Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kevin Millar ... we hardly knew ye

So the Cubs finally had a guy who played for a famously cursed team and was a big reason said curse got busted ... and they cut him.

Maybe they'll try to re-sign Kevin Millar 101 years from now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

High 5s

Just remember when you're doing your brackets next year, kids:

Despite what the "experts" say, the 12s don't always beat the 5s.

Sometimes the 5s not only win, but two of the suckers go all the way to the Final Four.

On another note, I was glad Duke won. There should always one overdog in any tournament, one team you want to root against.

So now we've got three pretty darned good underdog stories ... and the effen Dookies!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Busted bracket do-over

I never (OK, just about never) take a mulligan when I play golf, so I'm gonna take one here ...


Northern Iowa over Michigan State ... There hasn't been this much excitement in Cedar Falls since Oliver saved Mr. Haney from the corn-shucking machine.

Ohio State over Tennessee ... Evan Turner will rip that Creamsickle sportscoat off Bruce Pearl's back while he's driving past the Vols' bench on the way to a dunk.

Then ...

Ohio State over Northern Iowa ... Let's get real. Northern Iowa ain't going to the Final Four.


Syracuse over Butler ... This is the only Sweet Sixteen matchup I actually got right, so I'm going with the team I picked to win it last week. As good a reason as any.

Kansas State over Xavier ... K-State has better players at just about every position - as if talent advantages have meant anything so far.

Then ...

Kansas State over Syracuse ... Just when K-State players start to get tired, Frank Martin buys some time by having a coronary on the bench. Now that's strategy!


Kentucky over Cornell ... Boy, would I love to be wrong in this matchup of Future Pros vs. Future Agents.

West Virginia over Washington ... If those Marquette-vanquishing Huskies keep playing the way they have been, they have a great chance. Odds of yet another incredible outside-shooting game are low, however, and West Virginia knows how to muck its way to victory.

Then ...

West Virginia over Kentucky ... Just a feeling. Of course, I've said that before in this tournament and have been burned so often that my scars have scars.


Duke over Purdue ... This will be such a blowout that Coach K will pull a Phil Jackson and start filing his nails midway through the second half.

Baylor over St. Mary's ... I don't know much about either team, but I do know one thing: There was never a great player named Elgin St. Mary's.

Then ...

Duke over Baylor ... The team you love to hate - the Yankees of NCAA hoops - are back in the Final Four.


Kansas State over Ohio State ... K-State finally overcomes feelings of rejection from when Lon Kruger bolted.

Duke over West Virginia ... Jon Scheyer's high school coach was Bruce Weber's brother. I'm just sayin'.


Duke over Kansas State ... In the most unpredictable tournament in years, those freakin' Dookies end up back on top. Somehow, that's not fair!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Only BCS format can save sucky NCAA hoops tourney

NCAA pooh-bahs had better fix the way they crown their men's basketball champion, because, as usual, the tournament has been a horrible bore.

Overtimes, one-point games, stunning upsets, wild finishes, stirring storylines ... yawn ... wake me when it's over, OK?

Obviously, NCAA honchos should have adopted the always-thrilling BCS model, declared Kansas and Kentucky the two best teams in the land, had the Jayhawks and Wildcats wait 4 or 5 weeks until they meet in an overhyped mythical title game, and let all the other teams play in dozens of glorious basket-"bowl" games.

After all, that formula always produces such a satisfying conclusion to the college football season, right?

And while they're at it, they can tell their basketball programs to stop scheduling games against quality opponents before conference play begins. In football, the best teams spend September fattening up on Cupcake U - yummy morsels for the every-game-counts crowd.

It's hard to beat Florida vs. Central Eastern State College for none of the marbles, I always say.

Clearly, following the NCAA basketball tournament model could never work in football.

I mean, who would want to see the best teams from a cross-section of the country go at it round-by-round until a legitimate champion gets crowned?

Friday, March 19, 2010

About that bracket ...

As Emily Litella used to tell "Cheddar Cheese" on SNL's Weekend Update:

"Never mind."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

If you can stand it, another "expert's" bracket guess

A Preliminary Four things before I start:

1. If your alma mater has a legitimate chance (as mine does this year), pick them.

2. Despite what everyone says, 12s don't "always" beat 5s. Contrarian that I am, I'm picking all four 5s.

3. Just about nobody has seen Northern Iowa or BYU or Richmond or Cornell play. So when folks do accidentally get an upset right, it means they were lucky, not smart. That goes for Yours Baldly, too.

4. Don't be so generous calling things upsets. 9 beating 8 isn't an upset. Neither is 10 over 7. Most 11s are as good as the 6s. 12-over-5 is an upset, of course, but also a cliche. 13 over 4? Now that's an upset. (And I pick one of 'em just for the giggles and yucks.)

OK, here goes:


First Round

1-Kansas over 16-Lehigh ... Jayhawks make 'em look like Le-Junior-High.

9-Northern Iowa over 8-UNLV ... That's right: picking a team that lost to DePaul.

5-Michigan State over 12-New Mexico State ... Tempted, but no.

4-Maryland over 13-Houston ... No Phi Slamma Jamma this time.

11-San Diego State over 6-Tennessee ... Bruce Pearl implodes.

3-Georgetown over 14-Ohio ... MAC daddies sent packin'.

10-Georgia Tech over 7-Oklahoma State ... Ah, but Cowboys will always have win over Kansas.

2-Ohio State over UC-Santa Barbara ... But I'd sure rather be in Santa Barbara than Columbus in March.

Second Round

1-Kansas over 9-Northern Iowa ... Sherron Collins played against my son when both were in 8th grade, and Ben obviously got him ready for the big time.

4-Maryland over 5-Michigan State ... Not one of Izzo's great teams.

3-Georgetown over 11-San Diego State ... Hoya Paranoia is back.

2-Ohio State over 10-Georgia Tech ... Evan Turner = best player in country.

Regional Semifinals

1-Kansas over 4-Maryland ... Greivis Vasquez keeps it close.

3-Georgetown over 2-Ohio State ... G-Town playing as well as anyone in country.

Regional Final

1-Kansas over 3-Georgetown ... I see too many Hoya fouls trying to keep up with KU talent.


First Round

1-Syracuse over 16-Vermont ... Beware the Catamounts!

8-Gonzaga over Florida State ... No longer darlings; just a solid team.

5-Butler over 12-Texas-El Paso ... Because everybody and their uncles are picking UTEP.

13-Murray State over 4-Vanderbilt ... Because I loved Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple.

6-Xavier over 11-Minnesota ... Hey announcers: It's "zavier," not "ex-avier"!!!

3-Pitt over 14-Oakland ... Just like the AFC in the 1970s.

7-BYU over 10-Florida ... Gotta go with a star named "Jimmer."

2-Kansas State over 15-North Texas ... No love for Mean Green on day after St. Pat's.

Second Round

1-Syracuse over 8-Gonzaga ... Almost picked under-the-radar Zags.

5-Butler over 13-Murray State ... What? I'm gonna pick Murray State twice?

3-Pitt over 6-Xavier ... Panthers are as tough as the hammer and the nails.

2-Kansas State over 7-BYU ... Can't go with a star named "Jimmer."

Regional Semifinals

1-Syracuse over 5-Butler ... Bulldogs bite against 2-3 zone.

2-Kansas State over 3-Pitt ... The better team wins.

Regional Final

2-Kansas State over 1-Syracuse ... The spit'll be flyin' out of Frank Martin's mouth.

Align Center
First Round

1-Kentucky over 16-East Tennessee State ... Didn't even know there was an Atlantic Sun Conference.

8-Texas over 9-Wake Forest ... Don't like either, but Texas is better.

5-Temple over 12-Cornell ... Ivy Leaguers are fashionable pick, but Temple's good.

4-Wisconsin over 13-Wofford ... This won't be pretty.

6-Marquette over 11-Washington ... True story: My Sun-Times buddy, Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer, is a Washington alum. He and I have spent the better part of two weeks talking about our alma maters and we often said (though not in unison): "Wouldn't it be crazy if they met in the first round?" And here they are. I hate this matchup because UW has lots of skilled players, and I can see why people would pick the Huskies. But my boys have come through over and over again in tough games like this, so I won't abandon them now. The winner of this game could have quite a run in the tourney.

3-New Mexico over 14-Montana ... Grizzlies give Lobos a scare before bowing.

10-Missouri over 7-Clemson ... Clemson hasn't won tourney game in 13 years; why start now?

2-West Virginia over 15-Morgan State ... Name your score.

Second Round

1-Kentucky over 8-Texas ... A scary second-round matchup for the mighty Wildcats.

5-Temple over 4-Wisconsin ... The more athletic team wins defensive war.

6-Marquette over 3-New Mexico ... Buzz Williams over Steve Alford every time.

2-West Virginia over 10-Missouri ... There aren't five players better than Da'Sean Butler.

Regional Semifinals

1-Kentucky over 5-Temple ... Tempted to pick Temple to set up a battle between my alma mater and my brother's school, but can't do it.

6-Marquette over 2-West Virginia ... My lads lost by 1 at West Virginia this season. This time, it's on a neutral court and my guys will make their free throws down the stretch.

Regional Final

6-Marquette over 1-Kentucky ... I don't pick Marquette to get to the Final Four every year. Honest. In fact, the last time I did - in 2003 - they beat Kentucky to get there. My Golden Warrior Eagles might have to shoot 60 percent from 3-point range to do it this time, but they've done that before. So why the heck not pick 'em?!?!


First Round

1-Duke over 16-Arkansas-Pine Bluff ... Still, you gotta respect a team that gets to the NCAAs after starting the season 0-11.

9-Louisville over 8-California ... Cardinals can beat anybody.

5-Texas A&M over 12-Utah State ... The 12-5 upset I'd pick if I were picking one.

13-Siena over 4-Purdue ... Wounded Boilers fall to dangerous Saints in my upset special.

6-Notre Dame over 11-Old Dominion ... Will be a close game.

3-Baylor over 14-Sam Houston State ... Sam they am not gonna win.

7-Richmond over 10-Saint Mary's ... Everyone's afraid of Spiders.

2-Villanova over 15-Robert Morris ... R. Morris reminds me of cats, and I hate cats.

Second Round

1-Duke over 9-Louisville ... Cardinals can lose to anybody, and Duke's not just any anybody.

13-Siena over 5-Texas A&M ... Why? Like I used to tell my kids: Because I said so.

3-Baylor over 6-Notre Dame ... It pained me enough to pick ND to win once.

7-Richmond over 2-Villanova ... Nova's not playing very well lately.

Regional Semifinals

1-Duke over 13-Siena ... Well, it was fun while it lasted.

3-Baylor over 7-Richmond ... How can a guy pick against the backcourt of Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn?

Regional Final

1-Duke over 3-Baylor ... I guess a guy can pick against Tweety and LaceDarius if the other team has Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith.


Kansas over Kansas State ... The only team in America with no weakness will win a wild one against its archrival.

Marquette over Duke ... You were expecting a different prediction? Of course, this will look pretty dopey if my guys lose to Washington in the first round. Damn you, Gordon Wittenmyer!


Kansas over Marquette ... Fanatic, but not insane.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Score: Jocks 51,000,000, Jobless 0

A letter from a reader named Sharon Roberts appeared in Sunday's Arizona Republic reacting to two stories that had been the the paper a few days earlier. One story was about a local company that had closed, eliminating 520 jobs; the other was about the Diamondbacks signing Justin Upton to a $51.25 million contract.

"Just exactly when did our American values go astray? Five hundred twenty Phoenix residents lose their jobs in one fell swoop, thousands have lost their homes, 10 percent of the American population is out of work, businesses are in bankruptcy, and the United States owes billions to foreign countries. And the Arizona Diamondbacks pay one 22-year-old over $50 million for six years to maybe catch a baseball. Huh?"

I understand the reader's frustration and I have heard the same in my own household. My daughter Katie, who wants to be a teacher, often rails about the fact that teachers (who matter to society) make peanuts compared to jocks (who don't).

Ah, if only it were that simple.

As with most other things in society, it's a what-the-market-will-bear deal. It's also about supply and demand.

Yes, a teacher is more "important" than a ballplayer. But have you ever heard of somebody buying a $50 ticket to see a fourth-grade teacher teach?

Yes, we need teachers more than we need ballplayers. But there are only 750 major league ballplayers in the entire world. There are millions and millions of teachers - and thank goodness for that.

The same goes for firefighters, police officers, medical researchers ... you name an important job, and, yes, we need those people more than we need jocks and actors and rock stars.

Importance to society has nothing to do with anything, and I think Sharon Roberts of Arizona is smart enough to know that. She was just letting off a little steam.

I mean, if only the real important people got the big bucks, bald sportswriters would be the highest-paid men on earth!

Blindsided at the Oscars

At first, I thought it was just some bad leftover pizza ... but I soon realized it was all of those speeches made by the pals of the best actor and actress nominees that made me feel a little ill.

Yeah, we get it. Every nominated actor and actress not only is a wonderful performer but also a paragon of virtue. Just like everybody else in Hollywood.

OK, I will admit I kind of liked Tim Robbins' spiel about Morgan Freeman - because it played on Freeman's fallibility.

And then I had to get sick all over again when Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for an over-the-top performance in a mediocre film. I mean, The Blind Side wasn't even one of the three best sports movies of 2009.

Oh, and remember the olden days ... you know, when Steve Martin was actually funny?

Pass the Tums, please.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bald Oscar Truths

It used to be enough trouble to go see all five movies nominated for Oscars and now they've doubled the candidates. Jeesh. Do I look like I'm made of stale popcorn?

It's like the NHL playoffs used to be in the '80s, when 16 of the 21 teams qualified. I mean, pretty much every film has been nominated for something this year except ... well ... the film I liked best in 2009:

Big Fan. (Rent it today if you haven't seen it already. Really.)

Oh well. I did see all 10 candidates and lots of other movies, too. So without further ado, here are this year's bald Oscar choices. (Remember, these are not predictions. These are the winners this regular-guy movie fan would pick. In other words, these are the right choices!)


Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart.

In a rout. This is so one-sided, it's like LeBron when he was in high school.


Gabourey Sidibe, Precious.

I saw four of the five candidates and liked three very much. Didn't see Meryl Streep but assume she was good, as always. And I laugh that Sandra Bullock actually was nominated for The Blind Side. Sidibe had the most complex role and pulled it off beautifully.


No choice.

I didn't see the majority of the candidates - but I did like both Christopher Plummer in The Last Station and Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds, for what it's worth.


Mo'Nique, Precious.

She dominated every moment she was on the screen. Maggie Gyllenhaal is an Oscar-worthy actress? Really? What are they gonna try to get us to believe next ... that she's Batman's girlfriend or something?


First, let's eliminate the five films that had no business being nominated, thereby bringing the number to the traditional five: The Blind Side, Up, District 9, An Education, Up in the Air.

There. That wasn't too difficult. I actually enjoyed all five of those to various degrees, but they simply weren't as good as the remaining five.

The countdown ...

5. The Hurt Locker. Many friends of mine didn't really like this movie but I found it riveting, original and well written.

4. A Serious Man. The Coen brothers make a funny/sad film about a Jewish shlub. Oy, that's entertainment.

3. Avatar. You know it's not really sci-fi if my wife dug it even more than I did. 3D is back, baby!

2. Precious. The acting was perfect and the story was gripping. Frankly, we need more movies like this.

And my Best Picture Oscar goes to ...

Inglorious Basterds.

Let me tell you, I went into the theater with great trepidation because the plot I'd heard about seemed, well, stupid. But of the 10 nominated flicks, there wasn't one I enjoyed from beginning to end more than this Tarantino romp.

Raunchy, crazy, vile, goofy, memorable and fun. And, as a bonus, Nazis get tortured throughout. Hey, what's not to like?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gotta love Lou

One of the real fun things about being in Cubs camp is that I'm getting my fill of Lou-isms early.

New outfielder Xavier Nady? To Lou, he's "Nagy" - apparently related to former Indians hurler Charles.

Cubbie pitchers don't throw simulated games. To Lou, they're "assimilated" games.

Every other sentence begins with "Look ... " At least once a day, he sets up a thought with the word "Invariably ... "

Gotta love the guy.

On another note, my latest AP story was about fatty-turned-twiggy catcher Geo Soto. CHECK IT OUT.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Unlike U.S. pucksters, Marquette wins on road!

Can't believe the Olympics are over already. Why, it seemed like I started ignoring them just 2 1/2 weeks ago.

Did you see the BIG game yesterday? That's right: I'm talking about Marquette's win over Seton Hall, the Golden Warrior Eagles' third straight Big East overtime road victory. I'm starting to think Final Four. Of course, I'm also starting to think I'll win Powerball.

Click HERE for my latest from Cubbie camp, on the outfield brigade.