It’s time to wake up.
And start getting ready.
Because there is basketball coming.
It’s time to wake up.
And start getting ready.
Because there is basketball coming.
Thing you guys already know: I am a college football freak.
True, my freakishness is a bit myopic, in that nearly all of it is filtered through the lens of Ohio State football and what everything might mean for the Buckeyes. But that doesn’t diminish my freakdom, and it doesn’t mean I can’t sit in front of a TV for 12 hours on a fall Saturday, trying not to sprain my remote-changing thumb.
I’ve written about college football stuff here for years, and I’ve written about it elsewhere as well, mostly for the now-defunct Draft Day Suit blog. And that … led to this:
Let’s back up. I had been contributing to DDS for a while when we started kicking around ways to add different kinds of media to the lineup; one natural was to get together a weekly video chat where we could make NFL picks. They were fun, pretty good and the source of perhaps my greatest moment of football punditry, when early in the 2012 season I told Goon Squad Sarah that third-round pick Russell Wilson would be a better NFL quarterback than second overall pick RGIII. I will never tire of reminding pretty much everyone how right I was about that.
At some point during that season, my friend and former colleague Carla — who was not only a DDS contributor but also an actual sportswriter at the time — decided to branch out into picking college games. As I recall, the first season — and probably the subsequent two or three — were a bit erratic; we didn’t do shows every week and we didn’t really settle on a format for a long time. But there we were, posting the vids from our chats on the blog and on the socials.
As we went through subsequent seasons, we took gradual steps towards something that one could almost call “polished.” The above logo (which was all Carla’s doing). Consistent naming and format conventions. A Facebook page. And, as of 2017, an audio version — I believe the kids call it a podcast — that posted to iTunes and a whole bunch of other places. We’ve even added a correspondent — hi, AJ! — who gives us a rundown of the stupid fun Group of Five games I’m too old to stay up and watch.
We’re now in our eighth season. And I bring up the show here because we’re actually having a pretty good season so far. The format is solid, we have some fun little things we do each week and — somewhat oddly — we’ve actually been pretty good with our picks. And while I don’t want to speak for Carla, it feels like a lot of fun this time around, even after we spent the month of August boggling at the notion that we’d been doing this for eight years.
Look. This is a little show. I’m sure it’s mostly friends and family who are listening. And hey — that’s you guys. If you’re of a like mind as far as college football goes, give us a listen.
Fall used to be a lot busier than it is these days.
For most of the last two decades, about half of our fall weekends were spent driving to Columbus, prepping a tailgate party for somewhere between 10 and 20 people, going to Ohio State’s home game and then coming home on Sunday. For several of those years, we would get home just in time for me to turn around and drive to work for my regular Sunday night shift.
It was a blast. And even when we were in our early forties, it was exhausting. And now that it’s ten years later? It would be impossible.
For me, there was a turning point a few years ago, with a game against, I think, a directional Florida. It was early September and stinking hot, as Columbus can be. It also rained all the way through tailgate “party,” which mostly consisted of us huddled under a canopy, eating soggy food and trying keep rain out of our beers. And when the rain ended, it didn’t help — it just made it feel even more humid.
There was talk among the adults initially — even in my mid-40s at that point, I am not one of the adults — and several decided they were going to do the comfortable thing: Go home and watch on TV. At that point, I was pretty hardcore — even leaving the game early was something you just did not do; skipping a game entirely was out of the question.
But once the sweat became so profuse that I could feel it running down my back, I started listening: Air conditioning. Cold beer. No lines for food or bathrooms. A 70-inch television, comfortable chairs and no danger (well, not much) that someone would dump a gallon of Diet Coke down my back.
OK. I relented. And it was awfully nice.
With the exception of the mostly-annual big deal non-conference game or the home opener, the September games were the first to go. They generally didn’t mean much, and Columbus can be as hot in September as it is in July.
Next, we started paring back on the not-as-big-deal Big Ten games. You know the ones — they would be historic upsets if they happened (and they occasionally did), and who wants to brag about watching Illinois upsetting Ohio State in Cbus in 2007?
(Spoiler alert: We were there. BUT I’M NOT BRAGGING.)
Once my folks made the decision to stop going to games, this became a bit easier. We had one season, two years ago, when we had four seats together, and four of us made it to a few games that season together — and they were awesome. But there were only a couple of them, and realistically, it was too much of a chore for my folks to get into the stadium, deal with the crowd and still be able to enjoy — or even see — the game.
I’m not at all suggesting that they are responsible for this change. It was part of it, but we’re getting old too. And when we were able to do a full weekend, we were exhausted by the time we got home on Sunday.
So we don’t do it. And life is better. We did four home games last year, and we’re about to go to our second of four this season. Mom and dad still love the tailgate parties — so do we — and we’ll have four good ones in 2019. They go home and watch on TV, and we go inside the Shoe and see some college football that many fans would kill to see live.
I haven’t made too many concessions to my 52-year-old self yet, but this one has been good. And I still get to see Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State, have great tailgate parties with the Killer Nuts Tailgating group that’s been doing this for 20 years — and I don’t feel like I’m doing to die by the time December begins.
Waaaaaaay back in 2007, I said I was retiring the tag “Hopeless Cleveland Sports” from Uncle Crappy. I made the decision based on a sudden rash of tolerable performance by the Cavs and the Indians and a draft by the Browns that included now-certain Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. It got even better later that year, when the Browns actually finished with a winning record for the season.
But then? More of the same.
There have been peaks since then — the Cavs title that brought grown men to tears (and by “grown men,” I mean me) and the frustrating, maddening and ridiculous — and awesome — World Series run by the Indians later that same year. But that marvelous year coincided with a 1-15 season by the Browns and a winless season the following year. The Indians got stomped by the Yankees. And there was another inevitable departure — albeit a much less acrimonious one — by King James.
But then last year happened. And things truly felt different.
It’s not perfect, not even close. The Cavs are rebuilding without LeBron, and the Indians can’t quite catch the Twins, although they still have a shot at the AL wild card.
But last night, I sat in my living room and watched the Browns win their first MNF game since 2008. A friend in Cleveland remarked that we weren’t aware that Hank Williams Jr. was still coherent enough to sing the MNF intro … although it struck both of us that we hadn’t really had a reason to pay attention to MNF for a while.
But now we do. And that’s the point. The team that beat the Jets last night isn’t good enough to win the division, but when you recall that the Browns finished last year 5-3, you understand — It’s a long season. Things can improve.
And if they do — if Baker Mayfield understands that he doesn’t have to throw for 30 yards on every play; if Freddie Kitchens finds a running game; if Myles Garrett can maybe not try to actually end the life of the opposing quarterbacks he hits — they could get to the post season for the first time since 2002.
That’s a loooooong drought, boys and girls, and I’m ready for a drink.
After watching Texas Tech absolutely lock down Michigan State in Saturday’s semifinal, Sports Chump — if he had been following the possible outcomes of the Thirteenth Practically Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub) — was probably sweating.
Mr. Chump picked a high score in the final, so if it came down to the tiebreaker, his pick was looking a little rough.
The Chump and Scooter From The Land of Suburban Shooting Guards both finished with six points, on the strength of UVA making it to the title game. Scooter’s tiebreaker total was 136 points — a feasible guess as it turned out, given Tech’s defensive strength. Chump’s tiebreaker total was 164 points, which, as previously mentioned, would require more offense than Tech generally allows.
And here’s the interesting thing. At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 68 — or a combined total of 136 points.
Scooter? I’m sorry. You were so close.
But the 26 points scored in overtime gave this year’s TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) title to Sports Chump. I know Mr. Chump is named Chris, and that he lives in the Tampa, Florida, area — Jackets in seven, by the way — but we’ve never met in person. Mr. Chump, the choice is yours — if you’re going to be in Pittsburgh anytime soon, I’ll be happy to offer you tips on spending $50 at Piper’s Pub; if you have a local pub or brewery where fifty bucks might come in handy, I can PayPal you or send you a check — if that’s the case,
email me the pertinent details.
I wasn’t going to do AUCNFFC this year. But once again, it made the tournament more fun than it would be if I were just watching my office brackets go down in flames. Will I do it again next year? Uh. Maybe?
(Will I post anything on Uncle Crappy between now and then? C’mon, guys — let’s not get too crazy here.)
Regardless of what happens here in March 2020, I appreciate your participation, your support, and your lousy basketball picks — I mean, I almost won this thing myself.
I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like the wreckage of Thirteenth Practically Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub), in terms of how many people we’re going to honor with a Blutarsky Award here in just a sec.
Chalky picks only work if the higher seeds win, and the higher seeds failed to do that last weekend. Carolina. Duke. The Aforementioned Basketball School Up North. All dumped on their keisters before making the Final Four.
So who might win this thing? No one — not a single TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) contestants correctly picked the Final Four. But nevertheless, there are a few possibilities:
Four plus (Two correct Final Four picks and the possibility for more points):
Two plus (One correct Final Four pick and the possibility for more points):
Four and done (Two correct Final Four picks but no more points possible):
Two and done (Two correct Final Four picks but no more points possible):
Before we move on, boys and girls, I would ask that you recall The Crappy Rule, as outlined in the contest’s initial post a couple weeks back. It says, in part:
If I were to come out on top of my own contest (and believe me, boys and girls, there is very little chance of that happening), the Piper’s gift card would be awarded to the next runner up (although I retain full bragging rights, which I would exercise almost daily until next year’s contest).
So pay attention if you still have points coming — you’re still in this thing.
And then … we have the people who most definitely are not still in this thing. You have managed to achieve the ultimate in college basketball futility … and for that, you deserve an award.
A Blutarsky Award.
Why does a college basketball pool have an award named for a fictional character from Animal House? For this one line, which perfectly describes your TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) performance:
Blutarsky Award winners (No correct Final Four picks and no points):
Thank you for playing, Blutarsky people. And good luck to the rest of you.