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    The Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl is the coldest, moldiest slice of non-nutritive matter left in the box, but remember: it's still pizza, and you will eat it even if you pull back and find live ants crawling through the crust. Is this a veiled description of one drunken pizza binge in the poverty-est of poverty days, when the author may or may not have done this very thing, and then had a brief conversation like the following?

    • "Are ants poisonous? Answer: USUALLY NOT."
    • "Are ants protein? Answer: HELL YES BRUH, AND LEAN LIKE HORSEMEAT."
    • "Is anyone watching? Answer: NOPE IT'S PIZZA TIME."
    • "Will I remember this when I sober up? UNFORTUNATELY YES BUT SUPERPOWERS."

    As always, you may listen in the embedded player below, or click and download here for maximum portability. Don't be poor if you can help it, it's awful and sometimes you eat ants.


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    LANE KIFFIN WILL SHOW UP WHEN HE DAMN PLEASES. Last night's Sun Bowl dinner had plenty of elbow room and leftovers thanks to USC showing up 90 minutes late. Lane Kiffin has angered Paul Johnson, and that usually ends with never mind you'll have 600 yards offense against him because emotions are not defenses.

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    But yes, Lane Kiffin is a dick, because the people of El Paso spent, like, ten minutes making those, something USC lineman Leonard Williams is very grateful for after calling El Paso "shitty" on Twitter last night. HE'S VERY SORRY, EL PASO, NOW STOP SHOOTING.

    LANCE GUIDRY'S BALLS ARE SOMETHING TO TRIP OVER. Central Michigan pulls the second upset of the bowl season, beating WKU despite being "one of the worst bowl teams ever" according to influential internet people who know what they're talking about. Lance Guidry was talked into going for a 4th and 2 despite being in position to take a tying field goal at the end, and fuck it, it's the Pizza Bowl, man. You let Lance Guidry be the cool dad who the kids talked into trying to power slide the minivan. (That parking lot telephone pole had it coming.) Zero damns given, indeed.

    FIU, STAR PUPILS. Bill C does not like that firing, sirs.

    FAREWELL, VEGAN VIKING. Matt Patchan, the kosher vegan viking lineman who was both shot in the back as a freshman and injured in a scooter accident, will be transferring to Ohio State to be with his old coaches, and also to hopefully escape the bizarre injury bug that has cursed his time in Gainesville. Au revoir, bearded angel.

    THAT'S NOT A POSITIVE CAREER DECISION. In today's installment of "recruiting stories gone terribly wrong."

    ETC: Oleg the Prophet seemed pretty awesome. This is really the finest scene from Team America that you can watch at work. Collin Klein, decent human.


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    There is no reason to have a bowl game in Washington DC, and fewer still reasons to have it involve Bowling Green and San Jose State, but life is not about what you think is logical. It's what war-blimps and toddler-killing drones can pay for, and what that can buy is that nonsensical very bowl game.

    We discuss that absurdity, how RFK is a glorious dump of a stadium, and how somehow Dan Snyder will charge you money for watching this game. How? If you knew that, you'd be as rich and horrible as Dan Snyder, man.

    Listen below, or download here.

    You may make that check for $50 out to Johnny Rockets, Johnny Rockets, Maryland, po box nine oh five oh horrible wealthy man.


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    We looked, and they don't sell speedos in the men's section of Belk. You know, if you wondered if they sell grape-smugglers. Ah, preposterous, you say, I'd never wear a speedo, or any other form-fitting beachwear. You say that, but if we'd told you Duke would be playing in a bowl game this year, or ever? '

    Another thing you couldn't and wouldn't have predicted, but there you are, standing in a pair of nuthuggers on Improbable Beach with David Cutcliffe watching the Blue Devils line up in a bowl game sponsored by affordable everyday wear for the American consumer. Looks good on you, or at least as good as it can post-holidays? You know what we're talking about, Captain Sugar Cookie.

    Listen in the player below to hear us talk about the potentially interesting matchup or download it here.


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    This entry is short because we grabbed a pan with our right hand, and it was on top of a very warm oven, and holy shit burns hurt way worse than you remember. It feels much like the pain Jim Mora and this bear may experience in the Holiday Bowl tonight.

    Our podcast discusses this, and includes Holly's mom frying bacon in the background.

    As always, listen in the player below, or treat yourself to a podcastoliday here!



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    Just before this touchdown run, ESPN's play-by-play man Dave Pasch said "UCLA can't give up another score here." And oh how we laughed, and experienced mirth because everyone watching this knew UCLA could, and indeed would allow another touchdown to give Baylor a 35-7 halftime lead.

    Then laughter gave way to awe, and maybe some gigglng joy, because that is Lache Seastrunk, who is not only blisteringly fast, but also does that little Walter Payton-style kick/shift/juke when he wants to make safeties look like traffic cones. The Holiday Bowl: it's a bowl game and an emotional buffet, albeit one where Jim Mora is only allowed to eat shame (and maybe some limp iceberg lettuce with light ranch dressing.)


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    THE DOG DAYS ARE OVER, BAYLOR.

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    The marvelous machine that is the Baylor offense went unusually cudgel-heavy last night, but when UCLA says it won't defend the hammer, well, then you keep using the hammer to the tune of 306 yards, a blowout victory in the Holiday Bowl, and...happy? Baylor fans dealing with the notion of a consistent happiness? It is weird, but it is 2012 for another three days, and you'll just have to deal with that.

    HAI GUIZE. At Bruins Nation it's not pretty. Perhaps you should just towel off and take a few days away from football. This ref is doing just that, and feels just fantastic.

    Holiday sassy, that ass is. Bill C wraps up the rest of the games here, including Duke's suicide-inducing collapse late against Cincinnati and their five-man coaching staff.

    SHREEEEEEEEVEPORT. We have the Independence, Russell Athletic, and Meineke Bowls today, with podcasts a-comin'. You didn't need to work anyway, and ESPN3, this website, and Twitter are happy to help you not do that.

    QUESTIONED: Two Texas Longhorn football players questioned regarding sexual assault charges in San Antonio.

    DABO IS IN COW JAIL. Cow jail has very specific rules, and Dabo Swinney needs to learn them.

    THE PIRATE SAILS HOME. Most of the internet was like WHOA MIKE SWING THAT SWORD, but let us tell you that seriously, Mike Leach is probably talking about Geronimo or vikings to this woman, and she is very, very bored because most people don't like talking about vikings and Geronimo as much as Mike Leach does. We will also say this: Leach probably stayed up until 5 in the morning just walking around Key West thinking, "Oh, that's a nice house."

    HOMER SMITH, Y'ALL. The option never dies, it just mutates, says dude who was way smarter than any of us.

    ETC: It's just a variation on Happy Fun Ball, but we're okay with that. The William Shatner Kung Fu School would be something we would be very interested in attending.


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    Man, we almost totally forgot about so many things this year. That thing where we bumped fists with Shreveport native Tim Brando? That happened, and then a gorilla leapt from our collar and accepted a light from Tim Brando's pyrokinetic fists. Tim Brando can summon flame with a mere blink of an eye, and the resulting terror of knowing that has helped him get to where he is today. Remember this before speaking ill of him, lest you spontaneously burst into flame.

    We also forgot that the Independence Bowl existed, and about that brief flurry of FUNROE OR DIE that made ULM so popular for three hot weeks in September, but both do still exist, and will be playing in today. Ohio is also playing, and if you like trapped, slow animals, you'll watch the Big Ten's brother from another mother try to defend one of the few team brave/crazy enough to play two quarterbacks on the field at the same time.

    Also, ULM lost to Auburn, which is really, really bad to remember considering what you know now about Auburn 2012.

    Listen below, or download the whole thing here.


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    The Russell Athletic Bowl matches Rutgers and Virginia Tech in America's Brasilia: Orlando, Florida. Just thinking about these two teams trading sweet punts for three hours does sadden us, but focus on the positives. Maybe Frank Beamer's making a commitment to returning to his superior form, Fat Frank Beamer. Maybe Gary Nova and Logan Thomas will, against all odds, take out every frustration of the year on hapless secondaries. Maybe Virginia Tech will do things they used to do, like block kicks and win with less than 200 yards of total offense.

    Maybe Virginia Tech will put new helmets on, big matte helmets with cartoon turkeys on them. You call us mad, but that very thing could totally happen no matter what you think of VT's long streak of eye-burning headgear.

    In the player below, or for download here.


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    Why are you watching this? Other than being very confused, or perhaps convinced this is 2006, and you're about to watch the greatest comeback in bowl history involving teams coached by Mike Leach and Glen Mason? We're all about just admitting that in a schedule larded with slow kids bowls, this is the slowest kid-ingest bowl game of all the slow kid bowl games, the weak-blooded cousin of a bowl named after tires.

    You'll watch it, but admit how very sad and desperate this is. We did. It felt great. Listen below, or download with regret and shame here.


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  • 12/31/12--06:18: SB Nation's best of 2012
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    Any end-of-the-year list has to begin with apologies, but especially so with SB Nation. This is a huge place, so please consider this "best of" list a necessarily incomplete one due to the nature of this beast. We could have done two, but then you would have been reading this "best of 2012 list" sometime in early 2013, and we're already close enough to champagne time here.

    The pieces featured here were limited to five by topic, and had to be something other than a short entry--longish, not necessarily longform, but definitely something more substantive than your usual blog post. They come from SBNation.com, from SB Nation Studios, and from our vast network of sports blogs, and are presented in alphabetical order by subject area because we have no favorites.*

    *SECRET: Our favorite is the story about horseshoes, but don't tell any of the other pieces that, okay? Okay.

    BASEBALL

    Grant Brisbee, 50 Awesome Things About Matt Cain's Perfect Game:

    45. The Posey/Cain embrace at the end of the game. There are 29 different Poseyless and Cainless teams in baseball. I feel like there should be a Sally Struthers commercial for them.

    Cy Schourek, It's Hotels, Whiskey, and Sad-Luck Dames:

    It was easy to fall in love with Freel, not in the least because it was clear he fell in love with us. I wrote before about the craft, guile, and minimalism of Homer Bailey, and Freel was the opposite. His hits were all gutted out, his walks were all staving off (he had one intentional walk in his whole career, his first year in red), he hit a home run off of Randy Johnson and dove into walls, spectators, and teammates. He was a maximalist, an entertainer, and a ballplayer we only think off as "old-school" because he reminds us of when greenies and cocaine were the drugs of choice, not steroids and HGH.

    Tyler Bleszinski, Spending Some Unexpected Time On Lockdown:

    I quietly tell my wife, "This is no scavenger hunt, something is going on." Suddenly another VS employee comes from the front of the store and tells us all to head out to the back. A scramble of people form a large throng pushing towards the back exit as an alarm is going off. Someone is saying something about a shooting happening at Macy's.

    Rob Neyer, "All You Needed To Know About The Infield Fly Rule*

    Again, though, this was a special sort of play. When that ball reached its highest point, it was really high and Kozma was at the end of his long run; it was a normal run, in terms of his effort -- otherwise he wouldn't have had time to camp -- but the umpire was in the uncommon position of having to track both an exceptionally high fly ball and a fielder making an exceptionally long run. Go ahead, you try that ... and from a position to which you're unaccustomed, since for six months every year there isn't a left-field umpire.

    Alex Belth, "The Two Rogers:"

    I asked Kahn if he still had the letter. He said he did not. "I don’t forgive this kind of behavior," Kahn said. "So I would like, before I go, to have Angell have his balls nailed to a cross."

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Paul Wadlington, "When You Write A Piece Like This..."

    It's no longer about Mack Brown. It's about Texas Football. I don't mean Texas Football Inc. Or the goddamn hype machine and the idiot marketers. I mean our football team winning games on the field. And despite the best efforts of Bellmont and a URL address to imply otherwise, It's not Mack Brown Texas Football. It's Texas Football. He didn't build this. He's a caretaker. He's not the program. He serves it. He can't any longer.

    Mark Moore, "This Day in ODB History: Sharing William"

    I know what you're thinking: this is the saddest thing you've ever read in your life. I didn't mean for it to be. When I think back on it now after a year, I don't see it as a sad story at all. I don't see the painful moments, the worry, or the dreams I had for him that will go unfulfilled. Those things are still there, obviously, and more difficult to deal with sometimes than others, but they're not what I see in my mind's eye. We have new dreams now, new goals that mean far more than those other things did. Every day that we have William in our lives is a blessing. Every moment that we get to spend with him is one we were not guaranteed.

    Bomani Jones, "If A College Football Playoff Won't Help Players, We Don't Need It."

    Coaches have the power to, literally, punish their players with hunger, and I'm supposed to care that the Boone Pickens All-Stars didn't get the shot at the title they "deserved"? Schools like Rutgers, which pays its head football coach over $2 million, opposed giving its players a stipend of roughly $60 per week. They continue to fight against the return of four-year scholarships, which makes it prohibitively risky for players to organize and mobilize to protect their own interests.

    Those are civil rights issues. What's a playoff going to do to fix them?

    Jason Kirk, "Penn State and the Death Penalty: A Body Count for the Sake of a Body Count."

    If football's not more critical than the safety of children -- and it's not -- then it's also not critical enough to be used as a punishment tool when children are damaged on a powerful man's watch. Saturday is not that goddamn important.

    Bill Connelly, "100 Steps To Learning To Love College Football (All Over Again)"

    7. Notre Dame ...But really, there are only two ways Notre Dame's 2012 season can go, and either might be entertaining: a) With a strong defense and an enlivened offense, the Irish win a series of dramatic games versus strong opponents (Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma, USC) and put together their best season since 2006 or so. Or b) they once again kill themselves with silly mistakes and finish 5-7. Whether it is a daredevil act or a train wreck, it will be fascinating.

    MMA/BOXING

    Steph Daniels, "Dan Hardy Gives An Extremely Detailed Account Of His Psychedelic Ayahuasca Experience"

    It is an eight minute audio clip from our interview, and it gives you graphic detail of his retreat, from top to bottom, and even includes some crying and running about in his underwear.

    John S. Nash, "The Martial Arts of the Dark Knight" parts one, two, and three.

    Batman has also demonstrated a very effective knowledge in shime-waza. In his very first recorded fight, in Detective Comic #29, he puts a "headlock" on a thug that renders him incapacitated. At the time the term "headlock" was synonymous with choke holds used in professional wrestling, so it's easy to understand how it could have been misidentified. As we can see, the one applied by Batman greatly resembles a standing choke as demonstrated in Earl Liederman's 1923 manual "The Science of Wrestling and the Art of Jiu Jitsu".

    Mike Riordan,"Why We Should Want To See Olympic Wrestlers In MMA"

    Those of this position would yell angrily (because MMA arguments are usually angry and hostile and typically have Drowning Pool or some such band in the background) that MMA is no longer some experimental fighting laboratory and that the sport has moved past merely discovering the victor in a cage fight between the world's best judoka and an Olympic Greco-Roman gold medalist. The world now has these people called mixed martial artists, and that the central project of mixed martial arts now is determining who is the world's greatest mixed martial artist.

    Scott Christ, "Chavez Jr vs Martinez Preview: Big Fight Stories and the Sounds of Jenny Lewis"

    When Sergio Martinez had his middleweight championship belt removed in 2011 in what amounted to a boxing coup d'état, it went somewhat criminally ignored in the boxing press just how transparent and blatant this was. Both the WBC and HBO had some hand in it, as well as Top Rank -- I'm not really saying they did something illegal, because boxing belts aren't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, I'm just saying it was totally unsportsmanlike and ridiculous. I've said many times over that boxing is in many ways not really a sport anymore. This is one example of that.

    Ben Fowlkes,"The Hurt Business."

    How could you reach the top and stay there if it didn’t mean absolutely everything to you, the way it almost certainly would to the people you’d be locked in a cage with on Saturday night? And yet, if it did mean everything to you, what kind of life was that? How could you know for sure whether all those sacrifices -- the time away from your family, the time spent hurt and tired and sore and cranky -- were really worth it?

    NBA

    Paul Flannery, "Kevin Garnett Can't Stop, Won't Stop"

    Few of them are for the Celtics these days, but as long as they have Garnett they have a chance. You can surround him with shit and he'll turn it into the meanest souffle. His legacy is deep, convoluted and complicated. It certainly can't be summed up in the course of a thousand words or in 140 characters of Twitter snark.

    Tom Ziller, "Sports, Elections, and the Perversion of Math."

    Maybe that's why folks like Nate Silver in the sports world -- including Nate Silver, a Baseball Prospectus alum, himself -- aren't openly reviled. Numbers are constant in sports. In politics, numbers really only matter when the votes are getting counted.

    Bomani Jones, "The Tragedy of Allen Iverson"

    Does he have any fight left in him? We will find out soon. He may be finished as a basketball player, but he can't be finished as a man, if he ever was one. He's done too much, been too far and proven himself to be too strong. Right?

    Andrew Sharp, "37 Reasons Rasheed Wallace Would Be The Greatest President Ever."

    23. Zach Randolph and Bonzi Wells would visit the White House at least once.

    22. Every cabinet member would get WWF-style championship belts.

    21. The President of the United States would spend roughly 80 percent of his days in cut-off sweatpants and Air Force Ones.

    20. Sheed once yelled "shovel this man off the floor" after Vince Carter went down with an injury. It has nothing to do with his Presidential credentials, but still.

    NFL FOOTBALL

    Matt Ufford, "On Junior Seau's suicide, and when it's okay to compare the NFL to the military"

    It's been a long time since I served -- long enough, perhaps, for some perspective. I was on active duty from 2000 until 2004: one tour in Iraq and a small medal. I left the service voluntarily, knowing that I could never match the surreal experience of leading a tank platoon in the invasion of a sovereign country. (If you want an approximate football equivalent, I was the captain of a special teams unit on an NFL playoff team one year.) I called it quits before my profession and relative lack of skill got me maimed or killed. Perhaps its's cowardly, but recognizing that you're ill-suited for a career that wantonly kills its disciples is the first step to living longer.

    Andrew Sharp, "It's Okay To Hate Tim Tebow"

    We hate Tim Tebow because we talk about him, and he talks about himself, like he's somehow overcome a hurricane of obstacles to make it this far. The only skepticism he ever faced came when people actually watched him throw a football.

    Chris B. Brown, "The Future Is Already Here"

    All quarterbacks – and all NFL players, really – are constantly at risk of gruesome injury. Pocket passers like Carson Palmer, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have missed entire seasons because of injuries sustained while standing in the pocket, and quarterbacks are constantly hit while or just after releasing the ball, a far more vulnerable position than being hit while sliding following a 5-yard gain behind a lead blocker. If the argument is that the scheme is too dangerous to risk injury to Robert Griffin III, then the real argument isn’t to abolish these offenses, it’s to abolish football.

    Jeff Arnold, "Living Large and Staying Alive"

    "When we’d get together, it used to be a joke – who was the biggest guy in the room" Sims says. "Well, it’s not funny anymore."

    Joel Thorman, "Tragedy at Arrowhead, and One Unforgettable Day"

    He won't talk about what he saw that day, and that's probably for the best. No one, except Scott Pioli and linebackers coach Gary Gibbs, who saw what he saw, knows what he is going through. That he had that on his shoulders, and still managed to lead his team isn't something I will forget anytime soon.

    NHL

    Brett Shumway, "An afternoon with former Avalanche enforcer Scott Parker"

    In response to Mrs. Parker's pleading to help get "Parks" (as shecalls him) out of the house, a friend agreed to have Scott Parker ridealong on a tow truck shift with him. Parker enjoyed himself so muchthat he decided to fill his days while waiting for the NHL and it'splayers to play nice again, behind the wheel of a tow truck.

    MJDII, "A Flyer's life, and a thanks to the BSH community"

    The last two years have been tiring, draining and depressing. Endless medical appointments and hospital visits. But through all this I had BSH to help me lose reality and pass all those grueling hours. All those hours and days of bickering with Geoff or Hintzy and others were really me just passing time while I was sitting and waiting with my dad at Fox Chase, Hahnemann or Suburban hospitals. I really feel this community can truly appreciate the special relationship my father and I had with the Flyers and the sport of hockey.

    Amelia L, "When play resumes"

    But after only casually following the league for several years, I'm not willing to give up any more time. I don't want to miss Daniel Alfredsson's possible last season or watch Erik Karlsson as he defends his Norris Trophy. Boycotting the NHL will only hurt me.

    Yaw Axis, "The Winnipeg Jets killed my father"

    As the game came to its sad conclusion, and the post-game recaps and interviews started, I realized that those snores I had previously heard every minute or two had stopped. My father, at age 64, was dead.

    PGI, "Islanders to Brooklyn reflections: Nassau loses its dynasty warriors"

    Because in the end, it wasn't Gretzky and the Oilers or Scott Scissions or Mike Milbury or Charles Wang that killed the Islandersdynasty. It was the lazy, shiftless, suit-wearing shysters that havedarkened Nassau County political offices for years that simply leftthe door open and watched a glorious collective history run off intothe street.

    SOCCER

    Graham MacAree, "Lionel Messi's Gift"

    Mephistopheles

    Hello Lionel! A fine display.

    Messi

    I like football! Why do you have horns, mister? And why is everyone standing still?

    Mephistopheles

    Nevermind that, young Lionel. Here, have a treat.

    Messi

    Don't want treats! Want to play football.

    Mephistopheles sighs.

    Paul DeBruler, Decades of Dominance: Who Is This French Guy From Japan, And Why Should I Listen To Him?

    The typical English training routine featured some light jogging and stretching, some head tennis, and maybe some drills or five-a-side games, and some work on set pieces and penalties, then a big fry up or a pie and a pint as a meal afterwards. Arsene soon realized that this was holding Arsenal back - he needed his players to be really fit and sharp to play the style he wanted to play. So instead of finding players like that, he made them.

    Graham MacAree, "When Possession Isn't"

    If we treat the sport as though things only happen when we measure them happening, and then deliberately choose not to measure mundane events (such as holding possession), we're going to end up with a very, very confused situation. That's what appears to be happening here.

    Nathan Bartel, "17 Syllables--The Cicada"

    So when I wake up at 4 a.m. some June morning, instead of clawing wildly at the transfer possibilities tossed out like so much trash by the red tops, I'll instead look to create in my life the mountain stillness Bashō describes - not silent but sonorous - and I'll look for Spurs to create the same.

    Andi Thomas, "An Exclusive Interview With Gunnersaurus."

    You attracted some criticism over the last few seasons for joining the teams when there's a minute's silence. Is there anything --

    [Interrupts] Look, I read about that. It makes me laugh. As if a dinosaur would have no understanding of life and death, of loss and mourning. Sixty-five million years I've been knocking around this planet, missing my friends and family, and my colleagues. So yes, I bow my head for whichever human being who has died. As a mark of respect. But I also bow my head to remember the loss of my people, the hunters that I ran with and the prey that ran from us. A loss on a scale that you puny mammals could not begin to comprehend.

    STUDIO:

    Spencer Hall, amateur hot dog eater.

    Spencer Hall is the hot dog eating amateur. Watch as he takes part in the Crif Dog Classic, a 10 minute all you can eat hot dog competition featuring famed eater Takeru Kobayashi. Spoiler alert: Spencer doesn't beat Kobayashi.

    Amy K. Nelson, "Safe at Home: The Willie Mays Aiken Story"

    Amy K. Nelson tells the story of former Kansas City Royals first baseman Willie Mays Aikens. In 1980, he became the first player in MLB history to have two multi-home run games in the same World Series. Little did his teammates and fans know, but he was high on cocaine nearly every day during that series. In 1994, he was sentenced to over 20 years in prison for selling crack, due to harsh sentencing and mandatory minimum guidelines. After 14 years, Aikens was released, and his perseverance and triumph is now chronicled in the book Willie Mays Aikens: Safe At Home.

    Ariel Helwani, "A day in NYC with Rampage Jackson"

    Rampage Jackson visits Ariel Helwani in NYC for a lengthy walk-and-talk through Central Park, a visit to a local restaurant and much more.

    Stephen Greenwood, "2012 Indy 500: Car 39"

    In this short feature, SB Nation highlights the crew behind 2012 Indy 500 Car #39, driven by Bryan Clauson for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

    Matt Ufford, "Welcome Home, Nets"

    Brooklyn is home to many people and things. The Nets are now one of them. Take a trip through Brooklyn with Matt Ufford as he explain what the Nets move means to his city.

    VARIOUS:

    Matt Ufford, "Slave to the Black Line: How the Greatest Swimmer Became Human"

    School's out, but you're waking up two hours earlier for the outdoor season. Practice starts in early June, at dawn, in a pool filled with tens of thousands of gallons of water fresh from a spout with only one setting: cold. On the first day, no one wants to get in. Shivering in a Speedo in the cool morning air is preferable to the icy misery and wet exhaustion that awaits you. Eventually, you take a running start and dive in and wonder why you do this.

    Matt Tullis, "Feet of clay, heart of iron"

    In the late 1980s, his mother Bertha was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She died at the age of 52 in 1989. A short time later, Simmons learned he had colon cancer. He was 29 years old. Surgeons removed his large colon, which means Simmons has a colostomy bag. That is why Simmons wears big, loose-fitting t-shirts. When he releases the horseshoe and his shirt is pulled tight against his abdomen, you can see the outline of the bag.

    Jon Bois, "Persistence is futile: QWOP, the funniest sports game of all time"

    QWOP reminds me that it's a miracle that we can do any sports things at all. Let's start small: we can pick up a football for the first time in months and throw a spiral without really thinking about how we're gripping it. Like, Average Folk like you and me can do that. It feels like such a feat of engineering should be difficult.

    Dan Grunfeld, "Hell's Trainer: The crazy truth about the man behind the mask"

    One of the amazing things about Frank is that he leads by example, so he didn't just throw me out on the hill and tell me to start running: he did it with me. First, though, we were walking. Then jogging. Then sprinting. Then we did a mixture of all three. After 10 minutes, I felt like I was trudging in hummus, but Frank was just breezing right past me, not even breaking a sweat. (By the way, he also had his 84-pound-vest on the whole time.) As if he hadn't already made his point, he was simultaneously taunting me, saying things like, "You can run to Grandma's at any time, Sir," and "Grandma will have the food on the table as soon as you want, Sir." Just to clarify, I lived with my grandma near Stanford during my college summers

    Michael Mooney, "Bawl So Hard: Welcome to the biggest LAN video gaming party in North America"

    "Luckily we have BAWLS," he said. "Those sweet blue BAWLS." In gaming circles, there is no drink more ubiquitous. Extra carbonated and extra sweet, it comes in both cobalt blue bottles and 16oz. blue cans. It has roughly three times the caffeine content of Coke. After drinking them regularly for a few years, he explained, the caffeine doesn't even affect him much. "It just levels me out now."

    Amy K. Nelson, "Dispatches from Newtown: How a sports complex offered a reprieve for a day"

    Marc Gold's story is that of so many here. And on Monday hundreds -- if not thousands -- of those people gathered at the Newtown Youth Academy. It was an oasis, where no media were permitted and a place where games, laughter and normalcy lifted -- if only temporarily -- the shock, sadness and despair so pervasive here.


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  • 12/31/12--11:50: THE NEW YEAR'S EVE PLAN
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    We're really behind on 35 for 35 podcasts for a number of reasons, none of which are interesting. (Do you know how long it takes to compile a best of 2012 list across a thousand different websites and no fewer than seven major disciplines? We pray you never find out.)

    The agenda for today and tomorrow:

    1. Get King Cake hand-delivered from LSUFreek, straight from NOLA and with extra baby. IT IS THE BABY THAT MAKES IT SO TASTY.
    2. Attend Chick-Fil-A Bowl, where Les Miles and Dabo Swinney will astonish someone, though not necessarily you, me, or anyone coming to watch a football game. But there will be some guaranteed form of astonishment.
    3. Come back, enjoy champagne, enjoy champagne, drink whole bottle of champagne, journey to edge of universe, meet Howard Schnellenberger, realize "edge of the universe" is Boca Raton, Florida, and that our wife is going to be very confused about how we got to the Southeastern coast of Florida without driving in under six hours without a plane ticket
    4. Resume business for New Year's Day tomorrow.

    Enjoy your New Year's Eve, be careful, and join us in the open threads for NOT-GAY CHICKEN BOWL action.


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    [looks in mirror]

    "Dabo Swinney"

    "Dabo Swinney"

    [swallows hard]

    "Dabo Swinney"

    [you are now dead]


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    20121226_kkt_al2_084

    6:00 a.m.--8:00 a.m (all times ET). Those with children awaken, perhaps with a splitting headache and blistering hangover, but most definitely with children. For the hangover? You should probably have some bacon and eggs to soak up the evil. For the children? There is no cure for children. Deal with it and start the new year as you should: by stuffing them with cheap carbohydrates and turning on the television while you cry.

    9:45 a.m. Those without children awake free, but still hungover and without the love of family. Is there someone in your bed? IT'S PROBABLY AN ASSASSIN. Call the police and have them removed, even if where you're at isn't technically your residence.

    10:15 a.m. You shouldn't drink that champagne it's only---

    10:19 a.m. Mimosas have Vitamin C, and champagne is like the most paleo of alcohols, man. [flexes] [pulls muscle in back]

    11:15 a.m. After some staring at the ceiling, you remember that USC lost to Georgia Tech yesterday. Also, you should put on a shirt.

    12:00 p.m. The Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl (ESPN2). Notable for two reasons. First, it is a delight to pronounce, because you get to say "Taxslayer" like it's a serious thing that people should respect and say without giggling.

    Second, It is also a matchup between one irresistible force, and one very movable object: Mississippi State, the team with the longest bowl winning streak dating back to their 1999 Peach Bowl win over Clemson, and Northwestern, which has had the good taste to politely concede every bowl game they've played in since the 1948 Rose Bowl. Neither is likely to change here, but It's good to start the New Year with some enduring traditions.

    12:00 p.m. The Heart of Dallas Bowl (ESPNU). Oklahoma State plays Purdue, also at noon, on ESPNU. ESPNU is way up the dial, and almost far enough away from ESPN2 to not hear the screams of whatever Oklahoma State is going to do to the Boilermakers. (Almost.)

    1:00 p.m. The Capital One Bowl (ABC). Nebraska allowed 539 yards to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, and now faces a team with two quality running backs, a top 20 defense, and a quality senior quarterback. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though: Jarvis Jones with a headlamp on, running toward Taylor Martinez. Over/under on Jesse Palmer's use of "sick" as an adjective during the broadcast: three.

    1:00 p.m. The Outback Bowl (ESPN). South Carolina plays Michigan, where you can just sit back and watch the Wolverines' Taylor Lewan versus the Gamecocks' Jadeveon Clowney. If Lewan can block Clowney, this will be an entertaining, back-and-forth game between two teams with complimentary weaknesses. If not, you'll find Michigan's quarterbacks all over the Tampa Bay area like pieces of a satellite freshly scorched and broken apart by re-entry.

    5:00 p.m. The Rose Bowl (ESPN). Wisconsin faces Stanford in a matchup of polar opposites! One team likes to bruise opponents with a power run game, while the other likes to bruise opponents with a power run game. You may not consider these to be opposite. We'll have to agree to disagree, and also note that I have an English degree from a large, cheap state school.

    8:30 p.m. The Orange Bowl (ESPN). NIU is freed from the MAC by a bounty hunter who promises to take him to the Orange Bowl as long as he finds the evil Jimbo Fisher with him. Then, Jimbo Fisher kills both of them, because the 2012 Orange Bowl is both a potential disaster of a game and a horrible idea for a Django ripoff.

    Look through SB Nation's many excellent college football blogs to find your team's community.

    Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube


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    20121226_kkt_al2_084

    Barry's likin' what he sees here. Barry's got schedules. Barry's got the coffeemaker goin'. Maybe a little scotch in there. The good stuff. Not your Macallan 12, but enough class to keep your sweater unwrinkled and enough fire to make the hair on your ears stand up a bit. You don't have hair on your ears? Well, that's not Barry's fault, son. Blame the Lord for cursing you with youth.

    Barry's watching five bowl games today. Might even coach in one of 'em if the spirit moves him. Someone's playing in the Orange Bowl tonight, he hears. Well, someone has to, I guess. If you need him he'll be in Pasadena, where they invented McDonald's and the only bowl game that ever mattered to anyone who didn't have hookworm and a tobacco-stained Alabama sweatshirt as their baptismal robe. You see LSU lost to Clemson last night? Barry did. Oh, Barry laughed. How Barry laughed. Might have been a few pieces of steak in his mouth at the time. Nothing wrong with multitasking.

    This is your open thread for the first shift. Barry's pretty happy with a lot of things right now, but five football games on New Year's and power run sets for miles? Oh, that ear hair's not the only thing standing up for Barry right now.


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    Happynewyeardog

    Out for 2013: skinny jeans. In: the pom-pom pant, a casual but stylish pant that breathes. Warning: the pom-pom pant is extremely flammable, and may go up in flames for no reason whatsoever.*

    *Any similarities to Georgia's defense against Nebraska are purely coincidental.


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  • 01/01/13--13:51: THE MAN CAME AROUND
  • Clowney

    There's a man goin' 'round takin' names,

    And he decides who to free and who to blame.

    Everybody won't be treated all the same,

    There'll be a golden ladder reachin' down.

    When the man comes around.

    Clowney

    The hairs on your arm will stand up,

    At the terror in each sip and in each sup.

    Will you partake of that last offered cup,

    Or disappear into the potter's ground?

    When the man comes around.

    Clowney

    Hear the trumpets hear the pipers.

    One hundred million angels singin'.

    Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum.

    Voices callin', voices cryin'.

    Some are born and some are dyin'.

    It's alpha and omega's kingdom come,

    And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.

    The virgins are all trimming their wicks,

    The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.

    It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks,

    Clowney

    Till Armageddon no shalam, no shalom.

    Then the father hen will call his chickens home,

    The wise man will bow down before the throne.

    And at his feet they'll cast their golden crowns,

    When the man comes around.

    Clowney

    Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still.

    Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still.

    Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still.

    Listen to the words long written down,

    When the man comes around.

    Clowney

    Hear the trumpets hear the pipers.

    One hundred million angels singin'.

    Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum.

    Voices callin', voices cryin'.

    Some are born and some are dyin'.

    It's alpha and omega's kingdom come,

    And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.

    The virgins are all trimming their wicks,

    The whirlwind is in the thorn trees.

    It's hard for thee to kick against the prick,

    In measured hundredweight and penny pound,

    When the man comes around.


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    20130101_ajl_bm1_109

    The evening is already turning nasty in Miami, but honesty would make you admit how very typical this was for the city. The fourth estate has run out of lasagna, the Big Ten is fistpumping over one sweet bowl win, and NIU is currently understanding that almost all of them will be going pro in something other than football. This is your evening thread, and it could get very ugly. Huddle close: only together will you survive.


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  • 01/02/13--06:30: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 1/2/2013
  • 20130101_ajl_sv7_075

    IT'S A NEW YEAR LET'S ALL HUG. James Franklin is a certified crazy person, and if you want to turn Vanderbilt as a football program around and win nine games for the first time since 1915, well, you have to hire those kind of people. Give us a hug.

    Personal space: a Vanderbilt man does not respect it, particularly when it stands between you, us, and love.

    READ THIS. Unless you have been imprisoned, you saw Jadeveon Clowney decimate Vincent Smith in the single most horrifying and justifiable piece of football violence we have seen since our lord's year 1995. Andy Staples did a nifty bit of deadline reportage, and it was what you thought it might be: a miscommunication on the offensive line, a tiny bit of space left unblocked, and then explosions death carnage oh god whyyyyyy.

    DAMAGE.

    Clowneyhit_zps7e5d8075_medium

    BUT TELL US HOW YOU FEEL. FSU held Northern Illinois to under 100 yards of offense and 10 points, and that's when you get to say things like this if you like, Florida State.

    "He's terrible," Williams said. "I can't believe they tried us like that. They tried our life, man. ... He's not good at all."

    Underwhelming is the M.O. for Jimbo Fisher football--random pass plays, a refusal to run the ball, and racking up hundreds of yards and frittering them away with horrible redzone performance--but last night's Orange Bowl victory does mark E.J. Manuel's fourth bowl win in his career, which is laudable, praiseworthy, etc. Also: Jimbo Fisher got a fifteen yard penalty for arguing with a referee late in the game, which totally made the whole thing worth watching!

    BILLY JOEL IS SO SAD ABOUT NOT WINNING THE ROSE BOWL. He will mourn by writing a song called "I Lost The Rose Bowl (And It Made Me Sad)"

    THAT IS CURIOUS. For a team headed up by a defensive coach, you see a lot of Fs and Ds on Nebraska's report cards Meanwhile, Aaron Murray just went 11-14 for 247 yards and two TDs on third down, and that is how you pull away late against a team determined to let balls fly unmolested through the air into the hands of Tavarres King (who is fast and likes to score touchdowns.)

    BUT HEY: At least you're not Purdue. AT LEAST YOU'RE NOT PURDUE.

    ETC: Trigger, Willie Nelson's ancient guitar, gets its own profile in Texas Monthly, and it is fantastic.


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    Clowney

    1. You'd be forgiven for quitting the sport. No one would begrudge you the moment when you got up---why the hell did you get up? And how?---and just took off your helmet forever, walked to the bench, and sat down forever. No one would blame you for a second, because Jadeveon Clowney is 6'7 in cleats and a lean, lethal 260 pounds, and just hit you so hard your helmet flew at least five feet in the air, all with an audible pop like a bowhunter cracking a wounded deer's neck.

    2. I don't even know whether to give Vincent Smith credit for getting up. I will, but that's a personal choice left to you, because that kind of violence, even in a violent sport like football, is not part of the expected contract between you and the game. You expect contact, even violence, and always the pain of random injury. You do not expect a sasquatch on the hunt to apparate from thin air at 20 miles per hour. It is not part of anyone's plan ever, and Jadeveon Clowney is officially unreasonable to expect on a football field.

    3. I've been in a motorcycle accident where I T-boned a car at around 30 miles an hour. After the initial brainscramble, all you can think is, "I'm okay I'm okay I'm okay I'm okay I'm okay I'm okay." I'm sure Vincent Smith thought the same thing, and likely felt nothing too bad after the hit. Trauma like that has a kindness. It wears off when the bruising starts, and today Vincent Smith probably has a gigantic bruise he once called his sternum. A hit like that makes your toes sore the next day.

    4. Violence in football is its own point, usually. Defenders in particular take real joy in doing things with a personal violence, an applied force monogrammed and addressed specifically for you. Ray Lewis loves hitting people, but Ray Lewis marked days he played Eddie George with a special felt-tip pen and highlighters, because Ray Lewis simply relished harming Eddie George. There was something inherently hittable in George for him, and repeated applications of hatred to his ribs only magnified the pleasure.

    5. I don't think that was the case here, and that should make it so much scarier for anyone who has to play football against Jadeveon Clowney in the future. This was circumstantial violence with context. South Carolina had been screwed on a fourth down call the prior play, with the referee following scratch golf rules and awarding Michigan a first down on a measurement clearly two links shy of the mark. South Carolina needed something, particularly with Devin Gardner nibbling away at the Gamecocks secondary and Michigan threatening to augment a 22-21 lead.

    6. A situational application of exceptional brutality: this is what the moment called for, and that is what Jadeveon Clowney did. The wording matters here, because I am tempted to write "happened," the word you use when agency seems impossible. You use "happened" in situations like meteorites striking baby carriages, trees crushing adorable puppies, and lightning strikes killing random golfers.

    7. That's the wrong word: Clowney did this with a calculation and read of blown technique, slipping through an abandoned crawlspace of empty air left unblocked on a miscommunication by the Michigan line. Saying this "happened" takes away from Clowney's spectacular nanotiming on the play. He did this, and in a single move seized the game back from no fewer than 22 men on the other side of the ball.

    8. Did you see the flutter of his hands on the swim move? It's almost fussy, like a gifted baby tossing a solved Rubik's Cube to the side. Jadeveon Clowney is 19, and by stupid rule has to play one more year in college football. Be terrified. Be utterly and totally terrified.

    9. The helmet flying off isn't impressive by itself. Players know there is a certain way to knock them off, particularly if the player has a good stack of braids between him and the helmet's surface. It's the elevation, coming to rest 11 yards behind him. I watched a watermelon fly off a flatbed trailer on the interstate in an accident once; it looked a lot like this, minus the gory red explosion of it hitting the pavement. (Thank you, Vincent Smith, for not exploding into a red mist on this hit. No really; thank you so very much for not doing this.)

    10. The hand goes out to get the ball, a moment of total composure that shows just how impersonal this was. Vincent Smith, or anyone else on the other side of the ball, was a personal irrelevance. Smith had knocked Clowney from the game with a low block that hit Clowney in the balls, but that seemed long forgotten in how clinical this got in an instant: Smith on the ground, the ball spitting to the side, and his huge hand palming it while his teammates start celebrating before the play's even blown dead.

    11. The part I still can't wrap my brain around: Clowney did that with about eight yards of running room. In the span of 24 feet, he gained enough momentum to do that to Vincent Smith. The equation is F=MA, and the numbers work out, I'm sure, but the brain can only do so much. It's a day later and my eyes still can't believe the spectacle and brutality of applied physics in football pads. When you have a variable like Jadeveon Clowney, though, sense is never, ever part of the equation.

    Look through SB Nation's many excellent college football blogs to find your team's community.

    Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube


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