Shaq – Biggest sports star of the modern era?

Today is a sad, sad day. My heart cries out a lonely song. I knew it was coming; hell, we all should have seen it coming: Shaq has retired. I would have Shaqrificed my left leg to give Shaquille O’Neal one last shot at recapturing his old form, but the time was right.

The Shaqtus, The Big Leprechaun, The Big Shamrock, The Big Aristotle, The Big Baryshnikov, Shaq Daddy, Shaq Fu, The Diesel, Superman (the original Superman, Dwight…other than the real Superman). If there is one thing that can not be debated, it’s that no celebrity figure in modern or ancient times (like the ’80s) has had such an uncanny knack for self proclaiming highly entertaining nicknames. (And as a quick aside, Shaq has asked fans for help creating his nickname in retirement. My choices: The Big Early Bird Special or The Big Arthritic)

But Shaq’s late-career knack for using nicknames to stay relevant while the Lego pieces he called body parts kept falling apart and eroding his play was only one small part of why I am convinced Shaq was the biggest sports star of the Millenium Era, which I’d describe as the era of athletes that dominated the sports landscape in the decade before and after the year 2000.

First, I am well aware Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky and Dale Earnhardt were competing in part of this era and were bigger stars than Shaq, but the fact is all of them belong to a different time. Jordan’s title-winning Bulls will always be tied to the very end of the NBA’s Golden Age of Magic, Bird, Barkley, Isiah, etc. Gretsky was still The Great One in the ’90s, but his star status was never the same after peaking that first year after leaving Edmonton for L.A. Earnhardt was the last great driver of NASCAR’s Budweiser-Swilling Go-Fuck-Yourself-Because-Mustaches-Are-Awesome Real Redneck era; not the $500 sunglasses, pussy fight, manicure-before-the-race era NASCAR is enjoying today.

Still, the Millenium Era has some impressive stars – Tiger in his prime, Roy Jones Jr., Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Allen Iverson and Shaq’s own personal nemesis Kobe, the Tommy Gunn to Shaq’s aging Rocky.

Roy Jones in his prime was incredible – as dominant and entertaining as Ali, but his terrible attempt at a rap career alone is enough to dim his star under Shaq’s. And for anyone who wants to hate on Shaq’s rap career, don’t forget The Diesel put out a platinum album in ’93, followed that up with a gold album in ’94 and, the ultimate testament, even Biggie gave Shaq props for his rap skills once upon a time. Sorry, Roy.

Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire – juice. Enough said. (Did you know Barry Bonds’ head grew like an inch in circumference from the start of his career to the end? Seriously! Look it up. But it was just the flax seed oil, right, Barry?)

Derek Jeter? Jeet is a mega-star no doubt; anyone who’s ruled the Big Apple for 15 years and banged the crazy out of Mariah Carey is, but the fact is the guy’s just never been that great of a baseball player. I’m sorry, dude is a savvy, smart, classy guy, but Yankees fans are convinced whoever is the face of their franchise gets to take ritual baths in the semen of Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle, therefore making them equal to all former Yankee greats.

Tiger? Tiger owned this title before his little penchant for nailing anything with a pulse and a vagina, pulse optional, went public. You simply cannot be the biggest sports star of an era if you are picking up waitresses at the IHOP and driving them back to their trailer after banging them. That’s not even Class A minor league baseball level. That’s your drunk redneck uncle in Reno shit right there. The man might have won majors at a never before seen pace right through the heart of the Millenium Era, but Tiger’s head and body are so broken down now that even the mystic healing powers of Shaq’s Icy/Hot can’t heal him.

Whereas Shaq’s star has faded steadily over the past four seasons due to age an injury, he’s remained a pretty desired commodity for quality teams with legit title hopes. Contrast that to Iverson, who fell so far from grace so fast that he hopped on a plane thinking he had been banished to the NBA wasteland of Memphis only to walk out of the terminal in Turkey, less than two years removed from scoring over 25 per game with ‘Melo on a solid Denver team. A.I. hasn’t commented on the rumors that he was checking out Osama bin Laden’s crib in Pakistan ahead of his tryout with the Islamabad Goatherders of the Pakistani Basketball Association.

Lastly, Kobe, who has the wonderful distinction of being the face of the NBA for those terrible couple of seasons when he surpassed Shaq as the Lakers top weapon and before everyone could run to Lebron as fast as they could just so they didn’t have to pay attention to Kobe whining anymore. So why is Shaq bigger than Kobe, who the NBA always worked harder to promote than The Diesel? A) Shaq was better than Kobe in each of their primes. Shaq was literally unstoppable and played a one-of-a-kind game that no one has or ever will play again. Kobe is great at rising to the occasion, but there are literally dozens of players in the past 20 years that can pretty much do what Kobe does. B) Shaq was a legitimate cultural phenomenon when he blew up in the mid-90s. Kobe, pretty much, was the pretty boy primadonna that girls thought was cute and Europeans liked because he was a fan of soccer, both of which just annoyed most American fans. C) Shaq never raped anyone (Oh, right, Kobe never did either…). D) Kobe’s one extra title will never erase Shaq dissing him over and over again in impromptu raps.

But enough of those other guys. This is a celebration of Shaq, and he makes his own case for greatest sports star of his era, and one of the tops of all time.

As a player, Shaq tallied: 6 NBA Finals appearances, 4 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVP awards, 1 NBA MVP award (a travesty perpetrated by Karl Malone loving voters), 15 All-Star appearances, 14 All-NBA team awards and 3 NBA All-Defensive Team awards. He ranks 5th all time in NBA scoring, 12th in rebounds and 7th in blocks

As a celebrity, Shaq cut four rap albums (one platinum) and scored a Billboard top 40 hit; starred in his own Super Nintendo video game (Shaq Fu); swam against Michael Phelps, boxed Oscar de la Hoya and took on Olympic beach volleyball gold medalists Misty May and Kerri Walsh in his reality TV show Shaq Vs; starred as Neon in all-time classic sports flick Blue Chips then set a new standard for acting athlete ridiculousness by starring as rapping genie Kazaam and a kid-friendly Robocop in Steel (hate on Kazaam if you will, but no terrible box office bust is cited with more regularity by nostalgic 20-something potheads than Kazaam); and proved he has the best dance moves of any plus-7-footer in history, first by throwing down with the Jabbawokeez in the greatest All-Star game entry in sports history then schooling Justin Bieber in a Shaq Vs dance off.

Seriously, who the hell can top that combined resume? If all this Shaq nostalgia doesn’t have you a little misty to see the big man go, something is just plain wrong with you. We’ll miss you, Big Shuffleboarder.


2011 NCAA Tournament: Year of the small school run?

There is a particular resident LND writer, not naming names, but let’s call him Schmerron Schmingleton, who is proudly proclaiming victory over his preseason college hoops prediction that 2011 would be the year of the small conference schools running deep in the tournament. This claim of victory might have gone unnoticed, except another LND writer, not naming names, but let’s call him Sexy Square Nuts, called out Schmerron’s manhood before the start of the Tournament saying 2011 would be dominated by the big league schools.

Following the first weekend, Perron…oops, I mean, Schmerron…declared: “way back in the preseason i wasn’t calling for chaos in the tournament – but rather small conference schools making long runs. richmond, vcu, butler, byu, sdsu have proven me right already. it’s another year of the small school. at least one of those teams will win another game or two.”

Mr. Schmingleton’s apparent inability to use caps aside, this caused Square Nuts to raise an eyebrow. (By the way, can you imagine a pair of nuts with eyebrows? It’s like dirty Mr. Potato Head.)

So why is this debate happening? A) It’s timely. B) What else are we going to talk about? Regular season NBA or NHL? Pass. C) Perron thinks he’s right, and Jay just can’t stand when that happens. D) It turns out, it’s a pretty interesting analysis and it hinges on a couple of key assumptions.

The head to head returns to LND right now! Let’s get to it.

Jay says: This ain’t no year of no small conference school.

This debate calls for getting a few things unLiberace—that is to say, straight—first.

1) Perron and I agree – a “long run” = making it to the Sweet 16 for a small school.

Perron leans on Richmond of the Atlantic 10 and BYU and San Diego St. of the Mountain West to make his small school argument. Let’s just throw those teams out the window, because the assumption that the A-10 and MWC are small conferences is patently absurd.

Both the A-10 and MWC have received 9 bids over the last three tournaments (the PAC 10 has only garnered 10). Going back a decade, both have 25 bids over the last decade – a solid 2.5 teams per season. The only other league that has averaged more than 1.3 bids per season in the last decade outside of the “BCS Conferences” (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, PAC 10, SEC) is C-USA with 26 bids, but 17 of those came in the 2002-2005 timeframe before the Big East raided the cream of the conference, taking Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville (and a few other teams no one gives a shit about).

The A-10 and MWC both also sport multiple teams with a lot of hoops history—Xavier, Temple, Utah, UNLV anybody?

So I’ll admit the A-10 and MWC aren’t “big conference schools,” but they’re clearly in another league above Perron’s “small conference schools.” Let’s call them “middle conference schools,” and there’s a distinction there from “mid-majors.” Mid-majors are the better teams from the small conferences. Gonzaga was the quintessential mid-major in the late ‘90s. (Although the ‘Zags are like Boise St. in football at this point – they’re established as a major).

So, eliminating the Big 6 conference and the 3 middle conferences (A-10, MWC and C-USA-which was really a big conference from 2002-2005 and then a small conference plus Memphis from 2006 on, but we’ll split the difference for this debate) and you’re left with VCU and Butler as small schools left in 2011.

Does two small conference schools in the Sweet 16 qualify as “another year of the small school?”

As mentioned, I refuse to count Gonzaga as a small school, and that actually benefits Perron’s argument (because ‘Zaga didn’t make the Sweet 16 this year, but would have pushed the small school average up over the last decade). That said, 4 small schools not named Gonzaga made the Sweet 16 in 2010, 3 made it in 2006, 2 did it in 2008, 2007 and 2002, and  1 did it in 2005, 2004 and 2003.

So, in the last 10 years, more small schools have made the Sweet 16 in 2 years and the same amount have made it in 3 years. Two small schools is the median and barely above the mean (again, these numbers would be even better for me if I counted Gonzaga, but I’m not). Basically, count on two Cinderallas per year.

Curious about those middle conference schools?  They’re the real aberration this year. Three middle conference schools made the Sweet 16 this year compared to a 10-year average of only 1.5 (which is actually the average both pre- and post-C-USA shakeup). So, there you have it, P, it was the year of the conferences that are always really good at the top and just aren’t as deep as big conferences not named the PAC 10.

But back to this “small school” thing. I feel like I made a safe assumption that everyone can agree with when I said you just can’t consider Gonzaga as a small school anymore. That time ended in 2001 after the Zags made their third straight Sweet 16.

So if we can make that leap with Gonzaga, what about Butler? The Bulldogs made their fourth Sweet 16 in the last 10 years this year. They were about two inches away from winning a national title last year against Duke – officially, The Man (in the bad context, not the good) of college hoops. Want to know how many teams have made the Sweet 16 more than Butler in the last 10 years? Eight—Duke (8), UConn (6), Kansas (6), Michigan St. (5), North Carolina (5), Texas (5), Arizona (5) and Kentucky (5).

College basketball success is measured in March. Can you really count one of the 10 best postseason programs of the past decade as a “small school?”

If you do, fine – then 2011 was the same as any other year for small schools. If you think the 2010 national runners up have ascended beyond small school status, then 2011 offered you all of one true Cinderella run.

Good luck VCU!

Your ball, P-diddles.

Perron says: This am so another year of the small conference school.

Since Jay used up the entire allowable word count for his argument,  I will make this a short retort.

The main problem with Jay’s argument is that there is too much focus on the other teams in the conference of the schools in question and not enough analysis of the schools themselves.  Xavier, Temple, Utah, and UNLV do indeed have strong basketball programs, but you have to make a Grand Canyon-sized leap to apply that to the other teams in their conferences. That is like saying Duke is a big football school because they are in a conference with Virginia Tech and Florida State. So lets look at these small schools individually:

San Diego State – this team has never won a single game in the tournament before this season.  Enough said.

Richmond – they have only been to nine tournaments ever and only one other sweet sixteen way back in 1988.

BYU – they have not been to the sweet sixteen in 30 years with 1981 being the last time.

Butler is more interesting because they have become somewhat of a staple in the sweet sixteen.  But we are talking about a team that plays in the Horizon League – a conference that perennially only gets one bid. They play in the gym that was used in the movie Hoosiers.  Despite their recent run of success, they are the defining example of a  small school.  In fact my original argument was that a small school will make “another Butler-like run to the Final Four.”

Add VCU and you have 5 small schools in the sweet sixteen this year and a victory for me.

Best (or least lame) commercials of Super Bowl XLV

As someone who considers himself a serious sports fan, and who has been a faithful Green Bay Packers fan since Don Majkowski was tossing the pigskin to Sterling Sharpe, I must say I’m a little embarrassed to be writing a blog about the best commercials of the Super Bowl in the immediate aftermath of the Pack taking the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Title Town. But dammit, I committed to writing this blog before the game and I’m not going to let the torture of watching three hours worth of 30 second clips that try way too hard go to waste.

And if the Native American-looking guy in Black Eyed Peas is willing to wear a magic spaceman suit with light up panels so that Fergie doesn’t kick him out of the group, then I can suck this one up and bloviate about some failed efforts to try and make me buy shit. And by buy shit, I mean buy cars. I did the math — in the four and a half hour Super Bowl broadcast, 20% was actual football game, 5% was animals acting like people, 2% was promo for Johnny Depp movies, 15% was Fox Network jerking off to the military and the remaining 58% was car commercials. Jesus, automakers, you have a couple of good months and all of a sudden you’re dropping cash on Super Bowl commercials like you’re Charlie Sheen in Hookers and Blow Mart. And Chevy was the worst offender. Hey, Government Motors, we remember that bailout, dammit. Wasn’t it like 12 days ago? Don’t you still owe me a few billion dollars?

I’ll give Chevy a pass, though. Automakers have to advertise to compete, and GM dropping $3 million per Super Bowl spot was still a better display of decision-making than putting BEP on at halftime. We all knew that performance was going to be atrocious so let’s give the Black Eyed Peas a little credit where credit is due. If Fergie didn’t make it painfully obvious enough, at least they were actually singing (hence them just standing in the middle of the stage. You don’t want to hear Fergie trying to sing while winded after an overexuberant bump-and-grind on Slash). And, because his contribution to BEP can’t be overstated, at least Native American dude provided solid entertainment standing there as a human Simon game while the “talented” members got to use the microphones.

Without further adieu, and as my beer starts to get warm, I give you the best, or least lame, 2011 Super Bowl commercials.

5.  “Misunderstanding” – Chevy Cruze

Why? Because old people are funny. You don’t do high brow humor with only 30 seconds in your pocket. You pretty much aim for the lowest common denominator, and old people are simply the low hanging fruit of low brow. Whether it’s old people pooping themselves or falling and not being able to get back up, nothing says LOL like the deterioration of the aged.

4. “Tiny Dancer” – Budweiser

Why Budweiser elected to make this a 60 second spot for three seconds of payoff at the end, I don’t know. But I guess I’d rather have 57 seconds of bad commercial, including forced gratuitous appearance of Budweiser Clydesdales, followed by three seconds of funny than just 60 seconds of bad commercial. This got me to thinking, though. Apparently, nothing can seem bad when it involves a large group of people singing Tiny Dancer. It makes me wonder: Did Almost Famous just trick us into thinking it was a good movie because of the group Tiny Dancer scene? Isn’t it suspicious how blatantly talentless Kate Hudson has appeared in every movie since starring as the precocious Penny Lane. People, we have been hoodwinked!

3. “Hungry Pug” – Doritos

Yesterday’s Super Bowl commercial comic gold: knocking people down. Today’s Super Bowl commercial comic gold: Pugs in slow motion. The best entry from Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest has both paid tribute to its forebears and set the new gold standard in TV ad humor in one seamless effort.

2. “Poundin’ Beaver” – Bridgestone

You see, the guy saves the beaver by swerving to miss him, then some time later, the beaver saves the guy by gnawing down a tree to block the road and save him from driving into flooding river. Now that’s 30-second storytelling, folks. Of course, you don’t give a shit about the story, or the fact that the guy’s Bridgestone tires made it all possible, because who the hell even pays attention to what tires they’re buying? Ask any non-NASCAR fan what tires they want on their car, know the answer? “Uh, are those the cheapest ones?” Anyways, while you didn’t remember this commercial was about tires, you do remember it making you spit up 6 ounces of partially digested queso on your girlfriend’s cat when that crazy beaver gave the dude a chest pound.

1. “The Force” – Volkswagen

Heavy borrowing of iconic pop culture? Check. Funny animal faces? Check. Close up of creepy baby doll? Check, check and check. VW had the commercial comedy formula brewing on this one. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this was the only truly GOOD commercial of the entire Super Bowl. But watch the commercial again and pay particularly close attention to the Darth Vader kid’s body. You can not tell me that “kid” is not actually a midget! I am convinced, and that is why “The Force” is my pick as the best commercial of Super Bowl XLV.

Best Thing about the Super Bowl

Super Bowl Sunday is almost here and LND is here to tell you exactly how the first 10 minutes of the game will go – while everyone is talking about how badly Christina Aguilera butchered the National Anthem there will be a coin toss that the Packers will win and all of their fans in the crowd will go crazy.  The Steelers will kick off to the Packers and then half of the people at your Super Bowl party will immediately lose interest in the game and begin to talk about how good the cheese dip is or whether it’s funnier to call him “Rapelisberger” or “Rapistberger”.  More people will stop watching the game as the Packers drive for the next couple minutes before they punt the ball away and then when basically nobody at the party other than the people wearing Polamalu or Rodgers jerseys are paying attention this will happen: An extremely feminine voice (note – could be a female or could belong to an effeminate male) will shout “Everyone be quiet, the commercials are starting.”

LND is here to warn you – don’t be that lady voice.  You know why? Because the commercials suck.  They suck a big ol’ fat one.  Nobody else cares.  What’s the last Super Bowl commercial you can remember? It was the Bud-Weis-Er frogs and in retrospect that crap wasn’t funny either. In 1995 the commercials were funny because streaming video on the internet had not yet been invented and neither had DVRs. If you want to watch funny 30 second video clips go in the other room and watch YouTube or Funny or Die.  You’ll stop annoying everyone else at the party and the clips won’t be trying to sell you things you don’t need or already buy anyway. Here are four things you should be enjoying instead of watching Rapistberger, Ray Lewis and Justin Tuck dance with a lizard.

Food – The Super Bowl is the only day of the year where you can show up somewhere with a bag of chips and a jar of salsa, and in exchange eat chicken wings, seven layer dip, pizza, potato chips, chick-fil-a nugget trays, nachos, bean dip, veggies, hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, and a 10 foot long submarine sandwich. It is also the only day of the year you might get a chance to eat a football stadium made of twinkies, chips, and slim jims.

Beer – I don’t think an explanation is needed.

Prop Bets – If you don’t know what a prop bet is prepare to get hooked. These things are amazing.  Since there is only one game to bet on this day, Vegas needed more ways to generate cash flow in their sports books so they came up with bets on pretty much any aspect of the game you can think of and cross-action bets between the game and other sports.  These range from obvious ones like which team will score first and who will be the game’s MVP down to one’s you would have to be insane to bet on like who will win the coin toss.  Here are my favorite prop bets for this years game (note – you can actually wager money on all of these).

1. How long will Christina Aguilera hold the note “Brave” at the end of the National Anthem – over/under 6 seconds?  I’ll take the Over

2. Will there be a score in the first 3min 30 seconds of the 1st quarter? No way

3. How Many Times will FOX show Jerry Jones on TV during the Game – over/under 2.5?  I say Under

4. How Many Times will FOX mention “Brett Favre” on TV during the Game – over/under 2.5? I say Way Over

5. Who will the FOX announcers say has better hair on TV during the Game – Troy Polamalu or Clay Matthews? – I’ll go with Polamalu

6. What Color will the Gatorade be that is dumped on the Head Coach of the Winning Super Bowl Team? – yellow is the favorite at 3/2 odds closely followed by water. I’ll take the long shot on Red at 15/2 odds

7. Will a current NFL Player be arrested during Super Bowl Week? I’ll say Yes

8. Blake Griffin (LAC) Total Rebounds against Miami Heat (+7.5)vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Total Points – I’ll take the Steelers points

9. Rajon Rondo (BOS) Total Points + Assists against Orlando Magic vs. Green Bay Packers Total Points – I’ll take the Packers points

10. Will Fergie be dressed as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader at any point during the Halftime show? I hate Fergie

The Game Itself – People will try to tell you that the Super Bowl is always a blow out.  Over the last 7 seasons the average margin of victory in the Super Bowl is 7 points. That’s only 1 score. These games have been great recently.  Stop pretending it’s 1995 again.  The people who tell you the game sucks are the same jerks trying to shush people during the commercials. Just punch them in the ear and then enjoy what will be the last football game you get to watch until September.

Bigger abortion masquerading as a sporting surface: Eastern Washington’s red field or Oregon’s hardwood in the woods

Remember the days when sports were about, you know, sports? When you were supposed to be entertained by the athletes competing at the highest levels on their chosen fields of competition?

Well, wake the fuck up, Beaver Cleaver, this here is the Twenty-teens and sports is about nothing but image, aesthetics, advertising, and overage rock stars selling out to appear with the boy band du jour so they can finally retire after snorting a few million album sales worth of coke. Sports marketers took over this game a long time ago, and no offender has done more to embarass the ghosts of Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant, John Wooden and Joe Paterno than Nike, the perpetrators of this FUBU meets Project Runway first round loser atrocity.

But let’s leave Nike alone for a minute … Hold the phone, Joe Paterno is still alive? Really? How? I was watching Penn St. and Florida play in the Outback Bowl the other week and they clearly had his dead body displayed on the sideline for inspiration like they’ve done at every game the last decade.

Anyways, as I was saying, let’s leave Nike alone for a minute.  Boise St. is just as responsible for the latest trend in travesties to completely devalue the meaning of sport. In a sports landscape dominated by sports marketers who will do anything to convince themselves that their new fuzzy mascot can cover up a terrible product on the field, it was only a matter of time before these glorified used car salesmen felt compelled to one up Boise’s epilleptic seizure-inducing blue field.

They say the NFL is a copycat league. It’s true. But if that is the case, then sports marketing is a “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you, too? OF FUCKING COURSE I WOULD” profession. So I don’t blame Boise for ruining the most pure and iconic image we have left in sports – the luscious green grass of a halloweed stadium or elegant natural tan of the hardwood. But I do blame them for planting the seed – a seed that now appears to be growing like mutant ninja kudzu across campuses throughout the great Northwest.

Let’s all just agree that all of Oregon and Eastern Washington’s administrators should be lined up and shot execution style for letting the sports marketers run the asylum…I mean, institution in designing their new sports surfaces so we can focus on the bigger debate: Which is more horrendous?

Oregon’s “Deep in the Woods” basketball court

Want to know when your sports marketing department has really fucked up? When the only thing people can talk about the day after the debut of your brand new $227 million basketball arena is how watching a game played on the new court made everyone feel an uncontrollable need to vomit.

Ok, so let’s be fair – conceptually, the idea for the court is really cool. The idea is that you’re looking from deep within the mighty Pacific Northwest forests that surround the University of Oregon. In theory, also known as some dude’s drawing, it would look like this. Hey, not bad! But for anyone who has been following the odyssey of would-be Broadway musical Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, we all know that theory doesn’t always match up with the realities of execution.

Remember this picture, the one where, depending on how you look at it, you either see a lamp in the center or two faces looking at each other:

Well, Oregon’s court is like that. If you look at it one way, you are a creature roaming deep in the forest looking heavanward. If you look the other way, it appears an enormous giant threw up all over the court and it took the janitorial staff too long to clean up so the stain set in. That, or it’s an extreme close up of a young Eastern European “actress’s” chin after completing a scene “acting” with Ron Jeremy.

Either way, it’s time to blame Nike more. What the hell was Oregon doing giving some Nike douche, Tinker Hatfield, VP of Creative Design, full creative control over the most important piece of their university’s new flagship athletic facility? Oh, yeah, I forgot – Nike chairman Phil Knight paid for the whole thing and named the arena after his dead son. Not to speak ill of the dead, but the arena’s name is an apt metaphor – Oregon’s soul has long since departed this earthly realm. It was sold to Satan, purveyor of high performance sports fabrics, long ago.

Finally, arborists everywhere must be infuriated by the fact that the trees painted on Oregon’s hardwood appear to be firs, a soft pine. Honoring a soft wood on the hardwood? OUTRAGEOUS! … I’m just sayin’. Big ups to forestry.

Eastern Washington’s “Bathing in Blood” football field

Who wouldn’t want to compete on a field that feels like you’re playing in the unwashed remains of a massive animal sacrifice? The new red turf at Eastern Washington’s football stadium, which debuted just a few months before Oregon’s atrocity, looks like it was colored by allowing a hundred menstruating cows to graze on the field the night before the season started.

And, seriously, what the fuck is going on in the Pacific Northwest? Boise’s Smurf Turf, Oregon’s forest court, Eastern Washington’s used tampon turf? You guys really need to get off the reefers. No, really, LND may be an East Coast-based operation, but we know yall grow bud out there like the south grows obese people. And it seems clear yall are smoking that shit up as fast as fat southern people are sucking down 10 piece buckets of the Colonel’s original recipe.

I’ve got to be honest – I’m getting mad just looking at that field. No, not because I’m upset at the dumb sports marketers again, and not because Eastern Washington has submitted to copycatting a school attended by a bunch of inbred potato growers. And, no, not even because someone thought that last season of Scrubs was a good idea. It’s all that red…it just makes me so Goddamn ANGRY!

Well, at least when EWU fans start subconsciously filling with rage due to the psychological effects of the period bowl, the field crew won’t have much work to do when someone finally snaps and starts bashing skulls in with a smuggled baseball bat.

The Verdict

It’s Oregon. Eastern Washington knew their field was going to look like a failed abortion, knew they were going to look like Boise’s annoying little brother begging for attention, and they still did it. Know why? Because they’re Eastern Washington and they didn’t care because they were begging for attention.

Oregon, on the other hand, has no excuse for failure. Money is literally no object for the Oregon Athletics Department, which is kind of like the Atlantic City mayor’s office in Boardwalk Empire (hint: Nike is the mob). That means if Oregon wants a forest for a court, they better get a court made out of mother fucking crysal clear LED 1080i high definition 3D television panels with a composite video of the mother fucking great Northwest forest swaying in the mother fucking breeze with looping narration performed by mother fucking Oprah.

Fuck, that court is ugly. Glad I got that off my chest.

Better Ohio billboard sports smack talk:Rosey TCU or ‘Bronless Cleveland

Considering the oppressive unemployment, crumbling cities affectionately called things like “The Mistake on the Lake,” terrible weather, and defeated people, what better state to waste time and money talking shit via billboards than Ohio?

None, I say, and billboard smacktalk in the Buckeye State has recently attracted a lot of pub to two of Ohio’s bigger sporting embarassments of the past year.

Cleveland: “Oooooh, we’ll get you, LeBron!”

First, the greatest basketball talent, and fourth most caveman-like basketball player (Greg Oden, Sheldon Williams and Joakim Noah, all more caveman-like), alive gathers a national audience to dump all over his home state while taking his talents to South Beach. How might Cleveland enact revenge on the man who single-handedly destroyed the only good thing their city had going for it (outside of the fish from Lake Erie becoming radioactive enough to be used as a uranium substitue in nuclear reactors)? Pee in his drink and smother his food in buttery asshole hairs the first time he dares dine in Cleveland, you say? Hire a French transvestite prostitute to give LeBron chlamydia? No, no, no. People with hopelessly crushed spirits and 50% high school drop out rates don’t get revenge, they get billboard space.

I give Cleveland credit for being smart enough to go after LeBron’s enormous ego. It had to hurt ‘Bron when his hoops holyness, Michael Jordan, more or less said “The King” was more like Dwayne Wade’s eunuch for going to Miami, and Cleveland was trying to drive that knife a little deeper.  The only problem with that strategy was the inevitable answer with the Cleveland Cavaliers sad “Bronless roster: How does it feel to be 8-28 (the worst record in the NBA), because 29-9 is feeling pretty nice?

TCU: Proving Gordon Gee right, the Big Ten are the little sisters of the poor, too

Football people are allowed to say stupid things. We pay them to play football, and coach football, not to read Socrates and Nietzsche. However, university presidents are supposed to be smart, and we expect them to contain themselves from verbal diarreah of the kind Ohio St. President E. Gordon Gee decided to unleash one fine November afternoon while trying to politik his school’s one-loss Buckeyes football team ahead of undefeated non-BCS outsiders Boise St. and TCU. Gee called out those schools bona fides by saying they achieve their lofty records by beating up on “the little sisters of the poor” — like Ohio, Marshall, Eastern Michigan, Indiana and Minnesota (Oh wait, that was Ohio St.’s schedule).

Despite giving Gee and the Ohio St. nation (a pompous group of ignorant douchebags that have been spouting Gee’s philosphy for years while getting pummeled in BCS title games) the ultimate up yours by setting themselves up to finish No. 2 in the final BCS poll, winning the Big Ten’s most hallowed game (The Rose Bowl), and beating the only team to beat Ohio St. all year (Wisconsin), Horned Frogs fans wanted more. And how else to complete the perfect revenge on Ohio St.’s own home turf? You got it this time: billboards. More than a dozen of them, all around Colombus.

Despite a nice Sugar Bowl win against the fourth best team in the SEC East (seriously, you want to tell me Arkansas is better than Auburn, Alabama or LSU?), there’s no doubt the only thing the Buckeyes wanted more than a shot at the BCS title was the Rose Bowl. Instead, some clever mystery TCU fan has provided an inescapable reminder that the Horned Frogs are now the team that took defending Rose Bowl champ Ohio St.’s Rose Bowl title from them, and they did it without ever yielding to the temptation to say, “Fuck you, Gee.” Nicely done.

So which is better?

Well, my billboard, of course.

But if I had to go with a real billboard, I’d have to go with TCU. It’s clean, understated (despite being blazoned across a 50-foot electric billboard), clever and, most importantly, effective because they actually finished on top. (Although, I probably would have gone with a horned frog shooting eye blood in Gee’s mouth)

Cleveland, on the other hand, had to try and get back at LeBron. He did after all, not only take his talents, but about $200 million per year of economic impact away from a recession ravaged city. However, the billboard just ads to the sore loser rap the city has already gotten. Miami is approaching greatness and the Cavaliers are approaching pathetic. LeBron made the right choice. Yeah, he grew up in Ohio, but he didn’t grow up a Cleveland Cavalier. When LeBron is an aging, overpaid superstar with a bad contract one day, he’s going to get cut like a bad hairdo. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert would have done it too, because it’s a business to everyone involved but the fans. You’ve got to feel bad for Cleveland fans losing their hero, but I also feel bad that they couldn’t even come up with a photoshop of LeBron in some Robin tights to go on their Sidekick billboard.

NFL Playoff/Super Bowl picks

OK, so these preseason predictions don’t look so hot right now.  That is the glory of prognostication, all you have to do is make up an excuse for why your picks didn’t work out and guess again – just ask weathermen.  So here is the new, improved, and this time 100% accurate Super Bowl predictions.  How can all three of us be 100% accurate when we have different picks?  This is about football, not addition so all you mathletes will just have to get over it.

Perron’s Picks

True story – before the season started I very, very badly wanted to pick the Colts vs. Falcons as my Super Bowl prediction.  The reason I didn’t is that in LND’s College Football Preview I picked Virginia Tech to play in the National Championship game.  Before we even wrote the NFL post VT had lost to Boise and their title hopes were done.  After that debacle I felt as if there was no way I could do a homer pick again and choose my beloved Falcons to make the Super Bowl even though I thought at the time they would.  I instead went with the Giants and Eli Manning who just threw another interception while playing Madden in his basement.  What did I learn from this? Three things –  That I should go ahead and put down what I really think is going to happen despite my rooting interests, that if I pick my favorite team to win they will lose so I should avoid picking the Falcons at all costs now, and that Eli Manning is the worst QB that ever somehow managed to win a Super Bowl.  Here are my picks based on other things I have learned this football season:

Wildcard Weekend

New Orleans 34, Seattle 17 – because I learned the NFC West can be won by a team that prominently features Clipboard Jesus himself, Charlie Whitehurst.

Indianopolis 31, NY Jets 21 – because I learned that smart QBs like Tom Brady can completely pick apart this Jets defense that relies on too many blitzes. Peyton destroys blitzes.  And rumor has it that the Colts are making their cheerleaders go barefoot in an attempt to distract Rex Ryan.

Kansas City 21, Baltimore 17 – because I learned that every time you count the Chiefs out they surprise you and because I learned Ray Lewis likes to lather himself up and ride giant birds.

Philadelphia 31, Green Bay 28 – because I learned what Vick can do to Green Bay after Kolb got concussed in week 1.  And because Tucker Carlson is a douche.

Divisional Round

Pittsburgh 31, Indy 17 – because I learned if you hurt dogs like Vick you stay in the news every week for years but if you hurt women like Roethlisberger it tends to be forgotten after about 2 months. And also because Indy’s defense can only stop one dimensional teams like the Jets.

Atlanta 24, New Orleans 21 – because the Falcons learned they can’t play so conservative on offense from that Monday night game a couple weeks ago.  At least I learned that’s what I hope the Falcons learned.

Chicago 35, Philadephia 28 – because I learned Vick has taken a lot of hits this year.  He got an unofficial bye last week but the Packers will beat him up again and the Bears will treat him like Kanye West’s security guards going after the paparazzi.

New England 42, Kansas City14 – because I learned Tom Brady wears UGGs.

Conference Championships

Atlanta 17, Chicago 10 – because I learned the Falcons have a coaching staff that won’t be dumb enough to kick it to Devin Hester.  Right?  Right? RIGHT?!? Please Mike Smith, tell me that I am right.

New England 42, Pittsburgh 14 – because I learned Stetson stars Tom Brady.

Super Bowl

Atlanta 28, New England 24 – because I learned Tom Brady has a thing for baby goats.  And because I apparently still have a lot to learn.

Jay’s Picks

Before making my predictions for these 2011 NFL playoffs, I would first like to thank the Green Bay Packers for pulling out a miserable week 17 win at home against an only modestly interested Chicago Bears team so that at least one of my picks to make the Super Bowl actually made the playoffs. Here’s to magical runs by No. 6 seeds to the Super Bowl.
NFC Wild Card weekend
No. 3 Philadelphia 27, No. 6 Green Bay 21
Or not. Green Bay destroyed the Kevin Kolbles in Week 1, but anyone who bothered to keep watching that game by the time Michael Vick was put in knows a near-dominant Packers D had absolutely zero answer for the conVick. The football has looked as natural as a giant bong in Vick’s hands this season and, even though the luster has faded from a near-MVP season in the last couple weeks, next year’s biggest first round fantasy football draft mistake has enough left in the tank to run away from Packer defenders like his younger brother runs from cops.
No. 5 New Orleans 38, No. 4 Seattle 5
I cannot tell you how crestfallen I am that Charlie Whitehurst will not be starting at quarterback for the pathetic Seahawks. Matt Hasselback, sir, you have destroyed my material. Your punishment – starting at quarterback for the pathetic Seahawks.
NFC Divisional Round
No. 1 Atlanta 17, New Orleans 16
Atlanta’s reward for winning the NFC by a two game margin? The second best team in the NFC, the reigning Super Bowl champs and the NFC’s best quarterback in the divisional round. At this point in his career, Matty Ice is a terribly misleading nickname for Matt Ryan (although that 14-13 comeback win at Boston College denying the Hokies a shot at the national title was nice) and an insult to the greatest hobo beer to ever see the shelves of your local Quickie Mart, but the Falcons D is underrated and I just don’t see them exiting the playoffs without winning at least one.
No. 2 Chicago 19, No. 3 Philadelphia 14
What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Vick’s stick. Ok, that doesn’t make any sense. But if Michael Vick had fought Palins instead of pit bulls, he would be known today as the creator of the most popular reality show of all time instead of a convicted felon. All that said, the Eagles are definitely a little off. The Packers are a better team than the Bears, but Vick has their number. The Bears surprise when the Eagles put up a stinker.
NFC Championship
No. 1 Atlanta 24, No. 2 Chicago 20
Neither of these teams are that impressive, but they’ve managed to win a lot of games. If you like really boring, unspectacular teams with slightly goofy quarterbacks and 9 minute scoring drives, this one’s for you.
AFC Wild Card weekend
No. 6 New York Jets 24, No. 3 Indianapolis 18
Yes, I’m aware I’m picking against Peyton Manning at home. Yes, I’m aware the 2010-11 Jets have been the most overrated sports team possibly ever. But for some reason, and I can’t explain why, when the fat man speaks, I listen. As long as Sexy Rexy is rubbing on his wife’s feet like a crystal ball and predicting Jets Super Bowl victories, I’m behind him (which of course means you will most certainly not be seeing me).
No. 5 Baltimore 27, No. 4 Kansas City 14
Kansas City has managed to stay surprisingly respectable all year and I actually thought about picking them in this game, but those who cannot defeat the Oakland Raiders in two tries do not win playoff games. By the way, did anyone notice the Raiders went 6-0 in the AFC West? If this were college football, the Raiders would be the NFL’s UConn.
AFC Divisional Round
No. 1 New England 38, New York Jets 10
Ok, so I lied. Rex Ryan will personally guarantee his team’s victory or promise to give back his 2010 salary, and Tom Brady will be asking Sexy Rexy if he would be willing to donate that salary to Giselle’s favorite charity by halftime.
No. 2 Pittsburgh 24, No. 5 Baltimore 21
Game of the playoffs right here. You won’t even want to watch football again after this game. A) Nothing will feel the same after seeing the hardest played, hardest hitting game in modern NFL history. B) You won’t be able to stomach the sport anymore after Ray Lewis loses an arm and then throws it to make a tackle on Rashard Mendenhall, only to be one-upped when Troy Polamalu elects to continue playing after most of his brain matter is ripped from his skull when he and TJ Houshmanzadeh’s locks become entangled in an inseparable ball of nappyness.
AFC Championship
No. 1 New England 30, Pittsburgh 17
I say: An-ti, You say: Cli-mac-tic. Steelers have nothing left and probably didn’t have enough anyways.
Super Bowl

New England 34, Atlanta 20
It’s a classic team of destiny, folks. Atlanta keeps it close for a while, but the Dirty Birds v.2.0 go the way of Jamal Anderson’s knees in the second half. No one is stopping Brady from righting the wrong of the lost perfect season this year.
Dunn’s Picks
The die-hard Bills fan in me could truly give not a shit, not two shits, but could give a Dirty Sanchez about the playoffs. I mean, this makes me want to take a dump on the playoffs like the one that chick Biggie Smalls was hollering at wanted on her chest. So after I shit’s on the playoffs, I’ll see you guys in June where my Bills will do whatever is necessary in order to grab Andrew Luck. What! Come again. He’s going back to school!!!? Welp, we need help on the D-Line anyways and there’s always next year. Screw you Luck, I hope you become un-Luck-y and pull a Matt Leinart and suck for eternity!  Whew. Sorry ’bout that. Let’s debate some NFL Playoff results shall we. 

NFC Wildcard

Eagles 24 Packers 20
Every ounce of me knows that this pick is wrong, but since Vick is from home, I’m riding the conVick (as Jay calls him) wagon. I’ve heard analysts tear apart his weak showings the last couple of weeks, and attribute an upset to the Packers changing things up. Well it’s a good thing Vick lives in Nomediaville, where everyone gets their news from hearsay. Unfortunately for CheeseHead Nation we all know that Nomediaville does not exist, and real media does. In the end, Vick will also alter his game, leaving the Packers to do, well,  just that. Or will they? 
Saints 35 Seahawks -7
No, you saw that right. They will most certainly manage to lose points, causing them to not only get shut out, but get negatived (I just trademarked that) in the process. Can never happen you say? To that I answer, you’re right, until now. 
Divisional Round

Falcons 21 Saints 13
 The only parallel I can truly think of to show how the Falcons want to prove they can win without Vick is to compare it to Americans love for something new and fresh. A perfect example of this would be the way most are fawning over a homeless, ex radio host, who squandered his livelihood on drugs, booze, and whores, only to be rediscovered and offered, gasp!, a new radio hosting gig! The Falcons REALLY want to win. The Saints LITERALLY have me in their backfield. And for what it’s worth, he GENUINELY does have an amazing voice. 
Pack-les 31 Bears 13
We all know Cutler is more erratic than a 73-year-old man’s prostate. I can’t help but to seem a bit clairvoyant in foreseeing the turnover laced debacle Cutler puts up for the Bears. At home no less. No good. Because of this, the Green-Philly Pack-les, with their blonde locked LB’s, and their cannon for an arm, light’s out QB simply will easily have enough to stop any Hester runback. 
NFC Championship

Falcons 21 Eag-ers 17
I think the determination of Arthur Blank to prove he made the right decision in letting Vick go for Matt Ryan will BLOW UP IN HIS F-ING FACE! Viva Vick! Viva Virginia! Viva THE WORLD!
AFC Wildcard

Peyton’s 30 J.E.T.S Jets JEts JETS 17
Lady Dunn is a die-hard Jets fan. I am a die-hard Peyton fan. I win. But we all lose for having the audio from Rex Ryan’s foot fetish video on repeat in our head’s every time I see anything Jets or, any feet. You pop an animated plane with shoes on me and I’m heading for the hills. 
Ravens 28 Chiefs 24
I do believe I’m alone in my principles when declaring that although the Chiefs won a depleted West, and they may be without their top offensive weapon (Bowe, not Charles), and their running back(Charles) did play six divisional games against defenses that would have let the Annexation of Puerto Rico work on them, they just might make a game of it. Or, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will end all hopes.
Divisional Round

Pats 21 Ravens 20
Brady displays a little of that Bieber flare leading a dramatic 2 minute drill for the ages. Ray Lewis will just miss the sack and Ed Reed will just miss the pick as, wait for it, Randy Moss scores the game winner. This psychic mask is beginning to look quite good on me.  
Manning’s 27 Roethlis-rapists 24
In another tight one Peyton manages to escape the dreamy locks of Polamalu (who, after seeing him play live, is THE best defensive ball hawk I’ve seen since my boy Bruce!) and the won’t-take-no-for-an-answer Big? Ben’s grasp to overcome the blistery conditions of Heinz field and get the win. Setting up……..
AFC Championship

Pats 45 Colts 20
No you read that correctly. I have watched Tom Brady and his gang of forgottens dismantle ever nigg…screech!! Sorry I forgot we live in an era where we change history. Sorry. Dismantle every slave(wink, wink Mark Twain) that came in their path this season. This won’t change here. That damn hair has made Brady invincible!
Super Bowl

Pats 42 Falcons 21
As they look to match the 1993 ‘Boys massacre of my beloved Bills, the Patriots show no mercy and Brady makes up for the that undefeated season slip up. Yay, predictable game!

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