Loyola-Chicago’s groundbreaking title overlooked today (via USA Today)

online-shake-3-13-13-4_3They are the champions you might not remember, who lived the extraordinary season you might not have known. But to begin to understand the special journey of the 1963 Loyola of Chicago Ramblers, all that is needed is one picture.

The photo, taken before an NCAA tournament game 50 years ago, shows a black player from Loyola and a white player from Mississippi State shaking hands.

The Loyola player is Jerry Harkness, captain for an upstart team that had not only stormed up the rankings but also flouted the unwritten rules of 1963 by starting four African Americans.

They are the champions you might not remember, who lived the extraordinary season you might not have known. But to begin to understand the special journey of the 1963 Loyola of Chicago Ramblers, all that is needed is one picture.

The photo, taken before an NCAA tournament game 50 years ago, shows a black player from Loyola and a white player from Mississippi State shaking hands.

The Loyola player is Jerry Harkness, captain for an upstart team that had not only stormed up the rankings but also flouted the unwritten rules of 1963 by starting four African Americans. … Read More

(via USA Today)

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The Sports Illustrated cover curse has relocated to page 34

rachel nichols si

If it feels like the force of the Sports Illustrated cover curse has waned, that’s only because the jinx has relocated to page thirty four. There, in this week’s issue, appeared SI media critic Richard Deitsch’s article, “The Case for…Rachel Nichols,” in which Deitsch praised Nichols’ recent “interrogat[ions]” of Roger Goodell and Floyd Mayweather Jr. “on her eponymous CNN show, Unguarded with Rachel Nichols. As a result,” Deitsch proclaimed in a laudatory proclamation highlighted in the featured pull quotation, “Nichols is at the moment the country’s most impactful and prominent female sports journalist.”

That may have been true “at the moment” Deitsch wrote it, but by the time many SI readers saw it, Nichols’ show had been cancelled. That’s pretty devastating all the way around, and if you’re a fan of either Mississippi State or Ole Miss football, both of which share this week’s SI cover, you may be in for a long day today.

A Statistical Appreciation of the Washington Generals And Harlem Globetrotters (via FiveThirtyEight)

gtRed Klotz, the founder and longtime coach of the Washington Generals, the Harlem Globetrotters’ perpetually feeble opponents, died at age 93 last week (I highly recommend Joe Posnanski’s remembrance). Klotz’s all-time record as a head coach of the Generals and their namesakes was something like six wins and 14,000 losses — they lost 99.96 percent of the time.

How exactly did the Generals lose so consistently? How much of it was their conceding games on purpose, as opposed to simply being really bad at basketball?

Let’s first get a sense for how good the Globetrotters were. … Read More

(via FiveThirtyEight)

2013 college football bowl schedule

Before getting to the 2013-14 college football bowl schedule and associated predictions and operations, a note on sponsored discourse. In this post-Musburger-for-all-the-Tostitos world, it is an unremarkable fact that the bowl games are not merely sponsored football contests but business entities in and of themselves, the sponsorship-style nomenclature– e.g., “the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl”– a mere reflection of the game’s less overtly monied past. Even the ostensible bastion of postseason intercollegiate purity now is known as “the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.”

When a bowl game is a business, and not merely a happening, there is an associated shift in the commercial advertising language referential to that business. The NFL’s decision to prohibit the use of “Super Bowl” by non-league advertisers, who now must offer you late-January deals on new televisions for watching “the big game,” provides a rough analogy.

I understand and accept the logic behind a business’ desire to control its portrayal in other business’ advertisements and insist on inclusion of a game’s full, sponsored title in that portrayal. What I do not understand is why the news media plays along. This week, I heard a local sports talk show talk about talking about Georgia’s appearance in “the Taxslayer dot com Gator Bowl,” and that’s far from the only example. I understand that some of the sponsors have integrated their names into the bowl games’ names in such a way that it’s difficult– or, where the sponsor’s name and the bowl’s name are one and the same, impossible– to say the bowl’s name without saying the sponsor’s name as well (e.g., the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the Capital One Bowl, respectively). “Taxslayer dot com” is a mouthful, though, and everybody already knows the Gator Bowl. “The Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio” is ridiculous to say, and things like “the Allstate Sugar Bowl,” “FedEx Orange Bowl,” and “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl” simply are superfluous. Why the sports news media feels obligated to append these sponsor names when discussing the bowls is beyond me, and you won’t find us doing it here, unless it’s something humorous like the Beef O’Brady Bowl or the RealOakFurniture.com Bowl.

Onto the bowl schedule, which begins this Saturday.   Continue reading

FrankenMonday Update

Nothing is weather until it’s New York City weather, which means that, as of sometime today, we have ourselves some weather. Somehow unsurprisingly, the indomitable Clay Travis has himself a man on the scene, reporting live from the south shore of Long Island. Somewhat surprisingly, there has been a dearth of Point Break references being made, so that’s something we collectively need to work on. And while the Frankenstorm/Hurricane Sandy caused the main presidential candidates to take a break from the campaign trail, it didn’t stop sports this weekend.

Saturday was a tumultuous day in college football’s top 25, with undefeateds Ohio and Mississippi State taking their first losses of the season, Wisconsin losing to Michigan State in overtime, Oregon State losing to Washington, Florida losing to Georgia, USC losing to Arizona, Rutgers losing to Kent State, and Michigan losing to Nebraska. Although not technically an upset, Notre Dame surprised most people outside of South Bend by beating Oklahoma in convincing fashion. The Georgia win is significant because it dashes the order that was starting to distill in the highly competitive SEC East. The Arizona win is significant because 1) aren’t they really bad??, and 2) it weakens Oregon’s strength of schedule, because the Ducks were relying on a win against USC to buoy their BCS ranking that continues to fall despite an unbroken series of mathematically mind-boggling wins.

In the NFL, the Lions beat the Seahawks by scoring touchdowns in both halves of the game, and even daring to take a lead in the first half. The Falcons preserved their position as the NFL’s only undefeated team by beating the Eagles, a team where the only constant now seems to be the walrusness of Andy Reid’s mustache. (Reid fired his good friend and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo during Philadelphia’s bye week last week, and after yesterday’s game, Michael Vick said that Reid was contemplating a change at quarterback.) In a real accordion-style game, the Giants went up 23-0 on the Cowboys, then went down 24-23, before coming from behind in some technical sense to beat Dallas, 29-24. Andrew Luck led the Colts to an overtime victory against the Titans, the Broncos beat the listless Saints by twenty, and the Bears survived a scare from the visiting Panthers, beating Carolina by one.

Finally, the sad World Series came to an end last night when the Giants beat the Tigers 4-3 in the tenth inning of game four. It’s San Francisco’s second championship in three years. More on that later in the week.

Midseason Monday

We’re into the meat of the 2012 football season with heavy games for most teams from here on out. It’s also the time when teams’ reputations for the year become solidified. One such team is Auburn, which fell to 1-6 on the season, 0-5 in conference with a 17-13 loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville. Four years ago, I watched these teams play under the lights in the same stadium. In 2008, Auburn was 5-0 and highly ranked, but the game outcome was the same. This year’s win over the TIgers/Plainsmen/Eagles won’t do as much for the Commodores’ strength of schedule, but it does push them to 2-3 in the conference, and it’s an important win to kick off the second half of a schedule that should be easier than the first.

While Vanderbilt took a necessary step in the positive direction Saturday, Michigan State took another step toward a lost season with a 12-10 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor. More on that game later in the week. Back to the SEC for a moment, where the Eastern division is one of the most power concentrated and confusing divisions in the nation. Florida swamped South Carolina, 44-11, to go to 7-0 (6-0), while Georgia escaped Lexington with a 29-24 win over Kentucky. If Florida’s going to lose a game this year, it will be next week when they host Georgia, because the rest of their schedule is soft cake (Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, and Florida State). In the SEC West, LSU and Texas A&M renewed their rivalry in a compelling game featuring early Aggie control and a Tiger comeback win.

Elsewhere in the top 25, Alabama and Oregon rolled. Two quick notes on Oregon: 1) I’m worried that Florida’s #2 rating in the first BCS, together with their easy finishing schedule, will mean that we don’t get to see Alabama and Oregon in the national championship game, a matchup that feels very compelling and intriguing; and 2) the ALDLAND staff is still waiting on it’s autographed Oregon cheerleader calendar. Jog back to the SEC West, where Mississippi State is the most unheralded undefeated team in the country. After beating MTSU Saturday, though, they’re unlikely to stay that way, finishing with Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. Of course, nothing is more perennially unheralded than the Starkville Dogs, and that schedule only has something to do with it. Most of the rest of the top 25 won, including Clemson, Oregon State, and Stanford in important conference games. The upstart Texas Tech Red Raiders survived in triple overtime to beat TCU, and the very impressive Kansas State beat West Virginia in Morgantown 55-14 in a game in which I’d only somewhat jokingly predicted WVU would score 100 after being embarrassed the week before. Dana Holgorson’s air raid offense appears to be out of jet fuel.

On Sunday, the Vikings continue to mount an increasingly compelling challenge to those who would dismiss them by going to 5-2 with a win over flash in the pan Arizona. RGIII continues to impress despite another close loss, this week to the Giants. The Saints doubled their win total by beating Tampa Bay, and the Raiders came back to beat the ailing Jaguars, who lost Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert, sending out the bat signal for David Garrard (I hope). The Patriots beat the Jets in overtime, although VSL’s Bobby O’Shea, a noted Jets fan, thinks that something is wrong in New England, and I’m inclined to agree. Whether it was the defensive injuries Baltimore suffered last week or Houston’s push to come back from a loss, the Texans returned to 2012 form with a 43-13 win over the Ravens.

In baseball, the World Series is nearly set. The Tigers are in(!), and the Cardinals and Giants are playing a game seven right now, which the Giants are winning 7-0 in the fourth. In other current news, Ndamukong Suh just separated Jay Cutler’s neck from the rest of his body. Bears 10, Lions 0 in the first half.

Special teams Monday

On Friday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves hung around long enough and took advantage of a Los Angeles Clippers’ offense that, despite dominating most of the game even without Chris Paul, stagnated after Mo Williams, who couldn’t miss, got himself ejected. Minnesota won the game on a Kevin Love 3-pointer off an in-bounds play with 1.5 seconds remaining. The 101-98 game-winning margin was the T-Wolves only lead of the night after going up 2-0 to start the game.

In college action, Michigan State was all over Purdue in East Lansing, 83-58, the Boilermakers being a much better team in West Lafayette than on the road. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, hasn’t quite been able to right its ship, dropping a tough one in overtime to #15 Mississippi State, 78-77. Other notable games included Virginia Tech upsetting UVA in a low-scoring affair (47-45), Notre Dame upsetting previously undefeated #1 Syracuse, and Florida State salvaging its season with an upset of Duke in Durham just a week after it blew out free falling North Carolina. There also was this neat fact:

Sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died after a battle with lung cancer.  Beyond the longevity of his tenure, recent information about his handling of the Jerry Sandusky situation has obscured and clouded Paterno’s legacy. One has to wonder, though, whether Paterno would be alive today if he had been allowed to remain in his post. It isn’t a sensational suggestion: he and others addressed this very question in years past (in an article, probably in Sports Illustrated, for which I spent a good amount of time unsuccessfully searching on Sunday). The other footnote on this story right now is the mishandling of the death announcement by the media– particularly CBS Sports, which lifted a premature story without attribution from Onward State, a PSU student site, and then attempted to blame that site when the error was revealed.

Sunday featured the NFL playoffs’ final four and saw New England and New York advancing to the Super Bowl. In each game, the losing team appeared to be in control at the end, only to commit crippling special teams errors that delivered the victory to their opponent. When the teams meet in the Super Bowl, Eli Manning will have the opportunity to double his brother’s championship total, while Tom Brady could join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. Super Bowl XLVI will be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, which the Giants won 17-14, thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter catch by WR David Tyree.

In the Australian Open, Serena Williams lost 6-2, 6-3 to Ekaterina Makarova. Williams was the last American alive in the tournament.

What the Orange Bowl tells us about conferences’ automatic BCS bids

We’ve followed the Clemson Tigers this season, from their 8-0 start, through their late-season slippage, their return to their winning ways in the ACC championship, and now their embarrassing defeat last night in the Orange Bowl at the hands of West Virginia. The Tigers’ victories have come almost exclusively on the back of their high-flying offense. Like Grinnell “system” basketball, Clemson doesn’t much care how many points you score because they’re just going to score more. It’s a great approach as long as it lasts, and it definitely is thrilling to watch, but when it unravels, things can get ugly in a hurry. Keep reading…

Less cowbell Friday

Mississippi State lost a defensive struggle to SEC West foe LSU last night in Starkville. The visitors had a 6-3 lead at the half, and I thought the Bulldogs had the winning edge a couple times in the third quarter, but they couldn’t quite overcome LSU, which finally broke the dam in the fourth and won 19-6. Mississippi State still is a team on the rise, but I’m not sure they’re going to get a chance to improve on last year’s nine-win season until 2012.

Because I couldn’t come up with a Friday-themed Friday jam, I’ll make it up to you with two clips. I guess everybody’s got to have a thing (I guess?), and Mississippi State has made the cowbell its thing. Two clips to try to cheer up Bulldog fans and remind everyone else that something sorta good came out of Starkville once: