All of my teams lost this weekend, so I’m really in no mood to think about sports, let alone write about them. But perhaps this little exercise in which I review what we learned this weekend in sports will be therapeutic and help me prepare for the months of heartache that surely lie ahead.
Maybe by taking a look at all the wonderful and curious things that are happening in the world of sports, I can learn to become a passive observer who can relax as I enjoy watching feats of athleticism, competition, gamesmanship, and sportsmanship, instead of a fan whose weekend is wrecked when Evansville loses a close game to Tennessee Tech (at home).
I’ll give it a try. Here’s what we learned this weekend.
1. No one is perfect . . .
A few weeks ago, I said that the Packers wouldn’t lose a regular season game unless Mike McCarthy decided to rest his players. I was wrong.
Saturday night on Facebook, I suggested that Aaron Rodgers was the only MVP candidate. Wrong again.
The Packers lost 19-14 Sunday to the Chiefs—a team that fired its coach this week and that starts Kyle Orton at quarterback—in a game where Rodgers completed fewer than half of his passes. Rodgers threw for 235 yards and accounted for 2 touchdowns, but 87 of those yards and one of those touchdowns came against a prevent defense with less than 5 minutes remaining and the Chiefs leading by 2 scores. (And if there’s one thing that I know about professional football, it’s that prevent defenses don’t prevent anything.)
Meanwhile Dan Orlovsky and the Indianapolis Colts ended their perfect season by beating my Tennessee Titans 27-14. The Colts ran for 205 yards (including 161 from Donald Brown) against the porous Titans defense and Tennessee turned over the ball thrice. The good news for Titans fans is that rookie quarterback Jake Locker has star potential. (Then again, so did Vince Young.)
2. . . . except maybe Drew Brees.
Entering this weekend, four quarterbacks were on pace to have 5,000-yard passing seasons. To date there have only been two 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history. (Dan Marino in 1984 and Drew Brees in 2008.) Rodgers and Eli Manning fell off the pace Sunday, but both still have a reasonable chance of reaching the milestone. Tom Brady needs 407 yards in two games to get there.
Drew Brees threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns in the Saints’ win against the Vikings Sunday. For the season, he has 4,780 yards. He needs only 220 yards to get to 5,000 and 305 yards to set the all-time single-season passing record (Marino’s 5,084 yards in 1984). And he has two games to do it. Brees, who leads the league in completion percentage and has thrown for 37 touchdowns, could nab his first MVP award unless Rodgers returns to form next week.
3. Yes, Virginia, there are college football playoffs.
Speaking of Virginia, Salem, Virginia was the site of Friday night’s Stagg Bowl, the Division III National Championship Game. For a 7th straight year, Mt. Union faced Wisconsin-Whitewater. Whitewater took its 3rd straight title and its 4th win in seven championship meetings with Mt. Union.
Meanwhile in Florence, Alabama the Pittsburg State (Kansas) Gorillas (that’s right) beat the Wayne State (Michigan) Warriors in the Division II title game.
In Division I-FCS Drew Lange’s North Dakota State Bison advanced to the Championship Game on January 7 in Frisco, Texas, where they’ll face Sam Houston State.
I’m not sure how the players at Wisconsin-Whitewater, Pittsburg State, and North Dakota State find a way to play all these extra games and still take their finals, but they manage.
Also, the Midwest dominates the NCAA football playoffs.
4. The Ohio University won all the sour cream and chives.
The Ohio U. Bobcats came back to edge out Utah State 24-23 in Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, a game that may have the best bowl-game logo ever designed:
The victory gave Ohio its first win in six bowl appearances.
5. The Missouri Valley is deep, no thanks to my Evansville Aces.
The Indiana State Sycamores men’s basketball team upset my #25 Vanderbilt Commodores 61-55 in Nashville Saturday night. Aside from my disappointing Evansville Purple Aces (who lost by two to Tennessee Tech to dip back below .500), the Missouri Valley Conference is off to a good start.
The Valley, which received multiple NCAA Tournament bids every year from 1999 through 2007 (including four bids in 2006 and three in 1999 and 2005) has been a one-bid league since 2008. This year, 4 teams have a realistic chance of making the dance: Indiana State, #24/25 Creighton, Northern Iowa (3-0 against major conference teams), and Wichita State (who boasts a 19-point win over UNLV).
6. Xavier needs to keep its players away from fights, and press conferences.
The Xavier Musketeers took the court Saturday for the first time since their Crosstown Shootout win over Cincinnati, a game that ended with a brawl instead of a buzzer. Last week’s late-game fisticuffs resulted in 4-game suspensions for Xavier freshmen Dez Wells and Landen Amos and a 2-game suspension for junior Mark Lyons. Star senior guard Tu Holloway (a national player-of-the-year candidate before the brawl) lost one game for his post-game comments.
Without the suspended players, Xavier lost 64-42 at home to Oral Roberts, the Musketeers’ first loss of the season. Cincinnati, the guiltier party last week, had no trouble with Wright State and Radford. Then again, the Bearcats didn’t lose an All American point guard.
Then again, if you’re a Xavier fan, there’s really no shame in losing to team that’s capable of doing this:
7. For the first first time in 5 years we have a new NCAA volleyball champion.
As if things weren’t already bad enough at Penn State, the Nittany Lions’ volleyball dynasty ended last weekend with a quarterfinal loss to UCLA. Saturday evening the #9 Bruins beat #3 Illinois to win their 4th volleyball title, the first title since 2006 not won by Penn State. Illnois remains without a women’s sports national championship.
8. This lady is walking across Antarctica.
32-year-old Felicity Aston of the United Kingdom is walking across Antarctica, by herself. Aston says the most challenging aspect of the 1,700-kilometer trek is the solitude:
“When that plane disappeared and left me on the wrong side of Antarctica all by myself with two little sledges, it really hit me that I’m completely responsible for myself,” she said in an interview by satellite phone. “It’s just you. You have to sort out your problems, and that makes you feel very vulnerable.”
Aston hopes to reach the South Pole this week so she can stock up on supplies. (I’m guessing that the South Pole has a Pilot Travel Center, and maybe a Walgreens.)
Remember Aston this week when you’re whining about having to walk 800 yards from your parking space to the mall entrance. You can follow her on Twitter.