Seven Days, Seven Sports (Events)

This is how it goes sometimes.  Starting last Friday, our crew attended or participated in:

  • Friday: US Soccer World Cup Qualifier in  St. Louis (USA 6, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 1)
  • Saturday: Illinois Football v. Ohio State in Champaign, with cousins, sister, mom, and Friends (OSU 27, Illini-3)
  • Sunday: Illinois Basketball v. North Dakota State with the boy (Illini 80-, NDSU-74; nice comeback in the 2nd half).  And also basketball practice for the boy.
  • Monday:  Iles Basketball for both kids (girls tied; boys won).
  • Tuesday: Iles Basketball for Sophie (win)
  • Wednesday: Gym Basketball for Bruce (loss)
  • Thursday: Iles Basketball practice

Seven days – and for good measure we’ll throw in a 12-18 hour stomach bug that had both kids hurting, though they each recovered in time for their events.  By yesterday, I just wanted to sit on the couch.  I enjoyed every one of these events, but I’m not a person who recharges around people.  Needed some quiet time.  Which is a good thing, because I believe we have something four of the next five days leading up to Thanksgiving…

So, yeah, we’ll get to some books, TV, and other stuff here directly.

Back Again

It’s been awhile – about seven months to be exact – since my last post.  It’s been pretty easy to not blog during that timeframe, because, well, we’ve been busy in Beemsville.

Mostly it’s the kids.  I’m coaching their sports teams and involved in their activities.  I’m on the PTO and that’s been even busier this Fall after the co-Pres and chief water carrier for our PTO unexpectedly moved and switched schools.  I have additional work responsibilities and the wife is busier than ever.

But that’s life for us:  it moves along.

Still, I found I missed the blogging and journaling.  I have some books I’d like to review, some thoughts on The Walking Dead, Juergen Klinnsman, the Illinois political mess, and other random topics.  Also, the kids are getting old enough to share their thoughts from time to time.  And they’re pretty good writers with interesting perspectives.

So let’s see if we can reboot and see what happens.

Duke gets too many calls

Back from vacation, having recovered from my college basketball illness in time to have watch most of the Sweet 16 games down to last night’s final.  And the title of the post says it well.  Duke and Coach K get too many calls.  They just do.  Yes, their guys made plays and shots when needed.  Yes, they run an offense designed to open driving lanes and draw contact.  Yes, they were lucky the Badgers were worn down from the Kentucky game.

However, if you look at last night’s championship, you’ll note a very key point in the game, with Wisconsin playing well and up by about 7-8 at around the 15 minute mark of the second half.  Suddenly, the refs find their whistles.  The same thing happened against Michigan State and Gonzaga.  Four fouls in a row.  Every bump is a foul.  A Duke player jumps into the defender it’s a foul.  Duke charges are instead blocks on the other team, etc.  On the other end, Duke hand-checked with abandon and it wasn’t called.  Maybe the refs can only take so much of Coach K’s voice and at some point they just capitulate and start making those calls.

No one was more surprised or annoyed than Wisconsin coach, Bo Ryan.  As he told reporters after the game, and as he’s said many times, “We just don’t foul.”  It’s pretty much true.  The Badger haven’t been whistled for many fouls this year or in recent years with Ryan as the coach.  It’s how they play and also testament to Bo Ryan’s own sideline presence.  So it must have been pretty disheartening to see Duke in the double-bonus with so much time left.

As an Illini fan, I truly didn’t like the thought of Wisconsin winning a title.  It just doesn’t seem right.  But as a basketball fan I was really pulling for the Badgers down the stretch.  A big part of it was the officiating.  Too much.  And that’s a shame.

Commercial Woe

The week after the Superbowl seems to always include a lot of discussion about commercials, branding, marketing strategy.  The media likes the topic – after all, it’s part of the engine that makes them go and keeps them in funded.  From our perspective, this last Super Sunday featured some of the least memorable, least creative, and blah efforts in years.

Why?  Are the big marketing agencies afraid of the bad press?  Are the big brands more cautious, the smaller outfits less brave?  Is this part of the netflix and dvr-fueled zeitgeist that has the ad-men and women off their game?

Three commercials we liked for various reasons:  First, the Liam Neeson vengeance commercial for the Clash of Clans phone/tablet game.  That one drew a chuckle.  And, yes, a phone and tablet game at the Superbowl.  Next, the Kim Kardashian spot because we always like a bit of self-depreciating humor (someone probably needs to explain that further to Kim).  And finally, the Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbell commercial for the BMW electric:   “What is Internet?”

After that – not much.  And while we’re on the topic of media/marketing analysis and things we didn’t like or did’t take for us:  the new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer.  Didn’t like it in the theater, don’t like it now.  It’s all dark and broody, with the heroes going after each other and looking depressed.  Hopefully this isn’t the tone of the movie as a whole, because that’s not what’s been working for Marvel in the theaters.

The Coachening

Yesterday, me, my brother, and our cousin with whom we grew up from just down the road in our little town were all coaching youth sports teams on the same day.  Social media confirmed this.  The latter two are both doing basketball right now; I’m doing an indoor soccer team and we’re about to start basketball for the kids as well.  And this got me to thinking…

Why most of us do it:  the kids are really fun as pre-teen participants, of course, and it’s great to be part of their team-sports development.  We can all list the stock positives for youth athletics.  Most of us who pick up the coaching gauntlet also feel like we know a little something about the sport at hand; we have some knowledge or wisdom to impart.   Continue reading

Bowl Watching

Like so many others, we watch a lot of college football around New Year’s.  This year, our very own Fighting Illini were in the party again, making it to one of those also-ran Bowls:  The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.  Illinois lost 35-18 and probably should have won – though you wouldn’t know it by the score.

With all these bowl games, especially in light of the inaugural 4-team playoff, the sports talkers have been discussing bowl viability, money, TV contracts, etc., and as we sit here watching Oregon pound Florida State, we have some thoughts as well.

If you’re among those who think that the major conference re-shuffling and re-jiggering is horrible, look no further than the now-departed BCS system.  Between the BCS contract and the guaranteed conference contracts to various bowls, the Big 10, Pac 12, SEC, and ACC had ample motivation to expand.  More money.  More prestige.  More TV markets.  Now that we’ve finally entered the playoff era, there’s a chance the system could correct itself over time.

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One Last Report

Unless you are completely deaf to the media, you know that last night was the final Colbert Report on Comedy Central.  Yes, Nation, Stephen Colbert will take his talents to CBS soon, where he will backfill for the retiring David Letterman.  So some people are probably thinking, no big deal, we’ll just see him on the network in a couple of months in Dave’s spot.  But wait – many viewers don’t realize (or don’t fully accept) that the Stephen Colbert on the Report is a caricature, a character, an ironic construct.  And that’s because he’s kept up this persona in front of the camera for nine + years, almost without fail.  He hasn’t done many interviews or public appearances out of this character at all.

So what’s he going to do on late night – that’s the question.  It will be different; enough hints have dropped that we know he’s doing interviews and jokes as more of himself.  How much will this confuse the Nation?  How will the viewers adjust? Continue reading