Thursday, December 31, 2009

Decade list: Top Ten White Role Players from the Big Ten

This is the only blog where you can find this list.  Maybe.
The criteria is that you have to be a role player in the truest sense, the player cannot be very good.  Also the role players on the list must have a very "white" game.   We all know what that means so I won't get into it.

Illinois Vs Northwestern: A Good Game

That is something that I never thought I would say.  In all of my dozen or so years of obsessively following Illini basketball I never enjoyed watching the UI-NW match-up. 

Afterwards I never thought things like "That was a quality game of basketball" or "That was competitive game played by athletic and racially diverse players", instead it was always "Wow, I'm glad that Northwestern succeeded in dumbing the game down to the point that they only lost by 15" or "I now like the sport of basketball less" or "Is it really a good idea to recruit exclusively in the former Soviet Union and Glenbrook North?" and "Teams should be required to have a weight room". 

All told, at 2 games per year, for let's say 12 years, at approx. 2 hours a game, Northwestern owes me 48 hours of good basketball.  They paid back about 2.5 hours of it last night in the 89-83 OT loss to the Illini.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oh How the Mighty Has Fallen

Harrison's Ford's upcoming movie Extraordinary Measures is another unfortunate move for the declining legend of the silver screen. It was bad enough that he agreed to do Spielberg's Indiana Jones sequel with George Lucas' hair-brained script. Now he's chosen to co-star alongside Brendan Fraser in a tearjerker about a rare disease. 

I don't consider myself a cynic by any means, but his latest moves seem out of character. This is a man who intentionally botched an entire movie's worth of voice-overs because he thought it was corny. He was the biggest hardass of my generation's childhood, and he owes us more than to go out like this. 

The worst part of it all is that he's not even saving his own family in the movie; he's saving someone else's family. I wonder if the big, dramatic line at the apex of the movie is, [raise right eyebrow and powerfully point index finger] "GET OUT OF MY LAB!" 

Anyway, I forgive Harrison and will never stop quoting his lines form Air Force One. And if he's still hard up for money in the future, I would support his role in a spinoff film of his character in American Graffiti called Bob Falfa: Womanizer. That would definitely get his street cred back up. 

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Links Edition

Today feels like a links day to me, so that’s precisely what I’m going to do. Can you remember the last time the mainstream media let a so-called big story run its natural course instead of beating it to death? Those days seem far gone to me, and I think it’s too bad, but oh well. The Tracy McGrady coverage, the Colts’ decisions and the Mike Leach saga fit the bill.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Ten Golf Courses

Once again on account of little professional golf action, here is another top ten list. This week’s edition features my top ten favorite finishing stretches on the PGA Tour’s annual rotation.

Addressing the Obvious College Football BS

As the bowl season is now under way, I figured it was time for someone at Free Keon to address the elephant in the room and talk about our messed up College Football Bowl System. Too often, however, this conversation just addresses how ridiculous the bowl system is without really looking towards plausible solutions that effectively compromise innovation, tradition, and financial concerns.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More than Roses and Buckeyes

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Now that we’re in full football fervor mode, known as “Bowl Mania,” I thought I’d hand off to college football.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are slim underdogs going into their Rose Bowl match-up with the Oregon Ducks, but while the results of that game will hold up for anywhere from a few days to some months, history shows that the outcome will not be the primary offshoot for Buckeyes players. Go out and grab a copy of David Lee Morgan, Jr.’s “More Than a Coach,” and you will understand why.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bulls Back on Track?

The Bulls' recent 101-98 home victory over the third place Atlanta Hawks looks may not seem like anything more than a nice win. Although the Hawks are a solid team, the Bulls' problems have not come at home this year. With a 2-12 away record, it's the road that seems to be hampering this relatively young team. However, I had the opportunity to watch them play this game live and have some positive thoughts about why this might be the start of a turnaround for the Bulls (By turnaround I mean that they will play well enough to slide in to the playoffs with no better than a sixth seed). 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Illini Lose to Georgia: Not time to Panic Yet

With a third bad non-conference loss under Illinois' belt, many may be getting ready to hit the panic button for this season. As understandable as this reaction is, let’s take pause and look at a few positives before we tackle the obvious negatives

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Thursday Edition

It’s been two weeks since I set out to do a Tiger-free blog. Two weeks since I said enough was enough. It was time to turn our attentions to something else. Yet today, I survey the sporting landscape and see there are a whole new crop of Tiger stories dominating the headlines.

The Deron Williams Shootout Report

The Mixed Bag
by Nate K

The first game of the day attended by the Free Keon staff was Mt. Carmel vs. Peoria Central.  It was a guard-oriented game featuring D-1 prospects Bobo Drummond of Peoria, and future Illini Tracy Abrams of Mt. Carmel. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top 10 Tournaments of the Decade

Not much golf of note is being played this week. Therefore, I have compiled another top ten list. I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Before Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols, Stan Musial was St. Louis

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Recently fellow FK blogger Steve asked me for my thoughts on two Stan Musial biographies – the original 1964 book, “Stan Musial: ‘The Man’s’ Own Story as told to Bob Broeg and a 2001 work, “Musial from Stash to Stan the Man” by James N. Giglio.

Well, Steve, I’m happy to oblige, and I hope you pick the right book for your grandfather. Speaking of Steve’s request, if any of you has one, please feel free to pass it along, so I can give it the Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media rundown.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Picking up where they left off

It was during the final minutes of Danville's loss to Providence New Lenox Catholic that I began to ponder the Vikings chances in the looming IHSA basketball season.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Whitey Herzog's Teammate Satchel Paige was Something Else!

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

For a couple months, I’ve been seeing Larry Tye’s “Satchel” pop up on top book lists everywhere. Now that Winter Meetings have pushed baseball near the front of the sports buffet line again, I thought I’d see if this book was worth reading. It is.

Here’s why:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Golf's Unique Prizes

Many have done stories on the unique trophies and prizes in the game of golf. Recently, both and the Golf Channel highlighted the oddities. However in response to comments on the photo from the latest “This Week in Golf,” I was inspired to produce my own top ten list of favorite golf prizes.

Landon Donovan, your legacy awaits

With a number a Web sites reporting a deal in the works, it sounds like Landon Donovan will be loaned to English Premier League club Everton starting in January.

This is intriguing (read: you should care) for a number of reasons.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Bulls lack fight, among other things

In their 32-point home loss to the Raptors on Saturday, the Bulls allowed Toronto guard Jarett Jack to tie his shoes near half court during the run of play in the third quarter.  Not one member of the Bulls thought it would be prudent to go up to Jack and steal the ball instead of honoring his playground time-out.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Homage to Gloomy Gus

I'm kind of interested/obsessed with Dick Nixon (perfectly normal), and one of the interesting aspects of his presidency was his "Enemies List".  The best part of the list is the story of CBS news anchor Daniel Schorr, who read the list live on air, and didn't realize he was on the list until he came to his own name, and just moved on without comment.  Just amazing. Thank God for Nixon.
Anyway, I thought it would be cool to come up with my own enemies list.  I try to emulate Tricky Dick whenever possible. 

The List

Milton Bradley
An obvious choice, I've already written plenty about Milton and taken a bunch of pot-shots at his family (I'm not apologizing), but he still deserves to be mentioned.  Milton will definitely be traded in the off-season, but he will always be remembered for his disaster of a season with the Cubs.  The lesson is be bad, it's fine, just keep your head up and your mouth shut and play hard every day.  But don't be bad and be a jackass.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Will Return Thursday

Dear Readers and Fans,

Please be aware that this Free Keon feature will not appear on Tuesday this week as usual. Sam will bring you his latest post on Thursday. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Miracle on Littlejohn (Stealing Nate's Thunder with another Illini Post)

Maybe it was that the Illini guards decided to stop picking up their dribble in the second half, or perhaps it was that Mike Tisdale finally started to get a feel for the pace of the game and, at the same time, gained a good 100 pounds of physical presence. Whatever it was, Illinois took advantage of what seemed to be a Clemson team drunk off a first-half conquest, and left Littlejohn Coliseum with a victory.

Slammin' Sam on Spors Media Thursday Edition

Happy three weeks before Christmas Eve or one day before Friday, whatever makes you happier.

Before I set out to scour the net for the Slammin’ Sam links, I had to get one thing straight. I would not include anything on the one thing that seems to be consuming the sports world for the last week and will continue to do so for the next while. I would not touch on Tiger … unless I felt the links were going forward rather than proceeding in a back and forth volley. You know, “What’s Tiger’s endorsement situation? What’s Elin going to do? What about these women?” etc. and etc.

Anything is Possible

That's what Dominique Keller said after the Illini's comeback win over Clemson.  Copyright infringement on KG if I have ever heard it. 
It has been a roller coaster of emotion for the Illini fans this season and in that game. 
First the promising blow-out wins to open the season.  Then the Las Vegas debacle.  Now the tale of two halves win against Clemson. 
I just have a couple thoughts on the game. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This Week in Golf

Chevron World Challenge - Tiger Woods's annual invitational takes place this week at beautiful Sherwood Country Club just outside of Los Angeles. Sixteen top world players will compete for guaranteed money from the nearly $6 million purse. Unfortunately, the host and defending champion have both withdrawn from the field.

Early Thoughts on Da Bulls

The Chicago Bulls are currently sitting at 6-9 and looking at the 8 seed if the season were to end today.  In the Free Keon NBA prediction post, I picked the Bulls to end up with the 3 seed in the Eastern Conferance.  This was clearly a leap of faith, as my predictions are mostly based off what I would like to see happen.  Upon further review, the Bulls are much more pedestrian, and appear to be headed for a low playoff seed and another early playoff exit.
Any Bulls analysis starts at the top with their wunderkind point guard, the player that seems destined to bring the Bulls to the promised land with his tremendous athletisim, ability to break down a defense, and his D-Will-esque passing ability.  ... Kirk Hinrich.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Bounce Back" with John Calipari

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Since we’re talking about basketball and not baseball, I’ll tell you right off the tip I’m not sure if I am convinced by John Calipari’s new book, “Bounce Back.” He’s always struck me as slick. Then again, he has been successful, (Note the two-time college coach of the year distinction among others on his resume) and I don’t know him personally. I just judge the book on its own merits. After all, I was curious to get inside the man’s head a little bit.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Vegas Baby, Vegas

Here are a few things that the Illini could have learned from their weekend in Vegas.

If you can't spot the sucker in the first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker.

Translation:  The Illini came in to the tournament thinking they were the big-shot favorites, and they ended up with no wins and no dignity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Firsthand Account of Playing with Fire

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Who would have thought last Thursday’s links edition would have been a foreshadowing? Not I. Yet here I am writing about hockey. As I already shared, I don’t know much about the sport, nor is it on my [Mike] Richter scale. So it would take something pretty unusual to catch my attention. Theo Fleury’s book “Playing with Fire” fits the bill.

Update on Bird and Magic

A couple weeks ago, I gave my take on the legends looking back on one of sports' greatest rivalries. The two came together again for a Sunday Conversation on ESPN. Take a look.

By the way, since I figure most people will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, Slammin' Sam on Sports Media will return next Tuesday. And on the subject of thanksgiving, we here at Free Keon thank you, our readers, for your interest!

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Orange and Deja Blue

A decade of Illinois basketball has passed and it feels like not much has changed.  The current Illini squad bears a striking resemblence to the 1999-2000 team.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Big 12 Update: What a Season!

The Danville Vikings had a memorable season, and no other Big 12 town could use the positive vibe that a strong high school football can bring more than Danville. The citizens of the community rallied around this team to lift many spirits of an economically challenged town. The exciting journey came to an end today in a 30-21 loss to Nex Lenox Providence. Josh will have to fill us in more on the details of how the game played out, but the Vikings should not hang their heads. They have a long list of impressive accomplishments to boast. For the first time in history, they defeated all three McLean County Big 12 schools in the same season. They made it to the semifinals in a very tough Class 6A. No other DHS football team has won more games in a single season. They are the Big 12 Conference champions. And they encouraged a greater sense of unity and pride in their community. Great job, Vikings!

Danville vs. Providence (New Lenox): Keon vs.Guzan

High school football swine skin fever has taken over Illinois Big 12 Country once again. This year, however, it is not the Bloomington/Normal cast of characters but instead the Danville Vikings, who have busted out of a 30 year slump to again reach the state semifinals.

Friday, November 20, 2009

H.O.V.A. (Hollowed Out Venerable Appearance)

The hype that surrounded Jay-Z's recent show at the Assembly reminded me of something I've been wanting to get off my chest for a little while. Why does Jay-Z always get grouped with the classy, respectable rappers? How does a guy that refers to himself as "HOVA" (short for Jehovah) consistently get the good guy wrap?

I always here people say things like, "I don't really like rap, but I like Jay-Z. He's different." Now I want to make it clear, by no means do I dislike Jay-Z. I have a couple of his albums on my itunes and listen to him from time-to-time. I don't think he's worse than your average rapper who turns out songs about booties and bling for a quick buck. But it's started to bug me that he gets credit for being something he's not.  

Here are some lines from his song "Moment of Clarity": 

I dumb down for my audience
And double my dollars
They criticize me for it
Yet they all yell "Holla"
If skills sold

Truth be told
I'd probably be
Talib Kweli
I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
(But i did five Mil)
I ain't been rhymin like Common since

Maybe I'm just being overly-critical, but it's hard for me to put a man on a pedestal who brags about being a sell-out. He makes it out like he's being admirable by being honest about it, but that doesn't mean anything unless he's willing to change. 

Anyway, I'll probably check out the next album he comes out with and will continue listening to his music, because he isn't a bad guy. But I won't be duped into thinking he's the Savior he claims to be either. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Thursday Edition

Today, Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media brings you a variety of links. Hockey even makes an appearance! Speaking of hockey’s rare appearance, if you have suggestions as far as sites where I can brush up on my slap shot knowledge, or if you have any other suggestions as far as what you would like to see on Free Keon, please leave us a comment below. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Week in Golf

LPGA Tour - This week's season finale comes on the ladies' tour. The LPGA Tour Championship will be held at the Houstonian Country Club. Unlike the other tours, this Tour Championship boasts a full-field of players that will include Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Sophie Gustafson, Chirstie Kerr, and Michelle Wie.

That was Quick

A.I.'s time in Memphis lasted a whole 3 games and came to an abrupt, but not surprising end on Monday when the Grizzlies announced that they were parting ways with Iverson in a "mutual agreement". 

This is likely to be another footnote in the missunderstood, sometimes strange, and always entertaining career of one of the leagues greatest and most unique players.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chicken Poop for the Dominican Soul

What must the Dominican Republic think of the United States when they send us their nice-looking, young man, and we send back this scary-looking, inflated monster? Why do people idolize Michael Jackson???????????????

Up, up, and Away with Dr. J, Julius Erving

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Before there was Jordan, there was Julius. Julius Erving picked up the nickname “Doctor” not from his ability to surgically knife through defenses on the hardwood, but from the everyday conversations that mark adolescent dreams. His friend would be a professor, Erving would be a doctor. Years later, that label fits better in the figurative sense, as plenty of opponents still bear scars from his incisions.

Account after account in Vincent Mallozzi’s book proves Erving to be the classiest of performers. A showman without being gaudy. In the midst of an exodus from the ABA to the NBA, Dr. J told veteran beat writer Dave Anderson that he had no doubt that he could make the transition between leagues. He didn’t need to provide reasons, a simple yes sufficed.

Having landed on the radar of public consciousness for the first time in the NBA (its counterpart was often brushed aside as a wild, no holds-barred collection of freewheeling talent), “[Erving] was a bridge between the early high fliers like Elgin Baylor and Connie Hawkins [and] today’s star trekker, Michael Jordan,” New York Times columnist Harvey Araton wrote. (Doc, xv)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Big 12 Update: Vikings to Semis

The Danville Vikings are celebrating yet another come from behind victory this weekend with Royal Donut eclairs. With yesterday's quarterfinal win over Lemont, this year's undefeated edition of the Vikings tied their school record for wins with twelve. The last time Danville saw twelve wins was 1976, when they finished runner-up in the state playoffs. Last week, the Vikings overcame a ten point deficit in the second half to beat Oak Lawn Richards. This Saturday, they needed to comeback from fourteen points down, but they rallied together with 4,000 fans cheering them on to advance to the semifinals. Danville won the game 18-14 with strong defensive stands in each of the last six Lemont possessions. I suspect the Viking defense will have to show up during both halves the next two weeks in order for this squad to become the winningest Danville football team in history. Next up is the Chicago Catholic League champion New Lenox Providence. Bloomington High School faced these guys in the state championship game about six years ago, and I was extremely impressed by their discipline and organization. I am sure the coaching staff up there continues to drill into their athletes the same values and knowledge as before. The NLPC Celtics destroyed Crete-Monee, who beat Normal Community, in the quarterfinals 44-14. But Danville's players have shown great maturity in their patience and perseverance. They will adjust to these last teams they'll face. They will need to score more points than in their other playoff games. However, I believe this Vikings team's desire and will is stronger than a traditional private school powerhouse. The Vikings need to give these preppies a taste of what Danville is like. Rough'em up, Vikings, and carry the Big 12 to another state final.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Thursday Edition

Hello, hello, and welcome to Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media’s Thursday links edition. Good stories abound today! We’ll start our journey on the West Coast and move toward home base in Illinois.

All-Decade Illini Teams

The 2009-2010 Illini Basketball season gets under way tomorrow evening against SIU-Edwardsville, bringing another decade of Illinois basketball to a close. Looking back, it was one of the most successful decades in Illinois history. These are the players that made it happen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Free Keon Presents its First Annual NBA Predictions Competition

In order to add a little spice to the Free Keon world I thought I would try and poor a tall glass of competitive juice and see which sports intellect comes out on top.

With that in mind three FK contributors (Nate K, Brian, and I) have willingly put themselves out in the open, ripe for public scorn, in order to see who can most accurately predict this year’s NBA results.

Joy Robbed

The Chicago Bulls had victory snatched away from them last night after Brad Miller's last-second jumper was disallowed after a review from the officials (here is the clip).  The refs reviewed the play for about 10 full minutes as everyone in the UC waited for the outcome and then made the decision and took away the game-winning basket.  In my opinion, not only did the refs blow the call, but the whole closing sequence was fubared. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour - The Children's Miracle Network Classic at Walt Disney World will be contested this week to finish up the Fall Series. This is the last official PGA Tour sanctioned event that will count toward the 2009 money list. A handful of card-carrying Tour pros find that fact extremely important.

Magic and Larry Bird at Their Best

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Some people I know say the NBA is dead, or worse yet, irrelevant. I am far, far away from sharing that opinion. But for people who like reminiscing about the “glory days,” this week’s spotlight is for you. The Sports Guy isn’t the only basketball nut and Boston enthusiast producing worthy reads!

Longtime Boston Globe writer Jackie MacMullan breathes fresh life into the NBA’s burgeoning years with “When the Game was Ours.” Centered on the Magic and Bird rivalry, the book is a joy to read.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Big 12 Update: Danville Only One Left Standing

The Danville Vikings are left alone to represent our proud conference in the IHSA quarterfinals this weekend. The Vikings scored a come-from-behind victory on Saturday at Oak Lawn Richards. Danville was down 20-10 at halftime, but they scored twenty unanswered points in the second half to advance. The Vikings came alive scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions following Coach Luke's speech in the locker room. That stingy Viking defense was resurected as well. After allowing nearly 200 yards in the first half, Danville surrendered only 61 yards the rest of the game. The defense will most likely carry the Vikings to the 6A finals, but a lot can be said for their running game too. Four Danville players rushed for a combined 350+ yards in the second-round showdown. I know the Vikings's hometown must be proud. Besides Royal Donut and Inflatables Day, the citizens of D-Vegas have little to boast according to some. But as Chad Dare of the Commercial-News put it, "For those people that believe Danville is a dying town, you did not make the trip north to Oak Lawn on Saturday night." Well Chad, you are correct. I did not make that trip. However, I did witness a strong Viking win at Normal Community where I was impressed by the number of enthusiastic fans willing to travel with the team. But I have also dined at Danville's exclusive Little Nugget, which provides strong evidence for the opposition. Next up for the Big 12 Champs, though, is #4 Lemont, who stands at 10-1. The game at Danville will start at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon.

The Normal Community Ironmen were also in action on Saturday, but unfortunately, they will not advance after a loss to Crete-Monee High School. NCHS lost 35-10. Good season, though, Ironmen!

At least Jay Cutler didn't hit somebody

If Jay Cutler had demanded that Jerry Angelo trade him at halftime, I wouldn't have blamed him.

This is a guy who for weeks has heard relentless criticism about his team's offense. Its offense. People are unhappy with his interceptions. Commentators are comparing his stats, in a bad light, to not only Kyle Orton in Denver but to Orton this time last year with the Bears. And Cutler is keeping his cool, for the most part.

At Least Tommie Harris hit somebody

The Bears and in particular, the defense, had another embarrassing week in the 41-21 home defeat to the Arizona Cardinals. Bears fans really shouldn't be surprised when they look at the cast of characters that the Bears trot out on defense every week.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Anybody Else Sick of the Yankees?

As I drove to work on the morning after the Yankees heroically played close to their potential and clinched the 2009 Fall Classic, I had to turn off my radio because the lovefest between the Yanks and ESPN radio. I was listening to the Mike and Mike show (not actually a good show) and I was sickened by the praise being given to the Yankee team and GM Brian Cashman.

Teahen: Sox shouldn't expect Giambi, more than Fields and Getz

"Everyone stares silently at Teahen's name for about thirty seconds. [Scouting director] Erik [Kubota] says, "I hate to say it but if you want to talk about another Jason Giambi, this guy could be it." -Moneyball 

Well, you can't be right about everyone (see also: Jeremy Brown). Credit to the Moneyball guys, however, because Teahen wasn't even supposed to be a first-rounder until Billy Beane came along. Nonetheless, he's had a couple of pretty good seasons, and I would bet most baseball fans--even those who haven't read Moneyball--know his name. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Congratulates Girardi and More

Coming at you with a distinctly Illinois edition of Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media today. In fact, I’d argue that the biggest story for the next few days emanates right out of the heartland. That’s thanks to World Champion New York Yankees manager Joe Giradi’s East Peoria, IL roots. Congrats to the Bombers and their skipper.

The Associated Press’s Jim Litke reminds readers that Girardi set a target for a Yankees’ World Series winner not too long after he hung up his catcher’s gear. A decade later, Girardi hit the mark dead on.

Closer to home, Chicago Sun-Times writer, Chris De Luca echoes Litke’s sentiments and adds that the Yankees are simply the right fit for Girardi. Any other scenario, including a spot at the helm of the Cubs’ ship would have yielded different results.

New York Post columnist Mike Vacarro writes a more personal story about Girardi’s latest experience, which can be seen through a lens familiar to any number of fans. It’s all about family.

Finally, the last link in the apparent Joe Giradi corner today is from the New York Daily News. Marie Henry couldn’t care less that Girardi just guided the Yanks to the title. She didn’t even recognize him. All she knew was that Girardi was there for her in her time of need.

Those of you non-Yankees fans can breathe now. We’ve emerged from that realm. De Luca’s colleague, Neil Hayes says former Illini football head man and current Bears Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner is running out of excuses.

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Big 12 Update: Danville, NCHS Move On

I should have made a prediction for the Bloomington Raiders to advance to the quarter- or semi-finals in the playoffs. Instead, I kept quiet, and they lost by two points last Friday night to Oswego at home, 28-26.

Illini Basketball Preview: Demetri McCamey

Which one's our fat guard?

Yes, the slimmed down looking, 1984 Charles Barkley wannabe is looking great preseason wise. This is wonderful, considering last year he went from all big ten player to not even eligible for all crce all-stars and back and forth and back and forth from game to game. This is Sir Charles' line from last year: 11.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg (Yes, our round mound of rebound averaged less than three a game), 4.6 apg, 0.9 spg, 30.6 mpg, .411 FG, .313 3PT, .764 FT. So the supposed best player on our team (we can argue about whether this is Mike Davis or our tubby two guard later, by the way, that's what I'm going to call McCamey now that Richardson is going to run the point, tubby two guard, or ttg for short) averaged 11 points a game last year. While this is middle of the road, let's look at a larger break down of fat boy's season last year: 11/20, drops 23 points has six assists and shoots 5 of 10 from deep in a win against Vandy, three days later scores eight points against Jackson State with three turnovers in 16 minutes. 12/23, 20 points against a very good Missouri team then not 5 days later, 3 points in a close, 9 point win over a very crappy Eastern Michigan team. 1/14, scores 17 points, has five assists, and shoots 3 of six from deep leading us over Michigan, an NCAA tourney team, three days later is non-existent in a loss to Mich. St. playing 34 minutes, scoring 3 points, going 0 for 7 from behind the arc and turning the ball over three times. 1/24, 25 points, 7 assists against Wisconsin's tough defense, then five days later throws out this piece of garbage against Minnesota, where, by the way, we only scored 36 points as a team, 6 points, 2 assists, 3 turnovers. Why not just go out there, take a dump on half court, go back to the locker room and be done with it. 2/12, 21 points in a close win over Northwestern (you know U of I isn't as good as we should be when we have close wins over Northwestern), three days later, 2 points in a win over Indiana. Finally, against Purdue in the Big Ten Tourney Championship, McCamey is held scoreless and turns the ball over four times when we needed him the most (this was after Chester went down with a broken hand, some say this happened after his shanking of Jerrance Howard as he tried to steal Chester's Popeye's Chicken).

So what does all of this mean, you're asking. Well for Illinois to be effective and reach their Sweet 16 potential (yes, I believe and am drinking the Kool-Aid), we have to have someone on the outside that can take the pressure off Mike Davis on a consistent basis. McCamey seems to be the one talented enough to take on this role. This is a problem, as chronicled earlier, he is as inconsistent as they come, due to the fact that his heart cannot handle pumping that much cholesterol filled blood to all parts of his tubby extremities more than once a week. When your coach says that half the teams voted McCamey as all conference and the other half didn't even know he existed, that's not a good thing...granted Bruce just loves taking shots at McCamey, but there is truth to that statement. Illinois is starving for a good guard that can help our big guys by creating space for them on the inside, making sure defenses cannot just sag into the lane and take away the only shot Mike Tisdale knows how to hit, the 12 footer. For a school that was described as Guard U by ESPN in the late 90's and early 2000's, to not have a guard be all Big Ten since the wonderfully overrated Dee Brown, shows how far our outside play has fallen. We are depending on the undependable to help us get back to our rightful spot atop the Big Ten. Just keep him away from Mike Tisdale's diet.

Up Next: Mike "Don't Touch Me" Tisdale

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour - The WGC-HSBC Champions tournament will be played this week in Shanghai, China. Fifteen of the top twenty on the world rankings list will be competing for a $7 million purse. This event has been billed as the tournament of the off-season. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are in the spotlight at Sheshan International Golf Club.

The Sports Guy and I

As a basketball nerd and a huge fan of ESPN's Bill Simmons, I was extremely excited when I learned that he was writing a comprehensive book on basketball "The Book of Basketball".   This excitement increased last week when the book arrived in the mail, and came to an apex on Monday when I attended the book signing at the ESPN Zone in Chicago.

Bill Simmons, Bill Walton and Isiah Thomas: What Else Do You Need?

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

The whole week I was away, I wondered, “Had my book arrived? Had my book arrived?” Any other literature could take six months to hit my doorstep. Not this. I pre-ordered “The Book of Basketball,” so it better be there when I returned. Sure enough, it was. Might as well have been in a box marked “fra-gee-lay.” [With] the snap of a few sparks, a quick whiff of ozone, and the [book] blazed forth in unparalleled glory.”

As you can already tell from my fervor, this post is going to be a little different. Let me tell you why you should buy this book, not just read it.

1. The book is 697 pages long. It is packed with history, including a look at the NBA by era, (Book, Ch. 3) player and what-if analysis. For example, “What if the Knicks never hired Isiah Thomas?” (185) and why The Sports Guy ranks Tim Duncan as the seventh greatest player of all time, based on five criteria. (573) Unless you want to make 30-40 trips to the library, do yourself a favor and just buy the behemoth.

2. Simmons also divulges the secret of success for winning basketball teams (40). It may not be what you think.

3. Written like a mailbag with plenty of digressing, random pop culture references and footnotes on about every page, the book is like The Simpsons epic movie but retains quality from pg. 4 to pg. 697. I know because I read pg. 4 and pg. 697 (as well as others in between.) What better way to open a book than with a decision between a motorcycle and Celtics season tickets and to bring it to a close than with a visit with Bill Walton? I mean, really.

Until next time, I am his reader. And I thank you for reading Free Keon.

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Best Names in College Football today

Lets call it the Anti-John David Booty All-Stars.  Because it is not okay for quarterbacks to start throwing the middle name in there like crappy teen actors and 70's serial killers. 

College Football has a rich history of great names from Major Applewhite to Knowshon Moreno, and this year is no different.

Starting at QB: Jacory Harris, Miami
I just love this name.  If my name was Jacory Harris, I would run at least a 4.5 40.  If Cory Bradford had been named Jacory Bradford, he would have put up at least 20 a game.  Also, he probably would have been able to dunk.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

B-B-B-Bubba and the Bench

Although the Illini looked sloppier than expected in their 95-67 trouncing of Missouri Southern State and seemed to have some trouble with MoSo State's man press and ball defense, this is not even worth addressing since the Illini could hardly take a team seriously who started a six-foot carbon copy of me with messier hair and the name Skyler (I couldn't have come up with a better name for him myself). Due to the general lack of surprise with the starting five, I would rather provide you with my half-baked, under-researched opinion of this year's bench through an irrelevant, self-developed depth chart. 

Depth Chart:

Brandon Paul: While the hype seemed to point to Richardson as most anticipated freshman, Paul came out and, in my opinion, outplayed the Peoria native. Paul showed the smoothness to the basket and ability to finish that I heard of him. I was also impressed with his defense--having heard nothing of his D prior--and was impressed with his composure on the floor. With all the questions concerning Alex Legion, Paul may be needed to step up early on in the season. 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Illini Football 2009:  Foot, meet Bullet

Though much has been written about the abhorrent play that has domed Illini fans to another season of wishing college basketball started the same week as the NHL preseason, less has been penned about the consistency of extremely untimely mistakes at early critical junctures in many of this years games.

Bulls in Black and White...and Gray

Here's the good and the bad and everything else from the Bulls 92-85 season opening victory over the Spurs. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preseason Poll Madness

The first Coaches Poll of the 2009-2010 NCAA basketball season was just released and as usual, it serves as further evidence of why we shouldn't have preseason polls.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Illini Basketball Preview: Alex Legion

In my triumphant return to Free Keon, I plan on previewing Illinois basketball one player at a time. Today's lucky participant: Alex Legion. You ask, why Alex Legion, and my answer is...I don't really have one. Maybe it's because rarely has a transfer student created so much hope and then dashed it upon the rocks as quickly as Alex Legion did last year. He spent much of the year jacking up a ridiculous amount of contested, 20 foot jump shots, then following these shots with a Nick Smith look of disgust and bewilderment on his face. However, there are some in Illini Nation that think this is the year Legion is going to bloom (here).

To me, averaging 15 points playing against 5'5" Asian players is not a sign of things to come. Scoring 30 or so points against Bubba Chisolm in the Orange and Blue scrimmage is not a sign of things to come. When your own coach says that because you failed to make a shot in practice that both he and the rest of the members on your team began to feel sorry for you, this is not a good sign. I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that playing against oriental midgets boosted the confidence that Legion failed to have last season. I hope that Legion will come out raining threes and taking names. He needs to because with the depth and talent of Illinois' backcourt, playing time for Legion if he continues his descent into Nick Smith's faces hall of fame, will be limited.

Next: Lost some weight and still looks like Charles Barkley: Demetri McCamey

This Week in Golf

Arguably, three other events being staged throughout the world this week will be larger than the PGA Tour's Viking Challenge in Mississippi. Here is the lineup:

Your 2009-10 Free Keon NBA Preview: Part II

Like most years, there's really only four or five teams that can vie for the title. This year is no different than last year. Lakers and Spurs in the West. Celtics, Cavs and Magic in the East.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wisdom that Never Grows Old

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Coach John Wooden has written nine books. You may have even read one, or at the very least you are familiar with his maxims.

A little more than a week before his UCLA Bruins tip off their regular season and less than two weeks after his 99th birthday, here is a look at his newest collection of wisdom, “A Game Plan for Life.”

Your 2009-10 Free Keon NBA Preview: Part I

Let's start with the Bulls.

Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Lindsey Hunter are your 2009-10 Chicago Bulls captains. Only one will be a regular starter, and only two will see the floor. Hunter might as well wear a suit and tie. He's not coming off the bench. (I'm guessing he's more of a player/coach, without the playing aspect of the title.) To the players that voted these three into office, the word “captain” does not mean “leader.” The leader, of course, is Derrick Rose.

Baseball, Apple Pie, and Great Hova

It has been announced that for game one of the World Series Jay-Z and Alicia Keys will be preforming their hit single "Empire State of Mind" at Yankee Stadium.
Is nothing sacred?  What is the point, and why Bud Selig is trying to turn the World Series into the NBA all-star game? I can remember a time when the game itself was enough to entertain people.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top 5 Illini Clutch Shots

In the wake of yet another depressing weekend of football for Illini and Bears fans, it is time to look forward to the basketball season.  The Illini just had their Orange and Blue scrimmage on Sunday, and the first exhibition game is this Friday against Missouri Southern.  To help you get excited, here a list complete with clips of the best clutch shots of recent memory (sorry Tate, no whiz kids).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Big 12 Update: Prediction Fulfilled

My prediction that Bloomington High School would finish the regular season 8-1 came true Friday night with a solid win over Decatur MacArthur. The Raiders roll into the playoffs on an eight game winning streak. Their first victim will be #10 seed Oswego at 7-2 at the always-advantageous Fred Carlton Field. The Big 12 Champion Danville Vikings completed the regular season undefeated with another yet another shutout over Urbana. The Vikings will play against #16 in the upper bracket of class 6A Oak Lawn Community (5-4). Other Big 12 teams in the playoffs are Normal Community at #11 in 6A and Decatur MacArthur at #13 in class 5A. The FreeKeon staff will keep you posted on how our teams fare in the IHSA playoffs.

Mike Miller: Hair Through the Years

I have followed the Mike Miller's career since he was tearin' up for Florida with Teddy Dupay and Donnell Harvey back in 2000 for one of my all-time favorite non-Illini teams. By and large, it has been a disappointingly average career for Miller who was drafted #5 by Orlando after his sophomore year at Florida. His lack of success and fade out of the basketball spotlight has been highlighted by many poor hair choices.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Illinois Football a hit on a sitcom, not in reality

ABC's new, surprisingly funny sitcom Modern Family featured the Illini football program - and the immortal Dustin Ward. The premise of the latest episode featured a barbecue where the Illinois vs Ohio State football game was on TV.

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Thursday Edition

The Phillies punched their World Series ticket last night. Will the Yankees do so tonight? Below you will find a look at all three remaining teams as well as a couple Illinois sports stories. For those of you who mutter or shout, “Enough baseball, already,” hoops are just around the corner! Three days until the Orange and Blue Illini scrimmage and five more before the NBA tips off. Thank you, Dr. James Naismith.

And thank you for stopping by Free Keon. If you haven’t already, become a fan!

If the Yanks do meet the Phils, Jimmy Rollins is ready. The NY Post’s Kevin Kernan says Rollins has been waiting for this duel since March.

But not so fast, Lee Corso, I mean The Los Angeles TimesBill Dwyre cuts in.

Meanwhile, in hindsight New York builder Brian Cashman looks pretty smart passing on Johan Santana a couple years ago, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes.

In a follow-up to Nate’s post last Friday, Cedric Benson and the Bears’ relationship continues, even if it’s at a distance. One has to wonder how long this will go on.

Finally, a brief warning brought to you by Chicago White Sox beat reporter Joe Cowley. The charismatic and carefree (the words care and free can be separated depending on whether you see Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen as someone to be beloved or belittled) Guillen will be seen and most definitely heard on World Series broadcasts.

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FREE KEON EXCLUSIVE -- Normal Community: A Delightful mud-pit of Deceit and Debauchery

As my two Free Keon compatriots and I sat in the visiting mass of maroon and white at Normal High School on Friday night we could only marvel at the pure beauty of the site before us. Never before had I seen such muddy conditions; and for my money the more dastardly the weather the more glorious the football experience. The site almost mirrored a gladiator arena that had been filled with mud to make the violent competition that much more difficult and compelling.

Yet, you can image the all-encompassing horror with which I was met when I found that these glorious conditions may have been artificially created, by the home team, for completive advantage.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour - The Open will be contested this week at the Grayhawk Golf Club in the Phoenix area. This is a newer event in the Fall Series, but once again, I am impressed by the players it has fielded. Some of the older guys on Tour are showing up at Grayhawk. The victorious President's Cup captain Fred Couples, who recently turned 50 years old, will be competing as will David Duval, Steve Elkington, Mark Calcavecchia, Davis Love III, Justin Leonard, and the inaugural champion, Mike Weir. My pick to win this week will again be South African Tim Clark.

All Twine for "Shooting Stars"

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

A week before the dawn of the ’09-’10 NBA campaign, what better way to stir up fervor than reading about how the reigning MVP, and arguably the most popular athlete on the planet, LeBron James got started?

“Shooting Stars” is co-written by Buzz Bissinger, the same man who penned “Friday Night Lights,” the story of high school’s trials and tribulations seen through the lens of football.

Social Injustice in D-Vegas

I know, it's hard to believe. Could a town so clean and so prosperous on the outside have social and racial injustices that run just below the surface?
I attended the Danville vs. Normal game this past Friday, and it would been easy to sit back and relax and enjoy an excellent football game in the company of good friends, but I could not ignore what I saw in the lack of racial diversity in the Danville cheerleading squad.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Big 12 Update: Danville Clinches Conference Title

The Danville Vikings faced one of their toughest challenges of the year on Friday night at Normal Community High School. The Ironmen had defeated Danville six times in the last three seasons, and Normal had only one close loss to Bloomington in 2009. The field was one of the largest mud puddles I have ever seen, and both offenses had trouble advancing the ball at all for the most of the game. Normal gained only 26 yards the entire second half. The Ironmen's only pass completion in that half was for a loss of six yards. Danville, though, played well in the fourth quarter to take an impressive 12-6 victory. Once again, the Vikings defense was solid, and their offense even managed to complete a few passes despite the horrible conditions. The win guarantees Danville at least a share of the Big 12 title, their first since 1996. The Viking faithful surprisingly came to Normal in full force. While sitting in the visitors section, I must admit that I caught a slight case of Danville fever. Their fans were enthusiastic on a cold night as far from their hometown as the Big 12 gets. They even brought their Nordic horn blower and appallingly unrepresentative cheer squad. The excitement in the visitors stands was equal to the excitement expressed by the hosts on homecoming night. I must give a lot of credit to the Danville players and coaching staff for an already successful season. As I have stated before, I expect the Vikings to continue winning deep into the playoffs. Anything short of a semifinal appearance would be disappointing. In an effort to keep the pressure on the Vikings, Bloomington High School continued its winning ways while visiting Decatur Eisenhower. The Raiders held a 55-0 halftime lead with five touchdown plays of 40+ yards. The final score was 62-6. Next week's spotlight game in the conference will be Bloomington-MacArthur. Both teams are very competitive, and it will be played at Fred Carlton Field. If Danville can manage a victory over visiting, winless Urbana, they will win the Big 12 outright. The tentative schedule includes a Royal Donut victory party immediately following the game and a parade on Saturday morning culminating in a celebration at the pavilion in Lincoln Park. Look for FreeKeon staff at the festivities.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Meet Your 2009 NFL Rushing Leader

Yes, it is opposite year in the NFL. Up is down, Farvellous is wearing purple and gold, teams are wearing throwback jerseys that in no way resemble their actual uniforms, the Lions won a game, there are not one, but two starting Hispanic quarterbacks (Romo y Sanchez), the Chiefs have the state of Texas on their throwback helmets in a game against the Cowboys, Tom Brady is bad, and Cedric "I'm on a Boat" Benson is good.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Thursday Edition

For Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media’s Thursday post, I take a look at five columns from around the Web. You may have seen them, or maybe not. If you haven’t, take a look:

First, a pair of columns on the NLCS between the Phillies and the Dodgers. The Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford details the divergent paths of managers Joe Torre and Charlie Manuel. You might forget that Torre made three largely uneventful stops before he latched on with the Yankees. Meanwhile, baseball served as a sometimes arduous trek for Manuel until the Phils skipper ascended the summit to claim the ’08 World Series.

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin says the crux of Phillies-Dodgers history dates to May 1977, when a number of the principle figures from the current organizations met for a weekend series in LA.

On the other side, Yanks ace CC Sabathia remains unfazed, even as the hot lava of ALCS expectations spews around him. (Bob Klapisch, Bergen Record)

Next, how about a couple college football stories?

You wouldn’t know that USC and Notre Dame are renewing their rivalry this weekend in South Bend, judging by the actions of their star quarterbacks, LA Daily News writer Scott Wolf pens.

There may just be a case against being over-prepared after all. Look at Longhorns QB Colt McCoy, Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News informs.

And finally, because the roots of Free Keon lie in Illinois sports, here’s a peek at the Bulls’ frontcourt, for which Chicago Sun-Times scribe John Jackson offers measured praise.

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour - The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open takes place this week on the regular Tour, and for a Fall Series event immediately following the President's Cup, the field is exceptionally strong. Four of the world's top 30 players have entered, which is unique to see that many in this tournament. The big boys will be playing the TPC at Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada for a $750,000 grand prize. Tim Clark of South Africa is in the field, and after his stellar performance in San Francisco last week, he is my favorite to win. Surprisingly, Clark has yet to win on the PGA Tour despite a dozens of solid finishes in his decade or so of playing in the US. My sleeper pick will be awarded to D.A. Points of Pekin, Illinois. Points graduated from the University of Illinois, and he is currently 72nd on the money list. He has made his last three cuts has quietly earned over $1 million so far this year. Also watch for top player such as three-time champion Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, David Toms, Nick Watney, and recent winner Matt Kuchar to entertain the galleries with skillful demonstrations. The Golf Channel will carry all four rounds of the action from Las Vegas.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Get Comfortable and "Pull up a Chair"

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

Before we get started, I should offer my apologies to Cardinals fans. I’m sure the wound is still fresh. If the setback to the Dodgers is still too much to bear, you might not be exactly tickled about today’s recommendation. However, one of baseball’s most radiant beams of light is waning, so you would do well to consider the following:

A couple of years ago, my cousin and I enjoyed a wonderful visit with our uncle and aunt in DC. One treat, the cream filling in the middle of a Bavarian donut, if you will, was my uncle’s subscription to the Extra Innings TV package. The Dodgers game ranked first and foremost on our list of viewing options, though not on account of the action on the field. I can’t recall a single at-bat, but what I do remember was the one-of-a-kind delivery of LA broadcaster Vin Scully. His Hall of Fame label seems insufficient to do him justice, but any other descriptor would appear to be trite hyperbole for the subject of “Pull up a Chair” by Curt Smith.

Our new recruit wears glasses - and other reasons to be excited about Illini Basketball

The Illini received a verbal commitment from 6-9 junior Nnana Egwa this past week, adding another recruit to the 2011 class that already contains standout point guard Tracy Abrams. All I have to say is that he had better be wearing the specs when he comes to the U of I. Also, I'm excited to have an Illini player whose name will constantly be butchered by announcers for the first time since Krupalija (unless you count the whole deron, de-Ron thing we went through with D-Will).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big 12 Update: Danville Wins Big

The Danville Vikings won handily at Champaign Central on Friday night, 46-0. I did not see such a lopsided victory over the hard-fighting Marroons, especially on the road. However, the Vikings proved they belong at the top of the Big 12 standings with victories now over Bloomington, Central, and MacArthur. The impressive Viking defense shutout their opponent for the third time this season. Since their two point victory over Bloomington, Danville has allowed only 30 points in six games. Currently, they are ranked #3 in state, and after the last two weeks, I believe the Vikings will go far in the playoffs come November. Their next stiff challenge comes this Friday at Normal Community. The Ironmen's only loss was to Bloomington. The BHS Raiders won over Intercity rival Normal West a couple nights ago by only two points, 16-14. The Raider defense blocked a last minute field goal attempt by the Wildcats to win the game. Bloomington Junior QB Tyler Dicken struggled mightily. He only completed six passes, and he had two interceptions. In a week that could have shaken up the top of the Big 12 standings, Danville proved their strength, and Bloomington mucked through a game that they should have controlled. Bloomington travels to Decatur to play Eisenhower next week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On A-Rod and poor decisions

The 2009 MLB playoffs have lived up to the entertainment hype so far this season. We have had close games, bad calls by umpires and Chip Carey, Ryan Franklin and Matt Holiday(who looks like Brenden Ryan's older, roided-up brother) combining to blow a game and put the Cardinals in a 0-2 hole, endless TBS promotions for the George (the Mexican Jay Leno) Lopez show, and A-Rod coming through in the clutch (Go ahead, kiss the mirror, you know want to). All of that and we haven't even been able to see the Brad Lidge circus blow a game for Philly yet. It's getting exciting.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Pitch for “Sixty Feet, Six Inches”

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

That most wonderful time of year is upon us again. Yes, Major League Baseball playoff fever - the nights when the grass, illuminated by stadium lighting, looks just a little greener, the stripes down the first and third baselines glow just a wee bit whiter, and somehow the temperature both chills and burns while everything seems to hang in the balance (that is if your team is still in the thick of it) - is back.

If visions of baseballs and golden trophies skip through your head again and again while you are away from the TV, why not crack open a book that is packed with baseball brilliance?

The other night on The Charlie Rose Show, Hall of Fame Cardinals hurler Bob Gibson recalled how his collaborative book with Yankees legend Reggie Jackson came together.

Doubleday, the book’s publisher, told Gibson it wanted to do a book by a pitcher and a hitter. After dismissing several possibilities, Gibson tossed out Jackson for consideration.

Skeptical, the publishers dared Gibson to do his best. His response sounded much like his persona on the mound. “Try me.” Jackson immediately agreed.

With playoffs in the air, who better to lend an ear to than to two of the fall’s most revered figures, as the pair divulges perspective gained from seven World Series trophies between them?

Read “Sixty Feet, Six Inches” because:

1. Bob Gibson clears the air

From his playing days until recently, many knew (or so they thought they knew) Gibson to be taut and brusque like his tight fastballs. Oh, how misunderstood, Gibson said on the show. “The last thing I was trying to do was intimidate people. I look like I look.”

Years later, Gibson has no idea where the misconception came from. Who knows what he could have done if he had known that arrow of intimidation lurked in his quiver along with his other arsenal.

“Sixty Feet, Six Inches” is a colorful discussion between two of baseball’s greats, arranged topically with room for introspection.

2. Discover what motivates two of the greats

“We weren’t like the Yankees,” Gibson said. “There was plenty of tradition in the Cardinal organization – but that wasn’t what we played for. We played for us. (Sixty, 132).

“A lot of people have speculated that my spat with (Manager Billy Martin) was what motivated me in (the 1977 World Series in which he hit five home runs),” Jackson said. “But to get amped for a World Series, I didn’t need coffee, bennies, amphetamines, or disrespect from Billy Martin…” Jackson lived for the moment. (Sixty, 130)

3. Go on the inside to unearth some of the duo’s tricks, including the scouting

Gibson says that scouts were so blown away by his masterful fastball that they forgot he threw anything else. Enter the slider. “…In the World Series, the batters didn’t know me nearly as well as they thought they did by reading my friend, the scouting report.”

Jackson continues, “I had the same experience. The scouting report was the best thing I had going for me in the postseason. They had a book on how to pitch Reggie, and the book said to go inside. That was all well and good, but teams like the Dodgers were so hung up on the scouting report that they couldn’t see what was going on in front of their eyes.” (Sixty, 140)

Whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter or simply a fan, you’ll find just the offering you are looking for in “Sixty Feet, Six Inches.”

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Pres Cup Day One: Crazy Momentum Swings

The Seattle weather that made its way into Central Illinois last night has frustrated my mowing business, but it also allowed me to be able to watch much of the President's Cup matches. When I tuned in at about 2:00 San Francisco time, the US was down in four of six matches. About half an hour later, the momentum had swung from the International Team to the American side. Riding on the cheers from the showcase match of Woods/Stricker vs. Ishikawa/Oglivy, the Americans started hugging the pins on their approach shots and holing some difficult putts and chip shots. Mickelson/Kim was the first team to post a point for the US after coming back from being 1 down on the 13th to Weir/Clark. The US team in this match went on to birdie the next four holes with clutch shots and putts from both guys to win the match 3 and 2. Woods/Stricker played superb golf the whole way around, and won 6 and 5 without losing one hole to put the next point on the board for the US. Mahan/O'Hair vs. Els/Scott was the next match to finish up. The US team started out with a bogey 6, but stayed in the match as both sides played rather sloppy golf. Mahan/O'Hair had gotten the match to 1 down going onto 16, but they ended up losing the match 2 and 1. Singh/Allenby was a pairing that many analysts thought was odd, but they tied up the score with a victory over two '09 major champions in Cink/Glover at about 4:30. That match went to the 18th with the International side 1-up. Glover had missed a four foot birdie putt on 17 that would have kept the match all square. However, Norman came out looking like the winner in that match as the Americans never held a lead. Match #4 followed this group onto the par 5 18th hole with Perry/Johnson 1-up over the South American duo, Cabrera/Villegas. This match was never out of reach for either side as 1-up was the largest margin until Camillo could not escape a fairway bunker, and the Internationals conceded the hole and the match (2 down) before even reaching the 18th green. Furyk/Leonard was a team I expected to win against Goosen/Yang. However, the US side was 3 down through five holes. Then as other USA chants echoed through the course, Furyk/Leonard fought all the way back to be 2-up with 2 to play. Goosen made a nice 8 foot birdie putt on 17 to extend the match. Then the International side won the 18th, and they halved the match.

As for tomorrow, I am surprised Captain Couples broke up Mickelson and Kim but kept Cink with Glover. Tomorrow is better ball format though, so it will be interesting to see how Woods and Stricker do compared to today. Keep watching.

Hello One and All

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

Hello, and welcome to a new feature of Free Keon. My name is Sam Miller, and I am delighted to receive an invitation from my friend Nate to join this blog. My plan is to provide posts two times a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) on sports media you may or may not have read or watched.

Thank you for reading, and I would welcome any comments as I seek to provide the best home-run hitting, slam dunking, touchdown scoring (You get the idea) posts that I can. You should know, this is my first blogging attempt at regular, personal content. Here it goes!

Sam Miller/Free Keon

You can't trust the system

In ESPN's recently published "College Basketball Encyclopedia," a Sagarin ranking lists Illinois as the 6th best program of all time. That's right, with no championships and only four Final Four appearances, they're ranked No. 6. Just below a top 5 of Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. And just above Duke.

Jeff Sagarin, of course, is the guy who developed the mathematical equation that factors in a team's wins and losses along with margin of victory, strength of schedule and where the game is played, among other things he won't divulge. His ratings have been a mainstay since 1985 in USA Today. (I challenge you to name one person who reads this newspaper. Outside of a hotel guest.) They are the "computer rankings" that inform, to some extent, both the BCS standings and NCAA Tournament selections. Apparently they fail to factor in big wins (e.g. championships) or apply common sense.

The encyclopedia's rankings also give top 40 lists for each decade from the 1940s on. Here's how Illinois finishes:

1940s - No. 3
1950s - No. 2
1960s - No. 12
1970s - N/A
1980s - No. 4
1990s - No. 29
2000s - No. 6
Overall - No. 6

I've heard great things about the Whiz Kids, so maybe the 40s ranking is justified. (Who else is for a Gene Vance statue outside the Assembly Hall?) I can't speak for the '50s and '60s, except that I know no national titles were won. In the '70s the program dropped off the map. They never reached the NCAA Tournament that decade.

Lou Henson was hired in 1975 and it took him five years to bring them back to the postseason (the NIT in 1979-80). By the '80s the Illini were legit again, reaching the NCAAs in all but two years (1979-80, 1981-82). But still, the team only earned one Big Ten title that decade (1983-84) and made it to one Final Four (1988-89). Again, no national title.

The '90s were a step back (I choose to blame Bruce Pearl). Lon Kruger and a senior-led team won the Big Ten in 1998. The Illini never made it past the 2nd round in six trips to the tourney.

The first half of the 2000s were kind to us, as you all remember. Four Big Ten championships, two Sweet Sixteen exits, an Elite Eight trip and a national championship run. Self elevated the program and Weber built up a ridiculous 89-16 record in his first three years. That's a .848 winning percentage for those of you keeping count. Of course, in the last few years, the TV people haven't been dropping that stat so much.

As much as I'd like to think Illinois is the sixth best program in the history of the sport, I cannot. I suppose its been consistently pretty good, considering, but it seems too much weight is given to an era before a legitimate national tournament was put in place. And then there's the matter of national championships. Michigan State, Arizona, Florida, Connecticut, Syracuse -- even though they're comparatively late to the national scene, they all have that claim. Until we win a title, we're simply not an elite program.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This Week in Golf

President's Cup - In San Francisco this week, the always exciting international team competition of the President's Cup will be contended. This event pits twelve of the best American golfers against the twelve top ranked players outside the US and Europe. The inaugural President's Cup was hosted in 1994. Since then, the US and the International teams have traded off hosting the event. This year's edition will be competed at Harding Park, the site of the memorable 2005 WGC playoff between Tiger and John Daly. The event is played from Thursday through Sunday. Tomorrow, six foursome matches will take place. Friday, six four-ball matches will be played. Saturday, five matches of each will occur. And 12 singles matches will be played on Sunday. Foursomes matches are alternate shot, and four-ball matches are better ball. In both formats, each team's captain pairs two players for each match to compete against a pair from the other side. Singles matches are regular match play. The winner of each match play match earns one full point for their team. No penalty is suffered by the loser. In the case of an all square match, each team is awarded one half point. The first team to 17 1/2 points wins the cup. Unlike in the Ryder Cup, the President's Cup allows captains to see pairings before inserting them into individual matches. This rule allows for some great match-ups. In South Africa in 2003, Woods and Els were the anchor singles match that went to extra holes and ended up in a draw. In Canada in 2007, Woods played Canadian Mike Weir. The International Team has one victory in the President's Cup in 1998 in Australia, and the matches were called a draw in 2003 in South Africa. The President's Cup is seen as a more relaxed and fun atmosphere than the Ryder Cup. So many spectators and players enjoy the President's Cup a little bit more. However, I believe that also means a victory is not quite as sweet for the American team. The US team is captained by Fred Couples this year with Jay Hass and Michael Jordan as assistant captains. Jordan serves as the first non-professional golfer to serve as an assistant captain, but he and Freddy have been close friends for many years. Jordan also enjoys spectating at golf team competitions. It has been reported that he is very nervous about his role this week. The US team has Woods, Mickelson, Furyk, Stricker, Mahan, Glover, Perry, Leonard, Cink, O'Hair, Johnson, and Kim. The International Team is captained by Greg Norman, and he has quite the arsenal as well. Ernie Els, Goosen, Scott, Clark, Cabrera, Villgeas, Ishikawa, Weir, Allenby, Yang, Singh, and Ogilvy are on the opposite side. On paper, the US has a definite advantage, but the fun part of team competition is that you never know who can win. The Golf Channel will broadcast the first two days with NBC taking over for the weekend. It is a great event with many big names involved. Make sure to tune in.
[Valid Atom 1.0]