somehow we're only 124th
CFN's Tuesday question is "The most overrated team going into 2005 is..."
First of all, that isn't a question. Second of all, Pete Fiutak says it's Michigan. But this is how he starts his article:
"From what I've read in early copies of several preseason publications and from various outside sources I've been talking to, you'd think the 2005 Michigan Wolverines were on the verge of winning the Super Bowl and not just the Rose Bowl."
I would like to see these publications. Lindy's pegged us #3, but other than that most previews seem to have us in the 7-10 range, certainly not Super Bowl striking distance. CFN has a nasty habit of just makin' crap up and then beating the hell out of the strawman they've constructed, and this is a fine example. The lifted quote above would be accurate if the team in question was USC. The nonstop media celebration over the Trojans started a little over two years ago when they waxed an excellent Iowa team and it hasn't stopped since, mostly because USC's given no indication that anyone should do so. But the quote is totally fictional as applies to Michigan.
Not one single preview even has Michigan playing in the Rose Bowl, let alone winning it. So what the hell is Fiutak talking about? Lord knows. Then he goes on to say Michigan's basically guaranteed to win eight games and that winning two of three "question marks"--MSU, OSU, Iowa--"isn't asking for much," capping his incisive thoughts with this:
"Can Michigan really be overrated and finish 10-1? Absolutely."
This is another one of those things that is so obviously retarded that I can't even come up with any arguments against it because it makes as much sense as arguing cheese smells like red. No. No, it doesn't, and if you think it does, it is because you're a loon.
I'll try anyway. Going undefeated in college football is hard. Somewhere between zero and three teams in real conferences accomplish the feat yearly. The next step down from "undefeated" is "10-1", which will probably be good for a top five national ranking and definitely top ten. No one who finishes 10-1 in the regular season can possibly be significantly overrated, not even unanimous #1 USC. And YOU think that Michigan is already 8-0 to start the season and should easily win two of three question marks and that losing the third to finish 10-1 would be an indication of being overrated? So basically, you think that anything short of a NC game appearance is disappointment for Michigan and you think that other people are overrating Michigan?
So Fiutak has A) a delusional view of nationwide Michigan perception, B) a delusional view of his own Michigan perception, and C) no idea what the word "overrated" means. Also, D) a silly last name. CFN's signal to noise ratio, already low, has taken a blow with this self-contradictory bollocks.
7:20: Hello. Sportscenter is currently running down the top 10 Game 7s of all time. I bet one billion dollars the Red Sox are on top. Er. I mean negative one billion dollars. Dan Patrick says that Wade's playing. Like, duh. Meanwhile, Magic Johnson is NOT missing the dead bodies on TNT, because Law & Order is in the hizzouse.
7:32: Yesterday my roommate asked me if Lisa Fernandez was a man. I had to think about it for a couple seconds. Also... look, I don't want men announcing this game, so why does Pam Ward get inflicted on us during football season? I'm just sayin'.
7:36: Holy crap. Lisa Dodd, I, uh. Uh.
7:37: We're underway. UCLA: hot but friggin' annoying. Isn't that always the way it is? I mean, seriously, they're cheering foul balls. Ritter Ks the first batter.
7:40: Tara Henry's favorite movie is Ocean's 11. Why do we get these little Hello Kitty biographical facts? Isn't that vaguely insulting? Tara's doing that weird slap thing where she sort of half-swings, half bunts and takes off for the bag before the ball even gets there. Ritter Ks her too. Holy crap! The UCLA bench is doing this weird horrible a capella version of "Thunderstruck." Yes, THAT "Thunderstruck." The AC/DC one. Ritter Ks the hell out of whoever Ms. Thunderstruck is too. Eat that bitches!
7:50: Dude, this guy on TNT is in deep doodoo. Two down meekly for Michigan so far. Make that three.
7:54: Holly Rowe is about as useful and interesting at televising softball as she is at televising football. UCLA finished 5th in the Pac-10! Emily Zaplatosch's favorite TV show is Baseball Tonight--I wonder if she spends her free time dreamily pondering Bill Mueller in unlikely situations like Sam from Blue Cats and Red Sox.
7:59: Kristen Dedmon's best advice: "Trust Yourself." Ritter's K'd five of six batters. She does not appear tired. Momentary freakout when program guide says there's three hours of Law & Order on TNT tonight. Intro clips on TNT show Kerr nailitating a three. Good on yer, Steve. Oh God--Walton's going to be televising the Finals! This just occurred to me. Goddammit.
8:00: Sweet fancy Moses, a base hit! Can't believe that was just a single, that ball went straight down the left field line. Grace Lutele likes "24" and isn't swinging anywhere near the ball. Next two Wolverines get wasted, scoreless through two.
8:06: Look, I'm not advocating going Artest on Wade, but maybe a hard foul. Or three. Barkley just said "I'm not accusing them of lying, but they're lying." I LOVE YOU CHARLES.
8:10: Ooh, Krista Colburn always dresses in the same order. What a... fascinating fact. Why can softball players go talk ot the coach in the middle of at-bats? For Christ's sake, UCLA, SHUT UP. Finally a hard hit ball by UCLA, but it's just a fly out. Ritter has retired the first nine. Double damn commercial! Alas!
8:16: Is UCLA's pitcher actually named "Jelly"? Doug Collins is a detriment to my precious Marv Albert-Steve Kerr combo, constantly saying uninteresting things I've heard hundreds of times before. 8:20 on TNT and no sign of a tipoff.
8:21: Three innings over in softball after a weird baserunning out. And we have tipoff in Miami! I'll check in later, ladies. Three seconds on Shaq. That's different than the usual dunk after overpowering Ben. First two shots from the Pistons by Ben, and Wade bricks his first shot and falls over, doesn't get back on D. He ain't right.
8:25: Sure, let's just give them open threes. Terrible call #1 on an out of bounds play. Wade hacks the crap out of Prince and there's actually some booing from the crowd. Tayshaun and Hamilton seem on tonight. Billups not so much. Ritter is in a bit of a situation over in softball, with runners on first and second, two down... I guess that qualifies as a jam in softball.
8:32: Ritter gets out of it. Pistons thoughts: look disjointed on offense and defense, need to attack the basket with more authority and get some fouls on Shaq or Wade, who's already got one. Wade does *not* look good.
8:38: Offensive foul on Shaq and absolutely deserved. Horrible call #2 on a clean block for Rasheed. Goddammit! Pistons have to stop turning it over and make the Heat take contested jump shots. Michigan goes down 1-2-3, though they were about a foot from a home run.
8:41: Another awful, awful call on Hamilton. Ball don't lie. Damon Jones appears to have sprained his ankle on that play... maybe allows for more Shaq doubling. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? They just showed Jones heading towards the locker room while the play was still going on. I can't stand that. Show me the game. First quarter ends 23-21 Miami. Foul on Shaq and Wade each, Wade looks very mortal tonight. Feeling okay. One on, one out in the top of the fifth over on ESPN. I need a fajita.
8:51: Hamilton 5/5 after a tough buzzer beater. If Van Gundy leaves Wade out the entire game they're dead. YEHAT MOFO TAYSHAUN PRINCE HIS NAME IS PRINCE AND HE IS FUNKY. REEEP HAMILTON WOOT WOOT.
8:55: Through five and a half innings and no runs in the softball game. This happens all the time in softball. I mean, Ritter's ERA is under 1.00. Softball, eh, is rather boring. Don't tell Lisa Dodd I said that. Ben swishy swishy. Hamilton is killing them with his Hamilton game. Detroit up four at the moment.
9:01: I think the refs just missed a defensive three seconds on Detroit, and Sheed wastifies a three. Yo yo yo. Dice has hit three from his spot on the baseline. Collins makes an great point about how Sheed and Dice are out there against Mourning and Shaq... the pick and roll will be wide open every time. Horrible call #3 on Lindsay. No score through five with the softball. Wade has done basically nothing at this point and has passed up a lot of shots or opportunities to drive the basket. If Miami is going to win they are going to have to get a monster game from Shaq, and Elden hasn't made an appearance yet--he still has a hack-friendly six fouls.
9:07: I was just about to say something nice about Lindsay smartly setting up the pick and rolls and then he absolutely bricks a three he should not have even thought about taking. Ritter has loaded the bases with no one out after hitting two batters. Maybe the workload is getting to her. Huge juncture.
9:16: The refs have really turned on the screw machine now. Miami: first team foul. Detroit has taken one free throw, and that was the defensive-three second call. Michigan is down 2-0 in softball. AAAAAAAARGH. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR BOIL WATER NOTICE!!!!! I'M DRINKING WHISKEY, YOU STUPID WHORE! Looks like another craptastic foul on Prince as we come back. Thanks for making it close, refs! Finally some free throws. And the crowd, completely unaware of what's going on, boos.
9:21: Ah, the refs have now turned the screw machine the other way. A critical offensive foul on Wade, his third. And what were we watching? Stan van Gundy bitching at the refs. Thanks, Mr. Director. Maybe we could get that
overhead cam shot that is completely alien and impossible to see anything from? Ah, thanks. Softball game is now 4-0, first and second, still no one out--basically over in the no-score world of softball. Ritter's been chased. Oh, Jesus. Great. Instead of an eight, maybe ten point lead at the half, a turnover leads to a Jones buzzer-beater three. 45-40 at the half, dammit.
Speaking of Joey Crawford, why do they let breathtakingly ugly people referee things? They're always unbalanced by the cruel fate life has dealt them and go out of their way to royally piss everyone off. Mark Wilkins, who looks like an evil, chain-smoking, french black and white parrot, is both breathtakingly ugly and the worst hockey referee in the history of the Universe.
9:31: I'm trying to figure out which is more annoying: the high-pitched harpy shriek of the UCLA softball team (minus the demure and classy Lisa Dodd) or the minute-long foghorn of the Heat's PA announcer going "Shaquille O'Neal." Probably the latter. Wait, there's a last minute entry: a t-shirt that says "BruiWin attitude." It's going down to the wire.
9:35: I think it's the harpy shriek. Wait! There's one of those goddamned McDonald's commercials! We have a winner! (Which commercial? Any of them. I think each one is the worst one whenever I see it. Couldn't Adbusters do something useful and start burning down McDonalds?)
9:41: Meekly they go in the sixth. Meanwhile, I'm reading this amazing ridiculous verse play over at BC&RS.
9:45: Hey, we get a replay of the offensive foul. Legit, dumb by Wade. I'd be feelin' real good if not for that Eddie Jones three. As is, still feelin' pretty good.
9:47: Goddammit you bastards, THAT'S A GODDAMN FOUL YOU UGLY BASTARDS. Ugly. Bastards. Pistons can't buy a bucket. Miami within one. Stupid half-ending three. Thank you, Tayshaun. You are the best Piston.
9:49: WHAT? ARE YOU GODDAMN KIDDING ME? Shaq just fouled all five Pistons on the floor and FINALLY they call it on SHAQ I HATE YOU YOU UGLY MOTHER... DAMMIT WHY IS THIS BLOG PG-13? Eat it! Eat IIIIIT! (Ben dunk.)
9:51: Nice passing for another Ben dunk, and then a Jones dunk. No more they dunk. More us dunk. Billups hit a tough shot after getting TOTALLY FOULED. JESUS. And another non-foul on Wallace, as one ugly ref with excellent position to see the play didn't call it any the other hideous half-man, half-goat, out of position, decided to go ahead and call it because he hates puppies. Billups destroy! Det 55-50. Sheed. Money. 57.
9:54: Wade is looking much better after the half... an awful non-call on a Prince three attempt followed by an awful call on another out of bounds play. Okay, okay. That's probably not true. I have lost all reason. Probably only half of those were completely inexplicable calls that, in a less-civilized time, would mean the gallows. It's what? 57-52? Yes. All right.
9:58: Wow. A quick review of the last fifteen minutes or so reveals significant anger. Sheed with a cold blooded, critical three. Sheed's yelling at Haslem not to leave him... Haslem knocks down a jumper and yells at Sheed to not leave him.
10:01: Stupid taking a timeout after good D on the sideline. Wade just got knocked to the ground and took a long time to get up. I predict he starts missing his shots in the fourth. Either that or I will fear him for the rest of his career.
10:04: Unbelievable. Wade makes an impossible shot and then flops for the offensive foul on Prince. Pistons really need someone to step up.
10:08: Another good Collins point about Shaq's lack of involvement meaning he's relatively well rested. Every close call right now is going against the Pistons.
10:13: I have a little cheer I like to do with my friends. We go "PEE-STONES, PEE-STONES, WE STICK IT IN YOU" with a staccato rhythm and--this is key--every syllable we alternate one of two positions. Position one is a sort of crouch where your butt sticks out. Position two is a full pelvic thrust. The overall effect is piston-esque and filthy. It is a glorious cheer. We need it now, down two, going into the fourth. I have just performed it. Let it guide us to victory.
10:17: Three team fouls on Miami in 52 seconds. The cheer is with us.
10:25: Joe Dumars is just as visibly pissed about that Zo free throw going in as I am, and now a ridiculous offensive foul... I... I... what the hell? We're going into an offensive funk. Campbell and Ben are out there to gether. We need Billups.
10:31: Beautiful charge taken by Hamilton. Let's go. Campbell annihilated by Shaq, and a timeout down 4, Campbell heading to the line. He needs to stay in the rest of the game. Shaq is not tired, and he's the only Piston who can hope to handle him one-on-one. Ben is only playing for his defense and Campbell is the better defensive option. I love you Ben, but against Shaq now... you need to sit on the bench. Wallace or Dice for the other forward and let's get some double screens for Prince and Hamilton. Both have played well.
10:34: Why does Craig Sager think it's 1973?
10:35: YES I LOVE YOU CHAUNCEY FUCKING BILLUPS.
10:37: Wade's still on the ground. Dude is messed up. Four minutes left, 74-74. We have a timeout and I have reached the "so nervous that all commercials are muted" stage.
10:42: Can you imagine how I am during Michigan football games? YEAH! That was an and one, by the way. (No Wade!) Ben wisely fouls the hell out of Shaq. Line time. Shaq makes both. Jesus.
10:45: What did I say about Elden? Shaq Shaq Shaq Shaq. Ben can't handle him. He's on the line and he bricked one. Miami up one.
10:46: Sheed line down one TWO HUGE FREETHROWS lost ability to coherent think. Swish. Swish. Up one. 1:46. Let's go.
10:47: "Wade has now missed his last four shot attempts." Prescient me. Want hamilton shoot. YES SHEED SHEED SHEED.
10:48: Commercial muted with 54 seconds left, Pistons up three. Bring in Elden, no double on Shaq, and let it play out.
10:50: No Elden. If Shaq gets it, autofoul. Jump ball... Wade and... Hamilton. Let's go. YES.
10:51: Billups accidentally did something good... fouling Jones. He's got two and BRICKED THE FIRST. TOAST BITCHES.
10:52: Billups to the line. He is in the top ten all-time in FT shooting. I place it in your hands, Mr. Big Shot.
10:53: Two of two. Miami's last timeout. 15.5 remaining in regulation. Mute again. Pistons up four. Don't allow a three and this game is over. Sheed: huge. Hamilton: huge. Billups: huge.
10:55: If Steve Smith makes a three I'm burning down East Lansing.
le="font-weight: bold;">10:56: Billups: cold-blooded mofo. Liquid nitrogen blood. Absolute zero blood. Rename "Kelvin scale" "Billups Scale." BAAAAAAALLGAME!
10:58: (After settling down, no referee issues.) Pistons. That's why I love you bastards. I leave you with this:
Update II: One, last thing... Sheed was on TNT post game, WITH THE BELT. And the last thing TNT said this year about the NBA? Sheed said: "One last thing. Now it's time for you to go fishing." I loves ya, Sheed. (Okay, they only fake left and then came back... but it was still totally awesome nonetheless.)
Michigan's softball team has advanced to the championship series against UCLA after defeating Tennessee on the second try oh, about twenty minutes ago. Also, the Pistons roll into Miami tonight for a climactic Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals. mgoblog will simul-liveblog both events, with first priority going to the Pistons (sorry ladies, but... it's the Pistons). Expect at least two or three INFURIATED ALL-CAPS entries! The fun starts at 7:30 PM.
So mgoblog took a little time this weekend and reread large swaths of David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which contains a couple fantastic essays on tennis. I have zero interest in tennis outside of a serious affection for little white skirts hovering over toned athletic thighs, but just about anything Wallace writes that isn't literary criticism of books I haven't read I find delightful and fascinating.
As I was doing this I came across a passage that I found interesting and relevant to an occasional topic of conversation here (any errors in the following are due to a faulty transcriber, myself):
Bismarck's epigram about diplomacy and sausage applies also to the way we Americans seem to feel about professional athletes. We revere athletic excellence, competitive success. And it's more than attention we pay; we vote with our wallets. We'll spend large sums to watch a truly great athlete; we'll reward him with celebrity and adulation and will even go so far as to buy products and services he endorses.
But we prefer not to countenance the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so good at one particular thing. Oh, we'll pay lip service to these sacrifices--we'll invoke lush cliches about the lonely heroism of Olympic athletes, the pain and analgesia of football, the early rising and hours of practices and restricted diets, the privations, the prefight celibacy, etc. But the actual facts of the sacrifices repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up bovine hormones until they collapse or explode. We prefer not to consider the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews, or to imagine what impoverishments in one's mental life would allow people actually to think in the simplistic way great athletes seem to think. Note the way "up-close and personal" interviews of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life--outside interests and activities, charities, values beyond sport. We ignore what's obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It's farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one pursuit. An almost ascetic focus. A subsumption of almost all other features of human life to their one chosen talent and pursuit. A consent to live in a world that, like a child's world, is very serious and very small.
While I have some quibbles (postcontest banalities are probably less the result of an impoverished mental life than extensive coaching on exactly what banalities will be least offensive to current and future opponents), it's certainly an interesting topic to consider. The first thing that jumps out at me is that the screwed-up-ness of athletes directly related to this childhood asceticism varies wildly from sport to sport. Essentially every serious (American) endurance athlete seems like a warped personality to me--who would choose such a bizarre set of strictures and clingy high-tech clothes simply to drive his body to the point of insanity over and over again, for little or no money and fleeting, meaningless fame? On the other hand, basketball players--who live pretty much normal lives except with way more sex until they enter the NBA--seem like jumbo-sized versions of real people. You can tell by the sense of humor. Shaq fires off genuinely funny one-liners, 'Sheed goes out and buys WWE-style championship belts, Rip Hamilton has turned "yessir" into a metro Detroit cultural touchstone--there are few NBA players who wouldn't be fascinating and hilarious drinking buddies (most of those who wouldn't: Dukies). I can't even conceive of getting a beer with, say, Lance Armstrong.
Most team-sports guys get off pretty light compared to runners, bikers, swimmers, figure skaters, and tennis players because they live at home with their non-pyscho (<--important) momma until it's time to go to college (or, increasingly, pro). Hockey players are the glaring exception to the rule. The culture of hockey is one of privation, of arising at ascetic hours and mastering the intricacies of a mindbogglingly hard game. That's why hockey players are almost normal-sized, why someone like 5'5" Brian Gionta can actually be a good NHL player: you have to put in an insane amount of time to even be fairly crappy at hockey. It's a lifestyle, not a game. Football and basketball players, on the other hand, are almost universally genetic lottery winners. That alone won't get you millions but it certainly cuts down the field of applicants.
The portion of the country that cares about sports is in the middle of a great debate of its role in the lives of children and even adults. Hockey Canada is revamping its rules. The NBA is looking at increasing the minimum age in its league. The NFL just got done defending its minimum age requirements. The tennis community periodically wails about Capriati-ish kids who show up young, blow up on the court... and then blow up off of it. Recruiting has gone from an obscure list of names in the back of the newspaper February second to a full-fledged industry. And then there's Roidland. Er. Major League Baseball.
I don't think that the psychotic underside of sport is particularly surprising--people have proven over and over again that buckets of money and repugnant or sad behavior go hand in hand. Nor do I think that it's gotten particularly worse over the last few years. But I do think things would be better if a deep breath was taken and kids stopped getting pushed to play now, to win now, to get paid now.
I think this would make an interesting conversation between various people, so I've opened up a thread on the board. Is the way we get our sports heroes disturbing and pathetic? Or is it AOK? I really don't know.
(Random side note: The essay I excerpt is a semi-journalistic foray to the Canadian Open's "Qualies." a sort of pre-tournament tournament that guys just below the top level of the sport must play through to make it into the main draw. While there Wallace, a fairly successful tennis player in his youth, finds that he could not "meaningfully exist" on the same court as anyone here, which he finds extremely sad. I found that rather ironic because that's pretty much how I feel when I read David Foster Wallace. (No, that isn't self-pity. The man has a MacArthur Fellowship, for Christ's sake.))
(Important side note: yes, the link to the book is an Amazon affiliate link. No, this does not presage huge blinking banners exhorting you to gamble at online casinos. mgoblog will inform you of any and all attempts to turn blog into money--and rest assured that anything in the future will be unobtrusive. The site's the thing.)
It's the fifth inning now, tied 3-3. Listen here.
Softball won last night, go again at 10 PM tonight on ESPN2.