Friday, March 31, 2006

The Week In Review

Monday afternoon I'm at work, doing what I normally do at the accounting firm I work at, when my friend and co-worker Erick appears at the doorway of my office with a friend of his. Steve Francis. Former University of Maryland and current member of the New York Knicks, Steve Francis. Thing is he's not the first former Terp and NBA player to walk into my office. Last year Erick brought his cousin, Lonny Baxter by to meet people at the firm. As you know by reading this blog, I love Maryland basketball. I've been following the Terps since I was a little kid and the Ol' Lefthander, Lefty Driesell, was stomping the sidelines at Cole Field House.

So for this Terp fan, it was a thrill meeting Lonny, who was a member of the Terps National Championship team of 2002. And it was also a thrill meeting Steve as well. I'll always like this guy because one; he's a Terp and two; a month or so after Benjamin was born, Erick had Steve sign a little #3 Orlando Magic jersey below:

Since this was given to me, Steve was traded to the Knicks. I'll have Benjamin wear this once for picture purposes when he's able, then it goes into his sports memorabilia collection that I'm putting together for him.




Tuesday I went to the Fourth Annual Charity Kick-off Luncheon, which is a United for DC fundraiser at the Marriott at Metro Center. Bruce Arena the former D.C. United Coach and current US Men's National team coach was the featured speaker. He spoke about ten years of MLS and upcoming World Cup. Couple tidbits:

He plans to name his 23-man World Cup roster the first week of May, a couple weeks before the international deadline.

He expects to name as many as 10 alternates in case of injury during training camp or any of the three scheduled friendly matches in late May. Training camp opens May 10 in Cary, North Carolina. The World Cup begins June 9th and ends with the championship match July 9th in Berlin, Germany.

The US is grouped with Ghana, Italy and the Czech Republic. Arena said "There's no tougher group in the World Cup."

Kevin Payne, D.C. United President introduced the 2006 team and talked about the upcoming season and the possibility of new investors purchasing United's operating rights. He believes they are close to having a new ownership group with ties to the DC area in place soon.

I was at a table with 2004 MLS Cup MVP Alecko Eskandarian, who missed a lot of last season with a nasty concussion. After suffering a groin injury in training camp, Alecko said he is pumped up for the season and us fans are looking for a return to his 2004 form, where he scored ten goals and earned two Player of the Week awards. I also caught up with several friends from Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava and La Norte, three of D.C. United's unofficial supporters groups.

Looking out for Benjamin, I managed to get midfielder Ben Olsen to sign a card and he added "To Benjamin, Nice Name!"

Here is the rest of my week....

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Here comes Spring!

This is typically one of the best weeks ever on the sports fans calendar. You have the following events coming up:

NCAA Final Four: Semifinals have George Mason vs Florida and LSU vs UCLA on Saturday evening. The championship game is Monday night.

Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer begins this weekend.

Women's Final Four: Maryland vs North Carolina and Duke vs LSU. The semifinal games are on Sunday and the championship game is Tuesday.

Starting next Thursday there is a little golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia called
The Masters


Enjoy!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

On to Indy!




George Mason 86, Connecticut 84 OT

Yes, you read that correct. An amazing, incredible story took place at the Phone Booth in DC this afternoon. George Mason did the unthinkable by beating #1 ranked UConn and advanced to their first Final Four. Prior to this NCAA tournament run, when you walked into the Patriot Center, you saw three banners proclaiming NCAA trips in 1989, 1999 and 2001, a banner commemorating a couple NIT trips and two retired numbers. That's it. However, coach Jim Larranaga has done a hell of a job building up this program since his arrival in 1997. In 2001, they gave Maryland all they could handle in their NCAA tournament first round game, losing 83-80. Maryland went to the Final Four that year and won the National Championship the next year. I often wonder what would have happened to the Maryland program had they lost that first round game to George Mason.

Prior to this tournament run, the biggest success I saw from the George Mason basketball team was they beat Tennessee in an opening round NIT game at the Patriot Center in March 2004. I went to that game with my friend John, a UT grad. After the game, the 5,000 or so Mason fans in attendance stormed the court. Apparently that was enough to wow the NIT reps and they gave George Mason a second home game in that tournament (They won that as well, but lost in the third round).

I'm still in a state of shock at what I saw on TV today. You can punch this team but they bounce back. Down 12 late in the first half, they managed a late bucket and a foul shot to close the half down 9. Then they come out with a three pointer to start the second half and the battle was on. George Mason appeared to have the game won in regulation. But UConn came up with another miracle, forcing the game to OT when George Mason's Tony Skinn missed the front end of a 1 and 1 when they were up by two and UConn's Denham Brown made a reverse layup at the regulation buzzer to send the game to overtime. The ball just hung there forever and dropped in as the horn sounded. Incredible. First Washington had UConn on the ropes Friday night, then George Mason had them down and both times UConn fought back to force OT.

In the OT, it was back and forth for a couple minutes. George Mason went up 84-80 and UConn suddenly looked rattled. UConn still fought back though. They had a chance to win due to poor free-throw shooting by George Mason, who missed three attempts in the final 15 seconds--the last two with 6.1 seconds to go. UConn had a final possession to tie or win. Denham Brown, who was the hero moments earlier, was off the mark from the left with what could have been a game winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Pandemonium from the George Mason fans in attendance.

It was easly one of the best college hoops games I've ever watched. My wife was going nuts for her alma mater, screaming and jumping up and down. I'm a Maryland Terps fan and I can say it's been fun bandwaggoning and rooting for George Mason during this run.

On to Indy next week for the Patriots.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rookie Dad: Month Five!

After getting home from the NCAA hoops tournament at 3:00 this morning, I slept most of the morning and again into the afternoon. Benjamin took his nap next to his old man at noon and at 2:30 PM he woke me up and the two of us just hung out together. My wife was out shopping so I had the whole afternoon with him. The agenda:

Division II hoops title game won by Winona State over Virginia Union
TPC golf tournament
LSU vs Texas NCAA hoops

During this afternoon, male bonding TV sportsfest we had a couple feedings, a diaper change, some tummy time and we played in his little gym where he lays on his back and plays with these toys using his hands and feet. My next door neighbor Fuad came over and hung out for a little while. Later I read the Post sports page to Benjamin.

My wife came home, Benjamin now has some new Spring outfits and we had dinner. Now I'm washing clothes and just watched UCLA beat Memphis. Benjamin is five months old today. I hope he had fun with his Dad today. I sure had a blast with him. My rookie year as a Dad. So far, so good.

Friday, March 24, 2006

George Mason & Georgetown in NCAA Round of 16


Wichita State vs George Mason followed by UConn vs Washington

I was able to get a pair of tickets to these games tonight at The Phone Booth (aka MCI/Verizon Center). Ok, the tickets are in section 404, Row P and I'll need to get a mountain goat to get to the seats, but this tournament comes to the DC area every four years and I do my best to get there. I was at Capital Centre in 1994, The Phone Booth in 1998 and 2002 when this area hosted the first and second round games. I love the atmosphere of these games and in 2002, I got to see my favorite team, Maryland, play a couple games during their march to the NCAA title. This is the third time overall that George Mason has been in the NCAA tournament (1999 and 2001 were their other appearances) and the first time ever in school history they have gone to the Final 16. They have a very good chance to get to the Final 8. They beat Wichita State earlier in the season on the road. So that's the first game.

In the second game, I still have a slim chance in a couple of NCAA pools I'm entered in, so I need UConn to come up big against Washington tonight in the Battle of the Huskies.

Some Washington Post articles about tonight's games. Be sure you have your pop up ad blocker enabled.

Campbell, Local Talent Key to GMU's Success
Longtime Fans Savor George Mason's Limelight

George Mason vs Wichita State

One Good Story Deserves Another

Georgetown in Minneapolis:
Georgetown's Biggest Threat Isn't Just Tall
Following the Trajectory of Noah's Arc--Wilbon
Georgetown vs Florida

Monday, March 20, 2006

My Cousin in Iraq

My cousin is a U.S. Marine. I spoke about him in one of the first posts of this blog back in December. He and his wife have a son, who was born a month before our son Benjamin.

He left for Iraq yesterday. From what I have heard he will be training Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah. In speaking with him yesterday, he was very confident and said “I’ll be home in seven months” when we said goodbye.

When he graduated from college, he worked as a newspaper reporter for the Journal Newspapers for a couple years. He decided to follow his Father’s footsteps and join the Marines in January 1999.

He’s been training his fellow Marines for duty in Iraq. Now he gets to go over there.

Driving home from work today I was thinking about him and his family when all of the sudden tears started flowing. Why? I can't explain it. Perhaps it was a sense of pride. I’m very proud of my Uncle for his service to our country. I’m also damn proud of my cousin. Both are heroes to me.

I know he will be ok in Iraq. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and I’m very confident in his leadership abilities. I am proud he is defending our country.

He gave me a way to contact him through Motomail. The way this works is you send mail through a web site, it gets to Kuwait in a day and from there, it’s transferred into a letter format and he would get it like he would a regular letter. Only it won’t take three weeks for him to get it.

As I get news from my Aunt and Uncle, I’ll summarize and update everyone here. In the meantime, if you have well wishes for my cousin or other Marines, please post them in the comments section here or go to my Profile and you can send me an e-mail. Write about anything on your mind. It can be a prayer, a funny joke or a summary of a sports event you saw. Whatever is on your mind. I’ll take the comments, cut and paste them in a motomail to him. I won’t use names. I just want to make sure he has a diversion, a smile or a laugh.

Thank you. God bless all the service men and women over in Iraq and Afghanistan. You are in my thoughts and prayers every day.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

George Mason Stuns North Carolina

How Do You Like That, Billy Packer?

First it was Michigan State, the 2000 NCAA Champion who was sent packing Friday night. Today it was the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels who fell victim to surprising
George Mason 65-60.

The Patriots will come home (so to speak) to face Wichita State at Verizon (MCI) Center in Washington, DC Friday night. George Mason and Wichita State played earlier this season (at Wichita State) with George Mason winning 70-67. This was the win that put George Mason in the top 25 for the first time in school history. Some say this was the victory that got them into the NCAA tournament.

The game didn't start out well for the Patriots, who were down 16-2 at the start of the game. I was thinking the 'Heels will be up by thirty at halftime. Incredibly, George Mason managed to get back into the game and at the half, were trailing 27-20.

Nothing went right for the 'Heels in the second half. It was great seeing UNC coach Roy Williams take his frustrations out on a chair late in the second half when Mason was ahead.

But the best shot from CBS besides Roy Williams beating up the chair, was the clip of George Mason coach Jim Larranaga talking to his team before the game. Larranaga said that "North Carolina's fans think their team is Superman. Our fans think we are kryptonite. What does kryptonite do to Superman?"

Survive and advance.

Let me also take a moment to give props to Georgetown for beating Ohio State today 70-52. The Hoyas play Florida on Friday in Minneapolis.

Michael Wilbon's column in Monday's Washington Post.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Neil Young: Trans

Trans is certainly not one of Neil Young's best albums but it's been one of my favorites and I was happy to be reunited with this today as a friend picked up the CD when he was overseas. I had purchased the album when it came out in 1982 but over time and many moves, I lost it. I don't believe Trans was ever released as a CD in the U.S. as there were some legal issues between Geffen Records and Neil Young. I could be wrong about that so if anyone knows the reason, please post it in the comments section.

I don't know how to describe this except it's a pretty bizarre album any way you look at it, and it's an album that can't be easily summarized.

There are six high-tech tracks on this album as Neil used a vocoder to give his vocals a computerized effect. It's a pretty cool sound and it's still great hearing it now in 2006. My favorite tracks are "Sample and Hold" and Like an Inca".

I can't remember where I read this, but one of the reasons Neil recorded this album was his frustration at his inability to communicate with his son Ben who was a quadriplegic suffering from cerebral palsy.

More info on the album can be found here. The Sidestreet Records article by Jeff Piehler can be found here.

Neil's HBO concert from Berlin has been on DVD for awhile. I remember playing a VHS tape of this concert countless times for friends when we would get together and party. This was the final concert of the Trans tour and HBO captured it nicely. It's on my list of DVD pick ups.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mason, Town and Washington by George!

I need to come up with something more original if these George's keep winning.

Last night had George Washington beating UNC-Wilmington in overtime after being down 18 points. Mike Wise talks about it here. Next up for George Washington is Duke on Saturday.

In a defensive battle played this afternoon in Dayton, OH, Georgetown shut down Northern Iowa 54-49. It was the Hoyas first NCAA tournament victory since 2001. Next up for the Hoyas on Sunday is Ohio State.

In a shocker, George Mason beat Michigan State 75-65. Your's truly had Michigan State going to the final eight in numerous office pools. Nice call, huh? Next year I am going to roll dice or use some other novelty to pick the games.

Office pool aside, to see my wife screaming and yelling for her school (and for once, not at me) at the end of the game as they pulled off the upset was priceless.

A couple things amazing about George Mason's win tonight:
One, they did it without their second leading scorer Tony Skinn, who was serving a one game suspension and two, they shot 12-26 at the free throw line. Next up for George Mason. The defending champion North Carolina Tarheels on Sunday.

Michael Wilbon on George Mason's win.

I believe the late Jim Valvano summed it up best in 1983 when he coached N.C. State to the NCAA Title. "Survive and advance."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Madness

I got the idea to post my picks while reading Aaron's Blog


Be sure to click the picture for a larger view.

So this is my entry in the office pool. We have $ 840 at stake with a 70-20-10 percent pay out. I watch a lot of college hoops and I think I have won one of these in the twenty plus years I've been filling out these things. In other words, I'm no expert on this. Every year I always tell myself this is the year I will win.

The world's biggest office pool always seems to disrupt productivity as this article talks about in today's Post.

Oops, I realize my lunch hour is over. Back to work...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nats New Ball Yard



The design of the new stadium for Washington Nationals was released yesterday. It's set to open in March 2008. Designed by HOK, the Nats new park goes away from the classic, retro look first made famous by Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Looks great and in late 2007 I'll start filling out the paperwork for a 2nd mortgage so my family can get tickets to a few games.

Post articles can be accessed here: Be sure the you have your pop up blocker on as the Post loves to sabatoge you with stuff.

Lots of Glass, Capital Views
D.C.'s Diamond In the Rough
A Field of Modest Dreams
Four Views
Stadium Design Maximizes Profit

Basketball Coaches Roundtable Discussion

I was all over this article in the Washington Post this morning about the current state of college basketball. Author and Post contributor John Feinstein sat down with three DC area coaching legends a couple months ago. Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, former DeMatha High School coach Morgan Wooten and former Mount St. Mary's College coach Jim Phelan have some interesting thoughts. Combined win total: Over 2,700. Definitely worth the read.

Monday, March 13, 2006

NIT Action

I'm debating about going to this. Why? I don't know except to support the Terps. With a young son at home, I only get so many "hall passes" to sporting events now. I'm hoping to get a ticket to the NCAA Regional on March 24 and 26 at MCI/Verizon/Cingular/T-Mobile/Sprint/Nextel Center so I would hate to waste a Saturday hall pass to watch this mess.

Maryland Earns Top Seed in East Region For NIT
Terps host Manhattan on Saturday at Comcast Center

Maryland has earned the top seed in the East Region of the National Invitational Tournament and will host Manhattan on Saturday, March 18 at 11:00 AM at Comcast Center. The game will be broadcast live by ESPN.

Tickets for the NIT are available by calling the Terrapin Ticket Office at (301) 314-7070 or by visiting www.umterps.com.

The Terrapins, who are 19-12 after facing the 12th toughest schedule in the nation, are making their sixth trip to the NIT and their 13th consecutive postseason appearance overall. Maryland advanced to the semifinals of the 2005 NIT at Madison Square Garden after defeating Oral Roberts (85-72), Davidson (78-63) and TCU (85-73). The Terps are 10-4 all-time in the NIT, including the 1972 championship. Maryland also competed in the NIT in 1979, 1982 and 1990.

Joining Maryland as No. 1 seeds are Louisville (Big East), Cincinnati (Big East) and Michigan (Big 10).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Walt Whitman: Maryland 4A State Basketball Champions

I went to Walt Whitman High School (Class of '80) in Bethesda MD. Last night Whitman won the Maryland 4A Basketball championship at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center. They beat Eleanor Roosevelt 39-38. It was the first state basketball championship for Whitman, which finished 24-3. When I was there from '77 to '80 I don't believe the Whitman hoops team won 24 total games. They stunk.

High school definitely wasn't the greatest time of my life. I wasn't much into academics or school spirit and I barely got through the experience. However, it was pretty cool reading about this team's season this Winter as they climbed in the Washington Post rankings. In reading the Post's recap of last night's game, you'll see where Whitman's star guard Michael Gruner (23 points last night) has yet to receive a college scholarship offer. I hope Comcast Center's main tenant had someone scouting this game last night. They sure could use someone like Gruner next year.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

I had to borrow this line from Tom Petty's song The Waiting as the title. I don't think $#^&*#@ Terps would go over too well but it describes my mood perfectly. I don't really want to go into too much about last night's fiasco, but I'd better get it out of me now and just be done with it. So here is a profanity free recap of what I watched last night. Trust me, the four letters were flying around the basement rec room last night while this mess was going on.

ACC Quarterfinals
Boston College 80, Maryland 66

This game started 17-2 and was over at the first TV timeout.... Unbelievable. An absolute nightmare and Maryland never recovered. The Terps picked a bad, bad time to come out flat. Despite getting trounced the way they did, they still sealed up a post season bid though.

Sadly for us Terps fans it’s to the NIT.

When I see the Terps play the way they did tonight, I’m amazed they finished 19-12 and won 8 ACC games in the regular season and grabbed another one in the ACC tournament. This has been the most frustrating Maryland team to follow in quite some time. Going into this game they won three straight and I thought Gary Williams had them ready to upset Boston College.

Didn’t happen. Not even close. This picture sums up how the evening went for the Terrapins. Ekene Ibekwe hits the rim as he attempts to dunk.

Since 1980, six teams that finished with an 8-8 record or better in the ACC have been left out of the NCAA tournament field. After last night’s performance, it looks like the Terps will be the seventh. I’ve followed Maryland basketball since I was a wee lad but I’m trying to be realistic here. They won only two road games all season and didn’t beat a RPI Top 50 school since early December. After Chris McCray was declared academically ineligible. Maryland has lost to every team it faced with an RPI of 70 or better.

I’ll be tuned in Sunday evening when they announce the NCAA Tournament field, fingers crossed with my Terps gear on. My wife went to George Mason, who are also playing the waiting game.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Birthday

Seven years ago this June I lost a very dear friend. She would have been 38 years old today. I honestly believe she keeps looking out for me. After her death I would pray and just talk to her. It was my way of grieving and I struggled a lot to understand her death. One of the things I prayed for was to meet someone as nice as her and settle down and have a family. Today I have a wonderful wife, a beautiful son and a rather large family, all of which I am very fond of. Happy Birthday Gema. Long May You Run.

I saw the following poem at a web site today and thought it was appropriate.
By Mary Elizabeth Frye - 1932

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousands winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there. I did not die.

Monday, March 06, 2006

D.C. United & Benjamin



Here's my little guy sporting the gear of one of our favorite teams, the four time MLS Cup champion D.C. United

He's got the referee stare down.


He could be a goalkeeper. He's already half the size of the current goalkeeper Nick Rimando

Friday, March 03, 2006

Doctor's Visit for Benjamin

Today Benjamin had his four month doctor's appointment. He checked in at 26" long and weighs 17.3 pounds. Both pretty decent numbers for someone his age. The doctor looked him over carefully and answered several of our questions. He got three more shots and just like his Daddy when he got shots, he was in a bit of pain afterwards. His shots were to prevent sickness while mine made me sick.....That said, all is well with the little guy and he's home now tucked in. Pretty soon he can start eating rice cereal along with his formula. I'm wondering how long it will be before he will begin teething. My guess is his teething will probably coincide with the NCAA basketball tournament and there's usually a lot of screaming going on in the house during that time anyway.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

College Hoops Talk

Florida State beat No. 1 Duke 79-74 last night. This loss ended Duke's (27-2, 14-1 ACC) chance at an unbeaten ACC season (To quote Jerry Seinfeld...That's a shame). Florida State (18-8, 8-7 ACC) more than likely sealed up a berth in the NCAA tournament with the win.

By George
George Washington (25-1) beat St. Bonaventure 89-78 last night for their 17th win in a row.

Georgetown (19-7) closes out their regular season at South Florida on Saturday.

George Mason (22-6) begins play in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament this Saturday.

Terps Update
Maryland beat Miami last night 65-61. Technically they are still alive for an NCAA berth at 17-11, 7-8 ACC but I can't see more than five teams going from the ACC at this point.(Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, NC State and Florida State). Maryland needs a win at Virginia this weekend and would need to win a game, maybe two in the ACC tournament to get in the NCAA tournament. The game against Virginia (14-12, 7-8 ACC) will be tough as this is the Cavaliers last game ever at University Hall and they'll be pumped. The Cavs are moving to new digs next season, the John Paul Jones Arena across the street from U-Hall.

If the Terps fail to make the NCAA's for the second year in a row, there is always the NIT. Last year's Terrapins made the semifinals of the NIT. If they go to the NIT I expect an NIT title this year. Why?

In the past Gary Williams has followed up a Final Four appearance with a title.

2001: NCAA Final Four, lost in Semifinals
2002: NCAA Champion

2005: NIT Final Four, lost in Semifinals
2006: NIT Champion ?

I threw that up on the Terps Sports bulletin boards yesterday and drew a few chuckles but in all seriousness, I hope they can squeak out an NCAA bid.