Tag Archives: America

Summer Livin’: Road Trip

8 Aug

Editor’s Note:  Summer Livin’ is a segment in which we ask our friend Steed to offer some words of wisdom on how to best enjoy certain staples of the summer months.  For further reason as to why this should be appointment Internet all summer long, check out the Introduction.  On to the easy livin’. 

“Like the bald eagle that looks out pensively from the front of the T-Shirt I’m currently wearing, I crave the freedom of the open air.  There’s a part of me that just doesn’t feel right if I go too long without tearing through wide-open spaces as the wind ripples through my hair.  Since I unfortunately have yet to figure out how to fly without the aid of a 747, the next best chance to get this feeling is the open road.

Over the years, I’ve had quite a few epic journeys on the Great American Highway System, and pretty much all of those journeys have come during the summer months.  With a lot of people getting time off and with the sun shining down upon pretty much every corner of our great country, the summertime is set up perfectly for Road Trip season.  During this season, you’ll find people from all walks of life out on the blacktop.

There are the family cars with the sweaty, disheveled parents arguing up front and the sugar-loaded kids tweaking out in the back.  There are the retiree RVs with the over-confident Gramps manning the massive steering wheel while Gram gets blitzed off gin fizzes in the back.  There are the college crews in the dusty Volvos with the driver looking all sour because they’re the only one not currently getting tanked or sleeping off the prior tanking session.  There are the biker crews, composed of either helmeted mystery ninjas on sexy exotic sport bikes, gruff and hairy lifers in leather chaps, or the terrified accountants wondering how to downshift their new trikes.

Then there are the solo mish drivers, who are usually hiding their stories behind big sunglasses, and who may be running from the law, running from love, running down a dream, or just running.  And while I have been a part of many driver groups over the years, this last group is where I’ve found myself the most.  There have been many times in the past, and most likely many times to come, when a restless energy begins to stir inside me, and the only possible outlet is putting rubber to asphalt.  This usually happens ’round June, and if there’s no one around to run with me, there’s nothing I can do except fill up the stank on the ‘Stang, throw the Party ‘Bans on, and start driving until I feel like stopping.

Throughout my various Road Trippin’ adventures, I’ve built up a decent amount of wisdom.  This wisdom has birthed some battle-tested Rules of the Road – some of which I’ll share with you now.  The other ones are too valuable to give up, SORRY.

Never make direct eye-contact with a truck driver on the open road.  Truck drivers are usually awesome people, and this ain’t a general rule against them.  But some of those big rig cabs are harboring some dudes and ladies who haven’t slept for a few days, and who may have a few bad habits.  And when you make eye contact on that open road, you may be picking up a new friend/enemy, whether you mean to or not.  When there’s only one gas station for the next 130 miles, there’s nowhere to run.

Don’t underestimate the rest stop.  It’s easy to get in the ‘just gotta get there’ mindset after a few hours on the highway.  There’s nothing between you and your destination but the open road, so why not just power through for 16 hours and get the drive over with?  I’ve been here before, and it’s a dangerous edge to walk.  You could find yourself chasing Adderall with 5-hour energies, and when that’s going down, it’s only a matter of time before you start having lucid dreams.  While you’re driving.  I’m still not allowed to drive in Wyoming because of that.

Have the tunes ready.  Make sure you’ve got plenty of playlists, spare iPods, tapes, CDs, etc. before you hit the road.  You don’t want to just rely on the radio, because you will find yourself all alone on a desolate stretch of desert road with nothing but your thoughts and an all-Spanish Mexican ranchera station…and that is not a place you want to be.

Know when to use the buddy system.  If you come up on a gas station/convenience store/generic diner in the middle of nowhere, and it’s between the hours of 2am and 6am, you should probably make sure you see at least one other person in that place that you would consider to be ‘trustworthy’ before you go very far from the safety of your vehicle.  ‘Trustworthy’ can be a very general term in these situations – they just need to be normal, respectable-looking people – but you definitely want to have some sort of potential backup present before you let your guard down in the bathroom or even by the Cold Drinks section.

Let the driver know about the road sodas.  This one’s for when your’re heading out into the Great Wide Open with some company.  Usually there isn’t a problem with having a few sudsy road sodas from the passenger side or the backseat.  You could even say it’s a deserved treat if you just completed a long stretch of driving, and it’s a good way to unwind from those caffeine pills.  But I’ve learned that it’s never a good idea to hide things from the person whose driving.  Because there could always be a situation like the one where Timothy was doing a buck-twenty through West TX in the Charger, not knowing that I was slowly making my way through a 12er of Schlitz, and then being cheeky to the deputy that eventually pulled him over.  One car search later, my open containers are violating some of Timothy’s priors that I was unaware of.  If I had asked him if things were cool before I popped that first top, it would have saved us some stick time, and Timothy some jail time.  Lesson learned.

Take advantage of your Stranger status.  This is less a rule about general Road Trip well-being, and more of a piece of advice on how to get the most out of your extended cruising session.  As you make your way out of the safety bubble that is your hometown and start to pass through the towns and cities that line the highways, you’ll find yourself among people who have no idea who you are.  You’re the man/woman with no history in these towns – the mysterious stranger who just blew into town today and who will probably be gone tomorrow.  This is your chance to be whoever you want to be.  You want to be an astronaut who’s on their way to a top-secret Moon Shuttle launch, and is just looking for love on their (potentially) last night on Earth?  Puff up your chest and step up to the bar – you can be whatever you want tonight.  It’s the Wide Open Road, and the possibilities are endless.”

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Summer Livin’: America’s Birthday

29 Jun

 

Editor’s Note:  Summer Livin’ is a segment in which we ask our friend Steed to offer some words of wisdom on how to best enjoy certain staples of the summer months.  For further reason as to why this should be appointment Internet all summer long, check out the Introduction.  On to the easy livin’. 

“Can you feel it people?  That little breeze in the air that tickles your face like a kitten’s whiskers?  That tingly feeling that started in your toes a few days ago and has now worked its way up to just above your belly button?  A growling in your stomach that no food can calm?  Yep, me too.  And that can only mean one thing.  June is coming to a close, and America’s Big Day is almost here.

The Fourth Of July.

I love Christmas, I love Halloween, I love Valentine’s Day.  But the sum of my appreciation for those and every other holiday does not match my balls-out love for America’s Birthday.  For me, July 4th is a chance to celebrate the Freedom and American Way I love with family, friends, neighbors and lovers.  Publicly, and preferably as loudly as possible.

Fourth Of July 2012 is shaping up to be another epic Freedom Fest, and to offer some inspiration for the rest of you party people out there, I decided to disclose my current itinerary for the day.  Obviously things can change as the day goes along, and all of these plans could go out the window.  I’m a free form partier.  Like Parkour.  But this is a basic blueprint I’ll be jumping off from.

8:00AM – Getting up a few hours earlier than normal.  I’ll probably be wide awake by like 6 AM, but I’ll try to stay in bed until 8, so I can get as much rest as possible.  I’m gonna need it.  After getting up, I’ll fire up the grill and make some steak and eggs for breakfast.  Every meal today will be grilled.

9:30 AM – Post power breakfast and a vigorous shower/grooming session, I’ll put on my outfit for the day.  American Flag bandanna.  Custom-made tank top with bald eagle on the front and epic wolf on the back.  Custom-made jorts with USA stitched on both back pockets.  American Flag Converse Chuck Taylors.  Outfitted.

10:30 AM – After getting dressed and cracking the first brews (Bud Heavy) of the day with the roommates, I’ll head out for a quick visit over to my neighbor Timothy’s house.  Like I always do on the 4th,  I’ll remind Timothy that he was born in Canada and that his ability to celebrate today is a privilege, and not a right.  AKA if he abuses that privilege, like call the cops on my party, there’s gonna be some problems.

11 AM – 12 PM – In another 4th tradition, I’ll pull the trike out of the garage, set up an American flag to flap majestically from the back, and set off for a cruise around town.  I’m currently trying to fashion a holster for my iPod speakers on the trike, so if I can get that set up, The Boss will be obviously be soundtracking my cruise.  The purpose of the trip is 1) to get out and see how everyone else is celebrating, and 2) to scope out any party people who look like they would be good additions to my party.  Sometimes I’ll come across people I know, and sometimes it will just be total strangers wrapped in American flags who’ve got that ‘look’.  They’re getting a print-out that has  my face, party info, and directions to the house.

12 PM – 6 PM – Party Time at my house.  18 and over.  This is the place to be in town.  I rent out extra grills, so I’ve got four going at all times.  The pool has a ‘shirts optional’ policy.  I have a local cover band set up to play Born In The U.S.A. in its entirety, several times through.  There’s a standing order with Rusty Pete’s BrewPub down the street so that anytime we run low on kegs, they’ll send one right over, already tapped.  Red, white and blue body paint is kept readily available throughout the party.  People fall in love left and right, enchanted by the atmosphere.  Overall, it’s  the best way to spend your 4th Day.

6 PM – At 5, I shut the cover band down and take the small stage myself.  I plug in Hot Licks (what I call my electric guitar, she’s a beaut) and play the National Anthem, Jimi Hendrix-style, while my buddy Tobias sets off fireworks behind me.  There are usually a few people crying in joy during this emotional moment, and it serves as an ending to my day party, and a kick-off to the rest of the night.

6:30 PM – 10:30 PM – After I burn things down with the Anthem, I herd everyone out of the house and lead a procession down to the waterfront area in town.  On the beach, I’ve paid several young teens in cigarettes and cash to hold prime spots all day, so when we get there, we have a great view of the eventual massive fireworks show that the town puts on.  I have a gentleman’s agreement with the local beat cops, so we’ll keep the kegs flowing all the way out on the beach.  The  fireworks show kicks off around 9 PM, and this is usually the time when I make my move on whomever has stolen my heart at the time.  When the fireworks are bursting over your blanket in the sand?  That’s when magic happens.

10:30 PM – ? – When the last firework sparks have faded in the sky, it’s time to head over to Sandy Guppy’s, our favorite bar near the beach in town.  The owners know to have Flaming Flag shots lined up for me when I get in, and after those go down, things usually get a bit hazy.  The main goal at this point is just to stay out of jail.

Well that’s the rough outline for my Very Special Day coming up.  Do with it what you will.  Use it as inspiration for your own plans, or if you’re going to be in the area, just make sure to be out and about when I’m cruising on the trike.  If you’re the party people I think you are, I’ll recognize a like-minded soul and will toss you a flyer.  Until then, be safe and get ready. ”

 

Summer Livin’: Camping Trips

21 Jun

Editor’s Note:  Summer Livin’ is a segment in which we ask our friend Steed to offer some words of wisdom on how to best enjoy certain staples of the summer months.  For further reason as to why this should be appointment Internet all summer long, check out the Introduction.  On to the easy livin’.  

“There’s one summer tradition that has gone down every single year of my life.  The camping trip.  Or trips, if you’re lucky.  My parents were avid summer campers back in the day, and they took us out into the great outdoors at least a few weekends every summer.  They taught me the basics of campground livin’, and I’ve continued the tradition on my own, throwing in some updates and personal touches where I see fit.

It’s no easy task to execute a successful camping trip, no matter who your fellow campers are going to be.  Sure, on the surface it looks pretty simple, and in some ways it is.  You need a tent, hopefully a nice lake or river nearby, some food to grill, some beer to drink, some stuff to burn.  But getting the right mix of all that, with the right people and in the right setting, is like a goddamned science.  And I’m a camping science wizard.  Let’s take a look at some of the tricky ingredients I work with.

Group

Before you start planning for any camping trip, you need to figure out who’s going to be coming with you, and what the collective mindset of the group will be.  You could be the head of a beautiful family of four, heading out with a couple other families.  In that case, you’re going to need an area where kids can play safely with minimal supervision while the parents get the margs flowing and make halfhearted passes at the other spouses.  Fun for young and old.

Things are a little bit different if you’re a young buck, hot-blooded and single, and you’re getting your like-minded friends together for a rowdy weekend in the trees.  In this case, you gotta decide if your group is going to be just you and the guys (or you and the girls, whatsup ladies) or a mix.  If it’s just unisex, then you’ve gotta make sure to find a social campsite somewhere, where you can meet and mingle with other groups of party people.  If your group is already a mix, then you can think about finding a more secluded camping spot, where everyone can allow the outdoor setting to bring out some freak flags.  Can you fit three in a sleeping bag?  You tell me.

Supplies

Since the whole point of your camping excursion is to get away from this material world we live in, you’re ideally going to be posted up somewhere without access to any stores, restaurants, or bars.  So you’re gonna need to pack everything you’ll end up needing.  First up, food.  You can’t really go wrong with a bung of dogs, burgs, and chicken.  You can get creative with it, by bringing some crazy BBQ marinade that a hot babe posted on Pinterest, but at the end of the day, you really just need some sustenance.  If it tastes good, point on you.  But don’t get too fancy.

Second up, most important – party supplies.  As awesome as camping is, you will eventually get to the point in the day where there is not much else to do besides sit around with your family/buds/potential lovers.  If it’s night time, then you’ll have the campfire to stare at, but the essence of the situation is still the same.  Getting away from the material world means you don’t have all your typical distractions around to take up your time.  So what do you do?  Drink my friends.  And maybe smoke a little something, if you’re so inclined.  That is the beauty of camping – it’s really all set up in the end for everyone to get blissfully buzzed (and beyond) among the beauty of nature.  So DO NOT forget the drinks.  Whiskey is usually a great option for warming yourself by the campfire, and then of course, there are the dirty 30s, of which you will need upwards of seven.  [Ed.’s Note: 30 packs of beer]  I’m a Schlitz man myself, but really anything sudsy will do the trick in the woods.  If you want to spice it up with some tequila or homemade sangria, then by all means, go crazy.  There are no laws when you’re camping.  [Ed.’s Note: There are]

Music

Another basic ingredient of any good camping trip is also the basic ingredient of any good social gathering – music.  There are a few options when it comes to crafting the perfect soundtrack for your nature excursion.  First, because of the wonderful and mysterious tech times we live in, you can bring out some iPod speakers and show off your diverse music library to everyone within hearing range.  This is probably your best bet, or at least an option to always keep around.  With all of your music at your finger tips, you can shift the entire feeling of your camping trip with the press of a button.

This is a relatively recent upgrade to the whole camping music thing, because back when I was growing up, we didn’t have anything close to this.  We made do – Dad was a big time Van Halen fan, so he had each kid learn a musical part of the entire Van Halen album, from vocals all the way to guitar lines.  When we were out camping, he’d shout out a song title, like “Feel Your Love Tonight,” and we would drop everything and perform the song on the spot.  I usually shifted back and forth between doing David Lee Roth’s vocals and Eddie’s guitar licks (with my voice) so it wasn’t a bad way to go.  Just got tiring after a while.  So I’m glad to see the iPod speakers these days.

The second way to go with music on the camping trip is to befriend someone who is really good at the guitar.  When the stars come out, the fire gets lit, and your thirteenth beer is cracked, the acoustic guitar sing-a-long is the greatest thing in the world.  The guitar player needs to be okay with granting shouted song requests, and should ideally be able to keep it together from a musical standpoint when the whiskey comes out.  And he should be able to play “Crash”.  If I can’t hear “Crash” at least once around the fire, then the entire trip is ruined.

Those three basic elements are really all you need to worry about when putting together a great camping trip.  If you get these things figured out, then everything else pretty much falls into place.  The camping trip is really one of the most American things I can think of doing during the summer, and I will be venturing out to the woods several times this year.  If you happen to be out enjoying nature as well, and come across a campsite decked out with mansion tents, dirty 30s, and “Running With The Devil,” come join the party.  There’s always room for one more around the fire.”

Summer Livin’: BBQ Season

5 Jun

Editor’s Note:  Summer Livin’ is a segment in which we ask our friend Steed to offer some words of wisdom on how to best enjoy certain staples of the summer months.  For further reason as to why this should be appointment Internet all summer long, check out the Introduction.  On to the easy livin’.  

BBQ Season

“What’s up party people.  I hope you’re as stoked on summer as I am right now.  I just hand-stitched my first pair of jorts for the season, blended up a batch of fresh margs, and I can already see the base tan coming through after the past coupla weekends.  Temps have been high ever since Memorial Day two weeks ago, when Summer ’12 “officially” started.

One quick note on that, actually.  I don’t need The Man to tell me when I can start summering.  I know it’s summer when I can comfortably go for my daily sundown jog wearing my Prefontaines [Ed.’s Note: running shorts] and nothing else.  On that magical night when it’s finally not too chilly, summer says Hey Steed.  Let’s Do This.

But anyways – Memorial Day.  A big staple of this holiday every year is the big summer BBQ party.  Everyone gets the friends, family, and neighbors together outside, pulls out a cooler and a grill, and goes from there.  This year was no different, as there were several BBQs within walking distance of my abode.  I usually try to go all out and throw one myself, but  I took this year off to check out the local offerings.  I hopped on the beach cruiser and made a circuit around the block, ending up at my neighbor Timothy’s party.  Which got a bit out of hand.  More on that in a sec – first a quick rundown on my patented, fail-proof approach to creating the perfect summer BBQ mixing pot.

When it comes to getting my own grill out, I’ve always gone to two standbys for some inspiration.  This year, in a spooky example of the summer spirits coming together for me, these two BBQ muses came together themselves in a glorious pairing.  I’m talking about Bud Light Lime commercials and Will Smith’s classic jam “Summertime.”

Over the past couple of years, the BLL commercials have become a summer staple.  You’ve seen them – full of images of hot bods doing hot things like beach volleyball, ultimate frisbee, or throwing rooftop cooler parties.  All delightful images tinged with green and golden hues that, at least for me, get the summer BBQ juices flowing.  In addition to reminding me to pick up a few sixers of the sweetly-flavored hops, these TV spots have given me great ideas when it comes to attracting and keeping beautiful people at all my summer BBQs.  Plenty of frisbees around, plenty of old-school boom boxes to give that non-threatening retro vibe, and plenty of unisex fedoras.  Does anything pair better with a pair of board shorts than a unisex fedora?  Hell no.

And like I said before, the mad geniuses behind the BLL commercials truly outdid themselves by featuring “Summertime” in this year’s ad spot.  This old school Fresh Prince jam has been providing the soundtrack foundation to my summers for as long as I can remember,  and if I had to die and go to a summer-themed heaven, it would look exactly like the situations described by the Fresh Prince’s verses.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve daydreamed about finding my true summer love just like Will does – “honking at the honey in front of you with the light eyes / she turn around and see what you beepin’ at.”  One hot day in the near future, that’s how I’ll meet my future wife.

That’s the beauty of “Summertime” – the summer vibe that floats through the whole song and encompasses everything from cruising around on a hot day, finding love, and chillaxing with the bros.  That’s pretty much everything I’m looking for in a summer BBQ, so it’s a no-brainer that the Fresh Prince has been the inspiration and soundtrack for every great grill-sesh I’ve ever had.  And when the BLL dudes dropped their latest commercial a few weeks ago and basically agreed with everything I’ve just said, in one sublime 30-second clip?  I thought I was dreaming.  Literally did.  And when I realized I wasn’t, I began planning for the ultimate summer BBQ to go down later this year, complete with a giant boom box and (maybe) the Fresh Prince himself.  I’ve got to at least try.  But in the meantime, for your own BBQ?  Just pop in “Summertime” and go looking for some old BLL clips.  Inspiration awaits.”

Summer Livin’: Introduction

30 May

 

It can’t be scientifically proven, but we’re going out on a limb and positing that it is no coincidence America celebrates her birthday right in the middle of the summer season.  In a country constantly defined by, and obsessed with, the idea of Freedom in its citizens’ daily lives, there is arguably no time of the year with more American Freedom than summer.  The stretch of long days and hot nights running from Memorial Day to Labor Day provides ample opportunities to get out and experience some kinds of Freedom that aren’t necessarily available at any other point in the year.

Freedom to eat, drink, and party outdoors.  Freedom to just get in your car and drive wherever/whenever you want, always under the auspices of taking a ‘Road Trip.’  Freedom from the tyranny of sleeves and cultural norms saying that shorts should cover most of your thighs.  Freedom from shirts in general.  Freedom to shoot explosives in the sky and be rewarded with cheers and colorful light displays.  Freedom to take a two week break from your office without your boss Steven giving you the stink-eye, because everyone else is doing it, and he only has two eyes.  Freedom from the textbooks and homework of school.  Freedom from the silly idea that movies should have actual plots instead of just awesome things blowing up in 3D.  Freedom.

There are so many opportunities to have a great time during this season, and we want to make sure that everyone can take full advantage of them.  And we mean everyone – the ideals of summer stretch far beyond just America.  So we reached out to the person we most closely associate with American Freedom, our resident Steed.  Steed is pretty much all recovered from Blitzed For The Holidays, and he is even more amped up for summer than we are, so he was happy to oblige.

We present Summer Livin’, a series running through August in which Steed will take a look at summer-only events and trends, and offer up some advice/stories/life lessons, all in the hopes of helping everyone take full advantage of their personal Summer Freedoms.  Stay tuned.

Bracket Bustin’: East & Midwest Regions

14 Mar

For our musings on the South & West regions in this year’s bracket, head here.

East Bracket

Randall P. Floyd:

– So far the most buzz to come out of this region has been Syracuse’s loss of star Fab Melo, who’s been suspended for the tournament due to academic problems.  I had doubts about the Orangemen’s mental focus and toughness even before this, and now it’s even harder to see them getting very far in the tourney this year.  They have an easy game in the first round, but still expect to see several shots of Peeved Jim Boeheim on the bench before the second round’s over.

– Wisconsin looks to be the team most able to take advantage of Syracuse’s misfortune.  The Badgers have some tourney experience and can easily sneak into the Elite Eight or maybe even the Final Four.  Just don’t expect to have a great time watching several rounds of the grind-em-out, ‘first to 50 wins’ games that the Big Ten is so strangely proud of.

– The quicker Ohio State just goes away, the better.

– Florida State has been looking sneakily good all season, starting with strong regular-season wins over Duke and UNC and finishing up with an ACC Tournament title.  Their ranking might not make them an ‘underdog’ pick, but I still think they’ll surprise people with how far they’ll make it.  Also, they’re being coached by Bunny from The Wire, which is worth at least two tourney wins in its own right.  If I was a FSU student, the Hamsterdam Fan Shirts would have been made months ago.

– Gonzaga always seems to have at least 2-3 players who look like that shaggy kid in your homeroom or dorm hall who rocked sweatpants 24/7, played a lot of FIFA, and had a great pot hook.

–  It wouldn’t be very surprising if Vandy and Harvard had velvet pouches of gold coins kept on the scorers’ table during their game and then delivered to the winner, just to make things a little more interesting and worth their time.

– Feels like the Sweet Sixteen matchups coming out of the East will be Kansas State vs. Wisconsin, and Florida State vs. Ohio State, with the region to be decided by Wisconsin vs. Florida State.

Donovan Kess:

Syracuse.  My chips were all in with Syracuse until Fab Melo was declared ineligible. Losing Melo impacts the style of gameplay dramatically, however this will not be an easy upset for UNC Asheville who will need to take advantage of the defensive holes by transitioning fast and winning the inside game.

Wisconsin.  The alma mater of my soon to be father-in-law, the Badger’s made an impressive end of season run, which makes me hate to like them ever more. Not counting the two losses to Michigan State, this team has played some impressive basketball this season and they will need to bring it against Montana in Round 1 and then potentially against Vanderbilt in Round 2.

Cincinnati.  After going 1-1 with Syracuse for the regular season, and gaining momentum with wins against Marquette, Georgetown and Connecticut, it just feels right watching Cincinnati advance to late in the tourney. The obvious question will be if they can get past a round 2 matchup versus a rabid Florida State.

Ohio St.  With a fresh loss to Michigan State the Buckeye team is deflated, but needs to realize they played ruthless basketball all season. They are capable of maintaining a steady offense while not letting anything go on D. The big match ups include a possible round 2 versus Gonzaga.

Midwest Bracket

RPF:

–  Kansas has been a popular pick to get upset early on, based upon some of their recent tourney struggles, and Detroit is no push-over behind their scoring leader and coach’s son, Ray McCallum.  McCallum is a solid player and was even given an offer to play at Kansas, which he turned down to play for his dad.  This could make for an interesting game, but Kansas is probably just too strong.

– Not to be outdone by fellow WAC member, St. Mary’s always seems to have a few of the bushy-haired roommates of the aforementioned Zag brahs at their disposal.

– Cal was the only Pac-12 team to receive an at-large bid to the tourney this year, which is totally justified.  The Pac-12 play this year bordered on a pillow fight, and the level of excitement at the conference tournament in Staples was dismal.  You had a good chance of finding a higher level of basketball being played at the USC street courts down the street.

– North Carolina finished off the year on a good run, after being stunned by a last-minute Duke comeback in Chapel Hill.  Can the Mr. Rogers of college basketball take them to the ‘ship this year?

–  Creighton has a little bit of that ‘surprise run’ feel to them this year, but face a daunting second round challenge against UNC.  Expect a lot of ‘scrappy’ references.

– Temple seems like a bit of a surprise as a 5-seed – feels like I haven’t heard anything about them all year.  The only thing I can think of when I hear about Temple is Bill Cosby.  In fact, if the selection committee had taken a break during the bracketing process and Bill Cosby: Himself was on TV, and everyone enjoyed some laughs and Pudding Pops before getting back to their work, then I can totally understand how that moved Temple up several seeds.

DK:

UNC.  My third most watched team of the year behind Duke and Western Washington University, this year’s squad is electric with a stellar pace that is backed up by a defense that affects every team it plays. My favorite matchups include a potential Round 3 battle against Temple.

Temple.  Temple always has a respectful basketball team on the court and this year is no different. They beat Duke early in the season and have been riding that big blue wave of joy ever since. Two of their players are shooting nearly 40% behind the arc which will make the possible round 2 matchup against Michigan even more exciting.

Georgetown.  They are a great defensive team that should go far in the tournament due to the depth of their regular season schedule and the veteran status of Henry Sims and Jason Clark. The Hoyas possible matchups are challenging with possible opponents of Perdue in Round 2 and Kansas in Round 3.

Kansas.  A perennial tournament favorite that should have no problem dealing with the first two rounds of this tournament. The discipline required to win against Georgetown or Syracuse rounds will come from the lessons they learned during the early season losses to both Duke and Kentucky.

Enjoy the Madness and stop by Dan Swanky’s throughout the tourney for more straight talk and snappy sound bites.

Bracket Bustin’: South & West Regions

13 Mar

America loves any excuse to turn an event into an Event.  Particularly over the last several years, certain happenings from the worlds of sports, entertainment, or minor holidays have become cultural institutions that can serve as common talking points for anyone with a TV or access to the Internet.  You could go years without seeing a single football game, yet still obligated to attend your neighbor’s Super Bowl party and act interested for four hours.  The day after Thanksgiving is no longer just a casual day off – it’s Black Friday, a violent and fearful Event shared by millions across the country.  And the NCAA tournament is not just a collegiate sporting event.  It’s March Madness, a glorious Event in which normally mild-mannered and upstanding working folk fall all over themselves to throw wads of cash into unregulated gambling rings and shirk their professional responsibilities for two whole days.

Is this a bad thing?  No.  March Madness is American through and through, and because Dan Swanky’s loves America, we have no choice but to add our own noise to this Event.  (This is also a perfect opportunity for us to open up the new Sports Section of our fine establishment.)  Since you’re probably deep in the midst of bracket fatigue by now, we’ll eschew that tidy and constrictive type of breakdown and instead offer up some freeform thinking on each region of the tournament.  We may not be entirely objective and our feelings may color our judgment, but we’re not messing around.  So have a Schlitz and grab a pen.

South Bracket

Randall P. Floyd:

– Kentucky is the Tourney’s No. 1 overall this year, and I’d have to agree with that assessment.  Even though head coach John Calipari is the sports equivalent of a shifty used car salesman, this year he has pulled the reverse Ashley Schaeffer and has moved from pimping Kias to proudly featuring top-of-the-line BMWs on his lot.  Starting with the (arguably) Number One Player In The Country Anthony Davis, Kentucky is stacked with talent and should make it out of this region, at the very least.

– If Duke and Notre Dame both win their first games and meet in the Round of 32, we’ll be treated to the highest concentration of Pure Class the tournament has seen in a long time.  I mean, isn’t this what the Game is all about?  Just a bunch of bros taking off the polos and putting the textbooks down long enough to Play The Game The Right Way?  Count me in.

–  To be fair to Duke, (which is tough) they’ve got a great point guard in Austin Rivers, and with Coach K once again being gifted a fairly unremarkable bracket draw, they’ll probably make some noise in the tourney again this year.  Fundamentals, baby.

–  I like a Baylor-Duke matchup coming in the Sweet Sixteen, which will be an interesting game as Baylor has some exciting athleticism going up against Duke’s controlled and heady style.  The only negative going against Baylor right now is their unfortunate push to bring the Oregon-style jerseys to college basketball.  The neon green and camo unis should be quickly swept under the rug.

– Kentucky vs. Baylor in the Elite Eight because you’re only going to get a Swanky approval for Duke from my esteemed partner.

Donovan Kess: 

My favorite teams from the Coach K Region:

Kentucky.  Kentucky is a fortress of domination and a favored team to win the Tournament. They are highly consistent and the recent loss to Vanderbilt is a blessing in disguise as it will provide the boost needed to charge into the tournament energized.

Wichita State.  The experienced Shocker’s will defeat the underdog favorite VCU in Round 1, and then manage the winner of Indiana vs. New Mexico St. in Round 2. The attentiveness achieved from these two victories should set them up nicely to battle against Kentucky, which would be the greatest challenge of Wichita State’s 2012 season.

UNLV.  An early season victory against Carolina is the blueprint to follow for success. They need to find the intensity of that game and sustain it early in the tournament with the possible second and third round opponents of Baylor and Duke.

Duke.  For most Cameron Crazies, the disappointment of last week’s loss to Carolina has been replaced by the pleasure of no longer having to share a tent with 12 other people. Duke has had a great ride this season, and has seen a few of its players mature to tournament quality, including Austin Rivers and Ryan Kelly. The keys to success will be maintaining a high level of perimeter play, improving rebounding, and cutting down on the amount of turnovers. A possible second round match up against Notre Dame is about as far forward as the Blue Devil’s should be looking.

 

West Bracket

RPF:

–  Michigan State seems to come in under the radar a lot for Tourney time, but by the time the Elite Eight comes around, there they are again for yet another year.  They don’t seem like a sexy pick this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they make another long run.  They’re just kind of like that bland guy with a nice watch and a steady job who eventually ends up marrying the hottest woman in town.  You’re not sure how, you kind of expected it, and you can’t really be that mad about it.

–  Billikens is a delightful word to say.  I will wear it out while I can.

–  After a few seasons of Breaking Bad, it seems like New Mexico may be one of the most depressing places to live in America. I don’t know too much about the University of New Mexico team this year, but I think maybe they need this one.  So they’ve got my backing.

–  Speaking of depressing places in America, here comes BYU.  They don’t have my backing.

–  Billy Donovan continues to be the slicked-back ageless wonder of NCAA basketball.  I swear he’s been coaching Florida basketball for at least twenty years.

–  I really like Missouri this year and think they’ve got a shot to win it all.  Murray State might be a little bit of a dark horse in this region, but Missouri is athletic, deep, and confident – in addition to being fun to watch.  It looks like Marquette vs. Missouri and MSU vs. New Mexico in the Sweet Sixteen, with a solid Mizzou vs. MSU matchup deciding one of the Final Four.

DK:

Michigan State.  Tom Izzo knew his team would need tournament competition early on, so he scheduled the first games against Carolina and Duke. Although they lost both, this strategy set the bar high for a successful season and number 1 seed. The high seed should propel the Spartan’s safely to the Sweet Sixteen, where I predict they will face a strong Louisville team.

Louisville.  Fresh off a Big East championship win, Louisville is ready to do some damage and prove they can compete with the best. They have more than the required defensive skills but need to get hot behind the arc and faster with transitions if they are going to have any change against Michigan St.

Marquette.  Marquette will outplay Florida in Round 1 and then will be challenged by Murray State in Round 2, however the Golden Eagles’ high scoring Senior duo will push them to victory and a spot in this year’s Sweet Sixteen.

Missouri.  A highly competitive season netted victories versus Kansas and Baylor. With multiple players skilled at the 3-ball it is up to destiny to see how far the deep ball will take them. Faced with a difficult path to the final four, Missouri has to stay focused.

Stay tuned for the Midwest and East regional breakdowns from Swanky’s Sports.