Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kansas City trip

I really enjoy Kansas City as a city. There is a reason I picked that as the place for my bachelor party. It is a city that has great BBQ, friendly people and a great ballpark. This was my first time in Kansas City for a Twins-Royals series and hopefully it won't be my last because another great thing about KC is that the Royals are usually very accommodating to the visiting teams. Anyway, I won't do a complete rundown of the weekend, but I will provide some rankings

BBQ rankings
1. Oklahoma Joe's -

There was an hour long wait and it was definitely worth it. This is some seriously great BBQ and deserves to be mentioned as one of the 13 places to eat before you die. I have been there twice and I have loved the food each time. For those of you who don't know this is a BBQ place on the Kansas side of Kansas City and the unique thing about it is that it is located in a gas station. I enjoyed everything I ate there and would recommend a platter so you can sample the ribs and burnt ends.

The ribs were cooked a little too long and thus fell off the bone too easily, but I really enjoyed the sauce and side items. Any BBQ place that serves fried okra gets an added bonus in my rankings. Also, the people there were very friendly in a way that would expect from Kansas City. The two friends I went with gave this high marks. Finally, the prices were very cheap at this place.

3. Gates -
Despite the locals suggestion of this place, it fell short in my mind. The BBQ was good and I enjoyed the extra kick in the sauce, but overall I wasn't all that impressed. The ribs left me disappointed as I felt like they weren't tender enough. It really was quite the contrast to compare Gates in the evening to Oklahoma Joe's the next day.

Final point - Out of my 3 times to KC I have been to all of the places above and also the famous Arthur Bryant's. I would have to put Arthur Bryant''s behind Oklahoma Joe's, but ahead of Rosedale's in my all time KC BBQ ranking.

Casino ranking - Overall it was a good weekend for all of us as we all won money.
  1. Diamond Jo's casino right across the Minnesota border in Iowa. We all decided to go to this random, small casino to test our luck for the trip. We went with the strategy of betting a lot of money and hoping for the best of a small sample size. All three of us put $20 in each for a total bet of $60. I went up first and lost 21 to 20. We walked out and decided to try out luck again. Soumen went up and lost another $60. We walked out again and then again decided to try our luck one more time with Brian. The 3rd time was the charm as we won and then won a few more hands. Overall we ended up winning $55 from this place. The reason it received #1 in the rankings was the fact that it looked like we stopped the place by betting $60 blackjack hands. The dealer was very friendly and we were pretty sure that if after talking to the pit boss he would have comped us a room in lovely Dubuque, Iowa.
  2. Harrah's in Kansas City. This was a typical big city casino, but the dealers and patrons were friendly and we all seemed to do pretty well.
  3. Terrible Casino right outside Des Moines. After our luck at Diamond Jo's we went to another casino to try our big, quick bets again. Again we did well including one bet where we had $82 on the line and doubled down to win $164 on a dramatic hand. Despite this luck I didn't like the feel of this place, the dealer or the other person sitting oat our blackjack table. Of course winning tops everything else, but unless they could guarantee wins then I don't think I would go back to this place.
Drink ranking - As a nice gesture I bought everyone who came on the trip a bottle of liquor that I thought they would like. Below are the rankings of everyone's opinion.
  1. Grey Goose - Who knew that vodka was going to be the most popular choice in what I assumed was a bunch of whiskey drinkers? All I know is that there is only a little bit of vodka left in this bottle.
  2. Ardbeg 10 year old Single Islay malt scotch whisky - This was the scotch of the year based on this whisky bible. Also, the guy at the Edina Liquor store recommended this as his favorite and something he said was much better than any of the Johnny Walkers. Both Johnny and I enjoyed this one.
  3. Jack Daniels Single Barrel - Nothing too spectacular, but a solid whiskey. I don't know if I could tell the difference between this and normal Jack Daniels. I like both, so I guess it doesn't really matter that much.
Things to do in KC ranking
  1. Kaufman Stadium - Still my favorite stadium in the MLB despite the fact that they replaced my favorite KC cheese steak sandwich with a good (but not as good) KC cheese steak wrap. Also, I didn't like how it rained for every one of the 12 innings, but I guess that isn't really Kaufman Stadium's fault.
  2. Power & Light district - It was little bit more dead than the last two times I went, but still it was pretty fun. One of my favorite memories was watching the Jazz destroy the Nuggets in Game 3 at the Maker's Mark bar with a mint julep in one hand a cigar in the other.
  3. BBQ - I think I have written enough about this, but it really is just better in Kansas City.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wedding Update - RSVPs

The wedding invites have been sent out and we are in the process of collecting back the RSVPs. From the responses we got back it is looking like we are going to have a slightly smaller wedding than originally expected. Our target number was 150 and the current estimate is 137. There have been a few more people that couldn't come than originally expected. This was somewhat expected since Columbus is not a very convenient for people in Minnesota or Mississippi. I think that any number between 100-150 will be a good size for our wedding. We didn't need one of those 300+ weddings where you don't even know a lot of the guests.

One thing about the invites that I have found to be noteworthy is the finality of it. It is almost like you draw a line and on one side are "people invited to the wedding" and on the other side is "people NOT invited to the wedding." The people invited are the glorious friends and family members that made the list. Feel free to call, email, text or communicate with them in anyway. You can feel comfortable talking about any details about the wedding and when the wedding is over I am sure that you will no doubt show them the pictures.

The ones that are not invited to the wedding though is a different story. On this list could be former great (best?) friends, roommates or even new friends who you just recently met. This list seems so final. It is almost like you had always said to yourself "sure *Francisco and I don't really talk any more, but maybe someday will get back to being friends." Now with the wedding invites it is almost as if you have given up all hope of them being your friend again. You have come to the realization that that friendship has run its course and you just have to move on. In my mind it is the closest thing to a "breakup" that a friendship has since one breaks up with significant others, but doesn't really do the same with friends.

*I'm watching Liriano pitch against the Tigers right now and obviously didn't want to use a real name.

Anyway, I still hold out hope that under different circumstances that some friendships can be regained. If that day comes I hope that they are ok with the fact that they weren't invited to the wedding. My guess is that it isn't nearly as big of deal to them as it is to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dolphins 2010 Draft preview

There are only a few more hours until the first round of the NFL draft starts up and I wanted to get my thoughts down in writing. This way looking back years from now people can either praise my genius or laugh at my analysis. I think it is a 50/50 coin flip on which way this analysis will go because unlike the NBA I don't pretend to be that knowledgeable about the NFL draft. With the NBA draft I have the luxury of statistical analysis combined with plenty of hours watching college basketball. I don't have same two luxuries with the NFL draft, so mostly my analysis comes from what I read and what I know about the Dolphins. With that disclaimer being written here is what I am hoping from the 2010 draft for the Fins.

Option 1 - Trade down. Take the 12th pick in the draft and move down in the 1st round by picking up another 2nd round pick.

Option 2 - Draft Rolando McLain. I know they already have high priced free agent Karlos Dansby, but I still like the idea of drafting a good SEC linebacker in the 12th spot. It kind of reminds me of 2007, when Patrick Willis went 11th to the 49ers.

Option 3 - Draft Dan Williams of Tennessee. I don't normally like drafting defensive tackles in the first round, but the Dolphins really need one and this seems to be the guy that might still be available for Miami. I honestly have no idea if he will be any good and I wouldn't want to be the one drafting him, but everybody else seems to think this pick makes sense. This is assuming he is even still available.

Option 4- Draft Earl Thomas of Texas. The Dolphins need safety help and Thomas could be a good fit with their young cornerbacks.

Other than that I would like it if the Dolphins took a Mississippi running back (Anthony Dixon or Dexter McCluster). We will see how the draft turns out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Twolves - Warriors

This is a pretty exciting sports week. Monday was the national title game. Today, I am sitting in $200 face value lower level center row C seats for the Warriors-Twolves game. Tomorrow is the big Frozen Four matchup on ESPN 2 between Miami University and BC. Then hopefully on Saturday I will be watching Miami take home the National Title in hockey. I have already written about Monday and there will be more to come from the hockey game(s). Right now my focus is on the Twolves-Warriors game in a few hours.

While this game between two of three worst teams in the NBA probably falls low on the priority list for most sports fans I am excited. In fact I sent out a list of reason to my friend who I finally convinced to go see an NBA game about the reasons I am excited for this game. To recap below is the list:
  1. If the Warriors win Don Nelson will have the most wins of any NBA coach in history.
  2. Stephen Curry - My 2nd favorite person who ever attended Davidson is extremely fun to watch and someone who I marked my calendar to go see this year. It is too bad the Twolves didn't have a chance to draft Curry. (Inner thoughts: wait....they did.....and they passed over
  3. Our seats. The best thing about the Twolves also happens to be one of the worst things about the Twolves. People don't care. I have already been offered the company suite by two different people who can't find anyone to go to the game tonight. That means people would rather stay at home than go see a game in a suite for free. This leads to a buyer's market in the scalping community, which led to us getting the $200 row C seats for $28. 14% of face value is a good and common deal with the Twolves.
  4. Golden St. is the top ranked NBA team in terms of pace. #3 on that list are the Twolves. We should see an up and down game tonight.
  5. We get to see player who was once judged and drafted as a better prospect than Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
  6. We get to see the same player (Darko Millic) start over the Twolves most productive player (Kevin Love).
  7. Mississippi connections - Monta Ellis (Lanier High) and Al Jefferson (Prentiss High) are two of my favorite players especially considering I saw them play in high school.
  8. Corey Brewer - The guy plays like it is Game 7 of the Western Conferance Finals. I love the effort from a player on a team going no where.
  9. The Twolves have won 10 games all year at home. They are not that far off from the Nets record. And they are favored in the game tonight.
  10. Anthony Morrow of the Warriors is 5th in the NBA in 3 point shooting. (I had to reach for the last one).

Really I am most excited about seeing Curry. I brought my camera, so hopefully I can send pictures out later.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Duke - Butler

Congrats Duke. There will be time to write about Butler and the game they played, but first off I want to send congratulations to Scheyer, Smith, Singler, Thomas, Zoubek, Dawkins, Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, Coach K and the rest of Duke's team. It is rare for a team to reach their full potential and take advantage of every ounce of talent, but this year's team did. They are the 2010 national champions and nothing can change that. I am proud of how they played and how they carried themselves this year. Congrats.

I know that 98% of the people that were watching the game last night probably wanted Butler to win. I followed ESPN's live chat and read comment after comment about how much someone either A) wanted Butler to win or B) wanted Duke to lose. I received a text from a future groomsman with the following question and answer "What percentage of America do you think is rooting for Duke? I think it is their student body plus you." This was after reading articles about either why you should hate Duke or why you shouldn't hate Duke. It was as if the sport of basketball had been replaced with a vote on who would make homecoming court. The answer was crystal clear that Duke was not the popular girl at homecoming.

Butler played well, but Duke won. You should know that by now even if some people (ex.Pat Forde) have seemed to focus more on the Bulter part than the Duke part. I mean I get it. They were the underdogs. They filmed Hoosiers at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The fact that CBS even played the Hoosiers theme before a late TV timeout made it clear that Butler was the story of the game. Well, the game is over and the score at the end of the game was 61-59. Duke won and I am going to celebrate that. I am going to buy as many things as I can that say Duke 2010 NCAA champions on it. I am going to enjoy this victory. There is no reason for me to feel like I should walk around having to apologize for being a Duke fan and for Duke winning last night.

Since the title of this blog starts off with the word "Thoughts" I might as well continue with the theme and give you my quick hits on the game.
  • The first half was almost more emotional to me than the 2nd half. After the West Virginia game I really thought Duke was going to do the same thing to Butler. The first half was a close, slugfest that made my original prediction look incredibly wrong.
  • Things that concerned me most in the first half was the offensive rebounds that Butler was getting, the poor foul shooting and the fact the refs were letting a lot of contact go uncalled.
  • People can and will always complain about the refs. Even after the West Virginia game people were complaining that Duke got all the calls. It is as if some people just copy and paste the same comment after every game. The fact that some people (including one person at work today) said the refs handed Duke the game last night is absurd. The refs were all over the place on a lot of calls and I can't say the favored one team or the other. I do know that the way they were refereeing (letting the physical play go uncalled) favored Butler. The only way that Butler could matchup with the size of Duke's post players and the skill of their guards was to hit, bump, grab and basically make things as difficult as possible for Duke to run their offense. The refs let that go....which is fine since you don't want to see a title game ruined by disqualifications and sloppy play because of too many whistles. However, if you want to bring in the argument that Duke got all the calls in a game where the free throws were almost even then I am going to have to disagree with you.
  • One last disagreement on the refs and I will leave that alone is that Singler got fouled on a moving pick by Howard right before Hayward shot that half court shot. One person asked me today about what I was thinking when the shot was taken. My answer was that I wasn't even thinking it was going to count because I was waiting for a whistle to be called on that blatant moving screen. I mean Howard would have been called for a 15 yard penalty if that was football and he was a safety hitting a wide receiver. Joe Posnanski wrote about that shot in his post Magical game comes down to last shot and Duke earns greatness - "Butler's Howard set a crushing pick on Singler, a certain foul except no referee is calling a foul there."
  • M has never watched a National Title game for a team I cared about with me before last night and she might never again. I am an emotional wreck during most games, but a game for the National Title is another level.
  • Coach K did a great job recruiting, motivating and leading this team. He deserves the accolades from winning his 4th title. However, let this Duke fan make it be known that he got owned by 33 year old Brad Stevens last night. It wasn't quite the coaching mismatch that Coach K had over Bog Huggins, but coaching was not in Duke's favor last night.
  • Stevens crafted a defensive game plan that was genius. In the 2nd half it became clear that Duke's Big Three weren't going to be able to breathe against Butler' defense. The strategy from Stevens was clear. Let Thomas, Zoubek, and the Plumlees do whatever they want and face guard the other 3 Duke perimeter players. It was as if they weren't even guarded Duke's bigs and just hoping that they would shoot the ball. Coach K never adjusted and never had Duke do anything besides the same offensive sets where Singler and Scheyer would run themselves around screens trying to get free while Smith dribbled the ball as the shot clock winded down. It was predictable and with Butler's incredibly talented defensive players it was unsuccessful for Duke.
  • Nolan Smith led this team to the title game. The games he played against Purdue, Baylor and West Virginia should make anyone's highlight reel from Duke's run. However, in the title game he played a below average game. He dribbled the ball too much and never really found his shot. He was 5-15 from the field, 1-5 from three and only 2-5 from the line. His biggest play was the missed layup with 1:18 left in the game and Duke with a 3 point lead. He makes that gimme layup and we might never have to discuss the two Hayward shots missed at the end.
  • Hayward might look like a baby face, but he was one of the most physical players on the court last night. One play he just shoved Lance Thomas out of the way and got the offensive rebound. It is hard to imagine him not making it in the NBA as at least a rotation player.
  • If you would have paused either of those last Hayward shots in the middle of them I would have bet a lot of money that they were going to go in.
  • Zoubek: Great defense and rebound at the end of the game.
  • I would have liked to see Mason Plumlee and Andre Dawkins play more in the game (and this season), but it is hard to argue with the result.
  • Singler played well this tournament (excluding the Baylor game) and if his goal is to go as high in the draft as possible then he should leave now. His stock is never going to be higher than winning the MOP for a title winning team. I have my doubts of him being a pro player and I would want him to stick around to help Duke go for back to back titles, but I can't fault him if he goes pro.
  • Jon Scheyer - Can you be a great, underrated Duke player who won a National Title? He is someone who have really enjoyed watching over the 4 years and it will be sad to see him leave Durham.
  • Do you think that Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts were watching the game together and thinking that should have been them? In 2005 they were the 11th and 2nd ranked players high school seniors and both were going to a Duke team that was only a year removed from the Final Four. Things didn't work out as well for them as UNC's recruits that year; Tyler Hansbrough (10th), Danny Green (31st), Marcus Ginyard (38th) and Bobby Frasor (51st). Somehow I think this title was even more appropriate after the end of that recruiting error had finally graduated.
  • Class move by brother in law with the text "Nice win. Enjoy. Parity returns to Tobacco Road next season."
  • The level of respect between Duke and UNC should increase now. Both have their titles. Both have arguments in the rivalry now. I no longer feel like the red headed stepchild (ie NC State) of North Carolina.
  • If you were wondering what way this post could have gone please read this article (warning: not for anyone who is sensitive about cussing) from a Duke blogger. This Duke blogger is somebody who defended Tyler Hansbrough.
  • I will have to rewatch the game some time to see what else happened. Last night I spent a good portion of the 2nd half either pacing around, curled up in a fetal position or on the floor. The on the floor part was during the last shot.
  • It was nice counting the $$$ I made from one pool that I picked Duke to win it all in.
Anyway, I know this is cheesy, but I had to take a few pictures from the TV coverage last night. Congrats Duke. 2010 National Champions.

Monday, April 5, 2010

9 years ago

Nine years ago at this time I was 18 and applying to college. I remember vividly going to Oxford, OH and seeing Miami University and deciding that was the place I wanted to spend the next four years of my life. I remember watching the Elite 8 game between Duke and USC with my Mom from the comfy Oxford Inn. That was a good trip and a good game to watch. In fact looking back on it 2001 was a pretty great year with high school graduation, going to Miami and Duke winning it all.

Now of course you know where I am going with this post. Today Duke plays Butler for the national title. Duke is going for their first title since I was an 18 year old considering Miami for college. The strange thing is that the feeling I am getting is more 1999 than 2001. In 2001 the game between Duke and Arizona was a toss-up, but in 1999 the Duke-UConn title game was considering a sure thing for Duke. I remember walking around the halls of St. Andrew's that Monday with an extra pep in my step. I knew that Duke was going to win that night. I mean they had a team with 5 early first round draft picks on it and had won all but one game. It didn't matter who they were playing in my mind. Of course we now know that UConn led by Ricky Moore and Richard Hamilton pulled off the upset.

Now, you can see what I am feeling like it is 1999 all over again. This year's Duke team is not nearly as good as the 1999 team, but this year's Butler is not nearly as good as that UConn team. Duke (like then) is a big favorite. Unfortunately you don't get any extra points at the beginning of the game because you are the favorite. Duke is going to have to hit some 3s, stay out of foul trouble and limit Hayward (Rip Hamilton?) from having a career night. If they do that they will win the game. Like most people I think that will happen and I think Duke will win the game 72-58. Of course I thought the same thing back in 1999.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Duke - WVU

It has been a long time since I saw Duke play a better game than what happened last night in Indianapolis. It was nearly the perfect game and the perfect way to win the game. For those who watched the game the obvious negative from the game was the injury to Da'Sean Butler of West Virginia. I hope he has a full recovery and still gets drafting in the 1st round of the Nba draft. Not to dismiss that injury, but here are some thoughts/stats from the game:
  • Duke shot 52% from the field and 52% from 3 point line. This is against the 22nd ranked defensive team and a team from the dreaded Big East.
  • All 3 of Duke's "Big Three" played really well. In fact they outscored (and covered the line) West Virginia's entire team 63-57
  • Duke shot the ball 55 times last night. 29 times they made it. 11 times they got the offensive rebound. That means there were only 15 shots that Duke put up their that they didn't either make or get back. That means when Duke shot the ball they had a 73% chance of something good happening. Using the same math West Virginia had 61% chance of something good happening on every shot.
  • Duke's effective field goal percentage (adjust for the fact that 3 pointers are worth more points) was 64.5%. To give you a comparison the top ranked team in eFG% for the year had a 57.9% eFG%. Duke's eFG% for the year was only 50.6%.
  • Duke always made up for an average eFG% by getting offensive rebounds (6th best in the country in terms of percentage). This game they not only shot the ball well but also did well on the offensive glass.
All of the bullet points just support the fact that Duke played an incredible game against a really good team. The fact that West Virginia was a really good team makes it that much more satisfying than say a 32 point blowout against a team from 8 miles away. Now they are just one win away. One win away from me using the prize money in two brackets to buy as much Duke National Championship gear as possible. Wow. This almost doesn't seem real.