Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eddie Sutton Ushered Out Like a USD Fan In the Pepperdine Section!

Holler. To explain the header, unceremoniously (and see below). Day two of the trip, March 8th. Feeling a little more settled, this blog was looking forward to visiting Petco Park, home of the Padres, for a ballpark tour. Pun City headed to the ballpark district for lunch before the big tour.

This blog got tickets first, which ended up being unnecessary since there were only about 10 visitors on the tour. Once this blog had ticket in hand, this blog headed toward where it thought it had seen some restaurants. As it turned out, there weren't a ton of restaurants around. No worries though, it only takes one cool restaurant to be a success.

Basic Pizza was that cool restaurant. It is certainly the most minimalist restaurant this blog has ever visited. A concrete floor, a couple tables rising from the concrete, a concrete bar also coming up from the floor, 2 TVs and a stereo. Pretty badass. Also, a one-page menu where you choose a sauce (3 varieties), then toppings. No dollar signs on the menu and the largest decimal was "1.5" for a couple toppings. Very good pizza though, this blog polished off a cheese and sausage on red sauce. Got a chance to watch a couple games and the bartender was really cool and spinning some good music (Killers, Oasis, among others).

Sauntered over to Petco on a full stomach. Really awesome tour, had a very good host and got to see a lot of good behind-the-scenes areas. Among the good spots: the dugouts, a suite, the suiteholder's private restaurant, and the historic building that serves as the left field foul pole.

The tour concluded at the gift shop, and this blog decided it would pick up some postcards, only to discover.... no credit card. This blog wasn't overly concerned, but this is annoying. Pun City walked back to the start of the tour and the guide was kind enough to walk this blog back to all the tour stops in search of the missing card. The search proved fruitless, but in the midst of the walkthrough, it dawned on Pun City that it was possible Basic Pizza had the card since this blog isn't the most experienced when it comes to using those bill/card holders.

After getting back to Basic, Pun City found that the bartender had the card waiting and had tried to return it to this blog, only to discover Pun City was gone.

In any case, it was good not having to hassle with cancelling a card.

In a spur-of-the-moment decision, Pun City decided to run to San Diego State and try to check out the campus and arena. As it turned out, this wasn't a smooth move, and SDSU had a women's basketball game ending just as this blog arrived. The ushers were in no mood to let this blog see the floor, so Pun City resolved to come back on Monday.

The night's games were Santa Clara vs. San Francisco and host San Diego vs. Pepperdine. Santa Clara's student section was pretty large, so this blog had to move a little further out than it had been the night before.

Santa Clara won a barnburner, 51-50 on 2 free throws with 3 seconds remaining. This ended the coaching career of San Francisco's Eddie Sutton. No real fanfare about it, Pun City is glad it was there though, not too many others were either.
Above: USF Head Coach Eddie Sutton coaches his last game.

The Pepperdine-San Diego game had a pretty humorous scenario occur. Pun City was sitting near Pepperdine's section but not in it. This is an important distinction, because the extremely overzealous usher there would definitely not let anyone in that section without a ticket. Much to the usher's chagrin, somehow the 2 most obnoxious San Diego fans got tickets in this section.

Much hilarity ensued. Most of it centered on the two rowdies screaming at Pepperdine and their fans the entire game, Pepperdine's fans complaining and asking to have the guys' tickets checked, and the usher powerless to do anything since they were sitting (well, standing) in the right seats. All this while the usher was checking tickets for everyone that sat in the section, promptly booting about 90% of all comers. It was pretty comical, the rest of the arena had fairly even distribution of fans and there was this giant void in the Pepperdine section except for a cluster of Waves fans getting berated by the 2 most extreme Torero fans you could imagine.

San Diego rolled, the best sign in the crowd was one exclaiming "Mali-Booo!"

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pun City Ventures to The Whale's Vagina

It's been a while here, so this blog figures it's time to share the trip experiences it had. As you may know, the plan was to head to the WCC tournament in San Diego, head up to Los Angeles for a day, then out to Las Vegas for the Mountain West Conference tourney.

March 7th was the first day of the trip. Here is its story.

Flew out at 6:10 AM Central, which was rough. Luckily for Pun City, Inspirational Website was gracious enough to give this blog a ride to the airport really freakin early. This blog was flying to Denver, then connecting to San Diego. Flights were pretty uneventful, which was good. Frontier Airlines came through in this case, which is weird considering they're about to file for bankruptcy.

This blog got to San Diego fairly early (about 10:00 AM), then got a rental car. Luckily they were out of economy cars at Enterprise, so this blog got upgraded to a Mazda 3 for free. This blog then went to see where it would be staying, which was very centrally located in the downtown area.

This blog then checked out the University of San Diego campus, figuring it would get the lay of the land before the night's games. This blog walked forever around campus, primarily looking for a bookstore that Pun City now believes was a misprint on the campus map. That wasn't the worst thing in the world, and this blog did get a bunch of exercise. Among the highlights was discovering that there is a common area where they have free newspapers. Pun City grabbed a USA Today and read it in the Mazda 3.

After casing the very hilly campus, this blog went back to where it was going to stay (a friend of Inspirational Website's condo). The host for the evening had yet to arrive, so this blog decided to walk around and try and find a restaurant. The initial goals were 1. A spot with affordably priced food and/or beverage; 2. Ideally a place to watch the game; and 3. A spot hopefully nearby.

A large amount of walking soon added another goal: somewhere to sit down. Pun City soon realized that there were not really any eating establishments within walking distance of the condo. Some Italian place that looked expensive, and a "deli" (glorified convenience store) with some lawn furniture set up on the street. This blog tried to find something else, it really did, but the "deli" won out. In the end, its proximity to the condo, seating, and available beverages ended up being the deciding factors.

Pun City sat for a while, topped off a lemonade, and strolled back up to the condo. This blog snoozed in the car for a while until the host called up and said she was there. Pun City initially had some trepidation with the arrangement, after all it was basically staying with a stranger. But the week's host turned out to be pretty cool after all. She went way above the call of duty and cooked up some chicken-pesto-noodle dish for dinner, which was very good. Soon after dinner, it was back to USD for the night's games, Loyola Marymount vs. San Francisco, and Pepperdine vs. Portland.

Despite being a "sellout," the arena was about 1/4 full and the 2 scalpers were selling tickets for under face value. Pun City was watching USF head coach Eddie Sutton intently, knowing this could be the final game of his illustrious career. (Sutton had come back for the 2nd half of the season, after USF's head coach had mysteriously "taken a leave of absence." He mainly deferred to his assistants, and it seemed like he was trying to audition Robert McCallum to be his replacement. (As it turned out, it didn't work, Rex Walters was hired between then and now).
San Francisco closed out the win, taking a 7-point lead with 6:32 remaining, then cruising to a 79-60 win.

Pepperdine then took out Portland. This game didn't have much. Of note were Jack Sikma's son playing for Portland as a freshman; Portland starting the only native Japanese player in Division I, and this blog noticing that Pepperdine's logo, when looked at from a certain angle, seems very similar to Miami of Ohio's.

Other points of note from "The Slim Gym," USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion:

-The arena served actual Mr. Pibb on tap. This wasn't Pibb Xtra, it was genuine Mr. Pibb. Pun City hasn't seen that in a long time.

-Pun City got a picture with the Geico gecko, plus a free caveman can cooler. (Geico was the main sponsor of the event).

-Despite having seats in the 2nd-to-last row, Pun City was able to sit in the 2nd row for both games, simply by finding the section where a non-playing team's fans belonged.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Ford Field's Football Format: Forgettable

Good evening. Pun City's working on some exciting (well, to this blog anyway) research for The Rule. More to come on that. Let's just say of the 478 games this blog has looked at, only 18 had the rule broken. That's over 96% successful as yet. Still a good number of games to look at (over 5,000 were played this year), but a good start.

For now, even though this was the last trip Pun City took, this blog figured it'd be cool to share a letter it wrote to the NCAA, commenting on their choice of Ford Field as a venue for the NCAA Tournament, in particular with the "full stadium" layout.

To Whom It May Concern:

This blog recently attended the Men's basketball championships at Ford Field in Detroit (Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games). Having attended hundreds of live sporting events in this blog's life, Pun City can honestly say they were the worst seats this blog has ever had at any event. Pun City was in section 340, row 12. From this view, Pun City could not see the nets. Players were mostly indistinguishable in warmups, and uniform numbers were the only way of separating players once the game began. Referee's whistles and sometimes pep bands were not very audible, if at all. While $53.00 for 3 games seemed like a good deal on the surface, it somehow managed to be a poor value in the end, due to the poor game experience the seat location provides.

Beyond this, vast expanses of unused space on the lower levels existed. This seemed like an unnecessary waste of potential seating space, and seating space with a good view of the action at that.

Ushers repeatedly checked patrons’ tickets when entering my section. This struck Pun City as absurd given that no one would intentionally "sneak into" this lousy section. This blog understands the need to check tickets in most sections (primarily the lower level), but game personnel should be advised to employ common sense with some of the peripheral (read: worst) sections.

Multiple times there were game stoppages due to incorrect scoreboard readings (This blog believes both were around the 10:37 mark in the 2nd half of the Davidson-Kansas game). The problems were dealt with relatively quickly but this blog can't help but speculate these issues were caused by having the court configured as it was. (In the middle of a large space, possibly far from the power sources traditionally used at the facility, then raised up 3 feet above ground level).

The court configuration being above ground level struck Pun City as odd and unnecessarily dangerous, as more than one player had to jump off the high platform while chasing a loose ball. This blog's understanding is that the court was raised to improve sightlines, which is a good idea, but Pun City doesn't think that player safety should be compromised for this reason. On a personal note, from section 340, another 3 feet further from the action would not have made a difference. Having the coach on the same level as the players, as would be the case at all other Div. I venues except Minnesota and Vanderbilt, probably would have proven to be a more comfortable setup for the players and coaches also.

As per usual, event shirts were overpriced ($25.00 for a t-shirt), but in this blog's opinion there weren't even any good designs this year for the "all logo" varieties. Each shirt showed the Final Four logo and had some type of San Antonio theme. Pun City understands that the Final Four is often the event most people associate with NCAA basketball, however in this blog's opinion the regionals should have their own identity and not have to include Final Four images to hold up. At the very least, this blog would like the option of a more "generic" shirt that does not mention Final Four, much less has San Antonio imagery rammed down your throat when you're in Detroit, a city with its own unique identity. Pun City knows the teams are not decided until very close to the game date, but the site is chosen well in advance and there is such a large scale of shirts being made that this blog doesn't believe splitting into 4 different "backgrounds" on the shirt is too much to ask for each regional site to have its own graphic identity. Everyone knows the goal is the Final Four, if we want a Final Four shirt we can get that separately. (Or continue producing regional shirts with Final Four logos on them, but give the option of an event-specific shirt also, I would imagine the Detroit shirt would sell better than the San Antonio one).

That said, the individual team shirts (i.e. "Davidson Sweet 16") were well-designed and if this blog were in the market for one of those, it would not have had an objection purchasing one.

Pun City would highly recommend not using a configuration where the entire football stadium is used in the future. This blog's experiences at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis have been much more positive than the Detroit "full stadium" setup. As this blog is sure you are aware, the RCA Dome used bleachers and a divider to maximize one half of the football stadium instead of miscasting an entire football stadium as a basketball venue. Final Four patrons should not be subjected to such poor sightlines next year, especially since this blog believes they will undoubtedly pay more than Pun City did for my seats this year.

Another suggestion this blog would have is to show more consistent updates of other games being played. This is not a problem unique to Ford Field. At every National Championship event Pun City has attended (5 to date), fans are only able to see score updates when there is a break in the action. This blog believes that in venues like Ford Field and the RCA Dome, this is due to the lack of “auxiliary scoreboards” given the football configuration. In cases like these, Pun City would recommend specifying requirement of applicant stadiums with more flexible scoreboards (where they would be able to show necessary game information plus out-of-town scores), or using some of the back rows of seating to house temporary out-of-town scoreboards. Stadiums like the Bradley Center and the Palace at Auburn Hills either choose not to show out-of-town scores or are instructed not to, and Pun City feels this is a mistake. While the focus of event attendees is on the game in front of them, this blog would think almost everyone there wants to know what is going on in other games, and not just twice a half. While Pun City doesn’t know that this is an official policy, if it is, this blog has a hard time understanding the logic behind it.

Currently the only halftime entertainment at NCAA championship games is that provided by the cheerleaders, spirit squads, and bands of each school. This is good entertainment but Pun City believes there should also be some sort of promotional contest as well. The intermission gets to be pretty long and there is a lot of unused time where patrons have nothing to turn their attention to.

The security entering the venue was well-organized and this blog did feel safe at the venue, which was no small task given the neighborhood where the event was held. Concessions were bland and overpriced, but Pun City doesn’t think this was anything different than one could expect at any other venue (although the US Cellular Arena – a host for previous women’s championship events, and Kohl Center – host for previous men’s events have very good concessions). Elevator operators and workers at the fan assistance center were very nice. Pun City thought the facility did a nice job of getting all of their advertisements covered up for the game so that the NCAA and the game were showcased.

This blog will continue attending NCAA championship events but it looks forward to much better experiences in the future, and this blog would hope that you decide against continuing to use the “full football stadium” layouts. Feel free to contact Pun City if you have any questions.

Thank you for your time,

Pun City

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Marquette "aBuzz" With Excitement

Well, that was fast. Marquette hired Buzz Williams right away. A 5-day "search," which might have encompassed their entire campus, ended up picking Mr. Lightyear. He seemed like a good guy based on his press conference, but this blog is not thrilled with the hiring process. Not Williams's fault, granted, but here goes.

Number one - Okay, so you don't get Tony Bennett, Sean Miller, or Anthony Grant because they aren't interested. No one can blame you on that. That's a good reason to interview other candidates, like Wright State's Brad Brownell, Davidson's Bob McKillop, Southern Illinois's Chris Lowery, or Ohio State assistant John Groce. (As mentioned earlier on Pun City). By all accounts, it doesn't look like Marquette ever made any overtures toward these candidates. Which brings us to....

Number two - In five days, with most coaches in San Antonio for the Final Four and coaches convention, there's no chance they interviewed any of them. Buzz Williams may end up being a phenomenal coach. However, no one is of the opinion that Buzz Williams was a hot coaching name yesterday. There was no reason to move this quickly and "snatch up" Williams before someone else did. Pun City is not condemning the choice of Buzz Williams. Pun City is condemning the choice of Buzz Williams in 5 days without a national search. If they made the search, took another week, and still ended up with Williams, this blog would have been satisfied.

The 5-day "search" screams either "lazy" or "held hostage by 18-year-olds," depending on whether you believe they wanted to keep continuity by hiring an assistant with 9 months on the job; or if you believe they wanted to keep all of their incoming recruits at the expense of a better game coach. (Pun City would say Lowery, Brownell, and McKillop are all better game coaches. If they all turned MU down, be this blog's guest, hire Williams).

This blog has a hard time believing anyone came away from MU's search thinking, "That was really thorough." Oh well, Williams seems cool enough to take over. Problem is, if he's not at the level of some of the coaches MU didn't interview, then he's not likely to last his 6-year contract. Best of luck, Buzz Williams, Marquette didn't do you any favors.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Marquette-ch a rising star?

It's been a busy month, but Pun City has been ridiculously negligent with the posts. Time to stop the bleeding. Hopefully this blog can get up some new stuff on its recent trips to San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Detroit, including a review of Del Taco.

Big news in the area is Marquette Basketball. Here's Pun City's thoughts on their plight:

1. Marquette has a coaching search going on to replace Tom Crean. The order of preference this blog would have had initially was 1. Tony Bennett, 2. Sean Miller, 3. Anthony Grant, 4. Bob MacKillop, 5. Chris Lowery, 6. Brad Brownell, 7. John Groce (Ohio State assistant). Current Marquette assistant Buzz Williams doesn't appear on Pun City's list for a bunch of reasons.

a) Very little head coaching experience. He coached one season at New Orleans, finishing 14-17. This iteam alone would not be enough to merit an interview at a major conference school, much less a hire.

b) The way he left his prior head coaching position. Basically just bailed on them after the season to take an assistant's job at Marquette. Pun City always thinks that leaving a head job for an assistant's job shows poor leadership. Leaving after only one season is even worse. Leaving the kids he recruited in the city of New Orleans is worse still by this blog's estimation.

c) Hiring a head coach only for the sake of continuity is short-sighted. On the surface it seems ridiculous to this blog that an assistant coach that has only been there for one season would provide realistic continuity anyway.

Several recruits seem to have expressed interest in being released from their national letters of intent. For some, it doesn't even look like hiring Williams would keep them in the fold. By hiring Williams you run the risk of mortgaging the future for the present. It's conceivable that Marquette would be willing to take this risk because they have a good opportunity to have a great season next year. If Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Trevor Mbakwe return, they would have a very good nucleus. (Unfortunately, this blog realizes that Mbakwe's return is unlikely).

The ideal scenario would be hiring a very good "x's and o's" head coach other than Williams, then retaining Williams as a recruiting assistant. There has been speculation that Williams would not stay on unless hired as the head coach, so Pun City would caution Marquette fans against getting their hopes up. That said, MacKillop, Lowery, and Brownell would be fine choices for the job. The future of the program would be in good hands. With Williams as the head coach, Pun City does not have the same confidence.

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