Slant Pattern Quick Hitches

It's been an exhausting sports week, with the bowl games, the English Premiere League, and the New England Patriots' rise to epic status. The action has been thick and not too pleasant. For me, it culminated minutes ago by watching my Akron Zips go down in double overtime to Dayton, who was fresh off a throttling of Pitt on the same floor. Look for Akron to lose at he buzzer of this year's MAC Championship Game. Again.

With the dreary storylines of football (is any neutral fan happy about the Patriots' record-breaking year? Is anyone else sick of the underlying BS on the line when the Big Ten plays the SEC in football?), I'm starting to feel ready to turn my attention back to college basketball. This weekend begins the transition from the non-conference part of the schedule to conference for about half the teams. Here are the games shaping up to be the most interesting on Saturday. All times Eastern:

Kansas at Boston College (Noon, ESPN)

Kansas is undefeated and has only been tested thrice, at home to Arizona and at USC and Georgia Tech. Boston College is probably roughly equal to Georgia Tech, and has a nice win over Rhode Island to counter losses against Providence and UMass.

Oregon at Arizona, (2 PM, FOX Sports Network National)

Funny to see Kevin O'Neill, who did nothing special at Tennessee, Northwestern, and the Toronto Raptors, essentially fail upward and become the interim head coach (and designated successor to Lute Olson) at a program more marquee than any of them. He'll take on an Oregon team that is among that glut of teams (UCLA, Washington State, and perhaps USC and Stanford) that will challenge for the them for the Pac-10 crown. This is a strong league.

St. Mary's at Texas (6 PM, FOX Sports Southwest/ESPN Full Court)

Did you know that St. Mary's is 12-1, was ranked earlier in the year, and has defeated Oregon, Seton Hall, Drake, and San Diego State? They might be the best team in the West Coast Conference, and that includes Gonzaga. They probably haven't faced a team as tough as Texas yet, and they haven't ventured out on the road much.

Arkansas at Baylor (8:30 PM, FOX Sports Southwest/ESPN Full Court)

Baylor's another team you probably didn't realize is good. Just two years after being barred from playing any non-conference games for NCAA violations in the aftermath of the ugly Patrick Dennehy murder, Baylor is 11-1, their only loss being a three-point defeat to No. 4 Washington State. Arkansas is 11-2 themselves, but their only win over a big conference school is Missouri. I'll be very interested in seeing the spread on this one, and if the linesmakers don't give due respect to Baylor, I'll be ready to jump on it as I see Baylor winning here by at least 4.

Washington State at Washington (10:00 PM, FOX Sports Northwest/FOX Sports Pacific)

The knock on undefeated Washington State is that they haven't really beaten anyone more impressive than a Gonzaga team which definitely is a step behind several iterations of their glory seasons. So the schedule makers seem to correct this by pitting the Cougars against their arch-rivals on the road to kick off their Pac-10 season. Although Washington is a step below those teams vying for a conference title, the talent is there to be competitive and they will be super-pumped for this one.

I don't know if it's FOX Sports' call or not, but it's nuts to me that they would make this game available only regionally, but give Oregon State vs. Arizona State to the whole country earlier that day.


Longtime readers of the column know that I try to stay informed about sports that are popular elsewhere, but not in the US. Team ball sports, to clarify. Except cricket. I'll pass on that.

I've essentially narrowed down the sports that I want to start following, become knowledgeable about, and then act superior to you because of it: Rugby League, Rugby Union, Aussie Rules Football, Gaelic Football, and Hurling.

I've also decided upon a novel approach to get acclimated to these sports: video games. Interestingly, all the above sports have games made for them, and conveniently, all for the same system: PS2.

I don't have a PS2 yet, but with the release of PS3 I know I can obtain one inexpensively. And in the meantime, I can play one video game for these sports on my PC, as can you.

vNES is a lovely site where you can play hundreds of old NES games online for free. Interestingly, the owner of the site has fought back legal challenges (I imagine more are on the horizon) because you cannot download the games or play them offline, you can only play the flash conversions the author has written directly on the site.

I'll play some of these games with a sports theme and write a retro review on them periodically. What a better one to start with than Aussie Rules Footy, by Mattell?

Aussie Rules, at it's heart, seems simple enough to follow. They play it on an oval field, with four long poles at each end (think foul poles, or field goal uprights without crossbars). You fight your way in close to the poles, and if you successfully kick it through the middle uprights, that's six points. Kicks through the outer uprights are worth one.

The graphics seem about on par with most Nintendo games. What frustrated me was that, you would think that trying to play a video game based on a sport you don't know would be difficult in terms of knowing what to do; for me, knowing what to do seemed simple enough, I just couldn't do it. I didn't win a single face-off, or whatever they call it in Aussie Rules, no matter what buttons I hit. While I could occasionally steal the ball off my opponent, they could take it off me at will. You have to try to catch the kicks of your teammates (those that are not destined for the posts), but I couldn't catch or "intercept" a single kick.

The most amusing part of the game is when the ball goes out of bounds. The screen would switch to a flat-topped Aussie who would either say "Out of Bounds" or "Out of Bounds, on the Full." I don't know what "on the full" means, but it occurred when it went out of bounds near the posts, and the team that kicked it out surrendered possession. If the ball went out of bounds anywhere else, then one player would do like a soccer throw-in, except behind his back. As you might guess, I won zero of those throw-ins.

In the end, I lost 75-2, but I still recommend the game and would encourage my readers who are not familiar with the sport to head over to vNES, try it out, and see if you can discover any fundamentals I missed, and report back in the comments. Happy New Year.

Comments and Conversation

January 3, 2008

Karl Juhnke:

Hey bloke. Avid Rugby League supporter here and just came across your blurb. I am in Perth and have helped coach the local U/15’s Australian Rules team and although not too keen on the game I do know what “on the full” means and this goes for Rugby League and Union.

If you kick the ball and it bounces before the boundary line/s it has not gone out on the full. If it goes over the line before having bounced then it has gone out on the full.

Australian Rules came from Rugby Union (although many try and discount this) and was so similar into the 1890’s that Aussie Rules and Union teams played against one another (English Union teams) at that time. It was played on a rectangle field and there was a kick off as in Union and many other rules were very similar.

Rugby League (1895), American Football, Canadian Football and Basketball all came from Rugby Union. The split between League and Union came about because Union was run by snobs in England who didn’t like being beaten by working class players and tried to force them out of the game through making Union too expensive for them to play.

The Northern miners set up the Northern Union which became Rugby League. Rugby League changed many rules to make it faster and more skillful and allowed working class men to be paid a small allowance for lost wages and injury time (something the Union refused to do).

Rugby Union was supposedley an amature game, but different rules applied to different people (the old boys club). Rugby Union is now openly proffesional and is in fact becoming Rugby League (amazingly Rugby Union officials in France sucked up to the NAZI led french government to have League outlawed and gain all its assets during WW11)It is possible these sports will reunite at some point.

Google Sean Fagan Rugby for a great look at where the rugby codes came from and also a little on Australian Rules. The Pioneers of Rugby League is a great book on this subject from an Australian perspective where Rugby League is far bigger than Rugby Union.

Hope this has been helpful.

January 9, 2008


Hey Kevin, great write-up about the NES game. I have it. The timing’s in the buttons. Keep at it, you’ll get the hang of it.

Oh, and discount Karl Junk’s(?) assertiation where Ausralian Football comes from. Rugby Union’s relationship with Aussie rules (Australian Football’s ‘nickname’) is miniscule.

Google “Marn Grook” for a more accurate, historical study of the great Australian game.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site