The Mirl
The Website of Eric Mirlis
Blog Archive #9 - February 22-March 18

March 18 - More NCAA Observations
For the bulk of my blog today, I am referring you to this site:

That is a link to an article I wrote today for - my debut on the site. And before you say it, I'll do it for
you.....I know, I know. Ohio and New Mexico lost. So shoot me. My argument is still valid.

One other quick comment before I go today. This is really a topic for a later blog, but I heard something on the NCAA
coverage that really irked me. It is one of my biggest pet peeves. Last night Dick Enberg referred to a player (from
Fairleigh Dickinson, I believe) as being from Long Island, New York, as if Long Island is his hometown. As someone
who is proud to have grown up on Long Island, that really bothers me. Where on Long Islander, eactly is the kid from?
There are two counties and dozens and dozens of towns. Long Island, contrary to popular belief, is not one giant town.
Please, folks, getit right!

And I leave happy now - Jerry is back from the vet, safe and sound.

March 17 - The Pitts and Other NCAA Observations
Greetings from Eric O'Mirlis on St. Patrick's Day. Its been a few days since my last blog, and for that, I apologize. It
has been a real busy few days and I haven't had much time to do all that much the last few nights. But I'm back and
ready to go. And since it is (with tomorrow, of course) my favorite sports day of the year, I'm happy to be back in front
of the keyboard.

So, the NCAA Tournament is just a quarter of the way through the first round and my bracket is already partially
busted. Nice effort by the Pittsburgh Panthers today. Way to make the Big East proud, guys. What a disappointment
this team turned out to be this season. OH, well. That is one of my Elite Eight teams off the board. The only other
game I missed this afternoon was Iowa losing to Cincinnati. I think I probably picked that game because (like a lot of
college basketball fans) wanted to see Cincinnati slimeball, er, I mean Head Coach, Bob Huggins get his butt kicked.
That guy epitomizes everything that is wrong with college hoops, in my humble opinion, and starting next season, we
get to enjoy him in the Big East. Of course, he did one hell of a job helping get his team's graduation rate UP to 25%,
so maybe I'm overreacting. Then again, I'm highly skeptical he had anything to do with it. He was probably upset it
was so high.

I'm sitting and writing this while watching Wake Forest struggle early with Chattanooga, and I think I just found one
of my favorite names of the tournament. This afternoon brought us Pacific's Guillaume Yango, but this name is a bit
more subtle. Folks, I present.....Jamaal Levy. I wonder if my Aunt Sheila Levy would have named her son that if she
had a boy.

I've been reading Bill Simmons' on-going blog on today. He is doing a running diary of the NCAA today and
will do it again tomorrow. For those who are unaware, Dan Kaufman and I had been talking about me doing that for (I even did a test run one night), but Dan opted against it when it became apparent that there was
just too much going on for me to be doing that instead of my regular assignments. So, I'm reading it with a bit of
jealousy. The Sports Guy is, by far, the king when it comes to running diaries. I'll never be able to compete. But it
would have been nice to give it a shot to see how I compared (and to do it at the same time, so that if we do it next
year, we don't look like copycats). I doubt I would have been able to keep up, though. He is just too good.

By the way, I love the floor they use in Boise. I think it is great when the floor has a little personality. But is the
building really named the Taco Bell Arena? And people wonder why I refuse to use corporate names on the site.

Wow. They just showed a live look-in of the Gonzaga game. They are down early to Winthrop. Uh oh. My bracket is
officially toast if the Zags drop that one.

OK. Enough blathering from me. I have hoops to watch. See ya.

Oh, wait. Before I go.....Jerry is off to the vet tomorrow morning for some minor repairs. Say a prayer for him tonight,
just to be safe. He is too special for anything to happen to him, and this is minor and routine, but Keri and I are still
scared for him. Send him a little love in your dreams tonight.

March 13 - Shall We Dance?
Ah, the NCAA Tournament. One of my favorite sporting events of the year. I am definitely one of those who has lots of
trouble working this Thursday and Friday, the first two days of the tourney. Wall to wall hoops, from Noon to Midnight.
Big schools and small schools all on the national stage, fighting to win one of the great tournaments in athletics. And
this year, I get to enjoy it from a work point of view, too, since working at will mean that the games
will be on and we'll all be paying close attention to them. Think I'll be smiling? I'll be VERY happy to be at work, not
wishing I was in a sports bar somewhere watching.

With all that said, here are my comments on the brackets:

--Washington as a number 1 seed? This is a joke, right? No way!!! I know it seemed like no one wanted that last top
seed, but this was the wrong team to give it to. It says here they don't see the Sweet Sixteen, losing to Pitt in the
second round.
--The biggest snubs? Buffalo and/or Miami (Ohio) from the MAC, Holy Cross from the Patriot and, pardon me for
beating a dead horse, but Davidson from the Southern. May those four teams make the NIT Final Four, just so I can
say I told you so. Of course, they will all get pair up with each other in the early rounds so four big names can get to
the Garden - get ready for Maryland, Notre Dame and a couple others. These guys are my
Losers of the Week.
--Who is in but shouldn't be? I say UAB, Northern Iowa and North Carolina State. UAB? Eh. Northern Iowa? Did we
need a third team from the Missouri Valley over a second team from the Mid-America. NC State? Very overrated -
remember the night they scored ten in the first half at the Garden against St. John's, then tell me they belong.
--First round upsets?How about Wisconsin-Milwaukee (#12) over Alabama and then, just for the hell of it, over BC in
the second round to make the Sweet Sixteen. I'll also take New Mexico (#12 over Villanova), Ohio (#13 over Florida)
and Old Dominion (#12 over Michigan State) as my other teams seeded 10 or higher as first round winners.
Winner of the Week is Illinois. Why? Look at their road to the Final Four. Lots of respect given to the Illini on
this one.
--Finally, here is my Final Four.....Illinois, Connecticut, Syracuse and Gonzaga - a 1, 2, 3 and 4 seed. In the finals, I'm
going with Connecticut over Illinois for a rare repeat winner.

And Davidson will still be sitting at home, wrongfully snubbed.

March 13 - Warm Thoughts
Well, it has been a few days. Why? We took a little vacation. Keri and I just got back from a quick trip to Florida to
visit our parents, with an extra added bonus of my sister joining us while there. It was a nice break from the cold of
New York for a few days, that is for sure.

So we are back now, and I've got a couple things to talk about, since I've missed some time. Two bullets:

--My dad and I took in a spring training game on Thursday. It was Mets at Orioles in Fort Lauderdale. Believe it or not,
I'd never been to a spring training game before and, after this one, plan on going as much as possible in the future.
Think about it - 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and a game in a relaxed atmosphere. How bad can that be? Funny
thing from that game....In one inning, Carlos Beltran booted two seemingly routine flyballs hit to him in center. Of
course, this got all the Met fans in the stands a little antsy to say the least after that contract he signed. Well, the
next inning, a ball was hit to the Baltimore centerfielder, who immediately lost it in the sun. And the entire ballpark
had the same reaction - Beltran was off the hook. It was pretty funny hearing just about every conversation in my
vicinity immediately say that same thing.
--Championship Week has taken some wild turns and a lot of bubble teams are very unhappy today as they get ready
for Selection Sunday. There are already a handful of teams that were either teetering on the bubble or were completely
off it that took an automatic bid in a conference tournament where there was a team that is already in. Check out
Utah State in the Big West (Pacific is already in),  Creighton in the Missouri Valley (at a minimum Southern Illinois
will be in the tourney, with maybe Wichita State or Northern Iowa, although those two are in bad shape now), UTEP in
the WAC (Nevada is in) and New Mexico in the Mountain West (Utah will make it). This is going to cost teams like the
aforementioned MVC teams, or a potential second team from the MAC, such as Buffalo, who blew a 19 point second
half lead and lost on a last second overtime tip-in.

I'm working the Knick game tonight, but have the DVR ready for the Selection Show. I'll have a bonus blog tonight
after I fill out my bracket.

March 8 - Madness, Part 2
So, I'm sitting here, just after Oakland knocks off Oral Roberts in the Mid-Continental Conference tourney to make
the NCAA Tournament with a record of 12-18, and I'm saying to myself, "Self? How bizarre is this post-season already?"

So now, let me get all this right. Oakland goes 9-18 during the regular season (7-9 in conference), wins in a row, and
makes the NCAAs. Davidson goes 16-0 in conference in the regular season, has a bad night, and is on the outside
looking in. Makes sense to me, no? Now I know this is not the right situation to be looking at. I am a big proponent of
mid-majors making the tournament. I fully agree with each conference, regardless of size or stature, getting an
automatic bid. Absolutely, positively. I love the Cinderella stories like this one at Oakland (it is in Detroit, by the way,
not California). But there needs to be a way for teams like Davidson to get in. And I might have one.

But I think there is one restriction that should be placed on teams before they earn an at-large bid to the
Tournament. If you don't finish above .500 in conference during the regular season, you must win your conference
tournament or you are not eligible for the NCAAs. Not at .500. Above. Simple, right? Think about it. Why should you
reap the benefits of playing in one of the most watched sporting events (and bet on events) of the year, if you haven't
even won more than half your games in your conference. I know what the arguments are - unbalanced schedules in
tough conferences (next year's Big East, for instance, which will blow away any conference this season) make it tough
on those teams that aren't in the elite. Well guess what? Tough. Too bad. Win the games against the teams you are
better than and steal one or two against the better teams and it isn't an issue. Why should Georgia Tech, who
finished 8-8 in the ACC and lost twice to Clemson, who finished near the bottom, get in? It just doesn't make sense
to me.

I know there is no chance of this ever happening, of course, so don't read this and think I've deluded myself to the
point in believing this will occur. It hurts the pocketbooks of the big conference teams, and since they wield the most
power, they'll never allow it to happen. And I'm also not saying this would solve the Davidson problem this season.
But we all know that it would bring in a couple extra mid-majors. And we also know that, in the early rounds, and in
the office pools, and in Las Vegas, THOSE are the teams everyone watches. But since all that money goes into pockets
other than the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-10, SEC), it has no chance of ever happening.

Even if it makes sense.

March 5 - Let the Madness Begin
So I just got home from working the Villanova at St. John's game at MSG this afternoon and almost saw a pretty big
upset. But it was a game that sums up the end of the NCAAs regular season.

St. John's almost knocked off 'Nova, losing in the final minute. If there was ever a situation where the two opponents
were heading in different directions immediately after the game, this was it. Villanova starts there post-season this
week with the Big East Tournament, in the same building as today. From there, they head to the NCAA Tournament,
regardless of their performance in the Big East, which is what happens when you are ranked in the Top 25. Depending
on matchups, they can win a game or two in the Big Dance and, with a team free of seniors, will come back next
season as a potential Big East favorite and a probably Top 10 ranking.

Then, there are the Johnnies. Their season ended today. No post-season, for which they are ineligible because of
violations under their previous regime. Coach Norm Roberts did a remarkable job in Jamaica this season, all things
considered. I saw them play a bunch of times both last season and this season, and the differences between the
teams are remarkable. The effort level and the enthusiasm were incredible, even knowing that today was the end of
the line. Last season, everyone just went through the motions.. This season, they were a blast to watch. And with no
seniors of not (only one player graduates, Mohammed Diakite, but he played just a couple minutes a game) and a
decent incoming recruiting class, maybe they can take that next step next season, although with the influx of teams
headed to the Big East next season (starting with powers Louisville and Cincinnati), .500 will be a major miracle.

All of this is what made today's game so much fun. St. John's had nothing to play for but the love of the game.
Villanova was there to improve their seeding, nothing more. What we got was a very entertaining (although fairly
sloppy) game. They should all be about this, though. The love of the game. But then again, isn't that what NCAA hoops
in March should be all about anyway?

On that note, I need to ask a question about NCAA Basketball -  Just how much does the regular season really mean?
Of the 64 teams that make the tournament, I'll bet you at least two thirds could have been selected back in
November, certainly a higher percentage from the major conferences. As for the minor conferences, here is how
meaningless the regular season has become...In the Souther Conference, Davidson goes unbeaten in the regular
season, but loses in the semi-finals of their conference tournament and now will not be in the NCAAs, since neither
their team or their conference is strong enough to warrant a second bid. They were clearly the best team in the
conference, yet one bad day costs them the national stage every team on that level covets. How fair is that? But since
the NCAA will never make any adjustments that benefit the smaller conferences over the major conferences
(remember - when they added a 65th team, it was at the expense of an automatic bid from one of the small
conferences instead of an at-large bid that usually goes to a large conference team that finished around .500 on the
season), situations like this will never cease. And that is a shame, since it is teams like Davidson, not a .500 team
from the Big East (hello, Georgetown and West Virginia) that make March Madness what it really is.

March 3 - Out of Rhythm
This is one of those situations that gets bizarre with every update.

A couple months back, something happened at an ABA game that was so bizarre, everyone had to stop and laugh. The
owner of the Nashville Rhythm, Sally Anthony, fired her team's coach, Ashley McElhiney, when the coach played a
player too much for her liking. Of course, this firing occurred on the court, during a game, in front of the fans.

Now, I don't have to begin to tell everybody how many ways this was wrong. A few days later, the coach was reinstated
and the owner was in either rehab or the hospital, depending on who you believe, after trying to "hurt herself". And so,
the tale was over, or so we thought.

The Rhythm finished 21-10 in the recently completed ABA season and were in line for the eighth playoff seed and a
possible home game. Until, that is, the team's ownership declined the playoff spot, saying the team "wasn't ready for
the playoffs". I know what you are thinking - I have no idea what that means either. All I know is that players and
coaches worked all season to get to that point and ownership took it away from them.

Obviously, McElhiney felt the same way. Today, she resigned, closing what will undoubtedly be one of the most bizarre
chapters of her professional life. Here is a woman that broke new ground for women in hoops, as she was the first
woman to coach a professional men's basketball team. And this will end up being her legacy.

I've long said nothing in sports would ever surprise me anymore. Like many of my co-workers and friends, I've seen
almost everything this business has to offer. I'm just happy I didn't have to live through this one.

February 28 - Oscar Recap
OK, OK. So I only went three for six on my picks last night. So shoot me. I'm not a movie critic - I know what I like
and don't like, what I've seen and haven't seen. I got the three big ones right - Best Picture and the two lead acting
awards. One was a gimme, of course (Jamie Foxx), so I really only get credit for the other two. I think everyone was
shocked when Scorsese didn't win, but he will eventually. We all know that. Besides, he will also eventually get a
Lifetime Achievement Award, so if he doesn't get one for one movie down the road, he'll get his due at some point. As
for my other misses, neither one was a shocking outcome, so I only have myself to blame.

I love the Oscar show - always have, always will. I have a few comments on it:
--Chris Rock? Great. Funny, funny stuff. Bring him back next year. The bit he did in the movie theater? Hysterical. My
only question on that, though, is how come he didn't ask any of his subjects if they saw "Ray"?
--I thought Julia Roberts had her babies already. I'm confused - it looked like she had twins in her dress. Motherhood
has been VERY good to her. And Gwyneth Paltrow, too, while we are at it.
--On the topic of twins, how great my all-time favorite Salma Hayek look? Not that she can ever look bad, of course.
I'll forgive her for wearing too much eye makeup. And the three part Beyonce Show was pretty good too - I liked the
third outfit the best. But the best looking woman last night? Halle Berry, of course. All I have to say about her?
--Jamie Foxx' speech was great. I think it was one of those nights where all the speeches were great, though. Of
course, I expected Morgan Freeman's to be a voice over.
--Can someone ask Sean Penn to find his sense of humor, please. Remind him he is Jeff Spicoli if that is what it
takes. But please, he needs to lighten up a bit. On the flipside, though, was Jeremy Irons. Chris Rock rips his lack of
sense of humor, and he becomes the funniest presenter of the evening (with a little help from the back of the house,
of course). Great job by him.

Of course, I'll also say this - I actually thought the best movie of the year was "The Incredibles".

February 27 - The Oscars
It is getting close to the start of the Academy Awards, but before they start, here are my predictions:

BEST PICTURE - Million Dollar Baby
I've seen three - Baby, Sideways and Finding Neverland. I think Sideways SHOULD win, but I think Baby WILL win,
although The Aviator seems to be gaining steam as we get closer to the announcement. I loved Sideways, though.
BEST DIRECTOR - Martin Scorsese, The Aviator
This will make up for The Aviator not winning, and make all of Hollywood happy by finally giving Scorsese his first
Director's award. And it is about time.
BEST ACTOR - Jamie Foxx, Ray
You expected someone else?
BEST ACTRESS - Hillary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
It is either her or Annette Bening for Being Julia. Swank was awesome, though, and I didn't see Being Julia, so I go
with Swank.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
HE was funny, serious and an asshole all at the same time. And the whole thing was understated at the same time.
Just great. I wouldn't be surprised if Morgan Freeman won for Baby, but the role reminded me (and everyone else) of
his role in Shawshank Redemption. That might cost him.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Virginia Madsen, Sidways
The whole cast should win acting awards for this movie and it is a crime that Paul Giammatti wasn't nominated. Two
other wins will more than make up for that in my eyes.

Let's see how I do. We'll discuss the whole show tomorrow. I am definitely looking forward to Chris Rock putting a
little edge on the show.

February 24 - Writers Area Update
Well, a launch date has been set, so mark your calendars. I will be launching the writers area of this site on
Thursday, April 7. There is no link or official name yet for the area - all that is still not set up yet.

The response I have gotten to the site has been great. Including myself, we are up to 17 writers and counting. I can't
announce any names yet, but trust me when I say that there are going to be some great people involved. We will have
experts in every sport and facet of the sports world writing. I also will be lining up special guests for what looks like a
monthly round table chat on a timely topic, with my eyes on a baseball preview for our April discussion. I think anyone
who signs on to the site will enjoy themselves and, hopefully, come back on a regular basis.

Keep checking back from more updates on this fun new area.

February 22 - 25 Years Ago Today
I don't think I can say any more about the Miracle on Ice that hasn't been said already today.

It remains possibly THE seminal moment in American sports history. It touched Americans in a way that few events of
any kind ever had. Ask around - I'll bet you almost anyone you mention it to has some sort of recollection of it. Maybe
it is where they were when they were watching it. Maybe it is how it galvanized a country that was desperate for
something positive to rally around. Maybe it was how it transcended the world of sports in a way that very few sporting
events have or will. Maybe it is simply Al Michaels' legendary call of the last ten seconds. But I guarantee you there
will be something.

When it comes to sports and the memories that come with it, I am truly blessed. I didn't get to live this one, but I
know people that did. I became friendly with Ken Morrow, who was a defenseman on that team, when I worked for the
Islanders. On more than one occasion, I have asked him various things about that day. When the movie came out last
year, I happened to run into him at the Garden at a Ranger game he was scouting for the Islanders and we got to
talking a little more about the new wave of attention he was getting. He told me about the movie premiere. About how
they were all invited and were able to be together as a group and catch up. And the whole time, he was glowing. I can
only imagine, having been around so many special moments, just what it is like to actually be the guy or, in this case,
to be on the team that captures lightning in the bottle and does something so special that it will be remembered
forever. Most athletes don't even get to experience it. But to be a part of what might live as the greatest moment in
the sporting history of this country, a country that worships and idolizes its athletes and their accomplishments, is
beyond words.

A couple weeks back, I has the opportunity to talk with another member of the team. Mike Eruzione was the captain of
the team. He scored the biggest goal in the history of American hockey, bar none - the game winner against the
Soviets. I moderated a chat for that he was the guest for. We did it over the phone and I got to ask
him the questions on behalf of all those participating. The questions about what it was like. The questions every
person watching that game have dreamed of asking him. Even for me, that was a thrill.

Here is the ironic part of the entire situation, though. On a day where we celebrate American hockey, there is no
professional hockey being played. If there was ever a moment that shows us how ridiculous and stupid this lockout is
to the masses, this is it. We are celebrating a time when players played for the love of the game. For their country's
pride and their own pride in themselves. Not for money.

Let's all think about that for a moment as we remember and savor the moment again.

For the record, I was at a hotel in the Catskills, watching on a TV in the lobby. And yes, I do believe in miracles.