Monday, January 31, 2011

Steelers Super Bowl XLV Mixtape

Times sure have changed for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Over the course of franchise history they have gone from relative unknown, to merging with their cross-state brethren, to once again emerging as their own entity and to great heights as Super Bowl champions.

Back in the time of their humble beginnings as a blue-collar steel town - hence the name Steelers - the Black and Gold men from Pittsburgh helped establish one of the greatest cult followings in sports history.

Yes, the infamous Terrible Towel really is that revered.

The late Myron Cope, renowned announcer of the Steelers during the 'Steel Curtain' days, popularized the phenomenon in the 70's. Right about that time the Steelers started to take off, winning four super bowls in six years. Legend has it that Cope was charged with inventing a gimmick to motivate the team and the city of Pittsburgh before the 1975 playoffs.

From there, he bore the idea of the Terrible Towel and the idea stuck. Ever since its birth in 1975, the Steelers second consecutive super bowl season, legions of fans have carried their towels to bars, games, weddings, even memorials.

In preparation for Super Bowl XLV this Sunday, February 6 it's time to start another Pittsburgh Tradition with "Back in Black and Yellow." It's a pretty cool mashup by one of my former college professors, Matt Merten.

Though he claims no allegiance to the Steelers he did admit the mashup is swaying him towards the Black and Yellow.

As the Steelers vie for their NFL record seventh Super Bowl championship what will pump you up? Perhaps a little ACDC and Wiz Khalifa will help set the tone for a victory over the Packers in Dallas.

Border War Time Lapse: Minnesota vs. North Dakota Hockey

If you've ever ventured into the northern midwest you understand how important hockey is to the area. In this part of the country children learn how to skate on frozen ponds and lakes. From the earliest of ages, hockey is ingrained the sport of choice. If there were such a thing hockey would probably be dubbed the state sport in both Minnesota and North Dakota.

Fitting then that two universities representing each state play in a heated rivalry known as the "Border War."

Earlier this year the two schools met in Grand Forks, North Dakota on January 14, 2011. The result was a 3-2 Gophers win, rare for an unranked Gophers team that had previously won just four out of its previous 18 matchups against the #4/#3 ( College Hockey) Fighting Sioux.

While this Irish fan had no vested in the outcome of the battle I was pleasantly surprised with the impressive time lapse video of the event that follows. Even if you aren't a hockey fan you will appreciate the footage.

Experience a hockey tradition at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, a truly elegant and as remarkable a venue as exists in sports, college or professional.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Only Band That Matters

You've heard The Clash whether you realize it or not, and have probably even had some of their stuff subconsciously melded to your cerebral cortex.

The Clash was a punk band, part of the initial wave of Britain's punk revolution, but they were much more than that. The musical styles employed by the group transcended any one genre including at one time or another elements of reggae, ska, dub, funk, dance, rockabilly and even some of the first rap on a rock record.

The Clash consisted primarily of Joe Strummer (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Mick Jones (lead guitar, vocals), Paul Simonon (bass guitar, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals) and Nicky "Topper" Headon (drums, percussion).

It's hard to pick my favorite songs of theirs, but "Train In Vain" has always been a favorite. I think it was on one of the old NCAA Football game soundtracks.

I also really like "London Calling", perhaps their best work, and "Rock The Casbah" despite being perhaps their poppiest fare. Most people probably don't realize it tells the fictitious story of a middle eastern King banning rock music, but the people don't listen.

Catchy tune, plus perhaps their most noted music video.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Decemberists: The King Is Dead

Alt-rock band The Decemberists debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 this week with their latest effort, The King Is Dead.

It's a first for the band and also a clear indication of the state of the music industry.

Not many people are buying music right now so lesser known acts are able to post "high" sales numbers by moving only a few hundred thousand units.

The top of that chart is usually filled with pop and rap albums but the top 20 also currently includes Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys in addition to The Decemberists.

The lead single is "Down By The Water", one of three songs on the album featuring R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.

The album as a whole is said to have been heavily influenced by R.E.M. but still retains the folksy charm of previous release, The Hazards of Love.

Give this tune a listen and see if you can get it out of your head.

New Notre Dame Hockey Rink - Progress Updates

Over the course of the past year we have followed the development of the new home to the Fighting Irish hockey program, the Compton Family Center.

Progress has certainly been made from the groundbreaking ceremony on September 11, 2010.

There is a live webcam available for those of you with nothing better to do. Below you will find a recent still image of the state of the construction from the outside as well as a couple inside pictures. We eagerly anticipate the completion of the project, which is expected for December 2011.

Notre Dame hockey has long since deserved a new place to call home. Next season that dream will finally become reality.

Outside View

Inside the Main Rink, Charles W. Left Smithy Jr. Arena

Future Site of Locker Rooms?

Friday, January 28, 2011

2011 Notre Dame Lacrosse Season Kickoff

With the 2011 lacrosse season nearly upon us the Notre Dame men's lacrosse program looks to build on its momentum from last year's championship run. If you recall, Notre Dame had an unforgettable run through the post-season, handling perennial powers like Princeton, Maryland, and Cornell en route to their second final four appearance in school history and their first title game appearance. The Irish ultimately fell 6-5 in OT to Duke.

No one thought the Irish would be in a position to even make the tournament last year, as they finished the regular season with a modest 7-6 record. They persevered and fought their way to heights never before seen in program history.

Talent was clearly not lacking on last year's team. Further proof was given last Friday when a school-record five Irish players were drafted in the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Collegiate Draft.

In fact, the Long Island Lizards made midfielder Zach Brenneman the highest drafted player in school history with the fifth overall pick. Midfielder David Earl (13th overall) and defensemen Kevin Ridgway (18th overall) were both selected by the Hamilton Nationals. Sam Barnes (29th overall) followed Brenneman to Long Island and longstick midfielder Andrew Irving (33rd overall) headed west to the Denver Outlaws.

All five aforementioned Irish players will finish their senior seasons this year though and have garnered preseason All-America honors from Inside Lacrosse.  Barnes was the only of the bunch not to be named a 2011 captain.

Of the representation from the NCAA teams only Syracuse with seven draftees had more players selected in the this year's draft.

Seven might be a lucky number this season for the Irish as they are ranked seventh in both Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine preseason rankings. Additionally, the Irish play seven ranked opponents on their schedule, including a title game rematch against the Blue Devils in Jacksonville, FL on Sunday, February 20, 2011.

Before the season officially gets underway, though, the Irish will square off against the US National Team in an exhibition match a month before the Duke matchup. The game will be telecast live on ESPNU on Sunday, January 30 at 1:30p EST.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bennie and the Jets

Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images

Hey kids, shake it loose together the spotlight's hitting something.

Elton John famously sang those lyrics, which were written by longtime songwriter and friend Bernie Taupin, to the song "Bennie and the Jets" in 1973. Thirty-eight years later the spotlight shined brightly on the city of Pittsburgh the past two evenings in the world of both professional and collegiate athletics.

On Sunday evening Ben Roethlisberger helped lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 24-19 victory of the New York Jets to earn the Steelers' third Super Bowl appearance in the past six seasons. It was really in part to a superb effort by the offensive line who helped pave the way for RB Rashard Mendenhall, who gained 121 yards on 27 carries.

Pittsburgh's running game helped control the time of possession 34:41 to 25:19 in favor of the black and gold, who ultimately held on to what at one point was a 24-0 lead in the first half. New York managed to score a field goal before the end of the half and added a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half.

Deja vu then struck as Roethlisberger later fumbled and recovered a center snap in the endzone for a safety. Earlier in the season when the two teams met in Pittsburgh the Jets recorded a safety to help stifle a late Steelers comeback. The Jets won that game 20-16 but there is no doubt the Steelers gladly would relinquish that game again in favor the AFC Championship victory on Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will greet the Steelers in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV. Stay tuned for more Super Bowl coverage from Stars and Slights.

Switching gears, the Pittsburgh Panthers men's basketball program earned a #2 ranking after defeating Syracuse last Monday night 74-66 and DePaul on Saturday 80-50. Awaiting the Panthers this Monday night was #14 Notre Dame who was fresh off of a comeback win at home against Marquette, 80-75 on Saturday.

Winning at home is no big deal for the Irish, though, having won all thirteen of its home contests this season so far, including victories over two top 10 teams in Georgetown and Connecticut.

You know I read it on a magazine, oh, the Irish are woeful on the road. Going into tonight's matchup against #2 Pitt the Irish were 4-17 in true road games since 2009. Few gave the Irish a fleeting chance in this game given the three other dreadful road performances this season at St. John's, Marquette, and Syracuse.

Enter Bennie, Ben Hansbrough that is. The little brother of former UNC All-American and current NBA player Tyler Hansbrough put on a show in the Steel City, leading all scorers with 19 points to hand the Panthers their first Big East conference loss this season.

More importantly, it was probably the biggest win in Coach Mike Brey's career. It marked the first time the Irish had beaten such a highly ranked team since 2002, when Brey's Irish upended #2 Texas Longhorns 98-92.

Carleton Scott chipped in 16 in the 56-50 Irish victory, continuing his resurgence after missing a few games due to injury. Scott provided a much needed lift for the Irish by knocking down 5 three-pointers (including one for a four-point play).

But it was Hansbrough's fire and conditioning late in the game that prevented the Panthers from posing as a serious threat in the waning minutes. Repeatedly the Irish cleared the lanes and used Pittsburgh's defensive strategy, switching on all screens, against them. Hansbrough used picks set by big man Ty Nash to matchup against the much slower Gary McGhee, who was left in the dust on a few occasions.

Notre Dame put Pittsburgh on 'burn' notice by employing a slow down offense that literally slows down the pace of the game by letting the shot clock nearly expire before attempting to score. It is the same game plan that they employed last year when Luke Harangody went down with an injury. The methodical approach was effective enough to catapult Notre Dame into an NCAA berth last year. Look for Mike Brey to use the method again throughout the rest of the season against teams he knows the Irish cannot run with.

A major knock against the Fighting Irish up until tonight was its lack of a road win. Now that the first road win of the year is out of the way Notre Dame will seek to add another notch to its belt at DePaul on February 3.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Steelers' Tomlin Confronts ESPN Reporter for Leaking Play

Last Saturday before the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC divisional playoff round an ESPN reporter, Bob Holtzman, shared what he thought was a harmless account of things to expect in the third installment of the rivalry this season.
Two Steelers have told me, if they catch the Ravens in the right defense, they have a trick play ready to go today that they've never run before...
Holtzman went on to mention that the play would involve someone other than Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing the football.

Well, in a game where a single yard gained, or lost, could be the difference towards winning or losing Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did not see it as a harmless remark.

After all, NFL teams spend hours upon hours studying film to prepare themselves for what they will encounter on gameday. One seemingly harmless announcement to the world about plays to expect provide in a game make it that much easier for an opposing team to prepare their gameplan.

Certainly, players must still execute on the knowledge gained but it is much less of a tall task to recognize such a trick play when a reporter proclaims to expect it before the game begins.

The Steelers went on to win the game and advance to this Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets, but Tomlin took the time in a press conference this week to make a jab at Holtzman. It must have been fate that Holtzman was assigned to cover Tomlin's press conference this week. Fast forward to the 1:30 mark for the exchange between Holtzman and Tomlin.

Sideline reporters have access to pre-game practices and warmups, so the fact that they encounter knowledge of plays that might be used in a team's gameplan is not news. Sharing that information, however, is what Yahoo writer Chris Chase calls an "egregious breach of reporting etiquette."

We here at Stars and Slights concur. Don't expect to see Bob Holtzman on the sidelines reporting at this week's AFC Championship Game.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Verizon iPhone Commercial Leaked - Can You See Me Now?

There were many schools of thought that the day would never come when Verizon would land an iPhone deal. It took what some consider an unbearably long time to happen but the day is finally approaching, as Verizon will begin selling iPhones on February 10, 2011.

To celebrate, Verizon opted to produce a relatively subtle yet jubilant ad celebrating its entrance into the world of iPhone.

In case you have been living under a rock the past decade iPhones were previously sold exclusively by AT&T. Many impatient consumers turned to jailbroken iPhones that worked somewhat seamlessly on competing networks like T-Mobile or even copycat phones that looked almost exactly like, but were not quite iPhones.

For those who waited patiently for this day to come, are up for a new phone on their Verizon contract, or don't care about the penalty incurred for terminating one's contract early the news that Verizon will carry an iPhone was momentous.

With less than a month to go until Vi Day (Verizon iPhone...get it?) it's time to prepare for what will certainly be an influx of data usage on cellular networks around the globe.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Irish Women's Soccer Coach Named National Coach of the Year

Honors continue to pour in for the Notre Dame women's soccer team as Head Coach Randy Waldrum was named National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/Mondo National Coach of the Year.

Waldrum and his Irish squad are fresh off the program's third national title in school history, having completed a particularly difficult path in arriving there in the 2010 season. Back-to-back road wins in the third and quarterfinal rounds against top-seeded North Carolina and Oklahoma State marked just the third time in College Cup history that a team has accomplished consecutive road victories.

This is not the first coach of the year honor bestowed upon Waldrum. He has actually won the notoriety the past three seasons, albeit by a different voting association each time. Three really is a magic number.

For the program's sake let's hope his successes continue well beyond three (championships... coach of the year would seem to naturally follow national titles).

PGA Tour Golfer Ben Crane Is Nuts

Most golfers not named Tiger Woods have the unfortunate stereotype of being boring and decidedly unfunny. Every once in a while however someone will surprise you.

Ben Crane isn't really a household name. Though he's won three times at the PGA level, he's mostly known for being one of the slowest players on tour. He was once infamously playing so slowly that Rory Sabbatini played around him. Sabbatini was later penalized for being a douche.

Apparently, Crane is also now known for his "out there" brand of humor that's most definitely right up my alley and hopefully yours.

This first video is Crane's workout regimen. It's gotten over 100,000 youtube views but it deserves many more.

The second video is Crane discussing his pre-round routine. Genius.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hokie Graduate Creates Living Room Beer Cannon

There are certain events that simply cannot be appreciated in their own time. Sometimes it's an idea that people aren't ready for. More often, it's simply an event so important that the only way to gain proper perspective of it is to allow the passing of time.

This is one such idea.

25 year-old Virginia Tech graduate Ryan Rushnak may have finally put an end to the age old problem of getting up off the couch to obtain a cold frosty beverage.

Who wants to beat feet to the kitchen on a crucial third down when you can have a beer sent—excuse me, launched— to you via an iphone app?

Such is the beauty of this homemade device.

It uses a mini fridge capable of storing up to four kinds of beer mounted on a slightly modified end table. There's a sensor in there to communicate with the iphone and a webcam for easy beer targeting.

The demonstration below shows only two problems; a lack of refined palettes (i.e. Bud drinkers) and a tendency to shake the beer in the transfer between the fridge and launcher powered by compressed air.

I have no doubt these minor issues will be worked out in due course.

Virginia Tech, invent the future we shall.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Floyd Has Staying Power

In an announcement that shocked many Irish faithful today WR Michael Floyd declared his intent to return for his senior season at Notre Dame.
On the one hand, there was Notre Dame. This place has been an incredible home to me and the relationships I built here are ones I know I'll have for the rest of my life.
On the other hand, there was the NFL. It has always been a lifelong goal to play football at the highest level, and that is something I look forward to doing at some point. However, I'm pleased to say I will be returning to the University of Notre Dame for my senior season in 2011.
Clearly this is a young man with great perspective. He knows that a professional career in the NFL is on the near horizon, yet he is showing the restraint to tame the urge to leave before completing his education.

In fact, it is his education and his relationship with his mother, Theresa Romero, that played the most critical role in Michael's decision.
I'm returning to Notre Dame for three reasons: to earn my degree, return Notre Dame to the top and improve myself as a player. First, I promised my mom I would graduate from Notre Dame and I am 40 credit hours shy of attaining that goal. I chose to attend Notre Dame in part because I knew it was a 40-year decision and not a four-year decision. Graduating from Notre Dame will help me for the rest of my life. Second, I want to get Notre Dame back to a BCS game. I believe we are very close to returning the Irish to where we belong and I want to be part of something great. Lastly, I want to show everyone in the country that I'm the best wide receiver in college football in 2011. There are many things I need to improve, but I feel with the coaching I have at Notre Dame, I can become the best at my position in this game.
Floyd is 9 receptions shy of surpassing Jeff Samardzija's school record for career receptions of 179, and he already broke the school record for career receiving touchdowns (28) by catching two during the Irish rout of Miami in the Sun Bowl.

Samardzija and Golden Tate are the only Irish players ahead of Floyd in career receiving yards, but at just 169 yards short of breaking the record Floyd could very well become the career leader after next year's season opener against South Florida.

Make no mistake about it, Floyd will be an excellent NFL player one day. He will most likely represent the style of player that former Irish great Tim Brown became. Not a bad compliment for the Saint Paul, MN native.

We know for certain Floyd will achieve his academic goals upon his return for his senior year. Let's just hope he can also attain his BCS dreams.

If he does, it will likely be in direct correlation to realizing his final goal: showing everyone he is the best wide receiver in the country in college football.


Our esteemed colleague and member of alt-rock group Cutting Room Floor, Luke Sweet tipped me off to the film/soundtrack Once and after watching it, well...once, I'm quite taken with it.

I was reluctant at first because it's most certainly a romantic tale and in some ways a "chick flick". The story is cool however, and the lack of a large budget ($160,000) gives the film a certain charm found to be lacking in the bright lights and gloss of Hollywood.

The songs were all composed and performed by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Hansard is the founding member and frontman of the popular Irish rock band The Frames and both had collaborated previously.

The track, "Falling Slowly" won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song and it's just tremendous, thus explaining the embedded file below.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ryan Williams Leaves Hokies for NFL

As expected, redshirt sophomore tailback Ryan Williams officially announced his intentions to enter the NFL Draft Sunday.

Williams ran for a school record 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman but was hampered by injuries to his hamstring this season.

Williams is thought to be a potential first round selection in April's draft and is one of the top overall backs joining the likes of last year's Heisman Trophy winner Alabama's Mark Ingram.

Here's a highlight reel from Williams' record-setting freshman season.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Darren Evans Declares For NFL Draft

Virginia Tech Redshirt junior tailback Darren Evans announced he was skipping his senior season to enter the NFL Draft.

Evans rushed for 854 yards and 11 touchdowns this season after missing all of 2009-10 with a torn ACL. The season prior, Evans ran for a then freshman record 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Evans may soon be joined by fellow Tech back Ryan Williams who many feel is leaning towards declaring early as well.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Orange Bowl Fail

A lot has happened in recent days. We've entered a new year, had our 400th blog post and Virginia Tech has once again fallen flat in a big time bowl game.

Of course the Capitals handled Pittsburgh in the not-so-wintry classic and presumably much else has happened.

We shall attempt to recapture our blogging momentum shortly. We're coming off a monumental year statistically (more to follow).

In the meantime, here's the one positive highlight from the Orange Bowl.


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