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    Jared Veldheer is an offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders. He has spent this offseason surviving exposure to gamma radiation that would kill lesser men. He also may have worked out a few times.

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    He is the large animal on the left, in case you are bad at noticing things. QUIZ: is the photo below any different than the one above it?

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    ANSWER: these are the same photo, and your brain is playing tricks on you. (HT: Silver and Black Pride)


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    Fans_holding_3_fingers_in_2011_daytona_500_in_honor_for_dale_earnhardt

    From the very real Memphis obituaries, a spine-tingling tribute to a man whose loved ones clearly know how to drive a farewell lap for their dearly departed:

    Timothy Wayne "Tim" Hopkins, 54, went to be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and Dale Earnhardt to contribute his building and painting expertise to the constructing of many heavenly mansions on Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Memphis.

    We're holding this "3" up as hard as we can for you and yours, Mr. Hopkins.


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    20130322_jla_sh6_703

    It is a heated rivalry, but isn't everything a bit overwrought when talking about Mexico and the United States? Even within the relatively tame CONCACAF, El Tri and the USMNT can't rightfully claim the title of most bitter rivalry. El Salvador and Honduras once went to war over a soccer game. Until we do that, second place is the ceiling for the Battle of the Rio Grande, since it's hard to be more hostile than actual warfare. We must have some standards here.

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    Note: not actual war

    You might be getting a bit too excited for other reasons, too. You might have no idea how early this game is in World Cup Qualifying's long march to Brazil, so we'll tell you: this is the third of 10 qualifying matches the United States has to play before ever worrying about the World Cup, with the last happening in October of 2013 against Panama. You will have to stay this excited for seven months just to be fair to every other equally sporting rival in CONCACAF. And you do value them all equally, because this is just international soccer, and nothing to get overly emotional about, yes? Sloppy, haphazard international soccer?

    It's not even like you're seeing either team rolling into Estadio Azteca at full strength. The United States is without numerous key players (Jermaine Jones, Steve Cherundolo, the hiatused Landon Donovan, and goalie Tim Howard) and Mexico is missing their veteran captain, Francisco Rodriguez. Few players are at top form, the timing's awful, and Mexico almost never loses at home, particularly to a team that just pulled off a fluky Azteca upset in an August 2012 friendly. Lightning is not striking twice.

    And do you really want to stay up for a 10:30 p.m. ET kick just to watch the United States lose by two goals at the crack of midnight in a game that, in the grand scheme of things, means little for their qualifying hopes? You're an adult. Surely you have other things to do.

    The United States and Mexico will play an early, low-consequence qualifier very late at night for the East Coast that, in the end, really isn't going to matter much. I mean every word of this, and am not going to end this post with the crass jingoistic banter you might hear from an overly emotional United States Men's National Team fan. Let's respect it for what it is: a sporting contest between two part-time teams filled with talented athletes we should respect regardless of nationality or team affiliation.

    In conclusion:

    THE UNITED STATES WILL BEAT MEXICO BY FOUR GOALS IN A GAME THAT WILL FOREVER SINGE THE EYEBALLS OF HORRIFIED MEXICAN SOCCER FANS. CLINT DEMPSEY WILL SCORE TWO OF THEM. THERE WILL BE DEUCE-FACE. I WILL NOT GO TO BED UNTIL 1 A.M. AT THE EARLIEST DESPITE HAVING TO WAKE UP TO GET A SMALL CHILD READY FOR SCHOOL IN THE MORNING. YOUR REASON IS DEAD TO ME. BURY IT WITH YOUR DREAMS AND MEET ME ON ESPN AT 10:15 P.M. WITH SNACKS AND COURAGE.

    YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU.

    NOW HERE IS A PICTURE OF CLINT DEMPSEY ON THE MOON EATING PIZZA WITH A BEAR THAT REPRESENTS THE ETERNAL STRENGTH OF THE AMERICAN FRONTIER.

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    THE MONEY REPRESENTS MONEY. THE FIREWORKS REPRESENT FIREWORKS. THE CLINT DEMPSEY REPRESENTS VICTORY. GO GO USA!


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  • 03/27/13--07:38: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 3/27/2013
  • 127841706

    DO YOUR JOB. There's a lot going on here in just 20 seconds.

    A. This is clearly Will Muschamp losing his mind and destroying a whiteboard for having the audacity to show what his defense--his Texas Longhorn defense at the time--was not doing against a very simple single back, two tight formation running power for significant gains. You hear the "DO YOUR JOB" part? As he says this, the dark mark of Saban burns on his arm like an old war wound.

    B. Yes, haha, Will Muschamp is insane, but seriously this is why coaches like Muschamp, or Meyer, or Saban, or Holgorsen, or whomever have extraordinarily gifted spatial thinking skills often crowding out other fields of the brain others consider necessary (social skills, manners, hygiene, or in Will Muschamp's case, any control over the volume of his voice whatsoever.) This is halftime, and Muschamp has been on the field. He might have some input from up in the box, but the majority of his data has come from observing large men pushing each other around on a flat surface viewed from the side. If you've been on a sideline, it's a chore to even pick out one or two plays properly, much less formations, shifts, and personnel.

    C. And yet Muschamp in the span of fifteen seconds explains formation, play, assignment, and gap control by role and position, and then probably moved on to another formation, play, and counter like it was nothing. Good coaches can do this in seconds, and explain the solution just as succinctly all within the constraints of a halftime meeting.

    D. In summary: play explained, roles defined, defense briefed, and fit thrown all in under 28 seconds. It's brilliant, really.

    (Via @teamcatlab)

    THE WHITEBOARD COULD BE WORSE OFF. It could have fallen into the hands of Joker Phillips, who appears to be suffering an entertaining descent into madness during his tenure at Florida. If anyone wants to play wide receiver for Florida, he's taking applications. [snaps beef jerky stick in half] [throws on floor ominously]

    WE SEE YOU, BK. You can't just assume the internet won't notice you slipping a song about a fake dead girlfriend in there, Brian Kelly. Oh, no, that was purely coincidence, you say? When has anything a head coach ever done been a coincidence? A Russian and a football coach don't take dumps without a plan, son.

    A STANFORD MAN IS ELOQUENT. David Shaw likes players who can talk like Stanford men. The SEC scoffs at your insistence on an outmoded definition of "vocabulary," and instead embraces the ever-evolving vernacular of the country by testing recruits on their ability to use the words "janked up" and "ratchet."

    "IT'S A SIMULATOR, AND THAT'S WHY THE KANSAS LINEBACKER MAKES AN ACTUAL TACKLE."Pictures of Charlie Weis with a VR headset on immediately, plz.

    ETC: The Governator could be anywhere, perhaps even right behind you. Azteca and a draw and Jurgen Klinsmann doing weird things with his hands. Cocaine has made some pretty amazing music over the years.


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    Adidas has committed a long list of corporate atrocities: the Nebraska "Noid" variation, assorted molestations of the classic Michigan unis, several disasters involving Notre Dame, and this, the Wisconsin uniform so hideous Bret Bielema left the school for another job. Shut up. That's why he left, and if you argue, we'll just keep showing you this picture.

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    Notice that even the model appears to be flinching while wearing it.

    Syracuse may be the first school to develop antibodies to against the Adidas pox. They claim Adidas' entanglement in a nasty Indonesian labor dispute has put them in violation of their contract with the school, and that not paying 2,500 workers in a third-world country while selling jerseys for hundreds of dollars a piece is somehow not consonant with a university's mission. There is a comment to be made about the immense irony of universities protesting unpaid labor by corporate athletic partners and we just made it.

    But whatever, person with actual human concerns here. The really important thing here is that Syracuse clearly understands the threat to the human eyeball: Adidas armed with the primary colors orange and blue, and with the school having virtually no say in whether they have to foist them on an unsuspecting public. It's unusually quick action for a team that let Greg Robinson coach football for four years, but we'll take it.


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    Original

    Paul Finebaum recently signed a $500,000 book deal with Harper Collins for a memoir about his popular sports radio show. Provisionally titled "Is This Thing On? Laughs, Litigation, and Life On The Air", the book will detail his youth, his rise to fame as a reporter, and finally his tumultuous career as "the most dangerous man in radio."

    An exclusive excerpt from the memoir follows.

    My first memory of my eighth year was one that would determine my whole life.

    It was 1963, and my father took me along on a business trip to Dallas. Dallas. For a wide-eyed kid from Memphis going to Dallas might as well have been a trip to Timbuktu. There wasn't a river, men wore big cowboy hats, and I half-expected John Wayne to ride a horse down the street.

    The Lone Star State had this tiny boy from West Tennessee seeing stars, including one very literal one: Oklahoma football coach and legend Bud Wilkinson.

    My daddy and I were walking to lunch from our hotel and decided to stop at a bookstore. My father, poor soul, probably always secretly wanted a quarterback. But he knew what he had: a child who loved books, particularly books about history and the men who made it. Whenever we could, wherever we were, my father always made time for his son to play a few downs on the gridiron of the mind.

    My poor, poor father.

    I was looking through a pile of Zane Grey novels when I noticed him. I recognized the Sooner's brilliant head man immediately by his hair. He had an immaculately pomaded head of hair and a huge championship ring on his finger. He, too, was paging through a Western.

    He noticed me, too.

    "Little boy, you know why I only wear one of my title rings?"

    I was stunned.

    "No sir?"

    "Because the missus doesn't like the feel of it, and neither does my girlfriend."

    He winked, and then smiled. I introduced him to my father. The two spoke for a while. I have covered many men in my career, but none showed the kind of grace and class Bud Wilkinson did that day to an awestruck little boy. He signed my copy of Riders of the Purple Sage. It's first page reads:

    "To Paul, a fine young cowboy I met on the Texas plains. Boomer Sooner, Bud Wilkinson."

    I never saw him again, but I have all the memories I need in that battered, yellowed copy of a cowboy tale I keep on my desk to this day. I walked into that bookstore a little boy, but left as a sportswriter. For that I can thank Bud Wilkinson, the finest gentleman to ever walk a sideline.

    That wasn't the highlight of my trip to Dallas, however.

    That would be the time I spent murdering the 35th President of the United States with a long-range rifle.

    Paul Finebaum's memoir will be released in full sometime in Spring 2014. PUBLISHER'S NOTE: as this is an early draft, some details may follow, and any similarities to the living or dead are purely conincidental. Follow him @finebaum on Twitter.


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  • 03/28/13--07:22: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 3/28/2013
  • Ncaasucks

    MARK EMMERT IS A HORSE. Or he might as well be after you read the full timeline of the Emmert era at the NCAA, which took another stellar turn last night when the Miami Herald reported that NCAA investigators lied to interview subjects in the Nevin Shapiro case. Oh, and the successor to the person who attempted to use Shapiro's attorney to the case did the exact same thing, something the NCAA did not mention at all in their report on misconduct in the case.

    The NCAA is a cheerleader for collegiate sports!

    HELLO MEATWAD. As despised as they are as a rival, this is quality work (and is also a doctoral project).

    HELLO SPRING. The azaleas are about to bloom, geese are passing over the house squawking on their way northward, and like the first daffodils to breach the earth's frozen crust, Steve Spurrier is talking shit at practice. Steve Spurrier's father lived until his nineties, and so will Steve because genes do not lie and sass is the original Fountain of Youth.

    IT WAS PITT. Yes, the hurry-up offense allows you to do things like run the same play five times in a row for a TD, but it helps if you're facing Pitt in their third year in a row in Birmingham.

    ETC. "The time a Bill Clinton impersonator performed 'It Wasn't Me' at the Apollo and destroyed the place." Woohoo, another season o'tanglin' and rasslin' in the hills of Harlan. There are so many clips of David Bowie on drugs, and this is one of them.


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    I know next to nothing about college basketball save this: even on the dismal curve of coaching fashion, the coaches of the indoor sport have the weirdest hair in the profession. Maybe it's long days, and maybe it's a Vitamin D deficiency, and maybe it's some quirk of the NCAA Men's coaching guild that no one, absolutely no one, will make other coaches look bad by paying more than thirty dollars for a haircut.

    At any rate, it's as good a way to predict the outcomes of the Sweet Sixteen's opening games as any, and your disastrous bracket is testament to that.

    Tom Crean: "The Superfriends"

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    There is a famous elementary school riddle that appeared once in an Encyclopedia Brown story. There are only two barbers in town. One sports a brilliant headful of carefully trimmed, immaculately composed hair. The other barber appears to have mange. The question for the reader is: which barber do you go to?

    The answer is "the barber with the bad hair, because he cut the other barber's very nice hair," but do not tell Tom Crean that because he goes to the other barber every single time. Tom Crean's hair is a mistake so bad it makes me trust him more as a coach, but less as a person, since only someone so myopically devoted to their craft could own a haircut so consistently insane.

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    That same hairstyle--a.k.a. "The SuperFriends"--has been worn by the following people throughout history.

    That is it. Tom Crean's hair is such a ghastly accident of hair and malice that only ten, perhaps twelve people in history have even worn it, since Tom Crean's hair has been awful wherever it has appeared throughout said history. It is the hair of a man you would trust with your life on a basketball court. It is also the hair of a man who might not notice the smell of natural gas leaking in his home because "he just thought the wife was cooking something weird."

    VERSUS:

    Jim Boeheim ("The Ivory Parenthesis")

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    Boeheim's hair is unspectacular in basketball hair terms since he's bald and merely resembles someone who's spent fifty or sixty years indoors hiding from the life-giving rays of the sun, or in other words "a college basketball coach." Do basketball coaches get the rickets? This is a legitimate question, since they probably could.

    ADVANCING: Tom Crean, because what the hell can stop THAT?

    Bill Self: "A toupee"

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    I did not know if Bill Self wore a toupee or not, so I did some research.

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    Fortunately, the internet as always has answers:

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    So Bill Self wears a toupee. It's on the internet. This debate is over.

    VERSUS

    John Beilein: "The Strawberry Veil"

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    John Beilein's hair is a threadbare pair of pants so near and dear to the wearer they can't let a few rips and threadbare patches spoil a great relationship. This is exactly the pattern of Beilein's hair in 1990, and he'll be damned if a little age and care has blown a few shingles off the roof. This should also answer the question of "Does Jim Beilein own underwear with holes in it?" Yes, yes he does, because a little ventilation never hurt anyone, and because they don't make jockeys like they used to, dangit.

    ADVANCING: Beilein, since this is a contest about hair, and Bill Self wears a toupee.

    Billy Donovan: "The Romanian Stole"Gyi0063904979_medium

    All former Rick Pitino assistants won their jobs because of two things: talent and performance in wind-tunnel testing. Bill Donovan basically has the hair of a Romanian mink, and by mink we mean "hedgehog" since most Romanian animals are just variations of hedgehogs. Sprinkle his spiny bristles over a boiling pot of milk at the apex of a full moon, and your crops will prosper within a fortnight's time. It is also bulletproof.

    VERSUS

    Andy Enfield: "The Peacemaker"

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    Andy Enfield of Florida Gulf Coast University is the ideal fit for the school located in Fort Myers for many reasons: he is young, he has no qualms about recruiting challenges, and uses the advantages he has while mitigating the weaknesses of FGCU's unique strategic position in the state He also understands the most important thing about Florida, which is that the ladies whose sons he recruits still find "George Clooney from 1997" to be the sexiest man ever born.

    That is why Andy Enfield, with the money he made from being a person of some vague importance in a health care startup, bought that very head of hair and had it grafted to his skull after taking the job. He's just that committed to winning.

    ADVANCING: Donovan, because bulletproof is the ultimate in sexy.

    Buzz Williams: "The Dancing Chiklis"

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    Buzz Williams has flair in a lot of other departments, but not hair. It's the Chiklis, most likely done in the locker room with the guard off while watching tape in a track suit. Buzz Williams has played Serbian gangsters in some of our finest action films and you are just now realizing how true this is.

    VERSUS

    Jim Larranaga: "The Biden"

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    Jim Larranaga appears to be all business, but wait--what--did I spy a bit of a spoiler on that otherwise sedate family sedan of a haircut? You can't quite see it in this photo, but in others you can definitely see some Joe Biden-esque mudflaps peeking out from behind the ears. There is business to Jim Larranaga, but there is also a bit of party, and that's how you end up coaching in Miami and driving a fine Cadillac with leather interiors and George Benson playing 24/7 for just that special lady, ladies. (His Cadillac is playing "Gimme The Night." There is no other option.)

    ADVANCING: Larranaga. (Ladies.)

    Rick Pitino:

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    Rick Pitino's hair is threaded mother-of-pearl. He cannot donate it to Locks of Love, since only his impossibly strong neck is capable of holding up its immense weight. A spoonful of it dropped on the sun would slash through the center of our galaxy in a second, turning our star into an immense flaming donut for an instant before reorganizing itself around the heaviest substance in the universe. It may still be naturally black due to its gravity absorbing all light pointed at it.

    VERSUS

    Dana Altman: "The pre-Beilein"

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    Just Beilein's hair ten years earlier in the progression to baldness.

    ADVANCING: Pitino, thanks to sheer density.

    Tom Izzo: "The Rehab Dad"

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    Tom Izzo's got the hair of a dad who just got out of rehab. He's got a lot on his plate--making it up to the family, paying off a few long-neglected bills, getting in touch with his feelings--so it's right back with the fingers, maybe a little gel, and then just back out there to take one day at a time. Rehab Dad is trying so hard, but he's not about to get twisted over a little thing like hair. Rehab Dad did make this ashtray for you while he was in the treatment center, though.

    [hands you a terrible ashtray]

    It's a sign of love. You don't smoke? Oh my god, Rehab Dad has so many things to do besides his hair, man.

    VERSUS

    Mike Krzyzewski: "The naturally pitch black"

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    Coach K's hair is a neat, orderly bike helmet of NATURALLY DARK HAIR that has in no way been touched by ARTIFICIAL COLORING OF ANY SORT. Artificial coloring would be the cosmetic equivalent of FLOPPING IN THE LANE and there is no way a Duke man would do either. Strictly natural in both instances.

    ADVANCING: Izzo, because Rehab Dad's all about effort.

    Gregg Marshall: "The Tunguska Crater"

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    His hairline looks like a section of the blast crater at the Tunguska blast, a scene of great violence and force that no one has ever really explained. If that's not Wichita State with a shot to advance to the Final Four I don't know what is, so this all works really well, Gregggggg with all the superfluous Gs.

    VERSUS

    John Giannini: "The Discount Clooney '04"

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    The older version of the Clooney, since evidently LaSalle does a bit of recruiting of Florida housewives, too.


    ADVANCING: Gregg Marshall, since he's already survived so much including his own haircut.

    Sean Miller: "The Emerald Isle"

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    When viewed from above it's clear Miller has Ireland for a haircut: a large body, and then a smaller section to the north separated by a border. Alternate titles: Continental Drift, The Big Mitosis, and the Rhinoceros.

    VERSUS

    Thad Matta: "Le Miniature"

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    My favorite thing about Thad Matta's hair is that it's like a normal person's hair that has gradually shrunk over time, perhaps after repeated dryings on high heat.

    ADVANCING: Matta, because even after Mom ruined it in the wash his wiglet still endures.


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    They told her a woman could never play sports. They told her that a woman especially couldn't play football, and especially not in the Lone Star State. They told her that even if a woman got on the field, she'd be a kicker, or maybe a holder at best. And if she somehow got snaps at running back, even? In the wildest of wild dreams? No way she could even get out of the backfield, much less while wearing a pair of bejeweled sandals and a form fitting purple formal evening gown.

    Peggy ran for 1300 yards that season for North Texas. She outran linebackers. She outran safeties. A time or two, she even outran an embarrassed DB.

    But most importantly, for one magical fall in Denton, she outran the flimsy barbed wire that fenced in minds across the Great State of Texas.*

    *We have no idea why the hell North Texas put a woman cuddling with a helmet on their 1970 media guide besides "boobs," but we bet this woman really did run for 1300 yards. HT: Seth K


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    Intro

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    Key Factors

    by Benjamin Miraski

    After two games of doing the impossible, Florida Gulf Coast is going to have to continue to do the same against the Gators on Friday night. For the third time, the Eagles will need to pressure the ball on defense and turn deflections in the passing lanes into transition baskets. Somehow they did this against Georgetown and San Diego State, two teams that don't turn the ball over. Then they met Bernard Thompson, one of the best at getting his hands in the way in all of college basketball.

    Andy Enfield's team also has to control the tempo and avoid getting trapped into Florida game. All it will take is pushing the matter from the start, much like they did against the Hoyas. Georgetown came out flat, and by the time they recovered, it was over. Florida usually doesn't let teams get the best of them early on, so the emphasis will be on Brett Comer to continue running the way he has since this Tournament tipped.

    M.O. and History

    by Benjamin Miraski

    Enfield - who was an assistant at Florida State, and knows this Florida squad well -- took over a team last year that was basically left for dead by the previous coach. But he sat each player on the team down and explained how he was going to change the culture in Fort Myers. This was a guy who had no prior coaching experience; these guys had to take it on blind faith that he could do it. He opened up every position on the floor to competition and a team that was 39-82 in its first four Division 1 seasons is now 41-27 in its last two years, and just missed having the chance to do this last year when they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. The combination of the lockdown defense, and the run and gun attack of #DunkCity has paid off.

    Ask the locals: Gators

    by Andy Hutchins

    Kenny the Enigma

    Kenny Boynton is Florida's all-time leader in minutes played and threes made, and is fewer than 100 points back of the Gators' official lead in scoring. (Vernon Maxwell holds the unofficial record because of his, er, versatility as a scorer.) But Boynton, an excellent defender and a smart slasher, is Florida's most frustrating player, thanks to the erratic nature of his imperfect shot and the frequency with which he launches it. If Boynton's hot, Florida can beat any team in a walk. If not...

    Close games and crises

    Florida is 28-7 in 2012-13, and it's 28-1 in games decided by double digits and 0-6 in games decided by single digits. This is used as proof of Florida's inability to close, and with little evidence to the contrary (Florida has staved off rallies, but come back from second-half deficits just twice, both times against Alabama), has become the foundation for the greatest concern about these Gators. Fortunately, Billy Donovan is 5-1 in Sweet Sixteen games; the chorus of "Can Florida survive a close game?" will likely be muted until a potential Elite Eight matchup.

    Cast of characters

    by Andy Hutchins

    Sherwood “Wood” Brown

    Loc’d Tone-Setter

    Florida Gulf Coast's dreaded sniper has some of the deepest brown eyes you will ever see, and has made five of nine threes in the NCAA Tournament. He's also shaken announcers' hands with minutes to go against Georgetown and shortly after beating San Diego State.

    Chase Fieler

    White Boy Who Can Jump

    Fieler has Gulf Coast's highest Offensive Rating, a product of fantastic 64 percent shooting on two-pointers that is partially fueled by ups that allow frequent throwdowns. But Fieler can stroke it, too, making 38 percent of his threes on the year.

    Brett Comer

    Heart and And1 Soul

    Comer's arm bears a tattoo with a verse he cobbled together from various sources entitled “Pursuit of Happiness”; it was inked in January, right around the third anniversary of the death of Comer's father. Comer plays with enough joie de vivre to make pursuing more a sublime task, feeding his high-flying teammates a steady diet of alley-oops and charging the rim on his own.

    Andy Enfield

    Mayor of Dunk City

    The confidence of Florida Gulf Coast's coach has his own backstory — one that has changed over the last 48 hours, but retains the fact of "tall former athlete marries model Amanda Marcum," easily spun as the first time in human history a jock has wedded an attractive woman. Never mind that Enfield recruited from the room where she gave birth, folks: He’s just a committed coach. His unflappability led him to record the highest free throw percentage in Division III history for Johns Hopkins, and has helped keep him confident in the face of the mighty Gators.

    Erik Murphy

    Beanstalk Bomber

    Murphy’s among the best three-point shooters in the nation, making 46 percent of his threes, and his quick release in catch-and-shoot situations combines with his height to make him Florida's most nightmarish matchup. Murphy also uses long arms and a 6’10” frame to help guard the rim, where Florida opponents take just 27 percent of their shots. (Florida Gulf Coast gets 44 percent of its shots at the rim.)

    Scottie Wilbekin

    Eternal Wunderkind

    Wilbekin has emerged as Florida’s finest point guard since Taurean Green in 2012-13, which is no small feat, considering his competition for the title is 2009 NBA Draft pick Nick Calathes and three-year starter Erving Walker. A defensive whiz, Wilbekin may switch onto and off of Brown and Comer all night, and his ability to penetrate and hit threes on offense will tax the Eagles. Oh, and he's a 19-year-old junior who turns 20 on the day before the 2013 Final Four.

    Announcers

    by Steve Lepore
    Steve Kerr says things, and that is literally all we know about Steve Kerr as an announcer.

    Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager have the call for TBS’ broadcast of the game. Not for nothing, but they’re probably the perfect broadcast team to call this one. Marv still has enough gravitas to announce any game he wants, while it allows CBS to keep Jim Nantz following the Dukies around as he is won to do. Plus, seriously, who else do you want following around a “isn’t it weird that this is happening?!?!?!?” kind of story than Craig Sager? Sager almost feels like someone who would’ve graduated from FGCU… if it had you know, existed when he was in college.


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  • 04/01/13--09:59: One night in Dunk City
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    A video billboard alternates advertisements for joint replacement surgery and affordable flights to Ottawa. Just down the same road an advertisement for personal injury baron lawyers Morgan and Morgan announces "LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE" over the roof of the Shoot Straight gun shop and firing range. Sitting at that same light, three cars in front of me bear license plate frames announcing their affiliations in order from right to left: Florida State, University of South Florida, and the University of Florida.

    An entire store on US 41 just reads: "Electronic Cigarettes: Parts, Accessories, and More." It is a freestanding store located next to Casual Male XL, a gold-buying exchange, The Money Store (check cashing and payday advances), and an animal hospital.

    Finally, booming over the parking lot of The Mattress City, stands a Florida Gulf Coast University billboard. In green and white, it reads DUNK CITY. That's the Mattress City just catty-corner from the Five Guys, and just down the street from your average fortress-like khaki groom's cake of a Walgreen's.

    This is Fort Myers, Dunk City, home of Florida Gulf Coast University and their basketball team.

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    The song playing on the radio on the drive into FGCU's campus is "Shots" by LMFAO. The campus itself is empty on a Friday afternoon, and resembles a very nice television high school, i.e. the kind that do not exist in real life because they are actually shot at places like Florida Gulf Coast University, and populated by thirty-year-old actors.

    There is a metal sculpture that resembles a giant pair of tweezers rising from the earth at its entrance. In 68 degrees of humid Florida spring, this is all very pleasant. When it is 98 degrees and hell's spotlight is blazing down from the cosmos, anyone standing within fifteen feet of it would be fried alive like chickens in a Tesla Coil.

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    The beach is the part you may have seen. Dude it's the school with a beach I've done everything wroooooong with my life. You may have, but how much any of that has to do with Florida Gulf Coast University's Lakeside Village is debatable. "The Light" by Common plays somewhere from a window. The buildings are pastel stucco, and indistinguishable from a thousand retirement communities or apartment complexes poured into existence across the state of Florida. One building bears a sign: "HONORS DORM."

    The beach is brilliant white sand trucked in from somewhere else. The lake is a brackish and surprisingly deep, and white cabanas flutter in the breeze across the lake. There is a subdivision with luxury homes across from the school, and a golf course past that, and then an open-air mall, and then six lanes of highway bordered by the random commercial activity that makes up whatever the Florida economy is.

    The music has changed to Kendrick Lamar's "Blow My High." Inner tubing on the lake is included with the cost of tuition along with paddleboarding and other watersports. Walking away and into the parking lot, a very earnest couple is having a discussion.

    Him: "What is it?"

    Her: "I'm so tired of you bashing my religion, that's all."

    It is the most nineteen-year-old discussion you could ever overhear. Both students are older than the school itself.

    FGCU's basketball arena was playing "In The Air Tonight" to no one in particular, so I checked my voicemail and found a voicemail from an FGCU official. There would be no place on campus to watch the game, so I should head next door to Gulf Coast Town Center, where various FGCU alumni groups had watch parties planned.

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    The part I was headed to was at Bar Louie. To get there you get off Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, and go past the Pollo Tropical and Super Target to hang a left at the JC Penney's (which is right in front of the Costco). Go past Belk's, the Verizon store, the Bath and Body Works, the Kay Jewelers, The Pita Pit, and the fudge store, and whatever you do don't make a right, because the Outback and the Carrabba's are down there, and both are absolutely packed on a Friday night. There's also a cigar bar down there: fat men with goatees and Tommy Bahama shirts sit in the chairs puffing away while their wives get destroyed on red wine.

    Pincher's Crab Shack, playing "Pink Houses" by John Mellencamp, is just down the way on the corner. It has a line out the door.

    Turn the right way, and head past the glow-in-the-dark putt-putt place and the Cold Stone Creamery and the t-shirt stands full of shirts with "BANDZ A MAKE HER DANCE" and "MOLLY IS MY HOMEGIRL" and the bar Blu where Tom Haverford would hang out if he lived in Ft. Myers, and there, across from the Ron Jon Surf Shop, is Bar Louie.

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    Florida Gulf Coast students exist. They are well-groomed people between the ages of 18 and 25 with good orthodontics and gym-toned asses, mostly commuter students from the Ft. Myers/Naples area. The groups of young men communicate exclusively in fist bumps and dated cultural references. Next to me, a group of guys say nothing but "Ba-ba-BOUIEEE!" in reaction to anything for the better part of an hour. The girls make high-pitched noises and run wedge formations through crowds to bumrush the bathroom.

    As a group, they seem to have a hard time deciding on precisely how to start existing as a group. They come to an agreement that they can collectively chant the initials of the school, and agree that "Fuck Florida!" is a compelling rallying cry. Besides that, there is no real coordination besides batting an inflatable gator around and cheering loudly whenever FGCU, rolling in the first ten minutes of the game, dunks home a lob or hits an improbable moonball three-pointer.

    At 8:27 p.m. the DJ decides the occasion has achieved Pitbull status.

    There are also just Florida Gulf Coast people: retirees with camp chairs, the kind who show up everywhere ready to sit with a camp chair and nod along at whatever is happening, fat men in track suits, confused thirtysomething women wearing cocktail dresses and makeup, teenagers giddy at the freedom of an open air mall on a Friday night saying "hey bro!" to anyone who passes. A pickup truck with a Confederate flag mounted in the back, two fishing poles leaning against the tailgate, a sticker that says "Bucked Up!", and two white boys no older than 25 with Realtree baseball caps on rolls past a group of booze-addled FGCU fans. They are blasting 2 Chainz and nodding.

    Local news crews have centered in on one man in particular, a leathery middle-aged man with a mustache, sport-fishing hair, and a Tommy Bahama shirt. (Another one.) His praying mantis-green Mustang has "DUNK CITY" emblazoned across the front, and a magnetic FGCU logo slapped on the side.

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    News crews ask him to re-enact his entry no less than twice. He obliges each time with a professional level of enthusiasm.

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    As incoherent as the Florida Gulf Coast fan experience might be -- watching a game in a super-sized strip mall with commuter students, lizards of the Southwestern Florida nightlife, camping senior citizens, families letting the kids run loose while they watch the big screen set up in the bandshell, and the lonely musician hired to sing "P.Y.T." over a drum machine in the pregame -- there are a few constants.

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    At every location where more than 10 people have congregated to watch a sporting event, there is a man wearing an Ohio State fitted cap. This fitted is worn backwards. This Ohio State fan will be loud. He did not attend Ohio State. He will triangulate his interest in the sporting event based on its relation to Ohio State's interests as determined by him and him alone. These interests will make no sense whatsoever, and will be defended loudly.

    As Florida clamps down and begins bogging down Dunk City with defense, the representative Ohio State random commences melting down. He screams "Fuck the Gators" long after the crowd settles into drunken detachment, throwing up his arms theatrically at every missed shot and turnover. "YOU SUCK!" accompanies every Florida free throw. He stands up, sits down, and fiddles with the arrangement of flatbreads and nachos nervously.

    When the end is near, he molts his Dunk City shirt and simply sits, semi-despondent in a black sleeveless t-shirt, waiting for the next warm breeze to carry him to another sporting even he could use to root against some hated enemy of the state he had not yet met.

    In other countries, these are the men who shoot children for dictators.

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    At 10:22 p.m., in front of the Charlotte Russe women's wear store, I see the first public urination incident of the night, a gawky student in shorts and a tropical print shirt. I ask him what he's doing. He answers: "Peeing. Yeah."

    If FGCU had won, maybe there would have been a mall riot. I would have gotten to see so many things I desperately want to see happen: a Bass Pro Shops looted, and then the ensuing battle over the Bass Pro Shops, war waged from the fishing section over to the camping gear, the savage fight for the high ground of the fake waterfall, the vicious rear guard action around the fish tanks, the hunting decoys watching the fight impassively from above.

    That didn't happen.

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    FGCU fans used police cars as a bench. A K-9 unit barked loudly from another. No fewer than 10 police officers surrounded two people arguing loudly about the definition of assault. Otherwise, the incoherent collection of people who came to watch Florida Gulf Coast play basketball melted back into the dark of a very dark night. It was anticlimax, but the climax for Florida Gulf Coast really came when they beat Georgetown. Most of the students I talked to hadn't been to a game all season, and sort of bolted awake when their team dunked their way into the national consciousness over a brand name.

    Like everything else in Florida, Florida Gulf Coast fandom didn't exist until it suddenly did, and then the rest had to be invented on the fly, and in a hurry. There was nothing, and then something, and in between something and a proper thing, they would have it at the mini-mall, and perhaps make t-shirts for the moment.

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    In the dregs of the game's second half I asked my host, a student at Florida Gulf Coast, if he knew about the university planning to add a body farm to their facilities.

    "A body farm? Like, with bodies?"

    "Yeah, where they just leave it out to decompose. Just bodies everywhere for research."

    "Dead bodies?"

    "Yup. On campus."

    He paused, and then nodded.

    "That'd be pretty cool."

    Star-divide

    More in College Basketball:

    Louisville's Kevin Ware suffers gruesome injury

    NCAA printable bracket: Final Four is set

    Chasing Cinderella: Dunk City, USA

    Steve Alford leaves New Mexico for UCLA

    Wichita State just latest mid-major to crash Final Four


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    Somewhere, Dick Vitale is silently cursing that door, and complimenting Duke on their willingness to try and dominate the glass.


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    Baseball's opening day is already off to a stellar start, mostly because Gio Gonzalez gave Adam LaRoche a special nickname just to mark the occasion.

    Yes, Gio Gonzalez did just use the nickname "Butt Commander" in front of the Nationals' home crowd. "HE JUST LIKES BARBECUE A LOT, that's what I meant," says Gio Gonzalez telling shameless lies to a reporter just scant hours later.

    UPDATE: SOURCE (like everyone on the internet) suggest Gonzalez is saying "Buck Commander."This makes so much more sense than "Butt Commander," but is not nearly half as funny. Sad emoticons go here.


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    Joker Phillips appears to have taught himself photoshop at Kentucky, and now stays up until three in the morning creating Instagram recruiting materials in the Gator football offices. This may surprise you, but Joker had to learn a lot of things at Kentucky: how to line his own field, how to boil his drinking water, how to shoot game, skin it, and make the footballs himself, how to negotiate with the boss of Bowling Green Willie Taggart for the borax from the Western Trail that kept the grass stains out of Kentucky's uniforms.

    You might think we're saying that coaching at Kentucky is basically like being in your own Jeremiah Johnson movie. This is exactly what we're saying, except that unlike Jeremiah Johnson's finale, the protagonist always dies in the end. Right now, Mark Stoops is sitting in a laundry basket beneath five feet of dirty towels in the Kentucky locker room, waiting for a grumpy bear to lose the new coach's scent trail and let him get back to washing the team's laundry.

    P.S. This is why he carved "JOKER WAS HERE" over the door, Mark. The Pacific is the ocean without memory, and so is Commonwealth Stadium but for stadiums.


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  • 04/02/13--08:23: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 4/2/2013
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    YOU'RE A BALLER. The trend of writing hundreds of handwritten letters to recruits does bring up the awkward question: what could a football coach possibly write to a recruit on the 98th letter that letters 1-97 did not cover? And might these all not be what one might call "clear in the signal-to-noise" ratio?

    Your suspicions, via recruit Michael Ferns III, are verified:

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    It's great that the art of the handwritten letter has returned in one form or another, but whether Tim Brewster--and that has to be Tim Brewster's zombie letters, still flying out the door from Miss State after his departure for Florida State--is the man to lead the way is clearly in doubt. But yes: the you're/your usage being nailed here does disqualify him from at least half of all internet commentary.

    R.I.P., JACK PARDEE. The former Houston coach is dead at 76 of gallbladder cancer. Pardee may be one of the few people to claim roots as a Bear Bryant disciple and a run 'n shoot practitioner, having been one of the original Junction Boys and leading the Cougars team that once hung 95 points on a post-NCAA evisceration SMU squad. Pardee was also a talented athlete, and conditioned himself by working in oil fields from the age of 14.

    FAREWELL IN SEARCH OF THE MISSING L, RUSSEL. The much-heralded Russel Shell will be leaving Pitt to search for the missing L in his first name and playing time, presumably. Leaving Paul Chryst's insanely running back-flattering offense seems weird, but this seems to be a case more of simply not fitting with the school/program than any one dissatisfaction. Sometimes that happens, and no one is at fault. (No really, sometimes it just happens.)

    THE SILKY TONES OF MARCUS LATTIMORE. Garnet and Black Attack got the man himself for a podcast, and he talks a lot about not eating like an idiot helped his recovery from a heinous leg injury.

    ETC: No, that's not a terrifying article about white supremacists at all, New Yorker.


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    Gameplay

    In honor of Football Manager 1888

    EA Sports is proud to announce the release of NCAA FOOTBALL: '31, the only game that lets you experience precisely what the greatest American game was like in the golden age of American football.

    Presented in glorious sepia-toned graphics, NCAA FOOTBALL '31 does more than just provide a unique twist on the wildly popular EA Sports' NCAA franchise. The game immerses the player in 1931, a time of great change and difficulty in America, and a time when America turned its eyes towards college football not just for diversion, but for hope.

    GAMEPLAY

    • Authentic single-wing, wing-T, Notre Dame Box, Maryland Smokestack I-formation, Hexane Monocot, Spanish Curlicue, and Terrified Catamount offenses simulate realistic playbooks from the era.
    • Passing rating is capped at 40.
    • Heinz Freeman is the only black player, and may not be used against teams from the Southeastern Conference. He is listed as "German tailback."
    • Juke button is replaced by "spike with rusty tetanus-laced cleats"
    • Realistic fatigue accounts for lengthy train travel, diptheria, fatal staph infections, socialism, typhoid, pellagra, and other common ailments of the time.
    • Everyone has syphilis.
    • Notre Dame has syphilis twice
    • Dust storms add realistic challenge in select, environment-appropriate matchups.
    • Referee Stray Rabid Dog provides unique perspective on rules as they were interpreted at the time.
    • "Ask Coach" option delivers a customized 4 minute eulogy after your player's untimely and unexamined death
    • If you are Notre Dame, this player never existed.
    • nU-GEN physics engine makes for incredibly realistic unexpected fires that break out mid-game and burn the whole town to cinders.

    RECRUITING

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    • Offer players pitches from the era itself: anti-anarchist initiatives, "buildings-with-roofs", the use of swift execution rather than gory death-by-example during practices, a veterinary hospital for football players' use, proximity to painted ladies of the carnival circuit, whores, opium, number of pool halls located within churches on campus, segregation, clean drinking beer in all fountains, autographed Billy Sunday books, autogyro rides, massages in the Turkish fashion, and threadbare rugs we found behind the local mob boss's house he said we could have.
    • Players may be paid up to ten dollars a week during season.
    ROSTER MANAGEMENT

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    • Cut players at will. (Note: previous editions of this game only permitted this when playing with Alabama.)
    • The only age limit is your imagination
    • Players may use treatments of the time including strychnine, cocaine, laudanum, heroin, the blood of the Hungarian, nail punch, cupping, bleeding, chloroform, and warm ferrets set over the injury for comfort. (Warning: ferrets are also rabid.)

    HEISMAN CHALLENGE

    • Compete for the award given to the best Army or Notre Dame player every year. Not win, but compete!

    CREATE-A-SCHOOL

    • Build your own dynasty by selecting a name, location, mascot, school colors, board member who is an industrial monopolist, on-campus serial murderer, and tradition based on an animal being beaten to death in public.
    SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
    • Authentic period mascots like the Army Black Knight, Oklahoma State's Throatslittin' Tommy The Tipsy Trainhopper, and USC's indomitable Clara Bow.
    • Over 78 authentic fight songs from the time, including "Killed A Settler For My Pa,""There's Always Work At The Poison Factory,""Shoo Bird, Women Can't Vote," and the Alabama classic, "Praise God Almighty (Thankful I'm Whitey and Live In A State That Will Vote By A Majority To Reject The Legalization Of Interracial Marriage As Late As The Year 2000 Probably)"
    • Accurate depictions of each stadium as it was, including LSU's infamous Death Valley and the snipers who earned it its fearsome reputation.
    • PA work done by a young Keith Jackson, known then by his birth name "Augustus Van Hickenbottom," and performed with a heavy Dutch accent he would lose with time.

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    Remember: like all fired coaches, Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice will show up somewhere else eventually. Let's all hope it looks nothing like this. (By @LSUFreek)


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  • 04/03/13--08:49: SURPRISE! IT'S A PODCAST
  • Crocodile

    One day you turn the corner and go through the waterslide and through the alligator's face and SURPRISE IT'S A PODCAST WITH JASON KIRK, OURSELVES, AND CELEBRITY HOT TUB.

    Topics of conversation covered: racist-ass Nolan Nawrocki and how Geno Smith does look sort of older and sleepier than he actually is, why Bret Bielema probably had sex with your mom and not even in a nice swingers' van, and how Tennessee has managed to hit every possible cliche at once in their spring practice news.

    Download here for direct listening, or just use the player above.


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    One quick note on the Selena Roberts story about Auburn. There are at least two references to how religious the McNeil family is, a crutch of the worst sportswriting in that it grants some kind of granted, loaded, and positive meaning to the word.

    We live in the most religious portion of the country, a place where a lot of people who self-identify as "spiritual" routinely have irresponsible sex with disastrous consequences, shoot each other over absolutely nothing, cheat on their spouses, stump for openly fraudulent businesses, write medieval gibberish into the legal code, and demand it be granted some kind of face value on the basis that someone goes to church. The best people we have ever known go to church. The worst people we have ever known went to church. Pardon us if the term has an ambiguous value at best with a data set showing little correlation between practice and theory.

    We're fine if you're openly religious, or if you're not, but for anyone writing accurately about a situation this is a descriptor that contains no demonstrable value. She simply wants you to take it for granted that being religious means something, just as half the sportswriters in the world took Ray Lewis' religiosity as a given unit of virtue without pointing out that Ray Lewis doesn't give a dime to charity. It is the same press that hasn't ever asked a single question about the Tebow family's work in the Philippines, and instead just assumes missionary work is a net good. (This is far from accurate: there's great missionary work, and disastrous missionary work, and a lot that falls in between. In Tebow's case, no one has ever bothered to look, or even ask. It's just taken prima facie.) This is the same press that bought the greased sainthood of Manti Te'o in some part due to his Mormon faith and Notre Dame's god-haunted mystique.

    A critical reader should not assume the word means anything. I grew up Catholic. In no way shape or form can you call me religious in any sense, but it does stick with us in a few ways. The most consistent one is an emphasis on action, and that belief without action is just pissing into a stiff wind and calling it a sunshower. Another is a lifelong focus on blood, violence, and the Old Testament, since that was the part we really enjoyed asking CCD teachers about. We were the worst CCD student ever, and apologize to our teachers for ever being there.

    The point is this: that if you want to demonstrate how good someone's character is, don't just give them a sticker. Show it, illustrate it, and give examples. Telling me someone has good church attendance tells the reader they can show up to meetings. Showing them doing something--like, say, adopting two orphaned children because they didn't want to split up siblings--means something to the reader. That's not even a matter of religion. It's good writing, and the difference between painting a portrait and scrawling out a caricature of a subject.


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    You may be coming to the Final Four to watch basketball. If you want to do that you will need to travel to Atlanta. You should also know things.

    Do not call it "Hotlanta."No one has ever called Atlanta this, at least not in the 21st century. Acceptable nicknames for Atlanta are:

    • The A
    • ATL
    • "Atlanta"
    • The City Too Busy To Hate
    • Not Birmingham And Thank God For That
    • Great Sports Town
    • Macon's Amazing Attic
    • The 404/678/770/Okay we have too many area codes

    How is an Atlanta? Founded in a Waffle House in 1847, the city of Atlanta bears the proud mark of being the only city formed and shaped by the "Free and Rowdy Party," a group of brothel owners and booze barons labeled "The party of militant disorder." Atlanta's first mayor ever was Moses Formwalt. Moses Formwalt was also the only Atlanta mayor ever stabbed to death, and made his money selling stills for shine-makin'.

    This explains everything one need know about the basic motivations of the city: stuff comes in, the people who sell it come with it and locals make money plying them with liquor and strippers and by booting their cars when they park badly. The rule is easy: don't park anywhere, ever. Remember this and you will be fine, tourist.

    DID YOU KNOW: Atlanta's traffic lights have not been synchronized for optimal traffic flow since the 1970s.

    What is an Atlanta? For your purposes, it will be the Georgia Dome, home of the Final Four this year, your hotel, and perhaps a few restaurants or attractions you can visit in the interim. There is a whole schpiel about Atlanta's oddball economy that goes here: we're the home of UPS, Delta, Home Depot and yes, Coca-Cola, but also the home of Adult Swim, the modern hip-hop-industrial complex and the pre-demolished look and convenient state tax credit that makes filming The Walking Dead here so plausible. They also filmed the Hunger Games sequel just down the street from my house. Jennifer Lawrence walks on two legs like the rest of us, and occasionally goes to East Atlanta to drink.

    DID YOU KNOW: Archer is made in Atlanta at Floyd County Productions. I saw Lucky Yates, the voice of Dr. Krieger, at Trader Joe's in Midtown the other day. He was buying expensive snacks and cheap wine just like the rest of us.

    Tyler Perry? We're sorry about that, but yes. On the upside: he does employ a considerable number of people here, so consider yourself an accomplice simply by passing through. You're welcome, and Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is in theaters nationwide right now. (Kim Kardashian's in it! Again, we're sorry!)

    Why is an Atlanta? It is a point of transit that got intentionally clogged, basically. Five million people live in the area, but only 432,000 or so live in Atlanta proper. This can give intown living a cozy small town feel. This is great if you are monogamous, and deeply problematic if you are not. I would like to thank people who have actually had sex for helping me with that last part of this preview.

    DID YOU KNOW: Famous stuntman and badass Dar Robinson base jumped from the Westin Peachtree Hotel in 1981 for the Burt Reynolds film Sharky's Machine? This explains a.) an entire generation of Atlanta children's fascination with Burt Reynolds and b.) I really just wanted to remind everyone that Dar Robinson was and is a god among men.

    What is in the suburbs? I have no idea, aside from a large chicken in Marietta.

    Wikipedia Commons

    How do I get to the Dome? If you are staying along a MARTA line, this is simple. The train runs right up to the Dome and will bypass numerous road closures downtown. If you choose to drive, this will be you:

    Bring whisky for maximum comic effect.

    DID YOU KNOW: The Centers for Disease Control houses some of the deadliest viruses and bacteria known to mankind, and does it all in a Level 5 laboratory located "somewhere inside the Perimeter." Gallons of turbo-plague and Turkish Blood Fever could be right under your hotel, for all you know. Sleep well.

    Can I get a taxi in Atlanta? It is debatable whether taxis even exist here. There are cars labeled "TAXI" that will occasionally pick you up on the street if you flag them down. Calling them works about half the time, if they can find you, and even then getting to a destination without handing them your iPhone is tricky. Cabs in Atlanta travel at two speeds: 15 miles an hour or 75 miles per hour. You may be asked to exit at either, so try to hit them on the slow cycle if possible. Carry cash, because credit card technology and using turn signals are both foreign concepts to ATL cab drivers. Try complaining about this! It's fun, makes your experience worse and changes nothing about the quality of your time here.

    Where should I eat/drink? For the most important section of this primer, we bring in ATL chef Eli Kirshtein:

    So, you’re coming to my fair town and you need somewhere to go? A place where you will stick out like a sore thumb as an out of towner, by continuing to refer to the city as "Hotlanta?"

    (Told you.--ed.)

    Well don’t worry! I’ve got you covered.

    For Big Tymers

    Restaurant Eugene: Amazing fine dining in Buckhead. If you’re ready to big ball it and get the luxury treatment, this is where to go! Great service, so you know you’ll get taken care of and have a great meal in a intimate environment!

    Empire State South: Want to play some bocce ball in a courtyard? Get overly competitive with a fellow out-of-towner till it reaches a uncomfortable point of no return, then hang out at a energetic bar, followed by sitting down for a great meal? This is the spot. In Midtown, a great place that does breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    The Spence: Located right next to the Georgia Tech campus, which will give you a reason to actually see campus, because, well sports really don’t help in that department. A fun, high-energy restaurant with playful and tasty food. Plus the chef wins the award for Most Committed to Looking like a Land Shark.

    For a more middle of the road experience (looking at you, Louisville fans who knew this was coming and were smart enough to start saving months ago)

    Ormsby’s: With indoor bocce and skee ball, as well as a strong beer program, this is a place you can come hang all day or into the night. Solid clientele that you don’t have to worry about anyone shanking you.

    Holeman & Finch: Right across the breeze way from the previously mentioned Eugene. Great bar with great cocktails. Plan ahead, place gets packed. And when you Google this restaurant you will find much ado about the burger. If you really want one, go to brunch. You have about as much of a chance of getting one at 10 p.m. as the Shockers do of winning this tourney.

    Brick Store Pub: Amazing and extensive beer list in Decatur Square, with a bar staff that really knows about the stuff. Getting ready to feel inferior about your tastes in beer!

    For those looking to visit the seediest, dingiest, nastiest places (looking at you, fan who way overpaid for a ticket on Craigslist in a fit of hysteria while watching your team win in the Elite 8)

    The Clermont Lounge: Where strippers go to die. With an average age of around 50 and an average weight around 250, this is the place to go late. Like really late. Ask for Blondie!

    Trackside Tavern: A place that is so evil, that even when it burned down, Satan rebuilt it still. Located in Decatur, and formerly know for serving booze way past last call. Good place to go after you are thoroughly boozed up at the Brick Store. Proceed at you’re own risk.

    Northside Tavern: A quite lovely place really. Trashy pool tables, live blues bands. Not a great date spot, but right down the road from the Dome.

    Seriously though, have fun, be safe, and take a cab because it's risky business in the A.

    Did he miss anything? I'd also recommend Homegrown on Memorial Drive for a laid-back brunch, the Highland Tap for subterranean frat-drinking in Virginia Highlands, and the Book House Pub on Ponce de Leon if you're feeling a need for luxury hipster drinking. If all else fails, pick a strip of bars and play the numbers in East Atlanta (home of the Earl, The Flatiron, and Midway Pub) or in the Virginia Highlands if you're wearing khakis. For the adventurous, try Church (A Bar!) on Edgewood.

    Oh, and barbecuistas should go to Fox Brothers BBQ, because you're probably going to end up there anyway. Fat Matt's is for peasants: avoid it.

    DID YOU KNOW: Ted Turner's penthouse is the one flying the UN flag on top of the old Bona Allen building downtown. Ted sometimes stands on the balcony, shooting middle fingers in all directions and grinning while wearing nothing but a onesie made of hundred dollar bills.

    Can I sing live karaoke with a metal band? Starting at 9 p.m. at the 10 High on Friday and Saturday nights, yes, yes you can. I recommend "Whole Lotta Rosie" for maximum crowd participation. It and the cigarette smoke you will encounter in any Atlanta bar are both free.

    Are there other, what is the word ... attractions? Yes, particularly if you're traveling with family and don't need anything too terribly far-flung.

    • The Georgia Aquarium is right there at Centennial Park, and they have a damn whale shark in a tank for your spectating and TWO species of adorable otters. They used to have seals, too, but I assume they escaped, and are currently pushing their latest mixtape on the steps of the Five Points MARTA stations.
    • The MLK Center is in the Fourth Ward neighborhood, and is worth the trip to go say hello to the man himself, an Atlanta native buried right there off Boulevard.
    • The High Museum, if you're into art and giant Guggenheim ripoffs.
    • The Children's Museum, also located on Centennial Park just by the Dome, is another low budget necessity for those wrangling children on the trip. It's not fancy, but it'll do the trick if you need to let children blow off steam.
    • Don't go to Underground. (What is Underground? It's nothing, don't go there. It sucks, forever and ever.)
    • Piedmont Park is a lovely walk/people-watching opportunity, provided the weather clears up. It also feeds right into the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which is another lovely way to kill time.
    • The Sweetwater Brewery is a fantastic place to see beer, and then put that beer in your stomach.

    I'm terrible at planning. Tickets? The scalper's market for Final Four and for events in Atlanta is a robust one. Bargain hard and you will prosper. If you're concerned about breaking the law--and scalping is illegal in Georgia when conducted without a resale license--know that buying tickets for face value is legal between unlicensed participants. That extra 20 dollars you gave the seller? Just a tip for quality service, officer.

    DID YOU KNOW: Atlanta rapper Guwop, aka Gucci Mane, is currently in the Fulton County Jail on assault charges. Say hello to him as you pass the ominous-looking structure on Garnett Street. There is a chance he may be able to simply walk out of the jail: several inmates did during the shooting of a T.I. video there several years ago.

    I've heard Atlanta is famous for, um-- The Cheetah is the mafia-ish strip club. Magic City is the one you saw on BET Uncut. The Pink Pony is located near the CDC's offices and is a favorite lunch spot for some of its employees. It's a middle ground between the previous two. The Clermont is more of a cultural experience than a strip club, and the Gold Rush and Foxy Lady are for seasoned explorers only.

    Also, there is a $350 license required of exotic dancers in Dekalb and Fulton Counties, so professionalism is the word. (Thanks, @strippertweets!)

    When I'm leaving, I should: Build in time for TSA at Hartsfield, since they're leisurely but generally very friendly, and also for a trip head to Terminal E for One Flew South and its duck tacos.

    DID YOU KNOW: The phoenix is the symbol for the city of Atlanta. It represents the city's rebirth from fire, and was chosen because it looks badass painted on the hood of a muscle car or donked-up Chevy Caprice.

    More in College Basketball:

    10 things you should know about the Final Four

    Rick Pitino's elusive title

    The 5 things that will decide Louisville-Wichita State

    Jabari Parker and Chicago's new basketball lineage

    Living and playing basketball with cancer

    Andrew Wiggins is the anti-LeBron


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