Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could keep lies from conquering the minds of the weak. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.
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Tuesday, Minnesota United FC plays its first game this year in the US Open Cup, a season-long knockout tournament that includes teams at virtually all levels of American soccer. United plays the Des Moines Menace, a team from what is basically a summer league for college players; if they win, they play Sporting Kansas City, which is currently one of the best teams in Major League Soccer. In the space of one week, to use a baseball comparison, they could go from playing a Northwoods League team to a Major League team. How can you not like that type of competition?
This thing needs to be expanded to other sports, pronto... but it's not going to work very well in a lot of them. You can throw out football; the season is too short. NBA, NHL, and MLB teams have relationships with minor-league teams, thus negating the possibility of ever including teams outside the big leagues in such a tournament. College baseball barely has time for its current season. College hockey doesn't have enough teams.
College basketball, though -- everybody loves the college basketball tournament. Why not start another one? There are more than 600 teams in NCAA Divisions I and II alone, plenty for a ridiculous number of rounds. The teams would be drawn randomly, which could lead to more Cinderella stories than the seeded tournament does. It'd be all the excitement of the Big Dance, but it would take place all season. Frankly, about the only problem I can see here is that it'd be too exciting, and fans would stop watching any part of the regular season, except for the cup competition.
If anybody complains about too many games, we can just eliminate a couple of the meaningless nonconference games. CBS and Turner paid nearly a billion dollars per year just for the NCAA tournament; you can't tell me they won't be on board. If the schools can make more money from the TV deal, they'll be okay with this idea.
Let's make this happen, college basketball. You can quit expanding the NCAA tournament now. Just add another tournament. Everybody wins.
On with the links:
* Parker Hageman of Twins Daily sat down with Twins hitting coach Tom Brunansky. His lede involved "Homer At The Bat," one of the great SImpsons episodes, but the article's worth even more if you get past the opening.
* Theory: the New Yorker's great Roger Angell was the first baseball blogger. Evidence: in this wide-ranging interview from 1992, published at Deadspin, he says, "What I did was write about baseball from the fans' point of view.... Although it was not a conscious plan, I wrote about myself, because I was a fan. It set a pattern for me. I am a fan, I refer to myself as a fan, and I report about my feelings as a fan, and nobody else, to my knowledge, does that." Twenty years later, everyone does that, but Roger Angell still might be the best.
* We take it for granted now that athletes have it easy when they travel. It wasn't always so, though - read this Grantland oral history on the absolute nightmare that was NBA travel in the 1960s and 1970s.
* Speaking of old NBA-related oddities: The three-pointer is now one of the most important parts of a team's offense (well, unless that team is the Timberwolves.) TVFury points out that it wasn't always so.
*And finally: you had one job, St. Louis outfield fence.
(NOTE: This post was updated to correct the number of teams in NCAA basketball. There are more than 600 in Divisions I and II put together, not in Division 1 alone.)
The Sandlot came out 20 years ago. That's the bad news, because it means you're old.
Let's start over.
The Sandlot came out 20 years ago. That's the good news, because it means you get to participate in some nostalgia.
As part of the anniversary of the film, a special edition is out on DVD and Blu-Ray. And, as luck would have it, Chauncey Leopardi (Squints) and Patrick Renna (Ham) are on a tour with director David Mickey Evans to promote it. Not only that, but the movie about young baseball pals will be shown at Target Field and on FSN after Sunday's game against the Red Sox. Leopardi, Renna and Evans -- along with a considerable entourage -- were nice enough to drop by the Star Tribune on Friday afternoon to talk about the film and the tour. Leopardi was wearing pristine Vans and liked our more scuffed up ones, but that's neither here nor there.
*Evans, on why 'The Sandlot' endures while other movies of its ilk are forgotten: "By and large, other movies that attempt what ‘The Sandlot’ attempted, just don’t cut the mustard. It’s not honest and it’s not authentic. This movie was honest and authentic. … And the period piece had something to do with it. This was that one last summer [set in 1962, a year before Kennedy was assassinated], that Eisenhower post-World War II innocence. It was a simpler time. ... And this movie is not about baseball. It's about friendship, courage and character. Most other sports films are about the game, or the big game."
*Renna on the role of Ham: I think there is a little of every character in everyone, if that makes sense. I don't think I was necessarily being myself, but I think that Ham is definitely within me to some degree, and all I had to do was pull it out of myself. That's one thing David was great at.
*Does Renna -- who looks almost exactly the same 20 years later -- still get stopped daily by people on the street? It's hard to say how often. Well, it's every day. It depends on where I am. It happened 3-4 times today. If it's at Disneyland, forget about it. But that's another thing that I think makes the movie great -- how many generations it transcends.
*Leopardi on reactions to the film and from fans meeting him: "It doesn't matter whether people are 40 or if they're 6 and they're showing it to their kids. They geat really excited, like a pop star walked into the room when they meet us and it's like 'Sandlot? What?' They get this super Kool-Aid grin."
*Renna on whether he gets asked to say "you're killing me, Smalls," often: A lot of times, people say it to me. So I get off the hook. On this trip I've been asked to say it. But when someone yells 'you play ball like a girl,' that's a tough one to respond to. You're killing me, Smalls, that's an easier one.
Raph Rhymes -- that's his name -- had an unusual finish to his inside-the-park home run yesterday. Sounds like everyone is OK, so please do enjoy:
Not that most people would be flattered to be compared to the Prince of Darkness, but then again few of us are legitimately granted that comparison. Nick Saban? Well, he's been called the devil multiple times now, most recently by Tim Davis -- former Gophers offensive line coach now in the same position at Florida. And, well, Saban doesn't really care for it. Per ESPN.com:
Two days after being called "the devil himself" by someone who served on his staff at two different places, Alabama coach Nick Saban sounded hurt.
“It really is a little terribly disappointing,” he said Thursday in response to comments made by Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis.
Saban spoke to members of the news media before a Crimson Caravan stop at Turner Field.
“I try to do right by the people that work for me," he said. "It’s a tough, demanding job. And at the same time, if anybody had an issue or problem with me, I would want them to just tell me.”
Saban is right. Having Davis say to him, "You're the devil," like the old SNL Mike Myers sketches, would have been better.
Richard Pitino made a public appearance on Thursday as the Gophers kicked off a 16-city non-metro "Chalk Talk" tour in Redwood Falls.
Call us crazy, but in the little over a month since Pitino took over, we already have a better sense for the style his team will play, his sense of accountability and his personal work ethic than we ever really did with his predecessor, Tubby Smith.
We're not here to bash Smith, who certainly left this program in better shape than he found it, even if his legacy here didn't match his previous resume. But at one point late in his tenure, Smith and several players were asked to define the identity of the team. Smith circled around the answer. Players gave different answers. It got to the heart of what went wrong with the Gophers much of the time when things did go wrong: They did not know who they were. They'd run and succeed. They'd run and turn the ball over. They'd crumble against a zone. They'd try to get tough inside. Some of it is matchups. Some of it is identity.
We think we know this about Pitino already: His teams will run. They will press. They will shoot three-pointers. If they are supposed to make threes and don't make them, that's a problem (see Pitino's comment on the link about Oto Osenieks, a great one-liner but also very true). And if players aren't in shape now, they will be soon. Or they will sit. (See his comments on Elliott Eliason and Mo Walker, players who need to bulk up and slim down, respectively. Smith has talked for years about Walker losing weight. Pitino, with the help of new strength coach Shaun Brown, looks to be demanding it. And Mo seems, for now, to be on board).
Pitino and his staff are scouring the ends of the earth (or at least the country) looking for players that make sense immediately while maintaining flexibility. Joe Coleman's departure, while unfortunate because he would have contributed on the court, pushes Minnesota up to five available scholarships in 2014. That number will stay the same even if they are able to bring in Rakeem Buckles, a power forward from FIU who could get a waiver to play right away this season, his last year of eligibility.
The Gophers will play small and shoot a lot of threes next year, both by necessity and design. They will have the energy to press, both by necessity and design.
We don't know how it will all play out, but at least we know how Pitino is trying to make it play out.
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