Thursday, July 31, 2008

ANTOGA: A warning

Tyra Banks absolutely does not put up with any crap on her show, so I'm sure as shoot not putting up with it either.

That's why I'm officially putting Becky, one of two finalists for America's Next Top Obscure Guest Author, on warning. What began as a pleasant little contest to pass the time during the long summer months has dragged on into a giant nightmare, and I won't stand for it anymore.

If you'll remember, I asked the two finalists for a sample submission to help readers decide ANTOGA. Well Jeris FINALLY sent his submission yesterday, so now I'm waiting for Becky.

And Becky, if you don't send your sample in by Tuesday, August 5, I will disqualify you and make Jeris the first ever ANTOGA. I'm sorry I have to be so curt, but at least I'm not as catty as Tyra.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the contest, you can read about it here)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pathetic nicknames

BYU and Utah have a great rivalry. There's a lot of anger there, sure, but mostly it's a rivalry full of passion and respect.

I like the rivalry. It's good for the sport. Having one final feat of strength, casting down your fiercest enemy in the last game of the season--it's all good stuff.

What I don't like, however, is the stupid, silly, incredibly lame nicknames fans give other fans. They mask these conjured words as biting insults, meant for ridicule and taunting, but really these nicknames just make the speaker/writer look like a child.

Here are some examples:

  • Names for Bronco Mendenhall: BronKo, Donko, Chaps
  • Names for Kyle Whittingham: Kryle, Kwhitt, Twhitt
  • Names for BYU: Zoobieville, byU
  • Names for the Cougars: Kewgs, Kewgars, Zoobs, TDS
  • Names for the Utes: Yewts, Ewets, Pukes, Pirates

See what I mean? The whole language looks like it was invented by a six-year-old. And it's not that I'm against taunting, but come on--BronKo? Yewts? What do those words even mean? Why is the K capitalized?

I mean, can you as an adult ever picture yourself writings something like "BronKo and the kewgars are going to get pounded by Utah this year!"

As asinine as it sounds, though, there are hundreds of grown men that write the very same thing (with slight variations) every day on message boards, chat rooms, blogs and other sites.

If you find yourself in this group, consider this a call to action. Abandon your lame nicknames and start from scratch. If you do insist on calling your rival names, at least come up with something intelligent. And I'm talking to both sides, here. BYU fans are just as bad as Ute fans in this regard.

Needless to say, if I read the words "kewgar" or "Yewt" too many more times I'm gonna puke.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Softball Chatter

Piggy-backing on my wildly successful "Court Chatter" post, I'm here once again to write about my inexplicable need to talk while playing sports.

I'm not exactly sure why I choose to chatter. Do my teammates really benefit from the encouragement? Are our opponents rattled by my taunts? Does the sound of my voice offer comfort during troubled times? I doubt it. But I'll keep doing it. I'll keep chirping my little one-liners, if for no other reason than I have a mental defect that urges me to let my voice ring out on the court, field, pool, rink or pitch at all times.

Today's subject is Softball.

Chatter is not a new concept to fans of this particular sport. Anyone who has ever seen a college women's softball game, for instance, knows that those girls' pie holes are moving up and down with the speed and ferocity of industrial strength wood chippers.

Chatter is as much a part of women's softball as batting helmets with cages and legs the size of cannon barrels.

What I've done is I've taken that concept and brought it over to the men's recreational leagues. Here, for your consideration, are some of my favorite phrases to yell during softball games.

1. "!"
As in, "Here we go, now!" or "two down, now!", the word "now" can be added to pretty much any phrase of encouragement in softball. As versatile as this word is, though, it's important to note that the voice inflection should always end on an up-swing; it's almost as if you're asking a question. Practice out loud: "All right guys, let's have a big inning now?"

2. "Find some grass"
I just learned this phrase this year from Jay Hughes in Shipping/Receiving. This phrase is used when your team is hitting, and you would like the batter to get on base. In softball, if a batter hits and the ball does indeed hit the grass, it's likely he or she will get on base (unless the hitter happens to be morbidly obese or has a plastic hip--both of which I have seen this year).

3. "Wait for your pitch"/"Make it be there"
Use this phrase when the game may or may not be on the line and that "iffy" batter gets up to the plate. This phrase is designed to plant the seed in the batter's mind to refrain from swinging. You want to let him or her know that it's okay to walk if it means getting on base.

4. "1-2-3"
As a first baseman, I feel it's my duty to offer encouragement to my teammates while on defense. I use the phrase "1-2-3" to encourage them to get three straight outs so we can get back up to bat as soon as possible. It may not be much, but I'd like to think by saying this I am inspiring my fellow infielders to say to themselves "Yeah. 1-2-3. I like the sound of that," and then go do it.

5. "Nice cut"
This is a holdover from little league days. In those days we little tykes were just learning how to swing, so a ripping cut at an oncoming pitch, even if you missed the ball completely, was an accomplishment. The coaches would often yell "nice cut!" to let you know they were still behind you 100%. In softball, however, the same phrase becomes a pretty pathetic attempt to make someone feel better after they whiff a slow-moving large object. It's usually used as a crude filler for the awkward silence that follows the batter's complete miss. In fact, sometimes this attempt to encourage can have the opposite effect--destroying the batter's sense of self-worth.

6. "Any bag"
Again, first basemen are in charge of encouraging the infielders when things get grim. For instance, when the other team has runners on first and second, the other infielders need to be reminded where to go to get the out. The phrase "any bag" reminds them that they can either touch first, second or third base to get an out. It's important to use the word bag in this particular situation, though, because the phrase "any base" means something entirely different.

7. "Any base"
The main difference between this phrase and "any bag" is this phrase's inclusion of home plate as a potential location for a forced out. See, in the olden days baseball players used old gunny sacks filled with human hair for first, second and third bases, and a plate glass window for home base. Hence the terms "bag" and "plate." Don't make the mistake of saying "any bag" when you mean "any base," or you could be responsible for giving the other team a costly run.

8. "Play the line"/"Everyone shift left"
This phrase is interesting because I only hear it when I'm batting. Apparently other teams have discovered that I am incapable of putting the ball anywhere but left field. I'm serious--even if every single player but the first baseman on the opposing team played left of second base I'd still get out eight out of 10 times.

9. "Everybody hits"/"Everybody's a hitter"
This phrase is usually called out when the speaker's team gets up to bat and he or she was the last one to get out during the previous at bats. He or she really wants to hit again, thus he or she encourages everyone to "be a hitter." The unfortunate thing, however, is that even if he or she gets up again that inning they'll usually just get out again.

That's all I can think of now. What did I miss? Anyone else have any good softball chatter?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Season-defining play: 2007

I know brevity hasn't exactly been my strongest suit during this series, but I'm going to try and limit today's post as much as possible.

After all, I'm sure 2007 is sufficiently fresh on our minds. Admit it--who among you can say you don't have dreams about Eathyn Manumaleuna's big sirloin steak of a hand reaching up to block UCLA's field goal to preserve a 2007 Las Vegas Bowl win?

Personally that moment has been etched in my brain and is now stored alongside my other most precious memories: my wedding day, my mission, the final episode of Small Wonder, etc.

2007 was a heck of a year, was it not? 2007 was the kind of year that tests--and then rewards--a fan's faith.

That's all we really had in 2007: Faith. After losing all of our offensive weapons to the NFL/Summer Sales, we looked at a new crop of athletes and put our trust completely in our coaches to build on the success of the 2006 season.

At QB BYU would start a redshirt sophomore named Max Hall who hadn't played in a game since high school.

At WR we welcomed back Austin Collie, but no one knew just how effective this 2004 junkyard dog would be after his mission.

At RB we heard good things about a freshman named Harvey Unga, who actually played in 2006 but was able to redshirt.

At TE we tearfully said goodbye to Jonny Harline (whom I still believe should be playing NFL ball somewhere) and welcomed back Dennis Pitta who also played in 2004.

New, unfamiliar faces. It was certainly an adjustment for a guy like myself, who had become so attached to the 2006 team. To watch the 2006 team play was like watching living art. They played so flawlessly at times; it was beautiful.

I wasn't ready to give that up.

So when the 2007 season began I was nervous. This season would finally tell us what we really needed to know about Bronco Mendenhall: Has he put together a good football program? Or was his success personnel-driven only?

Can he duplicate and even improve on his 2006 success with a brand new team?

When the season opened on September 1, 2007 we began to answer those questions.

2007 SDP: Mine may seem like a strange pick for the 2007 season-defining play, but hear me out.

Let me take you back to that first game. It was BYU vs. Arizona in LaVell Edwards Stadium. My fellow BYU-obsessed buddies and myself (The Cougar Crazies) arrived at our seats in LES a full 90 minutes before kickoff. We were there so early, in fact, that the players who were warming up on the field hadn't even put on their pads yet.

I got my first look at some of Arizona's players at that time, including this man whom we snapped a picture of, and I'm not afraid to say it: I was concerned. I started to wonder, "Can BYU really compete with schools from BCS conferences who get 4- and 5-star athletes (plural) every year? That has such athletes sitting on the bench because of depth?"

I did what any blue-blooded fan would do in that situation: I masked my anxiety with obnoxiousness. I proceeded to heckle and harass every Arizona player within the sound of my voice hoping, at least, to gain some psychological edge for the Cougars.

(I know I'm taking a long time to set up this SDP, but hang with me).

When the game started I learned something about BYU. We may not get whom the media deem to be "top-caliber" athletes, but the Cougars do have an abundance of heart, passion and discipline.

What's more, our coaches know how to inspire. I learned this for myself as I watched our slower, undersized players dominate Arizona, with all of its blue-chippers, for four quarters and win the game 20-7 (it should have been a shutout; Arizona scored once with 59 seconds left in the game).

And one play exemplifies my discovery perfectly. On third down in the second half vs Arizona, Unga took a routine pass from Hall and was wrapped up and taken down short of the first down. Instead of falling, though, Unga twisted back up to his feet and raced downfield for another 40 yards.

The Arizona players, who had stopped even though no whistle had blown, watched Unga truck by them and looked at each other in disbelief. They finally caught up to him down the field, but the damage was done.

This play is a fine example of why BYU will always have an edge over seemingly faster, bigger teams. Coach Mendenhall has established a culture of hard work, devotion to the team and passion for the game. He puts workers on the field--players with heart. Players that play to the whistle. And the players, in turn, make big plays. Unga showed it in the first game of the season, and Manumaleuna showed it in the last. BYU plays with heart.

BYU ended the season with another 11-2 record, and Bronco Mendenhall proved to be worth his weight in gold. Now we aren't as worried about fresh new players or lack of game-time experience. If there's one thing 2007 has taught us, it's that the system is in place.

Gosh- see what I mean? I suck at being brief.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Season-defining play: 2006

Saturday, September 2, 2006. It's opening day for the BYU football season and I'm in Quincy, Washington.

Working at a nearby concert venue (The Gorge Amphitheater), I was unable to watch the BYU/Arizona game live. Therefore I put my trust in a good friend (I know you're reading this, Mark) to tape the game and I'd watch it later that night. I gave him clear instructions: Do not, under any circumstances, tell me anything about the game. Not who won, not who played, not who conducted the Wildcat band, nothing.

During my work that night, which included bouncing 15-year-old girls from the beer gardens, I was following another game: Utah vs. UCLA. To my delight I discovered Ben Olson two-fisted the Utes for 318 yards and 3 TDs, and the Bruins beat Utah 31-10

I got excited for the BYU game. So excited I had to sit down and breathe into a paper bag on several occasions.

It wasn't just me, either. Eager anticipation filled the hearts and homes of Cougar fans from Newport Beach to Newport, Maine. BYU's program was reborn, and Cougar Nation knew it. It was time, finally, to step out of the blinding darkness and into the light of new life.

Expectations were running wild. Subjects like BCS games and perfect seasons dominated conversations. The word "Heisman" was even being thrown around. Optimism in Provo was at an all-time high.

And for good reason.

John Beck led an offense that included Jonny Harline, Curtis Brown, Fui Vakapuna, Matt Allen, Zac Collie, Daniel Coats, Michael Reed, and standout freshman McKay Jacobson.

On defense, Cameron "the General" Jensen was the leader of a group with such names as Bryan Kehl, Kelly Poppinga, Quinn Gooch, Ben Criddle, Justin Robinson and freshmen Ian Dulan and Matangi Tonga.

These were proven and tested commodities, and while there lingered still some questions about their toughness--cornerbacks and quarterbacks especially (could John Beck win the big game?)--everyone knew this would be a special year.

At about midnight, some friends and I returned to Mark's house after work to watch the game. We entered the front door and an unmarked cassette tape with a note that read "BYU game" was sitting on the front table. We quietly took it downstairs and sat like little children in the darkness with wide eyes, bathed in the soft glow of the television.

We grimaced at Jonny Harline's fumble, we marveled at the defense (they were a lot better than we expected), we cheered when Daniel Coats caught the first BYU touchdown, we threw stuff when Matt Allen was called for offensive PI.

Then at half time we sat up, stretched and prepared for the third quarter.

Then the tape ran out. IT RAN OUT! It wasn't a mistake, either, because we checked. We couldn't finish the game because the tape... ran out.

We freaked out. How in the great heck we could watch the rest of the game? We woke Mark up to tell him about our predicament, but he had little sympathy at 2 a.m.

Finally we had to break down, admit defeat and just check the score on the Internet. Our faces twisted into painful disbelief when we saw the score: Arizona 16, BYU 13.

All our dreams--the BCS bowl, the perfect season--washed down the drain.

We picked ourselves up for a week 2 trouncing of Tulsa in one of the funnest games I've attended in recent memory (remember the thunder storm?). Vakapuna and Brown were punishing Tulsa defenders that day.

But then BYU stumbled again against a very beatable Boston College. At halftime Coach Mendenhall, clearly identifying the team's confidence issues, barked the now-famous quote, "Quit acting like you're surprised that you're still in this game right now!"

That was the last time the Cougars lost that season.

They went on to steamroll Utah State, and then they did something special. The Cougs went to Fort Worth, Texas, to take on No. 15 TCU. Heading into that game, BYU had not won a game against a ranked opponent since 1997 when they narrowly defeated Arizona State. And in that game we find our season-defining play.

2006 SDP: Let me just first summarize the uphill battle the Cougars were fighting on Thursday, September 28 against TCU:

1. TCU had a bye the week before to prepare for BYU
2. BYU did not, and had a short week to prepare for TCU
3. TCU was at home
4. TCU had the nation's longest winning streak at the time
5. TCU was ranked No. 15
6. BYU hadn't beaten a ranked opponent in 23 tries
7. Both of John Beck's ankles were injured, requiring heavy tape jobs

Clearly, the odds were not in BYU's favor.

After one quarter, the game was knotted at 3-0 for BYU. In the second, TCU and quarterback Jeff Ballard led the Frogs to the BYU 20 yard line, threatening to score. The Frogs were moving the ball easily during the drive and were about to put points on the board.

But Cougar linebacker David Nixon would have none of it.

On the Cougar 20, Ballard took the snap and looked into the endzone for a go-ahead TD. Little did Ballard know, though, that at that very moment he was being stalked--like the Australian hunter dude from Jurassic Park--by a headhunter named David Nixon.

Nixon blindsided Ballard like a runaway milk truck, and Ballard lost the ball and the feeling in his legs. BYU recovered the fumble and quickly marched down the field and took a 10-0 lead.

BYU never looked back, and Ballard never fully recovered. BYU won the game 31-17.

After that game BYU tore through the MWC like my nephew at a chocolate milk convention. Most of the games were over by halftime, and the BYU starters were mercifully pulled by the fourth quarter. If you're unfamiliar with the season, take the afternoon off, visit this site and just go nuts.

The season also included one of the most famous (but not season-defining) plays in BYU history: The answered prayer.

Let me take this moment to simply say that I felt pure joy when Harline caught that pass. I don't want to ruin it with a lot of words.

BYU had beaten Utah, claimed their first outright MWC championship since 2001 and were invited to a bowl game for the second straight time.

Then, in one final exorcism of their past demons, the Cougars faced Gary Crowton and the Oregon Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl. No one knew exactly how the Cougars would handle the high-powered, Gary-Crowton-led Ducks offense, but once the Cougars settled into the game they put a hurt on Oregon 38-8.

Final record: 11-2. And all was right in the world.

Thank you, David Nixon.

Tomorrow: New faces, same results. Season-defining play for the 2007 season.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Season-defining play: 2005

If I were to paint a picture of the 2005 BYU football season it would contain a sunrise of some sort, some pleasant-looking animals, a brook or creek or some other kind of moving water, some waving grass and nary a cloud in the sky.

A calming, serene scene, no doubt.

That's what I picture when I think of 2005. Pleasantness. I think of a world of chaos finally returning to order. I think of the end of a long night and the start of a brand new day.

I have great memories of the 2005 season. It was the first season I was able to see in its entirety since 2001. And with the powerfully positive forces of Adam's karma behind them, anything was possible for the 2005 Cougars.

Now, do I take credit for the season's success? Yeah, actually I do.

Looking back it really was a pretty mediocre year. But the true success of 2005 is that somewhere along the course of the season the Cougars turned a very big corner.

That's not to say the season wasn't completely devoid of controversy. Before anyone even played a down, the Cougars had some major decisions to make. After cleaning house in 2004, BYU needed a new athletic director and a new head coach. Tom Holmoe was named AD quickly, but the search for a new coach was a lengthy one.

The Cougs' first choice: Kyle Whittingham. Whittingham was a former BYU great who turned to the redcoats. He served as the defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer's Utes.

Unfortunately (and by unfortunately I mean fortunately) Meyer's abandonment of Utah left a coaching vacancy on the hill that Whittingham filled. Whittingham lined his pockets with extra cash and flipped his Alma Mater the proverbial bird. In that act he lost his Cougar status forever and became a blood-red Ute.

Not that I'm bitter, because believe me I'm not.

With Whittingham out of the running, Holmoe and the rest of the administration had a big decision to make. The front runner had to be long-time assistant Lance Reynolds, but the players presented a different candidate: defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall.

Side note: We may have all hated Gary Crowton for what he did to this program, but one thing I will give the guy--he brought us Bronco Mendenhall.

It was a long standoff between the two coaching candidates, but finally Mendenhall was appointed the new head coach. After the appointment, in a display of supreme humility, Mendenhall requested Reynolds stay on as assistant coach. And, In a display of maturity and grace, Reynolds accepted.

A tough decision--one which divided fans and players alike--was made, and the team was ready to start fresh.

(For the record, I was always a Bronco guy.)

Mendenhall immediately made his presence felt on the program. He petitioned the board, successfully, to approve new uniforms. And by new I mean old. The Cougars said goodbye to the bibs, the UCLA sleeves and the color tan forever. Out went the "new look" Cougars, and in came the simple, classic BYU uniforms: white helmets, oval Y logo, solid Cougar blue jerseys and white pants.

The team then retreated into Provo Canyon, as documented in this video, to discuss the things that stood in the way of their success. They listed these things, things like "divisiveness" and "no work ethic," and then burned the list along with some other relics of the dark past.

2005, for BYU, was the beginning of a new era. One of optimism, morality, teamwork and success.

At least that's what it looked like... until we actually started the season.

The 2005 season opener was against Boston College. The Golden Eagles stormed through the gates of LaVell Edwards Stadium and left the Cougs with a 20-3 loss. Mendenhall was famously booed by his own fans in that contest, and the Cougs started their new season with more of the same: losing.

In week two Mendenhall coached the Cougs to his first victory--over Eastern Illinois. I still remember Coach Mendenhall getting doused by the Gatorade and wondering if such honors should be reserved for a victory over a D-1A opponent. But history is history, I guess, and Mendenhall's first win ever was an historic event.

There were some road bumps along the way (a controversial loss to TCU and a absent-minded performance vs. San Diego State), but overall the Cougars played with much more confidence and firepower than in the previous four seasons.

Never mind our defense, by the way, which got torched on more than one occasion. Most notably against Notre Dame. Justin Robinson still has nightmares about that game.

The Cougs had won five of six games heading into the final week vs. Utah, but some roadblocks take more than one year to roll over. The Utes broke our spirits with a 41-34 OT win in Provo. In Las Vegas for our first bowl game since 2001, Cal proved to have too much firepower for our undersized defense and won 35-28.

The final record: 6-6, but a respectable, better-than-it-looks 6-6.

Personnel-wise, 2005 saw John Beck emerge as a QB on the rise, although he was criticized for not being able to "win the big game." Ricks College transfer Jonny Harline made his presence felt, especially in the second half of the season, and 2004 standout Todd Watkins was, to put it mildly, uninspiring.

On defense, Justin Luettgerodt and Cameron Jensen captained the linebacker core, while Nate Soelberg and Justin Robinson were falling down and letting the other teams score all kinds of points.

I'm kidding, J-Rob. Lighten up.

(I'm not really kidding. I wanted to strangle the life out of our DBs on more than one occasion.)

2005 SDP: At New Mexico on October 8, 2005, John Beck and the Cougars were staring a three-game losing streak straight in the face. After losing two games they should have won against TCU and SDSU, the Cougars were trailing the Lobos 24-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

This was a pivotal moment in BYU history to be sure. At that moment, BYU fans across the nation were expecting yet another backslide. Hopes would again be dashed, games would again be lost and another season would end in disappointment.

Then something happened with 1:40 left in the game. John Beck gunned a pass to Matt Allen who was running a simple out route, presumably to get out of bounds. Allen made the catch, but he didn't continue out of bounds. He slammed on the breaks, making the defender slip and fall, and Allen started trucking toward the goal line. At about the 4 yard line he dove toward the end zone and looked up just in time to see the officials signal touchdown.

It was the game-winning, fourth quarter comeback touchdown, and it signaled a new identity for the BYU Cougars. The losing culture so prevalent in years gone by was crumbling away. A new, dedicated, strong and humble BYU program was born.

John Beck's connection with Matt Allen was a significant moment. It was a play that not only won us a meaningful MWC game, but one that issued a warning to every other team in the nation: BYU is back.

Watch highlights of the game here:

Tomorrow: BYU is back. Season-defining play for the 2006 season.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Season-defining play: 2004

Unfortunately, the event that most defined the 2004 season didn't even happen on the field.

In August, 2004, several BYU football players were accused and later indicted on counts of rape and sexual assault. It was embarrassing for BYU, and a horribly poignant example of the depths to which this once proud program had sunk.

This event, more than anything else that may have happened during the Gary Crowton era, led to the resignation of Coach Crowton and the firing of then athletic director Val Hale. It was a dark moment in BYU athletics--probably the darkest--and if it wouldn't have happened, Coach Crowton might be still be BYU's head coach today.

In fact, I'd like to take this time to express what might be an unpopular opinion among Cougar Faithful. I would like to submit to you, the readers, that Gary Crowton is actually a good coach. We all saw what he did in 2001 when he had the talent, and we all know what he's gone on to do post-BYU (success at Oregon, National Championship at LSU).

He struggled in 2002-2004 because, frankly, the cupboard was bare. We had no QBs, we had no defense, we had no WRs and so on.

Whose fault is this, you ask? If we're speaking honestly here, I think any Cougar fan has to admit that a good deal of the blame rests on the shoulders of the (gulp, please don't hate me LaVell) previous administration.

I alluded to this in my 2000 season analysis, but I'll say it again here: As good a coach as LaVell Edwards was, at the end of his career everyone could see that he was just tired, and recruiting suffered as a result. BYU ended up with an abundance of local, sub-par players that didn't really leave BYU until as late as 2005/2006.

(Note: There's absolutely no problem with local players. If the 2008/2009 recruiting class has taught us anything, it's that there is an abundance of talent in the state of Utah. However, that doesn't mean EVERY football player in Orem deserves a scholarship...)

Anyway, I know I'm going off the road a little bit here, but stay with me. As Crowton was working with players he didn't recruit (read: Rod Wilkerson), he was bringing in kids like Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta, Bryan Kehl, John Beck and Cameron Jensen. Who knows what Coach Crowton would have done with his guys once they reached maturity?

Of course, Crowton's zeal for recruiting was his downfall. He recognized talent, it's true, but unfortunately some of the players he brought in, while talented, simply did not fit the BYU mold. It all came to a tragic conclusion one August night when a girl was raped by four BYU players.

Crowton is a good coach with a good mind for football, but being a head coach at BYU means so much more than bringing in talent and winning games.

Being a head coach at BYU means standing for its principles and its mission. It's not apologizing for or making excuses about standards--it's embracing them. BYU is different than any other school on the planet, and every one of its programs, including football, should reflect that difference and serve to further its mission.

Gary Crowton tried to operate outside the standards of BYU. He tried to be an exception, and ultimately that is why I believe he was asked to resign.

2004 SDP: Gary Crowton didn't resign until after the 2004 season ended. His team showed a little improvement that year, but still ended with a 5-7 record. This meant BYU experienced back-to-back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1962-1964.

The season-defining play for the 2004 season came on a September night in the booming metropolis of Boise, Idaho. BYU faced the blue-clad No. 21 Boise State Broncos for a rematch after getting beat down in 2003.

The Broncos were just emerging as a rising star in the non-BCS galaxy, and this game appeared to be a symbolic passing of the torch from BYU to Boise State (and... ugh... Utah) as the premier non-BCS team in the country.

BYU refused to go down without a fight, though, and had a chance to win the game with 33 seconds left. They were on the Bronco 20 yard line down by one point. Big Matt Payne strode onto the field with a chance to kick the game-winning field goal; it was a mere chip shot to him--the guy who had kicked 28 consecutive FGs before this one.

The ball was snapped, the kick was up... wide left. BYU lost. The torch was passed. BYU sank into mediocrity yet again and Cougar fans everywhere wondered if the dream was finally over.

This was what rock bottom looked like.

Tomorrow: The light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Season-defining play for the 2005 season.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

SDP back on Monday

After much soul-searching I have decided to abstain from blogging this weekend. My Season-defining Plays series will start again on Monday with the 2004 season.

Until then, peace be with you.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Season-defining plays: 2003

We are now entering an era of BYU football that I, thankfully, know very little about. I was not able to see the 2003/2004 seasons due to missionary service, but I can still piece together a healthy analysis based on what I've gathered from letters, studies, peer-reviewed journals, etc.

Bret Engemann, one of my very least favorite players to ever don the Cougar Blue (If you're reading this then sorry, Bret. It's not personal, it's football.), inexplicably declared for the NFL draft as a junior, meaning BYU would be left with the following options at quarterback in 2003:

Sophomore Matt Berry
Sophomore Jackson Brown
Junior Todd Mortenson
Sophomore Lance Pendleton
and Freshman John Beck

Pendleton, based on his 2002 experience, seemed the strongest candidate for the job, but I think he switched to defense during the '03 season, and then left the team after that.

Again, I don't have too much information. If someone out there knows more about Pendleton please enlighten us.

Matt Berry was named the starter, and led BYU right out of the gates to a 24-13 win over Georgia Tech in game one of the 2003 season. Daniel Coats made his first appearance as a BYU Cougar and led all BYU receivers with 93 yards and 2 TDs.

A solid start to the season, no doubt. The Cougs lost to USC in week two, and then squeaked by New Mexico in week three. Standing pretty at a respectable 2-1, fans were cautiously optimistic about the 2003 season.

Then all hell broke loose.

The Cougars would go on to win only two more games that season: an eight-point win over SDSU and a 27-20 win over UNLV in overtime.

Injuries plagued Berry, who eventually gave way to true freshman John Beck. Beck was thrust into the spotlight after just returning home from a mission. He was largely ineffective and soon became the target of ridicule from fans and teammates alike.

Crowton didn't do much to endear himself to the fans either. His lack of responsibility for the team's troubles only fanned the growing flames of unrest at BYU.

And then, in its darkest moment, amid a flurry of snow and ice, BYU was completely shut out at home against the hated Utes. The nation-leading 40 billion (or something like that) games without a shut out came to a crashing halt.

Fans were devastated, and I (serving with a Utah fan at the time) was enraged and embarrassed.

BYU limped off the field at the end of their season with a 4-8 record and a long offseason ahead of them.

Oh yeah- and as if one of the worst years in BYU football history wasn't enough, the Utes just happened to be hitting their stride as one of the premier football teams in the country. Urban Meyer rode in on his white horse and led the Utes to a 9-2 record and a 17-0 Liberty Bowl win over Southern Miss.

Dark days.

2003 Season-defining play: Fresh off their win over New Mexico and with a 2-1 record, the Cougs welcomed Pac-10's Stanford into LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The Cougars owned a slim lead throughout the game, and as the clock ticked down BYU found themselves up two with the ball deep in their own territory with only 4 minutes left in the game.

Now let's pause for a second. What would you do in this situation? What would a normal, logical coach who wanted to win do in this situation?

He'd run the ball, right? Waste some clock?

Well Crowton chose to throw on first down. Beck dropped back, let it go and... yadda yadda yadda Stanford went on to score the game-winning touchdown mere seconds later.

After this game, Crowton was asked why in the world he would choose to throw on first down with the lead late in the game, deep in your own territory.

He then uttered the famous phrase "I'd rather win by nine than two."

What a perfect play to define the 2003 season. It was a totally brainless call that led to an embarrassing loss that started building a culture of blame, distrust and lies in the BYU football program.

Thank goodness those days are over.

Tomorrow: The season-defining play for 2004.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Season-defining plays: 2002

The dust settled on the 2001 Liberty Bowl, and the Cougs had suffered their second-straight loss after starting the season 12-0.

The BYU faithful were heartbroken but optimistic. The fresh energy that was displayed over the course of the 2001 season was contagious, and everyone was anxious to see how Coach Crowton would guide the Cougars in his second season.

The 2002 season brought with it a brand new look for BYU. The 2001 play makers, Luke Staley and Brandon Doman, were both NFL-bound. In their places would stand guys like Bret Engemann, Marcus Whalen, Reno Mahe and Spencer Nead.

At first look, this is not a bad group of players. Engemann was the starter for most of the 2000 season (not very impressive, but at least he had experience), Mahe and Nead were both big parts of the 2001 offense, and Whalen was a pounding running back who carried a lot of high hopes from the fans on his back.

On defense Levi Madarieta (one of my favorite players) moved from safety to outside linebacker, and the backfield featured names like Aaron Francisco and Jernaro Gilford.

The 2002 season, like every season at BYU, was ushered in with lofty expectations.

And things started out great. Two revenge games against Syracuse and Hawai'i filled weeks one and two respectively, and BYU claimed victory in each contest. Their 2-0 record earned the Cougars a #24 ranking heading into week three's game against perennially weak-sauce Nevada.

Then something happened to the Cougs. Something BYU fans can't even identify, but would like to erase from their memories forever. Even I am not really sure what it was, but I do know it was something.

BYU made the drive to Reno and got spanked by the Wolfpack in the first half. Suddenly everyone was in panic mode. Engemann got benched in favor of Lance Pendleton (remember him?), our defense was running around confused, and Nevada QB Zack Threadgill looked like the prince of the universe. The 'Pack upset No. 24 BYU, and the Cougars went into a tailspin.

BYU only won 5 games in 2002, including a miracle, come-from-behind, that-shouldn't-have-happened, we-don't-deserve-it win over lowly Utah State. You read that right. Utah State.

(That game provided one of the brightest spots of the season, by the way, in the form of a plucky young freshman running back named Curtis Brown. CB ran for 217 yards and 3 TDs against the Aggies, and eventually became the BYU all-time rushing leader. More on him later, though.)

2002 was BYU's first losing season since 1973.

I actually didn't get to see the entire season. I reported to the Missionary Training Center on November 6 that year, and they shut me out of the BYU football loop entirely. I didn't even know who won the BYU/Utah game that year until weeks after it happened.

Looking back I wish I wouldn't have found out.

2002's SDP: This season's defining play is a little different, in that it's actually the lack of a play that defined the season.

After giving up 31 points to Nevada in the first half, BYU not only held the Wolfpack scoreless in half number two, but was making quite a timely (and expected, I might add) comeback. Pendleton and the Cougars had a slim chance with two minutes to go in the game and 99 yards to cover.

BYU made it all the way down to the Nevada 32, but then time ran out on the Cougs. The game was over. The frenzied Nevada crowd rushed the field and the BYU Cougars were left in a confused haze, contemplating the turn their season had just taken.

It was the beginning of a very dark time in the history of BYU football.

Tomorrow: The season-defining play for 2003.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Season-defining plays: The 2001 Season

2001 was a very interesting year for Cougar fans. Right on the heels of our new uniforms, which we were all still getting used to, we were introduced to a brand new head coach. Enter Gary Crowton.
Crowton was brought to Provo after winning a lengthy battle over George Henshaw, another candidate for the BYU head coaching vacancy. Henshaw went on to be apart of the Super Bowl-bound Tennessee Titans' coaching staff, and today he coaches Reggie Bush as the running backs coach in New Orleans.

Gary Crowton went on to completely lay waste to a proud football legacy at BYU.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. In 2001, we had little to no preconceived notions about Crowton. All we knew was he was not LaVell Edwards, and that (depending on who you talked to) was either a very good thing or a very bad thing.

The season began with the BCA Classic on August 25 against Tulane. Actually, SOME called it the BCA Classic. I call it the Luke Staley Classic. Staley had 10 carries that game for 142 yards and three TDs. Ten carries. (BYU won the game 70-35.)

That whole year quickly became all about Luke. Or as I remember him: Luuuuuuuuuke.

Staley started the season as the #2 RB behind Brian McDonald-Ashford. McDonald was a solid back, no doubt, but as the season progressed it became all too obvious that Staley was our guy. He racked up 1,596 yards on 196 carries (that's an 8.14 yards-per-carry average, for those of you keeping score at home) and 24 TDs. He did this after missing three games: two to injury and one for academic issues. 2001 saw Luke Staley emerge as, sure I'll say it, the best running back in BYU history.

Staley had help, though. He was complemented by a unique quarterback in Brandon Doman. Doman was not the most gifted athlete to ever step under center at BYU, but he had speed and he worked hard. He ran Crowton's new option-style offense with ease, and it gave Staley some very nice, long runs.

One thing was certain in Provo: We were going to score points.

And yet...

2001 was, as the Bible puts it, a "Whited Sepulchre." It was beautiful on the outside--very flashy and entertaining, but once you broke through the stunning offensive facade you found a rotting corpse of a defense.

Sure we were winning games, but games that end with scores like 70-35, 35-31, 54-34, 63-33 etc. don't do much for confidence in the stopping power of the defense.

Sure enough, one team pulled the curtain on our Wizard of Oz puppet show and exposed us for the ragged, pathetic team we really were in 2001. The Rainbow Warriors of Hawai'i rained a beating on us that I still feel when it snows outside. In the first quarter alone the Rainbows scored on a 24-yard pass, a 74-yard punt return and a 100-yard kickoff return.

The final score: 72-45. Ouch.

To add insult to injury, before the game the then 12-0 Cougs were formally told that they would not be invited to participate in the newly formed BCS even if they beat Hawai'i, despite their undefeated record and #9 ranking.

And to add injury to that insult and injury, Luke Staley broke his leg the week before at Mississippi State and was out for the season.

The Cougs went on to lose to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl, and a once-promising season crumbled to the ground and left Cougar nation with a bitter taste in their mouths.

2001 SDP: Facing a three point deficit to the Utes with a shade over one minute left in the game, Luke Staley takes a pitch from Brandon Doman and gallops 30 yards down the sideline for what turned out to be the winning touchdown. Onlookers (myself included) stand dumbfounded after witnessing Staley's speed.

Staley's run was a perfect example of the explosiveness of BYU's offense in 2001. They could strike anywhere, at any time. However, it was also a chilling reminder of the reliance that was placed on the Doak Walker Award winner Staley.

Here are some highlights of BYU/Utah 2001:

Tomorrow: 2002

Site Spotlight: Still Mighty

Hockey fans who read my blog have got to be a little perturbed at my constant neglect. For that I am truly sorry, and I assure you: I feel your pain.

The truth is, I don't know much about hockey. I don't understand why they only have three periods, I can't pronounce their names and I can't ever seem to follow the puck.

And what's the deal with the octopuses?

I can, however name a few players: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Eric Lindros, Mario Lemieux... um... Gordon Bombay...

Anyway, ASB fans who love hockey can now rejoice: One blogger has answered the call to write about the brutal ice dance. Check out my pal Bryce's hockey-themed blog:

Also, be sure to check back here later today when I'll write up today's season-defining play for the 2001 BYU football season.

The All-Star Game... briefly

I will now attempt to do something that that the best baseball players in the world could not do last night: re-create the MLB All-Star game in less than four-and-a-half hours.

However, I must say that I'm aided by the fact that I only caught the last four innings of the game.

For those of you who don't already know, those last innings happened to be the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th innings. Yeah. The game started at 7 pm and ended a little after 11:30 pm (MDT). The poor schlubs at Yankee Stadium were probably dying- they probably didn't get home until sometime after 2:30 in the morning (you'd be surprised how efficient the 4 train can be).

I'm actually very sorry I didn't see the entire game. I would have, but I committed to a softball team, and I'd rather be burned at the stake or miss an All-Star game than disappoint my teammates. But I am sad, because I really wanted to see, among other things, Jonathan Papelbon duel Mariano Rivera at ten paces.

It turns out there was no need for controversy, because in a 15-inning game there were plenty of opportunities for all the pitchers in the bullpen to get some action. I'm actually surprised some lucky third basemen or right fielders didn't get a shot.

By the way, did you all hear that New York fans threatened Papelbon's pregnant wife during All-Star festivities? So sleazy. The hatred between the Yankees and Red Sox is palpable. It's felt nation-wide. I love it.

Anyway, the AL won after a textbook sacrifice fly from the Rangers' Michael Young, but I'm sure you already knew that. The AL won the ASG for the 12th straight time.

And you know what's cool about the baseball ASG? The game actually means something. The league that wins the ASG gets the coveted home-field advantage at the World Series.

What an incredible concept! Instead of gathering the most overpaid, overrated, under-motivated prima donnas in sports for a weekend getaway extravaganza (Pro Bowl) or a glorified And 1 Mix Tape Tour (NBA All-Stars), you bring in the best baseball players in the MLB and put them in a game that has some sort of meaning. The result is a thrilling game like the one we saw last night where the players are actually excited to play and win.

Anyway, great game last night. Great venue, great players, good times.

Okay I'm done. How long was that?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Season-defining plays: The year 2000

Have you ever sat back during the long summer days, agonizing through the latest Brett Favre controversy, and wondered "how can I boil down a whole football season into one single play?"

I have. In fact I'm doing it right now.

I think about it so much, actually, that I decided I will write a series of posts that will look back at all the BYU football played in this millennium and define each season by its most meaningful/symbolic play.

Every day, over the next 8 days, I will describe each season starting with the year 2000 and pinpoint its precise season-defining play. You can disagree with me if you want, but I don't recommend it.

If you do, though, feel free to mix it up a little bit in the comments section. Just try to refrain from calling me an idiot. Here we go.

The season: 2000.

The first season in the new millennium was also the last season for BYU's legendary coach, LaVell Edwards. He gathered his team around him during fall camp and announced his retirement effective immediately following the final game of the season.

LaVell pioneered the game of football. He mentored legends, produced powerhouse teams and even brought a National Championship to the people of Provo. His long and illustrious career had to come to an end, though, and everyone knew his time had come.

I can clearly remember seeing Coach Edwards on the sidelines keeled over with his head down and his hands on his knees. He looked like an old man who was suffering.

His team turned out to be one of the most disappointing BYU teams in recent memory. This talent-laden team included the likes of Bret Engemann, Kalani Sitake, Justin Ena, Chris Hoke, Margin Hooks, Tevita Ofahengaue, Hans Olsen, Brian McDonald-Ashford and a young Luke Staley, to name a few. These names may not mean much to the casual BYU fan, but these were good players. And yet they lacked the killer instinct; they couldn't put games away like they should have.

That, combined with a tired coaching staff and a brutal football schedule, took its toll on the Cougs. Three trips to the east coast (Florida State, Virginia and Syracuse) and a lackluster MWC performance put the Cougars at 4-6 heading into their last game at Cougar Stadium against New Mexico.

It was at this game that then President of the BYU Board of Directors Gordon B. Hinckley announced that Cougar Stadium would from then on be known as LaVell Edwards Stadium. BYU beat New Mexico to preserve a win in Edwards' final home game.

Next up was Utah, and there we find the 2000 season-defining play.

2000 SDP: With only seconds left in the fourth quarter of LaVell's last game, the third-string quarterback Brandon Doman captained a full-on frontal assault to break through the Utah Utes' defenses on a QB keeper into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown over Utah.

Doman's heroics came after the Cougars let a 26-10 lead slip away in the fourth quarter. The Utes' comeback looked like it would spoil LaVell's season, but Doman simply would not lose, ending an up-and-down season on a high note.

This bittersweet play is a perfect example of the Cougars' ability to rally behind their beloved coach, but is also a sad reminder of the wasted talent/opportunities of what should have been a top-25 team. This play, more than any other, defined the 2000 season as a disappointing one, with occasional moments of brilliance.

Click here to watch highlights of the 2000 BYU/Utah game.

For a closer look at the 2000 season, check out the DVD Last Miracle for LaVell.

The 2000 BYU Cougars ended the season 6-6.

Tomorrow: Season-defining play(s) for the 2001 BYU Cougars.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vai pastes Canseco

This is too good to pass up, guys. Vai Sikahema, former BYU running back and Philadelphia Eagles return man, agreed to fight Jose Canseco in a celebrity boxing match in Atlantic City. The fight took place this last Saturday, and Vai laid a beat down on Canseco that won't soon be forgotten by the former slugger.

Check out ESPN's coverage (make sure to watch the highlights).

I'll admit, when I first heard about this I was a little embarrassed for Sikahema. I've seen the guy a few times (he came back to BYU to host "Cougar Diary" once), and I've come to admire him for no other reason than he was a great return man and running back during the golden years of BYU football (1980-1985).

He was also elected to the BYU Hall of Fame, which takes not only an exemplary football career, but a life of character and service.

Since his playing days, he has become a much-loved sportscaster in Philadelphia.

All in all, he's one of those guys who you're proud to say he's a BYU alumni. And I thought that great reputation would be sullied a bit by a bout with the sleezy, snakey Canseco.

It turns out I was totally wrong. Not only did Vai take Canseco out to the woodshed and lay a pasting on Canseco, but he sort of acted like the messenger of beatings for the entire nation. Vai turned into all of us--his fists were our fists--as we finally took out our frustration on one of the slimiest characters professional sports has ever created. Sikahema became our champion, and Canseco became our whoopin' bag.

The fight was supposed to last three rounds of two minutes apiece, but the 5-9, 190-pound Sikahema took care of the 6-4, 240-pound Canseco in about 90 seconds. Vai gave Canseco a much-deserved and much-awaited pounding, and baseball and football fans rejoiced as one.

I'll admit, this story made me smile.

Read the Daily News' recap of the fight here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Write it Out: How good are the Utes?

I think you'll find with most BYU fans, myself included, that we all have a certain amount of interest in the Utah Utes.

We hate the Utes. We love it when they're miserable, and yet we can't help but keep tabs on them. You know I'm right, BYU fans. Admit it: You all run to find out the score of the Utah game just a touch slower than you run to find out the score to the BYU game.

Actually, I take that back. Not every BYU fan has this interest in their rivals. Some fans have reached what I like to call "Rivalry Nirvana," which is a state of mind in which Utah has lost all meaning and BYU is the only focus of the mind. These fans care as much about the Utah Utes as they do the Temple Owls, or the IUPUI Jaguars. BYU is the only thing on their minds.

Apathy, after all, is far worse than hate.

I envy these people, but I'm not there yet. The Utes are still very much on my mind. I hate them, and I want them to lose every game (even if by winning they would "help the conference"). I've said it before, but I love watching the Utes lose almost as much as I love watching the Cougs win.

That being said, Utah is enjoying its fair share of cranks through the hype machine heading into the 2008 season. We BYU fans know what that's like, being the BCS-busting favorites for the upcoming season, but the pirate Ute fans have no doubt in their minds that Utah will be the real deal.

Some Cougar fans even agree.

The Utes return almost as many weapons to their offense as BYU. Brian Johnson, Darrell Mack, Brent Casteel, Matt Asiata and a very talented offensive line return on offense, and their defense includes the Kruger brothers and probably the best defensive backfield in the conference.

There are a few defensive question marks, such as the D-line depth and the linebackers, but the Utes certainly aren't short on talent.

Most Utes and Cougars agree: When the two Utah powerhouses meet in November, it very well may be a clash of two undefeated teams.

Personally... I think the Utes are being a tad over-optimistic. The Utes have a lot of assets, true, but I'm not that impressed. The conversations about the upcoming season usually also fail to include the Utes' greatest liability: Their bumbling dummard of a coach.

Kyle Whittingham and his staff have been solely responsible for the Utes' schizophrenic tendencies over the past two seasons. Losing to Air Force, trouncing UCLA, getting shut out by UNLV and then beating up on Louisville are signals that the coaching is inconsistent, lazy and emotion-driven.

Plus, the Utes claim they have all their offensive weapons back, but these weapons are more akin to wrist-rockets and beebee guns than the offensive sidewinders and tomahawk missles we're working with. I mean, was anyone really that impressed with Brian Johnson when he came down to Provo last year? And how many yards did Darrell Mack have against us? 25? I admit, I'm genuinely impressed by Brent Casteel, but the rest of them are average at best.

So, after this lengthy pre-amble, I pose the question to you, my readers: How good will the Utes be this year? How many games will they lose? Before answering, consider this:

  • The Utes open their season at Michigan in The Big House. Yes, Michigan is implementing a new system with a new coach, but this is still a big game against some pretty stellar athletes
  • The Utes also play a good Oregon State team mid-season
  • The Utes have two tough MWC road games at New Mexico and Wyoming, and you know the Cowboys are looking for some payback after last year's thumping
  • The Utes have to play BYU

Personally, I see the Utes losing up to 4 maybe 5 games this year. Michigan and BYU are definite losses, and they will lose at least one against OSU, UNM and Wyoming. They do have the talent to roll through those games, but the inconsistent, sloppy Utes I have come to know and love will never live up to their potential.

How good are the Utes and how many games will they lose in 2008?

What say you? Go ahead readers: Write it out.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Chestnut repeats as hot dog champ

By: Adam Olsen

CONEY ISLAND, N.Y.—On a day when good citizens of the USA celebrate independence from tyranny, freedom from oppression and the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there is another group of unsung heroes in one corner of the country celebrating an entirely different set of values.

Namely: gastric independence, freedom from self-restraint and the right to gluttony, intestinal discomfort and acid reflux.

On a hot and humid July Fourth, these heroes gathered together for a battle of wits and stomachs, and pitted their swallowing skills against each other in the famed Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

And on this day when citizens across the country stop to reflect about and celebrate what it means to be an American, it is only fitting that part of the festivities include a competition where the participants gorge themselves silly with hot dogs.

And only fitting that an American—Joey Chestnut of California—bring home the coveted Mustard Belt.

Chestnut beat famed hot dog eater and six-time champion Kobayashi from Japan for the second-straight year.

“It came down to who needed it more,” Chestnut said of the competition. “[Kobayashi] wanted it, but I needed it.”

Chestnut and Kobayashi ended the 10-minute contest dead even at 59 hot dogs. The tie sent the competition into a first-ever “Dog Off,” matching each finalist against each other one on one in a five hot dog, first-to-finish winner-take-all overtime. Both competitors pushed themselves to the absolute limits of mastication, but it was Chestnut that enjoyed a final burst of delicious, beefy adrenaline to win the competition outright.

Chestnut said the overtime was physically and emotionally taxing. “You don’t train to go a few more after the competition,”

When asked why he puts his body through the rigors of professional eating he replied, “It’s fun. I love to eat, I love the competition and it’s the Fourth of July. Only on a day like this can you get away with something so silly”

Kobayashi, the premier eater of his day, was crestfallen after the disappointing loss.

“[Chestnut] won because he was quicker than me in the dog-off” Kobayashi said through an interpreter.

The famed Japanese eater is said to have talked openly about retirement, but when asked if he would return, Kobayashi replied in perfect English: “Of Course.”

Eating is not what it used to be for professional eaters like Kobayashi. A thirty-year-old veteran, Kobayashi now frequently suffers from sports-related injuries, an aging digestive system and increased competition.

The pinnacle of modern-day eating, Kobayashi once enjoyed supremacy at the top of the eating chain. Now, after losing his second Coney Island showdown (Kobayashi lost to Chestnut last year after a costly jaw injury), Kobayashi will have to work harder than ever to remain competitive.

If eaters like he and Chestnut don’t, they could find themselves old news.

Chestnut has reportedly been exercising his upper-abdomen muscles to help push food down into his belly faster, while Kobayashi, whose throat is already reptilian-like, will continue to put himself through rigorous eating workouts.

With a field full of sushi champions, ice cream eating champions and even lumberjack breakfast eating champions, neither competitor can afford to rest. Even now, as Chestnut and all the rest of the eaters sit back to let their bodies work through the hundreds of hot dogs they ate in mere minutes, the 2009 Mustard Belt looms in the distance.

And the eating revolution will continue.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

MWC All-Decade team

The Mountain West Conference is putting together All-Decade sports teams to celebrate its first 10 years of existence.

I say "teams" because the MWC is compiling lists for football, women's volleyball, women's soccer, and men's and women's cross country. But who the heck cares about all-conference cross country runners? Can anyone even remember all-conference cross country runners?

Football is the only relevent sport, so let's just cut the bull.

Click here to visit the MWC Web site and vote.

I voted for, among others, Luke Staley, John Beck, Cameron Jensen, Aaron Francisco and Matt Payne. I also sprinkled in a few non-BYU picks like Brian Urlacher and Eric Weddle.

Go forth and vote, and then come back here and tell me who you voted for.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

TNI softball game 1 recap

Actually, I guess technically it was game two. Game one of our Tuesday night double-header ended in a forfeit. Just as well, because I heard we were going to play the accounting department. And let's just say their skill with a calculator doesn't exactly translate to the softball field...

For those of you who don't know, I am deeply committed to my company softball league. It's the best time of the year to work at Tahitian Noni International, and my team is leading the pack. In fact we've won 2 championships in a row, and are heavily favored to win a third this year.

My team is made up of warehouse guys, purchasing guys, and a hodgepodge of other TNI employees.

I myself was drafted to the team last year. I'm not sure how I ended up on the team, but I'd like to think the team's gamble paid off. I bring my blood, sweat, grit and determination to the field every game, and we rolled through the regular season and playoffs.

Now after a long off-season we're ready to wreak havoc once again.

And we did just that last night. The 2008 season began with an avalanche of destruction, as we dismantled the Quality Assurance team 26-6. I know, right? It looks more like a football score. But seriously, we're just that good. We pounded 15 runs in the first inning, and we never looked back.

Initially I was nervous about playing on a bum knee, but my natural adrenaline made up for my missing ACL. I ended the night 2-4 with 2 RBI, and I was a vacuum at first base. Lest you think I'm a braggadocio, though, I will say that my first at-bat did end in a strikeout. It was horrible. No excuses.

So our team, which is nameless right now as far as I know, is 2-0. Next week will match us up with our most hated rival: Commissions.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A tough decision

It could be a number of reasons: I'm bored, I'm feeling better, I'm anxious, I'm stupid, I love the game too much or the team needs me.

Whatever it is, and even I am not entirely sure, the fact remains the same: I will return to the softball diamond tonight.

I know what you're all thinking: "Adam, what about your ACL? You've been whining and bellyaching about it for so long. Won't it inhibit your play?"

My answer? Yes. Yes it will.

In fact, I'm not even sure I'll be able to contribute to my team at all. I don't know if I can hit and I certainly won't be able to run. I will, however, resume my all-star role at first base. It turns out there are advantages to being an expert at the most immobile, and least strenuous position in the field.

I've made my decision, and I'm proud of it. My wife may disagree and my teammates may regret it, but I will be back on the diamond tonight.

Recruiting Update

After re-reading my 2009 recruiting guide, I decided to write a little update based on recent recruiting news.

Here is our most updated list of BYU commits for the 2009 recruiting class (courtesy of and

1. S Jray Galea'i: ****; Kahuku, HI. Galea'i was recently upgraded from three stars to four stars.
2. RB Adam Timo: ****; Snow Canyon, UT. Timo holds the Utah state high jumping record with a jump of 7'2".
3. S Craig Bills: ****; Timpview, UT. Bills is a Nike Camp MVP.
4. OL Tui Crichton: ***; Timpview, UT.
5. WR Mitch Mathews: ***; Southridge, OR. NEW COMMIT! Jumped from one star to three stars.
6. RB Anthony Heimuli: *; Mountain View, UT. NEW COMMIT! Relatively unknown player who impressed coaches at BYU's non-padded camp.
7. RB Peni Maka'afi: *; Northridge, UT. NEW COMMIT!
8. TE Remington Peck: *; Bingham, UT. NEW COMMIT! Two-star athlete who will play either LB, DE or TE.
9. C Terry Alleto: *; Ponderosa, CO.
10. CB Trevor Bateman: Palm Desert, CA. NEW COMMIT! Supposedly runs a 4.4 40.
11. QB Riley Nelson: *; Logan, UT.

Here is an updated list of prospects:

1. LB Manti Te'o: *****; Punahau, HI. Chances of committing: Decent.
2. OL John Martinez: ****; Cottonwood, UT. Chances of committing: Slim- and that's stretching it.
3. TE Richard Wilson: ****; Spanish Fork, UT. Upgraded to 4 stars. Chances of committing: Decent.
4. OL Xavier Su'a-Filo: ****; Timpview, UT. Chances of committing: Slim and getting slimmer every day.
5. LB Kyle Van Noy: ****; McQueen, NV. Chances of committing: No clue
6. DT Latu Heimuli: ****; Highland, UT. Chances of committing: Decent.
7. OL Stan Hasiak: ****; Kapolei, HI. Chances of committing: No clue
8. QB Taysom Hill: ****; Highland Senior, ID. Chances of committing: Good
9. LB Steven Fanua: ***; Milipitas, CA. Chances of committing: Good
10. LB L.T. Filiaga: ***; Bingham, UT. Recently said BYU is his favorite among offers. Chances of committing: Good
11. WR Brett Thompson: ***; Oak Ridge, CA. Chances of committing: Very Good.
12. S Chris Washington: ***; Northridge, UT. Chances of committing: Good.

Sorry if you thought this was just another boring post, but I really love this stuff. If I had to pick, I would say BYU will receive commitments for sure from Hill, Filiaga, Fanua, Thompson and Washington.

Jury's still out on Te'o, but my gut says BYU will land this blue-chipper. Maybe is unbridled optimism, but I've got to shoot for the stars.

In the news

Here's a quick list of stories you should all be aware of about the sports that matter most:

ESPN Insider: BYU Preview. Read this story soon, because it's part of a free "ESPN Insider Preview," and it discusses BYU football in depth. Spoiler Alert: It even mentions the possibility of a National Championship.

NBC Sports: Max Hall is the Best QB You've Never Heard Of. I mean, I'm sure we've heard of Max Hall, but you get the point.

ESPN: Bowl Projections. This is the famous article that has put BYU in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma. The national love feels good, doesn't it? And it's only going to get better when we keep winning.

CBS Sports: Beck taking step forward. This is going to be a huge year for one of BYU's favorite sons, John Beck. Caught in a heated QB battle in Miami, this could very well be the year that defines his career. He could either be a solid starter, or relegated to back-up duty for years to come.

Deseret News: Utah producing top-notch football recruits. John Martinez, Richard Wilson, Xavier Su'a-Filo and L.T. Filiaga are just a few of the solid Utah HS football players who will be a part of the recruiting class of 2009. And guys like Gary Crowton and Norm Chow are poaching.

Deseret News: Deron Williams making Utah his home--all year. Just when I think I can't like Deron Williams any more than I already do, I go and read an article like this one. Give this guy $120 million. LeRoi Moore injured. DMB saxophonist LeRoi Moore may be out for the rest of the tour after a serious ATV accident. Jeff Coffin, of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, will fill in for Moore on tour.