Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crosby, It's Cold Outside

In a little less than 36 hours the Pittsburgh Penguins will square off against the Washington Capitals in the fourth annual Winter Classic. This will mark the second Winter Classic game for the Penguins, who played in the inaugural edition in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, NY against the Buffalo Sabres.

Pittsburgh won their previous Winter Classic clash 2-1 in an overtime shootout, thanks to the skills of Sidney Crosby, and look to upend the Alex Ovechkin led Capitals on New Year's Day, 2011 at 1p EST on NBC.

Speaking of Ovechkin and Crosby, the two superstar icers will provide the main story line for this year's battle. As Eastern Conference foes they've met not only countless times in the regular season but also in the playoffs. Olympic games have also been part of their match ups.

NHL executives were likely caught off-guard a few years ago when the notion of an outdoor hockey game on New Year's Day was first proposed. I can imagine the conversation:

Proposer: "There's nothing better going on to bring in the New Year, how about we play outside like the good ol' days?!?"
Naysayer: "You mean there aren't four or five college football games already? Have they been cancelled?" 
Proposer: "Well, you see we could play early in the day to not compete with fans interested in those games"
Naysayer: "Does the word hangover mean anything to you? Who is going to wake up at noon to watch a hockey game?"

Well, it probably did not go exactly like that but you get the idea. No one expected the game to garner as much appeal as it has. In fact, last year's game between Philadelphia and Boston at Fenway Park in Boston was the top trending topic on Twitter. This year, with the side story of Crosby v. Ovechkin, viewership and fan interest is likely to expand upon last year's game.

HBO got into the mix by featuring a behind the scenes documentary on the Capitals and Penguins rivalry. The series, dubbed 24/7 Penguins-Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic, has followed both franchises throughout the 2010-2011 season thus far as they approach their January 1 contest.

Heinz Field, home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, will play host to what NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins thinks could be the "best of all" Winter Classic. With revenues growing over $330MM in the past three years there is surely momentum behind Saturday's match up.

In 2008 the Penguins donned vintage throwbacks that became very popular amongst Penguins and NHL fans alike.

Fast forward to Saturday's game and the Penguins will also wear throwbacks, but they'll be slightly different than the 2008 model that also saw ice time in 2009 and 2010. Follow this link for a sample of what Sidney Crosby's jersey will look like.

This year's jersey design is a tribute to the team's original logo from the 1967-68 season. Not to be outdone, the Capitals will also wear throwbacks from their early years (1974 to be exact) in a tribute to their past.

But the real story will be the battle between Crosby and Ovechkin. Crosby, to date, has won the more high profile games/series, leading his Penguins to a Game 7 victory over the Capitals in the 2008-09 season en route to a Stanley Cup Championship and a Team Canada victory over Team Russia in the 2010 Olympics.

Ovechkin will certainly have payback on his mind as he takes on Sidney and the Penguins on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's Always Sunny In El Paso

Well, it should always be sunny in El Paso but that will not likely be the case this Friday, December 31 as Notre Dame and Miami renew their once heated rivalry in the 2010 Sun Bowl.

In their first meeting since 1990, Notre Dame and Miami will face off in El Paso in what is expected to be chilling weather with highs in the mid 40s and lows in the mid 20s. For kickers, there is also a slight chance of rain or snow. One would expect that sort of weather when the two teams meet at Soldier Field in 2012 in Chicago,  but not in Texas.

Aside from the weather being a touch 'off' the two teams are also nowhere near the level of competition like when they last met in 1990 - a shocking 29-20 Irish victory that knocked Miami out of national championship contention.

Miami is in the midst of a coaching change after former head coach Randy Shannon was let go hours after finishing the regular season at 7-5 for failing to return the once proud program to prominence. He will be replaced by interim head coach Jeff Stoutland in the bowl game. Stoutland previously served as offensive line coach for the Hurricanes. 

Notre Dame also finished the season with a 7-5 record in what many deemed as a disappointment given their 'easy' schedule. Yet, the NCAA's view on the matter was that the Notre Dame had the toughest schedule this past year and the Irish closed out the season on a hot streak by winning its final three games. None of those victories was more important or provided more momentum heading into the bowl game than the 20-16 victory over USC in the finale. 

Suffice it to say, though, neither team is in the upper echelon of the college football landscape today. Notre Dame has not won a national title since 1988 and while Miami won one in 2002 they have fallen on tough times recently, posting a 28-22 record under Shannon's leadership.

Going back to 1988, Lou Holtz's Notre Dame team beat Jimmy Johnson's Miami squad 31-30 in what many (Irish) fans dubbed Catholics vs. Convicts. The following year, the Hurricanes exacted their revenge by beating #1 Notre Dame 27-10 en route to their own national title.

Fast forward to the 2010 Sun Bowl and it appeared that Catholics vs. "Coachless" would be a fitting nickname for the renewed rivalry. Miami, however, quickly announced the hire of Al Golden who resigned from his head coaching gig at Temple to welcome the opportunity and rich tradition brought by the Hurricanes.

Jump ahead to 2:17 in the following video to see video footage of the famous pre-game tunnel fight from the 1988 game.

Due to the intensity exhibited not only by fights like the one displayed above but also the hostility between each schools' fans Notre Dame administrators felt it was necessary to end the rivalry after the last matchup in 1990.

Now that there has been some time to cool off fans at both schools welcome the opportunity to rekindle the rivalry a few years ahead of the next regular season contest.

For Irish fans, there is the opportunity to not only build on the positive momentum from the end of the season winning streak but also that of its last bowl win, a drubbing victory in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl over Hawaii.

For 'Canes fans, a new chapter is about to be written with head coach Al Golden starting next year - he will not coach in the bowl game - so what better way is there to begin that chapter than winning a bowl game?

It will be the 24th meeting all-time between the two universities, with Notre Dame holding a 15-7-1 advantage.

Brian Kelly's Irish squad could be slightly more motivated coming off the heals of three straight victories and the Hurricanes in turmoil with the coaching change. The Irish are not without their own distractions, though, with WR Michael Floyd and TE Kyle Rudolph contemplating early NFL careers and WR Duval Kamara not making the trip due to "personal reasons." A few key players return from injury though, with Theo Riddick providing a boost for the receiving corps and the physically imposing Ian Williams providing even more strength to a defense brimming with confidence.

Jeff Stoutland has his own personnel issues with a quarterback conundrum. Jacory Harris was at one time a Heisman trophy contender but he struggled throughout the year and relinquished his starting role to freshman Stephen Morris after sustaining a head injury in the Virginia game - an embarrassing loss to the ACC's bottom-feeding Cavaliers.

Morris played well enough to stir a debate as to who should start in the bowl game, but as fate would have it he injured himself today during practice, therefore surrendering the starting quarterback job to Harris.

As final preparations are made by each team anticipation rises amongst both fan bases, eager to see if the season finale can prime a jump started 2011 season. Look no further than the record-setting sellout to see how interested fans are in this middle-tier bowl game.

Tune in on CBS at 2pm EST to catch the 2010 Sun Bowl and to whet your appetite check out this documentary on the 1988 game. 

Eating Ourselves Stupid

A few days ago, Justin posted a satirical video of holiday, and commercial, excess. Today, The Mail, a British newspaper akin to the New York Post, has posted a story exhibiting another type of gross American excess. . . Eating.

The woman described in the story is nothing short of disgusting. The fact that her life goal is to become the world's fattest woman is bad enough, but the fact that she is attempting to make money off of her 'habit' by posting videos online of her eating makes me sick.

I am a bit short on time right now, so I cannot describe in full all of the things about this woman that make me angry, but I trust that you shouldn't have much trouble formulating your own reasons.

Here is the article in all of its full-figured glory!

Bon Appetit!

1995 Sugar Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Texas

The 1995 season started the same way 2010 did, with two unnerving Hokie losses.

Tech fell to Boston College in the '95 opener then got blanked 16-0 by Cincinnati—incidentally the last time the Hokies were shut out.

0-2 is bad enough, but far worse when the Miami Hurricanes are next on the schedule. At that point, the Hokies had never defeated Miami.

But in traditional Hokie fashion, Tech rose to the challenge and won 13-7, then went on to reel off 9 consecutive victories to win the Big East championship and earn a birth in the Sugar Bowl against No. 9 Texas.

The Hokies came in ranked 13th, but were big underdogs. Tech trailed 10-7 at halftime, but stormed out of the locker room scoring 21 unanswered points largely due to the play of wideout Bryan Still (above).

Still was on the receiving end of a 54-yard Jim Druckenmiller touchdown pass and returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown.

The win was most certainly the biggest in Tech history to that point and put the program on the map nationally.

Others to keep an eye on in this video are No. 58 Cornell Brown ( who most certainly would have been called for roughing the QB a few times if he played today), No. 81 Bryan Jennings, No. 42 Dwayne Thomas and current Hokie defensive backs coach No. 14 Torrian Gray who tracked down two interceptions in the contest.

Reflecting on Nearly Two Decades of Hokie Bowl Games

As I sit and watch the final minutes of the "Advocare V100 Independence Bowl", I'm reminded of the fledgling start to Virginia Tech's consecutive bowl streak in the 1993 Independence Bowl, then sponspored by Poulan Weed Eaters in case you're wondering.

Following a 2-8-1 season in 1992 that almost cost Frank Beamer his job, wholesale changes were made to the coaching staff and the moves paid off.

1993 saw the Hokies' first winning season under Beamer and the No. 22 Techmen took on No. 21 Indiana.

The Hokies led 14-13 just before halftime with the Hoosiers driving when Tech defenders George DelRicco and DeWayne Knight hit Indiana quarterback John Paci knocking the ball loose for Hokie end Lawrence Lewis to scoop up and scamper 20 yards for a score.

The Hoosiers then returned the kickoff into Tech territory where their efforts led to a field goal attempt. It failed miserably which is where the video comes in.

Credit to Jeff Holland on the block and Antonio Banks on the return. Also, that's the quarterback of my youth the versatile Maurice DeShazo pictured above. The Hokies went on to win 45-20.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Footloose Pianist

It has been far too long since our last post of music we like and this selection is sure to please even the softest of music palettes.

Liu Wei was a contestant on the Chinese version of 'America's Got Talent' and brought tears to not only the judges and audience but also millions of viewers across the globe.

At the surface Wei's talent is not that uncommon. He is a talented musician that performs at a high level and has an ability to captivate his audiences.

Yet it is not enough to merely point out what his talent is, rather the full story must be shared to explain how he earned it.

You see, Liu Wei lost both of his arms when he was 10 years old because of a freak accident. He grabbed a live electrical wire while playing hide and seek and from that moment on his life was forever changed.

He appeared on China's Got Talent and spoke of his remarkable story to the judges.

For people like me, there were only two options. One was to abandon all dreams, which would lead to a quick, hopeless death. The other was to struggle without arms to live an outstanding life.

At 23 years of age he has already defied so many odds and shown more perseverance and bravery than most humans exhibit throughout their lifespan.

We applaud Wei for his incredible courage and determination. His story is a truly touching one. Teacher after teacher told him he would never succeed at his dream of becoming a pianist but at age 18 he taught himself and the results are nothing short of breathtaking.

Suffice it to say, Wei is living not only an outstanding life but also an inspirational one.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays

Now that the oppressive commercialization of the holiday season is more or less in the rear view mirror, we can start to move on to other more important things like football and snow shovels.

But first, I thought I'd post a holiday greeting from someone whose views are most certainly not in line with the general readership of this blog; Bill Maher.

Maher's anti-religious views are often controversial, sometimes offensive and for a heathen like me, many times spot on.

This rant from him is less focused on religion, instead aiming at America's love affair with material possessions.

I think he hit the nail on the head here, but remember while he's making observations he feels are correct, it's supposed to be funny!

Laugh. Enjoy the day and everyone be safe out there. We're most definitely stuck in the icy grip of winter's cold, heartless fingers.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Notre Dame's Henderson Dubbed Nation's Top Women's Soccer Player

The Honda Sports Award for the nation's top women's soccer player was given to Notre Dame Junior Melissa Henderson.

On Tuesday the announcement was made after balloting from roughly the 1,000 NCAA member schools.

She also was named the best offensive player in this year's College Cup as she helped the Irish claim their third national championship in school history. In fact, she assisted on the game-winning goal in the championship game, a 1-0 victory over heavily favored Stanford.

Cindy Daws, a 1997 winner of the Honda Sports Award, is the only other Irish soccer player to win the coveted award.

Congratulations to Melissa on her accomplishment!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Improper Benefits at Ohio State, Improper Punishment from NCAA

As taught in any psychology class, punishment (or rewards, for that matter) carries more of an impact when immediately following the action for which the punishment (or reward) is being given. 

So why will the NCAA allow more than half of a year to pass before punishment is handed out to five Ohio State football players (excluding the actual repayment of benefits received, which should be deemed as a no-brainer and not a real punishment) for violating NCAA rules?

Well, according the NCAA release, the players "did not receive adequate rules education" from the school at the time of the transgressions.

Star QB Terrelle Pryor, Mike Adams, Daniel Herron, Devier Posey and Solomon Thomas were found guilty of breaking NCAA rules by selling awards, gifts and university apparel, plus receiving improper benefits in 2009.

As punishment, the players must repay money and benefits ranging in value from $1,000 to $2,500 to charity.

Among the items sold by the Ohio State players were Big Ten Championship rings, Pryor's 2009 Fiesta Bowl Sportsmanship Award and gold pants - a gift from the university for having played on a team that defeated arch-rival Michigan. How ironic that Pryor sold his sportsmanship award. Perhaps the Fiesta Bowl meant to give Pryor the unsportsmanlike award?

Purportedly, Pryor sold his items because he was trying to help out his family. That is a perfectly fine sentiment and very admirable that he was thinking about his family instead of himself. However, his attempt to help his family was a direct violation of NCAA rules and therefore warrants reprimand.

As part of the punishment for the rules violations, not only do the players have to repay the benefits they received but they also must sit out five games, including the 2011 Sugar Bowl and the first four to kick off next season.

My apologies, that is the punishment that the NCAA should have shelled out, but failed to. Instead, the players will be suspended five games starting next season.

Some people contend that the punishment of a five game suspension is to severe for what the crime was. While that argument does have some merit, it avoids the fact that immediate punishment in the means of suspension for the bowl game should have been issued. 

Letting the players participate in one more game before serving their actual penalty six months later is akin to allowing a convicted criminal to roam the streets another six months (perhaps committing more crimes) before serving a jail sentence. Yes, the criminal is more dangerous and committed a more serious offense than these players did, but the delay of punishment and is the same.

According to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch, the NCAA "has special dispensation for situations like this, what they call 'special games' like championships to not tip the competitive balance one way or the other."

Is anyone else appalled by this? Allowing the players to play one more game this year, with the knowledge of their violations, is disturbing to say the least. Moreover, the players have the opportunity to turn pro next year, meaning the only 'penalty' they could render from the ordeal is repayment of the benefits to a charity. 

Athletics Director Gene Smith called the penalties "harsh" but he is sorely mistaken. Hardly harsh is more like it.

Head Coach Jim Tressel added, "hopefully we'll do the right thing" with regards to the internal punishment to the players. It would be more appropriate to say "we'll do the right thing" but you have to start somewhere, right? If only we could all say, "I hope I'll follow through on what's right, but we'll have to see."

Tressel must have been too focused on his coaching class at Ohio State instead of concentrating on the personal development of his young players into responsible adults. As the head football coach, it is his job, along with the athletics department, to instruct his players on the can and cannot-dos of being a college athlete.  Moreover, it was his duty to provide his student athletes with "adequate rules education."

Compliance might be a thumbprint on Ohio State's athletics website, but it is something that must be lived and breathed by every collegiate institution. Claiming ignorance surely must feel like bliss in this instance. 

The lack of accountability shown by Ohio State is not the biggest issue at stake here, however. As the sole overseer of collegiate athletics it is the NCAA's duty to discipline in an appropriate manner when dealing with rules violations. Sadly, the NCAA's muscles were flimsy at best in the case of its ruling against the offending Ohio State players.

Members of the media on ESPN college football live hypothesized today that if players were paid, this type of behavior might be avoided in the first place.

Do you buy that argument?

Think about it. College athletes on scholarship get a full ride to their program of choice. Room and board, meals, tutoring, gear, and most importantly their education is 100% free. How much more payment should players receive?

After all, they are student-athletes, not athlete-students. There is a reason that 'student' proceeds athletes.

Regardless of the punishment that should or should not be enforced to the Ohio State players the Sugar Bowl on January 4 will still go on as planned. Thousands of adoring fans will embark on New Orleans in support of their respective programs. Ohio State will play Arkansas and people will still watch.

This college sports fan, however, will abstain from supporting the Sugar Bowl in any way, shape, or form this year.

I urge you to join me in boycotting the Sugar Bowl this year in a show of disagreement with the allowance of Ohio State's players to participate in the game.

Who's with me?

Monday, December 20, 2010

2011 Sudler Trophy Awarded to Notre Dame Band

Notre Dame is a university known for traditions and history and its marching band is certainly included in those conversations.

In 1976 it was declared a "Landmark of American Music" by the National Music Council and the Indiana Music Educators Association and is the oldest college band (in continuous existence) in the United States.

On December 17, 2010 it added yet another distinction to its storied existence: 2011 Sudler Trophy winner.

The Sudler Trophy was awarded to the University of Notre Dame Band for its "outstanding contributions to the American way of life."

Presentation of the trophy occurred during the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, IL and Director of Bands Dr. Kenneth Dye was on hand to accept the award on behalf of the university.

I look for continued progress and success with the Notre Dame Band and wish to congratulate all the students, staff and supporters that have helped our program earn this recognition

Further details on the history of the Sudler Trophy, which is presented by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation, can be found here.

College football players have the Heisman Trophy. College bands have the Sudler Trophy.

Now Notre dame has at least one of each to its name. Other schools with such a distinction include: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana State, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Virginia Tech Unveils Orange Helmets

A season that started with black uniforms will end with orange helmets in the Orange Bowl.

For the first time in program history the Hokies will wear burnt orange helmets with chicago maroon facemasks January 3 against Stanford.

I have been without Internet access and I'll be in transit northward soon. Expect more bowl coverage in the coming weeks as the season edges toward capacity.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Big Coward: Jim Delany

Remember when the Big Ten announced its new divisional names and people were not only confused, but upset?

Well, it seems that the criticism displayed thus far by fans has taken somewhat of a toll on Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

It's really hard to believe he had no idea there would be such a backlash against his conference's decision to dub the new Big Ten divisions "Legends" and "Leaders" as a way of paying homage to the history and tradition of the conference.

I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions, to know that you never, rarely, get 90 percent approval rating. But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising.

According to an interview with WGN AM-720 in Chicago, Delany acknowledged that his officials will potentially reconsider the names  once the new year hits.

Perhaps the most striking comment made in the interview was Delany's admittance that little consideration was given to changing the conference name from the Big Ten since conference officials including alumni, administrators, and university faculty think of the Big Ten as a powerful brand.

I don't know about you, but I don't think any conference that cannot count deserves the moniker of a 'power' brand.

Back to Mr. Delany, after serving as the Big Ten commissioner for more than two decades it is probably time for him to move onto greener pastures.

As a side note, the only Delany worth its weight in gold is the Portland, OR band Delaney. One of my friends from the Notre Dame Drumline shows off his chops on what I know of as the band's first and only album. Good work Cheese.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Brian vs Justin CFB Predictions - Final

Much like the course of the tracking this season I'll keep this short and sweet.

It was an up and down year for both teams. ND clearly had more downs than VT, though it is debatable who had the deepest low considering the Hokies' loss to FCS school JMU.

Regardless, neither team wound up in the bowl destination it had hoped to arrive at before the year began but considering the slow starts to the year both are (relatively) happy to have ended up where they did.

Speaking of being relatively happy, I for one am at least somewhat pleased with how the final standings in mine and Justin's competition turned out: 16-9 for me to 14-11 for my associate.

Point differentials weren't nearly as close, with my overall for the year coming in at +9 and Justin's at -119.

All in all, I think we both expect more from ourselves but are satisfied with the momentum heading into the postseason. Let's hope that momentum carries itself into spring practice and next fall...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Counting: As Easy As 1, 2, 4...

Last weekend Michigan Stadium, affectionately known as The Big House, was host to The Big Chill. No, there was not a special viewing of the 1983 classic film of the same name featuring Jeff Goldbloom, Tom Berenger and Glenn Close.

Instead of film, the people of Ann Arbor took to sport and, namely, an event unlike any other its sport had seen before.

In-state rivals Michigan and Michigan State squared off in the most heavily attended outdoor hockey game according to the Guinness World Records. The event was so successful and heavily attended that people actually forgot how to count.

When initially reported, University of Michigan officials stated attendance was an astonishing 113,411 people.

A few days later, however, Guinness World Records informed the Detroit Free Press that the actual attendance mark according to its records was 85,451.

Did 27,960 people go missing?

No, Michigan just forgot how to count. Well, they just have a different view on what counts as actual attendance compared to how Guinness World Records tabulates attendance marks.

Evidently the Wolverines' officials included people working the game (media, staff, etc.) along with the count of spectators with tickets. Guinness, on the contrary, excludes people working the game.

Although the number recorded by Guinness was smaller than originally reported, it still surpassed the previous record set earlier this year at the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Championships in Germany.

As for the game itself? The Wolverines embarrassed the Spartans 5-0 in what was quite the appealing sight with throwback uniforms dawned by both teams.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Legends, Leaders, and Losers

Not only did the Big Ten fail Math 101 (12 = 10?) they also come up short in the common sense department.

For background, ask yourself this question: Since when do divisions entitled 'Legends' and 'Leaders' accurately describe the sum of their parts, let alone any of their parts?

In all seriousness, some of the football teams comprising the Big Ten do have rich tradition. Michigan has Fielding Yost and Bo Schembechler. Ohio State has Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel. Newcomer Nebraska has Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. Michigan State has Hugh Daugherty. Certainly not to be outdone, Joe Paterno still leads Penn State. All schools have multiple national titles to their name, even if the multiple consists merely of two.

But is there much beyond those core teams? Wisconsin fans are sure to be offended by their exclusion, but they have yet to win the big one (the Billingsley and Helms do not count).

Here is a look at the new divisional alignment as released by the Big Ten earlier this week.

Michigan State

Ohio State
Penn State

With names like 'leaders' and 'legends' the Big Ten divisional alignment sounds a lot like something you would see on Capitol Hill or an old WW1 movie.

Why stray away from something that would make more sense, like east and west? By utilizing the gift of mother nature a natural divisional line could have been established. However, the Big Ten failed to align its divisions geographically.

Indiana and Illinois could switch divisions to solve the problem but the changes of that happening anytime soon are slim.

Give Jim Delaney, the Big Ten commissioner, points for creativity with the out of the box names. If the Pac-10 follows suit he could be viewed as a trend setter, but they are much more likely to use geography to divvy up their teams (presumably north and south).

Mr. Delaney had the following to say about the logic behind choosing the odd names for his conference's divisions.

Legends is a nod to our history and to the people associated with our schools who are widely recognized as legends - student-athletes, coaches, alumni and faculty. Leaders looks to the future as we remain committed to fostering leaders, the student-athletes who are encouraged to lead in their own way for the rest of their lives, in their families, in their communities and in their chosen professions.
We're proud of our many legends and even prouder of our member institutions that develop future leaders every day.

Alas, the biggest mistake Mr. Delaney made was omitting the third division: Losers.

Its composition? Himself and the committee tasked with determining the new divisional names.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Back In Black

Literally. If you're a frequent reader of Stars and Slights you've probably noticed the facelift we've given to the site.

If you're not yet a frequent reader do yourself a favor and us to your list of blogs or daily website check-ins. You can thank us later.

During our first annual review we decided to break away from the old design that has served us well for the first two years of the site. Actually, there was no annual review but it sounded cooler than saying we got bored with the old design.

Anyhow, take a spin and let us know what you think of the new digs. Leave a comment or two, or send us nasty emails if you have our addresses.

In honor of the new look it is only fitting to pay tribute to the AC/DC classic off of the eponymous album, Back In Black.

This album was the first recorded after the death of longtime singer Bon Scott and accordingly served as a tribute to the fallen band member.

Let this video serve as the Stars and Slights tribute to not only Bon Scott but the entire ACDC family.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Metrodome Collapse

As much as mother nature tried to give Minnesota Vikings fans their first outdoor home game in over three decades the NFL had other plans.

Early this morning, due to significant snow accumulation in excess of 1.5 feet in the Twin Cities, the roof atop of the Metrodome collapsed.

The incident put a wrench in today's planned meeting between the NY Giants and the Vikings. Originally scheduled for a noon CST kickoff, event planners in the NFL scrambled to find an alternative solution so the two teams could play.

League officials contemplated hosting the game at TCF Bank stadium, the new home to the University of Minnesota Gold Gophers football team, which would have made for a chilly matchup with subzero temperatures. But school officials said the stadium had been shut down for too long already this year and would take nearly a week to prepare for an NFL game.

Without a local option, the NFL announced the game would be moved to Detroit tomorrow night at 7:20pm EST. The rescheduling provides a unique two-game slate for a Monday, which is traditionally reserved for just one game per week.

The thought of lost revenue was too great to overcome, however, setting the stage for a unique 'home' game for the Vikings in Detroit.

Vikings officials said that ticket holders who wish to travel to the game would immediately be upgraded to the best available 50 yard-line seats at Ford Field in Detroit tomorrow night.

While nice in theory I find it hard to believe many fans, if any at all, will make the voyage on a work day. Last minute flights are not cheap and the 12 hour drive is far too much to handle. Throw in the thought of having to stay overnight in a hotel and list of potential travelers to the game dwindles to slim and none.

At least the ticket holders to the original game scheduled today will be issued refunds.

To help fill the seats, the NFL decided to release free general admission tickets to the public beginning at 9am EST tomorrow morning.

Anyone in Detroit want to see an NFL game for free? Now's your chance. This ploy will surely draw at least a few fans who would otherwise watch from the confines of their homes or not watch at all.

Even though I'm not a Vikings fan despite my close proximity to the dome (about a mile) I will certainly tune into this unique sporting event. My main reason for watching will be to see how full, or empty, the crowd is.

Tomorrow's matchup makes me wonder: If two teams play a game in an unaffiliated city and nobody shows up to watch it, did it actually occur?

Only viewers in New York City, Minneapolis, Rochester, and Mankato, Minnesota markets in addition to DirecTV Sunday Ticket subscribers will know for certain.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Notre Dame Women's Soccer 2010 National Champions

Once again it is time to light the #1 sign atop Grace Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. This past Sunday the #7/10 Irish Women's Soccer team defeated #1/1 Stanford 1-0 for its third national championship in program history.

The Irish have won women's soccer championships in 1995, 2004 and now 2010.

Congratulations are in order for the entire program with a special shout out to Head Coach Randy Waldrum who was extra proud of his team's accomplishment.
Please have the courage to write that this is the best team in the country, not that this was an upset. I know everybody had preordained Stanford as the national champion this year. But I would make the argument that once the NCAA tournament started, the path we took and the way we won games ... we clearly were the best team in the country.
During the six tournament game wins the Irish outscored their opponents 15-1, including handing #3/4 North Carolina its worst loss in more than 30 years (4-1).

Notre Dame had lost its previous two championship game matches in 2006 and 2008.

Freshman Adrianna Leon scored the game's only goal as the Irish knocked off the Cardinal, which lost the NCAA championship game for the second year in a row.

Hughes Win for Irish

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Almost nine full days later and the ND victory over arch-rival USC is still just as sweet. For the first time in eight years, the Irish knocked off the Trojans in the battle for the Jeweled Shilelagh.

Senior RB Robert Hughes came up huge in the final series for ND as the Irish offensive line helped plow the way, dominating a worn out and overmatched USC Trojan defensive line.

At times it was difficult to discern whether or not Hughes was a Jerome Bettis reincarnate or not but make no mistake about it, Hughes put on a show that the aforementioned Bettis would have been proud of.

Notre Dame took command of the game at the end of the 2nd quarter with a pair of 1-yard touchdown passes from Tommy Rees to Michael Floyd and Duval Kamara. Floyd scored with 2:29 remaining and Kamara notched one just before the horn sounded with 0:07 remaining. Kamara's score put the Irish up 13-3 at the half and seemingly in the driver's seat.

But sloppy play in the 3rd quarter allowed the Trojans to tie it up 13 apiece when Mitch Mustain converted on 4th and goal from the 1. It was the first defensive touchdown allowed by the Irish defensive in 13 quarters of play, the longest such streak since 1980.

Tommy Rees, who is undefeated as an Irish starting signal-caller at 3-0, threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble in an otherwise ho-hum effort. However, when needed, he stepped up on the final Irish drive and connected on two passes to keep the drive alive and help the Irish overcome their short-lived deficit.

Many folks in Trojan land are writing off this loss by saying their team was without its starting quarterback. What those fans neglect to admit or realize is that the Irish were also without their starting quarterback, but instead of turning to a senior who had won 8 games in a row previously turned to a true freshman with minimal experience. Additionally, ND was without arguably the best tight end in the nation in Kyle Rudolph, running back Armando Allen, and nose guard Ian Williams.

Perhaps the biggest callout led by the men and women of Troy is that senior wideout Ronald Johnson dropped what would have surely been a go-ahead touchdown with 1:17 remaining. But with heavy rain pouring down as it had the entire evening Johnson let the ball bounce off his shoulder.

As Coach Brian Kelly said, "It was about time we caught a break."

Moments later, Harrison Smith intercepted a pass to confirm the Irish victory with :36 left.

Fitting that the Irish victory was sealed by its defense, which has gone from bottom-feeder to powerhouse in the matter of one season.

After an abysmal effort against Navy, the Irish D seemed re-energized and determined to show it could handle the triple option as it shut down Army in Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago. Similarly, the Irish D showed up big as the high-octane Utah Utes' offense was also held to just 3 points.

Make no mistake about it, the Notre Dame football team caught fire and did so at the right time of the year, finishing November with a 3-0 record, remarkable considering the back-to-back losses to Navy and Tulsa that preceded the winning streak.

The sweetest of the wins without question is the victory over USC though. In case you missed any of the action, take a look at the highlight clip below. It is slightly over-produced but overall a sound compilation of the moments that led to long overdue jubilation for fans of the Blue and Gold.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hokies Claim ACC Championship

Virginia Tech knocked off Florida State 44-33 Saturday night in Charlotte, NC to claim their fourth ACC title since joining the conference in 2004.

The Hokies have won 11 consecutive games since losing to Boise State and James Madison in a span of six days in early September.

ACC player of the year Tyrod Taylor had yet another spectacular game in bringing down the Seminoles.

Taylor completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns. He added 30 yards and a touchdown on the ground while senior receiver Danny Coale caught 6 passes for 143 yards and a score.

Football in National Title Game

AP Photo/ Sara D. Davis

European football that is. Today at noon EST on ESPN2 and ESPN3 the Notre Dame Women's soccer team takes on the Stanford Cardinal in the Division 1 National Championship game.

Hey, you've got to start somewhere, right? While I have showed incredible restraint in delaying my post on the USC victory, I could not pass up this opportunity to light the #1 sign atop Grace Hall.

Go Irish!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

ACC Championship: Florida State vs. Virginia Tech

It's a rematch of the game that has created some of Virginia Tech's highest and lowest moments.

From the 2000 National Championship game that saw the Hokies on the cusp of the crystal football, to an embarrassing loss in the 2005 ACC Championship, Tech and FSU have had a number of memorable games in recent years.

Tonight in Charlotte, both teams vie for an ACC title and an automatic berth in the BCS. the winner heads to the Discover Orange Bowl and the loser wonders what could have been.

Enjoy the games today and let's give a special shout out to Bobby West. His duel citizenship in Blacksburg and Tallahassee always makes for an interesting subplot when these two schools meet in any sport. Choose wisely today sir.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Notre Dame Basketball: The Team Your Team Could Play Like

AP Photo/ John Raoux

Mike Brey and his squad are off to a strong start this year - one of the best in school history. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish Men's Basketball squad improved to 7-0 on the year over the Thanksgiving holiday by defeating Georgia, California and Wisconsin en route to winning the Old Spice Classic.

It wasn't always pretty, as the game against Cal set the NCAA record for lowest scoring (combined) half since the stat started being tracked in the '80s, but the Irish managed to grind out three wins to claim the tournament title.

One of the many joys of the tournament, aside from claiming the championship title of course, was the barrage of Old Spice commercials, like the 'Odor Blocker' one.

Last night the Irish struggled early against Lary Bird's alma mater, Indiana State, before finally pulling away from the Sycamores to notch win number 8 on the year.

At 8-0 the 2010-2011 Irish Men's Basketball team is off to the school's best start in 37 years.

No one saw this kind of a start coming with the losses of Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson to graduation. Jackson was one of the most prolific point guards in Irish history and Luke Harangody was easily the best Irish player since Troy Murphy, perhaps even Austin Carr.

Leadership has emerged from Ben Hansbrough (brother of former Tar Heel and current Indiana Pacers standout Tyler), Tim Abromaitis, and Ty Nash. Carleton Scott has also stepped up at times and Eric Atkins and Scott Martin are beginning to develop into solid contributing roles.

The series of wins propelled the Irish into the AP Top 25, at #25, and supply confidence going into next Wednesday's matchup at AP #10 ranked Kentucky in Freedom Hall.

Kentucky might not have much left in the tank for Wednesday's game as they travel to North Carolina to play the Tar Heels on Saturday, but make no mistake about it the Wildcats are a team worthy of their ranking.

Tune in to ESPN at 9:30p EST on Wednesday to catch the action, and hopefully more great Old Spice commercials like the one below.


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