Well ladies and germs, tomorrow the madness begins. I hyped the NCAA Tournament in my last post and tomorrow the games begin. As always, the most exciting part of the pre-tournament psych-up was filling out my bracket, which I did with my usual mix of deliberation and speed. I'll try to explain my thought process when it comes to bracketology as succinctly as possible before this thing starts to read like the fine-print on a car loan. Every year, I like to think about my Final Four before I put my pen to the page or my finger to the mouse in order to give myself a touchstone for who I think are the four or five best teams in the tournament. After that, I take a look at the bracket itself and how the regional match-ups have shaken out. With my prejudicial list of four or five championship contenders as a road map, I move through each region round by round. This way, match-ups and my gut combine with my knowledge from the regular season for what is hopefully a winning bracket.

What follows is how I arrived at my Final Four squads and my pick for the tourney champ:

Before I filled out (my bracket, you jerk; are you trying to say I've put on weight?), I thought that North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas and Tennessee were the best teams going. I mentioned in the last post that I thought Louisville was a very dangerous team and they were hanging at the back of my mind as my fifth best, and would be used if necessary. I also mentioned after the Tennessee/Memphis game that I think the Tigers' foul shooting woes will cost them a sustained tourney run and therefore had an interesting dilemma in the South region, as they were selected (rightfully so) as its No. 1 seed. That being said, someone else has to come out of their region in order for my logic to be correct. Another dilemma comes in Carolina's end of the bracket, as Tennessee will likely be a stop on their road through the East region. Louisville is also in this region, which I think is stacked with quality squads the likes of which Tar Heel nation cannot be entirely excited about. So in order to stick with my personal top 4, Louisville has to fall by the wayside in order to make way for Tennessee, who in turn has to lose to UNC. So right there, two of my top five are out of logical contention. That leaves me with North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas and a surprise even to me in Pittsburgh as my Final Four. Pitt made my Final Four on the strength of their Big East Tournament run and the fact that they are healthy for the first time in a grip. They replaced Memphis in my mind as the team to beat in the South region via a series of quick and decisive picks. Once I decided Memphis had to go, a little logic and a lot of noise from my gut made it clear who will take their spot coming out of the South.

So that's my Final Four. Phew. I've got UCLA and Kansas in the championship game and Kansas taking home the trophy. Their athleticism and experience make them a clear choice as a No. 1 Seed, a Final Four team, and in the end a tournament champion. My picks in the early rounds, which are damn near impossible to predict this year, came about in much the same way that Pitt ended up in my Final Four. I just felt my way through those games. They don't matter as much as predicting the later rounds as far as winning any bracket pool and most of the time I pick with my heart early on, like taking Kent State over UNLV because they're a MAC school or believing yet again (are you with me Wisconsin, Michigan State and Purdue?) that the Big Ten is a better conference than everyone gives it credit for.

As a field of 65 (or 64, whatever) in general, I think this year's tournament participants were selected adequately and seeded accordingly. By that of course I mean that seeding doesn't matter whatsoever. Who cares if Xavier ended up with a 3 or that the majority of the non-power conference teams were seeded lower than they probably deserved? The level of parity in college hoops, which is a byproduct of the ridiculous one-and-done rule about entering the NBA, makes seeding increasingly less important when March rolls around. The teams in this tournament, apart from the upper crust of the field, say around 10-15 teams, could be thrown into a basket and selected at random as far as their seeding is concerned. Seeding is only important if you happen to be say, a certain school in powder blue that doesn't have to leave its home state until the Final Four. Ah, the perks of the overall No. 1. I will say that I think Arizona making the field and Arizona State being omitted is an offense of the highest order. ASU beat the Wildcats twice this season. I don't care about their RPI or strength of schedule, Arizona is the wrong school from its state in the tournament. In my mind there aren't any other glaring wrongs that scream to be righted this year (even as a die-hard Buckeye, I'll admit that my boys from Columbus didn't warrant an appearance in the Big Dance, but don't worry fans of the scarlet and gray, good news has arrived on the gridiron, more on that in a minute...).

So now that I have predicted exactly what will happen in this years NCAA's, you can kick back and watch my picks unfold on your television set. I think...


I wouldn't normally do this, but I've decided to give a few thoughts on the PGA Tour as a result of an e-mail my father sent me a couple of days ago. I hope he doesn't mind, but here is the message in its entirety:

I watched Tiger win the PGA tournament yesterday on the last last hole with his last putt of the day. I know some people think the only thing more boring than watching golf on TV is watching fishing on TV, but I feel I am blessed. Blessed by the fact I have been able to watch two of the greatest golfers of all time, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, from the comfort of my own living room and now in high definition. Aside from the fact Tiger found a way to be in contention for the last round, I just knew he was going to sink the putt! I don't think he will be able to pass Byron Nelson and win 12 in a row but what a joy to watch an athlete compete at the top of his form. Golfers like Jack and Tiger only come along once every generation or so. That Tiger will easily set the record for tour victories and wins in majors is no longer in doubt. And if anyone could win the grand slam all in the same year it is Tiger. Keep going Tiger and rest assured the golfer who is going to break your records hasn't even been born yet - hell, the grandfather of that golfer probably hasn't been born yet.

Well said. I used to speak often to my buddies in Toledo about the fact that we were truly privileged to grow up watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Not only did we get to witness his greatness, but we grew up with it, were affected by it, and for the most part, became obsessed with it. I think that Tiger is to professional sports (not just to golf) what Jordan was in his time. I know I didn't get to grow up with Tiger like I did with MJ, but as my father has illustrated, we are all lucky witnesses to his greatness, a talent that has no current peer in professional golf or the sporting world in general. I can't argue with anything the old man said in his e-mail. He's right about Tiger and Nicklaus being the big two in PGA tour history, he's right about the records Tiger will eventually call his own, and right that his ability is a once-in-a generation phenomenon. I feel like Michael Jordan is clearly the best athlete to ever play professional basketball. I don't think that any other sport has that kind of unanimity in its discussion of "greatest of all time". I think Tiger, if he has not achieved the honor yet, will soon be crowned the greatest golfer of all time--end of discussion. He will live alongside Jordan in the legend of American sport in this regard and even to a guy like me who doesn't watch golf, Eldrich is truly awe-inspiring.


A little out of context for March right? Wrong. If you're an Ohio State fan, there is no off-season and like me you're happy as a pig in shit that high-school quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the highest-profile college recruit of the year, has decided to be a Buckeye. According to Pryor, Rich Rodriguez from the team up north was calling him all the way down to the wire to try and get him to play for Michigan. The kid is from Pennsylvania, could've started as a freshman in Ann Arbor and still chose to be a Buckeye over attending Penn State or Michigan. I bet his ACT scores are through the roof with decision making capability like that. I know we've lost consecutive National Championship games, but goddamnit if I'm not considering naming my first born Tressel. A good day to be a Buckeye indeed.



I'd just like to start this post off by saying that I am currently outside, on my back porch, and comfortable. I hope this warm weather lasts...


Yeah buddy, it's March and my madness is beginning to creep in. The conference tournaments are underway, with a dozen or so tickets officially punched for the field of 65. The NCAA Tournament is arguably the most entertaining event in all of sports, and I find that now that I live in what is undoubtedly a basketball town, I'm even more excited than I used to get about college hoops. The regular season has already been one for the books and the tournament is sure to bring us even more excitement over the next few weeks.

While the games themselves are enough to get any sports fan twisted into a school-girl like twitter, the fact that I will soon be filling out my bracket is even more exciting and anxiety-inducing. Over the last couple of years, I've been involved in bracket pools where I would fill out anywhere from 1 to 3 different sheets, hoping to improve my odds and take home the cash. This year however, I have decided to take a cue from ESPN's Mike Greenberg (perhaps my favorite of the network's many personalities) and fill out one and only one bracket. He has made the point that by filling out multiple brackets, you thereby strip yourself of any self-fulfillment in getting your picks right. If you picked that ever-present 12-5 seed upset on one out of three brackets, there is no achievement in your clairvoyance, only a shameless and minimal pride in knowing that you know how to play the odds. By only filling out one bracket, you put your ass on the line and can enjoy all of the glory you have in your superiority over competitors in picking the winners. I might enter a few pools, but the bracket I fill out will be the only one that competes in each. I encourage anyone with a decent set to do the same.

In my mind, the tournament is going to be a particularly tough one to predict. Even among the elite 4-6 teams, I don't think anyone can make a comfortable guarantee which of them will end up in the championship game, or the Final Four for that matter. In recent years, I think that a certain few teams had a lock on at least making it to the Final Four, but this year all bets are off. The powers that have been in the mix of the top 5 rankings all year, which include Memphis, Duke, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA, are all incredible teams that will be tough to beat, but other squads are making a push now and getting hot at the right moment as they enter their respective conference tournaments. Not being a homer or anything, but Louisville looks like the most dangerous team in the country right now. When they're shooting well and everything's clicking, I'm not sure if I could pick against them. I have similar feelings about other teams, such as Stanford and Indiana, although both haven't been quite as consistent as the Cards. The top four seeds will have nothing guaranteed and depending on the way the regions shake out, the whole damn ball of wax could be a crap shoot.

As soon as my bracket is ready, I'll post a scan or facsimile, putting my picks out there for anyone to question (at first) or wonder at (later).


This time of year isn't just amazing because of warming trends and the NCAA's, but because baseball has begun spring training as well. I still think that baseball is a representation of absolute purity in athletics. While the athletes themselves might be filled with any number of substances that would make a horse's heart reach critical mass, the game itself is in my opinion the most graceful and elegant sport in the world. It still blows my mind that while football's popularity has risen alongside the presence of HGH and steroids, their athletes are not subjected to near the scrutiny that baseball players are. It goes toward proving what I previously said about its purity and sophistication . The game is still the national pastime, and its integrity has been tarnished the likes of which haven't been seen since the Black Sox Scandal in 1919. I think that's why NFL players get a free pass from the public on the steroids issue and baseball players (those honored and legendary boys of summer) are mired in disrespect and doubt. Football players are still, in the end, knuckleheads who kick the shit out of each other in a supremely entertaining fashion, who cares if they need to cheat to bulk up, right? Baseball players and the game itself are more civilized, cerebral and pristine, seemingly above those sort of tactics. It's a double standard I still don't get. Cheaters exist in every form of competition, but baseball should not be the whipping boy for corruption in the sporting ranks. Right cycling?

Also, using a round bat to hit a round ball that is coming at you at 90 miles an hour is still the single hardest task in all of sports. Not to mention when that same ball moves 3 feet horizontally or vertically at around 80 miles an hour the very next pitch. Oh yeah, my team, the Detroit Tigers, are stacked like no other from 1 to 9 in their line-up, with big arms on the pitching staff and one of baseball's great minds in the dugout controlling it all.

I am so flipping stoked for this season. I've got all summer to talk about the diamond though, so I'll end here with a video about the man who inspired the name of this-a-here blog, Mr. Jackson. I've been meaning to get this up on the site so please enjoy if you please at all.




If you watched ESPN at all this past weekend, then you probably noticed that the network is filming a lot of its regular programming from Disneyland, as part of its super-mega-bigtime-thingy, "ESPN: The Weekend". This stuff is just a total bummer. Ever since ESPN and ABC and their family of networks became linked with Disney, the group has been giving each other the reach around at every turn. It's bad enough that sports have become so completely controlled by corporate sponsorship, with everything from bowl games to arenas and stadiums (more on that in a minute) to individual segments of programming brought to you by someone or something, but now the entire network has become an infomercial for Disney and its loathsome theme parks. I know it's only a weekend, but the corporatization of ESPN has been bothering me more and more lately and it sucks that they are still the only real outlet for sports information on television. Really? The NFL Live crew with the Country Bears? Really? Leave it out already.

I know that FOX has made inroads into a piece of the sports pie, but the truth is that ESPN has a virtual monopoly on what the average television viewer sees and hears about sports. Plus, I don't really need NewsCorp competing with Disney when I'm looking for a little less corporate interference in my sports programming. The problem with ESPN is that they that are to televison what Taco Bell is to fast food. Taco Bell has an advantage over Burger King and Wendy's and McDonalds because they have crappy Mexican(ish) food instead of crappy burgers and fries. They succeed in their uniqueness among the average fat-ass American. Likewise, ESPN is the sports network. They offer the same type of shoddy coverage and analysis that news networks like CNN, Fox News and MS-NBC do, but they are unique in the fact that they are talking about sports. You're still getting fat on fluff and argument, but they have nacho cheese sauce covering their programs instead of ketchup.

Don't get me wrong, there are programs on ESPN that I enjoy a great deal. Obviously they air the majority of live action, which is like oxygen for me, but I also like the glimmer of real insight from sports writers on Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption. And what is life without highlights? Thus making Sports Center another must. Aside from that, do I really need a steady diet of Roger Clemens and the NFL? I need ESPN as much as I dislike it, but the things I dislike are starting to really get under my skin. The NFL coverage in particular is so blanketing and overwhelming that sometimes I forget that they have an off-season. The aforementioned NFL Live, a daily dose of pro-football info and analysis, is on every single day year round. No other sport gets this kind of commitment from the network and it turns out that the NFL started its own network so I wouldn't have to deal with this sort of thing. How about instead of five reports during Sports Center about NFL free agency I get more than three minutes three days a week on the NHL?

I'm not huge on hockey, but maybe I'd like it more if I actually heard someone other than Barry Melrose and Steve Levy talk about it every once in a while. Oh that's right, ESPN doesn't show hockey games anymore, so the sport doesn't warrant coverage. And what's that you say? ABC/ESPN picked up NASCAR again? Now I know why ESPN created a show dedicated to a "sport" where southerners with high-pitched voices make left-hand turns for three hours. And as a side note, why is Brad Daugherty a NASCAR analyst all of the sudden? I guess the network needed a little on-air color to dissuade viewers from thinking that only rednecks watch racing. Nothing against Daugherty's heritage, but this is how I remember him best, so I thought maybe they'd have him talking about hoops.

I'm too fired up about this stuff. I could write a book on what's wrong with ESPN, but even I'm getting bored at this point, so I'll shift topics for the sake of my audience. I have an audience right? Anybody? Oh well, in other news...


More corporate bullshit, this time on the diamond. The famed Wrigley Field, which even the most casual of sports fans probably associates the most with tradition and the good old days of sports in America, could be coming up on a new name, now that the Tribune Company (who owns the Cubs and their ballpark) is considering allowing corporate sponsorship of one of the most historic venues in American sports. I simply can't stomach hearing Wrigley associated with a sponsor. First the Boston Garden is torn down and replaced by the criminally labeled TD Banknorth Garden, and now Wrigley's name must be sullied as well? If I have to hear about the green ivy along the outfield walls of "Wrigley Field at Gatorade Park" or "The US Navy's Wrigley Field" I'm going to vomit all over the place. Please say this doesn't happen, simply for the sake of my carpet.


Today brought news that Brett Favre will be retiring from the NFL after 17 amazing seasons that have left him the all-time leader in nearly every statistical category for quarterbacks and a Superbowl Champion. Favre is a truly one-of-a-kind athlete and the NFL will be worse off now that the gunslinger will no longer be running out of the tunnel at Lambeau. He brought a level of competitiveness that never interfered with his playful attitude, leaving him the acme of respect in a league that is all about legacy and pride. No one can ever take away what Favre brought to the league, from the Packers' incredible play during his prime all the way up to this past year's heroics, when he led a team of young and inexperienced talent to the NFC championship and a frozen field-goal kick away from the Superbowl. Now begins the unrelenting conversation about whether or not he is the best QB of all time, which in my opinion, he is not. He leads all quarterbacks in all of the important categories (including unfortunately, interceptions) but I still think that Joe Montana is the be-all and end-all when it comes to QB's, with Tom Brady tight on his heels to take the title away. Good luck filling some gigantic-ass shoes in Green Bay Aaron Rodgers. I do not envy the shadow you will have to throw out of for the next few years.