NEWS ALERT ... Another title for UConn
No. 7 seed Connecticut posts 60-54 victory over No. 8 seed Kentucky in Monday's title game to claim its second national crown in four seasons
As I tweeted seconds after Connecticut defeated Kentucky in Monday’s national championship game:
“John Calipari loses! … The rest of humanity wins!”
My social-media feed displayed comments all night long showing that very few people wanted to see the Wildcats win the national crown so there were a lot of happy folks when UConn prevailed.
Senior point guard Shabazz Napier scored 22 points and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four as the Huskies notched a 60-54 victory over freshman-laden Kentucky to win their second national title in four seasons.
I made fun of Wildcats coach John Calipari on these pages just one day earlier so I will keep it short and sweet this time: It is quite fun to see the shady, egotistical coach get to leave the building as the loser.
And think, the guy helped make me a winner on Saturday. Kentucky’s last-second victory over Wisconsin – courtesy of Aaron Harrison’s 3-pointer – made me the winner of the bracket pool I was in.
Seems my loyalty changed pretty fast once the Wildcats and Calipari were of no use to me.
So while I was one of the big winners of March Madness and Calipari was the biggest loser of the tournament, there were certainly other winners and losers over the past three weeks.
Let’s take a look at some:
KEVIN OLLIE – The Connecticut coach wins the national title in his second season as coach and is the first coach to win it all in his first NCAA tournament since Steve Fisher with Michigan in 1989. The Huskies are a lot harder to hate with him running the program as opposed to irascible Jim Calhoun.
DAYTON – The Flyers went to the Elite Eight – with two of the victories coming against Ohio State and Syracuse – and were able to retain coach Archie Miller as opposed to a major program luring him away. I also need to thank the Flyers as well as I had them reaching the Sweet 16 and that stroke of genius won me the pool.
MERCER – Kind of funny what can happen when a small-time program gets to play Duke on a neutral court and not in Cameron Indoor Stadium with hand-picked referees. The 14th-seeded Bears’ 78-71 victory over the third-seeded Blue Devils was one of the highlights of the entire tournament.
ALLIE LAFORCE – The CBS sideline announcer had the best tournament of any media member and has landed a promotion to the network’s lead college football announcing team with Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson. The 25-year-old blonde isn’t just easy on the eyes, she’s a former college basketball player who knows her stuff and asks the proper questions and isn’t a sideshow like overrated and often scatter-brained Erin Andrews.
JOHHNY DAWKINS – The Stanford coach was firmly on the hot seat and in danger of being fired if the Cardinal didn’t reach the NCAA tournament. After beating New Mexico and Kansas to reach the Sweet 16, he can rest easy and continue to make a solid living in the Bay Area.
COACH K – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski suffered an embarrassing upset in the school’s first game for the second time in three years – remember when the No. 2 Blue Devils became one of the few schools to ever lose to a 15 seed when Lehigh beat them in the 2012 tourney? What has become clear is Coach K needs to adjust to the one-and-done era and get his freshmen more battle-tested and, you know, play road games on other people’s courts prior to the start of ACC play.
NEW MEXICO – So perhaps it wasn’t all Steve Alford’s fault for that 2013 tourney loss to Harvard. Craig Neal couldn’t get a victory either as the vastly overrated Lobos continued their annual failures in the one tournament that matters.
STEVE MASIELLO – The Rick Pitino protégé guided Manhattan to the NCAA tournament and tried to cash in his success for a better gig but his hiring as coach at South Florida was overruled when the school conducted a background check and determined he didn’t have a degree. He now is on unpaid leave at Manhattan and will be reinstated as coach once he earns his degree but his ethics will forever carry this stain.
MARK GOTTFRIED – The North Carolina State coach had a 14-point lead over Saint Louis with five minutes to play in regulation and blew the lead and lost the game in overtime. The Billikens scored 21 points in the final 3:01 in regulation as the Wolfpack appeared to have never seen a fullcourt press before or seldom practice free throws (9-of-20 over the final 3:09 of regulation) in an embarrassing collapse.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE – We had it jammed down our throats all season over how good the Big 12 was and the league went just 6-7 in the NCAA tournament despite Baylor being a surprise Sweet 16 team. Iowa State also reached the Sweet 16 but not a single team from the so-called best league in the country reached the Elite Eight and schools like Kansas (second-game loss) and Oklahoma (opening loss) were huge disappointments.
I don’t like John Calipari and I don’t like one-and-dones.
But now that Kentucky has won me money, it’s time to have some fun.
Hope you lose in Monday night’s national title game, Coach Cal.
Hope Kevin Ollie outcoaches you and you get to watch Connecticut cut down the nets.
Know how you use college athletes to pad your pockets with millions and millions of dollars without a single iota of care in terms of their academics?
Well, I just prospered by it too.
And I’m a sportswriter … you know, the type of person you despise.
The one group of people on the planet that has never sucked up to you – well, except for a few national writers with no backbone.
And it is always oh-so-painful for you control freaks when someone doesn’t bow down to you.
That 3-pointer by Aaron Harrison is what I needed to win the NCAA tournament pool I was part of. And I probably needed that small dose of cash more than you need a tutor for your players.
Ahhh, what am I thinking? You have no use for a tutor.
I bet half your players have never even met any of the university’s academic advisors.
You will start five freshmen on Monday night against Connecticut … and if all five apply to the NBA Draft, you will wheel five more high school All-Americans into the program and go after it again.
The names of the players don’t matter to you. As long as they are talented at age 18 or 19, what do you care if they are in the D-League instead of improving their game as college sophomores?
You put a lot of effort into controlling the message – Spin Doctor Cal fits – and image control. Let’s see you put the same effort into actually building a program.
I’d say like you did at Massachusetts but didn’t the program get stripped of that 1996 Final Four appearance due to some funny business with Marcus Camby?
We could talk about what you did at Memphis … oh wait, that program was stripped of its 2008 Final Four appearance under your leadership too? So how exactly did Derrick Rose pass that SAT test?
So win all you want Cal but the respect for your methods is never going to be there. Even if you win Monday night, the naysayers will be around.
When you gauge the pulse of the nation, an overwhelming number of people seem to want to Connecticut to win.
That has nothing to do with Julius Randle … or Andrew Harrison … or James Young.
It has to do with you Cal.
People aren’t fond of your methods. People don’t respect you. People just flat-out don’t like you.
Most of all, people want to see you fail.
It’s a bed you made.
By the way, I know exactly what a tantrum-thrower like you said to your five freshman starters when you called that timeout one minute into the second half.
You probably said this: “None of you get to go to the NBA if we don’t win this game.”
The ultimate one-and-done putdown – ha ha.
So thanks again for the adjustments you made in the second half against Wisconsin that allowed me to pad my wallet.
I needed to take about half a dozen showers after spending two-plus hours rooting for your team to win.
I promise not to let that happen again Monday.
The San Diego Padres have the best record in the majors — at 1-0 — after rallying for a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night.
Seth Smith hit a tying pinch-hit homer in the eighth and Chris Denorfia ripped the tiebreaking two-run single later in the inning as bearded Brian Wilson took a beating. Huston Street then dominated the Dodgers in the ninth to wrap up the victory.
The best thing about Opening Day is that everybody has high hopes for their team. But hours after the Padres’ stellar comeback, there were two questions on my mind.
One involved Adrian Gonzalez. If Petco Park is such a terrible place for power hitters, how come Gonzalez hit 30 or more homers in each of his last four seasons with the Padres and hasn’t hit 30 in a season since departing?
The other was this: Where the heck is Khalil Greene on a Sunday?
Oh, I think I found him.
He plays for Home Depot.
San Diego State’s loss to Arizona in the Sweet 16 can be summed up this simply:
Johnson was scoreless over the first 37-plus minutes of the game but the easy basket after Shepard’s ill-timed turnover turned his night around. The Pac-12 Player of the Year was 0-of-10 shooting prior to the gift basket and ended up scoring 15 points in the final 2:46 as Arizona pulled out a 70-64 victory.
The Wildcats move on to Saturday’s West regional final against Wisconsin while the Aztecs get to head back down Interstate 5 lamenting that an eight-point second-half lead slipped away. (see stellar game recap — http://sltrib.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/ncaab-boxscores.aspx?page=/data/NCAAB/results/2013-2014/recap882324.html)
San Diego State finishes the campaign with a stellar 31-5 record – the second-best mark in school history – but the celebration over a strong season will begin sometime next week.
In the aftermath of a stinging defeat, players and coaches wonder what they could have done to change the outcome and pundits assess where the blame goes.
The Aztecs led for the first 12-plus minutes of the second half before Arizona took its first lead. The momentum had shifted to the Wildcats but San Diego State was just a 3-pointer away from tying the score before the ghost of Brandon Heath emerged.
Heath is the former guard who carelessly dribbled the ball off his own calf when the Aztecs had the lead in the final half-minute of the 2006 NCAA tournament against Indiana. The Hoosiers stole the game and San Diego State would wait another five years to win its first-ever NCAA tournament game.
Shepard’s miscue set the tone for what happened down the stretch. T.J. McConnell stole the ball and the play ended with Johnson’s first basket of the night. He then hit a 3-pointer with 1:50 to play and with his mind no longer clogged up about his poor shooting night, Johnson made 10 consecutive free throws over the final 90 seconds to thwart the Aztecs’ attempt at reaching the Elite Eight for the first time ever.
Obviously, the loss isn’t to be solely pinned on Shepard. San Diego State allowed Arizona to shoot 61.9 percent from the field in the second half and had just three assists all night while shooting 38.9 percent.
Then there is also this huge factor: The top-seeded Wildcats are, well, pretty good themselves.
Arizona is a program used to playing in the Sweet 16 and other big games and the Wildcats picked up their level of play in the latter part of the contest.
Aztecs coach Steve Fisher is trying to get San Diego State’s program to that level – and hard losses like Thursday’s contest is often part of the process.
“We’re newbies to this stage – we’ve only been to the Sweet 16 twice,” Fisher said in the postgame press conference. “And we want more.”
The Aztecs will take another shot next season and it will have to be done without the services of do-everything guard Xavier Thames and rebounding dynamo Josh Davis. But several key players will be back and a highly regarded recruiting class is also on its way.
So we will see next March whether lessons are learned. Remember, the team the Aztecs lost to in the 2011 Sweet 16 went on to win the NCAA tournament. If Arizona joins Connecticut in cutting down the nets, it makes the final game of the 2013-14 season just a little bit less painful when it is recalled years down the line.
Regardless, 30-win seasons sure beat all those 20-loss campaigns San Diego State was once known for.
The opportunity is there for San Diego State to elevate its stature to a national-caliber level.
All the Aztecs need to do is defeat Arizona in Thursday’s Sweet 16 game in Anaheim.
Yeah, I know, much easier said than done – particularly since the Wildcats have more talent, won on San Diego State’s home court earlier this season and just destroyed Gonzaga in the round of 32.
But you know what – No. 1 seeds like Arizona do get upset in the Sweet 16. Heck, one-seed Wichita State has already been bounced from this tournament prior to the Sweet 16.
So no matter how terrific the Wildcats looked last Sunday, anything can happen when Arizona and San Diego State tip off at the Honda Center. Doesn’t hurt that many Aztecs’ fans will make the 90-mile drive up Interstate 5. (see stellar preview here — http://sltrib.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/ncaab-preview.aspx?page=/data/NCAAB/matchups/g6_preview_14.html)
Perhaps the real question is whether or not the fourth-seeded Aztecs are ready to make their breakthrough. Remember, San Diego State entered this year’s tournament with THREE NCAA WINS in school history.
Last week’s two wins were against double-digit seeds – No. 13 New Mexico State and No. 12 North Dakota State – so the Aztecs still remain without what can be termed as a top-flight NCAA tournament win.
San Diego State’s two NCAA victories in 2011 were against No. 15 Northern Colorado and No. 7 Temple and last season’s victory came against No. 10 Oklahoma.
As you can see, the Aztecs have only beaten one single-digit seed, which is partly why many national analysts have been naysayers and why some were picking North Dakota State to record an upset.
That perception changes if San Diego State knocks off an elite program like Arizona and is playing for a Final Four berth this Saturday.
The Aztecs are already riding guard Xavier Thames about as hard as humanly possible and sixth man Dwayne Polee II – how great is that “Trampolee” nickname? – has emerged as the team’s second-best player despite not receiving even one minute of action in the early-season loss to the Wildcats. But to beat Arizona, frontcourt players Josh Davis, JJ O’Brien, Skylar Spencer and inconsistent wing Winston Shepard all need to be in top form.
Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon is elevating his game at the right time of the year and guard Nick Johnson was the Pac-12 Player of the Year. But there will certainly be more pressure on the Wildcats as a few pundits have began pointing out that Arizona coach Sean Miller might be the best coach in the nation who hasn’t reached a Final Four.
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher and exceptional assistant Brian Dutcher have been on the big stage before but now need to come up with perhaps the best game plan of their careers. And then, of course, do it again two days later should the Aztecs upset the Wildcats.
But first things first – can San Diego State notch the biggest victory in program history?
The Aztecs have proven in recent seasons that they can play with the Wildcats. Beating them in the Sweet 16 would rank as an epic event.
So opportunity knocks.
Will there be an answer?
It is time for San Diego State to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
When you earn a 4 seed in the 68-team field, it means the selection committee feels you are a Sweet 16 squad. So anything short of playing in the second week would be a huge failure.
A first-game loss to New Mexico State – coached by former Aztecs assistant Marvin Menzies – would rate as a huge disappointment. Losing in the round of 32 to either Oklahoma – a squad San Diego State defeated in last year’s tournament – or upstart North Dakota State would also rate as a subpar showing.
The school likes to boast about how its program is now among the best on the West Coast and this is the season to prove it. Even with all the accolades and honors over the past decade, San Diego State still only has three measly NCAA tournament wins in its history.
Repeat, three. Let that sink in – THREE.
Two of those three wins were in the same season when an NBA talent named Kawhi Leonard was on the roster and guided the Aztecs to the Sweet 16.
The other NCAA victory came last season but was followed up by something that is soooooooo San Diego State when it comes right down to it. The Aztecs were punked – and dunked – out of the building by 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast.
The four-team group San Diego State (29-4) is part of this season is easily manageable. Even though Menzies knows the thoughts of coach Steve Fisher and lead assistant Brian Dutcher like the back of his hand, his Aggies shouldn’t be able to defeat the Aztecs unless center Sim Bhullar – all 7-foot-5, 355 pounds of him – makes like “Man Mountain Mike” of wrestling fame and tramples each San Diego State player one at a time.
Barring that occurrence, I don’t see the 13th-seeded Aggies having a realistic shot at the upset.
The fifth-seeded Sooners are better than they were last season but San Diego State should still get past them unless Oklahoma goes nuts from behind the 3-point line and the Aztecs fall into one of their patented ruts where they can’t score.
And I can tell you this from all the years I covered San Diego State’s basketball program – Fisher owns Sooners coach Lon Kruger. Fab Five Fish won 13 of the 18 head-to-head meetings when Kruger was UNLV’s coach.
North Dakota State isn’t a bad 12 seed but the squad would be mighty ecstatic just by beating Oklahoma and getting the program’s first-ever NCAA victory. Would the Bison and star player Taylor Braun be able to bounce back with a second premier performance two days later?
San Diego State fans are already salivating about the possibility of a rematch against top-seeded Arizona in the Sweet 16 in Anaheim – one of the Aztecs’ four losses was to the Wildcats – but shouldn’t get too far ahead of themselves.
The focus needs to be on San Diego State — and standout guard Xavier Thames — taking care of business in Spokane first.
When you have a 3-9 overall record in your entire NCAA history – remember, it takes six wins to claim a national championship – the schools you face are not going to be intimidated. The Aztecs aren’t Arizona or Duke or Kansas or Louisville or Michigan State or even Villanova and opponents aren’t going to wilt at the sight of them.
I covered the first NCAA tournament game of the Fisher era in 2003 and the Aztecs didn’t even belong in the United Center with Illinois and were crushed 93-64.
I covered the second NCAA tourney game of the Fisher era in 2006 and the Aztecs fell apart in the final half-minute (or as the red-haired Union-Tribune reporter termed it to me immediately afterward – “they choked”). Indiana had no business winning the game but Brandon Heath – showing exactly why NBA scouts felt he didn’t have the ball-handling skills to play in their league – dribbled the ball off his own calf with San Diego State possessing the lead and the Hoosiers stole a victory.
It took four years after that for the Aztecs to get back to the NCAA tournament – thankfully I was no longer in the declining newspaper industry – and I remain surprised that San Diego State lost to Tennessee in the 2010 NCAA tournament.
Then came the Sweet 16 squad – the victories were over Northern Colorado and Temple – and there was no shame in losing to a Connecticut squad led by Kemba Walker that won the national title.
The following year (2012), I correctly predicted that San Diego State didn’t match up well with North Carolina State and the Aztecs proved me correct with a 14-point loss.
Then came last season’s win over Oklahoma and the loss to Florida Gulf Coast and now you can only wonder if San Diego State is ready to make its mark.
The Mountain West has been a huge disappointment in recent NCAA tournaments so the pressure is certainly on both San Diego State and New Mexico not to underachieve this season.
Two of San Diego State’s four losses this season were to the Lobos and the signature victory was a road win at Kansas. The Aztecs defeated certain national Player of the Year Doug McDermott and Creighton on a neutral court and were a stellar 14-3 away from home.
But none of this means anything when the NCAA tournament starts. And it certainly doesn’t matter that the shameless self-promoters at San Diego State fancy the school as one of the best programs in the nation.
Put it this way: The top programs in the country make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.
Right now – in 2014 – it is simply time for San Diego State to step up or shut up.
Two victories should be a mere formality. Win three games and reach the Elite Eight and the program can brag all it wants.
Don’t make it out of Spokane unblemished and the season rates this way – a huge disappointment.
I believe I saw a bona fide NBA player lighting it up in Taco Bell Arena in Boise on Wednesday night.
Sorry Boise State fans, the player wasn’t on your squad and he is the primary reason why a crowd of 6,892 went home unhappy as Nevada posted an 83-81 double-overtime victory.
Deonte Burton is his name and scoring ability, playmaking and highlight-reel dunks are part of his game.
Burton scored eight of his 25 points in the second overtime as the Wolf Pack prevented the Broncos from reaching the 20-win mark. (see stellar game story here – http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nevada-over-boise-state-83-81-2ot)
Burton is listed at 6-1 but certainly plays a lot bigger than that height. He shushed the entire arena with his mammoth dunk, which I see has made its way to YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehJYxwJ2MKk) and was also named the top play of the day on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
The senior averages 19.9 points and also leads Nevada in assists and steals. But it is more than the numbers that impress you.
He looks like an NBA player. As well as plays like one.
A lot of college players rack up stats but there’s a major difference in putting up big numbers in college and having the ability to play in the NBA.
Burton is enough of a playmaker to play in the NBA. He’s enough of a shooter. He certainly stacks up as an athlete. He appears to have the competitiveness that you need to even get a sniff of playing in the league.
Since I was a college basketball beat writer for 13 seasons – and have covered more than 60 games the past four-plus years while being fortunate enough to have a better job than newspaper life – I learned long ago to put very little stock in NBA mock drafts that are produced in February and March.
But I will predict this now – Deonte Burton’s name will be called in the 2014 NBA Draft. Not sure when as of yet, put possibly in the latter stages of the first round.
You see, I know an NBA player when I see one. And I saw one Wednesday night.
Was doing some Internet pleasure surfing Wednesday and came across video of Winter Olympics gold medal winner Kaitlyn Farrington returning to her stomping grounds in Idaho earlier this week.
Unless you slept through the month of February, you probably learned about Farrington’s existence on the planet because she won the women’s half pipe final in Sochi. But had you ever heard of her say way, way back in January of 2014?
As someone who has covered sports for a living for two decades, I had never heard of the young woman until after she won gold. In fact, I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Boise time to see the taped-delay version of her winning gold and that is when I became enlightened.
NBC told us about her background and the fact that her parents sold cows to fund her trips as she became more advanced in the snowboarding world. Then you saw her happy-go-lucky attitude, her smile and just genuine impressive nature and you couldn’t help but be impressed.
I took to Twitter to tell Wheaties that Farrington should be one of the Olympians who lands a Wheaties box cover. Her story from farm girl in small-town Idaho to Olympic gold medalist is the type of story journalists live to tell.
Except there was nobody interested in telling it way, way back in January of 2014.
That point was drummed in by Farrington herself at a press conference in the Sun Valley area and I watched the clip multiple times. Her words really resonated with the journalist inside me and her point is more than valid.
“It’s been amazing to tell my story because nobody cared until now,” Farrington said with a smile and a hearty laugh. “So I get to walk around pretty much doing interviews and tell people how awesome I am. And it’s been really fun because nobody did care and now everyone is caring. It’s crazy because you can come from nothing and be at the top.”
Certainly, winning a gold medal catapults the amount of attention an athlete will receive. And obviously reporters are going to ask the pertinent background questions and paint the picture and tell the tale afterward because, well, now the story is a pretty easy one to write.
Even if an athlete simply makes an Olympic team, his or her story is well worth telling. I can remember covering the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Long Beach in 2004 and every single person from our coverage area who was in the event received the awesome opportunity to speak with me (heavy sarcasm font needed).
Heck, I even attended a swimming practice of a 13-year-old named Jessica Schmitt two weeks before the event. She had qualified in the 200 breaststroke and was in the same event as past Olympic medal winners like Amanda Beard and Staci Stitts.
Basically, the youngster had no realistic chance of making the Olympic team but just reaching an unheard of level for someone heading into eighth grade was a quite a feat and a story well worth telling.
Yet move forward nearly a decade later and newspapers are no longer a force. The industry decline was brutal and thousands of excellent journalists are now in other lines of work. Things like storytelling and enterprise reporting are a lost art.
So what happens is the niche sports suffer. Very little attention is paid to them in the first place and when staffs are cut and coverage standards drop, fewer of the hard-to-find stories are discovered.
Stories about people like Kaitlyn Farrington – a snowboarder – are still there to be found. It’s just that nobody is looking to find them.
The cool thing is we all know Kaitlyn Farrington now – I see her wearing a Cheez-It jacket so I know she has at least one sponsor – and she surely won’t sneak up on us when the 2018 Winter Games roll around.
There will be plenty of people lined up to interview her in January of 2018. Her rags-to-riches tale will still be a good one and the overwhelming storyline will be whether or not she can repeat as a gold medal winner.
Farrington is definitely enjoying the attention she is currently receiving and is certainly soaking in the moment. Sifting through her Twitter timeline, you can see she did a round of interviews in New York and attended the Daytona 500.
You know, stuff that wouldn’t have come her way back in the olden days of January, 2014.
The attention will die down over the coming months and Farrington’s life will regain some form of normalcy.
But you know, I’d actually be interested in hearing what Farrington’s life is like six months from now. But I fear there will be nobody poking around to tell us.
Then again, I’m probably due to make a drive from Boise to Sun Valley. So Kaitlyn, hit me up in July or August on Twitter @MrSportsBlog. We can do this storytelling thing right – and do it right here on this website.
Rick Pitino has a pet peeve.
He doesn’t think highly of people who use social media and who spend a lot of time on the Internet.
Which pretty much means the Louisville basketball coach is thumbing his nose at everybody.
Here is what the coach of the defending NCAA champions thinks of social media, thanks to a screen shot somebody on Twitter took of his comments.
The famous coach went on to say most of what you find on social media is “insulting.”
That left me to ponder something.
I kind of find it insulting that married people cheat on their spouses.
When it comes down to it, what kind of scumbag has sex with a woman in public at a restaurant in Louisville when he is married to a different female?
Particularly one who is allegedly serving as a role model to 13 to 15 college kids every season.
Oh, you mean Slick Rick did that? Nooooooooooooooooo!
The guy who is chastising Americans for “not paying attention to what they should be?”
LOL – look that acronym up Rick if you don’t know what it means. Or perhaps ask your wife to Google it for you.
Pitino is an outstanding basketball coach but he’s always been a big phony. A lot of people in professional and college athletics cheat on their wives but it becomes extra galling when somebody spends a great deal of time cultivating his image and carves out a public image that makes him seem better than others.
But Pitino is no better at ethics than numerous other hypocrites. The extortion trial that was associated with his affair exposed him badly and he became a national punchline over his claims the sex lasted all of 15 seconds.
As Shania Twain might sing – “That don’t impress me much.”
Good ol’ Rick wanted to look cool after Louisville won the national title last April so he made it known he would be getting a tattoo.
We all know what word he didn’t get tattooed on his skin:
Ever do something different and out of the ordinary on a Saturday night?
I sure did – I was live and in the flesh at a minor-league hockey game in Boise, Idaho on Saturday night.
The Idaho Steelheads took advantage of the big occasion by posting a 6-3 victory over the Bakersfield Condors behind three power-play goals at cozy CenturyLink Arena. William Rapuzzi scored two goals for the Steelheads and goaltender Pat Nagle made 34 saves.
Most people in the vicinity of the arena were watching a free concert by the Goo Goo Dolls on a downtown street. But I was indoors catching my second hockey game in my four-plus years of living in the fine city of Boise.
I attended three NHL games in the past six or seven years – I went to NHL games in St. Paul, Minn., (great arena) and Nashville, Tenn. (dumpy arena) while on road trips when I was covering the San Diego Chargers for a living and also caught a game in Anaheim (another good arena) – and a few things were still the same.
The players wore skates and helmets, there was a fight (not a good one so no highlights, sorry Ted Leitner) and I couldn’t tell you any of their names.
The night I hung out at the Minnesota Wild game was the first time I had ever heard of Marian Gaborik (two goals and one assist in front of me against Calgary) and everybody in the Twin Cities forgot his strong performance by the following day when Adrian Peterson set an NFL single-game rushing record against the Chargers.
So it is a bit interesting to attend a minor-league game in a sport in which I couldn’t name 10 players who play at the highest level even if you were to put a million bucks on the table and dared me. I assume there was a prospect or two on the ice as the Steelheads have a working agreement with the NHL Dallas Stars but there really wasn’t anyone who jumped out as being on a different level than the rest of the players on the ice.
And, of course, I’m not totally clueless about the sport’s nuances. I covered the minor-league San Diego Gulls when I was breaking into the business. That team was filled with former and future NHL players and set a professional hockey record for wins (62) in a season and matched the mark for most points (132).
No records appear to be on the agenda for the Steelheads but the atmosphere was nice and the fans seemed to have a good time. The venue of just over 5,000 capacity is solid – though trying to buy something on the jammed-up concourse is a bit of a pain in between periods.
I’ve covered a half-dozen or so basketball games in the building over the past few years – including an NBA exhibition game in October – and the facility is much better suited for watching people shoot pucks and commit crosschecking penalties as opposed to shooting 3-pointers and slamming home dunks.
Sure you’re all wondering when I will again return to the rink. Good question.
The only other time I attended a hockey game in Boise was during the NBA’s 2011 All-Star break. So considering this weekend was the 2014 All-Star break and I assume that means I’m scheduled to go back in 2017.
But perhaps I will target the 2015 All-Star break … after all, it never hurts to occasionally do something way, way out of the ordinary.