You know how some people personify their automobile by giving the car a name? I'm not one of them, but my wife is. The other day she calmly turned to me and announced that she had finally named her new Toyota Prius. Let me just preface this by saying that the name is absolutely brilliant; so brilliant in fact that my only wish is that I had thought of it first. Her creativity is just one of the 4,094 (and still counting) endearing things I love about my wife. She's not a sports fan by any means but she lets me be one and when she drops the occasional sports dime like "I'm naming my car PriusFontaine" I swear I just want to rip her clothes off.
Speaking of PriusFontaine, the movie Without Limits, that chronicles the real life of the University of Oregon runner, Steve Prefontaine, who captivated audiences worldwide with his athletic accomplishments as both a national and international runner in the 1970's, is one of my all time favorites and one I highly suggest seeing if you haven't already. "Pre" as he was affectionately known, would push the envelope every time he competed. My favorite scenes involve Pre (played by Billy Crudup) interacting with his head coach, Bill Bowerman (Donald Sutherland), as the two combated over running styles and techniques. The movie delves into Bowerman's infatuation with running shoes and foreshadows his co-founding of Nike, Inc., which would occur some years later. The movie is inspiring, heart-warming and exhilarating. It makes you want to get outside and run, which you probably will right after you're done watching the movie. Unlike Pre, though, your love for running, if you're anything like me, will probably stop after about two minutes of exercise.
My new favorite commercial is the one where Shaq saves "Mike the Tiger" (LSU mascot) from a tree on ESPN's Bristol Campus. Shaq, clad in full Miami Police Department Beach Patrol attire (white shirt, navy shorts), appears into view as he scales down a ladder with Mike the Tiger draped over his shoulder. Once safe, Mike collapses from exhaustion while Shaq downs vitamin water. If this isn't funny enough, my favorite part is when an ESPN sports analyst delivers a congratulatory pat on Shaq's back after the entire ordeal is finally over. Shaq stops in his tracks and gives the obligatory Don't Ever Touch Me stare that is synonymous with officers of the law.
While on the subject of not touching a figure of authority, how can I ever forget an incident that occurred during a basketball game my sophomore year. We were playing Mater Dei for the second time that season and things were heated because we had already beaten them the first time around at their place. With about two minutes to go and us down by one, this fiery referee had had enough of their center's jabbering and whistled him for a technical foul. Normally, I would object to a technical being called at such a critical moment, but the guy literally pulled a Rasheed Wallace and after all, this was high school, not the NBA where refs are paid handsomely to put up with this kind of stuff. As the ref neared the scorer's table, I was getting instructions from my coach. When the ref and I crossed paths, I patted the ref on the back and I swear, to this day, the look he gave me, I thought for sure he was going to call a technical on me. He didn't, though, and we beat the Monarchs for the second time that season.
It's "Plea Bargain Time" in the Fizz this week as the last two of three Michael Vick co-defendants made it official when they pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a U.S. District Court earlier today. They join embattled ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy who pleaded guilty to two felony charges in a federal court on Wednesday. Will Vick be the next to take the plung? For his sake, he should as taking on the federal government is never easy to do.
My guess is the next professional sports figure to cop a plea besides Vick will be the bat wielding Jose Offerman who Tuesday night charged the mound in an independent minor league baseball game as if he were an extra in Braveheart. Offerman swung his bat wildly, striking the opposing team's catcher, John Nathans, in the head, leaving Nathans battered, bloodied and concussed. To make matters worse, he also broke the finger of opposing pitcher Matt Beech. All three were ejected from the game but it was Offerman who received the police escort from the stadium.
For those interested in running alongside 7-foot giants and controlling their every move with the power of a whistle, get your resumes primed and polished and hit the treadmill because if the rumors are true, David Stern might be holding open tryouts very soon for referees in a gymnasium near you. Rumored reports are that Donaghy is about to blow the cover off an NBA scandal that would name in the neighborhood of at least 20 other current and former league referees who are involved with shaving points and calling crooked games. Many balked at Stern's announcement weeks ago that Donaghy's actions were an isolated incident and that statement could now come back to haunt him. Not that the commissioner could have possibly known the magnitude of Donaghy's violations at the time but if I were him, I would've been a little more cautious than to make such a bold statement. After all, if there were to be a sport where it would be so incredibly simple to dictate a final score from an official's standpoint, it would certainly be basketball. The fast paced and high scoring action makes it simple for fans, players, coaches, announcers and just about everyone else except the assistant coach tracking the shot log to dismiss a bad call, bad play, bad shot and so on because there's just no time to sulk in basketball.
Speaking of not taking a moment to sulk in basketball, I'm reminded of an infamous Bobby Knight quote that's one of my buddy Joey's all-time favorites and one Joey has used on several occasions during our Thursday night Men's League basketball games. Knight once asked of his players, "If you make a mistake, I don't want to hear you say ‘my bad.' We all know it's your bad. We all saw the play. Just get your [insert three letter word that ends in ss] back on defense."
Here's a random thought: Am I the only person who's right now asking himself, why couldn't I have been the one who invented the newest doggie chew toy, the "Vick's Dog Chew Toy." Granted, this isn't like inventing the tooth pick, or the drinking straw, but…still.
News of Richard Jefferson's $3.5 million donation to the University of Arizona's Athletic Department is resonating throughout Wildcats circles. Jefferson, a fan favorite who helped guide Arizona's basketball team to the 2001 NCAA Title Game, is just another reminder of the kind of players that Lute Olson attracts to the Center of the Universe. It seems that it's only the malcontents that make the national headlines and I highly doubt that Jefferson's donation will make any news highlight reels, but it should. By all accounts, Jefferson is as classy off the court as he is smooth on the court. He's an outstanding representative of the university and a student athlete that Wildcats fans can be extremely proud of.
Arizona's football team concludes fall camp on Saturday with an evening scrimmage and a meet and greet with the players. Official practice for their opening game against BYU begins Monday, along with classes for all students. If I wasn't married, had two dogs, a really cool job and so forth I would so love to re-enroll in classes right now. In fact, my wife doesn't know this yet, but I've devised a five-year plan to buy property in Tucson, purchase season tickets and spend fall weekends in the Center for the rest of my life. I'll break the news to her soon enough, but first I need to somehow figure out a way to tell her that I'm planning to buy a big screen television in the next week or so prior to the BYU game.
Word out of fall camp is promising for our football team. It seems like our offense and defense are taking turns handing it to one another. Last year, every post practice report seemed to be how the defense dominated the offense, again. This year, our quarterbacks are having better success against what should be a vaunted Arizona defense and I'm sure a majority of that success is due in large part to Sonny Dykes' new spread offense. I'm not breaking any new ground here in saying that the success of our offense boils down to our offensive line. It appears that our young wide receivers, although many are still unknown to John Q Public, were all highly touted out of high school and are now stepping up in practice and playing very well. I also have no doubts in the abilities of Willie Tuitama as long as he can stay healthy. Our running backs, again virtual unknowns nationally, all run like bowling balls and can catch the rock out of the backfield, which will make them dangerous. TE Rob Gronkowski has been a beast and fullback Earl Mitchell will indeed join Gronko in knocking a few opposing linebackers on their tails this season. So, if Arizona's offensive line can open some holes and hold their blocks for at least a second longer this season, Tuitama should have enough time to distribute the ball to veterans like Michael Thomas and Anthony Johnson, and soon to be household name receivers BJ Dennard, Delashaun Dean, Terrell Turner, Terrell Reese, Mike Turner, Devin Veal and William ‘Bug' Wright.
On the defensive side of the ball, let the monster hits begin. Thursday night, Defensive Coordinator Mark Stoops let the dogs loose as Arizona's D picked up its intensity and tormented the offense in a 45 minute scrimmage that featured several quarterback sacks and some aggressive hitting from a variety of players. One player of note was sophomore Devin Ross who certainly made his presence felt by deflecting passes and flattening the ‘Cats who dared to enter his space.
Although Arizona's offense should be improved, the defense will still set the tone for this team. The difference this year is the offensive unit should have more success in capitalizing on the defense's good fortunes and when they do the near misses and close losses from previous seasons will hopefully translate into victories this time around.
As I bring to close another Friday Fizz, I was just lucky enough to see Sonic's newest commercial featuring their Cookie Dough Blast. It's one featuring the feisty female brunette and the cooky looking guy with glasses. She explains why she loves this blast because the cookie dough serves as road bumps in the straw, which prevents you from drinking the blast too fast. As she's finishing her explanation, the guy is speed slurping his blast and pumping his fist. He then says, and I'm paraphrasing, "That's how I roll. Fast, wild and out of control." He immediately then breaks down, succumbing to the forces of a brain freeze. The pained look on his face during the freeze frame, like all Sonic commercial freeze frames, is priceless. A must see commercial, but still not as good as Shaq's latest.
I'll see everyone on the flip side. Welcome back, students!
Until next week…Bear Down, Arizona!