Raw Thoughts has a running column called Athletes Who Are Too Stupid For Twitter in which I profile athletes who need to be a little more careful with their social media output.  Previously scholars like Tony Allen, the Honey Badger, and Jamaal Charles have been the recipients of this esteemed award.  I have really enjoyed writing these posts as it allows me to combine my two favorite things, sarcasm and wasting time on the internet.  Unfortunately Raw Thoughts is officially retiring AWATSFT.  That is because one man has permanently taken over the crown of the stupidest athlete on twitter.

Meet Delonte West.

 

Delonte West, or @charleeredz13, has a consistently dumb and annoying twitter feed.  It is a depressing mixture of poor grammar, self-promotion, and replies to cute girls who tweet at him.  Delonte consistently talks himself up as a rapper and on October 28th tweeted 14 youtube videos of his own highlights.  Needless to say, following Delonte has been a burden on my twitter feed and to some extent my soul.  But today it was all worth it.  Delonte West sent out a string of tweets that are unequivocally the stupidest yet funniest things ever written down by mankind.  I could spend all day talking about this but let’s just get right down to the evidence.

 

“Teams That Should Take a Chance on Delonte West | Bleacher Report http://m.bleacherreport.com/articles/1389198-teams-that-should-take-a-chance-on-delonte-west …”

Delonte West was unfortunately just cut by the Dallas Mavericks due to a combination of poor play and and even worse conduct.  He obviously was researching potential new teams and though the rest of the world should know he still has a shot to play in the NBA.  Pretty reasonable by his standards.

“It’s not even takin a chance…I’m not comin to yr team riddin a motorcycle… High Q player/person ..low cost…great influence on young P.”

Here is where Delonte starts to fly off the rails.  He appears to take issue with the language used in a relatively complimentary article and tries to rebut the notion that he is a risky addition for NBA teams.  The bad spelling and gratuitous use of the … is bad but Delonte’s choice of words is even more unfortunate.  He should probably leave motorcycle talk out of job applications (sadly that appears to be what these tweets are) since he was pulled over on one in Maryland in 2009 while packing two loaded handguns and a loaded shotgun in a guitar case.

“Defend and play all 3 guard spots…complete player…can be a scorer if asked can be whatever a team needs do to wide verity of skill set..”

Having dealt (very poorly) with questions about his conduct, Delonte now moves on to describing his skill set.  The point of this tweet is to show of his versatility.  Sadly what it actually shows is that Delonte West doesn’t know how to spell “variety” or that there are only two guard spots on an NBA basketball team.  Not sure which is worse, but its all bad.

“Only ask for communication about when checks come up missin or short…other than that…let’s win some games and have fun while we doin it!”

Delonte now shows that he is low maintenance and will only have problems if he doesnt get paid on time.  This would be a reasonable statement if he were applying to Taco Bell.  Since it is the fucking NBA however I think its a little ridiculous to worry about checks bouncing or coming up “short”

“And yea..this is my resamay…Coach….?, let’s go..take me a day or two to figure offense and a few mins to figure out defense…!!”

Delonte now confirms that these tweets are a sad, sad attempt to get an NBA job.  And of course, “Resamay.”  Really bro?  If that is how you think spelling works then why isn’t your name Delantay?

My rates..are league minimum…non garentee…cause Iknow that by time I get there u see what I’m about..what I bring everyday…”

This is actually a pretty reasonable thing to say.  Typos and horrific spelling aside that is probably what a GM or coach would want to hear from a guy like West.

 

And finally we come to Delonte’s finest work.  If he is the Picasso of stupid tweets then this is his Guernica; a masterpiece that is sad and beautiful in equal parts.

Iim not worried about what the next man has on his plate…if he has a steak and patatoe..kool…I’m fine with my popeyes ….”

This is a mind-bogglingly (I may have just made up that term) ridiculous tweet.  Not only is it a really poor example of why he is willing to take less money to be on the team, but it also looks like a 4 year old wrote it out.  And Popeyes?  The league minimum salary for a veteran player like Delonte is over 1.2 million.  Pretty sure he can still get the steak.

 

 

As you can see, Delonte West is a desperate man.  He is also a really dumb one.  Regardless of the spelling, grammar and typing errors the entire idea of this sequence of tweets is really ill-advised.  NBA GM’s and coaches won’t hire Delonte in part because he is unbalanced and makes bad decisions.  These tweets only confirm this opinion of him.

I will always respect Delonte West because I am 82 percent sure he banged Lebron’s mom, but there is no doubt in my mind he is the stupidest athlete on twitter.  Long live the king.

 

 

Flowers for Duke Football

October 16, 2012

I have seen Duke lose a lot of football games, and I will almost certainly see them lose a lot more.  But Saturday’s loss to Virginia Tech made me feel worse than any of them, and it’s not even close.  I was watching the game at a bar in Durham with a couple of friends my age and a bunch of much older Duke fans, including a couple of former players.  It was a fun crowd and the excitement level for the game was completely unprecedented for Duke Football.  The Blue Devils’ performance over the past couple of weeks had people thinking that they could actually win in Blacksburg, an unfathomable idea in years past.  I was certainly buying the hype, but I wasn’t alone.  Against all odds Duke Football had become relevant and competitive.  Of course it was never going to last.

Duke’s performance in the first quarter of the game was nothing short of dominant.  They took a 20-0 lead over the Hokies and looked for all the world like blowing Virginia Tech off its own field.  The end of the first quarter was the high water mark of Duke Football in the past two decades.  We looked great, and most importantly people really seemed to care.  The bar I was at was going nuts, and people from all over the place were interested.  For the first time ever, friends were texting me about Duke Football in a non-sarcastic manner.  A State fan let me know that both State and Duke controlled their own destinies with regards to the ACC Championship game and a South Carolina grad I know asked me if I would go see Duke if they played USC in a BCS game.  These expectations were premature even at the time, but it was nice to have dreams bigger than “hopefully winning six games and losing the Independence Day Bowl.”  I felt like a real college football fan.

As a diehard Duke fan I had resigned myself to low expectations and even worse results from my college football team.  I was at peace with this.  You can’t be good at everything, and Duke has basketball.  That seemed fair.  But this year has been so exciting that I threw myself into Duke football and after the first quarter yesterday really believed things were going to change.  I saw a competent football program as a real possibility.  Then the second quarter started and things began to slip away.  By halftime even though Duke still had the lead I don’t think a single Duke fan on earth really believed the blue Devils would win the game.  The all too familiar pattern of turnovers, penalties and poor defense had already begun to assert itself.

The second half of the game was a special kind of hell as Duke fans had to watch their promising team slide back into the abyss of incompetence and depression that has encompassed the football program since 1994.  Pretty much everyone I was with had an attitude of grim acceptance that I found even more terrible.  There was none of the rage, anger, or yelling that I normally associate with college sports fans.  The most common refrain was, “Classic Duke” or “Same old Duke.”  It’s like we all knew deep down that Duke Football was never meant to win big road games or ever escape from the ACC basement.

I have spent most of my time since the game trying to come up with an analogy or some way of describing the two hours of crushing sadness that was watching the final three quarters of the game on Saturday.  The best thing I can come up with is that being a Duke fan is like being Charlie in Flowers For Algernon.  (In case you were raised by wolves and haven’t read Flowers for Algernon here are the sparknotes.)  Think about it.  Charlie was a mentally handicapped man (Duke Football over the past 19 years) who had experimental surgery to try and increase his intelligence. (The hiring of Cutcliffe and his fancy new ideas about stadium renovation and “bowl games.”)  The surgery was successful and Charlie was able to live a normal life, (this season for Duke) albeit a brief one because the effects of the surgery were temporary.  This revelation rocked Charlie and his behavior became increasingly erratic. (Duke fans during the last three quarters of the game on Saturday.)

I could go on but I think you get the point.  Duke football fans got a taste of the good side of college football.  The wins, the night games, the AP votes.  All of it was great but it was never meant to last.  Seeing what life was like with a successful college football team and then feeling it slip away was what made this loss so much worse than any other Duke football defeat.  Charlie knows that game only too well.  He regressed entirely and spent his final days in an institution.  We can only hope that our ending is a little better than his.  Maybe Duke can keep some semblance of their new-found abilities and win another game or two and take us to the promised land. Or at least to Shreveport in late December.  I have my doubts though.  The Blue Devils have new coach and some really sick black uniforms but at the end of the day it’s the same old Duke.

 

 

This is the Year

October 9, 2012

It finally happened.  Duke Football has a good team for the first time in 19 years.  Duke has looked pretty good all year, (beat down at the hands of Stanford aside) but until the game last weekend I wasn’t convinced.  The UVA game is the exact kind of game the Blue Devils normally blow.  Not this year, despite a ton of injuries and a very slow start Duke ran the Wahoos off the field in the second half and won easily.  Blowout wins over ACC opponents, or any opponent really, just don’t happen for Duke.  Or at least they didn’t used to.  This year’s Duke Football team is better, deeper, and utterly unrecognizable from its recent predecessors.

There are definitely valid concerns about the strength of schedule so far, the defense, and the injuries but I do not care at all.  I am drinking the Duke Football Cool-Aid.  And there are three main reasons why.

 

1.  David Cutcliffe

As a lifelong Duke football fan I have had to endure some of the worst coaching of all time.  (Or at least some of the worst coaching not done by Romeo Crennel)  Recently Cutcliffe has been refreshingly competent, calling timeouts at reasonable times and making play calls that make sense.  Cutcliffe has also shown some serious balls over the past couple of years calling for fake punts and onside kicks and surprising and mostly effective times.  Most importantly however, Cutcliffe has been able to recruit a little bit.  Duke will never be able to compete with the top tier football schools for recruits but under Cutcliffe we are bringing in enough talent to compete.

2.  Sean Renfree and Anthony Boone

There are teams in college football that can succeed without great quarterback play.  these are usually recruiting powerhouses such as Alabama and LSU that can stack their defenses and O-lines to the point that QB play is pretty much irrelevant.  Duke is the exact opposite kind of program.  Due to a number of factors, (academics, geography, old-timey stadium) Duke cannot and probably will never be able to bring in the athletes needed for a nationally dominant defense or O-line.  This is fine but it means that Duke is going to require consistently excellent QB play in order to succeed, and with the exception of the Stanford game they have gotten it this season.  Both quarterbacks have different strengths but I have made it very clear where I stand.  I think Anthony Boone’s mobility is crucial important behind what can be at times a shaky offensive line.  Regardless of who starts however I think Duke has one of the best QB’s in the ACC and has a chance to win every game. (Except the one at Florida State.  That’s going to be an ass-kicking.

3.  Conner Vernon

Vernon is an absolutely amazing receiver and gives Duke something it almost never has.  A dominant offensive playmaker who can singlehandedly win games.  Against Virginia, Vernon caught two long touchdown passes by essentially jumping over his defender and grabbing the ball.  The throws were good but Vernon just bitched the DB’s on both plays, pretty much like other team’s good recievers have been doing to Duke for years.  Its a good feeling to finally have that kind of player on our side.

 

The entire Duke team has played well this year and I do not mean to trivialize their contributions by only singling out a few players.  That being said a great coach like Cutcliffe and offensive playmakers like the QB’s and Vernon are what I feel most confident about in this team.  I truly believe they are going to take Duke to unprecedented heights.  And I don’t mean just six wins and a crappy bowl game.  The ACC Coastal division is an absolute wasteland this year.  Virginia Tech is historically bad and Georgia Tech might be worse.  UNC is good but they are cheaters and are thus ineligible.  I really believe Duke can win the division and go to the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.  I am driving the Duke football bandwagon and I suggest you all hop on soon.  Once the Blue Devils beat ass in Blacksburg this weekend there may not be any room.

 

The Worst team in Football

October 3, 2012

The Kansas City Chiefs are the absolute worst team in professional football.  And that includes Canada.  This may seem odd since the Chiefs have an explosive RB in Jamaal Charles and a bunch of other offensive weapons.  They also have a young but talented defense.  The Chiefs don’t have the personnel to be a Super Bowl contender but they could easily be average.  They are really only failing at two positions, head coach and QB.  This is unfortunate because these are the two most important components of a good team.  It is impossible to succeed with out at least competent performances from these two spots, (Cut to Drew Brees nodding sadly) and the Chiefs have not received anything close to competence out of QB Matt Cassel and head coach Romeo Crennel.  The Chiefs have the saddest, most worthless QB head coach duo in the league.

 
The Chiefs are used to crappy quarterback play, (they haven’t had a truly elite QB since Len Dawson in the 70’s) but this year might be a low point.  Cassel has been so terrible that the team is considering benching him only four games in to the season.  This would be fine except that the backup is Brady Quinn.  Brady fucking Quinn!  That guy might have the worst track record of any QB in the league over the past 5 years.  And yet somehow Cassel’s performance makes him look like a reasonable option.

The most frustrating thing about Cassel is that he has all the tools to succeed.  He isn’t cursed with a noodle arm like Chad Pennington or Jake Delhomme.  Nor is he a young guy with potential like Tannehill, Russel Wilson and any number of other struggling QB’s this year.  At this point in Cassel’s career (he is 30) what you see is what you get.  And what I see is a guy who sucks ass.  Last Sunday’s 3 interception 2 fumble disaster was the icing on a really shitty cake for Cassel.  His quarterback rating was 11.9 out of 158.3, and for the season is only 48.3  The only QB more depressing than Cassel so far this year has been Mark Sanchez and at least the Jets have The Left Arm of God to turn to once they bench him.  The Matt Cassel-Brady Quinn QB tandem leaves the Chiefs with no hope for either the present or the future.

 

And yet somehow the coaching situation for the Chiefs is even worse.  Romeo Crennel has been one of the worst head coaches in the NFL for over half of a decade now.  His stint with the Browns was an unmitigated disaster marked by dumb mistakes and you guessed it, sheisty quarterback play.  In fact the only other team dumb enough to try and start Brady Quinn at QB was the Browns under Crennel.  Crennel is known as a defensive coach and has actually been effective as a defensive coordinator for multiple NFL teams, and yet somehow he is presiding over a talented defense this year that is last in the NFL in points allowed at a whopping 34.  His expression during games waivers between anger, sadness, confusion and my personal favorite, “Where did I leave my keys.”

 

None of these emotions have successfully motivated any of his teams.  Crennel has also failed when he ventures into personnel decisions.  He was the driving force behind the Chiefs’ decision to spend a first round pick this year on defensive tackle Dontari Poe.  Poe is a physical specimen but was an average player in college at Memphis and left school after his junior year with only 5 career sacks. (as a reference point, Julius Peppers left UNC with 30.5) To the surprise of absolutely no one except for Crennel, Poe has struggled in the pros.  Apparently being able to dominate Conference USA is a pre-requisite to NFL success.  Who knew?

It didn’t have to be this way.  The Chiefs had a very disappointing season last year and fired head coach Todd Haley with 3 games left to play.  They rightly let Crennel finish the season as an interim head coach but then rather than having a broad search for a new coach they chose to give the permanent job to Crennel after the season.  For some reason promoting the interim coach common practice throughout the NFL but it makes absolutely no sense.  These coaches were coordinators or assistants on a team so bad that the head coach was fired.  I do not understand how that level of performance deserves a promotion. No struggling business would fire the CEO and then immediately give the CFO his job full time.  They would look outside for a promising candidate and try to change the losing culture.  The Chiefs had a chance to do this but instead went with the a proven loser with absolutely no track record of success as a head coach.

 

So to recap, the Chiefs have a QB whose ceiling is average and whose floor is worse than Brady Quinn and a head coach who sports a .375 career winning percentage in the NFL.  It is going to be a long season.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Hockey

September 21, 2012

Dear Hockey,

I am not now, nor will I ever be, a huge fan of yours.  You are a niche sport with funky rules, odd traditions, and a miserable TV deal so its hard to watch a lot of games.  Most importantly, there are entirely too many Canadians involved.  That being said, I have been a casual Hurricanes fan ever since they moved to Raleigh and this as been an enjoyable experience.  Going to the games is fun and against all odds the team has actually succeeded.  The Stanley Cup run was one of the most exciting sporting events I can remember.  So while I am not a diehard by any means my life will be negatively effected if you become further marginalized and drift even further out of the mainstream sports consciousness. And this is exactly what will happen if you continue on with this ridiculous lockout.

I have no idea about the details of the the lockout, (because I don’t care enough to read about it) so I can’t really assign blame to either the players or the the owners.  But it really doesn’t matter.  I am going to be real honest with you Hockey.  People are sick and tired of your shit.  The missed season in 2005 was a big problem and people are not going to tolerate it again.  Both the players union and commissioner Gary Bettman need to face the facts.  The players need to not quibble over a small reduction in salary because frankly, they play fucking hockey.  They are only relevant in the city their team plays in, Canada and Minnesota.  That’s it.  Without a broader national appeal they should be thankful for what they get.  Same goes for Bettman.  He is completely incompetent but has a huge ego.  Its a bad combination.  He is using the lockout to try and prove his dick is as big as Roger Goodell or David Stern’s.  The problem is that it isn’t even close.  So help me out here Hockey.  Get over your collective delusion that America cares about you and get back to work.

This may sound harsh but you need to hear it.  I am very serious Hockey.  Another long work stoppage or god forbid a missed season will kill you.  Of course Canada, and whatever weird Northern states take you really seriously will still be there but another lost season and you will irrevocably lose all of the fringe markets, and more importantly the television revenue that comes with them.  The casual fan like me will be gone forever.  And the thing is it will hurt you more than it will hurt us.  There are plenty of other sports for the casual fan to enjoy, but there are not enough diehards to keep a 30 teem league afloat.  So for your sake Hockey, figure it out.

 

Sincerely,

Robert A. Weaver

 

(It is possible that my concern over the hockey season is due to the fact that I bought season tickets to the ‘Canes literally one day before the lockout was announced. SMH)

 

Heisman Power Rankings

September 20, 2012

I know I promised weekly recaps of the Duke games but its not going to happen this week.  Duke played a 1-AA school and I got invited down to Clemson to experience a real tailgate and gameday atmosphere.  Clearly I went with option B.  Duke played well however and given Stanford’s big win over USC last weekend it’s possible that I overreacted to the ass-kicking they put on Duke two weeks ago.  Duke is a deeply flawed football team but since the ACC is essentially Triple-A we have a chance to cop six wins and finally see a bowl game.  (In case you were wondering, The SEC is the American League East, the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big 10 make up the rest of the major leagues, and the Big East is the Little League World Series.)

Anyways, I will be back in Durham this weekend for the big game against Memphis so the recaps will be back next week.  Today its time for the first RAW Thoughts Heisman Power Rankings.

 

5.  Matt Barkley USC QB

Barkley will not win the Heisman this year, and he certainly will not get the (entirely hypothetical) Raw Thoughts vote.  That being said he is one of the few contenders who has played even a half-decent schedule.  USC lost to the best team it has played but whatever.  At least they tried.  So until Oregon, West Virginia and a couple other schools play a team I’ve heard of this fifth spot in the power rankings is reserved for the guy who looks most like a Heisman trophy winner.  And that is most certainly Matt Barkley.

4.  Aaron Murray Georgia QB

I really hate having Murray on this list.  I don’t think he is that great but I really do not have a choice.  Murray checks all of the boxes on the Heisman Contender form.  He is a good looking white dude who plays quarterback for an undefeated SEC team and throws for a lot of yards.  This thing looks meant to be.  Fortunately, Murray’s intrusion into the Heisman Power Rankings is only going to be temporary.  Georgia looks good right now but I feel certain that they will lose at least one game they shouldn’t and then get pasted in the SEC championship game.  This is a safe bet since it happens literally every year.  Once the ‘Dawgs get to two or three losses people will shut up about Murray for Heisman.

3.  Braxton Miller Ohio State QB

If you haven’t seen this guy play yet you are really missing out.  Miller is crazy explosive and just embarrasses people in the open field.  More importantly he plays quarterback for Urban Meyer so you know he is going to put up huge numbers.  Also since Ohio State plays in the Big 10 they won’t have to play anybody really good until their annual ass-kicking at the hands of an SEC school in a BCS game.

2.  The Honey Badger LSU DB

I realize that The Honey Badger, or Tyrann Mathieu, as no one calls him, is indefinitely suspended from LSU this year and thus has been ruled out of Heisman contention by most pundits.  Well most pundits are dumb.  The Honey Badger takes what he wants.  How have people forgotten that after only three games.  Idiots.

If this guy wants the Heisman then he will fucking take it.  #neverforget

 

1.  Alex King Texas P

In the top spot this week (and all other weeks) is Texas Punter Alex King.  King currently leads the nation in punting average.  Unfortunately ESPN refuses to recognize this fact because since King has only punted four times he does not have enough attempts to qualify.  Now this is a clear case of statistical gerrymandering on the part of ESPN, but don’t let it take away from King’s accomplishments.  In fact I think his season is even more impressive given that he rarely punts.

Teams commonly avoid putting the ball in the hands of dangerous kick returners by kicking out of bounds or through the back of the end zone.  This is done out of fear of the returner.  For the first time ever this year teams are actually doing the reverse of that strategy.  King has been so dominant on the few chances when he has been allowed to punt that teams fear him and will do anything to keep Texas from punting.  They have intentionally allowed Texas to score just to keep King off the field.  This is the only possible explanation for Texas putting up more points on Ole Miss last week than any team since 1917.

By this unassailable logic Alex King is directly responsible for every point scored by Texas so far this year.  That gives him a massive 158 points for the year and clearly stakes his claim as the Heisman frontrunner.

 

 

Time for a Change

September 12, 2012

Saturday was the first time I have been really excited for a Duke football game in a long time, and the West Coast did all it could to ruin the experience for me.  First of all, due to the ridiculous time difference the game wasn’t even on till 10:30 PM.  I don’t really care that the left coast wants to go through life 3 hours behind the important parts of the country.  That is their business.  But when it starts affecting my life I have a real problem with it.  10:30 on a Saturday night is an absurd time to show a football game.  Figure it out.

Even worse than the start time was the television coverage of the game.  It was on the Pac-12 Network.  And not only that it was on some sort of regional “b” channel of the Pac-12 network.  As far as I could tell the only people in the country who got the game on a reasonably standard package were people in the Bay Area with Xfinity.  I don’t even know what Xfinity is.  I have the biggest sports package DirecTV has to offer so I figured I would be ok.  Nope.  Somehow demand for the Pac-12 Network is so low that DirecTV doesn’t carry it.  This is a pretty glaring indictment of the Pac-12 Network, the Pac-12, and the West Coast in general considering that the Al Jazeera Sports Network is on DirecTV.  When your football teams have less of a television footprint than an Al Jazeera enterprise it is probably time to go back to the drawing board.

You couldn’t even watch the game at a bar, because all sports bars have DirecTV so they can get the NFL package.  I eventually found a bar owned by an old Duke football player that had somehow gotten the game on one small, low-def TV.  Thanks Pac-12 Network.

 

As bad as my experience trying to find a place to watch the game was, the actual game was much worse.  Everything I have hated about Duke football for the past five years came out in one supremely ugly game.  The defense got overrun, we lost the turnover battle, and the special teams were a disaster.  But the absolute worst part of the game to me was the complete and utter inability to move the ball.  Stanford is a very good team and I never really believed we could win the game on the road.  But never in my worst nightmares did I see the offense falling apart like it did Saturday night.  Stanford’s defense deserves a lot of credit, but Duke should never finish a half with only 3 points.  Duke spent the entire game throwing 2 yard swing passes and 4 yard crossing patterns.  No surprisingly this was ineffective and the offense stagnated.

The blame for this fiasco has mostly fallen on Cutcliffe and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, and to some extent this is fair.  Duke had nothing to lose by opening up the playbook and getting kind of weird on offense.  The status quo certainly didn’t work.  It is not fair however to blame the coaches entirely.  The Duke offensive line was completely dominated by the Stanford defensive front.  They were unable to open up any running lanes and could not protect Renfree long enough for him to look downfield.  The poor blocking was at least as much to blame for the uninspired offense as the play calling.

The final culprit in Duke offensive meltdown was quarterback Sean Renfree.  He is a good quarterback, and his skill set matches what Cutcliffe wants to do.  Unfortunately he reacts horribly to pressure.  Most of this is due to a crushing lack of speed.  Renfree might be the least mobile QB I have ever seen play at a high level.  He moves like he just lost a staring contest with Medusa. (In fairness he was quicker before knee surgery a few years ago.) To make matter worse, he panics under pressure and tries to run.  You do not have to be fast to thrive against the blitz, (ask Peyton Manning) but you do have to remain calm and stay in the pocket.  Renfree gets happy feet and starts moving and the whole play breaks down.  This is a big problem for Duke and I only see one solution.  The Blue Devils can’t replace the O-line, but they can put in a new QB.  That’s right.  It’s Anthony Boone time.

In a vacuum Anthony Boone is not as good a QB as Renfree.  He has accuracy problems and can make bad decisions.  But he also is fast as shit and can make things happen with his feet.  He played part of the second half Saturday and led the Devils to their only touchdown of the night.  You can make the argument that this was garbage time, but Boone excelled in the UNC game last year once Renfree went down with an injury.  That UNC defense also overwhelmed the Duke offensive line but Boone’s athleticism allowed him to succeed where Renfree would have failed.  I feel bad for Renfree in this situation.  He is the quarterback Duke deserves but not the one it needs.  Right now Duke needs Anthony Boone.

 

We Are Back!

September 6, 2012

Duke football kicked off the season Saturday night with a dominating performance against Florida International University.  The final score was 46-26 and it wasn’t really even that close.  Duke looked so good that the prevailing mood among Duke students and fans is roughly this:

And for one night at least Duke Football was most certainly relevant again.  Duke absolutely crushed FIU in every aspect of the game.  Offensively, the Blue Devils looked utterly unstoppable.  Throughout the Cutcliffe era Duke has had a dangerous passing attack, but this year is different.  Duke is no longer relying on screens and swing passes and gimmicky plays.  In Sean Renfree and Connor Vernon Duke has two legitimately dangerous offensive players. (Vernon in particular looked great Saturday night.  He was wide open down field about 5 times.)  The running game also looked a lot better for the Devils and shockingly short-yardage QB Brandon Connette was a huge weapon as well.  Most importantly however, Duke managed to play decent defense, and win the special teams battle.  For the past 4-5 years the Blue Devils have had competent teams but have been unable to put all of the pieces together.  When the offense plays well the defense loses it or vice versa.  Saturday night was the most complete game I can ever remember the Blue Devils playing.

But the play of the team is not the only reason for optimism for the Duke football program.  In a shocking turn of events the crowd at Wallace Wade for the game was really good.  The student section was almost full and the stadium as a whole looked to be nearly sold out.  To the surprise of no one, FIU didn’t travel very well so the visitor’s side looked a little sparse but it was a great effort by the fans.  David Cutcliffe certainly noticed and praised the fans in a letter to the editor in the Duke student newspaper.  Sadly, this kind of turnout is rare at Duke, but hopefully Saturday night was a turning point.  The games are a hell of a lot more fun when the team wins.  The tailgate/gameday atmosphere was sorely lacking but you can’t have everything.

It is dangerous to draw too many conclusions from one game.  In such a small sample size random luck and quality of opponent could well be bigger factors in the outcome than anything Duke did. (FIU actually is a reasonable team however.  It may sound like a community college but they went to a bowl game the last two years.)  It is entirely possible that the Devil’s performance was an illusion and Stanford game this weekend will bring reality crashing down on Duke football.  And in some sense I am sure this is true.  Duke will almost definitely lose to Stanford and there is no way the crowd will be that good again this year, but this feels like a different Duke team.  They aren’t going to win every game but the Blue Devils have the look of a team that can compete against anyone and beat the bad teams on its schedule.  That may not sound like much but its a hell of an improvement over years past.  Plus we are only 5 wins from a bowl game baby.

 
Alex King Heisman Watch

As impressive as Duke was last weekend, King was even better.  He kicked off his Heisman campaign in style as Texas beat the hell out of Wyoming.  Texas only punted three times but King left the game with a stupid 53.3 yard average.  I am not a punting expert (is anyone?) but when your average is over half the field you are probably doing ok.  People seem to agree with me as King was named the College football punter of the week.  Sadly this performance has not yet lead to much Heisman buzz.  The brilliant minds over at SI.com only have QB’s and running backs in their early season Heisman Watch. Idiots.  It’s this kind of backward, regressive thinking that we need to battle if punters are going to get a fair shot at the Heisman.

Duke Football

August 29, 2012

I am a Duke Football fan.  I am not terribly happy about it, but that’s life.  In a perfect world I would be like the vast majority of Duke fans, bleeding blue during basketball season and then conveniently rooting for their hometown teams come September.  Unfortunately for me I am not from Georgia, Texas or LA so I don’t have the luxury of a second team.  I am a born and bred Duke fan so come football season I just have to put my head down and hope for the best.  Unfortunately the “best” has rarely even approached mediocrity.

Here is a quick rundown of Duke’s gridiron achievements starting with their last bowl win:

1961-Cotton Bowl Classic Champs
This was the last great Duke team.  They won a major bowl game and were also ACC champions.  I don’t know too many details since this game happened the year after my parents were born, but it seems impressive.

1962-Conference Champions
Evidently in 1962 winning the ACC didn’t necessarily guarantee a bowl bid.  this once again shows how far back into college football history you have to go to find Duke football triumphs.

1989-Share of ACC title and Lost in All-America Bowl
This was the last very good Duke team.  We were coached by a relatively young Steve Spurrier.  And still managed to lose to Texas Tech by a score of 49-21 in the bowl game

1995-Lost the Hall of Fame Bowl
The last postseason play of any sort for Duke.  I was six.  I am now 22.

 

As you can see the recent history of Duke football is not littered with success.  In fact the middle part of the 2000’s was as depressing a stretch of football as I can possibly imagine.  During a 3 season stretch from 2005-2007 Duke won exactly two games, and was rarely competitive against ACC opponents.  Excitement about Duke football was at an all-time low (That is saying something) and attendance was embarrassing.

In 2008, my freshman year at Duke, David Cutcliffe was hired as the new football coach.  This was widely hailed as a brilliant move by the athletic department, and it has payed off to some extent.  Duke has won at least 3 games every year and nearly qualified for a bowl game with 5 wins in 2009.  They have also been competitive in almost all of their games which is a huge step up from the recent past.  More importantly, Duke football is now surrounded by a sense of hope and expectations.  Not very much hope mind you, but some.  It’s nice going in to a new season and thinking, “Maybe this is the year.”

 

In fairness, this year probably isn’t the year.  Duke has an unreasonably hard schedule and the jackasses as SI.com pick Duke to finish 4-8.  Regardless, Raw Thoughts is going to be following the Blue Devils every step of the way this season.  I went to all the games as a student but this year is going to be different.  Now that I am too old for undergraduate past-times like “getting drunk” and “having fun” I should be able to focus my full energies on football.  So starting with this week’s game against FIU there will be some Raw Thoughts recapping every home game, and whichever of the road games I manage to mooch a ticket to.  Maybe all Duke football needs to get to the top of the mountain is an unreliable and occasionally (at best) funny blogger chronicling their season.  (Probably not though)

 

 

Alex King for Heisman

Today I am also unveiling the official Alex King Heisman Watch.  For those of you who don’t know, King played four years at Duke, starting on the practice squad, and is now the starting punter for Texas.  He is also a founding member of the Raw Thoughts Advisory Board.  I realize that punters rarely win Heismans but this has been a weird year and I feel like anything can happen.  If college football can get a playoff and women can join Augusta, then nothing is too far-fetched.  So check back here every week for stats and updates on everyone’s favorite punter.

 

 

Lance Armstrong has had a rough past couple of days.  The United States Anti-Doping Administration has been investigating him for years and on Thursday Lance announced that he was tired of fighting the case and would drop his appeal.  This has been seen by many people, including the USADA, as an admission of guilt.  He has been stripped of all 7 of his Tour De France titles and has been banned for life from the sport of cycling.  Then to top it all off his favorite uncle, Neil, died on Saturday. (Too soon?)  All in all, Lance has had better weeks.  Unlike most of us he has had much worse ones but I imagine the past few days have been pretty trying for him.  And this is a goddamn shame.  Lance Armstrong has been one of the most tested athletes in history and he has passed every one of them with flying colors.  He is currently the victim of egregious persecution by the USADA and has been railroaded by an unfair system into basically admitting guilt.  I am not claiming that Lance is and always has been 100% clean.  I have no idea if he is or not.  My problem with this whole situation is that this entire investigation, including sentencing, has taken place without a shred of physical evidence.  I thought this was America.

If you are looking for someone to blame for this fiasco (and I definitely am) then the most obvious target is the USADA.  I am not sure how Lance offended them in the past but they are extremely butt hurt about the whole situation.  Armstrong was investigated by the Department of Justice last year, and the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.  This should have been the end of the matter but the USADA persisted with their investigation.  Armstrong then filed an injunction in federal court in Austin to have the case investigation thrown out and while the judge sided with the USADA he did have this to say.  “USADA’s conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives such as politics or publicity.”  I am not an expert on anti-doping laws, (these people are) but if a United States federal district court judge is openly questioning the motives of our investigative agencies then it might be time for a re-think.

Sadly, this whole situation is about to get even more absurd.  Now that Lance has been stripped of his record 7 Tour De France titles, three of them will go to German Cyclist Jan Ullrich.  Ullrich was a dominant rider in his own right but was often overshadowed by Lance.  In addition to 3 runner up finishes to Lance, Ullrich won the Tour De France in 1997 and was second in 1998.  According to the twisted logic of the USADA he epitomizes the victims in the Armstrong saga.  A talented but clean cyclist who couldn’t compete with a doped up Lance.  The head of the USADA mentions this briefly in an interview with the Washington Post, stating that, “This is a heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture of sport, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition.”  The problem with this narrative is that it is total horseshit.  Jan Ullrich, and many of Armstrong’s other contemporaries are already convicted dopers.  Ulrich himself was suspended from the Tour of Italy and kicked off his team for blood doping in 2006.  He also was suspended for 6 months in 2002 for testing positive for amphetamines.  Ullrich still denies that this was meant as performance enhancing drug, claiming instead that he took amphetamine laced ecstasy.  Awesome USADA.  Take down Lance in the interest of competitive balance, and then give his titles to a man who excuses his failed drug tests by saying, “Its cool bro.  I wasn’t cheating.  It was just the ecstasy.”  That makes almost as much sense as Pinterest

While the USADA is mostly to blame for this fine example of North Korean justice, the blame cannot fall entirely on their shoulders.  Lance has also been royally boned by his former teammates.  Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton have both come forward, both publicly and to the USADA, with testimony that Lance Armstrong regularly used banned substances such as EPO.  This seems like pretty damning evidence unless you know who these douchebags are.  Landis and Hamilton are two of the most notorious drug cheats in recent cycling history.  Hamilton has tested positive numerous times and just recently was forced to return his gold medal from the time trial in the 2004 Athens Olympics.  Landis is even worse.  He won the 2006 Tour De France but was almost immediately under suspicion for doping due to shockingly high testosterone levels.  He then mounted a half-assed and ridiculous legal defense than included soliciting donations to help him pay for it.  Landis confessed in 2010 and was formally stripped of the title.  He is still embroiled in a legal battle over whether or not he will reimburse the people who donated to his legal fund.  Long story short, these guys are not credible witnesses.  And even worse, they are fucking Narcs.  Both Landis and Hamilton rode Lance’s coattails to fame and fortune.  Their careers were launched by successful stints on the Armstrong led US Postal Service team.  Without Lance no one has heard of either of them.  And they saw fit to publicly rat him out in order to slightly reduce the heat on themselves.  Not chill.

If we are being honest here, Lance Armstrong probably cheated at some point in his career.  Doping was so rampant during Lance’s prime that it is almost inconceivable that he could have been so successful while also remaining totally clean.  But without any physical evidence it seems completely unreasonable to take away his titles and ban him from the sport.  I agree that the whole situation looks bad, but you can’t bring down the banhammer just because it looks bad.  OJ looked a whole lot worse and he still has a fucking Heisman.  If the investigation continues and the USADA turns up anything resembling physical evidence or credible testimony then I might change my tune, but until then I am going to dig up that Livestrong bracelet I rocked in 8th grade (junior year) and wear it out of solidarity.  #freeLance