Monday, October 30, 2006


With all this spare time as a bi-coastal-once-a-month writer, I have taken up XM satellite radio because they do have the best sports package and they don’t have Howard Stern.

Anyhow the Bee Gees were on the other day and that song “Words” reminded me that it is words that really lights the fire of sports of fans. The lyric you might recall is “Its only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away…” Two recent examples of words, all kind words I should note, came last week when the Beach women’s soccer team shutout Fullerton on a national TV soccer feed and then the women’s volleyball team shut out UCSB. The volley contest was sent out live on the inter-net using the play by play of the Gaucho student radio.

In both cases the broadcasters were loaded with glowing notes about the home team, Titan soccer at that stadium meant for American football, and the Gauchos, at the so called Thunderdome. Ironically after their pre-game optimism the electronic reporters could only give kind comments about the Beach gals and pointed criticism for their home teams, CSUF and UCSB. It doesn’t happen often but it sounded awfully good for a change. The queens of the spike play Saturday at former patsy Irvine (8-14) but have to be careful after the Eaters went on the road and won at UCSB and SLO.

Fast forward to the present, the Niners did win their half of the Big West title and are top seeds for this weekend’s Big West Women's Soccer Tournament with George Allen watching down on his field. Action begins on Friday when No. 2 seed Santa Barbara meets No. 3 seed Fullerton at 11:00 a.m., while fourth seed Cal Poly battles the top-seeded Beach booters 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first match. Sunday's championship is slated for 1:00 p.m.

For the volley queens it was the first time since 2001 they have won at UC Santa Barbara and in a three game sweep with a gallant comeback in game one before they just dominated. Down 25-19 and 28-24, LBSU swiped game one from the Gauchos, 33-31 and then ran Queen Kathy off her own court. This weekend the Beach has to visit UC Irvine on Saturday not normally a scary thought except the Anteaters (8-14, 3-5 Big West), are coming off a five-game win in The Thunderdome and a similar win over conference leader Cal Poly.

CATCH UP DUST-Niner men’s volleyball is almost done with their exhibition seasons, whipping USC all weekend at the Mid and now roughing it with a trip to Hawaii for matches today (Thursday) and Friday. One newcomer to note is Dan Alexander who is back on the court after medical miracles but Beach trainers Dan Bailey and Josh Stone.

Another medical note comes from the PGA tour where LB Alum Paul Goydos, off the tour for a year plus finished in a tie for 2nd Place at the Chrysler and retain his tour card and up his 2006 earnings to over $890,000 and 97th on the money list.
Speaking of moneyed folks, the Los Angeles Angels of St. Louis featuring World Series MVP David Eckstein and a bunch of former Halos must have given owner Arte Moreno a trip to the same psychiatrist that George Steinbrenner visits considering the ones that got away.

Back to booting, the Beach Sunday loss to Riverside came about mid week when scoring star Hayley Bolt “rolled and ankle” and had to miss the contest. Tied at 0-0 at the half, the Beach coaching staff emptied the Bench and rested the rest of the regulars.

Last add exhibitions, the Mid has a improved scoreboard and some other wrinkles when Larry Reynold’s conference favorite 49ers host Chapman at 7 Saturday night, their only warm up before going to CBE Classic at Stanford November 14th. The ladies of hoop have a for fun tilt against Love and Basketball next Tuesday then help USC open their new Galen Center on Friday November 10. –DR. DAN

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Perfect Storm: Hurricane Football, FIU and the Media Frenzy of 2006

October fourteenths are not supposed to be memorable for college football contests, what with a worsening war in Iraq, the World Series, the NBA, NFL, NHL, WMD.

But perfect storms sneak up on you. My first inkling was when this game was being called the next USC-UCLA cross town “rivalry.” Not a neighborhood war, brawl, fight for pride. Like any fan outside of Miami (or those not in the small crowd inside the OB) if you wanted to see the game you went to a sports bar. I noticed early on that the “kid announcers” were obviously pro Miami, nothing different than any home team crew but obviously inexperienced and not supervised by that mysterious “truck”.

I had been to a lot of big games with the Canes; I was in that pond of green in the sea of Red at the Rose Bowl for the 2001National Championship. Surrounded by Corn Cob hats, suspenders and Go Big Red, we bravely (and briefly) lifted our Hurricane Flag when the UM scored. The Husker fans, whose view was momentarily obscured, grumbled so we agreed that we would raise the banner for Miami touchdowns only, not field goals. Still a lot of lifts.

The next Surrounded by Red moment was in the NC game at the Fiesta Bowl where referee Terry Porter made the Hall of Shame with a bogus pass interference call after the fireworks had started.

Fast forward to October 14 and my beginning to wonder why the fans in this Cocoa Beach sports bar were so bitter about a football fight where nobody got hurt, even the out of uniform, crutch-swinging FIU player. Fast forward to today, this is my essay about why UM football inspired that over the top national media frenzy.

By way of background Miami is a boutique campus football program (FT enrollment 10,132) in a sport normally dominated by big boxes like Tennessee, Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Penn State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas.

The University of Miami is a major research university set in a tropical garden. As one of only 26 private research universities to operate both a law and medical school, the University of Miami is located in one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the country. Currently celebrating its seventh decade of achievement, the University comprises 14 schools and colleges devoted to various fields of study from architecture to international studies. For rivals they still won’t admit that the UM academic rep is outstanding. The Canes match the publicly funded schools doctor for doctor, lawyer for lawyer and then go out and beat you in football.

In athletics this relative NCAA newcomer has won NCAA championships in baseball (1982, 1985, 1999, 2001), golf (1970, 1972, 1977-78, 1984) swimming and diving (1975-76) but it is those five national championships in football (1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001) that brought out the green-eyed monster of jealousy from those big boxes. More fuel to the fire came when some years ago the University athletic logo makers came up with the idea of calling their teams “The U” as if they were the “one and only.” The slogan and the trademark ticked folks off then and still does now.
Enough of the background, what happened on that balmy night in the “antiquated” Orange Bowl? (Some observers by the way suggest that the national media has a grudge against Miami for making them work out of sub-par facilities where even if that color announcer wanted to go down and fight no way he could have caught the elevator in 30 minutes). Now the facts on film, there was a FIU player who is caught on tape running through the Miami warm-up area. Nobody retaliated. Once the game began the referees were virtually invisible. Had they disqualified anybody early on, perhaps the pair that jumped the defenseless Miami extra point holder Mr. Perrilli, it might have stopped there. If the flagrant foulers were immediately thrown out of the game this would have stopped all the nonsense. They weren’t, FIU was “emboldened” and Miami was “enraged”, the cameras were rolling and nothing in Northern Ireland, South Iraq or any other hot spot could stop the soon to come media frenzy feeding on the Miami rep.

No doubt the FIU pre-game bumps were followed by lots of mutual trash talk. During the early parts of the game was close (don’t all games start out 0-0?) but to the FIU defenders the second touchdown seemed to signal the beginning of what had been a too familiar end for the Panthers, winless all year and losers in a record seven over times the week prior. Dismissing the two FIUs that jumped the most helpless player on the field--an extra point holder on his knees--was likely not a difficult decision for Coach Stock, they were hardly marquee talents to begin with. Properly however their university, like Miami, did not throw these kids away, instead immediately assured one and all that their scholarships would be honored and the FIU would offer a package of student services sans athletic participation. Miami suspended 13, 12 one gamers and a who knows how long, and similar student services.

This action however wasn’t enough to stem the media madness (although the Dartmouth Holy Cross fight, not filmed and not by famous football teams saw no one punished). Forget that Miami has one of the best graduation rates around for a major program. (and If it wasn't for the early NFL departures (84 players many of them juniors went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft from 1984-2006) it would be even higher.) One insider said that “over the past decade, Miami has had fewer player arrests or NCAA-related incidents than almost any other major program in the country. Miami has not had 20-plus incidents involving shoplifting, assault, gun charges and failed drug tests over the past two years, as Tennessee has. Miami has not had to dismiss a star player for earning money through a phony job, as Oklahoma has. Miami has not had a star linebacker accused of sexual assault on the eve of its bowl game as Florida State did last year and Miami's most recent Academic Progress Rate (956) placed it in the top 20 to 30 percent of all Division I football programs.”

That’s nice but remembers this is a small box program with much success, plus they use a lot of inner city kids who have a “freewheeling style…annoying and offending college football's more buttoned-down establishment.” Okay you say but what about the recent news items. The Chick Fillet-Peach bowl post game scuffle came after a LSU player mugged a Miami student manager to get a souvenir football with the U logo. LSU, after a thorough on the field whipping it was not a good time to pull that stunt.

The Louisville logo. Hardly anything that the Cardinal faithful didn’t expect and in fact in pre-game chat rooms fans openly hoped that it would happen because historically it got their team mad. The Canes did it and the Cards worked it.

All of that aside, ESPN and the copy cat commentators and columnists from around the country went to the clip file for 20-year-old stories about the Hurricanes--Hurricanes wore Army fatigues to the Fiesta Bowl; humiliated Texas in the Cotton Bowl 46-3 in 1991 while getting 202 yards in penalties; playing a series with Notre Dame that the media christened “the Convicts vs. the Catholics”. Despite the generally agreed notion that since Dennis Erickson left UM’s current program has been clean and almost low key. Added irony, if you are a big time NFL pro fighting is funny and acceptable; Bill Romanowski is intense but UM players are thugs?
Popularity polls aside, between 1983 and 1991 Miami won exactly half of the national championships! Adding insult to injury, this was a school founded in 1925 of only 11,000 very diverse student body and a much smaller sports budget, smaller fan base, smaller alumni base, very little history and inferior facilities.
Looking forward. No bouquets yet for Miami’s commitment for the new 'zero tolerance' policy, a player ejected from a game for fighting faces at least a season's suspension. And coaches will go immediately to a hot seat. Pretty impressive but not something I hear the old major big-box programs copying.

Finally I would like to pass the pen to former coach and player Bill Curry who wrote on his web site. “Our kids play video games that make the FIU-Miami brawl look like a Sunday school picnic. We pack huge arenas to watch grotesque actors impersonate competitive athletes while bashing each other with metal folding chairs and throwing referees out of the rings.”

So we end this explanation of why this perfect storm unleashed an unprecedented media feeding frenzy with an invitation to a good old fashioned Hurricane Party. The guest list is open, even Lee and Kirk and the out of town writers can come. Our pal Ron White will mix up the drink of the day. "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade ... and go out and find someone whose life has given them vodka…”. --DR. DAN

A Personal Reflection by Dr. Dan Barber, Miami ’68 and ‘70

Monday, October 02, 2006


If Diamond Dust has a dogma it is alliteration so today’s edition of notes on my napkin will start with Misa and the Munchkins and finish with high hopes for hoops. In between we promise to cover much of the remaining sports landscape but the without a pigskin to squeeze, fumble or even inflate, volleyball and basketball are the feature fall topics at LBSU.

Volleyball first. Thanks to my subscription to the web casts of CSTV here in FLA, I compared the video and re-wind version of volleyball with the live act I saw before slipping South last month. I am no expert but I can count. In Saturday’s struggle against SLO the Beach sent 13 players into the fray, a figure in the past that you might not even see on senior night. More intriguing was that except for the outstanding summer import Misa Hasalikova (6-4), much of the rotation that led a gritty comeback from down 2-0 to overtime was made up of what the chat room crowd called “The Munchkins”, players in the 5-5 to 5-8 range as opposed a typical long and tall LB lineup.

What’s next, well the volleyball landscape that LB dominated until recent years is very competitive. Even in the Big West the Beach is midway down the table looking up at three or four teams in the standings. The Munchkin movement makes it fun but in the long haul the Niners will have to reload the program with another hand of aces like those that hung the banners in the past.

Next up a program clearly on the rise, the suddenly amazing soccer team. After two key conference wins last weekend over Pacific and Northridge the Niner booters travel to UCSB Friday and Cal Poly on Sunday. Using what is becoming known as a twin tower offense, 5-foot-8 Hayley Bolt and 6-1 Sarah Strohl, the Beach youngsters were physical (two Tigers left the contest) and resilient, up 2 zip, tied at two and then winning in the 69th minute, to up their record to a fancy 10-2 and 2-0.

Back to the bases, the hot stove leaguers spend their autumn afternoons ranking the 2007 collegiate recruiting classes and the news is not all good for the Dirtbags. There were 86 teams ranked and USC was first, that would be South Carolina, followed by Miami, Florida and Oklahoma. The Dirtbags came in 46th but fortunately the games are played in the spring between white lines not from the Barca-lounger in the fall.

Last add soccer. The loss to Eastern Washington was the Eagles' first victory over a top 25 team ever and a fluke swing and miss by the Niner goalie opened the door. Take that away and you have just a 1-0 loss to UCLA.

One more Jered Weaver report. Insiders say that over the winter opponents will try and figure out his deceptive delivery that keeps hitters off-balance. But what about that impeccable control and ability to handle the pressure of big-time environments.

One more long distance sports reporting. I can tell you for sure that a net serve via CSTV to FLA hurts as much as it does in the Pyramid. The difference is that my senior citizen neighbors in this condo by the sea come out and cuss me back for me waking

Last add hoop city, which might be the name of this town next march. The men are picked to win the Big West and the women shared that title last year. Both squads add some firepower and give the fans an early peek by hosting “Friday Night Hoops” on October 13 just after the last whistle of the 49er women’s volleyball match against UC Davis. And as our pal Vic Cegles would remind you, plenty of good season seats still available. –DR. DAN