Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seventeen Years...

17 years ago, 
1. Bill Clinton was beginning his White House Presidency.
2. George Bush ralphed all over the Japanese Prime Minister.
3.The Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.
4. The Pirates had a winning season, winning their third straight NL East title only to fall to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. 
5. The Penguins swept the Black Hawks in 4 games to win the Stanley Cup.
6. 4 cops indicted on police brutality charges against Rodney King.
7. Hurricane Andrew hits South Florida.
8.  Your's truly stared The Relentless Pursuit of Higher Education.
9. The Roman Catholic Church reinstates Galileo after 359 years.
10. Arthur Ashe named Sport's Illustrated's Man of the Year.

Add to that list: The Robert Morris Colonials won their 5th NEC men's basketball championship and appeared in the NCAA tournament. 

Since then, the Colonials have been to the championship game once in 2000 only to fall to Central Connecticut State.  

The Robert Morris Colonials labor in obscurity.  A small university of 5,000 in the West Hills of Pittsburgh made up mostly of commuter students.  RMU plays in the Northeast Conference, a lightly regarded assemblage of 11 private and public institutions in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland, and Pennsylvania known more for their academics than their athletics.   It's one of many conferences in the NCAA that is called a"one and done" league.  Unlike the power conferences like the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, and so on that send three, four, and five teams to March Madness, conferences like the Northeast only send one team, the tournament champion.  In most cases, they end up a 16 seed, or 
if they had a truly great season, maybe even a 14 or 15 seed.  Cannon fodder for the North Carolinas, Dukes, and UConns.  

But even though the champion of the Northeast Conference is all but guaranteed to be on the losing end of a blow-out, it's still a cause for celebration to the players who make up that championship team.  Because for them,  the journey to the NCAA tournament is the important thing.  To make it through the meatgrinder of the conference schedule and the post-season conference tournament is the overriding goal for these one and done schools.  I'm not saying that they don't care about what they do in their one and most likely, only chance to participate in the Big Dance.  It's just that there are no lofty expectations placed on them.  There is no pressure.  They can play loosey-goosey knowing that the hardest part of their journey is over and this is just icing on the cake.  The reward for all that sweat, and blood and pain of practices and games.  

At the big time schools, getting to the NCAA's is pretty much granted. They play in large historic gyms in front of 12 to 20,000 screaming fans who may wait for years before they can get season tickets.  Those squads are under constant pressure from their fans, media, boosters, alums and others to get as far in the tourney as possible, and anything less than the Final Four is considered a failure.  Teams like Robert Morris play in front of 1,000-2,000 people tops, are lucky to get a mention in the local fishwrap in most seasons, and are just happy to punch their ticket to the Dance and want to soak up as much of the atmosphere as they can while they're there. 

In 2007-2008, the Colonials, had what was considered to be the best season in RMU history.  Led by first year coach Mike Rice, the Colonials stormed through the NEC going 16-2 in the conference, and highlighted by a 57-55 win over Boston College of the ACC on the road.  They were guaranteed home court all the way through the NEC tournament as long as they kept winning.  The Mount St. Mary Mountaineers, a small Catholic school out of Emmitsburg, Maryland,  kept RMU from realizing their dreams of going to the Dance with an 83-65 drubbing of Robert Morris on the Sewall Center floor.  The Mount as they are called, has become the major rival of the Colonials in men's basketball the last few years.  These teams do not like each other.  Every time the Colonials and the Mountaineers hookup, it is a tough, defensive affair that tends to get chippy.  

 The Colonials ended up going to the NIT and playing Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, where they kept it close and lost by 7 points.   But the NIT isn't called the "No one's Interested Tournament" for nothing.  It's a small consolation.  It's better than nothing, but not much. 

2008-2009 brought a new season and a rededication to insuring that what happened last season wouldn't happen again.  Once again the Colonials ran through the conference with only a small bobble in the end going 15-3 and gaining the home court for the NEC tournament.  After a tough win against St. Francis (NY) and a blowout of Quinnipiac, Robert Morris once again looked across the bracket to see that the path between them and the Dance was, you guessed it, the Mountaineers of Mount St. Mary's.  The perfect storm.  One vs Two for the bragging rights, the hardware and most of all, the ticket to the Madness.  

It was an ugly game. Neither team shot very well.  it was 19-19 at the half.  Both teams played nasty, cloying defense and the lead never got beyond 5 points for either side.  But RMU got on an 11-4 run during the last five minutes of the game, and with 2.5 seconds left,  Dallas Green picked up a ball that Jeremy Chappelle fumbled and scored the winning basket.  His only two points of the game ended up being the two most important points of the 2008-09 season.

The drought is over, and the Colonials are going dancing.  

Here is one of the Post-Gazette stories.

Gene Collier, sports columnist of the PG shares his thoughts here.

The Trib's coverage of the game is here

Finally, here is the coverage of the Beaver County Times

Good Job, Colonials. Now go and have some fun!!!

photo credits: John Heller, Pgh Post-Gazette

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Scribbler Awakes…or is it awakens???

Like a grizzly bear that spent the last four months snoozing peacefully in its cramped stinky cave,  The Moonlight Scribbler has also spent the same amount of time in hiatus while its writer has  been freezing his ass off during this winter and has shown no desire whatsoever to play around on his computer.  Part of that being because Allegra is in a room that doesn’t have a lot of heat and I can only stand to stay in there long enough to sync my iPod and Blackberry before my hands freeze.   But now winter is on the run, spring is only a matter of days away, and this bear of a blog is about to emerge from its den.   And like it’s ursine counterpart, it’ll want to: stretch out, scratch an itch, take a piss, and then go out and kill something.


Other than a quick little year-end blurb that admittedly was quite forgettable, the last time the Scribbler was updated,  the country had elected one Barack Hussein Obama as President of these United States.  A fair amount has happened since then.  And I’m not going to delve into politics, because frankly it bores the hell out of me, and I don’t know enough about politics to be a worthwhile authority on the subject although that hasn’t stopped a myriad of bloggers from professing punditry. The blogosphere is chock-a-block with would be political analysts banging away at keyboards all over this nation professing their knowledge about the blood sport that is the body politic.     What was it they said about an infinite number of monkeys banging away on an infinite number of keyboards…?  I rest my case.


Baseball season starts in a few weeks, which means that for that sliver of time starting with the  words “Pitchers and Catchers report” to Opening Day, every team from the free spenders to the penny pinchers have the exact same record and the exact same chances of taking home the big trophy.   Those who support the bottom feeders hold hope against hope that this may be the year that their club takes a step towards respectability.   The local baseball club,  The Pittsburgh Pirates did very little in the off-season in terms of acquiring talent, although for reasons that escape me, they let go the only player on the team that showed even the slightest shred of leadership and balls-out toughness, Doug Mientkewicz.  What’s was it they said about the definition of insanity being that you do the same thing over and over and expect a different result?  I rest my case.


In another sports-related story,  MLS club, LA Galaxy and Serie A club AC Milan came to an agreement regarding English midfielder, David Beckham.   Those of you who actually read this blog from the very beginning know of the post I wrote entitled “Cowher Aht, Beck’s In”  where I expounded on the benefits and drawbacks of having David Beckham come to the United States in the hope of lifting the beautiful game from niche status to a level alongside the Big Four of US sports a la Pele and many other Euros and S. Americans that came to the old NASL back in the ‘70s.  

Well, the idea was sound, but the execution was, feh!!   Beckham got injured before he came to the US and by the time he actually got on the field in match shape, the Galaxy’s season was pretty much done and dusted, and he wasn’t much of a factor, on the field.  He did sell a few jerseys, and the crowds at the stadiums where he played were very good.  The next season, Beck’s performed slightly better on the pitch, but the wow factor had died down.  After he season was over, Galaxy loaned him to AC Milan for a few months so that he could stay in shape and hopefully make the English World Cup team in 2010.  Well, it seemed like playing back on the Continent lit a fire under Goldenballs, and he started playing better than he had in quite a long time.  He and AC Milan decided to try and get Galaxy to make the loan permanent.  After all, he’s Goldenballs and AC Milan play in one of the most storied soccer leagues in the world, Serie A of Italy.  Even the worst team in Serie A has more history and tradition than the entire MLS, which has only been in existence for 13 years.  They were convinced that the Galaxy and MLS would roll over like puppies and let Beckham go.


  Wrong F*****g Answer, Recruit!!! The Galaxy calmly reminded the two that Beckham has a rather lucrative contract here in the USA and he was obligated to see it through to the end.   Me thinks that MLS would have rather wanted to tell Becks and Posh to not let the door hit them in the butt on their way out, but they had to save face.   After all,  they’re trying to compete on the world stage in the cutthroat sport of international soccer.  And to merely let Beck’s go without at least a token fight would have given other Euro superclubs the liberty of pushing MLS around the schoolyard.   AC Milan came back with a laughably pitiful offer that Galaxy swatted away.  And after weeks of meetings and negotiations, both sides came up with a plan to allow Beckham to stay in Italy until the end of the Serie A season, then take a short break, and come back the US to play for the Galaxy for the remainder of the MLS season.  During this time, Beckham will use some of his own money to buy his way out of his contract so he could go back to Italy for the rest of his playing days.   Galaxy will have to cut their ticket prices and probably issue refunds to those fans who purchased season tickets just because of Beck’s presence.


It will be interesting to see how his Galaxy teammates will respond to him in the locker room.  He did not exactly endear himself to them and fans of the MLS when he disrespected the league and spoke so highly of his experience playing in the Serie A.  He clearly does not want to be in the MLS, and neither side wants to flat out admit that this experiment was a failure.   But I can see Beck’s point.   Playing in the great Euro leagues and playing in the MLS are as different as day and night.  The MLS is a Chevy while Serie A is  Ferrari.  MLS teams play in front of 15,000-20,000 fans tops.  Serie A teams play in historic stadiums like the San Siro in front of 70-80,000 screaming fans that treat their favorite players like gods.  Bench players on AC Milan make more than the best players on the Galaxy.  Beck’s is only a two hour flight away from England should he be tapped to play in international matches for England, compared to crossing a 3000 mile country and a 4,000 mile ocean.   He gets to play with and against some of the best players in the game.    Even most of the USA’s best players know that if they want to compete against the world’s best players, they have to play in the world’s finest leagues and MLS, for the time being, ain’t  one of them.  It seems that for now, this saga is over, but one never knows. 


I know this will probably piss a few of you off knowing that Your’s Truly is the epitome of Anti-Cool, Anti-Hip, and Anti-Trendy, but…IgotaniPhone.

“Wha, What did you say?”


“Speak up, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.


Pierre, you’re such a fricking tool!!  You’re the one who ripped the iPhone in your post “iPhone phooey”  saying that if anyone but Apple had put the thing out, no one would give it a second thought given its shortcomings  and that Apple could put a pound of dogshit in their signature packaging and have people line up around the block to buy it.   Turn in your Crackberry Nation Card right f*****g now!!!  You’re out of the tribe!  We’re putting your ass out on an ice floe with  meager rations, a fishing pole and, some stinky furs to sleep in.

I know, I know, I just completely shot my Anti-Cool cred all to shit.  I’m just another pretentious, smug, annoying iPhone clone who has a Steve Jobs shrine in my basement and would sell my female relatives into white slavery before using anything as primitive and unelegant as a PC.

You’d be partially wrong there, Bunky!  I haven’t  completely sold out my anti-cool principles.  I still use a PC that’s absolutely Jurassic in terms of hardware, and I have no intentions, designs, nor desires to switch to a Mac.  I still use a BlackBerry Pearl which is as old as the hills as smartphones go, and I rely on that thing more than the iPhone.  And the iPhone I bought was a 2G used model from a friend of mine.  And while much has changed with iPhone since I wrote that post back  in ‘07 .  So I’m still very much Anti-Cool, Anti-Hip and Anti Trendy. 

So how did I end up being an iPhone Clone?  As I said, a friend of mine had upgraded to a 3G iPhone and asked me if I wanted his old 2G.  I coughed up $75 for it and used it for a while on wi-fi as a data device, but I realized that I had to have an actual cellular connection to really use the thing the way I wanted.  So after paying the deposit for my crappy credit to AT&T I went ahead and activated this iPhone.  So now I have two phones to play with although I still rely on my BlackBerry more than the iPhone.  The Blackberry does email and text messaging better,  and also does MMS better which the iPhone does not support at all.  The BB also does cut and paste, which the iPhone still does not do even though legions of users are screaming at Apple to add it.  The camera on the iPhone is of a higher resolution and takes better pictures, but has no settings for changing  the white balance, the resolution, the focus or any other functions that one would find on todays smartphones.  My BlackBerry takes awful pictures but at least it can adjust the white balance, focus and resolution.


The iPhone has better apps and they tend to be cheaper than BB apps,  and due to Apple’'s obsession with centralization and absolute control of every aspect of the user experience, the apps are easy to load onto the phone with minimum hassle.   I have to admit that the design is typical Apple elegance with a minimum of buttons and it is nice to see web pages rendered natively, but slowly on AT&T’s molasses like EDGE connection.  I don’t use the iPhone as an iPod. I still use my crusty old mini for that.  It’s strictly a data device, which brings me to my next rant.  Why do I have to pay AT&T $40/month for a voice plan I’ll never use??  I’m not a motormouth on the cellphone. I get on, say what I want to say, and get off.  I can count the average monthly number of minutes I spend on the phone on two hands and one foot.  I go through data like a starving man.  And paying $20.00/month for 2G data on an iPhone is slow, but nice.  I know that AT&T makes its money on the voice plans, but If they offered a data only plan for 40-50 bucks, and 15-20 cents/minute straight up, I’d jump on that quick, fast, and in a hurry.   i don’t need voice on my iPhone, that’s what the BB is for. 


Well, as I write this, I’m closing in on 2000 words in this, the first post of 2009.  There’s going to be a lot of crazy shit coming down the pike for this year.  And I have no clue how it will all shake out, but that’s what life is all about.  Especially the way I approach it.