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).
With only one tiny exception, I had a nearly perfect weekend. And, for that, I can give thanks to the girl, the boy, the weather, Merrifield Garden Center, the Arlington County Fire Department, Duncan Hines, and the UVA football team.
Let’s start with the boy and the Fire Department… Seems like a bad combo, right? Well, thankfully not… This was the weekend that the fire stations open their doors and you can visit, bring the kids, and play on the trucks. Let’s just say this was a little bit of heaven for the mudge. See it in pictures here.
And the UVA Football team? Well, they continue to be quite an enigma… After struggling MASSIVELY against a miserable Idaho team, and losing quite convincingly to a poor Southern Mississippi team, they go out and beat the toughest team on their schedule this year, Georgia Tech. And they did it rather convincingly, beating Tech at its own game. Running the ball well and playing solid defense. I’m not exactly sure how, but the defense nearly shut out the vaunted “triple option” that has put up more than 60 points twice this year and more than 40 four times. Kudos to Mike London and that defense, for sure… And, since this was Al Groh’s first visit back to Charlottesville since leaving, I would be remiss in not mentioning him. I’ll say this - I never really disliked Al, but I was quite glad to see his defense on the OTHER side of the ball this weekend. Big, great win Hoos.
How about the girl and Duncan Hines? Well, besides letting me sleep in this morning AND letting me take a shower with the curtain and door completely closed, she made some of the best blueberry muffins. I awoke to a deliriously great smell AND to a bowl just waiting to be licked clean. Flat out awesome. I can never be thankful enough.
And for the second straight weekend, we had nearly flawless weather, with temps in the 60s and 70s and a gorgeous blue sky. And for the second weekend in a row, we took advantage of it by spending lots of time outside and spending lots of time gardening. Yes, you read that correctly. The idiots that we are outside spent two weekend in a row tilling, composting, digging, planting, and mulching. You wouldn’t even recognize us if you tried. And I’m thinking the front of the house looks better than it has in a long, long time. A special “assist” goes to Merrifield Garden Center for providing me with the answers to all my stupid questions about what to buy, what to do, and what to water. They charge you some serious $$ there, but they make it worth your while with the help…
That “tiny exception”? That falls on the Cowboys, who couldn’t quite get it done against the best team on THEIR schedule this season, the Patriots. They pretty much ran this game for all 4 quarters, but gave Tom Terrific one too many chances, and he beat them with less than 30 seconds remaining. It’s hard to be too critical on the team for this loss, considering they held Tom and the Patriots to only 20 points, but I think it falls on the offense and the play calling. Too many red zone chances without points and too conservative play calling, both in the red zone and in those situations when they had a chance to close out the game. I recognize that Romo has made some killer mistakes, but you’ve got to trust the guy if you’re going to walk him out there as your starting quarterback. I think some of this needs to fall on Garrett and the play calling for sure.
If they could’ve closed out this game, it really would’ve been an absolutely perfect weekend. I guess I’ll just have to settle for 98.9% perfect. Which is hard to complain about…
Until next week…
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…
Today was college football national signing day. This means that today was the first day that a graduating high school senior can officially commit in writing to the university he will be attending. Sounds interesting, but not necessarily TV-worthy, right? Boy would you be wrong. It has become about as crazy as any day in sports. Remember Lebron James’ ridiculous “The Decision” show this summer? Well imagine that, only for 150 top football recruits each doing their version. Imagine 150 immature, embarrassed, uncomfortable 17 year olds being asked to make a short speech announcing where they are “taking their talents” next year. Now imagine them hiding hats inside boxes. Faking out the cameras with a wrong hat. Putting messages on the back of hats. Wearing costumes. Get the picture? It’s bad TV. It’s bad radio. It’s bad reading.
But you know what? It’s also kind of great as a college football fan. It’s the day in February when you get to think about the “potential” of your team getting good again. And you have no facts to lead you away from that. Today is the day your team is going to be great!
I do not and will not ever really pay attention to the recruiting process for colleges. It generally consists of random websites and posters claiming they know how great a college linebacker is from Oklahoma who is considering going to Ohio State. It’s all crap and no one knows anything. And there are thousands of players. So it’s not worth my time or energy. But on national signing day, I pull out the rankings from Scouts or from Rivals or from ESPN and I look at who’s projected to go where. And I generally scan the full list of 150 to see if anyone is remotely interested in going to UVA. And for the most part I find one or two guys, usually from the state of Virginia, who had us on their short list. But, more often than not, they end up choosing Virginia Tech or some other national power over the Hoos.
But, today? Oh, today was a little different. UVA landed 5 top-150 guys and scored the 19th best recruiting class in the nation according to the final ESPN rankings. We landed 17 guys from the state of Virginia, the most in more than 20 years. We landed top guys on both sides of the ball and we landed great athletes who may end up fitting in at any position. 2nd year head coach Mike London clearly went back to his roots and recruited the heck out of the state of Virginia. He convinced 5 of the top 150 to come to UVA despite finishing with only 4 wins. And we were apparently quite close to getting a 6th, but that guy turned us down for Ohio State (rightfully). That’s a heck of a feat for a new coach. He and his staff really got it done this year. I was pretty geeked up all day reading all about this. It’s our year! We’re going to be awesome!
Want to know what this means?!?
In the immortal words of Jim Mora in one of his famous rants, it means “diddly pooh”. Yup, diddly pooh.
No doubt I’m pretty excited to get some players that some writers and scouts think are talented, but I’ve heard that story before. Al Groh used to bring in decent recruiting classes every few years as well. And we’d get ourselves all lathered up with how great we were going to be and then still go out and finish 4-8. I need to see top recruits translating into wins and not just into first round NFL draft picks from 4-8 teams.
So that’s your challenge Mike London. No doubt you did great work and I am excited again for the season, but try to get these guys to play in a system and gel as a team and win a few games, not just become excellent individual players on bad teams.
Otherwise, we’ll just keep being diddly pooh. Thanks Jim Mora.
So, those crazy Hoos from UVA introduced a new set of football uniforms today. And usually, this would probably not call for bigger news than the other things that are going on today (tiger in contention, Mets winning again, finalists named on project runway), but when you love orange and blue like i do, it is big news…
If you want to see a gallery of the new unis, you can check it out here: (scroll to the 8th pic for the best view of the 3 new combos - 4th one down in the right column) http://www.virginiasports.com/PhotoAlbum.dbml?SPSID=88791&SPID=10606&DB_OEM_ID=17800&PALBID=363969
Here’s my take… I think I like them. They’ve taken away much of the “extras” and gone back to a very solid and very simple style. It’s hard to tell exactly from the pics I’ve seen, but it seems like the orange has gotten a smidge brighter and the blue has gotten a smidge more royal (less navy). I love the new orange jersey and blue pants combo. Very simple, very solid. They almost seem to have a “matte” finish even. I also like that the numbers have a simple outline in the “opposite” color, making them stand out. But there’s no crazy collar design, no crazy arm design, no unnecessary colors on the leg stripes or anything. Simple, quality, nice. Keepers.
Ok, I’m done playing Stacy London and Tim Gunn. Let’s just hope that in the new unis, the Hoos actually find a way to Make it Work rather than establish What Not to Wear.