Monday, May 29, 2006

Tigers Live Another Day

By Tiger Fan

Well, there's never a dull moment with Mizzou baseball. After beating up on Oklahoma State and Oklahoma (both of whom have earned No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament), Tiger fans were thinking a Big XII title might make up for a mediocre season and the Tigers would sneak into the tournament. Afterall, Mizzou just had to beat kansas, right? But then Brock Bond got ejected, Zane Taylor couldn't fill his shoes at third and Gary Arndt tripped, leading to a 4-3 win for the beakers (who then went on to win the title... ouch). It looked like a terrible end to the season: the winning run was given up in the eighth without the ball ever leaving the infield. A tough ending for a tough season... or so we thought.

I tuned in to Monday's selection show, just to make sure nothing crazy happened. But low and behold, something crazy did happen. I was eating lunch with my family in Cincinnati (not exactly a college baseball hotbead) and I had convinced the rather confused manager of the restaurant to change one of the TVs to ESPN so I could watch. Then, when Mizzou was revealed as a No. 4 seed in the Pepperdine regional, I jumped up and cheered right there in the restaurant. Needless to say, no one knew what was going on and kind of looked at me strangely... and Fannette and the 'rents pretended not to know me... but who cares? We're in!

The crazy thing is, now that they're in, the Tigers have a shot to make a run. Pepperdine was not one of the teams seeded in the committee's top eight and now that Scherzer is healthy, a 1-2 punch of Scherzer and Culp with a little Zagone mixed in has to be one of the best rotations in the tournament. If the Tigers can keep hitting like they did in the tournament (okay, okay, I know we can't really count on five RBI from J.C. Field every night, but you get my point...), they've got a chance to be something special. After all, isn't that what we thought when the season started?

Everybody is 0-0 now, so the records don't matter. Throw all the bad losses out the window. I'm not sure how the Tigers got in (I can only assume that the committee focuses more on the last seven games of the season than all the games before that), but it doesn't matter now. Mizzou's perseverance shall be rewarded with a early June trip to Malibu. Tough gig fellas. But there are no gimmes from here. They want to be back in the Midwest in a couple weeks, playing Omaha. It's a longshot, yes. But with the way this season has gone, you can't rule anything out. We'll see which team shows up for the postseason starting Friday at 5:00 p.m. CDT. It's not over yet folks... it's not over yet.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Mizzou basketball coach Mike Anderson addressed Tiger fans in St. Louis on Thursday night. For a recap of what Anderson had to say, read on.

An evening with Mike Anderson

By Tiger Fan

I just got back from an Alumni Association Rally for new Mizzou basketball coach Mike Anderson and I must say I was very impressed. Anderson was met with two standing ovations from the crowd, but he also drew seven or eight more spontaneous ovations during his speech. For a minute, I thought I was at a State of the Union address… but then I realized that the man speaking actually knew what he was talking about. It remains to be seen how he will do on the basketball court, but I think Anderson is definitely winning the PR battle off the court, which is something Mizzou basketball desperately needs. He says all the right things and does it with the type of enthusiasm that can be infectious. I’ve liked the Anderson hire all along, but now I’m really starting to get excited about Mizzou basketball again. Cautiously, of course. Here are some more specific quotations from the evening:

-Corey Tate and Ryan Kiernan were both at the cocktail hour beforehand. I liked that Anderson made reference of these two during his talk. Anderson says he views the basketball team as a family, so these guys are already part of his family because they have contributed to Mizzou in the past. It’s definitely nice to see that folks like that support Anderson.

-“Mike Alden wanted so badly to be here, but he is caught in bad weather in Denver.” Oh darn.

-John Kadlec filled admirably for Alden, giving a quick update on the state of the department. Kadlec made specific mention of the baseball team, saying they are in a good position to win the Big XII tournament. (note: I think he’s right. The Tigers got a big win last night over Oklahoma State thanks to an excellent outing from Nathan Culp. That means Scherzer is available to pitch Friday against OU and Zagone can go Saturday against the beakers. If all goes well, that means Jamieson can start Culp in the championship game on Sunday and throw the whole staff at them if necessary… after all, if they don’t win, the season is probably over. But it’s still possible. And the Tigers are getting hot at the right time, having won five straight.) Kadlec also talked about spring football, observing that he thinks TEs Coffman and Rucker are ahead of where Tiger great Kellen Winslow was at this point in his career. That’s downright scary. (For anyone who doesn’t know, Winslow is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and his No. 83 has been retired at Mizzou.)

-Anderson was charismatic and straightforward at the mic. He was honest too: “I’m not going to lie. At first, it may look more like 25 minutes of hell and 15 minutes of ‘What the heck are we doing?’” (I respect that kind of honesty.)

-More from Anderson: “I’m going to win a national championship. I don’t know when, but I’m going to do it. That’s just me; that’s Mike Anderson.” (Works for me.)

-On fan support: “I’m not going to be satisfied until we have 15,000 packed in there every night. And they’re going to be there to see us… not whoever we are playing.” (There’s a reason I know that the Hearnes Center holds exactly 13,611 people. It’s because we used to sell it out every game. Let’s find out what Mizzou Arena holds.)

-On the speed of play in his system: “If you take a bathroom break, you’re going to miss something.”

-On recruiting: “We’re going to start by putting up giant walls around the borders. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program.”

-On his practices: “I like to encourage competition. Our practices are like war. That’s where you earn your playing time.” (He also said all the current players were gasping after the first drill of the first workout. That’s what I’m talking about.)

-On his offensive philosophy and game plan: “We attack on the offensive end just like we do on the defensive end. If we play the defense right, they won’t have time to set up whatever defense they are planning to use.” (At least one guy in the crowd seemed to question Anderson’s game planning skills because “everyone is pressing nowadays.” This is a prime example of basketball ignorance. Anderson’s game plan is not the type of press that kids are running in junior high… and he does it for the whole game, not just in spurts. I’m pretty sure Kentucky wasn’t ready for it a couple years ago when they lost to UAB in the tourney… and it worked pretty well for Arkansas when they won a national title. So I recommend that all the armchair point guards out there reserve judgment until you actually see it in action.)

-On his coaching style: “No one plays like us. They’re not going to be ready. But good coaches make adjustments. That’s how you win games.” (Any chance we could get him to have a little talk with Pinkle?)

Overall, Mike Anderson really won me over tonight. If you don’t get excited listening to him talk about the future of Mizzou basketball, I don’t know what to tell you. Things are finally moving in the right direction. What kind of guy is Anderson? After his speech, tons of folks were lined up to shake his hand and wish him luck. I didn’t want to take up much of his time, so I shook his hand, told him I was happy to meet him and that I am looking forward to the season. Before I could walk away, he stopped me: “It’s nice to meet you too. What’s your name?” So I told him and we talked briefly about my history with Zou Crew and such. It didn’t last more than 30 seconds, but things like that can really make a difference when it comes to establishing relationships between the athletic department and the fans. I think Anderson is a good coach, but he seems to be an even better person… and that’s exactly what Mizzou needs right now.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Night of Sports

By Tiger Fan

In between reading cases about Title IX and police brutality at work today, I was looking forward to settling in for a full night of sports on TV. What’s on tap? International soccer between USA and Morocco, Reds-Brewers, Red Sox-Yankees, the NBA Lottery, Pistons-Heat, Mighty Ducks-Oilers, Pujols-Bonds and more! I’ve got a Penn Station sub, a Oguchi Onyewu jersey and a working TV. Life is beautiful.


(All times CST... and this is, by far, my longest blog entry ever. Good luck to anyone who dares to read it.)

6:07: First out of the gate is USA vs. Morocco in a pre-World Cup friendly match. As the teams take the field, defender Corey Gibbs is only starter who surprises me… and it’s not a huge surprise.

6:15: The ref is calling a pretty tight, which is good because you would hate to see any U.S. players get hurt so close to the tournament. Not to state the obvious, but Oguchi Onyewu looks out of place. I think he got lost on the way to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals tonight. Also, USA captain Claudio Reyna is starting to look a little old… of course, he has been playing at the highest level since ’94.

6:21: What is up with the socks? And the shorts for that matter. I like the red and blue stripe on the jerseys, but having the stripe on only one sock on and the back of the shorts looks stupid. But that’s what you get when Nike is involved. The only good news is that they don’t have the stupid bib thing going on or the one sleeve of a different color that debuted in college football last year.

6:24: So much for no one getting hurt. Reyna is leaving the game with what looks like a hamstring injury. That’s not good news for this game, but luckily this game doesn’t actually matter. Let’s just hope it’s nothing serious. Pablo Mastroeni has checked in to replace Reyna and the captain’s armband has been passed to Landon Donovan.

6:30: Time for the Thomas Gardner sweepstakes. I’m switching over to ESPN to catch the NBA Draft Lottery, which pretty much guarantees that I will miss the first goal of the soccer match. Dan Patrick, Greg Anthony and Steve Lavin are apparently going to handle things for ESPN. Solid crew, but only ESPN could turn this extremely short process into a half-hour show.

6:33: The graphic on ESPN just informed me that Michael Olowokandi is a key free agent for the Boston Celtics this offseason. I’m pretty sure I could hear columnist Bill Simmons dying a little inside all the way from California.

6:38: Steve Lavin’s top 25 players just rolled across the bottom of the screen and Mizzou’s Thomas Gardner was not on the list. I’m stunned.

6:42: Patrick just finished off an interview with David Stern in which the commish said nothing all that important. Mark that down as 10 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. As they go to commercial, they show me a rather awkward looking guy in a suit walking through an office. Apparently he is bearing the frozen envelopes. The best part of the show so far comes during the commercial break when Mizzou grad John Anderson stars with Maria Sharapova in a pretty funny SportsCenter commercial.

6:46: Dan Patrick now informs me that the actual lottery already took place in another room. Apparently all the teams know the results and so does the media, but the studio audience does not. Boy, the tension sure is mounting. Meanwhile, the team representatives seem to consist of Chris Paul, Gerald Wallace and a bunch of awkward looking guys in suits… most of whom you have never heard of.

6:51: Portland gets the fourth pick, even though they had the best statistical shot at getting No. 1. In all likelihood, it probably ruins Portland’s shot at getting local headcase Adam Morrison, who will probably already be gone by No. 4. That’s too bad because the mustachioed wonder would have fit in well (and by well, I mean poorly) with the rest of Portland’s thugs and miscreants. Oh well. I’m sure there will be someone in the draft with a criminal record. Anyway, when the camera comes to him, the Portland GM is writing something down. Apparently he is concerned that he will forget his number. Meanwhile, it seems my Reds have taken a 1-0 lead against Milwaukee.

6:54: The No. 1 pick goes to Toronto. So you have to feel good right now if you’re a power forward from BYU. Quite frankly, I’m stunned. I assumed it would go to Chicago, just because God hates the Knicks. Meanwhile, America thinks that the Raptors should take Adam Morrison first overall. Of course, more Americans vote for American Idol than vote for the President, so I don’t put much stock in what America thinks.

7:06: Why is Stephen A. Smith yelling at me? In the pregame show? If the soccer match wasn’t at halftime, I would not be on this channel right now. In fact…

7:11: We’re underway in Edmonton… I will say one thing for OLN: They managed get the game started a lot closer to 7:00 than ESPN did with the NBA game. Meanwhile, the soccer match is back from halftime and Bobby Convey has checked in, looking very English. This is the one sport where that is actually a compliment.

7:15: Three minutes in and we’ve got a fight going in the hockey game. Maybe this is worth watching… and about 10 seconds later, they’re at it again. All over the ice, in fact. Three guys in the box for Edmonton and four for the Ducks. Yowzers. Meanwhile, the basketball game is finally underway and Miami has jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead. It seems like they’re not rusty.

7:24: Holy cow, they’re fighting again at the hockey game. Apparently I don’t understand hockey. Five minutes in and it’s still 0-0, but nine guys are in the penalty box. But I’ll stick with it… I promised Rocky Mountain Tiger that I would give hockey a chance.

7:43: We’ve got a goal in Edmonton before we get a goal in Nashville. That makes it Hockey 1, Soccer 0 on the night. Meanwhile, back on ESPN2, I’m trying to decide which American name will be more fun to say during the World Cup: Cherundolo or Onyewu. I think depends whether you prefer the guy who is 5’6” or the guy who is 6’2”.

7:52: Junior has left the yard and the Reds take the lead 4-3. While we’re on the subject: The Reds have one of the best hitting outfields in the league and probably the best young infield in baseball. But the question is, who do you trade to get more pitching? The Arroyo trade has already shown how rewarding this can be, but who goes? Do you trade Griffey because he’s the oldest? But who will take his contract? Do you trade Kearns? Do you move Dunn to the infield and hope to clear some space that way? I’m not sure what the answer is. I feel like the Reds are close to getting to the next level, but they’re going to need at least one more quality pitcher.

7:57: We’ve finally got a goal in the soccer match in the 90th minute, but it wasn’t for the home side. After weathering a barrage of shots from Team USA in the second half, Morocco broke free after a U.S. corner kick and got a goal in transition against very poor defense. Ouch.

8:00: It’s over in Nashville as Team USA loses 1-0. It’s an unfortunate result, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. This is why the team is playing these friendly matches. They made an unusually high number of substitutions today to try out a lot of different combinations and when Morocco finally pushed one through, some of the best American defenders were on the bench. Also, Morocco is not a pushover. They fell one game short of making the World Cup themselves. Team USA certainly has some work today before Cup play begins, but they can get there. They showed some flashes of brilliance on offense – particularly Convey’s bending free kick in added time that went just wide of the net – but they just didn’t manage to find the net. I think they’ll get to a level where they will be competitive in Germany, but I didn’t see anything tonight to make me question my prediction that they won’t make it out of group play. Next up on ESPN2? The WNBA… so I’m pretty much down to two channels until the Cards game starts.

8:06: A couple notes on the Heat game. First, Shaq just joined Wade on the bench with three fouls at about the five-minute mark in the first half. The Heat lead by three. Let’s see how long that lasts. Second, ESPN just showed Detroit Shock player Cheryl Ford in the crowd and Mike Breen commented that she looks just like her father (Karl Malone). The scary thing is that it’s true. Yikes.

8:19: It’s halftime in Detroit and Miami still leads by four. But I don’t think they can keep this going. I’m picking the Pistons to win this one.

8:40: As we come back from halftime, Jim Gray won’t get off the floor. He’s actually standing right where Ben Wallace needs to stand to inbound the ball. Brilliant. Moments later, Jason Williams slashes to the hoop for a lay-up. If you had told me two or three years ago that Williams would have been the starting point guard on a team in the Conference Finals that also had Gary Payton on its roster, I would have said you were crazy.

8:49: Wade leaves the game with his fourth foul. The Pistons take their first lead of the game. Yep. And by the way, after an exciting start, the hockey game has failed to keep my interest.

8:54: ESPN has been periodically going to this weird floating camera angle. I hate it. I’m about five minutes from e-mailing ESPN ombudsman George Solomon. Seriously. It’s that bad. And, I’ve been wanting to use the word “ombudsman.”

8:57: Between the second and third period, we get a look at the studio guys on OLN. There is a guy who has the side of his head shaved under his mullet. I can’t make this stuff up. Given the prevalence of trailer trash fashion sense in the NHL, I’m surprised that it’s not a more popular sport in the Deep South.

9:00: Flipping back to ESPN, I stop on the Deuce and learn that the Houston Comets are considered the WNBA’s first dynasty because they won four championships. That’s even more impressive than the USC football dynasty that won one national championship.

9:02: And the Reds have won 7-4. Every time it looks like the other shoe is about to drop for the Reds, they play the Brewers and get back in a rhythm. So from all of us to all of you, thank you Milwuakee! By the way (and I say this knocking as hard as I can on a piece of wood), Junior is beginning to look like the Junior of old. He has hit three homers in the last four games and has made several great catches out in center. I won’t count on it continuing, I’ll just enjoy it while I can.

9:14: Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaalllllllll! I’ve been waiting all night to say it. I was hoping to use it for Team USA, but I’ll have to settle for the Oilers. Michael Peca nets his fifth of the playoffs and things are looking mighty grim for the Mighty Ducks, now down 2-0 in the game and the series.

9:16: Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaalllllllll, again! Well that didn’t take long. Great goal from the Oilers and it’s 3-0. And here we go with more fighting… which also doesn’t take long as the Oilers’ player with dreadlocks (is that even allowed in the NHL?) drops the Mighty Duck aggressor almost immediately and the place erupts again. Okay, Rocky Mountain Tiger, you got me… this IS kind of exciting.

9:20: And heading back to the basketball game, I stop of FSN and see that Pujols has already hit a homer in the top of the first. The three-run shot is his 23rd of the year. Take that, Barry Bonds.

9:22: Yikes. By the time I get back to OLN, Edmonton has scored again and this one looks to be over. The 3-0 series deficit will be tough for Anaheim to overcome. But that’s probably how it should be: A Canadian team playing for the Cup instead of a team from Southern Cal.

9:29: The Yankees have beaten the Red Sox 7-5. I don’t particularly care about either team (other than the fact that they usually play entertaining games), but I can’t believe that ESPN2 is actually running a WNBA game instead of Sox-Yankees.

9:31: Bonds has answered! (with an RBI single)

9:32: By the way, that John Anderson/Maria Sharapova commercial that was funny two hours ago is no longer even mildly amusing. That didn’t take long. Next!

9:33: In a fascinating turn of events, the Heat-Pistons game has devolved into a free-throw shooting contest between Ben Wallace and Shaq. Unbelievable. Pat Riley goes to the Hack-a-Ben while leading by nine points. Hopefully this won’t become a trend in this series, lest an entire generation of youngsters grow up unable to shoot free throws.

9:38: During a timeout in Detroit, I meander back over OLN to see if it’s gotten any uglier. As I get there, I’m stunned to see Anaheim score its third goal. WHAT?!?!?!? It’s now 4-3 with eight minutes to play. Are you kidding me? Only RMT knew hockey could be so compelling.

9:41: And just as I’m singing the praises of the NHL, one of the announcers calling the game on OLN makes one of the worst jokes I have ever heard. He said getting a good quote from someone who wants to be a dentist after his hockey carry is over would be like pulling teeth. If I had a pair of scissors, I would drive to Edmonton and cut that guy’s mullet off.

9:44: FSN just ran a Big XII baseball tourney ad. The Tigers were not in it. I’m mad. Mizzou has to win now, just for spite. By the way, if you are still reading at this point, I will mail you a used Metrolink ticket signed by yours truly. I’m not even kidding.

9:46: It’s all over in Detroit as the Heat take Game One 91-86. As a quasi-fan of the Heat (what can I say, I like Shaq), I’m happy to eat crow. Miami out-Pistoned the Pistons tonight, getting it done as a team. Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker and Gary Payton all stepped up tonight… and Wade managed to fight through foul trouble to play well. But this doesn’t necessarily put Miami in the driver’s seat. The Heat lost the Eastern Conference Finals last year in a series where the road teams won three of the seven games.

9:47: Back on OLN, the Oilers have scored again with about five minutes to play and it looks like it might actually be over this time… but the Ducks have shown they only need two minutes to score three goals, so who knows.

9:54: Wu, Wu, Wu. Kenny Wu! It’s now 5-4 with 1:45 to play. Anaheim has pulled the goalie. Hold onto your hats… I would recommend the Flying V here for the Ducks. Or maybe a knucklepuck. We all know that’s what Gordon Bombay would do.

9:59: Edmonton survives a late flurry of activity in front of the net and wins it. The No. 8 seed in the West is now one win away from the Finals. Whew, a wild four hours of sports. Hope everyone else was watching too! Until next time…

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Good job, CMA!

All right, it's time for me to make my return after allowing my esteemed colleague to dominate the postings for so long. You know what that means, folks! That's right, prepare for some mocking, and some bitterness. And maybe some analysis somewhere in between.

Well, the late basketball signing period ended this week, and Mike Anderson really impressed me with the players he was able to sign. He came in late and still got some good players who fit his system well. Here's my take on the class...

First and foremost, keeping New Jersey boy Keon Lawrence was huge. Though the Rutgers fans were convinced Keon would dump MU for the Scarlet Knights (though why he'd do that after already turning down one chance to get out of his LoI is beyong me), it didn't happen. Lawrence, by all indications, is a fantastic scorer. Coincidentally, that's MU's biggest need next season. Of course, this is an MU team, so I won't get my hopes up TOO high -- because then he'll bust for sure. But if Lawrence is the real deal, there's no telling what this team can do.

The biggest news of the signing period, though, was luring PG Stefhon Hannah away from Bob Huggins and the K-State kitties. At best, Hannah will start and be a big upgrade over Horton (read: won't spend 25 seconds pounding the ball into the court like he wants to kill it); at worst, he'll be solid and give the Tigers two point guards. Sorry, Thuggy bear.

DeMarre Carroll, a transfer from Vanderbilt, also should have a big impact - next year (damn NCAA regulations). OK, maybe this wasn't a hard sell for Anderson (after all, Carroll is his nephew), but he will give MU another athletic, combo forward, and that fits into this system perfectly (you reading this, Ty Morrison?)

SG J.T. Tiller sounds like a freakish athlete who likes to play defense. Good fit for the system.

The other signess, Vaidatos Volkus and Darryl Butterfield, won't be big stars, but if they play defense, rebound, and run the floor, they'll be doing their jobs.

And therein lies the biggest adjustment MU fans must make with Anderson as the coach. MU won't rely on any Arthur Johnson types in the future; CMA's system is about athleticism and length. Bigs such as Leo Lyons will be the norm now. Adjust we must...

So, with all that said, I'm optimistic about next season's team. I'm sure there will be growing pains, but I can see Anderson's plans starting to take shape. I'm looking forward to seeing the fruits of his labor a year or two down the road.

Born-a-Tiger, out

PS - Thomas Gardner signed with an agent, committing him to getting bypassed in the NBA draft. Good bye Thomas - we'll miss you - have fun playing in Europe.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Tiger Fannette, Gary Arndt and Born-a-Tiger's girlfriend Carrie are pretty excited after a big win over Illinois. For more on Gary Arndt Night at T.R. Hughes Ballpark, check out the entry below.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Game Update, 5/17

By Tiger Fan

Mizzou should really start paying me to attend baseball games. After last night’s 14-2 victory over Illinois at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon, the Tigers are now 4-0 on the year when I am in attendance. Alden, if you’re reading, I’m sure I could rearrange my schedule if you are willing to fly me in for the Big XII Tourney. Call me.

On the Field

-Gary Arndt had quite a night, going 3 of 5 with a HR, 3 RBI and 3 runs scored. We’ll talk more about Mr. Arndt later.

-The outcome of this one was never really in doubt. The Tigers led 6-0 after the first inning and the Illini starter was only able to record one out before being yanked. I’m not an expert, but that makes for a gawdy 162.0 ERA by my math. Does it even go that high? Yikes.

-Nathan Culp started for the Tigers and was dominant in one inning he played. He should be ready to go on Sunday against Texas. In fact, the Tigers had a perfect game going through 3.2 innings and a no-hitter through 4.1. The only Tiger pitcher who looked less than stellar was Nick Admire – and he still played quite well, giving up just one unearned run even though the bases were loaded. The second run of the game was unearned after John McKee tried to kill our cheering section with an overthrow to first base after making an amazing stop at third.

-Illinois failed in its quest to record more errors than hits in the game. I believe the final total was four errors and five hits. So close.

Crazed Mizzou Fan Notes

The discussion of crazed fans pretty much has to begin and end with our five-person crew down the first-base line. Illinois seemed to have a heckler behind the plate early in the game, but he shut up pretty quickly when the Tigers jumped out to 6-0 lead. But we stayed loud throughout, particularly after we determined that this was going to be Gary Arndt Night. As the public address guy was announcing the starting line-ups, Arndt was standing right in front of us. So when they got to his name, we jumped to our feet and went crazy. He turned, laughed and had a brief conversation with Tiger Fannette (more on that later). That’s pretty much all it takes to win us over, so we gave him a loud ovation when he took the field in the top half of the inning and an even louder ovation when he came to the plate in the bottom half of the inning with two men on base. Arndt promptly hit a three-run shot to left, sending us into a frenzy. Needless to say, the tone was set for the rest of the night: Arndt was cheered every time he took the field and he responded with several solid defensive plays, two more hits, two more runs and several smiles, thumbs up and even a tip of the cap. I only hope that Arndt didn’t get too much crap from his teammates on the way home, but we thank him for playing along.

Seen and heard in the stands:

-After getting Arndt’s attention before the game, Tiger Fannette told the Tiger shortstop that she would cheer for him all game if he got her a ball (side note: He wasn’t able to get one for her, but he did hit a foul ball our way that wound up landing right behind us and bouncing away. As well as he was hitting, I’m going to assume he did that intentionally). Anyway, that led to this classic exchange:

Arndt: I’ll see what I can do… but I don’t know where the balls are. They might be in the Illinois dugout.

Fannette: You don’t know where your balls are?

**Awkward silence from everyone**

-Heckle of the Night goes to Born-a-Tiger’s girlfriend Carrie in a huge upset. There were lots of experienced trash talkers on hand, but Carrie threw down the winner when the diminutive Illinois rightfielder reached first base on a single and was chatting with the rather tall Illinois first-base coach: “I didn’t know it was take your son to work day.” Solid.

-I was a big fan of the addition of Stumpy Joe’s BBQ for Wednesday’s game. I strongly encourage the organizers of this series to pursue this in the future.

Irritating/pleasant Athletic Department Decisions

-Good work by whoever handles the tickets at the Wood Bat Classic games. Last time I complained the lengthy ticket line. No such problem this time as the box office was handing out generic tickets rather than individually printed tickets. Nice adjustment.

Probably being heard around the (Tigers’) water cooler today…

“Great game the other night Gary… but did you really have to invite your ENTIRE family to the game to cheer you on. Wasn’t that kind of embarrassing?”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

World Cup Preview

By Tiger Fan

As we reach the summer lull for Mizzou sports, I figured it might be time to expand my coverage to include some other sports. And quite frankly, the sport I’m most qualified to evaluate is soccer. So, without further Adu, I present my 2006 World Cup preview (while sporting my Team USA Oguchi Onyewu jersey, of course).

Team USA

First and foremost, let’s take a look at the home side. The United States is sending a team to Germany next month that may be the best in U.S. history. They are currently ranked fourth in the world, but this seems a bit high to me. The World Cup organizers seem to agree, given that despite its lofty ranking and easy qualification, Team USA was not one of the seeded teams. The result? USA is joined in Group E by No. 2 Czech Republic and No. 14 Italy, in addition to lowly Ghana (ranking No. 50). The opening match for the Americans is June 12 against the Czechs (and I plan to be watching in a Vegas sportsbook).

When the official roster for the men’s national team was named earlier this month, it didn’t contain a lot of household names. That’s actually good news because it means that most of the players are coming from premier leagues in Europe rather than the MLS. Let’s go position-by-position:

Goalkeeper

Kasey Kellar, Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann

With 91 international appearances and 44 shutouts, Kellar is the senior member of a talented group. Howard and Hahnemann both play in the English Premier League while Kellar tends the net in the German Budesliga. Look for Howard, the former goalie for world power Manchester United, to get the start as Kellar is beginning to show his age.

Defender

Chris Albright, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Jimmy Conrad, Cory Gibbs, Eddie Lewis, Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Pope

Albright and Pope are the best-known names on this list because they both play in the MLS, but neither is likely to start come tournament time. Five of the other six players play in top European leagues and those players have garnered a lion’s share of the caps in recent years. Lewis, Cherundolo and Bocanegra are all likely starters. The wildcard of the group is young Onyewu, who goes by the nickname “Gooch.” Onyewu is a 6’2” monster in the backfield that is just 24 years old and still getting better. Right now, he is playing Standard de Liege in Belgium… but rumor has it that a solid world cup could land him a transfer to one of the top teams in England.

Midfield

DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Pablo Mastroeni, John O’Brien, Ben Olsen, Claudio Reyna

Reyna is the captain of Team USA and will still play a pivotal role in the midfield, even as he begins to get older. But the stars of tomorrow (and if they can play well in the World Cup, the stars of today) are Beasley and Donovan. Both are explosive players and, particularly Donovan, will be the focal point of the U.S. attack. As for the fourth starting spot, look for it to go to Mastroeni, another veteran.

Forward

Brian Ching, Eddie Johnson, Brian McBride, Josh Wolff

McBride, with 90 international appearances, is probably the only guaranteed starter in this group. In all likelihood, the other spot will go to Johnson or Wolff, but don’t be surprised if Ching gets a shot as well. All four have had success scoring goals at the international level.

Coach

Bruce Arena

Arena has the longest tenure of any coach at this year’s World Cup, dating back to his hiring in 1998 after Team USA finished dead last in France. This eight-year period is one of the longest coaching tenures in international soccer history and Arena is largely responsible for changing the image of U.S. soccer from an international joke to an international force. Arena focuses on defense, which is good because he has solid defenders but his team lacks the athleticism to outscore teams like Brazil. Still, he has not garnered a lot of respect in European circles. A semifinal run in Germany would certainly turn some heads.

Unfortunately, given Team USA’s draw, I don’t see that happening. In fact, I don’t even think they’ll make it out of the first round. I think they beat Ghana, lose to the Czechs and tie Italy… but Italy advances with the second spot in Group E on the basis of goal differential. I hope I’m wrong, but I think this team will not be able to live up to the lofty expectations.

The Rest

So if I don’t think the U.S. will win it, who will? The easy answer is Brazil. They boast the world’s most electrifying player in Ronaldinho and a solid team behind him. They are the clear-cut No. 1 team in the world. But if you want a wildcard, look to Germany (the host country always seems to rise to the occasion) or Spain (the Spaniards are bound to win the big one eventually, right?)

Here’s how I think the tourney plays out (winner of group listed first, then runner up):

Group A:

Germany

Costa Rica

Group B:

England

Sweden

Group C:

Netherlands

Argentina

Group D:

Portugal

Mexico

Group E:

Czech Republic

Italy

Group F:

Brazil

Croatia

Group G:

France

Korea

Group H:

Tunisia

Spain

Round of 16:

Germany over Sweden, Mexico over Netherlands, Croatia over Czech Republic, Spain over France, Costa Rica over Sweden, Argentina over Portugal, Brazil over Italy, Korea over Tunisia

Quarterfinals:

Germany over Mexico, Spain over Croatia, Argentina over Costa Rica, Brazil over Korea

Semifinals:

Germany over Spain, Brazil over Argentina

Final

Brazil 3, Germany 1

Friday, May 12, 2006

Weekly report

By Tiger Fan

Not a whole lot going on in Mizzou sports this week. I'm sure that has a lot to do with the fact that finals are coming to an end today in Columbia. Be that as it may, here's what has happened:

Tiger notes...
-The softball team is in the midst of a surprising run at the Big XII tournament. The No. 7-seeded Tigers knocked of the tenth-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders 6-3. Then, the Tigers upset No. 2 seed Nebraska 3-0. Unfortunately, Mizzou suffered a 2-0 loss to kU (of all teams) on Thursday. But that doesn't mean it is over for the Tigers. They take on Texas A&M today for a chance to advance in the loser's bracket.

-This most recent loss to kU won't have any real impact on the Border War standings. Even before yesterday's loss, the beakers had an insurmountable 22-15 lead. kU clinched the win a few weeks back when kU finished ahead of Mizzou in the Big XII men's golf tournament.

-This weekend is a big series for the Tiger baseball team if they have any hope of making the postseason. Even though the series is in Lubbock, it is imperative that Mizzou win at least 2 of 3. Next wednesday, the Tigers take on Illinois at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon. As you might have guessed, the staff of The Zou will be on hand.

-No one seems to have any idea what is going on with Mizzou basketball recruiting. Quite frankly, that's probably for the best. As long as Coach Anderson knows what's going on, that's all that matters.

-The men's golf team will tee off next weekend in Cleveland, making its second consecutive NCAA regional appearance. Mizzou has tried to make a case for itself as a basketball school or a football school in the past, but given the success of the men's and women's golf teams, perhaps we are a golf school. Who knew?

-Four Tiger athletes were named to the Big 12's 10th Anniversary Track and Field Team: Christian Cantwell, Derrick Peterson, Knut Sommerfeldt and Anne Marie Brooks. For those of you scoring at home, that's four more than the number of Tigers named to the 10th anniversary football or basketball teams.

-Brad Smith will apparently get to keep his No. 16 with the Jets. The funny part is that Brad never really wanted 16. I recall that after his RS freshman season, he wanted to switch numbers but that athletic department wouldn't let him because it had already sold so many No. 16 jerseys. Now, it's hard to picture him wearing anything else.

Quick-hit non-Mizzou thoughts...
If anyone took me up on my demand last week that you begin watching the NBA Playoffs, I apologize. I have no idea how we could go from such an exciting first round to such a boring second round... Speaking of boring, apparently there's hockey on OLN. Something about some sort of cup, a guy named Stanley. I'm not really sure what's going on. And judging by the ratings, neither are most Americans... Three words: Ken Griffey Junior... But the scariest name in baseball right now? Albert Pujols. The guy is on pace to hit 83 homeruns. 83! It took him only 34 games to hit his first 18. To put that in perspective, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds (both likely on steroids) took more than 40 games to hit 18 homeruns in their 70+ homerun campaigns. Obviously, Albert is probably going to slow down eventually, but there is not a single player in the league that I enjoy watching at the plate more than Pujols... And I think it's hilarious that Brad Lidge still hasn't recovered from Albert's bomb in last year's NLCS... Here's the biggest thing I learned from ESPN.com's list of the 10 best NBA point guards of all-time earlier this week: You don't need a good point guard to win an NBA title. Of the 10 players listed, five have never won a championship. Only Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy have won more than two. Meanwhile, please name for me the Bulls point guard that led them to six titles (Who knows?). Or the point guard for the Lakers during the Shaq-Kobe years (Derek Fisher... good, but not great). Or the point guard that propelled the Spurs to their recent titles (Tony Parker? Not bad now that he is learning to shoot... but Duncan carried those teams)... American Justin Gatlin set a new 100-meter sprint world record today with a time of 9.76. How fast is Gatlin? To put that in perspective for you football fans out there, that translates to a 3.62 to 40 time. Keep that in mind next time someone tells you Michael Vick has "world class" speed... With Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith announcing his retirement yesterday, ESPN immediately began debating his Hall of Fame status. Let me settle this debate: if Art Monk isn't Hall of Fame material, Jimmy Smith shouldn't even be considered. That's nothing against Smith, but I think the Hall should be reserved for truly great players and although Smith was good, I don't think he was great...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Weekly Report

By Tiger Fan

Law school exams are over, so that means that the Weekly Reports are back! Without further ado…


Tiger notes…

-For the definition of “too little, too late” please see the Mizzou baseball team. The Tigers have won seven of their last eight, but they are only 25-21. Even if they win out (which probably won’t happen given the two remaining Big XII series against Texas and Texas Tech), it probably won’t be enough to get the Tigers into the postseason. At this point, the only hope would be winning the Big XII Tourney. The crazy thing is, this team is entirely capable of winning that tournament. But I don’t think that will happen… in fact, I removed the College World Series from my personal calendar last week. Tough season for the Tigers.

-The rumors surrounding the men’s basketball roster seem to be clearing up. Kalen Grimes, Leo Lyons, Marshall Brown, Marcus Watkins, Glen Dandridge, Matt Lawrence, Jason Horton and Nick Berardini should all be back next season. James Douglas has reportedly not been attending workouts, so it looks like his short career is over. Keon Lawrence, Vaidatos Volkus and J.T. Tiller are all signed to join the team next season. Ty Morrison has officially signed at Creighton. And Thomas Gardner still claims he is going pro… but he can still come back and hopefully will.

-Marcus Watkins will probably play this season as a walk-on, which means his scholarship will be available. That means the men’s basketball team still has two scholarships available… and three if Gardner does not come back. Mike Anderson is still working to fill those spots. The leading candidates at this point are Stefhon Hannah and DeMarre Carroll. Hannah is a JuCo point guard from Chipola Junior College in Florida. Mizzou has not had much luck in the past with JuCo point guards (see Ricky Clemons, Randy Pully, James Douglas), but lots of folks like him. KSU coach Bob Huggins seems to be the only obstacle at this point to Hannah being a Tiger. Carroll is a sophomore guard at Vanderbilt who is looking to transfer. Thus, he would not be able to contribute until the 2007-08 season.

-The women’s golf team signed a recruit from Indiana last week named Michelle Morgan. The only question is whether any other women’s programs at Mizzou will be trying to get in on the act. In high school, Morgan earned all-conference honors in soccer, basketball and softball and reach the state finals in diving. Yowzers!

-In other women’s golf news, the Tigers have qualified for their fourth consecutive NCAA regional… which is more than the basketball or baseball teams can say.

-As I reported last week, Brad Smith and Tony Palmer were selected in the NFL draft. Four other Tigers have also been signed to free agent contracts: Marcus King with the Cowboys, Sean Coffey with the Chargers, Derrick Ming with the Bills and Calvin Washington with the Redskins.

-Just when things seem to finally be settling down over in the athletics department, the Board of Curators decided to make themselves look like idiots again. On Thursday, two members of the board called for the creation of a task force to oversee athletics on the four UM campuses state-wide. Apparently, this board of businessmen and women (several of whom hold degrees from SMS and one of whom is a donor to the SMS athletic department at the highest level) thinks that they are qualified to oversee the athletic department. But are they? The plan would call for a uniform enforcement plan for all four campuses – even though UMSL has an ANNUAL athletic budget of $300,000 and Mizzou has raised $1.2 million in booster donatios in the last MONTH. To make matters worse, the Curators promptly tabled the issue at their Friday meeting, proving once again that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing in the UM administration. As many qualms as I have with Alden, financing is not one of them. He has succeeded in more than doubling the athletic budget at Mizzou and the department is completely self-sustaining. I could go on, but Bryan Burwell wrote an excellent article on this matter in Friday’s Post-Dispatch. Rather than repeat his thoughts, I’ll just direct you to his column.

Quick-hit non-Mizzou thoughts…

If you haven’t been watching the NBA Playoffs, you should start now. Today. What have you missed so far? Instant classic buzzer beaters by LeBron James, Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitski and Kevin Martin. A triple-double by LeBron in his first playoff game. Kobe throwing down a nasty dunk on Steve Nash, only to have Nash get revenge by winning the series in seven. Shaq dropping 30 and 20 like its 1999. Dwyane Wade falling seven times, but getting up eight. The entire Nets-Pacers series (don’t worry, everyone missed that series. It was only carried on NBA network). The Mavs and Pistons looking unbeatable. The Spurs looking human. The Clippers (yes, those Clippers) winning a series time since 1978. And that was all in the first round!... Michelle Wie finally made the cut at a men’s event and everyone acts like this is a big deal. But lets get one thing straight: She’s still not even the best teenage golfer in the world, much less a top five player on the LPGA tour… The whole debate over whether MLB should authenticate the homerun ball when Bonds passes the Babe is ridiculous. Did everyone go crazy when Pete Rose passed the guy who was No. 2 on the all-time hits list? Did everyone go nuts when Hank Aaron passed the guy who was No. 2 on the all-time home runs list? The only time second place matters is in the Olympics. If Bonds wants recognition, he better slim down so his knees will last long enough to break Aaron’s record. Or he could just retire and we’d all be much happier… Does anyone even realize that the NHL playoffs are going on? Quick, name for me all the teams that are left. **awkward silence** Uh, the Red Wings? **awkward silence** That’s what I thought… Someone please explain to me how the Patriots wound up getting one of the best tailbacks in the draft, the best WR in the draft and one of the best TEs in the draft in the first three rounds. Man, they draft well…

Cincinnati sports notes…

I know most folks don’t care, but a few shout-outs about my hometown teams… The Reds are off to a blistering start and sit in first place in the NL Central with one of the best records in baseball. I think the fans are about 50-50: Some want to print World Series tickets, some are waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve followed Cincinnati sports long enough to fall firmly within the latter group. Unfortunately, I think it’s coming sooner than any of us thought. After taking four of five from the Astros and Cardinals, the Reds have dropped three of four to the Rockies and Diamondbacks. That is a BIG problem. There’s no way we can keep up this pace all year. If only we played in another division… I saw an interview with Steelers linebacker Joey Porter the other day on ESPN, during which he said that he doesn’t think the Bengals can compete physically with the Steelers. Really Joey? I know you won the Super Bowl last year, but you know you would have lost in the first round were it not for Kimo von Oelhoffen, right? You do know you didn’t even win the division, right? You do know that the refs gift-wrapped that Super Bowl for you, right? You do know Chad Johnson is not Jerramy Stevens, right? We’ll just see what happens this season... I’m not quite sure how to feel about the Bengals draft. On one hand, they did address some areas that need help. On the other hand, they failed pick up a much-needed TE, even though they had several chances to do so with good choices on the board. I felt like they picked Frostee Rucker a round or two early and I didn’t like the fact that they took three “project” players (all listed at wide receiver) with their final three picks. I thought we were pretty well set at wide receiver (Chad and T.J.) and kick returner (Tab Perry), but what do I know? Oh well. In Marvin we trust…