Monthly Archives: March 2008

Opening Day at the Nationals New Stadium

Tonight the Washington Nationals christened their brand new ballpark. Having lived in DC the past two years, witnessing the past two opening days in person, and watching 20-plus games at old RFK, this game certainly piqued my interest. It also didn’t hurt that the Nationals opened up against my beloved Atlanta Braves.

Based on all I could see radiating from my TV set, the new stadium is an amazing upgrade from the personality-lacking RFK. Food venues looked decent, the field didn’t show the evidence of splitting duties with a soccer team, and on the whole the stadium looked like a great place to enjoy a night or afternoon of baseball (perhaps this was aided by a 40,000+ crowd on hand). I can’t wait to catch a game there the next time I’m in the area.

I’ve yet to see a quality photo of the finished stadium as yet, but this might give you a good idea:

Picture source: The Ballparks of Baseball website
http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/future/wash751.jpg

Now that looks like a real ballpark. Eerily similar to the Braves’ own Turner Field… Apparently the Nats’ new home offers views of the Capitol and National Monument as well.

Sadly, the Braves lost 3-2… I didn’t have the chance to see much of the game, but I did see the Braves come from behind in the top of the 9th to tie it up 2-2 on a passed ball, but this excitement was brief. In the bottom of the inning Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off homer to make the inaugural day memorable for Nats fans. At least Zimmerman is a UVA baseball alum, so that lessens the pain.

Overall it’s been an abysmal day for teams I like… Texas lost by almost 20, and won’t be joining the Final 4. Also, Davidson lost by 2 to Kansas, ending the awe of the nation. We will now be “treated” to a Final Four with four #1s, which has never before happened. I don’t know what angers me more, how dull and uninteresting that makes next weekend or that millions of basketball idiots across the country who make picks solely on the basis of seed are slaughtering me.

For the record, I picked two of them, UNC and UCLA. My final is UNC over UCLA.

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The Yellow C in UCLA

What’s up with the yellow C in UCLA on the Bruins basketball jerseys? I’ve been wondering this for weeks but I finally found out. It’s not to emphasize California in the school name or to demonstrate that California is the Golden State in visual form… Actually, the C is the roman numeral for the number 100, and denotes that UCLA has compiled 100 team NCAA championships, the first of any athletic program in the country. Read more here.

Now you can have this piece of trivia at your disposal the next time it comes up in conversation.

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One Ugly Tree

California may have a lot of strong impressive trees, but the Stanford Cardinal mascot is not one of them. A state known for its beautiful, slender, sky-scraping redwoods and massive, daunting sequoias, one would think its best university would have a better tree representative. Nonetheless, Stanford University chooses to unite behind this ridiculous mascot:

Today’s basketball action featured the #3 Stanford Cardinal against the new hometown, #2 Texas Longhorns. Even though the Cardinal suffered a 20-point drubbing by the Horns, the camera always seemed to be pointed at this ridiculous-looking, floppy, dancing tree going into commercial breaks. Do fans actually unite behind this absurd, wobbling faux plant?

One would think after all these years of watching sports I would have seen this eye sore before, but this was actually a first. I can see why. Stanford probably wants to keep this unfortunate representative a secret so as not to deter their brilliant future applicants.

Also, what’s up with Stanford being called the Cardinal? Why does this school have to be so weird that they can’t pick a normal team name? I didn’t even know that Cardinal was the color of red (and not the bird) until about age 18. Of course, up until that time my question was, why can’t they be plural like everyone else?

In other news, Davidson clobbered #3 Wisconsin by 17. They now march on to the Elite 8 to play the winner of #1 Kansas-#12 Villanova. Kansas was up by 10 “at press time.”

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Sonic: Mystery Solved

Finally, after a year or two of checking every so often online, I found out what agency makes Sonic‘s hilarious commercials! Not only that, but someone else who touts the campaign’s genius. As it turns out, Barkley, an employee-owned agency out of Kansas City, churns out these dazzling ads.

According to an article in Ad Age (proof that someone else enjoys these commercials as much as I do), these ads are acted out by improv actors. Turns out the amazingly entertaining actors have been improvising gems to the prescribed scripts this entire time!

The commercials either show the same two male friends interacting or a husband and wife team. I think the commercials with the pair of guys are a complete riot. Here’s an example of the duo in action:

The husband and wife are less absurd, but are certainly still funny. They run in the 60th percentile of funniness, let’s say, while the all-guy team is consistently in the 80th-95th percentile. Nonetheless, I love that the wife is always giving the husband lip, instead of the other way around. The pitiful husband is a great foil to the stronger, and mildly sardonic wife. Check them out:

Just like I’ve been saying for several years now, I can’t wait to see what ol’ Sonic comes up with next. Apparently the guy team has made 115 “video blackouts” together since 2003. What great comedic chemistry!

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Significant Others and Team Allegiances

What do you do when your significant other has rooting interests differing from your own? Coming from relatively similar geographies, this issue is rarely broached in my own relationship. However, with the NCAA tournament showcasing so many teams, this issue has inevitably surfaced.

I’m from “ACC Country,” which means picking your one ACC team to root for regardless, hating either Duke or Carolina (for me, Duke), and talking smack about your conference’s superiority during basketball season, peaking in March. It also means once the tournament starts, rooting for all the ACC teams (except maybe Duke or UNC, depending on your preference), especially for someone like me, who gets to see their team in it about as often as Halley’s Comet.

My boyfriend, a Hoya alum, however, is a Big East fan. ACC fans and Big East fans don’t generally get along. Both tout their respective conferences’ strength of schedule, traditional matchups, powerhouses, and how many teams get invited to the Big Dance. Well the Big East got 8 bids to the ACC’s 4 this year, so needless to say, my argument this year hasn’t been particularly compelling.

Besides the ACC, I also tend to root for so-called “mid-major” schools hailing from smaller, lesser known conferences from Virginia and North Carolina. In past years that has included University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University (aka VCU), George Mason, Old Dominion, and UNC-Wilmington.

When the bracket first came out for this year’s tournament, I was particularly excited about Davidson, a mid-major out of North Carolina. I knew they were undefeated in their conference and were on a 22-game win streak, but what had impressed me most about Davidson was their ability to play with mighty Carolina in a game at the start of the season. Ranked #1 at the time, UNC escaped with a narrow 4-point victory. That’s not to say the teams are even close to the teams they were at the start of the season, but this still left a lasting impression on me. When I saw that Davidson was a #10 seed and was facing #7 Gonzaga in the first round, I was certain that Davidson would be victorious and move on to the second round to face #2 Georgetown. As it happened, the first found was a lot closer with the Zags than I had anticipated, but the outcome turned out favorably, with a Davidson victory. I thought Georgetown would face a tough opponent in Davidson in the second round, but you pick your entire bracket before any of the games happen, so only time would tell.

Then came the big showdown between David and Goliath on Sunday afternoon. My boyfriend, whose weekend plans revolved around Georgetown’s playing schedule (and reasonably so), was glued to the action. Speaking on the phone before the game, I wished his team good luck, but chose not to convey the fact that I was rooting for Davidson. Watching the game in the comfort of my home I could freely root for Davidson without apology, but I felt like a fraud inside. When Davidson slipped by Georgetown in the waning minutes, I was excited for the Cinderella possibilities, but this pleasure was immediately soured by the anguish I knew my boyfriend was experiencing.

I have found that the best solution to this predicament is to be supportive, but to keep your own rooting interests silent. Unless it’s a team you fervently root for all the time, or the “other” team in a contest featuring a team you hate, it isn’t worth being over-the-top in your rooting interests. We’ll see how this approach works in the coming weeks. I have to root for some underdog, and none of the others particularly interest me right now. Though to be honest, the tournament is addictive every year, no matter what storylines surface.

In the meantime, gooo-ooo-ooo Davidson. 2 more days ’til the return of the Madness!

Picture source: CBS News website: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/23/ap/sportsline/main3960789.shtml

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There are no Cinderellas

I’m really digging this new Nike commercial I keep seeing during the tournament. I stop and pay it respect every time it comes on:


John Thompson III watching Pops on the tube. Appalachian State football. Jimmy Valvano running around the court in disbelief. A reprise of John Thompson III, this time at Georgetown practice overseeing his team running the Princeton drill. Boise State practicing the Statue of Liberty play. MJ hitting the shot. Long, mesmerizing video cuts. The tolling bell bringing it all together.

Another great Wieden + Kennedy Nike spot. Wow.

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March Madness… why not start a blog?

It’s the most wonderful time of the sports year! All year I wait for the Ides of March, give or take a few days, and the time is finally here. With St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, and Easter all squished into one week, what’s not to like?

Unlike yesterday’s relatively unexciting day of hoops as measured by the upset barometer, the tournament has lived up to its billing today. Yesterday’s highlight was #2 Duke’s narrow 1-point escape of #15 Belmont. But today… well we’re only half done and so far:

  • #13 San Diego beat #4 Connecticut 70-69 in OT
  • #12 Western Kentucky beat #5 Drake on a last-second 3-pointer in OT, 101-99
  • #10 Davidson beat #7 Gonzaga by 6 after trailing by as much as 11 during the game. The effort was led by Stephen Curry who poured in 40 points.

By the way, San Diego and Western Kentucky will face off in the 2nd round. Yes a 12 versus 13. One will make the Sweet 16. If you’re looking for a Cinderella, this is the game to watch.

My bracket is doing so-so thus far, but the first round isn’t over yet. For the second year in a row I ended up picking the same Final 4 as a famous ESPN commentator. Last year I picked the same as Michael Wilbon of PTI: Georgetown, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Florida. This year Dick Vitale and I both think #1 UNC will take it all, in a final against #1 UCLA, with #2 Georgetown and #2 Texas rounding out the 4. Oh yeah, guess who else has UNC over UCLA in the final? Barack Obama.

So far I’ve lost 3 of my Sweet 16, but no teams in later rounds. I correctly called #10 Davidson over #7 Gonzaga, but my other calls (#14 Georgia over #3 Xavier and #9 Baylor over #6 Purdue) haven’t panned out. I have a couple more upsets up my sleeve for later rounds, but definitely no 12’s or 13’s in the Sweet 16.

On a (yet another) personal note, I was sad to see George Mason lose in the first round. Who wasn’t a bandwagon fan during their incredible run in 2006? Regardless, I fell in love again when I saw a GMU fan who held up a sign during the CAA conference tournament proclaiming, “George Mason is this year’s George Mason.” Funny, but sadly, not this year. Oh well. I guess the lack of repeating will make the run all the more memorable… unless WKU or San Diego duplicate the magic in ’08?

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