Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Jonathan Grimes

In Football, William & Mary on August 26, 2011 at 10:49 am

Hey look! Jimmye Laycock is giving a six-part lecture on the history of the wheel route next door!

The William and Mary fan-police delightedly rush out of the room.

Hi. Can we talk? I’m sorry I had to do that earlier. The truth is, there is no lecture on the history of the wheel route. I made that up. It’s not that I wanted to lie to you. Heck, it’s not even that I think Laycock is a bad coach. I’d rank him second among current WM coaches (Chris Norris is first). I just wanted to talk about Jonathan Grimes a little bit and needed them out of the room.

Not JONATHAN GRIMES®. Jonathan Grimes. The one who was William and Mary’s tailback last season. I want to talk about the fact that last year was probably his worst year at William and Mary.

Look at the stats. He rushed for his lowest total in three years, only 887 yards on 207 carries. Yes, I know he essentially missed two games (North Carolina and Maine). But his yards per carry were about a half a yard less than his sophomore season, a yard and a half less than his freshman season. His average per game was twenty yards less than his junior season. I mean, his longest run of the season only went for 30 yards. The previous two seasons Grimes’ longest runs were for more than 60 yards. I know its bordering on heresy to say this, but I feel like Jonathan Grimes wasn’t that good last season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tangier

In Long form on August 25, 2011 at 11:21 am

I call that trip “The weekend we all became beatniks.” From my hotel window, I could see a cluster of pristine white houses slowly descend along the landscape toward the Strait of Gibraltar.

In the distance, across the Strait, I could see Spain and the mountains. I had just arrived in Tangier, Morocco.

While studying in the country, my friends and I had decided to take a weekend trip. We stayed in El Muniria, the preferred hotel of William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. Our room was where Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch.

We didn’t have much money. We knew our destination but had no idea how to get there and no plan for once we got there. We left class early with just some bread and one hardboiled egg to sustain the six of us through our trek to Tangier. It was oppressively hot and the train was leaving in 10 minutes.

With the prospect of catching a cab in Meknes being undeniably low, we enlisted the help of a local to hitch us a ride. Without thinking about the danger of getting in an unmarked car with a stranger, we hopped in and told him to step on it. The sense of escapade to experience the unknown overwhelmed traditional thinking. On this trip, it felt like we were writing our own rules. Read the rest of this entry »

1986 Chrysler LeBaron

In Baseball, Long form on August 24, 2011 at 11:29 am

There are over 30 games left, they’re one game back and the torture is far from over.

Some cars on the freeway have no business being on the road. Their fenders drag and spark, exhaust billows out of their tailpipes and the paint peels away in flakes. They’re toxic, polluted vehicles with drivers who are just as disgusted by the spectacle as the schmucks crawling behind them in the fast lane; left to chew the carbon monoxide as it putt-putts slowly toward home.

Of course, driving that burnt out shell has its perks. There is no agonizing over little nicks and dings. If you wreck it, you walk away knowing you probably rode that car for as long as it could possibly go. The bar is set so low that when it unexpectedly kicks into fourth gear driving up an on-ramp, you can’t help but be a little overjoyed.

When that car finally dies though—man, what a bummer. The 2011 San Francisco Giants are a shell of the team that won the World Series last year. I’m hoping they can at least take us home Read the rest of this entry »

Changes in the air

In Football, Long form on August 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Every time Mehlville athletes came in first, they wore the medal to class the next day. It didn’t matter if it was for basketball or girls’ cross-country — they were winners, and only winners wore medals. There wouldn’t be any medals at the high school Monday morning.

Winners didn’t complete only three of 12 passes. Winners didn’t let a running back rush on them for 179 yards. Winners scored more than nine points.

Yes, you could play hard and not win. They had done that. They had played their asses off for 48 minutes, but Rockhurst had essentially secured the state championship and the medals that came with it. All Mehlville had secured was a silent bus ride home.

They’d made it interesting in the first half, pouncing on Rockhurst’s mistakes with a safety and a defensive touchdown. They were actually winning 9-7 at halftime, and that gave them hope. No one had given them a chance in this game — not the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, not the Kansas City Star, not even their own classmates. Maybe they could do it. Read the rest of this entry »

A Quarterback of No Importance

In Football, Long form on August 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm

This post is the first of what will be a series in which Crim Del Harris writers, ever striving to push the envelope in possibly nonsensical and obscure ways, consider the perspectives of classical writers on the modern sports world. So it is with this background that Oscar Wilde happened upon a scene recently in Denver…

The quarterback is the creator of beautiful things.

It is the fan, not the game itself, whom the quarterback really mirrors.

There is no such thing as a moral or amoral quarterback. Passes are well thrown or badly thrown. That is all.

All quarterbacks are useless.

The film room smelled of lilacs, freshly cut and hanging from the window sill near the dry erase board. From his Persian leather lounge chair in the corner where he lounged languidly, Kyle Orton could barely sniff the honey-scented blossoms that filled the room only a scant few minutes earlier. Read the rest of this entry »

Hope

In Football, Long form on August 18, 2011 at 9:13 am

“To hope, and not be impatient, is really to believe.”

— George Meredith

That a semi-obscure Victorian poet could so succinctly capture the essence of the ever-evolving modern sports fan speaks to the permanence of its makeup. George Meredith had likely never heard of the emerging game of base ball when he inked those words in 1871, but he did linger just long enough to possibly catch news of the Chicago Cubs’ last world championship before his death in 1909. While he knew nothing about modern sport, he would have fit neatly into the present culture of fandom for he understood the one characteristic that is both ubiquitous and immutable in at least the American classification of that genre: hope, or the unshakeable belief that a team’s future representatives will surely trump the current batch.

This is most neatly illustrated each August 15, a date which, on the sports calendar, formerly sat wholly empty. August 15 represents the deadline by which drafted baseball players must sign with their respective organizations, two months after MLB’s annual June entry draft. It has become a cat and mouse affair, in which agent and general manager circle each other warily, driven by the need to maximize value against the imperative to satisfy the client. Failure, when too frequent, means termination. Read the rest of this entry »

Zeroes

In Baseball, Long form on August 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

He had to change his name. There couldn’t be two Johan Santanas pitching in the American league. He was Johan Santana, a rookie pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels. The one who played for the Minnesota Twins was a Cy Young award winner, and maybe the best pitcher in baseball. (Guess who got to keep the name?) But the Angels roster still needed a name for RHP 54. “I just came up with Ervin. Ervin Santana, that sounds good.”

It didn’t really hit him until the sixth inning. Maybe the seventh, but definitely not before the sixth. In the sixth, he had retired Kipnis, Kearns and Carrera on nine pitches. It was a good inning, and he’d looked strong striking out Izturis, but hitters were always toughest the third time through the batting order.

The first two times through the order, you could catch guys off guard, especially if they hadn’t seen your stuff in a while. But by the third time, they’d seen enough pitches to adjust their timing.

Brantley, Cabrera and Hafner were due up in the seventh, and that’s what convinced him. Nine pitches for three outs, and Hafner had looked at three strikes to end the inning. The sixth could have been a few lucky pitches. The seventh was artistry.

It always seems like no-hitters are spoiled late in the game. The pitcher becomes aware of what he’s chasing and starts to think. The thinking becomes hesitance, and the hesitance becomes a bloop single to center field. Read the rest of this entry »

William and Mary

In Football, William & Mary on August 12, 2011 at 9:21 am

January 22, 1689. A Convention Parliament meets in London to discuss the next regent of England.

On one side of the aisle is William of Orange, later William III. Having recently invaded England and disposed of James II, William wanted sole power to reign as monarch over the English people. Opposed sit a group of loyalists who felt if James II could not be restored to the crown, the only suitable rejoinder would be to promote William’s wife Mary, daughter of James II, to the throne.

By February 6, a consensus is brokered. William and Mary would preside as joint regents over England under the condition that only William, alone, would hold regal power over the realm. Mary, for her part, is fine with the decision, “knowing my heart is not made for a kingdom and my inclination leads me to a retired quiet life.”

Two things never fail to shock me about Jimmye Laycock. First, he was the offensive coordinator at Clemson when the Tigers beat Ohio State in the 1978 Gator Bowl in the last game Woody Hayes would ever coach.

The second is this: in his thirty years at William and Mary, Laycock has a career playoff record of 6-9. He has won more than one playoff game in a season twice. By comparison, Villanova’s Andy Talley has an 8-8 career playoff record since 1985, including a national title. When Jim Tressell was at Youngstown State from 1986-2000, he had a playoff record of 23-6. Read the rest of this entry »

August in Pittsburgh

In Baseball, Long form on August 11, 2011 at 10:57 pm

No one likes August and I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, so I can’t pretend to know what this must be like.

I can only imagine there are bugs. Big, mean, bloodsuckers that stick to your ankles and wrists and nibble you dry. I bet there’s a smell. Something like rotting mulch rising from the Allegheny—a Western Pennsylvania version of Carolina swamp water—where it isn’t polluted by toxic sludge like the Cuyahoga or rotting trash like the East River, but instead just a natural slime that coats everything it touches.

August heat must blanket PNC Park like a choleric fog, with an Old Testament mandate saying all lite beer must be warm by the time you sit down in its baked, clammy seats. The beautiful view of Pittsburgh’s skyline and the Allegheny River, which overpowered you when you first sat down, can’t matter by the time you hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and you stand up for the seventh inning stretch.

I have no idea though. There might not be bugs.

For those old enough to remember Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, the early years of Barry Bonds or even Bill Mazeroski’s World Series winning home run, this season must be even more painful than usual. Eighteen years of mediocrity gets comfortable.

I wouldn’t compare it to the sick, masochistic pleasure Cubs and (unfortunately, even now) Red Sox fans possess outwardly. Unlike fans of those teams, Pirates fans aren’t abrasive pricks, nor do they choose to root for unlikable teams with a knack for attracting blue-chip, underperforming talent. Maybe it’s not my place to judge, as I’ve never met a Pirates fan who was younger than 70. Read the rest of this entry »

Stagnation

In Long form, Soccer on August 10, 2011 at 8:58 am

At first glance, international soccer would seem to be the last refuge of the xenophobe. In few other contexts is it considered acceptable for the most genteel of Brits to intone combative verses celebrating the downing of World War II German bombers. The stereotypically neutral Swiss suddenly hate everybody. And Paraguayans morph into bellicose brawlers, particularly when hated Uruguay is involved. Even the impeccably mannered Japanese get involved, with nationalist chanting reverberating throughout a recent Asian Cup match against China.

Those tensions rapidly fade, however, when foreign players suddenly switch nationalities to suit up for a host nation. The United Arab Emirates—a society open in its pursuit of oil wealth, but regrettably despicable in its treatment of immigrant workers—was downright gleeful when Brazilian Alexandre Oliveira, a prolific striker who was an immigrant worker that just happened to play professional soccer, announced his intentions to suit up for Al Abyad. The Brazilian Alex has also found instant acceptance in another predominantly closed society, Japan, when featuring on the left side of the Japanese midfield. Throughout the world, players have switched nationalities like never before to maximize their international potential by flocking to weaker national sides—the most striking aspect of the oft-debated role of globalization in international sport.

Yet in many ways, the United States has existed apart from this construct. In others, it fully embodies it.

What does xenophobia mean for a much celebrated nation of immigrants? In a region in which the original inhabitants comprise 0.8% of the population, no single race is able to constitute more than a plurality, and 13% of citizens are born abroad?

These are questions without clear and direct answers. But they form the crucible into which a German steps as United States Men’s National Team head coach. Read the rest of this entry »

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