Thursday, January 13, 2005

UNC & the Predator (and other stuff)

Last night the Tarheels beat their second consecutive top-25 ACC opponent, but apparently no one told them that their holiday break creampuff schedule ended two weeks ago because the outcome has been virtually the same no matter who they're playing. Georgia Tech was the latest victim, losing 91-69 on a night when Ray Felton had as many 3-pointers as the entire Yellow Jacket team. For some perspective on what UNC has been able to do this season, consider this:

* For the season they're averaging 95.6 points per game and are allowing 68.1 -- which works out to an average margin of victory of 27.5.

* In UNC's four games over the holiday break (against the likes of Vermont, UNC-W, Cleveland St. and William & Mary), they averaged 100.3 points and gave up 67.5 -- an average margin of victory of roughly 33 points.

* In their last two ACC contests -- against teams ranked 24th and 8th -- they've averaged 100 points a game and allowed 72 -- a difference of 28 points.

That's pretty impressive -- especially when you consider that this is the same group of guys that struggled with maturity, selfishness and playing defense last season. To be fair to Georgia Tech, they were without one of their best players in B.J. Elder, but I'm guessing they still shouldn't have lost by 22 points. Anyway, the Heels travel to Wake Forest Saturday, so they should get their first real test on the road in the ACC this season.

Here's something Ed Bouchette wrote in Black & Gold Insider yesterday that caught my attention:
Just got off the phone with a writer from San Francisco. He told me that 49ers defensive coordinator Willy Robinson was a joke this year, screwed up their defense, didn't know what he was doing. If Robinson had not taken that job, he might have been the Steelers defensive coordinator this year and we would not be talking right now.
This is the same Willy Robinson who left the Steelers because he didn't like the fact that Cowher would often scream at his coaches during the game (see Kevin Spencer in Cincy this season). Isn't yelling a part of football -- and if you don't like getting screamed at shouldn't you find another line of work? Now I don't know if Cowher was seriously considering Robinson to replace Tim Lewis as defensive coordinator, but in this business -- especially if you're a player or coach -- you have to expect yelling to be a big part of the job. And I'm not condoning ranting and raving (not surprisingly, I don't like getting ripped a new one at my job, but my job also doesn't entail wearing a helmet, tight pants and knocking the crap out of people four hours a day), but in a line of work where seemingly everything is based on physical abilities and adrenaline, yelling is a pretty natural progression. Whatever the case, none of this changes the fact that the 49ers defense was one of the worst in the league and I'm quite happy with Dick LeBeau (now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen him yell -- actually, I don't know if I've even seen him talk).

Speaking of the Steelers, what's up with Plaxico going hunting last week?
"I was more worried about gunshots going off around there than anybody," said Burress, who hunted deer with his uncle. "I had the only tall hat on; hopefully everybody could see me out there walking around in an orange hat."
I was telling my buddy Andy that Plax was probably nervous because if you slapped some antlers on him he'd look like a deer. Andy was surprised that Plax -- who he's nicknamed the Predator -- didn't make himself invisible and kill the deer with his laser instead of using a shotgun.

This whole Doug Mientkiewicz thing is kind of silly, but this New York Times editorial settles it:
DOUG MIENTKIEWICZ, the first baseman for the Boston Red Sox, caught the final out of the 2004 World Series. After celebrating with his teammates, Mientkiewicz ran into the dugout with his glove and the ball. He later gave the ball to his wife, who stuffed it in her purse, and they took the ball home. He now says it belongs to him. It doesn't.

The Boston Red Sox, who won their first championship since 1918 last year, want Mientkiewicz to return the ball. The Red Sox say it belongs to them and their fans. It doesn't.

For most baseball games, the ball is provided by the home team and therefore belongs to the home team - in this case, the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston's opponent. For World Series games, Major League Baseball provides the balls but in effect gives them to the home team to use during the game. Thus, there are only two plausible owners of the ball that Mientkiewicz caught: the St. Louis Cardinals or Major League Baseball.
Fine by me. In fact, I don't care who gets it, as long as it's not Boston CEO Larry Lucchino, who wants it for the Red Sox archives. Look, isn't winning the World Series enough? What if Lucchino put the ball used to record the 26th out in game four of the World Series in the archives, would fans care? Seriously, don't the Sox have more important things to concern themselves with than dopey stuff like this (like who are they going to get to replace Pedro's little friend)?

OK, enough with the negativity and rhetorical questions -- let's end on a high note. If you want to get a good idea about how fervent some Steelers fans are, just take a look at these photos (my favorite is the Roethlisberger truck -- trust me, you'll know it when you see it).