NFC & AFC Title Game Predictions for Sunday January 20, 2013
 
Well, we’re down to the “final four” of our annual NFL Super Bowl tournament.  
 
Last Week’s Picks
 
We did very, very well again with last week’s picks–we picked every game correctly, and only missed the Denver-Baltimore game, which was decided by a FG in a second overtime, 38-35.  But for the Baltimore upset, we would have been 4 for 4.

Taking the prior weekend’s picks into account, we are 6 for 8 or batting .750.  Not too shabby.  
 
The Super Bowl was Named for the Wham-O “Super Ball”.  See Discussion, Below.  I had one of these when I was a kid. As you can plainly see, SuperBalls were made of “amazing Zectron”.
 
 
Before we get to Denver-Baltimore, let’s go over the other games.  SF-Green Bay played out like we saw it in the first half, a very close game.  In the second half, Green Bay seemed to play tired, like a team coming off a wild card round, while SF seemed like the rested team they were, and SF steadily pulled away in the second half.  While it was surprising that QB Aaron Rodgers did not provide more offense in the 2d half, it’s also true that he was slightly missing on some throws while SF seemed to make all the big plays.  Again, fatigue has to play a role in things like that, and Rodgers, for Green Bay to win, has to toss it up there @50 times a game.    
 
The Seahawks-Falcons game also played out like we thought through @ 2 1/2 quarters, with the Falcons in firm control and up twenty points.  Then, the Seahawks, as with last week, mounted a furious comeback, eventually taking the lead 28-27 with less than a minute to go.  This again shows how evenly matched those teams were,and how very good a coach Pete Carroll is–his team never quit, even though they were on the road and they were tired.  You had to love the way Seattle played.  But even better was the way Atlanta responded–by going fifty yards in less than 20 seconds and then kicking the GW FG–showing that Matt Ryan’s experience–something we touted last week–together with the home field advantage–kicking in a dome is FG friendly–would prove very helpful to the Falcons when it came down to it.  So we got that one right.  Barely, but right.
 
Finally, we got the Pats-Texans game exactly right.  The Texans are a fine team, but they can’t keep up with the Pats’ offense, and they can’t hold them defensively.  That was not even a close game, and we didn’t think it would be, so we picked that one correctly and for the right reasons.  
 
So where did we go wrong with Denver?  What is the lesson?  Never pick Peyton Manning against Ray Lewis in a playoff game?  Well actually Peyton Manning was 2-0 vs Baltimore in prior playoff games.   
 
Here’s a stat worth considering:  Jake the Snake Plummer and Tim Tebow each have more playoff wins in a Denver Broncos jersey as starting QBs, than Peyton Manning.  This has to be embarassing to Peyton Manning, whose little brother Eli Manning of the NY Giants has two Super Bowl wins against the NE Pats on his resume to Peyton’s one win in the Super Bowl.
 
Well, we said Ray Lewis was a warrior, and in the end, the Baltimore Defense made Peyton Manning look awful.  They won the game by forcing him to roll right in OT, and make a terrible off balance throw that resulted in an interception, a throw that Peyton Manning never makes, normally speaking.  This results in an INT, Baltimore gets the ball, goes down and kicks the GW FG, game over.  
 
This is really the story.  
 
PREDICTIONS FOR AFC CHAMPIONSHIP AND NFC CHAMPIONSHIP THIS WEEKEND
Ravens at Pats 3 PM Sunday AFC Championship
 
First, we have the Baltimore Ravens at the New England Patriots in the early game, scheduled for 3 pm in New England, in a rematch of last years AFC title game.  There are three games we can look at here.
 
Initially, we have this years game between the two teams, which the Ravens won 31-30 on a GW FG as time expired, in week 3 of the season, back in September, in Baltimore.  The Baltimore defense essentially held Brady in check while Flacco & the Baltimore offense scored 10 unanswered points in the last five minutes of the game to beat the Pats.  Strong stuff.  
 
Second, you have last years AFC championship game, which the Pats won 23-20.   However, as everyone knows, Baltimore had a chip shot FG to tie, which Billy Cundiff missed with barely any time left on the clock, and Baltimore had numerous other opportunities in the 4th Quarter to come back from a 23-20 deficit.  The Pats were very lucky to escape out of that game as victors.  
 
Third, you have the 2009 wild card round game, wherein Baltimore came into New England and soundly whipped them, 33-14.  
 
Baltimore is the one team in the AFC that really gives Tom Brady trouble.  
 
Baltimore will be motivated to win because they lost last year, because Ray Lewis is looking at his last year, and because they know they can beat this New England team.  
 
On paper, this matchup strongly favors the Patriots, and they are at home, but the pick here is the Ravens in an upset.  
 
Ray Lewis is going to the Super Bowl.  
 
49ers at Falcons – NFC Championship
 
This is a very closely matched game on the stats.  Common opponents don’t really say much–the 49ers beat the Saints, while the Falcons split with the Saints, winning one and losing one.  The 49ers split with the Seahawks, winning one and losing one, while the Falcons hung on to beat the Seahawks in the playoff game this past weekend.  All this tells us is that both teams can play against very good opponents like the Seahawks and Saints and beat them on a given day.  It also tells us on any given Sunday either of them might lose to the Saints or the Seahawks, which we probably already knew, and therefore, there’s no 100% probability that if these guys played three games, one team would sweep all three–much more likely that there would be a split and then a deciding game.  
 
However, they only play one, and in this one, we pick the 49ers. The Falcons have much going for them–the home field, Matt Ryan being due, and Atlanta being ripe for a trip to the Super Bowl.  But on the other side you have a very tough SF 49er team, which features the rushing attack of one day HOFer Frank Gore (U. Miami Hurricane), who is 3d among career RBs in career rushing, just behind Adrian Peterson and both trailing Steven Jackson.  Gore is supplemented by a running QB in Colin Kaepernick, and a fervent defense.  
 
David Akers, who is a veteran kicker, should be an advantage, but he presents some weakness from beyond 40 yards, especially compared to Atlanta’s kicker Bryant.  If it comes down to FGs, there is an edge somewhat to Atlanta, though the dome will help both kickers.    The pick is still the 49ers.  
 
Postscript
 
We mentioned great RBs last week–but we forget to mention Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett among the greatest ever.  Smith is obviously among the greatest RBs ever to play the game, and a true champion, while Tony Dorsett, also a Dallas Cowboy great, could also do it all.  Both were great rushing as well as receiving, and both were durable and versatible backs who were at their best in the playoffs and in the biggest games.  No one could possible leave them off their teams.  Another mention has to be made of Franco Harris, the powerful and durable back of the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.  
 
We were once (several of us) at a Penn-Princeton football game  many years back and sitting right in front of us, was Franco Harris, who was watching his son with the Princetonians.  He looked pretty much as he did during his playing days, and on his fingers were the four Super Bowl rings–quite a sight, mind you.  
 
We were not worthy.  
 
In fairness, you’d want a Franco Harris or an Emmitt Smith or a Tony Dorsett on your team any day of the week.  They were winners, and I can’t count how many Super Bowls, Conference Championships, playoff games, they all won  collectively, but it has to be a ton.  
 
The Name of the Super Bowl Derived from the Wham-O Super Ball, as Shown by This Exhibit in the Pro Football HOF in Canton, OH.  The fact that Lamar Hunt coined the name is recited therein.  The owners had decided to call it the “AFL-NFL Championship Game”.  Well, you see how well that worked.  No .92 resiliency coefficient.  “After watching his children play with a Super Ball, Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League, coined the term Super Bowl. In a July 25, 1966, letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt wrote, “I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon.” Although the leagues’ owners decided on the name “AFL-NFL Championship Game,” the media immediately picked up on Hunt’s “Super Bowl” name, which would become official beginning with the third annual game.[8][17][18]”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Ball
 
 
Final PS point:  
 
The Super Bowl was named after the Wham-O toy, the “Super Ball
 
It’s true.  Lamar Hunt and his fellow owners were sitting around one day figuring out what to call the new championship game back in the mid-60s and they got the name from the “Super” of “Super Ball”.  It’s told right here at: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Is-the-Super-Bowl-really-named-after-a-1960s-chi?urn=nfl-317028.
 
The key source for this story on the website is Michael MacCambridge’s “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation.”  (Random House, NY, NY 2004).  It can be located at Amazon.com at:
 
 
Here’s the Yahoo article: 
 
“Is the Super Bowl Really Named After a Children’s Toy?”
It seems too much like an urban legend to be true that the Super Bowl was named after a children’s novelty toy that was popular in the mid-1960s.
But strange as it sounds, it is. The name of America’s biggest sport event got its name from a Wham-O toy called “Super Ball.” The story was recounted in Michael MacCambridge’s book, “America’s Game.”
Once the NFL-AFL merger was announced, discussions began about the inaugural championship game between the winners of the two leagues. A group of seven men were tasked with the specifics. During the course of the meetings, it became confusing when the men referred to “the championship game” because the others didn’t know whether he was referring to the league championship games or the finale, which still didn’t have a name. To end the mix-ups, Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt jokingly referred to the final championship game as the “Super Bowl.” He had come up with the name while watching his children play with the toy pictured above.
“Super Bowl” is how the game was referred to for months, even though Hunt himself said it was “far too corny” to ever be used on the big stage. In the middle of 1966, he wrote commissioner Pete Rozelle and said the group needed to come up with an official name for the game. “If possible,” he wrote, “I believe we should ‘coin a phrase’ for the Championship Game. […] I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon.”
Rozelle agreed. The league’s publicity director recalled that the commissioner despised the word “super,” because it didn’t have any sophistication. Rozelle was evidently a “stickler on words and grammar.” The game would be known as the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game.”
That bulky title didn’t last. People caught wind of Hunt’s name and soon everyone, from media members to players, were calling the title game “the Super Bowl.” The NFL was slow to adapt, though. It wasn’t until the third game that the words “Super Bowl” appeared on the official game program and the fourth game when the phrase appeared on tickets.
As mentioned above, Michael MacCambridge’s excellent “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation” was the main reference for this blog post.
citation supra.  
 
The Original Patent for the SuperBall aka “Highly Resilient Polybutadiene Ball” Patented by Wham-O Corp 1965.
 
March 22, 1966 N. H. STINGLEY 3,241,834
HIGHLY RESILIENT POLYBUTADIENE BALL
Filed Aug. 25, 1965
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United States Patent O
.1
3,241,834
HIGHLY RESELIENT POLYBUTADIENE BALL
Norman H. Stingley, Garden Grove, Calif., assignor to
Wham-0 Manufacturing Company, San Gabriel, Calif.,
at corporation of California
Filed Aug. 25, 1965, Ser. No. 432,584
3 Claims. (Cl. 273–58)
This is a continuation-in-part of application Serial No. 462,081 filed June 7, 1965, and now abandoned.
This invention relates to a toy and more particularly to a ball or sphere having extremely high resilience and a high coeflicient of friction.
The resiliency of rubber balls is one of their most important characteristics. This is because the resiliency of the ball material determines the “liveliness” and “bounce” of the ball and hence its utility in various sporting games and attractiveness as a toy for children. The resilient material normally used for making rubber balls is a polymer such as natural rubber or some synthetic analog of natural rubber such as polyisoprene.
The present invention is concerned with a material other than rubber and -polyisoprene as the base polymer in rubber toys and sporting articles. It has been found that this new material imparts some highly unusual qualities to articles fabricated with it. Such articles have been found to have a substantially greater resiliency than those manufactured from more conventional materials. This greater resiliency is thought to be due to the nature of the base polymer used in the mixture and the unique quality -of the mixture which comprises the article of being able to conserve the energy which is imparted to it rather than dissipating a substantial portion of it in the form of heat. The higher resilience means that balls made from the material of this invention have a resilience factor in excess of 90%. This resilience factor is the resilience of the material as measured by the Yerzley method, ASTM D945-59.
Another unusual quality of balls and toys of this invention is their coeflicient of friction. In this instance the coefficient friction is substantially higher than in other
similar items. This quality combined with the significant
ly higher resilience causes a ball to react in an extraordinary and unpredictable manner when bounced or struck. This higher coeflicient of friction also provides a means whereby the spin or “English” on a thrown, struck or dropped ball can be accentuated resulting in unusual reactions by -theball whenever it rebounds from a hard surface. This novel combination of qualities means that one natural application for ‘balls manufactured with the base polymer with which this invention is concerned is in trick ball uses. In addition, as a sports implement a ball of this invention presents -a greater challenge -to the user. As an article of play, the eccentricity of reaction makes the ball a highly entertaining and amusing toy.
The invention in the present case contemplates a molded, vulcanized, highly resilient ball comprising a mixture of polybutadiene, a sulfurous vulcanizing agent and a polybutadiene reinforcing agent.
In addition to the inherent resilience of the base polymer, the degree of cross linkage between -polymer chains is important in optimizing the bounce or liveliness of balls fabricated with it. The -degree of cross linkage is primarily determined by the amount of vulcanizing agent used. By limiting the amount of vulcanizing agent introduced into the mixture to the quantities specified below, a ball having a Yerzley resilience in excess of 90% is obtained. Such a resilience factor is substantially higher than that found in balls manufactured from natural rubber or polyisoprene.
In addition to resilience and cross linkage, the ability
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In the formulation above polybutadiene is the base polymer of the mixture. To produce cross linkage between polybutadiene chains, that is, to vulcanize or cure the polymer, sulfur is added to the mixture. A greater amount of vulcanizing agent is used in this mixture than in such products as tires thereby producing a greater degree of vulcanization. Put another way, the degree of cross linkage relative -to saturation (hard rubber) is increased over tires and the like. The more complete vulcanization is believed to result in the improved resilience of the finished product. The addition of sulfur in the range indicated will result in balls having a Yerzley Resilience in excess of 90%. Oil extended polybutadiene having as much as 50 parts by weight of oil per hundred parts by weight of polybutadiene can also be used as the base polymer.
Because the natural curing rate of a mixture of polybutadiene and sulfur is quite slow, certain other additives are combined with this basic mixture to initiate the curing cycle and accelerate the rate of vulcanization. The zinc oxide and stearic acid are added to the basic mixture to provide this activation function. Acceleration accomplishes two purposes, one, it shortens the length of the molding cycle, and two, it equalizes heat throughout the mixture during the curing cycle. In the preceding formulation, the accelerators are N-oxydiethylene benzothiazole 2 sulfenamide, di-orthotolylguanidine and bismuth dimethyldithiocarbonate. For ease of reference, the trade names AMAX, DOTG and Bismate respectively will be used to designate the accelerators.
The activation of these accelerators occurs as the mixture reaches a specific temperature. For Bismate and DOTG the activation temperature is approximately 230° F. while that of AMAX is -approximately 260° F. By insuring that t-he heat of reaction is equalized throughout the mixture a more uniform rate of vulcanization and improved consistency in the end product is obtained.
Hydrated silica is added to the mixture as a filler. A specific hydrated silica suitable for use in this mixture is marketed under the trademark Hi-Sil 233. This material and certain other materials perform the function of providing tear and abrasion resistance. The basic criteria for selection of the filler material is its ability to improve the durability of polybutadiene without unduly increasing the specific gravity. Carbon black and lithium oxide have also been found to fill these requirements and are satisfactory substitutes for the hydrated silica.

3,241,834
3
In addition to the ingredients just previously discussed, 4 methyl-6 tertiary-butyl phenol is also added to the mixture. This substance has been given the trade name of Antioxidant 2246 and prevents discoloration and staining and inhibits aging of the finished product. Examples of substitutes for Antioxidant 2246 are phenyl B naphthylamine, alkyl diphenylamine, and hindered alkyl phenols. Pigmenting agents for obtaining the desired color of the end product are optional additives.
The mixture and molding of the constituents of this formulation proceeds according to the following steps. The various elements of the formulation are brought together in a mixing machine and agitated thoroughly to insare uniform mixing and distribution of the elements throughout the mixture. The result is a plastic mass ready for insertion in a mold.
To complete the process, the mixture is placed in a nold and subjected to a pressure of between 500 and 3,000 p.s.i. for a period of approximately 10 to 30 minutes. Simultaneously, the temperature of the mixture is raised to approximately 285-340° F. To a certain extent the length of the molding operation, the pressure, and the temperature to which the formulation is subjected are co-variant and one may be adjusted to compensate for a variation in the other. Preferably the time and temperature for the molding operation is 15 to 20 minutes at approximately 320° F. and 1,000 p.s.i.
An alternate formulation to the one outlined above is as follows:
[graphic][graphic][merged small][graphic][graphic]
The above formulation is mixed in the same manner as the preceding formulation. To insure a good dispersion of all ingredients in the mixture, the batch is normally given a two-pass mix. In the above formulation, the zinc oxide and the stearic acid perform the same functions, viz., activation of polymer curing, as they did in the first formulation. Akron 544 Red and Akron 626 Blue are trade designations for organic coloring agents manufactured by Akron Chemical Co. Titanium dioxide is also a coloring agent. These three constituents in combination are the pigmenting agent for the mixture.
Zeolex is a proprietary brand name for a series of precipitated, highly hydrated sodium silico-aluminates and sodium calcium silico-aluminates. Its function is to strengthen the finished product and to act as a filler in the same manner as the Hi-Sil 233 does in the preceding formulation.
Sulfur is the vulcanizing agent. Vandex is a proprietary name for finely ground selenium. Its function is to supplement sulfur as a vulcanizing agent.
As in the first formulation, several constituents of the mixture (AMAX and M. Tuads) are added to serve as accelerators for the polymerization.
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As is normal in molding tehniques, the curing temperature must be carefully selected in order to prevent imperfections in the finished product. Too high a molding temperature will contribute to a condition designated “backrind.” This condition is characterized by an indented fracture around the body of the molded product defining the point where the two halves of the mold are brought together and is due to thermal expansion in this area during and after the molding cycle.
Subject to the proper choice of injection pressure, injection time, and the combination of mixture constituents, preheat, and mold temperature, this mixture can also be molded by means of a conventional injection-molding technique.
Combinations of ingredients of which the two formulations listed above are representative have been found to result in a product with a specific gravity of approximately 1.0 to 1.3. For greatest resilience, it has been found that a sufficient amount of filler should be added to produce a product having a specific gravity of 1.02.
What is claimed is:
1. A highly resilient solid ball in the form of a sphere, the ball material having a specific gravity of from about 1 to about 1.3, and comprising in combination a vulcanized polymer characterized by the use of 100 parts by weight of polybutadiene and 0.5 to 15 parts by weight of a sulfur vulcanizing agent, and further comprising, in addition to any activators and accelerators used for vulcanization, 5 to 15 parts by weight of an inorganic reinforcing material.
2. A ball in accordance with claim 1 in which the reinforcing material is selected from the class consisting of hydrated silica, carbon black and lithium oxide.
3. A ball in accordance with claim 2 in which the sul
‘ fur vulcanizing agent is approximately 5.25 parts by
weight and the reinforcing material is approximately 7.5 parts by weight.
References Cited by the Examiner
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Location: Tampa, FL, USA

Ok, we’re now into the Elite Eight, and I had the following picks and results so far;

1) East – originally, at round of 64, Kentucky v. West Va. This was also my pick before the Sweet Sixteen Round. This is looking pretty good. I really like Kentucky to win this. I thought Kentucky played an excellent game against Cornell, especially defensively. However, West Virginia is an excellent team with a tough, tough coach we used to see a lot here in the A-10 and later the Big East when he was coaching at Cincinnati. Two great teams and two great coaches. What a game. I will say, originally, I had W.Va. winning this game; i’m revising that pick in light of Kentucky looking so good in this tournament. But of course, that’s a conditional probability pick; if W.Va. does win, then it validates my original bracket pick.

DEMARCUS COUSINS DESTROYED CORNELL UNDERNEATH & INSIDE IN THE SWEET SIXTEEN ROUND MAKING ROOM FOR JOHN WALL ON THE PERIMETER

2) South – originally, at round of 64, i had picked Louisville v. Baylor to come out of the pack. Well, I got that half right, but not the half you would have expected. Before the Sweet Sixteen, knowing that Louisville was out (we call that conditional probability) I picked Duke to win, which of course they did. In light of what I know now, I would have Duke beating Baylor. Incidentally, Baylor put a hurting on St. Mary’s. How lame is Villanova for losing to St. Mary’s? And by the way, should new Baylor President get halfcourt seats or what for this team???

Final Four pick Duke/Baylor winner v. Ky/W.Va winner – this is sort of a no-brainer, and I had this on my original bracket before the tournament opened. I think both Ky and W.Va are both better than Duke, even though W. Va. got a #2 seed. So I see Ky going to the final four over Duke, or alternatively, W. Va going to the final four over Duke. I think Duke’s dance ends at the elite eight.

That’s not to underestimate coach K. Anyone brilliant with a complicated last name ending with K, hey, I have to like that guy, right?

By the way, speaking of the U.Cincinnati, think today’s players are good? check out U.Cincinnati great’s Oscar Robertson’s college stats:

Season School FG% FT% TRB AST PTS
1957-58 Cincinnati .571 .789 15.2 35.1
1958-59 Cincinnati .509 .794 16.3 6.9 32.6
1959-60 Cincinnati .526 .756 14.1 7.3 33.7
Career Cincinnati .535 .780 15.2 4.8 33.8

Yes, that’s right–the Big O averaged a double-double his entire college career–a double double that ran around 35 points and 15 rebounds a night. That was in college, and freshman weren’t allowed to play back then. Imagine what his FOUR year stats would have been.

You think that was pretty good by today’s standards? Today, we think it’s pretty good if a kid averaged barely 15 points and 10 rebounds. That earns him a first round NBA spot.

OSCAR ROBERTSON - THE GREATEST PLAYER IN U.CINCINNATI HISTORY KNOWN AS THE "BIG O" - WON AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP WITH KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR WITH MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Of course, Cincinnati is named for the Roman hero Cincinnatus. If you’ve studied Latin, you know who he is. The rest of you, Google him up. He was a famous hero of the early Roman Republic. Big O and Cincinnatus had a lot in common.

3) Midwest – Originally I had Kansas v. Georgetown in the Elite Eight of this bracket before the round of 64. That bracket was completely busted, of course. Before the round of sixteen, knowing what had happened in the first couple of rounds, I remade picks and picked Michigan State to win their game, and Ohio State to win their game. Well, I got that half right. Tennessee with their orange uniforms and orange sneakers just plain outshot and outhustled Ohio State, thus short-circuiting the Big Ten matchup we were forecasting. Instead, the Elite Eight matchup will be the improbable Mich State #5 seed vs. the Tenn #6 seed for the Midwest Regional Final. This is an interesting matchup.

My heart says to root for the Spartans and Tom Izzo, a veteran, wily coach. However, my head says that Tennessee beat Ohio State while Michigan State lost to Ohio State during the season; that Tennessee lost to Purdue by a point or two while Mich State lost by a lot to Purdue; and that Tennessee beat Kansas during the season. Also that Kalin Lucas is out for Michigan State, while Tennessee is deep and balanced in both scoring and rebounding.

I’m going to call this a flip, but the edge to Tennessee here. So Tennessee to the Final Four. But Mich State definitely has a shot.

4) West – Well, I had Syracuse and Pitt in my original pre-round of 64 bracket picks. That’s pretty busted. After the first two rounds, before the sweet sixteen, I repicked Syracuse and Kansas State. Syracuse was upended by Butler, while Kansas State barely survived a two overtime onslaught from a feisty Xavier team.

That leaves us with Kansas State v. Butler. Here, I like Kansas State over Butler. I believe Kansas State will defeat Butler and get to the Final Four.

Moreover, I believe Kansas State will also defeat the winner of Mich State/Tenn and get to the final round.

This then sets up a final round of Kentucky v. Kansas State.

Here, again, I still like Kentucky to win it all.

–art kyriazis, philly, cradle of college hoops

The Palestra, also known as the Cathedral of College Basketball, is a historic arena and the home gym of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers men's and women's basketball teams, volleyball teams, wrestling team, and Philadelphia Big 5 basketball. Located at 215 South 33rd St. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, near Franklin Field in the University City section of Philadelphia, it opened on January 1, 1927. The arena originally sat about 10,000, but now seats 8,722 for basketball. The Palestra is famed for its close-to-the-court seating with the bleachers ending at the floor with no barrier to separate the fans from the game. At the time of its construction, the Palestra was one of the largest arenas in the world. It was one of the first modern steel-and-concrete arenas in the United States and also one of the first to be constructed without interior pillars blocking the view.

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestra

Today, as we survey the wreckage of the first and second rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, 2010 version, which has destroyed nearly everyone’s brackets, including mine, it is wise to remember the words of one of the seven sages of Ancient Greece, Heraclitus, who noted that “everything is in flux,” or more modernly, “everything changes constantly.”

HERACLITUS ONE OF SEVEN SAGES OF ANCIENT GREECE "ALL IS FLUX"

Since today is GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY, everything I write today will really be about GREECE and the incredible influence GREECE and GREEK THOUGHT has had upon modern life. Specifically, I will show you how GREECE & GREEK THOUGHT have had a major influence on MARCH MADNESS AND THE NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT. You won’t even believe it, but it’s so.

BETTER ONE HOUR OF FREEDOM THAN FORTY YEARS OF SLAVERY & JAIL

Today marks the 189th anniversary of the birth of the modern Greek nation-state and the uprising against the Ottoman Empire by the ethnic Greeks and Greek-speaking majority of Roumeli against their Ottoman overlords on March 25, 1821. After nine long years, that struggle resulted in the creation of the modern Greek state. And of course, we who are Greek-American have to celebrate it, since the actual Greeks in Greece are temporarily on strike against government austerity measures. Hey, I wish I could retire at 41 with a full salary and benefits too, but as one of my Harvard economics professors once noted, TANSTAAFL “THERE AINT NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH.” (actually, that phrase was coined by sci fi giant Robert A Heinlein, 1907-1988, if you grok me). Frackin’ great line, though.

ROBERT A HEINLEIN & ISAAC ASIMOV AT PHILLY NAVAL SHIPYARD 1944

Many, many effects of that revolution can be seen here in America.

1) The very idea of athletic competitions and tournaments is Greek in origin. The Greeks invented the Olympics in 776 BC. They had them on a four year rotation, along with three other games, the Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian Games, the four being known as the “Pan-Hellenic Games.” The point is the Ancient Greeks had an athletic competition to determine a winner in each event every year. This is exactly what the modern NCAA does. The logos of the NCAA even use Olympic/ancient Greek style laurel wreaths on some of their publicity and trophies, and even up to the present day, the concept of AMATEURISM, the notion that an athlete should not be paid for participating in sports, is uniquely and completely ancient Greek in origin, as the Romans customarily paid their Olympic and other athletes, or compelled them to compete through slavery. It was the Ancient Greeks who prided themselves that competition should be amateur and free of payment, and participated in by free citizens of city-states only for the glory of the competition. This very concept is what animates the entire notion of the NCAA and of college sports; its entire spirit and animus are Ancient Greek in conception and thought. The Ancient Romans had no such distinction; to them, athletes were paid the same as anyone else. Moreover, the concept of colleges today relate closely to the concept of ancient Greek city-states. There are many more parallels, but you get the idea. Winning at sports was the sine qua non of excellence in Greek culture. Note that Christianity for many years discouraged athletic competition—it was a modern development with the rediscovery of humanist thought, and the rediscovery of Greek thought, that athletics made a comeback in modern society. The Greek notion of athletic competition heavily influenced the Romans, who made stadiums, chariot races and gladiatorial combat part of their culture. Consequently, it is very clear that the very notion of having an NCAA tournament every year is nothing if not Greek in origin.

ANCIENT OLYMPIA AT ELIS GREECE SITE OF THE ANCIENT OLYMPIC GAMES 776BC-495 AD

2) Many colleges and college nicknames are Greek in origin. For example, Michigan State is in the Sweet Sixteen. Their nickname is the “Spartans.” They were nicknamed, largely, in tribute to the Greeks of the Greek Revolution of the 1820s, largely due to Philhellenic (Greek-loving) feeling. Most Americans were sympathetic with the Greeks, 1) because the Greeks were struggling for democracy against autocracy 2) because the Founders were largely influenced by Ancient Greece in their models for what a democracy like America should look like and 3) because the Greeks were Christians struggling against the Turkish Infidels, which is what we used to call Muslims in the 19th Century before PC discourse deconstructed plain language and speech sometime in the past 20 years. In fact, Turks used to be called “the Terrible Turk” by people like no less than Prime Minister Gladstone, and the Ottoman Empire, after the Greeks won, used to be called the “Sick Man of Europe,” and the question of how to carve up the fading Ottoman Empire was called the “Eastern Question.” It wasn’t settled finally until World War I, and not really finally until 1923. But that’s another story. So I like Michigan State. Didn’t you watch “300”? “We are SPARTANS!!!”

KING LEONIDAS & 300 LEGENDARILY HEROIC SPARTANS OF THERMOPYLAE BRILLIANTLY DRAMATIZED IN MOVIE "300" (2006) STARRING GERARD BUTLER

3) U. Tennessee remains in the Sweet Sixteen. Vanderbilt is in Nashville, Tennessee, where they have an actual full-scale replica of the Parthenon built which you can go see today. It is complete and accurate to the last detail. In fact, throughout the South, there is more Greek Revival and neo-classical architecture than almost anywhere in the US, especially on college campuses. This is certainly true at Vanderbilt, at Duke, at Kentucky, at U. Tennessee, at U.Va certainly, and many of the other schools left in the Sweet Sixteen.

PARTHENON REPLICA WHICH STANDS IN NASHVILLE, TN TODAY EXACT DUPLICATE OF PARTHENON OF ANCIENT ATHENS, GREECE BUILT BY PERICLES IN 5TH CENTURY B.C.

About the Parthenon

The Parthenon stands proudly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, Nashville’s premier urban park. The re-creation of the 42-foot statue Athena is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. The building and the Athena statue are both full-scale replicas of the Athenian originals.

Originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, this replica of the original Parthenon in Athens serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles found in the Naos are direct casts of the original sculptures which adorned the pediments of the Athenian Parthenon, dating back to 438 B.C. The originals of these powerful fragments are housed in the British Museum in London.

The Parthenon also serves as the city of Nashville’s art museum. The focus of the Parthenon’s permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists donated by James M. Cowan. Additional gallery spaces provide a venue for a variety of temporary shows and exhibits.

The Parthenon is open year round Tuesday – Saturday, 9:00 – 4:30. Additional hours during June, July & August: Sundays, 12:30 – 4:30 p.m. The Parthenon will be closed on July 4, Labor Day, the Thursday & Friday of Thanksgiving week, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission: Members free; Adults – $6.00; Children 4-17 – $3.50 (under 4 free); Seniors 62+ – $3.50. Phone number 615-862-8431.

http://www.nashville.org/parthenon/

See? And you thought you had to travel to GREECE to see the Parthenon? Nope, you can go to NASHVILLE, TENNESEE AND SEE IT! AND THIS PARTHENON ISN’T IN RUINS!!! (No Turks or Venetians to blow it up in a meaningless war in the 17th century). Oh–and they have some pretty darn good music there, too–and hey, Vandy and U. Tennessee are pretty darn good schools.

4) Many of you have probably watched the show “GREEK” on TV, which details “GREEK” or fraternity/sorority life on campuses around the country. What you probably don’t know is that fraternities and sororities have their origins with the Greek War of Independence. So many college students were in sympathy with the Greeks and their War of Liberation from the Turks during the 1821-1830 period, that many of the campuses and universities founded societies named after Greek letters such as “Phi Beta Kappa” or “Alpha Chi Rho” to celebrate their “fraternity” and “solidarity” with the Greek cause of independence, liberty and freedom. So, if you’ve ever been a fraternity or sorority member, you actually have pledged fraternity, sorority, brotherhood and sisterhood, to the nation of Greece and its sacred causes for liberty, democracy, Christianity, and its ongoing fight against the Turks. Thus the “GREEK” show really is, in actually, about Greece. It even takes place at fictional “CYPRUS-RHODES UNIVERSITY.” Hey, I’ve been to Rhodes, that island rocks, every single hotel opens out to a private beach, and every bar is open all nite long. And Cyprus, even though only half of it is open (the other half is still occupied by a muslim country from the north starting with “T” and ending with “Y”) is the hottest tourist and banking destination in the Middle East. Plus, Garo Ypremian is from Cyprus, and he once kicked a touchdown! He told me so 18 holes in a row at a pro-am golf tournament. “where else but in america could a 5 foot 7 cypriot find work in the NFL as a professional kicker?” he said. To his credit, he was a great golfer.

The very origins of sorority and fraternity life are from the Greek Revolution and Greek War of Independence, and Philhellenism among American college students. In fact, many of those students went to Greece and fought for the Greek cause. In the NCAA tournament, it’s obvious that frat and sorority and Greeks are the main hoops fans. Thank you Greece and Greek culture, again. And here’s to our favorie fraternities, Kappa Tau Gamma (ΚΤΓ), Omega Chi Delta (ΩΧΔ), and our favorite sorority, Zeta Beta Zeta (ΖΒZ). May we all be Greeks forever!

EVERYONE'S IDEA OF COLLEGE FUN IS SUMMARIZED IN THE SHOW "GREEK"

5) Syracuse is a heavy favorite to get to the final four. Syracuse University and Syracuse, NY are named for the ancient Greek city-state of Syracuse. Syracuse was the richest and most famous Greek city-state of the ancient world. Situated on one of the three corners of Sicily, Syracuse was as powerful in its heyday as Rome, Carthage, Athens or Persia, and made a play for hegemony against Rome and Carthage during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Unfortunately for Syracuse, despite being neutral in the 2d Punic War between Carthage and Rome, Rome decided to lay siege to Syracuse in order to plunder its enormous stores of gold. Rome simply needed the money. Archimedes, the most brilliant mathematician and scientist of ancient times, was a native of Syracuse. He famously designed siege defense machines which pulled Roman ships out of the water and crashed them against the rocks, other machines which focused the light of the sun on Roman ships and set them on fire, etc. You get the picture. The Romans were kept out of Syracuse for years by the high walls of Syracuse and Archimedes brilliance. When they finally breached the walls, the Romans were instructed to bring Archimedes alive to the Roman commander, but of course they got it wrong and killed Archimedes by mistake. The Romans plundered billions of dollars in gold, silver and other treasures from Syracuse. P.S. Italy owes that money back to Greece, today, with interest, under international law, in my view. Syracuse was neutral at the time. Also, indemnity for Archimedes’ death is independently owed by Italy to Greece. One supposes that would sort of cancel out any debts owed by Greece to the EU. In fact, one might suppose that Italy should just hand over the deed to, well, Italy, since the interest has been piling up for 2,400 years or so on that loan. Or have I just lost my Elgin Marbles? (many thanks to my good friend the brilliant Mike Reiss on that line).

ANCIENT SICILY WAS MAINLY GREEK CITY STATES WITH SYRACUSE THE LARGEST RICHEST AND MOST FAMOUS GREEK CITY STATE OF ANTIQUITY

THE WAR FOR SYRACUSE AND THE DEATH OF ARCHIMEDES

source: http://www.livius.org/sh-si/sicily/sicily_t17.html

The philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea (46-c.122) is the author of a series of double biographies in which he compared Greeks and Romans, and tried to explore the nature of some type of man. They contain much historical information. The following text is taken from his Life of Marcellus, and describes how this Roman general captured Syracuse during the war between the Romans and the Carthaginian general Hannibal. During the siege the famous scientist Archimedes (287-212), was killed. The translation was made by Walter Charlton and appeared in the Dryden series.

Marcellus now was a third time created consul, and sailed to Sicily. For the success of Hannibal had excited the Carthaginians to lay claim to that whole island; chiefly because, after the murder of the tyrant Hieronymus, all things had been in tumult and confusion at Syracuse. Therefore, the Romans also had sent before to that city a force under the conduct of Appius, as praetor. […]

At this time Marcellus, first incensed by injuries done him by Hippocrates, commander of the Syracusans (who, to give proof of his good affection to the Carthaginians, and to acquire the tyranny to himself, had killed a number of Romans at Leontini), besieged and took by force the city of Leontini; yet violated none of the townsmen; only deserters, as many as he took, he subjected to the punishment of the rods and axe.

But Hippocrates, sending a report to Syracuse that Marcellus had put all the adult population to the sword, and then coming upon the Syracusans, who had risen in tumult upon that false report, made himself master of the city. Upon this Marcellus moved with his whole army to Syracuse, and encamping near the wall, sent ambassadors into the city to relate to the Syracusans the truth of what had been done in Leontini. When these could not prevail by treaty, the whole power being now in the hands of Hippocrates, he proceeded to attack the city both by land and by sea.

The land forces were conducted by Appius: Marcellus, with sixty galleys, each with five rows of oars, furnished with all sorts of arms and missiles, and a huge bridge of planks laid upon eight ships chained together, upon which was carried the engine to cast stones and darts, assaulted the walls, relying on the abundance and magnificence of his preparations, and on his own previous glory; all which, however, were, it would seem, but trifles for Archimedes and his machines.

These machines he had designed and contrived, not as matters of any importance, but as mere amusements in geometry; in compliance with King Hiero’s desire and request, some little time before, that he should reduce to practice some part of his admirable speculation in science, and by accommodating the theoretic truth to sensation and ordinary use, bring it more within the appreciation of the people in general.
Eudoxus and Archytas had been the first originators of this far-famed and highly-prized art of mechanics, which they employed as an elegant illustration of geometrical truths, and as means of sustaining experimentally, to the satisfaction of the senses, conclusions too intricate for proof by words and diagrams. As, for example, to solve the problem, so often required in constructing geometrical figures, given the two extremes, to find the two mean lines of a proportion, both these mathematicians had recourse to the aid of instruments, adapting to their purpose certain curves and sections of lines.

But what with Plato’s indignation at it, and his invectives against it as the mere corruption and annihilation of the one good of geometry, which was thus shamefully turning its back upon the unembodied objects of pure intelligence to recur to sensation, and to ask help (not to be obtained without base supervisions and depravation) from matter; so it was that mechanics came to be separated from geometry, and, repudiated and neglected by philosophers, took its place as a military art.

Archimedes, however, in writing to King Hiero, whose friend and near relation he was, had stated that given the force, any given weight might be moved, and even boasted, we are told, relying on the strength of demonstration, that if there were another earth, by going into it he could remove this. Hiero being struck with amazement at this, and entreating him to make good this problem by actual experiment, and show some great weight moved by a small engine, he fixed accordingly upon a ship of burden out of the king’s arsenal, which could not be drawn out of the dock without great labor and many men; and, loading her with many passengers and a full freight, sitting himself the while far off, with no great endeavor, but only holding the head of the pulley in his hand and drawing the cords by degrees, he drew the ship in a straight line, as smoothly and evenly as if she had been in the sea. The king, astonished at this, and convinced of the power of the art, prevailed upon Archimedes to make him engines accommodated to all the purposes, offensive and defensive, of a siege. These the king himself never made use of, because he spent almost all his life in a profound quiet and the highest affluence. But the apparatus was, in most opportune time, ready at hand for the Syracusans, and with it also the engineer himself.

When, therefore, the Romans assaulted the walls in two places at once, fear and consternation stupefied the Syracusans, believing that nothing was able to resist that violence and those forces. But when Archimedes began to ply his engines, he at once shot against the land forces all sorts of missile weapons, and immense masses of stone that came down with incredible noise and violence; against which no man could stand; for they knocked down those upon whom they fell in heaps, breaking all their ranks and files. In the meantime huge poles thrust out from the walls over the ships sunk some by the great weights which they let down from on high upon them; others they lifted up into the air by an iron hand or beak like a crane’s beak and, when they had drawn them up by the prow, and set them on end upon the poop, they plunged them to the bottom of the sea; or else the ships, drawn by engines within, and whirled about, were dashed against steep rocks that stood jutting out under the walls, with great destruction of the soldiers that were aboard them. A ship was frequently lifted up to a great height in the air (a dreadful thing to behold), and was rolled to and fro, and kept swinging, until the mariners were all thrown out, when at length it was dashed against the rocks, or let fall. At the engine that Marcellus brought upon the bridge of ships, which was called Sambuca, from some resemblance it had to an instrument of music, while it was as yet approaching the wall, there was discharged a piece of rock of ten talents weight, then a second and a third, which, striking upon it with immense force and a noise like thunder, broke all its foundation to pieces, shook out all its fastenings, and completely dislodged it from the bridge.

So Marcellus, doubtful what counsel to pursue, drew off his ships to a safer distance, and sounded a retreat to his forces on land. They then took a resolution of coming up under the walls, if it were possible, in the night; thinking that as Archimedes used ropes stretched at length in playing his engines, the soldiers would now be under the shot, and the darts would, for want of sufficient distance to throw them, fly over their heads without effect. But he, it appeared, had long before framed for such occasions engines accommodated to any distance, and shorter weapons; and had made numerous small openings in the walls, through which, with engines of a shorter range, unexpected blows were inflicted on the assailants. Thus, when they who thought to deceive the defenders came close up to the walls, instantly a shower of darts and other missile weapons was again cast upon them. And when stones came tumbling down perpendicularly upon their heads, and, as it were, the whole wall shot out arrows at them, they retired. And now, again, as they were going off, arrows and darts of a longer range inflicted a great slaughter among them, and their ships were driven one against another; while they themselves were not able to retaliate in any way. For Archimedes had provided and fixed most of his engines immediately under the wall; whence the Romans, seeing that indefinite mischief overwhelmed them from no visible means, began to think they were fighting with the gods.

Yet Marcellus escaped unhurt, and deriding his own artificers and engineers, “What,” said he, “must we give up fighting with this geometrical Briareus, who plays pitch-and-toss with our ships, and, with the multitude of darts which he showers at a single moment upon us, really outdoes the hundred-handed giants of mythology?”

And, doubtless, the rest of the Syracusans were but the body of Archimedes’ designs, one soul moving and governing all; for, laying aside all other arms, with this alone they infested the Romans and protected themselves. In fine, when such terror had seized upon the Romans that, if they did but see a little rope or a piece of wood from the wall, instantly crying out, that there it was again, Archimedes was about to let fly some engine at them, they turned their backs and fled, Marcellus desisted from conflicts and assaults, putting all his hope in a long siege.

Yet Archimedes possessed so high a spirit, so profound a soul, and such treasures of scientific knowledge, that though these inventions had now obtained him the renown of more than human sagacity, he yet would not deign to leave behind him any commentary or writing on such subjects; but, repudiating as sordid and ignoble the whole trade of engineering, and every sort of art that lends itself to mere use and profit, he placed his whole affection and ambition in those purer speculations where there can be no reference to the vulgar needs of life; studies, the superiority of which to all others is unquestioned, and in which the only doubt can be whether the beauty and grandeur of the subjects examined, of the precision and cogency of the methods and means of proof, most deserve our admiration. It is not possible to find in all geometry more difficult and intricate questions, or more simple and lucid explanations. Some ascribe this to his natural genius; while others think that incredible effort and toil produced these, to all appearances, easy and unlabored results. No amount of investigation of yours would succeed in attaining the proof, and yet, once seen, you immediately believe you would have discovered it; by so smooth and so rapid a path he leads you to the conclusion required. And thus it ceases to be incredible that (as is commonly told of him) the charm of his familiar and domestic Siren made him forget his food and neglect his person, to that degree that when he was occasionally carried by absolute violence to bathe or have his body anointed, he used to trace geometrical figures in the ashes of the fire, and diagrams in the oil on his body, being in a state of entire preoccupation, and, in the truest sense, divine possession with his love and delight in science. His discoveries were numerous and admirable; but he is said to have requested his friends and relations that, when he was dead, they would place over his tomb a sphere containing a cylinder, inscribing it with the ratio which the containing solid bears to the contained. Such was Archimedes, who now showed himself, and so far as lay in him the city also, invincible.

While the siege continued, Marcellus took Megara, one of the earliest founded of the Greek cities in Sicily, and capturing also the camp of Hippocrates at Acilae, killed above 8,000 men, having attacked them whilst they were engaged in forming their fortifications. He overran a great part of Sicily; gained over many towns from the Carthaginians, and overcame all that dared to encounter him.

As the siege went on, one Damippus, a Spartan, putting to sea in a ship from Syracuse, was taken. When the Syracusans much desired to redeem this man, and there were many meetings and treaties about the matter betwixt them and Marcellus, he had opportunity to notice a tower into which a body of men might be secretly introduced, as the wall near to it was not difficult to surmount, and it was itself carelessly guarded. Coming often thither, and entertaining conferences about the release of Damippus, he had pretty well calculated the height of the tower, and got ladders prepared.

The Syracusans celebrated a feast to Artemis; this juncture of time, when they were given up entirely to wine and sport, Marcellus laid hold of, and before the citizens perceived it, not only possessed himself of the tower, but, before the break of day, filled the wall around with soldiers, and made his way into the Hexapylum. The Syracusans now beginning to stir, and to be alarmed at the tumult, he ordered the trumpets everywhere to sound, and thus frightened them all into flight, as if all parts of the city were already won, though the most fortified, and the fairest, and most ample quarter was still ungained. It is called Achradina, and was divided by a wall from the outer city, one part of which they call Neapolis, the other Tycha.

Possessing himself of these, Marcellus, about break of day, entered through the Hexapylum, all his officers congratulating him. But looking down from the higher places upon the beautiful and spacious city below, he is said to have wept much, commiserating the calamity that hung over it, when his thoughts represented to him how dismal and foul the face of the city would be in a few hours, when plundered and sacked by the soldiers. For among the officers of his army there was not one man that durst deny the plunder of the city to the soldiers’ demands; nay, many were instant that it should be set on fire and laid level to the ground: but this Marcellus would not listen to.

Yet he granted, but with great unwillingness and reluctance, that the money and slaves should be made prey; giving orders, at the same time, that none should violate any free person, nor kill, misuse, or make a slave of any of the Syracusans. Though he had used this moderation, he still esteemed the condition of that city to be pitiable, and, even amidst the congratulations and joy, showed his strong feelings of sympathy and commiseration at seeing all the riches accumulated during a long felicity now dissipated in an hour. For it is related that no less prey and plunder was taken here than afterward in Carthage. For not long after they obtained also the plunder of the other parts of the city, which were taken by treachery; leaving nothing untouched but the king’s money, which was brought into the public treasury.

But nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus; which he declining to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration, the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was then at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate that, as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honored them with signal favors.

http://www.livius.org/sh-si/sicily/sicily_t17.html

Q.E.D. Archimedes was brilliant, the Romans stole all the Greeks’ money, and Syracuse was a neutral city whose neutrality was blatantly violated by the Romans in the 2d Punic War. And the Romans did it for the money. Plutarch is pretty much a reliable source.

PLUTARCH - ANCIENT GREEK HISTORIAN - A RELIABLE SOURCE ON THE FALL OF SYRACUSE AND THE DEATH OF ARCHIMEDES

ARCHIMEDES OF SYRACUSE - THE GREATEST MATHEMATICIAN OF ANCIENT TIMES AND DEFENDER OF SYRACUSE VS. THE ROMAN SIEGE

ARCHIMEDES – THE GREATEST MATHEMATICIAN OF ANCIENT TIMES AND DEFENDER OF SYRACUSE AGAINST THE ROMAN SIEGE

MY PICKS THEN AND NOW

Of 32 first-round picks, I only got 19 right, for barely a 59% percentage. That looks good until you realize by flipping a coin I’d get 50%, so basically that’s a 9% winning percentage. Not very impressive. The only two brackets I have reasonably correct are the East, where I have Kentucky meeting West Virginia in the Regional Final, which can still happen, and the South, where I had Duke meeting Baylor in the Regional Final. Of those, I had West Virginia upsetting Kentucky in my original bracket and going to the final four, and Duke beating Baylor to get to the Final Four. In the East bracket, I was totally busted as I had Kansas hitting Georgetown in the regional. Oops! Can you say University of Northern Iowa? In the West, I had Syracuse hitting Pitt. From there I had Kansas and Pitt in the final four, and Pitt v. West Va in the finals, with West Va winning. Well, that clearly was wrong. I did pick Villanova to lose in the second round, although it was to Richmond, and not to St. Mary’s, but I’ve never thought much of Jay Wright as a tournament coach, much less an NCAA coach. He had a good run last year, but usually ‘Nova has done poorly in both the Big East and the NCAA tournaments. Temple, by contrast, has usually done well in A-10 and NCAA tournaments, and Fran Dunphy has coached many fine teams not only at Temple, but at Penn and LaSalle before that.

In light of the first two rounds, I’d have to revise all that. In the East, I think Kentucky-West Virginia, first of all, is sort of the championship within the championship. Second, I believe Kentucky will win. I am also assuming that Kentucky will beat Cornell. West Virginia will beat Washington. In the South, Duke will handle Purdue, while St. Mary’s dance will end at the hands of Baylor, although that’s a bit more of a flip. It doesn’t really matter, since Duke will beat the winner of that game and advance to the final four. So it will be Duke v. Kentucky in that bracket. At this point, Kentucky will beat Duke in a good game, but John Wall is simply better. Also Calipari is a match for coach K.

The Midwest is tougher. Of course, I love the Spartans, and they will beat UNI. Ohio State is still a #2 seed, and they should handle Tennessee. That leaves an interesting Big Ten match up of Mich State v. Ohio State in the Regional Final, which I have to like Ohio State, but then again, Tom Izzo is a terrific coach, so really, it’s a flip. I have to favor Ohio State, but Michigan State has the coaching. Then again, the Spartans will be without one of their key players due to injury. Finally, in the West regional, I like Syracuse to beat Butler, although Butler is good and playing well. I also like Kansas State to beat Xavier, although again, Xavier is good and playing well. Neither will be easy games. That leaves Syracuse against Kansas State in the regional final. Here you have a #1 against a #2, and a real dogfight. I like Syracuse, but both teams are talented and well-coached. I like Syracuse to go to the final four. Out of that bracket, then, I like Ohio State v. Syracuse, and in that match up, I actually think Syracuse has an easier game against either Ohio State/Michigan State than they did against Kansas State, and Syracuse advanced to the final Round.

The final round therefore will be Syracuse against Kentucky, and this will be a terrific game. I like Kentucky here, but it will be a terrific game.

After notes: I was stunned to see Cornell beat an outstanding Temple team, but Cornell is legit—they have a 7-footer with hands who can pass, rebound and shoot, and they’ve surrounded him with a good point guard and several excellent three point shooters who can bomb it from way downtown. So you can play inside-outside all day long, and Temple was stuck double-teaming low or pressing on the perimeter, and getting burned on both ends. Cornell put up 78 points on Temple—and Temple allowed no more than 50 something in the A-10 against great teams like URI and Richmond, and shut down Xavier defensively in the regular season. And Cornell then went out and destroyed Wisconsin for good measure. No wonder Cornell has been on the front page of the WSJ for like a week straight.

Did I mention that Cornell is in ITHACA, NY? You remember Ithaca–that’s the place ODYSSEUS or as he’s known in latin, ULYSSES was from. He was a pretty famous king who went to TROY (another city in NY and also a famous kingdom in ASIA MINOR) to fight the TROJAN WAR, then got lost on the way back.

ULYSSES story of how he gets back to ITHACA is told in the screenplay and movie, “O WHERE ART THOU BROTHER?”, which of course is based upon the novel ULYSSES by James Joyce, which of course is based upon a famous old poem in decapentasyllabic metred Homeric Ancient Greek by an old blind goat named HOMER, called the ODYSSEY.

In ancient times, everyone was required to not only read this book but to memorize and recite it. ALEXANDER THE GREAT so loved the book, he kept a copy of it under his bed, along with the ILIAD.

So yes, even CORNELL has ties to ancient greece, in fact, their very town is the embodiment of all things greek–didn’t they read the poem by Cavafy about returning to Ithaca at Jackie O’s funeral???? Isn’t that in the last collection of poems by her daughter??? Everyone knows what HOME is–it’s ITHACA.

ITHACA LEGENDARY HOME OF ODYSSEUS AKA ULYSSES IN THE ODYSSEY GREEK ISLAND OFF THE IONIAN COAST OF SOUTHERN GREECE

And right across from Cornell is ITHACA COLLEGE–alma mater of my cousin–and of course, the setting for ROAD TRIP, one of the ten greatest films ever made about college life. And yes, everyone has been with a girl like Amy Smart once in their lives. Not. But if you’re Odysseus, you can spend five years with a hot siren, and chalk it up to mental defect or the effect of some goddess like nectar, and still plead the fifth to your wife, who remains faithful for yeah, 20 years.

Cornell is the best basketball team I’ve seen with four white guys on the floor since maybe the Boston Celtics of Bird-McHale-Ainge-Rick Robey-Parrish of the early 80s. Those Celtics had four white guys and they could flat out play. Of course, they got better, NBA championship better, when they got rid of Robey and got Dennis Johnson, who could flat out PLAY, plus he could shut down Andrew Toney, the Boston Strangler and ever-underrate Sixers sharpshooter, as Simmons points out in his recent fantastic book.

–art kyriazis, Philly hoops guy
March 25, 2010

LARRY BIRD OF FRENCH LICK, INDIANA & INDIANA STATE ON COVER OF SI 1977 WITH TWO CHEERLEADERS WHO ARE NOW YOUR MOTHERS OR GRANDMOTHERS