The Sports Hangover explores mid-majors majoring in basketball, a football coach who does not play well with others, a 43-year-old who likes to punch younger men to sleep, and the passing of Oderus Urungus, who came to America from Scumdogia by way of Canada.
I’m Not Like Everybody Else
Can you spot the missing man in the above group picture of NFL head coaches? It’s squint-tiny, so here are a few hints. He’s the only head coach who isn’t a member of the NFL Coaches Association. He’s the first guy, when asked by the NFL to choose his offensive or defensive starters to be introduced at the Super Bowl, answered neither. He’s the character who, in contradistinction to the other 31 head coaches, appears generically (“NE head coach”) instead of by name in the Madden video games. He smiled just seven times–so he probably wouldn’t have done the whole “cheese” thing very well in the photo–in his 2013 postgame pressers. And, oh, yeah, he dresses like the anti-Tom Landry. Bill Belichick, like the song says, is not like everybody else.
The Secret to Becoming a Major Mid-Major
“It was everything that basketball’s about at the level of our program,” Catholic University coach Jack Kvancz remarked after a 1977 game with crosstown rival Howard. “For a game between two ‘mid-majors,’ or whatever you’d call us, it had anything you could ask for.” Coach Kvancz didn’t bequeath the world a Boston Celtics program at a Hickory High-sized school. But he did leave the world a word, or two of them, to describe schools that aspire to play above their weight.
Perennial tournament teams Creighton, VCU, Gonzaga, and Wichita State have the “mid-major” label in common. The quartet lack varsity football programs. The misguided path of specialization adopted by many young athletes works better for mid-major schools. These schools can award fans football and basketball. But they can rarely offer fans competitive football and basketball. By majoring in one of the two behemoth college sports, the mid-majors stand a better chance of scoring an “A.”
Fortysomething Tough Guys
Is Dan Henderson the toughest fortysomething mixed-martial artist in the short history of the sport? Randy Couture, who followed up an early fortieth-birthday present to himself in a victory over Chuck Liddell with UFC title-fight wins over Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort, and Tim Sylvia makes a strong case for this designation. But Henderson’s Sunday-night knockout of Shogun Rua, rearranging the topography of his face in the process, puts an exclamation point on his old-man activities. Post-forty knockouts of Babalu and arguable-all-time-greatest Fedor, along with his epic initial battle with Shogun, at least puts Henderson in the conversation with Couture.
What’s their secret? Cynics might say it’s found in a syringe. But Couture and Henderson never popped positive on a piss test, and the latter man’s testosterone-replacement therapy won the blessing of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It’s tempting to say their success has something to do with the dynamic duo’s wrestling background. But Henderson, despite his Olympic pedigree, isn’t much of a takedown threat in his advanced age. Father Time steals speed. But power, whether Randy’s grappling against the cage or Hendo’s overhand right, remains a more resilient quality.
If only for Tyler Austin Black’s sake, I’m rooting for Kentucky. Mr. Black, a machinist in Berea Kentucky, predicted a University of Kentucky national championship in ink permanently injected into his leg. The Wildcats responded favorably to the tattoo, handing Wichita State their first defeat of the season over the weekend. But before they become the national champion, the Wildcats need to win the slightly-less vaunted Kentucky state championship. Kentucky faces defending national champion Louisville this Friday.
Some Brothers Have Your Back; Others, Your Leg
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams’ 2013 season ended due to a torn hamstring. His 2014 campaign appears in jeopardy due to his brother Eric Baylor allegedly tearing into his hamstring with a knife. Marcus Vick, who thankfully shares a last name with his older brother Michael so as to avoid unnecessary confusion, responded to PETA dogging his animal-abusing sibling signing with the Jets by tweeting: “@peta y’all still on that bull$#!+,????”
Upsets Make the Sweet Sixteen Sweeter
Three weakly-seeded teams–Dayton (#11), Stanford (#10), and Tennessee (#11)–advanced to the Sweet Sixteen from the initial slew of upsets that witnessed shocking wins by the likes of North Dakota State and Mercer. How unusual were the early upsets? USA Today featured a graph over the weekend showing that 16 seeds had won 0 percent of their matchups, and that 15 and 14 seeds had won just 7 percent of the time. So the Mercer win legitimately shocks, but a collective amnesia reigns–not, though, in Lehigh, Pennsylvania–in which we forget that Duke fell in the first round to a 15 seed just two years ago.
The USA Today graph showed a team’s chances improved dramatically at the 13 seed, where underdogs won 23 percent of the time. And the won-loss breakdown between 12 and 5 seeds stands at 41/59 percent, which means in a normal year upsets like the ones Harvard, Stephen F. Austin, and North Dakota State pulled off are normal, not abnormal, occurrences. The aberration appears when three 12 seeds win in a single year, as they did in this tournament. But it’s also unusual for 4 seeds to pitch a shutout against 13 seeds, which happened this year, too. But nobody talks about it when the favored teams all do what we expect them to do. That’s not an upset, even if betters realize that landing a parlay of any four teams generally is. The big surprise of the NCAAs is that we’re perennially surprised by surprises. Upsets happen.
Get over them? Never. It would take the fun out of the tourney.
Where Were You When Oderus Urungus Died?
Oderus Urungus, lead singer of Gwar, passed away this weekend. Mr. Urungus’s Wikipedia page reports that he lived for 43 billion years, so we should celebrate his longevity rather than grieve his earthly brevity. An immigrant to this this world, Urungus hailed from the planet Scumdogia, where his supercomputer father and petri dish mother raised him, albeit very poorly. Urungus is survived by bandmates Balsac the Jaws of Death, Pustulus Maximus, Beefcake the Mighty, and Jizmak Da Gusha. The Sports Hangover mourns both the passing of such an original and entertaining individual (in every sense of that word) and the fact that he leaves us with thirteen albums worth of music that will live for 43 billion more years on YouTube. You can’t take it with you. But couldn’t an exception have been made for Oderus Urungus and his music?