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

Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Who the #%@! is Lavoy Allen

In Basketball, Long form on September 20, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Morrisville, Pennsylvania’s Lavoy Allen is one of the best basketball players in Temple’s history and, apparently, the worst of the NBA.

They say you can nail a job in the first 90 seconds of an interview. Eye contact, a strong handshake, a relaxed smile and a subtle compliment can do wonders. Balancing deference with measured confidence, carefully telegraphing that this is their house, but you belong here.

Some players fall in the draft out of concerns that they’re closet headcases, arrogant jackasses who make great AND1 tapes but terrible teammates. Others have the opposite problem.

Make no mistake, Lavoy Allen is the latter, and he is the worst player in the NBA.

He is 22 years old, 6’9”, 228 lbs. He grew up outside Trenton in Morrisville, Pennsylvania and is coming off four years of Division I basketball at Temple University. He holds the Owls’ record for career rebounds.

During that time, he averaged 11.6 points per game, 2.3 assists, 8.6 boards and 1.8 blocks, anchoring a team that made the NCAA Tournament in each of his four years. His junior year, the year he really should have gone out for the draft, he posted a double-double on points and rebounds for the season.

The Philadelphia 76’ers, his hometown team, selected him in the second round with the 50th overall pick of this year’s NBA draft.

Read the rest of this entry »



In Football, Long form on September 19, 2011 at 11:36 am

Up. Down. Up. Down. The rising sun illuminated the beads of dew and sweat on the players’ helmets as it began to break through the leaves of the trees encircling the field. The cold morning air, more suitable for mid-autumn than for the fleeting days of a Virginia summer, turned the players’ hot breaths into a translucent mist, obscuring each player’s face to create a supernatural aura. Up. Down. Up. Down. Few cars passed the stadium as the players drilled at 6:02 a.m., and no student would arrive for at least another hour. A solitary jogger made his way past the field and briefly watched the assembled young men as they completed up-down drills in the first light. Up. Down. Up. Down. It was too early for Orange, Va. to wake up — and the players knew it. But this was two-a-days season, and if a guy couldn’t make it through two-a-days, his ass didn’t belong on the field Friday night.

If it had been any other week, Jacob Rainey would have been on that field. It would have been his immaculate helmet glistening in the sun. The chilly air would have met his breath as his voice echoed through the empty stadium, calling the plays Woodberry Forest would run against Benedictine. At the sound of a coach’s whistle, he would have dropped to the ground and risen with more hustle and determination than any other player — because Jacob Rainey was a quarterback, and his obligations went beyond the up-down drills and suicide sprints. But Jacob Rainey was not there that morning. No one wore the familiar number 5 jersey, and the stadium was silent, except for a single coach’s whistle and the collective grunts of 60 young men. Up. Down. Up. Down. While the Woodberry Forest Tigers were on the field preparing for their season, Jacob Rainey was in a hospital bed preparing for surgery. Read the rest of this entry »


In Culture, Long form on September 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

New York City on the tenth anniversary of 9/11

Really, it was just another day.

I woke up around noon hungover. Too lazy to cook but too antsy to wait for takeout, I showered, put on sweats and went for a walk, planning to hit the Shake Shack on 86th Street. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be until late that afternoon, to catch a softball game in Hell’s Kitchen.

There was a street fair on 3rd Avenue, with stands offering barbecued corn on the cob and fried calamari, which, given the state of my stomach, didn’t sit right. The clouds overhead promised rain, but failed to deliver, and the wind whipped down the avenues in bold gusts, scattering tossed wrappers and enveloping the neighborhood with a distinctly Upper East Side aroma of fresh air and dog shit.

The bars were flooded with people wearing NFL jerseys, though it wasn’t all Jets and Giants fans. The 9/11-sports angle is so played out I don’t even want to try to chase it down, though I suppose it is interesting that the first Sunday of the 2011 NFL season coincided with the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

It was slow going to the restaurant. My legs were stiff from softball practice and dancing. I had slipped and fallen in front of the bar the night before, and everything I wore reeked of stale liquor and cheap beer. When I woke up, my pockets were stuffed with crumpled dollar bills and leaflets from the concert hall. I was also a little deaf; I’d been too close to the speakers. Read the rest of this entry »

Pigskin Pilgrims

In Football, Long form on September 12, 2011 at 11:25 am

The caravan began Friday. Children and adults, released from their daily burdens by the ringing of school bells and the five chimes of late afternoon, filed into cars already packed full with supplies. The pilgrimage had been planned for months now. Schedules had been cleared, old friends and relatives had been contacted and Sept. 3 had been circled — a new addition to the red-letter days.

They come from throughout the state, traveling west from St. Louis and east from Kansas City, transforming I-70 into a seemingly endless procession of cars inching toward the heart of Missouri. The caravan arrives in Columbia, and the travelers disembark. Their eyes search for a symbol, something to confirm that their journey is complete. The monolithic stone “M” shimmers, brilliant and white, from a hillside underneath a cloudless sky. Missouri has entered its most hallowed liturgical season — college football. But there is a problem with this idyllic scene: Mizzou football isn’t that good.

In many ways, Missouri is a state defined by its polarity. Rural inhabitants resent their seeming domination at the hands of their urban and urbane counterparts, while city dwellers reluctantly interact with their “small-town” rivals. St. Louis and Kansas City compete for the title of reigning metropolis, while east and west belittle one another for their separation from other more glamorous cities — even as they themselves seek desperately the acceptance of their more sophisticated neighbors. And yet these geographic rivalries, these disparate economic and political interests, disappear with the advent of college football season. Read the rest of this entry »

FJM-style takedown of the week

In Football, Long form on September 9, 2011 at 10:15 am

Long-time fans of CDH (ha!) will remember one of our inaugural posts examined a column from Kevin Van Valkenburg. Looking back on it, I wish I would have reworded some of those thoughts. Van Valkenburg, after all, is one of the better sportswriters in the Baltimore area. He’s thoughtful, well-researched and interesting. You never get the sense one of his columns was turned in simply because he had to fill 15-inches of copy that day (Plus he re-tweeted us. Never forget that, above all else, CDH is nothing but a bunch of shameless, shameless page-view whores).

Kevin Cowherd, Van Valkenburg’s colleague at the Sun, is none of those things. I could say more but, well, let’s just look at his most recent column, shall we. Full apologies go out to Fire Joe Morgan, a much-better three-named blog who does this much better than we could ever do. Read the rest of this entry »

On victory

In Football, Long form on September 8, 2011 at 11:33 am

Everyone who’s seen “Friday Night Lights” knows the locker room speech Coach Gaines gives his team in the desperate middle of their final game. What could easily have been a conventional St. Crispin’s Day pep talk about courage, determination, and give-em-hell spirit was a touching, plain-spoken address about the meaning of “perfection” and the importance of winning. “To me being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship to yourself and your family and your friends.”

Gaines’s speech is an oustanding moment, but he has another interesting if less memorable quote about the importance of winning. Talking with his stoic quarterback, he says, “It took me a long time to realize that there ain’t much difference between winning and losing, except for how the outside world treats you. But inside you, it’s about all the same. It really is.”

Superficially there’s a world of difference between winning and losing, and everyone who’s every played any game as a kid knows how much of a gulf separates these two feelings. What does the coach mean? Gaines’s locker-room speech can illuminate the above quote, especially the point where he says, “Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything that you could. There wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done.” Read the rest of this entry »

A conflicted rebirth

In Best of CDH, Football on September 7, 2011 at 11:22 am

Thunder… Da Na Na Nana Na Na… Thunder… Da Na Nana Na Na

The opening chords of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck are among the most overused in major sports, fast becoming as nauseating as the wave. Angus Young’s opening guitar riff permeates a filling stadium or arena, giving way to his staccato vocals and a booming bass line. Any intended drama is dwarfed by its pervasiveness.

Thunder… Da Na Na Nana Na Na… Thunder… Da Na Nana Na Na

Except Monday night. With a national television audience peering in on a sold out and rocking Byrd Stadium, the Maryland Terrapins managed to create a visual and sensory experience so overwhelming, so irresistible that it managed to penetrate even today’s schizophrenic media climate. Maryland’s 2011 debut had the entire sports world talking, often not in the positive, but since when has that mattered? The evening served as the climax of a complete and total rebranding of the sports program, one intended to make the Terps into a cultural and on-field powerhouse with national recognition. But along the way, could that force fans to come to terms with the very ethos that defines their institution? Read the rest of this entry »


In Football, William & Mary on September 4, 2011 at 1:45 pm

It was just over five minutes into the third quarter when sheer and utter panic began to set in for the Tribe faithful. Or, rather, it would have if the Tribe faithful were of the type prone to hysteriatrics. William and Mary fans happen to be a more stoic bunch, a trait that will be sorely needed in the aftermath of Saturday’s 40-3 loss in Charlottesville.

It’s been three years since the Tribe received a shellacking comparative to that laid by the Virginia Cavaliers. That previous iteration saw the squad go into James Madison’s Bridgeforth Stadium and get bushwhacked 48-24. That game took place before back to back playoff appearances and numerous high profile wins raised the stature of the College’s football program, but all those honors mattered little at Scott Stadium. Bushwhacked still summed up the result.

So with that in mind, the matter at hand now turns to what to make of the Tribe’s demoralizing start to the season. The proper attitude was best described by linebacker Dante Cook after the game, “They always say it’s not as good as you think, but it’s never as bad as you think.”

Mike London trotted out a team that was far improved from the squad the Tribe easily handled in 2009. More importantly, the Cavaliers played with a chip on their shoulder, coming out and hitting the College with an early intensity that never faded. Virginia was a step faster, a tad bigger, and seemingly drastically more motivated in this version of the interstate rivalry. Read the rest of this entry »

Missing pieces

In Baseball on September 2, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Colby Rasmus visited Busch Stadium twice on July 27 — once to clear out his locker and once to say goodbye to his teammates. The telephone call had come earlier in the day: The 24-year-old center fielder had been traded.

John Mozeliak had been diplomatic during their brief exchange, listing the organization’s reasons for trading away one of its star players: “We had to shore up the bullpen,” “The starting rotation was thin,” “You’ll have a fresh start in Toronto.” But those weren’t the words of a Major League Baseball general manager. Mozeliak’s voice more closely resembled that of a college undergraduate trying to soothe the feelings of his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend. The implication was clear to Rasmus — “the Cardinals would like to win the World Series. Your services will no longer be required.”

For every team not named the New York Yankees, winning a World Series is a rare opportunity. It can take years for the perfect combination of youth and age, experience and hustle, talent and luck to coalesce into that singular moment on a cold night in October when baseball discovers its champion. For teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, a playoff run can breathe new life into a moribund franchise, even if those hopes begin to fade after August 1. All that matters is the possibility — the potential — of doing something great. Read the rest of this entry »

Felix Pie

In Baseball, Long form on September 1, 2011 at 10:22 am

The Felix Pie’s of the world aren’t made for Triple-A. They are supernovas, a Dylan Thomas poem set to a disco beat. In a perfect world, Felix Pie would be diving into sections of fans named after him, “Pie’s People” or something like that. He would be the guy smashing shaving cream pie in faces during post-game interviews for a playoff contender. Or he would be searching for the lost city of Atlantis with only a half a bottle of Orange Slice and a pet rabbit named Roscoe. He’d be Manny Ramirez or Bill Lee or he would just disappear forever because the circus is never fun in dimly lit small towns smelling of stale beer and sheep.

When he first arrived in Baltimore, plucked from the dying vine of the Cubs’ minor league system in exchange for a magical starfish named Garrett Olson, he was sad Felix. His teammates hated him, his manager treated him like a petulant child; what’s worse, he was not very good. Pie played left field like a baby deer learning to walk. Every fly ball to left field should have been scored to the Pastoral Symphony; every at-bat should have come with a disclaimer.

But then an old wizard named Crow decided to work one last spell and Pie’s bat came to life. Why he had to zap the strength of Nick Markakis to do so, Oriole fans will never know. But suddenly, Pie’s bat came to life. He OPS’d 1.045 in 63 at-bats in August. He finished with a a 497 slugging percentage after the All-Star Break, and fangraphs had him with a UZR/150 of 7.7, a total zone rating of eight. Read the rest of this entry »

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