Tag Archives: Brian Zoubek

An amazing national title game. Tiger thoughts. And another great old song is sold out

I think I started breathing again about 45 seconds after Butler’s Gordon Hayward launched a half-court heave at the buzzer that missed going in by about, oh, two inches.

I was at a loss for words at about 11:45 p.m. Monday night. Which is good, since I could hardly breathe.

I’d just seen maybe the greatest NCAA national championship basketball game of my lifetime, and Duke had won.

What. A. Game. What a game! Truly phenomenal. I am so thrilled as a Duke fan that my team won its fourth national title, but a tiny part of me almost wishes that that last shot by Hayward went in.

Because wouldn’t that have been the perfect ending to the most perfect NCAA Tournament I’ve seen? A halfcourt, national title-winning shot by a tiny school from Indiana at the buzzer. As it was, it was an incredible game. Duke scratched and clawed and had to do everything possible to hang in.

I realize I’m not being eloquent or making much sense here, but I’m too emotionally spent to be clever or profound. My wife, who has a devilish sense of humor, decided it’d be fun to videotape me watching the last 10 minutes of the game, as I paced, screamed, and clutched a pillow to my chest while rocking back and forth (Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll be on YouTube soon enough).

It was just a phenomenal game, capping off a phenomenal tournament. Nobody deserved to lose that game; it was basketball at its finest.

Couple more late-night thoughts on the game:

— Duke and Coach K have now won 4 national titles in 19 years, and I think it’s fair to see he’s the second-greatest college basketball coach of all time now (behind some guy named J. Wooden).

— So happy to see Brian Zoubek, who every Duke fan called “useless” or worse his first three years, get the last big rebound and score the last point. I’ve never seen a player get so much better from January to March than he did.

— If you’re scoring at home, I’ve already ordered the 2010 national title long-sleeve blue shirt, and the 2010 tall glass tumbler. Hey, those were needed purchases at 2 a.m.

— Since I’m like the biggest “One Shining Moment” fan in the world, I must weigh in on Jennifer Hudson’s version Monday night. The singing was fine. The production was awful. First, they showed clips of her singing for like 15 seconds. Why? the whole point of the thing is a montage of the Tournament; they’ve never showed the OSM singer, because the focus is on the players.

Second, there were no highlights of Duke doing anything well in the title game. And third, a minor point but an important one, on the opening “The ball is tipped” lyric, when they always show two guys jumping center, they showed Jennifer Hudson’s face!

Ugh. CBS, you dropped the ball this year, big-time. Check for yourself:

**So against my better judgment, I listened to some of Tiger Woods’ press conference from the Masters on Monday. As much as I hate to say it, I thought he was pretty honest. He still wouldn’t admit he’s a sex addict, nor did he go into details about why he did what he did, hurting the people he loved so much.

But I thought he was pretty honest and vulnerable, and tried to be as open as he could.

Now, can we all move on with the rest of our lives?

**Finally, I realize I’m getting old. I realize this because I remember when I was a kid, in the late 1980s or so, there was a huge uproar from baby boomers when Bob Dylan and The Who songs were being used in car commercials. This is a travesty! the thirtysomething fans shouted. This was iconic rock music that lifted a generation, and now it’s being used to push Hondas?

Well, I thought they were being silly then. And yet … I’m watching TV with Julie the other day, and a commercial comes on playing the classic Technotronic song “Move This.”

I look up, and what’s the song promoting? Garanimals. Yep, a hip-hop song that was an anthem at dance clubs and parties for years is now being used to sell children’s clothing!

What a disgrace. You think the Technotronic people ever thought that 21 years ago when this song came out that little Johnny and his pajamas would be bopping along to this song? Heck no.

I’m faux outraged. Oh well. Have a listen and remember how great this song really was:

A debate on nepotism. Psyched for tonight. And Hurley finally gets Hall call

Due to recent events in my life and work, I’ve been thinking about nepotism policies in the workplace lately.

One of the first things the new people who own my newspaper did was institute a nepotism policy, saying that no spouses were allowed to both work at the paper in the same department (unfortunately, they defined “same department” as any two newsroom employees, which is kind of crazy but not the point).

Several good friends were laid off, a victim of their spouse somehow being deemed the more “valuable one.”

Maybe I’m naive, but I’d never heard of a company having a nepotism policy. My wife tells me lots of companies have them.

We talked about it for a while, and we disagreed on their worth. I think, to make a blanket policy that no two employees who are married can work together is unfair (look at Paul and Joanne up there in the photo; they worked together and it seemed to work out OK).

She felt that with the potential for conflict and added stress and strain on the couple, and the people around them, that nepotism policies make sense.

Would love to hear what you all think about this.

**So of course Monday is just going to absolutely crawl for me, as I await tonight’s 9:20 p.m. tip-off of the national championship game between my beloved Duke boys and the remarkable Butler team. Fortunately I’ll be busy all day so hopefully time will fly a little bit. I’ve gone from feeling very confident to a little nervous, because even though all signs point to a Blue Devils win, things are just happening exactly perfect for Butler right now.

Everything has gone right for them, and this may be just one of those magical years for the tiny school from Indy. I really, really hope not. If Duke can shoot about 45 percent from the field, and if my new best friend Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas can stay out of foul trouble, Duke wins. If not, I’ll grab the Maalox and hang on.

**Caught a little of the UConn women’s Final Four game vs. Baylor Monday night. Was thrilled to finally see someone push the Huskies a little bit; Baylor was down only three in the second half before the incredible Maya Moore and UConn pulled away. Stanford is all that’s left to stop UConn and their smug, arrogant coach, Geno Auriemma, from another national title. Could be a great game Tuesday night.

**Finally, a few words about maybe the best basketball coach in America. Bob Hurley Sr,. has won nearly 1,000 games as the boys head coach at tiny St. Anthony’s High School in crime-infested Jersey City, N.J. He’s captured state and national titles, sent dozens of players to college and the NBA, but more importantly, he’s been a beacon of hope and opportunity for kids in a part of America that rarely sees those things.

Working incredibly long hours with no facilities, Hurley has helped keep St. Anthony’s open, and in 38 years of coaching, only two of his players haven’t gone on to college.

I’d always known about Hurley because of his son, Bobby, being one of the best Duke players ever. But how incredible of a coach, and a man, he is was really brought home in the fantastic book “Miracle of St. Anthony’s” by an e-migo of mine, Adrian Wojnarowski (“e-migo” is a term coined by my hero Joe Posnanski, who said it means a colleague you sort of know, but mostly communicate through Facebook and email. I love that term.)

Adrian spent a year inside the program and wrote a terrific, compelling portrait of one man’s fight to keep hope alive for kids.

I’m writing all this about Hurley because finally, after three failed attempts, he’s been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s a long-overdue honor for a truly great man.

VH1 gets pathetically over-nostalgic. Duke 1 win away! And a Passover Egg Hunt story

There are very few people in the world more nostalgic than I am.

I idealize my childhood. I idealize my college years. I wax poetic about a grilled cheese sandwich I ate in 1999. (Well, not really. But I lived in Wilmington, N.C. then and there was this awesome sandwich place called Priddyboys and they made kick-ass large grilled cheese sandwiches. But I digress).

Anyway, I love nostalgia, absolutely love it. Which is why a few years ago, I totally devoured all of the episodes of VH1’s “I Love the 80s” show. I watched as they happily recounted life when L.A. Gear was the cool sneaker, Cabbage Patch Kids the cool toy, and iron-on decal T-shirts were all the rage.

I even liked VH1’s “I Love the 90s” shows, even though those were nowhere near as cool and didn’t feature enough Mo Rocca or Michael Ian Black, the two snarky commentators from the 80s specials.

So, yeah, VH1 knows people my age love to look back at stuff. But my goodness, what I saw on VH1 Saturday as I flipped around made me so sad. Apparently the channel did a series in 2008 that they’re re-running now called “I love the New Millenium.”

Yep, they took a year by year look at the decade that just passed! Do they really think people are missing 2007 already? Talk about beating a dead horse. This is beating a dead horse, putting him outside the barn, then smacking him around for a few more hours.

Yeesh. Please, people of television, I know you’re desperate for ideas. But you have to be able to do better than this.

***Never in a hundred years would I have predicted the beatdown Duke gave West Virginia Saturday night in the Final Four. I’m almost afraid to talk too much about it, for fear of jinxing the Blue Devils for Monday night.

But man oh man, Duke dominated that game. I have said for weeks, nay, months to my college hoops friend Tony that as good as Duke has been this year, there have been very few games where Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer all played well offensively.

Saturday was one of those games. They were fantastic. Brian Zoubek, sensational. The defense? Fabulous. If Duke wins Monday, this’ll be by far the most unlikely championship they’ve won.

Couple other thoughts from the Final Four:

— Terrible to see West Virginia’s De’Sean Butler get hurt in the second half, with what looked like a serious knee injury. It looks like it’s just a sprain. And I have to admit Bob Huggins, a man I loathe, had a touching moment with Butler as he lay writhing on the court, cradling his player’s head and comforting him.

— Duke-Butler for the championship game. Who had that in the brackets?

— Very exciting, if not exactly well-played, Butler-Michigan State game in the other semi. What an amazing story Butler is, one game from a title as a mid-major school from a small conference. If they were playing anybody but Duke Monday night, I’d be pulling hard for them.

— Here’s something that probably means nothing but is fun to talk about: Both Duke’s best player and Butler’s best player are white. When’s the last time two white guys were the best players in the NCAA championship game? Gotta be at least 30 years ago, right?

— If Duke wins Monday (and I think it’ll be a good game, very close), Mike Krzyzewski will break a tie with his mentor, Bob Knight, for most national titles, with 4. That would be fantastic, and would likely drive Knight a little nuts.

**And finally, Happy Easter to all who celebrate it. That picture above is my own fond Easter memory. Back when I worked in N.C., my wonderful friends Brian Feagans and Diana D’Abruzzo realized that as a Jew, I never got to go on an Easter egg hunt as a kid. So Easter weekend one year they got a bunch of colored eggs, drew Jewish stars on them, and buried them around Brian and his wife Helena’s house.

They called me over, and for two hours we held the world’s first Passover Egg Hunt. That’s me with two of the treasures. It was awesome.

I love my friends.

And I miss all that hair I used to have.

Duke! Invisibility cloaks! And a little “Love Boat” music.

Good morning all. as you read this I’m probably on my way to Port Canaveral, Fla., humming The Love Boat theme (man I loved that show. The guest star lists were so random; it was always like, Fred Dryer, Charo, and McLean Stevenson).

My wife and I are going on a cruise for the first time together, a four-day excursion to the Bahamas. It’s my first-ever cruise, so I’m totally pumped. Sure, the weather forecast for the Bahamas this week is crappy, but I’m not letting that get me down. I’m going to eat, eat, eat some more, and do some para-sailing. I’m very much looking forward to disconnecting from the world for a few days: No phone, no Internet, nothing.

But fear not, loyal readers: My beloved blog assistant/father will be posting a few things I had written for a rainy day. Dad, this is is your chance to tell any embarrassing stories from my childhood you think the world should know. But remember, the police know the truth!

Have a great week.

So, I know lots of people hate Duke. And I understand it to a degree. People hate winners. But you know, Duke hasn’t won anything in a while, so I was beyond excited Sunday night.

Thanks to Jon Scheyer finding his jump shot, Lance Thomas rebounding like a man possessed, and everyone who played chipping in a little bit, the Blue Devils are going back to the Final Four. Phenomenal win over Baylor, a really good team who scared the hell out of me.

It looked bleak for a while, as LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter (and come on, LaceDarius? What kind of a name is that?) were bombing 3-pointers.

But Duke came back in the second half and got it done. Huge props to Nolan Smith for his career-high 28 points, and Brian Zoubek played well before fouling out, and Scheyer, the leader, came up huge.

**Quite an interesting Final Four, I think. Butler, the hometown team and the little guy in field. Michigan State, who get to the Final Four for the sixth time in 12 years, a mind-blowing accomplishment for Tom Izzo. West Virginia, which hasn’t been there since 1959 and plays hellacious defense. And a Duke team most people still underestimate. Should be a lot of fun.

**Finally, this is one of those stories I can’t believe is really true. But remember the “invisibility cloaks” in the Harry Potter movies, where Harry and his friends could go from room to room undetected?

Well, apparently German scientists have created a 3-D cloak that can hide objects by bending light waves.

This is way too complicated for me to explain; go here for the details. But how cool would this be in real life? All those times you want to know what people are saying about you in the other room? Now you can! When I was younger this was the power I wanted most in life, and now it might be possible.

God bless science.

Finally, Mr. President stands up. And Duke loses a thriller to $*@*# Maryland

Finally, POTUS gets mad.

Wednesday afternoon, it was as if Barack Hussein Obama  had been sitting at a restaurant table, and a waiter came over.

“One order of cojones for a Mr. B. Obama. One order,

coming up.”

After nearly a year of obfuscation and compromise, of hemming and hawing, of refusing to draw a line in the sandbox that the Republican whiny babies often play in, the President of the United States held up his hand and said: “Enough.”

Oh, it wasn’t that dramatic, of course. This President doesn’t work that way. But after months of liberals (like myself) wondering when on God’s green earth this determination and resolve has been on this issue.

Wednesday, Obama said “Now is the time to make a decision.” He spoke about not worrying about what it means politically, but about how reforming health care was the right thing.

Amen. Of course, reconciliation, whereby only 51 Democrat votes are needed, is now likely the only way heath care reform will pass (By the way, one of the so-called Democratic senators who is basically a Republican, Blanche Lincoln, is finally being challenged this year by another Democrat in Arkansas, Bill Halter. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Mrs. Lincoln. Maybe you can get a job at Wal-Mart, you seem to love their executives so much.)

I love that Mitch McConnell, such a swell guy, said that “every election in America this fall will be a referendum on this issue.”

Yep, you’re right, Mitchie. When health care passes and 30 million more Americans have insurance, and millions more know they won’t be dropped due to some b.s. “pre-existing condition” (you know, like, breathing), it will be wonderful to have health care front and center come November.

You got your kick in the ass, Democrats in Congress. Get busy.

**And now, to Duke-Maryland. By far the team I hate most in the ACC after the powder-blues from Chapel Hill, the Terps actually came up with a big win over the Blue Devils Wednesday night.

I’m not too pissed, because Duke played pretty well, Maryland hit some ridiculously tough shots, and they were so fired up for Senior Night, and after so many wars throughout the last two decades between these two, the Terps were due.

Some quick thoughts as I decompress from what was a hell of a tense game:

— Greivis Vasquez is a phenomenal player. I hate his antics, I think he’s a punk for his on-court histrionics, but the kid always seems to step up in the big moments.

— I thought Jon Scheyer had a really uneven game (7-for-21 shooting), and this Duke team has an awfully hard time winning when the Jewish Jordan (OK, so I’m the only one who calls him that; we don’t have that many Jews in basketball!) isn’t one of Blue Devils’ two best players.

— Nice to see Maryland fans staying classy. After four years of chanting “F-U Paulus,” they now chanted “F-U Scheyer.” And, for good measure, “F-U Duke,” during a couple of timeouts. People say the Cameron Crazies are rude and obnoxious, but they’re not the ones cussing up a storm on national TV. Just really stupid.

— Best thing that happened tonight for Duke? Andre Dawkins hitting a couple of shots. Duke is going to need that kid in the NCAAs.

— I still think Duke might get to the Final Four this year. I can’t believe how much better Brian Zoubek is playing, they’ve got depth and experience, and, well, I don’t see that many teams in this watered-down year being better then them.

But as John Lennon once sang, you may say I’m a dreamer.

The incredible UConn women. 4 days till Gameday. And a rough loss for the Dukies

So I’m not really that big a fan of women’s basketball. Oh, I love that there’s a WNBA, so young women hoopsters have something to aspire to.  But I don’t really watch much women’s basketball on TV, except for maybe the Final Four, and an occasional Duke-Carolina game (Hey, I’ll watch Duke-Carolina in badminton. Anything Duke-Carolina, I’m there.)

And I really don’t care for Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma. I think he’s arrogant, rude and a poor sport. He makes fun of any program that dares take a top recruit from him, and he rules with an iron fist, cowering all who dare challenge him.

But given all that, I am right now a huge admirer of the incredible streak the Huskies program is on. It’s not just that they’ve won 57 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in women’s Division I history. It’s the way they’re beating teams.

They’re positively crushing everyone they play. During this remarkable run of 57 straight, they’ve won every game by at least 10 points. Do you realize how difficult that is to do? You’re getting everyone’s best shot, everyone wants to play their absolute best against you, and none of them are even coming close.

And this isn’t one of those Memphis John Calipari deals, where they only beat bad teams. Lately UConn has been beating up everyone who’s supposedly ranked close to them. They beat No.2 Stanford by 12. Then No. 7 UNC by 31. Then the Huskies destroyed No. 3 Notre Dame by 24, and Monday night they just throttled No. 7 Duke in Cameron Indoor, 81-48.

They play beautiful team basketball, with no egos and a wonderful flair. Check out their highlights like I’ve been lately, if you love the sport and want to see something special, something historic, in this sport.

Teams like this don’t come around too often.

***So it’s been hard for me concentrate on work this week. I’m all Jets, all the time. I think I had a dream last night that Darrelle Revis and I were in a mall together. Or maybe it was just me and Damien Woody, I can’t remember. I’m waiting for the Jets to announce how Super Bowl tickets will be dispersed, should they get there. I’m told it’ll be a lottery, and I have a scary feeling it’ll only be open to season-ticket holders. That’s OK, after waiting 34 years for this moment, I’ll find a way into the stadium.

Anyway, been reading everything I can about the Jets-Colts matchup Sunday, and my initial euphoria is starting to turn to concern. Yes, I still think the Jets can win. But I don’t see how they’re going to rattle Peyton Manning when the guy never gets sacked, and hardly ever gets hit. Dallas Clark is unstoppable. Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, rookie QB Mark Sanchez … oy.

I’m officially nervous. Sunday at 3 cannot get here fast enough.

***So every couple of years my Duke boys go into Raleigh and N.C. State wipes away years of frustration and kicks the holy hell out of the Blue Devils. It happened again Wednesday night; you’d think I’d cease being surprised after a while, but nope, kicked me in the shins again.

State played a great game, no doubt about it. They hustled and rebounded and made some incredibly athletic plays. But Duke looked awful on defense. And not just Brian Zoubek and Miles Plumlee, I mean everybody. They’re 0-3 on the road now, Singler’s still not shooting well, and nobody seems to ever want to pass to Andre Dawkins, even though he’s like the best shooter on the team.

Duke is 0-3 on the road, and at Clemson Saturday night in a national TV game. Uh-oh.

The sordid Tiger saga, Duke hoops loses, and Elyse Keaton is gay? It’s a crazy world

So I haven’t blogged yet about this whole Tiger Woods car accident/wife chasing him with a golf club/possible sexual affair thing because I wanted to wait and see how the thing turned out.

Quite frankly, I’ve been completely fascinated by Mr. Woods’ Wild Ride (hey, he lives in Orlando, give me a little leeway with that Disney-esque reference, OK?)

As my man Joe Posnanski has pointed out, Tiger is probably the most famous athlete who we know nothing about. He guards his privacy like the Swiss guard bank accounts; like Bruce Bowen used to guard Kobe, like I guard the last chocolate chip cookie on the plate at a party.

Tiger has worked extremely, extremely hard to give us nothing, no insight into his personality, his motivations, his desire, his favorite Backstreet Boy, nada. Meanwhile, the golf world, and the sports world in general, kisses his tuchus more than any other athlete I’ve ever seen.

So, yeah, I’m kind of enjoying seeing Eldrick Woods squirm a bit. I wonder exactly, why, he cheated on one of the most gorgeous women in the world, Elin Nordgren. I chuckle at Tiger being featured on TMZ.com and US Weekly, like he’s a regular Britney or Paris or a Kardashian family member.

P.R. wise, he’s handling this remarkably badly. He’s hinted that he’s let his family down, presumably through affairs with other babes, but that’s about it. The ultimate image-conscious athlete has finally seen his shield punctured a bit, and I’m wildly curious to see how the rest of his fan base treats him now, perhaps differently.

For a much more eloquent take on Tiger, here’s Washington Post writer Sally Jenkins’ scathingly hilarious “first-person” account of life as Tiger Woods. (You have to register at the site to read it, but it’s free and takes 2 minutes). She is absolutely dead-on accurate with this one.

**So, I always take Duke’s first loss of the season pretty hard. Don’t know why; I think maybe it’s because it’s the first time I see how their flaws can be exposed, the first time players fail in a clutch situations.

Couple things we learned from the Blue Devils’ road loss to Wisconsin Wednesday night:

1. They still haven’t figured out how to use all their size in the paint to their advantage. Duke looked slow tonight, and that never is a problem.

2. Brian Zoubek is beyond useless; to call him a 7-foot stiff is to insult stiffs everywhere. In four years, he hasn’t learned to catch and shoot and NOT foul? He makes me long for the equally-awful Greg Newton from the 1990s.

3. I don’t know why this is, but Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer never seem to both be on at the same time.

4. Andre Dawkins is nice. Four 3-pointers kept Duke in the game in the second half. I like this freshman a lot.

5. As bad as my Blue Devils played on defense, and as many mistakes as they made, they were down only one in the final minute. That’s got to be encouraging, right?

Well, it’s just one loss. And watching this cool video made me feel better about the boys in blue and white.

**Finally, news that temporarily rocked my world Wednesday. My beloved Elyse Keaton, mom on my favorite TV sitcom ever, “Family Ties,” revealed that she’s a lesbian.

I’m shocked. And brimming with questions. Were all those passionate scenes with Steven Keaton on the show difficult for her? Did she ever flirt with Skippy Handleman’s mom when they were both out on the driveway? And what was she really doing on all those nights when Steven was working late at WKS, his public television station job?

In all seriousness, kudos to Meredith Baxter for having the courage to come out of the closet after all this time. No one should have to live in fear of people finding out who and what they really are.

With that, a couple of great “Family Ties” clips since I was feeling nostalgic tonight. Here’s Elyse after she came and got Alex at a bar when he snuck out to celebrate his 18th birthday (truly a great scene between two wonderful actors), and below, the brilliant but sad final scene in the show’s history: