Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chris Ello's blog...Saturday, Feb. 28th

I can hear all of you disgusted Chargers fans already...First day of NFL free-agency comes and goes, and the Bolts are on the sidelines.

"This organization sucks!!"

"They're never willing to spend any money!!"

"No way I'm re-newing my season tickets!!""

"They want us to give 'em money for a new stadium, but they don't want to give us a contending team.!!"

"Beers cost $10-dollars!!"

Did I leave any complaints out??....Well, I imagine you all had a few others...So go ahead and kick the dog, slam the garage door, swear up a blue streak. (Let's see if we can hold off on pounding the kids or wife, though, all right?)

Now....before we get to why all of you need to take a valium and just calm the bleep down...a quick recap of what took place on Friday in an economy that experts say is the worst anybody has seen it since the Great Depression.

NFL teams -- every one of them, it seems, except the Chargers -- spent a total of nearly
$300-million dollars on just a few free agents....The Washington Redskins dumped $154-million by themselves, with the bulk of it going to the bulky defense tackle Albert Haynesworth, formerly of the Tennesse Titans....The New York Jets layed out a bundle for former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott...The New England Patriots provided a safe haven for washed-up running back and former Jacksonville Jaguar Fred Taylor.

To wrankle the left-out Chargers even more....two of their division rivals also struck on Friday....The Denver Broncos went wild, picking up running backs J.J. Arrington and Correll Buckhalter, and were also rumored to be on the verge of grabbing former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins...Denver also grabbed wide receiver Jabar Gaffney away from New England and safety Renaldo Hill from Miami...even the bottom-of-the-barrel Chiefs made an addition, signing former Patriots Super Bowl-winning linebacker Mike Vrabel.

In lesser moves, running back Maurice Morris moved from Seattle to Detroit (good luck with that, Maurice)....quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went from Cincinnati to Buffalo (huh?)...Jacksonville grabbed safety Sean Considine from Philadelphia....Center Jason Brown (heard of him?) is no longer a Raven, but now a Ram....and there a few others.

Surely all of these signings signal the end for the Chargers...With all of this talent moving to new teams while A.J. Smith twiddles his fingers, how in the world are the Bolts expected to compete??

OK...now I've given you your hissy-fit....But now....let's take a look at the reality of the situation.

First question: what do the Redskins, Jets, Patriots, Broncos, Chiefs, Jaguars, Bills, Lions and Rams -- all of whom picked up new players Friday -- have in common??

C'mon gang!.....Easy question....don't have it yet??....Let's put it another way....how many playoff games did those nine team combine to play in last season??

Big....Fat....Zero.

Now, of course, maybe the Haynesworth turns around the fortunes of the 'Skins and they move past the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants to the top of the NFC East....but I say: Fat (Albert) Chance.
Is Jason Campbell still the Redskins QB?? I rest my case.

Bart Scott could transform the Jets, but if Brett Favre couldn't transform the Jets, what makes you think Bart Scott can??

The thing is that most big free agency signing are nothing more than something to talk about during the off-season....something for the newspapers to write about, and something for the football experts to rage on about.

"Haynesworth is the best defensive tackle in football," was heard more than just a few times Friday. "He'll make a big difference in Washington."

Maybe he will....but more likely he won't.

For one thing, football is all about proving yourself on the football field each and every Sunday...to your teammates, to your peers, to your fans, to those who chronicle the game....Most guys fight like they're trying to save their lifes everytime they suit up....But what's the motivation for a guy like Haynesworth, now??

He's got his $100-million dollar deal -- the richest ever for any player in history who's not a quarterback...What more does he have left to prove??....How many big-name Washington signings over the last half-decade have truly earned the gigantic salary deals they've received from the egotistical Daniel Snyder??

Answer: Big...Fat...Zero.

Here's another thing to consider before you toss your Chargers blow-up seat cushion into the garbage for good....Last season, of the 12 teams to make the postseason, how many had added big-name, significant free agent players prior to the season??

Answer: Big...Fat.....well, one (Michael Turner signed by Atlanta).

In most cases the teams who grabbed the big names wound up with slimmer checkbooks and fewer wins. (See: Favre, New York...the big-spending Cowboys....the Redskins, as usual....Julius Jones, Seattle).

The bottom line is that bad teams are the ones who constantly spin their wheels by throwing big dollars at players who very rarely live up to the contracts they sign....Reason #1: they become fat cats when they get the fat paychecks....Reason #2: they're being paid for what they accomplished in the past rather than what they're likely to accomplish in the future...Reason #3: football is a TEAM game, and it's entire units of offense and defense that come together to win championships, not single players.

That said, the Chargers do still have plenty of work to do before they conviene for training camp in July...There are some holes to fill and some areas to shore up.

But, in most cases, these improvements are rarely made with big-name free agent signings (ask the Broncos how cornerback Dre' Bly worked out for them)...(By the way, these improvements are also rarely made on draft day)....

Final message to you hissy-fit throwing Chargers fans:

Shut it!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

HIGH FIDELITY THURSDAY: Take This Job And Shove It

...and yes, we've got both the original and the Dead Kennedys version, which is undoubtedly MUCH MUCH better!!







Strasburg postgame react

It was a healthy crowd on a cold Thursday night but I want to see more than 1,027 in the house at Tony Gwynn Stadium for this type of talent.  Believe me when I tell you, there will be more than 30 Padres games at Petco Park where people will pay a whole lot more than $5-$7 to see pitchers far less entertaining than Stephen Strasburg.  Tonight, Strasburg dominated a Nevada team that had been launching HR's in their first four games, striking out 16 over 6 2/3's IP in a 5-2 win.  

Until fatigue set in during the 7th, Strasburg was on target and leaving the Wolfpack flailing at the wind.  It was his slider that really impressed tonight.  The fastball was 96-99 MPH based on the radar guns I could see in front of our broadcast booth, and a few of them had great movement.  But the slider was 78-83 and he was throwing two kinds.  The first really reminded me of John Smoltz in terms of the 12-to-6 break and the sharp, sudden nature of the drop.  The second was the sweeper I was more used to from last year.  Both were ridiculous and it was only his last one that he hung, hit for a double to center.  

I thought Stephen's command was much better tonight than in the opener against Bethune-Cookman.  It was rare for him to fall behind 2-0.  He only walked one against his 16 K's, and that was with two outs in the 7th.  His motion is so free and easy, it allows him to throw explosive fastballs without the max effort that could lead to obvious arm problems.  I also think it is very interesting to see how Tony Gwynn is protecting Strasburg so far, lifting him after 5 2/3's and 6 2/3's IP and keeping the pitch count around 100.  I like it but obviously it's not old-school college baseball.  

On offense tonight, two things stood out: Brandon Meredith got a confidence-builder and came alive, and Cory Vaughn showed that he can handle the middle of the order now.  Meredith hit a two-run single in the Aztecs' 3-run 3rd inning, but I think he got bailed out a little bit when a wild pitch brought home the game's first run, taking some of the pressure off his plate appearance.  He then hit a multi-hopper through the right side for two runs.  In his next at-bat Brandon ripped a fastball the other way to right for a double which set up two more runs.  You can see his confidence building.  

Vaughn is taking two-strike breaking balls, working the count without fear, and he stayed within himself and hit a two-strike double to right to plate Meredith, right down the line.  If Cory stays with this approach and doesn't start overswinging after he hits his first mammoth HR, he will hit over .300 this year and be an impact offensive player.  

Addison Reed got another save but his crossfire delivery scares me.  He throws way against his body and seems to short-arm the ball.  It's an injury waiting to happen and his control is below average.  I think he's funky and is hard for RH batters to pick up but needs to clean up his mechanics to be a big time prospect.  I like his potential though and for a college closer he's getting the job done.  Also it's encouraging that while he has allowed two baserunners in each of his two save opportunities, he has come back to shut the door in those innings without a run scoring.  

Overall a solid game for SDSU, and a 3-2 record results.  Now Pacific will be at TGS for a doubleheader on Saturday, and then Kansas State on Sunday.  Tyler Lavigne will get a chance on Saturday to back up his two-hit shutout of USD last weekend.  

Decompressing

It's quiet at the house right now and I need this.  I just got back from the most harrowing 1/2 round of frisbee golf I'll ever play.  My brain is frazzled and my will is shot.  How could it get like this, when going to Morley Field is one of my favorite local distractions? 

Well, it started with an afternoon get-together, with me, Ello, and our friend DVD.  We get there and the place is PACKED.  I guess Thursdays are the good days for college kids not to have class scheduled or not to attend.  So we jump on hole 15 instead of waiting for four groups to tee off at hole 1.  Great plan so far.  We finish 15, tee off on 16, and as we're throwing our 2nd shots, I look back and see DVD leaning on the ridge of the hill like he's been shot.  Well, close enough.  Somebody was teeing off on a different throw and his shot nailed poor DVD in the left elbow, leaving a mark and causing swelling, soreness and a lot of pain.  The jerkoff who threw it, according to DVD, "hit me, laughed, and then said fore".  He didn't even have the nad to finish his hole and approach us.  

After a while the pain receded enough for us to continue, and DVD set to thrashing Chris and I as expected.  In between, my dog Pogi, the pug who tends to drift away in search of the best stink to sniff, got away from me while I was throwing a shot.  Instead of grabbing him I'm dumb enough to think he will just come when I call and I called him...Pogi looked at me and started walking right toward the street, and a car which was just starting to roll out of the parking lot.  The car saw him and stopped, I grabbed his leash, and no harm was done.  Yet.

Then on hole 6, my phone starts blowing up over and over.  Mitzi my darling wife wants some answers as to insurance/benefit questions we are having.  She needs me to call somebody and I do.  I leave a message for my old HR and call her back to tell her this, and as I'm trying to wrap up the conversation (standing over my shot in the fairway) here comes another guy's frisbee, right at me.  I turn and the frisbee zips right by and nails Pogi right in the side.  Yelp!  

If you've never played frisbee golf, the discs are HARD.  Not like the frisbee you throw around in the park.  I was worried poor Pogi would break a rib or something but he must have gotten thwacked in the fat, good placement.  The college kid who threw the disc came up and apologized, and Pogi got some nice petting.  Anyway I was frazzled enough that I was done playing frisbee for today.  We went for cheesesteaks at Georgino's in Golden Hill and that settled things into a much more positive place.  Still, I went to have fun tossing the frisbee, and wound up seeing my friend whacked in the arm, my dog whacked in the side, and my dog almost run over.  At least DVD was nice enough to cut short the sure $38 he was going to take from both Chris and I, and converted the skins he had already won into our lunch.  That was good.

Now, I'm getting ready for tonight's Nevada/SDSU baseball game, Stephen Strasburg's 2nd start of the season.  It's Strasburg's first home start of the year, and before you know it he'll be holding out for millions as a #1 draft pick, so catch him on the mound while you can!  If not, check out the broadcast, I'll be on with Jack Cronin on GoAztecs.com, the link can be found right here.

A.J. Smith's press conference today apparently came and went without any new news on the LT saga, just that it is ongoing and AJ would "love to have him back" and "hopes he returns".  Seeing as the only way he wouldn't return would be thanks to the Chargers releasing or trading him, the verbal tapdance by the Chargers' GM is totally meaningless.  Here's Chris Jenkins' writeup of the AJ presser.

Triton Talk, Episode 2

Here is our second edition of Triton Talk, the new online radio show featuring UC San Diego athletics.  I must say, both coaches are very good interviews and the two programs are doing well...the women clinched their conference last weekend while the men are in a dogfight for a top-4 spot and first-round home playoff game...and an interesting interview this week as well with student-athlete swimmer Dan Perdew.  All on Triton Talk...all for free just by clicking here.


HIGH FIDELITY WEDNESDAY: Ben Folds

This week's theme, in case you are just joining us, is SONGS ABOUT GETTING FIRED/LAID OFF/QUITTING.  This song just HAD to make my Top-5, one of Ben Folds' most poignant and saddest songs...and it's about a 25-year newspaper man losing his job..."he's forgotten but not yet gone"...in this version, Folds is performing with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra...enjoy!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chris Ello's opening shot....Thursday, Feb. 26th


PROVO, Utah -- If you thought it was tough to take SDSU's loss to BYU on Tuesday night, imagine what I had to deal with....At least you got to wake up in San Diego the next morning.

I had to wake up here, amongst the celebrating Mormons.....the headlines in the morning newspaper saluting the virtues of Jimmer.....walking around town in my San Diego State gear, looking for a place to hide.

There's no place I'd rather not be.

Provo, Utah....where it's still tough to find a beer or light up a smoke....where a cup of coffee in the morning is a hassle, and a Diet Coke is like pulling teeth.

A place where the woman's place is still the home, like it was in the rest of America in the 40's....A place where blacks still must feel out-of-place....A place where's there's no place at all for gays or lesbians.

A place where the Mormon church rules, and BYU athletes sneak around campus trying to bend the rules....A place where you're free to do as you please, as long as what you do pleases them.

Walking around the downtown area of Provo on Wednesday afternoon, I felt as close as I could ever feel what it must have been like for blacks to walk around Birmingham in the 60's.

Unwanted. Uneasy.

In this day and age -- unreal.

Fortunately, today I will return to San Diego...and I'll be happy to arrive home. And I will bring along with me a rare victory. SDSU's great women's basketball team, led by the incomparable coach Beth Burns, ripped BYU last night, 59-47, and it wasn't even that close. The Cougars needed a 16-2 run in garbage time to just to make it appear closer.

At least somebody from San Diego State can beat BYU. With the victory the Aztec women completed a season sweep for the first time since 1995.

And even though the men's team now seems doomed to another disheartening appearance in the NIT, these ladies look like they're going places....A win over TCU at Cox Arena this coming Saturday would be SDSU's 20th of the season and all but clinch an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

If they get there, the Aztecs would get to play at home the first two rounds, because Cox is a first-round NCAA Tourney site.....As it stands now, the Aztecs are 13-0 at home and have won 15 straight going back to last season.

Of course, they could use a little more attention -- the season's largest home crowd to date has been just under 3,000....I know you're unlikely to simply take my recommendation, but you should show up Saturday at Cox (2 p.m.) to see the TCU game. The Lady Frogs are half-game up on the Aztecs in the Mountain West Conference standings and beat SDSU the first time around by three.

There's a lot riding on Saturday....And you ought to take the opportunity to climb aboard for the ride.

Then see how long it might last come March Madness.

That, by the way, is a madness I can live with....The madness in this backwards town -- well, that's a different story.

Chris Ello's Opening Shot: 2/25


PROVO, Utah -- Yep...here I am....in the place I despise most....The home of the Cougars....the school that always breaks our hearts...

Really....if you're a San Diego State fan....it always comes down to BYU....and even though you hope the story might for once have a different ending....it never does.

Blame Lorrenzo Wade and Kyle Spain and Richie Williams for gagging a 14-point lead in the second half....or blame Steve Fisher for watching his troops surrender a 20-4 run to close out the game's final six minutes....Blame the fact that -- maybe in the end -- it was just the Aztecs being the Aztecs.

The one game they just have to win....is always the one they just can't win. Really, we should be used to it by now.

But how different might things be if it weren't for the school I'll visit later on this evening -- to see if Beth Burns' women's team can't finally conquer the Cougs??

A lot different.

Let's zap our way back nearly 30 years ago to (then) San Diego Stadium to watch a pair of 8-and-2 football teams battle for the (then) WAC Championship....On one side, BYU....on the home side, San Diego State....in the stands, me just finishing out my first semester as a freshman....on TV's across the country, the game being telecast nationally by ABC.

On that day, there was no Aztec-BYU history....no chapters had been yet written....the pages were blank....and so were the stares on the Aztecs' faces after they allowed BYU quarterback Mark Wilson to throw five touchdown passes in the first half en route to a 63-14 demolition.

How might have things been different?? Well....a different outcome that day would have put San Diego State in the first-ever Holiday Bowl....Instead, of course, it was BYU that wound up making that game its annual December home.

A different outcome may have changed the entire course of San Diego State's football history....mostly because of the embarrassment of that 1979 defeat, successful Coach Claude Gilbert was fired a year later.

The Aztecs still, to this day, haven't found a suitable replacement....

In 1981, things might have been different as well. Under first-year Coach Doug Scovill (brought in, ironically, from BYU), SDSU opened the season 4-and-0, the fourth win being a 52-31 thrashing of then 7th-ranked Iowa State.

The following week, of course, BYU came to town....and led by Jim McMahon, the Cougs scored three quick touchdowns to put the game away early and went on to win, 27-7. That was the year that BYU would gain national fame by beating SMU, 46-45, in what people still to this day call one of the greatest football games ever played.

What if San Diego State had played SMU that year?? Because of the Cougars, we'll never know.

Because of BYU, we'll never know how far Marshall Faulk and Darnay Scott could have taken the Aztecs in '92....because it was the Cougars who erased a 45-17 deficit in the third quarter and eventually forced a conference-winning 52-52 tie.

It's always BYU. Just as was -- once again -- last night.

Years from now, folks hereabouts will wonder how a team with Wade and Spain and Williams all in their senior seasons.....a team with Coach Fisher.....a team with a roster full of young talent.....Shelton and White and Gay and Amoroso and Cheriet....could have come up short in their bid to reach the NCAA Tournament....

They'll look for reasons and excuses....and for explanations why.

But the answer will be the same as it always has been....it just came down to BYU...

Cox Collapse

Not an
Impressive
Turnout last night at Cox Arena, was it?  Less than 10K.

Nasty
Interruption of the Aztecs' offense
Turns the game from good to bad in the last 15 minutes.

Nowhere to go now, 
It's over for SDSU's NCAA dreams unless they win the MWC
Tournament.

Last night's pratfall, collapse, giveaway, choke job, whatever you want to call it, SDSU's 69-59 loss to BYU is a damning statement against the Aztecs and their chances to fulfill their senior dreams and make the Big Dance.  With four seniors on their home floor, the Aztecs built a 14-point lead over the Cougars, had them completely shut down, and then got blasted out of their own gym 38-14 over the last 15 minutes.  Dave Rose's good-but-not-great BYU team leaves the mini-elimination game with a road victory, just the 4th such win against a top-6 Mountain West Conference team all season.  

How did it happen?  Well, it was simple, really.  When the Cougars tried to run with SDSU, they were in trouble.  But when they packed into their 2-3 zone, which they did throughout the second half, the Aztecs' old, persistent problems were exposed.

No reliable outside shooters.  

No classic post scorer.

Poor decision making and ballhandling.

Offensive set after offensive set saw SDSU get bogged down in the corner, trapped on the wing, forced to hoist up a bad shot, the ball in the hands of a player outside his scoring zone with the clock winding down, like Ammo outside the arc or Wade in traffic.  Nine second half turnovers followed, as the Aztecs started pressing and their decision-making worsened.  A senior-laden team, yes, but these old dogs are still up to their old tricks.  

Revisiting yesterday's keys to the game: 

1) SDSU was excellent defending Lee Cummard, who was 3-12 shooting and stuck on 9 points and 5 rebounds, just one offensive rebound, which is why they should have won the game. 
2) the defense was just OK on defending the secondary break, and while BYU was 7-20 from 3-point range, they also missed some open looks.  
3) DJ Gay and Amoroso combined for an All-Ammo total of 10 points, while Fredette's 28 points, 20 in the 2nd half, won the game for BYU (Miles added 2 for a total of 30).  Gay adds another awful 0-5, zero point performance to a string of futility, while Fredette tears the Aztecs apart from outside and driving to the hoop.  
4) Who stepped up?  The question is as much, who stepped down?  Shelton jumped into the fray for 13 points, but Richie sputtered to a 2-point, foul-out performance and the bench was 1-7, 2 points for the game.  

Where does this leave the Aztecs of 2009?  Well, unless this group of seniors can deliver three straight days of sound performance, unless they can win back-to-back games where they aren't the favorite in Las Vegas, unless they can beat UNLV on their home court AGAIN with everything on the line...well, go back to the top of the column again and take a second look.  You'll know where it leaves the Aztecs.  It's

Not all that pretty and
It's not the
Tournament this team wanted to play in this season.

HIGH FIDELITY TUESDAY: Modest Mouse

OK, fell asleep before posting this last night, my bad...too disappointed over the SDSU baseball/basketball double loss to think about my musical pick...but here we go with a song that is very cathartic to sing on Rockband II..."we both got fired on exactly the same day"...maybe Ello and I should sing it together LOL!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BYU/SDSU Keys To The Game

It goes without saying that if SDSU harbors any dream, ANY dream at all, of making the field of 65 without running the table in Vegas, then tonight's game is a must win.  Absolute must, no doubt about it, lose this game and it's either win the MWC tournament or NIT here we come.  So how do you win the game?

1) Make Cummard earn his points.  He will sometimes get hot from the outside, and he has a midrange game as well.  But Lee Cummard's just OK at those things.  When his game turns from good to all-MWC is when he's weakside rebounding, scoring on tip-ins and second-chance points. The Aztecs need to identify Cummard every time the ball's in the air and box him out.  Ammo, Mehdi, this means you. Cummard is also a very good help defender, so Wade or Spain needs to go right at him when they are matched up in single coverage man-to-man in hope of having him pick up fouls.  

2) Guard the secondary break.  BYU is one of those teams that runs to shoot a three, to hit the trailer in the corner (Jimmer Fredette or Jonathan Tavarnari), or to hit the high post and then have that post man kick out to the wing player who is running behind the play, the secondary fastbreak.  It's a communication and court awareness issue, and SDSU can be vulnerable.  

3) Gay and Amoroso vs. Fredette and Chris Miles.  In home games, the difference is often the role players stepping up and hitting their shots, the same shots they'll miss on the road.  DJ Gay has been missing home AND road for a while, but he needs to get double digits tonight.  And Amoroso is particularly important on defense and the glass, and can't get two quick fouls out on pick and roll defense or outside the paint.  Fredette is very dangerous from outside and Miles runs hot and cold, they are the secondary players who need to be knocked off their game by the Cox Crazies.  I'll check this +/- with these four players after the game.  

4) Who steps up?  Billy White being out of the game is very important, especially on defense.  Someone needs to fill that void if the Aztecs are going to beat BYU tonight.  Is it Ammo?  Is it Mehdi?  Will Wade have a superstar game to fill the void?  

I have good thoughts about this game, even without White, and hope that the crowd will help carry SDSU to a 73-68 victory.  Go Aztecs!

HELLO ELLO!

[Editor's Note: 619 Sports is thrilled to add the talents of Chris Ello to our emerging webspace.  If you know me, you definitely know Chris, another relentlessly local broadcaster who dates back to the original XTRA Sports 690.  Chris begins contributing to our space right now with the column below.  And here's the goofiest pic of him I could find on the Internets!]


Trust is a major issue in any relationship (just ask my wife). Lack of trust is why I have problems believing that the San Diego State men’s basketball team is really going to make it to the NCAA Tournament this season.

 

When you look at the Aztecs, you honestly can’t see where they could go wrong. They have a coach in Steve Fisher with an NCAA Championship pedigree. They have -- in Lorrenzo Wade -- the Mountain West Conference’s most complete player. And they have -- in Richie Williams, Kyle Spain, Ryan Amoroso, Tim Shelton, Billy White, D.J. Gay and Mehdi Cheriet -- the deepest collection of talent perhaps anywhere on the West Coast.

 

Wade, Spain and Williams are three of the greatest players ever to wear the Red and Black -- and all three are in their senior seasons. They’ve been through all the wars. Everything they’ve worked for and planned for has set them up for this moment.

 

Teetering on the bubble. Four games left. Three of the four at Cox Arena, where they’ve lost only once all season. The only road game a trip to T.C.U., to face a team they beat the first time around by 17 and which has lost seven of its last eight games.

 

Win four games -- and regardless of what else happens -- they’ll finish 22-7 and they’ll be in the Big Dance. It’s all right there for them. They’ve got to do it. They just have to. They will.

 

Or will they?

 

Well…here’s where I start to run into those trust issues. And who could possibly blame me?

 

We all know that when the Aztecs play at their best, there’s no team in the Mountain West who can take them down. But we also know that the Aztecs don’t always play at their best. And that, my friends, is where we run into problems.

 

Earlier this season, during non-conference play, SDSU had three solid opportunities to post one -- just one -- resume-building victory. But on each occasion, they failed -- losing to Arizona State, Arizona and St. Mary’s.

 

As a result, the Aztecs entered conference play with little or no margin for error. Nevertheless, errors have been made. A loss at Wyoming, which currently sits in the bottom half of the conference standings…a rather kick-back effort and loss at B.Y.U….A first-place showdown at Utah dissolving into a mess of a second half…and then a mess of an entire game last weekend at New Mexico.

 

Every time SDSU has glimpsed the promised land, they have cowered in its presence. And now opportunity knocks one last time. If Wade, Spain and Williams don’t answer this time, the door will shut forever.

 

It won’t be easy. Included in the three home games are visits from both B.Y.U. and U.N.L.V. -- who along with the Aztecs were the preseason conference favorites. Neither the Cougars nor the Runnin’ Rebs can afford to lose either. So which team in going to stand up?

There’s also the sticky matter of having to deal with Utah, which is surprisingly at the top of the league standings, currently at 10-2. SDSU, BYU and New Mexico are 8-4. UNLV is 8-5. The good news is that the Utes still have to play BYU, New Mexico and UNLV. The bad news is that if they hang on to first place, they’d all but be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA’s.

 

With only three bids likely this season, BYU -- which has one quality non-conference win at Utah State -- and UNLV -- which has two, versus Arizona and at Louisville -- would probably fall in line ahead of the Aztecs. If the conference nets four NCAA teams, it might come down to State and New Mexico, and we know who just beat who by 26 points last Saturday afternoon.

 

The Aztecs could somehow win all four of their remaining games, and still have to win the MWC Tournament as well.

 

And though they are certainly more than capable of doing all of that….I -- well -- I still have those trust issues.

Monday, February 23, 2009

HIGH FIDELITY MONDAY: NEW THEME!

Each week a new theme, every day a new (or two new) songs, and at the end of the week we have a High Fidelity Top-5 list.  This week's theme: SONGS ABOUT GETTING FIRED/LAID OFF/QUITTING YOUR JOB!!

What?  Too close to home?  

I will kick things off with a great track from Beck's first album Mellow Gold.  Please submit your suggestions in comments, we'll run polls as the week continues, and so on, and so forth...


Three Days On The Road

Three games, three totally different experiences, three reports.

Friday: The MLB Urban Youth Academy is on Artesia Blvd, just west of where the 710 meets the 91.  The imagery was unmistakeable as I drove around the facility, an adjunct to Compton Community College.  A black wrought iron fence surrounded the place, then an undeveloped empty space, and then the outer fence of the baseball complex.  In there, the excitement and promise of Major League Baseball.  Out here, the reality of life in a lower-class urban neighborhood.  The question is how to get inside that fence and across the gap, something that has to cross the minds of the kids riding their bikes down Artesia this afternoon.  

I have a press pass, and that's how I cross the gap.  The field is new, clean, and small.  On this day, the season opener and the first game of the MLB Urban Invitational, the Aztecs are throwing the #1 pitcher in the country, Stephen Strasburg, and there are more scouts than fans.  It's a Friday at 2pm, so anybody lucky enough to be at work can't be here.  But the seats in front of our press box are jammed with every scout imaginable, along with GM's like Kenny Williams of the White Sox, and the Pads' top player evaluation brass, Grady Fuson and Chief Gayton.  

Strasburg hits 97 and 98 on the multiple radar guns with easy, struggles to command his slider, and winds up over the 100 pitch mark in the 6th inning.  He "only" strikes out 11 in 5 2/3's, and surprisingly walks a pair.  But watching his poise, confidence, and mound manner, it's clear to see how Stephen has grown from his Olympic experience.  He's played on a bigger stage now, and coming back to college baseball Strasburg really does look like the Big Man On Campus.  
The Aztecs' offense shows signs of encouragement against a very good pitcher as well.  TJ Thomas homers as part of a four-run 2nd inning against conference pitcher of the year Hiram Burgos.  Cory Vaughn runs wild, reaching base three times and then stealing three bases.  And newcomers Mitch Blackburn and Easton Gust, a pair of seemingly cloned switch-hitting 5'9" infielders, combine for four hits, two RBI, a run and two steals.  SDSU beats Bethune-Cookman, an NCAA regional team last year, by a 6-3 count.  Addison Reed closes out, featuring another fastball in the '90s.  His crossfire delivery could cause problems later but is deceptive enough to help out his limited command of a breaking ball.  

Saturday: the feel and atmosphere is completely different for the second day of the MLB Urban Invitational.  The two southern schools bring their bands for this doubleheader, which is also being televised nationally on the new MLB Network.  The stands are full, and the concrete concourse behind the field is flowing with fans and famous faces.  Kenny Lofton walks by, Tony Gwynn is leaning on the rail, and Frank Robinson is ushered through the crowd to make an appearance on the TV broadcast.  The bands are pumping out tunes between innings and perform their routines on the field between games.  Much more of a Southern University atmosphere than San Diego State, and the Jaguars feed off the energy in a 4-2 win over the Aztecs.  

More importantly, though, Southern rides the right arm of Jarrett Maloy.  He doesn't have the fastball of Strasburg or even Burgos, but Maloy works fast and commands both sides of the plate, and adds a breaking ball which he can get over for strikes.  The predominantly right-handed SDSU lineup is handcuffed by Maloy for 5 hits and 2 runs over 7 innings.  The Jaguars then turn to a true freshman, Daniel Garcia, who has a very good fastball and strikes out a pair on route to the save.  The Aztecs strand 9 in the game but for the most part sputter on offense.  Jon Berger starts and takes the loss for State.  His changeup was baffling the first time through the order, but the lack of a quality fastball catches up to him in the 3rd trip through the order. Kegan Sharp relieves and lives up to his name with 1 1/3 strong innings.   

The two-game set in Compton ends with a mixed bag of reactions.  Excitement for the facility, what it can do for the region, and how MLB is putting some of its great wealth to use for a community that needs new things and the promise of a reward for hard work.    Anticipation for what should be a thrilling season watching Stephen Strasburg pitch his way to the top of the draft charts.  It's rare to be able to track such a great future baseball star in this town, and I would suggest that people take advantage of the opportunity and come out to Tony Gwynn Stadium this year.  But, a little bit of concern for an offense that was shackled by a tough right-hander.  

Sunday: back in San Diego for the final game of the tournament.  Cunningham Stadium at USD is the site for the first of five matchups between the Aztecs and Toreros.  They will play a four-game series in the first weekend of March, but this is the opening act.  There are a lot of unknowns at the start of a college baseball season, and two of them are on the mound today.  Tyler Lavigne is starting for SDSU, a JUCO transfer who was an All-American with a 1.13 ERA as a sophomore last season.  Tony Gwynn raved about his sinkerball pregame.  Chris Jensen, a 6'4" freshman, is making his first USD career start.  He was one of the top prep pitchers in Arizona last year.  

From the first inning, it is clear that Lavigne's sinker is for real.  The left side of the SDSU infield is bombarded by high choppers off the plate.  And this is a good thing.  Ryan O'Sullivan, the true freshman from Valhalla, is already showing the range and arm which could mark him as a great shortstop.  He makes a play deep in the hole to deny a hit, and is helped by a great scoop at first from his fellow freshman Brandon Meredith.  Easton Gust at third base is a shortstop transferred from JC and demonstrates a strong arm.

In the 4th, Kevin Muno's Baltimore chop off the plate goes for an infield hit as Gust dives in front of O'Sullivan to disrupt the play.  The next batter, Nick McCoy, slashes a hit-and-run grounder up the middle but Ryan is covering.  He dives, grabs, touches the bag, and then gets up and throws to first in time for the double play.  Amazingly, until the 7th only one USD batter even gets the ball in the air.  

Chris Jensen showed promise for USD, with a sweeping breaking ball, a good 2-seamer, and plus movement.  But he was erratic and-as you would expect from a freshman-prone to wild performance swings.  Jensen was in a jam in each of his 4 innings, pulled with two outs in the 4th.  In the 2nd, the Aztecs were the victim of one of the more bizarre calls I've ever seen.  With two outs and runners at 1st and 3rd, leadoff man Pat Colwell was plunked by an errant curveball which hit him clean on the meat of the arm.  It was one of 7 hit batsmen on the day for SDSU...but only 6 were given their base.  In this case, home plate umpire Mike Allen decided that Colwell didn't make an effort to get out of the way, and made him stay at home plate.  It was a curveball.  Where was Colwell supposed to go?  Disappear?  The exact same thing happened at least four more times afterward in the game, and every time the batter got to take first base.  Simply bizarre.  

Lavigne looked like he was tiring in the 7th, but then settled in to get the last five USD batters on ground balls.  O'Sullivan finished with three putouts and eight assists, and just like that the Aztecs were 3-0 winners over the #11 team in the country, on USD's home field.  An exciting finish to a weekend of promise for SDSU, which opens a long homestand starting tomorrow against Cal State Fullerton.  Of course, the SDSU hoopsters will be hosting BYU at the same time, so it will be a tough draw to Tony Gwynn Stadium, but over the course of the week hopefully you can come check out the team.  Strasburg pitches next on Thursday.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

HIGH FIDELITY FRIDAY: TEARS FOR FEARS

This rounds out my first Top-5 list on the website.  I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad...the list for '80s SYNTH BANDS:

1. New Order-Bizarre Love Triangle
2. Howard Jones-New Song
3. Depeche Mode-Just Can't Get Enough
4. Devo-Whip It
5. Tears For Fears-Mad World

And our reader suggestion list winds up looking like...

1. Yazoo-Don't Go
2. Pet Shop Boys-West End Girls
3. Soft Cell-Tainted Love
4. Blancmange-Living On The Ceiling
5. Wang Chung-Dance Hall Days

Think you can do better?  Of COURSE you can!  Just submit in the comments, and enjoy Tears For Fears tonight!  Next Monday, a new theme begins!


Road Trip Friday

LONG BEACH, CA--619 Sports is on the road for two SDSU baseball games at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton.  This morning, from my parents' couch in Long Beach, time to catch up on some of the news of the past two days before resuming my consumption of the Aztecs' baseball media guide...

  • So far, so good for the Chargers' offseason.  Aside from the moronic radio ramblings of a couple of callers-turned-hosts, people seem to understand what's happening with the team's franchise-tagging of Darren Sproles.  It was an unpleasant necessity in order to preserve the Chargers' championship dreams for next season.  Sproles was too valuable to let walk.  He's one of the top-5 players on the team in terms of overall impact.  If the Chargers can work out a long-term deal that nets out less per year than the franchise tag, then so be it.  If not, at least for one more season the Bolts will return with their key playmakers in place.  And that's important because...
  • I've said this many times before but not in this blog yet, so here it is: as currently configured, the window of opportunity for the Chargers to win a Super Bowl is one year.  As in, next year.  Sure, with Philip Rivers around you'd like to think that the team will be competitive for years to come.  And surely it will.  But I'm talking about THIS team as is, the team with Rivers AND LT AND Merriman AND Sproles AND McNeill, etc.  There's no chance A.J. Smith can put this back together again once it falls off the wall.  So anything that needs to be done to compete inside that championship window, including franchise-tagging a jitterbug return man/utility player, is fine by me.
  • Of course, this also means that LT needs to return.  I'm getting a little nervous about the talk of renegotiating with Tomlinson, adding incentives, asking for LT to accept a pay cut, etc.  This is a very delicate dance, one that I would be concerned about the most diplomatic front office being able to execute.  Given the Chargers' missteps already in this arena, any further stubbing of LT's toes could create an untenable situation.  I'm not looking forward to the press conference where Smith throws up his hands and says "we tried our best but now we have to move on"...
  • Chuck Long has a 3rd floor office at an SDSU campus office building, where Jeff Schemmel is giving him "projects" to work on for the betterment of the athletic department?  Seeing as Chuck Long's previous "project" didn't turn out so well for State, maybe instead of asking old Chuckles to develop one-sheets on improving attendance (charge $$ to watch the team from Sunday through Friday was apparently his first suggestion, "that way Aztecs fans could see the football team at their best!") they should just hand him a really thick Sudoku book and tell him to report back when it's all done.  Or better yet, have him turn some of that 700K salary into an online poker bankroll, and stake me in a series of tournaments.  I'll promise to give SDSU 50% of my winnings.  This is guaranteed to be more profitable and a better use of money than what they are doing now...
  • I think if SDSU is forced to keep paying Long, at least they could make a good old-fashioned mockery of him...some suggestions: instead of a 3rd floor non-descript office, how about a plexiglass office located right in the middle of the quad?  Students could pay $1 for rotten fruit and vegetables to throw at the walls of the office, attempting to interrupt Long's Sudoku rythym.  Another guaranteed revenue builder!  Or, two words: CHUCKY MONTEZUMA!  Give him a conch shell, a headdress and a dream.  Further suggestions for Long's alternative employment at SDSU will be accepted in the comments section...
  • I was talking with Mike May, the head of Media Relations at SDSU yesterday.  We both agreed that the men's basketball team needs at least a #2 regular season finish in the MWC to secure an at-large berth in the NCAA's.  But Mike brought up an interesting but troubling scenario:  SDSU, New Mexico and Utah all finish 12-4 in the MWC, and the Aztecs earn the #1 seed in the conference tournament.  Vegas winds up as a 4/5 seed and winds up facing #1 in the semis.  UNLV beats SDSU, and New Mexico upsets Utah in the semis.  Vegas beats UNM in the finals to clinch the auto berth.  Utah gets an at-large thanks to their gaudy RPI.  And with a conference tournament finals run, the conference regular season co-champion Lobos earn the eye of the committee.  So, the MWC gets THREE teams in the tourney, and the conference's #1 tournament seed is left out.  Mike, stop dreaming up nightmare scenarios!  
  • I guess it goes without saying that tomorrow's game at New Mexico is a huge swing game on the schedule.  IF the Aztecs pulled out the win, they would be in great shape to run the table the rest of the way and grab the regular season conference title outright.  A loss and they aren't doomed by any means, but probably HAVE to run the table to have any shot outside of the conference tournament.  No pressure, boys...SDSU will need to get much, much better shooting from outside than they have been able to muster in recent games.  
  • It's not unique or revelatory to note that the "Bleacher Bums" show on XX is the worst talk show in the history of sports radio.  Anybody who's ever listened to the show with an IQ above 75 or a blood-alcohol level below .23 has learned this in short order.  But at least The Great Mistake was hoped to provide something at least remotely interesting while it was on the air...you know, "radio by the fans for the fans", etc.  Keeping It Real, Yo?  I've been driving in the afternoons the last few days, and punished myself multiple times by at least punching in for a minute.  Some of the Amazingly Unique Topics included "what was the moment when you fell in love with sports?" and "what was the game that broke your heart?"  What, the Pete Rose topic wasn't available?  Basically these ass clowns are cycling through each of the old saws that veteran hosts hope to never use, and turning them into daily staples.  But the clincher for me was yesterday, in the 1 minute drive to the gym, hearing Jordan turn into Pom-Pom Waving Padre Schill Jordan, talking up the "inspiring" nature of David Eckstein and managing to summon a supportive sentence for every aspect of the Hometown 9.  Dude.  Sad.  Dude.  
  • Let me just put it this way: I've worked in radio, one way or another, since I came to college in 1990.  Thanks to that, I have listened to AM radio, in all forms and fashions, almost non-stop ever since.  Now, I listen to FM music almost all the time.  And chasing me from AM is like chasing a hungry dog from a bowl full of kibble.  
OK, I'm gonna walk the pug and then gear up for the short drive to Compton and the start of the baseball season.  Don't forget to listen in to goaztecs.com for my live PBP, the action starts at 2pm!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tritons Talk on UCSDTritons.com

The first edition is up and available to listen to...our first-ever 619 Sports Production!  Take a listen by clicking here...


HIGH FIDELITY THURSDAY: DEVO

Sorry, I've got a big post brewing...chock full of Sproles, LT, SDSU baseball and basketball, and more...it's just been a wild day and I've been busy with this, that and the other thing.  Later tonight I'm heading up to Long Beach, and tomorrow and Saturday I'll be calling the first two games of the Aztecs season on www.goaztecs.com, against Bethune-Cookman and Southern.  2pm Friday, 6pm Saturday if you want to tune in.  The games are being played at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton.  

So for now, here's my pick for today's High Fidelity, going with a pure classic...I will post a reader pick tonight once I get to LB, and then return at full industrial strength tomorrow morning!!

ALSO: feel free to start dropping in suggestions for next week's theme, in addition to your favorite picks for this week...what should next week's musical theme be?  You decide, or I will!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

HIGH FIDELITY LATE NIGHT WED: Soft Cell

Another tie, technically...I break this one by omitting my vote and going with the will of the people...and the people want Marc Almond!  


The Day After Rain

It's always the most beautiful day in San Diego.  The sky is cloudless with a cold breeze, but even more blue than usual.  Most of the puddles have receded.  The walk around the park today was particularly nice.  Pogi seemed to enjoy it too.  

I'm going to wait to gather my thoughts on the Padres trickling into camp as opposed to just reacting to what's in the paper each day.  Certainly, Brian Giles isn't going to make a lot of friends with his non-renouncement of spousal abuse and violence in a relationship.  Peavy seems like a free spirit who's ready for whatever wave carries him out of here, and David Eckstein is, well...plucky.  If the Padres fail to execute a "David Eckstein Dirty T-Shirt Night" this year then Charles Steinberg will roll over in his bed.  But that's it for now on the Pads, there's plenty of spring and summer for their tales.  I am planning and plotting a trip to Arizona for next month, stay tuned...

OH WAIT!  One more thing!  I was laughing pretty hard yesterday listening to Darren Smith (who I like, don't get me wrong) talk about Greg Maddux the coach and how you get the whole package, pitching and hitting and fielding, and on and on and on...he spent a whole segment just about how great an addition this was for the Padres.

First things first: He's gonna be there for a week.  Then, gone for a few weeks, then back for another week or so.  Let's not spend 10 minutes inflating the virtue of the spring training coach that's gonna hang around for a couple of weeks, OK?  Here's the quote from the bottom of the Kras article:

Black said Maddux probably will leave the club after next week, then rejoin the team later in spring camp. He said Maddux likely will ask questions of Black and Padres coaches during games and also will spend time with General Manager Kevin Towers.

“He's going to be part of our spring training staff,” Black said. “The role is probably undefined.”

Second things second: Wasn't he on the team last year?  Just trying to remember...yeah he was!  So all that amazing lore and knowledge, all that Professorial Wisdom, that translated into exactly what last year?  Was he not imparting as much wisdom as a typical Maddux season?  Was there something off his wisdom fastball just like there was off his real fastball?  Or were the Padres just that bad, so that Maddux's wisdom and lore and brilliance averted an even greater disaster, like (GASP!) 102 losses? 

I think this is a brilliant swindle on Maddux's part.  Hang out in the Valley for a couple of weeks in February and March.  In the morning, do a little Pitchers Fielding Practice and hit some fungos, maybe say this and that to pitchers X, Y, and Z.  Then, it's off to the links with Peavy and CY.  Meanwhile everyone writes and sings songs about his brilliance and impossible-to-measure-so-it's-got-to-be-great impact, and he gets a paycheck without throwing a pitch.  Where do I sign up?  

An announcement like that isn't a positive worthy of a puff piece column and a segment of talk radio!  It's a sign of the hopelessness of the situation: instead of talking about the talented pitcher that's here to replace Maddux this year, we've got Cha Seung Beck and Maddux getting a check to hang out for a couple of weeks and shag flies.  But this is why Brian Giles figures he can skate through abuse allegations while playing right field this year: in this town you can spin it any way you want and be guaranteed to have it eaten up without question.  

Tonight, I'm going back to my tainted gym and then off to the PCC for another night of slinging cards and chips.  I will be testing my latest theory at the gym again tonight, maybe I'll tell you about it later...Elsten's Theory of Relative Position To The Naked Guy.  Is that a tease, or what?




HIGH FIDELITY WEDNESDAY: Uh, er...

My pick today is an attempt to be reflective of the genre.  Honestly, when I was in junior high and high school, I mostly hated synth bands.  It's like Ben said in a comment, you never really want to admit you like it, then you sing along if nobody's there in the car.  Certain bands I hated the most.  All the lead singers were falsetto wimps in black tights and pasty faces, mostly gay, or the weird Morrisey-style I'm celibate-but maybe just tonight with you, darling...

The band I hated the most was Depress Mood.  So today's pick is one of their big hits, with the video that just makes the point for me.


The more you watch it, the more hilarious it becomes.  I mean, what are they?  Are they straight?  Women are draped all over them.  Certainly, they're dressed for a night at the Brass Rail.  So are they gay?  And why was this was appealing to so many girls in my high school???  

I don't honestly think I'll ever understand.  But, over time, I find the music is still poppy and fun. 

YOUR POLL IS UP for today, with four of your suggestions from the comments section.  Keep 'em coming and please vote for your choice to be posted tonight!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

HIGH FIDELITY LATE NIGHT: Pet Shop Boys

Yes, a three-way tie.  Woot.  With no recount available, the Pet Shop Boys somehow emerge on top as tonight's selection, after careful review.  Enjoy a trip to a dead-end town in a dead-end world:


A Modest Proposal

There is a lot of hue and cry over the latest steroid revelations, what it means for the game, and what should be done with MLB's record books.  Roy Oswalt wants the numbers wiped out of the book.  David Ortiz wants year-long suspensions for those who are caught.  Chris Young is talking about how steroid cheats are taking money out of his and other clean players' pockets.  The culture of the players appears to be changing.  The years of complicity between the union, the owners and the users is being convieniently ignored or swept under the rug.  Now, like the NFL, Major League Baseball is doing its best to create the appearance of a clean league...and as we all know, the appearance is what counts. 

What remains unanswered is how to address the Steroid Era in general, and in particular as it pertains to the Hall Of Fame eligibility for the game's greatest cheating players.  It's pretty clear at this point what their fates will be...Mark McGwire is the canary in the coal mine.  If he's nowhere close to getting in, you have to assume that Clemens and Bonds are also out, and that means ARod too.  

Really?  The top two homerun hitters in baseball history (when ARod completes his climb up the mountain) are going to be excommunicated from the game's greatest shrine?  That would be a blacker mark for the game than just about anything else imaginable.  And isn't it totally unfair and arbitrary to put a circle with a line through it over the pictures of those who were caught, while letting others who got away with it sail in scot free?  The whole Era was tainted, and no matter how many names emerge from the Steroids Hunt, I guarantee you that well over half of the guilty will never be revealed.  

So, my proposal: a Steroid Era Wing in Cooperstown.  You walk in, and they're all there, all the sluggers of suspicious build, Jose Canseco waving at you from the front door with a needle in his hand.  One wall has the Sudden Jumpers: Brady Anderson as the poster boy, with a list of players who amazingly rose from Punch and Judy status to 50-HR seasons.  Another has the BALCO timeline.  Over here, we can see the It Wasn't Just Hitters display, with Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne and friends all puffing fastballs past hitters.  And right in the middle, the plaques for Bonds and ARod.  

They should ALL be in, all the cheats whose numbers skewed an entire era of baseball.  Let them live in permanent glory and infamy together.  Instead of trying to pretend like the Steroid Era didn't happen, like it was a few cheats ruining a game that was clean, let's all be honest about what happened, when it happened, and what came out of it.  Only by understanding the Steroid Era can baseball possibly escape it, and by creating a seperate wing at the Hall Of Fame, that understanding can be enshrined in history.  

HIGH FIDELITY TUESDAY: MY PICK, YOUR POLL

I've got a lot of different things going on today and now it's raining too.  I'll likely have a sports post later, for now here's my Tuesday pick.  Also, I have posted a poll with some of your suggestions from yesterday and today, vote for tonight's listener pick.  You can also add more choices, your own Top-5 list, etc in the comments thread.  

My pick is going straight back to Junior High School at Hill.  For some reason this was always my favorite Howard Jones song, even though he had bigger hits.  This is a pretty cool live performance...check out his setup...uh, yeah I guess that qualifies as a Synth Band!!


Monday, February 16, 2009

HIGH FIDELITY TOP 5: LISTENER PICK

I like all the picks in comments but today's night pick goes to my brother Joel, this song just has to be on a list:

Yazoo: Don't Go


Strange

OK, so I told you I would watch some or all of the NBA All-Star game.  I was going to watch the whole thing but my DVR only recorded 2 1/2 hours, oh well.  The game apparently got out of hand late and I saw the best parts.  One thing seemed clear to me: the players on both sides were playing harder than usual for an ASG, and the Olympic experience has done great, great things for the NBA.  All these great players spent months together training and practicing, and the intensity of their practices came through on the court last night, as nobody wanted to be seen slacking.  The West had 13 steals for crying out loud!  And to see Shaq and Kobe teaming up on plays, well, it brought back some great memories of the start of this decade.

Speaking of Shaq...did you catch this?  When I watched the player intros, all of a sudden out of nowhere here's the Big Dance Trouper wearing a mask and dancing with the Jabberwockies.  I, of course, had never watched America's Best Dance Crew so I had no idea what was going on.  To me it was some bizarre NBA redux of Eyes Wide Shut.  I kept waiting for Nicole Kidman to pop out naked wearing a Mardi Gras mask.  Very strange but in retrospect, I like it...Shaq is certainly willing to put himself out there and entertain.  Imagine John Stockton doing this before an ASG!!  The video:


HIGH FIDELITY TOP 5: MONDAY

This week's theme: '80s SYNTH BANDS

The idea: have you ever watched the movie High Fidelity?  John Cusack's character is obsessed with Top-5 lists, both musical and personal.  On my XTRA show, we took the heart of his obsession and turned it into a daily musical bit, picking a theme each week and revealing each day a new song, thus creating a Top-5 list by Friday.  We now resume where we left off when we were so RUDELY interrupted by getting laid off...

My Pick today: New Order--"Bizarre Love Triangle"

To me, New Order is a primary example of the genre, and several of their songs could easily crack this Top 5.  I will go with probably my favorite of their songs...

YOUR TURN: submit in the comments section your picks!  Later today I will choose a reader selection and post it on the site!!




Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Other Other Team In Town

My first sports radio job of any sort was one I created myself, calling UCSD basketball games on student radio station KSDT.  For five years I followed the Tritons through their highs and lows, including a pair of D-III tourney appearances, before eventually (my parents would say, FINALLY) graduating and moving on to other things.  In the 13 years that followed I saw UCSD play SDSU twice at Cox Arena, but had never ventured back to the old stomping grounds in La Jolla.  That streak came to an end this weekend, as the Prodigal Triton came home to check out his old school and their new hopes of increasing their athletic profile in San Diego.  I even brought the wife's digital camera along to document the moment.  

The first thing you will see when you visit UCSD--regardless of what part of campus you visit--is construction.  Mushrooms grow slower than this place.  I was confused when I turned into a parking lot I once knew very well, only to find 5-7 new buildings surrounding it.  Cranes, temporary fencing and scaffolding are as familiar parts of the UC San Diego landscape as the Sun God.  


After negotiating the maze of new buildings, I made my way to RIMAC, the beautiful athletic center located in the western part of campus.  For students, this is 24 Hour Fitness on steroids, with immense workout areas, hardcourts and more.  For visitors, RIMAC's arena reminds you of the Jenny Craig Pavilion in terms of its layout and cozy feel.  The Tritons were D-III when I was on campus but have since moved to Division II, with some scholarships to offer, a stepping stone on the path to D-I status.  They play in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, or PCAA, battling CSU's up and down the coast.  On Saturday, PCAA front-running Cal State University San Bernadino came to town, looking to hold down the cold shooting hosts.   

The Tritons are coached by Chris Carlson, a Helix grad who came to UCSD via Ben Howland's coaching staff at UCLA.  The influence is unmistakable.  UC San Diego's team is nowhere near as physically gifted as their average opponent, but they are disciplined and methodical, and use solid half court offensive sets to generate their offense.  CSUSB was faster, quicker, stronger and bigger, but UCSD was outhustling them and grabbing the loose balls, building a 4-point lead at halftime in large part thanks to an 11-rebound advantage.  


In the second half CSUSB made a predictable run and it looked like the game might get away from UCSD.  Enter Kelvin Kim, the 5'10" senior point guard who was cold from the field but clutch from the line.  He hit two critical free throws to tie the game, and after a Shane Poppen tip-in gave UCSD the lead, Kim hit the clinching three-pointer from the top of the key, after weaving through a series of backscreens.  Kim finished just 4 of 13 from the field but had 15 points as the Tritions beat CSUSD 69-63.  

The crowd was small but hardy, and I was told by several members of the Athletic Department that next Friday's Spirit Night is likely to set a RIMAC attendance record.  I looked forward to at least a two-line writeup this morning in the paper but got nothing except a box score, and a brief mention of the women's team suffering their first conference loss of the year (the women's team came into last night 15-0 in the CCAA).  

UCSD would like more people to know about their teams and programs, and I would like to help.  Here at 619 Sports we are going to start producing a weekly show highlighting UCSD sports, the student athletes, and what's happening at the most under-reported campus in San Diego.  It's the least I can do for the alma mater!  The show will run on ucsdtritons.com for the meantime, but we are hoping to move it onto terrestrial radio at some point in the summer or fall.    In the meantime I am looking forward to spending more time on my old campus and helping to bring you some of the stories from La Jolla!

  • Also last night...watched the Wyoming/SDSU game when I got home.  The Cowboys are not the equal of SDSU and the final outcome was rarely in doubt.  However, I was less than impressed with the Aztecs' performance last night.  Outside of Billy White's spring-loaded brilliance underneath, with a 12 for 12 shooting night that was comprised entirely of dunks and layups, the Aztecs' offense was spotty at best.  Kyle Spain and Lorrenzo Wade were forcing their shots more often than not, and the outside shooting was abysmal, led by DJ Gay's 0-7 effort.  On the plus side Tim Shelton had an effective night and Richie Williams was solid as usual.  I am still hopeful for SDSU's chances in the Mountain West but agree with some observers that the Aztecs have yet to play their best game, and we're getting pretty late in the season.  Hopefully a solid week will bring better health and fortune to SDSU, because next Saturday's game at New Mexico is looming pretty large as far as their hopes of taking the MWC regular season title.  
  • If it wasn't for Dwight Howard the NBA All-Star Saturday Night would have been a total yawner.  The Haier Shooting Stars was really, really boring.  Seeing Bill Laimbeer in an oversized jersey just isn't doing it for me.  The 3-point shootout was a clankfest.  Honestly, you get out of it what you put in...Daequan Cook, Jason Kapono, Rashard Lewis and Mike Bibby aren't exactly the bright lights of the NBA.  And the dunk contest seemed flat to me, except for Dwight Howard's two megadunks, the 12-foot rim and the off-the-side-of-the-backboard thunder jam.  Of course Nate Robinson won the fan vote by dunking over Howard, but if Dwight doesn't agree to play 7-foot prop, little Nate's just probably failing at some between-the-legs dunk 6 or 20 times and Howard wins going away.  And of course, the biggest moment of the dunk contest was actually on the sideline, when LeBron James announced he would participate next year.  Hopefully King James will lure Howard back into the contest, he seemed pretty disappointed not to have won.  
  • I will probably watch at least part of the NBA All-Star Game today, which I would rank a distant 2nd behind the MLB All-Star Game, but well ahead of the other sports.  At least the NBA game gives you some spectacular highlights for the first couple of hours, and then, as long as the game is close, the superstars start D'ing up in the 4th quarter and the game gets good.  That's what I'm hoping for tonight.  Now, off to the gym before the action starts! 
  • I'll be back tomorrow with more weekend reaction along with the first re-installment of the High Fidelity Top 5.  '80s SYNTH BANDS is the category.  I will unveil my first choice tomorrow morning (if you heard my last XTRA show it will be familiar to you) and then take your comments and post a reader pick later in the day!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Enjoy the Quiet

That's what I'm doing right now.  The TV's off, the neighborhood is quiet, the pug is softly snoring on the couch.  Rain is on the way, but at this moment it's just gray and dark.  San Diego's sports world is quiet right now as well, but the storm is coming.  Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Arizona, the conference race is heating up in the Mountain West, the combine and draft are lurking in the NFL, which means big decisions for the Chargers' front office.  Right now, peace and quiet.

Well, almost everywhere.  What's happening to Bill Grier's Toreros?  USD has been wracked by injury, overinflated by last year's run in the tournament, and has suffered the consequences, but nothing explains losing to Loyola Marymount.  1 and 23 on the year, 0-8 in conference, and the Lions roar while USD trembles, 65-57.  Grier takes the fall for this one and admits it, saying his team got outworked and wasn't ready to play.  I think Coach Grier is really good and solid, and last year's home tourney run probably helped mask some of the issues he was trying to overcome long term.  But don't expect to see another Pac-10 school sniffing around the Hill this spring like they were last year...

I, meanwhile, will be heading to the other, OTHER basketball school in town tonight.  That would be the old alma mater, the mighty Tritons of UCSD.  It's getting down to the wire in the PCAA season, just two weekends remain before their conference tournament, and UCSD is tied for 4th with a 12-8 (9-5 PCAA) record.  They face Cal Poly Pomona (14-6, 10-5) tonight, and conference-leading Cal State San Bernadino (13-8, 11-4 PCAA) tomorrow.  I watched Chris Carlson's team play well against San Diego State to open the season and hold an 8-point lead before eventually falling.  We'll see how they do tonight at the RIMAC.  The game is on UCSDTritons.com.  

The Aztecs take on Wyoming Saturday night at Cox Arena and depending on what my wife does this weekend I may or may not attend.  It is Valentine's Day, ya know.  Our anniversary was already enjoyed with an Arkansas Pine Bluff/SDSU game.  The Aztecs will rout the Cowboys and then hopefully get healthy over an open week for the crucial conference stretch drive.  

Next weekend, I will be in Compton for the start of the SDSU baseball season, and that means the first of Stephen Strasburg's starts for his final season on the Mesa.  Will he pitch a no-hitter?  Perfect game?  Strike out 20 again?  We'll find out on goaztecs.com and on XTRA Sports 1360 (yes, Chris and I will be back on but just for the games) as the season progresses!  And for sure, we'll be writing, talking, and covering SDSU, USD, and UCSD baseball here on 619sports.  I may get a chance to play in a media poker tourney while I am in LA next weekend, I will advise.

STARTING ON MONDAY: One of the things I've missed the most from my show each morning is the High Fidelity segment.  Well, we were already web integrating the damn thing, so why not bring it back here?  So each week, I'll have a High Fidelity theme.  You can submit to me your ideas for musical themes, or your Top 5 songs for the theme of the week.  Then each day I will post my pick's video, along with a reader selection.  The fun commences with the theme which was so rudely interrupted on January 20th, '80s SYNTH BANDS.  
  
Hope you're find a quiet spot in your day as well.  Enjoy the weekend, I'll be back later with more from my visit to UCSD tonight!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Big Love Lost in SLC

Three things that are hard for a visitor to get in Utah:

1) A good street taco
2) A Democratic majority
3) A win in basketball

The Aztecs tried to pull a win out of Salt Lake City, and so did the Lakers.  Both came up empty, and both did so by firing blanks late in the game that looked like they were being swatted away by the Angel Moroni.  28% field goal shooting by the Aztecs in the second half, they go from 4 points ahead at halftime to down 12 at the final buzzer, 67-55.  What's surprising in that result is seeing the Aztecs held to 55 points.  SDSU was at 31 points with 2:42 to play in the 1st half and a 7 point lead over the Utes.   Kyle Spain was 4-6 FG for 11pts at that moment and shooting at the line...he missed a FT and then went 1-10 from the field the rest of the way.   

Revisiting yesterday's keys to success...
  • Player in the Spotlight: Ryan Amoroso.  Ammo had done a good job defensively on Luke Nevill in his SDSU career, and that continued last night.  Nevill held to 12 points and 3 rebounds with 4 blocks, a pedestrian game for the all-MWC center.  But on the offensive side of the court, Ryan comes up empty with a 1-for-4 night from the field and just three points.  A disappointing night overall, but he at least gets defensive credit, and it's hard to get a shot if the ball's just in Spain's hands in the 2nd half.  The numbers:
  • Ammo vs. Nevill: Ryan Amoroso plays 25 minutes, 1-4 FGs, 3pts, 8 rebounds, 4 fouls, 2 TOs
  • Nevil vs. Ammo: Luke Nevill plays 31 minutes, 3-7 FGs, 12ptrs, 3 rebounds, 4 BK, 4 fouls, 4 TOs
  • Utah's lesser lights: compared to San Diego State, the Utes' role players were positively celestial.  Borha, Brown and Green combined for 36 points, led by Shaun Green's 7-11 FG, 21 point effort.  The Aztecs' comparative trio of White, Williams and Gay combined for 12 points on 5-14 shooting.  Throw in Ammo, (3pts), Shelton (7pts, a bonus), Matt Thomas (0 points in 9 minutes), and Mehdi Cheriet (to be read in a French accent: zero points! Sacrebleu!), and you STILL aren't within 14 of Utah's second-option scorers.  
  • I'd just like to point out that I accurately predicted Utah's final point total EXACTLY.  Just missed SDSU's by 13.  
Meanwhile, the Lakers ran out of gas and lost up the road at Energy Solutions Arena, 113-109.  I listened to a good part of the 1st half of this game before heading in for my weekly poker night, but I can't say I watched the game.  I know this: any game where Kobe winds up with 33 FG attempts is a danger game for the Lakers.  LA's advantage was down low with Pau but Gasol only got 13 shots, making 7 with 16 points.  

In neither case is the loss a killer.  The Lakers could have been the only team in the NBA with single-digit losses at the All-Star break, but instead they're the only team with 10 losses.  Odom is rebounding like a man possessed, Pau is picking up the slack for Bynum and the kid center is hopeful that his knee will bounce back quickly.  

For the Aztecs, nothing unexpected happened here, in terms of the ebb and flow of the Mountain West conference.  Yes, it's disappointing to play so poorly against a Utes team you are better than, but SDSU will probably get a 3rd crack at Utah on a neutral court in Vegas, and I like their chances.  The Aztecs will take care of Wyoming on Saturday, and then have a week to get ready for a now-critical trip to the Pit in Alberquerque.  Road wins in New Mexico and at TCU would keep the path to the Mountain West conference title alive.  Utah has to go to BYU and New Mexico back-to-back late, which will clearly be a defining stretch.  

Off-Topic

  • I've always felt like my local gym was run shabbily.  A regular told me once to never use the jacuzzi, and showed me the ringworm scar which was his proof.  All week, the pool (which I use almost every time I'm there) is drained for cleaning.  OK, good.  But yesterday as I walked up, the whole GYM was closed with yellow tape for "health reasons".  WTF? Oh, but it's supposed to be open again this morning!  I'm sure they've cleaned up that little health risk in one day, no problem.  College Grove gym is pretty nice, as it turns out.  Maybe I'll start going there more often...or just keep going to the place 2 minutes from my house, and wait for the class action lawsuit.  Why does my ear keep itching after all?
  • Each day we are getting closer to something bigger and more exciting in this space.  Stay tuned for more intense and independent local coverage!  As always please feel free to link to me, friend me on Facebook, and get the comments section rolling!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Big Wednesday

This will be a good day to get outside and enjoy some of the furtive sunshine.  We won't have much of it over the next week according to my intrepid weatherman Whitney Southwick, the giver of coats to cold women.  Before I chase a sunbeam, let's talk about today's big topics:

  • Tonight's SDSU/Utah game is surprisingly important.  When Utah came off the court at Cox Arena on January 10th, I was sure they were a non-factor in the conference.  Ted Leitner and I were setting there courtside and both agreed the Utes were nowhere near the team athletically or in terms of overall basketball acumen.  Since then, the Utes have gone 6-1, including home squeakers over BYU and New Mexico.  Utah could still conceivably lose both of those road games on the 28th and March 3rd, but to keep things in their control the Aztecs need to storm Huntsman Center and win tonight.  The last time they did so, they wound up winning the Mountain West, in 2006.  If Steve Fisher's guys can get it done tonight, they will likely win the West again.  
  • But can the Aztecs pull off a road win in Salt Lake City without a healthy squad?  Yes, but Utah gets a much better shot at the win if they don't have Wade to deal with.  An ineffective and weakened Wade might be an even bigger problem than no Wade at all.
  • Regardless, my player in the spotlight is Ryan Amoroso.  He has pulled off some of the best games of his career against Luke Nevill and the Utes, matching him point-for-point and rebound-for-rebound in basically every game:
Game 1, at SDSU: Ammo 5-9 FG, 10pts, 8 reb Nevill 5-9 FG, 12pts, 8 reb
Game 2, at Utah: Ammo 5-11 FG, 11pts, 6 reb Nevill 3-7 FG, 10pts, 5 reb
Game 3, at SDSU: Ammo 6-11 FG, 17pts, 8 reb Nevill 4-6 FG, 17pts, 7 reb
  • I watched the two home games of that set in person and was impressed each time with Amoroso's footwork, rooting Nevill out of scoring areas.  That will be tougher on Utah's home court but he remains the key to the game.  
  • Keep an eye on the producion of Utah's lesser lights, such as Lawrence Borha, Carlon Brown, and Shaun Green. It's always the secondary players who flourish on their home court.  Tonight, Cheriet's offense isn't a bonus, it's a necessity.  Gay will have to hit shots and FT's, and the same goes for Spain.  Last year's team would lose this game by 6. Healthy, Aztecs win by 5.  In their uncertain state, this game really feels like a toss-up for me, so I'll take the leap of faith for another big basket late, this one from Richie Williams knifing through the lane past Nevill, and an Aztecs win by 1, 68-67.

  • And so it ends.  Matt Bush is a Blue Jay, and the Padres have a bag of rocks (otherwise known as a PTBNL or cash) to show for their #1 overall pick in 2004.  Tim Stauffer is still in the system but not on the 40-man roster; he's nowhere near the radar of a team hungry for pitching.  That's the #3 overall pick in 2003.  Sandy Alderson has been the popular whipping boy of Padres fans in this city, and he certainly didn't engender much warmth or affection during his term at the top of the team.  But he had no responsibility for Stauffer and Bush, the two biggest reasons why the Padres have been passed by every team in the NL West.  
  • Who is responsible for Matt Bush?  It's easy from the outside to say Kevin Towers and Bill Gayton.  But I have been told by multiple sources in and around the organization that the braintrust had battled between Stephen Drew and Justin Verlander, and settled for the most part on Drew as their pick.  They were then told 3 days prior to the draft quite suddenly and unexpectedly that their budget would be about 1/3 of what they had previously been told.  A scramble led to an upside signability pick from down the street.  The guys paid to find talent were crushed, all their work had been for nothing.  So blame John Moores on the way out the door for breaking the heart of his baseball men by leading them on and then dumping them at the corner on the weekend before draft day 2004.
  • This is Getting Uncomfortable: OK, so Cheri Olvera is a crazy woman who scuttled a Hawaii wedding by refusing to sign the pre-nup, and took swings at Brian Giles, and tried to run him over, and stole his checks for a spending binge.  Those are some of the allegations in Brian Giles' countersuit, an attempt to stem the tide of negative sentiment after the video showing Giles slapping Olvera down in a Phoenix nightclub.  If we're going to listen to Olvera's claims (including a misacarriage at Giles' hands, which he denies), we might as well listen to his claims too.  Oh-kay, abusive relationship all around, got it, slowly backing away...but here's thing: everything Brian says could be true, but the video is him slapping her to the ground.  That's sticky, and that's why Giles is a tough guy to support right now.  
  • I am with Chris Young and not Curt Schilling on this one: the other 103 names on the list should be protected.  That was the deal the players agreed to as they eventually submitted to much more stringent PED testing...the 2003 test was confidential and a survey test.  The players knew it was coming and 104 still tested positive, an indictment of either their stupidity 0r the pervasiveness of PED abuse.  I lean to the latter.  But regardless, they took those tests after negotiating their confidentiality, and to have that breached is wrong.  It's salacious and sensational to hear that ARod's a doper, and we want 103 more gotchas (wow!  Jeff Fassero's a DOPER MAN!  GOTCHA!  Doug Mientkiewicz?  WHAMMO!)  to satisfy the thirst of the hungry baseball mob.  But it was the grudging willingness of those PED-injecting baseball players to test that led to what is in place now, so I think it is only fair to keep those results a secret.  It will never happen, of course, more names will eventually be revealed...but Young's point that there are both false positives and false negatives in that set of results is a valid one.  
  • The death of Jeremy Lusk is shocking, particularly in that the video is being played on the Today Show this morning.  Inappropriate, maybe?  If showing Chris Young getting his nose broken was a mortal sin for Channel 4, maybe showing a guy getting his spine crushed and dying should be a no-no.  (Update: it appears the video could have been a similar crash in which he did not die.  The tastelessness remains, but waiting to confirm.)  My heart goes out to his family and anyone who knows him.  For the sport, is this a deal breaker?  Can they continue competitively pushing the envelope with bigger and more dangerous jumps and just allow deaths to continue?  
  • If you like the blog, let someone know about it!  Happy to connect, cross-link, add followers, friends on Facebook, etc.  Also, let's make a post into a conversation with the comments section.  And stay tuned for podcasts coming soon, as well as the possible addition of another familiar San Diego sports voice!  Now, time to go find that sunbeam!