2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Jake’s and David’s Arguments – The Alford-Tavernari Incident, Part 3

    Wed, March 3, 2010 by admin with 4 comments

    This is Part 3 of an exchange between Jake Schaller and columnist David Ramsey. For Part 1, check the post below. Parts 2 and 4 are in Ramsey’s blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com.

    Ramsey, I can only imagine the language you heard when you were covering the Big East. But I also seem to remember some fairly colorful expressions being directed at you and Denver Post writer Irv Moss near the end of an Air Force practice in 2007 when Jeff Bzdelik morphed into Jeff Bleep-delik.

    Anyhow, this is a classic example of someone getting caught (on tape) for something that probably happens multiple times during a season and goes unreported.

    Alford and Tavernari reportedly made up (when Tavernari went to the New Mexico locker room to apologize), and that was the right thing for them to do.

    But at the same time, as a fan, how much better would it be if they hadn’t? My interest in a potential New Mexico-BYU conference tournament final would have jumped about 1,000 percent.

    This is why I always say my favorite sport to cover was boxing. Nearly all the pro boxers I covered had zero filter when it came to talking to the media about their opponents. They would tell you if they didn’t like who they were going to fight. They would tell you if they thought their opponent was a punk. They would tell you (sometimes in graphic detail) about the beat-down they had planned.

    Here’s an excerpt from a story I wrote about Ricardo Mayorga – one of boxing’s bad boys (which, granted, is like saying someone is one of a beauty contest’s pretty people). It appeared in the Sept. 29, 2004 issue of The Washington Post, shortly before Mayorga’s bout with Felix “Tito” Trinidad.

    Mayorga arrived at New York’s LaGuardia Airport last weekend with his hair dyed bright red and a shirt that had the date of Saturday’s fight with the message, “Tito’s Retirement Celebration. Time to hang them up.” And he bragged about a reported $100,000 bet he made with the 31-year-old Trinidad on their fight.

    “It’s a real bet,” Mayorga said. “It’s not putting any sort of pressure on me. In fact, I’m going to make sure he pays me after the fight. With that money I’m going to buy myself a limousine, maybe two, in Nicaragua and name it Tito, so that everyone remembers when I knocked out Tito.”

    Later, Mayorga predicted a knockout between rounds three and five. “I really don’t want to cause the Trinidad family any more grief,” he said.

    (By the way, Trinidad dominated the fight, which was stopped in the eighth round).

    Anyhow, what I’m saying is that Mountain West basketball could use a dash of boxing. Or at least some of the genuine dislike that permeated the Celtics-Pistons games of the late 1980s.

    No, I’m not advocating players (or coaches) throwing punches or violence of any kind. And you don’t want people calling each other out and talking trash non-stop. But it’s OK for teams not to like each other. That makes everything more fun.

  • Jake’s and David’s Arguments – The Alford-Tavernari Incident, Part 1

    Wed, March 3, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Following New Mexico’s down-to-the-wire victory over BYU on Saturday, Lobos coach Steve Alford was caught on tape calling BYU forward Jonathan Tavernari a bad word (see the dust-up here, but be warned you’ll hear a seven-letter expletive from Alford).

    Alford’s actions earned a reprimand from the Mountain West Conference but also opened the door for another installment of “Jake’s and David’s Arguments,” where Gazette columnist David Ramsey and I go back and forth about an event or issue.

    My first take on this incident: No matter what Tavernari (who specializes in getting under the skin of his opponents) did to provoke Alford, the New Mexico coach should have known not to react like he did – at least in today’s everyone-has-a-camera-and-everything-goes-on-YouTube-immediately society.

    He was wrong, and the MWC was right in reprimanding him.

    And one other thing about the incident: I loved it.

    If you want to roll your eyes, just listen to one of the MWC teleconferences with the coaches and ask them about another team or player. Every coach will tell you that every other coach does a “great job” and that every other team is “a really tough matchup.” It’s a gooey PC-fest.

    Case in point: BYU coach Dave Rose said the following: “I thought that Air Force was really good, and we were a little bit better.” … When talking about the Cougars’ 43-point victory over the Falcons.

    Sports are more fun when you have bad blood and rivalries and villains.

    So while you can’t condone what happened between Tavernari and Alford … it makes things a lot more interesting for the fans.

    What do you think, Ramsey? (Ramsey’s response will be on his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com).

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Wed, March 3, 2010 by admin with 2 comments

    Air Force clinched a second consecutive last-place finish in the Mountain West Conference last night by losing to the only team it had a chance to catch – Wyoming.

    The Falcons fell, 58-49. Junior Tom Fow scored 17 points, showing off a more diverse offensive game. But coach Jeff Reynolds said after the game that Fow still has much work to do on his defense.

    “Gave up too many easy shots,” Reynolds said.

    Here’s The Casper Star-Tribune’s game story and Robert Gagliardi’s column for The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. Both mention how the MWC’s worst 3-point shooting and worst defensive squad hit nine 3s and played good defense against the Falcons.

    In other news, the MWC reprimanded New Mexico coach Steve Alford for calling BYU’s Jonathan Tavernari a seven-letter word that I can’t write here (watch a clip of it here, but be warned that the word appears in the clip). Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney writes that while Alford “is a lot of attitude, some productive, some annoying,” he also has done a great job with the Lobos this season. I enjoyed the piece.

  • Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, February 24, 2010 by admin with no comments

    So was the Air Force men’s basketball team’s performance in a 59-56 loss at New Mexico on Saturday truly a step in the right direction or just a one-game anomaly?

    We’ll have a lot better idea about the answer to that question after tonight, when the Falcons play host to Utah. The Utes are vulnerable, having lost five of seven, with a rebuilt team that includes one of the most fun players in the league to watch, freshman guard Marshall Henderson.

    Also, here are my 3 Things to Watch in the game.

    Finally, The Deseret Morning News writes that Air Force must be considered a dangerous opponent after its performance at New Mexico. And The Salt Lake Tribune writes that Utah is trying to prepare for the Mountain West Conference Tournament and improve its seed.

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, February 23, 2010 by admin with no comments

    A basketball notebook with a last look at the New Mexico game and updates on Sammy Schafer, Taylor Broekhuis and Tom Fow now is available, on-line only.

    Also, Gazette columnist David Ramsey asked Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds about the people who had criticized the Falcons and, perhaps, inspired them to play well against the Lobos. He has a transcript of their exchange on his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/.

    Air Force faces Utah tomorrow night at Clune Arena. The Utes seem vulnerable, having lost five of their last seven games. Utah coach Jim Boylen, however, believes his team is improving, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

  • Monday Morning Links

    Mon, February 22, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force senior forward/center Grant Parker believes the Falcons’ close loss to New Mexico on Saturday proved his team “can compete with anybody.”

    Gazette columnist David Ramsey wrote about the New Mexico game, what he calls “a great loss,” in his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/.

    By the way, in my “Rapid Reaction” to Saturday’s game, I mentioned the problems the Falcons have at the end of the shot clock (scroll down to see the “Rapid Reaction” post).

    I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

    In his game story in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal, Mark Smith – an excellent basketball writer – also pointed to the Falcons’ problems late in the shot clock.

    “The Falcons kept hanging around. And if they had taken a few more shots, instead of focusing so much on the shot clock that a half-dozen possessions ended with turnovers or desperation heaves, they could have been even closer than their 28-22 deficit at the half.

  • New Mexico 59, Air Force 56 – Rapid Reaction

    Sat, February 20, 2010 by admin with 4 comments

    Talk to players and coaches after a close loss and you’ll typically hear them say they don’t believe in moral victories.

    I get it. There shouldn’t be any such thing.

    This was a moral victory for Air Force.

    After getting humiliated last week at BYU in a 43-point loss – the third-worst in program history – the Falcons peeled themselves off the concrete (albeit with an entire week to practice) and came to play this afternoon.

    At The Pit, arguably the toughest venue in the league (and perhaps beyond), the Falcons took the No. 12 team in the nation, one that carried a 10-game winning streak into the contest, down to the wire.

    Senior forward/center Grant Parker told me earlier this week that last week’s loss to BYU was a wake-up call. Parker always is honest and open, so I had no reason to believe he was just talking in clichés. But in addition to wondering why a team would need a wake-up call three-quarters of the way through the season, I also wondered if the Falcons would heed said wake-up call.

    They did.

    And that’s great.

    More important is whether they’ll build on what happened today.

    Other Notes:
    -Something that’s been a problem all season was evident once again on Saturday afternoon:

    Too many times – way too many times – Air Force appeared rattled and unprepared to make a play as the shot clock wound down.

    In the first half, Air Force committed a pair of shot clock violations (the clock expired with the ball in a player’s hands) and forced a pair of contested, rushed shots as the clock was about to expire (a 3-pointer by Derek Brooks and a mid-range jumper by Taylor Stewart). Two other times Avery Merriex travelled with less than five seconds on the clock.

    And on Air Force’s last possession of the first half, the Falcons basically did nothing until the clock was under :10 and then cleared out for Evan Washington. (He drove and missed a pull-up jumper just before the buzzer.)

    In the second half I counted four more forced shots just before the shot clock expired. And I wasn’t counting “good” shots that were taken in rhythm off good passes.

    Now, I understand that Air Force wants to use a lot of the shot clock to shorten games – and that’s the right strategy for a team as offensively challenged as the Falcons.

    But there has to be better recognition of the time on the clock so that there’s a better play than force-it-up-before-the-buzzer.

    -If you love college basketball, you had to love this afternoon’s game.

    It’s pretty easy to get cynical when you watch games for a living. But I gotta admit the hair on the back of my neck was standing up in the last minute.

    -Sign in the Lobo student section “Curling more exciting than AFA basketball.”

    I watched some curling the other day. And I have to say … give me about four or five days on the ice, and I think I could make a run at the Olympic team. After years upon years of playing shuffleboard in dimly-lit bars, curling doesn’t seem like it’d be that tough.

    -Speaking of the student section, the crowd in general was fantastic at The Pit. It lifted a struggling team and always seemed to crescendo at the right moments. Reminded me of when Clune Arena was alive.

    -One travel note:

    Is there any way we can stop flight attendants from saying, “This is the last and final call for flight …. ?”

    Is it confusing to just leave it at the “last call?” Or “final call?”

    I mean, when they get ready to stop serving drinks at my bar up the street, they announce that it’s “last call for alcohol.” Folks seem to be able to figure that out. And most of them are drunk.

    Were people missing flights because they figured, “Well, it’s the final boarding call for my flight. But I don’t think it’s the last call for it. I’ll head back to the concourse and buy a $4 bottle of water and a book for twice as much as I could buy it for at a bookstore outside the airport. I’m not going to the gate until it’s the last and final call for boarding.”

    I don’t think that happened. Otherwise, Regis Philbin would ask for a contestant’s “last and final answer.” Right?

    Thanks for listening.

  • Saturday Morning Links

    Sat, February 20, 2010 by admin with no comments

    The Air Force men’s basketball team faces New Mexico today at The Pit and tries to avoid another embarrassment. (My 3 Things to Watch in the game are at the bottom of the article).

    Just staying close with New Mexico will be a tall task for the Falcons, who are coming off a 43-point loss to BYU a week ago. The Lobos are ranked No. 12 in the country and have won 10 games in a row.

    Switching to ice hockey, Air Force fell to RIT, 3-2 in overtime last night. RIT cliniched the Atlantic Hockey Association regular season title with the victory.

  • Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, January 20, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    As reported on Gazette.com yesterday, Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will be accepting the defensive coordinator position at Texas A&M.

    Multiple sources have confirmed DeRuyter’s departure, but an official announcement likely won’t come until Thursday after a scheduled meeting of the Texas A&M Board of Regents. Here’s my story on DeRuyter.

    Switching gears to hoops, Air Force faces New Mexico tonight and tries to avoid some infamy. A loss would be the Falcons’ 20th regular season Mountain West Conference defeat in a row and set a new record for consecutive league regular season losses.

    In today’s edition of The Gazette, I wrote about forward/center Grant Parker, whose promising senior season has been derailed – for now – by injury. Also, here are my 3 Things to Watch in tonight’s game.

    Finally, Gazette columnist David Ramsey checks in on Air Force’s former coach.

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, December 20, 2009 by admin with no comments

    The Air Force men’s basketball team fell to 5-4 last night with a 60-52 loss to Northern Arizona. My notes, which deal in part with Derek Brooks’ return and the Falcons’ injuries, can be found at this link. My “Rapid Reaction” from last night is in the post below.

    Switching to football, Wyoming staged a comeback to force overtime in yesterday’s New Mexico Bowl and then defeated Fresno State in two overtimes.

    Much has been made of Air Force potentially breaking into the top three in the Mountain West Conference. That should be a goal. But for the Falcons, holding off the teams that have finished below them in coach Troy Calhoun’s first three seasons is going to become a greater and greater challenge. Dave Christensen is going to get it going at Wyoming, I think, and Brady Hoke’s going to do the same at San Diego State. And I don’t see Colorado State finishing in last place again.