A saucy female perspective on sports pop-culture

Friday, March 31, 2006

I know, I know, I know...I've been a horrible blogger this week. I am very sorry. It's been one of those weeks where I've been trying to do too many things at once. Before I hit the weekend, I wanted to leave you with a few thoughts:

1) The Flutie Effect...truth or myth? Guess George Mason could find out depending on how well they continue to play this weekend. More to come on this topic next week.

2) Final Four - Predictions:
George Mason vs. Florida - Again, it's hard to take the underdog when Florida has been playing so well, but with George Mason used to playing Giant-slayer, it's hard to not bet against them. Final: 64-59, George Mason

LSU vs. UCLA - Having witnessed LSU loose a 14 point lead to OSU in the final two minutes of regulation this December, I feel like they are due to screw up. UCLA stunned Gonzaga with a nail-bitting coming back from a 14 point defecit to make it to this Final Four. Final: 78-64, UCLA

Clearly that puts George Mason vs. UCLA for the Championship Game...would anyone have predicted that? Guess we'll find out.

3)Steroids and Baseball
Clearly since the only evidence you need here are photographs of these beastly men, why aren't we investigating steroids and football, or wrestling, or any other number of sports where it's painfully obvious that no man was built or made the way these athletes perform. Is the crime here illegal drugs or is the crime that records of old have/are/will be broken by chemically-enhanced men, giving them an advantage over past players who had a natural ability? What would Babe Ruth had done if he was pumped up with Mexican steroids? Again, more to follow on this!

Enjoy the weekend and I promise I'll be better about my posts next week!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It’s been several days since my last post. I deeply apologize. You see, I was in mourning, mourning the loss of my beloved bracket. Perhaps it’s my own fault. It was me who wrote that posting a few weeks ago laughing at the thought of a No. 1 seed loosing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Sure, it was a funny thought, a fabulous daydream, and a tragic foreshadowing - look who’s crying now. The aftermath of last week’s losses sent people’s brackets into a tail-spin and ultimately an untimely death. My office pool is done, just like most pools because who would have ever taken George Mason to the Final Four? Well, according to Sports Illustrated, 1,854 out of 3 million entries in an ESPN sponsored bracket pool did pick GM to go the distance. Of those entries, 284 people have George Mason winning the title. Now let’s be honest, you know those 284 people have to either be alumni of the school, or multiple entries by the players’ families. (You can bet someone’s mom must have entered at least five times…my mom would if it were me on that court.) It also makes you wonder…what were the other 1,570 people thinking? This is the team that lost to Hofstra, twice! I am convinced they got their “Georges” wrong. I mean, in this year’s tournament we had George Washington, Georgetown, and George Mason. According to Russell Peasant, one of four people in the ESPN pool to pick all four Final Four contestants, that’s exactly what happened to him. He intended to pick George Washington to go to the Final Four but accidentally picked George Mason. Hey, at least he’s honest and chalks it up to dumb luck.

I don’t think anyone expected to loose all the No. 1’s before the Final Four. Of the No. 1’s, I had a feeling UConn would not make it. All of their games had been such nail-biters and come so close to the final buzzer. Duke was an obvious pick to choke, evident because they didn’t have the charisma to win the championship. I’m fairly indifferent on ‘Nova, but I thought Memphis had lots of potential. I like the small fry schools, they always stand such a good chance of spitting in the eye of any Goliath. I had a gut instinct about Memphis, predicting they’d fare the best among the targeted No. 1’s. I know, I had UConn to win, but that was before really watching the teams play. I also thought Gonzaga would last a little longer, but who would have thought they’d blow a 17 point lead to UCLA? 1980 was the last time a Final Four was set with no No. 1 seed in the lineup. For that matter, the last time a No. 11 seed even made it to the Final Four was in 1986. What we have witnessed is somewhat historic. It also begs another question…were the No. 1’s overrated or where the small fries underrated?

Being No. 1 is tough. You are wearing this gigantic target because should you loose, it’s not just the loss that hurts, it’s the upset factor. Your pride is stomped on because you lost, but you lost to someone who was considered to be inferior. It’s like watching a girl take on a guy. You cheer for the girl because what hope does she have of defeating a guy? But then again, you love to bask in the embarrassment of some guy getting his ass kicked by a chick. Being the big cheese, the top dog, the No. 1 seed is the perfect set up for disappointment. With all this said, and all our No. 1’s now losers, what made them No. 1 anyhow? George Mason, a small commuter school in the DC suburbs easily showed Michigan State, UNC and UConn that they didn’t need a huge student population, a cushy endowment, or a premiere collegiate athletic department to earn a ticket to the big dance. George Mason, the cranky Cinderella, is what makes this tournament so fabulous. Although I hated watching my bracket disintegrate, I loved watching this team win. I can’t say I’m nearly as excited about LSU, Florida, or UCLA. Would I like to see George Mason take it all? Of course…this is the stuff that writes Disney movies and creates classic moments. The human interest story of “the little engine that could” begins to steam roll the competition and will build momentum for this school. (It will also lead to an increase in applications to the school for next fall, just watch!) George Mason has already won because they proved themselves worthy and took it to any opponent who challenged them. They never backed down, they showed courage under fire and persisted. I can’t say Duke came out saying “Dammit it, we’re the best and we’re going all the way!” No, I’d say most of the No. 1’s took their number for granted. As a No. 1, you feel a sense of entitlement, like you are owed a place in the final. When you’re the underdog you have nothing to loose by going balls to the walls. As a No. 1 you have it all to lose and if you don’t protect your turf, you’re bound to see it conquered by that lowly seed who’s waiting to rain on your parade. Seeding causes some teams to be overrated and others to be underrated, but the true test comes on the court when each team gets a chance to prove its ability and worth. George Mason proved they belong, regardless of a No. 11 seed, and the No. 1’s proved it takes more than clout if you want to survive.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fantasy Job or Fantasy Boyfriend?

I am currently in the LONG process of filling out an arduous application for an internship opportunity (and reality TV show) for Rolling Stone Magazine. I think it’s like an “Apprentice” type affair where Rolling Stone would choose x-number of finalist and film the internship competition to air on MTV. I think the chance to intern and hone my writing skills at a place like Rolling Stone, pre-grad school, would rock – pardon the pun. I know reality TV is passé, but I’d be lying if I said the exposure on national TV was completely uninteresting to me too.

So far the application has asked tons of journalistic questions, but my favorite one to date is “what story would you propose to one of our editors?” Since Rolling Stone is as much of a pop-culture magazine as it is about music, I proposed a piece on Matt Leinart. I came up with the title “What it means to be Matt Leinart: From college golden boy to the toast of Gotham.” I find everything about him to be utterly fascinating. Yea, yea, yea, he’s not so bad to gaze at, but look at the life he has already lead and imagine the life he is about to lead…is it possible that he has the potential to be a modern day Sinatra?

Think back to the coolest cats you know. Names that come to mind might be Steve McQueen, John F. Kennedy, James Dean, and the Rat Pack. Modern day equivalents might be people like John F. Kennedy, Jr., Sean Combs and Ashton Kutchner, but there is something about the makings of Matt Leinart that could skyrocket him above these boys. (Ok, it’s hard to surpass John Jr., especially since he died young and will forever live in immortality as an A+.) This kid already has a resume filled with accolades and awards that would make any American male drool. To top it off, he has movie star looks and a female following that would rival a young Tom Cruise, pre-Scientology. Matt Leinart is the man to be, he’s the man of the moment.

Sure, it’s one thing to be a division-I college quarterback, but to have been a three-year starter off the heels of another suave USC Trojan, Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, that’s a lot of pressure. Let’s also point out that he was attending a very prestigious University with high academic standards. You can’t be dumb and play for USC. In addition to the brains, it’s Southern California, so it is synonymous with being beautiful. Think about it…have you ever seen or met anyone from USC who was hard on the eyes? This guy was living with pressure 24-7, navigating his team to what should have been three consecutive national championships. Vince Young cheated with the help of his knee, thank you very much! To top it off, he won the Heisman Trophy his junior year and had the guts to come back to school and make history! No, he didn’t win the Heisman again, thank God, but he can credit numerous school and nation records, and the Notre Dame game to his resume. This guy was a walking Greek God at USC, and to be honest, he could have been the ugliest SOB on earth and it wouldn’t have mattered because this guy was the Big Man on Campus. He was an A-list celebrity and he hadn’t filmed one single movie, TV show, music video, or received a signing bonus. He was an A-list celebrity because of his natural ability and charm. It’s been rumored that he’s been with movie stars, supermodels, and that chick from Laguna Beach. He’s partied with Adam Sandler, Lindsay Lohan, and everyone at ESPN. Not only can this guy produce results for any team, he is a PR machine, creating spin and publicity anywhere he moves. Heck, he should be the number one draft pick simply because the tourism industry in his pick city would skyrocket. Not only would people pay to watch him play, they’d pay to eat in the same restaurant. I can’t say that every man, woman, and child would do the same thing for Vince Young. Matt Leinart is the golden boy with the golden touch…everywhere he goes and everything he touches is automatically deemed “cool.” Girls want to be with him and guys want to be him, his closest equivalent to date would be Justin Timberlake, who has a similar effect, but not the extent that Leinart holds. Men envy Justin because he dates Cameron Diaz, not because they love his music. Men envy Matt Leinart because he could date Cameron Diaz and he can launch a cannon with his arm.

So maybe I’m a little biased. Maybe what this article is really saying is how obsessed I am with this Trojan. I don’t know if he’d make the ideal boyfriend because I think he has too many distractions and his stock would plummet if he was attached. (Besides, I have a feeling he could be a Magic Johnson and have a propensity to sleep with anything that moves.) And let’s be honest, he’s way out of my league and if I ever had the chance to meet him in person I might freak out and grow so overly-self conscious that I wouldn’t be able to utter a single word. (Wait, that’s any drop-dead gorgeous guy I meet.) Regardless, I would love to know what a day in his life is like. Who calls his cell-phone? Which e-mails does he actually read? What kind of cereal does he eat? How often does he talk to his mom? What kinds of clothes hang in his closet? These are the kinds of questions I’d ask…and I’m planning to, once I win this contest!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oatmeal vs. Outfield

When I was young, there were many things I didn’t like. For example, I hated eating oatmeal before school, I hated babysitters, and I hated summer camp. As much as I hated that mushy bowl of lukewarm oatmeal, I finally decided to throw a fit and protest eating it. My mother was hardly pleased and laid it on thick by forcing my protest outside, to the cold garage, so she could continue getting ready in peace and I would be forced to stare at the offensive bowl and come to terms with my childish behavior. I’m not sure if I ever did eat that bowl of oatmeal, but today I eat it everyday before I go to work. No, my mother didn’t force me to like oatmeal, that came over time, but she taught me that no temper-tantrum will ever spare you from doing something (or eating something) you don’t like.

Let’s be honest, professional athletes have it pretty good. Although they worked very hard to get to their level of play, they are paid oodles of money to play sports. If there’s anything to protest, it’s the fact that they never have to set foot in an office and log nine-hour days behind a desk. Sure, they workout, promote their team, work with charities to raise money for good causes, and they are forced to travel for games. Really sounds rough, right? I’m sure there has to be some drawback, like when you get traded from Miami to Seattle or perhaps your salary takes a minor cut from $4 million to $3.5, but you can make up the loss with endorsements. Here’s what I don’t understand…the public temper-tantrums from the Terrell Owens, Gary Sheffields and lately the Alfonso Sorianos of the world. These are men who are considered icons, legends, and playmakers in their field, but their recent public behavior has been appalling.

We all can recall Terrell Owens’ antics both on and off the field, including his contract dispute and public remarks about his fellow Philadelphia Eagle teammates. Although he’s a standout receiver in the NFL, he is also branded as a high maintenance player and a trouble-maker. Gary Sheffield, a seventeen year veteran of pro-baseball and currently a member of the NY Yankees made a big stint at the top of spring training this year when he started media reports about his displeasure with the Yankees organization and the end of his $39 million dollar contract, fearful that he won’t get picked up and could be out of a job. The latest public spectacle has come from the hands of Alfonso Soriano. Soriano, a recently traded player to the Washington Nationals, refused to take the field during his spring training debut. The team had made it clear that Soriano would play outfield and not his usual position at second base, leaving that to their current star player. Soriano expressed his displeasure but never indicated that he would refuse to play baseball at all. It was a major embarrassment to the team on Monday night when the Nationals took to the field and everyone expected to see the All-Star player run on to the green…only to see an empty left field. Should Soriano continue to protest by not playing, there is a good possibility that he could be disqualified.

Um…this is sports, in particular this is baseball. Above all else, this is a T-E-A-M sport. I would love for someone to explain to me why it is such a big deal to have to play outfield versus second base. It reminds me of high school when I was forced to dance in the back line of my dance numbers. Sure, I wasn’t thrilled I didn’t get to be front and center, but I dealt with it. More recently, I had the distinct pleasure of performing in a show where I was more or less a glorified stage prop. As much as I loathed the director and the production, I had to remember that there were easily 100 girls back in New York waiting tables who would GLADLY be “stage prop on the left.” These men make millions of dollars, live a life most of us will never be able to experience, and their job for a living is to play a game they have loved since they were a kid. Clearly they never did grow up because no rational, compromising, and mature adult would ever act so infantile! To constantly stir up controversy over contact negotiations, or to publicly create division within the team because of your displeasure with the line-up is ridiculous. We are forced, as people, to do things we don’t like everyday. We deal with the discomforts and we move on. When we see it necessary to fight for a position, for money, or for rights, we will raise our own call to arms. What is so despicable is that these three men are role-models in the eyes of some kids. They lead by example, due to their position, and I think they commonly forget this fact. Is it really “justice” that Owens and Sheffield are seeking in their contract negations? Is Soriano really protesting a prejudice or unfairness against him? No. These men are being cry-babies. They are living the dream that so many others have failed to live. They are privileged individuals who are gifted with a talent and who have been blessed to lead such lives. They got greedy and selfish. Would they have ever committed such a public scene at the start of their career? I hardly think so. They know what is right and what is wrong, so why do they choose to create the discord between the team and management? There is always one in every group, one who fails to see the greater good. It’s a shame that so many of these sour apples seem to appear in our favorite teams, but they also create the drama that ESPN reporters live for. The key to being a successful and likable celebrity is to make sure that your talent is level with your humility. Take George Clooney, for example. The guy is devastatingly handsome, amazingly talented, but uncommonly humble. He never acts pompous or appears to be any more important than the John Doe next to him. He’s on top of the A-list because he’s not pretentious nor does he create controversy. These sports stars should take a page out of George’s book and then maybe people wouldn’t object to a salary raise when they ask for one. Humility, graciousness, and respect is what makes a celebrity a superstar. These men are superstars due in part to their talent, but horrible celebrities due to their lack of tact and honesty.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sex, Sports, and Videotape

I was a social butterfly this weekend, taking part in the St. Patrick’s Day debauchery, witnessing plenty of NCAA action, dining in fine establishments, and throwing around my intellectual enthusiasm. When faced with these social situations: bars, dinner, and clubs, it’s no wonder why I love and follow sports so much…it is the perfect flirtation tool!

On Friday night, I was invited out to several noisy Irish bars in Midtown, Manhattan, for some green beer and standing-room only livelihood with my work colleagues. What I love about my work colleagues are that most of us fall in that 25-35 age range and we all get along pretty well. We have a NCAA pool going on in our office so it has been the topic of conversation for the past few days. By 8:30PM on Friday, not only were most of us a little giddy from the lager, we were also growing anxious with the UConn/Albany game. Since I’m not a girl who likes to consume mass quantities of beer and ironically I’m not the biggest club dancer, I would have felt a little awkward standing in this bar trying to come up with things to talk about to my cohorts. TO THE RESCUE: SPORTS!!! Thank God I know how to talk about something that most American men can chat-up. If women should following anything in current events, it shouldn’t be the “best dressed list,” it should be anything listed on or in the pages of Sports Illustrated. Being able to talk about, discuss, and argue the latest sports topic has saved my life…and gotten me some digits and dates on the side.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a fun girl, but when you tell your colleagues that you had a callback for “Elphaba” in the musical “Wicked” and they ask “you had a callback for the alphabet in Washington?,” clearly, they aren’t going to know how to continue this conversation. On the other hand if you say “I need a Stella to drink and someone please tell me that the Big Ten isn’t going to cough up another loss,” then they have something to work with! I was able to maneuver myself around the bar that night by socializing between the various basketball games and making great conversation with my work cronies. Sports acts as an ice-breaker. It’s what I use as my “in” and then once the conversation gets rolling and you’ve made the male counter-part feel at ease and other topics will fall in to place.

Sports are perhaps the best tools to use in flirtation techniques. On Saturday night, over a dinner with friends, we discussed how sexy it is for a women to pick up a man. Some women choose a more coy and subtle approach, such as suggestive eye-contact and deliberate body language. Hardly surprising, the men at the table laughed at this approach because they admitted having a hard time “decoding” these mixed messages. Thinking about my own “pick-up” techniques, I realized that as much as I use my naïve sense of self-perception, I utilize my knowledge of pop-culture, current events, and SPORTS! For example, if you’re lucky enough to be at a bar with a TV (and most often sports will be tuned in) and you spot a handsome man perusing the TV and yourself…why not break the ice with “tickets to the BCS Championship or tickets to the NCAA Final…what would it be?” Trust me, this will get the guy’s attention way more than “can you tell me what time it is?” I absolutely enjoy the puzzled look that comes across the man’s face as he looks back at this quizzical girl who randomly took the seat next to his. Of course, you have to be able to back up your opening line, so you’d better know more than the obvious catch-phrases of the year and be able to explain when the “Bush-Push” actually happened, and know how a team becomes a “Cinderella.” I can’t tell you how many times, while participating in on-line dating, I had hits and comments from guys who seemed more turned-on by my desire to be a sports reporter for ESPN than they were by my sexy little beach-bikini photo.

Bottom line, sports are things that most men can relate to and talk about. It’s a safe “starting position.” Although, like most one-liners, you have to know how to use your opening line and manipulate its meaning to get what you want, but when you start on neutral ground, you can easily persuade your target to navigate over to your true intentions.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Silent Screams

Did you hear it? It was earth-shattering! Around 3PM EST grown men in suits were struggling to read their PC’s, construction workers stopped all work, and those lucky SOBs in bars put down their beer. Yes, the first major upset of the NCAA tournament had already taken place with Oklahoma falling to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but now the country stood un utter shock as Boston College was entering it’s second overtime period against Pacific. The darling of most bracket pool entries was facing sudden death, and work productivity continued its downward spiral.

Most studies will tell you that office employees are least productive on Fridays or days before and after a holiday. I’m willing to bet that the first Thursday of March Madness could also be thrown in that bunch. As BC entered its second OT period, I couldn’t even count the number of groans, exhales, or silent gasps I heard across the office. I think the internet might have been fried with all the users clicking “Refresh” on their computer to see if BC had survived their first-round scare. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted BC to win, but I was really going to relish the verbal abuse I’d get to throw my Bracket-Buddy’s way because he had picked BC to take the tourney. I wouldn’t want any of the No.1 seeds to loose in the first round because I have too much riding on them for the rest of the tournament, but how fascinating would it be to see the fall out if a Duke or Villanova lost in the first round?

I envision complete anarchy erupting! Can you imagine seeing a multitude of grown men cry as they witness the implosion of their beloved bracket before their very eyes on the opening day of the tournament? (I’m sorry but that 16a vs. 16b crap was hardly an opening game!) Of course, I’d be right there with them, wiping away my own tears, but I’d be hard pressed to say whether they were tears of sorrow or tears of laughter. Then on the other side of the pity-party would be all the taunters who “claim” that they knew ALL SEASON that Duke wouldn’t make it out of the starting gate. Yes, you would witness the nah-sayers crawl out from the woodwork to taunt their cry-baby bullies who spent all season telling them to “shut up” or “stuff it” as their beloved Reddick sank three-pointers worthy of record books. Tee-Shirts would spring up on the Internet that read “I survived the Black Out of ’04, I survived the Hurricanes of ’05, I survived the Blizzard of ’06, and I survived Duke loosing in the First Round because I’m an alumni of Southern!” The skies would turn white from the multitude of bracket-sheets being tossed out the window and the sanitation works would go on strike from the clean up of disposed Duke paraphernalia. From this day forward, all recounts of the 2006 tournament would be qualified as “The Year a No.1 Pulled a Blank.”

Oh honestly, I highly doubt it would happen, but the fallout would be one for the ages. It’s hard to say what we love more, the joy of victory or the joy of a defeat that we can throw in our opponent’s eye. Thinking back to my own sports history, whenever OSU beat Michigan, I recall the guilty pleasure of year-long taunting I could dish out to any Michigan fan I met much clearer than the euphoria of the final winning touchdown. (Well, then again this past year's game had one dandy of a final running TD!) We’ll have to see who takes the hardest fall, but BC pulled out a nail bitter of a victory and Tennessee is looking poised to make grown men cry.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Just…breathe…inhale…exhale…After spending hours yesterday reading “bracketology 101,” columns, message boards, and team breakdowns, I have made my picks. Depending on which bracket you look at, I have Uconn, Memphis, or Boston College winning the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. My 3 winners are the result of three different brackets I have entered in various pools. To put it mildly, I was soaked by the time I made my final decision. I tried to absorb as much of the advice as I could handle. I did not use my mother’s technique and pick teams based off of their school colors, the likeability of the mascot, or the “cuteness” of the players. (To her credit, she did really well in last year’s pool playing that way!) Many people have broken down the brackets in to a science. Some of my favorite statistics were as follows:
-Of the 32 first round games, roughly one-fourth will be upsets
-In the last five years, one No. 12 has defeated one No. 5
-At least one No. 1 has made it to the Final Four in the last 25 years
-All four No. 1’s have never made it to the Final Four
-For the most part, the Final Four have average between 1.8-3.8 per team
-If your Final Four team seeds add up to less than 7 or more than 15, re-pick

So far, I have followed that advice but the beauty of the bracket is that nothing is certain. What makes this competition so exciting is the unexpected nature of the tournament. Even from the initial announcement of who made the final 65, upsets had already claimed their at-large birth in the tournament and will continue to play a role until the final game.

By last Sunday evening, sports analysts, broadcasters, and fans were already crying “foul” over the selection committee’s choices. Many people were stunned that teams like Cincinnati, Michigan, and Missouri State were left out of the tournament. To Cincinnati’s credit they did compete in the hardest conference this year, The Big East, went 19-12 and had a somewhat high RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). Similar situations existed for Michigan (18-10/Big Ten), and Missouri State (20-8/Missouri Valley). On the flip side, the committee granted tournament play to teams like Iona(23-7), Hampton(16-15), and Winthrop (23-7). Who? Well Iona won the MACC tournament and calls “American Pie” singer, Don McLean, alumni. Hampton won the MEAC conference tournament and made a stunning NCAA appearance in 2001 by becoming the fourth No. 15th seeded team to upset a higher ranked school in the first round. Finally, Winthrop won the Big South conference tournament and can credit Judy Wilkins Rose to their alumni roster. (Ms. Rose is the only female to have served on the men’s basketball selection committee….coincidence? I think not!) It’s not that I think smaller schools should not be allowed to compete against larger ones, but does it seem fair to shut out a school like Michigan, who previously defeated three other AP ranked teams currently in the NCAA tournament, versus giving the slot to a school who may have won their conference tournament but played underwhelming opponents? (For the record, this will be one of the few times I actually defend the School Up North.) So how did these small schools get picked to join the big dance?

Several factors go in to tournament bids. First off there are tournament tie-ins. Most small schools get their bids this way. It is the “fair” way for the NCAA to act, giving all conferences a somewhat equal bidding to the tournament. Secondly come the 34 “at-large” births. This gets a little more complicated. The NCAA selection committee looks at several factors when handing out bids, first by secret ballots. One week before selection Sunday, the committee gets secret ballots where all eligible D-I schools are listed. On the first ballot, the member chooses 34 teams who should be invited based on their season success, even if they could win their conference tournament. The second ballot represents all the other programs the member feels also deserves the recognition to play in the tournament. If a team receives all but two votes on Ballot 1, they get an at-large birth. The remaining teams who were nominated, but did not receive an at-large birth, go in to the “at large nomination” pool. Once in the nebulous “at large nomination” group, the committee selection process is then closed and another series of balloting begins. They use a system of checks and balances, as well as the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to examine the at-large teams. RPI measures the strength of schedule and how well a team does against its schedule. It actually does not take in to account margin of victory, but whether or not the team won and where the game was played is considered. RPI was first developed in 1981 and is maintained by the NCAA men’s basketball committee. The formula for the RPI breaks down like this:
25% - team winning percentage
50% - opponents’ average winning percentage
25% - opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage
Can you imagine if the BCS took this in to account for NCAA football?!

After all of this is weighed, the committee ballots again, submitting eight teams to be given at-large births. If a team gets all but 2 votes here, then they get an at-large birth. If the team fails again to get enough votes, they are thrown back in to the pool and wait for the next round until all the at-large births are given away.

With all this voting, I still have a hard time trying to figure out how schools like Cincinnati and Michigan didn’t win enough votes or have a high enough RPI to make an impact on the committee’s mind. I mean, I always knew that Michigan would never win a popularity contest, but who would have thought that a small fry would give the Wolverines such a stomach ache?! Although, what is sports without a little drama?

I don’t know about you, but my money is on Monmouth to defeat Hampton tonight. Honestly, I’m not sure either team would really want to win, seeing how the victor will be fed to the wildcats of Villanova, a beastly No. 1 team. Best of luck in your own brackets and enjoy the Madness of March!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Selection Sunday...Mix n' Match Monday

Unless you've been living under a rock this past weekend, or you don't follow office gossip, then you wouldn't know that yesterday the NCAA selection committee picked the top 65 teams to compete in this year's Men's Basketball Championship. I've been spending the day analyzing, discussing, and making my selections, so that's why I have a short post today. I'll give you my predictions tomorrow! Even if you don't follow basketball, filling out brackets are things that everyone should do, regardless of age, race, or athletic knowledge. (Heck, even my mom enters her office pool.) So don't be shy, pick and play...I promise it will make the month of March much more entertaining. Good luck picking!

Friday, March 10, 2006

1999 Final Four

Wow! If I had known that my 1999 OSU Final Four hat would be so valuable, I wouldn’t have worn it while working out and given it so much “character.” (When I say “character,” I am fondly referring to the sweat stains, rips, and tears that grace the hat.) I’m sure you might be wondering why such a unique object is now so precious. Well, for one, I’m hoping the NCAA isn’t going to remand my hat the way they have ordered Ohio State to remove their “1999 Final Four” banner due to penalties resulting from NCAA violations suffered during the 1999-2002 seasons. Secondly, with the NCAA ruling comes a bevy of other penalties, such as wiping out records from four NCAA tournaments, which includes that famous Final Four appearance. My hat will live in infamy because it will be the only remaining proof that OSU really did reach the Final Four in my lifetime! (The last time they had reached the big dance was in 1962 when they lost to Cincinnati and they claimed the title in 1960 defeating California.) Given the egregious error in judgment by former coach, Jim O’Brian, is forcing the school and the record books to erase evidence of the team’s success really an appropriate punishment? Why should the student athletes who worked so hard, then and now, be forced to pay a price for a coach’s dishonest deeds?

If you’re wondering how Coach O’Brian misfired, he gave a recruit $6,000 five years ago, well actually he gave the recruit’s mother the money. I suppose you could call O’Brian a softie because the recruit was a foreign student who had fallen on hard times and the coach just wanted to help him out. O’Brian argued that it was not a violation because they player, Aleksandar Radojevic, was a former professional player in his home country of Serbia and thus has forfeited his amateur status. Secondly, the coach knew he the money fell in a “grey-area” because he and his administration attempted to conceal the cash payment from the University. The truth about the loan came out when a separate and private law suit by a private citizen indicting two separate boosters for “failure to pay $359,910” for housing, feeding, supporting, and doing school work for Boban Savovic, another OSU basketball recruit. Clearly this was another massive NCAA violation. In hearings the Savovic suit, the $6,000 came out and all illegal infractions were brought to the table. Ironically, Radojevic never did play for or attend OSU because the NCAA ruled him ineligible due to the money he received as a professional player in Serbia. Can anyone tell me why OSU felt the need to recruit all these Eastern European players in the first place? What’s wrong with your own Ohio boys?

So flash-forward to March 10, 2006, OSU has been placed on three years’ probation, is forced to whip out records of four seasons, and repay the NCAA $800,000 from tournament revenues. The team will no longer be banned from post-season play, which is a HUGE relief considering that this year they are 22-4 and have greatest recruiting class in the country coming in to school for next season. If the NCAA had banned OSU from post-season play, not only would they not play in the tournament this year, the new recruits would have been released from their letters of intent and all that work to rebuild the tarnished program would have been lost.

So with all the logistics out of the way, how fair is it to punish players and coaches of the present for the mistakes of the past? Due to the allegations, OSU self-imposed a postseason ban that affected last year’s team. The current coach, Thad Matta, has had to deal with the scrutiny of the NCAA and bad press as much as the former coach has in light of all the talk, investigations, and court dealings. Striking the records from the books hurts the players more than it does the school. Although Savovic did play for OSU all four years, including the 1999 season, how is it right to erase the work of a TEAM for the infractions of one player and a bevy of irresponsible coaches, adults, and boosters? To make matters even more entertaining, after Jim O’Brian was found guilty of violations, OSU fired him, and rightly so. To counter his dismissal, O’Brian sued the school for wrongfully sacking him because according to his suit, he could only be fired for a “material breach” of contract and argued that the $6,000 loan didn’t qualify and that OSU is required to pay him for the firing. Pay is right, OSU might have to pay O’Brian as much as $9.5 million for that firing. So who really looses here? Clearly the coach who started the shenanigans is going to earn a million-dollar payout that could set him up for the rest of life. Sure, he’ll have a hard time coaching again and until 2011, any school that wants to hire him will have to appear before the NCAA, but the tarnish and clouds surrounding his misconduct brand the currently players and the school more publicly than they do O’Brian.

Luckily, OSU rebounded this season to a stellar 22-4 season and currently are ranked #7, won the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Championship and are slated to take a decent stab at the Final Four. If all goes Coach Matta’s way, by the end of next month the probation and violations will no longer follow him around as much as the glory and glow of an exciting run to Atlanta and the big dance. The players from this seasons team have etched their names in the record books for good and stand little chance of having those accounts erased. If I get my way, I’ll have a new hat to add to my collection of “OSU Championships” and maybe I’ll get to witness the first OSU men’s basketball championship winning game!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wonderlic to Wonder-boy

April 29, to Reggie Miller and Andre Agassi it’s their day to blow out birthday candles. In 1961 it was the debut of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. For 2006, April 29th will be marked as “Draft Day.” It’s the day all those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college juniors and seniors have been daydreaming about since they walked off the bowl-game field. With all the hype surrounding draft prospects and the NFL’s recently-amended collective bargaining agreement, what if a rookie’s draft pick and starting salary were related to their intelligence as well as their talent?

Football players can list numerous dates in their past as capstones of their careers. Although their mothers could name many more, the first major highlight had to be National Signing Day when high school seniors sign letters of intent to their intended school. For most players, not only did this indicate that they were going to the next level of play, they earned a scholarship to their choice school so they could play football and earn their degree. That’s a pretty awesome reward. Of course, their scholarship was all dependant on their application to the school, including their SAT scores.

Fast forward three-to-four years and the next crowning-point would be making the decision to declare for the NFL draft. After spending several years honing their skills at the college level, these players have now decided that they want a new challenge and have chosen to enter the ranks of being a professional football player. Audios college scholarship, hello to NFL salaries, signing bonuses, and endorsement deals. Luckily for these guys, your college GPA or scores to the GRE or LSAT are not taken in to account when working out at the NFL combine…or are they?

Each winter, when draft prospects workout at the NFL combine, each are given a 50-question test known as “The Wonderlic.” This IQ test was invented by E.F. Wonderlic at Northwestern University in the 1930’s. It was administered to potential NFL draft picks in 1970 and became popular with the scouts and teams because it easily put a “number” to another form of performance, intelligence. The draftees have 12 minutes to take the test and rarely do any finish. A score of 10 equates to literacy; a score of 20 indicates an IQ of 100, and that’s considered average. In the history of the NFL and the Wonderlic, only one player has ever scored a perfect 50 and that was former Bengals punter, Pat McInally, a Harvard graduate. It has been rumored that one player has scored a “1” in the past, but what about the rumors of Vince Young and his first stab at the test, a score of “6?”

On average, QB draftees have scored a 24. In the past, some top NFL quarterbacks have run the gamut of Wonderlic scores. For example, Donovan McNabb reportedly scored a 12 in 1999. Ben Roethlisberger scored a 25 and was considerably lower than fellow top pick, Eli Manning, who reportedly scored a 39. To look back a little farther, Dan Marino supposedly scored a 14. So should your score really be of any concern when it comes to success and a signing bonus?

Eli Manning was the top draft pick in 2004, going to the New York Giants for a guaranteed $20 million over the following five years, and a total incentive package that could reach $54 million when it’s all said and done. Since his rookie season in 2004, Manning has gone 25-23 for the Giants, for 4,805 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions. That doesn’t seem too shabby for a Wonderlic score of 39. In contrast, Donovan McNabb is 94-88 with the Philadelphia Eagles for 19,433 passing yards, 134 touchdowns and 66 interceptions. Similar to Manning, McNabb nabbed himself a signing deal worth as much as $54 million with incentives, and that was in 1999! Of course McNabb has several years of experience and postseason play on Manning, but can the lower Wonderlic score affect your draft status or predict your success in pro play?

In 1999, Tim Couch (Wonderlic 22) was the number one pick over McNabb and by 2006 he no longer plays in the NFL. Roethlisberger (Wonderlic 25) was a lower pick than Manning, scored a lower signing deal, but won the 2006 Super Bowl by age 24. As it stands, Young was originally praised as the top-pick QB. With a score of 6, that means he only answered 12 percent of the questions correctly, but then he retook the test and scored a 16. Matt Leinart was rumored to have scored a 35 and Jay Cutler managed a dandy 26. So what does this mean? It means that on April 29, these three young men will march to the podium, wave their new team jerseys over their heads and be granted million-dollar keys to their castle, a key which many of us will never hold regardless of how smart or hardworking we are. Only time will tell which 2006 draftee will be the most successful in his professional career, but I’m sure people like Tim Couch are thankful that the most important gift they were ever given from football was a college degree so that when the NFL door slams shut in your face, you have something to fall back on.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Let's Play Ball...

Welcome to the inaugural posting of the "Scarlet Monomaniac!" Before we begin, I feel it is only fair to commemorate this occasion with an introductory posting, where you can learn why this will become the hottest blog to enter cyberspace on March 8, 2006. Please pardon the formality, I promise we'll get down and dirty soon!

First off, this isn't your sorority sister's blog. This is a sports blog. After spending years listening to Jim Rome, watching ESPN, and scouring over the columns of, it's time I put my money where my mouth is and voice my own opinion. I'm a bona fide sports fanatic! I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, which means I bleed scarlet and gray. To put it in perspective, my first crush was on Kirk Herbstreit when I was 12 and I thought "YAC" was a football stat long before I knew it was a Himalayan animal. (OK, that last sentence might be slightly false...who didn't have a crush on Kirk Cameron in the 80's?) My true passion lies in college football, but that doesn't mean I'm one to pass up the March Madness office-pool, give up tickets to Wimbleton, or blow off curling at the Olympics. I love competitive sports, in general! Who doesn't relish the cultural phenomena that is sports? Take the Super Bowl, it alone has created a single event in which the entire country is united at some local bar and bonds over commercial lore and hot wings. This blog is my opportunity not only to reminisce about the sports of yore, it is also to debate, tackle, and discuss the current state of sports and its many notorious players.

At first glance, I may not seem like an unlikely author for this subject, but I failed to mention that I'm a girl and when I say "girl" I mean a girlie-girl. I was wearing pink tights and a tutu before some kids could walk. At age 2.5, out of fear that I might turn in to a tomboy, my mother enrolled me in dance classes, piano lessons, and eventually voice lessons so that by age 18 I was a competitive dancer, local theatrical professional, and set to start a career as a triple-threat actress. My proudest moments to date were graduating magna cum laude from Northwestern University and earning my Actor's Equity card. Hence why pigskin football wouldn't appear to tickle my fancy. All that aside, I'm as passionate about my Broadway as I am about my basketball, bobsled, and bowling. Appearance aren't always what they seem and underneath the glossy exterior, I am a sports journalist ready to pop! So check back often and I hope you enjoy the ride!