Friday, January 19, 2007

Lehigh/Lafayette Weekend... almost

It's not quite the same as a Lehigh/Lafayette football weekend, but for a cold weekend in January it's not bad - and you can still catch the Bears/Saints on Sunday. A full slate of Lehigh sports is on tap - and it should be a great sports atmosphere on both nights.

The Lehigh wrestling team, coming off a rough dual loss last week to Navy (their first loss to Navy in ten tries), will try to rebound against EIWA foe Cornell (#11) Friday night at Stabler Arena. Playing Cornell for the 85th time, this one could be a challenge as we're coming off injuries in the middle weights. To avenge last years' loss to SUNY-Ithaca (Colgate's pet name for Cornell), we will need ranked senior heavyweight Paul Weibel and 141 lb Matt Ciasulli to continue their torrid pace. In wrestling, though, the key is the EIWA championships, and a win here could really get the ball rolling for March.

The men's basketball team (8-12, 3-1), after falling 64-59 in the "trap game" to Army (as I predicted, unfortunately), rebounded on Wednesday to dispatch the pesky Raiders of Colgate 60-59. The final score on Wednesday didn't accurately depict the game in which Lehigh never trailed and was up by 13 at one point in the second half. However, it did take senior G Jose Olivero's fould shot at the end of the game to go up by four - meaning the 3-pointer from half court that went in only served to make it a 1 point loss instead of a 4 point loss. Lehigh wins by getting on scoring runs, and holding off the opposition; it still looks like they will need to improve their defense to really compete with Holy Cross and Bucknell (who is coming up Tuesday night - we play them in Lewisburg on Tuesday at 7:00PM).

Saturday Stabler will be rocking with a Lehigh/Lafayette doubleheader with the women starting a 5:30, and the men at 7:30. The lower level is sold out, but there's still time to get in on the fun with upper-level seats. It should be a rocking time there, and throw out Lafayette's 7-12, 1-3 PL record - you know this is their Super Bowl, and they will not go down without a huge fight. Lehigh/Lafayette is always a party, and it should be great.

On the women's side (6-12, 1-3), Lehigh's loss to Army (17-2) on Saturday was perhaps expected, but the Lady Hawks battled hard in a 56-53 decision. The Hawks then dispatched Colgate (2-17) 62-53 where four Lady Hawks hit double figures and Wendy Szerbiak, sister of the Boston Celtic forward Wally Szerbiak, got some playing time as well. Here's hoping that they have gotten things together for the two big games next week: first as the first game of the Lehigh/Lafayette doubleheader against the 4-14 (2-2) Leopards, and then on Wednesday at Bucknell (11-8, 3-1). Lehigh can really start to separate themselves from the "muddled middle" of the Patriot League standings.

All that, and Saints/Bears too? My weekend, once I stop to get a refill of Yuengling, is all set.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Saints and Destiny

The Saints playoff win -- only the SECOND in franchise history -- was sweet to these fans, but more bittersweet for me (see my post from last week).

It's strange watching a game with two teams you like - the emotions all get tempered. RB Reggie Bush fumbles the ball - you feel a pang in the gut, but you don't throw the remote at the TV. Eagle head coach Andy Reid elects to punt on 4th-and-15 - you shake your head, but you don't bang your head against the wall. It's probably the closest I will ever get to feeling what it's like to be a non-fan - the person that gets dragged into sports who simply could care less. (Kind of like me at a NASCAR race.)

Like the week leading up to the Saints/Eagles game, it's bittersweet. It's sad to see my wife - who now is starting to bleed Eagles colors - low because the Eagles lost. She doesn't hate the Saints, but she's no fan either. When Westbrook scored that TD in the third quarter, she was standing up and cheering. I pretty much stayed seated the entire game. (Ask my wife how often that happens.)

Now that the Saints/Eagles game is over, though, I can allow myself to think the unthinkable. The Saints... in the Super Bowl? Why does this team - assembled this year from spare parts - seem to ooze a feeling of destiny? Forget Katrina and the Superdome rising from the ashes after being a site of horrors in 2005. There's a lot of destiny to this Saints team already, and although it's hard to put my finger on it, it seems like this team could really do it. Honestly. I didn't really believe it until they beat the Eagles this weekend, but I really am starting to believe now.

You don't believe it's destiny? Take a look at the amazing chain of events that have allowed this Saints team to go from a 3-13 homeless, patronized team to the brink of the Super Bowl. Please, read these critical events and tell me I'm wrong. If one - just one - of these things didn't happen we'd be talking about the Iggles in the NFC Championship to get another shot at the Pats.

* 2002, Saints owner Tom Benson dumps one of the worst GMs ever in the history of sports in Jim Mueller and puts in place GM Mickey Loomis. Unquestionably this is the first domino to fall. Mueller is hired by the Dolphins - remember this.

* Mueller gives us Gift #1: signing away our most disastrous draft pick ever in Ricky Williams that March. Getting Williams to Miami allowed the Saints to put that in the past.

* In 2004, Sean Payton gets an offer from the Oakland Raiders to be their head coach. Destiny intervenes and tells Sean: "You don't want Al Davis. Hold out for the San Antonio... I mean New Orleans Saints next year."

* Haslett is gone; the Saints are considering "Mo" Carthon of the Brown, or Sean Payton off of Parcells' staff for their new head coach. If you've ever seen Saints history (the appropriately-named "Bum" Phillips leaps to mind), the Saints would go after the guy on the team that has never won anything. Bucking this crucial trend could have been the most important choice ever made by this franchise.

* Mueller gives us Gift #2. He's given a choice of going after QB Dante Culpepper or QB Drew Brees for the Dolphins. Brees would have cost the Dolphins a hefty contract; Culpepper cost the Dolphins a second-round draft pick AND a hefty contract. Brees falls into the Saints' lap. "... I just felt that energy in New Orleans," Brees said at the signing. "From the very beginning there was a genuine feeling that they wanted me there. They believe I can come back from this shoulder injury and lead them to a championship. They were as confident as I am, and that meant a lot." (Seriously, could there have ever been an executive in the history of the NFL that has helped a team more by simply leaving the franchise?)

* The Brees signing means the maddening Aaron Brooks is no longer a Saint. I can't emphasize that enough. There was no "wait, keep Brooks as an insurance policy!" Brooks was out the door. The right move.

* The NFL Draft. The Saints had all but signed DE Mario Williams - and then they get the jaw-dropping news that the Texans are going to sign Williams over RB Reggie Bush. In years past, the Saints would have traded down and picked up someone like LB Ernie Sims. This year, Payton bucks the system. Reggie is ours, along with two more starters: OL Jahri Evans and WR Marques Colston (who I saw play at Hofstra). Imagine if we got Williams instead of Bush... we'd be saying "the NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers".

Not convinced yet? Consider this as well:

* The Vikings always have the Saints' number - one of the Lesser Known Rules of the Universe - but their implosion made sure that they weren't in the playoffs this year. Destiny.

* The Saints already avenged 1993 (QB Bobby Hebert's implosion) by beating the Eagles - now they have a chance to avenge 1990 (the "Dome Patrol" wills the John Fourcade-led offense into the playoffs) by beating the Bears. (Yes, QB John Fourcade.) Bears and Eagles. Destiny.

* If they beat the Bears, they will either face the Colts - whose head coach Tony Dungy is eminently outcoachable - or the Patriots - who aren't as talented or as fresh as the young Saints. Consider for a moment that they could have faced the fearsome "D" of the Ravens or the bulldozer that was the San Dioego offense, and you have to think... Destiny.

* The Saints face the Bears, who won on Sunday one of the most dull playoff games in recent memory. Only the Bears could throw 3 INTs and still be in a position to win at the end. If they do that, the Saints will win on Sunday.

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