Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rise and .. This is Horrible

It's Saturday morning and I've been awake since 4 a.m. Soon, I'll head off to work for about 12 hours. Obviously, I'm thrilled right now.

On the bright side, I just saw an ad for some little heater made by the Amish. You can bet that will get The Writings' attention in the near future.

Monday, February 22, 2010

No. 6

The Kansas State Wildcats are ranked No. 6 in the nation by both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls. Per, no AP voter feels the Wildcats are any worse than the No. 10 team in the nation. K-State has performed well enough this season that their even being mentioned as a potential No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

All of these details are common knowledge to most Kansas State fans, but I had to type them as they're still kind of hard to believe. As detailed in previous Writings, I've seen a lot of bad basketball in the last 15 years. How far has this team come? How welcome is this return to national relevance? Let the following video serve as a little reminder of how cursed this team seemed for awhile.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

So if the Groundhog hadn't seen his shadow, what would these Olympics be called?

Recent scuttlebutt has surrounded the fact the NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics has about as impressive as a broken gravy boat.

While the analogy doesn't really make any sense*, it doesn't really matter, as most readers probably closed their browsers once they saw that I had used the word "scuttlebutt." For those that are still reading, thanks. Now, let's get to the meat
and potatoes*.

*Or whatever the Vancouverian equivalent is... Something measured metrically, no doubt.

I have read that the Olympic coverage thus far - due to poor commentary, few live events, and a lack of abominable snowmen -
has been subpar. I haven't paid attention, partly because I find the games about as exciting as watching snow melt, and partly because - as long-time readers know - ice is my sworn enemy.  Nevertheless, because the games are keeping quality programming like Parks and Rec and The Office off the air tonight, I figured I would check in on the competition that best indicates what nation will rule the world once the next Ice Age* hits.

*That's the actual geological period, not the movies that get progressively worse with each sequel.


Lindesy Vonn, you've probably heard of her. She's the blonde, swimsuit-modeling, American skier who is participating in these games despite the fact that one leg is attached by just two tendons. It's a story of true courage... Wait... What? She only is suffering from a sore shin? Why has she been forced down America's throat like a non-Flintstone vitamin?


One NBC commentator just referred to a skier that crashed yesterday but is returning to ski again today as "a true champion." this proves I know nothing about the Winter Olympics. I had no idea that Horrific Crashing was an event you could medal in.


More annoying: Shaun White or Carrot Top?

And why are they showing a Shaun White interview instead of an actual Olympic event?


How long before we see a horrific injury in the skiing slalom courtesy some joker replacing once of the slalom poles with an iron tetherball pole? It has to happen, right?


45 minutes into the evenings Olympic coverage, I think I've seen as many commercials as were shown in the last three Super Bowls combined. Guess we know how NBC is paying off the Conan O'Brien settlement.


It's well documented (by me, as well as at least one nurse practitioner) that I have the balance of an inebriated emu. As a result, I have to wonder how far down this slalom hill I could make it on a pair of skis.


The answer: However far my initial fall would take me.


Vonn takes a spill in the slalom thanks to what a broadcaster calls "a classic hooked tip." At least it wasn't one of those "atypical hooked tips." 

It's very clear that I have no clue what I'm referring to. It's also very clear that Syracuse is playing Georgetown and is only ahead by two with three minutes left.

So long, Olympics.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A In-Depth Societal Study... Okay, A Look at Dunk Contests

I have been watching a lot of NBA slam dunk contests lately. Seriously, way too many of them. NBATV recently aired a marathon of dunk contests from the 80s through last season. Thanks to my DVR, I've watched far too many of such showcases over the past three days. How do I know I've watched too many? I feel strongly that some judges were crooked, I know who Terence Stansbury is, and I'm about to devote entirely too many words to describing some of the things I've seen. The 2010 contest was about as dissappointing as the finish of "The Matrix" trilogy*, so it's best we look back and do it as soon as we can. After all, what could provide a better avenue for analyzing society's trends. (Other than, you know, serious things.)

*Really, Shannon Brown? Your big idea of a dunk is catching an alley-oop? Someone reward this man's sense of innovation!

We begin in 1987, which was a simpler time. Naturally, I mean it was simpler for the tailors who made NBA uniforms. Shorter shorts meant less thread, more efficiency and greater profits. Simple, right?

It seems that being a former (and unfunny) cast member of Saturday Night Live qualifies a person to judge dunks on a national stage.* How else did Joe Piscopo wind up behind the judges table. I doubt that imitating Frank Sinatra could somehow give a person an intricate knowledge of dunking difficulties.

*2010 equivalent of Piscopo: Colin Quinn. Would you accept him as a dunk contest judge?

Some guy name Michael Jordan ended up winning this contest*, but my favorite moments of this contest don't involve any of his actual dunks. It's all in the commentary. I probably should not get the joy I do out of hearing an announcer refer to an atop-the-backboard camera as the "slam-jam cam," but it gets me every single time. Apparently I'm a simple guy. I guess I belong in 1987.

*Yes, I think he made his name as a baseball player.

Here we are seven years later. The legendary rhythms of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince fill Minneapolis' Target Center and the phrase "warm it up" is used on multiple occasions. Yes, 1994 was a magical time. This edition of the dunk contest really wasn't notable. I only mention it because at one point the camera panned to a 70-year-old woman who looked like she had gotten lost on the way to her bridge game. Luckily, she was embracing her role as a member of the dunk contest audience and holding up a sign with the number 10 for a dunk that definitely didn't deserve it. (Sorry, Robert Pack.)

Brent Barry, who sports Macauley Caulkin's Home Alone haircut and wears his warmup jacket during the competition, throws one down after leaping from the foul-line. The obvious joke here is "I guess white men CAN jump." I respect you all far to much to try to get by with that one.

Jerry Stackhouse licked his forearm - usually a sign that the dunker is going to cup the ball against that same forearm - but then did nothing of the sort on his dunk attempt. Lesson: he must just be a messy eater.

One of the broadcasters just said the aforementioned Barry reminded him of Pistol Pete Maravich. Pistol was one of the most exciting players to ever grace the hardwood. Barry won this dunk contest and then... well... averaged 14 points per game for Seattle one year. That's exciting in the same way that eating ice chips is exciting.

Darvin Ham, who once shattered a backboard during the NCAA tournament, throws down three of the top dunks of the night. Naturally, the judges give him a 36 and he doesn't escape the first round. I know there have been a lot of scandals in the sports world, but I really think this one should get more publicity. Darvin was robbed.

Kobe Bryant, at the age of 18, wins the contest. Cameras track Brandy in the crowd, as she had been his prom date the year before. Yes, the fact that Brandy was relevant helps you realize how long ago 1997 really was.

We jump ahead thee years thanks to the fact that there were no NBA dunk contests in 1998 or 1999. I like to think that this was because the judges from the 1997 contest were forced to spend two years sitting silently in a corner thinking about what they had done after the Ham Fiasco.*

*Is it me, or does that sound like a new dish at Denny's?

Vince Carter dominates this competition, but Kenny Smith nearly spoils the event by repeating "Let's go home!" and "it's over!" so often that you begin to wonder if he's learning English from "Phrases to Get Your Significant Other to Leave the Buffet" educational tapes.

During the event, cameras pan to Michael Keaton on multiple occasions. Why? My best guess is that the cameraman was a stalker that was obsessed with the movie Multiplicity.

According to the aforementioned Mr. Smith, former Vancouver Grizzly Stromile Swift is penalized on a dunk attempt because he didn't "bring enough funk." I don't know how many times I've made that same mistake.

It's the year of horrible ideas for the dunk contest. Let's count them, shall we?
1. Rather than having all dunkers compete against each other in the first round, they spilt the competition into tournament-style match ups. Bad idea.
2. The commentary of the TNT broadcasting team - featuring Smith, Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, and Danny Ainge - is fed over the arena's loudspeakers for at least a portion of the contest. The leads to audio feedback, annoying echos, and an arena full of fans being subjected to Smith and Ainge with no "mute" option. Very bad idea.
3. Dunkers have to complete one dunk picked by a giant Wheel of Fortune (or Morality) wheel. This destroys the players' chances to be creative and eliminates Steve Francis, since he went bankrupt on a dunk that involved palming the ball, which he couldn't do. Even Barkley says the wheel is a stupid idea. Horrendous idea.

In other news, one of the judges is some guy named Internet. Weiird name.

There are courtesy laughs. There are horrendously fake laughs. Then there's the laugh Jason Richardson gives Craig Sager in response to a terrible joke about Barkley's golf game after Richardson's win. I almost felt bad for Sager. Then I thought of this. And this. And this.

The NBA gets it right with the judges... finally. All seated at the judges table are former dunk champs. Not only does this leave the judging up to those who actually know the difficulty of such dunks, but it also gives Dee Brown something to do. Win-win.

From Kenny, "We need to get him a get well card; he's sick!" This was not a literal statement. You see, back in 2003 the word "sick" was often used as an alternative to the words "awesome" and "bee's knees."*

*The Writings: We're here to teach.

We skip a year, not due to contest cancellation, but simply because the 2004 contest really wasn't that notable. Even the winner had a ho-hum name. (Sorry, Fred Jones.)

2005 was the year of The Birdman. Chris Andersen, who has seemingly played basketball in more locations than a certain globe-trotting team from Harlem, was one of four contest participants. The edited version of the contest is just 30 minutes long, but, thanks to Andersen, the uncut version lasts far longer. Andersen spent approximately three days trying to successfully complete his first-round attempts. His efforts resulted in more laughter than most


Turns out that my DVR doesn't have as much space as I'd like. We don't go much further than 2005 thanks to the fact that I'm unwilling to erase any episodes of Lost or the K-State-Texas game from my DVR. Nonetheless, I'll leave you with one of the better dunk contests I've seen. (And, as we've learned, I've basically seen them all.) It doesn't top Jordan-Wilkins from 1988 or the Vinsanity show from 2000, but there are definitely a few dunks you should see if you have seven minutes to waste. (Particularly at the 4:57 mark.)

All Star Game 2008 - Slam Dunk Contest

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Few Things to Think About - K-State Basketball Edition

While eating lunch today, ESPN's SportsCenter* showed a graphic of the top ten teams in college basketball. There at No. 9 was Kansas State. The Wildcats have been ranked for weeks now. They've topped the then-No. 1 team in the nation. They were barely nipped by the current No. 1 team in a game so tight that frat guys might try to wear it as a t-shirt. They have continually proven that they deserve to be considered as one of the best in college basketball this season, yet I still sit stunned for a few seconds when I see "Kansas State" listed next to that No. 9. It's not that I feel this season has been any sort of fluke; to the contrary, I don't think the team is going anywhere but up next year. It's just that I've seen so many losses in Bramlage Coliseum that having the chance to view a fairly consistent winner is a shock to the system. It's like eating nothing but rancid Spam for 15 years and then winning the opportunity to eat at a top-flight steakhouse twice a week.

*I figured this show could use a bump from The Writings**. I hope it makes it.

**The Writings: We Don't Know the Meaning of Delusion.

How different are things surrounding K-State basketball? Consider:

- Kansas State has topped four ranked teams this season, including the Texas Longhorns while they were ranked No. 1. Four years ago, the Wildcats were 0-3 against ranked opponents.

- The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 9 in the nation. Five years ago they finished 10th in the Big 12. (Unfortunately, all of the nine teams ahead of the Cats that season were not ranked in the nation's top 10.)

- Six years ago, K-State won 14 games total. This season, the Wildcats won their 14th game on Jan. 12.

- Seven years ago, K-State averaged 7,157 in attendance per home game. In 2009-2010, the Wildcats are averaging 11,685 fans per home game. The difference (4,500+) is about the same as the population of neighboring Clay Center, Kan.

- This season, Kansas State outrebounds opponents by an average of 5.8 rebounds per game. Eight years ago, with stalwarts like Western Carolina and Farleigh Dickenson on the schedule, the Wildcats rebounding margin was -1.2.

- It's not uncommon to hear the PA announcer urge students to scoot together to make sure all in attendance can fit in the bleachers this season. Students line up in subfreezing temperature hours before game time to ensure they get decent seats. Nine years ago, my high school friends and I would show up 10 minutes before game time and mosey into the college student section to sit on the third row with my brother. We had ample room to stretch, do calisthenics, or take naps and - even though they usually brought out five or six pies - we were nearly always guaranteed a pizza thanks to a halftime promotion.

- Ten years ago, K-State's recruiting pipeline was Junction City High School; a team whose last state championship came in 1970. Now, the Wildcats are tapped into AAU's DC Assault, a team that has featured fomer Big 12 Player of the Year Michael Beasley, as well as current Wildcats Dominique Sutton, Jamar Samuels, Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder. No offense to Travis Reynolds and Quentin Buchanan, but DC may have the advantage here.

Is it shortsighted to celebrate a No. 9 ranking with seven games left on the schedule? Absolutely. As Frank Martin is quick to note: "You don't throw parades in (insert month that indicates the season is still in progress here)." There's a lot that could still happen this season; injuries, suspensions, plagues, or alien abductions. Nonetheless, having had a good taste of where this team has been, I'm going to the slight shock that comes with a national ranking each step of the way.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

People In Your Neighborhood - The Fan of Lethal Fruit

It's time once again to peel back the skin of the orange that is our society and deeply examine the pulp inside.* I made a trip earlier this evening to buy some of life's essentials (frozen pizza and oven chips) and encountered a one of the world's finest characters. What makes him tick? Let's try to find out...

*It may only be February, but I think we have a good candidate for "Worst Metaphor of the Year." Congratulations, Derek! We'll see you on the red carpet.

The guy who confuses covert martial artists and fruit
Quick, what is your favorite type of apple? Gala? Granny Smith? Golden Delicious? Jonathan? McIntosh? Ninja?

Wait, Ninja?

Yes, according to the gentleman in front of me in the checkout line, he was purchasing a Ninja apple.

The consumer - middle-aged, portly, and astoundingly confused - was buying little of consequence. Typically, someone like this would not linger in my mind hour afterward, but everything took a turn when the cashier held up the apple the guy was purchasing to determine what type it was. With her spindly fingers holding the fruit just in front of her wearied face, she tossed out a guess.


Alas, the hefty man shook his head. The guess was off the mark.

Thinking, the man looked toward the ground. He seemed to be mentally spelunking into the deepest crevices of his mind, searching valiantly for the name of the apple he hoped to purchase.

Some might argue that an apple is an apple; that if you have to put that much thought into what specific type of fruit your purchasing, it's really not worth arguing about. After all, he could have lied. He could have called the apple Gala, paid for it, and had his teeth down to the core by now... Instead, he thought.

Finally, as if the good Lord had shone the light of wisdom on him through the market's fluorescent lamps, the man looked up. Confidently, he looked at the cashier and said, "It's the Japanese one. You know, a Ninja."

It was at this time I took a subtle step backward. I've seen movies. I know what ninjas are capable of. They're silent assassins. Though I was fairly confident an apple could not be a ninja (nor a ninja an apple), I approached the situation with caution, just in case. Luckily, before the type of store-wide panic that could only come from the threat of an apple attack could set in, the cashier cleared things up. "Do you mean a Fuji, sir?"

"Aw, yeah. That's it."

Crisis resolved.

With his apple bagged and the rest of his groceries paid for, as well, the man walked out the market doors. It was with much regret that he escaped before I could ask him pressing questions. Questions like, "What made you think Ninja was a kind of apple?" "Haven't you ever heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja (not apple) Turtles?" and "Why the heck are you only buying one apple, anyway?"

Apparently, some of life's mysteries will never be solved.