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Friday, December 11, 2015

A Modest Bowl Game Proposal

There was a time when every bowl was decent.

There are too many bowl games. We knew that before the NCAA allowed three 5-7 teams to participate in bowl games (Nebraska, San Jose State, and Minnesota). We knew that before the first non-playoff meeting of two teams from the same conference in a bowl game since 1979 (Colorado State and Nevada from the MWC in the Arizona Bowl). Even though the NCAA claims that's okay because "they didn't play each other this year." (Honestly, that was the rationale.)

I came up with a disarmingly simple solution to the bowl game fiasco. Require bowls to include at least one team that finished in the CFP Top-30 playoff ranking. That would make a maximum of 60 teams participating in bowls- about half of D-1- and that would never happen because of the amount of teams that play each other, either in the playoff or otherwise. It would really end up being 25 or fewer bowls.

I think that's plenty. Don't you? The rankings only go to 25 now, but if all the bowls depended on the rankings I'm sure they could extend it to 30 pretty easily. In a bowl with only one CFB-ranked team then that team would be designated the home team. If they did it with 25 this year, the last "home" team would be USC.

By attaching the CFB playoff ranking system to the bowl selection process, it validates both the playoffs and the bowls. Why not extend it all the way down the line to the smaller bowls? I'm sure the Independence Bowl Committee would love to have at least one marquee name instead of Tulsa and Virginia Tech (sorry, Frank Beamer).

Yes, this would necessitate throwing out all conference bowl alignments and giving them all straight over to the CFB playoff bowl committee. But so what? The Rose Bowl is part of the CFB playoff and the Boca Raton Bowl is too good for it? Come on now.

Yes, it would also result in some fringe bowls sometimes having games and sometimes not. I would argue that this would make things more interesting. We care about the 68th team that gets into March Madness, why not get a reason for people to speculate on the Quick Lane Bowl matchup?

Besides, you know who owns these small-time bowls? There are separate bowl committees in each city, but a little Wikipedia research will show who actually owns the bowls. With the exceptions of the big guys, every mid- and lower- tier bowl is owned by.... well, you know who televises most of the bowls. They own the bowls. That's the reason most new bowls struggle to find a network. Because they aren't owned by that place that owns the rest of them. That's also the reason the Sun Bowl is the only bowl game on CBS. They are the only even semi-major independent bowl.

So why not tie all the bowls into the CFB playoff committee? It makes too much sense to me. Maybe that's why it won't happen. But it's worth talking about.    

Is there any possible reason to care about this game?
images courtesy: complex.com, pineapplenewspaper.com

The Legitimacy of the 1884 St. Louis Maroons

When the Golden State Warriors allegedly tied the longest season-opening win streak in professional sports, I felt compelled to write about that other team and its league on TownBallStories.MLBlogs.com. Still relevant now.

The Legitimacy of the 1884 St. Louis Maroons

photo: krispaulw.com

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Run Every Day From Thanksgiving to New Year's? Yes. It Can Be Done.

The author running.

I had never run more than seven days in a row until I heard about the Runner’s World Thanksgiving-to-New-Year’s-Day Challenge to run at least a mile during the year-end holidays. Of course even as a beginning runner I had heard stories of people who have run every day for 30, 40, and even near 50 years. Naturally, I considered those people not right in the head (not to say that many people consider me right in the head, either. But I digress).

The only time I had run at least seven days in a row was during a particularly stressful time at work, and the few people I told about my streak had differing opinions. The regular weightlifter said it probably was fine as long as I wasn’t running nine miles a day or something like that. The cross-fitter said I was probably going to damage something. Later, the cross-fitter claimed that any top cross-fitter could smash Ashton Eaton’s decathlon world record with a minimum of effort, but I had already stopped listening to his advice by then.

Nevertheless, the idea of “going streaking” was in my head. When I first heard of the RW Challenge, my mind was made up. 35 days or so in a row seemed very do-able. In addition, I had just moved and this seemed like a way to start things off right. Plus, it would let me explore my new town.

On Thanksgiving, I went for a morning run. My route was familiar up to a point, when I veered off to a new, untested portion of the trail. As tends to happen in these situations, I soon found myself not knowing where I was, and then in a mostly fenced-in private yard, which was really more like a ranch than anything else. Fortunately, nobody came out to yell at me, and nobody loosed the hounds to get the intruder. Still, I didn’t want to cross back through the property to increase the chances of either of those things happening. On the other side of the fence was the main road. Since there were no cars around, I hopped the fence and headed back, grateful that people tend to leave home during holidays.

The next few days I ran short distances, trying to figure out if a month straight was even feasible for a comparative newbie like me. I calculated that if I ran just a mile a day, I would do about 35 miles, a distance I would exceed in a normal month. Two miles a day would equal 70 miles, also a monthly distance I had exceeded before. The streak seemed more and more feasible.

I ran on. I discovered a new loop of about three miles. I cut it down to a mile and a half. I extended it to four. I reversed it.

After about ten days, there was a new challenge, although an inevitable one considering I now lived at four thousand feet elevation. It had snowed overnight, but not heavily. I had never run in snow before, having always said “forget it” every other time it had happened. I had instead gone for a walk or decided it was a good day to not go outside.

But this was different. This was part of “the streak.” Running a mile counted, walking a mile did not. Watching “A Hard Day’s Night” for the six thousandth time would not extend the streak. I had to go. I put on ski pants and felt like an idiot. I put on my lightweight running shoes and felt like a fool. I put on a windbreaker and a hat that covered my ears and knew I looked silly. I went outside and ran just over a mile on a short loop.

When I returned, my shoes were soaked and my feet were frozen, as were my fingers. But I didn’t care anymore about what I looked like. I was a runner and had done what real runners do- I ran despite the weather. I felt like I could do anything else that day, no matter how tough it appeared to be, and it would not be as difficult as running in the snow. I looked forward to the day where I could run when it was snowing.

The next day I ran with my regular running group. It was dark and 15 degrees when the run began. I ran four miles and didn’t care. I was a runner and knew I was going to complete the streak.

Over the next month I ran when it was snowing and when it wasn’t. I ran in my snow boots and I ran in battered sneakers. I ran in ski pants and I ran in ski liners. I ran in windbreakers, I ran in layers, and I ran in hoodies. I ran in the morning, I ran in the afternoon, and I ran in the dark. I ran when it was five degrees and I ran when it was 35 degrees. I ran just over a mile and I ran five miles. When the run group canceled one week because the weather was “too nasty,” I went out and did a mile anyway.

I ran close to 90 miles that December, my highest monthly total at the time. On New Year’s Day, despite being out way too late and having football watching parties to go to that day, I made time for a run. 

The next day I went out of town and the streak ended. I now understood how people could run 365 straight days, although I still didn’t understand why anybody would want to. Since then, I have rarely gone more than three days without running.

On Thanksgiving, I’ll start the yearly streak again. I’ll make time for it every day for more than a month, no matter the weather or the situation. I won’t run every day for 30 years. But 35 days or so in a row? That’s something anybody can do. Even if the cross-fitters tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Baseball History: Chicago Cubs 1st Postseason

Posted on my "exclusively baseball history" blog, the very first Chicago Cubs postseason of 1885 helped create a rivalry that continues to this day. And the posteason ended how you might expect a Cubs postseason to end.


1885 Chicago White Stockings
 photo: en.wikipedia.org

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Pac-12 Football Week One Mini-Preview

Ah, the 100th year of the Pac-12. Except it isn't. The Pacific Coast Conference, which formed in 1915, was dissolved in 1959 due to scandal (shockingly, athletes were paid) and reformed with fewer members under a completely different name. Oregon and Oregon State were charter members of the PCC but weren't allowed to join the Athletic Association of Western Universities until 1964, meaning the Ducks and Beavers were independents for five years- and played all their former rivals anyway.

That deserves a separate post. We're here to capsule-preview Pac-12 football, so that's what's up.


Michigan Wolverines at Utah Utes, 6:30pm Mountain, Fox Sports 1

Are there any good storylines for this game? Look, the Wolverines won't make the Final Four, but they'll be out to prove something in Captain Harbaugh's first season. Michigan is the story coming into this game, but Utah will be the story coming out of it. They're better than you think.

Texas San-Antonio Roadrunners at #22 Arizona Wildcats, 7pm Pacific, Pac-12 Network

The Wildcats get no love. Only team to beat Oregon in the regular season? Got an at-large Big Six bowl bid? Returning plenty of guys and they're ranked lower than a Stanford team that disappointed everybody last year? I don't get it.

Colorado Buffaloes at Hawaii Rainbows, 7pm Hawaiian, CBS Sports Network

These teams were terrible last year and the game they played was no different. I don't expect Colorado to be great before President Kanye takes office, if at all, but it would be nice if they showed signs of not being a doormat.


Weber State Wildcats at Oregon State Beavers, 5pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Oregon State lost the best QB in conference history (Sean Mannion's record for passing yards might not last very long, but he has it) and the nicest head coach in college football (Mike Riley to Nebraska, and I'm not kidding). And even with that last year, they were terrible. New head coach Gary Andersen has already announced he's going with a two-quarterback platoon to start the year. This is not a good sign.

I'm excited... to be hung in effigy in two cities!

Washington Huskies at #23 Boise State Broncos, 8:15pm MT, ESPN

Just another small game on the schedule for the guy who made Boise State relevant nationally. Chris Petersen was the man in Idaho, now he's trying to make the Dawgs do the same. He wishes he could go back in time and not schedule this game. I don't. Boise State might win this by 30.


#21 Stanford Cardinal at Northwestern Wildcats, 11am Central, ESPN

Nerd Bowl alert! I'm not buying Stanford until Kevin Hogan is gone, but there's no way they should lose to Northwestern. Also if you are excited to be indoors watching this game on Labor Day Weekend you better be a graduate of both schools.

Portland State Vikings at Washington State Cougars, 11am PT, Pac-12 Network

Any excuse is a good excuse to watch Mike Leach's quarterbacks throw for 500 yards. Unless there's a kickoff before noon against a questionable I-AA team on Labor Day Weekend. So maybe next week this Wazzu will be worth watching.

Virginia Cavaliers at #13 UCLA Bruins, 12:30pm PT, Fox

The Bruins should have lost to Virgina last year and their QB situation is murky. They might be the worst 10-game winning team around. The first upset alert of the year.
High-stepping awesomeness.

Grambling Tigers at Cal Bears, 2pm PT, Pac-12 Network

There are few better places to be than Strawberry Canyon on a September weekend. The Grambling band will perform at halftime, that's worth the price of admission alone.

#15 Arizona State Sun Devils vs Texas A&M Aggies in Houston, 6pm Central, ESPN

The Pac-12 marquee game of the weekend. The Aggies have the home crowd advantage but the Sun Devils are good. I see a close game and ASU doing something stupid to lose it at the end.

Eastern Washington Eagles at #7 Oregon Ducks, 5pm PT, Pac-12 Network

For complete Oregon coverage throughout the year, visit AutzenZoo.com, of which I am a featured contributor (aka, I write stuff there too).

Arkansas State Fighting Clintons at #8 USC Trojans, 8pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Trojans should be pretty good this season. But we won't learn anything about them this week. 

Overall impressions:

Eight wins by conference is very likely, ten would be great. Best chances to lose: Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford, Colorado, Wazzu (just because) and Oregon State. That's right, I don't think Utah will lose.

photos courtesy: Pac-12.com, mynorthwest.com, chron.com


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kansas Jayhawks Football: Eight Is Enough

Beaty on the beat

When David Beaty opens the Kansas Jayhawks football season on September 5th against South Dakota State (11 AM Central Time), KU football will have had eight full-time head coaches since 1983.

KU men’s hoops has had eight full-time head coaches, period.

The last time both KU football and basketball started a season with new leaders was 1983, so that’s why I picked that year as the demarcation line. The new hoops coach that year was Larry Brown. The new football coach that year was Mark Gottfried.

Since Brown, the hoops head coaches have been Roy Williams (’88-‘03) and Bill Self (’03-until he dies).

After Gottfried, the football head coaches have been:

Bob Valsente (’86-’87), Glen Mason (’88-’96), (a common chant at the time: “Hooray for Glen! Hooray for Glen! Hooray for Glen he’s a horses @$$!”) Terry Allen (’97-’01), Mark Mangino (’02-’09), (letter to Jim Rome: “I’m glad Mark Mangino got fired. Sincerely, the buffet.”) Turner Gill (’10-’11), Charlie Weis (’12-14), and now Beaty. If you add the interim coaches- Tom Hayes in ’01 and Clint Bowen last year- KU football has had ten head coaches since ’83, or two more than the basketball team has had since before there were airplanes.    

I wanted Bowen to be the full-time head man, and said so as much last year. What’s great to hear is that Beaty was going to come to Kansas even if Bowen was made head coach and he would just be the offensive coordinator. That confirmed to me, and hopefully everybody invested in KU football, that Bowen is really, really good.

What it also should tell everybody is that Beaty will do everything in his power to turn this program around. It certainly helps that he and Bowen are buddies and are thinking the same way about KU football.

Really, there’s nowhere to go but up. There has been nowhere to go but up ever since it bottomed out in the Turner Gill era and continued scraping along during Charlie Weis’ two-plus years. Bowen was the jolt the team needed last season, and if Beaty does nothing but keep the team at that level for an entire season, it will be an improvement.

Beaty and Bowen promise that KU football is a sleeping giant. If those guys can’t make the program rise then the blame can be laid squarely on the university. If Kansas has to go get another football coach before they have to get another new basketball coach, then they might as well forget about fielding a football team.

Eight coaches in thirty-two years ought to be proof enough of that.

photo courtesy: kusports.com