Friday, October 30, 2009

Bits and Bytes: Enjoy no. 1 while you can, Kansas!

That's right, Bill. You've got two weeks left as the unbeaten top-ranked team in the land.

It’s official: Your good friend and mine Jeremy Kniffin can get rid of the qualifier “likely” when it comes to referring to Kansas as the preseason no. 1 team.

The Associated Press unveiled its first poll of the ’09-’10 campaign Thursday, and despite rampant internal dissension in Lawrence and the overwhelming likelihood of a lopsided loss to the Flying Dutchmen two weeks from tonight, the damn liberal media still made the Jayhawks the overwhelming pick to win the national championship. Kansas, which returns all five starters from a year ago, received 55 of the 61 first-place votes.

Amazingly, the anti-Hofstra bias in the poll was three-tiered. The only school in the top six not to receive a first-place vote was Villanova. Still disrespecting Jay Wright for his Hofstra days, AP dudes and dudettes?

Even worse, two CAA teams received votes, and neither is based in Hempstead. Defending champion VCU got two votes and reigning champion Old Dominion received one vote. So many doubters, so little time.

That’s OK though. The over/under on Hofstra’s spot in the next top 25—to be tabulated, of course, after the Dutchmen shock the world—is 1.5. Bet the under if you know what’s good for you.

Some other bits and bytes as I put the finishing touches on my Tom Pecora costume and prepare for the Freak Formal tomorrow night:

—Speaking of Pecora, sort of, I have to begrudgingly admit that Noted Hofstra Hater Mike Litos made a pretty good case yesterday for Northeastern’s Bill Coen, and not Pecora, as the best coach in the league. From literally the moment he stepped on campus in 2005, Coen has done more with less than anyone in turning a hockey school into a perennial basketball contender.

Still, what jumps out at me there is not the ruthlessness of Ron Everhart or the spot men’s hoops occupies on the athletic totem pole at Northeastern. It’s that the administration there was willing to send one of its secondary programs across the country to continue its season in a new—and admittedly dubious—postseason tournament.

Am I unnecessarily harping on an issue I already ranted about in April? Possibly.  Is this going to annoy the powers that be? Positively. And with the benefit of hindsight, I can almost—ALMOST—see how the disappointing performance of last year’s seniors could have influenced the decision not to continue the season, as was rumored way back when.

But, again: I keep coming back to how the Dutchmen performed down the stretch last year—better than both Northeastern and James Madison, the latter of which won two games in the CIT, and almost as well as Old Dominion, which edged the Dutchmen by one point in the CAA quarters—and it annoys me a program that is The Program on campus, one with an underclassmen core that was just beginning to gel in February and March, didn’t get an opportunity to gain some valuable postseason experience.

Is it any coincidence the CAA’s consensus top two teams both recorded victories in these new tournaments last season? I think not. Anyway, that’s all out of me about that. Until the Dutchmen play Old Dominion, at least.

—I try not to be one of Those People who harps on every little error or misconception a national writer makes about my alma mater, but I can’t let this one go without comment: In reporting the UFL’s decision to move next Wednesday’s New York-Las Vegas game from the Mets’ new stadium (screw them, I’m not calling it by its actual name) to Shuart Stadium, writer Andrew Kossak theorizes it’s a good idea because “…it’s on a college campus, meaning ticket sales could easily increase as the student body is looking for some entertainment.”

Yeah, ask Joe Gardi and Dave Cohen how far the Hofstra student body has to look for entertainment options before it settles for the football team. Kossak is also a bit too optimistic in projecting the crowd at Shuart Stadium, writing “…it’ll look a lot better on TV to see a half- of three-quarter full Shuart Stadium than a near empty [Corporate Stadium Name redacted].”

I’ll bet you, right now, that even the announced attendance for next week’s game is closer to the 2,751 that turned out for the James Madison game than the 7,160 that showed up for the opener against Stony Brook. And that might even include me, because I whole-heartedly support minor leagues that temporarily call Hofstra home! When is the United States Basketball League starting again, anyway?

—Speaking of the UFL, how bad are things going for our beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers, known worldwide as The Official NFL Team Of Defiantly Dutch? So bad that Tatum Bell thinks his UFL team—the Florida Tuskers, whatever the hell that is—could beat the 0-7 Bucs, who mercifully have a bye this week but will debut their third starting quarterback of the season next week against the Packers.

That’s crazy talk, as AOL Fanhouse blogger Matt Snyder subtly points out. But with the Bucs’ final nine opponents owning a 34-21 record, can we get a game at Hofstra against the Tuskers, just to assure one win?

—Lastly, stop back later tonight or tomorrow for a Halloween-themed Time Machine. And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten yesterday’s 15th anniversary of the gut-wrenching loss to Towson. I’ve got a feature in mind to commemorate that and am hoping to speak to a couple people in time to unveil it next week.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The “what ifs” are haunting for Flying Dutchmen gridders

When the Flying Dutchmen football season ends—and barring a miracle, that’ll occur sometime at Shuart Stadium in the late afternoon hours of Nov. 21—Dave Cohen and his staff will be able to look back on it as a reasonably successful one in which the program began to emerge from the wreckage of a miserable 2008 campaign, proved it could compete with most of the best teams in the land and laid the foundation for a potential playoff run in 2010.

But that is of little consolation right now to the Dutchmen, and particularly the seniors whose hopes of reaching the Division I-AA playoffs likely ended with an 18-10 loss to New Hampshire last Saturday.

“For our leadership, for our seniors, that’s a tough locker room right now,” Cohen said. “It’s a very emotional locker room. They understood that their backs were against the wall if they planned on playing past the regular season. And beyond the CAA teams knocking each other off in the next month or so…it’s going to be difficult for that to happen.”

At 4-4, the Dutchmen would theoretically be in the mix for an at-large spot if they sweep Delaware, Northeastern and Massachusetts to end the season. But Delaware and UMass are both in the top 15 and the Dutchmen’s only win against a ranked team this season came at the expense of skidding James Madison.

Beating ninth-ranked New Hampshire would have provided the Dutchmen that much-needed signature win, but missed opportunities in all facets of the game cost the Dutchmen dearly. On offense, the Dutchmen once again had the edge in time of possession (for the seventh time this year) and total yardage (for the sixth time), but were haunted again by inefficiency—particularly in the red zone, where they scored just twice in four possessions.

“As I’ve been saying all week, the yardage statistic is very, I think, overused,” Cohen said. “The point statistic is really the only one that matters. Winning and losing [and] putting the ball in the end zone.”

The Dutchmen produced another impressive performance on defense, but with the offense providing little margin for error, the cracks displayed in the second half—when New Hampshire scored its lone touchdown by marching 81 yards in just five plays on its first possession and later went 4-of-8 on third down conversions—were especially costly.

On special teams, a bad snap on a punt midway through the fourth quarter resulted in a safety, and New Hampshire drove for a field goal following the subsequent free kick.

“The same mistakes that have hurt us in some games came back to prevent us from winning this football game as well,” Cohen said, no doubt referring to the Homecoming game against Maine in which the Dutchmen committed seven turnovers, allowed one quick touchdown drive by the Black Bears and missed a field goal in a 16-14 loss. “They’re not new demons. They’re just returning ones.”

The good news is there will be plenty of opportunity to exorcise those demons. The Dutchmen returned 20 starters this season, 15 of whom are juniors or sophomores. The struggles the Dutchmen are enduring this season would seem to be the type of learning experiences that can hasten the maturity of a young team as well as provide it some motivational fuel next summer and fall.

And even throwing a scare into the likes of New Hampshire and Division I-A Western Michigan qualifies as an encouraging step forward for a program that was shut out twice last season and suffered six losses by two touchdowns or more—and is just six weeks removed from a 47-0 loss to top-ranked Richmond.

“The guys that run that locker room have done a great job,” Cohen said. “Last year, we essentially graduated our whole team after going 7-4 and those guys have kept this thing together in some much more miserable times than losing to the no. 7 or no. 8 team in the country 18-10.”

Still, what-if defeats like Saturday are even more haunting than the uncompetitive losses are discouraging. “When you have two games like this in three weeks, we’ve got to do a better job,” Cohen said. “We’ve got to play more disciplined and we’ve got to continue to grow and mature. A year ago, we’re not in half of these games, and that’s the good news. We’re in them.

“But, you know what, these kids worked too hard and this is how we support our families. It all comes down to winning these games.”

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at 

In which your world-famous blogger attempts to remain humble by continuing his Running Tally

No offense, Mike and Eamonn, but you're not nearly as good-looking as Cindy Mancini.

One of my favorite books ever is The Worst Team Money Could Buy, a warts-and-all behind-the-scenes look at the embarrassment that was the 1992 Mets by longtime New York baseball writers Bob Klapisch and John Harper. The book is as much about the media and the Mets’ toxic relationship with it as it is baseball, which is probably why I love it so much.

The book is filled with little vignettes about what it’s like to be a baseball writer, including one by Klapisch titled “A Day In The Life” that is pretty self-explanatory. Klapisch writes of the pros of his career choice, which include seeing “…his name in print every day—and if you don’t believe that matters, ask how many writers leave their bylines off their stories.”

Sixteen years after the book was published, newspapers are, of course, dead of countless self-inflicted wounds.  So these days, those of us who write for a “living” (snort) do it online and get our rush out of seeing our work linked somewhere else.

And so it was that I pounded my chest on Monday, upon seeing that your good friend and mine Mike Litos linked to my recap of the Blue/Gold Scrimmage Saturday and noted how Charles Jenkins sounded “…like a 40-year-old assistant coach” in praising point guard Chaz Williams. And then, on Tuesday, I ran down the street with my laptop bellowing “WHO’S THE MAN NOW?!” when I saw my story linked by Eamonn Brennan in Yahoo! Sports’ college basketball blog, The Dagger.

I’m in the big time now, and unlike in high school, it didn’t involve me paying the hottest girl in school to pretend to be my girlfriend for a few weeks. Thanks to Mike and Eamonn for the links, and I figure the best way to avoid falling into the same trap I did as a teenager—when my new-found popularity turned me into an insufferable jerk who alienated everyone, at least until the conveniently happy ending in which Cindy and I rode off into the sunset on my lawn mower, please, if that was my life, she’d have to walk off into the sunset as I pushed the mower along—is to get right back into the routine here by doing the same thing I did as a nobody last week, namely posting my second Running Tally of CAA predictions.

(That might be the longest paragraph ever not written by Joseph Conrad, my apologies)

Anyway, we’ve got three new polls added to the Tally: (thanks to Litos for that link as well), Bleacher Report and Rush The Court, the latter of which is written by maven Ryan Kish. He doesn’t pick Mason first. He’s a better man than I’d be in that position!

Click on the links to see all the picks. And see below to, err, see the new running tally and how the new additions influenced the overall rankings.

1.) Old Dominion (7) 12

2.) Northeastern 23

3.) VCU (2) 24

4.) George Mason 36

5.) HOFSTRA 49

6.) James Madison 51

7.) Georgia State 71

8.) Drexel 72

9.) Delaware 86

10.) UNC Wilmington 90

11.) Towson 91

12.) William & Mary 97

First place votes in parenthesis

Polls collected thus far: CAA, Blue Ribbon, Sporting News, Lindy’s, Athlon, Brian Mull,, Bleacher Report, Rush The Court

—Our beloved Dutchmen were once again disrespected by the damn liberal media as and Rush The Court picked them sixth and Bleacher Report pegged them for fifth, However, that was enough for the Dutchmen to break the fifth-place tie with James Madison. The Dutchmen have been picked sixth six times (Kickstart My Heart!), fifth once and fourth twice. So many doubters, so little time.

—Old Dominion continues to put a stranglehold on the top spot by collecting three more first-place votes. No other team has been picked in the same place as often as ODU. The Monarchs have been picked first by everyone except Sporting News and Lindy’s.

—Northeastern, meanwhile, surges past VCU for the overall second spot by being picked second in each of the three new polls. The Huskies and Dutchmen are the only teams to be picked in the same spot in six polls. In addition, NU has been picked among the top three eight times in nine polls.

—VCU is still solidly entrenched among the top three after receiving two threes (Rivals and Bleacher Report) and a fourth. The Rams and Old Dominion remain the only two schools picked in the top four in all nine polls.

—If this were the Billboard Hot 100, the “Hot Mover” of the week would be UNC Wilmington, which jumps from 12th to 10th on the strength of two eighths (Rivals and Bleacher Report) and an 11th. Interesting that even the most recent polls are all over the place with the Seahawks—from the afore-mentioned eighth-place picks to Brian Mull’s ninth-place vote and the 12th-place vote in the CAA poll.

—The team whose fortunes seem to be taking the biggest uptick, though, is probably Georgia State, which moves from eighth to seventh thanks to collecting a fourth (Bleacher Report) a fifth (Rivals) and a seventh (RTC). The Panthers remain the most volatile team: They’ve been picked in seven spots in just nine polls. The only places they’ve been selected twice: Eighth and 12th. The only teams picked in as many as five different spots are George Mason, Towson and UNC Wilmington.

—More Georgia State: The Panthers are the only team keeping the ODU-NU-VCU-GMU-Hofstra-JMU sextet from a sweep of the top six spots. Those squads have received 51 of the 54 top six votes.

—George Mason and Delaware are the only teams other than Old Dominion to remain in the same spot as Running Tally I. Mason got a third (RTC), fourth (Rivals) and a sixth (Bleacher Report), the latter of which marked the first time the Patriots have been picked outside the top five. Delaware was picked ninth once (RTC) and 10th twice, which makes sense for a team that is considerably weaker now than it was when the preview magazines were put together in mid-summer. In fact, the only publications to pick the Blue Hens higher than the bottom third were Sporting News and Lindy’s (eighth in both).

—James Madison received a fifth (RTC) and two sevenths to fall behind the Dutchmen. The Dukes have been picked between fifth and seventh in all but one poll (fourth by Lindy’s).

—Drexel was picked below seventh in just one of the first six polls but in all three of the new polls: Eighth by RTC and ninth by Rivals and Bleacher Report. Won’t anyone listen to Litos and stop underestimating the Dragons and Bruiser Flint?

—This probably isn’t the type of versatility Pat Kennedy and Towson fans would like to see: The Tigers were picked 10th (RTC), 11th (Rivals) and 12th (Bleacher Report) in the new polls to fall to 11th overall.

—And finally, the College of Bill Lawrence falls into last thanks to two 12ths (Rivals and RTC) and an 11th. The Scrubs have been picked to finish in double digits by everyone except Sporting News (ninth).

—The Hofstra disrespect is spreading to Charles Jenkins, who was overlooked as the preseason player of the year by both Rivals (Gerald Lee) and Bleacher Report (Larry Sanders). RTC did not select a preseason POY. Sanders is now the leader with three votes, followed by Jenkins and Lee with 2.5 votes apiece.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Please allow me to promote myself…

A quick note here to shamelessly tout a couple non-DD projects of mine. First, if you’ve ever wanted to confirm that I have a face and a voice made for print/pixels, then please stop by the Book Revue in Huntington tomorrow night at 7 p.m. I’ll be talking about my book about the Red Sox and the media, Fighting Words, as well as signing copies. I’m not saying you should go and buy a copy, but, well, how else am I going to put food on the table?

Seriously, to be part of a signing at the Book Revue—recognized as one of the best independent bookstores in the country and long my favorite bookstore on the Island—is as awesome as it is humbling. Check out the list of upcoming author signings there…I’m in the company of Mike Huckabee, Tracy Morgan and Al Roker! Sounds like a joke. “A former presidential candidate, ex-Saturday Night Live star, a weatherman and a Hofstra blogger walk into a bookstore…”

if you’re in the area, please stop by for some baseball talk on the eve of the World Series…and maybe even a question or two about the Flying Dutch.

Secondly, the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook—for which I wrote the America East previews—is out and available for purchase at its website here. I am ashamed to admit I’d never bought the Blue Ribbon before this year. Don’t be like me. While the other yearbooks give a page or two to the mid-majors, Blue Ribbon examines every nook and cranny of every single Division I team in 400 thorough pages. It is the best friend a mid-major fan can possibly have.

If nothing else, you owe it to your good friend and mine, Mike Litos, to buy Blue Ribbon for his typically outstanding and comprehensive CAA preview. Even if he did pick Hofstra sixth. Hey Mike, you can make it up to me and the rest of Dutch Nation (snort) by coming up from Virginia for the signing tomorrow.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at 

Shirts...Skins! Shirts...Skins! (Or: You’re going to like this Chaz Williams kid)

If I'm recapping the Blue/Gold Scrimmage then it must be time to pull out the Just One Of The Guys photo! If only I could come up with multiple reasons per season to reference the second-greatest film ever made.

For 23 minutes and change Saturday the Blue/Gold Scrimmage was as important as it was devoid of long-term meaning. As pivotal as it was for the Flying Dutchmen to play in a competitive atmosphere and in front of a crowd for the first time this season, it was also just the ninth day of practice for a team that is still, much like the other 345 Division I programs, a work in progress.

And then, with the final seconds of the scrimmage ticking away, it happened. Freshman Chaz Williams stole the ball, went the length of the court and dunked for Blue’s final basket. The few dozen fans cheered wildly for the 5-foot-9 Williams, who is viewed as the answer to the point guard problem that has plagued the Dutchmen the last two seasons.

The dunk capped an impressive afternoon by Williams, who effectively ran the point and displayed a fearless offensive approach. He twice drove the lane on the 6-foot-9 Miklos Szabo while also displaying some accuracy from outside. He made his final four attempts from the field in the first 12-minute half and missed just one shot in the second half.

“He’s a great point guard,” Charles Jenkins said. “He’s got great vision for the game. His court vision is amazing. He makes the right plays. He’s still learning how to get shots because of his size…[and] he’s going to have to learn what passes not to make, but once he polishes those things off, he’s going to be a great addition to this program.”

Williams is far from the only newcomer on the roster. There will be more players making their debut for the Dutchmen this season (six) than holdovers (five), and there’s two more additions who will sit out the season in Fordham transfer Mike Moore and freshman Paul Bilbo.

Like the practices that preceded it, the Blue/Gold Scrimmage was predictably unpredictable. “We still made a couple mistakes up there that are going to get brushed up,” Jenkins said. “We’ve got two or three more weeks to polish those up.”

“Some possessions we looked very good, some possessions we looked very young, depending on whose hands the ball was in,” Tom Pecora said. “We’ve got to get them old quickly.”

Much of the responsibility for aging the new Dutchmen will fall on the shoulders of Jenkins, who isn’t exactly old himself. But serving as a leader is nothing new to Jenkins, who was the Dutchmen captain as a sophomore last season even though he didn’t turn 20 until February and was the youngest player on the roster.

“It’s like a new environment,” Jenkins said. “Last year we had a lot of veterans on the team that were already adjusted to the program. This year, you’ve got a lot of freshmen that are going to take a little bit more time than it took the veterans to mold, just as far as the offense and the defense and how physical the nature of college basketball is. But I think as time progresses, we’re going to be a very good team.”

Some other Bits and Bytes from the scrimmage:

—One potentially encouraging sign Saturday: The smaller lineup that took the court for the Blue team in the second half of the scrimmage—in which Nathaniel Lester is the small forward in a quintet that also features Jenkins, Williams, Cornelius Vines and Greg Washington—beat the Gold 40-22. The Blue team in the first half featured 6-foot-8 freshman Halil Kanacevic instead of Vines.

“We do that all the time—we get Lester minutes at both spots,” Pecora said. “You want him to get those minutes in a live setting.”

—Lester and Jenkins seemed to find their shooting touch in the second half. According to our unofficial stat book (I’ll freely admit I didn’t capture everything between all the Tweeting and the frantic Googling of Freddy Asprilla, the sought-after transfer from Florida International who was in attendance and making an official visit to Hofstra one weekend after visiting Kansas State), Lester missed his final four shots of the first half but was 3-for-5 from the field in the second half. Jenkins missed his final five shots of the first half but was 4-of-7 from the field in the second half.

—And Life With Corny proved just as unconscious as ever (in that inimitable, he’s-fun-to-watch-when-it’s-not-your-patience-he’s-testing way) by going 1-for-7 in the first half and missing his first three shots of the second half before draining three of his final four attempts. Remarkably, none of the baskets were from beyond the arc as Vines drove the lane multiple times and tipped in a miss and hit a layup on consecutive possessions late in the second half.

Vines also, I kid you not, ran the point at times in the first half. Yes, please, make this happen. The trigger-happy Vines at the point: It’ll be the 21st century version of the cop movie about two mismatched partners.

—With a long jumper from just inside the 3-point line in the first half, a steal near midcourt in the second half and a couple buckets inside the paint, Greg Washington provided a performance reminiscent of his breakout outing in the win at Delaware in February. Understandably, he didn’t roam on the perimeter nearly as much in the second half, when he was the lone big man on the court for the Blue team.

—Other than Williams, the newcomer who made the biggest impression Saturday was Brad Kelleher, a 6-foot guard from Australia who played the last two seasons at Midland College in Texas. Kelleher, a Jeff Fox lookalike, hit three 3-pointers in the second half and scored 13 points overall in the final 12 minutes. He also effectively ran the point a few times.

—In addition to Williams and Kelleher, Pecora was also impressed with Kanacevic as well as 6-foot-2 freshman guard Yves Jules, who had a steal and a subsequent dunk early in the second half. David Imes, a 6-foot-7 freshman, had a handful of rebounds in the first half.

—Interesting to note that Miklos Szabo played with the Gold team—comprised largely of newcomers and likely reserves—in both halves. He and Kanacevic—separated by an inch and five pounds—tussled for position throughout the first half. How will Pecora distribute the minutes between Szabo, Kanacevic and Imes when he goes with the smaller lineup?

—If Saturday is any indication, the scoring drought for Dutchmen walk-ons is about to end. Matt Grogan, a 6-foot-5 guard from Middle Village, drained two 3-pointers in the second half and converted a four-point play. The last Dutchmen walk-on to score was Ryan Johnson, who hit a free throw against Dartmouth Dec. 17, 2005. David Vallins, who was a walk-on the last two seasons, missed the only attempt of his career against Longwood Jan. 28. 2008 and memorably broke our hearts by passing the ball as time expired against Northeastern Jan. 5.

—And finally, Jenkins’ take on scrimmaging at the end of the first FanFest. “[It] was just a practice where we had more viewers than usual.”

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Friday, October 23, 2009

Everyday is not like Saturday

Morrissey was not singing about Hofstra sports when he crooned "The more you ignore me, the closer I get." (Bet you thought I'd riff on "Everyday Is Like Sunday," huh?)

Being a Hofstra grad means long ago coming to grips with the fact that Midnight Madness and overflow crowds at football games are things that happen at other schools. On the bright side, we rarely have to deal with frontrunners, and it’s kind of cool to feel as if you’re in on the secret that nobody else knows about when you’re among the two dozen people at Suppertime Shootaround or the couple thousand of fans at a football game.

Still, I read about Mason Madness (and wonder how many of those fans showed up in October 2005) and the Old Dominion community going batty over the football team and can’t help but wish it’d be like that at Hofstra, just once.

Tomorrow would seem to present an opportunity to learn what such experiences are like. The men’s basketball “Fan Fest” begins at 11 am and features a 90-minute Blue and White Scrimmage that ends at 2:30 p.m., which gives everyone in attendance half an hour to get across Hempstead Turnpike for the kickoff of the football game against ninth-ranked New Hampshire.

I mean, does it get any better than that? A wall-to-wall day of Hofstra sports, the chance to build and partake in the communal atmosphere generated by college sports and you’re home in time to watch the Yankees take the next step towards blowing the ALCS (that’s to make sure my wife is reading). October rules so much.

And with both programs at pivotal junctures, it’s a perfect time for this type of exposure. The minimal expectations of the big fat meanies that cover the CAA aside, the buzz is building around the Flying Dutchmen basketball team, and major props to the powers that be for making the five returning players available for autographs before the youth clinic starts at 11:30. The more people that are on board before the Dutchmen knock off top-ranked Kansas three weeks from today, the better.

The football team, meanwhile, controls its playoff fate with a month left in the season and can increase its profile by knocking off perennially powerful New Hampshire. A win there, in front of hundreds or even thousands of newcomers to Shuart Stadium, would theoretically provide an immeasurable boost to the program’s popularity.

Alas, the Dutchmen will be decided underdogs against New Hampshire, and even an upset victory probably won’t change a thing. If you’re of a certain age—like, older than 20—you know how it’s nearly impossible for the men’s basketball program to sustain momentum from week to week and over the course of the season, never mind a football program that drew flies even when it was among the nation’s best.

And like usual, it looks like Mother Nature won’t be doing the gridders any favors, so my guess is the day for most people will end with the final whistle of the Blue and White Scrimmage. Oh well. If that’s the case, it won’t lessen my enjoyment of a day I wish would come up on the calendar more than once every Yankees-Angels playoff series.

I’ll hope to convey my enthusiasm over on Twitter, where I’ll do my best to crash the servers by live Tweeting the crap out of both the Blue and White Scrimmage and the football game. Stop by at and join the fun! And return here Monday morning (this is the Sunday I snap out of my usual football-watching sloth and produce a post by sunrise Monday, I swear) as I begin to recap the weekend.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at 

The 1994 Time Machine: Pulp Fiction

It’s a lot easier to explain to the young ‘uns the appeal of Pulp Fiction than it is to explain, oh, I don’t know, Hootie and the Blowfish. There’s a reason Pulp Fiction is continually among the top 10 favorite movies at, and it ain’t because dudes in their mid-30s are stuffing the virtual ballot box.

But as much as Pulp Fiction is a multi-generational hit, trust me when I tell you this: Seeing the movie on its opening day Oct. 14, 1994—and countless times thereafter as it became a cultural sensation—is an experience you cannot match and cannot hope to replicate.

Like any wanna-be hipster in 1994, I was into Quentin Tarantino. He’d written the latest Greatest Movie I’d Ever Seen, True Romance, and even though I’d only seen his breakthrough film Reservoir Dogs once at the time, I loved it and nodded along with everyone in the office who was spouting lines from the movie and joined in the mimicking of Mr. Blonde whenever someone cued up “Stuck In The Middle With You.”

Pulp Fiction arrived with plenty of buzz (built the old-fashioned way, via newspapers and word of mouth) and we were anticipating the movie for weeks, so much so that we couldn’t even wait until Friday night to see it. We piled into a friend’s car shortly before 2 pm—I’ll never forget darting out of an English class and the driver motioning for me to hurry it up—and went to a theatre in downtown Hempstead, which, you know, was not an area that Hofstra encouraged its students to frequent.

But we would have gone to Siberia if it meant seeing Pulp Fiction, and it would have been worth the effort. We went in expecting awesomeness, and what we got was indescribably better than that.

All I remember is watching it with giant, ear-to-ear grin plastered across my face. It was brilliant, it was boisterous, it was savage, it was hilarious, it was exhilarating, it was random, it shattered all the conventions of modern film-making and, in the end, it was even a little noble.

The film, almost overnight, turned Tarantino into Hollywood royalty. Pulp Fiction became the first independent film to gross $100 million, earned seven Oscar nominations (and won for best screenplay), revived the career of John Travolta and turned Samuel L. Jackson into an A-lister. But my favorite performance in the film remains the one brilliantly turned in by Bruce Willis who, as the alternately scheming and sympathetic boxer Butch, utters pages and pages worth of dialogue without ever opening his mouth—or, in his first scene, by barely even batting an eyelash.

The non-linear script rewarded those who stuck with it and left the writers and pseudo film critics in the audience with plenty to digest, particularly in the days before we knew everything about a movie long before it hit the theatres. To know that the unforgettable third act featured Vincent, who was blown to pieces in the second act, would have ruined some of the mouth agape fun. And bursts of shocking violence that followed moments of tranquility and inconsequence would not have been nearly as jarring if we already had an idea of what was going to happen.

The symbolism was alternately obvious and sneaky: Jules sucks a soda dry in front of the doomed Brad and—in one of my favorite scenes—the board games Operation and Life are stacked atop one another as Vincent and Lance frantically try to figure out how to save the overdosing Mia.

The pop culture references from Tarantino (who reportedly played the “Welcome Back Kotter” board game with Travolta in wooing the actor) were both winking and obscure. There was the almost poignant scene of Mia and Vincent dancing, which served as a reminder of what Travolta once was 17 years earlier in Saturday Night Fever, as well as a discussion of what a television pilot is right before Jules and Vincent complete an early morning killing.

And even today, we still marvel at the layers to the story. Why does Marcellus have a band-aid on his neck and what’s in that briefcase, the one that is opened with the combination 6-6-6?

There are the acts of shocking gallantry and vulnerability displayed by Butch and Jules. Butch, less than 24 hours removed from swindling Marcellus Wallace and showing no remorse for killing a man with his bare hands, runs back into the hillbilly dungeon to rescue Marcellus from a gang rape.

Jules reconsiders his ways after he and Vincent survive point-blank attempts on their life immediately after executing Brad and preaches the gospel to Pumpkin, while Vincent condescendingly dismisses Jules’ affirmations and ends up paying dearly for his lack of faith, first by accidentally shooting Marvin in the face and then getting murdered by Butch days later.

The only thing worse than listening to a guy butcher movie lines is reading a guy butcher movie lines—especially on a blog that strives to be PG-13 most of the time—so I’ll spare you most of that, except to say that the unforgettably quotable cameos by Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel provided the best of the hilarious one-liners that served as a collective bonding experience.

I truly can’t count how many times we saw Pulp Fiction during its theatrical run (I swear it ran as the $1 movie on campus for the entire spring 1995 semester). It remains a hair behind Heathers as my favorite movie ever (if you think this is gushing, be glad Heathers wasn't released in 1994) and and one of those movies that, whenever it shows up on one of the pay cable channels, demands I drop whatever it is I’m doing and watch it. I watched it on DVD as I wrote this, except I did little writing, because even 15 years later it’s impossible to turn away from the screen.

Pulp Fiction was the perfect movie for the semester in which the reality was even better than my sky-high expectations. It was, by far, the best time I’ve ever had in a movie theatre, and I’m sure it’ll never be surpassed now that I’m old and grumbling about how expensive tickets are and how those damn kids won’t keep it down during the film.

“That was [expletive] trippy,” Jody says after Mia is revived. It sure was, in ways that could only be truly experienced and appreciated if you were sitting in a movie theatre for the very beginning of a pop culture revolution.

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Fifteen years (and one day) ago: Hofstra 34, Buffalo 21

If Buffalo's logo was this bad-ass in 1994, maybe the Bulls would have beaten the Flying Dutchmen.

Editor’s note: “Fifteen years ago today…” is a feature we’ll be running all fall at Defiantly Dutch as we look back on how the unforgettable 1994 football season unfolded. I’ll add quotes to note and other random memories of the games as well. The first four entries are as follows:

Wins over Butler, Bucknell and Fordham

Win over Lafayette

Win over New Hampshire

Win over Central Connecticut

Today: A recap of the 34-21 win over Buffalo Oct. 22.

Oct. 22, 1994: Hofstra 34, Buffalo 21

QB Carlos Garay rushed for 128 yards despite an offensive line weakened by the absence of the ill Dave Fiore, accounted for more than 300 yards in total offense and directed three scoring drives in the first quarter as the Flying Dutchmen made it a perfect 12 months by beating Buffalo. The win extended the Dutchmen’s winning streak to 10 games and their unbeaten streak to 11 games dating back to a tie against Lafayette Oct. 16, 1993. It also catapulted Hofstra to 20th in the I-AA rankings.

Garay was sacked six times but threw for 194 yards and three TDs—two to Wayne Chrebet and one to Michael Wright—and rushed for another score. Two of his scoring strikes and his 12-yard scramble for a TD occurred in the first quarter as the Dutchmen—who had gone four games without scoring in the first quarter until two weeks earlier against Central Connecticut—raced out to a 21-0 lead.

Buffalo closed within 24-15 in the third quarter, when the Bulls returned a Garay interception for a touchdown and booted a field goal, but David Ettinger kicked a 34-yard field goal and Garay tossed an 18-yard TD pass to Chrebet within the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter as the Dutchmen put the game out of reach.

Chrebet had six catches for 90 yards while Wright had four grabs for 43 yards. Led by Garay, the Dutchmen rushed for 226 yards on 49 carries. Hayward Cromartie had 63 yards on 13 carries despite a sore ankle. Defensively, the Dutchmen limited Buffalo to just 34 yards rushing on 32 carries.

Quotable: “We had a two-week layoff. There’s a lot of variables. We were worried about winning.”—Joe Gardi

Other random memories: Not many, alas. I didn’t cover the game in Buffalo (Nick Renzetti did), apparently because I had a phobia about going to Buffalo dating back to the ECC Tournament seven months earlier. Glancing at The Chronicle from Oct. 27, though, reminds me that Gardi had a clairvoyant streak to him: In my short preview of the upcoming game against Towson State, Gardi mentions the Tigers “…will be looking for revenge” after Hofstra ended their playoff hopes with an upset win a year earlier. Not to play spoiler here, but Oct. 28, 1994 wasn’t a good day to be a fan of the Dutchmen.

Next game: vs. Towson State, Oct. 28 (duh)

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bits and Bytes: Delayed football edition

The football team at this guy's elementary school is incredibly busy.

From the “it’d be on time if I was writing it for The Chronicle!” files come these thoughts on the Flying Dutchmen’s 28-16 win over Rhode Island Saturday. In all seriousness, I was in and out of the room during the game and didn’t get to listen to the entire broadcast, so I felt as if an entire post about the game would be a little inauthentic. Anyone can recite the stat package, I’d like to do more than that and not try to fool you when I can’t go in-depth.

Anyway, that said, the win was a workmanlike one for the Dutchmen, who did what they had to in disposing of the struggling Rams and keeping themselves in the mix for the CAA North title. Those pounding the keyboard for Steve Probst to take over as the starting quarterback were no doubt thrilled to see/hear the sophomore give the offense quite a jolt in the third quarter, when he threw an 89-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Weaver and scrambled 29 yards for a score on consecutive drives to give the Dutchmen a 21-3 lead.

The next drive, quarterbacked mostly by Cory Christopher, stalled at the URI one-yard-line when Christopher fumbled on fourth down. Still, I’d expect the timeshare to last the duration of the season. Two quarterbacks are essential for a team that operates the zone read offense so much. Christopher leads the Dutchmen in carries while Probst ranks first on the squad in yards per carry (6.2) and yards per game (54.2).

The most important game of the season awaits Saturday, when the Dutchmen host New Hampshire. At 2-2 in the CAA North, and with games remaining against UNH and UMass—the only one-loss teams in the North—the Dutchmen can win the North and put themselves in contention for a playoff berth by winning out.

Of course, they knock off three ranked teams (UNH is eighth, UMass 16th and Delaware 23rd in this week’s coaches poll) in the final five weeks (the Dutch have a bye—or, as we called it in college, Brigham Young Elementary—next week and visit downtrodden Northeastern, losers of 13 straight, Nov. 14) and the Dutchmen will have really earned that postseason appearance.

Alas, with three losses already—including the eyesores to Richmond and Maine—the Dutchmen’s playoff hopes will probably be snuffed out with a loss Saturday. New Hampshire has won the last six games against Hofstra, three by six points or less and three by 20 points or more, including the last two by a combined score of 85-28. And any hopes of catching the Wildcats snoozing ended when they lost to UMass last weekend.

One thing is certain: A win over UNH would trump the win over James Madison—which is 0-2 since the loss to the Dutchmen—and would rank as perhaps the biggest upset victory for the program since the 1994 rout of New Hampshire. Stay tuned to this page over the next 48 hours, as I’m hoping to put something together on that seismic victory.

Some other Bits and Bytes:

—The Dutchmen didn’t receive a vote in the coaches’ poll this week, but they received 17 votes in The Sports Network media poll, good for 41st and a single vote ahead of Old Dominion. Ha! You can take your preseason no. 1 pick in basketball and cram it, Monarch Nation!!!

—Things are not looking good, at all, for our beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers, known worldwide as The Official NFL Team of Defiantly Dutch. The Bucs came back from a two-touchdown deficit Sunday to tie the Panthers in the fourth quarter, but Carolina mounted a 16-play, 80-yard drive and scored the winning touchdown with less than a minute left to win, 28-21.

And honestly, it was a bit of a fluke that the Bucs were that close. They closed to within 21-14 on a 97-yard kickoff return by Sammie Stroughter and tied it on a 26-yard interception return by Tanard Jackson a little less than midway through the fourth quarter. The Panthers finally realized what the rest of the world has known since the NFC Divisional Playoffs last January—interception-prone QB Jake Delhomme cannot be trusted to run a flag football team, never mind an NFL team—and ran the ball 15 times on their winning drive.

At 0-6, Raheem Morris and the Bucs are off to the franchise’s worst start since 1985, and the 10-game losing streak dating back to last year is the Bucs’ longest since their NFL record 26-game skid in 1976-77, way back when I was blogging nostalgically about my Terrible Twos. And contrary to what I wrote three weeks ago, I’m beginning to worry that the Bucs are prepping for quite a run at becoming the first NFL team to ever endure two winless seasons. The rest of the schedule, starting with the rejuvenated New England Patriots in London this week (good news: it’s a home game for the Bucs!), is brutal. Can’t they beat Brigham Young Elementary next week?

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Running Tally: CAA Predictions

If you play this album backwards, it says "You have made a terrible mistake picking the Flying Dutchmen sixth."

The unpredictability of the CAA is a popular and accurate storyline within the blogosphere, but if the preseason predictions are any indication, the suspense may be at a premium in the conference this season.

There is near-unanimity among the magazines and other writers about the identities of the haves and the have-nots. With only one exception, the top six teams in the overall tally were ranked within the top six by all six polls (Shout! Shout! Shout at the devil!!!!). Obviously, the same applies to the bottom six. The exception: Athlon ranked James Madison seventh, one spot behind Georgia State.

That’s right: The Flying Dutchmen are an overwhelming choice to finish in the top half of the CAA! We’re still very mad at all of you, though, for not picking the Dutchmen first.

To find out where exactly the consensus has the Dutchmen pegged, check out the first running tally of predictions, to be followed by some analysis of the picks as well as a look at how this year’s trends stack up to last year’s.

And just as I did last year, in compiling the polls, I paid tribute to my days as a mediocre cross country runner by awarding each team the point total correspondent with its place in the standings (i.e. one point for first place, 12 points for me, err, last place).

If you happen to come across any previews we’ve missed, by all means, email me or notify me on Twitter so I can update the poll. We had 10 polls last season and I’m sure I missed some.

Tommy Lee drum roll please! 

1.) Old Dominion (4) 9

2.) VCU (2) 14

3.) Northeastern 17

4.) George Mason 23

5t.) HOFSTRA 32

5t.) James Madison 32

7.) Drexel 46

8.) Georgia State 55

9.) Delaware 57

10.) Towson 58

11.) William & Mary 62

12.) UNC Wilmington 63

First place votes in parenthesis

Polls collected thus far: CAA, Blue Ribbon, Sporting News, Lindy’s, Athlon, Brian Mull

—Charles Jenkins is the leader in the clubhouse for Preseason Player of the Year honors with 2.5 votes. He was the pick by Athlon and Mull and shared CAA honors with Gerald Lee. Larry Sanders was tabbed by Sporting News and Lindy’s while Lee was selected by Blue Ribbon.

—The Dutchmen were picked fourth by Sporting News and Lindy’s and sixth by everyone else, which makes them one of three schools picked in the same spot by four different outlets. Old Dominion and Drexel (seventh) are the others. The consistency, for lack of a better word, is a marked change from last year, when the Dutchmen were picked anywhere from fourth (The Sports Xchange) to 12th (The Sports Network).

—Old Dominion and VCU are the only two schools picked in the top four by all six outlets. ODU is the only one unanimously ranked in the top three. The Monarchs were in the top two in every poll except Sporting News.

—Northeastern and VCU are both ranked in the top three by five outlets. The Huskies got three second-place votes (Athlon, Blue Ribbon and CAA) and were picked fifth by Sporting News while the Rams received two first-place votes (Sporting News and Lindy’s) and a second-place vote (Mull) in addition to their fourth-place selection by Blue Ribbon.

—George Mason was ranked in the top five by all six outlets. The Patriots’ highest vote came from Sporting News (second) and their lowest from Lindy’s and Athlon (fifth).

—James Madison received three fifth-place votes (Blue Ribbon, CAA, Mull), making the Dukes one of four teams to be picked in the same spot in three polls.  In addition to Northeastern, William & Mary got three 11th-place votes and UNC Wilmington got three 12th-place votes.

—In addition to its four seventh-place votes—an acknowledgment, perhaps, of how Bruiser Flint’s team exceeded expectations last season—Drexel also placed eighth (Blue Ribbon) and 10th (Lindy’s).

—Once again, the bouncing ball award goes to Georgia State, which is ranked anywhere from sixth (Athlon) to last (Sporting News and Lindy’s) as well as eighth (CAA and Mull) and ninth (Blue Ribbon).

—Delaware is ranked eighth or lower in all six polls, and it should be noted its two 11th-place votes came in the most recent rankings (CAA and Mull). The Blue Hens, of course, lost starting point guard Brian Johnson to a season-ending knee injury in August.

—Towson and William & Mary (which, by the way, in a homage to the awesomeness of Scrubs, will now be dubbed the College of Bill Lawrence) are both ranked in the bottom third of every poll. Good news for fans of the Tigers and Fighting Lawrences: Drexel was ranked in the bottom third of every preseason poll a year ago and was in contention for a first-round bye until literally the last second of the regular season.

—Only one other school has a gap of more than three spots between its highest and lowest ranking: UNC Wilmington was picked seventh by Lindy’s and last by Athlon’s, Blue Ribbon and the CAA. The Seahawks were also picked ninth by Mull.

—There was a lot more fluidity in last year’s polls, as you can see by clicking on our first, second, third and fourth running tallies. The gist: Through six polls last year, three teams had been ranked in the top half of every poll (VCU, Northeastern and George Mason) and three teams had been ranked in the bottom half of every poll (Towson, William & Mary and Drexel).

—That said, there is some movement within the rankings: There are no unanimous picks through six polls. Last year at this juncture, there were two: VCU (first) and Delaware (fifth). Ehh, win some, lose some.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Flying Dutchmen will blossom in '09-10!

Don't let the smile fool you: Jenna Van Oy is not happy with the preseason CAA poll, either.

All my ranting and raving about the dangers of annoying Dutch Nation (snort) apparently have gone unheeded. The CAA preseason poll—in which coaches, SIDs and media all vote—was released today at Media Day and the Flying Dutchmen were picked sixth, which means I’m going to be absolutely insufferable when Hofstra is cutting down the nets in Richmond the second Monday of March.

At least the non-believers are a little less mean and vicious to the Dutchmen: Last year, Hofstra was picked seventh in the CAA poll. The trend is obvious: The Dutchmen will be preseason favorites in 2014-15!

The voters were nicer to Hofstra when it came to picking the preseason all-conference team as Charles Jenkins shared the co-CAA preseason player of the year award (is it really an award if it hasn’t been awarded yet?) with Old Dominion’s Gerald Lee.

As I noted a few weeks ago, when Brian Mull of the Wilmington Star-News picked Hofstra sixth and Jenkins as his preseason POY,  the concept of the league’s best player emerging from a middle-of-the-pack team only further proves how deep and unpredictable the CAA will be this year.

And in all seriousness, I’m going to have Hofstra picked a little higher than sixth (no, really!) when I put my predictions to paper, but beyond favored Old Dominion, I think teams two through six are a crapshoot. You’ll probably do just as well throwing them in a hat and picking the CAA that way. Oh wait a minute, that didn’t work out so well last year.

Anyway, here’s the poll. Stop by tomorrow for my first running tally of the preseason predictions.

1.) Old Dominion

2.) Northeastern

3.) VCU

4.) George Mason

5.) James Madison


7.) Drexel

8.) Georgia State

9.) Towson

10.) William & Mary

11.) Delaware

12.) UNC-Wilmington

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Hooray! Media Day!

Just a quick note to remind you that today’s the day we get to find out just how little the rest of the CAA coaches think of Hofstra. The coaches’ preseason poll will be released at Media Day in (to borrow a Litos phrase) Dee Cee. Pick the Flying Dutchmen eighth, CAA coaches. I dare you, I double dog dare you!!

I’ll post the coaches poll this afternoon (as well as a Bits and Bytes entry) and will unveil the first running tally of preseason predictions tomorrow. In the meantime, for up-to-the-minute coverage, check out Litos as well as WRHU, which will be doing its usual impressive job as it broadcasts live from Media Day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Only YOU can turn Suppertime Shootaround into Midnight Madness

This year's freshmen were three years old when I got Golden Boy. I'm so very old, and so very depressed.

Tom Pecora’s 16th year at Hofstra and his ninth as head coach got off to a quiet start Friday night in a building that didn’t exist in October 1994, when his first season with the program began with infinitely more fanfare and noise than actual basketball a few hundred feet down the road at Hofstra USA.

Pecora and head coach Jay Wright decided to bring Midnight Madness to Hofstra in hopes of drumming up student interest in a team that generated no on-campus buzz the year before, when it went 9-20 while playing in a lame-duck conference that had no automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. But in planning the event, Pecora and Wright realized the Flying Dutchmen didn’t have the players necessary to pull off the typical Midnight Madness event.

“We said ‘Can we have a dunking contest?’ and we said ‘We don’t think so, I don’t think we have anyone who can dunk,’” Pecora said. “Then we looked at what the 3-point shooting percentage was. We said ‘Well, we can’t have a 3-point shooting contest.’ Why don’t we come up with the concept of having something in Hofstra USA and making it more of a celebration, almost like a New Years Eve celebration but celebrating a new basketball year? And then it just basically evolved into how good was the DJ we were going to get for the party?”

Turns out it was a pretty good party in which none of the Dutchmen were embarrassed. Hofstra USA was filled to capacity Thursday, Oct. 13—two days before the official start of practice—and Wright emceed from the stage festivities which included a free throw shooting competition between the Greeks (no, the winner did not win a scholarship to play for the Dutchmen) as well as a blind free throw shooting contest in which anyone who sank a bucket would have won free tuition. Obviously, this was not a $42,000 prize back then, but I presume the powers-that-be still exhaled when nobody scored. Wright also did his best Dick Clark imitation at 11:59, when he counted down the seconds until midnight.

I was there for The Chronicle, and in addition to straining to hear Wright, Pecora and Rob Odgen speak over the ear-splitting noise, I remember a player on the dance floor motioning for Wright to come down and boogie. Wright jumped off the stage and unfurled a few moves that could have made him a backup dancer in Janet Jackson’s band. He was one cool dude.

I also remember snagging the above-pictured T-shirt, which evolved the lucky T-shirt that I wore to the America East championship games in 2000 and 2001 and has become my Golden Boy—every wash could be its last, so I only pull it out for Very Special Occasions in the postseason.

And last night, though I didn’t actually wear it. I have standards, you know.

“You should frame that,” Pecora said upon seeing the ratty relic.

(Parenthetical tangent: I also remember almost getting my ass kicked for not doing the responsible thing and heading back to the office to write the story that night…or anytime Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday either. Instead, I left it until the frantic pre-dawn deadline hours of Thursday morning, which would have been bad enough even if I could have found my notebook. I tore up the newspaper office in a desperate search for it, yelling and kicking stuff and making such a racket that some dude from the computer lab down the hall—yes, kids, this was so long ago that laptops had yet to be invented—came in to ask me to quiet down. I told him to mind his own business and he threatened to punch me out. Possibly Loyal Readers Dan and Jeff told him I was just a blithering idiot and steered him away. Somebody found my notebook and I meekly apologized to everyone, including Potential Ass-Kicking Guy, before penning my award-winning prose. The end.)

Anywho, back here in 2009, Pecora has no shortage of candidates to participate in a dunk contest or 3-point shootout, but the continued apathy of the student body makes it difficult to hold a typical Midnight Madness. The Midnight Madness party became an annual tradition under Wright, one that Pecora maintained for a few years before moving it to the afternoon and dubbing it “Midday Mania.”

But the last “Midday Mania” was held in 2007 and Pecora feels the program—which has reached the NIT four times and the NCAA twice and recorded seven 20-win seasons in the previous 11 campaigns—has moved beyond the point where it should have to throw a party to get people interested in it.

“I think this is better suited for us—I think that you have to know who you are, you know what I mean?” Pecora said. “I think this is the best way to go about [their] business—just get them out and running. It’s an important practice. We’ll go tonight, then we’ll go twice [today] and keep them going.”

The opening practice was attended only by the diehards: About two dozen people were in the stands, and that includes the members of the women’s team that stuck around following their season-opening practice. So if you’re a student at Hofstra and you want to tell stories of your Midnight Madness T-shirt come 2025, well—warning! terrible pun ahead!—the ball is in your court.

“We used to do a party, but then it almost became a non-basketball event—it started to feel like it was more just a party thrown by the basketball team, and that’s not what we’re all about,” Pecora said. “We’re not in a situation yet with our students where we get enough every game [to hold a Midnight Madness]. If we could get 2,000 students here, we’d be doing something right now, you know what I mean? But we’re not at that point yet.

“We’ll get 1,000 students for a home game, and that’s great, but to get the students over here for an event like this, that’s not happening yet. When we’re ready to do that, then we’d love to oblige. But right now this is best for the program.”

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Friday, October 16, 2009

“Suppertime Shootaround” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well

Man, no wonder I’m waxing poetic about the fall of 1994. Hofstra’s first-ever Midnight Madness occurred Oct. 13, like 14 hours before I saw Pulp Fiction. Seriously, if you weren’t around 15 years ago, sucks to be you.

I’ll have more on the awesomeness of Pulp Fiction next week, but stop back sooner than that—think late tonight or first thing in the morning—for much more on the first practice of hoops season, then and now. I’ll be at the opening practice and will once again be hunting for rock bottom as I tweet the crap out of it. Stop by at and join the fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

1994 Time Machine: Hootie and the Blowfish

Fame is fleeting for just about every chart-topping musical act, but even as they were taking America by storm in 1995, it felt as if Hootie and the Blowfish were on a running clock, the superstars who were also relics from another era.

Built on irresistible harmonies and the tightness of a band that had been honing its craft in dive bars for years, Cracked Rear View was neither a fluke nor an undeserving blockbuster. It sold more than 15 million copies, a remarkable figure made even more so by the slow build the album enjoyed beginning with the fall 1994 release of the single “Hold My Hand.”

The next single, “Let Her Cry,” boosted the band into the stratosophere, and Cracked Rear View finally hit no. 1 in May 1995. The album would generate two more hits, “Only Wanna Be With You” and “Time,” and in perhaps the  best symbol of its inescapability, Cracked Rear View returned to the top spot on the album chart four more times in 1995.

I take an extra bit of—wait for it!!—pride in the success of the album because I gave it a rave review for The Chronicle early in the fall semester 15 years ago and declared the band the future of Southern rock. That review made me look alternately prescient and foolish, because the more successful they became, the less likely it appeared that Hootie and the Blowfish would have a lasting impact on the musical landscape (and the less a writer wanted to brag about his ability to peg the band for superstardom, but I digress).

Cracked Rear View had its share of substance and depth: “Let Her Cry” is a pretty dark ballad and “Drowning” tackled racism in America in general and the band’s home state, South Carolina, in particular. But in the mid-‘90s, Hootie and the Blowfish were the audio equivalent of comfort food in an era in which artists were aiming to make their listeners squirm.

Music was getting angrier and more dangerous. Green Day was recording hit songs about masturbation and drug use. Hootie’s one vice was beer. Lead singer Darius Rucker was earnestly singing “I wanna love you, the best that I can” while Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails was crooning “I wanna f**k you like an animal.”

The band was inescapable on MTV and VH-1, yet it was about as telegenic as those watching the videos (present company excluded, of course). Marketing geniuses didn’t have to waste any time spinning Hootie and the Blowfish as a bunch of normal guys, because they were actually four completely unremarkable looking dudes (in 2009, though, to look at guitarist Mark Bryan is to think Dirk Nowitzki has a twin brother).

Hootie and the Blowfish were too nice to stay atop the charts and too authentic to undergo any sort of transformation, so through no fault of their own, they were destined for the where-are-they-now files even as they owned America’s tape decks and CD players. The band, too, seemed to get this, and even at the peak of their success, they appeared to be preparing for the inevitable slide back to anonymity, as they discussed in this excellent Rolling Stone cover article from 1995.

The band made a winking acknowledgment of its limited shelf life with the title of its second album, Fairweather Johnson, which debuted at no. 1 in May 1996. The albums that preceded and succeeded it atop the charts—Rage Against The Machine’s Evil Empire and The Fugees’ Score—served as another reminder of how unhip Hootie had already become. By 2001, Hootie had bottomed out (or peaked?) as a punch line on an episode of The Simpsons in which Chief Wiggum uses an old Hootie and the Blowfish tape to secretly record a conversation between mobsters.

The band is getting the last laugh though. It continues to tour and record at its leisure, and Rucker recorded a country album and saw his first single go all the way to no. 1 last year. Turns out being true and authentic to oneself, even in cynical times unkind to those without jagged edges, can in fact lead to sustained success.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bits and Bytes: Of Homecoming kings, hoops and our skidding Bucs

Sigh. Another year in which Tom Pecora and I have a better shot at wearing a crown from BK than the Homecoming crown.

The latest evidence why it’s much better to go to a mid-major than BCS U. occurred Saturday during Homecoming, when Charles Jenkins, Greg Washington and other members of the Flying Dutchmen basketball team took in the football game without the National Guard being called in to make sure they didn’t try to storm the field and kick the crap out of the gridders. You know, unlike at, oh, I don’t know, KANSAS.

Before we saw Jenkins & Co., the wife and I walked into Shuart Stadium at the same time as Tom Pecora and his son. The Pecoras were unbothered except for some goofy-ass blogger asking Tom if he was going to win Homecoming King. His answer: “Guys like me never win Homecoming King.” I feel your pain, Tom, maybe next year we’ll finally split it.

Last weekend was the final one of the off-season for Pecora and the Dutchmen, who begin practice Friday and are now officially less than a month away from knocking off Kansas. The Jayhawks, chemistry-busting dysfunction and all, earned the top spot in Gary Parrish’s pre-season poll over at Add him to the list of non-believers!!

Some other (mostly) basketball-themed bits and bytes:

—You can gauge the expectations for the men’s basketball team by the efforts of the athletic department to promote it. Three years ago, with Hofstra still riding the waves of publicity generated by the Great Screw Job and the Dutchmen favored to win the CAA behind the returning trio of Loren Stokes, Carlos Rivera and Antoine Agudio, the school produced a weekly 30-minute show starring Pecora.

Hopes were not nearly as high entering the subsequent two seasons, and I remember counting about three dozen people in the stands for the annual Blue/White Scrimmage last October. Things are different this year, of course, which is why the university is providing regular updates on season ticket sales, coming up with a snazzy slogan for the season and organizing a day-long Fan Fest Oct. 24 that will be capped by that Blue/White Scrimmage. Safe to assume there will be a lot more than 30-something people there a week from Saturday.

Now comes the news that Pecora will host a show on the school’s official website. Pecora is funnier first thing in the morning than Jay Leno has been at any point after 10 p.m. since 1992, so here’s hoping the production values are worthy of the talent. The Hofstra Basketball Report looked as if it should have aired after Wayne’s World on Aurora cable access (and I remember a whole lot of 6 am viewings on MSG or SNY, so maybe it did).

—Hofstra is apparently trying to replace the Stony Brook rivalry with games against Long Island’s Division III programs. The Dutchmen, who played Old Westbury last year, will open the home schedule this year against Farmingdale Nov. 20. So for those of you keeping score at home, the Dutchmen will open the season at Kansas and with two games in the NIT—including a likely matchup against UConn—followed by a home opener against Farmingdale. One of these is not like the other.

The big news is that the Farmingdale game is free. I had to grip my chair tight when I read that, since “free” and “Hofstra” are in the same sentence about as often as “Jerry Beach” and “made deadline on time.” So enjoy it while you can…and wait ‘til next year, St. Joseph’s!!

—Not a good week for our beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers, known worldwide as The Official NFL Team Of Defiantly Dutch. The Bucs lost to the Eagles, 33-14, to fall to 0-5. More importantly, a late safety recorded by the Eagles’ defense cost me my fantasy football game against Loyal Reader Eric. I really don’t want to talk about it.

The Bucs’ struggles have made them a target of Daily News writer Sean Brennan, whose weekly “Going Deep” is hilarious must-read stuff, at least when he’s not attacking our favorite team. Brennan, whose local hoops blog made him one of our favorite writers until he was mean to the Bucs, figures the end of the world in 2012 can’t come fast enough for suffering fans like us. I don’t know about that, but I figure the Bucs better steal one this week against Carolina, because the schedule after that through November goes Patriots-Packers-Dolphins-Saints-Falcons. Uh oh. Can’t they schedule Farmingdale?

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