Friday, March 30, 2007

A few great YouTube links

The phrase 'WTF' is thrown around so often these days that it seems to have lost all meaning. Yet I can find no better description.

This second one is a video apparently attached to a resume by a guy fresh out of business school trying to apply to UBS. I can only hope he challenged the other candidates to a danceoff. God, I'm glad I never went to Ivey.

Finally, I haven't decided if it's funny or creepy. Or both. The only conclusion is that it's not easy being green.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sports Shorts

RIP my March Madness bracket. May it rest in peace.

The biggest sports story of the week has to be the coach of the Pakistan national cricket team being murdered in the wake of their humiliating exit from the Cricket World Cup. It's a sign of how little international sport is respected in North America that I've seen this story be commented on with a touch of 'ha ha, look at those crazy foreigners, caring this much about cricket' on ESPN and Sportscentre. Imagine if, say, Lovie Smith was strangled after the Bears lost the Super Bowl. Or if Pat Quinn was killed after Team Canada got bounced from the Olympics last year. Those stories would be treated with the same kind of coverage and seriousness as the friggin' Kennedy assassination.

However, since I'm merely an ass with a blog, I can make a wisecrack. What are the job interviews going to be like for the next coach? No pressure there, nope. See, this is the kind of coaching job Isiah Thomas should've gone for. Who's going to be crazy enough to try and choke out Isiah? Would you want to make a lifelong nemesis of Bill Laimbeer?


Tiger Woods won again this weekend. It marks the sixth time he has won the World Golf Championship CA/AmEx championship title, and it's also the third straight year he's won at Doral (since the old Doral event was essentially amalgamated with the WGC). Now, Tiger is the best. I'm not disputing this, and anyone who would is simply crazy or related by blood to Phil Mickelson. But the one slight flaw in Tiger's sterling record is that he rarely ventures out of his comfort zone of tournaments. Each season he plays in the four majors, the three WGC events, the three (now two) Buick-sponsored events, the Players, the Western Open, the Memorial and Bay Hill (out of respect for Jack and Arnie), Doral, Disney, the Deustche Bank, L.A., and occasionally he'll throw in Pebble Beach or the tournament of champions and maybe one other. He's unsurprisingly dominated at these events, racking up multiple wins in each except for his unusual drought in L.A.

What I think Tiger should do one year is totally mix up his rotation. He'll keep the four majors, the Players, the FedEx Cup rotation and the WGC events, obviously, but otherwise just play in totally new events for him. It'll be a challenge -- he'll need one after he breaks Nicklaus' majors record. He can be the first guy to ever win every single tournament on the Tour schedule. It'll also be a huge boost to the likes of, say, the Honda Classic or the other second-tier events if Tiger suddenly comes to town.

Is this my way of trying to keep the hope alive that Tiger will one day play again in the Canadian Open? Maybe.


There are a lot of ways to rationalize Toronto's loss to Buffalo last Friday, when they blew a 4-1 lead in the third period. First, I think most fans probably expected the Leafs to lose that game anyway. Second, at least they turned around and beat Buffalo the next night. Third, if you had said before the week that Toronto would win two of their three games against the Sabres and Devils, I would've gladly taken that. Fourth, perhaps a little karma was owed after Toronto had two huge comeback wins of their own over New Jersey and Ottawa in the last few weeks. Fifth, HOW IN THE HELL COULD YOU BLOW SUCH A LEAD IN SUCH A MUST-WIN GAME??!!?!?!?!?! GOD DAMMIT!!!!!....Ok, there were only four ways to rationalize it.

By the way, as angry as I am about that Leafs loss, it will pale in comparison to the explosion that will come if Green Bay actually acquires Randy Moss. Good lord. I've led a blessed experience as a sports fan in that my teams have had relatively few turds on them. With the Jays, the biggest one has been probably Clemens, and the Leafs have mostly had guys whose problems were that they couldn't play, not their behaviour. The Packers have had maybe a few more -- mostly guys who were largely good until one major screwup, i.e. Najah Davenport and his crap in a hamper.

Instead of getting a guy who, by his own admission, doesn't always try, Green Bay should direct their attention on their more pressing needs. For instance, Favre doesn't need more receivers, he needs a running back to take the pressure off the passing game. I am 100 percent in favour of this rumoured trade to get Michael Turner from San Diego. I'd also be in favour of the Pack going after David Carr. I've always thought Carr was something of a victim of a crappy offensive line in Houston, so the Pack could get him as a backup for a year or two until Favre finally retires.

It's time for the annual baseball predictions that look laughably wrong in October!

AL East
New York, Toronto, Boston, Baltimore, Tampa Bay

AL Central
Minnesota, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City

AL West
Los Angeles, Oakland, Texas, Seattle

NL East
Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Florida, Washington

NL Central
St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

NL West
San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Colorado

Wild cards: Cleveland (sorry, Jays fans) and New York

AL champion: Cleveland....I have a strong feeling that the Indians could be the '07 version of the Tigers last year. The Angels and Twins just don't quite have enough. The Yankees may not win another pennant as long as A-Rod is on the roster, and their pitching is just not that good. Earth to NYY fans -- it isn't 2000. Andy Pettitte is not a difference-maker.

NL champion: The Mets avenge last year's NLCS and knock out the Cardinals. Philly teams always fold in the playoffs, and whomever wins the West just won't be a very good team.

World Series: The Mets' vets prove the difference as they take out the Tribe to win the Series. Surely Pedro can't be hurt for two straight postseasons....right? Cleveland's second-longest-in-baseball Series drought continues.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

On Notice!

8. Shreddies. After years of eating Shreddies with a veritable shrug, I've just had enough. I've never really liked them. Why do I keep feeling obligated to eat them every once in a while when they're in the cupboard? I'm not married to Shreddies. I exchanged no vows. I can sleep around, eat all the different breakfast cereal I want to.

7. Angelina Jolie. All of these kids and she can't even adopt ONE Korean boy and name him Annyong?

6. Old celebrities. We're in need of a current go-to celebrity for elderly jokes. Since George Burns (finally) died years ago, nobody has really stepped in to take his title. The Rolling Stones are sort of de facto, but they only appear old -- I think Charlie Watts is the eldest at 66, ancient for a rock star, but not really all that ancient overall. I'm talking about someone in their early 90's, minimum.

5. Rogers Cable. As it turns out, my Rogers sports package doesn't contain every March Madness game, as I had been led to believe. It does, however, have exclusive coverage of the NIT tournament.

4. Bad first dates. This is also related to Rogers, oddly enough. A friend of mine recently told me about a first date she was on with a guy she didn't know all that well. At some point early on in the date, she was having trouble with her phone, and she made some innocuous comment like 'Oh, this lousy Rogers service.' The guy responds with, in what I was told was dead seriousness, "I hope Ted Rogers dies of AIDS." The guy spends the next few minutes ranting about his bad experiences with Rogers. The date went downhill from there.

3. March Madness upsets. What a lame first round. The highest seeds that got knocked out were a pair of #6s (albeit a fairly high-profile #6 seed in Duke). Usually there's at least a few of the big names taken down early. This screws not just fans, who like to root for the underdogs, but also me, who took a number of upsets in my pool. My chance of winning my NCAA pool is already stone dead.

2. St. Patrick's Day. This is a great holiday for relative non-drinker. Just great. Lots of other holidays (Canada Day, New Year's, Beer Day) are about drinking, but at least are ostensibly about something else. Not St. Paddy's Day. If you don't get plastered on green beer, you get looked at like you have three heads. What do I care about celebrating Ireland's lack of snakes? That's like, Venezuela celebrating a lack of polar bears. I think my St. Patrick's day will involve throwing on a U2 record, and that's it.

1. Gustavo Chacin. Boy, this was a joy to read about. The Blue Jays' rotation this year is going to be held together with spit and dreams, and the prohibitive #3 starter goes and gets busted for a DUI. I love how people keep saying "Oh, the Jays' big problem is their four and five starters." Their number two is A.J. Burnett and their number three is Gustavo Chacin! That isn't exactly consistency. Can Roy Halladay get a cyborg arm built and start 70 games a year like Old Hoss Radbourn? I may be peeved because Chacin's actions impact me. I was covering an event at a public school last spring when Reed Johnson went to speak in an assembly. I was standing to the side taking notes, when this little six-year-old comes up to me and asks, "Are you Gustavo Chacin?" Sigh. Of all the Jays to be mistaken for...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March Madness Primer, Part Two

The defending champions in both basketball and football, which makes that there is no more insufferable person in the world right now than the Florida athletic director. Look at him, all smug in his office, pouring himself an extra glass of that expensive brandy because he thinks himself the ruler of American collegiate athletics. Do you want to see this man win? This Jeremy Foley? HELL NO, AMERICA. Get your torches and pitchforks and burn! Burn! Burn his brandy warehouse to the ground! Just remember to use your torches to burn, since if you try to start a fire with the pitchfork, you'll be there all day! Fun fact: Florida's team nickname is the Gators, which is short for 'alligators.'

Perhaps my favourite of my many favourite Johnny Cash songs is 'Jackson,' the duet between Johnny and his wife, June Carter. You may have seen it immortalized in Walk the Line by Phoenix and Witherspoon. If that's the only place you've heard it, please get the thousand-times better original recording. I mean, come on. What possessed Joaquim Phoenix to think he could emulate Johnny Cash's voice? He didn't even look like him, so he figured he might as well not sing like him either and the two would cancel out? Oscar nomination, my right foot. Anyway, Jackson State is a #16 seed, so their chances of winning are about as dead as Johnny Cash.

Purdue's team nickname is the Boilermakers, based on the fact that a century or so ago, their working-class student body was seen as giving a blue-collar effort on the field. Other nicknames used in the days before Boilermakers included Cornfield Sailors, Blacksmiths, Foundry Hands and (my personal favourite) the Pumpkin-Shuckers. You can shuck a pumpkin? Purdue's chances of advancing in March Madness have to be improved since they are no longer coached by the ugliest man in America, Gene Keady. I couldn't find a large enough photo of him to post, but it's just as well. I don't want to be responsible for your retinas committing suicide. Keady is a gargoyle of a man. He's like a Conan O'Brien "If They Mated" mashup of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, except with a horrible combover.

Arizona is another of the traditional powers (like Kentucky and Duke) who are getting a lower seed than usual in the tournament due to subpar seasons. This could mean that Zona is either ready to turn it on after a season of rope-a-doping the opposition, or they're just not all that good. The Wildcats do have the most diverse roster of any team in the tournament. Look at these player names: Bagga, Brielmaier, Budinger, Onobun, Radenovic, Shakur and Tangara. It's like a United Colors of Benetton ad up in there. Unfortunately for rap fans, the Shakur in question isn't Tupac. He's too busy releasing albums to be playing basketball.

Old Dominion University likes to hedge their bets. Their school motto is 'Changing Lives.' Well hell, if a student attends your school, their life is changed whether they succeed or not. If a butterfly flaps his wings in Peking, it sets off a hurricane in the Gulf. Changing lives...what horsecrap. Speaking of butterflies, Old Dominion's team nickname is the Monarchs. How pretty. Their school is also known as OD for short by me. Old Dominion will not old dominate anything in the tournament, though they have a shot at making it past the first round.

After all, Old Dominion playing Butler, for God's sake. Butler lost to Wright State. Just disgraceful. You expect to beat a team called the Monarchs when you can't even beat Wright State? What's wrong with you, Butler? I....I just can't even look at you right now.

I'd decided to rate Davidson's chances based on the Facebook profile of my friend Jen Davidson. She and I share a birthday: +1. Her favourite song of the moment is something called 'Hold My Beer While I Kiss Your Girlfriend.' In such a scenario I'd use said beer as a projectile, which would get me thrown out of the bar and end my night, so -1. Her favourite TV shows are The Hour (+1) and House (-1...come on people, it's the same damn plot every week). Her list of favourite movies is pretty good (+4). She is a member of a group celebrating Ananas, the Telefrancais pineapple (+two million). Clearly, Davidson is going to cause a racket in the bracket.

Here's an idea of how clueless I am about college basketball: Maryland won the NCAA title in 2002. I have no recollection of this whatsoever. Honestly, I kind of stop caring about March Madness after I run out of all these pretty slots in my bracket to fill out.

Anagrams for Winthrop include Nip Worth, Worth Pin, Whip Torn, With Porn, Thrown Pi, How Print and Who Print. Ironically, I think I once threw a pie at Rip Torn while watching a porn and discussing how much the porn star's fake nipples were worth. I couldn't come up with jokes for the print ones, sorry. :(

They have a basketball team? Do they have a lovably undersized coal miner who just wants to be on the floor for one play? Will Notre Dame coach Mike Brey put this scamp in for the final moments of the first-round game? Will this scamp then collect a sack on the last play to put his name into the record books? Hopefully can't sack in basketball. That would be a huge flagrant foul. It would probably cause Notre Dame to losethrop to Winthrop. What a downer. This is why football is better than basketball.

Speaking of football, Oregon's men's football team are well-known for having the ugliest uniforms in athletics. Even worse, they change them virtually every season, and it never seems to get better. Does the basketball team have the same problem? I wish I could spend ten seconds of research to look this up. Oh well. Fun fact: Oregon's school motto is 'Minds Move Mountains.' So, pick them to win, since you can't stop a team of telekinetics.

*Scene: the office of Oxford, Ohio mayor Jerome Conley. The phone rings.*
Conley: Hello?
Roger Goodell: Well hello there, Mr. Mayor. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell here.
Conley: Wow, the NFL Commissioner! On my own phone! What can I do for you, commish?
Goodell: Well, you guys did such a great job hosting the Super Bowl this year that we'd like to book you again as soon as possible.
Conley: What?
Goodell: How does 2013 sound?
Conley: Uh, Mr. Goodell, I think there's...
Goodell: I think we can go with the same financial split as last time, don't you? After all, your city did generate millions in tourism revenue.
Conley: Millions, you say?
Goodell: Most definitely! That's a rapper's name! Anyway, I'm sure you've got a busy schedule, so I'll let you get back to it. Those drug cartels won't shut themselves down, eh?
Conley: No, they certainly won't.
Goodell: Talk to you later, Jerome!
Conley: We're Miami of Ohio!
Goodell: What?
Conley: I'm....I'm sorry. I just couldn't let this charade (ed. note: he pronounces it char-odd) continue. You've got the wrong Miami. This isn't the one in Florida, but rather I'm Mayor of Oxford, Ohio. Our school here in town is called Miami University.
Goodell: What?
Conley: It's true. You must've dialed the wrong number.
Goodell: Let me get this straight, there's a Miami in Ohio??
Conley: Yes.
Goodell: In a town called Oxford??
Conley: Yes.
Goodell: Do you people have even an ounce of originality?
Conley: Well, our school motto is 'To Accomplish Rathern Than Be Conspicuous.'
Goodell: Your school is named after a major American city in another state, and your town is named after arguably the most famous college town in the world! How can you be inconspicuous!
Conley: I didn't say it was a good motto.
Goodell: I'll be damned...well, needless to say there's been a mistake. You are mostly assuredly not getting the Super Bowl. In fact, I just might go out of my way to ensure your local TV stations don't carry the game.
Conley: That seems a bit much!
Goodell: I'm hardcore.
Conley: Don't you appreciate my honesty in forgoing millions of dollars that could've helped my town immensely?
Goodell: No. I don't.
Conley: Oh. Wow. Really?
Goodell: Like I said...hardcore.
Conley: I see.
Goodell: Goodbye, Mayor Conley. May you rest in peace.
Conley: What?
Goodell: This has been Goodell.
*The line goes dead. Conley sits at his desk with a concerned look on his face. Suddenly, a meteor hits Oxford, Ohio and everyone dies. End scene.*

This is one of those teams that everyone thinks is better than they actually are. They look at their name in the bracket, and think back to the program's glory days of the late 80's and early 90's. Don't be fooled. This team ain't much nowadays. It's possible they might pull off a Sweet Sixteen berth, maybe even an Elite Eight or Final Four. Or they might win the whole thing. But don't be fooled. If they win the tournament, it's only because they won six single-elimination tournament games in a row.

Henry Pym is a Marvel comics hero who has been known over the years as Ant Man, Giant Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket. How tough is it to find a consistent name for a character and stick to it? With this sort of confusion, the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets can't possibly hope to go deep in the tournament. Hank Pym's power was to increase and decrease his size and body mass, so Georgia Tech can be successful if they suddenly grow to twenty times their height, like the Mon-Stars in Space Jam. Stealing the talents of modern NBA players will also be a key to a Jackets win. They will also have to block out the UNLV fans who will be referring to them as the Jackoffs in loud and boisterous cheers.

Facebook has an option for people who don't want to take five goddamn minutes and fill out their bracket. It's the 'random bracket' button, and pressing it will (you guessed it) fill out your tournament picks totally at the will of the fates. I did this twice just for kicks. The first time, I got no team higher than a #13 seed in the Final Four. The second time, it picked Wisconsin at the national champions. So there you have it. Fate has smiled on this school and its boring, plodding basketball.

Not to be confused with Texas A&M, TAMCC is based in Corpus Christi. The team celebrates wins with a bottle of Canadian Club, delivered by Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia. TAMCC pride themselves on never giving up, much like the actual corpse of Christ himself. Has anyone ever stopped to realize the shocking similarites between Jesus and Jason Voorhees? Nothing seems to slow either of them down. Both have similar distastes for pre-marital sex. And James Cameron found a hockey mask in that alleged tomb of Christ he found in the desert. I want to see an all-heavenly Final Four of Corpus Christi, Holy Cross, Oral Roberts and BYU.

Or, 'The' Ohio State, if you go to that school, or are an overly literal asshole. Ohio State is the #1 team in the nation and is led by their superstar center, Greg Oden. Unlike the Odin of norse myth, who looked like an old man was but thousands of years old, Oden is 18 but could easily pass for 40. I feel his pain. My premature baldness meant that I was never carded at a bar unless accompanied by my baby-faced friends. Unfortunately, I never shot up to seven feet tall like I thought I would as a 5'10 grade sixer -- I stayed the same damn average height. My trauma is probably not unlike the trauma that Ohio State felt last January, when their heavily favoured football team got obliterated by Florida in the national title game. Central Connecticut State may be heavy underdogs, but their plan of showing up dressed as alligators (remember, Florida's school nickname is the Gators, which is short for alligator) just may throw the Buckeyes off their game.

But just who are these reptile-impersonating young lads from central Connecticut? Yahoo Sports was no help. Each team has their own individual page with current scores, rosters and news, except for CCS. There is no news to report about this team. Nothing. Not even a past archive. Is this how it is, Yahoo Sports? If I'm Coach Howie Dickenman, I'm printing off copies of this page and waving them in the locker room as a sign of how little people respect his team. Thus fired up, the players will go out and only lose by 20. Fun fact: there is an Eastern, Western and Southern Connecticut State, but no Northern. In Connecticut, the North doesn't exist. If only Elijah Wood's resume was so lucky.

I once wrote a story about a Mormon. Back in grade four, I was in the habit of writing James Bond-esque adventures about a spy, but I needed a name for him. So I randomly thought up combinations of letters and came up with Mormon. Pete Mormon was his name. Looking back on it, I surely must've heard the word 'Mormon' at some point, since it seems unlikely that I would randomly create a character name that happened to match a major religion. At no point in my stories did Pete have three wives. I was an odd child.

How did these previews turn into my memories of grade school? Let's get back to making fun of team nicknames. Xavier are known as the Musketeers, which would be kind of lame except for the fact that the Musketeers were fairly bad-ass. Remember the 1993 Three Musketeers movie, where the trio was played by Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt and Kiefer Sutherland? Would you really want to mess with a sword-wielding Jack Bauer, a coked-out Chazz Sheen and a probably-a-terror-when-he's-angry Oliver Platt? I think not.

Here's a school I had no idea existed until I saw them in the bracket. You've got to love a school established by noted stripper Earl Warren. "Earl Warren wasn't a stripper!" "Now who's being naive?"

Tennessee is one of those rare schools where the women's team is much more high-profile than the men's. As a result, Vols coach Bruce Pearl recently attended a woman's game with a few buddies, and the quartet had 'VOLS' painted in letters across their bare bellies. Not to be outdone, legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt showed up at a men's game in full cheerleader regalia. What's the lesson to be learned here? Tennessee has been dicking around too much to concentrate on the tournament.

Poor old Virginia got upset in the second round of their conference tournament, which has to rank almost as highly on the disappointment scale as having your husband write and star in a movie basically as himself and having that film be titled "I Think I Love My Wife." Chris Rock's nonsense might end up being the funniest marriage-related film incident since Howard Stern made Private Parts an ode to his marriage, only to divorce about a year after it came out. Fun fact: none of the players on the Virginia roster are virgins.

In my aforementioned random Facebook bracket, I mentioned that my first random bracket featured a Final Four of no teams higher than a #13 seed. Albany were the winners in this fantasy bracket. The losers were NCAA officials, who would be jumping out a window if this nightmare TV ratings scenario ever occurred. On the bright side, it would be the biggest thing to hit Albany since the Simpsons credited them with inventing steamed hams.

Ah, the Sluggers! It really should be their name, but the school went with the much more boring 'Cardinals' instead. Just walk on Stan Musial's grave, whydoncha. Fun fact: Stan Musial isn't dead.

Riddle me this: Stanford students are supposed to be smart. So their team name is the Cardinal. Not CardinalS, but just 'The Cardinal.' Thus making this a Cardinals vs. Cardinal first-round matchup. What gives, The Stanford? You named your school after a colour? Is there some other school that's the Oakland State Puce or something? Given how much it costs to go there, you'd think they would've called themselves the Stanford Green.

Jesus, how many teams from Texas are in this damn tournament? I blame Dick Cheney.

Like Pittsburgh/Pitt, the University of Pennsylvania are commonly known as Penn. Do people from this state hate the ends of words? The 'Sylvania' part sounds so cool, too. It's like they're a team of vampires. Penn qualified for the tourney by winning the Ivy League, which is sort of like qualifying for a pie-eating contest by eating a 14-ounce porterhouse that has the word '30 Pies' written on it in steak sauce. If you pick them to go far, you have much more respect for the memory of actor Chris Penn than I do (none!).

The University of Nevada is pretty dull. Here they are in Nevada, the swingingest state in all the union, and their list of distinguished alumni doesn't have one single notable pop-culture figure. It's just a bunch of 'distinguished' and 'acclaimed' Nobel Prize winners. Why don't you just wear a tie and sweater-vest to a kegger, University of Nevada?

Hey, here's a team I can get behind: the Creighton Blue Jays! Expect them to keep it close in the first half, have a really good opening five minutes of the second half and make the fans think they have a chance to actually cause some ruckus. Then they'll just totally shit the bed for the next 10 minutes. Then they'll play decently in the last five to make the score respectable and make you think they're not so bad after all. Then you'll be seduced into picking them in next year's tournament. And then the J-Force dancers will dance your troubles away.

Seriously now, another Texan team? Is this the frickin' rodeo? North Texas is a #15 seed, so their stay will likely not last too long, but their nickname is one of the most notable in the field. Get ready opponents, to face the North Texas Mean Green! Snicker. Is the fat kid from the Sandlot their goalie? Will they face the Cardinal in the biggest all-colour matchup since the red guy faced the blue guy in Tron? Why does Texas have a north and Connecticut does not? These questions and more will be answered on the next episode of Soap.

And finally, we end things off with Memphis. Strong team, possible darkhorses to win it all, nothing really overtly wacky to say about them. See, I had enough funny material for 64 teams, but not 65. Damn you, play-in game.

So, you're now officially caught up on all your pre-Madness info. Stay tuned tomorrow for my 80,000 word preview of the NIT tournament.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March Madness primer (part one)

It's that wonderful time of year again, when a young man's fancy turns to basketball. With March Madness about to get underway, it's time to get some help for your office pool.

"But Mark, I'm not in an office pool."

Yes you are. Don't even try that crap. Everyone is in an office pool. It doesn't matter if you don't know anything about college basketball -- March Madness sucks you in like the Borg. Given that entry into the average pool only costs between $5-10 and the payout could be easily 50 to 100 times that, what have you got to lose? Some 20-year-old, white, backup power forward at a school you've never heard of could be the key to an immediate financial gain.

So what if you don't actually know college basketball? Here's a hint: few people actually do. Lord knows the only NCAA action I watch each year is the tournament. Everyone knows the bigger teams, but only the true hoopophile (it's like a pedophile, except they molest basketballs) knows something about all 65 teams. Fortunately, that's the beauty of the NCAA tournament. All knowledge is thrown out the window. It's very easy to win your pool without foreknowledge. Remember that old episode of Cheers when Diane won the bar football pool because she picked the cities that had better philharmonic orchestras? It's like that.

So to aid you in your bracket-filling splendor, here are 65 of the stupid reasons to pick a particular team as your upset special or Cinderella story --- or, I guess, dominant powerhouse picking up another championship. C'est la vie.

They are one of two schools in the 'play-in' game, one of the more useless recent innovations in sports history. A few years ago, the brainchildren at the NCAA decided to change the field of 64 into a field of 65, with two teams playing for the right to get the last spot in the tournament. These two teams are always jobbers, and thus the play-in game is about as suspenseful as Speed II: Cruise Control. Anyway, the winner of the play-in game gets the right to lose to #1 seed Kansas in the first round. Florida A&M's team nickname is the Rattlers, and so they can win only if they steal the "boom-boom-hisssss" taunt from Ben Stiller's team in Dodgeball.

The other play-in game team. Obviously I'm rooting for them because they're sort of Niagara Falls, so there's sort of a Canadian tie-in. That's all I've got. Seriously, this play-in game is worthless. Most brackets don't even bother to list it as a choice -- they just have 'play-in game winner' against Kansas in the first round. I doubt that people are like "Oh man, Niagara will get routed by Kansas, but Florida A&M matches up well. If only I could pick!"

Now, onto the real teams. Kansas are traditional powerhouses in the tournament, and many figure them to win the whole thing. If you have an affinity for the Wizard of Oz or a hated of evolution, they're your club.

In 1985, the eighth-seeded Wildcats became the lowest-seeded team to ever win the tournament. This year, they're #9 seeded. Clearly, this means they'll make it to the final game but come up short. Villanova has an abstract art sculpture called 'The Oreo' on campus, which is sort of a poor man's black-and-white yin-yang sign. Should Nova win the tournament, the school will generate more revenue, which might lead to more wastes of student money like the Oreo. So it's a tough nut to crack if you're a Nova student who likes good use of their student dues.

Kentucky is an eight seed? What the hell? Aren't they usually pretty good? My logic is that they're all go distraught over Barbaro that the team just didn't perform up to par this season. This could be leading to Kentucky deciding to 'win one for the Gipper,' and going on a Cinderella run to the tourney final, whereupon Barbaro will rise from the grave and foretell the coming of the end of days. Or, one of the players will have his jersey number start to come loose from his jersey, and the team uniform manager will grab his Barbarostick and affix it back on.

This team has already had their share of drama this season. The university board voted to abolish their longtime team mascot (Chief Illiniwek) due to a number of protests that the Chief was offensive to native Americans. Does this mean that Big Chief Crazy Cone can no longer serve ice cream at Illini games? I was looking forward to the sidelines showdown between Chief Illiniwek and the Virginia Tech mascot, K.K. Kenny the Hokie Honky.

Just kidding, Tech's mascot isn't a seething racist. Their mascot is actually NFL quarterback Mike Vick, better known as 'Ron Mexico,' or the alias he used at VD clinics to get treated for herpes. I would pay up to 20 dollars to know the origin of this alias. Did the nurse ask him for a name, and Vick quickly looked around the room to find a name, like in a cartoon? "Uh, um, er, *he sees a photo of Ronald Reagan*, Ron, yeah that's it!*he sees a map of Mexico on the wall* Mexico! Ron Mexico! That's me! Cure my herpes!" Why would a VD clinic even have a portrait of Ronald Reagan on the wall anyway? Did he have herpes? He was an actor, after all. And a Republican, and everyone knows they're into the kinkiest stuff.

The Holy Cross Crusaders. Gimme a break. If I played for Southern Illinois, I'd punctuate every vicious dunk with a taunt of "Where's your Messiah now, Flanders?" at the bench.

Team nickname: the Salukis. You're free to pick them based on how cute you think the dog is. I'm personally not sold. Why would you want to own a dog that looks like actress Wendie Malick?

For non-fans of college basketball, Duke are perhaps the most unlikable preppie team in the NCAA. They're college basketball's answer to the Yankees, or Man U, or the Hawks from Mighty Ducks, or any snotty team that carries themselves with a pedigree. Duke sucks. Boooooooooo

VCU alumni include Stefan Lessard (bass player for the Dave Matthews Band), Patch Adams, and several members of the band GWAR. Patch Adams was a terrible movie. GWAR are more fun as a concept than they are as an actual band. The DMB are a good band. This is toss-up.

The Raiders are one of those mid-major conference teams that the NCAA would love to eliminate from March Madness. Not officially eliminate, mind you. But bigger schools from bigger conferences means more money, and having these pesky small schools in just gets in the way of that. Never mind that the whole appeal of March Madness is seeing all of the upsets -- that gets in the way of the profit. Wright State is one of those teams that is happy to be here, since they upset heavily-favoured Butler to win their conference tournament and get a slot in the big dance. This is somehow the most basketball-related entry so far because....damn, it's Wright State. There's not much else to say.

This school is better known as Pitt, which I've always around to be a bit odd. The University of Minnesota, for example, isn't known as Minn. What is Pitt so ashamed of? Pittsburgh is a great city. I was impressed during my visit there two years ago. Shape up, University of Pittsburgh. Your name just leads to needless dispute. "Pitt the Elder!" "Lord Palmerston!" "Pitt the Elder!" "Lord Palmerston!"

Since Bobby Knight left, Indiana is just another team now, eh? You don't much about them, their new coach doesn't choke his players, etc. They have kept up Knight's trend of exiting in the first or second round of the tournament, which is somewhat of a tribute. If you liked Hoosiers, pick Indiana.

Gonzaga have a reputation as one of the tournament's most notorious upset-causers, though they haven't gone too deep in recent years. They have the most fun school name of any team in the tournament. Try saying it in an over-excited voice like Animal from the Muppets. It's very cathartic.

My dad goes on at length about UCLA and their great teams from the 60's and 70's, when they won something like 15632 straight games and approximately 64 national titles (statistics courtesy of Wikipedia). The current UCLA team is a power in their own right, though they lack some of the colour of those older teams. For example, legendary center Bill Walton is well-known as a giant hippie and longtime Deadhead. Former forward Kiki Vandeweghe III has perhaps the silliest name of all time. Small forward Ed O'Bannon once choked a man to death with a live rattlesnake. Point guard Baron Davis is one of the four horsemen (plague). How are today's players supposed to compete with that? "Forward James Keefe is majoring in pre-business/economics." Whoopty doo!

I may have to watch some of the UCLA-Weber St. matchup just so I can finally find out how this school's name is pronounced. Is it 'Weeber' or 'Webber'? Questions abound.

The (somewhat) infamous Tar Heels. The Duke/North Carolina rivalry is like college basketball's answer to Yankees/Red Sox. Most people prefer the Red Sox of the two, but it's really not fun to root for either. The Heels at least have those cool powder-blue jerseys. Fun fact: when Michael Jordan went to North Carolina, his roommate was Davis Love III. It was Love who got Jordan hooked on golf, and thus also indirectly drove him into Gamblor's neon claws. Smooth move, DL3.

As a reminder, no #16 seed has ever beaten a #1 seed in March Madness history, though there have been a few close calls over the years. A jabronie team like Eastern Kentucky will likely not be the first, unless they are also elevated by the Barbaro Effect. Or unless Eastern Kentucky alum Lee Majors equips the players with cybernetic parts. God, what a dated reference. I'm pathetic.

The Michigan State Spartans launch their NCAA tournament bid on the same week that 300 is #1 at the box office? Seems like karma. Going by the movie's mathematics, one Spartan player should be able to take the entire Marquette team and most of its student body by himself.

Here's a team I've always had a soft spot for, since their name is like a feminine version of my name. Perhaps if I had been born a woman and my parents had been particularly taken with French names. Actually, if I'd been born a woman, my name apparently would've been Amy. Write that down for the test at the end of the post. Anyway, Marquette is a Jesuit university, which makes it quite a showdown -- Jesuits vs. Spartans. The Pope's black ops team against the craziest motherfuckers in Greece. Who will emerge triumphant?

Damn USC. They've got it too good. Beautiful campus, successful sports teams, located in the big city, great weather year-round, loads of hot women. Just....damn.

My research indicates that Arkansas isn't a particularly conservative or Catholic school, so I can't make a cheap 'Catholics vs. Trojans' joke about the USC game. Arkansas is best known for its "40 Minutes of Hell" defense, used in the early 90's when the team won an NCAA title under then-coach Nolan Richardson. Though the team doesn't use the system anymore, that's just an awesome name. The school's nickname is the Razorbacks, and thus the women's basketball team name are the Lady Razorbacks, though the school lamely shortens the women's team name to just the Lady'Backs. I think 'Lady Razorbacks' sounds more intimidating than the regular nickname. Think how much more awesome Macbeth could've been if Shakespeare had named his villainess Lady Razorback.

My sportswriting hero Bill Simmons has written a number of columns this year about how he is rooting for his beloved Celtics to tank the rest of the season so they can get one of the top two picks in the NBA draft and thus pick either Ohio State's Greg Oden or Texas forward Kevin Durant. It's clear that Simmons is more smitten with Durant, and I mean literally smitten. Simmons would probably make out with Durant if asked. It's a first-class case of guy love. As such, Simmons has taken to becoming a de facto Texas fan, and has pointed out that their coach is completely incompetant, following in the footsteps of such Texan authority figures as President Bush. So if you're picking the Longhorns, take them at your own risk.

Longtime mascot Pistol Pete was removed of his pistol in 2005 as the university wanted to change its logo to a less violent image. His gun was replaced with a lasso. This led to all sorts of unrest, and thus in 2006, Pistol Pete got his gun back. And all was well in the land of New Mexico. How can a guy named Pistol Pete not have his pistol? Adding a lasso would've required a full name change, to, like, Lasso Larry or something. If New Mexico State really wanted to change their image, they should've done away with the whole cowboy motif and made their mascot Leisure Suit Larry.

I'm sorry, this team just can't be taken seriously. Vanderbilt is one of those school names that sounds too stereotypically upper-crust to root for. Their nickname are the Commodores, for God's sake. What a joke. Are they going to throw their stylish glass lenses at us? Heaven forefend!

Yahoo's story about the Vandy/GW game starts like this..."On Thursday afternoon, Vanderbilt will step into the NCAA Tournament to face George Washington in Sacramento." On paper, doesn't that just sound bad? Would you want to go to Sacramento to face one of the premier bad-asses in American history? I'm sure General Washington, once given appropriate background on what and where Sacramento was, would be more than game. The G-Dub are my upset pick in the first round.

Ah ha ha, Oral Roberts made it into the tournament! That's hilarious. This team makes Vanderbilt look like the Oakland Raiders. If Washington State wanted a day off, they should just say they have a gay player on their roster. Oral Roberts would walk off the floor in protest and forfeit the game. It's a shame they're a Christian school; can you imagine how much fun a regular rowdy student body would have with a school name that included the word 'Oral'? The chants during the game would be worth the price of admission alone.

School motto is "World Class. Face to Face." Seems kind of unnecessarily confrontational, doesn't it? It makes more sense when you realize that their nickname is the Cougars. A world-class cougar wants to be face to face (and other body part to other body part) with any twentysomething young lad she meets at the bar. Edward R. Murrow is a WSU grad, and the motto of any cougar going out for a night on the town is good night and good luck.

Hey, it's the current school of legendary crazy coach Bob Knight! It's been a busy year for the General, who broke Dean Smith's record for most Division I coaching wins. Tech's entry into this year's tournament also means that Knight has had more teams involved in March Madness than any other coach. What do all of these records mean? Knight has been around for a long time. And the game has passed him by. Taking Tech to go anywhere past the second round is a longshot.

My sleepers to make the Sweet Sixteen, maybe even the Elite Eight. Why? Recently deceased Boston frontman Brad Delp. I have more than a feeling that Boston will cool the engines of Texas Tech and party their way deep into the bracket in order to achieve peace of mind.

Opposing crowds taunt the Georgetown players with the chant of "What's a Hoya?" due to the fact that nobody is really sure of where the team's nickname comes from. My response would be, "That's the sound your mother made in bed last night." Then Alex Trebek would get frustrated at me for not answering the questions properly. Georgetown's alumni include Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz, as well as many dickhead politicians.

They're a #15 seed, so they'll need all the help they can get. Simon Belmont from Castlevania might help out if someone tells him that the Georgetown roster is full of vampires (may or may not be true). It would've been fun to see Belmont slotted against #2 UCLA instead, for a Bruins vs. Bruins matchup. It would've been like that time Bobby Orr punched Cam Neely in the mouth.

Back tomorrow with the other half of the bracket!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Whither Weather

Why is CityTV suddenly pimping their weatherman like he's God's gift to meteorology? I can't watch anything on City without seeing at least one ad promoting their ace weatherman during every commercial break. Apparently his latest claim to fame is that he was the 'only one' who predicted Toronto's big blizzard at the beginning of the month. Stop the presses!

Isn't City a little too high-profile to be running these cheesy ads? Promoting the weatherman is an antiquated notion right out of Ron Burgundy's era. With the internet, the weather channel, and sticking your head out the window, who even relies on the local weatherman any more?


Listamania will continue soon. The impetus for the lists came from a friend of mine who complained that my posting was 'listless.' He may have been talking about my recent lack of posts, but I've chosen to take him literally in order to make a fool of the both of us.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Listamania II.V

Nothing sets off a good argument like music posts!

Re: Kyle. The problem with a lot of the artists I like from the 2000's is that I've never actually heard full albums from many of them. I've liked every track I've heard from Silent Alarm, but since that's only 4-5 songs, I couldn't include it over albums I've heard full on. Blame iTunes.

Funeral suffers from what I call Pearl Jam's Ten syndrome. Half of the songs on Ten (Release, Black, Even Flow, Alive, Jeremy) are of course classics. The other half are really forgettable. Funeral is sort of the same way, in that you've got the big hits and I'm actually sitting here struggling to remember the rest of the tracks and I'm not going to get the CD from my rack to look them up since it proves my point. I'm actually liking Sam's Town more and more than I listen to it, though the Springsteen comparison finally hit me right in the face when 102.3 played Read My Mind and Hungry Heart back to back a couple of weeks ago. Riddle me this: what would the critical reaction be to Sam's Town if the Boss had released it? Would critics fall all over themselves fawning over it, or would they write stuff like 'Bruce is ripping off the Killers!'

Coldplay's albums are sort of on the downside of Pearl Jam's Ten syndrome, in that their singles are the only bright side of their albums, but I'm not crazy about their singles much anyway. Coldplay is like if DJ Danger Mouse did a mashup of U2 and Radiohead's b-sides, and then the music was performed in concert by Marc "Walkin' in Memphis" Cohen. The other albums you've mentioned I haven't listened to, hence they just don't qualify. I'll make special mention of Broken Social Scene, since I've yet to hear a song from them that I've even semi-liked.

Re: Sarah. We can't talk about U2 anymore. We're at an impasse like the Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh. Atomic Bomb is an album I wasn't even crazy about at first, but it's definitely a grower. Had U2 not made the head-scratching move of leaving the two best tracks from the sessions (Mercy and Fast Cars, look for them on iTunes) off the album in place of lesser tracks, it might've been number one. If Atomic Bomb had been the first album by a new band, I'd still be raving about it. So yeah, I dunno. We need to agree to disagree on this one. It's like Kyle and I on Sufjan Stevens.

And hey, it takes a brave man to admit his admiration for Scissor Sisters and Elton John in the midst of a some-might-say-trendy list of albums. I'll take that Elton record to the bank, that was a terrific disc. Scissor Sisters maybe, in hindsight, could've been down a few notches, but it was still a fun listen.

Arctic Monkeys would've been in the list if it was a top 45, probably.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Listamania II

Top 40 of the 2000's? Don't mind if I do!

40. Don't Give Up On Me, Solomon Burke
39. Employment, Kaiser Chiefs
38. Diamonds on the Inside, Ben Harper
37. The Last Broadcast, Doves
36. Audioslave, Audioslave
35. Threat Level RedWhiteBlue, Aceface
34. White Blood Cells, The White Stripes
33. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Bruce Springsteen
32. Stories from the City Stories From the Sea, P.J. Harvey
31. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, The Flaming Lips
30. Tyrannosaurus Hives, The Hives
29. Funeral, Arcade Fire
28. American III: Solitary Man, Johnny Cash
27. Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters
26. The Hour of Bewilderbeest, Badly Drawn Boy
25. The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living, the Streets
24. Sam's Town, The Killers
23. Binaural, Pearl Jam
22. American V: A Hundred Highways, Johnny Cash
21. Day One, Sarah Slean
20. Beetbox My Heartbeat, The Weekend
19. Set Yourself on Fire, Stars
18. De Stijl, The White Stripes
17. Get Behind Me Satan, The White Stripes
16. Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn
15. Brainwashed, George Harrison
14. Kid A, Radiohead
13. The Rising, Bruce Springsteen
12. Night Bugs, Sarah Slean
11. You Were Here, Sarah Harmer
10. American IV: The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash
9. Songs From The West Coast, Elton John
8. Speakerboxx/The Love Below, Outkast
7. Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam
6. A Grand Don't Come For Free, The Streets
5. Rockin' The Suburbs, Ben Folds
3(tie). How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, U2
3(tie). All That You Can't Leave Behind, U2
2. Hot Fuss, The Killers
1. Elephant, The White Stripes

BTW, I've edited the top 40 of the 90's list, since I inexplicably forgot Oasis' Masterplan, which although is a b-sides album, is the second-best thing they've ever recorded.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Listamania I

Top 40 albums of the 90's? Don't mind if I do!

40. Adore, Smashing Pumpkins
39. Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morrissette
38. Tragic Kingdom, No Doubt
37. Everything Must Go, Manic Street Preachers
36. The Great Escape, Blur
35. Under the Table and Dreaming, Dave Matthews Band
34. Ten, Pearl Jam
33. Parklife, Blur
32. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Sarah McLachlan
31. No Code, Pearl Jam
30. Siamese Dream, Smashing Pumpkins
29. Spice, Spice Girls
28. August and Everything After, Counting Crows
27. Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, The New Radicals
26. Weezer (blue album), Weezer
25. Fully Completely, The Tragically Hip
24. Tiny Music, Stone Temple Pilots
23. White Ladder, David Gray
22. Collective Soul, Collective Soul
21. Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair
20. Garbage, Garbage
19. Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Smashing Pumpkins
18. Gordon, Barenaked Ladies
17. Day for Night, Tragically Hip
16. Pieces of You, Jewel
15. Phantom Power, Tragically Hip
14. The Masterplan, Oasis
13. OK Computer, Radiohead
12. Monster, REM
11. Vs., Pearl Jam
9(tie). American Recordings, Johnny Cash
9(tie). Unchained, Johnny Cash
8. Zooropa, U2
7. What's The Story Morning Glory, Oasis
6. Pinkerton, Weezer
5. The Bends, Radiohead
4. Pop, U2
3. Yield, Pearl Jam
2. Common People, Pulp
1. Achtung Baby, U2

I felt so old after compiling this list, you have no idea. "That album came out 13 years ago?! Good lord!"