Thursday, February 19, 2009

Turn that frown upside down

So I spent all of last week at my sister’s place up in Wisconsin, pretty much officially assuming the role of “World’s Greatest Uncle” to my 3-year-old nephew and his nine month old little brother. My single greatest feat came on Day 2, when I taught the older one how to catch … and it only took a couple minutes. The kid soaks up information better than John Daly soaks up Bud Heavy at the 19th Hole.

But a lot has happened since then, so I better just shutup about by uncling (yeah, I just made up that word). First and foremost, there are several reports of excessive hyperventilating coming from a four-block radius on Indy’s near-north side.

Well, all of us Butler fans can pretty much take a seat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to consider drowning myself after this two-game losing streak left the Bulldogs 22-4 with a dwindling chance of an at-large bid. It’s just time to be real about this team … a team that is still nothing to turn your nose at.

But being the kind of guy that I am, I am looking at this as an opportunity to just take a step back and realize what’s really going on here. I had pretty much one though after that hideous loss to Milwaukee last night, a loss that in many respects was worse than falling to the Loyola Junior Varsities. The thought was that this team is tired. They’re hitting the proverbial wall. And it’s both physical and mental at this point. Just watch the game … most of the bad fouls on defense come as the result of slow feet and lazy movements, for one example.

So I woke up this morning, decided to take a browse at the game story in the Indy Star. And here’s what Brad Stevens had to say: “I’m never going to say that. Nope. No wall.”

I love Brad, but come on, he’s saying that only because it’s exactly the opposite. You think he’s going to say, “This team is worn out. I can see it in their legs during the game, and I’m going to have to address that in the best way I can.” At this point of the season, he knows he can’t go that route. This is the start of the stretch run, when if you’re not playing your best ball, your season can end pretty quick. In other words, not the time to tell your players they are tired.

But here’s what is perhaps even more important: on top of being a half step slower, Butler is playing all of these teams for the second time this season and it’s really showing on the floor. Teams they beat like a drum the first time around aren’t just going to let that happen a second time. These coaches are better than that (most of them), and they are learning more and more about the Bulldogs every time they see them on film or in person. Until the young guys realize that, they will come out disinterested against inferior teams.

You could make the argument that going through this inevitable part of the schedule, it’s all on Stevens to not only prepare his team differently and do all the little things that go along with making it through the bumps of a full season. I would tend to agree with that, in theory, but in the end it really falls on the players’ shoulders when they are on the floor. The freshmen may be young, but they know what’s going on. And they’ll either work through it while learning … or they won’t. It’s just like going through your freshman year of college as a student: You will either learn how to handle being on your own and how to handle your booze and grades at the same time, or you’ll finish the year with a 2.1 GPA.

Look, with a 22-4 record, there is not much to complain about in the grand scheme of things. Do the fans expect more of this program now? Yes, and rightfully so. But is it a bit unrealistic at times? Yes, certainly. I have been guilty myself of both.

If the Bulldogs fail to reach the NCAA Tournament, it would be a huge disappointment from the standpoint of the development of this team – and the freshman class in particular. No, it won’t be the end of the world, but I firmly believe that if we are going to see this group’s full potential in the next couple years, then a spot in the field of 65 is a must this March. I say they’ll still be there … somehow, someway.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Five Questions for Brad Stevens

Not long into the second half of Butler’s 75-66 loss to Green Bay on Monday night, I got that feeling that usually comes around once or twice a season. You know what I’m talking about. Sitting there watching a weeknight road game, riding an 8-12 game winning streak or so, and things just aren’t going well.

It’s almost as if I mailed in the loss well before it even happened, just to start the process of moving on. I wasn’t, and am still not, upset by the fact that Butler lost … it was more the fashion in which they did so. And what I kind of like about it is that with just one loss, suddenly the regular season conference title is up for grabs. I want to see how this group responds.

Sure, the officiating was again terrible. But you know that going in to it. When was the last time you watched a Horizon League game and thought the crew in stripes did a solid job? Knowing how tight of game they were calling, I was frustrated to see how many stupid fouls Butler gave up in the second half. They’re smarter than that, I think.

Two things that kind of stick out to me at the moment are the point guard situation and the Matt Howard situation. The former is causing serious turnover problems while the latter needs to learn how to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble.

I’m not sitting here and throwing Howard under the bus – what I’m saying is that, he seems to be costing the team by committing one or two stupid fouls a game and having to sit the bench with a cup of coffee. Do you see how the offense struggles when he is not on the floor? This team can’t win in the conference tourney or advance in the real tourney if Howard doesn’t play 30 minutes or more. It’s as simple as that right now.

I do give some credit to Green Bay for playing a solid game, and by no means am I suggesting that after one loss you need to find new ingredients. Just mix the salad for me. What I’m hoping is that this one loss will, most importantly, hammer home some basic things that need to change for the sake of the team. Did anyone else notice Gordon Hayward bringing the ball up the floor a handful of times in the second half? I know I’d like to see that again. I don’t subscribe to the theory that it takes away from what Gordo can do on the offensive end. I do subscribe to the theory of Gordo being able to handle the ball and actually see a standard passing lane, for instance.

Speaking of Gordo, I would be doing a disservice if I failed to mention the reference made on Green Bay TV during the game on Monday night. The color analyst said, without hesitation, “This guy is more versatile than the ShamWow.” I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who caught that.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had some questions that have me scratching my head. I think I’ll go ahead and write them here, as if I were providing a list to Brad Stevens and he promise to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Here we go.

1. How come when Hahn comes in and commits three quick turnovers he gets yanked never to see the floor again, but when Ron Nored does pretty much the same thing, you leave him on the floor most of the time? And honestly, do you think either one of them is helping the team right now? I’m not biased against them, I promise, so be honest.

2. Why don’t you ever put your hands on Shelvin Mack’s shoulders, look him in the eye, kind of shake him a little bit and say … “Shelvin! Shoot the damn ball more!”

3. Why don’t you ever do the same thing, except say “less” to a handful of other guys?

4. Why don’t you wear tennis shoes every game? That was a good look for you.

5. Have you considered sitting down in a room alone with Gordo, Mack and Howard, and saying this one sentence to them: “Guys, all I’m asking you to do is take about 80 percent of our shots every game”?

I could come up with more, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Maybe I’ll start doing a weekly “Five Questions for Brad Stevens” bit. Yeah that sounds good. I’m out of town next week but I’ll still be writing twice, so enjoy your first weekend of hell without football. Cheers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowls of Dip

I decided to go fairly low key for the Super Bowl yesterday, just myself and a husband-wife combo … a fairly standard third party affair for yours truly. We happened to feature a variety of dips as the main course(s), which I think I’m now going to make the main staple for future viewing parties. The ability to graze at your leisure is of utmost importance at such events. Chips and dips are the ultimate grazing combos. By the way, if you’d like to read about the game itself, you are allowed to go elsewhere. Only vague references here in The Fun Car today.

Let me just start by saying that I’m glad I no longer drink Budweiser products after that display of not just one, but a series of utterly painful and uncomfortable horse commercials. You all saw them, and I know (hope) you were cringing at the same thing. The thick skulls at Anheuser-Busch decided to get cute and take their “iconic” horses and make them talk. Horses talking. Not funny talking … trying to follow 30-second plots and storylines. Who thought of this? One of them was even trying to make reference to the hardships of our ancestors’ immigration. With a narrator and a horse. The thoughts of the horse. Gosh that was just awful.

Which brings me to the good stuff. Best of the commercials was easily the one-second Miller High Life spot. If you didn’t laugh, you have other issues. If you didn’t see it, well, you blew it. You almost had to see it in the context of the entire commercial break, but here it is on

Last note about the ads – are we back in the ‘80s with this 3-D stuff?

Onto a couple side notes that came up during the game. Did anyone else notice that huge patch on the left arm of Edgerrin James? I never saw a good, clean shot of it by the camera guy, which essentially allow me to really believe what I first thought: It was an oversized nicotine patch. Come on, you know Edge rolls with a soft pack of Newport’s. It just makes sense. He’d be taking pulls on the sideline if he could.

Moving on with a few other things I remember … noticing the rather pubic-hair-looking face of Troy Polamalu; wondering what barbells LaMarr Woodley uses for curls in the weight room because his arms are abnormally girth-y; dreaming that a combination of Anquan Boldin and Byron Leftwich would make me interested in the Bears next season; and wondering why I don’t have much material on John Madden after a four-hour broadcast.

Butler Road Trip

Have you ever been more bored during a game that was tied with under five minutes to play than Friday’s win over Valpo? Gosh that was difficult to watch. It wasn’t even a situation where I was sitting there worrying about whether or not Butler was going to pull it out. It was more just thinking if this was finally going to be the day were they laid an egg, similar to the game against Detroit a few weeks ago.

I personally don’t think Butler will stumble during the three-game, six-night road trip this week. But, if they do drop a game in conference play, I also think that this will be the time it will happen. Best chance of that will be tonight at Green Bay, a team that from what I’ve seen is the only group in the conference that can remotely compete on talent alone. And don’t get too big for your britches when the Dogs crack the top 10. How would you like to be going through the Big East right now? Ask Notre Dame and Georgetown.

Predicting the future is not really my thing, but sometimes it’s easy to see the biggest weaknesses. Weaknesses that will ultimately be the downfall if something doesn’t get fixed. I have two right now with this Butler team. One, Ron Nored and Co. driving somewhere near the free-throw line and not being able to see closed passing lanes (AKA dumb turnovers). And two, extremely poor shot selection – the wrong people taking shots too often and too early in the shot clock. I hope I’m wrong, I really do.

Tune in on Thursday and feel free to comment or e-mail me at Another mailbag would be good. Cheers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The 2009 Super Bowl Extravaganza

Since I can’t seem to come up with anything concrete for this Super Bowl Extravaganza column, I have decided to offer you a series of completely random thoughts and observations. As always, some things will be quite specific … others, well, probably won’t make much sense. I’ll wrap it up with the final “Fun Picks from The Fun Car.” As always, enjoy the ride.

  • You know you have a gambling problem when you bet on … the coin toss; the over/under on the number of flashbulbs popping during the opening kick; which hat/shirt combo Mike Tomlin is going to wear; how many players with visible dreads under their helmet will see the field in the first half; the time the clock reads when John Madden makes his first Tom Brady reference; the time the clock reads when John Madden mentions that Brett Farve gives him butterflies; how many times Steelers manchild linebacker LaMarr Woodley picks up Kurt Warner and throws him; and last but no least, the over/under on how many whiskeys it appears Bruce Springsteen has had by the halftime show.
  • Speaking of John Madden, I’ve always been quite entertained by him providing rather colorful color analysis. Know why? Since he doesn’t offer anything of any value, I can actually just watch the game and laugh every once in a while when I catch a, “You know, Al, with that offside penalty, Kurt Warner now only has to manage a 3rd-and-3 instead of 3rd-and-8.”
  • One thing I know I’m looking forward to: Watching how the Pittsburgh secondary covers, handles, and tries to take Larry Fitzgerald out of the game. That’s one of the best single match-ups that I’ve seen on paper in a while.
  • One thing I know I’m not looking forward to: hearing Madden and Al Michaels bring up the Kurt Warner for the Hall of Fame debate. That has to win this year’s “Please, God, Make it Stop” story before the Super Bowl. There’s always one.
  • That reminds me, something about the two-week gap leading up to this year’s game is different for me. I spend, um, a good amount of time in my room – where I feature over-the-air TV without the convenience of a cable hookup. The one bedroom in the place with no cable. Turns out that’s a beautiful thing … without Chris Berman, Trey Wingo, Chris Mortensen and the gang, I feel suddenly smarter. And by the way, Trey Wingo is definitely working his way up the “Most Annoying Anchors” list. Berman will forever be on top and that’s not debatable.
  • Everyone always gets all giddy over the Super Bowl commercials. Last year, there were about two good ones. I find myself paying attention less and less the past three or four years. See, the advertising firms and writers have actually outdone themselves. Ads have gotten too good for the other 364 days of the year. Either that or I watch way too much TV. Not sure.
  • Is Barack Obama going to host the pregame show, then sing the National Anthem, followed by flipping the coin toss, booting opening kick, and finally putting on some pads after halftime to become the hero who wins the game as Arizona’s QB after Warner gets hurt? Well, he is quite the savior, right?
(Side note: completely unrelated to the Super Bowl, that comment about Obama reminded me of when I flicked past NBC’s “Meet The Press” last Sunday morning. I love how, along with the Obama family’s constant appearances on “Entertainment Tonight” and the like, political pundits are now providing analogies about our country’s interrogation guidelines with the TV series “24.” I heard it with my own two ears. This clown said something to the effect of, “Well, I think we have gone away from techniques like Jack Bauer.” What? Are you kidding me?)
  • Since the game is in Tampa, do you think the NFL arranged a little surprise to commemorate the first “overfeated” team in history, the 1976 Buccaneers at 0-14, and invite the 2008 Detroit Lions to join them on the field together before kickoff? What a collection that would be.
(Sheridan’s Odds; 1/29)

Cardinals (+7) over Steelers (Sunday, 6:15 p.m. ET, NBC)
If I am allowed to tell the truth, I’m taking the points in this one simply because I want to root for Arizona. I can only hope they throw in Fitzgerald’s direction no less than 20 times, throw in trick play or two, and the Cardinal defense adds a minimum of two turnovers. Seriously, though, there is a much better chance of my grandma streaking across the 40-yard line during the second quarter. Go Cards.

Monday, January 26, 2009

House Call

I won’t do this often, and haven’t done it yet, but I have to start off with a few house notes. Saying that makes it sound important … “house notes.”

First off, thanks to anyone who is actually reading this, coming back, commenting and all that good stuff. I would appreciate, particularly for the ButDogs crew of people, passing around the link if you feel it’s worth a damn to read. And yes, I request that in a selfish way. So what? I say that mostly because between pretty much now and the end of March, The Fun Car will be featuring pretty much a ButDogs love fest. Not much else going on.

Second, I will be going to a Monday-Thursday schedule for columns … simply because without football, well, just not as much that people care about. And frankly, considering I have about a dozen readers (I hope), twice a week seems about right.

(Side note: The other reason is that personally, I have to figure out what I’m doing with my life. Suggestions are welcome, and encouraged. At this point I’d consider many options, including babysitting or being a nanny.)

Parents Weekend

So the Christmas gift I gave to my parents turned out to be a pretty solid idea, if I do say so myself. I mention that because usually I’m not this good with gifts. Mom and dad came to Indy to witness Butler’s utter pounding of UW-Milwaukee on Saturday – supposedly the second or third “best” team in the Horizon League.

There’s a few things to talk about regarding the game, but first a few more important musings. I’ll start with suggesting catching a game at Hinkle in Section 29, Row AA. That’s front row of the east side balcony, pretty much right behind the hoop … solid vantage point, and considering the score, it was a great perk to listen to Brad Stevens do his thing on the sidelines. I vote his first-half technical to be the highlight of the season, thus far.

Even though there was a game going on, about half the time, mom was reaching into her purse to get the camera phone cranking. The worst moment? When she leaned over to my dad to make some comment – pretty standard – right when Gordo threw down the alley-oop from his buddy Shelvin. So much disappointment when the crowd blew up and they had no idea what happened, but I told them it’s OK … they’ll be doing that for the next four years, so just get used to it. I'll do my best to not go on and on about my boy Gordo again, but I'll just say that he could very well be the best all-around defender I have ever seen on a college b-ball court in my short lifetime.

A few more serious thoughts about the performance by the ButDogs. One, don’t get too excited about the performances by Shawn Vanzant and Grant Leiendecker. Just put the brakes on that one. It was kind of fun to see, in a strange way, but personally I know I don’t really want to see that again. Unless, of course, they’re up 25 in the second half. I’ll put it this way: My old man had never seen Vanzant play in person before, maybe once or twice on TV, and his direct quote to me in the middle of the game was, “He’s kind of spazzy, out of control the way he moves all the time.” Well said, dad. But I admit the depth was good to see in a pretty non-important kind of way.

Another thought, it has been brought up a few other places (most recently by ESPN’s Andy Katz) that the ButDogs now have to worry about complacency. That’s the type of stupid comment you make when you’re a national writer and don’t know much about the team, coach, players or program. It’s the type of comment you make when you’re writing a “Saturday Wrap-Up” column and you just need to find something short and “meaningful” to say about Butler. Gimme a break. Has that ever been a problem in the past? Even if they lose one or two games in the conference, will that matter? No. And no again. Butler’s success or failure will not come down to complacency. Please.

That will about wrap it up for another cheerful Monday. Tune on on Thursday for a Super Bowl Extravaganza and feel free to comment or email me at with anything useless or somewhat funny. Cheers.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reality show special

So a couple weeks ago, myself and a friend were having, um, the type of conversation we normally have. You know, excessive tangents and usually quite crude analogies and such. We may or may not talk about women every now and then. But I feel like I should also say that he is a minority. Awkward silence after the PC term …

I mention that piece of it because, as a white guy, having a true friend who can just as soon make degrading comments about my heritage is something you can’t really compare anything to. I make Mexican jokes, he comes back with something revolving around kilts and potatoes. Two white guy friends could never do this. And yes, if you are a follower of this column, this is the same guy who has the bagpipe ring tone for me.

This particular conversation we somehow ended up on the topic of reality TV shows, something about just the general awfulness of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I have been sucked into a few myself over the years, but most of them are there solely to make fun of. Well, doing our racial joke routine yet again, we started thinking up reality shows with overtones … funny ones.

You tell me, what could be more realistic than taking a “typical” bar-scene-type white guy – decked out in his khaki shorts, t-shirt and flip flops – and dropping him in the middle of South Central L.A..? Think of the possibilities here people. Having a true wing man in the ghetto, he could be adopted by a small group and taught the ropes … with obvious tests along the way, hoping to gain street cred.

Similar scenario, take a middle age Mexican gentleman who doesn’t speak much English and toss him in the classic “cubical office” with mostly white guys and ladies. He would be a mid-level Account Rep type, having to go through several types of business meetings while trying to overcome all the stereotypes. And the catch could be that, his prior manual labor skills somehow save the day when the building endures a somewhat minor disaster. Eduardo comes through!

I could go on and on, but I really think it’s worth looking into. Somehow the producers could twist the teases and themes to revolve around “America finding its true identity” so that advertisers would flock to it. Viewers would come by the millions to see something they have never seen before. If anyone knows someone at the networks, feel free to pass along my name and they can thank me later.

Big Weekend

Anyone remember what I said about Butler on Monday? Maybe I was right about something. Yet again Thursday night, the ButDogs were nice to Wisconsin Green-Bay by not showing up for the first half, eventually pulling away 68-59. Its kind of like a cat who finds a mouse and gets him trapped, but just kinda plays with it for an hour before actually killing it.

I wasn’t at Hinkle last evening, but I sent a few texts with my free season ticket partner – one of them being about six minutes into the second half when every Butler fan knew exactly what was going on. My text read: “See what happens when your best three players are the only ones who shoot? Genius!”

The ButDogs now have a two-game cushion in the loss column in the current standings of the vaunted Horizon League. I’m willing to say that this one is over, folks. Even if Butler loses two conference games, there is no way anyone else is running the table. Try to argue otherwise.

Butler’s little stepbrother, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is scheduled to show up at Hinkle for a 2 p.m. tip tomorrow in a contest of the top two in the conference standings. There is only one important thing about this game: I was tipped off a few weeks ago by my buddy at the Horizon League Network that UWM features a JuCo transfer who goes by the name of “Big Thunder.” I expect a cheer for the fella. He’s listed at 6-7, 340 and apparently is pretty soft on his feet. And he even chucks 3s (22-59 on the season). Now this is going to be something to see. Photos to come on Monday, stay tuned.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Devil appears

OK, no more Tim Tebow. I get it. First column on Friday that didn’t have a comment on it … safe to say the handful of readers may actually agree on something. So I’ll move on.

While sitting face up at the bar on Saturday night, I was introduced to Tucker Max – an extremely offensive, distasteful and hilarious writer. Apparently I’m way behind the curve on this, but supposedly his narratives on his own sexcapades are really true. True on not, I sat there with my buddy’s iPhone to may face giggling for a solid five minutes.

We then proceeded to have a couples glasses of The Devil’s Piss, as Max calls it, which also goes by Red Bull-Vodka. Simply put, the stuff will give you the worst hangover possible … but that’s why I don’t drink it anymore, for the most part. Well I did, and that leads me to Sunday.

I’ve become ashamed of hangovers, but once again, football saved me. Gambling aside, those were two kind of surprisingly classic games to watch. And once and for all – finally, I’m on the Arizona bandwagon. If they’ll still let me on.

Last night, after Troy Polamalu went the other way for six to seal the deal for Pittsburgh, I was pretty convinced that I was watching the best collective defense I have ever seen in my somewhat brief football viewing career. I don’t enjoy admitting it, but I think it’s better than the Bears’ D two years ago – and I was only three years old when the ’85 Bears were doing their thing. I was convinced after that pick, but it had more to do with the performance of their secondary as a whole, especially in the second half. They were laying people out, even the corners. To me that’s a pretty good sign.

Put that on top of seeing Larry Fitzgerald be a complete freak against the Eagles, putting him on a completely different level than any of his peers or dudes that attempt to cover him, and it turned into a day definitely worth remembering. How could you not love to root for the Cardinals? It kind of makes you feel like a kid again, you should try it.

There were several times in the fourth quarter where you could just see that Arizona was going to win that game, and none were more apparent than the visual display of Brian Dawkins getting run over multiple times by, um, Tim Hightower. Dawkins used to not fall backwards, be he was the one falling that way on Arizona’s clinching touchdown. It was like you could literally see the old team surrendering to the team of destiny. What classic viewing, I tell you.

And when Fox came back from commercial, Joe Buck opened by asking, “Was there ever a drive that could potentially put a guy in the Hall of Fame?” If it made sense to respond to a question with a statement, this would be a perfect time to say, “You’re exactly right, Joe.” Think of Kurt Warner a couple years ago in a Giants uniform. Could you ever have seen this happening? And more important, why haven’t we seen Fox make cuts to Matt Leinart standing on the sidelines? So many things to love about this team. Stay tuned the next couple weeks for more Super Bowl fun.

Second half ButDogs

As painful as it was to see Butler chuck an ungodly amount of 3s in the first half at UIC on Saturday, most thrown up there by guys you’d rather not shoot them, this team just continues to show that its talent is too much to handle in this conference – even when they play like a high school team for a half.

I’m starting to just appreciate this team for what they are – an extremely raw and talented bunch who seems to rise the occasion more often than not. But also a team who is going to make stupid mistakes and really frustrate you at times. It officially makes it the most interesting team to watch that maybe we've ever seen at Butler.

And I can’t help but say that my man crush on “Gordo” continues to grow. You know what I’ve realized the past few weeks? When I watched him play a handful of times last year at Brownsburg, he was nowhere near this good. He didn’t even come close to dominating and taking over games like he’s doing right now. I’m the first one to admit that I never expected him to create so many problems on defense while making you say “wow” with his inside-outside game on the offensive end. But that’s exactly what he’s doing.

And I feel like Shelvin Mack needs some type of nickname or description. Any thoughts? On a relative off night, the kid posted 18 points, eight boards and eight assists on Saturday. And Gordo just keeps taking his glory. Something like “The Shadow,” but cooler than that. Or maybe the two of them could just be Batman and Robin. Let’s see where this goes.