Tag Archives: Duke

A No. 16 seed beats a No.1, and four incredible days of NCAA Tournament action have me exhausted but happy. And Fox News, perfectly explained, in one video

There are times as a writer where you don’t know where to start a story because there’s just nothing interesting in your material, and you’re reaching, clawing through your notebook hoping to find something that doesn’t stink.

Then there are times, like when you’ve watched four days of sensational, amazing, exhausting but oh so much fun NCAA Tournament, and you’ve got so much in your brain you could start with, you really don’t know where to start.

A warning: If you don’t care about college basketball or the NCAA Tournament, this blog will be a whole lot of words that won’t interest you. I’ve got a non-NCAA Tournament item at the end if you want to hang in there.

OK, of course I know where we have to start. We have to start with the University of Maryland Baltimore-County, a small school in Catonsville, Md., that scored for my money the biggest non-Olympics upset in sports history Friday night. UMBC, a No. 16 seed, did something no other 16 seed had ever done: It beat a No. 1 seed.

And not just any 1 seed, a dominant 1 seed like Virginia. I have to say, watching the game from my couch Friday night with a new friend, we were sitting there in shock, not just because a 16 was beating a 1 (I always knew it would happen someday, the difference between 16’s and 1’s isn’t as big as it used to be), but HOW it happened. I always figured the titanic upset over a 1 seed would happen with a 40-foot crazy buzzer-beater or something like that.

But this, this was a blowout. The Retrievers destroyed the Cavs, and it wasn’t even close the final five minutes. My buddy Scott turned to me with a minute to go and said “This is crazy! It’s anti-climactic, there’s no drama because UMBC has been so far ahead the last 10 minutes!”

It’s true, the score never got into single digits the last 10 minutes of the game. What a moment, what a wonderful, crazy moment for some scrappy, overlooked players who no one thought could win.

Sure, UMBC wasn’t able to keep it going, losing a close one Sunday night. But man, they have given all of us a memory that will last a lifetime.

— Laughed out loud at this Tweet by @netw3rk after the Retrievers lost Sunday night: “UMBC didn’t get eliminated, they just live at a farm upstate now.”

— So many other great stories in the Tournament so far, but after UMBC’s stunning upset my next favorite thing has been Loyola-Chicago, and their remarkable pair of wins over Miami in the first round and then Tennessee in Round 2.

They’re a veteran team who hasn’t been anywhere near this far in more than 30 years, and suddenly they’ve slayed two Goliaths and they’ve got a 98-year-old team chaplain named Sister Jean Delores Schmidt (above) who is just the most adorable thing ever. When a reporter asked Sister Jean Sunday how it felt to be a national celebrity, she replied “Not to correct you, dear, but international.”

Loyola, a team whose players used to hand out free hot dogs coupons to students to get them to come to games,  is in the Sweet 16 with a great shot to win, and I’m just pissed that next game they’re playing my other favorite story of this tournament…

— Nevada! Two phenomenal comebacks by a No. 7 seed, including coming back from 22 points down to win Sunday over No. 2 seed Cincinnati. Their coach, Eric Musselman, was a tad excited after the game, and I’m so proud that I know a grad, my excellent friend Kristen, and I’m rambling now but it really was a hell of a comeback by them Sunday.

— Oh yeah, Duke, the team I root for. Honestly there was so much other great stuff this weekend that I’m glad my Blue Devils didn’t cause me much stress. Two outstanding wins, pretty easily attained over Iona and Rhode Island, and Trevon Duval played outstanding. He really is the key to Duke going further. Marvin Bagley III was phenomenal, the bench contributed well, but the freshman point guard Duval is the whole key. If he’s playing great, Duke can win the title.

— So Saturday night, last game of the evening, Houston-Michigan. Cougars up by 2, and Devin Davis Jr. of Houston steps up to the foul line with just four seconds left. Davis misses both.

And then this happened…Jordan Poole for the win.

**And then, in a moment of pure class, watch as Michigan star Moritz Wagner notices a despondent Davis standing on the court, in shock at how his team just lost. And Wagner stops and does this. Absolutely, that kid has been raised right.

— A couple of words about the two biggest disappointments this weekend. Virginia, obviously, was humiliated, losing to a 16 seed and getting embarrassed along the way. I have to give much credit to their coach Tony Bennett, who handled everything with class after the game, but wow, this is going to be hard to recover from. He’s built an amazing program in Charlottesville but this is three of the last four years they’ve gone out early in March after having a tremendous regular season.

— And then there was Michigan State, who laid a big egg Sunday against Syracuse. Absolutely no excuse for a team as talented as the Spartans are to lose to the Orange, and miss so many open shots. Lot of things have to go wrong for Michigan State to lose that game, and lots of things did.

–Finally Two absolute trends in this year’s Tournament: 1, Teams shoot way, way, way too many 3-pointers. I mean, I know it’s been getting worse and worse every year, but oh my goodness the number of horrible 3-pointers I saw in the first two rounds. Guys, it’s OK if you take a short jumper or try to drive! I promise, even in Trump’s America, it’s legal to take a 10-footer!

The other big trend seems to be these replay reviews taking longer, and longer, and longer. I swear to God the other night in the, I think it was Gonzaga-Ohio State game (I may be wrong they’re all blending together), there were a couple of five-minute delays while the officials watched 11 replays.

Hey guys, just make a call! I know it’s important to get it right, but I’ve had relationships that lasted less time than these reviews!

Just had to get that off my chest. Thank you. What a fantastic four days of game. Man, I do love this sport.

**And finally today, I promised you something non-NCAA Tournament related at the end. An organization called Now This put together the absolutely perfect explanation, in one short video, of why Fox News is so phony and fraudulent.

Watch as the exact same decision is reached by Presidents Obama and Trump, and how they react. Just genius.

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Everybody into the (NCAA Tournament) pool! I give you some quick-hit first thoughts on the bracket. And a new low even for Trump

It’s the most wonderful time … of the year…

And a happy Monday to you all, it’s NCAA Tournament time, and once again I am gripped with excitement at another March Madness. Never gets old for me, no matter how much off-court nonsense and illegality is going on (in case you haven’t heard, the FBI is investigating at least 20-25 major college basketball programs for all kinds of chicanery) and no matter how much the selection committee butchered things (more on that in a minute, they were bad this year but not as bad as it could’ve been)

As always here at Wide World of Stuff, I’ll give you two different posts this week about the Tournament. Today, some initial thoughts about good first-round upsets to pick in your pool, a couple dark-horse Sweet 16 and Final Four teams, and a few hundred words where I vent about mistakes the committee made.

Now, a caveat at the start: Thanks to having a second kid and other life business, I’ve probably paid less attention to college basketball overall than I have in a while. Doesn’t mean my picks will be wrong, but when I do pay a lot of attention I rarely win bracket pools, so maybe this will be the opposite.

OK, first let me rant a bit about who’s in and who’s not. I love Bobby Hurley, he’ll always hold a special place in my heart as a member of the 1990s Duke dynasty. But his Arizona State team lost TEN games in league play, finished 8th in the PAC-12, and got in. USC, second in the PAC-12, and who reached the title game of the conference tournament, left out.

Syracuse, 11th (ELEVENTH!) in the ACC, with no good road wins at all, gets in. Oklahoma, losers of eight of their last 10, in. Middle Tennessee and St. Mary’s, two very strong mid-majors, left out. And Notre Dame, a Top 20 team when healthy (which they are now), also out. Just ridiculous.

I really do understand this is difficult, getting the 68 teams right. But goodness gracious some years the snubs are inexplicable. Like now.

OK, moving on, here are some thoughts on the bracket, and upset picks I like:

I think Kansas and Virginia got the toughest region, but Xavier, also a No. 1 seed, has no cakewalk either. Virginia could have to go through Kentucky or Arizona, and Cincinnati, to get to the Final Four. And Kansas has Duke, Michigan State (how in the hell did they win the Big Ten and get a 3 seed?) and a decent Auburn team in its region. Overall, the strengths of the brackets are pretty even this year.

— Potential awesome matchups ahead: Kentucky vs. Arizona is a second-round game, as is Michigan-Houston (two very very good teams), Wichita State-West Virginia is a terrific one, and Duke-Rhode Island or Duke-Oklahoma (Sooners have no business being in but Trae Young is the real deal).

— OK, upsets that you might want to pick: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago is better than your typical mid-major, they’re in the tournament for the first time in three decades, and they’re playing No. 6 Miami, who is missing their best player Bruce Brown due to injury.

— South Dakota State is a perfect 12-5 upset pick, because Ohio State is playing poorly and the Jackrabbits (love the nickname!) have tournament experience.

— Keep an eye out, too from Providence, a 10 seed winning not one but two games; Stephen F. Austin (veteran team who’s been there playing a slumping No. 3 seed Texas Tech) and Charleston, a 13 seed playing Auburn.

— I have no idea who’ll be in the Final Four yet, I need some to study. But my Dukies don’t have the hardest path, except for Michigan State. Can’t complain too much.

Now go start those brackets, Delores in accounting doesn’t have all day.

 

**Finally today, I know it’s pretty hard to sink even lower when you’re Donald Trump, but this… encouraging booing of the American media, but discouraging boos of a North Korean dictator.

I mean…

Everybody into the pool! I give you some tips on winning your NCAA March Madness bracket. Federer gets “interrogated” by 50 kid reporters. And SNL with a pretty fantastic sketch on Ivanka Trump

Sing it with me now! It’s, the most wonderful time, of the year…

At least for me it is. After I just spent five amazing days at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week covering the ACC basketball tournament (something I last covered in 2000), I am wiped out but incredibly excited for March Madness. (More on my strange back-in-time week as a sportswriter, including when I ran into Chris Christie twice and nearly got bulldozed by Notre Dame star Bonzie Colson in a hallway, in Wednesday’s post.)

Sunday night we learned who’s playing who, when, and where, and I have to say, usually on these nights I’m bitching and moaning about the selection committee snubbing a team badly, or drastically over or under-seeding somebody. But this year, I think the committee did a real good job. Wichita State and Wisconsin got jobbed, both should’ve been at least a 6 or 7 seed, and I can’t understand how a good Wake Forest team was made to play in the play-in game, but those are minor quibbles.

I know a majority of you are going to be filling out office pools this week, and you want to know which upsets to pick, who’s going to the Final Four, and all that stuff. So as I do every year, I am here to guide you, my fine reader. Last year’s opening rounds were insane (remember this shot from Northern Iowa?), so don’t expect nearly as much drama this time.

But we can hope.

Couple quick thoughts on the bracket; not ready to pick my Final Four yet, that’ll be Wednesday.

— OK, right off the bat a few upsets I like: UNC-Wilmington, a 12 seed in the East, to beat Virginia. UVA has really struggled lately and the Seahawks can really shoot. I could see No. 13 Bucknell beating No. 4 West Virginia (I always pick against Bob Huggins teams), No. 12 Middle Tennessee State (who shocked Michigan State last season) beating Minnesota, and maybe, maybe, No. 13 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 4 Florida. Also don’t be stunned if No. 14 Iona beats Oregon, or Winthrop beats Butler.

— As always, some tantalizing possible second-round matchups: Kentucky vs. Wichita State in a rematch from three years ago, when the Wildcats eliminated the then-undefeated Shockers; Duke-Marquette (Coach K vs. his old player, Steve Wojciechowski), and Louisville vs. Michigan. The loaded South bracket could give us Kentucky vs. UCLA in the Sweet 16 (think that might get some decent ratings), Arizona-Florida State in the Sweet 16 in the West would be tremendous, and a Kentucky-North Carolina Elite 8 game looms huge.

— Someone on the committee really, really hates Kansas. The Jayhawks got a brutally tough bracket, stuffed with No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Purdue, and a second-round game with either Miami or Michigan State. I don’t see the Jayhawks surviving all that.

–Meanwhile, my Duke boys, fresh off an improbable ACC Tournament championship, got a real nice draw. They could face old friend Steve Wojciechowski in Round 2, and Baylor in the Sweet 16, but really, Duke should get to the Elite 8 at least, where they’d play defending national champion Villanova. That would be sensational.

The madness begins in just a few days. Can’t wait!

**Next up today, any chance I get to show Roger Federer being awesome, and super-humble, I’m going to take it. The greatest tennis player of all time is in Indian Wells, Calif. this week for a pretty major tournament, and as part of promoting the event he did a “press conference” with 50 local 2nd-graders. It’s pretty hilarious and adorable, especially the end.

As the great Jon Wertheim said on Twitter, you can’t fake this level of engagement. What a great, fun little few minutes this is to watch.

And finally today, I haven’t seen “SNL” in a few weeks but they’re still turning out great, slightly subversive material. Over the weekend they did a fake commercial on Ivanka Trump called “Complicit,” and it’s pretty fabulous. The tagline, delivered with about 20 seconds left, is devastating.

“The Americans” gets better and better, as “the reveal” is awesome. “The Golden Girls” in LEGO? Yes, please. And some final thoughts on Coach K and Duke getting another ring

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I have raved and raved about the FX show “The Americans” for a couple of years now on my blog.

It’s for my money the best show on television, bar none. The first season was spectacular, last season was equally as good, and this current season, oh my goodness it’s just amazing.

All season, the show has been building up to what happened in last week’s episode (SPOILER ALERT), with Russian spies living in America Philip and Elizabeth Jennings wondering how to tell their teenage daughter Paige who they really are, and that the KGB wants Paige to start becoming a Russian spy as well.

The best TV shows take you by complete surprise even when you know what’s coming, and that’s what happened here. Paige turning the tables on her parents and demanding to know the truth about who they are was so unexpected, and the moment played so perfectly by all the actors involved, that I was clutching a pillow to my chest the whole time.

The final scene last week, with Paige staring at family friend (and oh yeah, FBI agent and next-door neighbor) Stan while her dad sharpens knives in the background, was perfect and breathtaking. No idea what’s going to happen now, whether Paige will get on board and join “the family business” or be so angry and hurt about who her parents really are that she’ll want no part of this life.

This show is so great and forcing us to see the moral and emotional choices these characters make every day. Man, I cannot recommend “The Americans” more. Tonight on FX at 10, and you can catch up on past seasons on Amazon.com.

GoldenGirls.LEGO

**Next up today, my Canadian e-migo Jonathan (an e-migo, for those not fluent, is a friend you only know through email and social media) pointed me to this the other day and I laughed really hard.

Some brilliant (or disturbed) fan of “The Golden Girls” named Sam Hatmaker designed some incredibly realistic recreations of famous scenes from the show, with Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia and Rose made out of plastic.

If LEGO gets 10,000 people to sign this petition in support of authorizing a “Golden Girls” LEGO set, it will be put into production.

Screw all those political causes you’re afraid to sign on for, this is actually important! Do it for all the good people of St. Olaf, Minnesota, who’ve been defamed by Rose Nylund’s stories for all these years. Do it for Stan, Dorothy’s ex-husband who’s a schmuck but couldn’t help it. And do it most of all for the many scorned loves of Blanche Deveraux, who was just too much woman for all of them.

Seriously, go sign this petition.

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**Finally, of course I need to say a few words about Monday night’s fabulous NCAA championship game between Duke and Wisconsin.

It really was a terrific game, even if the officiating was pretty bad both ways (bad for Duke in the first half, bad for the Badgers in the 2nd half, including two calls that definitely went Duke’s way and shouldn’t have).

In talking about the 5th title in the Mike Krzyzewski era, I don’t want to re-hash all the old arguments about why people hate Duke, and why I love ’em (for you newcomers, I fell in love with Duke’s 1986 Final Four team as a 10-year-old and have loved them ever since).

But just a few words about the incredible longevity and consistency in excellence of Coach K, who so many love to hate. He went to his first Final Four 29 years ago. He won his first national title in 1991, and his fifth Monday night. That’s 24 years in between his first and last crowns. No other coach in modern sports history, in any sport, has won titles that far apart with the same team.

Just incredible. He has totally changed how he runs his program over the years, changed styles of play so many times, and changed his attitude on many issues.
But what hasn’t changed is this: He’s if not the greatest, one of the two greatest tacticians in the sport’s history. How he managed his players Monday night through foul trouble was a masterpiece, and his motivational skills are unparalleled.

So hate Duke all you want. But know that Mike Krzyzewski belongs in any conversation with the best ever coaches in any sport.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to find a Duke national championship onesie my kid can wear…

Everybody into the pool! I give you tips on the 2015 NCAA Tournament bracket. And a pretty awesome wedding proposal that took a year to create

North Carolina v Duke

It’s the most wonderful time, of the year…

Come on everybody, sing it with me!

Screw Christmas or the Fourth of July, for diehard hoopheads like me, Sunday was the glorious first day of March Madness, three weeks of non-stop college basketball that will leave me smiling from ear to ear and working that remote as feverishly as a teenager playing “Call of Duty.”

Selection Sunday was great, as usual, my Duke boys got the No. 1 seed they deserved, and the selection committee screwed up enough to have plenty of people outraged (Dayton barely gets in, and UCLA and Texas get in over Temple? That makes zero sense).

As usual here on the blog, I’m going to break down some of the early-round games and tell you which upsets I think you should pick, to give you the best shot at winning our office pool. Sure, I don’t get them all right, but last year I told you Harvard and North Dakota State would both score huge upsets, and they did! (Click here for proof of my Nostradamus-like forecast).

Some quick-hit thoughts to help you smash Ted from accounting:

First-round upsets you should definitely pick:  No. 12 Buffalo over No. 5 West Virginia (Bobby Hurley’s Buffalo team is really good, and Bob Huggins-coached teams rarely do well in the Tournament); No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 Utah (Utes are sliding and playing terribly at the end of the year), No. 13 UC-Irvine over No. 4 Louisville (Louisville is very erratic and the Anteaters are for real).

First-round upsets that wouldn’t stun me but I’m not willing to pick: Harvard over UNC (oh man would I love to see Dukie Tommy Amaker and Harvard beat the Heels), Eastern Washington over Georgetown.

Sleepers to watch (lower-seeded teams that could go much further than anticipated:): No. 7 Michigan State (Izzo in March, need I say more?), No. 11 Dayton, No. 7 Wichita State.

Second-round matchups that would be awesome: Wichita State vs. Kansas (big brother vs. little brother in the state; KU refuses to play Wichita State); Gonzaga-Davidson (Davidson will absolutely give them a game, they play tough teams every year); Michigan State-Virginia (rematch of last year’s terrific Sweet 16 game; MSU’s not as good as last year and UVA is better, but Spartans are playing great right now and UVA’s limping in).

Is there any way Kentucky loses before the Final Four? Not really. In my heart I’d like to say Notre Dame and Maryland could knock them out, but the Wildcats got a pretty cake draw.

Can’t give you my Final Four picks yet because I haven’t studied the bracket enough. But Kentucky’s gonna be there. They’re not winning the title, but they’re at least making the Final 4.

Good luck in your pool; I’ll spend the next three days worrying about Robert Morris or North Florida (one of whom will be Duke’s first-round opponent. Hey, don’t laugh, my boys lost to Mercer last year and Lehigh two years before that; anything can happen.)

And that’s why I love March Madness so damn much: Because anything can happen. Maybe this is finally the year a 16 beats a 1 (Lafayette over Villanova, anyone?). Maybe some kid we’ve never heard of becomes instantly famous for a last-second shot.

Anything can happen. Can’t wait till Thursday.

**Finally today, I thought all of the unique marriage proposals in the world had been used up, but this guy’s was pretty great.

It takes a couple minutes to get going (you can skip to 2:30 and not miss much), but once it does I find it really sweet and charming.

And of course, she said yes…

Duke loses, a gruesome injury occurs, and the Final Four is set. The tennis shot of the year, already. And “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship”

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Before I get to thoughts on my beloved Duke Blue Devils and the end of their season Sunday in the Elite Eight, a few words about the injury from that game you probably have all heard about, and one that won’t leave my mind for a while.

When Louisville’s Kevin Ware ran out to try to block a 3-pointer by Duke’s Tyler Thornton with 6:33 left in the first half, it looked like an innocent play, one college basketball players make 1,000 times.

But when Thornton released his shot, Ware flew past him, and landed on his right leg at a horrendously gruesome angle, with the leg bending under him. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you strongly NOT to watch it. I was watching the game with my soon-to-be father-in-law and we both screamed “Oh my God!” upon watching the replay.

It was a terrible injury to watch, and the Louisville players were clearly very shaken by it; several vomited upon looking at Ware’s leg, and others were weeping openly on the court.

It was a jarring reminder of how fragile these athletic careers are; Kevin Ware, as of Sunday night, was expected to recover from his broken leg, but who knows if he’ll ever play again. (Great column on the injury here by Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal)

In his absence, a basketball game continued, but even I, who normally yells and screams at the TV during Duke games with the best of them, was kinda subdued for a while after that.
It’s just sports, we have to keep telling ourselves when something awful happens.

**Now, as for the games this weekend… I have to start with Duke. So thrilled with the win Friday night, since the Blue Devils played great defense and got just enough offense besides the remarkable Seth Curry to win.
Sunday, for the first 20 minutes, I thought Duke was going to win. They were right there playing with the best team in America. But then, Louisville went to another level, and Duke couldn’t get that high.
The Cardinals are just outstanding, and should win the national title next weekend, I think.
The Blue Devils had a fantastic season and I”m proud of ’em. To come within 1 game of the Final 4, with Curry playing hurt all year, and Ryan Kelly being out for a while, is terrific. I’m salivating thinking about next year’s lineup already.

— Michigan’s comeback on Friday night was sensational (is it me or does Kansas either choke in epic proportions or go the Final 4 every year, with nothing in between), and their beatdown of Florida Sunday was equally impressive. What a talented team, and I think they’re the only ones with a shot at beating Louisville next weekend in Atlanta.
— Wichita State, I mean, did ANYONE in America pick them for the Final 4? What a great, great story; they were eclipsed by the Florida Gulf Coast magic a little bit, but the Shockers getting to the national semifinals as a 9 seed is mighty impressive.

**And now, a tennis shot that you couldn’t replicate if you tried it a thousand times. Aggie Radwanska, last week at the Sony Open, with a volley none of my instructors ever taught me…

**Finally today, a feature I always enjoy but rarely remember to blog about. From Jimmy Kimmel’s show, This Week in Unnecessary Censorship…

Duke wins a thriller, and the madness begins. The new late-night wars: Jimmy vs. Jimmy? And “The Daily Show” shines again

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My favorite sports month of the year is here. Pretty much, every day all month, there’s incredible college basketball going on, not just once the NCAA Tournament gets going in a few weeks.

I love all the late-season showdowns, like Sunday’s epic Michigan-Michigan State game won by the Wolverines by a point. I love the incredible, out of nowhere performances, like when Ryan Kelly of my beloved Duke Blue Devils scored 36 points Saturday night in his first game in two months, leading Duke past a very, very good Miami team.

And this week, I’ll love the small conference tournaments getting their one shot at the big time, playing their guts out against their conference foes, all hoping for one ticket to the Dance.

So yes, I’m one of those freaks who will watch South Dakota State and Northeastern and the bigshots of the Missouri Valley Conference, all playing for the right to have a chance to become famous for a few days a few weeks from now.

For most, March Madness doesn’t really start for two more weeks. But after this past weekend’s thrilling games, I’m totally immersed as usual.

God I love college hoops.

And oh yeah, March Madness extends to high school hoops, too. Check out this insane finish and 55-foot buzzer beater from New Rochelle H.S. in New York’s Khalil Edney, to beat Mount Vernon on Saturday.  The good part starts at :25…

** So it looks like we may have a new late-night war on our hands, and Jay Leno is finally getting shown the door.

NBC is apparently ready to throw Leno out the door (again) in 2014 and turn “The Tonight Show” over to Jimmy Fallon, because they’re worried Jimmy Kimmel and ABC are stealing all the young viewers.

I say amen and bravo to this move. Fallon, though he possesses the horrible habit of cracking himself up on live TV, is quick, funny and has great bits all the time on his show. I’d love to see him and Kimmel go at it, because Kimmel is really funny, too.

But Mr. Fallon, I wouldn’t go celebrating just yet. Ask Conan O’Brien how loyal to its promises and plans NBC is, eh?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Finally today, been a while since I’ve highlighted the consistently awesome work of “The Daily Show.” Late last week Jon Stewart and the gang took on the kerfuffle between the White House and legendary journalist Bob Woodward.

I used to worship Woodward, who of course was 1/2 of the reporting team that helped bring down Richard Nixon during Watergate. But in recent years he seems to have turned into a caricature of himself, and takes himself way too seriously.

So I enjoyed this little takedown very much…

20 years later, a great book about the Laettner shot. A brilliant solution to the peanut-butter jar problem. And “The Wire” vs. “The Sopranos” an impossible decision

Twenty years later, I can still remember where I was when Christian Laettner hit “The Shot.”

Lying on the floor of my then-stepmother’s basement in Queens, N.Y., watching the greatest game ever played and rooting like hell for Duke to beat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA regional finals in Philly.
It looked good for the Blue Devils for a while. Then, not so good. When Sean Woods hit that crazy running bank shot to put Kentucky ahead with 2.1 seconds to go, I cursed and couldn’t believe that a team of “rejects” who nobody else wanted when UK basketball went down in controversy after a cheating scandal was about to beat the defending national champs that I loved so much.

Then Grant Hill threw a beautiful pass, Laettner caught it, and the rest is history.

It was 20 years ago Wednesday, and it capped what is almost-universally acclaimed as the greatest college hoops game of all time. I got to relive a lot of it recently through Gene Wojciechowski’s fantastic new book “The Last Great Game.”
A longtime newspaper sportswriter, Woj does a terrific job telling the backstories of how Duke and Kentucky got to the game. So much of it is fascinating: How Rick Pitino never wanted to leave the Knicks and come to UK after the program was destroyed by scandal. How Laettner was an even bigger jerk than we thought, tormenting teammates and being an incredible pain in the ass to everyone. How those UK players (which featured only one future NBA player, Jamal Mashburn) were immortalized for coming so close, and for restoring glory to a once-proud program.

The only downside to the book in my eyes was that considering the title, the author doesn’t spend that much time talking about the actual game. But the details he does give are riveting (I still can’t understand why Pitino decided not to guard the in-bounds pass at the end).

Of course Duke fans will enjoy the book, and Kentucky fans too, but really, it’s a great story for any fan of basketball. The title is misleading; Duke-Kentucky 1992 was not the “last great game.”

But it was the best one ever played, and I highly recommend reading it to get even more of a flavor of March Madness.

**Like just about all of you, I’ve at one time or another suffered from the peanut butter jar problem. You’re trying to make a sandwich, but your peanut butter jar is mostly empty. So you reach in and try to get some out with a knife, only to smear Skippy’s or Jif all over your sleeve or hand.
It’s just the cost of doing business, you tell yourself later when you enjoy your PB & J.

But my friends, you and your sleeves will suffer no more! Check out this pretty awesome invention by Darren Kramer, a minor league hockey player for the Ottawa Senators. He’s come up with the “double twist-off jar,” and here’s a video (above) showing how it works.
Very, very cool. I totally hope this hits the mass market.

**As far as smart television fans and critics go, there’s been a long-running debate about which television drama was the GOAT (Greatest of All Time): “The Wire” or “The Sopranos.”

I was a huge fan of both, but to me it’s not that close of a contest: Both “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” were transcendent, groundbreaking television, but “The Wire” was superior. It had better acting, better writing, and told better stories. (Plus that final scene of “The Sopranos” still pisses me off, all these years later.)

But don’t take my word for it. The good people at Vulture.com have done a comprehensive breakdown of the two shows, comparing almost every last detail.

A fascinating read if you have the time.

An incredible Duke comeback win over UNC. Kansas anti-abortion legislation is outrageous. And the car that drives itself.

I have no idea if any of this is going to make sense.

It’s been 45 minutes since the most improbable Duke win over North Carolina in my lifetime, and my heart rate is only now starting to slow down.
Pick an adjective. Any adjective. Insane. Ridiculous. Unbelievable.
It all applies. With just over two minutes to go in the game, North Carolina, who had dominated all night and is definitely the better team this year, was up 82-72. I had a few hundred words about this painful Duke loss already written (which thankfully I’ve now deleted; lost to the dustbin of history), but suddenly Tyler Thornton of the Blue Devils hit a 3, and then Seth Curry hit a 3 (yeah, he traveled on the play, so what), and we had a ballgame again.

And then Austin Rivers, son of NBA coach Doc Rivers, comes down with two seconds left and unleashes a 22-footer from the right side of the court.

Swish. 3-pointer. Duke wins. 20,000 UNC fans at the Dean Dome eerily silent.

And yours truly leaped up from my perch two feet from the television, on the floor, clutching a pillow (that’s my default position for when one of my teams is in a tight game) and screamed “Holy (bleep)” about 15 times in a row. My die-hard hoops fan friend Tony called. We both screamed that two word epithet into the phone to each other a few times, too.

I probably woke up my landlord. But who cared? Duke had just beaten North Carolina. Austin Rivers entered the Duke pantheon.

Believe me, I know Duke still has a ton of problems. They couldn’t rebound at all tonight, their defense was poor, and they missed way too many free throws.
But Carolina couldn’t put ’em away, and missed just enough shots at the end to keep Duke alive.

What a win. What a rivalry, the best in all of the land.
God I love sports sometimes.
Off to sleep. Yeah, right.

Another week, another insanely offensive anti-abortion law going through the motions in a state.

The state of Kansas took up a bill Wednesday that would exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withheld, from women, personal medical information to prevent an abortion.

In other words, a doctor would be completely free from a lawsuit if he decided to withhold certain pertinent information from his patient. From his patient!

According to the Huff Post story linked above, among the most contested provisions of the bill is the section that would exempt a doctor from a medical malpractice suit if a woman claims the physician withheld information about potential birth defects to prevent her from having an abortion.

How abhorrent and heartless would a doctor have to be to do that?

The measure would also, among other things, remove tax deductions for the purchase of abortion-related insurance coverage, and force women wanting an abortion to hear the fetal heartbeat.

And oh yeah, the law would require that women be told about potential breast cancer risks from abortions, even though there has been NO medical science backing up a link.

Truly repulsive and disgusting stuff. Kansas, of course, has been a battleground state in the pro-choice and anti-choice wars for years.
Just when I think the anti-choice zealots can’t go any further, they push their agenda a few more yards…

Vodpod videos no longer available.
** I love futuristic stuff like this. From wired.com comes a quick video and story about the car that will drive itself.

I don’t believe for a minute this will ever actually become a regular thing. But for  less-than-great drivers like myself, I think it would be awesome.

We are getting closer and closer to “The Jetsons,” aren’t we?

Prop 8 overturned in California; Supreme Court up next? Once again, it’s time for Duke-Carolina. And the inspiring story of ALS patient Steve Gleason

And now, to the Supreme Court.

I guess it was kind of inevitable that the controversial Proposition 8 law in California, enacted several years ago to ban marriage between gay people, would end up in the hands of the nine most important judges in the United States.

Tuesday, yet another blow was struck for equality. The California Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, setting the stage for a fight in Washington, D.C. to hopefully settle this issue once and for all.

The Supreme Court could refuse to hear the case, of course. But I think it will, and it’ll come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who on this right-leaning court is the best hope for a swing, “moderate” vote.

I hope this issue does get aired before the Supreme Court. I get sick and tired of saying it, but the continued discrimination against gay and lesbian people in our society is a disgusting, antiquated blot on our country that decades from now, future generations will shake their head at.
Good for the California Supreme Court. One more court to go, and then maybe, we can stop arguing about whether two people who love each other should be able to legally say they’re bound together forever.

For more on the ruling, check out this excellent summary here.

**Tonight. Duke-Carolina. My favorite hyphenated phrase in the world, I look forward to the first game between the two college basketball rivals more than any other every year. It’s the greatest rivalry in all of sports, and I’ll keep on believing that until my dying day.

Not feeling too optimistic about my Blue Devils’ chances tonight; Duke has had an erratic season so far; there’s no leadership on this team, the guard play has been spotty (for every solid game Austin Rivers plays, he throws in a clunker; Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry, you too), and the Tar Heels are loaded and rolling. Sunday, my Blue Devils missed six FT’s in overtime and lost to a not-that-great Miami team, in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Tonight’s game could get ugly for the boys in dark blue. But I’ll be hoping for the best and going nuts between 9 and 11 p.m. If you’re a sports fan, you really ought to watch.

**Finally today, a tragic but a bit heartwarming story you may have seen on the Super Bowl pregame show. Former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2010; for my money it’s the positively worst disease you can come down with. Gleason has a wonderfully positive attitude despite his fatal diagnosis; watch his story and be inspired…