Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Sports Weekend From Hell

The title of this blog is "Sports Hate Me". As previously alluded this is a scientifically proven fact. This weekend did nothing to dissuade me from believing that I'm never going to see success from any of these teams. If there is any doubt from anyone, then all the evidence you need can be found in box scores and highlights that occurred between the dates of December 4, 2010 through December 6, 2010. I call it, "The Sports Weekend From Hell".

Friday December 4, 2010
Friday had two games of personal interest on the docket. Of particular curiosity was the MAC Championship Game between Northern Illinois and the "most annoying school in the world", Miami. Originally I had planned on being in attendance for the MAC title game in Detroit, which would've been the third time in 5 years that I've been to the MCG, but Ohio University's players also planned on being there as well forgetting they had a game to win against 4-7 Kent State. Some fraternity bros and I discussed (rather prematurely) that we'd head north to Detroit. We planned on getting a hotel room, playing blackjack, and maybe even making it to the game. Cause, you know, the place everyone wants to be in early December is Detroit, Michigan. 

Detroit, Michigan: The City of Lights

The last two times OU participated in the MAC Championship Game they were easily defeated by Central Michigan and their Quarterback Dan "Please play him, Bengals" Lafevour had monster games. I was excited to play somebody other than those pesky Chippewas with their goonish fans and I thought the Bobcats could handle Northern Illinois. What I didn't anticipate was that they would be so emotionless and uninterested in playing Kent State and going to the championship game hinged on beating Kent. The Golden Flashes head coach, Doug Martin, resigned earlier that week and they put out an emotional effort for him in his last game beating OU 28-6. Are you serious? How do you let that happen Solich?

So losses happen. It's conference play, anybody can beat anybody. After all, 0-10 Akron had the ball on Miami's 5 yard line down 5 with less than a minute to play. Miami came out of it with a win and Akron fell to 0-11, but parity still reigns. The biggest reason for the awful taste in my mouth after OU's loss to Kent was that the loss that knocked out the Bobcats sent the aforementioned "most annoying school in the world" to the MAC Championship Game. Miami. 

Miami students dress like they're in the SEC and act like they're an Ivy league school. They possess an air of snobbery and entitlement so pungent even I can smell it. Most of you don't get that because you don't know that I have no sense of smell. To their students, parents of students, and alumni, if you are from Ohio and you don't go to Miami then you must be in some sense, kidding. This is the school that produced Ben Roethlisberger, enough said there. 

Flash forward to the 4th quarter of the game itself. Miami trails by 1 and their field goal kicker's already had two blocked and they've failed to convert on a fake field goal. Basically, they need to score a touchdown or it's over. They're driving with about a minute left and Northern Illinois backs them into a 4th and 20. Awesome, the game's over, sorry Redskins, not gonna happen. Then Miami, channeling Kyle Orton to Brandon Stokely via Leon Hall, converts the 4th down off of a ball batted by a Huskies defensive back. The second luckiest play I've seen all football season (the first was that Hail Mary in Jacksonville that some might remember). Two plays later they score the go-ahead TD and go on to win the game in complete and total douchey fashion. 

You might be saying, "so what, it's the MAC, who cares?" Well for one, I do. If you're in a conference you might as well try to win it and if you don't then at least don't give it to your arch-rivals. OU lost out on the conference championship game while controlling their own destiny and handed it to Miami. I'm bitter. Though in consolation I think we got the better bowl bid. New Orleans Bowl versus the MAACO Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. I'll take New Orleans. December 18 at 9 pm against Troy. Mark your calendars.

Still Friday
Simultaneously the Blue Jackets were taking on the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo with about 3 feet of snow on the ground. The Blue Jackets came into the game in the midst of a three game losing streak after wining 5 straight. If there's one team that can't build on anything it's the Jackets. Make the playoffs one year, finish 14th the next. Win 5 in a row, lose 5 in a row. The normal building blocks every team takes, right?

The CBJ have actually been fairly decent against the eastern conference in recent years and the last time they were in Buffalo they came away with a 7-2 victory. Not this time. I knew we were doomed the second they stepped out onto the ice wearing the third jersey uniforms. 

They're 0-4 in the new alternates and above that they're really bland uniforms to watch a team wear. They've only worn them 4 times and I'm already bored, plus they may be cursed. Let's bury the suckers at the bottom of the Scioto river. 

What I look at when I can't sleep

The Blue Jackets came out with zero energy and got down early. There isn't a sport that is more difficult to come back in than hockey and lately the Blue Jackets have been giving up a lot of early leads. It was their downfall a year ago when they started a franchise best 12-6-2 and then went on a 3-24 skidmark that began in December. This season they started 14-6, another franchise best, and since have dropped five in a row, which includes this Buffalo loss. Another repeat of last year will not be good for my health or well-being. 

I always like beating Buffalo because their fans have a reputation as some of the worst visiting fans in the league and I like to shut them up at home. Wasn't to be. Jackets got shutout by true American hero, Ryan Miller, and lost 5-0 which extended their losing streak to 4. Giving away the puck will do that. 

Great start to the weekend.  

Saturday December 5, 2010
I spent Saturday at Lifetime Fitness in what was my first true workout there. I like being out of college and having money to spend on things. My monthly gym membership is more than what was my monthly food budget in school. Somehow I still gained weight. That's what happens when you eat cereal for dinner, I guess. I surprised myself and ran nearly 3 miles on the treadmill. I learned the game of squash and pumped some iron using the girly machines. Good start to the day and I was able to vent some hostility about the night before and ramp up for the CBJ battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins later that day.

I went with Sports Hate Sister to the Blue Jackets-Penguins game that night. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever seen the Penguins in Columbus. I've seen them in Pittsburgh before, but never at Nationwide. My sister and I knew we were in trouble the second we parked and saw a team of squirts in Penguins jerseys (with incorrect number font. just saying...) shouting "Let's go Pens!" at the top of their lungs. I later remarked that "Pens" becomes "Penis" so easily, but this was brushed aside because my team's initials are "B" and "J". 

It got worse when we got in line at the door's security check and were outnumber 3:1 by people in Penguins paraphernalia. It felt like I was entering the thunderdome. Penguins gear was everywhere. By the way, either people in Pittsburgh are stupid or the counterfeiters are really bad at matching their jerseys because I saw Ebay fouls left and right. Also, what is with the popularity of the Penguins light blue throwback sweater? The only thing uglier going in the NHL right now is the Florida Panthers knockoff of the Penguins light blue sweater. 

Once in the building it was about 60% Penguins fans which brings up another point, if you have season tickets to the Blue Jackets please don't sell them online. Anyone can buy them and they're usually the visiting fans. 

The Blue Jackets got down early thanks to turnovers and their inability to clear the puck from their zone. By the end of the 1st period the CBJ were down 4-0 and Steve Mason had been pulled in favor of Mathieu Garon ( lovingly pronounced Matoo Garaw. French Canadians. pssshh).

I've seen all 30 teams in the NHL at Nationwide arena and I've had pleasant experiences with most every fanbase. Even the visiting fans from Detroit and Buffalo, who have bad reputations around the league, never got to the point where their presence or their actions affected my enjoyment of the game. Pittsburgh's fans were a completely different story. They were easily the most obnoxious, rude, entitled, boorish fans I've ever had to deal with. Any true fan of a team would've been embarrassed by the display this group of mouth-breathers put on. People ask why Pittsburgh is so high on my hate list (#1 in case you were wondering), and it's because of games like that. There's such a thing as winning with class and for a team that has had recent Stanley Cup success their fans are one, terrible at winning with any sort of class or grace, and two, behave as if a goal in a regular season December game is the Stanley Cup winner. I hate this saying, but at some point you have to learn to act like you've been there before. Behaving otherwise is unbecoming. 

Note to Pittsburgh, nobody has ever looked cool waving a terrible towel. Ever. They're the Ed Hardy of the sports world. They're ugly and owned by douche bags (I'm well aware the proceeds go to charity). Plus, you're at a freaking hockey game. Leave them at home and stop mixing your allegiances. The Steelers aren't playing the Blue Jackets, the Pirates aren't playing the Blue Jackets. You're at a hockey game, support your hockey team. You'd never catch me in a Bengals jersey at a Reds game (and I seriously hate Cincinnatians who do this). 

The Blue Jackets came out with a little fire in the second, but that was quickly squelched with another Penguins goal. It got as bad as 5-0 before the Blue Jackets put one past Marc-Andre Fleury (what is it with French Canada and goalies?). The Penguins added three in the second to reach what would ultimately be their final goal total of 7. 

The third period wasn't much better, though the Blue Jackets did win the period 1-0. The Penguins fan next to me got "sleepy" and began to drift off. This made me feel good about the booger I left on his seat when the Penguins scored their 6th goal. If by some miracle you're reading this, guy in section 115 Row R seat 13, I'm not at all sorry. You were a poor seat neighbor. Another note to Pittsburgh, most visiting fans will generally try to engage with the home fans, perhaps develop some kind of friendly banter. 5 seconds of talking to the dude next to me and I decided it wasn't worth it. If I can name more players on your team than you can, you're not a fan. I didn't say a word to him for the rest of the game. 

At some point during the third period the Penguins fans started doing the wave. Apparently 1989 has yet to hit Pittsburgh. During the last period a gangly gentleman in a Penguins hat and a Gretzky Kings jersey (WTF?) was kicked out by the cops. I didn't see what he did, but based on the way he handled it and his behavior on his way out, I was okay with it. 

As per personal policy, we sat through the entire game. I don't leave games early, but I thought hard about it in the third period. In ten years of going to Blue Jackets games that was easily the worst game I've ever been to and only about half of that was because of the absurd amount of Pittsburgh Penguins fans. The Blue Jackets got blown out, on home ice, while outnumbered by visiting fans, while playing with zero heart. They were utterly dominated. The Penguins held the puck for over two thirds of the game and the Jackets struggled to even carry it through the neutral zone. Like clockwork, the Blue Jackets' December woes have returned in a strong way. 

At least the Pittsburgh Pirates still suck. You need the Pirates to continue to perform terribly, Pittsburgh, otherwise you'd be even more unbearable than you are now. 

Also, the SEC put another team into the National Championship game. Ugh. 

Sunday December 5, 2010
I've pretty much given up on the NFL for this season. 2010 has been a year where absolutely nothing has gone right. The Bengals are in the midst of a 9 game losing streak and with the Steelers coming up it doesn't look like it's going to stop there. The Bengals have the worst body language in the league and lack any kind of killer instinct. On Sunday they took on the defending Super Bowl champs in the New Orleans Saints and if the game hadn't been televised in Columbus then I probably wouldn't have tried to follow it. 

The Bengals got down early but rallied late to tie the game and then took a 3 point lead with about a minute and a half to go. They then systematically allowed the Saints offense to work their way into field goal range. The Saints moved the ball to the Bengals 5 yard line, but faced a 4th and 2. Here's where things get rage-fit-inducingly bad. The Saints opted to go for it rather than kicking the tying field goal. The Bengals defensive lineman, Pat Simms, created a neutral zone infraction giving the Saints the first down and ultimately the go-ahead touchdown. I thought I'd seen every way to lose an NFL game, but I was wrong and if this hasn't cemented the Bengals as the dumbest team in the NFL, I don't know what will. 

T.O. and Ochocinco both had solid games and Carson Palmer looked competent as an NFL passer for maybe the first time all season. The problem was that Drew Brees is an undeniably good quarterback, arguably top three in the NFL, and he tore through the depleted Bengals secondary and the Bengals made another mental mistake at the worst possible time. 

At one point the Bengals were a 2-1 team. I wish I could live in that time between weeks 3 and 4 where all the expectations and hopes for a division championship repeat were still alive. It was bliss looking back on it. 

Pictured: The 2010 Cincinnati Bengals

Also,  the Browns beat the Dolphins because former Michigan quarterback, Chad Henne, threw a pic late in Dolphins territory that gave the Browns the go-ahead score. The Steelers rounded out the horrible weekend by beating Baltimore on a late defensive play as well. Par for the course and I  found myself completely unsurprised. I would've been more shocked if the Steelers hadn't found a miracle way to win that game. 

The Steelers victory Sunday night finished off the worst sports weekend I've had in a long time. In moments like this it's important to find the good and appreciate the small victories. You have to weed through all of the crap and terrible to find something to hold onto to get through to the next weekend. It looked like I was going to have to go with the old standby, "at least the Pittsburgh Pirates suck". That is, until Ben Roethlisberger broke his nose.

Sweet redemption. Thanks Haloti Ngata of the Ravens. Your Congressional Medal of Honor is in the mail. 

There were six games that I had a vested interest in. All 6 of them went the wrong way and went the wrong way in ridiculous fashion. Maybe next weekend will be better. I'm not optimistic because...

Sports Hate Me. 

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