Monday, April 4, 2011

The Agony of College Sports

Just in time for tonight's NCAA Final, guest blogger Sarah Peveler shares her witty observations on the life of a college sports fan. Welcome, Sarah!

I learned the agony of college sports at an early age. When I was in the fourth grade, daddy and I stretched out on the floor in front of the stereo and listen to Larry Munson, the voice of the Vanderbilt Commodores, call games from the road. The passion is genetic. Daddy’s father never met a sport he would not coach, umpire, and referee in northwestern Iowa. We loved the games and were always disappointed when Vandy played “smart boy” basketball. Even Vandy’s 1965 season with Clyde Lee and John Ed Miller fell short of expectations.

Diminished expectations are my college sports life. I wear with pride my Northwestern Rose Bowl sweatshirt every year, remembering four years of freezing in Dyche Stadium (and several of those were winning years with Mike Adamle!). We warmed up with post-game oven-baked beef stew and bad red wine to forget the chill of losing. I remember spending my courting days at Georgia Tech’s swimming pool as my to-be-husband breast-stroked to victories. Then came the 1968 Olympic Trials and, of course, he didn’t make the cut. More disappointments. (And, by the way, I’ve never forgiven Georgia Tech for leaving the SEC).

I live in eastern North Carolina where basketball is a passion only behind family, BBQ, and God. I have no dog in the Tobacco Road fights even with friends who are passionate Duke and Carolina partisans. I do remind my Duke alumni friends that Christian Laetner is the devil in my house and that of my brother (remember the Kentucky 1992 loss?). The intensity that North Carolinians bring to the game makes me happy even though I sit out these battles.

This season’s NCAA March Madness has been another lesson in frustration. I took Vanderbilt further than I should have before switching to Kentucky (my perennial strategy – never UT) but it was not to be and neither was Kentucky. For the last 10 or so years, I’ve done brackets with my Philadelphia friend, Sara Macro Forrest. One or the other of us has won every year to the point where no one will play with us. One year, a colleague, who is a former Catholic nun, selected only Catholic colleges and did better than most in the pool!

Reflections on this year’s NCAA tournament? Sara and I are tied in the brackets and will remain so – our brackets were toast early on. But what can you expect from two gals who are graduates of Emory University and Bryn Mawr College? Maybe we are just looking for a team to love. We do this every year with a pizza as the prize and maybe 2012 will give us teams for which we are passionate and will support our brackets. Butler and UConn? Who thought? Are there possibly three people in the nation with these picks? But that’s the glory of the NCAA tournament. And maybe Vanderbilt will make it to the Final Four next year. I can always hope, can’t I?

By the way, Sara and I are ready for baseball and the Phillies, one thing we can agree on. The sports seasons unfold to new games and agonies.

-- Sarah F. Peveler

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Where is Joakim?

Darn ... on the bench with an injured ankle for the third straight game. He said yes, coach said no. He'd like to go-go-go ... The Bulls need him tonight. They're off to a slow start against the Raptors. Derek Rose is just getting warmed up and Boozer seems to be the main guy on the court right now.

I love to watch Joakim Noah play. He is a tall lanky guy with a big cloud of curly hair in a top knot. A great big smile and legs that run on steam. A guy like this will overplay and then wonder why he's still hurting.

His father, Yannick Noah, played tennis for France with grace and style -- and lots of guts. A serious guy on the court. Joakim is cool, hip, a little gawky -- the kid from New York who just has to sink one more shot before dark. And maybe just one more ... Sure miss him tonight!!

Get better, Joakim. Please. Quick.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dull Spring?

Yes, it's been a little slow here at Your Sports Gal. Six Nations Rugby continues to be a source of enjoyment but NCAA basketball is not my tournament of choice. Something about skinny college guys in tee-shirts under their jerseys. Booooo! Yes, I hear my friends booooooing me. Awww ... get over it! I'd rather watch the Bulls with the su-perb Derek Rose and the fabulously coiffed Joakim Noah (son of the tennis almost-great Noah). Yankees season will start soon, officially, and NHL games occupy a lot of television time.

I think Spring fever is the big deal here. I need a tonic.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Was Super Bowl XLV Scrumpdeliumptious?

It certainly drew a huge audience. Some of the commercials, such as mini-Darth Vader, were awfully cute. The baby E-Trade commercials are always a bit hit. But the game itself seemed slow and sluggish until the last ten minutes, when Green Bay turned on the juice and the Steelers coasted.

I did not watch the half-time show, but it didn't seem like a big winner. At the top of the game, I tried to watch Cristina Aguilera sing our national anthem. However, she ground the opening measures to dust in the melisma cement mixer, and I turned off the TV.

I heard that Fergie was valiant. Perhaps the game was great. I'll bet the home parties and tailgaters were fun. Fairway Market certainly was sold out of treats.

I'll wait until next year for the Bears, who are certain to a) be there and b) win big!

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come."

-Alexander Pope,
An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733

Good-night and good dreams to all!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Flower of Scotland Sings les Bleues

6 Nations Rugby: France Beats Scotland 34-21

But that's just the end of the story.

Pre-game show was great -- no Telestrator! (Remember Mike Fratello, the Czar of the same scribbling wiggly lines, circles, and x's and o's during basketball games?) Rugby hosts Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, aided by NFL pro-Bowler Hugh Douglas, used the Sabbuteo -- non-electric electronic football. Full-color action figures in team jerseys glide across the scale-perfect pitch under human hands. Boom! Down goes a player for France! countered by a Scotsman down. Bam! Davies against Bennett! The Sabbuteo separates the men from the boys!

Fashion notes: Roger Bennett looked cute in his scrum cap, which was far neater, more chic, and compact than any Potterian sorting hat. Michael Davies sported his clan necktie since his Scotland jersey did not arrive in time, and showed off his grandmother's (auntie's?) tartan. American Hugh Douglas was decked out in an Argyle sweater, evoking that heather-on-the-hills feeling.

12 noon: The match began with each team's national anthem. "Flower of Scotland" (an unofficial anthem, used at sporting events) for the visitors, the Marseilles for France. Lots of lusty singing, especially on the part of the home team.

Even for a neophyte, rugby is easy to grasp, fast, light, and skillful. It is similar in many ways to American football, different in others. Scarcely any protective gear (except scrum hats for men in the front line). No padding, no crunching helmets, no face guards. A few mouth guards here and there, protecting a few teeth. Trys are touchdowns; conversions are extra points. Read all about it on any good rugby 101 page.

Here we go!

2:24 time elapsed: The aggressive and elegant French score a try (5 points) on a wide-open field. They get the additional 2-point conversion in record time. Play continues, fast and eager. (Point of reference for American football: touchdown is 6 points plus one point for kicked goal. Funny how both add up to 7.)

The scrum: For this newbie, the scrum is one of the best parts of rugby. Both sides hunker down, facing each other, to the cry: Crouch-Touch-Pause-Engage. The ball is thrown into the middle of this undulating man mass and the action revs up. If you haven't seen a scrum, I'd liken it to a many multi-legged spider moving in its own circle powered by legs that somehow wind up going in the same direction.

Play continues straight on, with no stopping to regroup. No strutting around, lining up, waiting for the glam QB to call the next play.

11:24: France scores a drop goal after a minor struggle for ball possession.

Scotland keeps losing the ball. Finally, 11:58 into the game, the Scots get the ball back near their own goal.

13:05: Scotland intercepts the ball. Wa-hoo!
13:34: Commentator says that Scotland is "plodding away." Hard to do in such a fast game!
14:22: France has the ball ... again.
15:03: Surprise! France gets the ball but Scotland defends.

Repeat after me: Crouch-Touch-Pause-Engage
17:23: Scotland penalized for Obstruction.

18:45: Scotland scores a Try! Finally!!! Score is 10-5, then Scotland converts for 2 more points. Hey, looking good at 20:04. Twenty minutes left to the half.

21:18: France's ball, but Scotland intercepts at 23:41.

25:40: Penalty against France: Front Row Standing Up. Egad.

28:19: Penalty Try - advantage France.
28:23: France scores try plus conversion. Score: 17-7 France.

33:23: Hold your breath -- Scotland's ball. Passing ... passing ... but not scoring.
34:37: France's ball ... again.
35:56: Scotland's ball; France all over them
36.35: Loose ball! AND France gets it.
Back and forth as half ends, still 17-7. The flower of Scotland still has a chance.

Second half. Enthusiasm runs high, both sides. Some cute little poulet hats in the stands. Wonder what that's all about?

Here we go!
42:17: Scotland gets the ball to the 10-meter line. Gorgeous Richie Gray is down with hamstring/groin/something pull, but up he gets in record time.

43:22: Too bad, Richie. France has the ball. No stopping them. Scotland gets a penalty. France inches closer to the goal line. Scotland gets another penalty for Holding On.

"Wave after wave of a French attack." Couldn't have put it better moi meme.

53:56: Scotland gets the ball again. Then loses it.
54:18: France scores a try on a wide-open field! Gets the conversion

60:47: Scotland scores a try plus conversion. Score is 24-14. Twenty minutes left.

67:11: Scotland has the ball.
68:05: France scores a try with conversion. Score is now 31-14 on a wide-open field for France.

"Little mistakes ... severely punished" says the commentator about Scotland. Morality tale in progress.

Help is on the way!
75:41: Sean Lamont scores a try plus conversion. Score now 31-21, France. Still time???

79:10: France scores. Again. 34-21. Scotland finishes well. France finishes better. Scotland sings les bleues.

Not to worry. This is not yet elimination play. We're still in the round robin phase. For all the games, check out BBC America online.

Good night to all!

Fast, Fleet, and Oh, Those French

Stay tuned for my run-down of today's Rugby match, France v. Scotland. And if you can't stand the suspense, France won, 34-21, with Scotland finishing well. More later!