Thursday, March 29, 2007

How's Your Bracket?

Originally posted to on March 21, 2007.

We have our Sweet 16 locked in place and starting tomorrow we’ll start sifting through the remaining teams to get our Final Four sorted out. The only problem that I have is that I went a little “upset-heavy” this year and nothing panned out. They always say that if you want to win a pool you have to pick upsets. Well, I did this and I’m still losing! Even Jennifer, my beautiful fiancĂ©e, has picked a better bracket than me.

The biggest surprise about this year’s tournament has been that there haven’t been any big surprises. Virginia Commonwealth’s defeat of Duke in the first round was an upset victory but everyone knew that Duke was in a down year. They have a team of underclassmen and just got caught. Not only did a lot of people pick this upset but those who didn’t weren’t really hurt by it.

I think the same can be said for Winthrop’s victory over Notre Dame. I don’t think that anyone was putting much stock into Notre Dame. Everyone seemed to know that the winner of that game would play Oregon in the second round and that the Ducks would run over them (which did happen).

I still have six of my Elite Eight teams remaining and three of my Final Four (I had Texas defeating USC and Louisville advancing far), so I can still save face – but it isn’t going to be easy. That’s why I’m starting this support group for all of us to get these frustrations off our chests.

So, what has happened to your brackets? Let’s talk about it. Together, we can get through this.

Hi. My name is Eric. And my brackets are busted.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Oh! The Madness!

Originally posted to on March 14, 2007.

Well, if you looked at the title of this blog entry and said to yourself, “Hmmm…I wonder what this entry will be about,” then I suggest that you turn off your computer right now, walk over to your best friend and have them punch you in the neck. IT’S TOURNEY TIME, PEOPLE!!! March Madness! And what better way to celebrate this grand event than by forking over a five-spot to the guy in accounting and joining the ol’ office pool.

Things get kicked off in grand fashion – with 16 basketball games that will captivate the entire country. I would love to know how much the productivity of this country goes down at noon tomorrow. Back in college, my buddies Fitz and Tony and I invented “No Class Thursday” so that we could just sit at home and watch games all day while eating pretzels and cheese balls. (Note: “No Class Thursday” eventually rolled into us missing class almost every Thursday for the remainder of our college careers…somehow we still graduated. Let that be a lesson to you, kids.)

If you’re still building your brackets, here are a couple of thoughts that I have had along the way:

--We should all just go ahead and pick all the 1-seeds and 2-seeds to win in the first round. If they were to actually lose in the first round we’d be fine because everyone else is going to pick them too.

--I’m picking some upsets. We all have that guy in our office – you know, the guy who talks a big game and thinks he’s the next Dick Vitale but just wanted to go into the world of corporate sales because it “sounded fun.” He’s going to pick all four number one seeds to go to the Final Four because he’s an overly safe moron. The 5-12 and the 6-11 games are always popular places to find my Cinderella.

--I can’t, in good conscience, pick Winthrop, Creighton or Xavier. I’m pretty sure I used to beat up kids with these same names back at Rocky Mount Elementary.

--I am actually bound my law to pick against Southern Illinois. The Salukis handed the, then 3-seed, University of Georgia a grueling beat-down in the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tourney. The five-year grace period has not ended yet. Go Holy Cross!, I actually hurt my mouth just saying that.

--I think I may have a weird “man-crush” on Rick Pitino. I love the guy! I loved him at Kentucky – now, I love him at Louisville. Somehow I just can’t pick against him.

--The University of Florida simply can’t repeat. It’s just too hard to do. You can’t tell me that they will, again this year, rattle off nine straight victories to capture the SEC Championship and the National Championship. Seriously, don’t tell me that they will. We should put all of our individual differences aside and come together as a nation to make sure that this doesn’t happen. If they do figure out a way to win, then it will be official…we’ll all know that Florida officially sold it’s soul to the devil.

Enjoy the first round of the Big Dance and pull for your favorite teams. After all, the four regional champions will meet at the Georgia Dome on March 31 for the Final Four.

Happy brackets, folks!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I've Got A Fever!

Originally posted to on March 5, 2007

This past Tuesday night I realized two things: Bruce Pearl is crazy and Pat Summitt is nuts. The main thing, however, is that I have just gain a new respect for Tennessee’s basketball programs.

If you didn’t know, Pearl made it out to the Lady Vols’ game against No. 1 Duke this past January. He didn’t just come out to sit courtside and cheer for the girls though. He entered the student section, shirtless, with his chest painted orange with a “V” in the middle (he was one amongst a group of students who spelled “V-O-L-S” on their chests. He cheered his heart out, jumped around with the other students and made a complete fool out of himself. Orange Nation loved it.

Summitt, who found Pearl’s enthusiasm contagious, showed up this past Tuesday evening as the Vols took on No. 4 Florida. She entered donning a Volunteer cheerleading outfit. She also stood in the middle of the court and belted out “Rocky Top” at the top of her lungs. Orange Nation loved it…AND the Volunteers destroyed the Gators.

Both Pearl and Summitt are great coaches. Not good coaches – GREAT coaches. Pearl led the Tennessee men to an undefeated record at home and Summitt has over 900 career wins as the leader of the Lady Vols program.

The thing that makes them special, though, is their enthusiasm. Pearl has never had a problem showing his wit and his gift for gab when speaking to the media or fans (he shows up almost regularly on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption). Summitt, however, has always been known for her serious demeanor and icy stare on the court. This is why it was so entertaining to watch her sing and dance for the crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Their matching enthusiasm has made them look like the premiere school to attend if you want to play for someone who loves their program and more importantly loves their school. Their enthusiasm is terribly contagious and I have to admit that even I have become infected. Come late March, I’ll be pulling for Tennessee.

Oscar Night Diary

It’s Oscar night! The ultimate night for the film industry and, to be perfectly honest, it is hands down my favorite awards show award.

8:37 – The show starts with the nominees standing and a thunderous applause. Somehow, seeing the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air standing among his fellow nominees makes it all worth while.

8:38 – Ellen enters. People are actually excited to see here.

8:43 – Jack Nicholson sighting and he has a bald head…crazy. He looks like he could kill someone.

8:47 – Ellen’s opening monologue comes to an end. Not too bad. It wasn’t as good as a Billy Crystal-opener but it was better than John Stewart.

8:48 – First category of the night…Art Direction. Good call. Let’s get all the garbage out of the way early (Note: Jennifer loves everything there is about Nicole Kidman, including her crazy red dress.)

8:57 – Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and John C. Reilly do a killer musical number and then present Pan’s Labyrinth with Achievement in Make-up. Reilly could end up becoming one of my favorite comedic actors in the next couple years.

9:04 – Abigail Breslin and Will Smith’s kid present Animated Short. “Kid” blows his lines but covers brilliantly. The Danish Poet wins for Animated Short. Even I feel robbed on this one. West Bank Story wins for Live-Action Short.

9:12 – Jennifer is going for the pajamas. The over/under on amount of time that she will still be awake is set at 32.5 minutes.

9:24 – Finally a real category – Best Supporting Actor…I think that Eddie Murphy will take this one but would love to see Alan Arkin…Arkin squeaks in there! Just for the record, I thought that Little Miss Sunshine was fantastic. Great acting and great characters. I suggest you see it.

9:38 – Melissa Etheridge just sang her Oscar-nominated tune. Jennifer feels it’s important that I comment on this. She feels that my priorities are out of order for not recognizing this powerful song’s message and mentioning Will Smith in some way every ten minutes. Frankly, I think she’s nuts.

9:47 – They always do this weird thing when presenting the Best Animated Features. They put the animated characters in the audience in a way that makes it look like they are part of the audience…it freaks me out and I don’t like it. I find it terribly distracting. However, if those some animators could add a little life to Peter O’Toole’s face, that would be something.

10:07 – And here it is…Tom Cruise. The audience doesn’t know what to do and neither do I.

10:12 – Good moment between Ellen, Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg. She asks Spielberg to take a picture of her and Clint…pretty great exchange.

10:16 – It looks like everyone involved in Pan’s Labyrinth is named “Guillermo.” Third golden doll of the night for P.L. as it picks up Achievement in Cinematography.

10:22 – Apparently they let Robert Downey Jr. out of the clinic to present for Visual Effects. Of course, he takes the obvious shot at himself and the crowd laughs uncomfortably. I just can’t take this guy seriously.

10:39 – Jennifer Hudson take the Best Supporting Actress. She “didn’t think she’d win”…That makes two of us, Jennifer.

10:51 – Al Gore gets to take home a statue. Global Warming – it’s a real issue, people. That’s all for my political speech this evening…man, how long have we gone without seeing the Fresh Prince?

11:02 – And ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer is out like a light. If you took the over, then you’re a winner. Quite frankly, I can’t believe that she made it this far.

11:09 – Hugh Jackman comes out to present with Penelope Cruz. Are you kidding me?! Hugh Jackman?! I’m honestly upset that he doesn’t wear his hair like Wolverine all the time.

11:11 – Ellen makes her first appearance on the screen in about a half hour…

11:14 – Kirsten and Tobey make a cameo…Spiderman III must be on its way.

This is going to send me off onto a bit of a rant – I hate how the “Great Ones of the Academy” pepper the performances and cameos in the show with popular actors, who will probably never win anything from them, simply because they are popular with today’s youth. Ferrell and Jack Black performed earlier, the Wilson Brothers (Owen and Luke) presented last year. Isn’t their something that can be said for just being entertaining. My friends and I quote Ferrell, Vaughn and the Wilson’s about every ten seconds. I’m not sure that this rant means anything but I felt it needed to be said.

11:17 – Little Miss Sunshine takes Best Original Screenplay…and with that, the cast of L.M.S. can take the rest of the night off. It’s time for Abigail Breslin to go start her drinking habits.

11:19 – Why does Chris Connelly keep reminding us that there have been so many “surprises” tonight? Do none of the winners deserve to be taking home their Oscars?

11:25 – Powerful performance by Beyonce…she’s just a great performer. Plus, I have to mention that Jennifer Hudson almost fell out of her dress four times.

11:31 – Speaking of Jennifer Hudson…here’s Queen Latifah and John Travolta presenting Best Song. Oscar goes to…Melissa Ethridge? Ghaa…buzz kill.

And some more praise for Al Gore. And Etheridge’s hair has never been so short.

11:38 – Will Smith!!! Finally!

11:46 – A teary-eyed Scorsese watches The Departed win for Film Editing. Scorsese is probably the only guy in the audience who is truly happy to see his friends win over him.

11:53 – Wow. We’re closing in on midnight. I’m starting to fade.

11:54 – Here comes our Best Actress. Penelope is definitely the hottest of the bunch...but she IS up against a bunch of senior citizens and Kate Winslet. That’s like saying that I am the best athlete among a group of four year olds.

Helen Mirren wins the gold. I have to be honest, I’m going to to find out if there is anything that I know her from.

Check that…nope. She did a little Shakespeare early in her career and seems to find herself in the role of “the Queen” in almost every movie she plays in. Maybe that’s why she won…she’s played this part about 40 times prior to this one.

12:00 – Let’s celebrate by letting Chris Connelly speak. I swear, Connelly has fallen a LONG way since his days with ESPN. Every time he starts to talk I want to rip my own arm off just so I have something to throw at him.

12:03 – Reese Witherspoon. She’s not looking good. She’s handing out for Best Actor in a Leading Role. This has to be Forest Whitaker…and it is. Whitaker was on Saturday Night Live the other night. He’s an entertaining cat. The fact that he did SNL peaks volumes about him. He knows he’s not bigger than the game.

12:09 – Coppola-Lucas-Spielberg to present for Best Director…here it comes…wait for it…wait for it…and…Scorsese! The place erupts. It’s like they hand-picked these presenters so that they could have four of the best of all-time on stage at the same time.

Quick Note: Lucas will be directing the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones saga – due out in 2008. This will be a day-it-comes-out viewing for me.

12:16 – Jack Nicholson is on stage for his annual duties presenting Best Picture…that means we’re almost done.

The Departed. Mr. Scorsese, it’s your night. Get out there and get yourself a drink in one hand and a 20-year-old wannabe actress in the other.

12:19 – Good night, everybody!!!

Just for record keeping purposes: I went 5-for-15 in my personal Oscar pick ‘em game. If I’m playing baseball then I hit for a .333 average – not bad. If I was betting, then I just lost a bunch of money.