Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Snow Detected Falling From Martian Clouds

With the current paucity of relevant basketball news to discuss, Drive and Dish has been forced to broaden its focus to include non basketball (and even non sports) items. But that's not all bad. Sure, we're a basketball blog, but some things deserve attention regardless of their relevance to hoops.

Here's one such item: "NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has detected snow falling from Martian clouds."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Navy Upsets Wake Forest

On Saturday, Navy traveled to Winston-Salem, NC, and upset #16 Wake Forest. It marked the first time in 23 years that the Midshipmen have defeated a ranked opponent.

More here.

The Drive and Dish editorial board has a longstanding policy of attempting to remain objective with regard to our observations and commentary, despite the fact that our usual subject matter -- sports -- is known to be one of the most passion inducing subjects on Earth.

But, former Drive and Dish ACC expert Mark Buckets' Duke-centric musings aside, our typical editorial style presents opinion and commentary from the perspective of a relatively dispassionate observer (give or take a few personal admissions of sentimentality).

However, Drive and Dish throws objectivity out the window when it comes to the service academies. We don't hide the fact that we root for Army, Navy and the Air Force Academy.

No Division I student athletes are subject to a more rigorous combination of athletics and academics than the student athletes at the service academies. And the typical day at a service academy is so structured that student athletes have precious little, if any, free time. And the academies are anything but NFL or NBA "factories" -- each student athlete makes a 5 year military commitment upon the completion of his/her studies.

All of those factors make it extremely difficult for the academies to compete at the high Division I level. Which makes Navy's victory all the more impressive.

So congratulations to Navy. November 15, (the date on which Navy plays host to Notre Dame in Baltimore) seems like it's practically just around the corner.

(Photo: Baltimore Sun)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sacramento's Abdur-Rahim Retires

Sacramento forward Sharif Abdur-Rahim has announced his retirement from the NBA. Abdur-Rahim cited a recurring knee injury and his subsequent struggles to return to "the condition and level that is needed to play in the NBA" as his reason for leaving the game.

Abdur-Rahim played for four teams in his 12 year NBA career. He has career averages of 18.1 points (.452 FGs, .297 3FGs, .810 FTs), 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

(Image: Poster-Spezialist.de)


A couple of Drive and Dish readers have pointed out that, for the month of September, every Drive and Dish post has dealt with overwhelmingly negative subject matter: an athlete's retirement, the suggestion that an athlete should retire, athletes whose injuries will sideline them for the season, the death of a coach and the alleged bankruptcy of a major American corporation.

Apparently, some people sense that Drive and Dish has taken on a macabre tone and wonder if everything is all right in Drive and Dish land. Others, such as e-mailer (and deep thinker) "Jack Handy" and commenter "Wrigleyville Illini," have noted that Mark Buckets has not written on Drive and Dish for months, and are asking if I'm trying to send a subtle hint about the potential blogging retirement of Trashtalk Superstar, and/or the retirement of the Drive and Dish blog.

Interesting observations.

As for the answer:

Stay tuned.

Update II:

Apparently, my "answer" to the e-mailers' questions was a bit too cryptic. Fair enough. I guess it was pretty cryptic. But for the record, I wouldn't have instructed readers to "stay tuned" if I didn't intend to keep generating new content.

"Stay tuned" was intended to be coy, not cryptic.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Slate to Vince Young: Why Not Just Quit!?!

Stefan Fortsis of Slate.com has a suggestion for struggling Tennessee Titans' quarterback Vince Young: quit football. Even though Young, 25, is only entering his third season as an NFL quarterback, and even though it's not unusual for young NFL quarterbacks to struggle early in their careers, Mr. Fortsis thinks that Young might be best served by just walking away from the game.

Although Mr. Fortsis admits to not having ever met Vince Young, he thinks he's got his finger on the source of Young's struggles. In Fortsis' view, Young just doesn't like playing professional football. He cites the following as evidence of Young's distaste for the NFL:

"Last week, Young had to be prodded to return to the team's season opener after throwing an interception; missed a scheduled MRI on a knee he injured later in the game; mentioned suicide after leaving home without a cell phone but with a gun; and was questioned by Nashville police after going AWOL for four hours. Young's mother told the Tennessean that her "baby boy" had grown tired of criticism over his performance, and the newspaper said Young had told friends he didn't want to play anymore. (In the spring, Young told a writer he considered quitting after his rookie season. He also reportedly asked to sit out the second half of a playoff game last season."

In light of such troubles, Fortsis reasons, Young should consider making a clean break from the game:

"Quitting outright is a dramatic endpoint, to be sure. But it shouldn't be an illogical one. Maybe Vince Young just isn't cut out to play in the NFL. "I'm really much more amazed by the people who continue to grind it out," says Joel Goldberg, who was a psychologist for the New York Giants and other NFL teams for more than two decades. 'Honestly, the brighter ones quit."

Vince Young is probably the most physically gifted college quarterback, and most dominant college football player, that I've ever seen. And I've been following college football since I was pretty young (I may be from Chicagoland, and I may be a "basketball person," but since half of my family is from either Texas or the Southeast, I was heavily into college football before I ever caught on to basketball). I can remember as far back as the days when Bo Jackson (at least as far back to his senior season), Tim Brown, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, Peyton Manning and Michael Vick were collegians.

But Vince Young was probably the most explosive, instinctive and dangerous college football player that I've seen.

And that may, ultimately, be the nexus of his current struggles.

In college, nobody could stop Young. He was just too athletic.

Vince Young was so unbelievably fluid, agile and explosive that he could dismantle defenses all by himself. I can't count the number of times Young's heroics led Texas to improbable comeback victories, even when the Longhorns' opponents had jumped out to seemingly insurmountable leads. No opposing team's lead was safe when they were playing Texas.* Ask Michigan, Ohio State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and USC.** Vince Young could not be stopped. He could beat you with his feet and with his arm. And he was nearly impossible to sack. Vince Young was the Michael Jordan of college football.

But I suspect football came so easily to Vince Young that he never really had to learn to play quarterback. Despite his overall collegiate dominance, Vince Young's game had some noticeable deficiencies when he was at Texas. Even as he was slicing and dicing college defenses, scouts and commentators would wonder how Young's playing style would translate to the NFL. In pro football, quarterbacks are expected to stay in the pocket. Athleticism alone won't get a quarterback very far in pro football. No quarterback is going to overwhelm NFL defenses with his ability to run, as Young did to opposing defenses while at Texas.

In order to succeed in the NFL, a quarterback needs to have a firm grasp of all the intricacies of the position. But even the most NFL ready rookie and second year quarterbacks face a steep learning curve once they get into the league. Peyton and Eli Manning were raised to be quarterbacks (thanks to their father, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning). When they were in college, coaches didn't have to spend much time teaching them the finer points of the position. In fact, I can remember some of Peyton Manning's college coaches saying that it wasn't unusual for him to see things in the game film that coaches hadn't picked up on. But even though the Manning brothers entered the NFL having already mastered playing the quarterback position, they still took their lumps as young quarterbacks in the league.

My suspicion is that, because of Vince Young's extreme athleticism, he was able to breeze through high school and college without ever having to master the finer points of playing the quarterback position. And now that he's a starting quarterback in the NFL, it's catching up to him in a major way.

What's more, I'd be willing to bet that, prior to his arrival in the NFL, Vince Young had never experienced real adversity in his lifetime as an athlete. He's probably been so good for so long -- and as such, has probably been subjected to nothing less than god-like treatment (especially in Austin, where football players are worshiped at UT to such a degree that it almost must be seen to be believed) -- that he has no idea how to handle adversity. Because he's probably experienced nothing but success up to this point.

So rather than suggest that Vince Young quit football, Drive and Dish believes that Mr. Young would be well served to:

1.) Start spending more quality time with the sports psychologist

2.) Make a conscious decision to take this year's struggles in stride

3.) Resolve to learn from his mistakes

4.) Resolve to stick it out through good times and bad

5.) Resolve to dedicate himself to getting better in the off season.

Oh yeah, and it probably wouldn't be a bad thing if Vince Young would think about toning down the off season partying just a bit. And, just for the sake of appearances, it probably wouldn't hurt to think twice before partying shirtless and sh*t-faced (and possibly rollin' on ecstasy).

For the record, no matter how bad the photos look, I don't think that Young was really dancing shirtless at a gay club, as many sports bloggers and sports radio personalities have alleged. But that's beside the point. When you're a struggling starting quarterback of an NFL franchise, it's probably best to avoid the perception that you're an out of control partier, and that your affinity for the nightlife may be interfering with your ability to perform on Sunday afternoons.

* I am descended from an old Texas family (on my father's side) in which every reasonably suited young man and woman is expected to matriculate to UT Austin upon graduation from high school. As such, my family is filled with hard, hard, hard core Longhorns fans. And they're obnoxious as hell.

I did not matriculate to UT. Upon high school graduation, I chose to pursue intercollegiate athletics at a small Midwestern college. And I neglected to root for the LongHorns, or to exhibit any discernible inclination toward an affinity for the Horns. What's more, I failed to appear at a family function that was held in conjunction with UT's 1998 Homecoming game (family members -- including non Texas alumni -- were expected to be thrilled to get the chance to sit in the student section, with the guys in the ridiculous orange cowboy suits and Stetson hats, in order to show our loyalty to the 'Horns and to cheer for Ricky Williams and Mack Brown).

Since I'm anything but a 'Horns fan, I wanted no part of that scene.

As such, I'm the black sheep of the family.

And as such, I've spent a fair amount of time rooting for whichever team is playing the Longhorns.

For years, I was of the opinion that Texas was over hyped and overrated. And during the Vince Young era at Texas, I often had my suspicions confirmed when opposing teams jumped out to sizable leads against the Longhorns ... only to have my hopes of an embarrassing Texas upset loss vanquished by Mr. Young's late game heroics.

** Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and USC were opposing teams that jumped out to sizable leads against the Longhorns, only to have their hopes of pulling off an upset win over Texas vanquished by Vince Young's late game heroics.

(Photo: Slate).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

College Basketball's Tallest Player May Be Sidelined For Season

UNC Asheville's Kenny George is the tallest player in college basketball. But the 7'7," 360 lb center may have to miss his senior season.

George recently had surgery on his right foot. He remains in a Chicago hospital and is not expected to return to school this semester. George played a major role in UNC Asheville's basketball renaissance -- UNC Asheville had its best season in over 20 years in 2008 -- and he was named the Big South Conference's defensive player of the year in 2008.

George can dunk while standing flat footed.

Drive and Dish talked about George back in January.

For perspective on how huge Kenny George is, click on the picture below. George absolutely dwarfs the college basketball player of the year, North Carolina's 6'10" Tyler Hansbrough.

(Photos: Randy Lewis)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More RE: United Incident

On Monday, Drive and Dish looked at how an erroneous report that United Airlines had filed for Chapter 11 sent United stock plummeting. Tuesday, it was revealed that the Google News reader had picked up an old Chicago Tribune/South Florida Sun-Sentinel that detailed United's 2002 Chapter 11 filing, and had mis dated it as a current news story. Frank the Tank picked up on our post and asks what responsibility news aggregators have in ensuring that their content (including dates/time stamps, etc.) is accurate. Always interesting, Frank the Tank also raises the prospect of potential securities litigation resulting from the United incident (in addition to sharing some thoughts on the Chicago Bulls, Fighting Illini basketball, NFL salaries and Iowa Hawkeye football blogs):

"More disturbing, though, is a follow-up today about a squabble between Google and the Tribune Company (which owns both the Tribune and the Sun-Sentinel), where it appears that the Google News engine put Monday’s date on the old Sun-Sentinel story. Thus, this shock to the markets appears to have been caused by a news aggregator putting a wrong date on a link. If you’re an investor like me, the speed with which the market reacted to what turned out to be an old news story is absolutely frightening ...

It’s clear that there are journalistic standards that news organizations need to stand by in terms of getting stories accurately reported. However, what obligation do news aggregators, who are in essence posting links from those news organizations, have in terms of ensuring that the date and time stamps to those links are correct? The United scenario that played out on Monday has probably just opened up a whole new area of the securities litigation - shareholders that saw their stock dive as a result of wrong date and time stamps might have some ammunition against Google and other news aggregators. Whether those shareholders could actually prove that Google and other news aggregators have some type of legal duty to the general public with respect to checking these date and time stamps, though, is another matter that can’t be answered at this time."


Slate's "Explainer" answers a poster from the Yahoo! Finance Message Board who lost $19,000 and asks "WHO THE HELL DO WE SUE?":

"(I)f it's damages that United, or anyone else, is seeking, good luck. The law provides strong protections for Internet linkers, which seems to exonerate Google, Bloomberg, and Income Securities Advisors. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 unambiguously states, "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." What about the original source of the news, the Tribune Co.? Yesterday it acknowledged that the link to the 2002 bankruptcy article was indeed pushed to the "most viewed" list on the Sun-Sentinel's site, which caught Google's eye. But despite this admission, the threshold for libel is pretty high. There has to be malicious intent, and mere negligence isn't enough. Public entities like United (as opposed to private individuals) generally have an even higher threshold; reckless indifference is not enough."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bogus United Airlines Bankruptcy Report Surfaces

On Monday, a report that United Airlines had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy surfaced in the search results section of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's website. After Bloomberg picked the story up, United stock plummeted more than 75 percent -- to $3.00 per share from Friday's closing price of $12.30 per share.

But the Bloomberg report was false. United did not file for Chapter 11 today. United filed for Chapter 11 on Dec. 9, 2002 -- three months after two United planes were crashed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And United exited bankruptcy in 2006.

The story that Bloomberg reported today was a republished version of a Chicago Tribune article that originally ran on Dec. 10, 2002. The article gave a detailed account of United Airlines' 2002 filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and its strategy for emerging from bankruptcy. According to Tribune Co.:

"(A)n investigation into the events showed that the story was apparently picked up by an investment advisory and research firm and republished as though it was current. "The story contains information that would clearly lead a reader to the conclusion that it was related to events in 2002. In addition, the comments posted along with the story are dated 2002.

To be clear, no story appeared today or over the weekend on the Sun Sentinel Web site or any Tribune Web site regarding United Airlines' filing for bankruptcy."

The Internet is a fantastic innovation. It allows information to be disseminated in real time. And anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection can, theoretically, influence public consciousness on every subject imaginable.

But while I love the fact that the Internet has democratized the distribution of information, I think that people who disseminate information online have a responsibility to make sure that their information is accurate. Professional news organizations are doubly responsible in my book. After all, the people who work at those institutions are actual journalists. And journalists, columnists, editors, publishers and producers from "old media" news organizations -- whether print or broadcast -- rarely miss an opportunity to deride bloggers, podcasters, and "citizen media" participants for their lack of professional journalistic standards.

Drive and Dish is a small blog with a fairly small reach. We focus on very limited subject matter. But we go to lengths to make sure that everything we publish is accurate. We research and fact check our posts extensively before they appear on the website. The last thing we want is to be guilty of disseminating false information. And the fact that we're a small, independent blog makes such vigilance all the more imperative.

That a news organization of Bloomberg's stature would be in such a rush to report news that it would neglect to thoroughly check the veracity of that news is troubling, yet not entirely surprising. I like Bloomberg news. I even read their site from time to time. But they wield a great deal of influence. Today's events don't reflect favorably on them.

And they're hardly alone. The New York Times -- the self described arbiter of "all the news that's fit to print" -- was hit hard by scandals (more here, and here) which stemmed from the paper's brazen publishing of false information. And don't forget that nearly every major American news organization grossly misreported on, exaggerated and sensationalized the nature of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina.

Mainstream news organizations publish false information all the time, but rarely do they suffer serious consequences for their less than conscientious reportage. Yet, that doesn't make sloppy journalism O.K. United Airlines' stock dropped like a rock today. One of America's corporate titans took a major hit because of a false news report that originated on the Internet. And United shareholders got the brunt of the punishment.

The bottom line: the Internet has revolutionized the global flow of information. It's been a total game changer for the news business. But news organizations have a responsibility to ensure that information they distribute is accurate.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Legendary Texas Western, UTEP Coach Haskins Dies

Legendary former Texas Western men's basketball coach Don Haskins died Sunday at age 78. Haskins changed college basketball's landscape in 1966 when he started five black players against Adolf Rupp's all white Kentucky squad in the NCAA's National Championship game. At the time, few southern college basketball teams fielded black basketball players (although black players were common in the north). Starting five black players was revolutionary.

Tiny Texas Western's improbable National Championship victory over Rupp's Kentucky juggernaut changed college basketball forever. Don Haskins will be forever immortalized as the man who changed the game.

Haskins retired in 1999, after 38 years at Texas Western/UTEP (Texas Western became the University of Texas at El Paso) with a career record of 719-353. In addition to his 1966 National Championship, Haskins' Texas Western/UTEP teams went to fourteen NCAA tournaments and to seven NIT's. In retirement, Haskins briefly served as a special adviser for the NBA's Chicago Bulls.

Upon hearing of Haskins' passing, Bob Knight said:

"Don got more out of his teams and players than any coach who has ever coached college basketball..."

"The word unique does not begin to describe Don Haskins," Knight, the winningest men's coach in the sport's history, said Sunday. "There is no one who has ever coached that I respected and admired more than Don Haskins. I've had no better friend that I enjoyed more than Don Haskins."

Texas Western's 1966 National Championship team is pictured below. Coach Haskins is in the top row, to the far right.

Brady Out For the Season

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee today. He will miss the remainder of the 2008 NFL season.

The injury occurred when Brady was tackled by Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard. As Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports reports:

"Brady was hurt as he stepped up in the pocket to make a throw to wideout Randy Moss. Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard, who was on the ground, lunged forward and struck Brady’s leg, which buckled as he released the ball."

Silver quotes an unnamed team source who said:

“It’s bad. We’re going to have to play without him.”

Just looking at the above photo of Brady's lower leg twisting in the opposite direction of his body is enough to make me uneasy. I've suffered two different ACL tears and when I see somebody's leg twist unnaturally, I get the chills.


The feeling of having your knee snap is hard to describe. You definitely feel the tear, or snap of the ligaments in your knee. But you also feel the meniscus and bone moving against each other in unnatural ways. And it's audible. But if you haven't done it, you can't really appreciate what I'm trying to convey.

Just trust that it's bad. Really, really bad.

I'm not a huge fan of Tom Brady's (although, don't misunderstand: I don't particularly dislike him, I'm just kind of apathetic about him), but I definitely sympathize with him today.

Here's to hoping that Tom Brady makes a quick and thorough recovery.