It was a rare amount of success for my sports teams this weekend, something that I’m sure hasn’t happened in many, many years… I haven’t actually figured out when the last time this happened was, but it may have been over a decade ago…
UVA Football won.
UVA Basketball won.
The Cowboys won.
The Flyers won.
The Redskins, Eagles, and Giants all lost.
Maryland Football lost.
In the same weekend.
I’m no statistician, but I HAVE to imagine the odds of all of that happening in the same weekend are pretty much infinity. And we were a Virginia Tech football loss away from a truly perfect sports weekend in my world.
What should I do? How should I celebrate? Not sure…
As the Cowboys were finishing off their drubbing of the Bills today, the girl says to me… ”You don’t seem too excited about it…”
She, sadly, was partially right. I was excited. But not as much as I should have been…
I was, and still am, quite excited over all of these great wins this weekend. And am feeling good about all 4 of these teams right now. Not like “championship good”, but generally good. Both UVA teams are heading in the right direction. The Cowboys at least continue to beat the teams they should (despite continuing to lose other games). And the Flyers continued their decent start and still seem to be on a good path to a playoff berth.
But what’s clear, and what was confirmed for me today, is that the losses, and especially the crushing losses, hurt WAY worse than the wins feel good. To put it another way, the lows seem to be a lot lower than the highs are high. And, honestly, I don’t know why that is… It’s not like losing is a new thing with these stable of teams I root for. I’m never surprised by losing. I just think I take it harder than I should and I don’t quite revel in the wins as much as I could. Probably a character flaw.
But this weekend? I don’t need to worry about that… We had a nearly perfect sports weekend.
Oh, and did I mention I had yet ANOTHER wonderful weekend with the fam? Beautiful weather. A trip to the aquarium. A smiling, walking, excited boy. And a beautiful wife. Things are good. Maybe if I just liked my job I could really claim to be (to steal a line from my man Lou) the luckiest man (man man man) on the face (face face face) of the earth (earth earth earth).
For the second time in the last 3 years, the UVA Baseball team made it to the College World Series in Omaha. But unlike 2009, they made it to the Final 4 this year, needing only to avenge their loss against South Carolina to meet Florida for the national championship. Sadly, it was not to be…
And I was (and am) absolutely, 100% crushed.
It was not so much that they lost, it was how they did it. And with one game, and one few hour stretch, baseball has joined those “other” UVA sports in finding brand new ways to crush my soul…
Last night against South Carolina, in a game they had to win to extend the series against the Gamecocks, UVA lost in 3-2 in 13 innings. Obviously, rarely are there 13 inning games that come without drama, but this one brought pain along with the drama. Tied at 2 after the 8th, both team’s closers came in to ensure no one scored in the 9th. But they “ensured” it all the way until the 13th. Yes, both closers pitched nearly 100 pitches for their respective teams, showing some serious heart (and probably some serious stupidity) along the way. It was quite a pitching duel. These guys were warriors.
But what made it unbelievable to watch were the missed chances and unbelievable plays that spelled the end for the Wahoos. Virginia managed to load the bases in the 10th, 12th, and 13th innings. And do you know how many runs they mustered? 0. In every situation, they managed to find a way to get out of it without scoring. This included 2 double-plays, a number of strikeouts, and a diving foul-out. One of the double plays was a line-drive that was either a 2-run double or a double play. It was a double play. Of course it was.
I’m no statistician, but the odds of loading the bases 3 times in 4 innings, the last time with NO outs, and not scoring a run has to be astronomical. But they did it. The strikeouts. The foul outs. The bad pitch selection. The double plays.
Of course they did.
They then managed to give up a run in the bottom of the 13th on a series of mental and fielding mistakes. A fast and sad end to a dramatically great, and superiorly painful, game.
I was absolutely heartbroken.
Nothing new for UVA sports, right?
What made this new was that it was baseball. Baseball! Not football. Not basketball. But baseball. For the first time, UVA Baseball found a way to bring the pain just like the others can.
Now, clearly, as a UVA sports fan, I’ve come to expect the soul crushing pain from basketball and football. Especially basketball… Whether it was Duke’s WoJo going coast-to-coast in the final seconds (while travelling at least 4 times) to win the game my first year, or UNC’s Ademola Okulaja hitting a buzzer-beating 3 to erase a UVA lead, or Matt Harpring boxing out 4 UVA players and sending them to the floor to get a rebound, or even UVA blowing a 10 point lead with only 34 second left in last year’s ACC Tournament, I’ve come to expect the pain from Basketball. Heart-breaking is the norm at U-Hall and the new JPJ.
And football has been no different… Whether it was watching Florida State light up Scott Stadium for 3 touchdowns in the game’s first 7 plays, or blowing 21-0 first-quarter leads against Georgia Tech (and at least 2 other teams), losing 12 of 15 to the Hokies, or watching Duke (yes, DUKE!) convert a broken play fumble-rooski three different times to win in my final homecoming as a 4th year, football has been all about pain as well. There’s been very little positive to hang my hat on in football. (Sadly, the 1995 dream win over Florida State was the year before I started…)
But baseball! This was baseball! Not football. Not basketball. But Baseball!
Baseball has never done this to me before?!? And I think it comes down to investment. UVA Baseball has me now. Just like Football and Basketball do. A little success and I’m the one with higher hopes and excitement than anyone around. Which means I’ve also got the farthest to fall…
I can count on two hands the number of baseball games I went to as a student in Charlottesville and I can count even fewer that I watched on TV between my graduation in 2000 and the 2009 post-season run. (That would be 0.) My investment was low. I enjoyed watching when I did, rooted hard when I watched, but was blissfully unattached at all other times. Even with guys like Ryan Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds floating around the team and into the big leagues. As the old adage goes, I just wasn’t that into them…
Then the 2009 playoff run started to reel me in…
As I’ve written about many times, UVA sports has seen some incredible success in sports like Lacrosse and Soccer. And while I’ve watched those events, and certainly rooted hard, my love and investment in those sports are just not that high. So the wins were never THAT high for me and the losses never THAT low. But this was baseball. Baseball! Everyone knows everything about baseball! We’ve been baseball season ticket holders. I watch dozens of games on TV every month. And baseball is the only sport I really ever played growing up. This isn’t lacrosse, a sport I’m not even convinced I know all the rules of… So investment came fast and easy.
And so did the heartbreak…
The extra-inning loss to Arkansas in the 2009 College World Series was pretty rough, filled with its own share of missed chances, bad at-bats ending in poor scoring attempts, and some fielding miscues. But the attachment was still brewing. It didn’t cause this kind of pain. The Hoos had another good run in 2010, falling short in the Super Regional withough qualifying for Omaha. I was saddened, but again, only mildly.
But then, the 2011 team was ranked #1 most of the season. It had an incredible ACC tournament to finish the season ranked #1 and enter the NCAA Tournament on a high note. It had an ABSOLUTELY unbelievable win against UC Irvine after being down to their last strike to get to Irvine. They had me. I was in. I was attached. I was ready for a run.
Then last night, the missed chances, and the double plays happened. Baseball had found the recipe for pain souffle.
During the game last night, the girl asked me a simple series of questions… “Do you even enjoy watching this? How is this fun for you? You seem to be in pain.”
Yes. It is. I am.
Welcome to the fold, baseball…
So… If my fat baby, my job, and my desire to build Dioramas out of Peeps hadn’t gotten in the way in the last week, here are the things I would have LOVED to have written about… Sadly for you (ok, really just sadly for me), you are forced to get mini bullets instead of diatribes…
- UVA Blew a Lead that was Statistically Impossible to Blow - Indeed, it’s actually true. UVA led by 10 points last Thursday against Miami in the first round of the ACC Tournament. After 4 missed free throws, 3 embarrassing turnovers, and 3 3-point plays, Miami sent the game into overtime and crushed them in the extra period. It was about as unbelievable to watch as you imagine it was. Just bonehead move after another. Simply holding the ball and getting fouled and STILL missing your foul shots would’ve probably won the game. That’s how bad it was. And to add insult to miserable injury, the lead was actually statistically impossible to blow, based on the history of college basketball games. Read this article to see what I mean. It was an unfortunate and sad ending to a basketball season that exceeded expectations in nearly every single way. It probably also sealed the fate of the team not getting an NIT bid. Shame.
- Changing TV coverage of the NCAA Tournament- They’ve decided to spread the TV coverage of the tournament over 4 channels to be sure that everyone can watch every second of their game, without having to be cut away. I like this on it’s premise, but don’t like it for 2 specific reasons. First and foremost, they’re using TruTV as one of the channels. Unfortunately, I don’t get TruTV in High Definition. And let me just say that watching sports in Low Definition is NOT something I’m interested in anymore. This is a huge dagger. Secondly, I sort of liked being passed around to be sure I saw all of the great endings. I know CBS will still do some of this, but I really enjoyed knowing I wouldn’t miss any of the “great” action, even if I had to miss some of the “good” action in the process. But I recognize that not being able to watch every second of your team’s most important game of the year was certainly an issue for people. Maybe it’s just because UVA never gets a shot that I’m not bothered by that.
- Cricket World Cup - The cricket World Cup has been going on in India all week and while I can’t watch any of it on TV, I’ve been following the daily matches each morning on the internet. I really believe the US would love cricket if presented in the right way as it’s really, really quite entertaining. And I’ve loved the action including big upsets (England who?) and last minute heroics. Just wish I could watch some of it on TV here, in high definition of course!
- Selection Sunday - The NCAA Tournament committee seemed to do yet another bonehead job of filling out the bracket, even with an additional 3 teams added to the fold. Teams with seemingly much better resumes (Colorado, Virginia Tech, Alabama) were left out for teams that essentially beat no one (UAB, VCU, USC). Boy, I love this time of year!
- Jimmer Fredette Can Score - Yes, there is a young man playing for BYU whose name is Jimmer. You can’t make that up. And let me just say that that dude can score the basketball. He had been lighting it up all season long, but after BYU suspended their second-best player in a very unique and interesting scandal, he was literally their only offensive option. You’d think could stop “only options”. Oh no. Not Jimmer. He only went for 52 against New Mexico State the next week. The kid can shoot, he can drive, he can dunk, and he’s got shoulders like Dwight Howard. I’m a Jimmer fan. For reals.
- Charlie Sheen is Comedy Gold - In reality, I don’t have much to say in the Charlie Sheen insanity other than he is truly crazy, but NOT to be missed. The things that come out of his mouth in interviews and on Twitter are truly pure gold. I’ve enjoyed every bit of his meltdown the last few weeks. We’re all WINNING with Charlie in our lives.
- The Lakers are Playing Great- Despite losing to Miami, which wasn’t awesome, the Lakers have been playing quite well, with wins against San Antonio, Dallas, Orlando, and lots of other contenders since the All-Star Break. Andruw Bynum has been the difference to me, creating a defensive and rebounding force that very few teams can handle.
- Baby Comedy - The video of this baby tearing up “the bar” is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cds7lSHawAw
- The Fab 5 Documentary on ESPN- Sunday night, ESPN had a documentary on the “Fab 5” - the 5 freshman basketball players who entered the University of Michigan together in the early 90s and really impacted the sport. I sadly have not seen the entire documentary yet (fear not, it’s been DVRd), but I have read more thoughts about it than almost anything else on TV the last few days. Apparently those Michigan boys had lots to say about those Duke boys. I’d watch a replay if you can catch one.
- And probably much much more…
Sorry I haven’t been around… This week starts the NCAA Tournament, so you’ll be hearing a WHOLE lot about that over the next few weeks…
And I mentioned how I’ve been distracted at the beginning of this post. Obviously, no one cares about my job, but I thought you deserve to see why the other distractions have been hurting me…
First of all, the fat baby… Few things are as fun to be around as this little monster:
And secondly, we’ve been spending lots of time lately building our Peeps Dioramas. Yes, you read that correctly. Dioramas featuring Peeps. The Washington Post runs a contest every year (read about it here and see some of the past winners here) and we’ve been dying to enter. This year, we finally did. Here are our superiorly awesome creations:
Angry Peeps (based on the ever-so-popular Angry Birds app)
The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Peeps
I recognize that these kids are taking finals and being the “student” part of the “student-athletes” that they are supposed to be, but I am so not a fan of 10-day layoffs between UVA Basketball Games. I miss this team and the upside and hope they’ve given me. Study hard boys, I don’t need any academic suspensions!
Friday night and the Ducks can’t come soon enough…
I hadn’t done one of these in a while, but this was one of those weekends that just had lots going on, so I thought it would be a good time to rekindle the “tradition”. And then I wanted to do it last night, but Tumblr decided there would be no blogging yesterday or today… So Mark, time to get to the water-cooler for a Tuesday morning edition of chatter…
“Unfortunately, the BCS wasn’t as busted as it could’ve been…”
Top-ranked Auburn and Oregon both won their games this weekend, completing their seasons undefeated and setting up a pretty clear #1 vs #2 game in the Championship Game in January. If Oregon would’ve lost, the real excitement would’ve begun, as the battle to take an undefeated TCU team or a one-loss “big conference team” like Stanford or Wisconsin would’ve begun.
“Nothing like seeing a 4-loss team in a BCS bowl. Especially one who lost to Temple.”
The worst part about the BCS this year is that UConn will be in the Orange Bowl, while teams like Boise State and Michigan State are shut out. This UConn team lost to Michigan and Rutgers and was SHUT OUT by the juggernaut that is Louisville football. It’s really a travesty. Look, I’m all in favor of the big conferences getting automatic bids due to their tougher schedules, but there MUST be a caveat. If the conference champion has more than 2 losses, the bowls should get the option to choose someone else. They can still choose that team if they want, but they shouldn’t have to. It’s just embarrassing.
“Kinda nice to see a little bit of the old Tiger huh?”
Tiger Woods found himself in contention for the first time all year. He had the best round (or within one shot) for the first 3 rounds and led by 4 going into the final round. Sadly, he ran out of steam on Sunday and was caught from behind by Graeme McDowell (the guy who won the US Open, in case you forgot). In my opinion, it was a shame to see him lose, but if nothing else, it was certainly entertaining seeing him in contention on the weekend. Even on a weekend overshadowed by football.
“Maybe those Cowboys should’ve fired cheerleader Wade a little earlier, huh?”
So the Cowboys won for the 3rdtime in 4 weeks under new head coach Jason Garrett. And when you consider that they had the Thanksgiving game against the Saints won before blowing it, they’ve been a totally team since the firing. Granted, Peyton Manning did NOT have his best game on Sunday, throwing 4 picks, of which 2 were returned for TDs, but the Cowboys still managed to get it done. Something they had NOT done for the first 8 weeks of the season. It’s just a shame they had to fall out of the playoff picture before getting it together.
“About time the Yankees ponied up for Derek Jeter.”
Derek Jeter finally signed a new contract with the Yankees, a 3 or 4 year deal (depending on a buyout) that can be worth up to $65M. Yes, Jeter probably wanted more money than he was worth statistically, but there are not many Derek Jeter’s out there, and this Yankees team needed to sign him. And when you consider how much money this team spends on BAD contracts, nickel and diming the face of their team for the last decade was just embarrassing and unnecessary.
“Think the Heat turned around? That’s what 4 bad teams will do for you…”
There’s nothing like getting to play the Wizards, Cavs, Pistons, and Hawks to turn around a struggling team. And the Heat, and the Three AmEGOs, got it just in time. Just as the world was starting to discuss if the Heat really could even make the playoffs, they got their bad teams and put together 4 wins. While I’m not going to root for this team, I really see no way that they don’t finish this season well. All new teams take time to gel, and with this many headcases on one team, it’s no surprise this may take a little while.
“Who knew UVA Basketball would be competitive?!?”
Ok, so maybe no one at your water cooler will care about this one, but I sure cared about it… After a stunning victory against Minnesota on the road in the Big 10 / ACC Challenge, the Wahoos followed it up on Sunday with ANOTHER road victory against in-state rival Virginia Tech. Now Tech is certainly not as good as the Gophers are, but beating a conference foe on the road is always a shock. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by this team. And with the Cowboys winning today also, it was quite a day for my teams… Maybe I should’ve played the lottery tonight!
Have a great week!
There hasn’t exactly been much to be happy about with the UVA Basketball team so far this season. They beat up on a couple of cream puffs and they got blown out by the good teams that they played. But interestingly (and surprisingly fantastically), that all changed tonight…
UVA managed to beat 13th ranked Minnesota tonight on the road in the opening game of the ACC / Big 10 Challenge. Yes, they beat a ranked team. And they did it on the road. And they did it on the somewhat-big-time-stage of the Challenge. And they did it despite being down by 13 in the first half. I didn’t think this would happen, but I am deliriously excited that it did.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly getting my hopes up for a tournament run or anything, but this victory tonight had a lot of bright spots that I wasn’t seeing in previous games and was not expecting really at all…
The Seniors Played Big
This is going to have to be a theme throughout the season, but it was especially true tonight. Mike Scott, Mustapha Farrakhan, and Will Sherrill all stepped up big when this team was feeling the heat of a talented team at home. Farrakhan had a career high 23 points, Scott went for 17 and 12, and Sherrill had his usual set of hustle plays and steals (3) that make him so valuable. This is going to have to continue if this team has a chance to win a few ACC games, but it definitely was the case tonight. Let’s just hope Sherrill’s injury isn’t too serious…
The Freshman Played Big
If there is a positive thing to watch all season long, it will be the performance of this crop of freshman. This is the first set of guys that were recruited by Bennett, and is the first true test of his player acquisition. And it’s probably the thing I’m most excited about for this team. Led by Joe Harris and KT Harrel, 4 different freshman saw the floor tonight in a tight game. This is really a fantastic sign. And if you add the fact that Harris led ALL scores in the game with 24 points, it’s an even better sign. Having a core of guys for a few years will allow this team to grow and improve, which is really what they need to do.
They Hit Their Foul Shots
One of the things that really chafed my tuckus duriing the Gillen and Leitao regimes of the last decade was the inability of UVA teams to consistently hit foul shots. But tonight, when this team was trying to hold onto a lead and giving up easy baskets on the defensive end, they still hit the foul shots they needed to hit to maintain the lead and eventually win. They went 25-30 for the game, a number I’d love to see matched all season long. I’m not sure if this is something that Bennett is focusing on, but I really hope it is.
They Hit Their 3s, But Didn’t Fall In Love With Them
At one point during their comeback, the Hoos were 8 of 9 from behind the arc. Clearly, this is an aberration and won’t happen all year, but this team didn’t fall in love with it so much that they shot themselves in the foot. They continued to run a decent offense (mainly through Scott) and get rebounds and take smart shots. They finished 10-13, which is a great percentage, but didn’t force up 10 extra 3-pointers as they floundered for field-goals down the stretch.
They Had Timeouts left at the End
This one may look odd to you, but anyone who has watched UVA basketball in the last few years will know what I mean. WAY too often, this team was out of timeouts by the 15-minute mark of the 2nd half, using them up in the 1st half or in unnecessary situations. This team finished with 2 in the bag, but was able to use them when they needed to as Minnesota started to come back. Timeout Management is really an underappreciated skill of coaches. I hope Tony has it.
They Were Behind on the Road, But Didn’t Give In
But easily the biggest thing to be happy about is that despite a big deficit in the first half and a 10-point deficit at halftime, the team kept playing and didn’t throw in the towel. After getting drubbed by Stanford and Washington, it would’ve been easy for this team to assume this was the same story all over again. But they didn’t, and it wasn’t. Comebacks against ranked teams are hard to come by. Comebacks on the road are even harder to come by. And comebacks against ranked teams on the road are nearly impossible. And it’s something I didn’t think this team was going to be able to do this year. But they did.
Now, like I said… I’m not getting myself too geeked up after one little victory, but this was a surprising one and one that had lots of things to be happy about. I’m now quite excited for this season, while previously, I was only happy that basketball had started so I could forget about football…