Friday, March 22, 2013

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Self explanatory.

Friday, March 15, 2013

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Baseball season is right around the corner, and thank goodness for that since both the Flyers and the Sixers are absolutely horrible at playing hockey and basketball. With that in mind, here is Mickey Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween, providing the background music for this Wilson baseball gloves commercial, as well as some of my own horrid amateur footage of Mickey jamming at the Invitational.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bernard Hopkins, The Ageless Wonder

Bernard Hopkins is at it again. Making history, that is. Two years ago, Hopkins became the oldest fighter in history to win a title by defeating Jean Pascal in the rematch of their first fight, which resulted in a controversial draw. He then lost his title in a 2012 rematch against Chad Dawson. On Saturday night, Hopkins broke his own record by beating Tavoris Cloud by unanimous decision for yet another belt. Hopkins is 48 years old.

Cloud came in to the fight with an unblemished 24-0 record and is 17 years Hopkins' junior. Many thought that age would finally catch up to Hopkins, but then again people have thought that for a long time and Hopkins continues to prove them wrong.

Hopkins has made a habit of proving people wrong. He was a clear underdog in his 2001 fight against the undefeated Felix Trinidad, a fight that he dominated before winning on a 12th-round TKO. He was a 3-1 underdog in his 2006 fight against Antonio Tarver, a fight Hopkins won decisively (scored 118-109 by all three judges). He was a 4-1 underdog when facing undefeated Kelly Pavlik in 2008. Many thought Pavlik would be the first boxer to knock Hopkins out. Bernard didn't get the memo and claimed a unanimous decision victory. And then he defeated Pascal in their rematch to become the oldest fighter to claim a title.

On Saturday night, the defying of odds continued. Hopkins produced a technical masterpiece, clearly dictating the pace of the fight and taking Cloud out of everything he wanted to do. He out-landed his much younger counterpart 169 to 139 and landed on 41% of his punches to Cloud's 21%. He opened a nasty cut on Cloud's eyelid that was incorrectly ruled an accidental head butt by referee Earl Brown, but it wouldn't matter. Hopkins became increasingly dominant as the fight continued.

While the fight lacked any devastating blows, it was entirely entertaining. There were several solid exchanges between the two, and Hopkins masterfully executed combinations. He used his knowledge and experience to pick apart his younger foe, and it was a joy to watch someone demonstrate such a mastery of his craft.

The fact that Bernard Hopkins, at age 48, can step into a boxing ring and not only be competitive, but decisively win, is absolutely incredible. It's a testament to his work ethic and to how well he has taken care of his body. Add to that the fact that he has 20 years of experience and knowledge fighting professionally, and you have a truly remarkable athlete.

Partly because boxing has struggled to remain relevant, and partly because of his style, I feel that Hopkins has been greatly under-appreciated by the mainstream sports world. But whether he is winning fights that nobody gave him a chance to win, defending his middleweight title for a record 20 times, or not once but twice becoming the oldest boxer to claim a belt, Bernard Hopkins is showing again and again that he is one of the all-time greats.

Inevitably, father time will catch up with Bernard Hopkins, and he will have to hang up the gloves. In the meantime, I urge you to pay attention to this man and watch and enjoy him while you can. He has truly mastered his craft, and he continues to defy the odds. Just as he continues to make Philadelphia proud.

Doug Collins Is An Insane Person

Doug Collins was the first overall pick and an all-star for the Philadelphia 76ers back in the heyday of the 1970s. He was always well-respected here for his intensity during his playing days, and he's always spoken kindly of Philadelphia, including when he returned to become head coach three years ago.

As such, Collins has been somewhat of a fan favorite over the years. Even when he frustrates the fans, they tend to offer the usual kind caveats about him, myself included.

Well guess what? Not anymore. Not here. Not from this guy. After the Sixers lost their fifth straight game last night after falling to the Orlando Magic, I cannot possibly say another kind word about Doug Collins until he is no longer employed as the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. Now, I'm not mad at Doug for the Sixers losing the game and falling to 23-39 on this unmercifully long season. Hell, I'm completely on board the tanking train. This team should be more worried about securing a good draft position to stockpile young talent.

No, I'm completely and utterly done with Doug Collins thanks to his completely, ridiculously insane comments about Nikola Vucevic — who again dominated the Sixers inside with a 14-point, 17-rebound effort — whom Collins coached as a rookie last year. Here are his remarks:

Collins said the biggest change that he's seen in Vucevic's game since the Sixers dealt him to the Magic is as simple as him getting more playing time. "I saw him at draft camp and said, 'That's my guy," Collins said. "Skilled, big, strong, and got a good feel for the game. A great kid. I love Nik. When he got minutes for us last year he performed very well."

What? No, seriously, what? Is Doug Collins aware that he was solely responsible for Vucevic's minutes last year? Is he aware that he's the one who buried Nik on the bench in favor of the ridiculously soft and all-around terrible Spencer Hawes?

Sit your ass back down!

If Nik Vucevic was "his guy," why the fuck did he turn his back on him? If when Nik "got minutes for us last year he performed very well," why the hell didn't he get more minutes? The only logical response to any of these questions is that Doug Collins is an insane person. That's it. That's the only explanation. Doug Collins is certifiably insane. And he should no longer be allowed to coach any professional basketball team for as long as he lives.

Now, a lot of people like to point out that Doug can't be blamed for this abysmal season given that it's been hijacked by Andrew Bynum. Never mind that Doug had a very big hand in the Bynum deal, and never mind that the guy has a history of ignoring or stunting young players in favor playing aging veterans. The simple fact of the matter is Doug Collins has no idea how to coach a team with long-term intentions, probably because he's never coached anywhere long term in his life.

The fact that he buried the rookie Vucevic in favor of the likes of the mediocre Hawes and nearly washed-up Elton Brand is proof of that. Now freed from the insanity of Collins, Vucevic is a walking double-double machine and top five rebounder in the NBA, hauling in 11.4 boards per game. For reference, Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand each averaged just a shade over 7 rebounds per game last year, more than four less than Vucevic is averaging now that he actually plays. This year, Spencer Hawes is only averaging 6.6 boards a game, tied with guard Evan Turner, and Lavoy Allen a laughable 5.4 rebounds a game. Pathetic.

Furthermore, Vucevic has absolutely destroyed Hawes, Lavoy Allen and anyone the Sixers have thrown at him this year on the boards, averaging 11.7 points and 16.7 rebounds against his former team.

So yes, Doug, Vucevic is "skilled, big, strong, and got a good feel for the game." And now that he's getting real minutes, he's proving exactly that. Why wasn't he afforded that opportunity last season by the guy who proclaims to love him? Because Doug Collins is an insane person. That's the only way his remarks make any sense.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Georgetown Forgot About Jay(Vaughn)

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting around with silver fox when he said we might as well go to the Georgetown-Villanova game to close out the Wildcats' regular season. Since the game was to be played at the Wells Fargo Center, securing tickets wouldn't be a problem, and shit, the game itself would most likely have huge NCAA Tournament implications for a Nova squad that has been on the bubble for more than a month.

So last night, the two of us headed down to the Wells Fargo Center and secured two tickets six rows off the court to the right of the Villanova band and student section.

After walking around a little bit deciding on food options, we finally nabbed a few overpriced sausages and headed to our seats. When we got there, an older woman had her coat and scarf draped over one of our two seats. Being the irrationally angry person I am at times, this infuriated me. Not the fact that the woman had her coat in a seat she didn't have a ticket for — if no one is next to you, by all means, put your coat there — but the fact that she was sitting a couple seats over, not directly next to her coat. The fuck was she doing?

Somehow showing some restraint, I was polite about it, handing her her coat and scarf and letting her know it was our seat, but I really wanted to choke her to death because I was in a bad mood and I had the feeling I was about to watch Villanova toss away its NCAA Tournament hopes the same way it had tossed away apparent victories over the likes of Seton Hall and Pittsburgh in previous games.

Add to that the fact that every time I got to a Villanova home game, I cannot help but notice the incredible lack of diversity of the crowd. Head to the travesty of a gym that is the Pavilion or take in a marquee game in South Philadelphia for the Wildcats, and you walk into seemingly some sort of J.Crew catalog ad. There are swarms of old to middle-aged couples wearing designer clothes and looking like people I would never even want to talk to, and then there's the student body you would associate with an expensive private university out on the Main Line. Translation — even as a middle-class white male who grew up mostly in suburbs before returning to the City of Brotherly Love as an adult, I feel much more comfortable at a Temple home game with its diverse crowd. I'm not entirely sure why, but there you have it.

Anyway, back to the game. Almost immediately, my fears were coming to fruition, as the Hoyas began the game with a three-pointer and jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead. I jokingly said the game was already over at that point, might as well beat the traffic.

But then a funny thing happened. Jay Wright made a quick substitution after his team started with two turnovers and a foul, and everything changed from there. Senior Mouphtaou Yarou was dominating the glass, and JayVaughn Pinkston was playing as aggressive as I've ever seen him play, attacking whichever Hoya was attempting to handle him inside nearly every possession he was on the court.

Further, Wright, sensing that he'd need his team fresh for an intense, crucial 40 minutes, began subbing his players in and out at nearly every dead ball, almost as if making line changes in hockey. It was quite a sight to behold, some real chess going on against John Thompson III, and it worked — perfectly. Before you could blink, the Wildcats went on a 10-2 run to take the lead, and suddenly it was a ballgame again. However, it was tough to tell from the crowd. The upper section was barren, and even the full lower bowl was subdued most of the first half. That is, until James Bell threw down a thunderous, improbable alley-oop from Ryan Arcidiacono. When Arcidiacono threw it, I honestly thought he had tossed it way too high and that it was destined to go out of bounds. Instead, Bell somehow caught it and threw it down emphatically, sparking the mostly dormant crowd.

By the time the first half was winding down, Nova had the ball up by four following an Arc three, and Mouphtaou Yarou hit a jumper as time was winding down to seemingly put the Cats up by six with 20 minutes to play. Alas, the ball was still in Mouph's hands as the buzzer sounded, so Nova had to settle for a four-point halftime lead. Not too shabby, particularly when you take into account the way Nova played that first half.

The aforementioned Pinkston was nearly unstoppable, embarrassing any Hoya who dared try to handle him, and he began to parade to the free throw line.

Mouph was a monster on the boards, cleaning up the glass any time the ball came near him, and Bell not only hit a couple of big three-pointers, but he also completely and utterly shut down the heralded Player of the Year candidate Otto Porter Jr. in the first 20 minutes, to the point that you could hardly notice Porter on the floor at all. It was the best defensive job I've ever seen Bell do, taking Georgetown's best player and making him a complete non-factor in the first half.

However, it was going to take another really strong half to come away with the victory. After all, the Hoyas kept it close despite sloppy play in large part because they were defending the three and giving Ryan Arcidiacono no space, and also because D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera kept hitting big shots every time it looked like Nova might pull away.

As expected, Georgetown did not go away quietly, but it really didn't matter. Wright continued his hockey-style substitutions, keeping all his guys fresh, and the defense continued to hound Georgetown into turnovers and bad shots. Porter did get on track a little when Bell wasn't guarding him, but with the game in the balance, Bell went back to his shutdown work on the top Hoya and took him off his game yet again.

From there, it was the JayVaughn Pinkston show. The man simply took over, playing arguably the best game of his career, if not then certainly the most aggressive.

Thanks to his aggressive nature, Nova was in the bonus and then double bonus in no time … but the Cats uncharacteristically were struggling from the line. Early anyway. But once it came to crunch time, Pinkston, Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard couldn't miss. Just like that, it was Nova's third victory of the season over a top 5 team, and it more than likely punched the Wildcats' ticket to the big dance.

It was a total team effort, no doubt. Defensively, James Bell was the star, keeping Porter in check and making him a complete non-factor at times. I can't say enough about the job Bell did last night. Further, his teammates were aggressive all over the court defensively, forcing 22 Georgetown turnovers and doing it without fouling.

Conversely, the team was just as aggressive on offense, getting to the line an insane 42 times, led by Pinkston — the star of the game — who managed a game-high 20 points on just 4-6 from the field … and 11-14 from the line. He added five steals and four boards for good measure.

On top of that, Nova didn't force things on the offensive end, particularly Arcidiacono. That's somewhat of a rarity for the freshman out of Neshaminy, a kid who's never passed up an open shot in his life. But last night, he was patient and smart with the ball. Arcidiacono went the first five minutes without even a shot attempt, and he only took five shots from the floor all game thanks to Georgetown's tremendous defense around the perimeter and defending the three-point line. So Arc just played within himself and the system and helped feed Pinkston and the rest of the squad.

It resulted in another great win for Nova, and now a team that many picked to finish at the bottom of the Big East standings is not only sitting at 10-8 in conference play, but at 19-12 overall with big victories over Louisville, Syracuse and now Georgetown. With last night's capper, Villanova should be securely in the field of 68 — a win or two (or three) in the Big East Tournament, and it's not even a question.

After the muted celebration, we headed out for celebratory cheesesteaks, watched some Workaholics and then saw us all get Nnamdi'd.

Maybe he was calling Ruxin while he was eating lunch in his car. It all makes sense now, unlike the Big 5 this year.

But hey, Villanova got a great victory last night, Temple destroyed Fordham and St. Joe's really destroyed Rhode Island, so things aren't nearly as bad as they were just a little while ago for Philadelphia college basketball. And now there's a very real chance Nova, Temple and La Salle will be dancing. For the Wildcats, they can thank Georgetown for forgetting about JayVaughn Pinkston last night.

Friday, March 1, 2013

It's Friday, Time to Dance

It's been a bit of a tumultuous basketball season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. They started out hot and climbed in the rankings, only to stumble and drop out of the Top 25 and all the way to the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Heading into Tuesday night's game against top-ranked Indiana, the Gophers had lost two in a row, four of their last five and were 3-8 in their last 11 games. Then they went out and defeated the Hoosiers and are now more than likely in the field of 68 sitting at 19-9 overall and 7-8 in perhaps the toughest conference in America, barring any Michigan-like catastrophic collapse against Big Ten basement dweller Penn State tomorrow.

That victory by Minnesota was huge, so what more appropriate time to show coach Tubby Smith, who seems like a genuinely awesome guy, lead a post-game dance party after a victory over Wisconsin earlier this year?

Enjoy the weekend, everyone. It's March now, meaning the madness is about to begin.