Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NIT Analysis

A disappointing week for sports as Northwestern ended its season in Tulsa in the first round of the NIT, the Honkballers fell to the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic, in the U.S. fell to Japan in the quarterfinals.


The 'Cats lost another winnable game as they folded down the stretch and Tulsa's Uzoh and Jordan took over in the second half. They got into some turnover trouble and could not handle the intense, bug-eyed leer of Tulsa head coach Doug Wojcik who looks like his pre-game ritual involves taking piles of trucker-approved amphetamines and putting his forehead through various objects.

Wojcik springs into action after
spotting a pledge pin on a uniform

Wildcat fans also got short shrift, as we got stuck watching a double-overtime Duqesne-Viriginia Tech game that took up most of the first half and would have been thrilling if it didn't happen during the NIT or prevent me from watching Kevin Coble throw down off-balance one legged lefty scoop shots. We also got announcer Dickey Simpkins who spent the entire game shouting meaningless basketball cliches instead of using the broadcast to spout a venomous string of uncalled-for personal attacks on Jud Buechler from their days of battling to be the last guy on the Bulls' playoff roster during the second Three-Peat run.

The Buechler-Simpkins rivalry was the most compelling
subplot of the Bulls' second dynasty fuelled mainly by
Buechler's refusal to teach Simpkins how to fly up and
down the court on an invisible surfboard

Dickey Simpkins actually started on those abysmal 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 Bulls teams, and his Basketball Reference Page also reveals that his full name is the unparalleled LuBara Dixon Simpkins. Simpkins also now runs a training center in the Chicago suburbs, and his page includes a tremendous highlight reel as well as a fantastic demonstration of defense and offense.


The end of the 'Cats season is somewhat disappointing, although losing in the NIT is a less bitter pill than falling off the bubble for the NCAA tourney. Making the postseason was an important step, and frankly, performance in the NIT is essentially irrelevant. Having the NIT and other second-tier tournaments at the same time as the NCAA essentially kills all interest in them once the Madness starts up. The NIT has the right idea by kicking off on Wednesday to snag those who cannot wait one more day for their basketball fix, but after that, the tournament vanishes into background like another drunkard in Hogarth's Gin Lane lithograph.

Gin? What do I look like, a pox-ridden baby tosser?

If they want to make the NIT a ratings winner, they should condense the tournament into a single day on Wednesday by having the winners immediately play their next games with no break until only one team remains standing. They can start at 5:00 in the morning and crown the champion sometime early Thursday, with the exhausted champions carried out off the court onto a waiting parade float. It will give terrified walk-ons a chance to get some tournament experience sometime in the third or fourth consecutive game, and would definitely be a compelling lead-in to the NCAA tournament. Richard Dawson can host the whole thing, and they can get 500 people to shake money during the entire time.

A few minor changes make the NIT a must-watch
tournament, another sensible idea from BYCTOM


Tico Tico No Fubá is not just a jazz standard, but apparently some sort of mid-century musical phenomenon. The peppy Brazilian piece was written in 1917 by Zequinha de Abreu, but became popular in the US with its use in Disney's Saludos Amigos in the 1940s, after which musicians began rushing to cover it the way indie rock bands ironically flock to the A-Ha catalogue. The tune is fairly infectious, although an awkwardly phrased translation of the lyrics includes the phrase:

This tico-tico - he's the cuckoo in my clock.
And when he says: "Cuckoo!" he means it's time to woo

This WFMU blog entry cataloging 61 versions of Tico Tico remains consistently riveting. The blog has downloadable versions from luminaries such as Les Paul and Henry Mancini, as well as from the greatest all-harmonica outfit of all time, the Harmonicats.

The Harmonicats were born from an experiment to test
whether it would be more disconcerting for someone
to pull a tommie gun or a giant harmonica out of a
nondescript leather case

The Lucien Jeneusse version remains a personal favorite, but you would be doing yourself a personal disservice if you didn't drop what you are doing (including a small child if you are located near a supply of gin and a precarious wooden staircase) and download the Shooby Taylor version. I don't want to ruin too much, but it's a must have in the fusion genre combining scat singing and grand mal seizures.

Also of interest is Raymond Scott's version, not because it is particularly good but because Raymond Scott himself is a fascinating guy, putting together odd, quasi-jazz orchestral recordings in the late 1930s that were taken by Warner Brothers musical director Carl Stalling and used as the backbone of Looney Tunes soundtracks, most notably using the second half of Powerhouse as ubiquitous "factory music." Scott was also a notable pioneer in electronic music, and he dedicated his mature years to developing synthesizers and an electronic composing machine he called the Electronium.

Scott built his Electronium (right) after an unfortunate discovery that whirring tape
machines cannot be used for any purpose other than space lasers

At best, Tico Tico is a whirling cascade of notes, which is most effectively demonstrated by Ethel Smith, the "first lady of the organ," who gets down with her backing band, which I have dubbed the Squarenado.

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