Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happiest Day in 14 Years


I have, unfortunately, abandoned my blog for a while to pursue writing for Bleacher Report. That, too, has been fruitless due to my pursuit of a college degree. However, amid all the studying and completion of assignments, I made time for my favorite part of the year: March Madness. I filled out a couple of brackets confidently predicting Kentucky all the way. This year has been magical to watch. I fell in love with this team game after game. They were so unselfish, poised, and despite their youth, they played at an elevated level. The talent was unreal. I knew there was pressure for them to go far because I contributed to that pressure. I wanted it so badly. A 14 year championship drought was getting tough to take.

The NCAA tournament began, and my stomach was in knots prior-and during-each game. Everyone picked them to win, and I knew it would be a waste of talent to not cut down the nets. Monday night, I lost my appetite and could think of nothing else besides the last game ahead. This was it. At 9:30 p.m. Mountain Time, I would either be the happiest girl alive, or the most depressed. The first half was incredible. We were looking like winners. But I have been around long enough to fear a 2nd half surge by Kansas--which had become their tournament tradition over the past few weeks. When the lead was cut to six with about 3 or 4 minutes left, I almost couldn't take it. I was on the edge of my seat. Somehow the last three minutes took place, all of it was a sort of blur to me, and all of a sudden there we were dribbling out the clock. Oh. My. Gosh. We were, for the eight time, National Champions once again! This win will last me years of happiness.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Curse of November 8th

In "V for Vendetta", V ominously proclaims, "Remember, remember the 5th of November." This might have been three days premature. It turns out that for Cincinnati Reds fans, the 8th of November is the day that must be remembered.

Baseball is a game full of curses: Curse of the Bambino (Red Sox), Curse of the Black Sox (White Sox), as well as other scapegoats used by teams who haven't produced a post-season appearance for decades. In this case, however, the curse is real. How do I know this? Well, I am the reason for the curse. Allow me to explain...

Back in June, the Yankees came to town and I was planning on attending the big game. As I left work early that afternoon, there was a tremendous thunderstorm in full swing. My parents made it all the way up to Cincy when it was announced that the game was canceled. I was crestfallen, to say the least. Fast forward to this past Monday evening. My parents and I made our second attempt at attending a Reds game. With Skyline for dinner, great seats for $15, and humidity as an unwelcome companion, it was bound to be a great night. At the completion of the second inning, the rain delay began. What a grandaddy gully washer! An hour and a half later, the game resumed. I got my ice cream in a plastic helmet, and then left after the 5th inning.
What are the odds that the two games I picked at random to attend, both get rained out? Furthermore, the game I was actually able to attend amid precipitation resulted in a loss. Double curse points. To completely solidify my curse, the Reds haven't been to, let alone won, a World Series since 1990-the year in which I was born. Bam! There you have it, I am the cause for the heartbreak year after year that is synonymous with The Cincinnati Reds. Curses.

P.S. I'm pleased to announce that I've been accepted to write for Bleacher Report!! I'm moving up in the sports writing world! If you would like to read my articles, then follow this link: http://bleacherreport.com/users/591506-alex-thomas. I'll try to write occasionally for this blog, but my main focus has turned toward my opportunity at B/R.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Let The Boys Celebrate

It's fourth down with the full ten yards still ahead for a first down. The other team's defense has been nothing short of the Berlin Wall-absolutely impenetrable. Although the two previous plays were potentially clever, the defense didn't fall for them. The next play selection is crucial in order to gain the necessary yardage and continue with the drive. The quarterback makes an executive decision to go up the gut. It's a bold move, considering the stretch of turf yet to gain and the unyielding defense thus far, but hey, go big or go home, right? Snap, catch, hand off to the running back. Just as it appears that the play will be foiled once again, there's a small gap that manifests itself. The running back capitalizes on the rare opening and takes off down the field. No one can catch him, and when he realizes this, he begins high stepping five yards before the endzone. For a finishing touch, he flawlessly flips in for the touchdown as the game clock ticks down to zero.

The cheering, which had been steadily increasing, was now at an ear-shattering decibel. The winning team leaps into the air with high fives flying and chest bumps galore. Hold on there a second. It's not over 'til the fat ref blows his whistle, and blow his whistle he does. As the sharp sound reverberates throughout the stadium, it comes out as more of an ominous wail rather than a joyful song. The referee deems the game winning touchdown null and void. The reason? Celebration. All of the excitement is for naught, and the fans slowly walk to their cars with a faint sound of a whistle ringing in every ear.

The scenario above could very well play out as a real life nightmare as a result of the new, stricter NCAA football rules. The group of fun-sucking football officials have commanded athletes to don football pads of stoicism at all times, or else face the consequence of handing back a hard earned TD. "I'm sorry, young man, but even though you broke through a few, tough tackles, stumbled, and still beat a guy by fifteen yards, you're only allowed one brisk handshake with each team member." It's a game, not a business meeting!

Now, by no means am I proposing,nor endorsing, an endless stream of showboating. No one wants to witness the Ickey Shuffle performed the length of the field. Excessive celebration has been dealt with by assigning penalties. Taking away a score is not the answer to running a tighter ship. If a celebratory dance lasts more than five seconds or a player goes into the stands, throw the little, yellow flag and tack on a fine to the school. Refrain from taking away what a player rightfully earned. The government will fulfill that duty soon enough. Send the right message: of course one may celebrate his accomplishment, as long as he does so with tact, class, and sans excess.

Let us all remember that these guys are still kids! Plus, who doesn't love to see a player swan dive into the endzone? Football without a touch of flair would be missing that extra je ne sais quios. Give a little wriggle room for celebration and a chance for players to gain some style points-you only get to be young once.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Liar Liar, Vest On Fire.

As you all know, Jim Tressel has been stripped of his senatorial image to reveal a long history of shady dealings. This week's cover story of SI uncovers a slew of violations that have been fueling the Tressel Train for years, not just the isolated event of the player's memorabilia swap. This shocking discovery has prompted everyone to question how he or she could have been so deceived by a man who everyone thought was the last standing coach with integrity.

In a way, I feel a bit sorry for him. As far as his success goes, his teams always did well. He knew how to get it done on the field. Unfortunately, all of those accomplishments are forever tainted and tarnished by his corruption, just like Woody Hayes will never be mentioned without a tag along line concerning his jab at the Gator Bowl in 1978.

"Win at all costs" has become the of almost every athlete and coach in sports-are there any pristine reputations remaining? Isn't there a way to win without breaking the rules? It doesn't appear that the game will get any cleaner, but I still hold out hope that there are victorious programs that go about the game the right way.

Until then, let us all (because no one likes the Big Ten) enjoy the burning of the sweater vest and watch as The Ohio State Buckeyes try and deal with their new title: THE Ohio State Violators.

An Extra Tidbit For Comedic Value:
In the aforementioned SI issue, the Sign of the Apocalypse reads, "An outbreak of horse herpes in Utah forced participants at a Davis County rodeo queen contest to perform their routines on stick ponies."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

Masters weekend (sadly) has come to a close. Augusta did not disappoint. This has been the most exciting and enjoyable Masters in a few years! Tiger finally looked like his dominate self, and the action was intense. To those of you who think golf is boring-you're sorely mistaken. I'm on tenterhooks the whole time! Each shot is crucial, and things can go south in the blink of an eye. Just ask Rory McIlroy.

Admittedly, I usually watch after the final cut. That's when the stakes are at their highest. Rory led during the first three rounds and was looking calm heading into Sunday afternoon. At 21 years old, he would be achieving what many seasoned golfers have only dreamed. Though, with a green jacket on the line, players were coming out of the woodwork to take a shot at victory. Rory bogied the first hole, which foreshadowed the eventual 8+ score on the day. He hit the lip of the bunker on the second, went swimming on the back nine, and never recovered. I feel bad for the guy-he seemed nice.

Tiger had a phenomenal front nine performance! Two birdies, an eagle, and his red shirt blazing in the sun. Even though he didn't pull off a win, being 5- on the day, and at least having a shot at the title, was enough to satisfy my wishes as his fan. He played a great round of golf. Unfortunately, so did other guys. Adam Scott and his long putter were swinging their way to the top of the leaderboard, along with Charl Swartzel. Seriously, that South African made some terrific shots. I'm sure the announcers groaned with the frequency of attempting to correctly say his name.

In the end, Swartzel emerged with the win, edging out Adam Scott and the rest of the competitors. The Aussies' hopes of finally having one of their own win the Masters were sunk with Charl's putt. Better luck next year, mate.

Before I conclude this post, I would like to mention a few of my thoughts on the greatness of the Masters:

1. The beauty of Magnolia Lane and the tradition that thickly hangs all around you.
2. The British commentators that deliver such classic lines as, "the ball touched down like a butterfly with sore feet."
3. Rooting against players and seeing them crumble.
4. When someone hits the lip of the bunker, tees off into the pines, has a shot obstructed by a tree, or hits his ball into the water.
5. Seeing the joy of hitting the green slowly fade as the ball rolls back down onto the fairway. Better get your chipper!
6. When a player has to attempt a shot from a completely different hole (i.e. Adam Scott).
7. Seeing everyone flinch when a player takes off his hat or visor because of how matted the hair is, and how white the forehead appears after being in the sun for almost a week.
8. The golf gods punishing anyone who is stupid enough to use a long putter.

All in all, it was a GREAT weekend of golf! I laughed, I cheered, and, most of all, I was continually entertained.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Knight in Shining Armor

Wow, wow, wow, wow! I cannot believe I did not have a heart attack during last night's game between UK and OSU to go to the Elite Eight! You all will criticize me for being an "unfaithful fan", but I had been gearing myself up for a loss since we beat West Virginia. I figured it's better to not get my hopes up and avoid being completely crushed. I used to be a more optimistic fan, until that fateful night on March 29th, 2003 in the NCAA tournament. We were the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, and looked good with our stars, namely Keith Bogans, Erik Daniels, Gerald Fitch, and Cliff Hawkins. Then, Bogans hurt his ankle. We had to take on Marquette, and their star Dwyane Wade (maybe you've heard of him?), in order to advance. This had to happen sans the presence of Bogans. I watched the entire game, naively believing we could still pull through with a win (even though we were completely blown out and Wade had a triple double). I was shocked when the buzzer sounded and a fourteen point elimination cut out my heart. Quickly, I ran to my room and cried for a solid ten minutes. Ever since then, I vowed to never watch the end of a game that we were going to lose. I can't emotionally handle it.

Knowing this, you can now understand why I was hesitant to believe we were going to come out the victor of a match up against the number 1 overall seed. We are a young team with little depth, it simply wasn't in our cards. Of course, I still watched the game. Early on I realized it could turn into a last second situation, and may be a heart-breaker. Tied at the half and practically every starter with two fouls, I was just happy it hadn't turned into a rout. The second half commences, and my greediness appears. We could win. I thought to myself, our defense is good, and we're staying with them! I tried to push it aside, but my hope was on the rise. It seemed as though the second half flew by in an instant, and next thing I knew, there were two minutes left in the game. A point difference increased the intensity tenfold. In a display of incredible defense and poise, the Cats edged ahead with what looked like an unimpeded win. In an instant, Diebler was elevating from behind the three point line and releasing a three. Swish. Damn. Tied at 60 with 21 seconds left on the clock. I did NOT want to go into OT. My heart wouldn't make it that long. Luckily, it didn't have to. UK brought the ball down the court, and there at the top was Knight, using his bball savvy to concoct a winning play. He succeeded for the second time in the tourney, making a small drive into the right wing and creating enough space to shoot his sweet, nothing-but-net, dagger.

For a second, the world went quiet. Was this real life? Did my Wildcats just upset the Buckeyes? Heck yeah they did! I quickly jumped out of my seat and engaged in the happiest victory dance of the season! We, THE University of Kentucky, are going to the Elite Eight. Life is great :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ides of March=March Madness!

I LOVE MARCH!! Why, you ask? Because I get to watch numerous high stakes basketball games and be a witness to my brackets crashing and burning :) As Dickie V would say, "It's March Madness, baby!!"

As much as I love watching all of the bracketology shows, there really isn't a definitive science to the NCAA tournament. It's anyone's game. The Cinderella stories, the heartbreaks, the upsets, the passion, and the last-second shots. And that's only a small taste of what the tourney entails. Dribble by dribble, teams will come closer to cutting that precious net and lifting that trophy high into the sky.

Every year, the analysts complain about some (or a few) decisions made by the selection committee. For a second, I feel as though I've gone back in time to the college football bowl games and the griping of fans whose mid-major squad played in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl. Usually, I don't have too many objections. With a pool of 68 it's hard to imagine that any team was excluded. This year, it's a different story. My objections relate to the seeding rather than who's in the pool. I have two teams close to my heart that made it into the tournament: Utah State and UK (the team I really care about). Both teams, without a doubt, were robbed when the seeds were given. How the heck is Florida a No. 2 seed when UK won the SEC championship and beat the Gators the last TWO times?! That don't make no sense. UK deserved that seed instead of Billy D. Utah State got a 12 seed. Excuse me? I'm all for leaving the best seeds for the big boys, but the Aggies freakin' earned a better seed than that. They won the WAC championship and only dropped three games. That's impressive in any conference!

Alas, there is nothing to do but accept the seeds and selections, and hope that your team is ready to fight tooth and nail to reign victoriously. The NCAA tournament is probably the only time when I root for every SEC team. Along with this, I temporarily put aside my dislike for some teams so that they will beat the teams I hate (i.e. any ACC team, especially Duke and UNC). Fill out your brackets by Thursday, stock up on tons of food, find a friend with a big HD t.v., and enjoy the next few weeks of basketball!