The final weekend of the regular season for most teams is on the horizon, now the speculation gets hot and heavy. Though you have some conferences like the American and Mountain West have their contending teams on lock, other conferences just have their leading team assured of seeing their name on March 16th others are still furiously trying to cobble a resume worthy of inclusion of the 68 team field. This is where the speculation is the most fluid and most fun. The first golden ticket to the dance could be handed out tonight as Harvard faces Yale and if the Crimson emerge victorious clinch the Ivy League title outright and the conference’s automatic berth.
Atlantic Coast Conference Class-Power
Lock: Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, North Carolina
Looking Good: Pitt
Work to do: Florida State, Clemson Skinny on the ACC: Virginia is the ACC champ and safe, also safe are the Tar Heels who shook off an early season slump and are pushing the suddenly free falling Orange hard for the #2 slot but the top four spots (and the double bye to the quarters) are locked up. So the Duke loss to Wake and the upcoming grudge match between them and Carolina are small potatoes in the grand scheme. Thus the four teams in lock status are way safe. Pitt should be good to go as long as they don’t trip in their first game in the ACC tourney
Key Games: Pitt at Clemson Saturday 4p (ACCNet/ESPN3) The Tigers make their case stronger, get to 20 wins and the #5 seed if they win. Pitt goes to a virtual lock if they can win in Littlejohn.
North Carolina @ Duke Saturday 9p (ESPN) Other than jockeying for position in Greensboro, this game means nothing…yeah right. A game between these two bitter rivals would be classic theater if they both were way down
Projected Bids: 6
Atlantic Ten Conference Class- Major
Lock: Saint Louis, St. Joes, UMass, VCU
Looking Good: George Washington, Dayton
Work to do: Richmond The A-10 Spec is: The Billikens are slumping badly, but the Hawks missed their chance to roll past them in the standings. Dayton. I’m thinking that both the Colonials and Flyers should be good to go as long as they don’t take a pratfall in Brooklyn. As with the ACC the top spots and the double byes that go with them are spoken for but 2-4 are still up for grabs.
Key Game: Saint Louis @ UMass Sunday 2p (CBSSN) The Billikens are picking the wrong time to go into a slide. They need the win to clinch the regular season, title. The Minutemen are pretty safe but a win locks up a double bye and makes them virtually bulletproof.
Projected Bids: 6
Lock: Cincy, Louisville, UConn, Memphis, SMU
All-American Spec: Both Louisville and Cincy blew out fellow lock teams to solidify their bulletproof status. The Huskies, Tigers and Mustangs are safe and playing for seeding.
Key Games: Cincinnati @ Rutgers Noon Saturday (ESPNU) The Bearcats clinch no worse than a tie for the initial American crown with a win.
UConn @ Louisville 2p (CBS) When this game starts the Cards will know if they are playing for a share or the conference crown outright. The Huskies are a dangerous spoiler to that scenario.
Projected Bids: 5
Big East Conference Class-Major
Solid: Creighton, Villanova
Looking Good: Xavier
Work to do: Providence, Marquette, St. John’s Big East Skinny: The Wildcats clinched their first outright Big East title in over 30 years, holding off conference newcomer Creighton. The minute you think the Muskies are home free, they turn right around and take an inexcusable loss to Seton Hall, and the door just got opened for Providence to slide in. Xavier keeps offsetting their marquee wins with brutal losses and now despite 20 wins are needing a spot of help now, they failed to get a marquee win in their season finale.
Key Game: Providence @ Creighton Saturday 8p (CBSSN) The Friars resume suddenly looks a lot better with a sweep of Creighton to deny them any shot at the Big East regular season title. A win also locks them in at the #3 slot
Projected bids: 3
Big Ten Conference Class-Power
Lock: Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa
Looking Good: Nebraska, Ohio State
Work to do: Minnesota
The word on the Big Ten is: Can the Big Ten send six now? I have Nebraska still on the wrong side of the cut line, but they are making a strong case for inclusion but that bad, ill-timed loss to Illinois is a huge blot on their chances. They will need to get to Saturday and play well there to have a chance. If they can hold on to that 4 spot, that strengthen that possibility. The Bucks late skid is hurting their seeding more than anything, they are in a safer position than the Huskers and it would be hard to keep a 22 win team from a Power conference out, but it would serve them well not to stumble any more. The Gophers are just about cooked after losing 4 of 6 and will need to get to at the very least Saturday in Indy if not the Big 10 final and that means likely crossing either Wisconsin or Michigan State in the quarters...good luck to them, they'll need it.
Key Game: Michigan State @ Ohio State Sunday 4:30p (CBS) How much have things changed since these two teams met 2 months ago. It was #3 visiting #5 with the Spartans winning a classic, The Bucks will look to buff a dicey resume with a payback win and stay out of bubble trouble
Looking Good: Baylor, Oklahoma State,
Work to do: West Virginia Skinny from the heartland: I’m really torn here, while the Horns, Sooners and Clones make their move uptown to join Kansas in the waiting for March 16th club. I moved the Wildcats reluctantly, but having win over each of the other uptown teams on their resume, that’s good enough. The turmoil is on Baylor and Ok. State. The Pokes look like a rejuvenated team after the Smart suspension and have the look of a tough out in the conference tourney if not the big dance. The Bears are steaming down the stretch with only a 5 point loss in Austin the only mark in their last 7. This is another team no one wants to face.
Key Games: Baylor@ Kansas State Saturday 1:30 (Big12Net/ESPN3) The Bears could be one of 8 teams in the Big 12 to hit the conference tourney in Kansas City with at least a .500 conference record Oklahoma State @ Iowa State Saturday 2p (ESPN) The Pokes make things even messier heading to Kansas City if they finish with five straight wins and get back to .500 to finish the season
Projected Bids: 7
Conference USA Conference Class-Mid-Major
Solid: La. Tech, Middle Tennessee
Work to do: Southern Miss, UTEP, Tulsa
Oh Say Can You C-USA Spec: There are four teams that can hang a C-USA regular season championship banner. Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Middle Tennessee all share the title. All the teams head to El Paso for the conference tourney
Conference USA Championship Tournament March 11-15 Haskins Center, El Paso, TX.
Projected Bids: 2
Missouri Valley Conference Class-Mid Major
Lock: Wichita State
Work to do: Indiana State Missouri Valley Skinny: The Shockers hit the regular season finish line tape at 31-0, its their tourney to lose and if they win 3, will have the most wins heading into the tournament since UNLV in 1991. Indiana State is likely the team that they will face in the MVC tourney finale next Sunday. The Shockers are bulletproof and have made their case for a #1 seed.
Key Game: Evansville vs Wichita State Friday 1p (ESPN2). Congratulations to the Aces, your reward for beating Drake 69-61…the honor of getting throttled by the Shockers.
Missouri Valley Conference Championship aka “Arch Madness”March 6-9 Scottrade Center, St. Louis
Projected Bids: 1
Mountain West Conference Class-Major
Solid: San Diego State, New Mexico
Work to do: UNLV
Spec from the Mountains: Not much spec here, the Lobos and Aztecs will battle for the regular season title Saturday night in San Diego and likely face off in a week for the automatic bid, but both teams are bulletproof. The Rebels need to win out, and get to the Saturday Night conference tourney title game on their home court to even have a punchers chance at stealing a bid. Anything less deep-sixes them.
Key Games: New Mexico @ San Diego State Saturday 10p (CBSSN) Winner claims the #1 seed as the MWC regular season champs, you can’t get much more high stakes in the regular season than this. UNLV @ Nevada Saturday 10p(ESPN3/Cox) If Rebels want to keep their dim tourney hopes flickering they have to win in Reno, and you can bet the mortgage that the Wolfpack would love to damage the tourney hopes of their hated downstate neighbor
Projected Bids: 2
Pacific 12 Conference Class-Power
Lock: Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, Arizona State
Work to do: Stanford, Cal, Oregon, Utah Spec from the left coast: Arizona clinched another Pac-12 title and is bulletproof. UCLA is impressing no one with their tendency to wander mentality but a barring a total collapse in Washington and a first round loss (after getting a first round bye) they are safe. The Buffs and Sun Devils are safe and of the working teams Oregon is getting closer and closer to being safe.
Key Games: Arizona @ Oregon Saturday 4p (CBS) The Ducks go very well go bulletproof if they beat Wildcats in the Woods, that would give them 22 wins and
Projected Bids: 5
Southeastern Conference Class-Power
Solid: Florida, UK
Work to do: Arkansas, Tennessee, Mizzou, Georgia Spec is Down South: The Gators are marking time, UK bounced back on their senior day to win an ugly but badly needed win. I think the Hogs are safe after housing Ole Miss at home and despite being behind Georgia are good. The Bulldogs need to keep on winning, but being in the 3 spot is a double edged sword, they don’t have a lot of chances to get any statement wins short of winning in the SEC tourney, I think with a win in the SEC quarters that it’ll be hard to leave them out, as they will likely have to face UK in the SEC semis. Mizzou is in quite a pickle win out get to 22-9, 11-7 and get to the Saturday in the SEC no less to get in. I’m not real sold on Tennessee but they hang on the fringes
Key Game: Missouri @ Tennessee Saturday 4p (ESPN) Possible play-in game for a berth? Maybe, the Tigers head into Thompson-Bolling to tangle with the Vols, a fellow bubble resident
Projected Bids: 4
West Coast Conference Class- Mid Major
Work to do: BYU, San Francisco, Saint Mary’s West Coast Spec: The Bulldogs thrashed the Gaels to finish the regular season on a high note and virtually eliminated any chance the Gaels had of sneaking in as an at-large berth. The Cougars and Dons are pretty much in the same boat but will likely be playing an elimination game in the WCC semis against one another with the winner trying to play bid stealer. I think Gonzaga is safe barring a loss in the quarters or semis
Key Game: Santa Clara vs Gonzaga Saturday 9p (ESPNU) The Broncos nearly pulled the upset at the Leavey Center in January could the Broncos throw a huge monkey wrench with the shocking upset
Projected Bids: 1
There are others in the mix to be sure. Teams from the always dangerous Colonial (Delaware) and Big South (VMI) always are in the mix. Of course the champions from the following conferences get an automatic bid (projected winners in parentheses): Amer. East (Vermont), Atlantic Sun (Mercer), Big Sky (Weber State), Big West (UC Irvine) , Horizon (Green Bay) , Ivy (Harvard), MAC (Toledo) , MAAC (Iona) , MEAC (NC Central), Northeast (Robert Morris), Ohio Valley (Belmont) , Patriot (Boston U.), Southern (Davidson), Southland (SF Austin), Sun Belt (Georgia St.) , Summit (IPFW), and SWAC (Alabama State) and Western Athletic (New Mexico St). Note: Southern U is leading the SWAC but is currently ineligible pending an NCAA mandate on their academic compliance progress
Remember that this is still speculation, nothing here is ever solid and we haven't even brought up the possibility of upsets. But those never happen, right?
Happy Friday! It is March and the freeze of February is finally over. NFL free agency is just around the corner and teams are preparing to make their major moves to improve before the draft. Let’s make a quick run through the NFL and get ready fro free agency and the draft:
In Minnesota, the Vikings are trying to determine if they make an offer to keep Matt Cassel after he got out of his contract to get to free agency. With Christian Ponder still eating up space on the roster, the Vikings have a tough choice whether to dare going into another season without a quarterback who actually gives the team a chance to win. Picking eighth in the draft, Minnesota could take a quarterback, but they may be gun shy after the Ponder debacle. They basically had no wins with quarterbacks not named Cassel last year, so they may be forced to overpay for the former New England backup, especially with the Houston Texans indicating interest.
Cleveland is in a similar situation as former first round draft pick Brandon Weeden stinking out the joint, the Browns have the tough choice regarding grabbing a quarterback or praying that a former New England backup can do the job. Former Patriot Brian Hoyer led the Browns to two wins in 2013 before being lost for the year due to a knee injury. Of course, that was 50% of their wins, so that is kind of impressive.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are picking third in the draft this season and look ready to finally move past the horrible Chad Henne/Blaine Gabbert duo that has grossly underperformed the past two seasons. One name not heard about much is Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. It seems improbable the Sanchize is back in New York next year, but will there be a market for him when the Jets inevitably part ways with him?
Moving past the quarterbacks, the New Orleans Saints are rumored to be shopping some veterans on offense. Running back Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas and wide receiver Lance Moore are reportedly available for teams in trades. The Saints are trying to free up about $9 million in cap space without just releasing their playmakers. The Saints need to get younger and more athletic on both sides of the ball in a hurry to not be left in the dust by Carolina, San Francisco, and Seattle.
The Saints of course need to pay tight end Jimmy Graham who is likely off the market with their offer sheet. To get Graham, a team has to give New Orleans two first round draft picks. Of course, most likely to happen is that a team will let New Orleans know they are interested and work out a trade. Would the Saints be willing to listen? For sure, this team is rebuilding on the fly and Graham is basically a large wide receiver (no blocking ability at all).
The Buffalo Bills did not tag safety Jairus Byrd who is going to be one of the big money signings in free agency. Whether it is in Buffalo remains to be seen.
Atlanta signed former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora last year thinking he was the final piece in the puzzle to move on to the Super Bowl. Whoops. At 32, he is no spring chicken, but Atlanta is in a tough spot. Are they a bounce-back team? Are they rebuilding? Either way, over $3 million in cap space for a player who should be a third down pass rusher at this stage is steep. According to reports he is being asked to take a significant pay cut. Will he? That’s the question. If not, there is another pass rusher on the market.
Denver released greybeard cornerback Champ Bailey and freed up $10 million dollars. Champ may be full of self confidence and think he is worth all that money at 36 after an injury filled season. Bailey had a Lisfranc sprain that slowed him most of the season and is looking at a low, one year salary to prove himself still capable. Not the market he is looking for in free agency. Of course, Denver now becomes the favorite in the Darrelle Revis sweepstakes to make one last push for the Super Bowl next season.
Good news for New England as their center Ryan Wendell is a free agent. The Colts surprisingly cut their starting center Samson Satele. At 29, Satele is an unrestricted free agent and the Patriots can move on from their weak link in the middle of the offensive line.
One replacement for cornerback is off the market for New England if they cannot re-sign cornerback Aqib Talib. The Miami Dolphins signed cornerback Brent Grimes to a four year $32 million contract with half the money guaranteed. Grimes came to Miami on a one year prove it deal and proved it as he was a top ten cornerback last year bouncing back from missing the 2012 season.
Speaking of the Dolphins, they need a huge upgrade on the offensive line. The Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito mess leaves a bad offensive line even weaker. They need both tackle positions filled and at least one guard and some depth. Young quarterback Ryan Tannehill has looked impressive, but if he has no running game or time to throw, the Dolphins will never get over the hump to the playoffs.
Took a look at the running backs in free agency. No superstars, but a lot of solid backs. Donald Brown of the Colts and Ben Tate of the Texans are looking to be a top back and paid as such, as is the resurgent LeGarrette Blount who resurrected his career in New England. Add in the always injured Darren McFadden of the Raiders, Green Bay’s James Starks, Jacksonville back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Broncos Knowshon Moreno, former Steeler Rashard Mendenhall, the Giants’ Andre Brown, the Vikings Toby Gerhart, and former Jaguar and Raider Rashad Jennings. One of these backs could be a breakout star, or two of them, or all of them...heck, maybe none of them. The depth will keep the prices down, which is good for teams trying to keep their backs or fall in love with another back. There is a reason they are available...but there are some good backs who can contribute to a team in 2014 on the market.
One back who may end up on the market is Ravens back Ray Rice. Last seen dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator in Atlantic City, it may be difficult for the Ravens to keep him on the team. Whether the team eventually releases him depends on what plays out in the courts. Most likely, he will pay his way out of trouble and the Ravens have to weigh if they are going let public opinion sway their decision.
Finally, following the surprise release of linebacker D’Qwell Jackson last week, he ended up with an $11 million guarantee from Indianapolis on a four year $22 million contract. Jackson was good, but not great in Cleveland and again the Colts seem to be overpaying for scraps from Cleveland. Last year they inexplicably traded a first round pick for running back Trent Richardson who was a huge disappointment. At least Jackson only costs the Colts money and cap space.
If you’re a hockey fan then you know there’s nothing more exciting than when the trade deadline approaches and everyone vying for a playoff run is looking to get the one missing gem to make it to the Promised Land. There was a move two days before the deadline that sent the overpaid and heavily shopped Roberto Luongo to Florida, his old address before going to Vancouver where he scored the huge contract they ended up choking on. Now I’ve heard some pretty dumb comments from athletes in my years, but Luongo tossed out one doozy once the trade was announced, he said, “ I was shocked, I never saw this coming”! Really? You didn’t know that for the last three seasons the Canucks have actively, and quite publicly I might add, been calling every GM in the league looking to send you packing? You missed the numerous headlines right after the season ended last year that again the Canucks were looking to get anyone to take you and that ridiculous contract and there were no takers because the very team that gave you that contract was being asked to kick in for a good chunk of it to take you off their hands? Sure, I can see how you may have missed all that, and I’m more than sure you didn’t hear about going to the Islanders last month either. Talk about denial. So good ole Roberto goes off to Florida and whose waiting to greet him there is none other than Tim Thomas, the very guy who beat him in the Cup finals in 2011, the same goalie who got in a verbal battle and said he didn’t really care what he had to say about the way he played the game, he wasn’t there to pump up your tires…I was hoping he could remind you in the locker room that he also never got pulled out of a game after getting shelled in that series, TWICE!!! Quite the ego you’ve got…you know what you can do with that contract Roberto, good luck in Florida and you won’t have to worry about hearing how badly you perform in the playoffs, they don’t usually go to them.
Luckily for Luongo, Thomas was sent to Dallas and Ellis was sent to Florida in exchange. So what we'll all get to miss is those fake looks of camaraderie, or hear that everything is all good when I wouldn't believe for a second that one would buy the other so much as a cup of coffee. But the real blockbuster move came from the Rangers, sending captain Ryan Callahan to Tampa Bay for Martin St. Louis. The first thing I thought of when I heard this trade was my man Beeze and his reaction to it, I just knew he wasn’t going to dig this move at all, and he didn’t. Callahan and the Rangers have been trying to work out his new contract and the rumor was he and the team were apart on the numbers, to the tune of $200-$400K a year in a six year deal, until just now this is all we heard, then I get a text from Beeze and he's telling me that what was missing in this story last night was the no trade clause that Callahan also wanted...so that was the deal breaker, a guy who isn’t afraid to throw down, isn’t scared of laying down and blocking shots from the likes of a Zdeno Chara if it means saving a game for the likes of St. Louis, who at 38 is still an offensive threat and healthy only because he avoids the physical portion of the game. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fine player, a good goal scorer, but with one-year left on his contract he’ll be 39 and looking for another deal, say 2 years and I’m not sure if the Rangers will be kicking in at that point. With Callahan they had a guy with longevity, (he’ll be 29 this month), so I can’t say I blame Beeze and Ranger fans for dumping hard on this one.
Then we have the Canadiens, err… They scooped up Thomas Vanek from the Islanders. When I heard this one I immediately knew why too, they got Vanek because they know they’ll probably have get through Boston to further any hope of moving on in the playoffs and Vanek has always been a thorn in their side. Eh…good luck to them with that is all I’ve got to say…no love lost here for the Habs and their hurt feelings…you know me, no warm fuzzies coming from Sully.
Jaroslav Halak, the goalie that has had a great season was sent packing earlier in the week to Buffalo for Ryan Miller. I hated this trade for a lot of reasons. But as I suspected Halak didn’t unpack, he was traded to Washington, so he at least will get a better shot at some playoff time, maybe he ends up being just what the doctor ordered. God knows the Achilles heal for the Caps has been between the pipes, but what Halak won’t have that he had in St. Louis is a team that plays stifling defense. No more will he see only 19 shots a game, he can forget about that, he’ll be lucky if the low is in the 30’s. These are the trades that stood out most to me, I won’t go into all the deals, I know there have been others who have or will touch on them too, and Beeze will undoubtedly be “Moaning” about it on Monday!
In other happenings, I see that Adrian Peterson is tweeting that he’d like Michael Vick to join the Vikings, that they could win with him at the helm. What makes him think that Minnesota can do with Vick that no one else has been able to do? The only thing different about Michael Vick is he’s older. He’s still injury prone, he still makes terrible decisions with the football and to think that he can just stroll through the door and be the answer to their QB problems is a bit ridiculous. If that happens…good luck with that, but you’ve been warned.
The 2014 YouGabSports fantasy baseball league if fired up, if you’d like to ply just sign up on the post I put up yesterday, and I’ll get an invite right out to you. If we fill this up quickly and there’s enough interest to play I’ll start another league.
Yesterday, the New York Rangers, traded their captain, Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Martin St. Louis...
The last Rangers captain to be traded was Mark Messier (the rights for) in 2003 to the San Jose Sharks for a 4th Rd pick...That pick became...Ryan Callahan...Just an interesting fact for ya...
So, from what I've seen from most Rangers fans on twitter, and blogs, and what I've heard on NHL radio, they are happy about this trade...Yes, Martin St. Louis at 38 years old, still scores...He's always been a talented offensive player...Everyone keeps comparing their offensive numbers...
Well why is a little guy like ST. Louis able to keep scoring? Well, he plays little defense, while Callahan is a defensive thorn in people's sides...Callahan, checks...Finishes every check...Drives star players crazy, by running them into the boards...Callahan blocks shots...He blocks them with precision...Like it's a fucking art form...And if he has to, he'll drop the gloves...
St. Louis has always shied away from these parts of the game...But the constant talk is about scoring...Well people, there is a lot more to Hockey then just scoring...
But for me it's not just about the difference between the two players...Lets look at the trade...
St. Louis wanted out of Tampa Bay because his feelings were hurt, because Lightning GM Steve Yzerman who was the GM for team Canada, didn't pick St. Louis for the Olympic team...(St. Louis did go, as he took injured teammate, Steven Stamkos' spot) Then St. Louis said the only team he wanted to go to was the Rangers...Wanting to reunite with old teammate, and fellow old man, Brad Richards...
So why the hell did Rangers (overrated) GM Glen Sather give up so much for a 38 year old guy with another year on his contract? So much you ask? Besides Callahan, who is ten years younger, Sather gave up a 1st round and a 2nd round draft pick...If Callahan resigns with Tampa Bay, that 2nd round pick becomes a first...
What the fuck!?! St. Louis is a 38 year old with hurt feeling only willing to go to your team...Why give up the two high picks along with your Captain? Yzerman doesn't like, tell him to go screw...San Jose was interested in Callahan...Talk to them...Tell Yzerman San Jose is giving more, or asking for less, or both...These GM's always say it's a business...Well treat that way...Too bad is Yzerman is stuck with a 38 year old who is sad, and only plays one part of the game...Not your problem!
And why were the Rangers shopping Callahan? They couldn't reach a contract extension with him and his agent...Everyone says he was asking for too much...Why were they saying this? Because all they look at is scoring...Not the everything else that is just as important...And maybe it was bit high...In the end, the talk was 6 years, near $6 million a year...But the thing that killed the deal for Sather was Callahan wanting a no trade clause...Really? The captain of your team wants to finish his career with you and that's no good...People say players should give the team a "hometown discount," that they should show that loyalty...Why the fuck shouldn't the team show it as well!?!
As a lifelong Rangers fan, I hate this trade...As a Callahan fan, I hate this trade...As some one who tries to use common sense, I think Sather should be fired for getting raped by Yzerman, who St. Louis painted in a corner...
Long term, the Rangers lose big time...Short term, the Rangers lose...St. Louis may add offense, but makes them softer, and takes a away a key defensive asset...And in the Spring, he turns 39 when the Rangers will be trying to make huge playoff run...I recall Brad Richards (33) looking old and out of gas last year in the playoffs...So out of gas, he was scratched for the last 3 games...
Martin St. Louis is not the missing link who will save the Rangers and take them to a Cup...But those high draft picks could have been, skating beside Callahan...
You won't see that 38 year old doing all of this...
Best of luck Captain Cally...Tampa Bay is going to love you!
That question seems to be pretty innocuous, one that most people hear when the anniversary of their birth is approaching.
But when my sister asked me that this past Sunday, I had no answer for her. It isn't like I'm a little kid and could just rattle off a list of toys on store shelves that I would greedily welcome into my hands. At a now 43 years old, I barely even acknowledge my birthday as anything other than just another day on the calendar.
But my family does and thus the question from my sister. While I eventually told her about a new CD coming out from a singer-songwriter I like, I originally had a wildly different request.
She asked me what I wanted two days before I was scheduled to provide the play by play call for the filming of an Upper Cape girls basketball playoff game The Lady Rams were matched up the undefeated West Bridgewater team in the Division 4 South semifinals. It happened to fall on the same day as my birthday.
So I initially told my sister, "An Upper Cape win would be nice." Her response of "Can't help you there" brought about the secondary request for the John Gorka CD.
But I really would've preferred the basketball game victory as a birthday wish fulfilled.
The funny thing is that after the Lady Rams lost to West Bridgewater 67-44 to end their amazing season, I realized that the team itself had unknowingly and unintentionally provided me a 24 game season long gift.
Since the end of my coaching days, I've been going to high school games to watch my ex-players continue their hoops exploits. While I've enjoyed watching the games, there was a part of the process that was a bit perfunctory. I was keeping my word to see the girls I'd coached. If they made their teams, I had promised them to attend at least one game a year to see them play. They may not remember the promise, but I do and a promise is a promise.
However, it is fair to say that I've spent the last two years embittered about how the end of my coaching "career" came about and it affected my overall enjoyment of basketball.
My love of the game itself was intact, but the day to day stuff of going to games was a bit harder. I did it and wrote about it (a lot) but there was always that bitter little pill of how things went down for me that had me still pissed off two years later. Now, it isn't to say that there were moments of individual appreciation. There was Erica, Gabby and of course Allison who remains one of my favorite athletes across the entire spectrum of sports.
But watching the Upper Cape team this season felt different. Sure, the surprising and overwhelming success they enjoyed (State Vocational Champs, whoo hooo!) was part of that equation. It was more than that though. It was the way the team seemed to be growing together as they played. Being recommended by a few people, including coach Davidson and my own ex-player Michaela to do play by play for the filming of some games was another factor. However superficially, I was around a team again.
The players themselves helped too. I don't know most of them well or at all in some cases. But they were just a pleasure to watch develop on the court. And while there wasn't any extended chat time with them, they were usually pretty friendly when you said hello to them or congratulated them for having a good game.
So you must be wondering exactly what it was that the team gave to me without knowing what they were doing it, right?
Well that's easy. I finally felt that old sense of enjoyment of watching games again. It is something that I haven't fully experienced too much of in the last two years.
What Michaela, Krystle, Amber, Amelia, Alexandra, Dasia, Jodi, Paige, Alexa, Molly and Jaylene, coach Davidson, assistant coach Mikayla and a few of their parents did was bring the FUN back to basketball for me.
And that is a gift worth a price above rubies.
Thank you ladies!
(Photo credits: Adam Ellis of the Wareham Courier)