WINNING & MUSING…VOLUME 2.22 

Greetings sports fans. We’re still talking about football, but there are a couple of other topics thrown into the mix as well. I hope the sun is shining wherever you are and cooler temperatures are giving way to the delightful warmth of spring. 

Heavenly Father, bless Deshaun Watson, for he hath sinned. Now, I bet you think you know what I am referring to, but you’d probably be wrong. Don’t misunderstand…I am not looking past the allegations of sexual misconduct against Watson. However, a grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, so I am left with the impression that he is simply a single, wealthy horndog who enjoys a good massage a bit too much and expects favors many young ladies are not willing to grant. I believe he acted inappropriately, but to my knowledge no one was raped. Deshaun Watson may be creepy, but he’s not a criminal, and since I wasn’t exactly a saint when I was a 20-something I simply hope the young man learned his lesson, has been humbled, and will be better going forward. That being said, I cannot overlook the fact that Watson, who understandably wanted away from the dumpster fire that is the Houston Texans, ended up approving a trade to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns!! This dude could’ve gotten a new start in Carolina, Atlanta, or New Orleans…and he chose Cleveland!! Has he never heard of Tim Couch?? Colt McCoy?? Brady Quinn?? Brandon Weeden?? Hell, I could list two dozen more quarterbacks whose career died in The Factory of Sadness. I’ve been a big fan of Deshaun Watson since his days at Clemson, and I was counting on him to lead my dynasty fantasy team for the next decade, but I can’t cheer for the QB of the Browns, so I traded him for multiple draft picks. Thanks for nothing you moron. 

Baseball’s Opening Day has finally arrived. As a lifelong Pirates’ fan it is difficult for me to be as excited as some of y’all might be, but it is a cultural touchstone and an unofficial (late) welcome to spring, so I am happy to embrace the event in the spirit in which it is intended. Pirates games are soothing background noise while I read a book or mindlessly scroll on my phone, so atleast I have that going for me for the next six months, which is nice. 

I might have more thoughts on the NFL Draft before April 28, but for now let me offer one strong opinion. If my Pittsburgh Steelers mortgage the future to move up & select a quarterback who is far from certain to be a generational talent then the powers-that-be are absolute fools. I don’t think any quarterback in this draft is worthy of a first round pick, and I’m not sure any of them will be that successful in the NFL. I would prefer to see the Steelers address numerous other issues and ride with free agent signee Mitch Trubisky for a season (or two). If that means a couple of losing seasons before rebounding into perennial playoff contention for another long stretch then I’m okay with it. They’ve done a surprisingly good job of improving the offensive line this offseason, and I feel like they’re a wide receiver & perhaps some defensive depth away from being way better than anyone expects, but that isn’t a good enough reason to reach for a rookie quarterback in the draft. 

Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks for winning the NCAA Basketball National Championship. To be honest this year’s March Madness wasn’t all that memorable or compelling, although there were some decent games & exciting moments. The tournament felt kind of like cotton candy though…tastes sweet for a few fleeting seconds then melts away into nothingness. After all the hype about Gonzaga and upsets by underdogs like St. Peter’s & Miami (FL) the title game came down to Kansas & North Carolina…two blue-bloods despite the Tar Heels’ misleading #8 seed. As a fan there simply wasn’t anything to keep my attention outside of Coach K’s retirement. The title game being on TBS was weird, and not even One Shining Moment felt like Must See TV. 

It looks like Tiger Woods, a little over a year after suffering career threatening injuries in a car accident, will play in The Masters. As a fan I am excited to see him in the field, although expectations are obviously minimized. No one expects him to contend or even make the cut. As a human being I am fascinated by his redemption & comeback story. The sins of Tiger Woods are well-documented, but I am certainly not inclined to throw stones. The fact is that Woods in The Masters is good for golf and good for sports. If only my man Phil Mickelson were playing in the tournament 🤦🏻‍♂️…but that’s a whole other story. 

Speaking of basketball, it is my understanding that the NBA Playoffs will begin soon. I have no idea who the odds on favorites are or which teams may or may not be in the field. I believe I heard or read that the Los Angeles Lakers will miss the playoffs altogether, which makes me chuckle. Lebron James can pucker up & kiss my crippled fat ass *lol*. 

I suppose I have to address the Tom Brady situation. God knows I’d rather not think about the dude, much less write about him. At any rate, first Adam Schefter broke the news that TB12 was retiring, then Brady’s Dad was like “not so fast”, then a few days later Brady did post a retirement announcement on Instagram, because I guess that’s how it’s done nowadays. But wait…there’s more!! Like Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert, Tom Brady spent 40 days in retirement before resurrecting his career. Much like Halloween‘s Michael Myers, the Clintons, and numerous rock bands who are my grandfather’s age, Brady just won’t go away. The only good to come out of this is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger won’t be forced into the background during the Hall of Fame festivities five years from now. 

The Madness 2022

Two years ago one of the first signs that the Covid-19 pandemic might be a bigger deal than many originally thought it to be was the stunning cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness became March Sadness very quickly. In 2021 the tournament returned, albeit with all the requisite virus-related protocols that we now know were pretty much useless. And now, though The Sickness is still an issue, most of us have decided to move forward, live our lives, and do our best without meaningless virtue signaling that does very little to protect anyone from anything. As far as I know that means March Madness will get underway tomorrow with all the pomp & circumstance it deserves. Technically the action is already underway with play-in games, or what the powers-that-be refer to as the First Four. I don’t pay any attention to those games, so for our purposes they’ll simply be overlooked. 

After years of hoping WordPress would create some sort of brackets plug-in to no avail I finally stumbled upon a way to visually represent my entire bracket here. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do. A few things should be noted. First, this is my one & only bracket. I do not create multiple “Sheets of Integrity” (shout out to my guys Mike & Mike). I don’t enter into a bunch of contests trying to make big bucks off of this deal, mostly because I’m not that good of a prognosticator (if you follow our Pigskin Picks of Profundity during football season you’re well aware of that). I did throw $10 into one thing my nephew is doing, but I have low expectations. At any rate, this is really just a way for me to have some fun & make the games a bit more interesting, especially since neither my alma mater Marshall Thundering Herd or home team West Virginia Mountaineers are playing in the postseason. Also, as you’ll see, I really controlled myself when it comes to picking upsets. There’s alot of chalk in these choices. I know there’ll be a few shockers, but I have no idea what they will be so mostly I err on the side of caution and stay rather conservative in my predictions. The truth is that I don’t follow basketball nearly as close as I do football, so I am even more out of my depth than usual. That’s fine with me. I’ll still be glued to my television for the next few days, and if you are here I am guessing you will be too. 

East

The Baylor Bears are the defending National Champions (they beat Gonzaga for the title a year ago in case you forgot), and I think they have as good a chance to repeat as any champion we’ve seen in awhile. I’ve got Virginia Tech upsetting Texas and San Francisco beating Murray St. in Round 1, with the regional final coming down to Baylor & Kentucky. If that comes to pass it could be a hell of a game, but I think the Bears get the job done and return to the Final Four. 

West

I have to give Gonzaga credit. When a basketball team from a school in Spokane, WA  that no one had ever heard of burst onto the scene in 1999 by making it to the Elite 8 I don’t think anyone thought much of it. Just another Cinderella, right?? There’s one or two every year. But here we are, more than two decades later, and the Bulldogs have become not only a tournament mainstay but a consistent Top 10 team. Do they play the same level of competition as programs in the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, etc.?? Maybe not, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve appeared in two Final Fours in the past five years, falling short in the title game both times. Can they go that far again?? Most of the talking heads will say yes, but I disagree. New Mexico St. over Connecticut is my choice for the annual 5/12 upset, but that’s the only surprise I foresee in the first round. Actually, it’s chalk all the way thru except for that game, which would set up an epic Gonzaga-Duke regional final and a bit of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog kind of guy, but who could’ve predicted just a few years ago that the Blue Devils would ever be the underdogs in this matchup?!?!?!?? I realize that Duke isn’t the same level of great they might’ve been a decade ago, but they have hovered near the Top 5 most of the season. Perhaps I’m being sucked into the emotional vortex of this being Coach K’s swan song, but I think in this particular circumstance his team has the depth & athleticism to win a squeaker. 

Midwest

I like the Miami Hurricanes to score a mild first round upset, and feel good about predicting the Iowa St. Cyclones to overcome the odds a few times, making it all the way to the Elite 8. They are my Cinderella and I’m pushing all my chips into the center of the table on them…kind of. Ultimately I foresee the Kansas Jayhawks emerging from the region and going to the Final Four. 

South 

Sadly, this is as crazy as it gets for me. I am predicting two big upsets in the first round: Michigan over Colorado St. & Loyola (Chicago) over Ohio St. It’s always fun to see Sister Jean & Loyola’s Gryffindor scarves, right?? Sister Jean is 102 years old, so this might be her last hurrah. I hope her guys give her one final thrill. Unfortunately I don’t believe it’ll be a long ride,  with the dream ending in Round 2. With mostly chalk prevailing I think it comes down to Arizona & Villanova, with the West Coast Wildcats punching their ticket to the Final Four.

Final Four

I am predicting Baylor vs. Duke and Arizona vs. Kansas in the semis. As cool as it would be to see Coach K ride off into the sunset with a sixth National Championship I think he’s going to have to settle for one last Final Four appearance. Baylor is just too strong & athletic. I’m not sure it will even be that close. I also don’t believe Kansas is quite as elite as they typically have been, and think Arizona will expose their weaknesses. So will anyone East of the Mississippi be interested in watching two West Coast teams battle for the championship?? I hope so…¦it could be a very entertaining contest. At the end of the day though I believe Baylor will cut down the nets, becoming the first back-to-back champs since the 2006 & 2007 Florida Gators. 

2021 Sammy Awards: Part Deux

Welcome back to The Sammys!! If you missed out on Part 1 please check it out then join us right back here. Give a rousing ovation to our host, renowned comedian Dave Chappelle!!

After some thought-provoking comedy from our host it’s time for our next award, and making his debut on our stage is a driver in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. He has won only one race in 119 starts in the course of six years, but he’s only 28 years old and we feel like his future is bright. It was that single win in October 2021 that made him marginally famous, albeit not for the reason he likely preferred. Y’all know what to do as we proudly introduce Brandon Brown!! Let’s go Brandon!!!! And the nominees are:

The Thrill of Victory Award

Brady Wins Another Super Bowl

On February 7, 2021 Tom Brady’s decision to leave New England after two decades paid off, as he led his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to a convincing 31-9 victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. Brady earned his seventh Lombardi Trophy and was the game’s MVP for the fifth time.

The Tide Rolls…Again

On January 11, 2021 the Alabama Crimson Tide won their sixth National Championship in twelve years by administering a 52-24 beatdown to the Ohio St. Buckeyes, who shouldn’t have been in the playoff in the first place.

Baylor’s Madness

After COVID forced the cancellation of March Madness in 2020 the tournament returned a year later, with Gonzaga, Houston, Baylor, & UCLA ending up in the Final Four. The Baylor Bears beat the previously undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs on April 5, 2021 to earn their first ever National Championship.

Helio’s 4th Indy 500

COVID also affected the Indianapolis 500 in 2020, causing it to be delayed until August. I missed it because I completely forgot about it being rescheduled. Thankfully the Indy 500 returned to its familiar Memorial Day Weekend spot in 2021, with dynamic 46 year old Brazilian Helio Castroneves following in the footsteps of legends AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr., & Rick Mears by capturing his fourth Borg-Warner Trophy.

Milwaukee Wins NBA Title

In July 2021 (because the season was delayed slightly & reduced by ten games) the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games (4-2) to win their first NBA title since Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) had led them to a championship in 1971. “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo was named Finals MVP, fulfilling the potential so many had seen in him throughout his nine year career.

Braves Win Another World Series

Selective memory is funny. I really thought the Braves had won several World Series back in the 1990’s when I truly despised them. However, it turns out that in five appearances they only won once in that time span (they’d won the Series two previous times decades before I was born). That made their 2021 victory more palatable, and it also helped that they defeated the Houston Astros, who I still consider cheaters that should’ve been stripped of the championship they “won” in 2017. To be honest I didn’t watch much of this Series, which the Braves won in six games, 4-2.

and the Sammy goes to…..

Milwaukee Bucks. It was just nice to have a Finals that didn’t include the LA Lakers, Golden St. Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, or Miami Heat. Lebron James was nowhere to be found. It was a fresh matchup involving teams that aren’t usually around at the end. The Bucks hadn’t won a title in fifty years, so kudos to them.

To present our next award we are happy to welcome a young lady who has been enjoying her freedom the past few months. She may never recapture the success or popularity that she enjoyed two decades ago, but seems to be in a good place in her life. She’s a pretty decent follow on Instagram and we sincerely hope her loneliness is no longer killing her. Get on your feet for Grammy Award winning pop princess Britney Spears!! And the nominees are:

Favorite Podcast or Viral Videos

Broken Skull Sessions w/ “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has segued nicely from opening up a can o’ whoopass in the wrestling ring to a variety of entertainment projects that keep him in the pop culture consciousness. While I don’t particularly care for his Broken Skull Challenge on CMT or Straight Up Steve Austin on USA Network, I do like his Broken Skull Sessions, which is just a conversation between Austin and another wrestling legend or current star. I you’re a wrestling fan it’s not a bad way to spend 60-90 minutes of your evening.

Tipsy Bartender

Bartender Skyy John is still slinging drinks online. Sometimes his creations are kind of wacky, and lately he’s altered his format a bit, but I still must give him a shoutout. If he eliminates the stupid music that’s all the sudden become a thing and gets back to entertaining us with his infectious personality while preparing those crazy concoctions that’d be nice.  

Oral Sessions w/ Renee Paquette

Formerly known as Renee Young in WWE, Paquette has moved on but hasn’t totally escaped pro wrestling. That’s probably not going to happen since she’s married to AEW star Jon Moxley (aka Dean Ambrose) and the couple welcomed a baby girl just a few months ago. Oral Sessions differs from Austin’s show in that occasionally Paquette will interview someone outside of the wrestling realm, usually an MMA fighter, although she had her mother on once as well.

Men with the Pot

Calm down, it’s not what it sounds like…it is a cooking show, but can’t be compared to anything you’ll see on Food Network. These are simple, brief, minimalist videos made by two Polish dudes in Ireland. They’re usually about 5-10 minutes in length and show some tasty vittles being cooked out in the wild, almost like a virtual camping trip. Unlike most food-centric programs that focus on the personality of the host (I’m looking at you Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse, & Bobby Flay) Men with the Pot doesn’t even show us who’s cooking. Perhaps we’ll see a hand or a leg, but otherwise there is no talking, no music, and no other sounds besides veggies being chopped, meat sizzling in an iron skillet, the gentle flow of a babbling brook, and the lovely chirping of birds. Oh, and the food always looks amazing!!

Food Dolls

Another cooking show that’s also rather austere & oddly soothing. The two hosts are lovely Egyptian-American sisters who would most certainly thrive as phone sex operators if this gig ever falls thru. The videos are usually a minute or less, meaning you’ll need to hunt down the recipe if you actually want to make the dish yourself. That being said, I don’t know about y’all, but as much as I enjoy watching other people cook on television or online I rarely attempt to actually cook the food they make. I don’t know why I enjoy such programs, but I do.

and the Sammy goes

Men with the Pot. I’m going to contradict myself. With Tipsy Bartender it’s all about the host and his extroversion. However, sometimes the direct opposite is a nice change of pace. Have you ever listened to ambient music to fall asleep?? Thunderstorms. A crackling fireplace. Gentle rain. Men with the Pot is exactly like that, only with food. Its charm is the lack of a host…no one talking or laughing or yelling or drawing attention to themselves. The food is the focus, and it’s mesmerizing.

To present our next award we thought “what the hell” and decided to utilize NASCAR driver Brandon Brown for a second time. Let’s go Brandon!!!! And the nominees are:

The Agony of Defeat Award

Simone Biles

I don’t generally pay attention to gymnastics, and I assume I’m not alone. It’s something we notice every four years when The Olympics come around. If you were to ask me who the best gymnast of all time is I’d throw out names like Mary Lou Retton (total WV bias) & Nadia Comaneci (because I’m old), but this past summer talking heads really tried to sell the idea that the title should belong to 24 year old Simone Biles. I guess recency bias is a real thing. But something odd happened on the way to immortality…saying she “felt the weight of the world” on her shoulders (which is sort of the whole point of Olympic competition), Biles withdrew from the team finals, individual all-around finals, and almost all the individual event finals that she’d qualified for, although she did end up winning a bronze medal in the balance beam competition. Team USA won the team silver, which likely would have been a gold medal had Biles led the group like she was supposed to do. Every talking head & soccer Mom jumped to the defense of Simone Biles and discussion of mental health issues came to the forefront (the only good thing to come out of the situation), but the only thing I could think was how I had never seen a world class athlete fold like a cheap suit on such a grand stage. Quite frankly it was embarrassing. We’ve all heard the phrase “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”, and Simone Biles couldn’t so she did. She quit on her team & her country. I wish the young lady well in her future. I’m sure she’ll be fine, but sadly her legacy is forever tarnished.

The Cleveland Guardians of the Galaxy

The PC Police continue to destroy American culture piece by piece, and in 2021 it was MLB’s Cleveland Indians turn to be cancelled. The franchise announced that they’d be abandoning the Indians nickname and become the Cleveland Guardians, which is about as stupid of a choice as they could have possibly made.

Urban Meyer

He may be a good football coach, but to call Urban Meyer enigmatic would be kind. He’s well-travelled, which is a nice way of saying he’s an unreliable job hopper who bolts at the first sign of trouble. However, his departure from the Jacksonville Jaguars before the end of his first season at the helm was not Meyer’s choice. In October video of the coach being a bit too cozy with a woman other than his wife in a Columbus, OH restaurant went viral. To make matters worse, the Jags had just lost a game in Cincinnati, but Meyer didn’t go back to Jacksonville with the team, which is why he was in Columbus. Then in December accusations of mistreatment of players emerged, most notably former kicker Josh Lambo saying that Meyer literally kicked him in the leg. That was the final straw and the team decided to cut its losses. Will Urban Meyer land on his feet?? Probably. Some college team will give him another chance eventually, or he’ll land a TV gig.

147th Kentucky Derby

In 2020 the Kentucky Derby was another sporting event impacted by COVID, as it was delayed from its usual spot on the calendar in early May until September, and even then there were no fans in the stands, which was weird. 2021 saw a return to relative normalcy (Churchill Downs allowed 60% capacity). Unfortunately the outcome was marred by controversy, as winner Medina Spirit tested positive for an illegal substance after the race. An investigation is still ongoing (why such a process takes more than eight months is baffling) and sadly the horse died in December.

The Olympics

The “2020” Summer Olympics in Tokyo were delayed until 2021 (I’ll give you three guesses as to why and the first two don’t count), and the event was made even less interesting than usual by the fact that no spectators were allowed at the venues. I don’t think I watched one second of The Olympics, and I don’t feel bad about that.

NIL & The Transfer Portal

In case you’ve been curious, NIL stands for “name, image, & likeness”. Last summer the NCAA instituted new rules that allow collegiate athletes to be paid thru marketing deals in which they can now take advantage of whatever level of fame they have achieved. The transfer portal was actually created in 2018, but didn’t cause much of a buzz until 2021 when additional rules went into effect allowing any athlete to transfer without having to sit out a year. For now they’re allowed to transfer once, but I expect that to be tweaked in the future. Essentially this is collegiate free agency, with the additional carrot of getting paid being dangled just to make things interesting. And while I believe that these rules were created with the best of intentions what we are now seeing are unintended, chaotic consequences, like Oklahoma’s freshman QB Caleb Williams entering the portal despite having supplanted a presumed Heisman candidate under center and leading his team to an 11-2 record. There are so many tentacles to this thing that recruiting has been rendered moot. It doesn’t matter what team lands a kid out of high school because that player can ditch his team for a better deal, whether that means more playing time, a higher profile program, or a better marketing deal. College sports are farm clubs for the NFL, NBA, & (to a lesser extent) MLB now. That’s probably been true for awhile, but they aren’t even pretending to hide it anymore.

MLB All Star Game

Thanks to ESPN and other sports media the worlds of sports & politics collide more & more these days. The 2021 All-Star Game was scheduled to be played in Atlanta, but then Georgia had to go & pass an election integrity law requiring voter ID and other measures to ensure fair elections. Integrity & fairness are abhorrent ideas to liberals, so heads exploded. Somehow this turned into MLB moving the All Star Game to Denver. I didn’t watch, I don’t know who won, and I don’t care.

Tiger Woods

We all know it’s been a rough decade for Tiger Woods. His personal life got messy and various ailments derailed his legendary golf career. At one time it seemed like a lock that he’d shatter Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major titles (U.S. Open, The Masters, British Open, PGA Championship). When everything imploded for Tiger in 2009 he had won 14 majors in twelve years. He had begun to make a bit of a comeback, culminating in winning his fifth Masters in 2019 at age 43. That victory provided a glimpse of the old Tiger and made us believe that maybe…just maybe…he still had an opportunity to catch The Golden Bear. Unfortunately, on February 23, 2021 Tiger rolled his vehicle near Los Angeles and suffered significant injuries to both of his legs. Even Woods himself admits now that his days as a full-timer on the PGA Tour are over and, though he’ll likely still play in as many majors as possible, his pursuit of Nicklaus will probably fall short.

and the Sammy goes to…..

NIL & The Transfer Portal. The guise of “student-athletes” has been laughable for a long time, but it was still fun to pretend that these young people were amateurs. That’s finished now, atleast when it comes to football & basketball. High school quarterback Quinn Ewers matriculated to Ohio St. and was so highly touted that he signed a $1.4 million NIL deal. He got into one game with the Buckeyes…two snaps in garbage time…and was beaten out for the starting gig by redshirt freshman CJ Stroud, who was a Heisman finalist. So Ewers took his ball & went home to play for Texas, where he’ll probably be the starter next season. But don’t worry, cause he’s sitting on a million Gs after accomplishing literally NOTHING. Does anyone see an issue with that?? NFL legend Deion Sanders is now the head coach at 1-AA/FCS Jackson St., and Coach Prime made waves by recruiting five-star cornerback Travis Hunter. To the surprise of almost everybody Hunter chose Jackson St. over Florida St., Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, and others. Rumors have swirled that he also has a $1.5 million NIL deal on the table, although that is unconfirmed. Does anyone actually think the young man will stay more than a year at Jackson St.?? I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t enter the portal a year from now and end up at one of the elite schools that recruited him in the first place. It’s crazy. It’s a free-for-all. And I don’t think any of it is good for collegiate athletics.

To present our next award The Sammys are turning to a trio of actors known primarily for their television work, specifically in daytime dramas. Two gentlemen left their longtime roles on ABC’s General Hospital after Disney (perhaps the world’s most evil corporation, ironically) imposed silly vaccine mandates and they refused to bow to the pressure. They are joined by a beautiful young lady whose departure from General Hospital in 2020 was not her choice. She has since become one of my favorite follows on Instagram, especially after her family adopted a beautiful pug puppy that reminds me so much of my dearly departed Rocco. You may know them as Jasper Jacks, Jason Morgan, & Lulu Falconeri, but we’re pretty excited to give it up for Ingo Rademacher, Steve Burton, & Emme Rylan!! And the nominees are:

Favorite Movie

Coming 2 America

The long overdue sequel to the 1998 classic starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, & James Earl Jones finds Prince Akeem of Zamunda returning to New York City to find the son he never knew he produced. Hilarity ensues…kind of. I didn’t hate it, but it doesn’t measure up to its predecessor. Is nostalgia a good enough reason to create…anything?? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting question to ponder. At any rate, Murphy isn’t as funny as he might have been three decades ago, but I’ll take Eddie Murphy at half speed over most of the people kids believe are funny nowadays.

The Addams Family 2

The Addams Family has spawned TV shows, cartoons, movies, and just about everything else you can imagine. In 2019 they returned to the big screen in computer animated form, and this is the sequel to that film. It’s mildly entertaining but mostly forgettable. My perspective is biased by the fact that, right around the time this movie hit theaters, our local community theater produced a high quality stage production of The Addams Family Musical that had been nominated for a Tony Award in 2010. The musical I saw (twice) was far superior to this movie.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

The third installment of Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise dives into something called The Multiverse. I’m not a comic book nerd so I can’t give you a detailed explanation, but I’ll just say it’s pretty trippy. I have never seen any of the MCU movies other than the Spider-Man flicks, all three of which I have enjoyed immensely. At this point I am sure most everyone has either seen the movie or read spoilers, but I won’t go there. Suffice to say that it is well-written with fine performances, has a lot of action, and isn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours. It is exactly what good popcorn cinema should be.

American Underdog

I’m a sucker for a good biopic, and I understand why some would think Kurt Warner’s story is interesting enough to be made into a movie. That being said, despite the fact that Warner is an NFL Hall-of-Famer, two-time League MVP, and one time Super Bowl MVP, my initial reaction to hearing about the film was “They made a movie…about Kurt Warner??”. That’s a good thing though because I set the bar low and didn’t have any kind of grand expectations, making it that much easier for the finished product to exceed them, which it did. American Underdog isn’t going to be remembered in the same conversation with the greatest sports movies or even the best biopics, but it’s entertaining enough.

King Richard

As much of a sports nut as I am tennis has never frosted my cupcake. I know just enough about the game & its personalities to carry on a reasonably intelligent conversation, but that’s about it. However, you’d have to have been living under a rock the past couple of decades not to have heard of Venus & Serena Williams, who have become two of the best players of all time. The movie isn’t about them though…not really. Their father, Richard, is the ultimate helicopter parent, but he is portrayed in such a way that we don’t hate him. He dreams up a life plan for his girls when they are just babies, and he’s hellbent & determined to follow thru. He wants them to be professional tennis players and is willing to make sacrifices to make that happen. We’ve seen similar stories, but usually the parents are depicted as self-centered & borderline abusive. Richard Williams isn’t either of those things really…he’s just doggedly single-minded and sort of crazy, but in a sympathetic, non-threatening way. Is the film an accurate portrayal of Richard?? Who knows?? It is a really good movie though, and if Will Smith doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor it will be a crime.     

Tom & Jerry

If you are of a certain age and grew up watching Tom & Jerry cartoons you’ll enjoy it well enough, but that’s as far as I can go. The technology is cool, putting the titular twosome in real world places & backgrounds that are not animated. The issue I have is that Tom D. Cat and Jerome A. Mouse are supporting characters in their own movie. The plot revolves around a down-on-her-luck 20-something who deceives her way into a job at a swanky hotel just as it is preparing to host a lavish celebrity wedding. The whole thing could’ve been a lighthearted rom-com without any critters and not changed all that much. But their cat & mouse game (I could NOT help myself) does drive the story to the point that the wedding is destroyed (literally), so I suppose that’s the idea. At the end of the day though there is way too much humanity for an alleged animated film.

In the Heights

Lin-Manuel Miranda could retire as the dude who gave us Hamilton and that would be enough, but he’s back with what can best be described as a love letter to the Latino community, specifically Washington Heights in New York City’s Upper Manhattan. The music is lively & fun, and the performances are fantastic. I am sure those from a similar background that identify closely with the story love the movie more than me, and I mean that respectfully. I enjoyed it and liked the music, but understand completely that I am not the target audience. Miranda set the bar impossibly high with Hamilton, and while In the Heights tries mightily, it falls short of the mark.

and the Sammy goes to…..

King Richard. I’m not really a huge Will Smith fan. His filmography is hit & miss for me, but when he hits he knocks it out of the ballpark. I think it helps that I’m not really into tennis, know very little about the lives of The Williams Sisters, & had no preconceived notions about Richard Williams. That being said, I found Smith’s performance enthralling and the tale itself fascinating. Rotten Tomatoes has it rated 91% fresh, and I have to agree.

It’s time or another break, but we’ll be  back soon with the exciting climax of the 2021 Sammys!!

Sammy Claus Returns!!

A year ago, after a decade of presenting to the masses The Sammy Claus Wish List, there was no Christmas Spirit in The Manoverse. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the malaise I was feeling not only foreshadowed my own personal health issues, it was the precursor to a year most of us will be glad to see come to an end. Things may not be perfect heading into 2021, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel concerning my particular situation, and the rest of the world has reason to be optimistic that lockdowns, social distancing, mask wearing, and other related roadblocks may eventually give way to a return to normalcy. It may not happen overnight, but there is hope, and it is with that sense of positive anticipation that Sammy Claus has decided to resume traditional activities.

To refresh your memory, being Sammy Claus wields no special power. I can only hope that The Big Man at The North Pole has time to surf The Net and read what we publish here, then see fit to grant these wishes. Let’s face it…the past several months haven’t been easy for most of us, but perhaps handing out the suggested gifts to the entities mentioned here could atleast put a smile on some faces and make the world a slightly better place. Aside from all of that though, I sincerely hope The Manoverse never forgets the reason we celebrate Christmas. I am very honest in admitting that my faith has been tested this year, and ashamed to admit that I  too often fail the test. But, as Rocky Balboa once said, “life ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Christmas is a much needed reminder of our eternal reason to never give up.

 


COVID-19/Coronavirus – obsolescence
😷

The Pittsburgh Steelers – receivers who can actually catch the damn ball 🏈

Rush Limbaugh – a miracle 🙏🏻

Cardi B – a dry towel & an ounce of class 😳

Social Media “Fact” Checkers – an especially warm spot in the fiery pits of Hell…we all know what’s really going on 🤬

Live Music & Sports – the return of packed venues of raucous & appreciative fans 🎭

Small Business Owners – survival followed by prosperity 💰

Virginia, New York, & Michigan – new Governors 🇺🇸

Essential Employees & Frontline Healthcare Workers – kudos & a big fat raise

👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

Social Distancing – hugs & kisses 🤗😘

Newspapers & TV News Outlets – truth serum 📺🗞

Vice President Mike Pence – a fly swatter 🪰

The Month of March – Madness (the good kind 🏀)

California – Wasn’t it supposed to fall into the Pacific Ocean decades ago??

Will & Jada Smith – a DVD of Disney’s Tangled 😬

Bill Gates – a medical degree, because that’s the only way anyone with an ounce of common sense will ever listen to the garbage he spews about vaccines 🤦‍♂️

Murder Hornets – death!! 🐝

Mike Tyson – a title fight…come on, y’all know you want to see it!! 🥊

The Constitution – protection from the assault it is about to face the next few years 🙏🏻

Wolfgang Van Halen – much success as he embarks on his own career in the formidable shadow of his legendary late father 🎸

 

 

As always I shall end with the traditional quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

Winning & Musing…Volume 2.18

Finally…Spring has sprung here in The Mountain State!! It’s been 80+ degrees the past couple of days, with plentiful sunshine. However, as happy as that makes me I must temper my enthusiasm since preliminary indications are that next week will begin with a “wintry mix”. I am exercising similar caution with the sports calendar because, while some things are pointed in the right direction it is far too early for a victory lap. Let’s discuss.

 

 

 

As per usual I haven’t paid all that much attention to the NBA season. Actually I’ve probably been even less invested than usual (if that’s possible) for reasons I have covered previously. However, that all changes with the start of the playoffs, which look like this in the Eastern Conference:

Toronto Raptors                    vs.     Washington Wizards

Boston Celtics              vs.     Milwaukee Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers      vs.     Miami Heat

Cleveland Cavaliers    vs.     Indiana Pacers

Ideally we would see either the Celtics or 76ers emerge to represent their conference in the NBA Finals. All eyes will be on a Raptors-Cavs second round series if/when it happens, and I must admit that, as patriotic as I tend to be (USA!! USA!!) I am more than sick of Lebron James. He is NOT better than Michael Jordan, and some of the things he has said off the court have revealed the kind of person he really is, which isn’t positive. When one lives by the sword one dies by the sword, and since the NBA has spent decades marketing individual personalities over teams they shouldn’t be surprised that many fans react negatively when some personalities are pompous, self-righteous, & tediously egotistical. Which brings me to the Western Conference:

Houston Rockets                  vs.     Minnesota Timberwolves

Golden State Warriors         vs.     San Antonio Spurs

Portland Trail Blazers           vs.     New Orleans Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder       vs.     Utah Jazz

I am beyond thrilled that the Warriors & Spurs play each other in Round 1, because that means that one of the world’s biggest blowhard coaches will be eliminated quickly (hopefully either Portland or New Orleans will take out the remaining trash in the second round). I’d be fine with the Rockets making it to the NBA Finals, although I think the Pelicans could be a sleeper. A Philly-N’awleans Finals would be fresh & intriguing, wouldn’t it??

 

 

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for winning their second National Championship in the past three seasons. The 2018 edition of March Madness will mostly be remembered for the impressive run to The Final Four of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, with their Gryffindor scarves and elderly nun Sister Jean, and for the history making 16th seed UMBC Retrievers’ huge upset of #1 Virginia, something that had never happened before. However, though there had been numerous teams atop the polls throughout the season and no dominant force emerged as a clear favorite to cut down the nets, hindsight is 20/20 and Villanova was always lurking near the top and seemed to be the most consistent program thru the season.

 

 

Sunday at The Masters was delightful fun as usual. Though Tiger Woods & my man Phil Mickelson made the cut and played on the weekend they were never legit factors, but luckily for fans & the folks at CBS guys like Rory McIlroy & Rickie Fowler were entertaining, and Jordan Spieth’s -8 final round of 64 was fantastic even if it came up a bit short. Initially I had no issue with winner Patrick Reed, but post-victory stories have emerged that paint him in a rather negative light. Apparently he hasn’t spoken to his own family for several years because they disapproved of his marriage. I’m not married, but I cannot imagine ever choosing a woman over my parents or sibling. From what I’ve read the family seems conciliatory and willing to resume a relationship with Reed, but he (and his wife) aren’t interested. That’s pretty sad in my humble opinion.

 

 

The NHL Playoffs are underway, but y’all know my tepid feelings about hockey. If my Pittsburgh Penguins make it thru the first couple of rounds perhaps I’ll become interested. Somebody keep me posted.

 

 

 

I know I know…pro wrestling isn’t a “real” sport. I get it, but indulge me. My neighbor & I watched last weekend’s WrestleMania 34 event, and it was an enjoyable evening. The “mainstream” media was all over former MMA champion Ronda Rousey’s participation now that she has officially segued into a career in the WWE, and I’ll give credit where it is due…Rousey looked good in the ring. She still needs a lot of work doing promos, and the powers-that-be should keep her as far away from interviews with outlets like ESPN as they possibly can since they’ve proven to be bizarrely detrimental, but inside those ropes she acquitted herself nicely on absolutely the biggest stage she has ever been on in her entire career. People like to make fun of “wrasslin’”, but there were 78k in the Superdome, and millions watching on PPV or the WWE Network. As popular as MMA might be it can’t match those numbers. I was happy that Rousey’s mixed tag didn’t get a main event spot (Lawrence Taylor once main evented a WrestleMania, which was a slap in the face to full time wrestlers) and was instead on the mid-card where it deserved to be. Overall it was a well-constructed show and a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

 

 

I’m not emotionally invested in baseball quite yet, but I’ll get there. I think it’s hilarious that games have already been cancelled because of snow. Several years ago I proposed a plan for a shorter baseball season…maybe it’s time to take such suggestions seriously.

 

 

I’d been watching…off & on…ESPN’s Golic & Wingo on weekday mornings the past few months, but lately have given a fair opportunity to the brand new Get Up, starring Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, & Jalen Rose, to wow me. Neither show is horrible. Golic & Wingo is predictably chill, while Get Up isn’t as obnoxious as it had the potential to be. Having said that, both are like buying overpriced but watered down drinks at a bar. Greeny & Golic specifically aren’t nearly as entertaining as they were while together on Mike & Mike. Neither mix is necessarily bad now, but the new shows are lacking…something. I stated awhile back that the late night shows no longer interest me and I am more likely to turn my television off at 11:30pm now than watch any of the garbage spewed forth by Kimmel, Colbert, et al. And now I no longer turn on my TV first thing in the morning to check out what Greeny or Golic have to say about sports. It wasn’t broke, but ESPN decided to “fix it” anyway. Way to go morons.

March Madness 2018

Did y’all see the dumpster fire that was the NCAA Selection Show this past Sunday evening?? First of all, I tuned in to CBS at 6pm for the bracket reveal because…well, that’s where it’s always been!! For decades!! I understand that CBS & Turner Sports entered into a partnership a few years ago. The best part it is that games are shown on CBS, TBS, TNT, &…for some odd reason…Tru TV, which is cool because one can pretty much watch every single game if your channel flipping skills are up to par. The negative aspect is that we are forced to endure Turner’s NBA lineup of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, & Kenny Smith. I don’t necessarily have anything against those guys, but it’s a “world’s colliding” kind of thing. ESPN doesn’t have Kirk Herbstreit & Lee Corso on the Sunday Night Football pre-game crew. Fox doesn’t have Terry Bradshaw & Howie Long analyzing college bowl games. Stay in your lane. After four months of college basketball it’s a little weird to have NBA guys suddenly pop up to break down March Madness as if they’re experts. Having said that, it’s not a huge deal. However, what was done to the Selection Show a couple of days ago was sinful. After finally locating the show on TBS I tuned in to see them listing all of the automatic qualifiers in alphabetical order, and then start to announce at-large teams the same way. What?!?!?!?? What kind of BS was that?!?!?!?? Where were the damn brackets?!?!?!?? What about the seedings & matchups?!?!?? My understanding is that they eventually got around to all of that, but too late for this guy. I changed the channel and decided I’d watch ESPN’s analysis a bit later. Then…as I have learned to do in such situations…I logged onto Twitter and located the appropriate hashtags. Now THAT was entertaining!! Dear TBS…in case you haven’t heard by now…America collectively despised your idiotic Selection Show. It was almost unanimously reviled. Hopefully the powers-that-be hear the cries of despair from disillusioned basketball fans and next year everything will go back to the way it’s supposed to be, allowing us to forget 2018 like a drunken night back in our youth when we may have done something particularly vile & unlawful but somehow escaped illness, injury, & incarceration, thereafter successfully blocking it from our consciousness.

At any rate, you’re here for my two cents on the tournament. Unfortunately I am unable to put up actual brackets, so we’ll just improvise. I’ve italicized first round winners, and any further predicted upsets are discussed in the comments. I only do one bracket and use it for any & all “competitions” I may enter. My picks are based on minimal research, elementary understanding of college basketball as a casual fan, and my infamous vibes, which longtime citizens of The Manoverse know are mostly unreliable. I don’t give a rat’s petoot about play-in games because I think they are stupid. This year’s field was supposed to be wide open, but to be honest I think you’ll see a lot of chalk, especially in the first two rounds. There are probably ten or twelve teams at most that are legit title contenders, which I suppose still leaves us with plenty of opportunities to be entertained. With the godawful Selection Show behind us I think we can look forward to a really fun few weeks of Madness.

 

 

East

1       Villanova                                                   16     LIU-Brooklyn or Radford

2       Purdue                                                      15     Cal St.-Fullerton

3       Texas Tech                                               14     Stephen F. Austin

4       Wichita St.                                                13     Marshall

5       West Virginia                                           12     Murray St.

6       Florida                                                       11     UCLA or St. Bonaventure

7       Arkansas                                                   10     Butler

8       Virginia Tech                                             9       Alabama

Let me give a shout out to my Marshall Thundering Herd for making the Big Dance for he first time since 1987, which was even before I arrived on campus in the early 90’s. I’m predicting a big upset in Round 1, with Stephen F. Austin upending Texas Tech, and a milder surprise with Butler upsetting Arkansas. How in the world the Red Raiders are a #3 while my WV Mountaineers are a #5 is beyond comprehension. I have Villanova vs. Purdue in the regional final, with the Wildcats making it to the Final Four. Boring?? Perhaps. Predictable?? Sure. But I bet almost everybody in America sees it happening the same way.

 

 

West

1       Xavier                                                        16     Texas Southern or MC Central

2       North Carolina                                          15     Lipscomb

3       Michigan                                                    14     Montana

4       Gonzaga                                                   13     UNC-Greensboro

5       Ohio St.                                                     12     South Dakota St.

6       Houston                                                     11     San Diego St.

7       Texas A&M                                               10     Providence

8       Missouri                                                     9       Florida St.

I have three first round upsets in this region…Florida St. over Missouri, Providence upending Texas A&M, and San Diego St. taking out Houston. I’m picking Gonzaga to beat Xavier and Michigan to defeat the Tar Heels in the Sweet 16, with the Wolverines then winning the regional final over the Zags to make it to the Final Four.

 

Midwest

1       Kansas                                                      16     Pennsylvania

2       Duke                                                           15     Iona

3       Michigan St.                                              14     Bucknell

4       Auburn                                                       13     College of Charleston

5       Clemson                                                    12     New Mexico St.

6       TCU                                                           11     Syracuse or Arizona St.

7       Rhode Island                                            10     Oklahoma

8       Seton Hall                                                 9       NC St.

I have straight first round chalk here, with the exception of a very slight upset of the Wolfpack over Seton Hall. The only other thing I’ll say about the first round is that the Oklahoma Sooners 100% absolutely should NOT be in this tournament. The “experts” can spin things any way they choose, but the Sooners getting a bid ahead of their in-state rival Oklahoma St. is absolutely criminal. The Cowboys defeated Oklahoma head-to-head 2 out of 3 times this season, plus they beat Kansas 2 out of 3 times. If that’s not good enough I’m not sure what possibly could be. ESPN has fellatiated freshman guard Trae Young all season, to the point that college basketball fans everywhere loathe an 18 year old kid. He led his team to a rather pedestrian 18-13 record, so I’m left with the impression that he is mostly hype & potential, a guy that the geniuses in Bristol, CT decided to promote as Steph Curry 2.0 but who has been unable to live up to the concocted storyline. He probably needs to stay in college another year or two, but instead he’ll enter the NBA Draft where a team will waste a first round pick on him and he’ll become an epic disappointment. Anyway, after Round 1 I have Kansas meeting Duke in the regional final, with the Blue Devils advancing to San Antonio.

 

South

1       Virginia                                                      16     Maryland-Baltimore County

2       Cincinnati                                                  15     Georgia St.

3       Tennessee                                                  14     Wright St.

4       Arizona                                                      13     Buffalo

5       Kentucky                                                   12     Davidson

6       Miami, FL                                                 11     Loyola-Chicago

7       Nevada                                                      10     Texas

8       Creighton                                                  9       Kansas St.

I have two mild upsets in the first round…Texas over Nevada and Kansas St. beating Creighton. The Big 12 is the best basketball conference in America and I think going thru those battles the past few months will have benefits now. I’m picking Kentucky over Arizona, Miami to beat Tennessee, & Texas with another upset over Cincinnati in Round 2. As a matter of fact I am picking the Longhorns to make it all the way to the regional final before falling to top seed Virginia.

 

 

So I am left with a Final Four of Virginia, Villanova, Duke, & Michigan…two #1’s, a #2, and a #3. I foresee a title game pitting Duke vs. Michigan, with the Blue Devils cutting down the nets for the seventh time in 27 years, the last championship being in 2015. That oughta tick some people off.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.16

Greetings sports fans. It hasn’t been a particularly warm spring just yet, atleast here in the hills of West Virginia, but the sports calendar has been full so there are lots of little nuggets to ponder. Let’s do that.

 

 

 

 

 

kobeI was never a big Kobe Bryant fan. He always seemed like kind of an arrogant punk to me, and his…adventure…in Colorado several years ago did nothing to endure him to the masses. Talk of him being on the same level as Michael Jordan is ridiculously laughable and he is barely even one of the Top 10 best Los Angeles Lakers of all time (he’s behind Magic, Kareem, West, Chamberlain, Shaq, Elgin Baylor, Worthy, “Hot Rod” Hundley, & Mikan in my book). Having said all of that, it is a rarity to see a guy play 20 years of any professional sport, and for him to have played his entire career with one team is remarkable. I am a sucker for good farewell stories, so it was with rapt attention I watched Bryant’s final game. Yes it was a meaningless contest, especially for a Lakers team that hasn’t even been close to the playoff hunt this season, but watching 37 year old Kobe summon up a wellspring of energy that he hasn’t displayed in probably 5 years and hang 60 points…SIXTY points…on the Utah Jazz was great TV and left a positive final impression. Well played sir…well played indeed.

 

 

 

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for winning the 2016 NCAA basketball national championship. The tournament overallVillanova Basketball didn’t seem to have as much theatrical impact as usual, but the title game, in which ‘Nova defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels, featured two fantastic three point shots in the final five seconds and more than made up for the abundance of chalk and tedious blowouts.

 

 

 

mlbWay too early impressions of the MLB season…

  • The Chicago Cubs look as formidable as the pundits predicted. Maybe Back to the Future II was only a year off with its “prediction”.
  • The Baltimore Orioles are going to be tough as well.
  • As of this writing the Minnesota Twins are 2-9 and the Atlanta Braves are 1-9. The success of the 90’s seems to be in the rear view mirror for both clubs.
  • My Pittsburgh Pirates were expected to take a step back this season after making the playoffs the last couple of years and so far that seems to be the case. I hope their ownership & front office knows what they are doing, but I can’t say my confidence is high.
  • Wouldn’t a Cubs-White Sox World Series be fun?? I’m not going out on a limb to predict it…I’m just suggesting it looks like a possibility.

 

 

 

The NBA Playoffs have begun and the first round matchups look like this:

 

East

Cleveland Cavaliers            vs.       Detroit Pistons

Toronto Raptors                 vs.       Indiana Pacers

Miami Heat                          vs.       Charlotte Hornets

Atlanta Hawks                     vs.       Boston Celtics

nba

West

Golden State Warriors      vs.       Houston Rockets

San Antonio Spurs                         vs.       Memphis Grizzlies

Oklahoma City Thunder   vs.       Dallas Mavericks

Los Angeles Clippers          vs.       Portland Trail Blazers

 

Everyone is expecting the Eastern Conference to come down to Cleveland and Toronto, with the Cavaliers easily walking into their first Finals appearance since 2007. I think it’s possible that the Miami Heat might sneak into the conference finals over the Raptors, but other than that I expect no surprises. In the Western Conference it would be a huge disappointment for the Golden State Warriors…the defending NBA Champions who just set a new regular season wins record with 73 victories…to not get back to the Finals. However, don’t be surprised to see the venerable San Antonio Spurs give them a battle. The Western Conference finals might end up being more entertaining than the NBA Finals.

 

 

 

nhlThe NHL Playoffs are underway as well, but hockey really isn’t my thing. I’ll watch the Pittsburgh Penguins here & there, but beyond that I really don’t care.

The Madness of March

1 basketballIt’s time!! One of the best long weekends of the year tips off tomorrow, and I’m ready. My two nephews are actually going to watch the first couple of rounds in Columbus, OH. Good for them. Anyway, y’all know I can’t resist doing a bit of prognosticating, although it’s not quite as much fun this season since we all know how this thing is going to end…with the Kentucky Wildcats cutting down the nets on April 6th. But, in the words of one of cinema’s most entertaining philosophers Clark W. Griswold, “getting there is half the fun”. So I suppose we shall enjoy the ride even if the finale will likely be anti-climactic.

As usual, let me take a moment to unlock the secret doors of my mind and explain my process:
• I’m not a college basketball expert. I’m a fan that only pays attention to a handful of teams and knows virtually nothing about 75% of the tournament field.
• My picks are based solely on my vibes and the small amount of basic basketball knowledge I possess.
• I do listen to some of the talking heads, but rarely make choices based on their opinions. As a matter of fact, I think several of them (especially Doug Gottlieb…a complete tool) are arrogant windbags that don’t have much more of a clue than I do.
• I do not pick play-in games. They are an inconsequential money-making scheme by the NCAA.
• I pick a few upsets, but I’ve learned over the years that, for the most part, the selection committee knows their stuff and is usually pretty spot on in their seeding. There might be a few upsets in the first couple of rounds, but the chaos rarely gets too…well…chaotic. The cream almost always rises to the top.
• A 10 over a 7 or a 9 over an 8 isn’t really that much of an upset.
• I fill out one bracket and one bracket only. It is done pretty quickly after the selection show airs. I am far too lazy to do research.

So with those things in mind let us take a brief glimpse at each region, talk about upsets, and see who I think will make it to The Final Four.

 

 

 

East
1 Villanova              16 Lafayette
2 Virginia                 15 Belmont
3 Oklahoma           14 Albany
4 Louisville              13 UC Irvine
5 Northern Iowa   12 Wyoming
6 Providence           11 Dayton
7 Michigan St.         10 Georgia
8 NC St.                      9 LSU
I am predicting a lot of chalk in this region, with a few notable exceptions. I have Albany over Michigan_State_SpartansOklahoma in the 1st round. I’ve watched the Sooners play a few times this season and believe they are way overseeded. And I’m picking Wyoming over Northern Iowa in one of the infamous 5/12 upsets. After that I have Michigan St. upending Virginia in the 2nd round and ultimately winning the region by defeating Villanova.

West
1 Wisconsin            16 Coastal Carolina
2 Arizona                 15 Texas Southern
3 Baylor                   14 Georgia St.
4 North Carolina    13 Harvard
5 Arkansas             12 Wofford
6 Xavier                   11 Ole Miss
7 VCU                       10 Ohio St.
8 Oregon                  9 Oklahoma St.
The big shocker I’ve predicted in this region is Wofford (hailing from Spartanburg, SC) WisconsinBadgersdefeating Arkansas. I also have Ohio St. over Virginia Commonwealth, a team that gets a little too much love just because they made it to one Final Four four years ago. After that I have Baylor pulling off a mild upset over Arizona in the Sweet 16 before falling to Wisconsin in the regional final.

 

South
1 Duke                 16 Robert Morris
2 Gonzaga           15 North Dakota St.
3 Iowa St.            14 UAB
4 Georgetown   13 Eastern Washington
5 Utah                 12 Stephen F. Austin
6 SMU                  11 UCLA
7 Iowa                 10 Davidson
8 San Diego St.   9 St. John’s
Mostly 1st round chalk here except for a couple of interesting exceptions. I’m picking Eastern Iowa_State_CyclonesWashington over Georgetown and Stephen F. Austin over Utah. I just don’t buy Georgetown. This isn’t the mid-1980’s. Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, & Alonzo Mourning are distant memories. The Big East isn’t the same conference it used to be. Stephen F. Austin is a small school in Nacogdoches, TX (about 100 miles southwest of Shreveport, LA) that is named for one of the founding fathers of the state. I have a vague recollection of catching one of their games on TV awhile back and thinking they were pretty good and could pull off a first round upset if they weren’t up against a top flight team. Utah is good but far from elite. After that I have picked San Diego St. to surprise Duke in Round 2 and Iowa St. over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. I’ve seen the Cyclones play a few times and they are very talented. They play in the best basketball conference in America (The Big 12…which has ten teams) and won its conference tournament, defeating the vaunted Kansas Jayhawks. Gonzaga’s road hasn’t been nearly as arduous. Ultimately I have Iowa St. beating San Diego St. in the regional final.

 

Midwest
1 Kentucky          16 Hampton
2 Kansas               15 New Mexico St.
3 Notre Dame     14 Northeastern
4 Maryland          13 Valparaiso
5 West Virginia   12 Buffalo
6 Butler                11Texas
7 Wichita St.       10 Indiana
8 Cincinnati         9 Purdue
I think Kentucky would have won this region no matter what, but the committee made it Kentucky-Basketballpretty easy for them. I have Valparaiso (from northern Indiana) upsetting Maryland and Texas getting by Butler in the 1st round. Butler, like VCU, is given too much credit for past successes in the tournament. The “experts” are almost unanimously picking Buffalo to beat my WV Mountaineers, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen. I have Wichita St. defeating in-state rival Kansas in Round 2, but at the end of the day no one will be surprised when Kentucky easily downs Notre Dame to win the region.

 

 

So, my Final Four consists of Kentucky vs. Wisconsin and Iowa St. vs. Michigan St. That’s two #1 seeds, a #3, and a #7, although one can hardly think of Michigan St. as an underdog.

1I foresee the title game being Kentucky against Michigan St., with the Wildcats winning pretty comfortably. It lacks drama, but it is what it is. I suppose it’d be kind of cool to see a team finish 40-0, but honestly I’m looking forward to a little more unpredictability next year.

I’m Gonna Win A Billion Dollars!!

Well okay…maybe not. But I am atleast glad I finally found some way to insert my NCAA March Madness brackets into an entry here at The Manofesto.It’s not exactly perfect, but it’ll do.

bballmadness3

As you can see, my Final Four consists of Florida, Virginia, Duke, & Oklahoma St., with the Gators eventually upending the Cowboys for the national championship. This looks like one of the more wide open & competitive tournaments in recent years, and alot of talking heads seem to be predicting a plethora of upsets. Some are even saying that none of the #1 seeds might make it to The Final Four. I don’t buy that. More often than not chalk ultimately rules the day. Oh sure there will be a few upsets. That’s what keeps things interesting. But I don’t think it’s wise to get crazy…even when the “experts” keep talking about parity and teams being “mis-seeded”. That committee is made up of folks who know what they’re doing. They certainly know more than most of us.

I don’t consider a 9 over and 8 or even a 10 over a 7 to be all that big of an upset, so in this year’s first round (yes I still call it the first round no matter how much they try to shove their fuzzy math down our throats), I am forecasting eight real upsets, with nearly half of them occurring in the South region. To be honest that is probably too many, but I suppose we’ll see.

Beyond the first round there are just a few teams I really like as “Cinderellas”…Tulsa, Oklahoma St., Oregon, & Nebraska. I have the Cowboys ending up in the title game and going down to Florida.

I think alot of folks are expecting early exits from traditional powers like Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Syracuse, & Arizona, but I have all of them getting by their first round opponents and all but Arizona getting to atleast the Sweet 16. The most overrated teams in the tournament for me are Ohio St. & UCLA, both of whom I have being defeated in the first round.

So there you have it. The next couple of weekends should be alot of fun. I encourage y’all to enjoy The Madness. Fill out brackets. Enter office pools. Compete with friends. But don’t expect to walk away with Warren Buffet’s billion dollars…that prize shall be mine. But if you’re really really nice maybe…just maybe…I’ll share.

The Madness Begins…..

The Madness is back!! It’s time once again to immerse oneself in caring about a whole host of basketball teams that we’ve never heard of or atleast pay little attention to, all so that in a few weeks the best teams that everyone loves or hates will rise to the top anyway. It’s time to match wits with talking heads, i.e. experts like Dickie V., Doug “Credit Card” Gottlieb, Clark Kellogg, & Seth Davis. It’s time to face the bracket challenge, whether there is money & prizes at stake, or just plain ol’ macho pride.

 

Before I dive in allow me to share a bit about my methods and some things I have learned over many years of doing this.

 

I do not analyze, study, and stress out about my brackets. I simply fill them out on the fly. My picks are based on what I know as an average fan and on my vibes. My choices have no basis in scientific investigation of any facts or figures.

Will there be upsets?? Yes. But don’t go crazy. The first round has 32 games. Out of those there might be a half dozen upsets. The 5/12, 6/11, & 7/10 games are where to look for upsets. #1 seeds never…ever…lose in the first round, and #2 seeds very rarely lose. Atleast one #12 beats a #5 each year…I don’t know why. 8/9 games are pretty much dead even, so a #9 beating a #8 is only an upset in the most technical roundabout way. After the first round it’s a free for all, although that 11, 12, 13, or 14 that got thru one game is unlikely to make it much further.

I am usually a sucker for the underdog, but in all honesty power conference teams have an undeniable advantage. I put major weight on being battle tested. Strength of schedule is an important factor. The games a team played in November & December…whether they were wins or losses…can serve as great “conditioning” in March.

I take into consideration where the games are taking place. If a team is playing close to home and has a bunch of fans in the stands that is important. But it’s not that important, so I consider it yet don’t obsess over it.

 

So, having said all that, here is what my vibes are communicating to me about 2012’s Big Dance:

 

East

1 Syracuse                16 UNC Asheville

2 Ohio St.                 15 Loyola (MD)

3 Florida St.            14 St. Bonaventure

4 Wisconsin         13 Montana

5 Vanderbilt               12 Harvard

6 Cincinnati           11 Texas

7 Gonzaga                   10 West Virginia

8 Kansas St              9  Southern Miss.

Lots of talking heads seem to be bailing on ‘Cuse, believing that they’ll fall short of The Final Four. Not this humble Potentate of Profundity. My vibes are telling me that one of the annual 5/12 upsets will occur when Harvard…alma mater of NY Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin…defeats Vanderbilt. Actually I think it’d be more fun to see those two teams match up in a Quiz Bowl or in the Jeopardy college tournament, but I guess we’ll take what we can get. I also have Harvard beating Wisconsin in the 2nd round. The only other first round upset I foresee in this region is my Mountaineers over Gonzaga. WVU gets a virtual home game less than 100 miles away in Pittsburgh, and I just don’t think the Zags are quite as good as in years past. I like Cincy over Florida St. in Round 2, as well as the ‘Eers getting by Ohio St. But ultimately Syracuse will make it to not only The Final Four but also the title game.

 

 

West

1 Michigan St.        16 LIU Brooklyn

2 Missouri                15 Norfolk St.

3 Marquette          14 BYU*

4 Louisville              13 Davidson

5 New Mexico         12 Long Beach St.

6 Murray St.         11 Colorado St.

7 Florida                   10 Virginia

8 Memphis                 9  St. Louis

I’m just not sold on Michigan St. as a top seed. I give them credit…they always always always seem to be in the conversation each & every year…but I’m not buying it this season. I’m pretty much going chalk in the first round, with the lone exception being St. Louis over Memphis. Typically I wouldn’t consider a 9 over an 8 all that much of an upset, but several “experts” have been saying that Memphis is seeded way too low and is a legit potential Final Four team, so I guess it’d be more of a surprise than usual. By the way, a billiken is a charm doll created by an art teacher from St. Louis  in 1908 who saw the mysterious figure…an elf-like creature with pointed ears, a mischievous smile, and a tuft of hair on his pointed head…in a dream. Fascinating. At any rate, it’s chalk all the way after that until the regional semifinal where I have Louisville taking out the Spartans, with Missouri then getting the Final Four spot.

 

South

1 Kentucky              16 Miss. Valley St.*

2 Duke                       15 Lehigh

3 Baylor                    14 South Dakota St.

4 Indiana               13 New Mexico St.

5 Wichita St.              12 Va. Commonwealth

6 UNLV                     11 Colorado

7 Notre Dame        10 Xavier

8 Iowa St.                    9  Connecticut

I have two first round upsets here. I just think that defending champions UConn won’t bow out so easily, and surely not to an 8th seed like Iowa St. And I have another 5/12 special, with 2011 tournament Cinderella VCU recapturing that magic one last time and beating Wichita St., who is only the third best basketball team in their own state. The second round in this region should be awesome, although I am only picking one upset. I think Notre Dame will defeat Duke and then beat Baylor, making it all the way to the regional final before going down to Kentucky.

 

Midwest

1 North Carolina     16 Vermont*

2 Kansas                      15 Detroit

3 Georgetown           14 Belmont

4 Michigan                 13 Ohio U.

5 Temple                     12 South Florida*

6 San Diego St.            11 NC St.

7 St. Mary’s                  10 Purdue

8 Creighton               9  Alabama

The voices are speaking to me about two upsets here. First, I am picking NC St., a battle tested ACC team, to beat San Diego St., who is probably seeded a couple of spots too high. The same logic applies in choosing Purdue from the Big 10 over St. Mary’s. I’m also picking the Wolfpack over Georgetown in the 2nd round. In the regional semis I’m taking Michigan to upset North Carolina, with Kansas ultimately securing the last Final Four spot.

 

So my Final Four is Kentucky vs. Missouri and Syracuse vs. Kansas. I’m not exactly venturing out on a limb with those choices. I was kind of surprised to be honest, because this has seemed like kind of a wide open season with lots of parity. However, at the end of the day I just think there are about a half dozen teams that, while probably not elite in the “we’ll remember them 20 years from now” sense, are just that much better than anyone else. So while all fans can enjoy the first & second rounds and there will undoubtedly be several exciting games & some upsets, ultimately few will likely be surprised at who is in the race near the finish line. I’m picking Kentucky & Syracuse to meet in the final game, with the Wildcats cutting down the nets and being crowned national champions.