Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sports Movies: Bang the Drum Slowly

Bang the Drum Slowly newspaper ad (Image / Paramount Pictures)

Bang the Drum slowly is the 1973 baseball movie, starring Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarity, about the fictional New York Mammoths.

DeNiro portrays catcher Bruce Pearson, who battles Hodgkin's Disease just as his lackluster baseball career begins to take a turn for the better. Teammate Henry Wiggen, a perennial all-star and Pearson's sometime battery mate, is the far savvier of the two, both as a baseball man and general observer of life. In a symptom of his simplicity, Pearson, raised in the Georgian backwoods, refers to Wiggen as "Arthur," a botched version of the nickname "Author" given to Henry for having written a book about his life and the club.

DeNiro is stellar as the slow-witted, tobacco-spitting Pearson, unsure of what to make of opposing pitchers and ultimately the unexpected curveball life has thrown him. The beauty of the plot is that Pearson is neither well-liked nor respected, and the disease merits sympathy not readily given. Most Mammoths suffer him both as a fool and second-rate catcher, and it's only Wiggen's reluctant better nature that compels him to support the largely friendless Pearson.

As it becomes clear that Pearson's disease is serious, Wiggen is drawn into a friendship that would have never otherwise materialized. Wiggen's efforts to spare the catcher unnecessary insult from his unknowing teammates earns him only their dislike, and sullies his reputation as one of the clubhouse's sharper tacks.

The movies only notable flaw, and not a minor one, is the dated patina it's acquired. The real game footage of the 1970's Yankees, used to represent the Mammoths in action, ironically makes the film seem all the more fictional. While easy to accept 1930's movie dialog as something other than what we speak today, it's less easy to extend the same pass to films from the 1970's, and at times it suffers for its awkwardness.

The movie is based on the 1956 Mark Harris novel of the same name.

Friday, March 22, 2013

College Basketball: Harvard Prevails (& Falls)

The NCAA tourney is well-covered elsewhere, but it's still worthy to point out the Harvard Crimson's first round victory Thursday night in Salt Lake City. Harvard beat the #3 New Mexico Lobos, 68-62. It was the first tournament win in the school's history.

Slate.com's Josh Levin does a good job covering the financial decisions that helped arguably the country's best university put a winning team on the court. In an effort to up its competitiveness, the Crimson have stayed within the bounds of NCAA rules, while taking advantage of fiscal opportunities they might have eschewed in the past in the name of amateurism.

Follow-up: On Saturday, ice-cold shooting from the floor did in Harvard, as they missed their first 13 shots to fall to Arizona, 74-51. Extending beyond the 13, the Crimson missed 20 of their first 22. Harvard finishes the year at 20-10 and Ivy League champions. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

College Lacrosse: Scoring from Centerfield

Colgate beat Michigan in Citi Field's outfield (Photo / ncaa.com)

The inaugural Metropolitan Lacrosse Classic was played Sunday at Citi Field in New York. Navy (3-5) faced Holy Cross (4-3), followed by Colgate taking on Michigan. The Crusaders took the opening game over the Mids, 7-5, while Colgate (6-2) beat the Wolverines (0-8) 10-7.

In a historical side note, it was the first college lacrosse game played at an active Major League Baseball stadium since Navy faced Johns Hopkins in a 1971 exhibition at the Astrodome. By some accounts, that was the first college lacrosse game staged in the state. The Mids posted a 9-6 victory. A reported 18,000 fans were in attendance, a figure that, 42 years later, still is an impressive mark for most regular season college lacrosse games.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

College Baseball: Maryland College Baseball Rankings II


Towson baseball will be eliminated in 2014 (Photo / baltimoresportsreport.com)

Maryland State College Baseball Rankings II, March 14, 2013
                            
1) Maryland (11-5, ACC) former rank: 1 The Terps have upped their schedule substantially since last week, facing the Virginia Cavaliers (14-1) three times and scheduled to play FSU (16-0) this weekend. Although dropping 2-3 to the Cavs, they did deal them their first setback of the season on Sunday. They also picked up a win against Marist (4-7) on Tuesday. Red shirt sophomore Charlie White is batting .407 through 16 games.

2) Towson  (8-7, CAA) former rank: 2 Off the field, it was the worst week in baseball history at Towson, as the school definitively announced they will be eliminating the program. On the same day the cut was made, the Tigers took the field and beat GWU, 9-5. The players wore black electrical tape over the word 'Towson' on the front of their jerseys. Baltimoresportsreport.com did a good job digging into the specifics of the announcement, and its perceived hypocrisy.

Despite the trying circumstances, the team remained above .500 with wins over Delaware (8-5) and George Washington (3-11).

3) Georgetown (9-6, Big East) former rank: 3 The Hoyas topped Central Michigan (6-9) and UMBC (2-5) to stay in the third spot overall. Georgetown opens a three-game series against Princeton (1-7) this weekend at Shirley Povich Field. The Tigers were swept by Boxer Journal's #1 Maryland earlier this season.

4) Navy (6-10, Patriot) former rank: 5 Navy fell to Indiana (11-3) on Thursday in Florida, as part of their RussMatt Central Florida Invitational play. Despite dropping to 6-10, they eclipse Mt. St. Mary's and are racking up valuable early season games/innings in the tournament that should serve them well when they return north.

5) Mt. St. Mary's (3-9, NEC) The Mount dropped two to in-state rival UMBC in a home-and-home series.

Others:
UMBC (2-5, America East)
UMES (3-13, MEAC)
Coppin State (3-9, MEAC)
Salisbury (DIII) (9-2, Capital)
Johns Hopkins (DIII) (5-1, Centennial)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

College Lacrosse: Penn Impressive, Loyola Falls

Penn sophomore Isaac Bock (Photo / pennathletics.com)

Heading toward the middle third of the lacrosse season, the Penn Quakers are serving notice that they are one of the best teams in the Mid-Atlantic, if not all the country.

The Quakers beat the Villanova Wildcats at the Independence Classic in Chester, PA on Saturday, 13-9. Penn now stands at 4-1, while the Wildcats fell to 1-4. Sophomore Isaac Bock continues to impress as he added three goals to bring his season tally to eight, along with 2 assists. Elevating Penn's stature further was a Duke (3-4) win over the defending national champion Loyola Greyhounds (4-2). The Quakers opened their 2013 campaign with a solid win over the same Blue Devils at Franklin Field.

Penn finds itself ranked #13 in the country, one of four Ivys (Penn, Princeton, Cornell, Yale) inside the top twenty threshold.

While its baseball team is on a southern road trip to the RussMatt Invitational, the Navy (3-3) men's lacrosse team took care of business at home against Lafayette (2-5) on Saturday with a 12-11 win. Goalie Nolan Hickey had 13 saves for the Mids.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

College Report: Terps Roll, Mids Split

Maryland lacrosse felled Duke on Saturday (Photo / umterps.com)

The Maryland Terrapins (4-0) solidified their #1 ranking on Saturday with a convincing 16-7 win over Duke (2-4) in their ACC men's lacrosse opener. Last week the Terps moved to the top spot by defeating Loyola in Baltimore.

In other area lacrosse news, the Georgetown Hoyas (2-1) traveled to Dallas, Texas to face Dartmouth (1-2) at SMU's Gerald Ford Stadium. Maryland's Jeff Fountain scored what proved to be the game-winner in a 10-9 victory. Goalie Jake Haley had 17 saves for the Hoyas.

After splitting Saturday's doubleheader against Central Connecticut State (2-1), Navy's baseball team (5-6) dipped below .500 on the season. The Blue Devils scored two runs in the first inning on Friday night to solve Ben Nelson (2-1) and earn a 7-1 victory. Nelson settled down after the first, and held Central Connecticut to no runs in 5.2 additional innings of work. The two teams wrap up the four-game series on Sunday afternoon in Annapolis, with a scheduled noon start.

Another Western State Adds Varsity Lacrosse

For several years I've contributed lacrosse articles to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).  This week I w...