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.
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