Nothing Special, Really

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bigger Than Huge

In response to an "anonymous" comment, here's my thoughts on ASU's football season.

I'll admit; I don't pay too much attention to ASU football. I pay some: I look at the scores each week, try to stay updated, and catch an occasional game when I can. But I still only follow it somewhat casually, so when I'm asked to express my thoughts about ASU's season this year, I really don't have all that much to say.

What I do know is this: Saturday's game is the biggest game in ASU history since our last trip to the Rose Bowl. Bigger than any bowl we've been to since then. Bigger than ASU vs USC two years ago. This game is HUGE.

And I don't think I'm going to watch it.

New Year's Day, 1997. I don't remember much from the Rose Bowl that year except for two things: Jake The Snake's touchdown run & the TD catch by David Boston at the end. One moment, I was pounding the floor in excitement, the next moment I nearly broke my hand punching the wall. What made that game so heartwrenching, beyond watching the game itself, was two things:

1. Florida State lost two days later, leaving No. 3 Florida as the champs.
2. We lost to Joe Germaine. There are few people in the world I hate more than Joe Germaine. In high school, Westwood had a chance to take state my sophomore year, but we ended up losing a critical game to Joe Germaine & Mountain View. Three years later, he does the same thing against my (future) college team. At least he didn't amount to anything professionally. Man, I fucking HATE Joe Germaine.

During the time I attended ASU, we weren't very good. With Andrew Walter at the helm, we were an offensive juggernaut, and we had no problem with unranked teams. But against the better teams, in those games that counted, we were outmatched. In my 2+ years there, the best we ended up was 9-3. Many schools would love to be 9-3 and go to a bowl game. But that year, we only beat one ranked team (Iowa early in the year), lost to USC & Cal, and finished the season with a loss at our hated rivals, U of A. Sadly, I never went to a game as an ASU student, but then again, I never had much of a reason to. It wasn't that I wasn't a fan, nor that I wasn't proud to be a Sun Devil, but admittedly, even 7 years later, I was still hungover from the Rose Bowl. Unless we had something close to national championship aspirations, I just couldn't get interested.

We got close in 2005. We headed into the season ranked somewhat high, and got a good test early against No. 5 LSU in our second game. We lost by four, but it was a game that we would have normally got blown out in. Instead, we played it close and should have won the game, but we gave up 4 TDs in the fourth quarter. What would've been a statement game against a Top-5 team became another "what could've been game". But keeping the game close kept us on the radar and had us thinking possible national title hopes, or at least conference hopes, heading into a showdown against No. 1 USC.

I remember very nearly flying back home that weekend to watch the game with my friends. That's how big this was. We had a solid team that year, a decent national ranking, and we finally had USC in our stadium, with a national TV audience. If we won that game, we move into the top 10 easily, someplace we've never been since the Rose Bowl. Up 21-3, we had USC confused, frustrated. We weren't quite dominating them, but it was pretty damn close. A victory looked imminent.

The second half wasn't even close. USC took over, running the ball at will. ASU allowed 3 TD runs of over 20 yards in the second half. They had our way with us. On the other side, the Sam Keller show took over, as he threw for four interceptions in the second half. Despite getting run on left & right, we still had a 4 point lead in the 4th quarter, but Keller gave the ball back twice after that, and what looked like a monumental upset in the making turned out to be another typical ASU loss. We never recovered from that loss, losing two more after that, and ending with a 7-5 record and a trip to the prestigious bowl.

So if you're counting, that's two huge games in the past 10 years. When I say huge, I mean season-defining, program-altering type games. Not just bowl victories, not just games against ranked opponents, not just U of A games, but life-changing games. We have another one this weekend, against Oregon, and I'm afraid to watch because I don't know if I can take another loss like this. Furthermore, I get it in my head that maybe I'm affecting the game. If I watch the game, then it puts a curse on the team & they lose. I'm very rarely superstitious, even in sports, but I kind of believe this for some stupid reason.

I think we can beat Oregon. They're a good team, and it's going to be a tough battle, but I don't see any reason why we can't win. If we can avoid this habit of starting off slowly, I think we can dominate our game. It looks like our rushing game may be answered by some dude named Dimitri Nance, Rudy's having a great year, our defense is underrated, and Dennis Erickson has our team believing we can beat anybody. I believe it too. So maybe I'll try to watch on Saturday. Maybe there is no curse.

But I guarantee this; if we start off slow and fall behind early, I'm shutting the TV off and walking away. I won't be the cause of another loss like that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Date Has Been Set, Part 2

A while back, I left this cryptic post. Either most of you didn't care what it meant or couldn't figure it out. And if you're a Suns fan, well then shame on you I say, shame!

Nov. 1st is the first game of the season. Suns vs. Seattle. In Seattle. Of course I'll be there. As soon as I saw the date, I knew I'd be there, yelling my head off from the upper deck. Well, that all changed this weekend, thanks to three little numbers.


No more upper deck for me. Instead, I'll be sitting lower level, in the corner. Amazing seats. And it's all courtesy of Wac.

Do I have the best girlfriend or what?

So I guess it's not too early to give my thoughts on the upcoming season. Honestly, I'm a bit nervous this year, as I'm not quite sure that we improved in the areas that we needed to improve in. Instead of improving our defense & rebounding, we got faster & smaller. To me, that's kind of like trying to beat the Math portion of the SATs by studying harder for the English portion.

(Does that analogy make sense? I hope so, I never took the SATs so I don't know).

I'm less worried about losing Kurt Thomas than most because I don't think it's a good mindset to go into a season worrying about how you might have to defend one player. Besides, no one can defend Tim Duncan, but the Spurs can still be defeated. And I think we have enough parts to do the job. Anyways, here's my thoughts on our roster this year:


Steve Nash - is this the year he starts to decline? I don't see any reason why he would, but he's not any younger. Nevertheless, we're still screwed if he goes down with any kind of injury. More than anyone else, his health is critical to our success. (Sorry if I offended you by saying that, Shawn).

Raja Bell - The perfect backcourt mate for Nash, but I'd like to see him become a little bit more consistent & a little less streaky. He disappears offensively too often.

Shawn Marion - Yes, Shawn, you are one of the best players in the league, and you bring a set of skills that few players possess. Yes, the Suns need you, but not as much as Amare or Steve. You've got 19 million reasons to stay quiet, so be quiet. It's frustrating as a fan to hear him say that he doesn't want to be here anymore, and it's even more amazing that he'd make those comments in light of how Joe Johnson's faring down in Atlanta.

Grant Hill - I'm excited about his ability to add another dimension to our offense, but I think he'll really affect our defense. I think he might have slowed down too much to guard a lot of the players he's gonna be up against. And there's the whole ankle thing too.

Amare Stoudemire - Can't we just do a knee transplant and call it a day? I'm curious to see if he decides this is the year that he starts playing defense. For all his talk about wanting to be the best, he sure doesn't put forth the effort. Nevertheless, hopefully he won't be as tentative this year as he was last.


Leandro Barbosa - He really came into his own last year, but I'd like to see him develop a couple more moves on offense instead of relying solely on his quickness. He was completely neutralized against San Antonio when they wouldn't let us run.

Boris Diaw - Are we gonna get Fat Boris or Bad-Ass Boris this year? We could really use Bad-Ass Boris again.

Brian Skinner - I like this pickup. He's a good rebounder and a decent shot blocker. And he can run with us, something that Kurt couldn't do. He won't replace Kurt's low-post defense, nor does he have a reliable outside shot like Kurt did, but I think he can do the job when needed.

Marcus Banks - He probably won't be in the rotation that much, which is a shame because he really has some skills. I saw him when he started against the Sonics last year, and it seemed like, if anything, he just didn't have the confidence. Maybe another year in our system has done him some good.

Everyone Else

Sean Marks - I'm convinced the only reason he's on our team was because our quotient of white players to black players was too low. I wouldn't be surprised to see Boris Diaw & Leandro Barbosa traded to Indiana for Troy Murphy & Mike Dunleavy, just to even things out some more.

Eric Piatkowski - One of the better nicknames of the NBA, the Polish Rifleman. Which is why I'm not surprised he's never done anything in his career.

Alando Tucker - He seems like he's gonna end up like a Desmond Mason-type player. I'm not saying that as a compliment. At best, like Josh Howard without a 3-pt shot.

D.J. Strawberry - I haven't seen him play, but with all the talk of how incredible he is defensively, I think he's got some intrigue. Of course, he wouldn't be on the roster if Banks lived up to his hype, but hopefully, between the two of them, we can find a point guard for life after Nash.

So I think it's safe to say we'll make the playoffs again this year and probably advance to the Conference Semis again, but between Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, & Utah, I think we've got our work cut out for us. As San Antonio showed last year, it's easier for teams to impose their style against us than it is for us to impose our style on them. I don't think that the Suns needed to make any drastic changes, we just need improved defense play from our own players, especially Stoudemire & Barbosa. The lack of any significant low-post defense will hurt us occasionally, but I do like that we replaced Kurt Thomas with someone who's more athletic & a better shot-blocker. He should give us what Steven Hunter gave us a couple of years ago. Overall, I think this could be the year that we take home a championship, but it's not going to be any easier. Houston is much improved, San Antonio is still the champs, Utah is a big matchup problem for us, and Dallas is, well, they'll probably collapse again so no need to worry about them.

It all starts in 4 weeks. I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Being Diabetic

I guess I should fully address my thoughts on this whole diabetes thing.

It sucks. Really bad. There's few things in life that I've enjoyed more than food. I'm overweight & an overeater, and it's not that I'm proud of it, but it is who I am. I enjoy eating, and I enjoy eating stuff that's bad for me, but my diet has finally caught up with me, so now I'm paying for it.

One of the things that's reinforced to keep you positive is that you can still eat anything you want. That's complete B.S. They follow that by saying it's about controlling your portion size & making substitutions when you indulge. So if I decide that I want to go to McDonald's and get a couple of double cheeseburgers & some fries, supposedly that's ok as long I make the appropriate substitutions. But a substitution for a meal like that means that I'm eating a salad for lunch or dinner, maybe some toast for breakfast, etc. Oh, and I should really only get one double cheeseburger, and the fries should be small, and I should probably choose Diet Coke over regular. So no, I'm not really eating anything I want.

Yes, I know that I'm whining. But I have that right. I know that I'm better off by changing my diet, but I'm allowed to bitch about it at least.

The other thing that sucks about diabetes is that I really don't notice the effects of it. I've noticed the frequent urination & excessive thirst, but other than that, it's not a disease that you feel immediate effects when you're not managing it. The severe consequences, like heart disease, loss of sight, or amputation, they develop over time. So if I do something wrong, the only thing that I affect is that a little machine shows me a number that's bigger than it's supposed to be. If I go have a couple slices of pizza, and I don't adjust my meal plan, nothing really happens right away. But over time, that's when I would feel the impact. So it might seem easier to stray from my diet because of that.

But, despite how negative all of that sounds, things have been going fairly well so far. The only thing I've indulged in was some chicken wings & a couple of beers on Saturday night. But, I managed my meals earlier in the day to compensate for that by having a low carb turkey wrap for breakfast and a 6-inch sandwich from Subway for lunch (turkey, on wheat, with veggies, cheese & lite mayo). I've decided to start getting up even earlier, like 6:30am, so I have time to walk to & from work. Aside from working out on Tuesdays & Thursdays, the doctor stressed that I need to get at least 1 hr of light exercise each day, so that's how I'm doing it.

As for my diet, I'm doing ok. We went grocery shopping last night & although we spent more than I wanted to, I was happy with the choices that I made. There are a lot of great alternatives to the things I use to eat, like sugar-free ice cream, turkey bacon, reduced fat Muenster cheese, etc. I'm incorporating more vegetables into my diet, which is fine because I really like vegetables. Fruits, on the other hand, are another story. I shouldn't have as many fruits because of the sugar involved, but it's better for me to eat them rather than drink them. I really don't like eating fruits, but I'll drink just about any kind of fruit juice.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't have to complete cut out carbs. In fact, I'm allowed quite a bit of carbs each day. Of course, it's better if they're of the whole wheat or whole grain kind, which I have no problem with. I love crackers, and there's plenty of whole wheat crackers available. As I've gotten older, I've begun to enjoy & actually prefer all things wheat or grainy over the white alternative, with the exception of brown rice, but I'll eat it anyways. Again though, the key is to limit my carbs, especially those that come from sugar.

I tested my blood sugar for the first time on Sunday, and it came in at 100 points below what I tested a couple of weeks ago, so that's encouraging. It was just outside of the range for those without diabetes, so it looks like I'm making some good choices. Of course, I forgot my machine today, so I won't be able to test until after dinner.

I've also set up a series of appointments various medical personnel to help me manage this. I have two appointments in the next week to do another blood test, so we can see how close my machine matches up with a real test. I see a nutritionist on Friday, an eye doctor on Saturday, and in November, I'll take a 3-part class on everything I ever wanted to know about diabetes. Plus, I've been prescribed Metformin, which I'll start taking tonight, that helps prevent my liver from producing more sugar. The only part that sucks about that it's supposed to make my stomach & make me poop a lot the first couple of times. At least I like pooping.

So, all in all, I think my first week as a diabetic has been good but not great. The mental aspect of it has been the most difficult, but I'm getting better about it. I do know that I wouldn't be anywhere close to being good last week if it wasn't for Wacarra. She's been everything I needed & more. Thanks babe.

Now it's time to go have my lunch of a turkey sandwich, carrots, and a diet 7up. Woo hoo.