Deacon Blues: It’s All in the Name

The second episode of Deacon Blues has been released.

In this action-packed episode, our hero visits the digital lair of the guardian of the karmic vibe.

Episode 1 is here.

Note: All characters and events in this show—even those based on real people—are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated…..poorly. The following program contains coarse language and due to its content it should not be viewed by anyone.

Obviously, this is satire and humor.  No offense to any person, real or fictional, is intended.

Link, for feeds.

Deacon Blues: It’s a Wonderful Post

Now that Boardwalk Empire is on hiatus, Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter turned their attention to some real drama: the 2010-11 Wake Forest Demon Deacon basketball season.

Inspired by the creative writing at the DeaconSports WFU message board, Scorsese and Winter have produced Deacon Blues, a mini-series about the highs and lows of being a WFU sports fan.

As a holiday gift to all, the first episode was made available for free, on the net.

Note: All characters and events in this show—even those based on real people—are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated…..poorly. The following program contains coarse language and due to its content it should not be viewed by anyone.

Powerful stuff, that.

Obviously, this is satire and humor.  No offense to any person, real or fictional is intended.

Link, for feeds.

Calling a TKO on Wake Forest’s 2010-11 Basketball Season

They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues
~ Steely Dan, Deacon Blues

It’s hard to be a Wake Forest basketball fan.  Almost perfectly hard.  You suffer through long periods of frustration, interspersed with brief moments of sheer joy.  The most joyful being the Tim Duncan/Randolph Childress fueled back to back ACC Championships of the mid-nineties.

That was a long, long time ago, so let’s look back at a wonderful moment in time.

Those were good times.  Many fans thought they were the beginning of a long period of WFU hardcourt dominance.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Later, Skip Prosser led Wake to some good (but again not quite great) seasons.  Skip was 126-68 during the regular season, but alas had mixed post-season success.

Skip died tragically, and his top assistant and close friend Dino Gaudio took over.  Dino led WFU to a 61-31 record in 3 seasons, but the post-season collapses that pre-dated Dino continued, ultimately leading to his sacking after last season.

I was very worried when it became clear that Athletic Director Ron Wellman was bound and determined to hire his old friend Jeff Bzdelik to replace Dino.  The same Jeff Bzdelik that had a 36-58 record at Colorado, and has never won an NCAA Tournament game.  In fact, if anything his post season record made Wake’s look better.

Others shared my reaction.  It was, at least by objective measures, a strange hire.

But I was willing to take a wait and see approach.

I’ve waited, and what I have seen so far is nothing short of a complete train wreck.  Wake has gone from a team that was a contender in the ACC and ranked no. 1 in the country to having to scramble to nip a previously winless UNC-G team.  At home.

Sadly, that UNC-G win was a high point of the early season, compared to home losses to:

Stetson (Atlantic Sun). Currently 3-7 with losses to Bethune Cookman, Palm Beach Atlantic (whoever that is) and Jacksonville.

Winthrop (Big South). Currently 5-6, with losses to Hampton, Belmont and Liberty.

UNC-W (Colonial Athletic Conference). Currently 5-5, with a loss to N.C. A&T.

And then, tonight, a home loss to the 5-6 Big South juggernaut, Presbyterian (whose losses, in the interest of fairness, are better than many who have beaten Wake this season).

image

It would have been unreasonable to expect Wake to be really good this year.  But it would be selling Wake short to believe that this is OK.  It’s not, and if you really believe Wake can be good, if you’re really a fan, you should not suffer quietly.  I want to make it absolutely clear to anyone who will listen that I- and many other fans- expect more than this.  It’s OK to have a bad year.  It’s never OK to have this bad a year.

Those whose psychological makeup won’t allow them to face reality argue that Wake Forest has a young team and does not have a true point guard.  True enough, and that will be a great oft-used excuse when Wake gets beat by 40 or 50 once the ACC games begin next month.  But to say that Wake’s roster, with highly regarded recruits, point guard or not, should be a cellar dweller in the Big South Conference is absurd and indefensible on its face.

Jeff Bzdelik is in all likelihood a really good guy, and I mean no personal disrespect to him.  But no one forced him to take the Wake Forest job, and he is highly paid for his troubles (I have long been fascinated by the coach-as-a-proxy-for-the-program transference that leads some to defend a guy they’d never heard of a year ago like he’s the Pope, Gandhi, Santa Claus and their favorite uncle all rolled into one).  At the end of the day, there are two possibilities.  One, all of Wake’s recruits were greatly overrated, not only by the prior coaching staffs, but also by most of the national recruiting services.  Two, Bzdelik is not, as it turns out, the second coming of John Wooden.  Occam’s razor precludes me from believing the former.

The thing is that I am a Wake Forest fan.  Not a fan of whoever happens to be the coach at the moment.  It would be cool to be excited about both.  At the moment it’s really hard to be excited about either.

And if Bzdelik and crew can’t manage a victory over Presbyterian at home, how’s it going to go when Wake plays Duke?  Call me Chicken Little, but I’m thinking not too good.

Those who try to keep their eyes closed and their chins up have provided a mountain of anecdotal evidence in support of the proposition that Bzdelik is a great game coach.  That’s it- he’s an Xs and Os wizard who will coach up his players to compete with the Dukes and the UNCs.

First, he has to coach them up to compete with the VCUs and Xaviers.

As I have said to other Wake fans: Bzdelik may be a great coach, but nothing I have seen so far proves it.  He better be a great recruiter, for all of our sake.  Crazy thing is that few have tried to argue that he will be.  Many have hung their hats on the great game coach peg.

Yes, yes a million few times yes, it’s early.   Time will tell, but no one who is being even remotely honest can say that this season so far is anything more than a complete disaster- point guard or not.

Equally as frustrating as Wake’s dismal pre-conference record is the fact that the Deacons look fundamentally unsound and unprepared, and are unbearably boring to watch.

I completely realize that if Bzdelik turns Wake around, this year (fat chance) or another, this post will be constantly tossed in my face as proof that I am a “bad fan,” whatever in the hell that is.  If that happens, I’ll be happy to admit that Wake is good again.  I’ll even admit that I could have kept my mouth shut and suffered through a dismal season or two so I could claim to be a loyal fan when WFU wins a few games.  What I’ll really be is happy, because I’ll once again be able to look forward to watching games.

I won’t even go into the ancillary marketing and branding effects that flow out of a successful sports program.  I just want Wake to have a good team so it will be fun to watch the games.

Here’s the thing.  Maybe when you’re in college you have some implied duty to support the team, keep a positive attitude no matter what and attend the games.  But when you’re middle aged, with a job, family and a million other things competing for your time, you have absolutely no obligation to sit in front of the TV game after game watching your team get dismantled by lesser competition.  You just don’t.

And I’m not.  I’m calling a TKO on this season.

Maybe next year will be better, more fun.  It can’t possibly be any worse.

Can it?

That Fork You See Is Aiming Right at My Love (of Spectator Sports)

Well, it looks like I may have been wrong.  It may happen.

Which is really a bummer.  Not just for Wake Forest Basketball, but for my relationship with spectator sports in general.

image Let’s look back.  When I was a kid, I was a big fan of five sports.  Pro football, pro basketball, pro baseball, college football and college basketball.  I knew all about the players on my favorite teams, and kept a constant eye on records and stats (none of which had dollar signs before them).

I had posters on my wall.  It was good.

Then money, morals and the media killed almost all of it.

Without going into the bloody details, here’s where my spectator sports interest stood a week ago.

Pro Football:  I go to maybe one Texans game a year, and watch less than that on TV.  Pro football is largely about the money, the stupid player celebrations and the media.  Fantasy football briefly rekindled my interest a few years ago, but when my fantasy league died last year, so did most of my interest.

Pro Basketball: I was an huge fan back in the day.  From Lew Alcindor to Bill Walton (pre-Celtics) to Clyde Drexler.  Then somewhere between then and now, it became a caricature of its former self.  I haven’t been to a game in years, because the experience is only remotely about the basketball.  It’s bad sensory overload and gives me a headache.  I haven’t watched one minute of pro basketball on TV in years.  It’s impossible to overstate my apathy towards the NBA.

All of this from a guy who used to play and watch hoops all the time.

Pro Baseball:  As a kid, baseball was the lesser of the big three, as far as my interest went.  Free agency, the fact that I was a Braves fan as a kid (I stopped liking them when I moved to Texas in 1985 and became an Astros fan) and, mostly, the lack of a salary cap turned it from a real sport to a WWF-like faux sport, and my interest waned accordingly.  I still watch a handful of games a year, and pro baseball is my favorite to watch in person.  So it went from last to first on my pro sports list, but as you can tell, that’s not saying much.

College Football:  As a kid, college football was probably second only to pro football on my list.  I watched a ton of it.  I still watch a ton of it, for three reasons.  One, it seems to have changed less than the others.  Two, it gained a lot of the attention share I used to spend on other sports that now bore me to tears.  Third, Jim Grobe.  Nuff said.

College Basketball:  Until the last couple of years, my interest in college basketball had remained pretty constant.  It’s become a little about the money and the media (if the NCAA Tournament does expand as reported, it will kill college basketball for the true fan, but that’s a topic for another day), but it’s still fun to watch.  The Tim Duncan/Randolph Childress era was the high point for me, as a Wake Forest fan.  Frankly, I didn’t watch many games this past season, because I thought the Deacons were just no fun to watch.

And now comes the fork.  When Wake Forest fired Dino Gaudio this week, I was hopeful that a high profile new coach, with a proven post-season record, was forthcoming.  Visions of a revitalized WFU basketball program danced in my head.  I was really excited, and refused to believe that this would happen.  Now it looks like it will.

I’m willing to wait and see, but this doesn’t look good.

Jeff Bzdelik may be the best possible choice for Wake Forest, but other than his brief tenure at Air Force, which is a far cry from ACC basketball, nothing in his won/loss record makes that obvious.

Look, I am just a long time fan with a blog.  I don’t know squat about running a university athletic department.  Maybe this hire will be a stoke of sheer brilliance.  But if it is, Ron Wellman must have information that Google hasn’t found.

Because nothing about this makes sense to the untrained eye.

Wake Forest has a top 10 recruiting class signed.  While it should never be a deciding factor in a new hire, keeping that class intact should be a goal after the hire is made.  I’m not seeing anything that would excite me if I were one of those guys.  Princeton offense?  Seriously?  Isn’t that what Herb Sendek tried at NC State?  How did that work out?

I don’t know if its about friendship.  Or trying to keep the former assistants employed (that’s sweet, but shouldn’t a major factor).  Or maybe Ron was infected by that LOWF thing (the idea that Wake can’t expect to successfully aim high, so we should be happy when we avoid the bottom).

Someone will say that keeping the assistants will help keep the recruits.  To that I say so would a high profile hire that indicates that Wake aimed high and hit the mark.  Players want to win.  Good players want to win and get drafted by the NBA.  Convince them that this will happen, and you could have an Aardvark roam the sidelines and they wouldn’t care.

My working theory is that it’s a combination of three things.

One, Wellman believes other higher profile candidates are unavailable or uninterested.  There’s just no way on earth that WFU would fire Dino Gaudio based on wins and losses to hire Jeff Bzdelik.  There is just no way.  I have thought, and this is supported by the fact that Wellman is apparently on his way to Colorado to speak in person with Bzdelik for the first time about this job, that there were some informal discussions between various parties over the Final Four weekend.  Or maybe not.  Regardless, it means that either there was a plan in place that blew up;  this is the plan; or there was no plan.

None of those make me particularly happy.

Two, the LOWF spell goes deeper than I thought, and has spread beyond the “sunshine brigade” portion of the fan base.  You know, those who are fired up that we made the NCAA Tournament and actually beat the other most under-achieving team in America to make a rare trip past the first round (of course that same post-season business was the stated reason for canning Gaudio).  When it was reported that Bzdelik might be the guy, the sunshine brigade was momentarily stunned into lucidity and actually began crapping all over the idea with everyone else.  Slowly, however, they are regrouping and have embarked on a halfhearted effort  to convince us everything is fine.  It’s about 49% valiant and 51% heartbreaking to watch.

Three, for some inexplicable reason Ron’s desire to make a change was more important than the effect and results of that change.  About the only way I can explain the timing and chronology of events would be if Ron wanted to make a change, right that minute, and deemed any change better than the status quo.  I don’t agree with that- I’m afraid we are barreling a hundred miles an hour towards something much worse that the former status quo.  But again, I’m just a guy with a blog.

As I noted the other night, I mean absolutely no disrespect to Jeff Bzdelik or Ron Wellman, but college coaches and ADs are highly paid public figures, so this sort of analysis comes with the territory.

My analysis, at least as of now, is that I’m going to have some time to fill.

I hope I’m wrong.  For one reason or another.

Is Wake Forest About to Jump Off a Cliff?

It’s hard sometimes to be a Wake Forest fan.  You struggle to become an elite basketball program, and almost- but not quite-  make it.  A taste of honey and all that.  Meanwhile Duke and UNC go to Final Fours the way most of us go to meals, and even win National Championships in down years.

image The one thing that makes it all bearable has been Ron Wellman, the Athletic Director.  He is as much of a constant to the patient and hopeful WFU fan as Penny is to Desmond.  He has shown a smart and steady hand, master-minding the resurgence (or surgence, maybe) of WFU’s football team by hiring and keeping Jim Grobe.  Even the women’s basketball team made the NIT this year, which is about as likely as Hoosiers.

Earlier this week, Ron fired basketball coach Dino Gaudio, citing WFU’s consistent year-end  and and post-season crash and burn.  I tend to think there was more to it than that- WFU couldn’t even make the Final Four with Tim Duncan AND Randolph Childress, so whoever put a post-season curse on the Deacons did it long before Dino Gaudio even heard of Wake Forest.

Regardless, I thought it was the right move.  There are hordes of WFU fans who are so beat down by years of disappointment that they have become conditioned to have low expectations for WFU sports.  If we can stay in the top half of the conference, get to the Sweet Sixteen every other year or so, then we should be happy.

I have always thought that was utter hogwash.  Wake can be an elite program.  Apparently, Ron Wellman agrees.

Or so I thought.

When Dino was fired, we all had visions of Brad Stevens or someone similar dancing in our heads.  Butler did a smart thing and signed him to a long contract (many confuse the concept of term with the concept of a buyout, but I’ll assume this extension takes him off the table, at least as far as Wake is concerned).  Maybe we should change our mascot to the Stalking Horses?

Even with Brad apparently off the table, there are plenty of good prospects out there.  Wake has a top 10 recruiting class signed.  A high profile coach with a post season track record who promises an exciting offense and lots of fans in the seats and wins on the scoreboard could  almost certainly convince all or most of the class to stay the course.

Just now, however, I read reports that Wake is just about to hire Colorado’s Jeff Bzdelik.  Look, I don’t know Jeff and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know anything about his coaching record or style other than what I have read.  I mean absolutely no disrespect to Jeff, but college coaches are highly paid public figures, so this sort of analysis comes with the territory.

What I have read does not excite me.  In the least.

Air Force?  Fisher DeBerry is a life-long friend of mine, and I would have been stoked if Wake had hired Fisher to coach its football team (I actually begged Fisher to seek the job once).  But basketball?  NIT semi-final as a high-water mark?  I do recall that Air Force beat Wake by something like 40 a few years ago.  Maybe Jeff was the coach then, which I guess makes this a mathematical step-up.  But seriously…

73-119 in the NBA?

32-57 at Colorado?  The Princeton offense (hopefully that footnote is wrong)?  One 4 star recruit (per Scout) in three years?

This is probably coming off as harsh, and I mean no disrespect to Ron or Jeff.  But this does not sound like the roadmap to putting WFU [back] on the college basketball map.  Or the way to keep a top 10 recruiting class in the fold (not that the recruiting class should be a deciding factor).

I choose not to believe this will happen, until it happens.

If it does happen, it will be soul crushing.  Almost as soul crushing as watching the inevitable (and understandable) futile efforts at putting a positive spin on it.

Surely Ron is just goofing on us, right?

This is not going to happen.  Sometime in the next few days I’ll come back here and tell you I told you so.

Everyone remain calm.

Announcing the Wake Forest Sports News & Discussion Page @ FriendFeed

In an effort to bring some of the Web 2.0/social networking flexibility and features to fellow Wake Forest Demon Deacon sports fans, I have created a Wake Forest sports page at FriendFeed.  The new FriendFeed design allows for a seamless integration of news content and message board discussion- things that have traditionally been separate.

It is and will remain a work in progress, as I and hopefully others locate and import relevant news feeds for centralized reading and to serve as discussion starters.  I have added a few Deacon sports-related news feeds.  Others will be added, and some will likely be dropped over time as we zero in on the best feeds for content and discussion purposes.

The thing I like about this structure is that discussion threads, resembling traditional message board threads, can be started by any user, via the message box at the top of the page.  Additionally, each news item has an associated comment box beneath it.  If I can get a critical mass of WFU fans to give it a try, I think people will really like the flexibility inherent in the FriendFeed design.

wfufriendfeed

Here’s the message box, where users can create discussion topics.  You
can add photos and/or links to your post.  You can also select to push
any post you make to Twitter, Facebook or other external sites.

ffmessagebox

Here’s the way discussion threads display.  Yes, it’s different
from traditional message board posts, but the ability to import
all kinds of relevant content and to view discussions on the same
page creates a vastly improved experience.

Note that you can “Like” a news story and/or start a Comment (e.g., discussion thread) below the story.

I hope some other WFU fans will join me in my efforts to create a new and improved news and discussion experience.

Go Deacs!