Nerds Become Anxious As Big Ten Network Summer Programming Draws to a Close

August 19, 2011

You might think everyone is excited about the upcoming college football season. But you’d be wrong. For nerds of the Big Ten Network , the end of summer is also the end of Big Ten Network summer programming.

This means no more countless replays of Vaughn Dunbar’s 39-carry, 147-yard performance over Kentucky in 1991, no more shows about the 10 best left-handed basketball duos from 1974-1977, no more profiles on Purdue alum Orville Redenbacher.

But come on, you say. Nobody watches this stuff, right? Once again, you’d be wrong. Between the months of May and August, Nielsen data shows the Big Ten Network attracts an average daily household rating of somewhere between zero and greater than zero. This means someone out there is watching this stuff.

Sketch artists have come up with a digital composite of what a typical Big Ten Network nerd might look like:

Face-painting is a given. The spiked shoulder pads – an obvious homage to the famed wrestling tag team known as the “Road Warriors” – are a nice touch. The monkey-shaped logo on the shoulder pads, I have no idea.

I do know that to this person, the idea of waiting until next May to watch the same profile on Red Grange causes severe stress and anxiety.

In fact, as we draw closer to the season, the Big Ten Network’s programming changes are already underway. Football team preview shows have already begun to replace things like marching band auditions.  Want to know what the Ohio State Buckeyes chances are this year? Better not blink, it’s only airing 17 times this weekend.

Soon, a few actual live football games will be televised. This will replace things like replays of spring scrimmages. Yes, I said scrimmages, which are essentially practice. Yes, Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice.

You must understand though, to a Big Ten Network nerd, practice counts as real programming, and you better believe scores of nerds are tuning in to watch college-aged men stand around in tight pants and take scheduled water breaks.

But soon, for nerds everywhere, it will all come to an end, and once again Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb’s school-record 558-yard passing performance against Indiana in 1988 will be a thing of the past. At least until next May.

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Top 7: NFL Defenders-Turned-Movie-Star-Performances

August 12, 2011

A tragic blow befell both the sports and entertainment worlds last week, when Bubba Smith died at the not-so-old age of 66. Smith starred at Michigan State and later in the NFL, where he played nine seasons, was named to two Pro Bowls, and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Colts.

Despite all his accolades on the gridiron, Smith was perhaps best-known as Cadet (and later Sergeant) Moses Hightower, a role he played in the original 1984 hit movie Police Academy, all the way through Police Academy 6: City Under Seige. He had the good sense to steer clear of part seven, 1994’s straight-to-video Police Academy: Mission to Moscow. Truly, if there is any silver lining with his passing, it could be that it’s by far the best assurance we have that there will never be a Police Academy 8.

As the world’s foremost expert on the Police Academy movie franchise, I can confidently say that Smith as the gentle giant florist-turned-hard-nosed-cop has to be one of the greatest acting performance ever turned in by an NFL defensive player. But where exactly does the Hightower character rank among all big screen performances by NFL defenders? For that, we resurrect an old friend, the Joe Sports Fan Top 7.

7. Howie Long – Kelly – Broken Arrow
When the character you’re playing doesn’t have a last name, that’s not a good sign. The only thing more square than Long’s haircut is his acting. Although deserving of every barb ever directed at him by Terry Bradshaw on Fox’s NFL Sunday, the death of his character in Broken Arrow did give birth to the Howie Scream, making it more memorable than Firestorm (1998), and thus making our list.

6. Bill Romanowski, Lawrence Taylor, and About 90 Other NFL Players – Prison Convicts – Any Given Sunday (1999)
Bill Romanowski and Lawrence Taylor playing football players that had significant run-ins with the law – that’s like Britney Spears playing a young woman driving cross country from the Deep South to Los Angeles to become a singer. And yet somehow, Romanowski is the only one of the three that’s avoided going to jail in real life. Go figure.

5. Brian Bosworth – Joe Huff / John Stone – Stone Cold (1991)
The best way to describe the movie Stone Cold would be as a poor man’s Road House. Now that you’ve been properly enticed, give it a look. Nobody else did. The contract “The Boz” signed as a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks brought in more money than this stinker. However, this movie did feature 92 minutes of Bosworth’s signature frosted mullet and enough male shirtlessness to make Chuck Norris blush. On this basis alone, this film clearly earns its merits.

4. Alex Karras – Mongo – Blazing Saddles (1974)
Sure, you know him as George Papadopoulos, the loving father of a tiny yet fully-grown man afflicted with a terrible genetic disorder, but Karras makes this list because of those three little words that everyone longs to hear: “Telegram for Mongo.”

3. Terry Crews – President Camacho – Idiocracy (2006)
Crews plays Dwayne Elizondo Camacho, 5-time Ultimate Smackdown champion, porn superstar, and president of the United States. He presided over the House of Representin’. He learned that water didn’t always come from the toilet. Crews actually turns in a really funny performance, and the movie is hilarious.

 

2. Dick Butkus – Hamburger: The Motion Picture (1986)
Glory Busterburgerlujah! Ah, one of the many advantages of growing up with HBO and absent parents has to be seeing this movie about 127 times as a child.  Somehow, former University of Illinois and Chicago Bears all-time great Dick Butkus, the man to whom all other linebackers will forever be compared, manages to raise his legacy to new heights with his stirring, heartfelt portrayal of Drill Sergeant Ben Drootin, who’s constantly cracking down the misfit students at Buster Burger University trying to earn their bachelor’s degrees in burgerology, or something like that. As an important side note: This movie contains more clever puns on gherkins and eating out than any other in history.

 

1. Bubba Smith – Sergeant Moses Hightower – Police Academy (Parts 1 Through 6)
It should come as no surprise that the dynamic role of Moses Hightower, played by the late Bubba Smith, tops our list. We watched as he blossomed from a mild-mannered florist into a one-man crime fighting force. We rooted for him as he overcame his own personal demons, like never having learned to drive a car.  We saw him stand up and fight for the rights of minorities, like he did for the patrons of the Blue Oyster Bar on numerous occasions. We watched as he grew into a more prominent leadership role, starting in Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach following the departure of Carey Mahoney. But most of all, we learned that there was no shortage of objects he could throw a really, really long way – be it a football, a set of matched luggage, what have you.

Honorable Mentions:

Lyle Alzado – Bronk Stinson – Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)
Any reason to bring up Ernest Goes to Camp is a good one. End of discussion.

Jim Brown – Fireball – The Running Man (1987), Slammer – I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
Okay, so Jim Brown was not a defender. Who cares? This is Joe Sports Fan, not U.S. News & World Report. I’m sure he made a tackle or two after an interception during his career. I refuse to leave the man that played Fireball off this list completely.


Adam Dunn and the Race for .178

August 4, 2011

With baseball’s dog days of August squarely upon us, history is in the making. And people are starting to stand up and take notice.

Less than two months are left in baseball’s 2011 edition, and Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Dunn has a chance to break the all-time modern day record for lowest batting average in a season for a player with enough at bats to qualify for the batting title, a mark set by former Detroit Tigers outfielder Rob Deer, who hit a putrid .179 in 1991.

Yes, the record many thought would never be broken is now suddenly within reach. If you ask Dunn though, all the hype and media attention surrounding “The Race for .178” is a bit premature.

“It’s too early to start talking about (the record) just yet,” Dunn said. “I don’t want to jinx it. My goal all along was to get to September and hopefully my batting average would be no higher than .170. If that happens, then I’ll start to feel like I’ve got a legitimate shot.”

Dunn enters today’s play hitting just .166. However, with two hits in his last six at bats, his average has risen four points in the last two games.

“Sometimes that’s just how it goes,” said Dunn. “You try to get out there, take it one day at a time and put some really horrible at bats together. Sometimes the ball just finds a hole. It’s probably dumb luck more than anything, really.”

To his credit, Deer, the reigning Lowest Batting Average King – who also had a career average of .220 in 11 major league seasons – has been supportive of Dunn’s quest, even lending him advice at times.

“It was more difficult than you’d think, finding a way to not get hits day after day,” Deer said recently in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “For me, it was often easier if I just struck out. If you actually make contact, there’s always the off chance you could hit it somewhere a fielder isn’t standing.”

Deer struck out a phenomenal 175 times during his epic season in 448 at bats, a 39 percent clip. Dunn has been even more productive in that department, thus far whiffing 138 times in just 316 at bats, not making contact with the ball nearly 44 percent of the time.

As expected, the White Sox organization and fans are 100 percent committed to Dunn and his shot at history, even if it’s to the detriment of the rest of the team.

“We plan to keep Dunn in the lineup every day, no matter how many games it costs us,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. “Of course Adam won’t come out and say it, but we know how much this record means to him. Plus, the guys really get up for this. Everybody wants to be a part of history.”

“The fans have been great, really supportive,” added Dunn. “Every time I make another out, they get really loud and start yelling things. You can tell they’re fired up about it.”

Unfortunately, whenever a prestigious batting record has a chance of being broken, the subject of performance-enhancing drugs rises to the forefront.

Recently, an Associated Press reporter noticed some suspicious-looking bottles on top of Dunn’s locker. When questioned about this, Dunn said, “Yeah, I’ve been drowning my sorrows with a 12-pack of Schlitz every night. That seems to do the trick.”

For his historic efforts, Dunn will make $12 million this year, and is signed through 2014, when he tops out at $15 million.