'em.

PREDICTION #3 - The Pac-10 will not get a team past the first round:
OUTCOME - Washington and Cal both win first round games.

Wow. Not only did Cal and Washington BOTH make the tournament, they BOTH won their first round games. And then after Washington ran through both Marquette and New Mexico, they now find themselves sitting in the Sweet 16 against West Virginia. If Cal hadn't drawn a 9-seed, they'd probably have a decent chance at Sweet 16, but instead they ran into Duke. Pac-10 proved me WAY wrong.

PREDICTION #4 - If SDSU makes tournament, they will win opening round game:
OUTCOME - SDSU loses to Tennessee, 62-59 in heart-breaker.

This one hurts so bad. Once the Aztecs made this prediction possible by winning the MWC conference tourney, they looked poised for a big time tourney win against Tennessee. I even chose them to go two games deep and make the Sweet 16. But for those of you who watched the game, you saw that the Aztecs forgot that basketball games have TWO halves. They looked strong, energetic and driven in the first half. Sadly, when the second half started, they then turned into what they ARE: a young basketball team. Turnovers, bad fouls, short tempers, and whining to the refs. DAMMIT!

Now, any lesser mortal would take this epic failure as a hint to jump off the prediction-train. And then there is me. All this means to me is that I need a reprieve. And how do I get that? BY MAKING MORE PREDICTIONS...DUH!!!

So, without further ado, here is my next set of predictions based on the remaining teams in the Sweet 16.

1) Xavier vs. Kansas St. will be the best game of the next round
2) Final Four - Ohio State, Syracuse, Kentucky, Duke
3) National Championship - Kentucky vs. Syracuse
4) Kentucky will win National Championship.
5) I will be avenged!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

March Madness!!!

I love March Madness. Anyone who has spent an extended amount of time with me in the month of March knows my obsession with college basketball. It is by far my favorite sport (and yes, I do work in college football, and yes, I am obsessed with World Cup too). But college basketball is CRAZY, especially starting this week.

Despite my UCLA Bruins recent attempts to send John Wooden to his grave earlier than necessary with their complete disregard for fundamentals and brains, I am still loving this year's season. There are NO dominant teams, and I can't wait for the March Madness brackets to come out so I can start picking my upsets...

(*SPECIAL NOTE - If you're looking for an upset-special, take a look at University of Montana out of the Big Sky conference. They have a guy named Anthony Johnson that is an absolute stud, and is coming off a career-high - and Big Sky Championship record - 42 points on way to sending "The Grizz" to the Big Dance. If they get a decent matchup, they are my upset pick.)

I am taking next Thursday and Friday off for the first two days of the tournament. All basketball, all day (maybe with some beer and pizza and wings mixed in, too).

Want to know the sad part? I have been doing a bracket pool with my dad, brother, sister and step-mother for 15 years...and I have never won. Even my step-mother, who chooses teams based on a) how cute their mascot is, b) how their name rolls off her tongue, or c) if their coach is attractive, has won before. I have a ridiculous amount of basketball knowledge, from team info to statistics to coaching tendencies...and that is WHY I have never won. I try to incorporate logic into an absolutely unpredictable, pandemonium-stricken event. The event lives off upsets, last-second shots, Cinderella stories, and "who-da-thunk-it" moments? So what's my new plan for this year? No friggin clue.

I feel bad too, because every year I help Katharine (co-worker) with her picks, because she thinks I might know something about hoops. So inevitably our picks are very similar, and when you combine that with my aforementioned 0-15 in bracket pools...it just screws her over too!

Now I will make a couple predictions (and you can hold me to them later):
-Syracuse will NOT make the National Championship
-The Pac-10 will not get a team past the first round
-If San Diego State makes the tournament, they will win their opening round game

March Madness gets me so AMPED!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Finding Your Way Through Tragedy

As many of you are well aware, San Diego was rocked this past week with the news of the murder of young Chelsea King. The story penetrated the city like a dagger, deflating the spirits of optimists, scaring the daylights out of parents, and rocking the collective running community.

This is not a blog post about what's wrong with the judicial system, or even a social commentary on the event that transpired (I think we have all heard more than we can stomach). We have all felt helpless during this horrible time, and I felt the need to write (maybe as self-therapeutic means) about a different angle of all of this.

Like many, this event struck close to home for me. I have always been a vocal advocate of women running in daylight. I have always bugged my sister about it, and now that my girlfriend happens to be a running all-star, I'm more vocal than ever. That being said, I have had a unique perspective into all of this, both through my own eyes, as well as through the eyes of someone who was (understandably) shaken, but admirably strong as she coped with the undeniable parallels of the story and her own running routine.

I have found that there are two far ends of the spectrum in terms of coping with this tragic event, neither of which has a healthy effect on your own life:

1) People (mainly women in this instance) are naive enough to think that they are invincible, that this can't happen to them, or that they live in a safe area, so they can continue their routine without having to even THINK about this affecting their lives.

2) People become overly paranoid, let this isolated event control them, and totally alter their routine to the point that they stop running, or they check over their shoulder every six seconds, or, worst of all,they stop enjoying running.

Now first, let me say that these are both totally warranted, legitimate ways to respond to such a horrific story, especially for those whom this hits close to home. There is no right or wrong way to handle this, but I do think there are specific ways to address this that are pro-active, productive, and intelligent. I know I always error on the side of being overly objective, and I try to infuse rationality at a time where it is virtually impossible to not be subjectively emotional. But I do feel there is a smart option.

I am an avid proponent of people finding a healthy medium between these two extremes. I think we need to be cognizant of the dangers that exist, and we need to be adequately prepared for them. I also think we need to live our lives in a proactive, not reactive fashion.

I think female runners need to run in the daytime. If they are running at night, they certainly need to run with a partner. If they absolutely see the need to run at night, then they need to stay in relatively well-lit areas, not dark trails. I am a runner, I understand the desire to run on trails, to run alone, and enjoy my own time...but we all need to be aware of the dangers we open ourselves up to.

That being said, I have learned through Julie's passion how important running can be to one's well-being. I know how happy and energetic people can be because of running. I would never want any of my friends to lose that jolt of energy and vivacity that running infuses into their life. And I would never want my girlfriend running scared.

So how do you balance them?

You do exactly what Julie is doing. You cover your bases. You sign yourself up for a self-defense class, so if God-forbid you need it, you know how to carry yourself. You encourage your friends to do the same. You are smart about where and when you run. You respect yourself, and you make decisions that make you comfortable. You respect the past and remember the lessons that were taught, and you use them to make you stronger as you run and live in the moment.

And most of all, you always remember why you love running, and never lose sight of that.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

San Diego Sockers - The American Pastime?

A brief follow-up from a unique experience last weekend...

As mentioned in an earlier post, I went to the San Diego Sockers game at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Friday night with Tom, Joel and Chris. The arena is in the main parking lot of the fairgrounds, on the right side. They have a full indoor arena set up there, and tickets ran from $7.00-$19.50. We decided to be the high-rollers of the evening, so we splurged for the high-end "Field Box" seats. These are the seats right at the wall of the field.

CAPTION: If you look in the bottom right hand corner, there are two people in black standing up right above the yellow guard-rail. I am the one on the right. Random photo taken by a friend I didn't even know was there (nor did he know I was there when he took this photo).

Now, let me just tell you...the San Diego Sockers don't exactly attract your "ordinary" sports crowd. Some of the highlights from the game:

-I saw an 80-year old woman get kicked out of the game, who then proceeded to hit the Elite Security guard in the shin with her cane. Apparently they asked her twice not to use her air-horn, and she did not acquiesce, so they escorted her (or "evicted", as the extremely intelligent security guard put it) off the premises, which is when the said shin-bashing occurred (more on this later).

-The halftime show was comprised of the following: 4 people, a soccer ball, and a bike rack. They divided into two teams, put the bike rack between them, and then proceeded to play volleyball, only using their feet instead of their hands. I'm not anyone else in the ARENA knew it was going on either.

-After the aforementioned shin-bashing granny was booted from her box seats next to us, we promptly took those seats. I mean hey, they were in the box next to the Tijuana Revolucion bench, with no barrier, and our view to the field was no longer separated by a plexiglass wall (like hockey). So to that shin-bashing, security-abusing granny out there...thank you.

-The third/fourth quarter break introduced an interactive fan element. If you wanted, before the game you could buy a small yellow frisbee for $1.00 (proceeds of which went to Haiti relief). You were then, during the 3rd/4th quarter break, to toss this frisbee from your seats into a tire set up at midfield. If you got it in, you win half the money donated (which I found weird they were raising money for Haiti, but giving half of it to a frisbee extraordinaire). Anyway, let's just say nobody got CLOSE (including yours truly, despite my frisbee expertise), and I'm sure plenty of people got smashed in the face during the onslaught of yellow frisbee rain.

-After every goal scored by the Sockers, the team kicks a soccer ball into the crowd, which of course then instigates a huge melee where everyone fights for the ball. Luckily, our night the Sockers scored 12 times, so we had plenty of soccer balls to go around.

-At one point, a player kicked a ball into the stands, hit a woman in her hands, she dropped it...and it went 30 rows away where a little kid grabbed it and had a huge smile on his face. Then all of a sudden, the woman whose hands it hit came running down, said something to the boy, and took the ball! Poor kid was devastated. The whole place booed the lady, and she couldn't care less. So being the knights in shining armor that we are, we got the kid a frisbee.

-Towards the end of the game, the fans across from us were starting to feel the effects of their red-bull and vodka (just a guess). They had been heckling all game long, and as the game was well out of reach for the team from TJ, and the Sockers kept scoring, it got a little bizarre. When we scored our 12th and final goal, one of the fans jumped over the wall and did a little dance, and then jumped back over into his seats...without the referee ever seeing! The TJ head coach saw it and went ballistic, telling the referee it shouldn't be tolerated, and the ref gave him the sheepish shrug of the shoulders intimating "Whadya want me to do?"

All in all, definitely glad I went. Would I go again? Different question. If I did, I'd probably want to sit with the granny, or I better start practicing my frisbee skills.