Tag Archives: The U

The Unfortunate Return of “The U”

Like Jason in the “Friday the 13th” Movies, “The U” appears to be back.

I know “everyone” (defined as the college football media and the FCS-sized Miami fan base) seems to be excited about the reemergence of “The U”. I’m not going to lie, I kind of liked Miami more when they were “The Who?” based on their pedestrian performance since joining the ACC in 2004.

Let’s be honest about Miami, they don’t represent the best that college sports have to offer America’s youth, even when they aren’t very good. What does Miami have in common with classic NFL warriors like Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Heath Miller, & Mike Singletary? I’d say the answer is nothing.

Unfortunately, Virginia gave the ‘Canes the opportunity to sport their ridiculous turnover chain 3 times on Saturday. Virginia played a spirited game against Miami on Saturday. Virginia fans might complain that this was a winnable, signature game that got away. Virginia has rallied well many times this season when they took a punch from their opponents and turned tough games into wins. Miami’s punches didn’t crush Virginia on Saturday, rather Virginia punching itself undid its aspirations for an unlikely win. For all the things Virginia did well against the Canes, to beat the #3 team in the country on the road takes a near flawless performance. For all of the positive plays Virginia made, there were too many field-position mistakes that allowed Miami’s offense to start with short fields well inside Virginia territory.

The bottom line on the game? Miami has more better players than Virginia, an outstanding head coach, and played in front of a crowd that exceeded Miami’s normal FCS standards. Virginia made a few critical mistakes that hurt their cause. If one is a conspiracy theorist, the fix was in from on high from the ACC or the NCAA as officiating was below Pop Warner quality, with the worst calls all going against Virginia.

The worst part of Virginia’s loss to Miami was not the loss itself, but rather that it tossed fuel on the fire for the resurrection of “The U” and all that it entails. Some things are best left in the trash bin of American culture. Breakdancing, Pet Rocks, The Bee Gees, and the unfortunate antics of “The U” are things we all could have done without in perpetuity.

“The U” joined the ACC in 2004 along with Virginia Tech. There is no doubt ACC leadership had dreams of regular FSU/Miami championship games with packed stadiums and signed contracts for the first 5 ACC title games to be played in Florida. When Wake Forest showed up to play Georgia Tech in 2006, and Boston College played Virginia Tech the following 2 years, things were not exactly going according to plan.

Miami is finally going to make it to the ACC title game this year, albeit 12 years late. The worst thing that could happen for the ACC, college athletics, and the future of American culture would be for Miami to win this game. While the antics of “The U” are not yet down to the standards of the past, I loathe the thought of what could pass, should Miami beat Clemson in 2 weeks.

When I think about the epics struggles in American athletics over the years and the societal good that so many have delivered to American culture, I wonder what true legends like Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Hank Aaron would have to say about the turnover chain and the bravado of “The U”. I suspect they might wonder what it was they suffered and fought for if this was the end result.

Let’s hope for a Clemson victory in the ACC championship game and for a modicum of restraint if the unthinkable happens.

More Than a Friday: It’s a Rap…by De La Soul

I’m back. At least I think I’m all the way back. I like to travel; check that, I love to travel, but there’s no question it takes a lot out of me, both physically and mentally.

Between Phoenix, Charlotte, and Cleveland, my phone spent a lot of time in Airplane Mode last week. As a means of making phone calls or doing any internetty things, the iPhone 6+ is basically a paperweight. Among those things, would be my preferred method of listening to music via streaming, but Google Play decided some songs are stored locally. I have no idea which ones, or what the criteria is for off-line listening, but it sure beats those non-SkyMall magazines. One of the songs that came up, De La Soul’s “Itzsoweeze”, reminded me why it’s on my playlist; it’s fun.

Now, what seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote a Pac-12 weekend recap called “Pac-Raps”, where each game would be tied into lyrics from some 90s rap tune. We’re going to do that again here, sans Pac-12 football.

Great all-dedication
Mos Def affiliation
Adequate representation
This is the phat presentation
De La dedication
Common Sense collaborations
Peace to all of you Haitians
Check it out

Maybe I don’t have the star-power of Mos Def and Common collaborating with me on any More Than A Fan venture, a la the guests on “Stakes Is High” album, but I don’t mind thanking the likes of Kevin Noon, Joe Posnanski, Martin Rickman, Bruce Jacobs, Mark Asher, and countless others for speaking with me at one time or another, as I’ve ventured into this realm.

Of course, my De La dedication is all about the many scribes at More Than A Fan that do what they need to do to keep the lights on in these parts.

If money makes a man strange — we gots to rearrange
So what makes the world go round
If love is against the law — listen I don’t know
Gotta change how it’s goin down

We all know we can’t be consumed by greed, because that paper isn’t going to be there forever, but it’s about fame and glory, or whatever too. Think fame lasts forever? You must not get VH1.

In 2015, we probably think of one primary thing, when we wonder if love against the law, and the Supreme Court has dictated that it’s no longer a violation of law to go there. Instead, I think of defending your dedication to something like, say my beloved Cleveland Browns. I’m asked, why do you settle for such futility? My response is, I love them or I love nothing at all–NFL related, of course.

Fell in love with this fish who got caught in my mesh
But yo she burned my scene up like David Koresh
I guess a diamond ain’t nothing but a rock with a name
I guess love ain’t nuttin but emotion and game
It’s a lesson well learned so praise is well due
I’m sendin off from Big I, to Kenny Calhoun

38efddd5a963fd50537371cb7cc3612a68c351c6I could go on and on about the Browns, and how I’m always so twisted emotionally over the reboot, while I can’t let go of my decades-old angst against the original version that planted their flag in Maryland, but what does that accomplish?  I deal with the fact that, more regularly than not, they light up dumpsters like Waco in ’93, but I just flew home to see them win, so no grievances for the team that calls the shores of Lake Erie home, not at the moment.

Let’s take our focus down I-71, to a struggling Ohio State team that still holds the #1 spot in the presently meaningless rankings. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, my focus moved from Sunday to Saturday, and I gave a little more love to John Cooper’s Buckeyes, and they would typically break my heart, in the same style that their former professional counterpart to the Northeast did so often. In 1999, something looking like my first love returned to the scene, but I was still locked in on Saturdays, Na’il Diggs, and Steve Bellisari. Then, they discarded the label-makers that wrote out “COOP” on the headsets, and went with some guys with sleeveless sweaters from Youngstown to right the ship.

The rise of the Scarlet and Grey was fun, but it was not fulfilling on a personal level. Perhaps it would be different if there was a degree with “The Ohio State University” on top hanging on the wall, or even a class schedule or some type of receipt in some drawer, from that school somewhere. It was the same emptiness that I felt when celebrating the Diamondbacks 2001 World Series victory; I didn’t put in my due time with either.

No regrets or anything, just a lesson well-learned. On another note, I have no idea what a “Big I” is, but Kenny Calhoun was all about “The U”, and I don’t need Billy Corben to tell me that. Dove, aka David Jude Jolicoeur, was from Brooklyn with Haitian roots. I didn’t realize it until LeBron James joined the Heat, but Miami is treated as local by those from the West Indies and nearby areas, as regional as Boston is to Maine, I suppose.

And add a reservation for the resident crew
And yo get your bowl cuz we cookin up stew
See them Cubans don’t care what y’all _____s do
Colombians ain’t never ran with your crew
Why you acting all spicy and sheisty
The only Italians you knew was icees, _____s price me

To those who only use social to associate with famous, or Twitter-famous, types, they really need to show some diversity in their conversations. I had someone from back east ask what was going on with the Arizona Coyotes and Glendale a few months back, offered my opinion, and someone stepped in to tell the person to trust only a local Fox Sports reporter has the right information. Talk about something that grinds my gears; my opinion was based off of that reporter’s reports, but someone had to play the role of white knight for a media-type.

I’m sure that reporter, and many others like him, don’t care whether or not they’re included in every conversation about the team they cover. These are close-minded individuals, who shun any idea that doesn’t come from their idols. Much like John Gotti likely never cared or knew who Jay-Z was, a journalist cares very little about how often they’re @’d.

Also, this song wouldn’t have made the cut for Pac-Raps for inclusion of the words blanked out, but you can figure out what those words are. I wish it were a word that would just disappear, but I’m not really welcome to the table where that discussion takes place. Whatever, it is what it is with that.

I’m keepin it clean, like a washing machine
And yo, get your locomotion run into full steam
I’m sending out a greeting to my man Daseem
I got a child so I gotsta get the green, right right

World_Series_Giants_Royals_BaseballIf you’re going to do something, do it right. Let’s not be so naive as to say that MLB did this for the fans; it’s all about the money here, but it coincidentally turned out to be a solid move to add a second wild-card team, expanding their post-season tournament to ten teams. Does one-third of the league belong in the post-season? It depends on who you ask, but it definitely worked for the eventual World Champion Giants a year ago.

One game, and it’s clean. I love the focus it puts on winning your division, in order to avoid a 1-game “do or die” scenario, and I like how many teams are playing meaningful games in late-September. Now, it’s not as clean as a washing machine if the Indians and Tigers have to play a game on October 5th, which may or may not equal the Tribe playing again on Tuesday to play-in to a play-in game, but there’s always a worst case scenario.

Itzsoweezee, it’s gettin hot this year
Itzsoweezee, it’s gettin hot

Summer ended this week, and I couldn’t be more welcoming to the Autumn months. For those that still care about baseball, you’re going to get both New York teams, the Cubs and Dodgers, and some small-market teams that you haven’t seen in the post-season in a while. Add football with its sea-legs beneath it, both on Saturday and Sunday (and sometimes Thursday), to serve as a prelude to Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell beginning their pro careers, and October is a beautiful month on the sports landscape.

They make it to easy to enjoy sports.

I own the deeds to some acres in the West Indies
Where my pops is building residence to house my seed
Now here’s the lead, y’all niggas pray to hot rods and not God
While Versace play you niggas like Yahtzee
Crackin jokes like you Patzi
(When’s the last time you had Happy Days?)
Blazin up your herb to escape the maze, but the problem stays

This is what the track is about, right here. Be you. And that goes for sports fans, just the same. Don’t get caught up in buying jerseys and sneakers. Don’t spend your whole life on the phone or computer. Apple, Samsung, Nike; they’re all taking us for a ride, reducing us to little pink or blue plastic pieces in “The Game of Life”. You missed a Tweet, and didn’t get the breaking news until ten minutes after everyone else? So the hell what!

If you partake in the herb, that’s cool. What? I’m no cop. That isn’t the only escape though; for a lot us, it’s these games, and if they frustrate us, so what! Life can be one problem after another, and when our teams lose or win, we are going to have to wake up to those same problems the next day. We might as well enjoy the time in between.

Think big get it big is my motto
You can go and play your lotto, I’ll be singin like baby won’t you be mine
You’ll be pressin rewind, you can never see mine
Keep your eyes focused, you can’t touch this or quote this
Style is crazy bogus so you can’t try to approach this
Stomp you out like roaches, pullin on my coattail
Like some horses pullin coaches, WHOA your roller coasters
It’s hotter than the temperature that’s cookin in your toasters
While the heat’ll put you deep into hypnosis

All I have to say, is this is a great verse.

Think big.

Live in the moment.

Know what you want on your highlight reel, and replay those moments in your mind.

Itsoweezee, Enola in the area
Itsoweezee, Timbo King’s in the area
Itsoweezee, Maseo’s in the area
Itsoweezee, ninety-six in your area
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd lawd!
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd lawd lawd
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd, for y’all peace
Itsoweezee

Itsoweezee

It all comes full circle. In sports (and My Cousin Vinny), it’s win some, lose some. The champs are all 0-0, once the calendar resets itself to begin the next season. The chumps take their high draft choices and start on equal ground with the team that won it all, but that win was last year’s news.

The time is now, and you can’t worry about last year, last week, and the people that were with you then. You see who stands by you now, and that’s your team.

A Tale of Two Miami

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games a game that could have been better.  It was once an introduction to the wisdom of small-time Jim Tressel in the desert, and it was Urban Meyer losing his first BCS Bowl as a head coach in the proximity of South Beach, thus completing the epilogue to the foolishness of the man who wore a sweater vest in Columbus.  Everything in between was a chapter in that book, everything that happens from here on out is a new book.

That January 3rd was a Friday, too.  It was 11 years ago, but I remember it quite well.  This time around, Ohio State was just a part of my night.  Back then, it was my entire night, my entire January, and my entire 2003; in fact, it came close to being the defining moment of the “aughts” decade for me.

The moments from that year remain fresh on my mind.  The expectations are never rock-bottom for Ohio State, but they were coming off another Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina, despite Jim Tressel making good on his plan to make the student body proud of what they’d do in Ann Arbor 310 days after taking the job.  Only, this time around, the what-Miami or “The U” became the where-the location in South Florida.  I honestly don’t remember what was anticipated of them, but a date with Miami in Tempe on a Friday night in January was far from everyone’s mind, I’m sure.  This season, the sky was the limit, and also the only acceptable destination. They were looking at a schedule that lacked a significant challenge; no eventual Pac-12 Champion, no Big XII opponent, and no in-state road game.

Photo credit: simononsports.blogspot.com

What both seasons offered was a running back, one surrounded by controversy at one point or another, that put the team on his back and just refused to lose.  In 2002, you remember where you were when for the moments; at The Vine on Apache and Rural when Will Allen saved the day with a game-ending pick in Cincinnati, at the local bar watching the corner TV when Chris Gamble scored the only Ohio State touchdown of the day on a pick-six against Penn State at The Shoe, taking in “Holy Buckeye” from my couch after a late Friday night showing of 8 Mile, and the nervousness of overtime in Champaign with the Phoenix chapter of the Ohio State Alumni Club with Dave and my Pops.  A week later, Dave and I were back at that same dive on Camelback and 7th Street, but my father had returned to Ohio, so I’m not sure if I’ve ever witnessed an Ohio State win over Michigan in his company.

When I first moved to the Valley of the Sun, I didn’t have much going on, but I always had Dave.  He was from Ohio, I was from Ohio, and we both liked Ohio State football, so that was enough.  Every Monday, we spoke of the weekend’s game, and he’d pass along his Buckeye Sports Bulletin whenever possible.  This wasn’t the most joyous practice in 2001, conversations about Booker Stanley and a quarterback controversy that involved the names Krenzel and McMullen come to mind.  Flash forward to the following year, as one second was all that stood between that Ohio State team and a 13-0 season that would earn them a trip to the desert, and only John “The Statue” Navarre could tempt fate.  It might have been a few too many Bud Lights, but I couldn’t figure out the math, was Dave old enough to remember 1968?  He was 38, and he’d be able to enjoy a title this time around, much more than when he was 3.

I still watch the games, but they aren’t appointment viewing for me, by any means, these days.  Dave and I still chat and exchange emails about the game ahead and what we took away from the previous Saturday’s game, but there’s no mystery to it; in most weeks, they’re going to win, everyone expects it, and no one respects it.  After the 2002 win, Craig Krenzel had beaten rival Michigan in consecutive seasons.  No Ohio State quarterback had ever done that in my lifetime, but Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor have both done it since, provided you aren’t going to be a jerk about the vacated 2010 season.  Winning that game at the end of the year just doesn’t mean that much, either because Ohio State has graduated on to bigger goals or because Michigan isn’t up to the task anymore.  In 2002, beating Michigan was almost enough for the fans, but by 2013, it was barely enough and perhaps inadequate, standing on its own.

There was no obstacle between Michigan and the bowl game, just Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.  Michigan State proved to be a difficult road block for Urban Meyer this time around.  Jim Tressel didn’t even have to see Michigan State in a 14 game season, or Iowa, who finished undefeated in Big Ten play that year.  The Pac-10 was too much for the other Big 10 rep in a BCS Bowl that year, as Ohio State fans felt conflicted watching the Trojans handle the Hawkeyes in Miami on January 2nd, the night before their Friday night date with juggernaut.  Clemson didn’t quite earn themselves a juggernaut label this year, but Ohio State fans have resorted to openly rooting for their Big Ten rivals, as if they’re obligated to do so in the present tense.  The conference allegiance held strong on New Years Day in Pasadena, where Michigan State handled Stanford in the 100th Granddaddy of Them All.  Michigan State’s Head Coach was calling the game of his life, as Tressel’s defensive coordinator, in Tempe, 11 years ago this day.

There was orange to be seen on January 3rd, then and now, and I’m not just talking about the trophy, the color of the seats, or the Discover Card sponsored logo.  Miami wore green jerseys, but orange was arguably still their primary color.  Clemson wore white on Friday night, and there’s little debate that they’re the orange team.  The Buckeyes were a well-documented 13-point underdog, in the days and weeks leading up to that game designated as a championship.  In this crazy new world we live in, a few weeks without a game sent Ohio State from the favorites column to the underdog one, an 8-point swing from what I saw.  A few fans were willing to admit that beating Miami that night would be a tall order, but there was no consensus going into this one.  In the interest of full disclosure, my predictions were a loss for the Scarlet and Gray both times.  I remember discussing it with the designated driver on the eve of the game in 2003, while everyone else was liquored up enough to prognosticate with their hearts instead of their heads, and good for them for enjoying life.

Despite what I believed to be a morose inevitability for that night to be all about The U, you couldn’t accuse me of not enjoying life in my first 72 hours of 2003.  We rode down Mill Avenue in an RV, singing “Hang On Sloopy” at the top of our lungs, and when we crossed Rio Salado, we took the bridge over Tempe Town Lake, went around the block to University and Mill, started the track over, and did the same thing over and over.  We found older adults to assume the role of parents to our underage friends, so they could enter a 21 & over bar, exploiting the loophole that allowed minors to enter with “guardian”.  There were stories of paid entertainers doing inappropriate things with Buckeye necklaces in lieu of beads, but to elaborate would put this network’s PG-13 status in jeopardy.

brax

In contrast, on this eve of the Orange Bowl, my wife and I rented a movie, then watched the 4th quarter of the Sugar Bowl.  On gameday, I worked a full day, like a normal human being, then met my parents for dinner.  We couldn’t even get a table in the bar/lounge area, and were stuck on the family side of the joint, which fortunately had TVs.

On the day of the Championship, and granted, it was in town that year, I attempted to work.  Around lunch time, my boss granted me parole, and the tailgating began just a short walk from Sun Devil Stadium.  By the way, I didn’t get a ticket for the game, because I was waiting for a connection that fell through.  I even turned down a friend of a friend, who was seeking $300 for a single.  In comparison, $2000 wasn’t enough for two tickets to a BCS Championship game across town 4 years later.

Then and now, there were concerns about the defense being able to stop their opponent’s explosive offense, but that turned out not to be a legitimate fear in 2003.  In 2014, it was a very real combination of inept defense meeting explosive offense, but that great Miami team didn’t have anyone dominate quite the way Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins did on Friday night.  Willis McGahee might have, but his night was cut short by injury.  Injury to a star offensive player may have influenced the outcome again, on the same day, 11 years later.

“Whoa Nelly” had been replaced with “Buckaroo”, and it was Braxton Miller being too beat up to carry Ohio State across the finish line in a 40-35 loss.  Back then, it was Miami’s Ken Dorsey, who had been knocked silly and unable to extend the game.  We witnessed that again on Friday, on Braxton Miller’s final interception of the night, a pass that might have given the Buckeyes a 41-40 lead with the appropriate amount of touch.

A lot of people felt the Big XII officials gave them a reprieve in 2003, when Miami’s Glen Sharpe was called for pass interference on what would have been the game’s final play on a would-be failed 4th down play, but the truth is that Ohio State should have never been in that situation.  While I don’t expect an overwhelming amount of talk to linger about it, a case could be made against full possession of that final interception, but it should have never come to overtime for Ohio State and Miami and Clemson should not have needed another stop.

Miami sent the 2003 game to OT on a Todd Sievers field goal that was set up by a long punt return, on the third down play that was allegedly not converted and preceded the punt, a case could be made for a bad no-call or a bad ruling of an incomplete pass.  A victory in either case meant Miami never saw the ball and never forced the extension of the game.  An inexplixable throw from Clemson’s Tajh Boyd to Ohio State’s CJ Barnett could have drawn comparisons to Brian Sipe’s wounded duck in the 1980 playoffs, commonly known by Cleveland Browns fans as Red Right 88.  His defensive teammates bailed him out on Miller’s errant throw.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gylc-sBL48k

I thought back to Ohio State’s last BCS bowl, whether it was vacated or not, where the Buckeyes caught a major break in the end.  Solomon Thomas, one of the lesser known names in the Tattoo scandal, intercepted Ryan Mallett to ice the game for Jim Tressel in his last game as a head coach, to temporarily get in the win column against the Southeastern Conference with a win over Arkansas.  On Friday, they played a team that they hadn’t seen since Woody Hayes last game as Ohio State’s head coach in 1978.  There were quite a few parallels to be drawn between the 2003 Fiesta Bowl and 2014 Orange Bowl, even if the former was much more crisp.  I’d compare the biggest play of that game, Maurice Clarett’s strip of Sean Taylor after an interception to the biggest Ohio State defensive play against Clemson, which was Vonn Bell’s miraculous effort to keep Clemson from going up 21-9 in the second quarter with an interception of Boyd’s attempt to get six with the flick of a wrist.  Actually, it didn’t matter; the Bucks stalled on offense, and the Tigers scored on their next possesion, making it 20-9.  In defeat, I got in the car and conversed with my wife on the way home.  In victory, I showed up at a neighbors house, with no voice, whispering at the top of my lungs, that they did it, and also that I hadn’t been to bed yet; it was 1:00 on Saturday afternoon.

On the surface, it was a disappointing loss for Ohio State and a signature win for Clemson.  This is the high point for Dabo Swinney’s team, but another disappointment for Urban Meyer and a major disappointment for his fans, who want to celebrate more often than once a decade.  Things worked out well when Miami had to come to them, but when forced to visit Miami in a “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain” situation, a team from a Valley called Death made things less well in the end.

What a difference 11 years can make.