The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Friday, March 19, 2004

Congrats to The Friday Five for winning this year's Bloggie for Best Meme! As this week's clever questions demonstrate, the Five deserves the accolade:

If you...

1. ...owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve? The idea of owning a Japanese restaurant appeals to me. Unfortunately, I probably don't know enough about Japanese food to run the best outfit. If I limited myself to genres that I know well, though, I'd probably only serve desserts. Would an all-dessert restaurant work? It might. I make a really nice lemon tart.

2. ...owned a small store, what kind of merchandise would you sell? I'd like to own a gallery offering a good selection of high-end crafts—turned wood, ceramics, glass, etc.

3. ...wrote a book, what genre would it be? Well, who wouldn't like to write (or, more precisely, have written) an important novel? Still, I'm much more likely to write a comic mystery, I think.

4. ...ran a school, what would you teach? I'm not sure what this question means. If it's asking what I'd teach at, say, a high school, I'd probably be a social studies teacher. When I was in college, I thought seriously about majoring (a horrible verb, sorry) in secondary education. It's possible, though, that the question is asking what I'd teach at a store in, say, a strip mall. Like a yoga school, except I wouldn't be interested in that. Like a karate school, except that I'm completely not interested in that—and the students would probably be a lot more annoying than the yoga students. Well, gosh, this is hard. Do I have to run my own school? Oh, hell. Let's just make it easy. I could run an adult education center and teach social studies.

5. ...recorded an album, what kind of music would be on it? Americana.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Kristin of has this to say about dating someone from small town Oklahoma (link via, have I mentioned lately where I grew up?

Saturday, March 13, 2004

As we're all getting ready for March Madness, The Sports Economist examines the lure of the knockout tournament—a tournament where a single loss ends a participant's competition. It's hard to disagree. Much of the excitement of March Madness lies in the thrill of do-or-die battle. Indeed, The Sports Economist thinks there's far too little of that in modern sports:As I said, it's hard to disagree about the lure of a knockout tournament. Still, I wonder whether there's such a dearth of these events in modern American sports. Sure, some leagues (cue up the NHL and NBA highlights, please) are built on near-unending "seasons" that eliminate only a handful of teams. But even in those leagues, as well as in those where league play is truly meaningful (MLB and NFL, please), the seasons end in knockout tourneys. (Aside: It's a peculiar usage, I suppose, to say that a best-of-five or a best-of-seven series can qualify as a knockout match-up. But the do-or-die series is just a different way to structure a knockout tournament.) And, of course, in some sports, nearly all play comes in the form of the knockout tournament: Tennis is obviously my favorite example, but there are examples in wrestling, volleyball (either the sanded or the sans variety), golf, etc. Actually, as for tennis, I think the thrill of the tournament is one of the primary sources of spectator enjoyment.

Speaking of tennis, I've written frequently here (see here, for instance) about the ridiculous trend in professional tennis towards more seeding: The Grand Slams now seed 32 players in 128-player draws. The result is often, especially in women's tennis, dreadfully dull tennis in the first couple of rounds of play—the rounds that now see Justine Henin-Hardenne destroying the likes of Klara Koukalova. Yawn. The Sports Economist, though, thinks we ought to consider abandoning seeding altogether. Pretty radical, huh? He writes:I'm just not ready to go that far. In moderation, seeding is a good thing. It keeps us from having Roger Federer take on Andy Roddick in the first round of Wimbledon—on the first Monday of the fortnight. Instead, fans get to see match-ups like that (more conveniently scheduled, of course) in the semifinals or the final. Is that unfair? Does it stack the competition "excessively" in favor of the top players? I'm not convinced. Seeding may make it somewhat more likely that an unseeded player will play a seeded player early in a tournament—but it's typically more a question of when that match-up will take place. As it stands now, if a player ranked No. 128 in the world is going to win Wimbledon, he'll probably have to face a seeded player in the first or the second round (and that's with 32 seeds; with a mere 16 seeds, our bottom-rung player might not have to face a seed until the third round). If we get rid of seeding altogether, that match-up may well take place later in the tournament. Either way, he's probably going to have to win that match-up to take the title. (I say probably, of course, because it's possible—whether there are zero, 16, or 32 seeds—for an unseeded player to win a title without ever facing a seed. As the number of seeds increases, it's just not very likely.)

For me, the question is not whether to have seeds at all; the question is what level of seeding maximizes both fairness and fan appeal. In tennis, seeding one-eighth of the players strikes me as optimal. A few first-round match-ups will be tasty, and yet fans won't have to face the prospect of poorer players making it to the quarterfinals and beyond before facing a quality opponent (and then losing in spectacularly boring fashion). Seeding one-fourth of the players just goes a bit too far for my taste. And I certainly wouldn't want a tennis tournament seeded the way the NCAA basketball tournament is—ensuring that one of the top four participants will play one of the four "worst" opponents in the first round (and so on). That complete seeding works in basketball because there's a good enough chance that a #15 seed will beat a #2 seed that such a game is still fun to watch. (I wouldn't bet on too many—er, any—#16 seeds, though.) I'm not sure the tennis equivalent—someone like Camille Pin upsetting Henin-Hardenne in the first round—is likely enough to spark spectator interest.

The Sports Economist, by the way, has quickly become a regular read for me. Do check it out.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I'm a bit under the weather, but this made me smile:(Quiz-taking prompted by Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus.)

Friday, March 05, 2004

This is a pretty banal Friday Five:

What was...

1. ...your first grade teacher's name?
Mrs. Wallace. Although I'm not sure I knew it at the time, Mrs. Wallace was the mother of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Roper. Mrs. Roper, by the way, was a competitive barrel racer. Is that Oklahoma enough for you?

2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon? Scooby Doo. Hands down. No debate. I was a fan.

3. ...the name of your very first best friend? I think my first best friend was Jon H. There might have been someone earlier—when I was in kindergarten, I told my parents that I wanted to marry Brenda F.—but Jon was definitely my first long-term best friend. Back in the day, Jon was seriously into CB radio. Is that 1970s enough for you?

4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal? Alpha-Bits.

5. ...your favorite thing to do after school? Get home, finally. I started taking the bus early on. It was a long ride, about an hour, over many Muskogee County dirt roads. And then I had to walk some. (If I only had kids to bore with that!) When I got home, or to my aunt's house (she lived on the land next to ours), I just wanted to watch a little TV—cartoons, Adam-12 reruns, even (shudder) Gilligan's Island.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I liked these questions posed by an Atlanta sports talk radio station so much that I decided to answer them myself (idea stolen from Steve of The Sporting Life, whose answers are way more thought-provoking than mine):

What professional sports team do you wish you could own? And what’s the first thing you’d do as an owner, of that team or any team? This is just too good a question to answer only once. I have three answers. 1.) I'd like to own the Philadelphia Flyers so that I could fire GM Bobby Clarke, whose ego is now too large for even the nation's fifth largest city. 2.) The Oklahoma Redhawks. Why? Well, I've always wanted to own a minor-league baseball team, and it might has well be my native Oklahoma's AAA team, huh? My first task? I'd bring back the team's old, historically-significant name: the 89ers. (The Land Run occurred in 1889, you know.) 3.) The New York Jets, so I could meet Vinny Testaverde.

Who will be this year’s Florida Marlins? The Kansas City Royals, of course. But wait. Maybe they were last year's Florida Marlins who weren't the Florida Marlins. Or something. You know what I mean. The Royals had a hell of a 2003, but it wasn't of Marlins-esque proportions, I guess. 2004 will be the year.

Embrace a person, place or thing. Bonus points for embracing something that’s, at least to some extent, considered tough to embrace. I miss former world tennis No. 1 Martina Hingis. She was distastefully proud, self-important, and difficult to know—let alone like. But she had a drive to excel that's hard not to miss.

The new fifth BCS bowl. Does it matter to you as a fan? Why or why not? This is an issue of money, not fan appeal. Having a fifth BCS bowl won't ensure a national championship game (and I don't even think that's the be-all and end-all that so many fans apparently do), and the fact that some new bowl will get some BCS mojo won't make the actual game any more or less interesting.

Who have you done a 180 on? Strangely enough, the color green. When I was a kid, I hated it. Now I can't get enough. Going the other way....3 Musketeers Bars. I once loved 'em; now all that sweet nougat makes my head swim.

Name a particular great or particularly overrated acting performance. Particularly great: Maggie Smith's under-appreciated turn as the self-pitying, uptight spinster in A Room with a View. Seriously overrated: Marisa Tomei's Oscar-winning performance in My Cousin Vinny. (Runner-up: Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.)

Davis Love III’s actions Sunday: Uncalled for or appropriate? I tend to think that golfers—and, to a lesser extent, tennis players—are too finicky about crowd noise/participation. As I understand it, Love's heckler wasn't disruptive during Love's actual swing or anything. (If he was, he should've been booted.) He just enjoyed Love's miscues a little too much. As a professional, Love probably should've just coped. Still, it's hard to blame him for attempting to get rid of a major distraction. The problem, I guess, is that he just shouldn't have let it bother him so much.

Is there something you boycott? If so, what and for what reason? I'm not watching American Idol because it's tacky. Can I call that a boycott?

Name something in your past you’d like another shot at. For some reason, the 1980 Tulsa regional spelling bee comes to mind. Somehow or other, I misspelled pompadour.

If sports talk radio was normally this much fun, I'd be listening all the time....

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Early March—mine came in like a Lion, by the way—odds and ends:

  • The Food Network is going to produce a series of Iron Chef America specials, and one of my favorites—Alton Brown—is going to provide color commentary (link via The New Homemaker by way of Life and Deatherage). After UPN's disgraceful attempt at an American Iron Chef—the one starring William Shatner (ugh) that was more like professional wrestling than cooking—bombed, I figured we'd never see a legitimate U.S. version of the show. This could be good TV. (I wonder, though, why the Food Network didn't try this at the height of the "reality-TV" boom.)

  • Would you like to have your favorite blogs organized by subway stop? It's a strangely compelling idea. Here's a map of blogs by D.C. Metro stops, and here's another using the NYC subway (links via The Volokh Conspiracy).

  • Only Connect has been playing that old shell(fish) game in chat rooms.

  • Strange fact: Miss America 1967, Jane Jayroe (of Oklahoma), conducted the Miss America orchestra in the pageant's talent competition. It's better than baton-twirling, I guess.
  • Monday, March 01, 2004

    Of the 12 Oscar predictions I made here, nine proved to be winners. And if I'd just used my noggin, and went with favorites Sean Penn and Renée Zellweger in two of the acting categories, I would've been nearly perfect. Of the 12, the only one that was a real surprise to me was Lord of the Rings's win for best adapted screenplay. LOTR was many things, most of them good, but I'm not sure it was based on an outstanding adaptation. But it was definitely LOTR's night....

    We had an Oscar contest at work this year, and I finished a heartbreaking second. Of the 24 Oscar categories, I correctly picked 19. That was actually one better than a colleague who finished first, but we used a weighted scoring system and she kicked butt in the more valuable categories.

    Random observations about the Oscar telecast:
  • I'd rather watch Billy Crystal host one Oscar telecast than star in 10 of his awful movies.
  • In my mind, Jennifer Garner was the best-dressed woman on the red carpet. Something about that melon dress really flattered her.
  • Liv Tyler, whose gown and hair made her look like she was channelling Betty Boop, just beat out Angelina Jolie for worst-dressed woman. (Jolie's dress clashed with her tattoos.)
  • Among the men, Ken Watanabe was particularly fetching, I thought. Runners-up: Djimon Hounsou and, of course, Tim Robbins.
  • Worst-dressed man: This guy.
  • Every time I see Sofia Coppola, she seems less at home in her own body. Odd.
  • The ceremony is particularly boring when one movie wins everything. Yawn city.
  • I was surprised by how genuinely touched Annie Lennox seemed to be by her win.
  • Royal blue may not be the best color for a very pregnant, pasty woman.
  • Diane Keaton apparently thinks it's still 1983.
  • When I think of Renée Zellweger, I'll always think of her daintily pulling her acceptance speech from that tiny, silly pocketbook.
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