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Archive for September, 2011

Co-Czars

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CFB Recap 1

Gordon’s Left Foot: A College Football Recap

There was a time, when I was young, when I rooted for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. You can blame the influence of my stepfather, or my Catholic roots, or the musty books I found in the school library with their tales of Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen. It certainly didn’t hurt that starting in 1991, every Irish home game was on television. In any case, one of the greatest moments of my young life came in 1993, when they beat #1 Florida State and their fantastic quarterback Charlie Ward 31-24 on the second-to-last game of the season. All that remained was to knock off Boston College at home, and Notre Dame would have a shot at the Fiesta Bowl and a national championship.

Things didn’t go as planned in South Bend, though. The Eagles jumped out to a huge lead, and it took a furious 22-point fourth quarter comeback for Notre Dame to reclaim a 39-38 lead. But David Gordon, BC’s kicker, had a 41-yard attempt with five seconds left to pull off a stunner. Gordon was left-footed, and, ironically enough in the “Holy War” between the nation’s two highest-profile Catholic schools, Jewish. Tom Hammond had the call for NBC, and summed it up thusly: “the left-footed kicker David Gordon…41 yard attempt to win the game and end the Irish national championship hopes…”

The kick wobbled, and appeared to be heading right. I still remember a tiny swell of hope, letting my mind map out the ball’s trajectory as it veered wide…

David Gordon had ruined the season. It only took a couple more years before I realized there was no good reason for me to root for Notre Dame. In college football terms, I became a man without a country. That’s continued to the present, and it’s honestly quite a nice break from the usual stress of affiliation. But the melodic strains of those two weeks in 1993 have persisted, reemerging in my personal sports landscape. Charlie Ward played parts of ten seasons for my New York Knicks, including the ill-fated 1999 trip to the finals. After his role in one of my worst sports moments, Boston College coach Tom Coughlin managed balance his karmic output 15 years later in one of the best, a Giants super bowl win against the hated, undefeated Patriots. And 17 years to the day after his kick, David Gordon married my elderly Aunt Rosa.

Just kidding on that last one. Nevertheless, the connection lingers. That’s the origin, and this is Gordon’s Left Foot.

On to the Week Two features!

The Best Finish

Appropriately enough for the installment, this goes to a devastating Notre Dame loss. After dominating for three quarters in Michigan’s Big House and establishing a 24-7 lead, it all went to hell. Denard Robinson, Michigan’s electric QB, led his team 28 fourth-quarter points and a go-ahead touchdown with two seconds remaining. There were two really incredible moments here that stand out above the other moments, which were merely unbelievable.

1 – After Michigan scored its third touchdown, Notre Dame looked dead. They’d get the ball back with 1:12 left, trailing by four, and counting on their sophomore quarterback, Tommy Rees, to drum up some magic in a rabid and hostile atmosphere. The Michigan fans, silenced early, were pouring four quarters worth of emotion onto the field. They smelled blood, and the blood smelled Irish. Which makes it so remarkable that Rees moved his team 61 yards in less than a minute for the go-ahead score. It was as cool a performance as you could ask from a young quarterback, and it would have been a legendary road win had it held up.

2 – With 30 seconds left and 80 yards ahead of them, Michigan was dead to rights. Only a total breakdown could bail them out, but that’s exactly what Notre Dame handed them on a green-and-gold platter. Somehow, Jeremy Gallon swung free on the right side, receiving a 64-yard pass. Michigan won the game a player later, and I’ll be amazed if we see a situation bungled so badly by any Division 1 defense this season.

Boldest Fashion Statement

The refs for that game wore poor-boys!

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Over the holiday weekend, ten of the ablest minds at Grantland.com briefly stopped typing their own names into a Google search bar and devoted themselves to a question of sadness: Which city’s fan base is currently enduring the roughest stretch in sports? Where should the sympathetic among us direct our pity? Or, for the cruel at heart, our schadenfreude?

Each member of the Most Depressed Fan Base Committee selected their top eight cities, based on factors known only to them, and point values were assigned on a 1-8 scale (most depressed earns eight points, least depressed earns one). The individual lists were then compiled into an overall ranking, which is presented below.

Before we get there, though, some clarification. This is not an historical exercise; we’re concerned with which cities are suffering now, at this exact moment in time. As William Faulkner once wrote, “the past is dead.” (I’m reciting that one from memory- hopefully I nailed it.) For example, the Red Sox World Series drought from 1918 to 2004 is irrelevant because it ended, while the Cubs drought holds weight because it’s ongoing. You get the idea.

When the voting concluded, 31 cities were represented. Among those who earned just one vote and didn’t make the final list were Lubbock, South Bend, San Diego, Baltimore, San Antonio, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Phoenix, Long Island, Vancouver, Denver, Tennessee, and St. Louis.

In case you were curious, Lubbock came from Chuck Klosterman, and it came without explanation. But his email signature is a picture of Mike Leach as God in a parody of the “Creation of Adam” painting, so maybe that explains it. (In the painting, Chuck replaces Adam.)

Hey, what do you say we get to that list?

Best line about a City that didn’t qualify

Toronto only got two votes, none of which came from Joe House. But he did have this to say:

“Not Applicable: Toronto.  Best strip clubs in North America (according to reports); who cares about their teams?”

Can you really call it a ‘report’ if it comes from a personal diary you keep in a locker at the airport? Also, quick idea for the editors on a future post: Most depressing city for strip clubs. Could be a hit-monster.

Honorable Mention

Washington, D.C. (10 points), Buffalo (10 points), Portland (11 points)

I was particularly surprised not to see Buffalo in the top ten, because man, the place is sad and cold. They have just one (bad) professional sports team, terrible weather fronts constantly attacking from Lake Erie, and a failing economy that even Detroit respects. Or, as Katie Baker put it, with Buffalo fourth on her list:

Buffalo: because Buffalo.

As a final thought, do you think Buffalo citizens are annoyed that Lake Erie is named after Erie, Pennsylvania? Doesn’t Buffalo deserve it more? And while we’re here, why is the Mississippi River named after a state that doesn’t contain its source or mouth? Who’s naming bodies of water in this country?!

10. Kansas City – 12 points

Only three voters had K.C. on their list, but Jay Caspian Kang boosted it to the top ten with a 2nd-place ranking. Now, I hate to introduce controversy in the first installment of The Most Depressed Fan Base, but I can’t ignore this: an anagram of Jay Caspian Kang is “I C Jay. Gasp! Kansan!” (I used an extra ‘s’ there, but it’s still worth checking out.)

Anyway, the Royals won a World Series in 1985, but they’ve finished the season above .500 just once in the past 17 years. The Chiefs have been mostly disappointing since the franchise’s only Super Bowl in in 1970, though they did make the playoffs last season. A worthy number ten.

9. Miami – 13.5 points

Our fearless leader, Bill Simmons, put it concisely:

Miami – Canceled NBA season, The U scandal, 9 people at Marlins games + Chad Henne

I hope he’s happy; we just lost nine readers. Wait, no, my mistake. If those fans owned computers, they’d be able to check the standings and avoid Marlins games. We’re okay.

8. Columbus – 16 points

Back to Mr. House, who had Buckeye Central second on his list:

Columbus:  Life-lesson that most folks learn once & never forget but apparently needs to be repeated in central ohio: never never NEVER trust a dude in a sweater vest.

Between this and the strip club habit, remind me never to ask Joe House about his childhood.

7. Los Angeles – 16.5 points

Of the four committee members who included the city of Angels on their list, three live there and the other grew up there. Who says people in L.A. are egocentric? Jonathan Abrams put them at the top of his list, with this justification:

Los Angeles—USC is playing another season of only exhibitions, people are scared to go to Dodger Stadium, the Lakers were ousted early from the playoffs and the city still has no NFL team.

David Jacoby concurs:

No football team, Lakers a mess, Dodgers broke, Angels have a fucking monkey for a mascot and there are barely any sports fans to share your depression with.

Fair enough. Seriously, though, if I were a Buffalo fan, I might punch a wall at this point. Or at least write an angry tirade about Kobe Bryant on a message board. And that takes some effort in Buffalo; the Internet hasn’t caught on, so they have to use actual wooden message boards in the town square.

5. Sacramento -TIE – 17 points

From Chris Ryan, who ranked the city fifth:

If a cowbell rings in an empty Arco Arena, do you still hear it?

The sad part is, that cow is next year’s starting power forward.

5. Indianapolis – TIE – 17 points

It only made three lists, but enjoyed passionate support from Chris Ryan and Sarah Larimer, who each ranked it first. When I pressed Sarah for comment on g-chat, this is what I got:

my uncle chuck is the weatherman there
on the tv.
pretty weird little larimer fact.
people come up to him all the time
and talk to him about the weather
someone named their cat after him
She claims this is true, but it could easily be a bit of dialogue she stole from a creepy David Lynch film. You have to be careful with her. Chris had a more pointed take:
Peyton’s neck, no Pacers (a nation mourns) and Notre Dame got tagged by South Florida, at home, losing to the son of their last good head coach. I know South Bend isn’t Indianapolis, but I think when Notre Dame cries, so cries the state of Indiana.

4. Minneapolis – 27 points

Now we’re getting into the heavy hitters. We had some golden material here. From Simmons, who ranked them first:

Mauer/Morneau + Kahhhhhhhn + they’re on a 2-year streak of getting stuck with washed-up All-Pro QB’s + five decades of Vikings heartbreak + LA is building a new NFL stadium. Not a lot to work with.

David Cho:

For the same reasons as Seattle, but the weather is worse and sadder.

House:

When Donovan McNabb is in charge of the one team in town that everyone really cares about, that means that Donovan McNabb is in charge of the one team in town that everyone cares about.

Out of the four ballots to include Minneapolis, three labeled it “Minnesota.” Chuck Klosterman was the only to get it right. Doesn’t that make it a few points sadder? And just in case the folks across the Mississippi River (there it is again!) thought they were immune, let’s add insult to injury; in 1942, when author Vladimir Nabokov was touring U.S. colleges, he wrote this back to his wife:

St. Paul is a stupefyingly boring city.

Keep in mind, though, that was before Ron Gardenhire lit up the town with his electric personality.

3. Cincinnati – 31 points

Cincinnati made all but two ballots, but it was consistently ranked low. Only Jonathan Abrams put the Cincy in the top 3.

Cincinnati—Reds aren’t making the playoffs and the Bengals will be lucky to win four games.

House:

Because the Bengals are the worst team in the NFL, by A LOT.  Silver-lining: This year’s dirty-diaper-of-a-season means Andrew Luck could be in town next year.

Simmons:

We should have just made Ohio its own entry.

THAT DIDN’T STOP YOU WITH MINNESOTA, DID IT, YOU GROUPING SON OF A BITCH!

2. Seattle – 43.5 points

Seattle made the most ballots – nine- of any city on the list. Jacoby:

The only thing they have going is the NBA lockout and Tavaris Jackson interception over bets.
David Cho:
The long-sufferingness is still going on and has no end in sight. Right now they’re trying to rally around a Seahawks team led by Tavaris Jackson. There’s nothing sadder than no hope.
Simmons:
Seattle – slowly becoming known for its MLS team.
This last take was inadvertently confirmed when I told my friend Spike, a lifelong Seattle fan, that his city had placed second. His reply:
Here’s the thing;  the Sounders could actually quad trophy. MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League. They could also get no trophies, but a quad would be a game changer.
You’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s a valid argument, or the sports equivalent of a beaten-down alcoholic praying over a lottery ticket.

1. Cleveland – 45.5 points

The city on the flaming Cuyahoga won in a squeaker. Which is more than any of their sports teams can say, am I right?

That’s the great thing about Cleveland; its tremendous pain paves the way for easy jokes that require very little intellect. That’s convenient for me, because I am the proud of owner of a very little intellect. Our panelists, on the other hand, bring significantly more brain power to the operation. Let’s see what they say, starting with Katie Baker:

Cleveland: because someone wrote into the Bake Shop with this: “LeBron certainly squashed any chance of the Cavs winning it for at least 5 years, the Browns look to be on the up and up but thats the same thing my Dad said when Paul Brown started the franchise, and the Indians just signed a 41 year old Jim Thome to save our playoff hopes.” and it broke my heart.

By the way, the Bake Shop is Katie’s new write-in feature, not an actual bakery she steals mail from. Jacoby had this to add:

Cleveland: still butthurt over Lebron. Are the Indians still in the American league? I forgot. Browns trainers just still around with 9-1 dialed just waiting for Colt MCCoys inevitable MCL snap. On the bright side, it is a fitting place to be depression drinking.

That’s one hell of a bright side. Also, I love the idea that Browns trainers respond to player injuries by dialing 9-1-1. Somehow, I can believe it.

So: congratulations are in order for Cleveland, the saddest sports town we know. Come back next month to see if they can defend the heavy crown.

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