Sunday, July 31, 2011

Campbell University Preview

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that my next post would take a look at the CAA members' chances of defeating their FBS opponents in 2011.  After all, in the past two seasons we've had Villanova, William and Mary, Richmond and James Madison all defeat FBS teams, three of which were ACC teams.  However, David Teel beat me to that conept and posted his own article.  Thankfully I hadn't done any research so I don't have to worry about time spent wasted.  Moving on...

The Old Dominion University football team reports to camp on August 8.  It'll take some time to research all eleven opponents so I figured I should start now and reference the research later in the season.  So first up we have the Campbell University Camels of the Pioneer Football League.

Football History
Located in Buies Creek, North Carolina, Campbell University fielded a football team from 1925 through 1950.  There was a six-year hiatus during World War II from 1940-1945.  Due to international conflicts in Korea, their administration dropped the program after the 1950 season.  In 2006 Campbell announced that foootball would return for the 2008 season.  Playing their home games in Barker-Lane Stadium, the Camels have amassed a record of 7-26 since re-starting football. 

The home Campbell University football, Barker-Lane Stadium seats 5,000 Camels. 
Think of how much water is stored in that place!

2010 Highlights
In 2010 the Camels repeated their 2009 record of 3-8.  Their best game of the season was a 56-14 win over Valparaiso.  Tight end Mike Stryffeler was named to the 2010 All-Pioneer Football League First Team, while three other Camels were named to the All-PFL Second Team.  Redshirt senior quarterback Daniel Polk led the team in passing yards (1,263) as well as rushing yards (708), accounting for 20 total touchdowns.  It will be difficult for the 2011 Camels to replace that kind of production.

History with ODU
Campbell has played Old Dominion in football twice since the Monarchs started football.  In 2009 Old Dominion won 28-17 and demolished Campbell 44-13 in 2010.  Both Campell and Old Dominion announced their return to football in 2006, and Campbell started a season ahead of the Monarchs.  However, ODU has the advantage of being a program that offers scholarships, unlike the Camels of the PFL.  It follows that the Monarchs could recruit better talent.

2011 Outlook
After searching online for previews of Campbell University football's 2011 season, I couldn't find anything.  This team may have the least fan support and media coverage of ODU's 2011 opponents.  Their athletic department has yet to produce a 2011 media guide so I'm going off last year's guide. 

Randel Herring returns to lead the Camels on defense.  (Photo credited to AstroTurf USA)

On offense the Camels lose both Polk and Stryfeller to graduation - their most productive player (Polk) and their only first-team conference player (Stryfeller).  The defense also loses only two players to graduation and returns two 2010 All-PFL Second Teamers in DL Randel Herring and DB Jared Hart, both rising RS Seniors.  The team loses four of 22 starters and you might expect to see some players show significant progression.  However, these are the same players who have consecutive 3-8 seasons, so how much better will they get? 

It deserves its own paragraph to point out that OL Branden Burt was named to the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

Although there were no Camels named to the 2011 College Football Performance Awards Watchlist, they had two players named to the Phil Steele 2011 PFL Preseason Team - Hart and senior RB Rashaun Brown.  Brown ran for 673 yards at 5.7 yards/attempt in only nine games last season.  They'll rely on him more with the graduation of Polk.

Winning at a rate of 21% over three years, the Camels are the perfect team for the Monarchs to work out kinks in their game to start the season.  Campbell had an extra year of games to get a leg up on Old Dominion between the two start-up programs, but it should suffice to say that ODU has better program to date.  Discounting overall records, Old Dominion is 2-0 head-to-head against the Camels.  Unless Campbell has a bevy of five-star recruits joining the program to instantly turn things around, the reader can expect the Monarchs to begin their season 1-0 with a victory over the Camels.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

CAA Media Day on the World Wide Web

For reasons that will be spared from the reader, yesterday's post was somewhat rushed.  It was awesome seeing an ODU football alum signing with an NFL team, even if it's just as an undrafted rookie free agent.  Basketball has been Old Dominion's dominant sport for most of its existence, and while I'm proud of the team and support it, my passion is football.  I needed to post just to share the excitement of that.

Beyond Mayo's signing, I briefly discussed the CAA Football Media Day.  I'm using this post to share online articles from a wide range of media who are paid to write.  (Might yours truly be included in such a group some day soon?  Stay tuned...)

There is an official CAA Football YouTube account.  They have a slew of video interviews with the head coaches posted.  Of course I'll share the direct link to the interview with the head coach of Old Dominion, Bobby Wilder

Coach Wilder instructs the special teams unit during last season's finale.
Starting with the news outlets local to Hampton Roads, Rich Radford provides a report from the CAA Media Day.  Another local paper, The Daily Press, had separate stories on William and Mary, Old Dominion and James Madison

A bit further north of Hampton Roads, the Richmond Times-Dispatch had an article examining the fluidity of CAA Football as a conference.  They also had an analysis of the Richmond Spiders.  There is probably a story on James Madison at DNROnline but there's a subscription fee.  What local, online newspaper charges for access to news?  Honestly?

The Baltimore Sun took a look at the rebuilding project that Coach Rob Ambrose undertook two years ago, and how far they've come to this point.  They should triple their win output from last year of one victory.  As a Baltimore resident, I'm just happy there's a CAA team 15 minutes down the road.

Will Coach Ambrose's program turn it around in Year Three? (Photo credited to Jed Kirschbam of the Baltimore Sun)
One online Delaware news source discusses the respect that conference foes have for Delaware's program, voting them third in the preseason poll.  The Hens bring back proven talent at all positions except the starting QB and the secondary.  The Hens' long-time football rival Villanova Wildcats were picked to finish seventh in the conference this season.  Head Coach Andy Talley was more than a little surprised by this.

I couldn't find local coverage of Rhode Island's experience at the media day.  The Rams have already announced they're leaving the CAA following the 2012 season.  The Sports Network put up a solid post about the program's prospects for the season.

UMass is beating Rhode Island out the door by leaving at the end of this season.  I'll focus on them as we lead up to the game at the end of October, but I won't spend time on them for now.  There was no local coverage for Maine, but I found a release from their official sports web page.  Lastly, The Union Leader took a look at New Hampshire, who was picked to finish fourth in the CAA.  If the Wildcats do finish fourth with at least seven wins, you can expect to see them in the FCS playoffs once again.

So what does it all mean?  The CAA Football Conference is pretty bad ass for being the first FCS conference to get its media day broadcast on ESPN(3).  A lot of local newspapers are taking notice and expressing interest in providing substantial coverage.  In the next post, we'll take a look at which CAA teams have the best chances to defeat their 2011 FBS opponents.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


It's been a busy week on this side of the world.  There's been a lot of football news this week and I haven't had a chance to review it all, until now.  First and most importantly for this blog, Old Dominion University had a football alum sign an NFL contract for the first time.  It was announced Tuesday that Deron Mayo signed a contract with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted rookie free agent

Deron, the younger brother of New England's Jerod Mayo, is already behind the eight ball - he's an undrafted rookie free agent who must learn a playbook in the shortest NFL training camp in a long time.  He's also listed at 5-11 and 220 pounds, which is on the lighter side for NFL linebacker standards.  His best bet is to earn a roster spot as a special teams contributer.  But no matter how he performs in camp, we're proud of Deron's accomplishments!

A former standout at Hofstra, Mayo (#5) was a captain for Old Dominion in his one season with the Monarchs.
There were several other CAA players who signed contracts as undrafted free agents when the signings began on Tuesday.  You can read a list of the players from FCS and lower-division schools here.  The other CAA player I wanted to specifically mention was Pat Devlin of Delaware.  I got to watch the Blue Hens play GSU in the FCS semifinals last season in person (and a few other games on TV), and this guy impressed me with his decision-making.  You can see him read through his progressions on passing plays.  There are questions about his arm strength but he shouldn't have issues with inclement weather in Miami.

Pat Devlin can read defenses, but does he have the arm strength for the NFL?
Wednesday was the CAA Football Media Day for the upcoming season.  The event was covered on, a first for an FCS conference.  The CAA Football Blog had a live chat during the event whereby fans were given the chance to interact with each other and the blog's administrators.  William and Mary was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the conference; Old Dominion was picked tenth out of eleven teams, beating out Towson for last place. 

During Media Day, the conference announced that 28 games involving CAA teams will be broadcast on television.  This represents the best television package among FCS conferences.  You'll get to watch Old Dominion at Georgia State (9/10), at Delaware (9/24) and home against James Madison (10/29) at the Oyster Bowl

Lastly, the FCS Roundtable on discussed the topic of the favorites to win the national title this season.  If you're a fan of Georgia Southern, William and Mary or James Madison, you'll enjoy my post.  You can expect to see me write more as our busy season winds down, plus I may soon be writing for a favorite fan forum in an official capacity.  For which forum would that be?  Stay tuned to find out!

Friday, July 22, 2011

ODU and CAA Football Updates

This was somewhat of an historic week for this blog.  A contribution I made to the FCS Roundtable on Saturday Blitz was published.  We'll get to that in a second.  But beyond my own blog, it has been a pretty significant week for ODU football and the CAA Football conference in general.

Old Dominion University sold out is allotment of 14,000 football season tickets.  There remain more than 1,700 people on the waiting list.  I have my two seats ten rows back at the 50 behind the visitors' bench.

VBR Production's season tickets were renewed!  You can expect more high-quality pictures for each game.
There were two CAA First Team players each on offense and defense on The Sports Network/ All-American FCS team.  There was a slew of second-and-third team CAA players on the list well.  Old Dominion's Jonathan Plisco was named second-team punter.

It was announced this week that the CAA Football Media Day will be broadcast on on Wednesday, July 27.  I have a regular job and I don't think the CAA would allow a random blogger to attend this event, so I'll have to check the highlights.  This is the first time that an FCS conference's media day will be broadcast on ESPN3.  Rising RS Seniors Thomas DeMarco and Ronnie Cameron will represent Old Dominion as student-athletes at the event. 

I responded to a request from for FCS bloggers to establish a roundtable discussion throughout the season.  Our first question surrounded our conference's best options to win the Payton and Buchanan Awards, as well as the most important players on offense and defense on the teams we follow.  Click here to see my responses to these requests.  Not surprisingly, Thomas DeMarco and Ronnie Cameron were the two most important players I identified for the Monarhcs.

Lasty, on another personal note, I ordered tickets to Old Dominion's first conference game at Delaware on 9/24/2011.  I'm going with a couple friends who graduated from Delaware so it'll be insufferable if ODU loses.  But I'll be able to blog about the experience! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 Old Dominion Football Schedule

On September 3, 2011, Old Dominion will host the Campbell University Camels to kick off their inaugural season as a member of CAA football.  We'll take a high-level look at the Monarchs' schedule in this post.  Leading up to the first weekend in September, I'll get more in depth with the team's opponents as I do more research. 

The full schedule can be found at's website here.  Home games will be in all caps.

9/3/2011 - CAMPBELL
Campbell University started FCS football a couple years ago at the same time as Old Dominion.  2011 will mark the third consecutive season the two start-up programs face each other.  The Monarchs won 28-17 in 2009 and crushed the Camels 44-17 in North Carolina last season.

9/10/2011 - at Georgia State
Future conference mate Georgia State scheduled a home-and-home with Old Dominion for 2010 and 2011 before joining CAA Football in 2012.  Last season the Monarchs were up 34-6 in the fourth quarter at home before taking their foot off the pedal and winning 34-20.  This season they were lining up to be more of a challenge, but in the spring the team's first-string QB was suspended for their first four games.  This week it was announced their second-string QB was arrested and charged with forcible entry in connection with a burglary.  The Panthers' projected starting QB now is their punter from last season, to be backed up by a true freshman. 

9/17/2011 - HAMPTON
The Monarchs will conclude a home-and-home with Hampton Roads' rival Hampton University this season.  Last season the Monarchs blocked two punts in a 28-14 win.  The Pirates' defense was surprisingly stout in the game, but when the defensive line is anchored by an NFL-quality DT, maybe it wasn't as surprising as it initially thought.  There's no word on whether this rivalry is scheduled beyond this season.

9/24/2011 - at Delaware
And now, for something completely different.  The CAA offices did the Monarchs no favors by scheduling their first conference game against the FCS national runners-up, the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens.  This team is legitimate, even if they have lost star QB Pat Devlin to graduation.  Delaware opens its season against Navy; a Blue Hen victory should not be considered an upset.  We'll examine this team as we get closer to the game.  Tickets to this game have been ordered so I'll be able to provide a personal game report.

VBR Productions saw Delaware up close in person in the FCS playoffs against GSU.  This team will be the biggest challenge for the Monarchs to date.
10/1/2011 - UMASS
Minutemen, we hardly knew thee.  The University of Massachusettes announced its plans to join the MAC conference in 2012 for football.  The administration and the MAC felt it was in the best interests for the Minutemen to join, and it's hard to fault a team that's not a full member of the CAA to jump at the FBS opportunity.  This will be the Monarchs' only conference game against the team, so I won't spend further time now on them.

10/8/2011 - at Rhode Island
One of the teams from the old Yankee Conference that UMass is deserting is Rhode Island.  I'm seriously debating traveling up to see this game, but the more sensible alternative is to stay local and see Towson at Johnny Unitas Stadium.  We'll see how adventurous VBR Productions is feeling as we get closer.  The Rams finished 5-6 (4-4) last season.  Head coach Joe Trainer is excited at the level of talent his team displayed in the Rams' spring game this season.

10/15/2011 - TOWSON
This game represents what may be Old Dominion's best chance at its first conference victory.  The Tigers have gone winless in the CAA since beating Rhode Island on October 10, 2009, and their only victory in 2010 was a five-OT game against Coastal Carolina.  Coach Rob Ambrose begins his third season as the helm of Towson's football program.  He seems to be going about recruiting the right kids and coaching them to turn around the struggling program.

10/22/2011 - at Villanova
Have you noticed a lack of a bye week yet?  Don't hold your breath waiting for it.  After taking on the weakest conference foe based on last year's records, ODU travels to Philadelphia for a showdown with Villanova.  The 2009 FCS national champions made a great run in the 2010 playoffs but couldn't get past recurring injuries to standout Matt Szczur.  But who cares about that right now?  Two words, 'Nova - PETEY SESSOMS!

10/29/2011 - JAMES MADISON
When I attended Old Dominion, I hated James Madison way more than I hated Virginia Commonwealth.  I remember Kent Culuko draining a three-pointers as the buzzer sounded in the CAA tournament final in 1994, and the hatred grew from there.  Then I encountered numerous JMU fans and they seem decent enough in person.  (Conversely over time, I encountered numerous VCU fans who threw food and beer at me and mine when we simply walked by.  But I'll save that for basketball season.) 

The game against James Madison should re-ignite the "hatred" between fans of the two schools.  The ODU administration wisely resurrected the Oyster Bowl for this game.  For more on the history of the Oyster Bowl, click here - it's quite fascinating.  As for the game itself, James Madison returns a top-two CAA defense from last season.  This is the defense that defeated Virginia Tech last season, so the talent is unquestionable.  It'll be a tough game for Thomas DeMarco and Company. 

Hokie fans found out how talented the JMU Dukes are.
11/5/2011 - RICHMOND
The Spiders return USC-transfer Aaron Corp to the lineup in 2011 after he missed six games due to a knee injury.  At least one draft analyst has Corp as the tenth-best quarterback prospect for the 2012 NFL draft.  Regardless, we must never forget that the University of Richmond almost single-handedly destroyed the CAA more than ten years ago.  Infinite thanks go out to Delaware, Hofstra, Towson and Drexel for jumping the America East conference to save what we now know to be the CAA.

11/12/2011 - at William and Mary
Anyone who attended the game last season between the Tribe and the Monarchs can attest to the electricity in the air.  Foreman Field was rocking before, during and after the game.  Old Dominion held a lead late into the fourth quarter before falling 21-17.  There's no question that the Tribe were the better team last year but it was good to see the Monarchs give them an extremely tough test.  This season, William and Mary represents the eleventh consecutive opponent for the Monarchs without a bye week. 

As if playing in the best FCS conference weren't tough enough, they scheduled us to play eight straight CAA opponents in a row.  Hopefully attrition will be minimal and we can give the Tribe another effort to end our regular season.

The Monarchs got their first taste of CAA action last season and held up well against the Tribe, ultimately losing 21-17.
As the season approaches I will have more in-depth analysis of the Monarchs' opponents.  Some teams (James Madison) are more vocal on the web than others (Campbell), so it'll be easier to research some teams more than others.  Kickoff is less than two months away!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Football Mode

Now that my my list of the best "Scrubs" episode is complete, and I've got a better feel for navigating my blog, I am switching over into football mode.  This is not to be confused with Marshawn Lynch and Beast Mode.  (If only he wouldn't have run over people with his car or gotten caught with pot and concealted weapons during his time with Buffalo, he could have led the Bills to the playoffs.  Wait, who am I kidding?  They need more than just one more running back.)

With Old Dominion football players arriving to camp in a couple weeks, it's time to start digging into ODU football, their opponents and CAA football.  The last couple years have been fun, watching the Monarchs post an FCS first-year-best-record of 9-2 followed with an 8-3 record last season.  With season tickets in hand for 2011, I'll attend every home game and hopefully a road game or two.  For road games I cannot attend, I'll be watching the Towson Tigers on Saturdays during the fall and will provide analysis on their efforts to get back in the CAA win column.

For now, you can (hopefully) expect to see me contribute weekly to the Saturday Blitz FCS roundtable with my thoughts on the Monarchs and the conference.  It should be fun to provide the world an extra set of eyes for the FCS community.

In the meantime...go Monarchs!

Thomas DeMarco leads the Monarchs into a full slate of CAA games in 2011.

The wind would not cooperate as I tried to take this picture, but you get the idea.  Go red, white and blue!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Scrubs Episode #1 - "His Story"

In this post I'll discuss the best episode of "Scrubs" ever made - "His Story."  You can read my analysis of the other episodes throughout this blog, as I don't have many other posts right now.  The analysis of the seventh-best episode will be provided last.

The theme of this episode is the costs and benefits of taking risks.  Cox considers the risks of listening to others.  Carla evaluates the risk of accepting (and rejecting) Turk's wedding proposal.  Elliot debates dating someone that goes against the culture of the hospital, and our country.  Most importantly, "Scrubs'" creators take a risk in the format of the show.

From the very first scene of the very first episode, the television show "Scrubs" has been narrated from the point of view of JD as our protagonist.  Throughout episodes we watch the show and are treated to some of his inner thoughts to help move the story along.  "His Story" breaks that mold by allowing us to view an episode from Dr. Cox's point of view and his inner monologue.  This becomes important later on, when we see how symbiotic the relationship between Cox and JD has become.

At the start of this episode we have Turk still proposing to Carla to take his hand in marriage, but Carla still refuses.  What could it be?  Turk commits to asking regularly until he gets the answer he desires.  Meanwhile Elliot meets a guy at the bar; she assumes the guy, who acknowledges that he works at Sacred Heart, is a physician.  And JD admits that for the first time in his life, he doesn't have a story to tell.

From there we pick up Cox's inner monologue.  We learn that he sees a shrink regularly in order to work through his emotional problems, which lead him to demean everyone in his life (that's the short version).  Kelso needs a physical and JD encourages Cox to perform it to get on Kelso's good side.  When Cox reported Kelso's high blood pressure, it increased Kelso's life insurance premium dramatically...and gave him another reason to despise Cox.

Elliot inadvertantly learns that the man she met is actually a Nurse...Nurse Paul...Nurse Paul FLOWERS.  There are certain stigmas attached to men who perform duties typically expected only of women.  Nurse Flowers is attracted to Elliot so we know he doesn't swing the other way, but that doesn't mean other hospital employees won't take full advantage of poking fun at Elliot.  Can she deal with this like an adult?

Lastly, over the course of the episode, Carla's constant rejection causes Turk to stop asking her to marry him.  He eventually feels that he's had enough and wants her to figure things out without him bugging her about it.  It takes Carla, who'd already declined Turk's initial proposal a few episodes prior to "His Story," until the end of the episode to articulate what bothers her - and to move on from it.

So how do things end up?  By reporting Kelso's blood pressure rather than rubber-stamping the physical (which JD nudged him to do), Cox actually saved Kelso's life in the short term.  Kelso's regular physician notes that it would have killed Kelso soon had it not been diagnosed when it was.  Kelso takes the time to thank Cox.  In the least important of the three stories, Elliot gets over what it means to date a male nurse and ends up accepting a date with Nurse Flowers.  And Carla, through projecting her own psychological issues onto Elliot, realizes that the risk of not being with Turk is greater than the risk of marrying him.  (That sounds less romantic than I intended but it's technically true, so I'm leaving it as is.)

But how do all these subplots translate into the best episodes of "Scrubs?"  Consider these two points on a high level.  First Elliot's fickleness about dating a male nurse allows Carla to see the folly of not accepting Turk's proposal from the very start.  Carla and Turk get engaged in this episode! 

Secondly, because we see Cox's point of view for a change, we see him coming to the self-realization that he needs JD.  How could we empathize with Cox's feelings on JD if not for being directly exposed to them?  If this story was told from JD's point of view, we would have seen Cox pat JD on the back at the end of the episode and not have it mean anything.  Cox realizes he needs JD just as much as JD needs Cox.

It was a stroke of genius by Bill Lawrence to alter the theme of the show to fully achieve this.  As referenced above, JD is our protagonist but he relies extensively on Turk and Cox.  Turk is always present in JD's life but in a big-brother manner.  Cox is that father figure JD feels like he's missed all his life.  And now Cox needs JD to help guide him along his own path.

Finally, another factor in making this the best episode is all the funny quotes in this episode.  Lawrence and his writers had a unique skill (along with Joss Whedon) to strike a perfect balance between comedy and drama.  This isn't the heaviest "Scrubs" episode in terms of emotional weight, but it still finds the right amount of comedy to complement Cox's and Carla's dramatic moments of realization.

Turk: "Kevin was really freakin' out about his divorce, and I was just trying to be supportive."
Cox: "Yeah - by dragging home some random bar skank."
Turk: "Dude, you're not helping."
Cox: "...not trying to help..."

JD: "So what, you're just gonna keep asking her?"
Turk: "If you love someone you gotta be willing to break their spirit."

JD: "Good morning, Dr. Cox!"
Cox, inner monologe: <Gladys, Ginger, - Cheryl, Betsy, BETSY! Hmm, that's new!> "Betsy, good morning!"
JD: "You know, you already used 'Betsy' six months ago."
Cox: "I don't care!" inner monologe: <DAMNIT!>

Kelso: "Perry - hi, how are you, et cetera..."

Nurse Flowers: "Plenty of fresh bed pans!  Get 'em before they're hot!"

Janitor, angrily looking for JD: "Good morning, ma'am."
Woman: "I can't move my neck."
Janitor: "So what?"

Elliot: "I'm dating a male nurse.  A 'murse.'"
JD: "It's better than dating a 'mecretary,' or a 'manicurist' wait, that one works..."

Nurse Roberts shouts "Dr. Reed and Nurse Paul dating!" throughout the hospital; ends up next to Dr. Cox out of breath: "Dr. Reed...Nurse"
Cox: "...giant 'who cares?'"

The Todd: "Hey, I gotta run.  They're doing a breast reduction surgery up on Floor Three, and I gotta get up there and STOP it!"

Nurse Flowers: "She's covering because she's embarrassed that she's dating a male nurse.  I really can't figure out why."
Kelso: "Well, that's because you're doing a woman's job, son.  Have a good one."

Dr. Cox's Shrink: "Come on, you mean to tell me that YOU took the advice of another human being?"
Cox: "Yeah."
Shrink: "...this is a great moment for me...and Perry, if there's one person in that hellhole of a hospital who you actually listen to, you should do everything in your power to keep them around.  That person is nothing short of a GENIUS." <immediately cut to JD singing "Kung Fu Fighting" alone in an elevator>

This episode is effective on two fronts.  First, we have two powerful moments of self-realization - Carla belongs with Turk, and Cox needs JD in his life.  Secondly, switching the point of view from JD to Cox enhances the power of Cox's realization.  But then, what's the chorus of the them to "Scrubs?"  "I can't do this all on my own, no I know - I'm no superman."  The world of "Scrubs" became more complete by showing the thoughts of someone other than JD.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Top Ten Athletes Who Battled Substance Abuse

I was catching up the other day a buddy of mine who had read my blog.  We were throwing around a couple ideas for top ten lists to work out the kinks of blogging during the slow time in the sports season.  While we agreed to have a more formal pow-wow over the topic soon, one of his ideas did take hold.  Who were the best athletes out there who at some point in their careers were suffered from controlled substances?

So this post will examine the ten best careers of athletes who were addicted to drugs or alcohol while they were professional athletes.  It's a delicate topic and I make this post with a detachment from the emotions involved, as addiction is not a laughing matter, even if Rick James unintentionally provided fodder for the funniest scetch comedy episode of all time.

10. Josh Hamilton

We start off our list with the only athlete currently active.  Hamilton was the first overall pick by Tampa in the 1999 MLB draft, so the team thought highly of his talent.  After a few seasons in the minor leagues, in 2004 he was suspended from baseball by the MLB for multiple failed drug tests; he has subsequently admitted that he was using cocaine. 

Eventually he got his life back together and made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007.  The following winter he was dealt to the Texas Rangers, with whom he led the AL in RBI's in 2008 and guided the team to its first World Series appearance in 2010 in an MVP season.  Through four and a half injury-riddled seasons, the lefty has batted .310 with 105 home runs in 524 games at the time of this post.  Should the 30-year-old lefty remain healthy and on the drug-fee path, he should wind up with some decent batting figures.

9. Steve Howe

Mr. Howe showed great promise early in his career as a pitcher for the Dodgers.  Having won the 1980 NL Rookie of the Year award, he recorded a save in the final game of the 1981 World Series for LA.  Off the field problems derailed his career soon afterwards, as he was suspended for the entire 1984 season for testing positive for cocaine.  He was suspended a total of seven times for substance abuse throughout his career

"This is your last chance.  And I'm not talking about one of those Major League Baseball Steve Howe kind of last chances." - Frank Drebin, Naked Gun 33 1/3.  It was still funny before Howe's untimely death in 2006

I put Howe ahead of Hamilton because of the early promise of the career (ROY, World Series champ, top ten in saves three seasons).  Over time Hamilton will pass Howe, but his career hasn't been sufficient to this point.  Unfortunately Howe's life ended in 2006 in an automobile accident.  Drugs were found in his system during the autopsy. 

8. John Lucas
Over 928 games in the NBA, Lucas averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 assists per game.  Those aren't the numbers you'd expect from the number overall pick in the 1976 NBA draft, but they're better than the average player.  He finished top six in assists four times in career, top ten a total of seven times.  Unfortunately he got caught up in cocaine in 1981 and once again during 1985 (same story) and 1986

Lucas' individual story does have a much brighter continuation than Howe's did.  He eventually got his life together and was an (unsuccessful) NBA coach for six seasons.  He decided to quit coaching basketball professionally to become a life coach for others who suffer from addiction.  To date he's been sober 23 years himself.  When you consider that he's turned his life into something positive, not having lived up to his true basketball potential is of no consequence.

7 (tie) Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry
There's no way to assess one without the other.  Both had extremely productuve early careers with the Mets- Gooden was the NL Rookie of the year in 1984 and won the Cy Young Award in 1985; Strawberry won the ROY in 1983 and led the NL in homers in 1988.  Both suffered cocaine addition after those points - Gooden was suspended in 1987, Strawberry in 1995.  Both won the 1986 World Series with the Mets and ended up winning multiple World Series with the Yankees. 

Lastly, both ended with fantastic career stats.  Gooden ended up with 194 career wins, a 3.51 ERA and 2,300 K's.  Strawberry batted .259, had 335 HR and 1,000 RBI's with an OPS of .862.  But those stats also remind us of what could have been.  Gooden finished fifth in wins or higher from 1984 - 1990 but never had more than 13 after 1991.  With Strawberry the argument can be made that it was more time that slowed his career down, but had he taken better care of himself, he would have had better results as well.

5. David Thompson
The number one overall pick of the 1975 NBA draft, and the second #1 NBA pick on this list, Thompson was by all accounts Michael Jordan before there was Michael Jordan.  He was an electric player was who more explosive and acrobatic in the NBA than Dr. J.  For his career he averaged 22.7 points per game while averaging between 25.9 and 27.0 his first three seasons.  (Note: his first season was in the ABA, a step down in competition overall from the NBA.)

Guess what?  He suffered from cocaine addiction in the 1970's.  I couldn't find exact details that I believed, but apparently he was pushed down stairs in New York's Studio 54 in 1984, effectively ending his career.  Since I didn't see him play personally, I will rely on Bill Simmons' assessment to summarize his career: "David Thompson was (1) the most underrated superstar of the past thirty-five years and (2) the single biggest NBA tragedy other than Lenny Bias." ("The Book of Basketball," Bill Simmons, page 322)

Over his 592 games Thompsen averaged 22.7/4.1/3.3 and was spectacularly athletic.  If you read Bill Simmons, he doesn't throw around MJ comparisons tirelessly, or at all.  With a Final Four Most Outstanding Player, a Naismith POY Award, and two first team All-NBA honors under his belt with those career averages, and his drug-riddled career is STILL considered to be a tragedy, you know cocaine took a lot off the table from him.

Similarly to Lucas, but not nearly as publicized, Thompsen has gotten his life back together and helps youths learn the game of basketball and life. 

(NOTE: I excluded Len Bias from this list because he reportedly did cocaine only once - the time it killed him.  Whether that is accurate, I will operate under the assumption that it's true.  I don't think singular use qualifies as "addiction."  Our next athlete also claims to not have been addicted to drugs, but he did suffer from multiple uses and therefore is allowed on the list.)

4. Andre Agassi
Confession - I hated Andre Agassi growing up.  I was not a fan of his "image is everything" campaing for one of those camera companies.  At the time (and still to this day, but less adamently) I preferred substance over style, and Pete Sampras was substance-over-style incarnate.  So I had a clear idea in my head of good versus evil in 1990's tennis.

Image is nothing.  Thirst is everything.  Drink Sprite.  Wait, wrong slogan...
 In his 2009 autobiography Agassi admitted to using crystal meth.  We can get into symmantics about whether he was addicted to the drug, and we may never know the truth, but for our purposes I'm actually giving him credit for (1) admitting his use of the drug and (2) his overall career.  We'll call it "substance abuse" rather than "addiction" and move from there.  He ended up with eight grand slam titles and won the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics.  He's currently married to former women's tennis star Steffi Graf and they have two children.  Thankfully for him, his meddling with meth didn't turn into full-blown addiction.

3. Lawrence Taylor
Nine first-team All-Pro seasons.  Three Defensive POY awards.  The 1986 NFL MVP.  In fear of furthering a sports cliche, Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the OLB position in football.  He admitted to using cocaine as early as his second professional season, and he STILL put up unbelievable numbers (132.5 sacks in 13 seasons with the NY Giants).  He was caught using cocaine in 1987 and again in 1988, the culmination of which resulted in a suspension from the NFL.

After retiring from the game, he went into rehab twice in 1995.  There have been some other issues involving prostitution in recent years, but I will refrain from getting into those details.  It should suffice to say that addiction has given LT more than his fair share of difficulies.  I prefer to remember him in happier times.

2. Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle was one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  The lefty slugger was hitting 500 career home runs before it was cool (or suddenly easy) to do so.  He won three AL MVP awards (1956-57 and 1962) and captured the triple crown in 1953.  He hit a home run in 1953 in Washington that is officially the longest home run ever recorded.  The Yankees retired his #7.  When Roger Maris was on his way to breaking the single-season home run record, it was The Mick who got all the love from the fans.

But he was also an alcoholic.  Apparently the men in his family died at early ages, and he figured he would get the most out of life.  Well, he lived until he was 63, much longer than he ever expected.  In 1993 he was admitted to the Betty Ford Clinic and received a liver transplant in June 1995.  During that operation the doctors discovered inoperable cancer, and he passed away that August.

Not having grown up ever watching him play in person, I rely on what I hear and read from others.  He was too universally loved to be a fraud, so I take others at their word that he was a genuinely good person.  But even good people have their addictions.  It's up to us to imagine what he could have done on the field had alcoholism not slowed him down.

1. Brett Favre
I remember loving to watch Brett Favre play in the 1990's.  He had fun and it was obvious.  But then evey single sportscaster told us we had to root for him because of how much fun he was having.  And then came all the flip-flopping about whether he was going to retire or not.  Then came the allegations that he took a picture of his penis and sent it to a 25-year-old version of his wife.  And then came JMU graduate and current Buffalo Bill, the pride of Portsmouth, VA...Arthur Moats!

Don't cross the Moats!
Through it all, though, it seems that people have forgotten that Favre almost died in 1996.  As with all football players, he was prescribed pain medication to help him with the bumps and bruises that come from years of football.  Eventually he was taking them from his teammates.  I remember him in an ESPN interview admitting that he asked team doctors for specific drugs by name, and they were flabbergasted that a non-physicians was able to cite them by their full names.  (Not "Vicodin" but "hextajtioandklj-iureajjad-in."  Or something.) 

What Favre has done is special.  When you objectively look past all the drama he generates, he's put up the best numbers of any NFL quarterback.  He has 508 TD's, 6,300 completions on 10,169 attempts, and 71,838 passing yards - all of these being all-time bests.  He was the NFL MVP three consecutive years, which no one had accomplished before or since.  He's so good, his first NFL compeletion was to himself.  Thankfully, though, he survived to play these games.

So there you have it.  Thankfully most of these stories have turned out for the best, to date.  We lost Steve Howe too soon and The Mick has passed away, but the others are still alive and kickin'.  The ability to play sports is one thing, but the ability to live with and survive addictions is another.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scrubs Episode #2 - "My Fruit Cups"

This is my analysis of the second best episode of "Scrubs" ever made, "My Fruit Cups."  You can read my posts on episodes 3-10 (sans #7) previously on this blog by searching for the tag "Scrubs" at the bottom of this post.  WARNING - this is not a short post.  There's a lot to analyze in this episode.

Even if you don't like this show, you need to watch "My Fruit Cups" immediately.  You don't need to know the characters to identify with pretty much all of them.  JD, Turk, Elliot and Cox all experience life-altering moments in this one episode.  Ramifications are enormous.

One very basic reason this second-season-episode sticks out over time is the number of memorable quotes provided.  The writers hit high marks with the dialogue and the actors deliver the lines perfectly.  Read below for the (numerous) best quotes.

The episode starts with a simple enough premise - young physicians are in serious financial debt upon entering the workforce.  They do what they need to do, including stealing fruit cups from the hospital and taking midnight shifts to earn a couple hundred bucks.  Most people who graduate college and rely on financial aid of any kind can empathize.

The best way to analyze this episode is to look at the three major plotlines.  In most TV series, episodes have one major plotline with at least one subplot to space out the action of the main theme.  This specific episode has three plotlines that deserved their own episodes, but they are written and performed such that each plot is emphasized equally and expertly to be encompassed in one stand-alone episode.  The three plotlines follow Elliot and her dad, Cox and Jordan/Heather Locklear, and Turk and JD.

Elliot and her Dad
During the series we learn that Elliot is raised by a very wealthy but emotionally-defunct Connecticut family.  Having listened to all my friends, everyone thinks their families are the least functional ever.  But guess what?  To varying degrees, everyone's family is dysfunctional.  Elliot at least had the benefit of having a dysfunctional family that is independently wealthy.

Young, attractive female physicians of Sacred Heart's OBG/YN department attempt to recruit Elliot to join their speciality.  Her upbringing makes Elliot uncomfortable with her sexuality and femininity, which is extraordinary so when you consider that she's a doctor.  Despite their recruiting efforts, Elliot hesitates to consider this as a career path.  We learn that she can't even say the word "vagina!"  How could a doctor who cannot say the word "vagina" be expected to provide clinical services to the female anatomy of other women?

NOTE: I meant that last statement in a strictly professional manner.  There will be plenty of other opportunities in this blog and in real life for sexual innuendos later on, but I really mean that an OBG/YN doctor should at the very least be comfortable saying the word "vagina."

So Elliot's father shows up in town, and it turns out he himself is the person who's encouraged Sacred Heart's OBG/YN staff to pursue Elliot.  Why?  Because obstetrics provides the highest future earnings potential for female physicians.  Should she choose to not heed her father's advice, he would cease supporting her financially.  Mind you, he's paid for $100K-plus in college education along with all current living expenses.  When Elliot learns what his father's true intentions have been all along, she must decide whether to stand up for herself.  Can she defy her father or will she simply submit and do what he wants to keep up with her current lifestyle?

Cox and Jordan/Heather Locklear
For the record, I don't care what Heather Locklear's character is named.  In everything she's ever acted in, she is Heather Locklear, not a character.  Dr. Cox obviously understands what I mean because by the end of the previous episode, he had succumbed to her flirtatious manner.  His first scene in the episode involves him waking up to Heather staring at him in bed.  "Duh!  Winning!" - Charlie Sheen

Through the course of the episode we learn (through Heather's own admission) that she's slept with several physicians of Sacred Heart.  This upsets Dr. Cox, who clearly wants to be with a woman who's a bit more committed to being with one person than sleeping around with the entire hospital staff.  When he acknowledges that he hasn't been himself and commits himself to being more emotionally present for her in the relationship despite her past, a very-pregnant Jordan shows up in the apartment. 

Thus begins a face-off between the tiny, blond Healther Locklear and a pregnant, not-as-tiny-and-not-Heather-Locklear Jordan.  They both want Perry's love and affection.  Heather Locklier appears to take the lead in the competition for Dr. Cox.  Be honest - would rather take back your ex-wife who's knocked up by another man (according to her), or...Heather E'ffing Locklear?  Perry must decide what's best for himself and for the other women.

(Quick side note - does Heather Locklear really want Perry's love and affection, or does she just want him for his body?  Does Dr. Cox take this into account when making his final decision?)

Turk and JD
It is known from the very first episode of "Scrubs" that Turk and JD have serious guy-love with each other.  They do not have homosexual feelings for each other, not that there's anything wrong with that, but they love each other in every other way possible.  (In interviews, Zach Braff and Donald Faison have acknowledged that they immediately became genuine friends in real life.  It took other actors time to warm up to each other, but Braff and Faison hit it off like they were life-long friends, which contributes to their on-screen chemistry.)

Turk and Carla started dating seriously about 1/3 of the way through the first season.  Over time they became more and more serious; it was a gradual thing rather than a "BOOM" moment of "I love this person" (at least to this point in the series; Carla has such a moment in the next episode I'm going to review...WHICH JUST HAPPENS TO BE THE #1 SCRUBS EPISODE EVER!!!). 

JD always naturally fit as a third wheel with them, so that it was a couple consisting of three people.  In fact, the show establishes comedic situations for Carla to be considered the third wheel rather than JD.  It's all a part of the whole "guy-love" concept.  Suffice it to say, Turk and JD treat each other like brothers who like each other, not brothers who are constantly competing with each other.  They've been unquestionably supportive of the other to this point.  And then, Turk took advantage of JD in ever the slightest way.

Remember at the start when I mentioned that our heroes were all in significant debt from college?  They learn that they can make extra money by "moonlighting" at over-night clinics.  The lead physician at the clinic where Turk worked offered $300 to another physician Turk would bring in the next night.  Turk pocketed $100 of that amount ("a finder's fee") and brought in JD the next night for an expected $200.  Eventually JD learns that Turk had withheld that $100 for each night he worked, and then he lied to the clinic to get Turk fired. 

If you're reading this blog then I presume you're old enough to have been hurt by someone who loves you and whom you love unconditionally.  It wasn't much fun, was it?  JD reacted immaturely, by lying to the clinic about Turk rather than confronting Turk directly about this, so JD himself isn't exactly of pure heart in this situation.  Turk eventually joined an EMT team to make extra money at night to make ends meet.  JD could not empathize with Turk until speaking with Carla, whose rant provided JD the information he needed to understand why Turk had done what he did.

Real Life Happened

So what do these three plots have in common?  They are situations that created life-altering decisions.  Elliot did not want to get into obstetrics but her father paid for her life to get her there.  Cox was tempted by the physical hotness of Heather Locklear but was conflicted by genuine love for Jordan.  JD felt betrayed by literally the best friend he ever had but understood Turk's intentions.

Here's the deal.  Real life is about conflict, and real life happened in this episode.  We are all helped by others to get us to where we are (Elliot and her dad) but at a certain point we must define ourselves as individuals.  We all have physical and emotional desires (Cox and Heather Locklear) but there are more important things than superficial flesh.  We are all betrayed by those closest to us (Turk and JD) but sometimes relationships change as others enter our lives.

Elliot chose a life of her own.  Cox chose to support the woman he loves.  JD recognized that Carla had become more important to Turk than he had and was willing to step aside because it would make Turk happier and better.  Real life happened.  Something I hear all the time is that "everything happens for a reason."  Personally I hate that phrase.  Things happen and we define ourselves by how react.  Elliot, Cox, and JD decided to make difficult decisions in the face of difficult situations. 

All of that said, this episode is probably the best in terms of quotable dialogue between characters.  See the next section for examples.

Memorable Quotes

Turk to patient, looking at bottle of pills: "This is the reason for your headache.  That's actually pronounced 'ANNAL-gesic' not 'ANAL-gesic.'  Sir - the pills go in your mouth."

Elliot: "My dad is coming to town."
Carla: "You don't seem stressed."
Elliot: "I haven't pooed in six days."
JD: "...twice since this morning and I haven't had my coffee yet."
Elliot: "You really pick the oddest things to brag about."
JD: "I'm just saying, if I had to get to three by lunch, I probably could."

Elliot: "We must have looked at 100 different bajingos today.  Bajingo, bajingo, bajingo...I can't even look at my own bajingo."
Carla: "Is that because it looks so much like a vagina?"

Cox: "I'm not angry.  So my girlfriend has serviced most of the staff.  I'm proud of her commitment to medicine!"
Carla: "Please!  What about all the women YOU'VE slept with?  Your ex-wife, that med student, your ex-wife, that cute nurse from Radiology, YOUR EX-WIFE..."
Cox: "Will you get off my ex-wife?"
Carla: "I will if you will."
Cox, speechless at first: "...damnit, now I'm too proud of you to be mad at you."

Elliot: "So Dad, how are things at home?"
Elliot's dad: "Good, good...Mom re-did the bedroom...I'm gonna keep mine the way it is..."
Elliot: "Well, you don't want to be one of those couples who does EVERYTHING together!"

Kelso to Elliot: "Paging Dr. Backbone to the Bajingo Ward..."

Heather Locklear: "Who are you?"
Jordan: "Who do you think I am?"
Heather Locklear: "Well you have keys to the apartment so I'm going to say...the maid."

Jordan to Cox: "OK, have one last fling, but everywhere you look, you'll see me."
Heather Locklear: "Everywhere ANYONE looks, they'll see you."

Janitor: "Hey, idiot!" <JD looks back> "Ha!  I said 'hey idiot' and you looked."

JD's inner monologue: "You can't predict what's gonna happen.  Sometimes the thing you didn't expect was what you wanted after all."


We don't often get what we want, but that doesn't mean we don't get what we need.  But if you don't make important decisions at important times inf your life, decisions will be made for you, and you may not like the outcome.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Scrubs Episode #3 - "My Unicorn"

Below is my analysis of the third best "Scrubs" episode, "My Unicorn."  You can search for the other episodes with the tag "Scrubs" at the bottom of this post.  My composition for #7 will be provided at the end of the list, for reasons that will become clear when it's posted.

In the middle of the fourth season, we find our heros trying to push their limits.  JD goes well out of his way to help a patient who needs a kidney translplant, even though Dr. Cox clearly told him to not get so involved.  Meanwhile Elliot learns how to effectively flirt (which is odd for an intelligent hottie in her mid/late 20's), but will she learn where the line is?

JD talks to his current favorite patient, Gregory Marks, who needs a new kidney.  Mr. Marks is such a likeable guy - he's handsome, genuinely charming, and just a good soul.  JD is almost brought to tears that Mr. Marks bought him a journal with a unicorn on it.  (As JD mentions twice, it's not a unicorn; it's a horse with a sword on its head to protect JD's hopes and dreams).

So JD does some research and finds out that Gregory has a son, Murray Marks.  (Murray is played phenomenally by Matthew Perry, not one of my favorite actors from his time on "Friends."  Murray's father Gregory is played by Perry's real life father.)  JD finds out that Murrary works at a small, local airport that gets one plane a day.  After their introduction, Murray agrees to go to the hospital to give his dad a kidney...for $70,000.  What?  Gregory is beloved by the entire hospital staff; how could his own son not want to help him out?

We come to find out that Murrary resents his father for illogical reasons, which is not uncommon among fathers and sons - he doesn't like being named "Murray" and he doesn't like how much more attention his father got.  JD talks him into it (finally), only to find out that Gregory is NOT Murrary's biological father.  What?  Murray leaves the hospital without the donation.  At the end of the episode, JD and Cox coach Murray into doing the right thing.

Meanwhile, Elliot is learning that Carla and Jordan get their way by using their femininity to their advantage.  She gives this a shot but comes up well short on her first attempts.  (Seriously, a woman as physically attractive as Sarah Chalke should have learned how to do this well before her fourth year as a physician.  But it's a TV show, and no one's perfect.)  With the help of a wet scrubs top, she learns that men can be easily influenced by her "charms."

Turk, who as the man is obviously the voice of reason (I think I was kidding as I typed that), warns Barbie that excessive flirting will hurt her in the long run.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Elliot was too far gone to take heed.  She ends up unknowingly giving a terrible first impression to a potential employer, but thankfully Janitor is there to save the day.  This may be the only time you could ever say that about Janitor.

So after all this plot, why is this episode named "My Unicorn?"  The unicorn on JD's new journal had maybe 10 seconds of actual screen time.  He even states that he's given the fictional animal charge over his "hopes and dreams."  What are the three things JD wanted most throughout nine seasons of "Scrubs?"  Women, a hug from Dr. Cox, and helping patients (not necessarily in that order).  JD had just gotten done chasing Dr. Molly Clock (Heather Graham) so he wasn't back in the market yet for another woman.  Dr. Cox helped JD through the trauma of his father's death, essentially giving him a psychological hug along the way.  So that leaves his current dream of helping patients. 

I've written previously in my analysis of "My Own American Girl" that it's easy to root for these main characters because of how much they care for their patients.  I'm not going to rehash that here.  It should suffice to say that we're once again in a situation where JD takes time away from the hospital trying to help his patients by bringing a family together.  One subtle lesson Cox tries to teach JD on occasion is that he's going to burn out if he takes helping patients so personally all the time.  However, there's an entire episode entitled "My Extra Mile" where JD unintentionally teaches Cox the importance of going the extra mile.  They are a good yin and yang couple on so many levels, and this is one.

It should be noted that Matthew Perry came on set and immediately commanded his character.  You felt like Murray was a character that could have had his own show - there's just a nice depth to the character that is uncommon for a one-episode guest star.  He and Zach Braff had fantastic chemistry onscreen.  The exchange narrated below between the two of them when Murray doesn't immediately believe JD's father recently died, followed by the horror of recognizing that JD wasn't lying, is some of the best acting of anyone on the show.  Perry and his father also (obviously) had great chemistry.  For one of my least favorite actors, Matthew Perry had potentially the best guest star appereance ever.

On top of all of this, this is such a fun episode.  The journal, Gregory's singing, the airport personnel, Janitor letting on that his long term plan is to marry Elliot, slow-motion's got it all.

Memorable Quotes
Elliot: "Do you have choclate cake?" Lunch server: "No." Elliot: "Well isn't THAT the giant pickle on top of the crap sandwich that is my day today?" Turk: "Relax Elliot, I never get chocolate cake." Elliot: "Oh right, you're diabetic.  BOO HOO!  You know what, Turk?  If you want sympathy, get a diseases that people can see!" Turk, genuinely shocked: "...WOW!" Elliot, genuinely: "Turk, I'm SO sorry!" Turk, grabbing his crucifix: "No problem!  Forgive and forget, right?" <Elliot looks away, Turk whispers "GET HER" to the crucifix>

JD: "You'll never guess what I found online!" Cox: "A set of adult male shoulders?"

Cox after Murray offers a kidney for $70K: "I love this moment so much right now, I wanna have sex with it."

Elliot runs her hand across Janitor's hand and winks; Janitor races to jewelry store.  Janitor: "I wanna see THAT engagement ring." Jeweler: "That costs $10,000." Janitor, not missing a beat: "I got twelve bucks."

Murray: "You obviously have issues with your own father that you're projecting onto me.  Why don't you give him a jingle?" JD: "He's dead." Murray: "Good stuff!" JD: "I'm serious." Murrary: "Classic!" JD: "He had a massive heart attack." Murray, instantly transformed from laughing to horrified: "...I'm sorry for you loss!"

Cox, after informing JD that Gregory is not Murray's biological father: "By the by - I love THIS moment so much, I'd cheat on the other moment from before, marry this one, and raise a whole family of tiny baby moments."

Cox: "You do know he's not your son, right?" Gregory: "I figured it out, mostly because his mother was eight months pregnant when I met her, but there were other signs..."

Hopes and dreams.  Family and flirting.  Learning where boundaries exist, and learning when and how to push them.  The best guest star ever.  Everyone needs protected at times.  (JD more than most, but most dudes are more manly than him.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Scrubs Episode #4 - "My Cake"

This blog entry is my review of the fifth best episode of the TV series "Scrubs."  You can read my write-ups of the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth best episodes to get caught up.  Number seven will be provided last.

At the start of the episode, JD's brother Dan (played by Tom Cavanagh) showed up at the apartment with tell JD their father died.  JD spends the episode trying to deal with the loss.  Meanwhile Turk deals with a diabetes diagnosis.

John Ritter made a couple cameos as Sam Dorian, father of JD and Dan.  In September 2003 Ritter passed away due to an aortic dissection.  "My Cake," one of the first episodes of Season 4, deals with this tragic loss through JD's eyes.  Anyone who has lost a parent can relate to some part of this episode.

After the funeral Dan promises to "be there" for JD, then subsequently spends the rest of the episode drinking beer in the bathtub.  In the series we never meet Mrs. Dorian so JD has neither her nor his brother to help him cope with Sam's death.  He goes to work and gets support from Elliot, a lack of terror from Janitor, and a warm hug from...Chuck Woolery (!?!?). 

While JD seeks support from an unwilling Dr. Cox, Turk experiences diabetic-type symptons but refuses to see a physician.  Dr. Molly Clock, a visiting psychiatrist expertly played by Heather Graham (she doesn't get the credit she deserves for being a good actress), tricks Turk into self-diagnosing himself.  But he's Big Bad Turk!  He's infallable!  He spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out why he can't bring himself to tell Carla.

But that story and the Janitor almost convincing Dr. Kelso that he's slowly losing his memory pale in comparison to something as heavy as the death of Sam Dorian.  Eventually Dr. Cox realizes that JD deeply needs support and he's the only one who can provide it.  This moment is the first in the series in which Cox directly shows genuine support to JD.  In the first season Cox references JD to the Board of Directors as an intern with worlds of potential, and throughout the first three seasons he helps JD diagnose patients because it's his job.  But he had never "been there" for JD. 

As we're coming down to the top three episodes of the series, one theme I've noticed is the emphasis placed on relationships among the characters.  I would classify "Scrubs" as a comedy well before considering it as a drama, but the dramatic moments add something that most other comedies lack.  In this episode we are shown how JD looks to specific people for support - his relationship with Cox, with his brother, with Elliot (their relationship could be classified as "absent" at this point in the series)...but we don't see Turk interact with JD much because of his own plotline.  For goodness sake, they sang a song called "Guy Love" in the musical episode!  How come they don't spend the entire episode in one long dialogue?

At such crucial moments in their lives (death and diabetes), they barely have screen time together.  Is this a hole in the plot?  I think it's necessary because we need to see Cox come in to save the day.  We also need to see Turk genuinely rely on Carla in a difficult time for the first time.  Turk and JD cannot be there for each other because they're both going through challenges separately and cannot be emotionally strong for the other.

And that's where Dr. Cox rises to the occasion to "be there" for JD.  At the end he pulls Dan out of the bath, they grab some beers, and then have a serious talk with JD in the only way possible - watching college football.  We find out that Cox is genuinely proud of JD.  It's important, rare praise from JD's mentor when he needed it the most in his life. 

A couple paragraphs ago I mentioned that the relationship between JD and Elliot was "absent."  Barbie still hasn't forgiven JD for making her break up with Sean for himself, then dumping her almost immediately.  But who was there pushing Dr. Cox to support JD?  None other than Elliot.  Even though she hated JD at that time, to the point that they were barely talking, she still cared for him enough to indirectly help JD.  Is there a doubt these two belonged together at the end of the series?

Chuck Woolery: "'Love Connection' was never cancelled; it's just not TV anymore.  I still do the occasional episode in my basement with singles from the neighborhood!" <Carla and Molly look puzzled> Chuck: "I'm NOT crazy." <Carla and Molly laugh along unconvincingly>

Cox: "I have a plan today." Elliot: "...which is...?" Cox: "Yeah, unfortunately the first part of the plan is to NOT share it with people who annoy me.  Wanna hear the second part?" Elliot: "Sure." Cox: "I can't.  My hands are tied by the first part."

Cox: "Barbie, what do you want me to do?" Elliot: "I don't know, hug him?" Cox, astounded: "'ve MET me before, right?"

Cox: "Let's break down the kid's support system, shall we?  He's got ME, an emotionally-crippled narcissist.  And he's got YOU, an emotionally-crippled narcissist who's soaking in a tub of what by now HAS to be mostly your own urine." Dan: "I believe the ratio has certainly shifted that way, yes." Cox: "And I have GOT to believe that the two of us together, TOGETHER Dan, we can make it at least halfway to one legitimate adult."

Cox: "Now talk." JD, well-known for a lack of sports knowledge: "What do you want me to talk about, the pros and cons of blitzting a corner on third and long?" <JD thinks to himself, "thank you 'Football for Dummies!'">

All families are unique.  The Dorian's are apparently a family who break the news of death with cake.  Cox shares grief over beers and football.  The Turkelton's play hide-and-seek with minor information, such as a diagnosis of diabetes.  But what's important is that families are there for each other.  JD needed help and Dr. Cox provided it.  We knew there was a reason JD always looked up to Perry.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Top Ten Pro Careers of CAA Athletes

In the spring of 2004 I was working at a client when I checked the MLB draft results in the middle of the day.  A power pitcher with #1 talent was taken second overall by the Detroit Tigers.  Seven years and almost 100 career wins later, Justin Verlander has established himself as a dominant veteran who arguably has his best days ahead of him. 

Verlander's success got me thinking of which former Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) athletes have had the best careers in professional sports.  In this post I'll provide my top ten professional athletes who attended/graduated from CAA schools.  (Verlander played only three seasons at ODU before leaving for the Majors a year early, thus the "attended" qualification.)  There are a few ground rules to establish first.

  • This list includes athletes whose institutions were part of the CAA at the time of their collegiate careers.  Athletes who would have been considered for this list but can't because they weren't CAA athletes include Wayne Chrebet (Hofstra), Gerald Henderson (Virginia Commonwealth), Speedy Claxton (Hofstra), Rich Gannon (Delaware), Dave Meggett (Towson), Charles Haley and Gary Clark (James Madison).  Their schools were not technically in the CAA while they were in college.
  • For football players, we'll consider individuals going back to the days that CAA Football was operating as A-10 football.  The Atlantic 10 Conference was the home of what became CAA Football from 1997-2005; at 2005 the CAA Football conference was established.
  • I am not counting the WNBA has a professional league.  Old Dominion had its share of successful women's basketball players but I can't bring myself to consider the league in this analysis.
  • This post examines only the professional portion of the athletes' careers, not their collegiate accomplishments.  If we considered collegiate careers, Marina DiGiacomo would be on the list.  When her field hockey career at ODU was over, she had an NCAA record 414 points (167 goals, 80 assists), four CAA Tournament MVPs, two First Team All-American honors and one NCAA national title.  She was the most dominant field hockey player in the NCAA, but what about her pro career?  Exactly.
Three players whose professional careers surprisingly did not take off were George Evans (George Mason), Brett Blizzard (UNC Wilmington) and Tim Hummel (Old Dominion).  Evans got invited to a Knicks camp after graduation but he didn't play in the NBA.  That guy dominated the CAA for his final three years.  Similarly, Blizzard was a standout guard from Day One under Jerry Wainwright's system for the Seahawks; how he never got a shot at the NBA is beyond me.  Tim Hummel was an All-American shortstop for the Monarchs drafted in the second round of the MLB draft by the White Sox.  He played parts of two seasons with the Reds but never caught on. 

George Evans was the best CAA player in the late '90's, but an NBA career never materialized. (Photo credited to AP.)

Before we get to the top ten, let's take a look at some individuals whose careers are a bit premature to make this list now, but we shouldn't be surprised if they're on this list in a decade.

  • Arthur Moats, James Madison.  On top of being a linebacker for my beloved Buffalo Bills, Moats delivered the hit that ended Brett Favre's 297 consecutive games streak (321 including playoffs).  Woohoo!

Don't cross the Moats! (Photo credited to AP)

  • Charles Jenkins (Hofstra), Eric Maynor (VCU) and Gary Neal.  These three young guards are proof that the NBA is starting to take notice of the talent level in the CAA.  Jenkins was just drafted, Maynor's played two NBA seasons and Neal has one under his belt along with a few seasons overseas. 
  • Derek Cox, William and Mary.  Cox was a high draft pick of the Jaguars two years ago and has eight INT's in 30 career games.  He gets bonus points for sharing the name "Cox" with Dr. Perry Cox of "Scrubs."
  • Matt Szczur, Villanova.  Fans of FCS football know Szczur's name but he chose to pursue a career in baseball professionally.  Drafted by the Chicago Cubs a year ago, he had been invited to NFL workouts.  He's a do-everything type of athlete.
And now, on to our top ten list.

10. Sean Casey, RichmondCasey batted .302, slugged .447 and had an OPS above .800 in his career.  The former Spider enjoyed the most successful part of his career with the Reds between 1998-2005.  Overall he was elected to three All-Star games and is now a well-regarded analyst for the MLB Network.

9. John Rollins, Virginia Commonwealth.  The best golfer the CAA produced, he's accumulated three career PGA tour wins with the latest coming in 2009.  To date in 2011 he is ranked #62 in the PGA and has finished in the top five in two of his last three tournament events.  Still in his mid-30's, he's got time to rack up more victories.

8. Justin Verlander, Old Dominion.  If his career path follows its current trajectory, he should finish higher on this list than eighth.  At 28 he's got four All-Star elections, two no-hitters and started Game 1 of the 2006 World Series for the Tigers.  A recent Sports Illustrated article documented how he's become the best pitcher in the game today.

At age 28, Verlander has 94 career victories.  He isn't slowing down. (Photo credited to Rick Osentoski, US Presswire)
 7. Joe Flacco, Delaware.  In his first three seasons as an NFL quarterback, Flacco has quarterbacked the Ravens to four playoff road wins, including a trip to the AFC Conference Championship game.  Flacco's primary target has been an aging Derrick Mason so he's been producing despite a top-notch WR.  The Ravens did acquire Anquan Bolden for last season but that's still two years with Mason and Todd Heap as your best receiving options.  Flacco has displayed a calmness uncommon among young QBs who came from an FCS program.  He won the 2008 Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year Award.  It just doesn't get any better than that, unless you're dating a former Miss Universe like...

6. Juan Jose Barea, Northeastern. The Huskies didn't join the CAA until late in Barea's career, but we'll still claim him as our own.  He's on the shorter side of NBA guards but he's lightning quick, can get to the basket and finishes his shots at impossible angles.  The undrafted free agent signed with Dallas after graduation, and he's shown steady improvement over each of his five seasons.  He gained more national attention for helping the Mavericks win their first NBA title and can expect a big payday whenever the NBA lockout ends.  But let's be honest - he's even more of a winner off the court.

5. Brian Jordan, Richmond.  Jordan's baseball statistics are more than admirable, having batted .282 with 184 HRs/821 RBIs over 15 seasons.  But some may forget that he was a two-sport star, playing three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons at a high level.  The only other athlete to have attempted to do this successfully was Deion Sanders.  Jordan chose to focus on the sport that was healthier for his well being, and racked up a fantastic baseball career.  He may not have been as good as Neon Deion, but no other two-sport start was as good as Brian Jordan.

4. Marquest Colston, Hofstra.  The New Orleans Saints got a steal in the draft five years ago, obtaining Colston in the seventh and final round of the 2006 NFL draft.  In four of his first five seasons he's had at least 1,000 receiving yards while scoring 40 touchdowns over that span.  These statistics are more impressive when you consider how many other options Drew Brees has at his disposal.  If Colston can keep producing at this rate, he may reach even higher on this list as the most productive CAA football player.  No one has more catches in the first two seasons in the NFL than Colston, who had 168.  The player whose record he broke?  Fellow Hofstra alum Wayne Chrebet mentioned above.

3. Brian Westbrook, Villanova. Westbrook currently gets the nod over Colston because he's had a more complete career.  In fact we may not see many more seasons out of Westbrook, the perfect running back for Andy Reid's offense over the years.  He's gained more than 10K yards from scrimmage during his career, 1/3 of which is from receiving yards.  Think back to the Eagles' short-yardage offense; how many times did they actually run?  And yet Westbrook STILL obtained more than 10K yards from scrimmage?  Westbrook's career may be slowing down to a halt soon, but what a career it has been with two All-Pro selections and the 2001 Walter Payton Award.

2. Darren Sharper, William and Mary. Sharper was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 1997 NFL draft.  As a rookie he played a significant role on the team that returned to the Super Bowl.  Eleven years later split between Green Bay and Minnesota, Sharper finally got a Super Bowl ring with Marques Colston on the 2009 New Orleans Saints.  There are questions on whether his health will prevent him from playing in 2011 and beyond, but the man has 63 INT's in his career, eleven of which were returned for touchdowns.  He was named an All-Pro twice and made five Pro Bowl appearances. 

Colston and Sharper denied Mrs. Hank Baskett a Super Bowl celebration party for her TV show.  Most of the world celebrated in unison.

1. David Robinson, Navy.  The Admiral is easily the best professional athlete to represent the CAA.  You can read all about his career statistics, NBA Championships, MVP, ROY, Defensive POY, and other awards here.  What's more important is that he served his country for two years as a civil engineering officer in at a naval base in Georgia.  I realize that the premise of this blog is about professional athletes, but sometimes we need to acknowledge that there are more important things than sports. 

So there you have it.  This isn't a list that needs to be generated every year so I don't know when I'll reconsider the list, but it's something to talk about until college football starts.  Whether you agree with me or not, you've got to admit that the Colonial Athletic Association has produced some quality professional athletes.