Thursday, October 28, 2010

J Squared

Hello, man fans.

My name is J.J. Despain, and I am the newest writer on the "Man Stuff" blog. Mike invited me to write for the "Man Stuff" blog not because I am especially manly but because I can write. I happen to be paid to write and edit sports stories for The Daily Universe, which is pretty manly I guess. Plus, Mike and I had our conversation at a barbecue, which scores more manly points.

So I may have neither restored a classic automobile nor eaten a KFC Double Down sandwich. But I have hiked the Grand Canyon and I have killed my own Thanksgiving dinner. And I do have a beautiful wife and a perfect baby girl. Some of you might think a family with women making up 2/3 of its members might not be manly, but of course all you family men out there know that having a family really is the manliest thing of all.

Mostly what I have to offer to the "Man Stuff" blog is my experience with The Daily Universe. Before I became a sports editor, I took the class that provides all of the Universe reporters, and I just happened to be assigned to the sports desk. And I've loved it ever since. My very first story assignment was to write about BYU football players who were possibly headed to the NFL draft, and as part of that very first assignment I interviewed Bronco Mendenhall in his office. Talk about being thrown right into the middle of things.

Since then, I've:
- met Mike Scioscia
- met Jimmer Fredette, Jackson Emery and coach Dave Rose
- met LaVell Edwards, David Nixon and Harvey Unga
- gone to a few of BYU football's spring practices
- covered swim meets, gymnastics meets, basketball games and football games at BYU
- traveled to Colorado Springs for BYU's football game against Air Force
- sat in the press box for BYU's games against Nevada and Wyoming
I've also written stories about baseball, softball, hockey and even video games.

Besides sports, I spent spring and summer term as the opinion page editor for The Daily Universe. There might be some manly opinions I've written, let's see...

"I'm not afraid to get all mavericky in there" - Sen. John McCain, who long promoted himself as a tough maverick in Washington, D.C., has lost his touch.

Body slam at the capitol - Linda McMahon, who used to be the CEO for WWE, won the Senate primary election in Connecticut.

Not McChrystal clear - My take on Gen. Stanley McChrystal who used to run things in Afghanistan before he was fired this summer

So long, Ken Griffey Jr.

No one on base - take yourself out to the ball game

Suspended reality - For any men who have ever been frustrated with a chick flick.

Cajun ingenuity - Someone to look up to in the middle of the BP oil spill mess

Everything I write for The Daily Universe I link to on my blog, so if you're interested please follow me there. I'll put the links on here, and write stuff specifically for this blog too. Manly stuff.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

BYU in Heaps of trouble?

What a historic season so far (not in a good way). I don't usually like to point the finger at any one person and ultimately the responsibility belongs to Bronco as the head coach but this BYU team is mediocre at best. We can only call them average thanks to Mendenhall firing Hill and firing up the defense. I couldn't remember the last time I saw a corner blitz.

BYU's problem lie squarely on Jake (St.) Heaps' shoulders. Yeah, I know that there a number of others who also have responsibility, especially Coach Anae who refuses to get anyone else involved in the offense (what ever happened to the fly sweep with a WR?). Be it as it may, as the starting QB at BYU, Heaps needs to start making some plays. If he wants to loved and revered at BYU, he HAS to do something. 2 TDs to 7 ints is horrible. We could just leave the fact that he has only thrown 2 TDs and only 1 at LES. He only completes like 50% of his passes and averages a meager 4 yards per attempt. Not really noteworthy, and actually quite crapy to not sugar-coat it.

I know some people are going to say but he is only a freshman, well, then put Lark in. We can't be any worse--we only threw the ball 18 times against Wyoming.

I was thinking about the greats at BYU. They all had one thing in common and that was grit. Heaps does not have it or at least has not shown it. Take Jim McMahon for example. In the Holiday bowl, BYU was down by 20 points with a couple minutes left in the game. It was 4th down and LaVell send in the punting unit. Jim refused to come off and send the punting unit off of the field. The coaching staff had given up, but not Jim. They ended up scoring, and winning the game (I assume that you all know the details, if not Google it, it was one of the best if not the best, comebacks EVER). He got everyone to believe.

Max Hall had. Some people hated him for it, but he would try to should the whole team if things got bad. We need Jake to start bringing those around him up. He needs to some fire. I would love to see him yell as Ashworth after dropping a pass. Or take on a line backer (OK, maybe not, I think that I am bigger than he is). Mendenhall has give him this team. He needs to cease it and be a leader. Its part of the territory of being a BYU QB.

This guy here argues that is the supporting cast (i.e. WRs, RBs, TEs). He makes valid points that I agree with. But my argument against that is who did McMahon or Young have? Those QBs made everyone around them better. Time for Jake to step it up and have everyone else step up too. To be fair, I imagine that Jake is probably intimidated having to fire up a bunch of men who are 5 years older than him.

OK, so maybe he isn't really the reason, but he is a large part of it. He has 2 weeks to get something going against a formidable UNLV team. The verdict is still out, but my opinion is that he has not progressed a ton. At this point I do not see him as THE future of BYU. He has the potential, but it is not his as of yet. Coach Doman and Coach Anae need to get Jake to respond and turn this offense around.

Personally, I would like to see what Munns brings to the table. At 6-5, 254 he is the only QB that I can think of that has ever had size at BYU. I don't know anything else about him though.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Shoe and Lavell Edwards Stadium

For all you laymen out there, this is in reference to the Horseshoe, also known as Ohio Stadium of THE Ohio State University Buckeyes, losers to Wisconsin, and 10th best team in the land (or 9th worst, whichever way you slice it).

I wanted to do a piece dedicated to the comparison of a game day atmosphere at Lavell Edwards Stadium and Ohio Stadium. I will draw comparisons between the following categories: tailgating, game day apparel, game experience, half-time performances by marching bands, mascots, head coaches, and finally fan comparisons.

First things first.


Here is a picture of the tailgating experience outside of Ohio Stadium:

And now a visage of the tailgating scene at BYU:

Uh, just kidding =) Still OSU, or is this Oktoberfest?

Here we go:

Not that I consider tailgating overly important for the game, but it does serve as an indication of general fan support and enthusiasm. Here tailgaters arrive early in the morning, if not the night before. Some people have hitches on their red pickups where they connect flat screen t.v.’s to watch Lee Corso and co. do the Game Day thing. They also have “eggs and kegs” here which means that you don’t drink anything, but beer all day, starting early in the morning. They would probably even have it in cold cereal, if they ate it. Instead they eat eggs and bratwursts in the morning. Then they have brats and baked beans for lunch washing it down with cold sixers (then they all have “sensible dinners” remember that from the Slim Fast commercials?). When they aren’t cooking or drinking, they play corn hole and drink.

Corn-hole is essentially horshoes, just minus the horse. Oh, and the shoes. Instead they use bean bags with a slanted box with holes in it. It’s wicked fun, not that I’ve ever tried it.

Okay, enough of this nonsense.

Game Day Apparel

Typical BYU fan apparel:

You’ll notice that 90% of the fans seems to grasps the notion to wear blue when it’s a home game. I’ll forgive white, but come on man, red? Seriously?

To be fair, here is a shot of the stadium on game day:

I’d say the majority are wearing blue, but navy 1) belongs to USU and 2) does not stand out very much.

That’s why I say we should bring back the old light blue uniforms from the 1996 Cotton Bowl Champs team:

Tell me that is not a great uniform and what’s more that would stick out a lot better than navy.

Here is a shot of Ohio Stadium against Indiana two weeks ago:

Notice the difference? It is salient? A vibrant color like this sticks out and is intimidating.

Game Experience

The town shuts down. It literally does here. But I have noticed that there is not a lot of commotion going on around Provo either on game day. Despite the fact that Ohio has not one, but two professional football teams, Columbus might as well be a different state, because here Ohio State is the professional team (also considering recent allegations against former Buckeye, Santonio Holmes, there may be some professionally paid collegiate athletes on the team as well). No one cares about the Browns or the Bengals gear here. It's all scarlet and gray here.

Most eveyone wears red all day.

If you showed up wearing anything, but OSU gear, people would most definitely let you know about it. Notice how there is not a single nave blue shirt anywhere. That's right, some folks in Provo (Exhibit A above) seem to think that there is nothing wrong with wearing rival's colors to cheer on their team. Silly heads

It was totally impressive to be at the game. The stadium really is awe inspiring. But the fans weren’t really into it that much. Maybe because it was just Indiana and OSU steam rolled them from the get go, but the crowd got more into the band playing (which will be addressed later) than into the game. To be honest, 100,000+ people were not that loud. I have heard louder at Lavell Edwards. Plus, the lack of Cougar tails was a real negative. On the flip side, the pulled pork sandwiches at the Horseshoe were unbelievable.

I was also surprised at how uninspired the student section was. We sat next to a couple who did not utter a single word the whole game. Not even a “I need to pee.” or “Did you put deordorant on today?” Silence.

I am going to reserve judgment on this crowd noise thing until tomorrow when Purdue comes to town (OSU’s only loss last season), and later when Penn State and Michigan are here to really say how loud or quiet it gets. BYU was definitely louder. I remember back in 2007 against TCU and Utah where it was so loud, I could not hear anything that the person right next to me was saying. That was fun.

The other nice thing about BYU was that no matter who the opponent was, fans were generally excited. We could be spanking UNLV and fans were stoked. Here people, were really ho-hum about the fact that OSU had only allowed 3 rushing yards and 57 overall yards at halftime against a QB, who was averaging over 300 per game up until that point. That was shocking and to be honest, it really made the game pretty boring as a result. I have never been bored at a BYU game. Mad, yes, but never bored.

This may be due to emotional investment, but I was not terribly disappointed when OSU lost last week, but I was mad that BYU could not even throw a pass to a receiver. Jake, what are you flippin’ scared? You can’t throw to a check down receiver as your initial option every time you drop back, especially on 3rd and long. When you need 14 yards for a first down, three yards is not going to cut it my friend?

Based on one game, I would have to give LES the edge in game experience over The Shoe.

Half-time Performance by the Band

Do you even remember what the BYU, "The Power of the Wasatch" band played at the last home game for half-time? Exactly. The band is lame my friends. I purposely did not look at the field during half-time just so I wouldn’t be bored to tears. Just so I wouldn’t gouge my own eyes out and stab myself in the ear drums with a sharp number two pencil. In fact, I would often purposely drink as much water as I could during the first and second quarter just so I would have to go to the restroom and not have to listen to the band. OSU’s band on the other hand plays “Sloopy”, with all the fans singing O-H-I-O instead of “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” during the chorus. The whole stadium was singing it, which was pretty amazing. The other thing about the band is that they are called “The Best Damn Band in the Land”. How’s that for a title? They were very entertaining. Also, the choreography was pretty awesome:

I don’t know what game this is from, but the band typically has some famous alumni, like Jack Niklaus, dot the “I” in Ohio.


In a fight, who do you take, Cosmo or Brutus?

I’d take Cosmo any day. How can you do flips and karate chops with a head like Brutus’? However, here is Webster’s Dictionary of a buckeye: “a large nut-like seed of the horse-chestnut tree family. The fruit contain tannic acid, and are poisonous for cattle, and possibly humans, although often eaten by squirrels and badgers” (well this explains the loss to Wisconsin). So careful there Cosmo, this guy may have been tackled by the U. of Ohio Bobcat (though he did evade him the first time: ), if eaten, we Cougar fans may be forced to ask “Y tu Brute?” Okay, that was bad.


They’ve got “The Vest”.

We’ve got the horse man (Bronco).

I’d take both over this knothead:

They had Woody.

We had Lavell.

Atleast Lavell never punched an opposing player. He won an NC. Hayes won five. Big Whoop!

Both Tressel and Bronco are classy guys and great coaches who endure a lot of criticism for being successful. Go figure!

Anyway, this sums up this post. Ohio State is great, but I would not rather be anyway else on a game day on Saturday than LES. That place is special my friends.



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to Grill a Pizza

Forgive me from turning the attention of our avid readers from the world of sports, but I wanted to share something with our reading base that loves to grill. (Am I being overly optimistic thinking that more than 5 people read this?) Anyway, I discovered a delightful culinary creation the other day: grilled pizza!

First, here is the link to the article. Now, I know that this article doesn't specify which toppings to add, but the pizza shown demonstrates one of my favorite ways to top a pizza. It is a very NY style way of doing things. Fresh mozzarella is key. Then you add 1 or 2 toppings. Fresh tomato and basil are excellent choices. Keeping it simple is the way to go.

Although I have experienced some excellent thin crust pizza from the Big Apple, I have never had one grilled. But after reading this article, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for an opportunity. If any of you grillers give this a go, you should let me know how it turns out. Or better yet, invite me over so I can have a slice.

Cheer Up Guys

I hope this one day makes it to the dorky loner that sat three rows behind us last season.

We have been dragged through the mud as BYU fans for the last 4 weeks now. As Mike put it, we are at rock bottom. Our offense had a total of 13 dropped passes that would have resulted in over 200 yards of offense and 3 touchdowns… in one game. That was against Utah State and their formidable defense.

But I digress. I distinctly remember him (I think a few of my fellow bloggers will remember as well) calling for Bronco to put “Riley Nelson in!!!” He was adamant about it. I am glad that Riley got his chance. That dorky loner right about one thing, we had a quality running quarterback holding a clipboard and we had no idea what his ceiling was.

But now we do. We now know that he was always capable of running for a few yards when plays broke down and that he was sturdy enough to do it for 2 full games against good opponents before he pulled a Sam Bradford, sort of. It was more like a Greg Oden. “How the heck is he out for the season with that one?”

So to you, wanna-be BYU Football Head Coach in waiting, I congratulate you for your insight. You were wise enough to see that there was something great inside Riley Nelson. You also had such a keen eye that you could tell Max Hall was a bum and would amount to nothing. He took this receiving core (plus a solid run game and pro caliber TEs) and became BYU’s all-time winningest QB. In three seasons. And now he has the starting QB job for a team that just cut a former Heisman winner and first round draft pick. Is he better than Leinart? I don’t know. But the Cardinals obviously felt comfortable enough with Max Hall as a backup that they were okay with letting go of one of college football’s greatest players of all time.

Congratulations, Max. I wish you the best.

UPDATE: As I was finishing this, I got an email from BYU Sports that tickets for the homecoming game are now $5 for roommates of students with All-Sports Passes. We lose a couple of games and now we can’t even sell out our home games. I hate some BYU fans.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

We have arrived...

I think that we have rock bottom. I just wanted to vent about how pitiful we looked Friday night. I had a lot of hope going into the game that we would beat USU. That was silly. I have come to grips that we are a bottom feeder this year. I don't remember the last time we were in this situation. I was on my mission for the Crowton era and shut the remnants of what was left out of my mind.

Being the optimist that I am, there is only one way to go from here and that is up. I think that USU was the worst team on our schedule (OK, so UNM really is the worst). A win from here on out this season will be a nice surprise. SDSU looks really good this year. I am nervous that we are going to get torched all night long. One other good thing is that Jake Heaps is getting a lot of experience. He should (and better) be awesome next year.

OK, on to the nitty-gritty. Has this team just given up completely? There had to be at least 10 dropped balls. How can that many balls be dropped? We don't even drop that many balls in Saturday football. What are the receivers thinking about? I don't want to call anyone out, but what is up with Luke Ashworth. I don't expect him to be a burner, but he is usually at least dependable. And why is it that opposing corners look awesome this year against us. I think that Cody Hoffman has done the best and thats why is targeted the most. One positive is that he is a redshirt freshman--he and Heaps should be able to develop good chemistry (assuming he remains the started next season).

To add insult to injury, we are dropping like flies. Rich, Fuga, Pendleton, Thomas, and Frazier--all hurt. You know its bad when I, who follows BYU football pretty closely, am asking who is number 18? Our defense is like trying to cup water in a net. We don't even slow the other teams down. It is embarrassing when the other team sets all of their season records against us.

We are young and inexperienced...but where is the intensity. We didn't have any penalties like late hits. USU consistently got flagged for that. I think that it often shows who is more fired up and USU definitely looked more fired up. There is no passion, no leadership, no fire, and no playmakers. Someone needs to step it up on both sides of the ball a la Dennis Pitta, Harvey Unga, Bryan Kehl, or Colby (the assassin) Clawson. Who ever steps up will be a BYU hero.

BYU also announced that they fired...or umm, Jaime Hill resigned as defesive coordinator. Kelly Poppinga will be taking over for the remainder of the season. I have heard that he clashed with many of the players and coaches. Again, we are so bad defensively that we can't get any worse.

When this was supposed to be a rebuilding year, I wasn't expecting it to be THIS bad. I am hoping that this season can be salvaged and we can head into next season with a little bit of momentum. As a fan...when does basketball season start?